For my first night in a foreign country I slept pretty well. I was exhausted from my flight and traveling, but I thought I would be a lot more uncomfortable than I was. I woke up the next morning rested and ready to take on the new challenges that I knew would face me at my first day of work at Santa Clara Elementary School. I had no idea what to expect but I was ready to jump in and get my feet wet.
I was not really feeling breakfast and I had no food anyway, so I skipped it and just left with Orchedia, Astrid, and Morgan on our way to the bus stop. We walked about four blocks to the gas station where we waited outside for the bus to pass. Kids and teachers both took the same bus to school and the drive through town was really interesting. It was fascinating to see the homes that these kids came from and all the different neighborhoods in the city. It was my first real tour of Juticalpa. The town was just waking up and many shop owners were outside sweeping and preparing for the day.
When we arrived at school I mostly just followed Morgan around, saw her room, and watched the kids do their morning meeting. They said the pledge and sang some songs all lined up in rows in the large pavilion that they eat lunch under every day. The national anthem was fascinating, just about all the kids knew it and it was pretty long too. Then when the kids marched off to their classrooms I went off to a meeting with Ms. Maritza, the head of English education. She was great and she asked me some questions to get to know me a bit better and then she threw me in to teach my first class. Let me tell you, I was not excepting this, but I was ready for anything they wanted to throw at me.
I was really nervous at first because she only gave me about 10 minutes to prepare, but the nerves quickly went away as I saw the reading assignments that these sixth graders were doing. Reviewing it, even in the few minutes I had, I felt my classroom experience as a student come back to me and I was able to visualize the lesson really well, which gave me a lot of confidence. Oddly enough thinking back I was probably more nervous teaching my first tennis lesson than this class. I think teaching kids in tennis has actually helped give me that confidence.
Teaching the sixth graders was really enjoyable and they were pretty good at reading in English. There comprehension was all over the board though. Some students understood everything and were able to answer questions about the text, but others really had no idea what was going on. It was just words on a page to them. Most of the kids were able to catch on and I was really impressed for the most part. I think they are definitely on their way to becoming good English speakers. As far as discipline goes, the kids minded me pretty well. They mostly paid attention and sat quietly which I was thankful for. They did try to trick me that recess was 10 minutes earlier than normally scheduled, but luckily I was skeptical enough about their insistence to ask another teacher and confirm that it was indeed 10 minutes later. I think I was expecting the kids to try to take advantage of me in that way, so I was ready and prepared for them when they said something that sounded a little off.
At the end of the day the teachers and students boarded the same bus that took us back to our house. I talked in Spanish with one of the Honduran teachers during the bus ride her name was Susan. She was very friendly and I enjoyed getting to know her, hearing about her growing up in Juticalpa, and about the possibility of seeing the city soccer team play that upcoming weekend.
I did not have any Honduran cash on me, so I needed to change the dollars that I had brought. Going around Juticapla, a largely cash and carry society, without cash made me feel a bit uneasy. I got off the bus by the bank. Unfortunately, they would not let you bring a backpack inside so I had to go back to the house and drop it off. Eventually I got back to the bank, went through the security, and got a ticket to wait in line. The bank was really busy, there were probably at lest 50 other people waiting in line in front of me. It actually reminded me of the DMV. After being there about 15 minutes I realized that I did not have my passport. This forced me to leave and try to find another place, since the bank was about to close. I asked around and eventually wandered into what I later found out was an “internet café”. I asked the ladies at the counter if they knew a place to changes dollars to lempira (everyone calls them “lemps” but it is pounced more like “limps”). They said they would just pool their money and trade their lemps for my dollars. They gave me a 21 lemps for every dollar, which I thought, was fair. It was really nice of them to make this trade for me and I was excited to have found a solution to my problem all by myself. I also felt a lot more at ease having money that I could actually use.
After I had my Honduran money in hand, I went to the store to buy some groceries. The super market is really close to our house and so is a fruit stand, which was really convenient. I got the stuff to make lentils and chorizo and went back to the house to make them. Right as I was in the middle of adding the water to boil the lentils, the power went out. Megan came out of her room and told me that this happens every Monday, of course, and it would not come back on until about 9pm. Since I had nothing else to do and no other food. I decided to go to the store again with Megan and I bought some bread, ham, and cheese to make a sandwich to tide me over. While the power was out Megan, Abby, Jason, Morgan and I talked out in the courtyard while we waited for the power to come back on. Eventually it did and I was able to cook my lentils, eat, take a shower and get to bed.
By the end of the day I realized that the only thing I had eaten all day was the ham sandwich and the lentils, and that wasn’t until after 5pm. I must have just been running on adrenaline all day since I was so excited and full of curiosity to experience something so new to me. It really was a great day with a lot of new and wonderful experiences. When I first got here I was honestly questioning how long I would be able to stay because I felt so homesick, but after spending a day at the school and around the town I feel a lot better about this experience. I am excited for what is in store for me in the coming months and so happy that I am no longer just talking about teaching in Honduras and finally doing it.