Final Thoughts

A view from El Hatillo outside Tegucigalpa.
A view from El Hatillo outside Tegucigalpa.

God willing, I should be arriving home in about three weeks. I just realized today that I hadn’t signed out of WordPress since early April but had not made any new posts since then since I recalled being unable to access the site. So my apologies to all of you for not being able to keep you updated as to my doings. I will now give a short summary of the rest of my year here.

David Bercot in front of the gathering in Siguatepeque.
David Bercot in front of the gathering in Siguatepeque.

I got to go to Siguatepeque in August to attend the bi-annual meeting of the Society of the Good Shepherd. I also got to see my friends the Bercots again as well as other friends there and see more of the town itself that I hadn’t seen before.

A view from the roadside east of Catacamas.
A view from the roadside east of Catacamas.

I visited the town of Catacamas several times to see my friends the Tompkins. Catacamas is located 3.5 hours by bus northeast of Tegucigalpa. I got to see soe of the surrounding countryside (like the picture above) and go to the caves of Talgua, which was my first experience in large caves.

Me with Kevin.
Me with Kevin.

Last Month, I got to go to a small meeting of the Honduran Fellowship in Guimaca, 1.5 hours by bus to the north of Tegucigalpa. I got to eat some delicious food and spend too short an amount of time with friends both old and new. I also got to meet Kevin the Spider Monkey!

The students assembled prior to leaving the museum.
The students assembled prior to leaving the museum.

In late August I went along with most of my school to Chiminke, the children’s museum here in Tegucigalpa. The kids had a great time, running, playing, and getting to touch the many exhibits here.

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I went up to El Hatillo once again this year with some of our students to the same camp as last year. Getting out of the city into the cool, clean air of the mountains was such a relief. I was one of the few not to don a coat, jacket, or some type of winter hat up there, me being a life-long resident of colder climes. I found it refreshingly cool.

Lastly, I got to visit my friends in El Paraiso again last month.  It’s nice to be back here again sharing my life here with all of you. Just writing this today makes me realize how much I missed this thing!

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My Semana Santa

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First of all, I’d like to apologize for the lateness of this post, as it should have gone up over a week ago. But since there was no internet service at school, this was delayed. Such things happen here, as the loyal readers of my blog should know by now. In any event, it won’t hurt the telling of today’s post.

Thursday of the week before last, I went by car to the tiny village of La Venta (pop. about 300) located about an hour north of Tegucigalpa. I had been prmised this trip for some time by some of my hosts family, who were born in the village. Upon arrival, I was struck by how quiet it was compared to the city and how slow-paced everything seemed to be there. After a delicious meal of chicken and fries at a little cafe, I started to explore the village and surrounding countryside.

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I’ll admit, there was a bit more in the village than I initially expected. In addition to a health center and elementary school, there was a high school, two churches (one Catholic and the other protestant), and even a well-kept bilingual school. This was started by a Swiss man, of all people. We passed him by in our car as we passed by the school. The main industry there seems to be lumbering, in addition to agriculture. There was only one road leading through the village. While there, I was taken to a high rock outcropping from which there was a view of the surrounding countryside for miles in either direction. The first picture in this post was taken atop that.

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Sometime in the afternoon as we were preparing to leave the car refused to start up again and I had visions of staying in the village that night. Thankfully, the woman I travelked with owned a house in the village we could have stayed at. After ssveral hours of visiting family of their in the village, we left as by this time the car had been fixed. Part of me regretted not being able to stay overnight in the village as it would have been quite the experience.

The next day, I went downtown with my host Lucas and his brother-in-law Mundo to see the rugs there. But these were no ordinary rugs. I had been told their name in Spanish but I still wasn’t sure exactly what they were made of. It wasn’t until I actually arrived downtown and bent down to take a sniff of one that I got my answer. It was sawdust! For over a quarter of a mile, a street had been shut down so that artists could put their rugs on the pavement. All the rugs had bright colors and had different themes, from abstract to religious. Periodically, the rugs were sprayed with water by their creators.

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The next day, I attended a meeting of the Hondurasn Fellowship of ministers and missionaries, of which I am a member. This was announced as a Chili cook off or something siilar, as the meal there had Chili as a main feature. The meal and meeting were held at the house of an American missionary family about 45 minutes south of Tegucigalpa, up on a mountainside outside the village of Ojojona. I enjoyed my time there immensely, eating lots of food I hadn’t eaten in a while (brownies and chocolate chip cookies!) I also got to meet a lot of other members of the fellowship, most being Americans but a few being Canadians. By the end of the day I was tired and a bit sunburnt on my face from being out in the sun so much but the trip there was well worth it.

100_5584 The farm in Ojojona where the beard family has horses, goats, and chickens

Now, I’m in the middle of exams for the first quarter and back to my usual routine. But my Semana Santa was definitely one to remember and I can only hope my next break from classes is just as eventful!

 

El Piliguin

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This past Friday there were no classes. Instead, the teachers, over half the student body, and a few parents and assorted other adults got on a bus and headed up into the mountains north of the city. In or near the La Tigra Park is a place called El Pilguin. This is a sort of park with playground equipment and playing fields for soccer and basketball courts.  There is also a monkey cage with some monkeys indigenous to the country in it.

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Our start was delayed for about 45 minutes due to the bus arriving late but once it got here everyone piled in for a noisy ride up the mountain. I’ve been up to that area several times for various reasons and each time I find myself enjoying the peace, cleanliness, and relative quiet of the wooded mountains. It provides me with a lot of what I miss while living in the city.

However, there was to be very little in the way of quiet for me this day. After arriving there, the we had our snack and then the kids were allowed to run and play. Watching them out there that day really made me realize how much children need space to run and play. Very few if any of our students have this luxury, as they live in houses in the city with no yard attached to it.

After an hour or so there, Profe Lucas formed three soccer teams of 7-9 people each, the players being students, teachers, and a few other adults. Each game was won by whoever got two goals first. The winner would then play the other team and the losing team would have a rest. On team played several matches before finally losing. I played of course and enjoyed myself, even though I was a bit out of shape and hadn’t played seriously in years. However, I suffered for not using sunblock as after several hours in the hot sun I had myself a bright red neck and a slightly red face and forearms. Thankfully, most of pain has subsided in my neck by now.

After soccer was over, there was a game with the whole group and then the kids were reluctantly herded back to the bus. I could tell they didn’t want to leave El Pilguin. I couldn’t blame them, as I had a great time there myself. But after a final group shot, we all boarded the bus for the long, winding trip back down into the city. I for one am already looking forward to returning to the mountains for Encampamento later this year!

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Start of a new year at Escuela Yeshua

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Classes started a week ago at Escuela Evangelica Yeshua. There are some changes this year from last year to the school which I’ll outline for you below. Since I don’t have a whole lot to say today I’ll leave you with some pictures instead.

1.) This year the school has added a 7th grade. Due to a lack of finances, 8th and 9th grades will hopefully be added next year. There will then be an expansion into an as yet unknown building nearby or possibly the addition of a second floor to the current building. In any event, I am teaching 7th grade English in addition to grades 1-6. Three of my students are from last year while the other five are all new. They replace five students from last year who have left for other schools. The 7th grade classroom is in what was last year more of a hallway for the school. This means that to reach two of the classrooms one has to pass in between the students and the blackboard. Can you tell we’re running out of space here?

100_5458 2.) This year, we have three new teachers to replace two who left last year and Profesora Ondina, who has opted not to teach this year (after being burned out last year by her 32 1st graders!) Profe Eddison teaches 6th grade, Profesora Danna teaches 3rd grade, and Profesora Wuendy teaches Prepa/Kinder/Pre-Kinder. So far all have been a good fit for our school.

100_54593) Some of you can probably recognize the subject of one of my posts last year in the picture just above this: Brandon! (in the blue t-shirt) The first day of classes he came running into school, just as full of energy as last year. Writing partway through the 6th day of classes, I’ve only seen him in Direccion (basically the principal’s office) once. If this were last year, he would have been in there at least once more in the same time period. Yesterday in class I had to confiscate a toy from him as well as another toy from Victor. Victor went back to work while Brandon began one of his loud, dramatic crying fits. But thankfully he soon went back to work on the sheet I had assigned the class.

100_5461 4.) As I said above, some of the students from 6th grade last year have left the school. Some others from other grades have left as well. However, we have had an approximately equal number of new students, with every grade but one having some new kids. So far, there don’t seem to be any major troublemakers amongst them, while some of them at least seem so far like nice kids.

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In other news, it was cold here for a little over a week, starting only a few days after I arrived. Granted, cold here has a much different meaning that from where I’m from. Still, having to adjust from temperatures in the upper 80’s down to temperatures in the mid-to-low fifties during the early mornings and evenings here was difficult for me. I must admit I felt kind of silly not liking this weather, having come from weather a bit colder than that when I left Vermont.

Classes so far have  been all review of what they did last year. Unlike the beginning of last year, I know what we went over last year. Some days and classes are good and go well, others not so well. Overall, I feel a lot more confident and in control of the situation this time around.

As I’ve said to some of you in person, there probably won’t be as much on this blog as there was last year. This is simply due to the fact that much of what I wrote of last year that was of interest could more or less be repeated again this year. But if anything more unusual or interesting happens, I’ll be sure to post about it here.

 

 

Encampamento

The Dining Hall
The Dining Hall   

This past Thursday, I piled into a big yellow school bus along with 39 students, my fellow teachers, and several other adults for the 45 minute ride out to a small camp near the hamlet of El Hatillo north of Tegucigalpa. Every year, Escuela Yeshua goes on ‘encampamento’. Here, the students get to spend time in the clean country air having fun with the teachers and each other. For the better part of Thursday and part of Friday, this was our home.

I arrived at the school around 7 on Thursday morning. Slowly, the students started arriving. BY about 8:30, we were ready to leave. One small bus took the suitcases while the large bus carried the students themselves and the adults. El Hatillo is located up out of the valley where Tegucigalpa lies. The altitude here is several thousand feet, hence it is noticeably cooler than in Tegucigalpa. I was fine at evening when the temperature probably dropped below 60 degress Fahrenheit, but some of my coworkers and some of the students broke out their winter hats, gloves, and coats!

Thursday started with some games and meetings in the auditorium on the premises of the campground. One of the first things we did was divide the students present into 4 teams, each team with 3 adults as advisors of sorts. Each team was given a ribbon of a different color. The students each tied their ribbon around their wrist. Teams won fake paper money based on their performance in different activities. Whoever had the most money by the end of our time their was the winner. This also affected who got to go into the dining hall first. Whenever the students were needed for something, be it a meal, activity, or their undivided attention, Mr. Garcia would blow his whistle. Then students would come running or listen up, whatever was the case.

Student listen to Mr. Garcia.
Student listen to Mr. Garcia.

Later in the afternoon after lunch we went on a short hike. But just before we got to our destination, we had to turn around and go back a ways. The frequent rain during the rainy season had made a slope we had to climb too slippery for many of our kids. The woods seemed to be full of insects, something akin to mosquitoes. I seemed to be the only one there who wasn;t getting bitten like crazy. I guess I just didn’t taste quite right!

The highlight of this afternoon was a game consisting of an obstacle course. The different teams competed as they got muddy trying to crawl on the ground during part of the obstacle course. To make matter even messier, it started raining partway through out time outside. Afterwards, everyone got hosed off and had fun sliding down a slope as they were hosed. By the time everyone had showered and changed into some dry clothes it was time to eat again.

Students getting good and muddy in the obstacle course.
Students getting good and muddy in the obstacle course.

That night, there was a talent show. In addition to the groups acts, some students did individual acts. After the talent show, we had a bonfire. After some singing and some prayer, someone produced a bag of marshmallows and I had myself a marshmallow. Between the smell of the wood smoke, the cool air of the mountains, and the marshmallows, I almost felt as if I was back home in the northeastern United States.

The talent show
The talent show

After having my marshmallow, I headed into the dorm-like building for some much-needed sleep. My roommates for the night consisted of two of my students from first grade and two from second grade, as well as one of the other adults along with us. After lots of laughter and noise from my roommates and the little guys in the next room (the walls were super thin!) I managed to get some sleep. I awoke the next morning to find that the corrugated metal roof over my head had one or two leaks in it. Tiny drops of water were falling right by my head!

My roomates and I.
My roomates and I.

After breakfast and some more activities, I got to play a game of soccer with and against some of my students and fellow teachers, plus a few others. I had a lot of fun, even though I missed a very easy goal attempt! I was having so much fun I lost track of time until the whistle sounded for lunch. Shortly after lunch we packed up the busses and by later afternoon, we were back in the noisy, smelly city. I was glad once again that I had been able to get out of the city and be out in the woods. It was something which I definitely miss about living where I live now. Now that I know what to expect, I am really looking forward to encampamento next year!

The whole group
The whole group

Back to El Paraiso

Once again, I’ve kept you waiting for another blog post. I honestly haven’t had much worthy of posting. I meant make today’s post about a week ago but once again I let too many other things get in the way of writing this. I’ll try to make this one good. Short and Straight to the point!

A week and a half ago, I went to visit my friends in El Paraiso over the weekend. Last visit I made, I was invited by the pastor of Amor Viviente church to stay in his house the next time I was in town. I now had the opportunity to take him up on his offer. Once again, I was struck by how much the church there had changed since me and the other students from Houghton had visited it back in 2008. Gone were the rough walls and cracked cement floor, the shabby roof and walls. And while the church building itself has changed for the better, the people there are the same warm, friendly people they were back then.

The sanctuary of Amor Viviente Church in El Paraiso.
The sanctuary of Amor Viviente Church in El  Paraiso. 

Nor was the church service itself any different than my other visits there. The church service started a few minutes after 6 p.m. but due to some heavy rain (it’s the wet season here now after all!) the church was slow to fill up. Every time I’ve visited a service there, it is full. In this case, ‘full’ means about 250 people in total, perhaps a little bit more. The service itself lasts a little over 2 hours. Much of that time is spent singing songs, led by the large worship team there. I’m generally indifferent to the kind of worship service there, but this church has so much energy and passion I end up enjoying it.

I also spent a good deal of my time there visiting my hosts from my first visit to El Paraiso. These two men live at opposite ends of the town. I had forgotten my map of the town back in Tegucigalpa (along with my jacket!) so I ended up doing a bit more wandering around the town than I should have. Thankfully, no one harmed me and several people tried their best to help me when I made inquiries as to the location of the business of my friend. The worst thing that happened to me was some people staring, no doubt wondering who was the strange white guy wandering around the town. Nor was I rained on. There was heavy rain just before I arrived in town. Had there been any, I would have been soaked, as I had to walk the half mile or so to the pastor’s house.

Once again, I had a wonderful time visiting El Paraiso and seeing my friends. I have no plans on going back there next year but I certainly hope to do so next year. Until then, I will probably be staying here for most of the time. After all, it won’t be long till I leave for home!

The front of the church in El Paraiso.
The front of the church in El Paraiso.

Dia de Independencia

Last week was a school break for my school. As much as I’m sure our students enjoyed it, I have a feeling that me and the rest of the teachers enjoyed it even more! I managed to sleep a few hours more each night, as I do every break here. However, this break meant that today’s post was delayed about a week. So, if you were starting to wonder where I was, now you know.

A week before yesterday, our school participated in an Independence day parade. Our parade was on the 13th, even though the actual holiday is the 15th. This marks the day in 1821 when Honduras (and El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) were all granted independence from Spain in 1821. It is their 4th of July, for those Americans reading this.

Preparations at Escuela Yeshua for the “big day” started over a month before it. Profe Lucas began practice for the school marching band. This consisted primarily of students from grades 4-6, along with a few from 3rd. grade. Most schooldays after school or toward the end of the school day, the band could be heard practicing out in the garage/patio. Practice was usually continued on Saturday as well. In addition to the band, our palillonas and pomponeras also practiced. The former consisted of girls waving batons and the latter of girls with pompons. Both consisted mostly of girls from the younger grades.

Students and family gathering before the start of the parade.
Students and family gathering before the start of the parade.

Finally the big day arrived. We traveled to the downtown part of Comayaguela where the parade was to begin (I rode in the back of a pickup truck with the instruments for the band). Escuela Yeshua was one of 60 schools, mostly elementary schools, to participate in this parade. The picture above doesn’t fully capture the feeling of being there at the beginning. I had to make my way through packed crowds of people in order to find where the students from our school were located. Thankfully, I wasn’t robbed or something worse.

Our march would end in the center of Tegucigalpa, about .8 of a mile from where we were to start. Thankfully, we were number five this year, unlike the year before. Last year Escuela Yeshua was the last school to march! As it was, we started around 8 a.m. and finished around 11:30. We walked slowly, trying to keep our distance between those in front of us and those behind us. As the morning got slowly warmer, I was glad whenever we marched in the shade of a building. Partway through, we stopped for 15-20 minutes and everyone had a drink or sat down.

I as in back of the cadets for most of the parade.
I was in back of the cadets for most of the parade. 

I was assigned to walk at the very rear of our group, right behind the cadetes. These were little boys dressed in soldiers uniforms. Their “leader”, the oldest of them (in 4th. grade), would periodically call out commands and they would respond as if they were listening to their drill sergeant. My job was to make sure that no one fell too far behind the others. Due to the heat and the fact that these were little guys, this was definitely a possibility. In fact, one of the boys left during our break. I don’t recall him coming back. Thankfully, I had the help of other parents in keeping the little soldiers moving.

When things were all over and done with, I was glad to get back to the house. For myself, I was just glad that all the preparations and planning was over for the year. However, I did enjoy the actual parade. I enjoyed getting to see all the different schools and what they were doing for the parade, whether it was a float, a marching routine, or even what songs their band played. I’m now looking forward to the parade NEXT year!

You get a point if you spot the Gringo in this picture.
You get a point if you spot the Gringo in this picture.