The good, the bad and the allergic reaction.

I’m writing this from a little yellow hotel in Mapulaca, an hour’s drive from Candelaria, just on the El Salvador boarder. We are spending the night here so we can get the bus at 3.30 am tomorrow to see Holly and Kirsten for the weekend in Tomola, thanks to the lack of roads and public transport in Lempira a journey that should take 2 hours takes a whole day, and, currently we have no way of getting home on Sunday. However, we agreed we needed a change of scenery and that if we had another 3am wake up from the market setting up outside our window (a hole in the wall) we may just scream. 

So today we finished our first teaching week, Monday got off to a less than great start ,as, due to the people of Candelaria being scared to death by the solar eclipse most lessons were cancelled. And, on Tuesday after a few more hiccups due to the the organisation that leaves oh so much to be desired here we started on our timetable. We teach kinder from 8 am, then teach 3 hours at the primary school before teaching 2-5.30 at the high school. All of my classes are very eager to learn English, however that can’t be said for some of the Honduran teachers who sometimes come into my classroom and try (unsuccessfully of course) to translate what I am saying into Spanish.  As we don’t have a curriculum to follow Lauryn and I are left to our own devices, and due to lack of resources like paper and colours we play lots of games and do lots of our teaching outside to keep attention. This doesn’t apply to my rather rebellious 6th grade who enjoy playing with their machetes during English ( yes they all sit with huge knives under their desks and wave them around ) and attempting to hit each other with the Kane. Although,when I brought out the stickers to reward the only 3 and perfectly behaved girls, I was surprised at how eager they were to compete for a Wilkinson’s finest “good boy” sticker (note to self buy more stickers).

Now I suppose you are wondering about the allergic reaction part of the title ( refer to pictures below).Yes, I have already had the pleasure of visiting the local doctors clinic. Which is a room with a bed in someone’s house. Due to my rather excessive insect bites ( which the women of Candelaria love to comment on, yes I know my legs are all red and spotty, I cant help it) my body rejected the poison and I woke Lauryn up crying at 5 am as my face ballooned and my eyes were so swollen they wouldn’t open. Thankfully, Saida (our host mom) took is straight to the clinic and after a forceful injection in my butt and a cocktail of drugs I am back to normal. Well as normal as I ever was. 

Yesterday we enjoyed balleadas with Jessica and Erik, however our quiet night turned into a debate on pronunciation and our attempt to speak Spanish was cut short by the lovely Honduran man in Candelaria on business who wanted to improve his English. Overall, every week we are feeling more at home, and hopefully soon we will have some more friends our own age ( at the moment we have Jessica, Erik and lots of 7 year olds).

Love,

Chloe

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An Honest account of our first week

Welcome to rainy season in Honduras, when the rain is so earsplitting on the tin roof that I can’t even hear Lily Allens ‘Hard out Here’ with my head phones in as I write this; our kitchen currently doubles as a lake and the union jack that doubles as a window is waving across our room. So, things in Canderlaria have been tough, and really ‘tough’ is putting it kindly. We live in a small section of our host families lounge, and the 9 of us that live here all share one toilet, shower and a sink. But we can’t complain, we have both agreed that we have never seen poverty quite like this, multiple times we have asked students in the street if they are coming to school and been returned with a solemn head shake. Many children don’t have running water and wash in the river (which is also the drainage for the public toilets), lots don’t wear school uniform but come to school in unwashed, oversized hand-me-downs and a few have been pointed out as children who can’t come to school as they spend the day begging for food. I know we can make a huge difference here, mainly because the kids are always so keen to learn, even walking round the market on a Sunday we are mobbed by hugs and kisses.
For our first week we only taught in Kinder-where we start at 8 and spend the following 45 minutes bouncing round singing songs and making general fools out of ourselves- because of problems with the primary school and high school. However, this week we begin our timetable which runs from 8 am to 5.30pm and means throughout the week we teach from 3 years old to 20 years old (the prospect of my students being older than me is absolutely terrifying). Candelaria offers little prospects for its youth, and so, many aspire to go to America and make the dangerous journey in their 20’s. We have heard stories of those who don’t make it, but in order for a better chance in America or Honduras English is crucial and so we hope we can really make a change by extending the amount of hours each class receives from us per day (harder than you would expect with the atrocious organisation down here). In my earlier blog I mentioned how shocked we were by the submissiveness of the women, the girls lives consist of school and housework, so we are planning a new empowerment project for our girls in the high school. For the primary school we are setting up a youth club so that they have somewhere to hang out, improve their English and try some typical ‘English’ activities.
We are living in a very small, conservative and in some ways uneducated place and therefore as women there is very little for us to do in our free time, however, last Friday we went with Jessica and Jackie (who is completing her degree in Teguc on chemical engineering, which is very impressive) to a part of the river up the mountain and had a very refreshing swim and jumped off some very large rocks which proved a very pleasant distraction from the homesickness. It was also nice to make friends as currently we are pretty sure they think we are aliens as everywhere we go we are stared at and whispered about. Also, as the refried beans and plantain (none of which we like or eat) have become so tedious, we taught our host family to make lasagne which proved a great hit and we are hoping to teach them some more recipes to extend their repertoire!
Overall, despite the manana attitude; lack of regulations and organisation in the school; and gossip of a tiny community, I think we are going to be able to make a real impact here and build a great relationship with the children of Candelaria who honestly the are the happiest and most excitable I have ever met.

Candelaria… Our new home

So yesterday we woke up early in preparation for our journey to Candelaria anxious to make good impressions, we were told we would have left by 10 but by 5 in the afternoon we were still at guancascos. This is true to Honduran time keeping and so we are just embracing the unknown and trying not to get stressed (easier said than done). By half 5 our host mother Saida rang to say Carmello was here to collect us so we were bundled into the back of his truck and set off on the 90 km journey; in Britain 90km would take you about an hour, however in Honduras, it obviously had to take 4. Imagine the bumpiest, most pot hole covered dirt track in the mountains and times it by 100 and you still aren’t there. The journey was so had the tyre of the truck poped twice and again in true Honduran style it was fixed with a bicycle pump. By 10pm we had arrived in a pitch black Candelaria and were welcomed by two huge hugs in the form of Daniella and Jaime, our two oldest host sisters along with Saida and Victor and Lety who are our official hosts. Everyone was lovely and really made us feel welcome.

Today has been hard, it’s definitely hit home we are here for a year and I have shed a tear or two, we have unpacked and decorated our rooms which helps and the girls have showed us how to get to work in the morning and given us a tour of Candelaria. Everything is just very overwhelming, nobody else here can speak any English so trying to understand fast, Latin American Spanish is tiring and seeing as though the local market set up at 3 am this morning we haven’t had much sleep anyway. But Candelaria is very beautiful and our host family are really friendly so I think although it may take us a while we are going to love it here.

Chloe x

Gracias, Gracias

Our first days in Gracias have treated us well, we are training with the Vida Abudante volunteers – 4 from Project Trust and then around 20 Americans- however the 6 of us in Lempira don’t see them much as we do lots of separate training and are staying in Fronie’s (Anna and Rosie’s hosts) hotel instead. The hotel is beautiful, with breath taking views of this incredible, quaint town and very different from what we have seen of our project so me and Lauryn are relishing the double beds and warm showers. 

Being with the Tomola and Santa Cruz girls has really helped our transition into Honduras, as the difference in Cultures really is inexplicable. I suppose what everyone here has said firstly is that the men are the biggest shock, yes on training we were told about the cat calling but there really is nothing quite like it. After two days we have been whistled at 100s of times, hissed at constantly, honked at by the majority of taxi drivers and lots of our greetings have been returned with a cackle of “hola gringa”. A personal highlight was when a man approached Kirsten and subtly whispered “nice pants mami” *pukes*. But we just laugh it off because, really, you have to, theres no shouting back because that’s not what women do here. A very striking character of the women is how quiet they are too, pretty subdued compared to the women at home but always smiling which puts your nerves at rest and reminds you they’ve got this. All in all its pretty crazy here, they drive like lunatics, they drink banana lemonade (is there honestly anything worse!?!) and for breakfast, lunch and dinner  we have refried beans, hard salty cheese and tortillas (I think the novelty of the food could wear off pretty soon). But I honestly cannot explain how amazing it is, everywhere you look there is mountain s and forests for as far as the eye can see; the houses are painted in the brightest colours so that on every street there are butterflys and the hustle and bustle of the people even into the night makes for great people watching. I think we are going to love it here.

We are also very great full to Vida Abudante, Rachel, one of the teachers in Yam is giving us specific training as our schools are public and therefore we have very little resources and our children are very different (don’t be fooled just because they live in very underdeveloped places does not mean they are well behaved and want to learn). They also have made us copies of books with we can use progress with topics as we don’t really have a curriculum to follow, whatever we teach them goes, so that is going to be very useful! Rachel, and her husband Jake who helps run Vida Abudante have also taken us to the hot springs, which Gracias are renound here for. The pools are naturally hot and full of minerals so it was the best way to relax after two very intense days, but also very kind of them.

So now it’s time to get up for more training and but some bite spray on my legs which have been eaten alive.

Chloe x

Travel sickness, Texas and Turbulence

Yesterday didn’t quite seem real, from the 3am start to the check in I felt as though I was wondering round in a dream like trance. Goodbyes were the hardest part but the reality of not seeing the people who have shaped me over the last 18 years just didn’t seem real. Part of me felt like any minute I’d get back into my mom’s car and travel back to the small town I call home. But I didn’t. And, after 10 hours we landed in Texas. With heavy turbulence; a pretty harsh air hostess who took an instant dislike to me and Fi after we tried to order a glass of wine or twelve (forgot the whole 21 thing in the USA) ;and poor Lauryn bringing up the entire contents of her stomach; it finally hit me… No turning back now. 

But, after what will most likely be my last hot shower for a year and a sleep in the world’s comfiest bed, I am pretty excited. Today’s airport run has been much smoother than yesterdays and was lightened up by the Scots getting their results, shout out to Lauryn and Kirsten!Now as we are 5000 ft somewhere above Mexico listening to a pretty heated conversation in Spanish between the couple behind me, I can’t wait to spend a week in Gracia’s with the girls in Lempira before we travel to Candelaria to meet our family.

Training

So, after a relentlessly long car journey from suburban Birmingham to the highlands of Oban, Scotland my feelings about leaving home and embarking on this forthcoming year were, dare I admit it, not at all positive. I was stranded in a remote Scottish port, far away from what I knew and I was only going to get further. The chatter of the other volunteers in the hostel dented my confidence further, where were the nerves, the homesickness, the apprehensions? Everyone seemed just so prepared. And me? I was overwhelmed, I wanted my friends, my family and my home, but, I was in at the deep end and it was too late to back out now.

After the 3 hour ferry ride to the Isle of Coll my spirts began to lift. This was my new life. The ever unknowing of what I was going to experience next had returned. And, despite this thought once scaring me to tears, I now looked at it as beautiful. This path might not be ordinary; not a 9 to 5 job or taking on a degree and living off baked beans for a year, but it is my way of making a faint mark on the world. As I dragged my over-packed sack into my dorm it dawned on me that although I may suffer from homesickness, catch Vika Virus and very possibly get mugged, this year was going to be one hell of a journey and it was most definitely going to be worth it.

4 days of teacher training, class room management, culture induction and the always increasing shrill of laughter as us Lempira girls began to let loose and I felt indestructible. My town is coffee country, strictly catholic and very very poor. Usually the idea of not being able to show my knees, drink or stay out late would trigger one of my  spiralling feminist rants ,but, in this case I felt empowered. I may be a member of the second sex in Honduras but I was giving a life line to these children. Children who are looked after by extended family while their parents worked in America, who relied on the World Health Organisation for food and who had very little chances . Yet, me and my partner Lauryn weren’t fazed, we weren’t idyllic of course either, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we understood it was important and it was up to us to be role models and to offer all we could.

We have both followed Sara and Amy’s blogs (who are teaching in Candelaria now) and are filled with excitement to meet our host family and our classes. Training has most of all been useful as reflection, on how we feel, our hopes and fears and this has made me stop and breath ,despite the hum of excitement around me. Project Trust are a great support and I know that whether its just a bad day or a real problem I can always call; Lauryn is everything I hoped to have in a partner, she’s kind, caring, clever and always makes me laugh in her defined Scottish accent; and I know that my family and best friend are always at the end of the phone. And these are big comforts when everything is alien. I know I am going to face tough times but the other Honduran volunteers share my mind-set and I cant wait to spend this year getting to know their quirky personalities (even if I am convinced Rosie and Anna are going to catch HIV) as we support each other on this ride.

Chloe x