Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tom's Book Corner #1

Hello everyone. I am a librarian now, so I guess one of my responsibilities is to recommend books. Well, the first book I read down here is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera"

Its a real wang doozey. It takes place in a fictional country that could very well be Honduras and is, I suppose, one of the greatest love stories written in any language. Its a romance that spans eighty years. It features deadly parrots, several suicides, and man who wears a mustache protector when he sleeps. It is a throughly heartbreaking and inspiring story of LOVE, Latin-American style.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Free Bananas in the Teachers' Lounge!

One benefit of working for Dole...

How many people does it take...

We've been out and about a lot lately. We're nailing down the final details on moving into our house. Last night, we were involved in an 11 person "meeting". This meeting involved, us, the former tenant, his assistant who also used to live in the house, our landlord in Costa Rica, the acting landlord, (who happens to be the secretary to Dole's general manager), the movers that the former tenant hired, our real estate agent, our real estate agent's friend who is a painter, and the president of the largest bank in Honduras.

Basically, everybody owed everybody money -k and t owe the 1st month rent, when they pay, the landlord can reimburse the former tenant, who can then pay his movers to get the furniture out, and pay his former secretary so that she can get out of the sketchy area she is currently living in. Unfortunately, our money is still tied up in our US bank account and in US dollars. Since all these people need money to pay people now, we needed to locate the former tenant's aunt- who just happens to be the president of the largest bank in Honduras. So we all piled in the car and went to the bank after business hours. After greeting her personal bodyguard on the way in we were escorted to her office by armed guards. She graciously agreed to honor our checks and cash them for the people who needed our money. We will be opening a bank account there in the next few days.

In addition, we asked that the house get a fresh coat of paint before we move in. This of course involves several more mini-meetings. We are happy to know that our house will now receive a fresh coat of pretty pink paint. (The pictures from the previous entry show a washed out color. The house was actually painted blue just last summer, but they used cheap Mexican paint. It all washed off during rainy season, leaving a stonewashed look.) We voted for the more expensive Sherwin Williams brand this time. It will be pink and white for years!

When all was said and done, I think that everyone got what they needed. We'll get the keys to our place on Saturday, but our stuff is still trying to break out of customs. Hopefully by the middle of next week, it will be on it's way to our house!

Long entry- kind of confusing- but really, we're learning that the old "how many people does it take to screw in a lightbulb" deal is right on. To get things done here, plan on twice as much time as you would expect, and 4 times as many people!

Oh- we got a refrigerator and stove (only 2 years old) and a washer and dryer! I feel like I'm really moving up in the world! (This transaction was made between us and the former tenant. It only involved 6 people)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

La Playa (The Beach)

We got some sun today at the beach. Tom put his own sunscreen on, and now he's kind of like a leopard- except he's got pink and white spots. Luckily, there's still a half can of aloe vera drink in the fridge!
Today, we went with 3 other teachers to a little restaurant/hotel on the beach about 20 minutes outside of town. It is located just beyond Sambo Creek, a small Garifuna villiage. Hotel Helen is a great little place with tables and hammocks right on the beach. We had lunch, fresh juice and 5 hours of sun all for about 5 bucks! The ocean was so warm, and when we swam, we looked back at shore to see the mountains right there.
It was perfect! We'll definitely make it a regular weekend mini-getaway!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday everyone! We're ready for a great weekend. Our maid picked and arranged these flowers while we were at school today. Que Bonito!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lip pointing and other gestures

Here in Honduras, there are a few ways you can communicate without speaking.
While shopping at the supermarket last night, Tom was carrying his bag past the armed supermarket guard, and he said a few words to Tom. Not sure what he said, Tom asked him to clarify. The guard simply pointed his lips towards the bag. Turns out the guard just wanted to check the bag and receipt on the way out. He didn't even need to lift his hand to point (which supposedly can be considered rude). Instead, he just pointed his lips in the direction of the bag. We've heard rumors that lip pointing was prevalent here, but this was our first encounter with it. How exciting!

Another favorite communication trick is the Honduran Hand Gesture. When executed properly, one appears to be screwing in an imaginary fat lightbulb. The hand twists while the fingers are fanned down and inward. This "handy" gesture can say so many things. A person with his mouth full of a tasty baleada might use his hand to say "What are you doing?" "Where are you going?" "What do you mean?- clarify!" "What do you want?" "Why are you doing that?" and countless other phrases!

Tom is pictured here lip pointing towards a small package of rez cubes- we think this is the same thing as beef bullion. At least, that's what we decided to use it for!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

La Casa Lewandowski

Mr. and Mrs. Lewandowski have just signed the lease on their new house!
La Casa Lewandowski
After a week of trying to track down the woman who is moving out so that we could look inside, we have now seen it and liked it! So, tonight we signed the papers and on September 1, we are the tenants of a 3BR 2Bath home in the Sauce Neighborhood (pronounced sow-say here!) The front of the house is currently painted a cute pink color. (seen above in flaking pink) They are re-painting in September and we get to choose the color. I vote for pink. We'll see... I just figure that this may be the only house in my lifetime that will be pink.
This is one of the smaller bedrooms.
We're working out a deal on buying the appliances from the previous tenant!
The house has many perks. There are 4 air conditioners in the house and ceiling fans throughout, so we will be able to stay cool inside. In addition, our big backyard is also home to a small shed-size building known here as the maid's quarters. Inside, there is room for a bed and dresser, there is a shower and toilet, and an air-conditioner. We don't plan on getting a live-in maid right away, but it's nice to know we have a place for her if we need it!
We've already found our guy to mow the backyard- his name is Leonardo.

In front of the house, we have a big covered terreza and 2 stalls for parking cars. Since we don't have a car down here, we'll be able to turn that entire space into a tropical outdoor living room- complete with handmade Honduran wood chairs and hammocks!

Our dog (we get to find one soon!) will have plenty of space to frolick and play. Tonight when we went to look at the house, 6 teenage boys were playing street soccer out front. Happy Honduras!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

FOCO Taste Test: Aloe Vera Drink

We have been exposed to some wonderful new products down here. We were shopping at our local supermarket tonight and decided to take a chance on a new beverage. Tom volunteered to act as test subject. Tonight's experiment: an aloe vera and honey flavored beverage.

What you see in the picture above is not disgust, but surprise. Tom was surprised to find actual gelatinous chunks of aloe in the drink. Other than that it was pretty good.

We found a house today. Its in the Sauce neighborhood. More updates on that later this week...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Congratulations Brooke and Joe!

Today our dear friends Joe and Brooke got married. We had hoped to be there to celebrate with them, however Honduras turned out to be too far away to make the weekend trip. We send our love and warm wishes across the turbulent Carribbean all the way to Detroit Lakes. Congratulations newlyweds! We love you guys!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't worry...

To quote our favorite artist, Bobby McFerrin, "Don't worry, be happy!" Hurricane Dean is really nothing to worry about. The National Hurricane Center has now predicted that Hurricane Dean will go north of Honduras. This is often the way tropical weather patterns will work around here because the Carribbean's warm waters cause storms to head northward before they would hit Honduras's coasts. Nevertheless, we have plenty of experienced storm-weatherers to keep us safe and well communicated in case of an emergency.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Beach

We went out to dinner at a nice restaurant on the sea last night. Half-way through dinner, a three piece band showed up. They arrived by bicycle. They asked us if they could play a song for us, but there was already music blasting from the speakers. So we said no thanks. I hope we see these guys again so we can get a picture.

We're thinking about taking a trip this weekend, either the mountains or the beach. It kind of depends on what hurricane Dean does though....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cervezas de Honduras

As far as I can tell, the number one beer down here is a tasty little pilsner called Salva Vida. The beer is brewed by SABMiller, the first multinational brewing company to start operations in Central America. The company acquired Cerveceria Hondurena from the Standard Fruit Company (Dole), a few years ago. The beer is brewed right here in Honduras and is very good. Thanks SABMiller, for making a really delicious product. Its a light-bodied brew, perfect for the climate. People who like crappy beer, like Summit Pale Ale, will not like it because it does not have that burnt peanuts and shoe-funk aftertaste. Price at your local watering hole: 20-30 lempiras....US $1.15.

Monday, August 13, 2007

On having a maid...

We had our first day of school today. That was great- more about our school days in a different entry.
But today a funny thing happened. Every day, while we're at work, a maid comes into our guesthouse and washes our coffeepot and any little dishes we've left in the sink, straightens things up around the house, neatly arranges pillows on our couch, makes our beds, and organizes our food area. She also cleans the bathroom and brings fresh towels every day. Today, I had to run home after school to pick up a checkbook. To my dismay, I noticed that our toilet was backed up in an unpleasant way and smelled gross. Since I only had a couple minutes, I couldn't do anything about it and left the room quickly and went back to my classroom.

Upon arriving home tonight, we had new sheets on the bed, our dishes were again washed, fresh towels hanging in the bathroom, and everything looked a little sparkly. The toilet had been unclogged and was not smelly anymore.

After dinner tonight, Tom and I were reviewing our latest vocabulary words. We've written them in Spanish on a post-it note on our refrigerator. The words are el jabon (the soap) and el olor (the smell). These words had come up when I was looking for laundry detergent over the weekend, and the smell when our security guard asked us to microwave his yummy smelling soup for him.

It was only when we noticed that we have 3 kinds of dish soap and 5 bars of soap (courtesy of our maid) in the bathroom that it occurred to us that perhaps our maid thought we were leaving her a note about our problems in our best gringo spanish. "The soap!" "The smell!" She took care of both of them for us!

Oh- Gringos in Hondo!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ready for the first day of school!

We've been working extra-hard this week to make sure we're ready for our students to come tomorrow! Karine has 20 students in her class, and Tom has the whole school in his library! Karine will be responsible for changing 7 bulletin boards per month in and around her classroom, so any creative ideas are welcome!

An exciting 4th grade development for Karine has been the realization that she hasn't practiced the Palmer Method of cursive handwriting since her 4th grade days. Tom has been busy checking out all of the textbooks and materials to the teachers for the past few days. Everything at this school stems from the library. He will be very busy!

A funny phone call came into the school office on Friday. It went a little something like this. (translated into English)

Maid (on phone): Hello, front office?

School secretary (on phone): Yes?

Maid: I noticed that Karine and Tom had some laundry in their basket in the closet. Would you tell Tom that he can tell his wife that there is a washer and dryer right near their house?

School Secretary: Yes! (To Tom) Tom, you can tell Karine that she can do your laundry just 3 houses down from your guesthouse.

Tom: I will be sure to tell her!

Karine: (Later that night) What?! I'm still a feminist from the U.S. You need to separate your whites and colors before I'll do your laundry!

How to make coffee in Honduras

All of our worldly possessions, including our new coffee pot, are on a boat somewhere in the Caribbean. Luckily, our guest house came equipped with a coffee sock.

Here's what you'll need to make coffee Honduran style: one small covered pitcher, one tea kettle, one bag cafe copan (Honduran coffee from the region of the Mayan ruins), two coffee cups, one coffee sock.
A coffee sock is a really neat little gadget. Its kind of like a wizards's hat made out of cheese cloth with a wire around the brim.
Boil water.
While you are waiting for the water to boil place your coffee sock in your coffee pitcher and fill the sock to the brim with coffee. Be careful not to carelessly spill coffee grounds all over the counter like Tom always does.
Pour the boiling water into the coffee sock.
Wait for the coffee to drain through. Sometimes this takes a few minutes. This is the hard part. But it is also the magical part.
Pour coffee.
And enjoy!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Coffee and classrooms!

We worked in our classrooms for awhile today. I'll post some pics I took around the school later. I even used my best cursive handwriting on the board!

Tom made some iced coffee drinks for us tonight, Here's a pic! More about coffee tomorrow...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

It's my dad's birthday today! I wasn't able to get to a phone yet to call, so this is my official proclamation to the world- Happy Birthday Dad!

We both spent a bunch of time in our respective classrooms today. I spent time unlocking cabinets and sorting books. Each of my students will have a cubby to keep their textbooks and school supplies in. I've already sorted out each student's textbooks, and they will each have a number assigned to them. Their number is inside of each book. Pretty simple huh?

I was also excited to see that my classroom has a loft that I will use as a reading corner. I'm looking for some bookshelves to house all of the books in the 4th grade classroom library.

Tom wants to get his library more set up before we post any pictures of his space.

We went for dinner tonight to the Expatriates Bar here in La Ceiba. We were intrigued when our chips and salsa appetizer came. We had homemade tortilla chips alright, but the salsa wasn't what we expected. The Spanish translation for salsa is "sauce". So our chips were served with a white "sauce" that tasted very much like ranch dressing! Oh well. We added a bit of hot sauce to the "salsa" and that spiced it up a bit. Not too bad! The rest of dinner was pretty tasty though.

Monday, August 6, 2007

First day of work

We started off the morning with some home cookin' by Tom. He went to the market at 7am to buy ingredients for a yummy breakfast. As Tom was trying to explain to the butcher that he wanted a pound of bacon (not knowing the spanish word for bacon) he almost ended up with a pound of ham instead. He stopped the slicing just in time and the store manager helped him to find the bacon instead. Our co-worker Justin (the new gym teacher) joined us this morning for bacon, eggs, and homemade hashbrowns. Good work Tom!

This afternoon we met with our administrators here at the school. We've now got loads of information about when to give out uniform violations (if shoes are not mostly white, or if socks are too short) and key rings with about 15 keys each! Our school day begins at 6:45am but we're done with students at 1:45. We could be at the beach by 2:30 if we wanted to! Luckily our commute is only about 30 seconds while we're living in the guesthouse.
Pics from the Mazapan park near our house

Tonight, we went back to the market to buy some stuff so I could make spaghetti. I think it was pretty tasty!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Rainy Day

It's been a rainy day here in Hondo. We tried to go to the local catholic church this morning for mass. When we arrived, it appeared as though the mass would be beginning shortly, and the priest was busy baptizing about 9 Garifuna kids. Each row of people would go to the front of the church, have their child baptized, and then return. After that, each row of people then went up again and did the baptism candle and passing thing. Then, everyone else said the Lord's Prayer in Spanish (We didn't participate because we didn't know the words in Spanish). Then it was over and people started taking pictures. Though we didn't actually see a mass, we figured watching a sacrament 9 times over fulfilled our holy obligation today. We got caught out in the rain after church so we went to lunch at a restaurant in the Hotel Paris. Meals here take a little longer, so we were at lunch for 2 full hours. It was nice though, since we have nothing we need to do today.

We begin work tomorrow. The new teachers will be given keys, a tour, and a physical. We'll sign some papers and call it a job! Rumor has it that the 4th graders at our school are nervous that their new teacher won't speak Spanish. Up until this point in their education, most instruction has been in English but their teacher has been fluent in Spanish. I'll be patient and kind, but my Spanish is not strong enough yet to teach them too much. Our administrators have assured me that the kids will learn quickly and it will be very good for them. How exciting!

Here are a few pictures of our new home and our neighborhood.

Some flowers I picked in our yard...

The Bedroom

Dining Room/Kitchen

Living Room