Sunday, November 29, 2009

Five Thanksgivings

Who knew that I would end up celebrating Thanksgiving FIVE TIMES here in Honduras!!! I guess when you can't be with your family, you have to make up for quality with quantity, but I will say that many of these celebrations were pretty high quality, too!!
#1 -- Thanksgiving at the Teacher Houses

We had a lovely potluck Thanksgiving on Saturday, November 21st at the teachers' houses... At the last minute we realized that no one had signed up to bring turkey, so someone ordered out for roast chicken :) Elisa's stuffing was pretty amazing, and Matt made some great mashed potatoes. I, of course, baked the pumpkin pies with a little help from Elena :) I even had a brandied pie filling recipe... mmmmm :) We enjoyed quite a bit of wine and ended up going dancing afterwards (not a usual Thanksgiving tradition, but hey...)

#2 -- Thanksgiving at the Military Base

On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to be able to experience the Thanksgiving dinner at one of the dining halls on the nearby military base (technically, the Americans rent the space from the Hondurans, and it is dually patrolled). Not everyone gets to go on base, and we got special permission because one of the ninth-graders' moms worked on base and requested for a bus of us to come. It was also odd to pay the dining hall cashiers only in dollars for our meal--Lempiras not accepted. The dining hall was all decked-out (see place-setting picture) and I got to teach some of the students words like "cornucopia." The food was actually pretty good (except the stuffing was like glue--Elisa's still wins. I had to explain to people that that wasn't the way it was supposed to be) It was really nice to see all the effort that the staff on base went through to make the soldiers feel like they were home again. We all felt really very welcomed and I, as an American, really appreciated all their hospitality. I met a very friendly woman from Wyoming who was stationed there and she pretty much couldn't believe that a) I was over 18 and b) that I just up and came to Honduras to teach. It was a little awkward, however, when she warned me very seriously, in front of all my Honduran, English-speaking students, to be safe and really watch out for myself. Um, watch out for all the sketchy Hondurans? That I'm sharing Thanksgiving with?? Oh, well.... Overall, we had a great time, and the parents that came really enjoyed themselves as well!
#3 -- Thanksgiving at School
Technically there were two smaller Thanksgiving celebrations at school... apparently, bilingual schools are the only "cultural" entities in Honduras to celebrate Thanksgiving, and they gave us only Friday off mostly due to the presence of the American teachers. For lunch on Thursday, the support staff decorated the library for us with fall-colored table cloths and gave us a meal of roast chicken, pasta salad and rice (not very Thankgsiving-y, but the decorations made up for it). They also made us little hats with colored feathers in them... awkward moment number two... isn't it a little offensive to still dress up like stereotypical "Indians" on Thanksgiving? But the entire school staff was so proud of themselves and all the work they had done that I didn't want to say anything. I didn't end up wearing my hat, and told other people to turn in backwards so it looked more like a turkey tail than an "Indian" headdress.

We also had a small "celebration" during the last period of the day on Thursday, which for me was 11th grade biology. I baked pumpkin cupcakes decorated with candy corn brought especially for me from the States (Thanks, Sheila!!! I owe a blog about your visit! YOU WIN!) and handed them out to my students only after they got up and said something they were thankful for. A lot of them thanked me for being an awesome teacher (AWWWW!!!) I got a little self-conscious and was like, "um, guys, don't feel obligated to say that," but they were like, "no, we really mean it!!!" So when I got up to say my piece, it went something like "I am so thankful for all of you guys, and I'm thankful for the interesting turn my life has taken in bringing me here... and ... oh my gosh I'm gonna cry..." and then I did a little :P Most people didn't notice (I hope) because they were eating their cupcakes and talking. But I really do love these students and I'm happy we got to share that time together.

#4 -- Thanksgiving out on the Town

Since I had already celebrated with 9th grade at the base and 11th grade in class, it was serendipitous that 10th grade chose to have their own Thanksgiving dinner out on the town at one of the nicest restaurants in town (full, amazing meal still about $5-6.50), La Casita. It was more a time for them to all relax together outside of school (and unfortunately not everyone came) than it was a traditional Thanksgiving celebration, but we did say a quick grace. I was happy that they invited Besi (their "homeroom teacher" while Mircia is out on maternity leave) and me (the 10th grade "assistant"). Besi also brought her 10-year-old son, Samuel (can you find him hidden among the 10th graders??) I had a good laugh because they spent most of the meal taking pictures of each other and looking at them on their cameras rather than actually having conversations or eating, but hey, they're 16...
#5 -- Thanksgiving up on the Volcan

It was a wonderful surprise to be invited up to the farm where Karen, a teacher at the school, and her husband, Ed, live. I've heard that Karen's place is beautiful but it was certainly an amazing experience to find out for myself. This was definitely the most traditional Thansgiving celebration of the bunch, complete with a day of relaxing and watching movies, and taking "digestive walks" around the grounds. Karen lives up on the "volcan" and grows coffee, pineapple, bananas, among other things, and has quite a menagerie of animals! You can see the aviary in this picture where she has 3 parrots who are delightfully noisy :P I also enjoyed playing with her cat, her 4 dogs, and one amazing KINKAJU!!!! It's kind of like a lemur... with a big long tongue and hands that feel like human hands. She was so sweet. It was such a wonderfully restful day, and one that I really needed (sometimes you feel all cooped up in the city, and it was nice to feel some "wide open spaces" to quote the Dixie Chicks).

I am so thankful for all the blessings I have recieved and all the wonderful experiences I have had here so far in Honduras. I hope Thanksgiving was fabulous for my mom and dad, all my friends and their families this year. :)

a little taste of fall...

Right now, we are in the "cold season" here in Honduras. This means that it gets down to about 60 degrees and all the Hondurans bust out down coats and ski hats. :) I think it's rather refreshing--slightly overcast days, finally pulling out more than just a flat sheet to sleep with at night, and enjoying not being covered in sweat on the walk into school. Everyone thinks I'm crazy because I still walk around in short sleeves, enjoying the cool breezes! There have only been a few cold spells of 60 degrees over the last two months, so mostly we enjoy it being ~80. I personally love it because it's my favorite in-between weather. I absolutely love fall and am sad when i miss it, so any kind of fall-like weather is more than welcome in my book!!

To help celebrate fall, my roommates put on a Halloween party at our house and we had a lot of fun with the makeshift costumes we came up with. I was waffling about whether or not I would even have a costume, because I couldn't think of anything good and just wanted to bake stuff and be done with it. I remember going clothes shopping with my friend Elisa a few weeks before Halloween and seeing a black and yellow striped dress. At the time, I was like, hahaha, that dress looks like a BEE!! Who would buy that??? Later, finding myself in a pinch for a Halloween costume, it looked like one of the least-heinous options. I bought the dress and made some antenna out of a headband, pompoms, and pipe cleaners :) Elisa ended up going as a flower, so our favorite party trick was "pollination." These costumes also helped us get into one of the discotecas with no cover the next night. AWESOME!! There is also a classic picture of our fellow teacher, Matt, dressed as the sterotypical American tourist. That's a Spanish dictionary in his hands, and not pictured are his black socks and sandals :)

Our school has been "funny" about celebrating fall holidays as well. All the doors were decked out with fall-colored leaves (even though those are never seen here in Central America) because most of our workbooks and decorations come from US sources. Our conservative-Christian principal outlawed the celebration of Halloween at our school, even though it is not a Christian school. As it turns out, and was explained by another member of the administration, Hondurans don't really have an accurate picture of what Halloween is like in the US. The way he put it, "if you ask an American kid to draw a picture of Halloween, he would probably draw a pumpkin, a happy-looking witch, and candy. If you ask a Honduran kid to draw a picture of Halloween, he'll draw what he has seen on TV--chainsaws, murder, etc." Because there is a lot of petty crime in Honduras, trick-or-treating would pretty much never fly here. It's such big part of the American holiday and what makes it "nice" and "wholesome" for kids, but people hardly have a concept of that here. Anyway, we tried to celebrate it as best we could on our own time, and even brought facepaint for those who didn't dress up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

oh, that language barrier :P

I would like to think that I'm pretty good at Spanish, but one thing that always throws a curve ball at you are the regional expressions and meanings of words. One of my favorite examples that my friend Lily and I laugh about it that in Cuba, "coger la guagua" means to take the bus. Pronounced exactly the same, but with a dangerously different meaning in Bolivia is "coger la wawa" which means to f*ck the little girl. Ooops. I also was VERY glad that before I went to the Dominican Republic, I read in my guidebook that when asking for a bag for one's purchases, you should always use the word "funda" instead of the elsewhere-commonly-used "bolsa," because otherwise you would be asking for a scrotum. Also highly awkward.

I had a funny moment like that here in Honduras the other day, but it wasn't quite as bad. Locally, people will often use the verb "andar" (to walk) in place of "tener" (to have) such as "Andas lapiz?" (Do you have a pencil?) or "No ando pisto" (meaning, I don't have any money, another fun Honduran slang word). The situation is as follows: I was in a cab and, for whatever reason, it is notororiously hard to be able to get any large amount of change from any sort of vendor here. Since I only had a 100 lempira bill (about $5), and a taxi ride only costs 20, I generally try to make sure folks have change on them. Also, instead of using the word "cambio" (change) for small bills here, people often say "suelto" (like "loose" bills). So, thinking I would finally start trying out the more Honduran grammatical constructions... instead of saying "Tiene cambio?" (Do you have change?) I said, "Anda suelto?" The guy was one of these older, good-natured chatty guys, so his immediate response was "A veces, pero creo que a mi mujer no le gusta." (Sometimes, but I don't think my wife likes it very much) HA! Oh man, that'll teach me for trying something new :P It was just funny how "Do you have change?" could also be taken as "Do you run around like a bachelor?" (soltero, meaning "single," or suelto essentially means loose or released) HA!

Anyway, hopefully I will begin to incorporate more hondurenismos a little more seamlessly into my speech in the coming months :P