Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hard Decisions Made Clear

As some of you may know, I've been trying to decide between grad schools for the past month and a half. I was deciding between the Master's of Science in Global Health program at George Mason and the University and Notre Dame. I was astonished to get in to the program at Notre Dame and thought there was NO WAY I could pass up an opportunity like that. A few drawbacks... the tuition was about $40,000 after factoring out a small scholarship I received and I would be moving 12 hours away right after getting back from Honduras.

The program at Mason is way cheaper but still no small cost. Going to Mason would also let me live at home, so that was a bonus! I was entirely for Notre Dame until visiting the campus. It is a gorgeous campus and the people were very welcoming. I have nothing bad to say about Notre Dame at all... So I know you're thinking "then what the heck changed your mind?" It was a few things.

First, I didn't feel like ND was where I was supposed to be. The whole day I was there I just had a nagging feeling that this school was not my next step. Unfortunately, I also wasn't sold on Mason just yet. I found my self between a rock and a hard place and didn't know what to do next. A few family members suggested declining both programs and waiting a year and that didn't feel right either.

Luckily, I had a phone call meeting with Mason on the train ride home for reasons unclear to me at the time. The cell signal went out on the train immediately before my scheduled phone call and I had a mini freak out. I sat in the lounge car and paused and prayed. About 20 minutes later the cell service came back and I was able to talk to the program director for Mason. She kindly informed me that I was one of two students to receive and offer to participate in a graduate research assistantship (GRA). This lovely little research position requires 20 hours of work/ week and pays well over the cost of tuition. Can you say answered prayer??? I sure can!

I have accepted admission to GMU and will be living at home for the next two years. This decision has left me feeling excited and peaceful. Initially I was finding many ways to qualify the risks of taking on so much debt to go to a prestigious institution like Notre Dame but I think going to Mason is the wisest decision for me. It is abundantly clear that God is a perfect provider and has brought me back home for a little while longer.

I'm excited for this next adventure to begin after my internship in Honduras!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Week of Wildlife

I have had a taste of Honduran wildlife this week! I'm not usually that squeamish but I have yelped a few too many times for my liking this week...

#1. As we were walking into the apartment after going out for dinner we happened upon this guy.
Mr. Scorpion was hanging outside on the wall. I definitely do not want to rely on the Danli hospital to save my life so I'm going to try my best to stay away from these creepy things in the future. Some are more venomous than others but I can't tell any of them apart so I'll just avoid any and all scorpions from here on out... hopefully!

#2. I was laying on my bed the other night and heard some bug wings buzzing. I searched for the source of the noise and looked no further than my laptop screen to see a two inch cockroach peaking over the top. I guess he/she was coming to say "hello" but I was having NONE of that. I hopped up and screamed. It was somewhat out of character for me to be yelling about a bug but I have no patience for cockroaches. They really gross me out. Maybe its the fact that this one was FLYING, yes a flying two inch, hard shelled nasty cockroach. Also the fact that people say they can survive a nuclear war weirds me out, how is that possible?

Anyways, I got off track... the cockroach disappeared and I went on a 20 minute hunting mission to find it. There was a 0% chance of me sleeping soundly if I didn't find and murder that yucky insect. Jamey helped me search and we even flipped over my bed. Eventually, the cockroach showed itself and I squashed it! As my step-dad Bret would say D-E-D dead.

#3. THE BAT! I decided to work out and was sweating like a pig very hot afterwards. We don't have AC so I sat on the porch to cool down. I saw a shadow of what I thought was a bird flying up above. The flying thing swooped down a couple times but not super close. All of a sudden I realized this wasn't a bird, it was a bat and it was flying right at my face. I felt the wind from its wings on my face and swatted it away. I screamed and ran inside immediately. Looks like I will be cooling off indoors from now on.

It has been a frightening lovely welcome week from the wildlife of Honduras. I feel well acquainted now so they can just stay away from me in the future.

Side note: I have a really big fear of flying animals... I didn't realize this until recently. One day a bird flew in the classroom at the children's center and I flipped and ran out. I've been told that I terrorized our pet bird when I was younger but maybe the bird terrorized me first, think about that! This fear had to develop from somewhere... haha

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Life in Honduras

There are a few changes to my everyday life here in Honduras. I thought I would share some of them with you all!

First, I don't have a sink in my bathroom. We're not sure why my bathroom was built without a sink. It must be that they just ran out of space because there really is no room for it. Since I don't have a sink I wash my face with a "paila" (pie-luh) which is basically the bucket/ bowl shown below. I'm completely fine not having a sink because I only use the paila for washing my face. I brush my teeth with a cup of water and just spit in to the shower drain.

Our water comes from a big tank that gets filled up by the city water about twice a week. When we are without power, the pump in our tank doesn't work and we're without water. If we are ever without water for a while, we have a back up called a pila (pee-luh). Pilas are common to many houses in Honduras. For some families, it is their only source of water so I am very lucky that we have a tank as well. The pila has two washboards on it since it is the only way for many people to do their laundry other than sending it off to be washed. Jamey and Lesley have a washing machine and I'm super super thankful for that. Below is a picture our our pila.

We are lucky to have a washer but we line dry our clothes like everyone else. With the warm weather here the clothes dry super quickly!

There are a lot of little geckos running around everywhere. They get in to my room often... and sometimes poop on my bed. They are pretty cute though so I don't mind. I was finally quick enough to capture one.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Day in the Life

I thought it might be helpful for me to lay out a "usual" day for me here.

I have decided that since I'm a working gal now, I should wake up at a decently early time each day and take my time getting ready. In college I would figure out how long I could possibly sleep and still be on time for class. In Honduras, I'm trying a different waking style! I get up between 7:30 and 8:00 each morning, take my shower, drink my coffee, eat my breakfast and read my bible. I don't have to be at the CDI until 10 and it's a minute walk to get there so I have ample relaxation time in the morning.

I used to reserve my journaling and Bible reading for night because I was lazy and wanted every second of extra sleep in the morning. Then, when I was tired at night it became easier and easier to skip my time with God because I valued sleep over everything. I decided to make the change to have morning quiet times this past fall and it has been so helpful. I'll be honest, there are some mornings where I run out of time and don't read and journal... no one's perfect; but just creating this morning routine has set my days off to a different tone. I am more aware of God moving around me and quicker to listen to His voice.

Back to the schedule...

I then get to the CDI at 10 and we begin classes. We have set up a schedule and it varies each day who I take out for tutoring. From about 10-10:30 I have one kid and then 10:30-11 I take out another student. At 11 it's time for lunch and we have until 11:30 before the kiddos have to go back home and head off to school.

Next up we have the afternoon children. They arrive between 12:00 and 12:30 and we finish lunch before 1. Then I take one student until 1:30 and another until 2. The afternoon kids have already come from school so they like to hang around and play some before going back home ...we rarely get out right at 2.

After everyone is out of the CDI, Lesley and I go back to the apartment and she, Jamey and I eat lunch. During the rest of my day I have free time which is spent on a variety of things...
-Grad school apps
-Hygiene class research
-CDI tutoring planning
-Skyping family
-Going out to the store
-Church small group
-Card games with Jamey and Lesley
-The occasional nap

Hopefully I will have a group of joven (young) girls to meet up with soon. I would love to get a group started where I can take the teen girls out for ice cream or coffee and we can all share life together.

So that's a typical day for me here! There is definitely a lot of work to be done but I have plenty of recharging time and I'm incredibly thankful for that.
We made flower crowns for craft day. The girls LOVED it!

On the left is Ariana and on the right is Cristhel. They are kindergarten aged and they love coloring

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Venga, Ven, Vení

I have been working at the CDI since last Tuesday! It has been an amazing experience so far. The 26 kids that come to the center are adorable, rowdy, sensitive, eager to learn… and so much more. My main job role is to do one-on-one tutoring with the students that need a little extra help. I was told that the average Honduran public school has a 40 to 1 ratio of children to teachers. Also, the school day is broken in to two parts so these teachers probably see close to 80 kids per day. Due to this high ratio it is evident that some of these awesome kids have been passed through the system without the proper understanding of math or reading for their age level. I hope to be able to give them the time and attention needed to catch up and excel in their current studies.

The most important things I’ve been learning this week about teaching at the CDI is how to say “come here,” “don’t do that,” “be nice”. When I first arrived at the CDI I realized I hadn’t brushed up on my Spanish commands. For any of you who don’t know Spanish, I’ll explain about forming commands real quick. You can use three different forms when saying commands. One is formal (venga aquí = come here), the second is informal (ven aquí = come here) and the third is REALLY informal (vení aquí = come here). When one of the kids decides to slide down a rickety railing and their life flashes before MY eyes, I have to decide in that moment if I’m #1 going to be a formal teacher advising them to stop #2 a close acquaintance who knows what’s best and is therefore telling them to stop OR #3 a teacher who’s “getting real” and letting them know that they are in the wrong… see my dilemma this week. I’ve been trying to judge my relationship with each child as I speak to them because I don’t want to offend by being too informal too quickly. Oh the joys of Spanish.

A great piece of knowledge that I have been told by Lesley and Jamey is that while in the mission field I should only expect to be at 60% productivity all the time. This was very reassuring to hear because after a few days of working at the CDI I was wiped out. The CDI is open from 10am to 2pm and I was thinking “how the heck am I so tired from four hours of work… what’s wrong with me??” Then they gently reminded me that I am in a new culture and constantly translating in my head all day. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I went to my first Bible study last Friday for jóvenes (young people). I was really excited to meet everyone since I am hoping to start a girls group that meets weekly. I had met a few of the girls on my previous trip so it was great to reconnect. The two girls are also fluent in English so that’s always lovely! I followed the Bible study lesson pretty well and was even able to answer one of the questions that the leader asked. Before going to the meeting, I had these terrible thoughts that the leader might ask me a question and I would answer with something completely off topic because of language confusion. I know that wouldn’t be the end of the world and I would be just fine if that did happen but… I’m very glad it didn’t on my first time there.

Today is the first day of lent. I have always given up something but generally it been something that is random. I’ve fasted from facebook, soda, fast food, candy and many other things. This lent season I want to either take up or give up something that will bring me closer to God. So far the suggestion that I like the most has come from Elaine and that is to dedicate each day to a person whom I will pray for throughout the day. That way my prayer life will expand from the short time I have before work and before bed to a constant conversation with God. I’m pretty excited to begin (a day late… oops). Please let me know if you would like one of my days dedicated to you and if there is anything in particular I can be praying about!

Last thing I want to share is about the food I’ve been eating. The world needs to know that Lesley Smith is an amazing amazing amazing chef. Oh my goodness y’all (yes I just said y’all) I have been eating like a queen. She has cooked empanadas, roasted chicken, vegetable soup, stir fry and pasta primavera! Everything has been so incredibly yummy. Alright, that’s it. Until next time!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I'm really Here!?!

I had planned to rest up until Wed and get to work on Thurs BUT I unpacked fully on Sun and rested Mon. On Tuesday I just couldn’t imagine waiting another day and went to the CDI (Centro de Desarrollo Infantil/ Children’s Development Center). Just so you all know for future posts, I am living with Jamey and Lesley, two missionaries from Virginia. I will be helping Lesley at the CDI and Jamey (a water engineer) with a small part of his water project.

I have had three full days of work under my belt so far! It has been great; I love love love the children and I’m very excited to get to work with them. I hope my Spanish is sufficient to be able to teach them what they need to know. The first day I just shadowed Lesley, one of the missionaries that I’m living and working with. She has really been helping me get acquainted with all the kids. We even went through pictures before my first day so I could have an idea of who is who at the CDI It was awesome being able to know many of their faces before my first day. There are 26 kids in total and they are split up between the morning and afternoon depending on their school session.

The Honduran school systems decides if your child goes to morning school that ends around 12pm or afternoon school that begins a little after 12pm. Because of the split schooling, the CDI is here as an after or before school program for the children.

So far, the biggest difficulty has been my Spanish. It I shard enough trying to tutor someone in English and switching to Spanish has been hard for me. I have to think of ways to explain math while making sure that I say the correct number. I am hoping and praying that each day gets a little easier with my language acquisition.

Tomorrow I will be going to a bible study for “jovenes” (young people). I think I may be one of the oldest people there but I am very excited to be able to meet the younger members of the church that are closest to my age. One of my goals while I’m here is to be someone that the teen girls can come to for anything really, from life problems to bible questions. We’ll see how that goes J

Before coming here, all of my knowledge about Honduran life was from my week-long visit and from others’ stories but now I am getting more familiar. The biggest thing I need to work on is my pointing. It is considered rude here to point with your fingers at someone or at something that’s close. They either point with their eyes or with their lips by pursing them. As some of you know my lips are… thin… and that means my lip pointing is not very easy to recognize. I haven’t been lip pointing much because I keep forgetting and pointing right at everything before remembering my faux pas. When I get back to the states and continue my lip pointing, please know that I have not developed a twitch, I may just be used to it by then.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Arrival

I have heard stories about the scary landing at the Toncontín airport but I didn't remember it being bad at all from my visit last year. The stories are in fact true! Due to the mountains around the capital city, Tegucigalpa, the airplane has to make a full circle around the city and fly in low. Then the plane has to make another sharp turn and begins to get closer and closer to the ground while the runway is out of sight. During this part of the landing I began repeating in my head “where’s the runway, where’s the runway, come on” and BOOM there it was! We bounced a bit and hit the brakes. I was surprised that no one clapped because that was some tricky landing. 

When the plane pulled up to the gate my adrenaline rush was crazy. I'm not sure if it was the coffee I had been drinking, the scary landing or the sheer excitement of arriving (most likely all three) but I was ready to get going. I was in the back of the plane so I was last out and unfortunately, that meant I was last in line at customs with a few missions groups in front. It probably took around an hour for me to get through everything and my awesome hosts were waiting right outside the baggage claim room.

We got some delicious pizza at a place called Price Smart which is a Honduran version of Costco. Then we started out drive to Danli. Since I visited last year, the roads have been fixed and re-paved in certain areas and the ride was so much smoother! We pulled up to the house that will be my new home for the next six months (I’ll post pics later) and I moved in! My room is off the patio of the top apartment and has its own bathroom. I was so excited I unpacked in one night.

We had a yummy dinner, played a monopoly card game (that I’m quite terrible at) and I got a great night sleep! Today I am resting at the apartment and settling in and tomorrow I will be shadowing the teachers at the Children’s Development Center. I can’t wait to get started.

       This was taken from my window. There is a path up to this cross on a nearby hill/mountain

My window looks out over the church! I can literally walk next
door to work each day