Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New School Year!

To be honest, the only excuse that I have for not writing sooner is "I've been busy." It's mostly true but some nights I literally do nothing but talk to people over Facebook and drown my brain in reality TV.

School started on August 8 and the two weeks before that, I spent all day at school doing training sessions, decorating my classroom, working on syllabi and a plethora of other things to start the school year. When we started classes on the 8th, I felt extremely overwhelmed. I had to learn the names of almost 130 students and some of the names I have a really hard time pronouncing. I was hoping that the students would like me, but honestly, after the first day, I was wishing that they would just listen. The thing is that I went into the school year with some preconceived notion that 5th and 6th graders were just little adults but then I was hit with the brick wall that they would much rather talk to their friends than listen to anything a teacher has to say. That was a shock to my system that I certainly wasn't ready for. I don't know where I came up with the idea that everything would run perfectly smooth, that I would never have to yell or raise my voice, and that my students would be angels but after Day 1, that thought went out the window.

Now, I think my students are bright individuals and they all have a lot of potential but I sometimes struggle with the discipline. I hate yelling at kids and I try not to but I can also not be so strict because I don't want them to hate me (lol, so lame!!). I guess it's a work in progress.

I think my classes are going well. I teach English and Writer's Workshop. My kids can come up with some funny, awesome ideas. But they need to focus on their grammar and spelling. I have to somehow include that in the English syllabus but I'm not sure how. We have to follow the curriculum too so we will see.

I am tired when I get home from work but not exhausted. I feel the energy to do normal things and I love having weekends free. I usually do work every night but tonight I think I'm going to relax :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blue Day

Sometimes there are days like today, where I want to do nothing more than throw myself in bed and do nothing until the sun rises again tomorrow morning. And it's days like today where I miss my family desperately, wanting so much to be again in my mother's house and losing my dad in the mess he has created in his office. I don't know why it sometimes happens but every so often, I feel a needy longing to be back in the States with my parents and sisters, doing nothing but watching some stupid TV show, waiting for my mom to finish baking her famous chocolate chip cookies, waiting until someone walks away from the kitchen to sneak one or maybe two. And it's not like I don't miss my family on a daily basis - because trust me, I do - but there are some days where it's more prominent in my mind that I am, indeed, hours away by plane and the only contact that I have with them is through the computer.

Yet I have to continue to remind myself that no matter where I am in this world, I will be making some sort of sacrifice. If I want to be near my parents and my family, it means Javi has to come with me and right now, that situation is simply not plausible. There are things that need to finished here before we can go to the States for an extended period of time. Visas are hard to get, money is even harder, and life sometimes requires that a person is pushed outside of their comfort zone just long enough to understand exactly what needs to be done in order to create everything that you want in life.

The thing is that I like living here. It has nothing to do with this place or the people or anything. It's just a longing desire to have everyone around me that I love, all in the same place. Some days it's really difficult to deal with the fact that being here means not seeing my parents, but being in the States means not being by Javi. So the decision to come here and sacrifice time with my family helps me to remember that one day when we are married, we can go anywhere we want. That I can be around my family if that is the logical choice for us. Unfortunately decisions for the future lie in a lot of present circumstances. Finishing school. Finding jobs. Getting visas. All that shit and a lot of luck.

I don't know where I was particularly going with all these thoughts and words, but it ended up here. I guess spilling out random, strung-out, garbles thoughts are all I have for today. Nothing fancy and nothing pretty and certainly nothing tied up with a big pink bow.

I'm human just like everyone else and some days, I miss my family and my cats and the dog that drives me crazy. But living and working in a different country makes you see the inside of yourself and what you are capable of. And that is something I don't want to give up on just because I have one sad day.

The fact that I'm essentially here for love is something to remember, too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Noises of the Night

Last night, I woke up approximately 9, 10, maybe 11 times. Not because I wasn't tired because trust me, I was. The issue - which, by the way, is a persistent one - is that this neighborhood, or maybe this country in general, is very loud in the wee morning hours. It lures me into a false sense of security as my eyelids fall down and I think that tonight I will finally have that one, restful, peaceful night where nothing and no one disturbs my beauty sleep. But soon, my eyes flutter awake by the tiny noise of a dog barking in the distance - maybe on the next street or a few houses down. And quickly, without warning, the entire street blows up into all the dogs from every house barking as if the world is ending. It goes on for what feels like minutes upon minutes, five passing into ten passing in to fifteen. In reality, it's probably one or two but in the state I am (which is, half-asleep and wondering where the hell I currently am) it feels like it is never-ending. This particular event happens a few times a night, and what sucks is that the dogs are usually barking at one of the following things:

1. a cat, especially the stupid orange and white male cat that walks so slowly down the street, it is like he is making the dogs go crazy intentionally;
2. a piece of paper/the wind;
3. communicating with another dog, just because;
4. nothing.

Finally they settle the hell down and I go back to sleep. But, wait! At 5 am, or maybe 6, the neighbor's stupid baby chicken decides, in his almighty highly-pitched voice, to squeak... and squeak... and squeak. And I pray that that chicken is a female and not a male because I cannot fathom the idea of a rooster one day waking me up with all his cockadoodledo's and shit, just because the neighbors wanted to raise a chicken. We live in a big city, and let me tell you, I always thought chickens lived in the country. I guess not! And please don't think I'm a bad person, but it has crossed my mind a few times that I wish they would just kill it off soon so I don't have to listen to it's little voice go on and on in the morning about nothing.

Over the past months, I've gotten used to listening to the different noises of the night. But the chicken has put me over the edge just a little bit. I don't particularly like my neighbors in this moment because of the chicken, the constant leaf sweeping (every morning, really?) and their loud friend who comes to talk on the phone at 7 or 8 am (what the hell?).

I want to shout "Peace and Quiet!" "Peace and Quiet for those of us who are on vacation for the next two weeks!!"

But then I remember, they won't understand me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July

American holidays change when you are living in a different country. Mostly, people don't even know it is a holiday for you. For everyone else, it's simply a normal day. But in the age of technology where most of my communication home rests upon Facebook updates, emails, tweets and Skype, I was constantly reminded that yesterday was, indeed, the Fourth of July. Now I didn't forget that it was, but somewhere in my mind I wanted to pretend that it didn't exist. That yesterday was just a normal Monday and nothing special was happening. People all over my Facebook feed were updating with pictures of parades, fireworks, yummy American BBQ*, and all of the things that I have associated with the 4th since I was born.

*"BBQ" = hamburgers, hot dogs, cole slaw, chips, beer, steak, corn on the cob... all that yummy stuff that I missed yesterday

The thing is that the 4th isn't the first holiday that I've spent away from the USA. The first was Easter. But the connotation of Easter isn't as strong as the one of the 4th, for me. When I think about Easter, it's just my whole family sitting around at my Grandma's house waiting for the ham and then eating. But the Fourth of July is something totally different.

When I was younger, my entire family would come over my house - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends. Everyone would walk to the parade, sit on the blankets and reap the rewards (candies) of fighting the other kids on the street for the handouts. Then we would return to my house, eat food, talk, swim, play Bocce Ball and basketball. My driveway would be full of cars, spilling out into the street. Kids would be running everywhere, the older ones keeping track of the younger ones. I specifically remember one 4th where my cousin ran over my Ken doll repeatedly with his bike and ever since then, my Ken had scraps all over his manly plastic chest.

When night fell, the entire neighborhood came out and blew off fireworks. We would all sit in my front lawn and watch the fireworks from the Fairgrounds. During the "ground shows," my dad and my uncles would take turns shooting off our own fireworks. It was always a spectacular holiday, full of family, food, fun, laughter... and capped off by being able to write my name in the dark night sky by using a sparkler as the ink.

As I grew older, the number of people dwindled until it just became my immediate family. And I was ok with that. It was a day of relaxation -- we still swam in the pool, my dad still took us to get hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks, we still bbq'ed. It slowly but surely became my favorite holiday.

But this year was different. I wasn't home for the 4th. I didn't get to see my dad blow off fireworks and almost set the tree on fire like always (except for the year when he actually did set it on fire). I didn't get to sit on the back deck eating steak and hoping that the flies would stay away long enough.

Even though I missed all of that, in my heart I was there.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Magical Fruit

Growing up, my family didn't eat a lot of beans. In fact, my idea of beans were only in Minestrone soup. And we never, ever fried them. Our protein consisted of what 'normal' Americans eat: chicken, beef, pork. But these little red things? Never.

I knew I liked beans and was willing to get used to them because I was well aware of the fact that typical Hondurans eat beans every day. For the first week or so, I religiously ate beans -- in the grain, mashed, blended and fried... any way possible. I ate a lot, I ate a little, I just ate what was served to me.

But one or two weeks later, my stomach had had enough beans. It was simply rejecting all the goodness from the frijoles and decided to make me as sick as a dog. So I didn't eat the beans that I so much enjoyed and had to slowly recover from feeling sick almost the entire time I was awake. I drank a lot of Alka-Seltzer water (gross) and laid around, pain shooting through my stomach and body like I had been torturing it.

It took me a while to recover from the sickness, taking medicine and drinking so much water I think I almost exploded. Now, I eat beans daily. It's weird not to eat beans. Actually my typical diet has changed so much that if I eat a heavy dinner consisting of meat, potatoes, etc. I feel sick. My body has adjusted to beans, tortillas, cheese and maybe hot dogs/chorizo/bologna for dinner. It's a strange concept to have changed your dietary habits after 25 years of eating the same things, but it doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would.

Hondurans have a typical food called the Baleada, which is a freakin' joy to eat and one day soon, I'll describe in depth this amazing, simple, easy food.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Learning Spanish and Why It Haunts Me

When I first arrived in Honduras, I didn't know much Spanish. My vocabulary consisted of simple words: hola, adios, gracias. I made a promise to myself that I would learn as much as possible, but for me, that required studying.

My first couple of days, I was overwhelmed. Every sign was in Spanish. Everyone spoke Spanish. I was completely lost, relying strictly direct translation to English. From February to April, I didn't try to learn much. But I found my Spanish book and started to religiously study it daily. I did the grammar exercises, learning new vocabulary words and began to understand how to read and write in basic Spanish.

The problem was -- and still continues to be -- that I have a super big fear of speaking! I know exactly what I want to say, I can understand what people say to me (if they speak slowly, of course) but I can't seem to jump the wall and produce the words from my mouth.

I'm not sure exactly what my problem is but I think it stems from two things:
1. Some people pulled a joke on me when I was first learning that made my confidence drop; and
2. I'm a teacher so I think WAY too much.

I want to overcome my fear but it takes a lot of guts for me to speak. I don't want people to laugh or make comments, I don't want to have the wrong accent or forget to roll my R's. I don't want to make a mistake. But learning only comes from mistakes.

If I can give advice to my students to take risks when they learn English, why can't I take my own advice?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Don't Think I Can Rough It

About two months ago when I was Skyping with Mom, I asked her if she was going to come visit me here in San Pedro. Her immediate response was, "Kate, you know me, I don't want to rough it." To be honest, I was kind of shocked that she said that because -- and let's be completely clear here -- I don't "rough" it! I live in a normal house (although it's made completely of concrete but let's ignore that fact) with all the normal things. I have running water, electricity, a real shower (not a bucket - where do people get this idea?!), cable television, internet, all of the normal things that US people have!

This encounter made me ponder deeply about the myths that people who have never traveled to a Central American country think about the lifestyle here (traveling to a resort in Costa Rica or Mexico doesn't count, people!). And it made me want to attempt to debunk those comments and suggestions that people assume about the way I live. I may not live in a huge house with 1000 objects, big rooms and a yard, but I live comfortably and within reason.

Trust me, I've had to adapt to living in this city -- in this country -- for the past four months. And the adaptation is continuing because sometimes things happen that just bug me to no end but it's all about dealing with the culture and learning to understand that people live differently but in the end, we are all the same.

And living here is beginning to help me discover what I can do and how much I can push myself.