Monday, February 20, 2012

Que barbaridad....

Many of you have found out my Peace Corps service in Honduras came to an end earlier this year due to safety/security concerns in country.  However, before I continue with that I want to share the greatness that were my final months in site.  AAAhhh how I love my site...and my job....and my counterparts...and my site friends & family. :)  I will miss Honduras dearly.

Practicing their numbers in English while playing a game
You will not imagine how many countless hours of classroom observations I completed in October.  All in all, over 60 classrooms were visited, thousands of students were having fun learning English, and endless of lessons were learned on my part.  By far, this has been my favorite aspect of my volunteer service.  It is an amazing experience to constantly be cross-referencing the American educational experience to the one students in Honduras are experiencing.  I can't begin to explain how fortunate I feel for having this opportunity.  And how fortunate we are back home for having the education we do in the States.  Despite not always having every resource imaginable or the most dynamic teachers, to know that there are students around the world whose classrooms do not have electricity, who have walls that are crumbling, and who know they may or may not have a seat to work on, worst yet who go to school with an empty stomach, sometimes walking a great distance risking their life .  Sin embargo, student attendance is fairly high (unless the coffee season is underway or teachers are on strike) and they are genuinely interested in doing well.  The best part of the observation was always watching the program teachers working hard to do it just right, to make me proud, and to see that their students were enjoying learning. :)
When in need, improvise. Notice his shoes (probably his only pair). 
October provide for some cultural exchange.  The Monday class was invited to investigate Halloween (a taboo for most religious Hondurans). It was completely optional and was open to interpretations.  I challenged students to investigate the origin behind the holiday, the activities/food associated with the festivities, and compare it to Dia de los Muertos celebrated in many Latin countries.  Keep in mind, the class had several highly conservative Catholics and Evangelical.  I was happily surprised to see several teachers stay for the session including some that went out of their way to prepare a presentation, including traditional food for each holiday. :) At the start of the next class, a teacher spoke up and shared she'd learned a lot about Halloween and no longer felt afraid.  CHECK!
(My camera pics)

November was a very long month.  It's the final weeks of the academic calendar and the weeks before the holiday festivities start up in town.  TEAM classes had to be extended to ensure we covered all the material and could hold our closing ceremonies by the end of the month.  I was feeling very overwhelmed trying to wrap up class, complete paperwork for the Ministry of Education, and help out with the planning of the clausuras.  The level one class did an incredible job with their ceremony....sound system, picture slide show, poetry dedication, many speeches, and even some karaoke! ...wait, how could I forget....lots and lots of dancing!! I loved it!
(Still no!)

Marimba concert at the central park 
The end of the school year (and TEAM classes) meant my schedule would greatly free up.  I joined the volunteer group at the Casa de la Cultura (Cultural House) to get involved with the town fair festivities.  Unlike last year where I spent most of December confused trying to understand the celebrations, this year I wanted to make sure I was a part of it all.  Not one moment was missed.  I made a ton of new friends, learned a lot about the artistic groups in the community, and helped with logistics for most of the events.  More importantly, learned a lot of history of the cultural happenings in town.  CHECK!

The days went by quickly and before I could prepare my departure to Mexico was around the corner.  This also became a time of many uncertainties.  Two days before my flight Peace Corps staff was calling to ensure I had the most direct transportation to the airport, a red flag something was happening.  By the following day we came to understand Peace Corps was concerned with the safety/security situation in country.  A flood of emotions took over me and I ended up in tears most of the day.  To think, just days ago I had said farewell to many of the most important people in my life thinking I'd see them after my short vacation.  Now, I had to board a plane without knowing if I would see them again, nor would I know if I was going to continue living the life I came to love.  Ahh!
Very special Christmas dinner with my Gavarrete familia :) 
Fortunately, I was able to return to Honduras for a few days.  Just enough time to empty out my apartment and gather my stuff, but I was able to kinda explain the situation in person to my closest friends/family.  The following was a three day conference with all active volunteers and Peace Corps staff, both local and from the central office.  Everyone was really great in helping us understand what was going on, what would happen next, and how to best adjust when returning home. I most appreciated that we were all going through the same roller coaster together.
Oh Honduras, you were good to me :)

It is what it is.  Mind you I can say this now because weeks have passed...but let me add that I was completely heartbroken at the time!  As one of the most dedicated volunteers (voted "workaholic" and "most likely to complete another Peace Corps service" by fellow volunteers, not to mention "best cook" and "best host"), it was devastating to see it end so abruptly.  Keep in  mind, I was in Mexico during most of the commotion.  I didn't have the time to transition or wrap up my service like most others.

Abuelita with her little Catrachita
More positively, my visit to Mexico was lovely like always.  Grandma's house was filled with family.  I love it! I had everyone hooked on charades in no time (thank you Lisa).  The cousins and I ended up out dancing one night....can't believe my primo Ozziel almost beat me on the dance floor.  My sister, her husband, and our parents arrived a week after me.  We spent several days at the beach...our childhood favorite location.  By far the most relaxing days of our stay....walking on the beach, hanging out around town, and (my favorite) eating great food!  The aunts and I also held a surprise baby shower for my sister.  Yup, I'll be a tia to a baby boy very soon from now! Yay!

I've been home for a few weeks now.  My readjustment is slowing taking place.  I am still surprised by the simplest things....always having toilet paper in the bathroom, clean streets everywhere, cars that stop at street corners, you name it.  I am very grateful to have this time with family/friends to reflect before walking the path to the next great adventure.  I have spent some time in classrooms volunteering for one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Weichert at my old middle school.  I was able to volunteer at Challenge Day, an experiential day long program that aims to get kids to connect, to notice the life they are living, to choose to make a change if they are unhappy, and to motivate them to act on that desire.  A true life-changing experience for them and for me. :)  Most recently, I spent time in an Los Angeles charter school where several of my good friends work.  I was able to present on the Peace Corps to the group of 8th graders.  Their eyes lit up as I went through slides sharing pictures and stories.  I challenged them to get involved in their community by volunteering during Peace Corps week.
At my fav place (Cheesecake Factory) with a fav friend (Susy). 
February 15th marked my last day of service. I'm officially a "returned Peace Corps volunteer". You may be asking yourself, "So what's next Monica?" For so long I lived my times planned out, knowing where each step would take me, and so far it has led me to great opportunities and even greater people...I have faith my path will continue this way :)
Peace Corps Honduras H17 2010 - 2012

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Learnings shared in my Volunteer Report

Community Integration
Since April, I've started lowering my guard in greeting more people in and around my apartment building. I am starting to feel a greater connection with my neighborhood. Likewise, I am starting to feel safer entering and exiting my building. I have also established new friendships with a few TEAM program participants. One in particular makes a great effort to invite me to her family gatherings and in many ways is becoming an additional counterpart. This has allowed me to become familiar with a different population as the family is considered quite privileged. I continue to attend regular cultural events and stay informed on the community's happenings. I am fortunate that there is an influx in cultural activities in town. For example, there have been several theater presentations due to the filming of a movie in town.

I've learned that much of cross-cultural integration depends on one taking risks. In some cases, it may ask that you step out of your comfort level. For me this has meant risking saying hello to strangers in an urban setting where it is not as common. At other times, it has meant leaving work second to attend a cultural/community gathering uncertain of the expectations. My language learning continues to develop. I am noticing the greatest difference in my technical language skills around teaching English. This has come from the need to explain grammar at a greater level as I progress in the TEAM curriculum.

Lessons Learned
The main lesson I learned in this time period has been the importance of remaining positive. Despite the unstable start to the school year (due to the strikes), I remained positive that our plans would be followed through. However, the strikes continue to interrupt our work plans. I am challenged to find the good in the things we do accomplish. Secondly, I learned to remain flexible in the way I find satisfaction in my work. I have learned to be content with offering support to the people I interact with and with the smaller projects that come up.

As I continue my observations of the TEAM participants, I see the hardships faced in the public education system. I see that teachers and parents have many factors to consider when providing students with the best education possible. Students are expected to perform despite a lack in socioeconomic resources evident in their dress and appearance. The poor quality classroom structures represent the community's need for funding to improve their schools. Despite these conditions, the teachers I work with are resilient in their efforts to make the children's learning and school experience the best one possible.

In the words of a fellow PCV, despite having completed only one year of service, "I feel I have grown a decade’s worth" as a person. Many of the lessons I learn perhaps go unnoticed on a day to day basis, but then I realize my way of thinking and interacting with people are transforming me into a new person. These lessons are difficult to pinpoint directly but are possibly some of the most valuable ones I will come to learn in my service.

Success Story:
1. The country has applied a requirement asking upper elementary teacher to teach English. Despite the demand, teachers have not been provided adequate training in the subject matter. Thus, there is a great gap in the need for qualified English program planning and teaching at the upper elementary levels. My counterpart and I undertook the implementation of the TEAM program with community teachers. We set out to form a pilot group of 20 - 30 teachers.
2. This project required that we first generate interest to build a possible group. To start, our target audiences were the elementary schools located in the centermost of town. A lack of response on their part, led us to extend the invitation to the general population holding an induction meeting with directors and teachers. Prior to starting class we held one final orientation meeting that helped solidify the official group.
3. To date, I teach one TEAM II group of 35 teachers and one TEAM I of 40 teachers. The TEAM I group of teachers represents more than ten communities of the local school district as the invitation was extended outside of my specific site. Thus, the information is reaching a vast population of students. We are seeing great outcomes in their course participation and performance in their own classrooms. I have seen them put into practice the classroom management ideas shared in the lessons. They have spoken of the huge jump in students' interest towards learning a new language.
Overall, teachers are very satisfied with their new acquired knowledge and skills. The success has been measured through course assessments, observations notes, and course evaluations.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

382 days of service completed (plus 2 months of training)...348 days remaining.

September...el mes de la patria...Nation's Month.  Yup, a whole month of celebration for the country's independence.  The days include the national anthem on the radio either at 6am or noon.  In schools, the days start off with the daily acto civico (civic ceremony).  Independence week includes several parades starting with the kinder kids on the 13th, elementary on the 14th and high schools on the 15th.  This is a common practice in other Latin American countries too.  Many public schools opted out of the festivities in an attempt to recuperate some school hours lost in the prolonged strikes throughout the year.  (Note: The latest round of strikes ended early this month.)

September also marked a year of my service.  The H17 volunteer group swore in on September 10th, 2010.  Of the 19 YDV (Youth Development Volunteers) 16 remain in service.  It is hard to believe that I am more than half way through this experience.  It is true what they say, two years will feel like not enough time.  It is also true that the PC experience will not be what you expected.  This is definitely true in my case.

I saw myself serving in Africa or remote Latin America.  I'd live in a rural community, know all of the neighbors, and immerse completely in the culture.  I wanted to challenge myself in an unfamiliar experience and and learn a new language.  I am a believer in destiny and think I am in the exact assignment I was meant to be Americanized Spanish-speaking historically cultural city.  This site has lead to new challenges, new understandings, and a wealth of meaningful moments that I hope to always carry with me to guide my continued work in development.

The city recently held the Feria de Turismo (Tourism Fair) last Friday.  This came after the city took 1st and 2nd place in a national contest for the 30 Top Wonders.  They had the local batucada banda and the traditional diablitos (little devils).

La alcaldia municipal....Mayor's Office

Diablito de Comayagua 

My little friend, Josue (a street kid), and I enjoying the batucada....he wouldn't dance with me ;) 
 I started observations this month.  I am working with close to 80 elementary teachers from various locations around the county.  Observations are one of my favorite elements of our work together.  I get to see them in action in their classrooms in front of their students.  For one, it is interesting to see the work environment and student population they work with.  For two, they always impress me and I learn a ton from watching them. (Have I mentioned that I am leaning toward developing my future work around education consulting? Exciting...I know!)
Daisy's student sharing what food she eats...check out the Rick Morris chart to the right :)
Kenia's student showing off her English notebook. 

I probably say it a ton of times...but the teachers are truly amazing...check out some of their work.
Hemi modeling her creative display of her Long Book on animals..yeah it's a working tv where she scrolls her story.
Vanessa displaying her Long Book on animals...the drawings are UNBELIEVABLE! 
Work at the school has slowly picked up again.  I am on campus twice a week.  It makes any work even harder.  Students are always bombarded with homework assignments as many teachers try to cover content through handouts and worksheets (because of all the time missed during the strikes).  However, I have picked up the conversation on the BECAS Semillas, a scholarship offered through USAID.  I hope to have more students fill out the application and get them to experience the entire process.  (Fingers crossed so one of them will be selected.)

The school is celebrating their 67th anniversary this week.  They held the Miss Anniversary pageant yesterday, organized a parade through town today, will host sporting activities with the neighboring schools tomorrow, and host a BBQ on a night of dancing at a local nightclub Friday.  Yeah, they celebrate big.  (If only they would get this pumped to study, learn, and teach. Some habits are hard to break.)

The work with the tutors at the project continued in Sept. but will be left to rest till possibly November.  They will be audited this month and have workshops to participate in.  Our greatest challenge is refining their questioning techniques.  I have them design detailed lessons and have them think ahead of their questions to facilitate their questioning abilities.  Yet, once in action, most of them rely on the traditional way of teaching....a lot of lecturing.  I also tried modeling a demo lesson to give examples of how to incorporate questioning into the activities.  Note, the work will be continued some other time.... They held some games on the "dia del niƱo" (Day of the Child) celebrated on September 10th.  The children had received tokens for their attendance and were given a gift in exchange.  
Kids walking out to the field for some games. 
Three legged race. 
Mary is enjoying the Biblioteca Movil (Mobil Library) program.  She visits the kinder class daily to lead the hora de lectura (reading hour).  We had been planning out the week's lessons together but I am happy to share that she is leading the entire program with the classroom teacher.  I'm very excited for them.  The children are responding very well too.  (No pictures. Boo.) 

On the lighter side of things, Mary and I took a trip together to celebrate our dia del maestro (Teacher's Day) celebrated on September 17th.  We had fun and shared many momentos de confianza (moments of trust).  I'd been antsy to take some time off and we'd mentioned taking a trip we sprung to it and planned everything out.  The entire weekend turned out amazing...hotel, city, new friends, meals, side trips, road trip, and pics...can you tell we were lovin' it  ;P
Disfrutando un cafecito y una buena platica....enjoying a coffee and a great chat. 

All smiles in the sun...toda sonrisas en el sol. 

At a personal level, I've been going back and forth about getting a puppy.  I tried weighing out the pros/cons...but I always come back to years ago when I decided to join the Peace Corps.... and I saw myself walking along my puppy around the village I was assigned to.  Now that I'm living in a a studio-sized apartment....with a busy schedule...I'd almost ruled it out....but I can't seem to drop the issue.  If you know me, you know I like to check off the items on my lists...y por lo tanto el cuento no va terminar aqui (and therefore this story won't end here).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The colegios (high schools) are taken by the students in protest to the recent education reform attempts by the government.  For most colegios it's been close to a month.

Wow, in just a few days I'll be completing my first year of's kinda nerve-wrecking because it will lead to the official countdown.

August has been a very exciting month.  We started a new TEAM I course, 40 motivated elementary teachers from throughout the entire departamento (county). This time around, we sent invitations out to specific schools...the schools where the ENCAs perform their practicas (practices).  The communities range from nearby mid-cities to teenie-tiny aldeas (villages).   I am being more demanding with the course expectations and the results have been amazing! I want to aprovechar to the max given the great sacrifices they make in getting to class each week.  (Some travel over 1 hour on a "chicken bus" [retired school bus] each way.)
Conversation Comins after our lesson Greetings/Farewells
As you know, the TEAM I group graduated in July and is now the new TEAM II group.  There are 37 altogether.  They continue to grow, challenging me to incorporate new ideas in the lessons.  I recently had a mini-session on the Rick Morris clip chart and several of them are experimenting with the system.  I also shared the Above the Line behavior management philosophy and they are getting a positive response from their students.  Slowly they continue to mold their traditional ways into more positive and interactive teaching styles.  I'm looking forward to their next round of observations.  :)
Picture Story after our lesson on reviewing personal information questions
Victor, 1st grade teacher, showing off his homework  
The Youth Development program recently received new Trainees...15 soon-to-be volunteers.  The office asked for our collaboration in helping with training.  Heather and I facilitated a session on the education situation of the country.  Despite all the hardships, I think the trainees were left with hope for better times and ideas on possible projects.  Leslie and I facilitated a two-day TOT (Training-of-Trainers) on the TEAM program.  We started with an overview of the program, challenges/rewards, demo lessons, and basic lesson planning.  The Trainees were asked to teach a 50 minute class at the local elementary.  We finished the session with a program timeline and suggestions for an effective implementation.

Leslie leading a dynamica! 
Group of Trainees in their demo practica
In mid-August, I had a Trainee spend almost a week with me on her site-visit.  (If you remember, my site-visit took place in El Paraiso where I got dengue/malaria.)  Michelle helped out in my TEAM class and helped organize info sessions on the BECAS Semillas program at the ENCA. We kept busy all day but took the evenings to relax, cooking dinner and going for a walk to the central park most days.  She is a lot of fun and I'm glad we started a new friendship.
Michelle helping out with the TEAM 1 class..we're acting out the conversation model
 She is originally from San Francisco and has been trying to adapt to the new living situation.  One day she asked, "What was the greatest change in you during the first month of service?"  If I remember correctly, it was the fact I'd jump scared with every bug/fly/wasp/spider/ant/creature I'd see at the ENCA.  I was in complete disbelief the first few weeks of work.  We even had an episode of flying bats and wild horses running loose.  You tell me if I was overreacting.  Pues bueno, I got over that feeling quickly because when in the words of another PCV....Honduras always wins!
A Honduran friend...yup, Honduras always wins!
Since our one-year evaluation meeting with the Program Director, I have been going to the CDI Thursday mornings to help the Tutors in lesson planning and classroom management.  This has been a very enjoyable experience.  Despite a lack in education, in some cases even a lack of teaching experience, they work hard to implement the new ideas.  I love hearing their success stories and watch them lose their fear of experimenting with the kids.  I plan to eventually step away from helping oversee them as I want Mary to take over in running the planning meetings.
Tutor showing off her name sticks:)
How cute are these!

I was invited last minute to help edit the volunteer newsletter.  After a long 3 1/2 days of hard work, check out the latest edition: Alli No Mas newsletter.  Yup, 33 pages my friends!

This past Friday, Mary and I volunteered for a medical brigade that was planned out when Anita came to visit.  It was a huge success!  Over 900 patients seen by over 50 doctors and nurses.  The brigade was organized by PLAN International.  We contributed with charlas as a part of the animacion (animation) team.  I led the first charla on hand washing....this included a cute song and demonstrations on the importance of using soap.  Mary took the lead on the self-esteem workshop including a dynamica and storytelling.  We received many compliments from the program staff. I'm very proud of our work together!
A little one showing off her clean hands after the Handwashing charla

Yup, we are celebrating our work with a little Starbucks!
A quick note on the population served in the medical brigade:  We ended up in the mountains of La Paz.  The people there are highly indigenous.  I felt as though we were in another country.  The sub-standard living conditions were obvious in their dress and person.  Despite their upbringing, the kids amazed us....actively participating in all the activities and willing to help out when possible.  (Check them out helping pick up trash!)  I love the warm fuzzy feeling one gets from working/interacting with these communities.
All I had to say was who ever picks up the most trash wins...and the count began!
Tonight we have our monthly Comite de Apoyo (Support Committee) at the CDI.  I'll be presenting the short video created to recruit personnel.  A friend, Pablo, was able to help out in putting the movie together.  His help saved me HOURS of work.  Plus, he did a WAY better job than I'd be able to create on my mini-laptop.

Bueno, the day continues..I was able to take advantage of the extra time to sit at the park, enjoy a capuchino, and catch you all up on the stories ;)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

(Written while enjoying a veggie omelet and latte.)

July brought another great friend, Anita!  She spent part of her summer vacation living like a PCV and helping me out with all of my work.  MUCHAS GRACIAS AMIGA! 
Anita has arrived! :)
Front of our beautiful catedral!
I picked her up from the airport in time to help finalize all the details to our TEAM (Teaching English And Methodology) course graduation.  We have officially graduated the first group of TEAM I trained teachers, 44 all together.  My counterpart, profe David, and I started planning this last September when I arrived in site.  We promoted the course through November and held the induction session in December.  Finally, we started the course with an orientation at the start of this school year in February of this year.  This group will be a special one because I will be in site to see them through TEAM level III.  Plus, I pretty much consider them all familia.  J 
With two of my youngest teachers, Maritza from the local school district, and my counterpart profe David. 

Really, I was not about to use the microphone.  

The graduation was a great success!!  Ana played a huge role in getting this event finished and kept it running smoothly because I was locked into the “mesa principal”.   We were joined by the director of the local school district, the coordinator of the pedagogical technical unit, Peace Corps’ director of training, and my program director Sandra.  I was the happiest to share all of our hard work firsthand with the Peace Corps familia.  The students had lovely things to say about my work and our class.  J

I am so grateful that I get to now share my life in Honduras with someone from back home.  I don’t think others realize how important this is to the work we do.  At times, I felt my service was empty because I can’t fully share my experience with family/friends via a blog, phone calls, and pictures.  I am sure it will never compare to actually visiting, meeting the people, and seeing the work firsthand. 
I'm so glad we got to hang out with my sitemate. 
Ana rode alongside the bus rides to the Normal, met my TEAM class I’m been so passionate about, hung out with my CDI girls, got to contribute to the future work of a quasi-counterpart, supported our training session with new volunteers, enjoyed a cafecito along with my sitemate at my favorite cafe, and walked the streets (in fear at times) around town. Not to mention, joined me for every meal I cooked up. J
Taking a break at the cafe, you can see the City Hall behind us. 

Anita with our video star actress :) 

Umm, one of my favorite recipes yet!

Taking advantage of the weekends, we got to do some exploring of Honduras.  We made a quick stop at the Pulhapanzak waterfalls and had a late lunch at Lago de Yojoa.  I almost couldn’t have the fish because as soon as we asked what was on the menu they insisted on showing us the fresh fish in the freezer.  On our way home, we got caught in a tropical storm….got soaking wet! This marked the beginning of many adventures to come. 
No need to jump in when standing next to the waterfall had us wet in seconds. 

We went up to Copan Ruins and saw the ancient Mayan city.  I think we both fell in love with the town of Copan.  Ana was having trouble digesting the idea of Hondurans in sombreros listening to Mexican rancheras all over town. LOL 
Next to the ball court. So glad it rained after we finished our tour.  
Ladies night out in
 On the way home we had brunch in Santa Rosa de Copan.  We literally arrived, ate, and continued on our way back.  Unfortunately, the bus had tire issues in to San Pedro Sula making us miss the bus to site and having to spend the night in town. 

Searching for a good restaurant in Sta. Rosa de Copan
Ana’s last weekend was spent in Trujillo.  We spent ten times longer getting there and back than in the actual beach but it was SOOO worth it.  I fell in love with this village-like beach town.  Sin querer quriendo (without expecting) we met up with the local PCV and had a great time out at the beach, eating seafood, and dancing the night away.  A must see again!

Since Ana’s visit, I started the TEAM level II course.  This came after Sandra’s one year evaluation meeting with my counterparts including Maritza from the local school district.   Sandra was joined by the Director of Training from Colombia.  I am so excited about meeting him.  It turns out that the PCVs in Colombia will be working in Barranquilla, Shakira’s hometown and the site of her Pies Descalzos foundation. My jaw dropped when he told me this.  You see, I’m highly considering working as a program trainer for Peace Corps.  Guess where I hope to be if I seek out this type of opportunity…yup, Colombia!

I’ll be starting a new TEAM level I course this coming week.  In total, I’ll be working with 70+ teachers on a regular basis.  This opens the doors to all kinds of opportunities such as our abstinence program, HIV prevention, our career planning program, youth leadership development, and promoting parent involvement.  Very exciting! 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stronger each year in country!

One year ago, I boarded a plane in agreement to dedicate two years to service no matter the assignment.  I felt comfortable going to Honduras given my experience in Latin America.  I was hesitant given the statistics...second poorest in the Western hemisphere and the most violent country in Central America.  Yet the excitement for new experiences and adventure ran through me.
One year ago 6/23/10 @ SFO airport

I am happy to say that I am loving my experience. =) I have been placed in one of the most beautiful cities & I work with very special people.  I love my local "familia" made up of hard working girls, generous volunteers, and dedicated teachers, plus many others that remind me to move forward in my efforts.
@La Princesita w/ the girls (Mary & Yani not pictured)

The last few weeks have been filled with observations.  Some of my favorite teachers proved their devotion is achieving great strides with their students.  In the words of one of them, "We are reading & writing in English!"  I continue to see the need for classroom management strategies.  In the most extreme cases you'll have a first grade class with 45 of the neediest children and a 19 year old teacher. (Sounds kinda like TFA in the States, right? Only we're in a third world country!)  I'm considering starting a pilot classroom management program with the same group of teachers.  To be continued.
Taking cover from the rain before class.

I did have some time to relax and get ahead on my lesson planning.  I ended up spending the Semana del Estudiante (Student Week) in town.  I spent a day at the pool...amazing views at the golf course!  I went down to Donkey Polo in Yuscaran during their Feria de los Gigantes.  Imagine the sight...20+ PCVs trying to ride donkeys while playing soccer polo. Let's just say the first match was something like 42 - 3 in favor of the Hondurans.  So much fun!
Donkey Polo Yuscaran 2011

I celebrated the closing of our abstinence program with the girls by hosting a ice cream & popcorn movie night.  The original gala dinner was canceled last minute...don't want to explain....erk :| I'm not sure what to do next, if anything, with this group.  They would like to have the boys join us but it would have to be geared toward self-management or developing their leadership skills.  I would love to start a creative expression group, maybe a reading circle or theater group.  They seem to really enjoy these activities.
Chayo, Mary, Vilma getting ready to watch The Princess and the Frog

I just got back from a mini vacation.  I was invited to join Jesse's family visit in El Salvador.  My first time visiting and I can't wait to go back!  The family was really great with me & made me feel a part of the familia. Aw!  My favorite few days this year by far.....much thanks to Jesse & Susy.   Susy ended up surprise visiting for a day on her way to Peru for her Masters travel program.  We had a great time together...lots of laughs & great memories!  I love catching up with's one of the things I miss the most!
Cafecito, platanos fritos con frijolitos y crema fresca....que rico!

La Libertad 2011 

Lago Suchitlan in Suchitoto