March 2012

Grade 9 - 11 Educational Trip

Every year the high school students have the opportunity to travel together to different parts of Honduras. This is the trip the students wait for all year. This year was no different, the students have been talking about it since before Christmas and we only just went February 23rd-25th! I will admit that having heard about the trips last year I was also very excited and had been thinking out the trip for a while now. Unfortunately, because of the cost of the trips there are a number of students who are not able to attend and some who choose not to attend, but there is still a good turn out of kids and all the students generally travel on at least one of the trips during their high school years. The way these trips work is the grade 7 and 8 classes travel every other year to either to Copan and the Mayan Ruins or to Omoa and Puerto Cortes. The grade 9, 10, and 11 students travel, on a rotating basis, to either Roatan, La Ceiba and Cayos Cochinos, or Utila and La Ceiba.  The English and Spanish maestra guia (guide teacher) assigned for each grade accompanies the students on these trips. As the Grade 9 English maestra guia I had the pleasure of traveling with approximately 30 students ranging from grades 9-11 to La Ceiba and Utila for their three-day educational trip. La Ceiba is located on the northern Caribbean Coast and Utila is the third largest of the Bay Islands.

The trip was only three days…three of the longest, busiest, hottest, exciting, most adventure filled, rewarding, roller coaster days I have had here in Honduras. We began out adventures at 4am when we left the school packed on a bus and each day we were up by 5am each morning getting started on our many activities. The first day after our long bus ride we hiked part way up Pico Bonito (one of the highest peaks in Honduras and part of a national park). The hike was beautiful through the mountain forests following one of the rivers that flowed down the huge mountain. Our final destination was a beautiful waterfall part way up Pico Bonito, I was very content with the waterfall when I found out hiking the whole mountain takes an entire day! The rest of the day was spent visiting a butterfly and snake conservatory, settling into the hotel, a short visit to the mall, and after having some devotional time taking a dip in the pool.


The second day we were up bright and early again at 5am packing up all of our stuff and preparing to get on a small boat (called a lancha) and head to Utila. The boat ride was very bumpy and wet. Your probably thinking, "Yeah you’re traveling on the ocean in this small 12 seater boat. Of course you are going to get wet and practically whip-lash.” Well you are wrong apparently I chose the wrong boat everyone else in the other two boats were dry as a bone and didn’t seem to think the ride was that rough. Oh well such is life the rough ride and soaked clothes were all forgotten the moment I saw those fins in the water….dolphins!!! Yup the boat driver stopped the boat in the middle of our trip and as we all looked around to see what was wrong we saw dolphins all around us close enough to touch, jumping out of the water and swimming under the boat, we were surrounded. All of us stood up and screamed pointing at all the dolphins, I felt like a little kid on Christmas it was one of the coolest sights I have ever seen in my life! After all that excitement once we arrived on the island, the rest of our day was spent doing a lot of walking to old airports, restaurants, a beautiful recycling adventure land called the Jade Seahorse; and we also had the opportunity to go snorkeling (right off the beach you didn’t even need to take a boat out anywhere). Utila is that it is the island known for its scuba diving. The coast is lined with dive centers and schools for diving, etc. The majority of the population on Utila is white (gringos) who have either settled here or are vacationing and wanting to enjoy the hippie island atmosphere. There are very few cars and trucks on the island as most people travel either by foot, motorcycle, golf cart, or four-wheeler. It is a very unique place that I have traveled to before and I have always thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing ways of the culture here. The island life on Utila is a culture all its own.


Our final day began bright and early at 5am again, leaving us all low on sleep. After our boat ride back to La Ceiba we headed to one of my favourite parts of the trip, this university which was built on this land used as a Genetic Bank of Plants (UNAH – CURLA). Here we were given a tour of part of the 31 hectares of land containing plants of many varieties from around the world. The university student use these plants to run experiments on to find out a number of different things such as medicinal values of plants, if the plants are at all fatal, etc. We were introduced to one plant that is the most fatal plant on the property. If you ate it you would die within 15 minutes! No ifs ands or buts, if you eat it you die. I found it very interesting to learn about all the different plants many of which I have never seen before. I also had a boost of confidence in my Spanish skills since the entire two-hour tour was given in Spanish and I was able to understand almost all of it! The final stop on our trip was the airport in La Ceiba. Here we were taken up into the flight command tower where we were permitted to walk outside around the top of the tower to watch a plane flying in. It was also pretty cool, honestly some of the things we did I think I appreciated more than the students did.

Overall, it was an amazing trip! The students were very well-behaved and it was so fun to hang out with, and the many things we go to do and see are things I never would have done or planned on my own, so it was great to be able to experience them on this trip with the students! Th

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Grade 7-8 Copan Field Trip

Of the many highlights that occur during the spring term here at CEE, perhaps the most highly anticipated are the high school educational trips, which offer students the opportunity to travel around the country and see some of their nation’s most interesting and important historic and cultural sights.


This year, I had the opportunity to tag along with Grade 7 and 8 on their three-day trip to Copan Ruinas. After an early-morning start (we loaded up the buses at 4 a.m.) and a 6-hour drive that took us clear across the country, we piled off the bus at our first stop, the ruins of an ancient Mayan city.



For the next three hours we shook off our grogginess and clambered all over a city that has remained surprisingly intact for over one thousand years. Aided by our tour guides, we made sense of the layout, statues, and historical context of the ancient stone structures.


It was definitely experiential learning at its finest.


Once we finished our tour of the ruins, we loaded back onto the bus and drove over to our hotel. (Well, we drove close to it, but due to the nature of the winding, narrow streets in Copan, we had to get off and walk with our bags for the last four blocks. Perhaps in the future some of our girls will rethink their "bring everything I need to survive for a month” packing strategy.)


The remainder of the day was – like every evening during the trip – primarily composed of free time, which usually took the form of a) shopping around town with the girls,



or b) roughhousing in the hotel pool with the boys.



After dinner we took some time out for a devotional period, during which the teachers had an opportunity to talk with the kids about some of the topics of faith that don’t always naturally come up in the classroom. By 11 o’clock, we were all in bed (or, well, at least we were all in our rooms).


The next morning started bright and early with devotional at 6 a.m. (but, this is Honduras, so it was more like 6:45), followed by breakfast. Then we were off again, this time to an avian preserve called Macaw Mountain, where we were able to observe an extraordinary array of native exotic birds, ranging from toucans to the rare green macaw. The bravest students even had the chance – with the help of our tour guides – to hold a few birds and pose for pictures.




Of course, we wouldn’t want the trip to be all work and no play, so after thoroughly exploring Macaw Mountain, we gave the kids the rest of the afternoon to unwind at a local water park.




Tired out by spending so much time in the sun, the students spent a more subdued evening relaxing around the hotel before our departure for home the following morning.


Now, if you asked the students what their favorite part of the trip was, you would receive a wide variety of responses – anything from holding the parrots, to climbing crumbling temples, to just playing in the hotel pool.


However, if you asked me, I would tell you that my favorite part of the trip was the opportunity it afforded for both teachers and students to see one another outside of their usual contexts. Back home, the predictability of our school-day routine can sometimes spill over into our relationships; as schedules and expectations begin to solidify, both teachers and students tend to forget that we still have the capacity to surprise one another.


For me, the trip was full of these kinds of surprises. At every moment students were approaching me to have conversations, or doing things so ridiculous I lost my breath laughing, or sharing parts of their hearts during devotional I had not yet had the chance to see.


And, not to be outdone, I think I surprised the students a little myself. Without the need to stick to bell schedules, content objectives and deadlines, I could relax and just enjoy spending some quality time with no other goal than getting to know them and learn about their lives.


I think one of the Grade 8 students, Joyce, inadvertently captured what I’m trying to say quite perfectly. "You know, Miss,” Joyce reflected thoughtfully one evening, "I didn’t realize it at school, but you can be pretty cool sometimes.”


Well ditto, Joyce. Ditto.


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Día De La Amistad

Dia de la Amistad

Working at a bilingual school in Honduras definitely has its benefits.  One is summed up nicely by the old tv show, "Kids say the Darndest Things.” While things they say are cute anyway, when you throw in a second language, you get much more hilarious or adorable phrases. Their everyday speech and pronunciation sometimes needs to be run through a filter in order to be understood. A friend I know that taught in Peru for around a decade put it this way in a birthday greeting to me "Japi verde tuyu” (Happy birthday to you). What they lack in pronunciation, they make up for in enthusiasm!  My students are extremely loving and full of encouragement for me every day.

Speaking of "birthdays”, my birthday falls on February 14th, or what most of you may know as Valentine’s Day. Here however, it is the "Día De La Amistad.” A day dedicated more to friendships and relationships. While that can include romantic relationships, it centers on those who love you, and includes gratitude to family, friends, even teachers. My grade two students celebrated early with a Wendy’s lunch and tres leche cake for the class. Gifts were provided, but the way they got one was by pulling out a gift which had the name of a student or teacher on it. The student would explain why they liked that person, give them a hug, and give them the gift. The person receiving the gift would then pull out another gift to give away. It was great to hear my students (which, like any kids, don’t always get along) talk about what they liked about their fellow classmates.

On the actual day, first grade was more than a little excited!  Not only did they get to wear normal clothes to school, but it was "the Miss’s birthday” in addition to the Día de la Amistad. The students sang "Happy birthday” to me more than once, and were full of hugs for everyone. They made cards for their parents with sixth grade students, and even decorated heart sugar cookies together. While the traditional chocolate and hearts were present, it was neat to see the focus redirected to friendship and the purer love that comes from God that spills over into all of our relationships (family, friends, teachers, other students, etc). It was neat to be able to have the freedom to share the story of the greatest demonstration of love through the salvation story and discuss it with the students. And one of the greatest birthday privileges was to get a hug from my 39 students (16 second graders and 25 first graders, although 2 were sick that day). I lost count of the hugs though, because some students gave me several throughout the day. J After experiencing "La Día de la Amistad” here, I don’t think I can look at Valentine’s Day the same way again. It should not be all about flowers, chocolates, and girls. Instead, it should be a day of gratitude for all those who love you and a reminder of how we are supposed to love others throughout the entire year.  That’s another one of the benefits of teaching here, the teacher always has so much more to learn, and can learn it not only from coworkers, curriculum, and students, but from the culture, too.

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