Sunday, November 22, 2009
I have been meaning to write about one particularly memorable birthday party I attended last month. It was one of my first eye-openers to the class of students I'm teaching.
The birthday girl is the granddaughter of an important family. Grandpa is in charge of all of Honduras' police. The party was particularly posh--with basically any kind of party fixture you could have (bounce house, popcorn and cotton candy, clown, piñata, hot sub makers, cakes, waiters and tents, etc, etc, etc.) But what really made an impression was my ride home! I was told they would bring me back home, and I expected to get a ride with the family when it was all over. But, as the party was winding down, grandma told me to let her know when I was ready to leave and she would tell the driver. So, when I let her know I was ready she flagged over the driver, who led me to their big SUV along with the body guard. Both of them were armed!
On our way home, whenever we would hit a lot of traffic, he would just sound a siren to clear the way! I found out that this student rides with her driver and body guard to school every day, and there is always another car of security following them. When I met with her family during parent-teacher conferences, the body guard was standing outside the door where he could see us. Crazy! AND...there is even more that I don't feel comfortable publishing on a blog. But, if you can, pray for her and her family as elections draw near and instability is possible.
So... that is just a glimpse into the life of one of my students. I'm surprised more and more each day when I learn about the families that have kids at this school. I knew more or less what it would be like when I cam, but it is still quite impressive sometimes.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Honduras was winning 1-0 against El Salvador, so we flipped back to watch the U.S. game, because that is what was really going to determine if Honduras qualified. It was amazing! Costa Rica was winning 2-1 and in the LAST 20 SECONDS of the overtime, the U.S. scored a goal that made them tie!!! It was AmAzInG!!!! The whole city flooded Boulevard Morazan and went crazy!! We were with some friends who kept us nice and safe, and we even got filmed by some news crew when someone handed us a big American flag that we waved around!
To make it even better, when we got back in the car to head back to school (because it is a school night after all), I got a call from my principal informing us that the president (that is, the interim president) declared tomorrow to be a national holiday!!! NO SCHOOL TOMORROW!!! :)
I love this country.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
In other news, poor Honduras lost the big soccer game last night against the U.S.A. It was quite a game; super exciting and it kept you on your toes, but in the end the U.S. won 3-2. Four of us teachers met up with a couple friends in a Chili's restaurant to watch the game. I had no idea that Chilis would be such an important place to watch soccer. When the 4 of us arrived, we approached the two ladies standing outside with lists and discovered that you needed a reservation to get in. Maybe because we're gringas and maybe because we were gringas wearing Honduras shirts, they found room for us and let us in! I'm glad they did because it turned into quite an event. One of the presidential candidates for this November's election was there with his wife, greeting everyone. Some other candidate for something else (I forget) was there as well. If Honduras had won it would have been the best.
It's kind of sad... in the U.S. there are so few people who even know about games like this or who care one iota about the World Cup. Here, however, the whole country was wearing their team's jersey and watching the game. Winning would mean more to the Hondurans.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Wow, I thought. Why doesn't anyone else know they feel this way?
However, the more I think about it, read about it, and speak to various people about it, the more I wonder if these views I heard initially are the views of only one particular class of people. Apparently Mel is well-liked among the poor, something I wouldn't have known by speaking to the more well-off school employees and families. So, I hesitate to choose sides. I really don't know enough (and I doubt that anyone really knows everything). All I want is for the fighting to end and for kids to be able to get to school safely once more.
Some typical sights around the city... The first is against Mel, the second is against those who ousted him:
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Monday was our first day back at school after our two-week swine flu vacation. During the schoolday we found out about Zelaya's return. Several parents came to pick up students early. Demonstrations had already begun. That night, as I was in a friends' apartment for a small group meeting, we saw buses just returning to the school at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., after leaving the school at 3:00!
School was canceled Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, due to the national curfew put in place in an attempt to control the marches and demonstrators. The curfew was lifted yesterday afternoon so people could get food and water, but from what I hear the stores and streets were mad houses!
The word is that school may resume tomorrow, but I doubt many kids will come.
Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal that does a good job of laying out the basics of this situation. Please pray for Honduras.
After nearly three months in exile, Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president of Honduras, made a stealth return to Tegucigalpa on Monday, taking sanctuary in the Brazilian embassy. He is now using this diplomatic sanctuary to demand reinstatement and stir up his supporters in the streets. This is a dangerous moment, and if violence breaks out the U.S. will bear no small part of the blame.
Mr. Zelaya was deposed and deported this summer after he agitated street protests to support a rewrite of the Honduran constitution so he could serve a second term. The constitution strictly prohibits a change in the term-limits provision. On multiple occasions he was warned to desist, and on June 28 the Supreme Court ordered his arrest.
Every major Honduran institution supported the move, even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country's human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.
The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya's transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn't run again.
This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya's refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won't endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn't.
Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren't calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil's embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. "The fatherland, restitution or death," he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.
On Monday Mr. Zelaya said he owed his return and political survival to "the support of the international community." He's getting support from Nicaragua's Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, the former guerrilla group FMLN in El Salvador, and especially from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. But let's face it: None of that support would mean very much without the diplomatic and sanctions muscle of the U.S.
If the U.S. didn't know about Mr. Zelaya's stealth return, it ought to feel deceived and drop its support. Now that he's back in Honduras, the best solution to avoid violence would be for the U.S. to urge Mr. Zelaya to turn himself over to Honduran authorities for arrest and trial.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
For the first week of the vacation, I hung around Teguc for a few days and caught up on classroom things and took a little trip to a park nearby called El Picacho, where there is a huge Jesus statue and views of the entire city.
On Thursday, a group of us headed to La Ceiba, a beach on the Caribbean. Ben and Joy, a brave teacher-couple who have been here for a year, rented a van and Ben did all the driving.
That was such a treat because it gave us so much freedom to go where we pleased! We stayed one night in a super nice resort on the beach, free to all of us because it was loaned to us by a students' parents who own it. From there, a smaller group of us continued down the beach to a much less touristy and much more rustic beach called Trujillo, where the water was crystal clear right off the beach and there were massive star fish all over! In Trujillo we went on a snorkel trip and visited an old Fort (built by the Spanish, like the one in St. Augustine!)
After two nights in our fun, but very simple hostel-ish hotel in Trujillo, we went back to La Ceiba and spent another night in the resort. On Monday I went white water rafting!! The river is incredibly beautiful and snuggled right into a national forest (more like a jungle). Even better than the rafting was the jumping off huge rocks into the white water, and swimming and hiking along the river.
That afternoon my family flew right into La Ceiba!! After a dinner with the big group of teachers, we split off and headed for our hotel, Villa Helens right on the beach. The next day we went to the most beautiful tropical location I've ever seen in my life, called Cayos Cochinos, a little cluster of tiny islands amid turquoise water and the second largest barrier reef in the world! I've never seen a reef like it. It was most definitely the best snorkeling I've ever done! After snorkeling, the boat took us to a tiny Garifuna (afro-caribe) island where we ate a fried whole-fish lunch.
We intended to stay another day in Ceiba and do a Canopy Tour before taking an afternoon bus to Copan, but after learning that the bus schedules were not what I thought, we had to forgo the canopy tour and leave on a 10:00 bus. It was a long day of travel, with a two-hour layover in between our two, 3-hour bus rides, but we finally made it to Copan. Copan was described to me as an island within Honduras. It has been built up as a touristy spot because of the incredible Mayan ruins nearby, but there is nothing else around it. For me, Copan was such a welcome relief from being in a city or stranded in a beach hotel. It reminded me of the traditional Mexican colonial towns I liked to visit, where everything branches out, grid-like, from the central park. In Copan we made friends with our Tuk-Tuk (moto-taxi) driver and he ended up taking us to all the sights we wanted to hit. We saw the ruins, did a Canopy tour, visited a shade-grown coffee plantation, and went to Macaw Mountain bird park. When it got dark (which happens pretty early) we wandered around the town and shopped and ate and just people-watched.
Our hotel in Copan, Don Udos, was adorable and comfortable and made me want to stay forever. In fact, we did end up extending our stay until Saturday, the day before Mallory and Dad flew out of Teguc, because we liked it so much!
But all good things must come to an end, and we
headed back to Teguc early Saturday morning, where I got to show my family my house and school and a bit of the city. I feel so fortunate that I got this incredibly unexpected vacation and visit and was able to see so much of the country already! Honduras is really an amazing place to visit, and it is quite unfortunate the effect that the political situation is having on tourism. So, come visit me and together we can do our part to get Honduras back on its feet again! :)
Friday, August 28, 2009
This place is such a mix of cultures and lifestyles. Last weekend I got to help out at the feeding center Macayla is involved with. It is through an organization called Manos Extendidas (check them out: http://www.mehonduras.org/). They have child-sponsorship programs and we participated in their bible lesson and food distribution (of an interesting rice-milk-mush). It was so humbling, and kind of crazy, to descend off of our mountain where some of the homes are mansions with full-time armed guards, into a part of town that only receives water once a week or so and has homes made of scrap materials and dirt floors.
I have visited a few churches so far and am trying to find a fit. Pray that I can get involved in a church here. That was something I never successfully did in Mexico.
Monday, August 17, 2009
After the long and exhausting shopping trip, instead of heading back up our mountain I stayed in the city with Macayla (my friend who is going on her 4th year here in Teguc.) until Sunday afternoon. I must admit, it felt delightfully liberating to spend a couple days down in the city instead of up on our fairly isolated hill. Macayla lives in a great, super old, Colonial style neighborhood not too far from El Centro. AND she has a car, which is another amazingly freeing bonus!
I got to check out Macayla’s church this Sunday, which was in a pretty poor and supposedly sketchy part of town (another great reason to have a car!). It is the kind of place where orphans attend and addicts fall in from the street, but the pastor who preached was a tall black man from South Carolina and a decent number of Americans are involved as well. All in all, an exciting place to worship! ☺ I’ve been hearing about so many churches in the city and I’m looking forward to experiencing more!
In work-related news, school starts on Thursday and I have more to do than I would have liked. But, in my defense, Hannah (the other 3rd grade teacher) and I could only do so much because our grade-level team leader was stuck in the states unexpectedly after losing her passport. Since Academia los Pinares is very big on grade-level cooperation, we needed her input before we could create our rules, behavior management plans, or lessons. Thankfully she arrived on Friday so we can now get seriously to work!
Please pray that I can do a great job and not be anxious or stressed about starting this new year!
I will post pictures as soon as I find a way. ☺
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I am so happy to finally have some internet access and feel like I am somewhat connected to all of you who are far away!! I had a couple of opportunities to make phone calls, but I never had anyone pick up, and our house has no internet for the time being. We're hoping to get hooked up soon! I'm sorry for this mass email.. but it's all I have time for right now!
Well, I only arrived Saturday, not four days ago, but it feels like forever! We have had a pretty regimented schedule since we arrived, including communal meals (necessary due to our empty houses and kitchens and no stores nearby) and meetings. Several of the school families, including the director and his wife, and the elementary principal and high school principal, have hosted some of our meals the first few days. There are 17 new teachers this year, so there have been lots of new people to meet! Four of us met in Houston and were on the same flight in to Honduras and it was fun getting to know them. One of them was my roommate, Hannah. She's also teaching third grade with me and she's so sweet! My other roommate, Twana, is the elementary art teacher and she's super great, too. (And she's white, fyi).
Most of the teachers live in the school apartments, which are enclosed within the school walls and off to one side. However, we live across the street from the school's back gate. We live in a big house that is on the same 'compound' as a family of 8! They were also on our flight, and the six kids and even the mother with a 5 month old arrived excited and stress-free! They have lived here before (for 3 years) and they are helpful in letting us know how certain things are done around here. Plus the baby is fun to have around! In the house right next to our compound there are four guys who teach at Pinares. I've only met the two new teachers and the returning guys come sometime this week. Other Pinares teachers live in other adjoining houses as well. We hosted a game night at our house the second night becase our house is the best! It's got a big, open living/dining/kitchen area and lots of seating!
The school is only 7 miles outside of the city, but because it is 7 miles up a winding hill, it takes a long time to get to the city or back up. We drove into town yesterday afternoon to do our first big shopping trip. We had to hit a plastics store for any kind of plastic household item we'll need. Then we went to a mall that had a wal-mart style store, and a department store, where we bought cleaning supplies/groceries.. even a toaster oven. Our house was pretty much empty, which is a little frustrating because so many of the apartments are nearly fully stocked from past teachers.
The shopping trip was so exhausting and we spent a lot of money to get set up.. but it's nice to have our house semi-stocked.Macayla (my friend who teaches here) met up with us and helped me shop. I was also glad to get in and see the city a little bit.
That's one of the only hesitations I've found so far--the location of the school in relation to the city. While there are definite advantages to being up here (cooler climate, calmer atmosphere) it's also quite a commute into the city and there aren't any grocery stores or markets up here (aside from a hole in the wall kind of store that has a few essentials). It's going to require some effort to not isolate myself up here on the mountain.
Ok, I'm trying not to make this a novel right now.. but I'll add that this school is like night and day from Lincoln school. Oh my gosh it is huge and gorgeous and my classroom is a REAL classroom!! I have an overhead projector and a microwave (the kids eat lunch in the room) and regular desks and lots of supplies. AND, the school personell and administrators are really amazing. They are all so supportive and yet firm in their goals and beliefs for the school. They are really encouraging us spiritually as well as with basic things like our health and safety.
So, I think this e-mail is just a random collection of paragraphs, but at least it's something. I left my camera/computer cord at home.. so pictures may not be posted or sent any time soon unless I find a cord to borrow. I'm still in a weird transition phase.. it hasn't quite sunk in yet, but I am sure it will soon, especially when I spend some more time in the city. I'll try to continue updating my blog instead of sending more mass e-mails, so check it out in the future! (www.taralpeterson.blogspot.
One of my roommates and I have already staked out a place for our compost pile :)
AND, we are getting our MAID soon! ( All teachers are expected to have one.) She'll probably come 3 days per week. For the whopping salary of about $7 a day--a fair wage here! :)
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Well, this year, my birthday is a big deal for three Important Reasons. First and foremost, I will turn 25 years old. Let's not dwell too much on that fact, it's pretty straightforward. The second Important Reason that this August 8th is great is that it is my graduation day! In just two days I will officially be finished with grad school and in possession of my M.Ed degree in Language Arts and Children's Literature. I won't be going to my graduation ceremony, however, because of the Important Reason #3: I am moving to Tegucigalpa, Honduras on the same day. That's where I'll be teaching next year, at Academia los Pinares.
So, this Saturday, when you may think it's neat to write 8/8/2009 if you happen to be writing the date somewhere... just remember that it's a huge day for lots of reasons--in my world, anyway.
As my mother would say, Peace Out.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Now, I'm not sure I'd go that far in an appraisal of the job of a teacher, but there is a good point in there somewhere. Man...teaching is hard! I know a lot of non-teachers who don't think it is, but my motto has generally been: If you think it's easy, you're probably doing something wrong. It's scary to think of the responsibility teachers have. It plays out something like this :
1. the teacher enters.
2. 25 or so students enter.
3. the teacher must be an authority, but also warm enough so that the kids care about what she has to say.
4. the teacher must learn everything she can about her students--their interests, abilities, home lives, and struggles.
5. the teacher must then design instruction that will somehow engage all 25 of the different little people in front of her.
6. Most importantly, and most difficultly, the teacher should somehow find a way to make kids want to explore, learn, discover, and enjoy the world, in and outside of the classroom and school year.
Boy. I have two years of experience and another degree and I still feel nearly as clueless as I did on day one.
I guess the great think about teaching is that, even though it's really hard, it's a good kind of hard. I think it's hard like mini golf. No one plays mini-golf perfectly, but since it is social and fun, you keep at it. In mini golf, have to focus to get it right, and you generally keep a record of what you've done, and after 18 different holes, you might only get one hole-in-one--but it's enough to pump you up for the next round!
Wow. All cheesy metaphors aside, I'm pretty excited to get back in the game!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Therefore... here I am, and below is what I wrote for class. Aside from not wanting to just hand it over and say, "Read This!", to someone... I figured it kinda, sorta related to the nature of this blog. Here ya go:
I pushed through the bustling crowds, my quick strides appearing much more determined than the slow meander of your average extranjero in the street market. Colors danced all around me, but I didn’t let my eyes linger on anything—not yet. I was, in fact, quite as determined as my fast pace suggested—eager to distance myself as much as possible from the others. I’m sure you’re familiar with their type; those loud, overly-American tourists who draw everyone’s attention and give the locals a just reason to roll their eyes and scowl. Those people who think that, by yelling, their words will somehow translate and the Mayan women will understand that they want the same tablecloth in a different color. The kind of person who will order food at a restaurant and openly express her disgust at finding some unknown cut of meat or potentially amoebic salad.
The last thing I wanted was to be recognized as that kind of American, so I squeezed my way down the main strip, past the rows of shops and venders. I dodged groups of children calling, “Amiga! Compre algo de mi. Algo para tu familia. Si Amiga….”. Friend! Buy something from me. Something for your family. Yes, friend! I reminded myself not to buy from them; not to support families that keep their children out of school in order to make money from the soft-hearted gringos. Just beyond a man with a push-cart full of bananas I found my freedom in an alley full of locals selling fresh tortillas, cheap shoes, and pirated music.
Moseying away from the Americans with their dollars and their English and their cameras and their money pouches tucked into their neon-colored shirts, I tried to appear as separate as possible. Could they tell that I came to this country with them? Surely my manners, my Spanish, my appearance would spare me the automatic label given to my loud compañeros? I wondered what that label was. Rich? We buy seemingly everything in sight and stay at the nicest hotels. Rude? We snap a picture whenever we please. Arrogant? In everything we do, is there an implied superiority?
Marveling at the depth of my own observations, I found my way back to our beautiful hotel just in time for the three-course dinner served nightly. After stowing my bags of souvenirs, I took a couple choice pictures of the Marimba band playing in the courtyard before finding my seat at the table and promptly declined the steak dinner the waiter was serving.
“No, un plato vegeteriano por favor.” No, a vegetarian plate please.
Alas. Am I really any different?