It’s the Small Things

                     Kids are so malleable and impressionable. My first grade students are hilarious. They like to mimic me; they copy what I say in the tone I say it and sometimes don’t have a clue what it is they are saying! They truly learn by example and soak up what they hear and see all around them. The repetitive actions that are displayed to them become their inner dialogue.  They really are a product of their environments which puts huge pressure on parents, family members and school staff to be excellent examples, role modeling the behavior in which we want our children to display. Providing a child with positive encouragement will pave the way for their own positive thoughts. By giving them small tasks they can succeed at and slowly increasing the degree of difficulty and having them continually improve allows kids to grow confidence.

             I am only here to teach these precious kids for one year. The amount of English I can give them is limited. Their English skills will continue to grow each year and teachers will help challenge them and assist with their ongoing education. On top of English skills, my goal has been to help establish a sense of self-worth in each of my kids by showing them that they are all valuable and special with a variety of different skills. I want to give my kids the seeds of self confidence that can continue growing within them long after we leave. It is so important to remember that there are always little ears and little eyes hearing what we say and watching how we treat others. Our actions speak louder than our words. I hope I can leave my class with more than just new English words. I want to leave them with tools to become the caring, compassionate, loving, generous humans of the future.

             To teach grade one has been an incredible ride. They can be rowdy and difficult at times yes but to witness the insurmountable joy they have over the tiniest of things, to literally see the light in their eyes, is an experience more valuable than gold. They have reminded me to see things again through the eyes of a child. When they are rewarded for great effort, they beam, when they get small prizes they are beyond exited, when they earn treats they scream with delight. If I draw a heart at the end of today’s date, they are all smiles.

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            I have become aware that unconsciously over the last months I too have been finding great joy in the smallest of things.

            We spend a lot of time on busses here and they are a great way to see interesting things… On the bus ride to school every morning, one of my favorite things to see is all the ladies, young and old, out on the streets in front of their houses sweeping up previous days dust and debris. As much as shoveling snow is part of my Canadian blood, sweeping is part of the Hondurans. Vacuums are not a thing here and the dust is so ferocious that sweeping multiple times a day is a necessary chore. It makes me happy to see them maintaining order as best as they can.

            Another morning I saw an old white haired grandpa out watering a few plants in the front of his house. He was using a broken bucket but it got the job done.  His home was falling apart and nearly as old as he was but to see him put care and effort into his plants made my heart soar.  Today we were riding the bus home from SPS and they were blasting English music, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Bob Dylan and The Eagles. The other girls and I were in heaven singing along to classics we grew up listening to, remembering the memories  and people that were linked to all the songs.

            My class finds joy in the smallest of things and I think that although it is my job to teach them, they have retrained me to see the joy in all things even when it’s small. It is always there in every situation, sometimes you just have to change the filter you see things through to find it. Even when the world around us appears to be crumbling we must still take time to find our happiness. It is everywhere. 

Miss Pam, 1st Grade Teacher

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This one’s a doozy

Blog number 2 here we go. Since I’ve last written, you have missed out on quite a bit. Being that I have a life that is certainly not dedicated to blogging (other than when my arm is twisted), you’ll only get a taste of the many great moments I’ve experienced here. That being said I’ll do my best to give you the juiciest stories I can muster. (Alright, I better think of some doozies now, no promises though).

We went to the mountain and that was fun. We went to some beaches and that was fun too. We also went to a big river in the jungle and that was very fun. I have had fun in Honduras…. (Okay okay I guess I’ll liven those up a bit).

 So, me and my girlfriend Taylor who’s also volunteering here have now been to the mountains 3 times with 3 different families. We really couldn’t be more grateful to those who have gone out of their way to ensure us with a spectacular visit. Each of the 3 areas we’ve seen have had their own beauty to offer. You might find yourself in a lush coffee field which in our case included a tremendous view of eye level clouds and little black specs which were tiny houses in the towns below. Here’s a helpful tip though, keep moving here or the fire ants will encourage you to do so. This gorgeous view comes with a price that some might call expensive and you can really only enjoy it for a certain amount of time. It’s up to you to decide how many bites is your view worth and I’m inclined to say you just might be surprised how long you let those little buggers harass you. The other two mountains we got the privilege of seeing were both equipped with equally great rivers to compliment them. Wow, was that water cold but I sure would jump right back in this second without thinking twice. I can imagine It’s hard to find water that’s more fresh than a spring fed river near the top of a mountain. There were small water falls, enormous rocks, and even a man-made dam which created a nice swimming area. The dam also allowed us to drain the water out enough to catch a few fish using only our hands and cat-like reflexes (I caught the biggest one in case you’re wondering. Not that I’m into gloating of course, just want you to get an accurate picture..). But if Taylor remembers correctly, she definitely caught the biggest fish. Oh and I’m a turd – but a handsome one…… Ah, I see you’ve now met my girlfriend Taylor, thanks for chiming in darling (note to self: don’t leave your blog unattended).

We’ve been to quite a few beaches and I actually have the privilege of going to yet another next weekend (woot woot!). The first beach we visited was in Tela, where the water was warm and the nightlife was excellent. We even recently went back with Taylor’s mother and boyfriend to share the great experience that is Tela (though it’s possible we didn’t indulge in quite as much nightlife as our first visit…sshhh).  While staying in Tela the first time we made a day trip of about 45 minutes to a small beach village named Miami. We couldn’t have found something more rustic considering its wood shacks, lack of electricity, and population of about 100. I’ll tell you what though, easily the best fish I’ve had in my life was in Miami (and yes we’re planning a trip back with our stomachs as our leading motivators). That little village was as close as I’ve come to a beach that’s untouched by commercialism and tourism. As much as I enjoy the conveniences that come with a hot spot, it sure was spectacular to get away from it all. That being said, we did end up eventually going to a very touristy and expensive beach in Placencia, Belize for a couple days. By this time in our stay here in Honduras we had really been starting to miss certain things, it was mostly just the food from home actually (yeah, sorry about that one, family…). Anyway, Placencia had all the commodities we missed; name-brand crackers, name-brand ice cream, real milk (no offense Honduran cows), and our dearly beloved cheeeeeese mmmmm. Boy oh boy did we enjoy that stuff, but really it didn’t amount to very much other than mean belly ache and constipation  (which turned out to be a nice break from the diarrhea). All the beaches we’ve stayed at have had their own secrets to paradise and they’ve each made our exceptional stay what it is.

Not too long ago my family decided to try and prove to me that I had to be missing more than just food, so they planned a special trip down to see me and Taylor. I took care of finding the setting and not to toot my own horn, but I don’t think I could have done it better myself. We went to the City of La Ceiba and then from there about 30 minutes south along the Rio cangrejal. The river road took us just into the outskirts of a national park which happened to be a full blown jungle. Yup, you got it, leopards and all. Not that we saw any of course, but who knows, maybe they saw us (insert dramatic music here)… The wildlife we actually saw was a macaw and plenty of termites which believe it or not we ate (the termites that is, Honduran police might not have appreciated us eating their national bird). We were on a zipline when our guide showed us to a huge termite nest. He says “If you’re ever lost here, the jungle has plenty of termite buffets to meet all your meal time needs. Not to mention they taste just like carrots!”. Sure enough, they really did taste like carrots. With just a small hint of that metallic taste you get when you suck on your pricked finger, you know the one. “Tastes just like carrots” is a much better sales pitch though, I’ll give him that. The lodge where we stayed really was all around spectacular from it’s riverfront balcony with breathtaking views to the natural style make-up of the buildings. Did I mention they offer white water rafting??  This place is easily one of the highlights of our stay in Honduras. Okay, so I suppose seeing my family may have had some influence on that fact I guess… I mean, they brought a ton of beef jerky.

Well there you have it. You just got a small taste of what the most glamorous parts of the last 7 months have had to offer me. It really has been the time of my life. Now like I said, those are the glamorous parts. I don’t want you thinking it’s all fun and games here. We work our butts off to give these kids the best education we can muster. If we’re not doing that then we’re wasting both our time and theirs. We have the opportunity to be a part of something amazing and that’s the big picture here. Now that being said, vacation destination was a much better sales pitch. I blame the zip line guide for that mind set. 

Mr Graham, 4th Grade Teacher

 

 

 

 

 

Anything Worth Doing

 

My dad recently said something to me that I will never forget. I had just been asked to be volunteer coordinator for the upcoming school year and was trying not to get ahead of myself. I explained to my parents that while I wanted the job more than anything else I could possibly think of, I was nervous that I would find myself feeling, for lack of a better term, in-over-my-head. To this my dad replied, “Anything worth doing is going to make you feel that way.” He was right. I know he was right because I’ve spent a lot of the last seven months feeling this way and have never once questioned whether or not it was worth it.

The kids make it worth it. I have 32 of my own grade six and seven students whom I love so much that it often leaves me wondering if I’ll ever actually be able to go back to Canada. In addition to my own, there are the 271 other students in the school whom I’m also beyond fond of. They are a wild, intelligent, determined, at times hilarious, and inspiring group of kids and young adults. Because of them, even the bad days aren’t that bad and the good days are some of the best I have ever had.

The amount of respect I have for our students is genuinely difficult to explain. Many of them have grown up in situations or endured hardships that I could not have even imagined at their age. Despite this, they are at school with smiles on their faces, positivity in their minds, and kindness in their hearts. This impresses me more than anything else and everyday reminds me how lucky I am to be here and have them in my life. Never before have I had something that motivates me more or makes me smile as much as our kids do. I really don’t know how to explain it more than that so you’ll just take my word for it; they are amazing!

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Our kids are the reason I can tell you wholeheartedly that teaching at Cofradia Bilingual School is, just as my dad said, worth doing. If you think you might agree, why not come here? Why not spend a year of your life feeling in-over-your-head? Spend a year contributing to the lives of these kids and I promise you they will contribute so much to yours as well. Spend a year discovering a new place and immersing yourself in a new culture. Spend a year taking bucket showers and eating beans and playing schoolyard football. Spend a year of your life doing something that is worth doing. It’s so worth doing.

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Miss Dana, 6th and 7th Grade teacher