Activities Group

 

The last week I was there in Honduras, I was assigned to help with the “activities group.” The kids had all just finished school, so we were assigned to visit most of the houses to play with and do activities with them. We would plan an activity for the whole week and adapt it to the different age groups. The first house we visited was the small girls. We had planned to do “Olympiadas” with a series of races and contests like tug-of-war or wheelbarrow race. We split the girls into 2 teams and colored flags. Then we started the games. It is very difficult to keep 20 6- 9 year-old girls in line. Eventually it deteriorated to Duck Duck Goose and Red Light- Green Light, and then at the end we took all the girls on a walk. As we were taking a short cut up the side of a steep hill, one of the girls stopped to show me a ground cover plant. When she first pointed it out, I couldn’t perceive anything special about it. She then bent down and touched it, and the tiny plants closed up around her finger. She and the other girls gently tapped one after another until most of the tiny plants had curled up.

“Why do they do that?” I asked her, trying to pull out her child’s imagination, “Are they afraid?”

“No,” she answered quite confidently, “They are sleeping.”

The inside of a child’ mind is so fascinating and precious.

On our second day of activities, we went to the small boys. This house of 6- 10 year- old boys had become my adopted house. I would spend many of my breaks and Sundays with them. We found them to be much more competitive than the girls, a and also much more organizable as a whole, but we had also learned from our experience at the small girl’s house and split up the house of 60 boys into smaller groups of 15. We brought each team in and colored flags and played game for about 45 minutes each. We would ask each group of 2 teams what they wanted they wanted their name to be. Originally coming in we imagined that they would say names like, “the dolphins” or “The Cool Kids.” Instead inevitably they chose their favorite soccer teams. Overwhelmingly they would chose Barcelona, but they would also often chose Honduras or Olympia. One team chose “Real Madrid” to my hart’s joy! I mentioned once, when he other team had chosen Barce first, that we could be “Los Tigres.” The kids liked the idea, but they thought it was kind of strange and funny.

On my last day with the activities group, we went to the medium boys yard. These boys are usually passed over for younger kids by the teams and sometimes even the volunteers as they span the ages of 11 to 14, and so are not quite so young and cute as some of the smaller age groups. I found, however, that they were just as needy of attention as the younger kids. We debated playing Olympics, but there were too few of them, so we just took out the soccer balls for them to play with. We kicked around balls, and did some tricks, or they did tricks and taught some to me. Many of them were really skilled with a ball. One 11 year-old could juggle a ball up to 75 times using foot, knee, and head. I spent the most time with 2 boys who taught me some tricks and showed me all of theirs. I got a bottle of soda, and we would set reachable challenges that if they achieved, I would give them an agreed upon amount of soda. By the end the boys had the whole bottle of soda and had broken many of their own records. I had poured the soda into 2 bottles, but they poured it into one to glory in the full, heavy bottle of soda. They then generously poured out some and gave it to me. I saw a side of them that most people hadn’t seen because I saw how generous they were when they had something to give. There was a deep sense of comradely in the knowledge of great feats accomplished and prizes won, and I was so honored that they invited me to share in this with them. There were so many children at the Orphanage whom I would meet and hang out with who were really extraordinary. They were funny, thoughtful, talented, or smart, but lacked the space, materials, or attention to really bloom, but for the few moments I was with them, I would glimpse their potential. I would get a distinct feeling of privilege mixed with a confusion as to why I had been allowed to see it.

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Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos

Quick note: I have not been writing on my blog because my computer charger broke, and so, even though I am now safely in the states, I will now be finishing up a last few entries for my trip, as well as discussing some of my related experiences as I travel back tonormal life here.

Alright, the name of this post refers to an orphanage of the same name that I visited twice during my trip. The first time was a couple weeks before I left and the second was on my way to leave the country. Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos is situated between Emanuel (Which is n Guaimaca) and the capital, Tegucigalpa. It was founded a little over 25 years ago and is Catholic run.

There were some similariteies between Emanuel and NPH but mainly there were a myriad of differences. The most obvious of which, for visitors at least, was the lay-out. Orphanage Emanuel is highly groomed. All the main roads are paved, there are lawns which get mowed once a week, fences and bushes line the roads and mark where one yard ends and another begins. NPH on the other hand is, from the front gate to the most distant soccer field, basically just a series of houses and buildings scattered with seemingly no pattern through the thick rain forest. Excepting one main, unpaved road, I only ever saw narrow footpaths, and you were lucky if these were anything more than just big enough for one person.

This was rather a rude awakening, as my time atEmanuel had been sheltered by the semi- American setting and lifestyle. Navigating the small paths a night in the middle of a thunderstorm was definitely… memorable! The rules there werealso much more relaxed. At Emanuel, you would never see even one of the older kids walking by themselves, unless they were running an errand for their encargada. From the beginning at NPH, however, Amy and I would run into random groups of kids just playing at a random swingset or walking through the woods. There was a sense of structure in that any passing staff member or volunteer might check on you, but there were no filas and rows. It was more like a family than a military camp, and, in that way, my visit there was very refreshing.

In some ways the lack of obvious structures could be frustrating, though. Amy and I spent close to an hour trying to find our house in the rain forest before we found someone who knew where it really was, but in the process we met a number of kids who tried to help us and would walk us from house to house showing us how different doors worked, “you pull this one out and then push it like so…”. After we finally found our rooms, we went to mass. That was a very different experience from the Spanish Hillsong worship and lecture style preaching of church at Emanuel,. The “church” was really more of a pavilion in the middle of the jungle. The authentic Spanish worship sung by hundreds of children and youth’s voices to the rhythm of a wooden drum mixed with the the sounds of birds and insects to create for me a completely foreign atmosphere and a treasured memory.

After dinner that night, we went to a talent show of sorts. I think that many times familiar things with a foreign twist and in a foreign language can seem more extraordinary than something completely foreign in all aspects. I suppose because your brain is trying to fit it into an old framework, and in so doing comparing and contrasting with that familiar object, instead of trying to create a completely new framework for your experience, but that is my philosophical commentary for the day!

Most of that night and the next day were spent talking with my friend’s sponsor kids and their friends, visiting them at their house, eating dinner with them, listening to music, etc. In the morning there was a soccer tournament with an outside team that we went to watch. The music at the event was really dirty and all in English. It made me wonder if there is music in foreign languages that I listen to that is really dirty or strange, but I simply have no clue because of the language barrier!Also, I ate rabbit for the first time! I was eating the meal they served at the game. It looked and tasted pretty much like fried chicken to me. When I was done eating one of the boys leans over and says, “Hey, that’s conejo!” My brain is desperately trying to translate, and then a little picture comes to mind of me and some of the mom’s at the baby house cleaning up stuffed animals. I pick up a cute lttle bunny… “Que es esto?”

“eso es un Conejo”

Brain comes to a halt.

Cute little stuffed animal= meat n my bowl…

Interesting, move on with life!

 

Thank you for all of your prayers and support! I still have a few posts left, so keep reading!

Que Rico

Ok, now it’s time to talk about Honduran food! For a long time I thought that all Hondurans just ate beans with bugs and rice, but I have been finding out quite differently! So I just wanted to talk about some foods which are very Honduran.

Ok, yes, rice and beans, but really Honduran rice and beans have a lot of seasonings and flavor. Their rice is often much more like yellow rice, if you know what that is. Their beans too are usually flavored with cilantro and sometimes even spicy.

Hot sauce: Hondurans don’t usually make most of their food spicy, but they love their hot sauce. Probably because it can change even the blandest rice and beans into a tasty meal, and when I say hot sauce I mean HOT SAUCE!

Fried…: Hondurans fry a lot of their meats, but they also fry their potatos, yucca, and plantains, and green bananas. All of these unordinary vegitables have a similar texture to potatos, and so are quite good fried.

Avacados: Mmm, it is avocado season, and we have our own avocado tree in the volunteer yard!

Mangos: Unfortunately I missed this season by a couple months, but during mango season, I have heard that you can eat Mangos till you are sick!

Nances: Speaking of eating fruit till you are sick, nances are a very popular snack here. They are very similar to sour cherries in many ways. They have a pit, grow on trees, are a similar size, and are kind of bitter- sweet. Unlike cherries, though, they are neon yellow and their flavor is incredibly strong!The babies will eat a few and their poop will be that neon yellow color!

Charamuscas: Charamuscas are basically like popsicles. They are frozen fruit juice in a bag. You bite off one corner of the bag and suck out the juice as it melts.

Fruit juices and sodas: In the states you might ask at a restaurant what kind of juices they have. They would probably say orange and apple and then start listing their teas, but here in Honduras, their fruit juices are much more varied. They normally have flavors like pineapple, blueberry, banana, pear, and peach, to name just a few. And they have all sorts of fruit sodas as well, including banana, strawberry, and blueberry, not to mention the amazing variety of cool aid flavors. Also, one tip on manners, ladies are not supposed to drink right out of the bottle or can, they use straws.

Exotic fruits: Pineapples and coconuts are quite common here, and bananas are a few cents a pound.

Tortillas: …Where do I begin? Everyone enjoys their tortillas, even my babies at the house will not eat anything else if they see a stack of tortillas. There are so many ways to use a tortilla as well, from eating it plain along with your rice and beans to quesadillas, pupusas, enchiladas, baleadas, and a thousand other versions of stuffed tortillas.

La Ceiba 2

Alright, so where were we?…Oh, side note, I have been here in Honduras for more than 10 weeks now!

Ok, but yes, I had just told you about going to Honduran church with the street boys. Monday morning was chill. The interns had a planning meeting to talk about what kind of activity they wanted to do at English class, and we went to a craft store and picked up some lunch. Then we went to Armio bonito which is a suburb of La Ceiba. It is out in the country and is really beautiful. The team is starting a church there and have just gotten an Honduran pastor. They are also already running a clinic and are almost done with a highschool. Their intent is to have everything run by Hondurans which means that they need to hire Honduran teachers and doctors. I was very impressed with the way they cared even for the construction workers. The workers were using new types of materials and technology and were given the blue prints but allowed to use creativity in how they chose to build. The workers knew that it would be their wives using the clinic and their children and maybe grandchildren using the high school, and they took extra care to make sure that everything was both functional and beautiful. For example, the team leader showed us the perfectly rounded edges of the benches in the clinic’s waiting room and told us how he had first seen it and commented, “Oh, that’s nice, but why is it like that and how did you do that.” The workers had told him that they had done it to make it more comfortable for their wives when they sat down, and that they hadn’t really had any idea how to do it, so they had come up with the idea to use pbc pipe to create a mold. This kind of knowledge and creativity also would be invaluable in helping them to get hired in the future.

After our tour of those facilities, we helped the interns with English class. There were about 15- 20 kids who came in from the community that day, ranging  in age from 9 to 17. We worked on pronunciation and read a story together… and goofed off… and practiced stunts:D After English class, Mike took us to Puerta de Esperanza. This is a girls home for teenage moms with their babies. Shanon, the lady in charge, gave us a tour of the house and told us about the ministry. It is so very different from the baby house here at Emanuel. They take in 4 moms at a time, never more, and really focus on preparing them to live their lives as independent single moms in Honduras. 2 of the girls go to school and 2 have jobs. They are in charge of keeping their house clean, making a budget, buying the things they need, etc. They teach them how to take public transportation, care for their kids, stay within their budget etc. Each of the girls has their own room with their baby, which is not the same as living by yourself but is much preferable to the rooms lined with bunkbeds and cribs at Emanuel. Working at the house, there  are the house moms, an intern, and Shannon. After our tour Shannon took us to dinner with her family at a sweet little carribean restaurant. In the middle of dinner the lights went out, and we spent a few minutes trying to find flashlights on our phones or in our purses before the waitors came out with candles. It was so perfect, the candles, the Honduran food, the carrebian atmosphere with the sea right outside of the window.

After this we went back to Puerta de esperanza and had a Bible study with the girls. It felt very homy with fresh- baked doughnuts and their babies playing in the family room, and the girls sharing and laughing together. We studied the Prodigal Son and drew pictures of what we would do with a million dollars. Most of the girls said they would travel and buy all the things their babies needed.

Tuesday also felt very relaxed. In the morning we went to another neighborhood of La Ceiba. This one was situated on the bank of the river with jungle all around it. It was easy to tell that the people were poor there, from bathing in the river to hanging their clothes on their fence to dry. However, the people were extremely friendly and welcoming to us. We had Bible study and played games and collored with 15 of the kids from the community between the ages of 2 and 10. I felt like I was in a missionary story there- on the edge of the river, playing under an large, old shade tree, with women scrubbing their clothes in the river behind us. The kids loved to sing songs, hop in the bed of the pick- up truck, draw and jump rope. One of the girls left for a few minutes and came back with wet hair. I asked her where she had been, and she told me that she had been taking a bath in the river. We stayed there for about 3 hours.

After that we drove by to see the Carrebian sea. I was able to touch it and get in up to my knees, and  take some pictures. Then we went back to the dorms to have lunch with the street boys. Lunch was rice and beans and fish, and the boys ate a lot! When you are with boys like this there is just a lot of goofing around. They took breaks in their meal to wrestle with each other or sneak under the table to grab someone’s foot. One of their favorite games was to all run at the Honduran volunteer and try to take him down. After lunch we went around back to have a Bible study and then left to play soccer. We went to a nearby field and the boys played “soccer” that was much more like keep away.

When it was time for the boys to go back home, we piled in the back of a pick- up truck and drove to the outskirts of town where most of them lived. It started to rain… hard, but there is not much you can do about it when you are sitting in the back of a truck. We got wet.

Dinner was more baleadas with another missionary couple on the team who told us about their ministry. Then it was time for the game! Honduras was playing Jamaica and it was the deciding game for whether or not Honduras would go to the world cup! Obviously, Honduras qualified and we spent the night celebrating with some of the locals from the team and some of the interns as well.

Wednesday we got up at about 4:00 to catch our bus, and I spent the majority of the 10 hour bus ride sleeping. We stopped in Tegucigalpa to do some shopping before catching our last bus. First we went to a mall and then to an open air market. The market was pretty cheapand a little bit sketchy. It was the type of place where you bargain for everything. The little old lady who ran one of the stores we went into seemed much like a story book character as she croaked out prices while calling us doll the entire time. The different shops were tightly packed up against the street with random steps and curbs all along the path beside them. It was the kind of place where you can get a meal for a dollar and where you wouldn’t want to go after nightfall. The last leg of our trip was uneventful, and we reached Guaimaca and Orphanage Emmanuel exhausted but happy!

La Ceiba 1

I traveled to La Ceiba last Saturday for a 5 day trip to experience some different ministries there. La Ceiba is on the northern coast of Honduras on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. The sea is on one side and mountains on the other with rivers winding through it and palm trees and natural life around every corner. It is the 3rd largest city in Honduras, but it is completely different from the busy, dirty capital of Tegucigalpa. It is really more of a town with a population of 35,000 spread out in different neighborhoods. The city is a shocking contrast between rich and poor, breath-taking nature and impoverished slums. It is a party city with magnificent beach-front hotels and drug dealers on every corner.

Traveling there was also an adventure. We got on a bus at 7:00 am to start our 10 hour bus ride. This bus took us to Teguc and made stops along the road for anyone who wanted to come. Well, I don’t know if “stops” is the best way to describe it. It was really more like slowing down just long enough for a few people to jump off or on. The music on the bus included everything from Spanish gospel music, to 80’s music to Lady Gaga. The bus took us to a popular mall in Teguc where we bargained with a taxi driver to take us to the next bus stop. We picked up Baleadas for lunch, which are a popular Honduran food similar to a quesadilla filled with anything from just refried beans to any number of veggies, meats, and cheeses, and a layer of something between sour cream and butter. On our way to the bus station, we were driving down a steep, crowded 3 lane highway, when I looked out my window and saw some guy gliding by our car not 3 inches away. I had of course seen multiple motorcycles squeezing through the lines of cars, but this guy was standing and not on a motorcycle. It took my brain a moment to realize that he was skate boarding down the highway through moving traffic! When we got to our bus station in San Pedro Sula, my friend and I got off to switch buses. I walked into the waiting room to see that they were playing Hair Spray. It was such a strange feeling to realize that I was in a bus station in Honduras watching an English musical about a city in my home state! Then as we were waiting, the power went out. Nobody moved to go to a better lit place, nobody screamed, and almost nobody even commented. It is just normal life for the lights to go out for half an hour or so. Our trip was otherwise fairly uneventful. We arrived in La Ceiba at about 6:00. I looked out the window as we were coming into the city and saw lines of palm trees closely lining the highway; their branches hung over the highway and brushed against the windows of the bus as we passed.

I was very tired when I arrived, so I don’t remember much of that first night. I remember the giant mango tree next to the dorms where we stayed. It was one of those magnificent, old trees whose branches are each the size of a tree themselves. I remember the cold showers because there is no hot water there, and I remember the sand covered floors. I guess that last was due to the constant construction outside the dorms, but I swept up a veritable beach from that bedroom floor!

Sunday morning Amy and I got up in time for “gringo church” which is the church service that the mission team has there for themselves to have a chance to worship in their heart language. After church the team leader, Mike, gave us a tour of the facilities. This included the dorms where summer teams, interns, and guests stay, the kitchen and dining room which serves as the gringo church and the center where they bring in street boys for their feeding program, the medical clinic which is under construction, the seminary, also under construction, and the mango tree. After this we went to lunch at the mall with the interns. Honduran Chinese fast food tastes different than American Chinese fast food! Malls are a wonderful place to people watch, and I took notes on the differences between American and Honduran style.

We went to a Honduran church in the afternoon with the street boys ministry. Hispanic worship is much livelier than most American churches. There is just a lot more excitement and clapping and dancing. The street boys with us ranged from 11-17. They are rough kids even when they are being friendly or silly. They make their money on the streets often with drug dealers. Most of them have been sexually abused, and most of them have families who depend on their work to stay alive. The ministry brings them in for meals 3 times a week along with a bible study. Then there are the special outings like going to the Cost Arica/ Honduras game or coming to church. After church we took them to get baleadas and hung out and talked and played games. They are just kids, tough kids with tragic stories, but kids all the same!

Alright, this trip was really packed, so I am going to post about the rest of it soon!

Miscellaneous

Friday:

I just had a wonderful day! I don’t think I normally have days which are exceptionally fun  and precious. I have moments and experiences, but not usually entire days.

This morning was a blast with my babies. We put the older ones in their highchairs to draw, and when they got bored and started chewing their crayons and throwing their papers on the ground, we gave them each a small portion of flour to play with. How many things can you do with flour? Well, there’s putting it on your hands, throwing it in the air, drawing cool, random shapes in it on your highchair tray, putting it on your face, putting it on anyone else’s face who comes near enough… Yes I did have flour all over me too, and I have the cutest pics. Eventually when that got boring, we took them outside to the water fossit and let them splash and play until they had completely washed the flour off themselves. Then we took them, still wet and just in their diapers, to the trampoline!  The other volunteer and I, I would say her name, but it is Danish and they have some different letters, not to mention that their names are straight-up weird sometimes!) we left the house early because…

Mommy and Poppy were taking us to lunch! Mommy and Poppy are the couple who started this orphanage 20 years ago and have since made it their home as well as the home of over 600 orphans. They took all the volunteers to lunch as a thank you for the work we are doing day-to-day. We ate real Honduran food!Which I found out consists of corn tortillas, some type of spiced and usually pan-fried meat, rice, avocado, salad, and either mashed or fried potatos..  Mommy is so gracious and Poppy so thoughtful, and both of them are really funny. It was wonderful to get a break, have some different food, and  have some community time with the volunteers and Mommy and Poppy. We volunteers are currently 20, and 18 of us are in the girls volunteer house!

After lunch I went down to the toddler house with Maria, another volunteer, and we learned how to make tortillas. It was very fun, and hard, and different than I expected, from mixing the dough, to spreading it out, to putting it on the oven. Glenda, the motherly lady at the toddler house who was teaching us was so encouraging and taught us so many tricks of the trade. We made about 30, and by the time we were done, mine were as “grandote” as anyone else’s!

After dinner and baths, Briseida came and cuddled on my lap and told me a story… or she took my hands in hers and looked up at me and said”guun-guun ga-ga guun-ga” for about 3 minutes in an amazing variety of tones and decibles. Then she got up and found a book on the floor and brought it back to read to me for another 5 minutes. That definitely made my day even sweeter. When I left the baby house, all the little boys at the toddler started chanting “tia! Tia!” just like they do every time they see a volunteer that they know. I went over, and they all asked me for a kiss good night. I love that they are not yet at the age where kisses at night are embarrassing for them! On my way back to the volunteer house, I saw the most beautiful sunset with bright orange seaping up over the mountains and poofy orange and pink clouds  set off by the dark blue-purple sky.

Alright, so here is some miscellaneous information as well:

I traveled to La Seiba today. It was about a 10 hour trip from Guaimaca. I went with another volunteer who is fluent in Spanish and has traveled a lot. I will be using it for my internship as I will be visiting some various ministries to the poor while here. I will be as safe as possible. Please pray for me, but don’t worry because it won’t do you any good, and it definitely will not help me. I will be coming back on Wednesday and will post all about it!

Also I know I have sometimes posted twice in a day, so just make sure when you are reading that you look back a little. For example, this is my second post today! Usually that is because the internet won’t work, but I am still journaling and writing for my blog even when I can’t post!

Thank you for your love and prayers,

Rebecca-

NEWs

My schedule has stayed about the same lately- A walk after breakfast in the morning or taking the older babies to the toddler house to play, lunch, break, dinner  and baths and playtime,  and sometimes a walk at night. A couple of the older moms moved to the toddler house, and one of them leaves her baby at our house during the day because she has started working. She has asked me to take care of him and so holding , changing,, feeding, and bathing him has helped to demolish any semblance of free-time I had before.

We also have a new mom at the house who just arrived a few days ago. She has a 2 year-old sister and a 5 month old son, so our house has become much more active. She has helped to settle the drama in the house. I don’t actually know why her presence has changed the atmosphere so drastically, but she is very mature for her 15 years and tends to treat everyone with the same openness and respect. She has a lot of confidence and helps to add balance to the house. I have fallen in love with her little sister. She and I became friends right away, and then I showered her, and she did not want to take a shower, so I literally was holding her in my arms in the shower and got completely soaked! She still wanted to be my baby after that, though, and ended up falling asleep in my arms a few minutes after we got done. It’s true love. She’s so precious!!

The other day I was trying to teach the girls how to say “you’re welcome.” It ended up sounding like “reboka,” but I didn’t have time to work on it more with them, so I left it like that. Well then it just started to sound like they were saying my name in a weird voice, and then they just started saying, “la boca” which means “the mouth” in Spanish. At that point the Danish volunteer and I started to try to teach it to them again. It was going pretty well at first; we got them to say “you’re”, but when it came to “welcome” they just couldn’t get it. They now say “you’re walking,” and I don’t know, maybe I should have just left it how it was! Then again, I can only imagine what funny things it must sound like I am saying!

I wrote this to a friend the other day, and I just thought I would add it on here. These are all my kids:

There’s Perla, who is this little 1 year-old who keeps up with our 2 year-old boys! She is this little princess,but she is always moving and I can almost never get a good picture of her. Then there is Jefri. He is 2 and hits me almost every time I come close enough, but we’ve had a bunch of silly fun times together despite the fact that I almost always have to put him in a corner for 2 minutes and say “no pegue!” He looks like a little American Indian chief, which is so funny to me! Than there is Noe. He is this little chubby 2 year-old who is always running up and laying his hed on my lap. His favorite word is “caballo” and he says it for everything that has around 4 legs. Josue is 14 months and just starting to walk, but he is trying to jump sometimes on one foot! Sometimes he would rather play tickle games than eat his food, and he has often been the reason for giant soup stains on my pants at night! David is the happy one. He is always smiling and laughing, and if he isn’t, then you know it is a really bad day at the baby house! David is 10 months old. Jenny is 3 months old with a fountain of soft black hair. There is not much more you can say about a 3 month old. Justin is the same age. Can you guess who he was named after? Yes even in Honduras… Jonathan is 4 months, but he is ginormous. Like he is basically the same size as some of the 2 year-olds in the toddler house. I watch him a lot because his mom works with the special needs kids. Jorge is 5 months. He is the son of the new girl. He has athsma, but when the poor thing isn’t coughing he is so happy and almost never cries. He is very alert and can hold his own bottle! Lydia is 2. She is the adopted daughter of the girl who runs the baby house. She hops and skips everywhere! She should be a gymnist when she grows up because she is so strong and flexible and bouncy! We are trying to teach her some English. She always gets so excited to see me and is always calling to one of her many “Tia’s” and chattering and playing!