Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Time is Here!

Christmas has reached Comayagua (actually, it was here before Thanksgiving, but I chose to ignore its existence. No Christmas until after Thanksgiving is my rule!)! The stores are stocked with Christmas decorations, the parents have decorated the classrooms, and we are feverishly practicing for the Christmas program on Thursday evening. I love the atmosphere! It´s energizing to know that we only have three more days until break! Last Saturday night we had the priveledge of attending a cookie Christmas party where each person (or house in our case) brings 4 dozen cookies and then swaps. So now we have 4 dozen cookies sitting in our freezer begging to be consumed (I´m trying to be good)!

Yesterday was an eventful day as well. One of the missionaries´moms arrived and Pastor Rich from Union came to visit our lone Union missionary. Pastor Rich travels around the world visiting different missionaries, sometimes not for very long. He arrived yesterday afternoon and left early this morning. But it was nice to talk with him last night and see his pictures from his other visits. He came from Nicaragua, so he showed us pictures of where Bridget and Ruth are this year, which was neat! He´s going to the islands next, so we all wrote notes to our friends there.

These next three days are going to be busy, busy, busy. The kids are already complaining about all their quizzes they have (I remember those days......). I wish all those studying for finals luck!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Day of the Belts

This morning we went to school as usual, not to teach classes but to hand out grades. Tables were set up, and two teachers from each grade sat from 8:00-2:00 to meet with parents and hand them "the notes." As one sixth grade student explained to me during recess yesterday, today was "the day of the belts," because when the parents learn about the bad grades, they pull out the belts. At first, I was petrified of what some parents might say to me when they learned how poorly their child did in my class. However, most of the parents were understanding, and the time passed more quickly than I had thought it would. I almost feel as if this was the last day before Christmas break, because it held a sense of finality. Next week will certainly speed by as we prepare for the Christmas program held on Thursday evening! My first graders will be "Decking the Halls" all week in preparation!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Here is my promised Thanksgiving blog! Strangely enough, we celebrated Thanksgiving twice and neither celebrations were actually on Thanksgiving day. Wednesday all the missionaries were taken to eat at the military base, who were celebrating a day early to give the military personnel the day off on Thursday. It was nice to have some "Thanksgivingish" food such as corn, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and turkey (for those meat-lovers) and to finally see the base (since you have to have a pass to get in). I tried egg nog for the first time, which was so thick I couldn't finish the whole glass but was surprisingly better than I had expected. We threw a Thanksgiving party at school before we left, so all the kids thought Thanksgiving was on Wednesday. On Thursday when I wished them Happy Thanksgiving, they all replied, "Miss, Thanksgiving was yesterday!". Our second Thanksgiving occurred yesterday afternoon in one of the missionary houses. Once again, we had fabulous food, and we made so much, we finished it off as left-overs tonight!

We couldn't celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday because there was some sort of talent show at the school that evening which we were required to perform for. It was really neat to see all the different students from almost every class perform, especially two of my seventh grade students! The two songs we sang went well, considering we didn't really practice extremely hard for them. We got a little nervous when we arrived at the school and saw everyone dressed in suits and fancy dresses. It turned out to be a fun evening.

It is hard to believe that it's only two weeks until Christmas vacation, which also means that I've reached the half-way point in my SM experience (crazy!). In two weeks I will be boarding a plane to come home (my older brother's getting married December 28th), which is incomprehensible. If I don't write again before break, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hopefully I can see some of you soon!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tying Up the Loose Ends

These past two weeks have been crazy, because it has been the end of the partial (or quarter, in my terminology), which means that grades need to be submitted. This has left me scrambling to test and re-test my kids (we believe in second chances here), collect back work, attempt to conquer excell, etc. I think I've finally taken care of everything (although I never know, because just today I was called back into the office to fix some of my grades. Apparently I can't add. Maybe it's a good thing I'm teaching first grade, so I can learn basic addition again!). Grades are handed out to the parents next Friday, which is a big deal, because we don't have school that day. Instead I think we're going to meet with parents all day.

Besides trying to get things under control at school, we've had a few weekend adventures. Two Sundays ago, 10 of the missionaries jumped on a bus with one of the kindergarten teachers and drove to the beach. Pulling out at 6:30 A.M., we arrived on the stormy coast four hours later. The plan was to go swimming, but we were chased away by the wind and the thick clouds threatening to rain. But just seeing the water was beautiful! We visited an old castle and then drove to San Pedro to walk around the mall. As I stepped into the mall, I felt as if I'd stepped through a portal into the States. It was huge (and clean)! Everyone was really excited about eating a "real" burger in the food court (I'm not as lucky as a vegetarian, but I enjoyed a nice burrito all the same). We finally arrived back into Comayagua at around 8:30 P.M., making for a very full and satisfying day.

Last weekend the school took the missionaries on a day trip to The Valley of the Angels, which is a cute little town up in the mountains about Tegusigalpa, the capital. There we were able to tour an Adventist hospital, buy real whole wheat bread, and go Christmas shopping in all the touristy shops. It's always a nice change to get out of Comayagua and see other parts of Honduras. We ended with lunch at a rather nice restaurant where I had a delicious plate of rice, beans, and mixed vegetables! It was very nice of the school to take us on a trip, and we all enjoyed it immensely! It was also interesting to drive through the capital for the first time. For almost as far as the eye could see houses seemed stacked up on top of each other covering the hills. The city is enormous!

That's all the news I have for now. I'll be sending a Thanksgiving update soon. Until then, I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgivings!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank You, Thank You!

I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all who have made efforts to contact me in whatever way that may be. Thank you for the e-mails, comments, notes, etc.! I really do appreciate them! I received my first package from Walla Walla on Monday, and the best surprise were all the notes! So thank you, thank you!

Partial tests are going well. It´s refreshing to only have three periods in the morning and then have the rest of the day off. I did some Christmas shopping on Monday, which was fun to brouse around the souvenir shops. However, testing first graders has been a little more difficult than I expected, especially since English is not their first language. I spend the whole time circling around the room answering the same questions (it doesn´t matter how many times I say something in front of the whole class) as little voices echo, ¨Teacher, like this?¨. Testing is also kind of scary, because I learn if I´ve been teaching them anything or not. At least there´s hope, because a new partial begins next week!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fall was in the Air

Even though we don´t have the signs of Fall such as crisp cold air or leaves changing colors and falling off the trees, we did get our spell of cool weather last week. Every day was overcast and somewhat chilly (chilly in the sense that I got to wear a long-sleeved shirt) which felt heavenly!

Last Thursday night there was a dance competition at the school, which looked fantastic! I didn´t even recognize the place when we first walked in. Outside around the concrete, which served as the dance floor, were huts decorated with bamboo and branches selling food. One hut even had a live chicken tied to a box as a decoration. Almost every grade participated, and select students from each grade did a dance together. It was so cute to see the younger grades dressed up in their outfits (matching pants and shirts with hats for the boys, and colorful full dresses for the girls)!

In celebration of Fall, we, the missionaries, had our own ¨barn party¨in one of our houses. We each dressed up and brought food, played games, and talked. I was very impressed in the creativity presented in our outfits. The best-dressed award went to Heidi, who was a very cute Christmas tree. Other characters present were: marathon runners, a Honduran soccer player, musical gypsies (myself and Bethani), a Honduran superhero (cockroaches, bring it on!), a jester, and a goddess. It made for a festive evening!

This week the sun has broken back out, and it doesn´t quite feel like Fall anymore, even though I know that Thanksgiving is only three weeks away (how crazy!). Our first partial (which is like a quarter) ends next week, which will be exciting to start again fresh. I have high hopes in being more organized with grades, etc. for the next partial. Even though we are already two months into teaching, I am far from perfecting my teaching tecniques! I hope everyone at home is enjoying the cold weather and Fall festivities!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Cockroach Massacre of Fall 2008

Yesterday morning at approximately 10:45, 62 cockroaches met their death. Most were poisoned with the spray Raid while others were crushed by a dustpan. The turmoil lasted about ten minutes as large and small attempted to scurry to safety but to no avail. The oppressors were too powerful and quick and left none alive. The carcasses were quickly gathered together and unceremoniously dumped into the front yard.

We took on the task to clean out our bottom cupboards in our kitchen, because it gets musty down there since our sink has a leak. We also wanted to take inventory of our tupperware and kill the cockroaches we knew lived down there. As Bethani and I were washing the tupperware, I commented that we should look in the cupboard directly under the sink, because I had the suspicion that the cockroaches were hiding someplace else (we had only killed five from the other cupboards). We had never really opened that cupboard before, because it's so nasty from the leaky sink. As Bethani opened the doors, her eyes grew wide as she began to count, "Three, five, seven..!". We had found a cockroach den. To make an already long story shorter, I graciously stood back and let the other three have their fun killing and crushing cockroaches (I'm not really the destructive type unless I have to be. Creepy crawly things aren't really my forte either). Yes, I'm a slightly ashamed I did not help in the heat of the battle, but the kitchen was crowded as it was.

That hadn't been the first time that morning I had faced something creepy either. At 5:00 A.M. I thought I felt something crawling on my back towards my neck. I half sat up to see something run down my back and off the end of my bed. If it was a gecko, it was the largest gecko I've seen since I've been here!

Those have been my adventures to report for the weekend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

School Makeover

Another week of school has come and gone. This week had a slightly different twist, because the school was evaluated by some people from the Adventist Conference. The evaluation was mostly yesterday, but they stopped in today as well. The school was in a flurry of activity, trying to prepare for the evaluation, which we (the missionaries) found hilarious. The library was moved to a separate room upstairs, exit signs were painted, the gates were painted, the classrooms were stifled with newly made posters, etc. It was almost like the school got a 24-hour makeover!

The funniest moment of the day was when one of my first graders got her head stuck in the door. First, let me explain that the doors have bars on the top half of them, so it's an open window. I don't know what she was looking at, but she couldn't move when I told her to sit down. I couldn't laugh at the time, because she was crying. I mean, I would be traumatized as well if I couldn't move my head! An office worker and a couple teachers were nearby, so they helped her "unstick" herself.

This weekend will be relaxing, because we don't have school on Monday. Tomorrow we will experience our first potluck at church. I hope they have some vegetarian options, because I have quickly discovered that they are few and far between in this country. Happy Friday!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lake Yojoa

Last Friday we didn´t have school, so Thursday afternoon seven of us hopped on a bus headed for the lake! After making two more bus connections and walking down a dark dirt road, we arrived at our destination with the help of a couple locals (since it was dark and we couldn´t see the signs). We stayed at the D and D Brewery, which is run by an American who has been living down here in Honduras for the past 8 or 10 years. When he heard that we were Adventists, he laughed that we would pick his brewery to stay at.

It is a nice place with good food! There are two covered dining areas with lights strung around the beams, a pool, and cute little cabins nestled in the ¨garden¨of jungle plants (I don´t know what else to call it). Once again, it was nice to get out of the city. Friday we spent the entire day hanging out at the cabin, because it rained on and off. We met an interesting fellow at breakfast who gives bird tours. He´s from England and just recently moved down to Honduras, where he believes he will settle. He certainly looks the ¨bird watching type¨ to settle down in the marsh of Honduras with crazy long white hair, a bushy beard to match, and enormous binoculars draped around his small neck. His stories were interesting, though, because he´s been quite the traveler! We also met three other groups of Americans who came in Friday. One was a group of students taking Spanish classes, another was a backpacking couple, and the last was a group of teachers like us. It was kind of refreshing being surrounded by so many Americans living in Honduras!

Saturday the other girls went to row around the lake while I sat for another relaxing day at the cabin. Something I had eaten the night before hadn´t quite agreed with me, so I spared my queasy stomach from a day of sunburning and rigorous rowing (the girls all came back fried!). We left Saturday afternoon and arrived back in Comayagua around 5:30.

That concludes my adventures from this weekend. We plan to have more in the future!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Parent/Teacher Conferences

Friday at 12:30 we held our first session of parent/teacher conferences. We have them the last Friday of every month. Not really knowing what to expect, I was panicking slightly beforehand, because I didn't have any grades ready yet (embarrassingly enough, I'm still organizing myself). All I had known was how parent/teacher conferences were for me when I was growing up in school: sign up for a 15 min. slot, come with the parent to the classroom, sit down with the teacher, and talk about academics. I don't know if Friday was how all conferences will go, but it wasn't what I was expecting at all. The parents all showed up at around 12:40 and sat in a classroom while the homeroom teacher addressed general issues such as putting names on homework, etc. Then the parents lined up to talk with the homeroom teacher one-on-one. I didn't have a translator, so only a few of the parents who know English or had older children to translate approached me. A lot of them were more supportive than I was expecting, which was another pleasant surprise!

If anything else, Friday showed me how much work I have to do in organizing myself and in getting grades ready. Hopefully I will be better prepared next month or the parents may not be as supportive and understanding! Until then, it's time to get back to work!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Like Bananas......?

Here are some random observations:
  • All car alarms sound the same
  • Bananas and grapefruit are really cheap, so we consume them daily
  • Roosters crow at all hours of the day (contrary to my belief that they only crowed a few times in the morning)
  • Frogs here are huge (one hopped into the house last night) and sound like video game sound effects
  • Sidewalks are narrow, uneven, and sometimes non-existent. Most people walk on the streets anyway
  • Pedestrians do not have the right of way, so you have to walk defensively
  • Most intersections don´t have traffic lights, and no one pays attention to the ones that do
  • Days start early. A lot of people are up and walking around as early as 6:30 A.M.
  • Plumbing isn´t the best. Flushing toilet paper is not allowed in a lot of bathrooms (including the ones at home)

That´s all I can think of for now. These are just examples of small observations and changes I´ve seen here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Dream Come True

Friday after school eight of us (seven missionaries and one local acting as our male representative) left behind the city and school papers in search of beauty and clean air. An hour and a half after boarding a bus, we found ourselves at our destination, a National Park.

The park was everything we could have dreamed it being! The only housing they had available was a cabin to accommodate a group of 20, but it was well worth it for only $7. Because there were so many beds, we all claimed top bunks! The room was clean with beds complete with sheets and pillows, three sinks, flushing toilets, and showers with good water pressure and warm water! I didn't take into account the air being cooler at a higher elevation (silly me), so I didn't bring a sweater and actually experienced the feeling of being cold! We arrived when it was dark, so we couldn't see around us, but it was enough to know that we were surrounded by trees, green vegetation, and clean air!

Sabbath morning we ate breakfast in their cute little dining hall, which had a view overlooking the lake and mountains. We were told to be there at 7:00, but the food wasn't actually ready until 7:40 (we should have known). It was a "typical breakfast,"so I was told, which I found to be scrumptious: beans, scrambled eggs, plantains, tortillas, and cheese. I was just thankful it was vegetarian, since I don't think many vegetarians exist out here.

We spent the rest of the morning hiking around to three different waterfalls and up a mountain to a cloud forest with our guide, a short man of pure muscle. I'm fairly certain our guide could have run up and down those mountains all day without stopping! I also had the feeling he was laughing at us the whole time, because we were so excited about everything and couldn't hike very long or fast without needing a break or two. The waterfalls were amazing! The whole hike took around 5 hours mainly because we swam each opportunity we got at the waterfalls! Since it felt like 100% humidity, the water felt so good and clean!

The whole hike I felt like I was walking in a dream. The closest thing I had ever experienced to jungle had been an exhibit at the Omaha Zoo, so it felt unreal to walk around in one all day! Unfortunately, the only wild life I saw were a few birds, butterflies, and a lizard. Our guide tried to point out some sort of wild chicken, but I was in the back. We pulled back into Comayagua that same day on the bus before dark around 4:00.

The bus system itself was an adventure. I had never even been on a bus in the States! The bus we took from Comayagua was fairly nice and resembled a Greyhound. The bus we took back, however, was completely different. It looked like a beat up school bus with two different types of seats inside and a duct-taped windshield. I also found that once a bus stops at a station, you're supposed to move quickly to get on. I was just standing up when I heard Sasha ask, "Whose bag was that?". I looked up to see a short man taking off towards the bus with my backpack slung across his shoulder. I quickly ran to retrieve it, even though I'm sure he meant no harm by it. He just wanted me to hurry.

Overall, it was a good break from the city that we all needed. We're looking forward to our next opportunity to do it again!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

This morning teachers and students gathered at the school at 6:00 (we arrived a little late, because we knew 6:00 was a time just to make sure everyone was ready to leave at 6:30) for the big Independence Day parade. We may have started marching at 7:30, but we ended at 10:40. I was thankful we were fourth in line, because the sun was brutal today! I got my first sunburn since I've been here, so we all (all the missionaries at least) have red v's on our chests from our polo shirts. The parade was fun, though! Each school had a band and cheerleaders, so it was fun to see all the colorful costumes! Some of them were pretty crazy! One school had three guys on stilts. Our students were all so cute (I'm not sure some of them would appreciate that if they heard me say that)! The students in the band were wearing blue and white soldier-type uniforms with tall hats and long blue capes. Our little cheerleaders were dressed in white and pink tu-tus. We (the teachers) marched in the back, which was fine by me, because we weren't directly behind the drums. While the parade was fun, I was so drained by the end!

Later today a soccer tournament was held at the school, so Kayla (my fellow house-mate) and I went to watch. I couldn't believe people would want to play soccer in the hot sun after marching in a parade all day, but then again, soccer is a big deal. I still can't get over how good everyone is at soccer here, especially the guys. When the guys play, they can be so brutal! I'm mesmerized by how quickly they can maneuver the ball with their feet!

That was my exciting day! I hear thunder, so I had better end this while I still have power!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Team Spirit!!!

Honduras is unified under the colors of white and blue and the sport of soccer. People here live and breathe soccer. Today one of my students in 7th grade wrote a poem about how soccer is everything to him, including his food, his air, and his dreams. Last night a few of the teachers and I gathered to watch Honduras play against Jamaica. Every time Honduras would score a goal, the whole neighborhood would erupt in cheering and fireworks (fireworks go off at least once every day for some random reason or another)! When Honduras won the game, the whole city was on the streets, waving flags and cheering. People crammed into cars and trucks and drove up and down the main street, honking and whistling. I´ve never seen such unification for a passion before! I just thought I might share a little of the excitement!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The First Week of Teaching Over

I survived the first week of teaching and am half way through my second. I was so happy about making it through last week, I didn´t realize that this week would be equally as difficult. Monday last week was probably the hardest day of teaching, so things have been looking up since then. The challenge with first grade is that they have just come from kindergarden, so they´re not used to the system of school. So far my main focus has been on getting them to listen to me and learn discipline. I think they are understanding me better. They understand English pretty well, but they still have a hard time speaking it. Sometimes it helps that I don´t understand them, because they try to tell on each other. I just tell them to be quiet and pay attention, because I don´t understand Spanish. My seventh grade literature class is my favorite class to teach, because I love all the kids in my class! They listen so well, and they are able to converse with me in English!

Today was an exciting day for the kids. It was Children´s Day, so my class threw a party during and after lunch. They ate pizza, hit at a piƱata, and then received presents. Teaching class before lunch was a little difficult, because they were so excited. But I understood where their energy was coming from.

Yesterday I played in my first soccar game. The female teachers were supposed to play against the girls in 11th grade yesterday after school, but only two girls showed up. It was probably better that way, because none of us were very good. We had enough people to play a game, and my team got slaughtered. Towards the end of the game one of my seventh grade boys played on my team and helped us out. I never cease to be amazed at the skill these kids have with a soccar ball! That´s all they play during recess, so they´ve been kicking it around since they could walk!

That´s all the news I have so far.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two Weeks Later......

My apologies for not posting until now. So two weeks later school is about to start on Monday. We kind of had a fake first day of school yesterday, but it was only a half day with no real classes taught. I am teaching first grade math, science, and Bible and also seventh grade literature. The first graders are so cute, but I can't understand a word they try to tell me! The seventh graders were more refreshing to talk to, because they could actually understand me. I hope I learn Spanish while I'm here, because I'm not allowed to talk in Spanish at the school (since I'm hired to teach English). There are ten missionaries here now instead of seven. Six of us are from Walla Walla, one is from Union, one is graduated from Southern, and two are a married couple who were here last year. I love our whole group!
I suppose I should explain where I'm living. I am in the city of Comayagua, which isn't a huge city, but it's bigger than where I've ever lived. Or maybe it just seems big because of the crazy traffic (the driving here is insane! Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way!). I'm living in a house with three other missionaries, and three others live in the house right across the street. Right now we're in the rainy season, so it's really humid. The other night I was rudely awakened by the loudest thunder I've ever heard in my life (but that's just because I haven't lived in the Midwest)! I am petrified about actually teaching on Monday, but I'm sure things will get better once the first week is over. Now that I know how to post (I'm so embarrassed), I'll be able to update this blog more frequently.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Getting Ready

I can't believe that this Saturday night I will be headed to the Portland airport to fly out to Honduras! I've never been to Central America, so this will not only be a spiritual and emotional adventure but a traveling adventure as well! Right now my room is a disaster as I am trying to get things organized enough to stick them in a suitcase. I have never imagined myself actually teaching, but after this year I'll have enough mental images of myself standing in front of a classroom to last me the rest of my life!