Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shocking!

One of the joys of living in Honduras might come as a shock to newcomers. About 5 minutes ago, I walked into the kitchen to see what Tom was working on. He's using the Lewandowski Family Cookbook to create some mean baked beans for a potluck this evening. I've been lounging around the house barefoot as I often do. I grabbed a spoon and dipped it into the pot o' beans only to be electrocuted. Getting shocked is a regular occurrence in our kitchen, as wiring in Honduras is generally not grounded. It is important to wear shoes while cooking, as our outlets are not grounded.

A second place a person should wear shoes is the shower. Counter intuitive you might think… but so is having an electric appliance plugged in to a place where you run a lot of water. Since few houses have hot water heaters- very expensive- most people purchase electric shower heads. This gadget heats the water up before it comes out. Ours hasn’t worked properly since we moved in. Since neither of us is too confident with electrical wiring in showers, we’re patiently waiting for an electrician to come and help us out. Until then, we’ll continue to enjoy cold showers at 5:30am.

Shoes are a good thing. If you come visit us, bring a pair of rubber flip-flops!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Spanking and Hugging

The school culture here in Honduras is a bit different from the U.S. in a few ways. Tom and I have been taking a graduate school class this week (along with the entire staff) from noon to 5 every day. We teach from 6:55-11am and then learn all afternoon. Our class is designed to allow us to form a School Improvement Plan. 5 hours per day of discussing our school with our colleagues has made us realize and appreciate some of the unique things about teaching in Honduras.

1. Hugging- Every morning I have at least 6 fourth graders waiting at the classroom door by 6:40am. They are so excited to learn! They greet me with warm smiles and hugs. Several times throughout the day, students come up to show me work, drawings, and things they find interesting. Often times, they’ll initiate a hug afterwards. In the library, Tom is greeted every Friday morning by his first graders with a big group hug. Touching is common and encouraged. It’s great to literally be able to give students a pat on the back or a little squeeze when they get something right.

2. Spanking- I remember birthday spankings from my childhood. I don’t actually remember who they would have come from, but I do remember the idea of a spanking for each year and “a pinch to grow an inch” at the end. After teaching in the U.S. for 3 years, I know that birthday spankings in the classroom would be a quick ticket out the door. It’s simply not done! Yesterday, one of my 4th grade girls approached me to let me know her birthday would be next week. She asked me if I would please, please, please give birthday spankings. "In school?!” I asked her. “Yes! All of the teachers do it! In third grade and second grade. The whole class counts and then we get a big one at the end!” I replied, saying that I didn’t do that, but we could definitely celebrate in some other way.

It got me thinking about how touchy we are about touch in the U.S. The birthday spankings don’t hurt them, and anyone who works with kids would agree that every child needs physical touch from adults who care. I’m still not convinced that I’m the kind of teacher to do birthday spankings, but it got me thinking…

3. Socializing- When you live in the same small town you teach in, it’s not uncommon to run into your students outside of school. While at the mall on Sunday, Tom and I saw 5 different students out with their families (and half of the staff too!) The older kids greet Tom with a “Hello, sir!” or “What’s up, sir.” The younger ones usually see us and cry out “Meeester Lew!!” or “Meeesis Lew!” and then get very shy. It’s incredibly sweet. This week, the Family Lewandowski was invited to a 4th grader’s birthday party at Pizza Hut. She invited the whole class and her teacher too! Unfortunately, we’ve got our grad school class at the same time. The teenagers often frequent the bars and dance clubs, so it’s a regular occurrence to run into some underage students when out for the evening. Since our friends are mostly teachers at Mazapan, it’s always a little funny to see students out on the town at night.

All in all, it’s a refreshing change. It’s kind of like turning the clock back 20 years and forgetting all of the “fear of a lawsuit/politically correct” mentality. While some things about this can be frustrating, it also brings back a warm feeling of really connecting with people as fellow humans.

That’s all for now. I’m baking banana bread (Thanks, Dole, for the free banana samples!) and it’s almost ready to pull out of the oven!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Friday Fun

Friday was packed full of exciting activities! We started out the school day with some peace day activities. Here is a picture of all the students at our school gathered in the mango field in the shape of a peace sign. This was the culminating activity and our students did a great job!

After school, we were thrilled to get some free bananas and pineapples as Dole celebrated 108 years in Honduras. There was a gathering for all employees in the school gym after school. We got some free samples and dinner. There were displays showing the tools used in the banana harvesting process. Also, we got to try one of Dole’s newest hybrids- the apple banana. It tastes like a cross between a banana and a green apple. Yummy!

Perhaps the most difficult thing for us to see was that pineapples can be displayed a lot more creatively than we did for our wedding centerpieces. I guess a bride needs to contact professionals at Dole to get pineapple artistry like this.

We finished off the evening with a visit with the puppies. They’re growing so much every week. We’ll be able to take our little pup home in about 3 weeks. We’re going to try to go back some day this week around 4pm. This is their active playtime, so we’ll be able to see personalities come out. Once we decide on which pup we want, we will put a little collar on her and visit often!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

International Day of Peace

Hey everyone- tomorrow (Friday) is the International Day of Peace. Last year, from Woodbury, MN, my students participated in a Peace Day activities. We wrote poems and essays, created "pinwheels for peace" and had a moment of silence along with thousands of other people worldwide. This year, our school in Honduras is participating with a march carrying banners, posters, and "pinwheels for peace" and we are gathering all of the students into a huge peace sign.

On Friday, you can participate by taking a minute of silence at noon (this will be an on-the-hour event, as noon comes at different times around the world). During this time, you can send your prayers and hopes for peaceful solutions in our world.


The International Day of Peace
Peace Day - September 21
Join the worldwide movement to create
a Global Ceasefire
and day of peace and nonviolence


Last year more than 3500 Peace Day events took place in 200 countries
(including all 192 member nations of the United Nations)
for a CULTURE OF PEACE

http://www.internationaldayofpeace.org/


Monday, September 17, 2007

Almost Home

We've been slacking on the blogging this week and spending a great deal of time on making our new house a home. Last night, Tom and I had a picture hanging party. It was really just the two of us. And it was more picture hanging than partying. But, we did make some serious progress in getting this house set up.

Here is our kitchen...


And our living room...

And our dining room...

More parts of the house to come- as we get them set up.

I did a little laundry on Saturday... (I finally have a washer/dryer that I can use without scrounging for quarters and waiting for my apartment neighbors to be done with their loads!)
Since electricity is so expensive here, we only use the dryer during rainy season.

Other than setting up our house, we celebrated Honduras's independence from Spain back on Sept. 15, 1821. To celebrate, all of the students in the country perform a civic act. Most schools in La Ceiba march with their band and dress up in traditional costumes. Our school celebrated on Friday by hiring some local dancers and musicians to come in and perform at our school. It was two hours and fifteen minutes of cultural excitement!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Extreme Home Makeover: Honduras

We've been busy putting La Casa Lewandowski together the past couple of days. Its a lot of work, but we're having fun and making progress. Karine has been organizing the kitchen.
I am in charge of chemical warfare. And I am winning.Saturday is Independence Day here in Honduras. We're going to spend the day buying plants and putting things away, but we'll try to get out and see the sights a bit. I think part of the festivities in the city involve some kind of neighborhood marching band competition. The band in our neighborhood has been practicing every night and they are sounding GOOD. We'll see.

The Honduran national soccer team beat Ecuador in a "friendly" last night. That's the big news around town today. The big news for us though was friend chicken. That's what we had for our first official meal in our new home.

Hope everyone is well!

Tom

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Millions of boxes

We've spent the last two evenings unpacking our millions of boxes in our new house. Yes! They finally all arrived! Though the moving company was shady in some respects, they actually did a great job of wrapping everything. All of our household goods arrived in great condition (including Tom's upright bass- phew!)

It's nice to have a project to go home to after school. We were just starting to get into the groove of laying on our twin beds while watching cable here at the guesthouse. That lazy lifestyle is old news now!

Okay- we're off to change the lives of children!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Wedding Photos!

To everyone who has been anxiously awaiting the online posting of our wedding photos, the time has come!

Visit:
http://www.camelot-weddings.com/photo/albums.html

Our wedding date is 07-21-07
The password/Event Key to view is: awesome

There are 1898 pictures to view, so feel free to scroll through pages as quickly as you want.

FYI- Lisa V. at Camelot Wedding photography was excellent. We highly recommend her!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fin de Semana!

Happy Friday everyone!
Tom and I are happy to celebrate yet another week of teaching the children. School is well underway and we already sent home mid-term progress reports. I had my first parent concerns brought to my attention today. ("Why is my son receiving a B in spelling?!!) It's nice to know that parents are concerned with the education - or at least the grades- of their kids. The school environment is a positive place, and we really enjoy it so far. The campus is beautiful, and it amazes me daily that our "hallways" are walkways in a jungle-tropical paradise. Everything is outdoors and green and flowery. It's beautiful.

We've received notice that our household goods are in the process of leaving the port here in Honduras. We had hoped that they would arrive today, but as things work in Honduras, we'll wait until manaña. Here, Mañana could mean tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, or sometime in the future. We're pretty sure it will be Monday or Tuesday though.

We bought a bunch of cleaning supplies and we're going over to our pink house tonight to do a bit of cleaning before we mess it up with all our stuff. No other big plans for the weekend- but that doesn't mean it will be boring! I'm sure we'll find something exciting to occupy our time and energy.

For those non-Spanish speakers, "fin de semana" is the weekend! We love our weekends. Next weekend is Independence Day and every school in La Ceiba has a marching band that marches the streets to play for their civic duty. The marching band at Mazapan is not functioning currently, so our students will perform their civic duty next Friday afternoon by eating local foods and seeing typical dancing. I don't know how that qualifies as fulfilling a civic duty, but it should be entertaining and yummy!

That's all for now!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Hurricane Update

Not too scary so far. A lot of rain and a little wind. We went to the La Quinta Real Hotel to find the CNN correspondent we saw on TV. We couldn't find him, so we decided to do our own broadcast.

video

The Sea

Living on the Carribbean coast can certainly have its perks. On Sunday, we joined 8 friends on a chartered fishing boat out to the Cayos Cochinos. These are a small series of tiny cays and islands just off the coast of Honduras. The islands are considered a natural park reserve, yet people are allowed to buy the lots and live there. Our friend has just purchased a lot on one of these islands. We spent the day lounging in the water, getting a little sunburned, eating fresh fish at a Garifuna village, and snorkeling in the reefs. It was a beautiful day!



As some of you have probably heard, we are in a red alert here in Honduras as Hurricane Felix makes landfall today. While it hit land as a Category 5 off the eastern coast of Honduras and Nicaragua, the storm is expected to lose a lot of its windpower as it passes over the many beautiful mountains here. By the time it reaches La Ceiba, we won't be dealing with the winds as much as the rain. In the past, when La Ceiba has been hit with torrential rains, it floods the rivers and the streets become undrivable. Bridges are washed out and people are not able to get out of their neighborhoods. We are still living at the Dole guesthouse (our stuff is still in the port with customs) and we are actually in one of the safest places in La Ceiba. The campus here may have some standing water outside, but is not expected to experience serious flooding. Dole has also set up several buildings on the campus as a safe haven for any employees living out in the community. Here, we have a generator and backup water, so we shouldn't be without either of those for very long. But, this is Honduras, so I can't guarantee any communication for a few days.


Bottom line- we'll be fine. That sea just likes to change things up once in awhile. It can't always be as picturesque and perfect as a Corona commercial! (Seriously- some of the islands were a tiny sand oasis with two perfect palm trees) If we need to get anywhere, we now know a guy with a boat! Besides we have today off of school, and probably another couple days depending on how the roads are!

PS- Thanks Cousin Mark! We ate at Ricardo's Saturday night, and it was delicious. I had Lobster Thermador and Tom had steak and lobster. It was a yummy treat!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Three Seconds of Rain

video

Counseling.

Puppies and Football

Last night, we were lucky to meet our future puppy! In about 5-6 weeks, we'll be the proud owners of a little German Shepherd pup. She will be very happy in our home. We're not sure which of the girls we'll end up with, but it was so fun to hold them last night.


Today was exciting because we got the keys to our new house. Once we have a fresh coat of paint and some plants out front, and some furniture inside, we'll be set! Our stuff is expected to arrive sometime this week. Maybe? Possibly? HOPEFULLY? Here is Tom standing on a large rock in our backyard. The grass was recently cut by a man with a machete. He'll be back tomorrow to bag up all the clippings.

Another exciting thing about today is that we're watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers take on Nevada today. When we lived in Minneapolis, we'd be lucky to find a game televised, and even luckier if we found a friend with cable! Here, thanks to Karen's alert, we turned on our tv at 1:30 and the Denver ABC station came through for us. (We get ABC, CBS, and NBC out of Denver for some reason.)

We're going to have dinner tonight at La Ceiba's best restaurant, Ricardo's thanks to cousin Mark, who gave us a "gift certificate" as a wedding present. Gracias Mark! Tomorrow we're going to a small island off the coast of La Ceiba for some snorkeling and sun. Should be a blast!