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...?