What is your favorite place that you’ve been in Honduras?
El Lago Yojoa directly 50 miles south of San Pedro Sula is always supremely serene and tranquil. The lake is nestled between the mountains of Santa Barbara and one of Honduras’ national parks. It is the perfect spot to tie up a hammock, check out for a bit, snag some Z´s and maybe go for a swim when you wake up.
How did you find out about BECA? What did your friends and family think when you told them you were moving to Honduras?
I found BECA's listing on a matchmaking website called WayUp. I was literally straight out of college, and I had been working with immigrants in a charity providing legal services, and I had become very aware that I was lacking genuine perspective on how the world turns outside of the US. I think my family knew that moving to Central America was the next logical step in my professional development as well as my own personal growth. I definitely had some friends that didn’t want to see me go, but when they heard the details of the whole beca gig, I received nothing but support.
Did you have any preconceived notions about Honduras before you came down? How did those compare with what you found when you arrived here?
I think for me, I had a perception of poverty in a globalized context that simply didn’t map onto reality. I had been to Coxen Hole, Roatán months before applying to BECA and saw a lot of extreme poverty, but it’s been fascinating living in Cofradía. First of all, it’s impossible to superimpose the US class structure onto Honduras because the countries’ economies are not the same, but Cofradía has become a very unique place where you can have houses nicer than an average US house, then walk down the street and see cinderblocks and sheet metal shacks. The most interesting thing about a lot of people here is the amount of time dedicated to appearing sharp. If you saw a picture of my students on Friday in their daily clothes (no uniform), I doubt you’d correctly guess what their homes looks like.
How was your first day at school?
First day was chill. Nothing special. Day two? Man, those kids start probing your defenses. It does not take long for the novelty of a new teacher to wear off and the slow encroaching ghost of anarchy begins to become all too visible.
What is your favorite part of the day or class to teach?
I love read aloud. I know giving characters voices supposedly stifles imagination to some degree, but it’s also immensely helpful to keep the kids engaged, especially since English is not their first language. Thursday after school, however, is by far my favorite time of the week: Drama club. More specifically, this is where we learn the skills of improvisation. We started last year with around fifteen students—grades 4 through 7—which have now been distilled down to about seven to nine core fourth graders. I have probably taught them about ten improv games by now, but their two distinct favorites are “Freeze!” (which sometimes devolves into a dorky dance party) and “Party Guests.” It feels fulfilling to be teaching the next Colin Mochries of the world.
What is it like to teach at Santa Monica? Describe Santa Monica for someone who has never been there.
SMBS is a small school with a stretch of grass in the middle where kids play tag, soccer and chase Profe Efer and Mr. Tim around among other activities. Occasionally the 1st through 3rd grade rooms’ floors will be flooded by pranksters who clog the running sinks with toilet paper. There is a stellar catholic church near the entrance that has been under construction this whole year and is really coming together. There are frequently local dogs that sneak in during lunch that stare at you while you eat. It’s really cool to see the community feel of Santa Mónica. Parents talking to you inside your classroom two minutes before the bell rings can be stressful, but it’s really cool to see moms and dads eating with their kids every day. The cafeteria is a pleasant little aggregate of familial pockets with uncles, aunts, grandmothers, older and younger siblings and you.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened outside of school?
I once watched the entirety of Zootopia in Spanish with my fourth grader and her sisters.
What have your students taught you this year?
Teaching is hard. Keeping your stuff together sometimes literally seems impossible. Seriously though, there are high highs and real lows. It’s an emotional roller coaster figuring out how each kid gels, but I have seen that every student can rise to the occasion, even if his or her goal is different from the rest of class. The important thing is that you are always being realistic and consistent. Also group hugs are beautiful.
Where can you be found on a Saturday morning?
Café Cusuco! Café Click has some serious competition now.
What is your favorite Honduran food?
The cliché holds true: baleadas are amazing.
What is the most challenging aspect of living in Honduras?
Personally, I always like to have a can of Raid handy. Honestly I think the saddest thing I have endured is opening my last pack of pop tarts and finding ants crawling all over them . . . then brushing them off and popping ‘em into the toaster. Because I will not be beaten by tiny insects!