A Travellerspoint blog

Feliz dia de San Valentin!

86 °F

Feliz dia de San Valentin!
So as I was sitting here on day usually reserved for the gushing of couples or the distain of the solitary populace or play the aloofness of someone who hardly notices it’s a day to celebrate…..I was wondering which box I should stew in this year.
But I got caught up in my pictures from our event at school and forgot to assign myself an emotion. As I was looking at these pictures, the overwhelming reality of the end descended. Now, I know it is not helpful to look at the end of things but to be in the moment so as not to sacrifice any energy in premature ramblings. How am I going to say goodbye? How am I going to leave? It must be done and the day will come…but for right now, I’m just going to count my blessings. So it’s time for another top 10 list in no particular order except for number 1.

10. Bunnies. There is a little village of bunnies living behind our house. And a couple days ago, I said to Yara, “Let’s go catch one.” So we went and caught a perfect, fluffy white bunny. (I screamed and worked up a sweat running around like a banshee, and eventually received the help of a native who wondered what the crazy gringa was doing)

9. Lunch. The teachers (and student body in general) are not happy with our ‘snack stand’. But there is a mother who takes our orders and brings us great food everyday. So for about 75 cents I get a baleada with avocado or chicken. Que Rico!

8. iTunes. I recently purchased some happening tunes with my gift card from my Daddy. Including a great Irish pub song. A nice way to ease into my cold shower every morning.

7. Visitors. My mom and brother are coming at the end of March! I’m so excited! They’ll have a few days to see me working at the school then we’re off for a fabulous vacation to Roatan! The “Jewel of the Bay Islands.” (I’m just really excited to see my brother with the girls….I’m going to make them give him a hard time.)

6. Definitions. I’ve been accumulating another list of fantastic definitions to post on here….but I can’t wait for this one. One of my fourth graders, Leonardo, has an absolutely tragic, infallible, relentless crush on one of the girls on my class. A love he has harbored since preschool. Here was the definition.

Attractive: Pleasing. Beautiful. Natalie.

5. Boots. We had a lot of rain the other day. I walked to school in my flip flops then spilled mustard all over my shirt. So I went home to change at lunch and decided to swap my flip flops for the giant industrial sized green rain boots. I left my flip flops at home and then taught the rest of the day in these gigantic ugly boots. I think I should wear them more often, I think they gave me super powers in the classroom. But then I went to tutoring and scared the crap out of Naomi. She cried whenever I got near her….ok, it was a little funny.

4. Neighbors. So we’re pretty good friends with our neighbors across the way, Sharon, Carlos and their son, Arturo. Yara and I went over and hung out for a bit and at one point Carlos turned on the song, “If you’re happy and you know it…” for Arturo. Needless to say I gave that boy a show of a lifetime.

3. Literature. The Hunger Games. If you have an even passing fancy in Young Adult Literature pick this up, read it. My 6th graders are rabid for it. The parents of one of my poorer students asked me to give him extra tutoring to help improve his English. This kid gets excited over very few things but he is riveted for the next installment of “The Tell Tale Heart” by Poe. And I am reading “Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistle Stop Café.” Boy, do I love a good Southern novel, talk about comfort food.

2. Giant Mutant Moths That Look Like Bats. Two sightings. One flew into 5th grade the other day when the window was open. Pandemonium ensued. Then I was sitting outside with Yara during a kind of down day. Next thing I know a giant gray thing flaps and whizzes past our faces. We screamed like girls and ran away.

1. Aylin. A little back story. Aylin, a girl from the home, has been one of my problem students since day one. Both of us vying for the power in the classroom. Since I met this girl, I loved her. I fell hard. But we’ve never gotten along. After about two months into the school year things mellowed and we made our peace. Then on our last day before Christmas break, she was in one of her moods and I told her to go to the principal’s office. She didn’t say goodbye to me before I went home. Thoughts of her haunted me when I was at home. And she still wasn’t talking to me when I got back, I had hoped that time would make her forget. Nope. But then one day she really changed her attitude. And now we are as right as rain, she’s still a pain sometimes but I FREAKING LOVE THIS GIRL. Now, the story. Bare with me. Valentine’s Day. Friday—our celebration at school. At the beginning of class, Aylin gave me a beautiful hand made card. And in English, it said beautiful things, broke my bloody heart. Then the class was working on a reading assignment. They had to draw a picture and this kid (I know this is terrible, but he rubs me the wrong way) who is really aggressive and mean tells Aylin her picture is ugly and smacks her. Now she probably did something to aggravate him too, and then she pushed him and his desk over. Chaos was beginning to reign in the class already anyway, so I told everyone to go outside for the last 10 minutes of class and shake off some of their energy. I look back to make sure everyone was outside but Aylin was sitting in her desk crying. Now, she is never one to show vulnerability so I tried to ease into this. I sat down and asked her if she wanted to talk. She said no. Now, I’m not great with emotional moments like this, so I just offered her what I’d want. I said, “Well, I’ll be outside, if you want to talk. Take your time, you can stay up here.” I sent one of the older girls from the home in to talk to her, hoping that if she wouldn’t talk to me that she’d talk to her. Later in the day, another fourth grader handed me a piece of red paper and said, “This is from Aylin.”
It said. In Spanish (which is a significant thing to me, it meant that she couldn’t say what she wanted in English)

Para: Miss Emely
Feliz dia de Valentin Miss, que la pase de maravilla. Quidese muchisimo. Gracias por su amor. Gracias por todo. Que Dios la bendiga y mucho por que usted es una buena persona.
Love, Aylin

It basically says: Happy Valentine’s day, I hope it’s a great one. Thank you for your love, thank you for everything. May God bless you and more because you are a great person.
Yeah. I’ll take this over a note from a boy any day. Best Valentine I’ve ever gotten.

Now here are some pics from our event at school.
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Posted by buscarme 13:55 Archived in Honduras Tagged volunteer Comments (2)

Domingo

Today I sat with Katherine at church. One of her favorite pastimes is cracking my knuckles for me. Weird. And Honduran. I love it.

Its been so great since I've been back with the girls. Doors are flying open left and right. Back at the house we've taken a step back from our social life outside the house and been focusing our energies more at the home (OLR). And its been paying off in beautiful ways. This weekend was spent in their presence. There is a group visiting from the states right now and in their number is a Zomba teacher. Zomba (maybe its Zumba?) is dance for exercise. And man oh man, I LOVE IT. I have never sweat so much in my life! And I have always said I'm not a dancer but I love this stuff. So do the girls.

Another thing on the docket for this weekend...was parent visiting day. The family of the girls are allowed to visit one day a month. A tough day. I saw a mother whose face was beaten black and blue, from what I can only assume was her husband and one of the little ones balling when her mother left. And the girls tried to comfort telling her that her mom just left to buy her a soda or she went home to some work but she'd be back. And I just watched. Shocked. But this is how they all learned. And my heart was just grateful that they had this home. That they didn't have to be in an environment where they had to watch their mom get beat or wonder where their next meal was coming from. Maybe I don't agree with how everything is done in this home...but it is a home. They have a family. They don't have to beg for food, like the kids outside our house do daily, they have shoes and clothes and beds and live in a place where they feel safe.

Below are some pictures from a school event we had recently. A competition at the top of the Coca Cola sign. We had a blast. All the families from the school were divided up into 4 teams. All the girls from the home were on the yellow team....which I learned grudgingly from kids not in the home always wins because they are fierce competitors. Go girls go!

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Posted by buscarme 16:15 Comments (5)

Dia de Mujere

96 °F

January 25, 2010
Hounduran-side.
Here I am back in the swing of things. Two weeks into the new term at school, finished my exams, got everything buttoned up nice and tight. And believe it or not….I have moved on from living for my free time in my house and with my house mates to absolutely, completely, perfectly loving my job. This might be the result of a couple good weeks at school….such as my sixth graders joining me in my love of a novel I read a few months before I first came here (of which I have to keep them away with a bat with their pleas to read aloud in class); or perhaps my new found peace with being the strange gringa who goes where she wants and doesn’t even notice the stares by passers-by; or my fourth graders who get excited about the silly drawings I do on the board for their new spelling lists or what frostbite is in our newest story; or the constant warmth of Yara’s family, who are always good for a game of futbol, a dance break, or a soft bed for a nap; or my fifth graders asking me if we can turn off the lights and sit in a circle, listening to the sounds of the rainforest on my computer for our next installment of “The Amazon”; or perhaps the realization that I am winning the war with the girls, there are still battles to be fought but with their increasing love and acceptance I feel like I’m flying.
I know that one bad day could put me back into that dark cloud but since my mantra now is to “live in the moment” this is a pretty accurate picture of how I’ve been feeling. And for a dose of gritty reality…..I have a story I’d like to share…and I’d like to share it mainly because I don’t want to bear it alone.
In my sixth grade class we are reading a story about a girl struggling with a friend moving away and her father dying. She gets the opportunity to write something for her English class to read aloud, bringing healing to her loss. So I, somewhat stupidly, wanted to do the same thing with my class. I didn’t really think things through when I did this. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I told them to write three things in their journal they are struggling with. I wrote mine on the board to illustrate. I wrote:
1. My parent’s divorce
2. Living in Honduras
3. Leaving Honduras
I wrote each of these for different reasons. The first I wanted write something about family that they could relate with and the other two because…..they are things I’m actually dealing with. I felt later like I shouldn’t have made myself so vulnerable so as to maintain that teacher-student wall but I charged in as I do, not knowing how to do things any other way. And then I told them to pick one to write about.
At one point while I was talking, already getting the ball rolling on this, no turning back….I saw Leily and Katherine. Two girls in my class from the home. I felt at once two things: oh crap and I wonder what they’re going to write. I walked into the trap I had set for myself both regretting what I had done but also wanting to see what would happen….If they would take the bait and be honest. I asked everyone if they got stuck if they wanted me to come over and take a look and give them some prompting questions for the ones they chose to write about. I stood at the front of the class while they all started writing. Then I got a few of the kids to show me what they had written. They all wanted to keep their issues private from each other but most of them wanted some help. The first two being Leily and Katherine.
Most of the kids in the class wrote about siblings or pets. They didn’t.
Katherine wrote:
1. My mother
2. Leaving OLR (Our Little Roses)
3. My brother
She had decided to write about her mother and brother. I started writing some prompt questions about her brother as she had already written about her mom and her death. I wrote “Where is your brother? What is he doing?” And as I wrote this, she whispered to me “He is in Heaven. He is resting.” And then I just wrote “How does that make you feel?” Leily wrote:
1. My mother
2. Living at OLR
3. Leaving OLR
She wrote about her mother dying and both liking and disliking living at OLR. She talked about how life was hard.
My heart broke in about 5 different ways. I didn’t know how to respond. So I tucked my heart away and walked around to the other kids after writing her a few prompt questions. I read about pets dying and angry sisters who stole toys.
And I just felt like such a jerk. I brought this stuff up for myself, wanting to know. Well, congratulations Emily. Now you know. I just hope that God can take my sick need for needing to know their pain and turn it into something healing for them. I think that’s the most selfish thing I’ve done since I’ve been here. And this is the moment I beg for the mercy of the divine to do its thing….and fix what I so humanly screwed up and took for myself.

Posted by buscarme 19:47 Archived in Honduras Tagged volunteer Comments (2)

Feliz Navidad

and then she was stateside.

snow 18 °F

So. Forgive me for not posting recently. I’ve been so consumed with all kinds o feelings, I haven’t felt articulate enough to post anything. But now…..Stateside.
The week before I was supposed to take off might have been the longest stretch of my life. Every minute, every second ticked by with the speed of your approaching spring. Excruciating. I felt like my body was going to fall apart from all the anticipation. Finally the eve of our departure arrived. Hannah and I went to our favorite haunt and ordered the chicken with tostadas and beans. We wanted to give our sturdy country a proud send off.
The morning of the 20th. I awoke with all of my anxiety gone, home was at my fingertips. We piddled around the house, turning things off, securing our little apartments….I still didn’t get around to cleaning my shower to my utter surprise. And then at 10am on the dot our taxi arrived. Carlos, a friend of the family of Yara, came to pick us up with a bon voyage party! Mama Letti and Carlitos came with him to see Hannah and I off. Which was perfect.
We got to the airport and unloaded only to find we were delayed a couple more hours. Hannah and I goofed around on my computer and tried to sleep in the cold airport (cold being like 80 degrees)—an omen of things to come, I’m sure. Then we boarded our flight to Houston. Stateside.
Hannah, Yara, and I have had some conversations about what ‘re-entry culture shock’ is like. So I was anticipating something…..but I became completely unglued. On the flight my two neighbors were Honduran. They were speaking in Spanish for much of the flight. And I just let the beautiful rhythms of Spanish wash over me. And then like a knife…..English started plunging into my peaceful solitude. There was an American sitting behind us and he was telling his neighbor what he was getting his kid for Christmas. Then we started descending into Houston. And I started weeping. Caught between these two worlds. For the last four months I have built defense systems and security blankets to adjust to this new planet that was to become my home. And I have spent the last four months counting down the days to my voyage home only to discover….that Honduras had worked its way into my blood. That it has become home.
The food, the language, the way people view family, the pace of life, the dirty streets, the warm smiles of the girls, the chaos of the school, the insanity of the drivers, the street vendors, the guards with their guns, the barking dogs, the tortilla man, my lovely roommates, the comfort of Yara’s family, my Honduran friends, the heat. How did this happen? I’ve struggled and struggled to be at peace only to find that I’m finally coming into it. I listened to that American man with red hot hatred. SHUT UP SHUT UP. I looked over at Hannah across the aisle with an “Oh, crap.” So this is “Re-entry.”
When we got off the plane, things only escalated. Surrounded by gringos, outrageous prices of coffee, ENGLISH. It was not a comforting thing. It was pure chaos. Everyone in their trendy, sloppy styles, babbling in not pretty English. I calmed down, Hannah and I got on our flight and flew into Chicago.
It took me a couple days, but I fell back into the rhythm of my life here. My poor family, I tried to explain myself but there were no words and I’m sure I came off completely condescending with my “Oh, I wish I could make you understand but I can’t put it in words” jabber.
But since I’ve been home, things could not be better. I’ve seen my Albright Theatre friends, dear friends from high school and college, the Shouey clan, my extended family in Pennsylvania-both Crooks and Hannas, and my city…Chicago.
And I’ve been blessed with what I’ve been praying for…..snow. And snow. And snow. I’ve been fortunate to not be consumed by the unstinting bitter cold until today. In the city it is just unrelenting. I’m wearing three pairs of tights right now. ;)
While I am soaking up every minute with my friends and family, Honduras is never far from my thoughts. And here I go with my clichés again, but I am not the same person I was. I feel stronger, more independent, ready stand up for myself. I know the world a little better. And I’ve got six more months….we’ll see what God will do. Great things are coming—it will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination but as everyone always says, “Nothing worth doing is easy.” And I can’t wait to meet that person on the other side.
Here are some highlights from our Christmas celebration at Holy Family and then some from being home so far. I have a lot of pictures I want to put up, so have fun browsing! ;)

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Miss Zoila and the 6th graders
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The 2nd graders
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Me and the 6th angels
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Me and Ismelda at the Christmas party of 4th grade!
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At the Fox Bar and Grill with the Albright theatre people.
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These are my dear friends, Amy and Jim.
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Chicago in Winter.
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My bro the banana
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Crooks family dinner
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Singing Christmas Carols....don't we look like a postcard? :)
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Me and my cousin Nate. He doesn't like physical affection. I was trying to make him uncomfortable. Pretty sure I succeeded.
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Me, Mad, and Al in our Christmas hats.
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No photo compilation is complete without the Bubbles.
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FOOD!
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A Shouey showin' off his puppet skills.
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The whole Shouey Clan
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Walter, who has stolen my heart and who I swear one day, I'll kidnap. Better keep an eye out Rachael.
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Hanna Family Dinner
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Snow!
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And finally, quite possibly one of my favorite pictures.....Dad getting ready to shovel with his makeshift boots!
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Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano!

Posted by buscarme 07:27 Archived in Honduras Tagged volunteer Comments (1)

Utila II. Y una historia....

93 °F

The long overdue pictures from Utila!!!!!

Getting off the boat after puking. Ahhh....the sweet divinity of fresh air.
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Me at our hotel on the water
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The main drag
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Off the beaten path
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This wonderful hotel called the "The Jade Sea Horse" It was an outdoor art display with glass, tiles, bottles, stones, so intricate and went on forever.
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Hannah, Rick and I went for a bike ride
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Me and Hannah
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The Beach
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Hannah and Her Dad. Delightful
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INTRUDER!
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I made a friend, Cieba. We romped quite a bit. Can't wait for my own ugly pooch when I get home.
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The dreaded vomit cage for the voyage home
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The sun rises on the day of our departure
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Oh, but please don't let me throw up
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But ah! Land. Home, sweet home.
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Fantastic vacation, aside from the first two days being pummeled by rain. But I enjoyed the solitude and down time nonetheless. Beautiful island, beautiful, rich culture. Very refreshing.

Now, I have a little story for you.
Yesterday I was talking with my dad on Skype, trying to figure out Christmas. Because I am home for such a short time, things need to be mapped out. As a child of divorce things from the outside that seem difficult are commonplace for us. Such as….figuring out who is where when.
My dad always uses this phrase…”I’ll take what I can get, whatever is easiest for you.”
And as I was looking at my calendar, I came to the realization that no, this wasn’t good enough. I want to be with my father. So I said this, and I fixed it. And all of a sudden everything came crashing in on me. That I love my family. All of them. Despite the history, despite the pain, the isolation, the baggage that many families carry. And I need all of them desperately. And I’m sure a bit of my reaction was homesickness, but I would like to think I would’ve felt the same if I had been at home.
So I lost myself in the past, the beautiful pain that only family can bring. It was a growing ache, and a satisfying one.
I got off the phone with my dad, crying. I got my stuff and went to the home for lunch and then tutoring. Hannah, saw something was wrong. And you know when you feel that release, with the right person, who says the right thing? Well, I had a “Good Will Hunting” moment, if you will. I fell apart. I cried on Hannah for a minute. And she said, “If you don’t feel up to tutoring, go home.” And I said, yeah, I’m going to go home.
But on my way out the door, one of my kids, Rosa started pulling on me, asking me to help her with her math homework. So I thought, ok, what would I do at home anyway? Sit around and mop about that I’m happy my family is learning to grow? No. I’ll tutor.
I was afraid for these girls to see my weakness, they prey on that stuff. But I didn’t care. I was a little reckless. And sat down at the table. Rosa is a pain in my butt most days, she walks around the home like she owns the place. She’s spoiled by one of the Tias and always gets her way. She’s very hard and cruel at times, and doesn’t often see past her own needs. And she IS a kid, so some of that is normal.
She looked at me and laughed, in that nervous way when you’re kind of uncomfortable. She asked me why I was crying. At that moment, Abby came over. She’s a little older, doesn’t speak much English, and I’ve had to work hard for her friendship. She wanted to know too.
So I tried to explain in Spanish. My dad and I have had a rough relationship, we’ve come a long way. I miss him.
Rosa looks at me, with her hand on my arm and says, “Well, my mom, my mom is in the sky.”
Oh shoot.
Abby tells me in Spanish the history of her family. She has half brothers and sisters she’s never met. And her parents left her.
Oh shoot.
I started laughing and they laughed with me. I know that sounds like a terrible response to have but it wasn’t. They weren’t trying to disvalue my feelings at all. And I felt like a jerk crying over the fact I haven’t spent enough time with my father in an ORPHANAGE. That feeling was fleeting because the last thing these girls want is pity and that wasn't their intention when they shared with me. I just felt God all over that moment. In that room. And I just felt him whisper, “Don’t live in the past Em. Don’t live in the future either. Now. Now is the moment. When you go home, enjoy your family. Enjoy the moment. Faith is in the moment. Love is in the moment.”
And so I tutored Rosa in math. Badly. And I just felt elated. And I am so freaking glad I’m here. And I am learning to shed those insecurities that hold me back, to not wonder if what I’m doing means anything. That most of these girls won’t even remember me in a couple years….because it doesn’t matter. We have right now. I have right now. And that’s all that matters.

Posted by buscarme 16:25 Archived in Honduras Tagged volunteer Comments (3)

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