The Best Part of Being in Honduras

I am not a blogger. Good start to a blog post, I know! It’s unfortunately true though and I think it’s better to get it out in the open now (you’ve been warned!).

When I was thinking about what to write for my blog I came to the conclusion rather quickly that I should write about the best part of being here. So, without further ado…

Without a shadow of a doubt the best thing about being here is being in school with my students. As a teacher of the older students (7th and 8th grade) I was warned beforehand of typical “teenage attitudes”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely there. However, these kids have one-hundred and one amazing qualities that make me smile every day. They are smart, inquisitive, loving, creative, caring, funny, silly, talkative (not always a good thing), friendly and kind! I’m not here to paint a pretty picture and it is not always rainbows and butterflies (I can sometimes be heard shouting from the other classrooms) but 95% of the time I am a very happy teacher! I must admit that it has taken a lot of work to get to this point. I had to put a lot of effort into laying down the ground rules, being consistent with my discipline and making clear what was expected of them in the classroom. Of course, we are not completely there, but when I look back to where we began, I can see that they have come on leaps and bounds. Both individually and as a class, and both academically and personally, I have seen these lovely students improve and grow before my eyes. I am very happy to witness it and, hopefully, help them along the way and I am extremely proud to be their teacher.  12336301_1075662172446958_1638409362_n

12319809_899900650101503_561854176_nThey have challenged me in a lot of ways. Almost every day they question what I say with “But Miiiiiissss…….?”. They have made me learn more about the world, life in Honduras and teaching.  I enjoy their company so much and when they are enthusiastic about what we are doing in class it is an absolute pleasure to teach them. Their spoken English is beyond impressive and their ability to understand quite complex English, such as learning science through English, blew me away! That is definitely a credit to Cofradia’s Bilingual School. I am honored to teach here. 

We have done a lot in these 3 months – we have written letters to a class in Ireland, we have done projects on countries and on people, we have had debates about very controversial and mature topics and we have written stories and newspaper articles. We have also (and I say “we” including me because I am by no means a scientist and have had to learn a lot along the way) learned about plants, animals and002 humans in science. We have done experiments on the respiratory system, the immune system and the digestive system (you can imagine how lovely that was!). My point here is that these kids want to learn. They are interested in exploring new things and we get through a lot of work because of their positive attitudes and willingness to learn and participate. Of course we have to do the boring stuff – aka grammar – which also happens to be the thing in which they need the most practice. But that’s part and parcel of the job, for them and for me!

Last week we wrote about what we were thankful for and I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear when I read that some of them were thankful for their teacher. One of my favorite cards was “I am thankful to have a very good teacher, because sh003 (2)e has patience with us when we are very bad. Sometimes she gets angry but it is only to make us look that we are behaving bad. But she is almost always happy and I like that my beautiful teacher is happy. I love her so much…”. This reminded me why I am here. I get reminders like this every day I am in school. I do get quite homesick here to be honest. I miss a lot of wonderful people from home but every day I go into school and I get a hug from my students or I have a great class with them I know why I am here and I am definitely happy to be here.

– Katie, 7th & 8th grade teacher

Thoughts from Atul

My journey began in Honduras 7 months ago when I decided to move from the United States to teach English here. Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras and is located about 4 hours from San Pedro Sula (SPS). San Pedro Sula is an industrial town much like Bombay, India where I originally come from. Tegucigalpa happens to be a Political Capital with lots off hilly areas to see if you decide to drive.

Cofradia is a small town in the District of Cortez. No matter what you read online or hear, Cofradia is the safest town I have ever lived in Honduras. The people here are very sweet and friendly; they will always greet you with a smile. So when you are in Honduras, check out Cofradia.

It has been an amazing experience being at Cofradia Bilingual School for the past two months. My day begins at 6:30 in the morning when the bus picks us (volunteers) up. The school is less than a mile from where we live. We get to school at about 6:45 after the bus picks up other volunteers from the second house not too far from us.

Once we are in school, we get our coffee at the cafeteria where Bessy the Cafeteria manager always has a warm smile and coffee waiting for us. I have never tasted coffee this good anywhere. She takes special care to prepare the coffee and filters it about 3-4 times to get just the right flavor. Every Monday morning we have our Activo Civico (in Spanish) for the week’s commencement. During this time the students sing the Honduran national anthem (you should see the pride in students’ faces), then the Honduras teacher speaks, and finally all the volunteer teachers are called upon to present “The Star of Week” to one of the students from each class.

IMG_0506My class is the Sixth Grade and is small with only 14 students. I am currently teaching English and Science. We at CBS generally follow our assigned curriculum and try to adhere to it. It can be a challenge to teach the students at times, after all the age level of the students is between 10 and 13, so you can imagine the challenge, however once you reach out to the students they can be a fun bunch to teach.

There are quite a few places to visit during the weekend and holidays. You can take the bus to San Pedro Sula which is about a 35 minute bus ride through valleys and other small towns. I recommend taking the bus, it is a great experience, you get to mingle with the locals which gives a bit of cross cultural experience.

You can go to the Copan Ruinas by bus from Cofradia, Tela beaches or the islands of Utilla or Roatan. Tegucigalpa the capital is about a four and a half hour bus ride. There you will find the city’s typical hustle and bustle. There are more taxis here than anywhere else in Central America. They are a bit pricey, so be sure to haggle with the taxista (taxi driver), otherwise he will really take you for a ride. Oh, yes when you are travelling here or any other city for that matter, do not expose your belongings. In general it is quite safe except for at night. I would recommend staying in Colonia Las Lomas. Here you will find the 5 Star Hotels and restaurants and it is generally quite safe there.

So all in all it will be a great experience whether you are staying here as a volunteer teacher or just passing by. Have a safe and pleasant journey.

Atul, Sixth Grade 2015-16

Hello From The Other Side

Blog blog blog blog, how do you start a blog? That is what I am currently asking myself as I swing from the hammock on our balcony. I have never in my 31 years attempted one of these, so if it is bad, please blame Jeremy from first grade who tired out my brain with his constant screams of excitement today.

I suppose the task is to write about my experience of life in Cofradia with CBS so far. I would love to say it has all been positive, but I think blogs are meant to be truthful, so I will start with the negatives and then work my way up to the positives. I arrived here at the end of September, just over a month after classes had begun and was teaching the day after my arrival with little idea of what to expect. My first day with the kids started off super fun (that is a phrase), but from there it went downhill. The kids I teach are 6 years of age and my experience with kids this age is close to zero. I have no younger siblings, and until 2 years ago I never had any cousins,  I have no nieces or nephews and, perhaps surprisingly, I have never babysat in my life. As you may be able to guess, this led to some slight issues when trying to discipline 29 excitable youngsters who could not understand 98% of the words I was saying, especially in my, to them, fresh Scottish accent. At the end of the day I was beyond tired and just hoped that things would be better the following day.

Unfortunately for me, this did not turn out to be the case. The second day the kids were even more difficult to control than the first. I had kids fighting in class, kids crawling in to cupboards while I was trying to teach and others trying to draw angry birds on the desks with whiteboard markers. I just didn’t know how to get them to sit still and in a vain attempt to do so, I was confusing them even more with my severely broken Spanish learned from the internet.

This routine continued until the Friday when, fortunately, we had an extended holiday from school for a week, which gave me the chance to think of how I could get through to these little dudes and dudettes. Sadly, after the return to school, my techniques I had spent so long dreaming up, failed miserably. It was at this stage that I did what I should have done in the first place and asked advice from teachers currently here and the teacher who had taught the kids the two previous years. I honestly can’t overestimate how much that helped me. I found out what worked with my kids and was relieved to know that the previous teacher had faced similar issues in the beginning that I had.

I still have days when the kids test my ginger Scottish patience, but I can honestly say that since week 3-4 I have enjoyed teaching them and I can now really see the difference in their language skills between when I arrived and today. It might sound sadistic, but I love that they now run in to the class after recess and lunch when they see me out of fear of getting a warning rather than continuing to play until I rounded them all up individually.

The only other negative that I would mention is the dust, it is literally everywhere and makes me look like I finally have a suntan, until I shower, when I return to being a snowman and the beer, which is cheap, but dreadful.

POSITIVES

1. The house that we live in is 100 times better than I thought it was going to be. We still have to share rooms and the water often does not run, but it is spacious, has a hammock on our balcony with amazing views of the hills and is just pretty western looking, which came as a shock.

2. The food is edible and sometimes pretty damn good. I am a fairly fussy eater, but our school chef Bessy manages to cater to my tastes quite well (aside from putting salad on the plate, “you don’t win friends with salad”) and she is cool, so that helps.

3. The other volunteers. We don’t hang around together enough due to lots of tutoring and napping after school, but I really enjoy our midweek card nights at the small house and our Friday/Saturday night swimming activities. Sometimes people get on each others nerves as will always happen when living and working together, but I know they all have kind hearts when I see them with the kids and I know they all care about what we do. I also see how hard our volunteer co-ordinator works when she could be off earning a gazillion dollars as a high flying lawyer, but instead has to listen to all the gripes of 10 volunteers as well as be the vice principal of our school and translate for all of us when a local wants to communicate with us.

4. The town. I am not going to lie, it is not the most interesting place to live, but it is exactly the right size and has pretty much everything you could need within walking distance. More importantly however, it has amazing locals, who won’t rip you off like in other countries I have travelled through, but who will actually tell you if you have overpaid or even offer you a discount because they know you are a teacher.

IMG_07195. The opportunity for travel. We are like 90 minutes away from the carribean. That is SICKKKKKKKKKKKKK. The buses are cheap and the little towns to go to are numerous. I have only been to 2 places so far, but they were both amazing and I will definitely be visiting a fair few more in the near future.

6. The Kids. I honestly don’t know what to say about them. They are beyond brilliant. Actually, they are indescribable. If you want to find out for yourself, get your ass over here.

The End

Andy, First Grade 2015-16