My Home In Honduras

I don’t subscribe to the notion that people have one home and are simply either away from home or at home. Let me explain; My first home is Faro, Yukon, a small town with a population of 400 people in Northern Canada, where I grew up and wh
ere my parents continue to live. My second home is Orange in New South Wales, Australia where I spent a year as an exchange student during grade 11. Now, at the age of 19, I am incredibly happy to announce that I have a third home. That’s right, Cofradia, Cortes, Honduras!

The initial plan for my trip to Honduras was to work IMG_0696at Cofradia’s Bilingual School for just one month. It was during my Skype interview with the volunteer coordinator that I decided a month would not be long enough and asked if I could stay for three. She said yes and offered me a position as a resource teacher. Two weeks before I was due to arrive I received an email asking if I would be willing to instead teach grade one. So here I am, living in Honduras and teaching a class of 28 absolutely wonderful, lovable, crazy first IMG_0758graders.

My first day teaching can be best described as ‘hectic.’ I had a carefully thought-out lesson plan written down and memorized which very quickly fell apart. As I had only somewhat anticipated, I felt completely in-over my head. I have worked with kids previously as a swim instructor, ice-skating coach, and even as a substitute teacher, however, nothing had prepared me for this. I watched on in horror as kids, whose names I had yet to learn, talked over top of me instead oIMG_0972f listening or hid under desks and wandered outside instead of looking at the board. At the end of the day, despite feeling like I had completely failed my students, all 28 of them gave me big hugs or high-fives before leaving. It is very hard
to explain just how uplifting so many hugs and high-fives from little, smiling faces can be after a trying day. Needless to say, although tired and hot, I was not discouraged.

With the help and advice from the previous grade one teacher, the following days got better and better. By the end of the week I had established a routine, learned the names of all my students, and figured out which terms they knew and which ones they did not. I have now been teaching for five weeks and still each day, with the occasional exception, seems to run smoother than the last. I must admit I feel quite the sense of accomplishment when I say “hands on your head” and a choir of little voices shouts back “bums in your chairs” and then waits intently for me to speak, except of course for the few boys who are still giggling about the word bum.IMG_0772

When I arrived in Cofradia I did not think that I would have much of a social life, however, it has been quite the opposite. My housemates are great and we spend plenty of time together just chatting or eating pupusas or making trips to the supermarket or watching football and sometimes all of the above. I have made some Honduran friends as well. I feel very lucky to have friends who are from here because I have gotten to do a lot of things I do not imagine I otherwise would have. These have included spectating some strange horse game that I am still unsure exists anywhere else in the world, relaxing at a swimming pool I did not know existed, riding in the back of a pick up truck through the mountains, trying fruits I have never heard of before, and eating snails (which I was unaware I was doing until after). I have also joined a crossfit gym and although I skip more often than I am proud to admit due to the heat or having other plans, it’s always great when I actually do go.

IMG_0839       I know that at the end of my three months in Honduras I will not be ready to leave my new home. Everyday I continue to be motivated and inspired by so many of the students at CBS and their eagerness to learn and willingness to work hard. Everyday I become more certain that this is exactly where I am meant to be and that my work here will not be done when my time in Honduras is. Everyday I become more confident in my decision to come back for another year.

Until next time,

Dana

First Grade Teacher

Home Is Where the Heart Is

I have been asked countless times, “Why did you go to Honduras?”

IMG_0459I always had a small selection of responses to choose from: I want to help teach the children, I love to experience new cultures, it’s an adventure or I wanted to get away. I realized that none of these explained my reason fully.

After being here for ten months I think I am finally able to answer this question in its entirety.

I came to Honduras to learn how I want to live the rest of my life. Friends and family might call Honduras “my home away from home.” Honduras is not that; it is my home.

Last Christmas was my first trip back to the US. It was an interesting experience going back to what used to be my norm but now seemed so foreign. I would wander through the aisles of the grocery store overwhelmed byIMG_0421 the choices. I went to stores with the intention to buy things but would end up leaving empty handed because I couldn’t stomach spending the money. I would flip through a hundred channels looking for something to watch that was worth my time only to end up turning the T.V off again. I would be pleasantly surprised every time I went to turn on the water and it never failed to come on. I sat back and listened to conversations and laughed to myself at how ridiculous they were. I am now only weeks away from going back to the Untied States for the second time and I can’t decide whether to be excited or anxious.

Honduras has been hands down the best thing to ever happen to me.

So…how will I livIMG_0403e my life after Honduras?

I will find pleasure in the simple things. I will always take my first sip of coffee in silence and appreciate its beauty. I will wear a shirt even if it doesn’t match, BECAUSE I WANT TO. I will put down my camera and look at things for myself and not my Facebook friends. I will eat lots of avocados because they are MY favorite. I will go to sleep as early or late as I want. I will keep searching for the constellations in the stars no matter where in the world I am. I will try all the weird foods offered to me. I will always smile and say hello to strangers. I will continue to practice my Spanish, no matter how terrible it might be. I will stay open hearted and love unconditionally.

I’m not sure when I will be ready to leave Honduras, but it’s not anytime soon.

-Justice 3rd & 5th English

The Highs and Lows of 5th Grade

Having done all of the theory that comes behind teaching English to people that do not speak it naturally, I had all of the ideas but none of the experience to back it up. Taking a class for the first time is an odd mix of both fear and excitement, as you never know what is going to happen. Finding the method of teaching that is best for me is a road that I have begun to walk down. I also appreciate it will take some time before I reach my full potential as a teacher.

I have found my class to flip back and forth between listening and struggling to focus. I have the usual mix of class clowns who like to play up to the class for attention and the attentive students who quietly get on with their work.

I have had some lovely surprises in class. The most recent and outstanding was when I gave my kids the story of the boy who cried wolf. I gave it as a reading comprehension exercise. The most difficult of these questions was asking for the message of the story. I did not expect anyone to fully understand this question. What I had gotten back was a collection of kids that understood that it was saying lying is bad. The most outstanding came from one of what I like to call, a dreamer, who is usually staring into space during class. The answer he gav
e was that is lying is bad and that if you lie people will not help you. This blew me away, especially coming this student.

IMG_0491Being someone of very limited Spanish, only a collection of unconnected words, I have found Cofradia to be a friendly place to move around in. I am just about able to exchange a greeting with the local teachers but I still become somewhat lost if a conversation is extended beyond my current comprehension.

Being someone that finds it hard to express myself, I can say that I am enjoying the experience and the challenges that working here is bringing. It is testing my ability to adapt to new limits making and it a ride that I will remember and most likely cherish for some time to come.

-Ian 5th grade

Honduras Round 2

I never thought I’d be here. I’ve always been a “by the book” kind of girl that has a plan and follows the well-beaten path. I worked hard in high school so I could go to a good college. I worked hard in college and did all the internships and extracurriculars so I could get a good job. And then I graduated and had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I nannied for a year in NYC, while still trying to join back up on the path to “success.” I took the LSAT and applied to law schools. I got accepted and was all set to go until a month before I was supposed to leave. And I ended up here instead.

I don’t regret my decision to come. If I hadn’t, I would be living in LA right now and finishing up my first year of law school. I would be two years away from a job and salary. Instead, I’m making no money, digging into my savings, and spend most of my time with small Honduran children and a slightly crazy group of international volunteers. It could not be a different lifestyle from the one I prepared for or imagined for myself. But I’m happy here. Constantly sweaty and covered in dust, but happy.

Group Volunteer Picture

What makes me happiest is teaching my kids. I love my kids. Like. I LOVE my kids. Here in Honduras, my best friends are 8 and 9 year old children. I’m not ashamed to admit it. They’re cool little people. I voluntarily spend time with them on weekends. I get invited to students’ houses for birthday parties, family dinners, and sleepovers. We have inside jokes and great conversations. I genuinely enjoy all of their company.

earth day 21science fair 19dia tipico 15

Besides my students, there is also a certain freedom to living here that’s hard to explain. Men walk down the street with no shirts on, carrying machetes. Kids run around naked and play soccer in the street. I don’t worry about things I used to at home, like makeup or what I’m wearing. There’s dust everywhere so everyone’s always dirty anyways. Riding in the back of pickup trucks is a main form of transportation here, and there is something hilarious and freeing about being squashed into a back of a pickup truck with six other people and some chickens, bouncing around on dirt roads. On really, really hot days, there’s nothing to do but lay around in a river all day. People just don’t think about life here the same way they do in NYC. It’s not about work or rushing from one place to another. People just like to sit outside and talk to people walking by or who stop by for a minute to chat, drinking coffee and hanging out.

I didn’t expect to want to stay a second year, but for me, one year hasn’t been enough time. I’m not ready to leave my kids or the school. Next year, I’m staying in Honduras and will be the volunteer coordinator. I will be responsible for all of the volunteers, and to be perfectly honest, I’m terrified. It’s a lot of responsibility, and will require me to constantly use Spanish professionally, which often leaves me cringing internally as I hear myself butchering tenses. Law school will have to wait another year, but I can’t imagine ever regretting my decision to stay.

liz bio pic

-Liz, 3rd grade teacher

Travels Abroad

I am not a blogger! It’s really hard for me to write about things other people might find useful or amusing. Other volunteers have written a lot about Honduras and the school, so I guess our readers have a good picture what it’s like down here. That is why I decided not to write about Honduras. I’ll write about Guatemala instead.

If people decide to come to Cofradia and help the local community, they get a lot in return. One of the things is the possibility to travel in Central America. Being in Honduras means that it’s really easy to get to neighbouring countries. I find it amazing – having the option to go to Guatemala or Nicaragua…

This Christmas I decided to go to Guatemala with my fellow volunteer, Saskia.

Saskia and I during our travels.

Guatemala is really beautiful. I don’t even know where to begin. We started in a small town called Livingston. It’s a quiet town with nice restaurants and cafés. What I enjoyed the most was our trip to Seven altars and Playa blanca. If you like the nature, Guatemala is the place to be.

seven altars playa blanca

Another place worth mentioning is Antigua. With plenty of cafes and restaurants Antigua offers a great nightlife as well as ‘chillout’ time during the day. When visiting Antigua, you can’t miss visiting the volcanoes. I don’t have to say a lot about it, just look at the below picture – I was standing on the top of Paquaya enjoying this breathtaking view.

antigua antigua 1

After few days in Antigua, I ended up (by accident) at the lake Atitlan. Again – no need for words, just enjoy the pictures.

lake

All I’m trying to say I guess is that it is worth coming to Honduras for many reasons and one of them is traveling in your spare time.

-Viera, 8th and 9th grade teacher

Honduras is Weird

Honduras is a weird place. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but as an American, I have seen some things here that have completely surprised me. I watched an adult woman use an escalator for the first time with help from a mall security guard. I have been in a small van with about 24 people, some of whom were hanging on outside the car as we were driving down a highway. I wake up to roosters crowing every morning and fall asleep to reggaeton and fireworks that the neighbors set off at night for no apparent reason. The water shuts off when it rains, meaning it can be off for days. (I’m writing this on Friday and haven’t showered since Monday. My hair does not smell good.) If someone had told me five months ago that I would be living here, I wouldn’t have believed them.

This is what my street looks like here.  What you can't see is the dirt road and how it immediately drops off into a dangerous hill that cars can't drive down.

This is my street. What you can’t see is the dirt road and how it immediately drops off into a dangerous hill that cars can’t drive down.

It says cheddar. It does not taste like cheddar.  I somehow still managed to eat most of it.

It says cheddar. It does not taste like cheddar. I somehow still managed to eat most of it.

Living in Honduras hasn’t been a cakewalk. There are things I miss about home. I have yet to eat quality cheese in Honduras. I have eaten super salty, powdered “cheese” and “cheddar” that tastes of chemicals, but nothing that satiates my deep desire for cheesy things. As someone whose diet usually consists mainly of cheese and carbs, this has been a serious problem for me. I miss hot showers too. When it’s cold outside (it can drop down to a frigid 70 degrees!), the last thing I want to do is get under freezing cold water. I usually just don’t, which contributes to the issue of my hair being gross. I miss being able to hop on a bus and visit my family or just pick up the phone and call my mom. I’m incredibly sad not to be eating Thanksgiving dinner at home. Sometimes I wish I could meet up with friends for dinner and drinks and have a night out on the town (this is a polite way of saying, “go out barhopping”).

Even though my social life is vastly different here, my hair is constantly dirty, I’m hundreds of miles from my family, and I live a depressingly cheese-less existence, I can’t imagine leaving Honduras before my year here is up. I don’t know how to describe it without being cliché. I spend my days working with these goofy, little kids who crack me up while driving me crazy. I deal with kids constantly coming up to me and saying, “Miss! The Emily. She pushing! SHE PUSHING!” and instead of being annoyed that I have to go handle the issue, I’m proud because at least they whined to me in English. My students come to my desk during free reading time and point out every word in a book that I’ve taught them.

These goofballs make me laugh every day.

These goofballs make me laugh every day.

I’ve never been a gung-ho, “save the world” type, but I come home every day feeling fulfilled about what I did that day. Even though I have basically no experience teaching, I feel like I am somehow managing to actually teach 19 third graders something valuable. I don’t worry about what I should be doing with my life anymore because right now, I know I should be here, teaching these kids, dirty hair and all. That’s reinforced when I get a note from a kid saying, “I love Mizz Lizz. I am happy.” (And yes, we did learn “happy” this year. There’s still time to work on “miss” and my name.)

kids tackle hug

-Liz, this year’s 3rd grade teacher