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Reisverslag Teaching in Cofradia
21 december 2019
Teaching in Cofradia
It's been quite a while since my last blog, and I've done a lot since then. I've stayed mostly in two locations, in Cofradia, where I was teaching, and then in Utila, where I did my dive master. Since so much has happened, and it's been some three months since the last blog, I might omit some stuff here and there. I should have done this sooner, but I didn't have a computer, or was busy otherwise. This is a long one, so I've split it up into two parts. The first part is in Cofradia, and the second part is my time in Utila and up to now. However, back to the story at hand.
When we last left off, the teaching had just started for a week, and we had our little group of teachers in our house in Cofradia. Michèle and I had been getting close over the past few days, and spent most nights in my room. Unfortunately it wasn't all sunshine, since somewhere in those first days we got robbed. It seemed to be targeted, since everyone knows where the foreigners live. The people there are poor and desperate, and they assume the foreigners have fancy toys. They only came into my room and the living room. Taking my phone and wallet and Michèle's phone as well. Then they also took some laptops from the living room. It was a bit of a nasty experience, but I was expecting to get robbed at some point during my trip. Bit of a shame I had only had my phone for a few months, but besides my drivers license everything could be replaced. The school did take immediate action, and the day after we immediately moved to a different house with better security, and we got a nightguard.
The change in house also meant that now while we had a bit more space, we all had to share rooms, so I moved in with Michèle, since we slept in the same bed most nights anyways. We also now had a nice big garden and some lime and mango trees. Besides that not too much changed. We were now with a few more teachers, Sage (US), Phoebe, Charlie and Tom (US) all knew each other from back home. It made it easy for them to fit in, but that didn't seem to be much of an issue for anyone. We also had a Tom from the UK, who had come from Puerto Rico, where he had been assisting with disaster relief. And then we had Laure from the Netherlands/France, and of course Michèle and me. Because we had a few more teachers, we didn't have to cover as many classes as before, and I could focus mostly on my 10th and 11th grade. The kids are between 15 and 17 years old, and most of them speak very good English. I just try to get them motivated to interact with English media in their own time, since that's how I learned most of my English myself. Therefore we would listen to TED talks, and do a movie every week. Since the kids are older, and have more insight in their own society, we also have debates about issues in society, or other sociopolitical stances. We started with a debate on gay marriage and abortion. While it was very interesting to hear their opinion about it, the actual debate was still lacking in depth, so after that I put some more focus on preparation, so they would have their arguments prepared, and most people would have something to say. Debating is of course a bit different from normal conversation, and you could definitely see which kids had more of a knack for it.
My classes are all in the afternoon, unless I'm covering another class. So usually in the morning I'd wake up a bit slower than the other teachers, make my coffee, and then walk to school. When I got there, I'd start my lesson planning for the afternoon. At nine we'd have breakfast at school, which usually consisted of a baleada (big flour tortilla with beans, cream and cheese) or tajadas con ensalada (fried plantain chips with some raw veggies). Then I would still not have any classes, where I would just calmly plan my classes, chat with some other teachers, or fill in for someone else. Then lunch break would be more food, typical Honduran, changing over the days, but usually some rice with chicken or something. After lunch I'd teach 11th, and then 10th grade. I would do the same classes with both groups, but since 11th is a bit further ahead and a smaller group, we would have time for more in depth discussion with them. After that Charlie and I would do computer club on Monday and Thursdays, where we mostly just tried to stay ahead of the kids. Then after school we would head home, for some well deserved daiquiris and a joint. On Fridays we would usually also take one of the school's projectors home, since they didn't need it over the weekend anyway. Then we'd use that for a movie night at the house. We had a very nice group going, but there was still a surprising amount of gossip and other drama in the house. For some reason people didn't seem to just directly confront people about issues they had with them, but instead chose to complain about it to others. However, this didn't bother me too much, since I wasn't really involved, and wasn't affected by it too much.
Every now and then there would also be special events at school. One of these events was Dia del niño (day of the child). This day all the kids didn't go to class, and we didn't teach, instead, the older grades went off to other schools to help entertain the younger kids, while we spent a lot of time facepainting the other kids, and serving cake and pizza. The kids were having an absolute blast, and it was great seeing all these kids running around with dia de los muertos or pennywise makeup. For us it was also a lot of fun to do something else, and flex our artistic muscles. The next day we had a torch parade through the town, where all the kids would carry their own torch, and walk a parade through the town with their school, grouped by grade. It was great to see all the kids representing the school, and it was absolutely adorable to see cute little 4 year olds with a massive (relatively) torch struggling not to fall over the speedbumps. Of course us and the parents were at their side to help. Once we got to the other end of town, everyone dispersed, and that was it.
That weekend we also had a long weekend due to some national holiday, so the school director decided that it would be nice to have a weekend away with all the teachers. We went to a rancho somewhere out of town, where we just chilled with everyone, and had some fun in the pool, and played with a tarantula. It was especially great since all the Honduran teachers were also there, and usually we wouldn't have that much contact with them. Now we had a good chance to speak a bit more with them, because at school it's usually a bit more rushed. Since they don't speak English, all this had to be done in Spanish, but most volunteers either spoke Spanish, or wanted to practice. We had a lovely dinner, and then they had some small gifts for us as well, a notebook with our names on it. However, for some reason they had a small mix up, so it was Mister Michèle, and Miss Jelle. We all had a good laugh about that. We also had a few drinks, threw some ball, and then poked in a hole to extract a tarantula.
The next few days Liz arrived, a kiwi who's an actual teacher. We now had a full group of teachers, where almost no classes needed to be covered anymore! As an actual teacher, she had quite some useful input, but she wasn't around for too long, so in the end she just passed through without changing much, but she was nice to be around. Around this time we were also finally getting back our money from the school, since they insisted we didn't get the police involved with the robbery, they would pay the damages, since we couldn't call on our insurance this way. It didn't feel great to take money from the kids that needed it too, but they did have a rainy day fund, for situations such as these. My phone was also brand new, so it wouldn't be fair if I didn't get the new value for it. Charlie ended up not getting any money for his expensive macbook, but he was staying there for the entire year, so maybe that has been sorted out by now, or he just took the hit. There was some drama still, because Michèle felt she should have gotten more money, even though her phone was old and shit, and worth much less than what she said to the school. Me being close to her I tried to talk to her about being reasonable, but unfortunately that only meant she was now angry at me as well. Luckily this all didn't last too long, and we could soon move on because a new teacher was arriving! Saeed was originally from Saudi Arabia, but now lives in Turkey, and wants to become an English teacher back home. Even though now he was the only person on his way to being an actual teacher (Liz had left at this point), his English wasn't the same level as ours, but he was definitely trying. He didn't fit in with the rest of the group as well though, but him being an older gentleman (in his 40s I think) probably was most of the reason. He didn't mind our drinking or drugs use, but he just retreated in his room. No harm in that, and he seemed to be motivated to teach. He did however have some strange behaviour we'll get to later in this story. However, we were soon distracted by other things, as Phoebe and Charlie had their eye set on the neighbours puppers, and they wanted to adopt one of them. So obviously we all had to go there, and play with the puppers until they were so tired they fell asleep. They were only a few weeks old, and they absolutely made my heart melt. They chose a white one, and then the hardest part started, the name. It was given the name Nieve (snow), but they wanted to give her their own name. Charlie came up with Bila Bong, and we also tried our best to get some funny names out there, such as Baleada (we ate that pretty much every day), Coco and some others. However, we tended to joke about all of them, and try to find a way to put some innuendo in there somewhere. Phoebe wasn't the biggest fan of this, and was shooting them all down, once we started rhyming them with balls or other parts of the reproductive system. But there was still some time, as they weren't allowed to take her home yet, they still needed to wait a few weeks. By the time they'd take her home, I'm not in Cofradia anymore anyway. And the same day when we got home, Michèle also had a nice surprise for us! The neighbours had showed up with a kitten, and since Michèle was immediately in love with it, he said we could keep it. It was an adorable ginger tabby, and it was super playful. It was still very young, but already very agile and would climb on everything. Of course the entire house was very happy with our newest resident, and he was immediately embraced by the other volunteers. We named him Simba. The coming days we would always play with him, and soon there were pieces of string all over the house, when he would rip apart the string balls we had for him to play with. During the night we had to make sure he was inside though, since Don Dimas' (the nightguard) dogs were aggressive to anyone they didn't know, and this would most likely include our adorable new friend. During the day Simba would often play outside. He could easily escape through holes in the fence, but it seemed he was quite fond of his new home, and in no rush to leave.
We still had one last trip in store before October vacation. Some of the people of the school took us to a national park called Cusuco, it's up in the mountains, so much cooler than Cofradia, which was a breath of fresh air. We went for some nice hikes, ending up in one man's garden. He had lived there since before the area was declared a national park, so he was allowed to keep living there. He had a beautiful house, with a massive garden, where he had a ton of different flowers and fruits. We had a nice chat, and tried some of the berries from a tree. The man made a living by selling some of the plants. He didn't really leave the park, and he had people that would bring him groceries. We also went to a waterfall, where we went for a nice swim. It's beautiful nature, and refreshing cold water. Then on the way back we stopped by a nice viewpoint which gave us a beautiful sight over the entire valley. All in all, it was a great trip to end my adventure in cofradia.
The next week vacation started, which meant that it was time for a visa run with most of the teachers. Phoebe, Charlie, Laure, Tom and me took the bus north to Puerto Cortez, where we took the ferry to Dangriga, Belize. Michele and Sage went to Utila to enjoy some of the Honduran paradise in the Caribbean sea. The ferry to Belize wasn't cheap, so I figured I would take a different way back, but might as well tag along with them on the way there, and have some fun together. Phoebe, Charlie and Laure had rented some expensive cabanas out of town, where they would stay the entire time (we needed to be out of Honduras for 72 hours). Tom and me went there too the first night, and after some drinks we were somewhat stuck there, so we decided to spend the night there. I drew the short straw, so I was gonna sleep outside in the hammock. However, the sandflies were absolutely brutal, and after an hour of trying to sleep I retreated inside and slept on the hard floor, preferring that over being a feast for those little bastards. The next morning my back was almost one big sandfly bite, with hundreds of bites all over my back and my legs. The next day Tom and I returned to the main village, where we got a hostel. It wasn't a bad place, but Belize is quite expensive. I did some sightseeing by myself, and finally got some good hot sauce, since that's something they're severely lacking in Honduras. Then the next day I decided to take the bus down south to punta gorda, to take the cheaper ferry to puerto barrios in Guatemala. So I left the other teachers behind and went off on my own again.
Once I got to Punta gorda I went looking around for the hostels, but they were all charging outrageous prices for dorm rooms, so I was walking on the street looking for something else. Then some locals asked me what I was looking for, and after explaining my situation, he offered me to crash at his place. He seemed like an alright dude, and after having some drinks together he seemed quite alright, so later that evening we went to his place, where I crashed on a mattress on his floor. The next morning we woke up early, because his kids needed to go to school, and then he dropped me off at the ferry, after we got some breakfast together. The ferry ride was pretty simple, but unfortunately as everything here, it was taking it's time. My plan for today was to try and make it to Utila in one day, but it was a very ambitious plan, and usually it's not a good idea to be in a hurry in central America. When we got to Puerto barrios everything went fine at customs, but once I got on the bus to the border, it started to rain, which caused the traffic to come to a halt. By the time I crossed the border I was almost certain I wasn't gonna make it. All the border crossings were easy though, and soon I was back in San Pedro Sula, trying to get a bus to la Ceiba, the port of departure for the ferry to Utila. That bus was the last one of the day, and was very delayed. By the time we drove off, we were already some two hours behind schedule. In la Ceiba it was off to the hostel, and then I would take the ferry in the morning.
With my adventures in Utila about to begin, this is the end of the first part, the second part will be up in a few days. Since this is already a few pages I think it's best to cut it in two.
22 december 2019 11:52 | Door: Wilma
Leuk om te lezen wat je allemaal meemaakt, Jelle! Hartelijke groeten, Wilma
23 december 2019 15:03 | Door: maaike
hoi jelle, leuk verhaal! op naar deel 2