Friday, December 26, 2008

#8 Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

Ah, my first Christmas in the Developing World

It’s been different than I ever expected, far more calm and sane than I thought it would be. It did not even feel like Christmas at first. There are some lights up here and there...we even have a Christmas tree in our house here in El Sauce, but something was missing…maybe it is the 80 degree afternoons, or the lack of consumerism…

Our Christmas Tree…and my roomies

The Sunday before Christmas we had a big party at the Jungle School, put on by a local Catholic group. It was really great…presents, sandwiches and sodas and cookies, and 2 pinatas! They taught the kids songs and dances to go with them, which the kids sang for the rest of the week.

Kids and Adults Dancing

Kids at the Pinatas

Dave Ashby, HHK founder, at the Pinata

Kids with Presents

I appreciated the work done by this group, especially in comparison to another—Evangelical Christian—group that came the week before. They had stopped in just briefly, given cheap plastic gifts that were often not age appropriate, and there had been no food but lots of prayer, laying on of hands, and Jesus-talk. That group barely interacted with the kids and then they were gone.

What does surprise me about both groups is that the presents they gave were very impractical. Toys are fun, don’t get me wrong, but these kids need so much more. They each got a sock full of candy from one group…one sock…why not make it a pair of socks? Given that the kids are registered with the school, we really need to be collecting the information about each child that would allow and encourage the groups to purchase clothes, shoes, and age appropriate educational toys. We all know Christmas is coming once the calendar says “Octubre”…maybe the older kids could each take on the responsibility of putting together the information for their families. Just a thought…

But back to my own Christmas. Things did start to feel like Christmas when I went to a party at David’s Great Aunt’s house. We ate dinner and listened to a local musician who was coming around the houses and playing a few songs at each one for a few lempiras or a plate of food or a beer. Apparently he is quite famous around La Ceiba and is known as “El Canario.” They were traditional Ceibena songs…beautiful…I could have listened all night but we returned to the Aguero’s house, where we at Midnight we ate a small meal and wished each other “Feliz Navidad.” The next day was calm, full of relaxation, and Honduran tamales (sweeter and cooked in banana leaves rather than corn husks.) Tamales and fireworks, that’s what Christmas is about here it seems…I’ll be glad when our neighbors here in El Sauce run out of fireworks and stop firing them off in the front yard. Tamales, fireworks, and—now that I’m here—baked goods…I’ve made brownies and cookies over the last couple of days. I used too much water in the cookie recipe, and the eggs are small so I had to use two, so I guess I actually made brownies and a cookie cake.

Tomorrow I am off to Copan for a few days to learn more about the Mayans and see a bit of Western Honduras…

Thursday, December 18, 2008

#7 I’ve gone and done it now…

I got myself hitched. He’s a real cutie. His name is Lempira. He’s about six weeks old, I’m guessing. He’s got a few fleas and a swollen belly likely full of round worms and, don’t worry, Dad, he’s a kitten…No…a real kitten. He’ll go to Brenda, one of the students at the school, when I leave in March. I am just trying to see him back to health and vigor, which includes keeping him away from homicidal toddlers.

It isn’t uncommon in India, Bangladesh, and many impoverished places, for younger children to attend school with their older siblings. The only difference here is that many of the older siblings show little to no interest in their toddler hermanitos. We don’t have volunteers or space for these guys but we aren’t about to turn them away from a reliable source of nutrition.

But I think we need to draw the line when the toddlers bring along their small, starving, dirty, flea-ridden kittens to play with. This was the second cat I had to watch be tormented by a homicidal toddler in the last two days. Homicidal seems a strong word for a three year old, doesn’t it? But this three year old was hurling the kitten to the ground with all the force he could muster, then picking it back up while it was still stunned and doing it again.

And, yes, this was while I was trying to teach geometry.

I know that I have limitations. I am one woman and cannot single handedly wipe out endemic poverty and its woes. But I could do something in this situation.

So I took the kitten away from the three year old. To him it was a cute ball of fur with no more rights or feelings than most people attribute to, say, a three year old. There isn’t any reasoning or explaining that can change a very limited mind. So, I stopped teaching geometry and took the role of the responsible adult…and ten minutes after I took it away, he seemed to have forgotten it completely and had started playing with a plastic bag over his head (which I also took away despite the urge to let nature run its course.)

The kitten stayed, quite happily, in a box on the table in the corner of the room. Anyone who approached it was threatened with no milk or lunch if they so much as touched the box. The kitten curled up and went to sleep. He awoke when I brought in a little of the milk mixture we give the kids, which I diluted with water and he gobbled down hungrily, then crawled onto my hand and fell asleep again.

It was the kitten version of a kidnap victim’s response. Food! Sleep!

So, I made up my mind that he wasn’t going back to the toddler. This child comes from the poorest family. They don’t have enough food for themselves. This little guy wouldn’t last but another two incredibly miserable weeks at the very most. After lunch I convinced the oldest child in the family (she’s six) that it was sick (and showed her the distended belly to prove it) and that there was no way they could care for it, so she gifted the kitten to Brenda, another girl of about ten or eleven. This I found acceptable, as Brenda seems in good health and, even better, sane mind. As I was leaving, Brenda ran up to me with the kitten and asked me to have it.

It is amazing how when you have nothing, it causes you to see value in nothing…or everything. The toddler’s sister couldn’t care less about the cat. It would likely die anyway. There would always be another amongst the limitless hungry, unsprayed and unneutered population. Brenda valued what the cat needed, that I could provide it, and what caring for the cat might mean to me. She and I had bonded over her great work in Geometry, and she wanted to show me how much I mean to her. I asked Brenda if she could take it when I have to go back to the US, by which time it will be bigger and healthier and won’t need so much constant care, and she said yes.

Crap. No more excuses. And how could I say no to those green eyes?

So, feeling a little bit like the Wicked Witch with Toto in the bike’s basket, Lempira and I came home to Ceiba. Together we learned online that he is indeed likely a he (it’s hard to tell at this age,) that he is likely about 6 weeks old (his baby teeth are almost all in but he is too small to be a full two months,) that most likely his belly is swollen due to roundworms (for which I am trying to find a treatment here,) and how we would go about litter box training, etc. At the store we found Kitten Chow, some yummy treats, Ivory Dish Soap, Combs, and a large plastic tray with sunflowers that will be serving as the litter box. Cats here are always outdoor cats. David says they just pee everywhere and hates them, but I am determined to succeed with the plastic tray and the fine silt that I collected at the side of the road.

Lempira has now eaten his fill (which took two platefuls of Kitten Chow.) He has had a bath (which he did not enjoy but which seems to have killed most of his fleas) and lots of cuddle time to warm back up from said bath. He has explored the room with gusto and discovered a feisty enemy in the form of my backpack. I can see that his fur and gait have already begun to improve a bit just from a bath and the sense of safety. I am laying on my bed, and he has curled up in the crook of my neck (he wants constant contact) and gone to sleep purring.

At least I will have succeeded in positively touching one life here…

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

#6 E. coli? Sure I’ll try anything!

DISCLAIMER: This blog entry includes decorative discussion of my bowels, so readers beware. If you don’t want to know what it is like to have a horrid digestive infection, then don’t read this entry…

It’s been a while since I’ve written, right? Well, it’s been a couple of days since I left the house or ate solid food, too!

I awoke on Sunday morning with the most watery diarrhea of my life. I had been out partying the night before and I thought, “Okay, fine, I’ve done this to myself. This must be my version of a Honduran hangover.” Alas, no. Things headed downhill a couple of hours later when I added to the hourly diarrhea regimen the companion activity of vomiting. That’s right…both ends…sometimes at the same time!

I have nothing but the upmost empathy for babies with diaper rash. I thought I had somehow given myself a chemical burn, I swear. Thankfully, skin heals quickly.

My favorite moments were:
1. After cleaning myself up, going to my bed where I had thrown my water bottle on the way to the bathroom…well, I hadn’t gotten the bottle fully closed so there was a nice huge puddle of wet in the middle of my bed! I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening curled up in a ball, perched on the edge of the mattress until the worst of the wet had dried.
2. The expat Dr. Black came over after I had emailed him to please help me as my Imodium wasn’t doing a damn thing. He took my pulse and told me, “Well, you’re not in extremis.” I nearly cried…I was thinking, this is pretty extreme! He gave me anti-nausea medication in both pill and suppository form and told me to take both so that at least one might stay in. He then came back later after I had fallen asleep with the injectable form of the medication just in case neither the suppository nor pill stayed in or did the trick.

I had decided that at that point, if the only way to stop the pain was through injected medications, I was going to the hospital. (Don’t worry, that would be the nice, clean, private hospital not the scary, dirty, public one. )

I think I scared both David and my mother a little. I was fairly out of it when they called to check on me. Monday fared a bit better. Dry toast in the morning and afternoon and chicken soup with rice in the evening. I didn’t even try to go to school. Dr. Black and Cynthia had me drinking a powdered drink called Gastrolyte to keep my electrolytes correct. I started antibiotics yesterday once I was fairly certain of keeping them down.

So I now continue to repair myself. Lots of naps. Chicken broth with white rice. Lots of water. More naps. More water. It’s not quite all systems normal yet. Things are gurgling in ways they never have before and my abdominal muscles are sore as the dickens.

I managed to get to school today although I was incredibly ragged by the time we arrived. The road has been severely damaged by the latest rains. One section was completely blocked by a landslide but has been somewhat cleared by a bulldozer. It is now a large mud puddle, ankle deep and iron-rich red mud. But I was okay. After all, I’d seen grosser. Recently. In my own bathroom.

One of the older kids was riding his bike back from the store and kept me company as I tended to lag behind Cynthia and Brooke. I must not have looked too good but I held my own.

My sweat tastes like Gastrolyte. I hate the taste of Gastrolyte.

Friday, December 12, 2008

#5 It’s raining! It’s pouring! I’m bored and snoring!

So yesterday morning I awoke around 2am to the sound of pounding rain. It had not let up when we left the house at 7:30am to bike to school. It had not let up when we stopped to shelter under a corrugated tin awning. It did not let up for the hour we waited there, reviewing the US state capitols, the capitols of Central and South American countries, and the names of the Australian territories and their capitols. At 9am we gave up given the high possibility of mudslides and road outages further ahead where the road becomes dirt or gravel and runs right above the river along the valley slope.) So we headed back home, slogging through water up to our thighs (and this on the paved part of the road!) Oh, my brave willies, they tried so hard but were no match for the water, and once I got home I learned just how hard it is to removed your foot from knee high waterproof boots that are completely filled with water!

I filled my day with a nice long nap, a lot of snacking on anything I could muster from the fridge, translating three children’s books into Spanish, and researching ideas for teaching practical math skills in an enjoyable way.

Reports this morning are that there is at least one small landslide between us and the school and likely the road further past the school into the mountain is even worse, so Cynthia has declared it a day off again for us. The rain has yet to let up for more than an hour at most, but we hope it will let up soon and that things can dry up a bit over the weekend.

Brooke and Me…

Brooke and Cynthia…

This is what we waded through…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

#4 Cultural Encounters of the National Geographic Kind

In addition to the numerous human Hondurans I have met, I have now also had close encounters with:
…the hen and rooster that live at the Jungle School (and whom I have named Lunch and Dinner in Spanish…)
…the enraged version of said rooster who had accidentally been locked into one of the classrooms over night,
…the puppy named Punky who likes to sleep in the kitchen trash at the school,
…the weevils in the school’s maize flour that must be sifted out,
…a large scorpion (okay, it wasn’t that close, but 10 feet was close enough for me…)
…numerous El Sauce guard dogs that love to jump at you through the house fences,
…lots of roadside livestock including skinny cows, skinny horses, and incredibly fattened pigs (there’s lots of roadside trash…)
…a grey 8 foot long but dead venomous snake by the side of the road,
…the six foot boa constrictor that was trying to eat the 8 foot long venomous snake when it was run over by a truck (so, yes, it was dead on the side of the road too…)
…and thousands of vicious sand flies and mosquitoes (and, trust me, the mosquitoes are to be preferred.)

And, here is one last close encounter that I can’t help but share…

Monday, December 8, 2008

#3 Weekend Getaway

I got out of Ceiba for the weekend to avoid trying to rest amid the car alarms and barking dogs of El Sauce. Instead I spent two lovely nights in El Porvenir with other HHK volunteers Cynthia, Brooke, Nathan, Brendan, and Caroline in a beach house that is used by the HHK program Grandma’s Kids. The project is on hiatus for the holidays, so we had to go look in on the house, right? (and drink beer, walk on the beach, watch movies, and be general layabouts, of course…)

Porvenir is a small town along the beach about a half hour west of Ceiba. The weather was crappy until Sunday…the day we left…but good weather isn’t necessary for sleeping in and napping. At one point a couple of us got separated from the others, but we got directions from a friendly chap named Mario. He owns two restaurants there in Porvenir, where he cut us deals on the food and loaned us a DVD player so that we could watch movies back at the house. It pays to be friendly to people here…good people will be generous and welcoming, I’ve learned. No community here is so large that you won’t run into a person again at some point.

How’s the beach, you ask? Oh, fairly par for any mainland Honduran beach that I have seen. That means it is eroding quickly, shows little sign of healthy life offshore like washed up seaweed or shells, and is covered with dumped trash. I couldn’t tell if the trash came from the sea or the land, but it wasn’t from very far away, that’s certain.

Cynthia wanted to look for shells to show the kids, but we weren’t able to find many, as I said. So we started picking up bits of trash that we thought might be useful…plastic bottle caps for checkers, a dilapidated artificial Christmas tree that I scavenged for d├ęcor for the school, etc. etc. etc.

We also found an immature bread fruit that had washed up onshore. Brooke and Nathan were excited to practice their machete hacking skills (looking tough with a machete is part of looking Honduran.) Turns out bread fruit (at least this one) smells just like pumpkin. Who knew?

I’m reading a new book, In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. I highly recommend it. It is a nice addition to the other book I am currently reading, Creating a World Without Poverty by Muhammed Yunnus.

Cynthia, Brooke, and I finished out the weekend of lollygaggation by having a sumptuous lunch buffet at a local German hotel. We were let in on the secret of its existence (and its status as a favorite of the local expats) by Dr. David Black, whom Cynthia helps out at times when he is in need of a female volunteer for ob/gyn exams in the poor communities he serves. He brought along Charlie, who he described as working in blackwater, which bothered me extremely until I realized he meant sanitation, not the questionably ethical international security company. Amongst a lively and long discussion of the political and economic realities of Central America, I fell in love with the view of the palm tree above me...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

#2 Setting the Scene...Los Estudiantes

I begin again and again in my mind to describe my first impressions of the children I’m teaching here but there is so much to say and so many more questions come tumbling in with every thought that I keep erasing and starting over. These children are wonderful, exhilarating, and awe inspiring as are all children when you truly connect with them. But at the same time, their situation feeds my wrath at humanity’s apathy and strums a low chord of terror for their future. It nips at the heels of my enthusiasm.

These kids are incredibly poor. Many of them have only one or two changes of clothes, I’ve noticed. My first day was a Monday and I was terrified by the students lack of attention or discipline and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them (over forty) that were awaiting our arrival at 8am…then one of the other volunteers reminded me that many of these kids had little to no food since leaving school after lunch on Friday. Many of the girls have light streaks in their dark hair, which I’ve learned is a sign of malnutrition. At the morning break we provide them with milk, which is powdered milk mixed with hot water and maize flower and a little sugar for taste. For lunch they get rice and beans and a bit of fruit, usually pineapple or banana. The rice is regular rice to which we add packets of soy-and-vitamin-fortified, chicken-flavored rice from a program called “Kids Against Hunger.” Sometimes there is meat or tortillas but not often. Often my kids have come into class having pulled up chunks of a leafy plant they call “canya,” the stems of which they strip of leaves and then proceed to eat. It has an acidic, lemony taste but is likely they closest these kids often get to a leafy green vegetable, which isn’t even all that common a food type among more well to do Hondurans.

There are many large families of kids attending the Jungle School. Some are the usual stories of basic poverty and then some are even worse…children who have lost their parents to AIDS and now live with extended families that couldn’t support their own children in the first place.

There is no set curriculum at the moment. We are in what is called “Vacation Care” as the school year ended with November and starts up again in February. We have been asked to work on their Math and English skills and to teach them Christmas songs to sing to the children at the Helping Honduras Kids Hogar (Orphanage) a few towns over. All three tasks are proving incredibly difficult. I’m teaching Math in the morning in two groups, one grades 4-5, the other grades 2-3. The 6th graders have graduated and the kinders haven’t started yet. That said, our students currently range in age from 3 to 22. The toddlers run about with minimal supervision and little interaction. When they fall down and cry, their older brother or sister leaves class to care for them. If there is an extra volunteer to keep an eye on them or if the toddlers want to settle down with the first graders while they color and talk about language skills all the better, but you can’t count on either, of course. Dilcia, the 22 year old, is actually one of the toddlers’ mother, who is coming when she can during vacation care to improve her English skills. In the afternoon I take a group of kids and work on music, science, or social studies. Teaching music is surprising difficult. For many of the kids, listening to music is an incredible luxury, so rhythm and harmony are fairly foreign concepts.

These kids lack so much, rhythm is really the least of my worries. In math last week we worked on money…practicing how to add it up and subtract it and then with the older kids I’ve also added figuring out how long you would have to work at a certain wage to earn that much money. They can do sums and long division like pros for the most part, but the moment you go to apply it to a practical task, it is completely beyond their imagination.

But they are catching on quickly. Not a soul among them is not in some way a clever problem solver. And they love learning. I have never been so heartened as to see a child sitting, studying my math problem on the board, and choosing to go late to a vital lunch because they want to understand it better or ask a further question. It is not lost on them that these are important skills. When you get past the part where they sometimes miss a basic step they should have learned years ago, something as simple as lining up their numbers in a sum, they are willing to take on more than most children I’ve met. They all want to hold up their sheets of loose leaf paper for me to check and they laugh when I step back and say “Yo soy sola una mujer…uno por uno…” (I am only one woman…one at a time…) When I am sweaty and gritty from biking uphill to the school and they run to me for hugs I can’t help but hug them back despite my grubbiness. And, when I have to fake my enthusiasm for math after trudging up from the road to the classroom, their responding enthusiasm makes for a fabulous feedback loop of positive energy.

Still classes here are not what I could have imagined prior to my arrival here. Trying to teach twenty children who are hungry and who have never in their life been given the kind of supportive, consistent structure to which we were accustomed is much like teaching a room of children with severe ADHD. Tempers flare in a moment, things are thrown, attention is distracted and sometimes they even just walk away from the lesson entirely. If I set something on the table, it is jumped at with the feeding frenzy of sharks. Sharing nicely and waiting one’s turn are not common skills. Anything they hold goes into their mouths in a moment’s notice, an oral fixation that I attribute to both the hunger and the lack of parental guidance to discourage it. I am slowly pushing the basic classroom skills like sitting quietly, raising your hand, and keeping attention on the teacher, but it is an uphill battle. I am earning their respect, however, which means a lot, both personally and for their willingness to agree to my rules. They want to show me respect, I can tell, but as few adults have shown them what that means by respecting them, they don’t know what to do.

We have to lock up everything at night and nothing can be left on or near the window sills where hands could reach in through holes in the window screens. But, I really believe that stealing anything that isn’t locked down, even things they have no use or value for like pencil sharpeners, is just a part of the hoarding behavior typical of someone trying to fill enormous wells of emotional and physical need.

Imagination is the hinge to my current thoughts on my students’ intellects. When Vacation Care started two weeks ago, apparently, the children would only use pencils to draw, crayons and markers were just left to lie there. With a little coaxing, they have taken off with the crayons and markers, and with a little coaxing and practice they start to see that they can solve these practical problems I put before them, but it is an extraordinary task for all of them. I think it goes back to their basic starting places, where there is so little interaction with them while they are forming their early minds and language skills. Their families have so little time to tell them stories or work with them on their colors, numbers, shapes, and letters or even basic motor skills. It occurs to me that imagination is a skill that we teach to tiny children. When you have toys to manipulate and parents to interact with, you form the ability to imagine that those blocks are a castle you are building. These kids have the difficult task of forming the ability to imagine well after the best age for the brain to do so. It isn’t about dreaming big; it’s about solving basic problems in life.

I believe they can do it. I feel incredibly blessed that I can help them with it. I feel sad that we didn’t get there sooner for them and worried that we aren’t doing enough for the little ones who still have the greatest chance.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

#1 Setting the Scene...La Ceiba, Honduras

How the heck are ya, you ask? Well, to be honest, I’m doing quite well, which is great for 5 days in the developing world, 3 days into teaching in a rural school in that developing world, etc, etc.

I got here safely. David (the wonderful dentistry student I met here this past summer and with whom I kept in touch) met me at the airport in San Pedro Sula and we took the bus to La Ceiba together. I was able to get into the house where I am living without too many complications (by Honduran standards) and spent a lovely evening and then a lovely afternoon with David and his family before he got back on a bus for San Pedro Sula and his studies there. I then proceeded to cry for hours on Sunday night, don’t ask me why, probably sheer terror of “what the f*** have I gotten myself into?” and after spending time with a lovely family that reminded me of having just spent lots of time with my own lovely family for Thanksgiving, I was missing my now very far away lovely family like crazy. Thank god for Skype and my mother, that’s all I’m saying. “Thank god for Skype and my mother” will likely be a tagline for many evenings of my time here in Honduras. There’s nothing like facing the deep, dark inadequacies of the world to make you want to crawl back into the womb.

My house here is good…palatial luxury when I see where my students live. I live in the city of La Ceiba, near the outskirts in a neighborhood called El Sauce. Many people live here and it can be noisy…lots of dogs barking and car alarms going off in the night. But it is convenient to both the city and the road out to the school and it is quite safe (again, by Honduran standards.) I rarely travel alone except during the afternoon. We volunteers ride bikes to get to school each morning, meeting here at our house where we lock them up inside for safe keeping. We have to leave quite early as it takes an hour. We’ve discussed finding a place to live closer to the school, but it wouldn’t be as nice or as safe, and as it is rainy season we stand a chance of the road washing out between the school and the nearest village to it where we would likely live (as it is further up the mountain.) That would put a damper on our ability to do our jobs, so, for now, we are here. I live in a house with Cynthia, an Australian woman who is here for a year to be the volunteer coordinator for Helping Honduras Kids. Carly, a British woman, lives upstairs in another bedroom, and teaches at one of the many bilingual schools here in Ceiba. There was a Dutch woman named Ninca living here but she has moved out in search of cheaper abode, so I have moved rooms because my original room has a tendency to leak when it rains and the shower doesn’t work. Now I am in a smaller, more comfy room with a shower that won’t seem to turn off, which is a bummer as I just finally managed to get my bowels calmed down a bit and now I will have to pee all the time from listening to the constant drizzle, but there are worse things in life than spending an significant amount of time on the toilet, right?

Enough about my bowels…I’m sure I’ll have plenty of decorative things to say about them before my four months here is up.

The weather is…well…tropical rainy-season Honduran weather, I guess. Everything is moist. Not soggy, but noticeably moist. The air feels just a bit thick. It rains, sometimes all day and night, sometimes just a constant never ending drizzle that then lets forth a short deluge…I’ve learned that short, can include up to and even over an hour here. My first two days were amazing…hot and dry…not a cloud in sight. It still gets hot most afternoons but the evenings really cool down. While it isn’t cold, there is something of a chill in the air in the evenings. Not like in the States, more like a muggy summer evening when you want to wear a light sweater but then it feels silly to have it on. I often sleep with my sweater on so that I can comfortably keep a fan on…keeping the air moving keeps me from sticking to the just ever so slightly moist sheets. Teaching in this weather is hilarious. When the rain pounds on the tin roof, the kids have to crowd up the board to be able to hear me and then I can’t hear them or understand their shouted Spanish at all. Craft projects are rather a joke…construction paper in this weather tears easier than wet toilet paper! The upside to the rain is that it batters the hell out of the mosquitoes, so those haven’t been too bad so far (by Houston standards, at least.)

Now to describe the school. It is an hour’s bike ride or an hour and a half walk from my house in El Sauce. We go out of the city on one of the highways just far enough to cross the Rio Cangrejal and then turn up the road, which quickly stops being a paved road and becomes a gravel /dirt/mud road as it ascends into the mountains. (Thank god the up is in the morning after a night of sleep. We get off and walk up most of the hills. By the time we get to school, our shoes and legs are caked in mud but that’s just life at the Jungle School I’ve learned.) There are two classrooms, one upper and one lower. There are also bathrooms, a kitchen (we give the kids milk, lunch, and a vitamin each day), and a small playground. The land is incredibly steep, so there is no wide open area for the kids to play soccer, which they instead play in the road. For a reason I cannot see given the expense of dry erase markers, chalkboards are nowhere to be seen in Honduras. (On the upside, you can leave the cap off dry erase markers here and the air is so moist they won’t dry out, not even over the weekend, we’ve learned!) Each classroom has dry erase boards, which we rely on heavily, as materials for the kids are incredibly expensive.

It is all rural and minimal and difficult, but each day, even in the rain, it is breathtakingly beautiful. A small stream runs right by the school right now, and the road winds along the river which is roaring full at the moment and the banks are covered with different leafy flowering plants. The sight just stops all thinking at some points. As I ride my bike up the mountain in the morning, mist is hovering over parts of the forest and I can see huge cascading waterwalls coming down the mountain in the distance…