Friday, May 13, 2005

Letter to Ellen

The following is excerpted from a letter to my friend . . .

May 13, 2005

Dear Ellen,

I hope this letter finds you well. It´s hard to believe I have been here in Honduras for over 4 months now and that I have been teaching for over 3. I actually am pretty settled in my routine, so settled, actually, that it is hard to imagine my friends and family in their routines back home. It seems like time has just stopped and I am here while the rest of the world stands still and waits for me.

I still have a long way to go: 9 months. Many of the volunteers are counting down already. Some admit this, some don´t, but I am convinced we all do it. We´ve been warned that 4 months is a dangerous time--a time when we feel comfortable in our routines, but inadequate and homesick. I think this is true. I am frustrated that my Spanish isn´t as good as it should be and that my kids don´t always respond as I want them to. I am embarrased that I dream about shopping, eating sushi, and all the comforts of my former life: hot showers, washing machines, clean water, dishwashers, cars, not sleeping with mosquito nets, etc. It is hard to admit that I miss Target and going to the gym and eating yummy expensive food, food that costs more that most people here make in a month. I feel guilty for knowing I will eventually go back to all this. And I will go back. I wish I could tell you that I want to stay and give my life to these kids, but I don´t want to stay. I am looking forward to going back to a life full of privileges and opportunities. As much as I hate to admit it.

I am happy that I am here, of course, but I wonder if some of my happiness is premature, that I am happy knowing I will accomplish something with this year, that I have challenged myself and met my goal. Don´t I sound terrible?

My experience in teaching has its endless ups and downs. Some days my kids are wonderful and then the next, for no apparent reason, they are unmotivated and behave badly. It can be so frustrating. Yet, overall, I have to love them for their graciousness. They put up with my bad Spanish seeming to understand me most of the time. That´s good.

Thanks again for the books you gave me. They have long since been read--and enjoyed! I read a lot--I just finished my 22nd book since I´ve been here. I´ve read more in the past few months than in the past few years, I think. It´s not that I have a lot of free time, I really don´t. I think it is just that the entertainment options (no TV, limited computer time, nowhere to go, limited people to hang out with) and need to escape a little. What a good habit though! I feel lucky to be able to read so much.

I miss you and hope to hear from you soon,


P.S. Did I tell you I bribe my kids with stickers? And candy?

P.P.S. Bribery works.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Back to the Brewery

This weekend, Jen (our honorary cousin who has a strong liking for candied peanuts), Hannah, and I headed north to Lago Yojoa, an immense and spooky lake about 3 hours away to spend the weekend eating the rica food and drinking the homemade beer at D & D Brewery, a small hotel in the middle of a coffee plantation. The Brewery is in the little town of Los Naranjos near, but not on, the lake. Hannah and I had been there once before and had been completely charmed by the friendly atmosphere, good music (Reggae, Bluegrass, Classic Rock), awesome food, and fine selection of beer.

That night, though tempted to go to bed at 7:30, we managed to wander into town to socialize at the one and only nightspot, a billiards hall. We lasted about an hour and after being accompanied home by our guard dog, a German shepherd belonging to the brewery, we were in bed by 9, tired from our day(we worked on the Ranch until 1 p.m and traveled all afternoon).

In the morning we had some lovely blueberry pancakes and 3 cups of coffee each beneath the poolside thatched roof hut which serves as D & D’s dining area. We let breakfast draw itself out and chatted a bit with some of the other guests, a pair of brothers from Delaware. After breakfast, we headed for Pulpanzak (no, this is not the correct spelling) waterfall.

Click here to see a picture of this unspellable wonder:

An old farmer took us the final leg and let us off on a dirt road that was marked with a sign that said the waterfall was somewhere nearby. We walked through what we supposed to be the town of San Buenaventura, a string of small houses, a small circular center, and flowering trees in every lovely color you can think of. It was less than a mile down the road to the waterfall.

The waterfall was as wonderful as any waterfall you have seen or imagined. We climbed down the muddy rocks to swim in a deep, green pool at its base. The water was cool, clear and sweet. We were the only people there. We stayed in the water even though we were beginning to shiver just because we couldn’t bear to leave it.

We spent the afternoon and night relaxing. One of the brothers played the little guitar he had bought in Mexico and we all sang.

A boy is playing guitar,
I don’t know his name,
it feels too late to ask.
He sings off key,
but breathy and beautiful.
He doesn’t know how we are feeling,
but sings as if he did.
The crickets don’t know the song,
but sing along anyway.
The music is not in our key,
but we know all the words.
We sing together--
happy and warm strangers.

After the singing we had dinner and after dinner, we returned to the billiards hall, this time unaccompanied by our perro bravo. Half a beer later, we found ourselves nearly run out of the place by the stares and annoying comments of the men. Some men followed us home as if we were scared Pied Pipers. Of course, the men meant us no harm, they maybe had been heading home or were simply interested in the 3 gringas who were brave enough to drink a beer at their billiards hall.

Today, we and the brothers (we did learn their names, by the way) hitchhiked back to Tegus. The boys were headed for Nicaragua, determined to cross the border today. Our final jalon was kind enough to let us 3 girls off in the center of Tegus and take the boys to their bus station across the river in Comayaguela. We grabbed our backpacks, now laden with the Brewery’s fabulous banana bread and candied peanuts, said our quick goodbyes and found ourselves back in the real world of the vendor-packed sidewalks of Tegus. We bought some last treats of cut mangoes and iced lattes and, a little bit sad to leave our weekend behind, headed home back through the dusty countryside.

I am eating ripe mangoes
without using my hands,
sucking them from the plastic bag,
each one slippery, harvest moon slivers.
They leave me with strings in my teeth
to pick out with dirty fingers not caring who watches
as I pass by in the back of a pick-up,
someone else’s gringa.

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