Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guess What--We're Home!!

Kristen says...

Happy Birthday Jay! (Brother-in-law, father to nephew Ezra!!!) :)

Well, we made it! We are both home (Iowa home)! Chris, as I mentioned during my last post, has been home a little bit longer than I have, since he got here the 7th. I left Teguc on the afternoon of the 17th, and made it in (better late than never) to Des Moines late that night. I was surprised and VERY happy to be met by:
-Chris (of course)
-(Sister) Michelle
-(Brother-in-Law) Nate (those two came to visit, of you remember)
-(Sister) Rebecca
-(Brother-in-Law) Jay (birthday boy mentioned above)
-(Nephew) EZRA!!!

Here are a couple of the million pictures I have taken of him, because he is ADORABLE:

Yep. He's absolutely adorable. I love him. Chris loves him. Everybody loves him!! Super super super cute! :)

We spent the first night in Des Moines at Chris' Grandma's house, and then visited with friends and family on Saturday at Baby Boomers (YUM!) and at my Grandpa's house, then went home to Osky. Chris had to work Monday, so he and I went back to Des Moines (this is a pattern--we've been up and back about 5 times this week) and then I got to spend the day running errands and seeing people from my old jobs. I spent the next few days in Winterset with Rebecca, Jay, and Ezra, and in Des Moines with friends.

Chris' birthday was the 23rd, so we went back to Osky to celebrate with his family. Then we spent the 24th at church (2x!) and playing cards, the 25th eating (3 meals!), and the 26th celebrating my Grandpa Foster's life and opening lots and lots of presents. (Thanks everybody!)

Yesterday evening we went back to Des Moines to run some errands, but ended up spending the whole time at an unexpected but fun dinner party with 2 of Chris' groomsmen (I think they were as surprised to see us there as we were to see them!). Not a productive trip, but a fun one!

Today we had lunch with my Grandpa and are now spending the evening cheering for the Iowa Hawkeyes (Chris) or the Mizzou Tigers (Me--I almost went there for my undergrad) in the Insight.com Bowl.

Tomorrow my brother Timothy and I are headed to West Branch, Iowa (about 2 hours away) to view a museum exhibit about Laura Ingalls Wilder at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum (yes, he was born in Iowa, but ran out of California). Some of Laura' s papers are housed there (donated by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a personal friend of Hoover) and I haven't visited there since 1996, so I am VERY excited!

Pip is still in Honduras, staying with friends...I miss him A LOT, but I guess not enough because we're extending our stay here a few days... :-D

Reading back over this entry, it's kind of disjointed and a little random, but I guess you get the idea...we've been busy, had a lot of time with family and friends, and altogether had a GREAT trip!

I will leave you with a few more pictures of our time in Iowa, and will do my VERY BEST to tell you about my trip to West Branch tomorrow...

Oh yeah, and we had a WHITE CHRISTMAS!! ;)

Hope yours was as great as ours...


PS: Here's the info on the pics: Me with Ezra; Chris with Ezra; one of Ezra's cute faces; Chris and a picture of my Grandpa; my parents, sister, and brother-in-law at Christmas; stockings at Chris' house; my brother Tim in the deep snow; Millie, the 17-year old beagle; Sonny and Phebe, mom's horses; the beautiful square in Oskaloosa; bird in a pretty snowy tree; Mom and I messing around in the snow; Ezra's kissy face; Dad glorying in the family, weather, walking, and everything else (we took a nice long walk today); and of course, Chris and I snuggling in the snow. It's been a great trip home!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

10 Days of Chris-less...

Kristen says...

Happy Birthday Mommy!! :)

Well, as the title says, I have been Chris-less the past 10 days...Chris went back to Iowa last Tuesday to spend some actual face-time with his co-workers (and, I think, to make me jealous from all the Iowa-related things he's been doing). Not that I'm in a hurry to leave Teguc for the holidays, but there are a few things I am excited about seeing:

1) My Husband. 10 Days is a long time!!
2) My Parents. 5 Months is a long time!!
3) My Nephew! He is 17 days old today!!
4) My siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, past co-workers, and everyone else I will be seeing over the break!!
5) Baby Boomers, Centro, India Star, and all the delicious Des Moines restuarants!!
6) SNOW!!

But, of course, there are things I will miss, even for the short time I will be gone:
1) Pupusas, baliadas, and all the other Honduran-ish foods that I have come to love over the past few months. (And yes, I know Pupusas are Salvadoran)
2) Friends. I have a lot of friends here, and I will, of course, miss them.
3) Pip. He's staying with friends who are going to take really good care of him, but I really hate leaving him behind. (But I think he hates flying more).
4) Warm-ish weather. As excited as I am for snow, the cold weather that comes with it will not be as nice. (Although I will have the appropriate clothing for it there, which I am somewhat lacking in here...it's been pretty cold the past few weeks!)
5) And a lot of other things too. I really like living in Honduras!

So what have I done to keep myself busy during my 10 days of Chris-less?
Well, of course there was school. I had to grade speeches in 1 class, presentations in 3 classes, and tests in four, not to mention daily work, review games to prepare, and narratives to write. So I have been very busy.

I also had friends who were kind enough to invite me to leave my house every once in a while (I'm a bit of a homebody). I had dinner, saw a movie, went shopping in Valle de Angeles, and attended the Russian Ballet on Ice and a baby shower. I also helped put on a holiday party for a group of kids from Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos last Saturday, which was nice but EXHAUSTING! (I have pictures, but they are on my phone still. I will get them put up a bit later.)

So, it hasn't been totally miserable, (well, except for the nights--I hate sleeping in an empty house) and I got a lot of snuggle-time with Pip, but overall I am SO HAPPY that today is my last Chris-less day, and I get to fly home tomorrow!!

My plan is to blog while I'm home, but I won't make any promises...I'm pretty sure we'll be very busy making up for 5 months of absence.

To all our readers, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah/Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, or just enjoy the time you have off from work or school. Thank you for the gift of your reading and comments this past year...it has been fun to interact with you over the Internet!

I hope you all have the best 2011!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Welcome to the World, Baby Boy!!! :)

Kristen says...

I am an AUNT! Chris is an UNCLE!!! YAY!!!

At 12:43 pm (just under an hour after I blogged about Thanksgiving and mentioned that he should be coming soon) I received another reason to to be thankful...and he is AWESOME!

Ezra Michael Bock was born today in West Des Moines. He was 8 lb. 7 oz. and 20.5 inches long!! Mom (my sister), Dad (my brother-in-law) and baby are all doing really well--we Skyped tonight and we got to ogle the baby and hear all the gory details...definitely thinking adoption now ;)

I will post pictures when I get permission from the proud parents.

!!! I am so excited !!!

I can't wait to spoil him the 2-3 times/year I get to see him... :-D


Thanksgiving is over, but I am still giving thanks!

Kristen says...

Well, as expected we had a busy but fun long Thanksgiving weekend.

To start with, I must say it was SO nice to have 4 days off! And since both Chris and I had both Thursday and Friday, it was nice that we got to spend almost the entire weekend together...especially since he leaves Tuesday to go back to the States...and I don't. :(

But to focus on happier things: Thanksgiving.

We woke up (a bit late on my part) on Thursday morning, then speed-cleaned the apartment because 2 women from Mi Esperanza (a fabulous organization that provides job skills training/money-making ability to underprivileged Honduran women) were coming to measure my windows and take me out to look for fabric for my new curtains!!! :)

We spent a very happy (on my part) going to 2 different fabric shops and finding some fabric that I am really excited about. We went with a solid color for Chris' and my bedroom, a floral for the guest room, and some really cool leaves for the sala...but I'm not going to say more until I have the curtains...

Which might be a while, because I really want grommets in them, and unfortunately grommets of the size I need aren't available in Honduras? So I might just get some when I am in the States over Christmas...we'll see...

We finished the shopping around 2ish, then jetted over to the home one of my students to have Thanksgiving dinner. It was so nice, we had 3 invitations to Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I wish we could have accepted them all...but we made it to 2 of the 3, so that's not bad :)

Both of us are used to having Thanksgiving with family, so this spending the day with friends thing was different, but nice in many ways. For one thing, it was VERY multi-cultural! We had people hailing from the US (of course), Honduras (naturally), El Salvador, Germany, and India!

We really only knew my student and her dad before going there (and another student who joined us) so we met some new and interesting people, and had some wonderful conversations about Honduras and other parts of the world, food allergies, the Peace Corp, dogs, and Indian food. And we had Indian food, as one of the guests brought samosas!! We were all encouraging her to open a restaurant here, as Indian food is sadly lacking in this city!

The food was so, so good! It's amazing how great turkey tastes when you haven't had it in a long time! Our chef was vegetarian, so I thought it was really nice of her to take the time and energy to make turkey for the rest of us. Other highlights were stuffing (vegan, very different but good--and with a secret ingredient, too), DELICIOUSLY dense rolls, and a spinach salad. We had almond and chili carrot cake for desert, which Chris assured me was "muy rico" as he finished off my piece (after eating his, too).

Although we missed our parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, etc, we did decide that one of the nice things about not having Thanksgiving with family is that you are less comfortable eating everything in sight, so we were both comfortably full when we left to meet up with our Embassy friends for Thanksgiving #2...they were done eating but were having FABULOUS home-made ice cream (check out Sarah's blog Conejita Cooks about ALL the great and delicious things she made--she even gives recipes!!) so of course I had some of that. We let it all digest while playing Rock Band...it was a great day!

On Friday (Black Friday) we became one in spirit with many of our fellow United Statesians and went shopping!! Specifically, we went to Valle de Angeles (one of my favorite places down here) and bought...a lot. I can't tell you specifically what we bought because some of the people who will be getting it read the blog periodically and I don't want to give any Christmas surprises away...but let's just say I am really excited about every single thing we purchased. I'll put up pics once they have been unwrapped!

Saturday morning I taught a (4-hour!!) English lesson, and Saturday afternoon we were invited to and attended a birthday party at the home of one of our school's Honduran support staff. Santos has been inviting me over since the beginning of the year, but it just hadn't ever worked out until Saturday. We met her at a local chicken restaurant (we're having chicken from there tonight, in fact) and she directed us to her home.

It was a very nice home, small but inviting. We were given SO MUCH food; tamalitos de frijoles (little bean tamales), home-made baliadas (flour tortilla with cheese and beans), and deep-fried cheese empanadas (something like grilled cheese only better!) We also had a VERY VERY sweet birthday cake with meringue frosting...

And, of course, we spent the entire time speaking in Spanish, as none of the 10+ people who were in the house at any given time spoke English. It was an excellent exercise in attempting to have a conversation in Spanish, and I'm going to call it a win. There were some things I couldn't say, but they either prompted me into what I wanted to say or I figured out how to express myself.

There was a really cute little girl there, 6 years old, who wanted me to teach her English, so we practiced saying and pointing to our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arm, hair, and hands. We also wrote out and practiced the alphabet. I'm not sure how much she would remember today, but it was pretty cute when she was practicing it.

Sunday was a nothing day...literally, we did nothing but eat and be lazy (ok I guess I did a bit of lesson planning). Neither of us even took showers. :) It was a great way to end a busy, long, fabulous weekend!

This weekend will also be great...we are making our third trip to Amapala! We both really want some sort of tan before we go home to the snow of Iowa... (I started listening to Christmas music this week...it's been averaging about 75 degrees the past week, so it feels a bit like I'm listening to it in July...weird!!)

And speaking of Iowa, I should be an aunt to a newborn Iowan by the end of next week!! I am so excited!! :):):)

Sorry for the lack of pictures--Chris has them all on his phone, I will try to get him to upload them ASAP.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and are looking forward to the holidays (or at least the break) ahead!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Teachers Teaching Teachers to be Better Teachers

Kristen says...

Yrp, 2 days in a row...amazing. Some might say I could be spending this time practicing my Rosetta Stone, but I really can't because I'm moderating my students' individual worktime, and it would sound very silly indeed if I'm saying random Spanish phrases while they are working so nice and quietly! :) Plus I worked on it again last night, AND spent a good 5+ minutes speaking Spanish with my brother on the phone, so, I think I'm ok...

But I digress...you want to hear about teachers teaching teachers to be better teachers. Last weekend we had our 9th annual Discovery School Teacher's Conference at the Marriott Hotel. We started off with a Discovery-only presentation about Brain-Based learning on Thursday night, and then on Friday and Saturday all conference attendees had the opportunity to go to 7 hour-long presentations. In addition, each Discovery teacher had a least one presentation that we had to give, rather than attend. Because I was working with another teacher, I gave my presentation twice.

So, I went to 5 presentations. The first was about Brain Gym, where we learned activities that we can do with our students to help them focus on their work (and get rid a bit of excess energy in the process!). Then my co-teacher and I gave my first of 2 presentations on "Social Studies without the Textbook". It went...ok. We had solid activities, but a small room and a good amount of people, so we pretty much just ended up giving out our resources and then chatting about how to use them in the classroom. If I were a person attending the conference I'm not sure I would have loved our presentation...unless I liked hands-off teaching, and then I guess I would have really liked it...?

I attended 2 other presentations on Friday; one given by our Discovery School art teacher (we made plaster of paris projects and looked at slides of all the cool things our kids get to do in art class, I'm so jealous!) and the other given by our Discovery School music teacher. This one was very relevant to me, as it was about using music in social studies. We had a lot of fun making up a rap about Martin Luther King Jr. and "illustrating" a historical story with sound effects. Hopefully I will be able to link to a video soon of at least the rap...embarrassing but funny! :)

I also gave my second presentation Friday afternoon, and with many fewer people it went much better. We were able to actually do some of the activities, and spend a lot more time chatting with everyone in the room.

On Saturday I attended two other presentations, one where a teacher showed how he used Authentic Learning in his classroom, and the other on Tactual Resources, both of which I have in my plans to apply to my class after the break.

So, all-in-all, an excellent, educational way to spend the weekend!

Along with all that learning, there were also moments of humor over the weekend. For example, at the opening "ceremony" of the conference I was sitting between an Peruvian and a United States-ian colleague, with a Canadian colleague just beyond that, and it was announced that both the Honduran and US National Anthems would be performed. Of course, the Peruvian and Canadian wondered why only those two were played, but I was kind of excited...I hadn't heard the US National Anthem since July 4, two days before I left the States for the Honduran Adventure.

They played the Honduran Anthem first, and I couldn't help but notice 2 things... 1) say what you want about how long the US Anthem is, the Honduran Anthem is even longer!! 2) the tune kind of reminds me of the "Genovian" Anthem on "The Princess Diaries" movies. I like the tune, but it always makes me think of Julie Andrews and want to say, "Thank you for being here" and wave gracefully at the crowds...

Then they played the US Anthem, which was really nice--usually we hear it with a full band, drums rolling, cymbals crashing, etc, but last weekend it was played on an acoustic guitar (one of my FAVORITE THINGS!) and a single soprano singer (who, by the way, did a fabulous job even though she was sight-reading the song!) It was very well done....however, the comic part came in when a CD of not the National Anthem came on VERY LOUDLY in the middle of the performance...and the fact that we weren't able to look at the US flag while we sang, because it was being "fixed" (some of us US-types noticed when we came in the room that the flag was flying upside-down, and none of us were in distress...so it needed to be righted.) The flag flew proudly and correctly a bit later, but after the song was already over. Oh well, it was still nice and I felt very patriotic. :)

Another funny moment--at the end of the conference we had a "lottery" where everyone who put their names on their conference surveys were entered into a contest to win fabulous (a free night at a hotel, a 1,000 Lempira savings account) and not so fabulous (tajaditas, an XL t-shirt, a frozen, whole chicken--EW!) prizes. I didn't win anything, but had a good time listening to the comments of the people around me...and seeing people's faces when they won that chicken! :)

And that's that...hopefully this isn't too disjointed or rambling...I had to stop and start a lot so I could attend to my students. Ah, the joys of being a teacher!! (Another joy, of course, is that we have the next 4 days off for Thanksgiving!!)

Anyway, I don't ->think<- you will hear from me again until after Thanksgiving...but you never know. Either way, I hope you have a great end to the week!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Update en el Español...

Kristen says...

I reached Rosetta Stone Level 3 Unit 3 today...if you remember, I made the goal for myself (2 months ago yesterday) to be through with RS Level 3 by the time I go home for Christmas break.

Well, at this point it's looking a bit iffy...it seems that the pace of 1 unit/month is about what I can achieve...I completed Levels 1 and 2 (8 units total) between December 22 and September 22 (9 months, so just about a unit/month). I have completed half of Level 3 in the past 2 months, again, completing 1 unit/month. Today is the 23rd of November, and I am going home on December 17. I will need to cut my pace in half in order to meet my goal.

Is it possible? Maybe. In the past week I have gotten a lot of pre-planning done for the next 4 weeks of school, and have had at least 30 minutes to practice at school at least twice in the past week (not much, but still better than nothing!) Also, I will have access to my computer for the entire month, something I missed out on during the week I was in Los Encinitos. AND, I won't be planning to be away from school for a week, or having to make up for missing a week of school during that time, which means I can stay ahead, and maybe even pre-plan for my lessons after break...

Ultimately, I can continue with my Rosetta Stone once I am in the States for Christmas, but I don't plan to take ANY school stuff home with me...too heavy, for one, and I'd rather spend time with my new niece or nephew and other friends and family members instead of Ancient China or the European Explorers...crazy, I know ;).

At any rate, I will try to reach my goal, and let you know how close I come to success... :)

Hopefully I will get in a bit of practice this weekend, as we have Thursday and Friday off of school for Thanksgiving! This is our first major holiday (besides my birthday, of course) that we will celebrate away from family...I think this is actually the first time I've celebrated a major holiday without any family at all (except for Chris, of course.) I have been out of the country for Thanksgiving twice, once when my grandma and I were visiting my sister in Spain (we flew home on Thanksgiving) and the other when I was living in London during college (my dad and brother flew over to spend the holiday with me.) We were invited over to some friends' house, so we have someone to spend the day with, at least. :)

Also, a bit of fun news, we were recognized from the blog the other day...I wondered if it might happen eventually, but it was really fun to have someone say "Hi" and to talk about the blog. Readers in Teguc, you are certainly welcome to say hi if you see us out and about...we love meeting our readers! :)

So, that's what's happening this week...I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and/or Thursday of this week! :)

Gobble gobble,

Monday, November 15, 2010

¿Soy "United States-ian", no soy Americano?

Kristen says...

This came up twice today, so it must be something on the kids' minds. Our school's schedule facilitates a 20-minute morning break and a 40+ minute lunch each day for the students (nice, right?!), and as part of my "other duties as assigned," once a week I have duty during those times. It's not hard, I just have to bring my snack or lunch to the "lunchroom" (lunchroom is in quotes because it's not really a room, we eat outside, under a roof with no sides) and make sure nobody throws food or leaves trash or anything.

This morning, during break, the other teacher on duty (a gringo from the states, like myself) and I and a few of the students were chatting, and the other teacher referred to us as "United Statesians" rather than "Americans," as I, and I'm sure he, were brought up calling ourselves. The cool thing was, I didn't really notice what he said, as I try to avoid the "American" label as well, but one of our 11th grade Honduran students immediately commented on it.

What I thought was interesting was that he pointed out my colleague's comment to me, "Mrs. Fink, did you hear what he said? He said United States-ian, not American." I agreed, and said I try to say that, too...and I think he was surprised. Not that I personally was trying to be inclusive, but I think that 2 people from the US both felt that way...it made me sad and proud all at the same time.

The interesting thing is that the subject came up less than 4 hours later, in class. My 7th graders and I were discussing primary sources (my FAVORITE thing about history) and were listing the different things that could be called primary sources. Diaries were mentioned, and I told the class I liked reading diaries of women on the Oregon Trail.

I was shocked to learn that the kids had NO idea what the Oregon Trail was. So, being the western-history nerd that I am, I grabbed a map of the Americas and started explaining it. But apparently, on my way to grab the map, I asked the students when the last time they'd had "American History" in class. And immediately a student asked, "Why do they call it American History? We live in America, too, right?" Right. Absolutely.

It was a very interesting day, semantics-wise. But it makes you think, how often do I say "American" when I mean the United States? Should I be able to call myself an "American?" I am from the United States of AMERICA...a person from Canada is Canadian, a person from Mexico is Mexican, a person from Honduras is Honduran...so aren't I an American? Or is United States-ian the correct way label myself?

Readers, what do you think? Help me out here :)


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Too busy! Too busy! (But how fast time flies when you are too busy!)

Kristen says...

Good goodness it's November! And not really even early November any more, it's November November!

And it's been almost a month! since I last blogged...wow. Sorry.

Let's get you back up to speed on the Finks' life in Honduras.

1) The Month of Uncertainty ended well! I can go back to looking for curtains, because we will be staying! (Not that I guess our staying in Honduras was ever in doubt, it was more about whether we would be staying in our current (and a bit expensive) apartment if Chris had no job). On that note, can you believe we've been here for 4 months (July 6-November 6) and still have no curtains on our windows? Kind of sad, really. We have resorted to using a blanket in our bedroom. Curtains are actually hard to find down here, so I might just try to find someone who can make them for me...anyone know anybody who can help me out with that?

2) My sister Michelle and her husband Nate came to visit! They were here from a Thursday-the following Tuesday, and during that time they:
-visited the UN Day Celebration at my school
-visited Valle de Angeles (twice!)
-shopped at Mayoreo
-traveled to Amapala and went swimming in the Pacific Ocean
-(the boys) went to a cigar factory and (the girls) went shopping at the mall
So, maybe not the most exciting trip ever, but certainly nice to see them! Here are a few pics (because you know I love adding pics to my posts! :)

<-Michelle and Nate eating local fare at Mayoreo

Nate in the front of an Amapala "Taxi" ->

Dirty Dancing in the Sand?

3) Parent-Teacher Conferences! I always enjoy these on some level--it's nice to meet parents. It's also nice the way my school down here does them--we take a whole day (rather than 2 nights), and have them be student-led (meaning the students get to sit there and explain what's happening in class, rather than me doing it. MUCH better accountability for the students).

4) Medical Brigade! My school, the Discovery School, has a working partnership with an organization called Cape CARES. Cape CARES brings volunteer doctors and dentists to rural Central American areas where these types of services are not readily available. Because many of these professionals (and the other volunteers who come with them) have little or no Spanish-speaking abilities (like me!) our school provides translators in the form of students (and sometimes teachers, although this time they got me instead! :)

So, last Saturday Chris dropped me off at TGU where I met the Discovery School student I was to chaperon and the rest of the Cape Cares volunteer group. We left the airport in six 4x4 trucks. I was in the middle of the back seat of one truck with a future medical student, an employee in his dad's Massachusetts dental practice, and a veteran dentist. At first I wasn't totally crazy about being in the middle of the back--and then we went off the Pan-American highway and onto the "back roads" to Los Encinitos. (Click here for site-specific information.)

WOW. I have NEVER been on roads like that. I would have never imagined you could drive on roads like that! The ruts were, I am not kidding, 1 1/2 - 2 feet deep. I will never complain about the Honduran potholes again after that trip! Here is a picture of the ruts (it doesn't really show how deep they are, but maybe it will give you an idea):
It was a long ride, but passed quickly with good company, and the views!! Honduras is SO, SO BEAUTIFUL!

We arrived at the site on Saturday night, unloaded the gear, had a delicious first dinner, and went to bed early, to get ready for the people on Monday morning.

My role was in registration (which I was happy about, because I am a tad bit squeamish about things like blood and teeth), which meant I was "in charge" of pulling the patients' charts and making sure they got to the doctors in the correct order, with the correct patient. This was a little tougher than you might think, because the names were quite unfamiliar to me, and some of the people seemed to change their names from one visit to the next.

For example, one person on this visit might tell us their name is Aleyda Yamileth Reyes Godoy, but they might be in the computer as just Yamileth Godoy, or Aleyda Y. Reyes, or Aleyda Godoy Ramos, or something else even more different. So, if they didn't come in knowing the number they had been assigned on a previous visit, it was my job to look up their name or their birthday, look at all the information I had and find the person I thought most likely to be this person, then pull out the proper folder and make sure it was right. Then, after they saw the doctor, we put the files away. It was very interesting, but at times slightly frustrating.

Below are some pictures, the first of files ready for the doctors, and the second of me with the LAST! file I processed for the week:

Of course, my job was quite secondary to that of the doctors who were doing the really important stuff like cleaning, filling, and pulling teeth (or as we called it, limpiar, tapar, y extraction) or diagnosing illness, prescribing medicine, etc etc etc. Here are some photos of the medical clinic:

First the patients were triaged

and then were seen into one of the doctors' rooms

finally they were given their medicine and sent on their way.

The dental clinic was a bit different--5 chairs in the front room and 2 in the back. The front room was for cleanings and fillings, the back for extractions. To give you an idea, 240+ teeth were pulled in a 5-day period, 14 from one man's mouth alone!

Some dental clinic pictures:

Of course, being in the registration office I saw a lot of names, but didn't get to interact with many of the actual people, something that I know the student I chaperoned and the doctors and dentists I worked with really enjoyed. There were a few exceptions.

One was this girl:
Now, I realize this isn't the best picture in the world, but it does do a nice job of telling a story. See, most of the people I saw in the course of my work were people who had something they wanted. For example, they'd already seen the doctor and they wanted to go to the dentist, without having to wait in line at the gate. Or they'd already seen the dentist and they wanted to go to the doctor. Or they needed their number again. Or...something else. And of course, they were asking for all this in Spanish, of which I know little.

This girl, however, was different. She wanted something, yes, but it was a legitimate something. She came into our little shack alone and tried to explain that she wanted to see the doctor. I looked up her chart and found it was already gone. We asked her questions, over and over, and at times she seemed like she just couldn't answer. The reason, we found, was because she was, not in technical terms, tongue tied. Literally, whereas most of us can stick our tongues far out of our mouths, sometimes far enough out to touch our noses, this girl's tip of her tongue was attached behind her teeth, affecting her speech, I assume to a certain extent her ability to eat, and many other things.

I took her up to the triage nurses, and through discussion with them and the pediatric doctor, found that she was up for what would surely be a quick but painful and bloody surgery to free her tongue. Have I mentioned she'd been living like that for 11 years?! The dentists performed the surgery (one of 3 they did during the week--another was on the brain!) and she graciously allowed me to take pictures of her sticking her tongue out for the first time in her life. Cool!

Another patient that caught my interest I don't have a picture of. He came into the compound with a cane and the particular walk of a person with prosthetic legs. The skin on his arms looked like it had been splashed with bleach. But he was there, something I found amazing after hearing his story. He had lost his legs trying to achieve what is called down here the "Sueño Americano," the "American Dream". Since moving down here I have seen art depicting the long and perilous journey from Central America to the United States, and have heard people describe the toll it has taken on friends and family. This man, however, was the first I have encountered face to face. His legs, by the way, were lost to a train. He is now living, obviously, back in Honduras, and works on a vineyard.

And, here is another patient that I want to share with you for no other reason than he was absolutely adorable. We saw him twice, once on the first day when his mom brought him to the dentist, and the other on Wednesday when he came back to finish the work. I give you, Sandros:
Seriously, how cute is this kid? :)

The week wasn't all work, though. Each morning at either 5:30 or 6:00 a group went out walking in the Honduran countryside. I was only able to go on one walk, for various reasons. The first half of the week I was fighting a major cold that was working to move into my chest (thank goodness for being with the doctors!! They fixed me right up!) and the second half of the week I had to start early to have patients ready for the doctors when they started in the morning.

The one walk I did go on, however, was to the top of MontePedro, one of the peaks surrounding the compound. It was a beautiful walk both up and down, and I got some spectacular pictures (thanks again, Michelle, for bringing my good camera down with you!!)

As you can imagine, I had a bit of a field day taking pictures...there are more, I assure you!

Anyway, I had a nice time--I'm not sure it is something I would like to do again, but it was fine for what it was. The doctors, dentists, and other volunteers were fabulous people, and it was nice to know that I was, in some small way, making a difference for people in this fabulous country. It was also a nice chance to catch up on some reading (I read 2 books while I was there, "Trans-Sister Radio" and "Water For Elephants") and to practice my Spanish. The guy I was working with spoke no English, so it was either try Spanish or stay silent. As you may guess, I am not very good at staying silent. :)

So, that's the long version of what I've been up to lately. Planning for a week's absence from school took a lot of time and energy before I left, and now I am back I will have to dedicate a lot of time and energy to getting caught back up, but have not forgotten my goal where RS is concerned, and I'd really rather break my fabulous experiences up into many short blog posts, rather than one gigantor one like you've (hopefully) just read.

That's the plan...but we'll see :)

Thanks for reading, will look forward to your responses...?


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How awesome....

Chris says:

....is the internet? I'll say it again, how awesome is the internet?

I can listen to the playoff game of my former high school team on kboe.com. While Osky is behind by 7 points at the half, it sounds like there are some good opportunities in the second half!

Michelle and Nate have been here and left. Overall, a very successful trip I think. We went to Amapala and had an awesome time in the Pacific Coast! Very good pictures coming with pictures of the sunset and Pip having a blast. Monday, Nate and I went to the Rocky Patel cigar factory. Wow, what a trip! I never knew how much effort, time, etc went in to making a cigar! Whether you like cigars or not, the process is awesome to learn about. To make a cool trip even better, we were able to make our own custom blend cigars and choose the label! Pictures to come....

With Michelle and Nate's visit, I definitely felt a little homesick. I'm looking forward to December with friends and family!

Sorry for the short post, its time for the second half...GO INDIANS!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 21...

Chris Says:

GOOD NEWS! A collective sigh of relief could be heard......even on the phone a couple thousand miles away in the meeting I was in today. Everyone in Health IT (I think) got information today about their role in the medical business transition plan. I now know I'm in a position with continued employment at Principal, transitioning to SBD IT at some point in the future. Unfortunately, today was not so good news for many of my friends and co-workers....and that is extremely disappointing and sad to me. For any of them reading this, I sincerely hope you find good opportunities coming your way! I know its easy in my current position to say this but one of my old coaches put it best when he said, "Tough times don't last, tough people do."

In other news today, Nate and Michelle got down here today and so far.....so good. Pupusas have been consumed, naps have been taken, birthday cake has been made and partially eaten, and Nate even went with me to poker tonight! Its good to see family in person.

Time for vacation!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 20...

Chris Says:

Day 20 is here, and on day 21 - I will learn what my fate is (at least currently, at PFG). The senior management folks have setup meetings to inform staff....so tomorrow around 3pm, I'll have some information......and I have a feeling it will be 'OK' news. Not wonderful: 'Chris, we're going to keep you around forever and you'll make $million/year' but not horrible either: 'Chris, sorry - you are a horrible resource and there is no way we're going to spend one more dime on you! GOODBYE, AND HAVE FUN IN HONDURAS!' I think the news will be closer to: 'Chris, we anticipate needing you in your role until 3rd quarter 2012 and after that point in time you will be transitioned to X role.' or 'Chris, we anticipate needing you in your role until 3rd quarter 2012 and after that point in time you're on your own to find another position inside or outside the company'.

I'll let you know what happens....keep your fingers, toes and eyes crossed for me.

Other than PFG - we have some visitors getting in tomorrow. Michelle and Nate are coming down, hooray! I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures and stories of our coming days together.

Also on my brain this afternoon (after looking over our blog postings) is the fact that we've been down here for 4+ months now! Amazing! It does not seem like it has been that long at all....I'm impressed, as I think back, how successful this whole thing has been. It has certainly been a change and a challenge - but one that has been overall, a very good thing. The experiences we've had, people we've met, etc - all awesome stuff, I can't wait to see what new stuff comes our way in the next 4 months.

Stay tuned for the final details for this month of uncertainty!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Night Football


Kristen says...

¿Estan listos para football?

Chris and I are attempting to watch Monday Night Football (it's usually on one of the major networks, in English) but tonight the only place to find it is ESPN2 (ESPN has the baseball playoffs, and ABC/CBS/NBC all have shows like Dancing with the Stars (ICK) on). ESPN2 here is in Spanish, which is ok--while we don't understand everything, we get enough to make it worth watching.

I guess it was the first time we've really sat down to watch Monday Night Football on a Spanish channel, or at least the first time we've really been paying attention, because tonight we noticed something a little different...

Since the late 1980s Hank Williams Jr. has been the "voice" of Monday Night Football (every time it comes on Chris says, "he's been doing this forever!") ...and apparently he's "bilingual" enough to sing the iconic "Are you ready for some football?" as "¿Estan listos para football?"

I couldn't find the song in Spanish, but enjoy it here any day of the week in English! :)

Happy Monday, all! And sorry for the long blog pauses...it's the end of the quarter, parent-teacher conferences are next week, we have family coming to visit on Thursday, and I'm getting ready to go out of town for a week, so time is precious...as always.

Pictures from Amapala coming soon...


Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 11

Chris Says:

Things are still uncertain in the month of uncertainty.....not a whole lot of news on the PFG front.

This weekend we headed to Tiger Island for some R & R with friends from Discovery, Pip even came along. It was a blast! The island is famous for its black sand beaches from the volcanic activity. It certainly wasn't the same kind of 'luxury' that the Bay Islands were, but definitely worth the 2 hour car ride along the beautiful Honduran country side. We stayed on the Donkey Beach - Playa del Burro at Hotel Veleros (sailboat). 400 Lps ($20) for a night stay at a very comfortable, air conditioned room. When I say on - I really mean we were on the beach...really, at high tide - the water was 10 feet from the stairs that took us up to our rooms.The hotel was actually a combination hotel/restaurant....and evidently one of the better restaurants on the island. Everything I had on the menu was great...fish and shrimp...yummy!

We hung out at the restaurant and went swimming at playa del burro for the first afternoon/evening. I think I got my first jelly fish stings ever, so mark that down on the experiences list. The stings were more itchy than anything....kind of like a number of mosquito bites right in a row.... Later on,  some of us headed to the 'city' Amapala, while others stayed behind to relax - hammocks are wonderful things.

Sunday we headed over to one of the white sand beaches to catch some sun and more swimming. Unfortunately, the tide was out when we got to the beach (something this 26 year old Iowan doesn't know much about) so it was a little mucky swimming.....I didn't realize how much tides can influence how large or small the beach is. I also didn't realize that the bottom of a gulf can have like more than 3 feet of 'muck', silt or sand....it was like quicksand trying to actually walk out to the ocean - a couple times  I was knee deep in bottom of the ocean 'stuff'.

By 1pm Sunday, we were headed back to Tegus so I could work today and Kristen could relax on her day off (Columbus Day). Good weekend trip. I think the guys will be going back to conquer the mountain/volcano before the end of the year - check it out: http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1403-13-

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos


Kristen says...

One of the fun things about this month is that every date is going to end in 10/10 (if you write it the European/Honduran/everywhere in the world except the US-an way)

Well, I am finally recovered enough to write about our latest monthly visit to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (Our Little Brothers [and Sisters]). NPH is an international organization that takes in "orphaned, abandoned, and other at-risk" boys and girls...but the really cool thing is, it's not the type of orphanage where kids are put up for adoption...once they come to NPH, it is considered their permanent home. Because many of the children had been abused, have physical or mental disabilities, or have gone through other ordeals in their short lives, NPH doesn't put them through the stress of adoption days. Once they come to NPH, they can stay there basically as long as they want.

There are two NPH houses in Honduras. One is literally outside our back door--one of the lines of our address down here is "en frente de Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos." Casa de Los Ángeles provides housing for some of the NPH children with the most severe disabilities, as well as therapy to help them succeed. The other NPH kids in Honduras are at the Rancho Santa Fe, which is a full-service (and almost completely self-sufficient) Ranch about an hour's drive from Teguc. As of last month, there are over 600 children from age 6 months-21+ living on the Ranch, and apparently it is also home to AIDS patients and their families, and the "abuelos," or grandparents, older Hondurans who don't have anywhere else to go, who can live out their days in comfort and surrounded by loving children.

The Rancho gives children hands-on skills that they can use when (or if) they leave NPH as adults. This takes them from being potential "burdens" on society (or living on the streets) to having the ability to make their own way in the world through agriculture. Those who don't want to be farmers "when they grow up" are given the opportunity to move into the city for job training in domestics, as wait staff, or in sales. It is really a neat organization that is changing the lives of thousands of children in 9 Latin American countries. Check out the link above (or here) to learn more about the history, mission, founder, or to donate to this VERY worthy cause.

ANYWAY, obviously we believe in this organization, and Chris and I visit the Rancho once a month, usually on the last Sunday of the month. We ended up going a week late this past month, because of silly Tropical Storm Matthew, which didn't really do much more than dump rain on us. The rain was enough to make some of the roads a lot icky, though, so we had to put the trip off until this past Sunday.

There were six of us that went, two other teachers from the school, one of the teachers' husband, and a friend from that couple's church. The other couple were the ones that invited us along in the first place: apparently the school has been supporting NPH though volunteering for the past few years.

This was our second trip, but really the first time we got to look around the Ranch. Here are a few pictures at the Rancho:

Left: All the furniture at NPH is made on-site by the students...some of the beds are singles, others are double and triple bunks.
Right: Statues of NPH's founder Fr. William Wasson and some "hermanos"

Left: Two of the "hermanas" with the statues

Right: Chris with some of the "hermanos"

Below: some of the farm animals from the Rancho

We were even introduced to the "abuelos," which was one of the best parts of my day. I love older people, and these were so sweet. They were thrilled to see the children, and to meet new people. They greeted us so warmly, "Bienvenidos a nuestro rancho." They introduced themselves to us, and I was able to chat a little in my ever-growing Spanish.

After wandering (and being pulled! the kids were so excited to show us their home!) all over the Rancho we went back to our gathering area (and playground) and had lunch...by request, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

Chris and I actually made 50 of them (and another teacher made 50 more), and we served them with carrots and had lemon and orange cupcakes for lunch. Here are some pictures of the sandwich-making extravaganza:
Stage 1: Lots of bread
Stage 2: Peanut Butter!

<-Pip wants peanut butter!

Pip gets peanut butter (but not a sandwich) ->

Stage 3: Jelly
Stage 4: Sandwiches wrapped and in the freezer
Stage 5: Sandwiches packed and ready to go
Stage 6: Sandwiches out and ready for eating!

And did those sandwiches go! We originally gave each child 2 sandwiches, but when we had (a lot!) of extras, we passed out extras...some of the extras were eaten, some were taken home for later, but all were appreciated and enjoyed!

After running all over the Rancho, eating delicious food, and saying goodbye to our "hermanos," we drove back to the city and basically passed out for the rest of the day...the first time we went we took Pip, but this last time we left him home. I am sure he will head back there again sometime soon, but it was nice to have some time with the kids, without the dog.

I will leave you with a few more pictures of the beautiful Rancho...what an inspiring place to grow up!!

And one of my favorite shots of the day: