As Nolan mentioned before, I started teaching chemistry at a school in town once a week, and am now in my 4th week. It still amazes me how I can spit out lectures in Spanish with relative ease. Or at least what I assume to be relative ease. The students never say much so it’s hard to tell if they understand anything I’m saying. That being said, the kids are incredibly well behaved, which was my biggest fear of teaching anything here. “Kids” is the wrong word because most are young adults or adults. I have to share two stories about two students just to demonstrate what they are like.
The first is about a girl. She came up to me after class, kind of shyly, and asked a few questions about the lecture. She then asked if I would take a look at her notes from class. I leafed through her notebook to see that she’d copied things correctly (I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be looking for). She told me I could keep the notebook if I wanted and review it more. I told her no, you need it to do your homework. What good would it do me to keep it anyway? Then she grabbed the notebook and flipped back a few pages to a drawing of some chickens. She asked me what I thought. “Bonita” I replied, very pretty. She said it still needed to be colored in. Then she asked me about some other drawings she had before packing up her stuff and heading home. She’s a smart girl and is doing well is class, but she wanted my approval on how nice her notebook looked. All I could think was how desperately these students crave support, encouragement, attention and praise, something I don’t think they get often enough in school.
The second story is about a boy. I caught up with him walking home from class and we got to talking about where he was from etc. He told me that he worked at a health center (he said as a nurse, but I find that hard to believe since he didn’t have his high school diploma yet, probably more like an aide?) in a town about 5 hours from La Esperanza by bus. He works 6 days a week full time at the health center, then, on Thursdays, leaves at 2 am to get to La Esperanza for class from 8 to 1, then takes a 2 pm bus back to get there by nightfall to start work again the next day. He needs his diploma because he wants to go to medical school. He said he couldn’t find a job anywhere closer to La Esperanza. This story was interesting to me, not because it was sad (even though it was), but because I can only imagine that his efforts to get to class are not unusual, but the norm for half or more of the students in my class. (Well maybe a 5 hr bus ride isn’t the norm, but 2 hrs might be.) To them, a 5 hour bus ride is just what you have to deal with, it’s just how it is. It also makes me wonder how some students can still act like they don’t want to be there. For such a large sacrifice of time, you’d think they’d at least put in some effort.
So those are my thoughts on my class. Also this past week I finally got around to hosting an informal cooking “class” at my house for the girls I work with. They love praising my baked confections I’m always cooking up in my spare time, so I promised I’d teach them some simple recipes. Hondurans on average I’d say are not proficient bakers. This might be due in part to the fact that measuring cups and spoons are all but non-existent here and that your standard oven does not have an exact temperature gauge. So, utilizing my tools, we made some quick apple bread (literally 10 minutes to mix then 40 minutes to bake) and I showed them some cooking tricks and techniques, how to peel and apple with a peeler, how to zest a lemon, how to use a knife to scrape extra off your measuring cup, how to test bread/cake doneness with a toothpick and the importance of exactness in baking. The girls were so sweet; they did all the dishes, praised my well-organized kitchen and were amazed by my spice collection. It was a fun evening hanging out with just the girls and I hope it turns into a monthly event. If anyone has simple quick recipe ideas you think would be good, just let me know.
And, speaking of cooking, here are some long-awaited photos of some of the interesting food items we have here:
Vacuum sealed package of refried beans
Round log-shaped chunk of manteca/veggie shortening, thinly wrapped in plastic, a half of this package might be used for one meal
The infamous banana flavored soda, a Honduran favorite which actually tastes more like bubble-gum
In a 4 aisle grocery store, a half aisle just for oil, margarine and manteca - they do love the stuff here
A popular current brand of 'corn flake' - no there is no Spanish name for corn flakes, and yes this looks like a 1970's retro Wheaties box or something
Whole milk, in a convenient (not) almost 1 liter bag