Sunday, January 11, 2009

#9 Another Day Another Dolor

I know. I haven’t written in ages. I appear to be absorbing whatever it is in the air here that saps one's work ethic, energy level, and general ability to give a shit. That’s not completely true. I am working hard and I care deeply. Energy, well, that’s definitely lacking. I have fully embraced the siesta culture. Sometimes I embrace it twice a day! This makes it hard to plan my lessons and write my blog.

Although a million things have happened, it also feels like little to nothing has occurred since I last wrote. It is all becoming routine daily life and I forget what might be of interest to those at home. However, here is a recap of my last couple of weeks.

I went to Copan Ruinas, the largest Mayan archeological site in Honduras. The ruins and my reflections deserve an entire blog entry unto themselves, so I will leave that for a later date.

New Year’s was lovely. I chilled with friends here in El Sauce, my barrio, drinking and listening to music, and then making lots of noise when the clock struck midnight. (Well, when it got close to midnight. As usual, exact punctuality is not regarded as necessary here…and for once something actually started early!) I reflected, as is my wont, that my video of the neighbor’s fireworks could be mistaken for Aljazeera coverage of Gaza.

Otherwise my vacation time was quiet. I saw some movies…Madagascar 2 is funny even in Spanish…Red de Mentiras (the Russell Crowe, Leonardo di Caprio CIA flick) was excellent and has made for some interesting arguments around the dinner table. Julia, a new Jungle School volunteer, arrived from Austria. Lempira learned to climb the Christmas tree.

Lempira is also learning to pounce and play rough. His favorite playtime is at about two in the morning. His favorite toy is my face. As a result, he is also learning the word “no” quite well and getting used to sleeping in the bathroom.

We’ve been back at school for almost a week. For the most part, I have adjusted back to the bike riding. It has been blessedly free of rain for over a week, so for the first time the road is truly dry. And thus I’ve discovered the downside to the dry season. The road is now a hard-packed, jarringly rocky ride that creates a dust-flavored mucus-shake in my sinuses and incredibly sore backside by the end of each ride.

Watching Julia adjust to the school this week has put my own experiences in perspective. I feel rather jaded now, although I am also more determined than ever to give these kids everything I can. Who would have thought, before Christmas at least, that I would ever threaten a group of hungry misbehaving first graders with no milk if they didn’t shape up? And to watch them test poor Julia’s patience, seeing how far they can go with any particular thing, gives me a gauge of how much the kids have changed their attitudes toward me since I arrived. I have earned their respect at last, I think. I gave a slide show presentation about why it is bad to leave the trash on the ground, and they were all well behaved and attentive throughout the program. It was an incredibly pleasant surprise. I have gotten a hold of three metal barrels to use as trash cans, which I will paint with some of the artwork the kids have done. Here are some of the kids’ winning artworks (there are so many good ones that I want to combine them rather than pick just three!)

Apparently we are being treated to a missionary group teaching Bible stories next week. As my devout agnostic self, I am looking forward to the opportunity to work on painting my trash cans because I am not about to teach Bible stories (unless I am also allowed to teach the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Popul Vul, of course.)

In general I have lost my feeling of being a visitor here. I can’t really imagine that March 24th will arrive and I will go back to DC. It just seems unreal. I can’t say that there aren’t things I will look forward to once I get on the plane, especially given that I am currently soaking my swollen, bug-bitten ankle in an attempt to bring the swelling down and perhaps by some baking-soda-miracle relieve the itching. More and more I am less and less thinking about all that I don’t have here and as a result I am not so frustrated. It hasn’t changed my drive to solve the problems here, but rather honed it, like a surgeon learning how to use a scalpel more precisely. I don’t stop to mourn what is lacking because that just delays the solution and enough has been delayed in these kids’ lives.

On Friday I treated several sisters for what I believe is the contagious skin infection impetigo. The children have bug bites all over their legs which they scratch open, inviting in the staph or strep germs which then spread their sores over the kids’ legs. So on Monday I must start working to show them how to wash off the scabs and put antibiotic ointment on the wounds. I would like to tell them to wash their sheets and not brush up against each other, but given that they likely share a bed and don’t have a spare set of sheets, that would just be cruel. Like I said, you have to use the scalpel to cut away at the problem where you can and hope that what portion of the tumor you do excise will help the rest of it to diminish over time.

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