My Experience in Cofradía

Dear1

Hello! My name is Doireann and I was a short-term volunteer at CBS this August/September. My time in Cofradía couldn’t have been better. There were definitely hard parts (a moment of silence for the top layer of skin from my sunburned nose – gone but never forgotten) but I remember every night before I went to bed looking back over a great day and every morning I woke up looking forward to another one. By the time I had no more days in Cofradía to enjoy, I really felt like I had settled in, made close friends and acquired a real love for teaching the second and ninth graders.

Before I talk about the actual teaching I’ll mention all the concerns I had before coming so that anybody else considering going with these same fears can have some reassurance:

  •   Before spending time at CBS I was concerned about whether volunteering as a teacher would be an ethical decision. To anyone who is concerned by the criticisms volunteering abroad can be subjected to, I would say that to CBS they are not applicable. You deal directly with the school rather than any fee-driven volunteer agency and so by cutting out the middleman, and the fact that there is no volunteer fee, you can be sure that your time is sought for the right reasons. You also can genuinely be helpful and make a positive impact even if you can only go short term like I did – by taking classes temporarily while long-term volunteers are away or by providing resource to struggling students you will always be busy and productive. I also really liked the fact that the staff at CBS is a mix of English speaking volunteers and Honduran teachers working as a team, under Honduran leadership. I think this gives the kids a great experience – a chance to learn English through exposure to native speakers but importantly the preservation of Honduran culture and tradition in school. CBS is a very happy place for the kids, their families and all the staff and could be for you too as a volunteer!
  • I was concerned about safety and the reputation Honduras has in that regard. In reality Cofradía felt safe at all times and I only had good experiences there. The fact that so many volunteers go back for a second, third or fourth trip is good evidence of how safe we feel there – my advice would be to be sensible and reasonable and not to dismiss the warnings out there about travelling to Honduras but at the same time definitely not to be afraid of travelling to Cofradía.
  • Lastly, I was a little worried about travelling so far from home on my own and I thought maybe I would be lonely once I arrived. It was the complete opposite in reality – the volunteer team felt like a second family of kind, hilarious, caring people and if you go on your own to Cofradía like me and don’t leave with a load of new mates I owe you a tenner. Now back to the teaching! I was second grade’s teacher for my first two weeks until their permanent teacher Sophia arrived from Australia. At the start it was a little tough – the language barrier complicated things and the heat tired out the kids (and me!) by the end of the day but I was surprised at how fast things fell into place and teaching became fun and fulfilling. The kids were just great. I really liked teaching this age as by the time they reach seven all their personalities are defined and unique, and they are energetic and excited as well as very capable of concentrating. They are a bright and cheery bunch and I am very jealous of Sophia having them for the year! I then moved on to teaching grade nine and had a really great time with them too – their sense of humour paired with their motivation made for a fun and stimulating atmosphere in class. Even when I was sure my lesson plans would challenge them too much they always surprised me with how capable they were in terms of their English abilities and in general with the intelligence they showed in how they approached our class discussions. I wish them all the best in their last couple of years at school and in everything they’ll go on to do afterwards!

Hopefully this blog post has been encouraging to you if you are thinking about travelling to CBS. I am so happy to have been a part of this special community and am eager to go back to Cofradía as soon as I can… maybe I’ll see you there!

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All the Reasons Why

Hey everyone! It’s me talking about Cofradía’s Bilingual School again! Sorry, I just can’t help it.

I’m the volunteer coordinator for the school we lovingly refer to as CBS. As you can probably guess, that means it is my responsibility to find and recruit people willing to pack up some belongings, move to Honduras, and dedicate their time to working for free. I must admit, it is not always an easy task. That’s why this blog is about all (or at least a lot) of the reasons why I think people, or maybe even you, should come here.

The biggest reason is, of course, the kids. Volunteers at our school get to spend five days a week with clever, intelligent, funny, motivated students whom I can assure you never cease to surprise us in a variety of ways. I am currently at home in Canada for the summer and miss my kiddos so much that I think about them everyday, almost all day!

The second reason is that our volunteers really, truly, without a doubt in my mind have a positive impact in the lives of our students. Previously I would have said that I don’t like to simply assume I, or any other volunteer, is making a difference by being here. After 14 months in Honduras, that humility has completely faded. I see how happy our students are to be at school and I understand how learning English will benefit their futures. Simply having positive role models and a safe place is hugely beneficial for many of our students. Moreover, fluency in English will provide our students with many more opportunities than they would otherwise have through better paying jobs and a higher likelyhood of being accepted into university.

The last reason I would like to explain is that it will make you a better person. While volunteers work very hard and do not get paid, I often feel like we still manage to receive so much more than we give. Our students will motivate you to be the very best you can be. You will be faced with a challenge and work until you have a solution and with each of these accomplishments your confidence will grow. You will know true compassion and will develop a global perspective that will stay with you long after your time at CBS. I came to CBS as a naïve little girl and am now a (self-proclaimed) mature, world citizen who actually phones to book her own appointments and barely ever argues with her little brothers! I still have a lot of learning to do about life and a lot of growth to go through, but I know our school is the best place for me to do that.

Wait, I remebered more things! Our students will give you a reason to smile everyday, and that is a guarantee. We begin each of our weekly volunteer teacher meetings by sharing our “highlight of the week.” These vary from funny things our students have done that made us laugh to having a struggling student get 100% on a quiz. This has always been one of my favourite parts of the week and really goes to show how much we all love what we do here.

Ok, just one more! If you want, you can learn Spanish! The families from our school will give you many opportunities to practice by inviting you over for meals, taking you to the mountains to go swimming in rivers, or bringing you along to watch football games in the city. It’s the best!

To conclude all this craziness, volunteering in Honduras and at our school is the perfect way to become a better and stronger person, learn Spanish, gain undoubtedly beneficial experience, to see a beautiful part of the world, and also to get a great tan. We do not require our volunteer teachers to have previous experience or formal training. What I look for in applicants is passion, enthusiasm, motivation, and a willingness to learn and work hard. Although recruitment is not an easy task, I have faith that our incredible school will get the teachers it needs in order to provide our students with the education they deserve.

Maybe you’re one of them?

Dana B
Volunteer Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Teaching

There are so many things I could write about when it comes to my time in Honduras as it comes to an end. I’m trying to think of what I wish I could tell my past-self to prepare for my year at CBS.IMG_2160 - Copy (2)

Here are three tips I think every scared incoming teacher should know. Being a teacher ‘ain’t’ easy, but it’s incredibly worth the struggle for the sake of creating a better world, and a better you.

The learning curve for an unexperienced teacher was brutal. Before arriving I earned a 120-hour TEFL certification online, and I thought I had a good idea of what I’d be doing in-class for the next ten months. The value of hands-on learning for teachers, however, is insurmountable. Please be ready to accept change to your classroom on a daily basis. You will constantly be making discoveries (especially in your first month) about how different modes of discipline work, how your students react to different things, and which activities succeed or fail. You will undoubtedly find yourself on google every day looking for tips and resources (our newly-implemented Cambridge and Trinity recommendations will work wonders in this way) and by the end of the first month you’ll probably be a completely different teacher. Open mindedness is never a bad trait. As a teacher, it can be a life-saver.
IMG_1961VOLUNTEER-TIP®: Meditating for 20 minutes some days helped me astronomically in taking a step back to develop a plan to continue. Any day you feel overworked, just relax anywhere you want, and repeat a mantra pertaining to your struggle. Perhaps, “[This] will not defeat me.” or “I am totally awesome for being here.” could work.

Lesson planning for the first month or so (and still after a year to an extent) was very difficult. I consider myself a fairly self-conscious teacher who’s rather sensitive to how effective my lessons can be. When you’re overly-sensitive to how effective a lesson is, you start to become dismissive of every suggestion you hear or read. Japan, one of the most educations countries in the world (usatoday.com) has an educational system revolving around lectures and book work. Not exactly the most compelling classrooms, but students end up learning nonetheless. My point is, no lesson is IMG_1385 - Copy (2)a bad lesson, unless someone dies. If I was capable of understanding “tough love” in the classroom, I would have been so much more comfortable making lesson plans simply because it leaves you with more options when you’re comfortable being a little boring, at times, for the sake of education. The children are the ones who primarily should work while in class, not you. You only facilitate.
VOLUNTEER-TIP®: From my experience, the moment you put your image in front of the source material is when you stop being a teacher. Moans and grunts of displeasure upon learning the assignment WILL BE DAILY occurrences no matter what you do. Instead of thinking how it can be more fun, think of how it can be more educational (which doesn’t always entail ‘fun’). That’s vague, I know, but you got this.

Patience in the classroom will be tested every day, and it can often times seem unbearable. Think back to your own primary school days. Can you remember an instance in which a teacher went bonkers, and raised their voice loud enough to hear it tomorrow morning? Chances are you can remember at least one, and probably multiple times you’ve seen it. Understanding that it happens doesn’t make it acceptable, but it’s important to understand you’ll be tested and tried in the same way those teachers were.
IMG_1283 - CopyVOLUNTEER-TIP®: When all patience seems lost, grab a flashlight and look for said patience under desks and bookshelves. No, seriously. Do that. You’ll probably have to teach your kids the word patience at the beginning of the year, but this is a much better alternative way of showing your kids they’re getting on your nerves a little too much. When you find your patience, don’t forget to tell your kids that is you lose your patience again, you may go CrAzY and give everybody detention next time.

In conclusion, it’s a no-brainer that being a teacher isn’t easy. I would tell my parents before coming that “I expect Honduras to be the hardest year of my life.” but I didn’t really understand how or why or when or for how long or… It was hard. It’s okay to not be okay, but remember it’s not okay to fight in the dark. The people here (like Ms. Dana) will help you in any way you need to dropkick your problem. Teachers love helping teachers.

Still, though, you got this. If I can do it (which I was astonished I could) then you can, too.

Mr Noah, 3rd Grade Teacher.

Top Cofradia Moments

So the year is all but done.  This is the fourth time I’ve left this place and it never seems to get any easier.  The kids were all asking if I was going to cry again, such is my reputation at this time of year.

As something special comes to an end it’s natural to look back and reminisce.  I’ve been doing a lot of this recently and so thought that for my last blog I’d run through some of my Top Cofradia Moments.  Cutting the list down is difficult and I’m positive that I’ll remember something else after this is posted that I should have included.

So without further ado, here´s five of my favourite  Cofradia memories:

Mother´s Day Concert

Mother’s Day has never been too big in my family (sorry mum) so it surprised me when I arrived here how seriously it’s taken.  Every year the school puts on a Mother’s Day concert and all the mothers of the students get all dolled up and come along.  It’s very much high on the list of the social calendar.  In previous years my students have sang songs from The Beatles to Bruno Mars but this year 10th grade was very ambitious and sang Queen’s Bohemian Rhap19141441_10155350899013965_1608547227_nsody.

I knew from the first practice that it was going to be either a disaster or a triumph and luckily it was definitely the latter.  They all got in to it and I felt like a proud parent watching them belt it out.  It also helped improve their vocabulary, though not sure how often they’ll need to use “scaramouche” or “bismillah” in their speech.

 

THAT football game 

My third graders a few years back had been pestering me to organise a football game with another school in the town.  For an entire week before the game I’d find pieces of scrap paper scribbled with different formations, tactics and predictions all over the classroom. To say the kids were a tad excited is the understatement of the century.

I did my best to tell them how winning wasn’t the most important thing and that they had to show good sportsmanship but if I’m completely honest I couldn’t stop myself getting carried away with them.  The morning of the game there was high fives and fist bumps going on everywhere but the other school took an early lead.

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Watching my little third graders all encouraging each other and digging deep was something really quite emotional to watch and in the dying minutes when the ball bounced off the head one of my least athletic kids to win the game I couldn’t help letting out a few fist pumps of my own.

I can still hear the hysterical, ‘CBS ARE THE BEST’ chants on the walk back to our school.

CBS alumni 

Cofradia the type of town that you pretty much bump in to someone you know every time you leave your house.  This year I bumped in to a former student of CBS who’s now 18.  It’s always nice to catch up with old students and hear all about what they’re doing now.  It turns out that this girl has been offered a scholarship to go  to a university in the USA and leaves to study in August. She was very excited about travelling somewhere new and studying.  She explained to me that without the education she received at CBS and the work of the volunteers, she doesn’t think she would have been able to get an opportunity like this.

After giving so much time here, it was so encouraging to see a real individual story of how the work we do down here does make a concrete difference to people’s lives.

Sailing in Belize

Volunteering in Honduras has given me lots of opportunities to explore and travel during vacations.  Of all these trips, the one that stands out the most has to be the 3 day sailing trip in Belize.

A few years back me and another volunteer hopped on a few chicken buses and boats and ended up on Caye Caulker in Belize (if you imagine a stereotypical Caribbean island and then imagine the ocean being a little more blue and life a little slower-paced you’re almost there.) From there we took a sailing trip down the coast back towards Honduras. The days were spent snorkelling with turtles and spear fishing and the nights were spent camping on tiny islands and grilling our days catch.19075414_10155350898853965_613455091_n

I came to Honduras for the school, I stayed for the grilled lobster!

Surprise party      

The first time I left Honduras I was picked up at my house by one of my students’ families on my last day and taken to a restaurant where the entire class was waiting to surprise me. I’d been so upset and down about leaving and so the party really helped cheer me up before I had to leave.  There was lots of cake and they’d all been practicing some songs to sing for me which was just the cutest thing.

Leaving is always hard but when you get memories like this to take with you it’s that little bit easier.  I’m already excited for the new highlights the next time I come back.

Mr James, Serial Volunteer

I’m coming home, but I’m leaving home

Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t bear the thought of leaving Honduras and this school in just over a month.  In 2015 I took one year of unpaid leave from my teaching job in Australia with the intention to teach for 9 months and travel for a further 3. That was almost two years ago.  During my first year teaching here I decided that there was more here for me so I asked for another year of leave, which luckily I got!  And with only 3.5 weeks left of school, I am trying to come to terms with leaving.

 

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My 15th birthday celebrated 12 years late with my students

 

My decision to volunteer came about due to a few factors: 1. I have always wanted to volunteer in a country less fortunate than my own, 2. I was exhausted from the demands of the education system in Australia, 3. I had nothing but my puppy (Chester) to tie me down at home (don’t worry he is safe and sound living with my mum and I skype him regularly!).  It has honestly been the best decision of my life.  The students and their families at CBS will teach you more than you can ever dream of knowing.  One of my best little buddies from 1st grade, whom I taught last year when he was in prepa, has taught me that no matter what you have you can be the happiest kid ever.  We play football ‘Honduras v Australia’ on his cement front porch every time I visit.  His goal is between a plant and the stairs and my goal is between two marks on the wall.  We play with a plastic ball that has many dints in it, but this boy is so happy.  There is no need for a phone, a computer or an iPad, just a ball and someone to play with.  Oh and by the way last time Australia lost 32 to Honduras’ 100.

 

My older students are much like any teenager you will meet.  DSC03375 (2)Yes we occasionally (very rarely now) butt heads due to typical teenage attitudes, but the respect that the students have for me and I for them is very clear.  Today in 10th grade I was talking to a couple of the students about exams coming up and that lead us into a discussion about when I was leaving.  One student said ‘Miss, I think I am going to cry when you leave’, my response was ‘I know I am going to’.  The students appreciate their education so much and grow to love each and every volunteer teacher that they have.  I was out to dinner last night with a few of the other volunteers and one of my 11th grade students was walking nDSC03467earby and came over to say hi.  He gave me a big hug and we had a chat about the day.  If students, their families or people that know you see you while you are out and about they will yell out the side of a moto taxi, run across the supermarket to hug you or come over for a chat.  I have been invited to the mountains, the beach, the movies, to eat at people’s houses and on other excursions with my students and their families.

 

I’m not going to lie there are a few things that I won’t miss!  The cold showers in winter, in summer they are a blessing, but stepping into the shower when it is freezing, I will not miss that- hello hot water in Australia!  I also will not miss being dirty ALL the time.  My students told me to wear socks and Crocs the other day because ‘Miss your feet are sooooo dirty’.  That is a fashion crime in Australia but here it is acceptable.  After that conversation I even looked into buying a pair of Crocs, but no I couldn’t do it.

 I have learnt and grown so much in my time here at CBS.  The students will teach you so, so much.  If you are reading this because you want to volunteer for us, do it, the experiences that you will have are unbelievable!  I know that I am a better person because of what I have experienced here. 

Miss Sarah, 10th and 11th Grade teacher

Blog #1

Hello readers! This won’t be the blog you’re expecting, it’s not really a blog at all.  A photo gallery more or less. 🙂 I have avoided writing one of these for the last nine months and I’ve managed to do so up until now.  So, let me give you a short introduction before I fill your time with pictures of adorable children.  My name is Taylor and I am 23 years old.  Last August I made the decision to come to lovely Honduras to teach English with my adventurous boyfriend Graham.  I am a 3rd Grade Teacher who has fallen in love with every little face in my class.  So much so, I recently decided I wasn’t done with them.  Next year, (if all goes as planned) Graham and I will be the new 4th Grade Teachers at CBS.

My time in Honduras has changed my life forever.  I am unbelievably fortunate to have stumbled across an opportunity like the one we were given.  I encourage anyone and everyone who has ever even thought about doing something like this to take that leap of courage for a day, a week, a month (or even a year here at CBS 😉 ) and do it.  But in all seriousness, it is amazing what life and this world have to offer if you keep your eyes and heart open to it.

Now, time for some pictures of my year here! & maybe a few of my dog Luna.. She’s Honduran it’s relevant I promise😉.

Miss Taylor, 3rd Grade Teacher

 

 

 

Thoughts from a Scot

I really wish that I was better at written English, not only would I be a better teacher, but this blog would be so much easier to start. I have already deleted my intro several times so I am going to stick with this one. Today I want to egotistically talk about myself, but at the same time try to give an understanding of what has kept me in Honduras for 2 years and what will see me coming back for a 3rd year next year. To start, I am going to talk a little about my past.

When I was in school I did pretty well on my exams without really putting in much effort. I left school with good results and managed to get in to a really good course at a really good university. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready for the amount of freedom I had and although I passed my first 2 years without much hassle, I really did not have the drive or the passion to finish my degree and left because it was the easiest option and I didn’t want to think about the serious world of having a career, settling down etc.

After leaving, I went in to a series of jobs where I didn’t put in much effort and didn’t achieve anything significant, I just couldn’t get passionate about any of them and didn’t feel I wanted to improve myself to get better. Fortunately, I was able to save a bit of money and that allowed me to travel through Australia and New Zealand for a few years before returning to the UK and living in London for a few more and then heading to Laos to work with some amazing people and students. I loved living in new places but again I was a perennial under achiever, I never excelled at anything I did and I don’t think I helped anyone else along the way either. I really was just going through life without any direction and without any plan and although I was having a lot of fun, it could have been so much more.

On the other hand, I was fortunate enough to meet a few people along the way who I learned so much from and who helped me become a much better human than I was when I was younger. I am so grateful that those people came in to my life at various points and so happy that they are still there.

Ok, so that is my life story over, sorry if it is a little gloom and boring, I just needed to write it to set up how differently I feel now. I am still a massive underachiever in so many areas. I have pretty much no possessions, I don’t have a house, a car, a laptop, money or a decent wardrobe. I am still unable to cook, I am still unable to do standard repair jobs around a house or use Microsoft word effectively, BUTTTTTTT, finally some positivity, I have helped 27 kids improve their English and not just a little bit, in the most part, a massive bit.

I really don’t want to appear arrogant or that I think I am the world’s best teacher, I am far from that, but I can’t emphasise how proud I am of where the kids I teach are right now. When I started teaching these guys 18 months ago, I struggled massively (refer to my previous blog for info), I felt like I wasn’t helping them, I felt that I was letting them down massively and that I was failing like I had at every other job I ever had, but unlike other jobs, this time I didn’t give up. I worked hard every day to try and get better, I thought about these kids inside my head at least 12 hours a day and finally, I started to see it paying off. Now, after 18 months of hard work, they are getting unbelievably good at English.

I know that if they had another teacher it is more than possible that they could still be at the same level, but I still know that this is the greatest achievement of my life so far and the thing that I am most proud of up to this point. I still think about them all day every day, but now it is much less worrying and far more hope. I know that they are getting a far better education than I used to give them and I know that they are going to continue to develop and that I can help set them up for futures where they can fulfil the massive potential that they have. I really could not be prouder of them and they make me happy every day, even if they ask to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes and call me bald every time we write a sentence about Mr Andy.

For the above reasons, I don’t feel I can leave these guys just yet, I have so much more to give them and have so much more I can do to continue to improve myself as a teacher. I love that working hard here shows in such a clear and positive way. I can’t think of any other job I could be doing right now that could have such a potentially life changing effect on other people and the fact that it is for kids that I really do love makes it even better. To add to the good news, it is not just me doing this, the other teachers here are doing the exact same thing and working just as hard to help the young people they care so much about. CBS really does make a difference and I see it every day.

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I don’t really know how to transition from this, so in my last paragraph I just want to thank everyone here who has helped me get to this point. I know I have a reputation here of not taking advice, but I promise that even if I don’t show it initially or I am resistant to the advice, it is still put in the back of my head and more often than not I eventually realise it is good advice, so keep doing it : ). So, thank you to all the teachers who have helped me here and I mean everyone from 2 week volunteers to the people who have been with me for the whole 2 years, I really do appreciate all of you guys.

 The End

Mr Andy, 2nd Grade Teacher

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.

Pam2

            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

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