Sorry its long...
01.03.2012 - 30.03.2012 -30 °C
Life in Honduras
So...its been a while since we last wrote a blog entry. I hope this finds you guys all well and not wasting too much money on petrol. On the plus side, I heard a rumor it was sunny in England? And if it makes it any better it rained here last night for the first time in a couple of weeks. The weather has really improved since we arrived and now is consistently 30 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze that makes it perfectly acceptable to sit around and do nothing at all. However that’s not the case to often. Kerri and I have been keeping ourselves busy for the past two months (which have flown bye!).
The English project I am working on is going well, on the whole. The kids who turn up regularly can now make sentences in English, ask how you are and name fruits and days of the week etc. This may not sound like a great deal but its difficult, as many children do not consistently show up and so we have to reteach the same stuff over and over again. Also the concentration levels of the kids are fairly poor, and although we play games and have competitions when it comes to learning new vocab it takes a long time and some are often lacking in confidence and their ability to produce language correctly. We recently gave a test to see how far they had come in six weeks. The test was really easy but still only about 25% managed a pass, although not too many got 0% either. The older kids are doing quite well but the younger ones often really struggle and only seem to really enjoy drawing pictures. It is difficult to ensure they keep coming because of course this is an optional class and when all the others are playing in the field next door its obviously difficult to maintain their interest. That said, this project is not about getting all the kids fluent in English, it is enough if it encourages them to study more, and go to high school. It also provides an activity, which is good because one of the main problems poverty seems to bring in Honduras is the lack of stimulation for children, which leads to a lack of drive and a seeming willingness to accept that they cannot meaningfully change their situation. The main goal of most kids here seems to be to leave for the states as soon as possible. It is true that there are not many opportunities here further than working in the pineapple fields but Honduras clearly has potential, it is a lush country with fantastic beaches, climate and friendly people, but international tourism is virtually undeveloped here.
The country, especially round here, is in thrall to US fruit companies, mainly Dole. This company employs the majority of men in the area but only two days a week at $7 a day. This means that they do not have to provide holidays or health cover. Most families are large and this money cannot support them. Women are often full time mothers but take jobs as part time cleaners, shop assistants or set up food stalls outside their houses. This extra income still does not provide enough money to live, hence the exodus for the states. Most children have fathers or uncles or brothers in the states, and occasionally mothers and sisters. These family members send home money monthly, but often never return themselves for years at a time. Their stay usually ends when they are deported for being illegal immigrants. The US will then confiscate any savings in American banks and the person will be arrested on attempting to reenter and spend time in jail. Most men who have been deported have also done jail time. It would be easy to blame the country's problems on the US, but that is not the whole picture. The US also gives a vast amount of aid for development to Honduras, as thanks to historic ties the two countries are closely allied. This money often never reaches the places its needed most thanks to widespread corruption at the highest levels.
As well as corruption, violence is also widespread here. Since arriving here several people have been murdered in the town over, including the brother of the woman who set up our organization. One girl has been kidnapped and another two people murdered in our village of 5,000 people. A quick glance at the paper shows this is the case all over the country. The vast majority of violence is linked to the marras, armed gangs that are linked to the drug trade. These gangs will kill family members to get to each other, but the drug trafficking here is in no way as bad as in Mexico although it seems the police are fairly powerless to stop it. There are known 'narcos' who live in a big house on the beach in our village but nothing is done...
However, we, as volunteers are not directly at risk. Everyone in the village knows who we are, why we are here and where we live. In this respect we have protection and support from the community. I don't feel threatened walking around at night, and as we are not involved with the drug trade there is no reason why we should be! The main problem we face is theft, the same as while traveling in any foreign country. We take precautions and so far so good.
Anyway enough on all that depressing stuff! We have still been having fun anyway! After work there is not a lot to do in the evenings in town so we normally just hang out at the house and watch a DVD or read, make big dinners. I'm so glad I managed to pick up a guitar on the way up as well. We also study Spanish, do lesson plans or just chat to the other volunteers. There a 8 people in this house so its never that quiet. On the weekends we go to the beach, which is two minutes walk and fairly nice. There is a river where we have built a rope swing and you can swim. Also we play football and basketball with the locals, which is always fun and a chance to learn some slang. They love to talk trash here! We also live really close to Pico Bonito national park, where there are loads of rivers to go to and walking places. Its really stunning here, so green. There is loads of wildlife and we have seen macaws and parrots. There are always horses and cows wandering around town too!
One evening a week Kerri and I also teach an adult class, which is really good fun. It makes a nice change from teaching the kids because they are much more motivated to learn and much more driven. They pick things up quickly and are now able to tell us about where they live, their family, the weather and much more. Another volunteer and I are trying to set up a class for the teachers at the local school as well. The adult class has made me realize that this is what I want to do after volunteering here. I don't think I want teach little kids again (between 6 and 11) if I can help it! I love hanging out and messing around with kids on the field or at the river but in the classroom it can be stressful and they are difficult to control, made even more difficult when sometimes they are hard to understand. On the other hand when they do eventually get it, it is very rewarding.
So far I have really enjoyed my time here, despite the teaching not always being easy! Its made up for by the fact that I live in the Caribbean. Cycling to work every morning while the sun rises over the mountains without a cloud in the sky always ensures I go to work with a smile on my face. So far there has not been a single occasion where I really resented getting out of bed, which happened in England a lot. Watching the sunset on the beach and then being able to go home and have a cup of tea is fantastic. I really don' t know why people live in England. That said, I miss everyone.
We are of to Belize for two weeks now for the Easter Holiday. It will be nice to get away for a while and get back in the tent! Hopefully I will motivate to do a blog entry when I get back so I won't have to do one this long again... Love xx