Tire seat

Thought motes

1. Whining. Sometimes I (along with all the volunteers) am as whiny as the students. I groan when the Volunteer Coordinator reminds us about our weekly meeting, bemoan the pointlessness of our attendance when told of the monthly staff meeting, and bitch when a day off or free period is cancelled. Like my kids, I often try to shoot the messenger.

2. Plastic? I’ve been meaning to mention the love of plastic bags here. The freshness of the observation is lost after nine months, but I do recall that the eagerness to give me a plastic bag with my purchase, no matter how small and how many other plastic bags I already have, used to surprise me. Any rejection of the proffered bag is met with bewilderment. Fortunately, even the smallest bag can be reused for cut produce, like avocado or melon. Also, juice, water, and frozen juice or milk treats called topogigos are sold in knotted plastic bags. Bite off a corner and suck away.

3. Balls. One dreaded part of my job is litigating arguments between kids over stolen balls and fighting in general. If I can’t punt the role of judge to another, I dither about fairness and trust neither party to tell me the truth. Thus I chastise both and no one is satisfied that justice has been done. Is this a contributing factor to the “zero-tolerance” policy in many US schools? Where the bullied is punished for self-defense, as well as the bully?

4. Happiness. For twelve years, my primary jobs, excluding the theatre-related, and even some of them too, have put me in a position that where no one is happy to see or hear from me. A call from me or the sight of my face means that person has something he doesn’t want to. My first adult job was in bookkeeping at a medical collection agency. I took money from people who most certainly did not want to (and sometimes really couldn’t) pay. My next job was as a paralegal who had to contact clients to request a year’s worth of financial documents. And if those weren’t enough to present a solid picture to the court, the person had to supplement with another pile of paperwork. Then I had to contact these people with personal questions about their spending habits. More than one took my questions as personal attacks, despite my sugar padding efforts, my emotional tap dancing. In the theatre life, as a literary manager, I would have to reject more plays than I accepted. Now, I teach children who most definitely do not want to be taught. Please, can I just have a job making people happy?

5. No fun. Joe has been a real jerk in class lately, telling me I’m mean and bad, and whining about every bit of work he has to do. I’m afraid we’re going to end the year on a bad note.

6. Science. My favorite geeky boy told me I was the best Science teacher they’ve ever had, because I explain things so students understand. Now, how can someone not teach that way?

7. Cliques. I will not end this experience with “friends of a lifetime” à la some summer camp or group vacation brochure. Is the cliquishness among the team indicative of age or is this just how adults naturally act when forced together?

8. Ants. I look forward to living somewhere where I’m not awakened by fireworks or firecrackers exploding at 4am. Also, I will not miss the itch of ants crawling over me.

9. Sex. I’ve ended the year by teaching Sex Ed. Of course the kids (and this teacher) are counting the days until school ends, and this is my best bet at getting their attention. It’s also the only topic I feel qualified to teach (get your mind out of the gutter, because experience would mean I’d feel more qualified to teach English) because I was one of those kids in high school who went to other schools to sing about condom use and act as the good witch Sister Syphilis.

This is also my chance for a little socio-political action, to spread messages that girls will not be harmed by masturbation, despite what doctors tell women; that both parties are responsible for protection and the outcomes of sex, despite the fact single motherhood is high and 25% of pregnancies happen to women under age 16; that if someone tries to pressure you into sex as proof of love, you kick that person to the curb because they are quite obviously an asshole and you can find someone better; and, BTW, folks, Miss theresa doesn’t care who you have sex with, or how, as long as you respect yourself, respect your partner—and respect includes protection—and all parties are willing.

I’ve received such wonderful and frank questions, which I attribute to my attitude of non-judgment, but perhaps questions about threesomes and porn and masturbating with car parts are normal conversation topics at this age. I wonder at times if I’m being too direct and open—the grossed out faces on the 8th grade girls when they saw the banana condom, the distressed look on a 7th grader when I responded to her question that the first time probably will hurt, but if she is relaxed and with someone she trusts, it will be easier—and I know, at times, that what I teach is directly counter to their parents and the Church. But they ask, so I tell. And next week we’ll discuss, briefly, homosexuality, in the context of love, because how does more love in the world hurt anyone? While this was on my not-so-secret agenda, someone did ask me, in an anonymous note, if it was “bad.”

With all the grades I did an exercise to prove the point that you have sex with everyone your partner has had sex with. I choose an innocent (ha!) volunteer and informed the class that this lovely person just had unprotected sex and now has HIV, but s/he doesn’t know. She had a great time last night and decides to have more unprotected sex. So she grabs another student, who now also gets HIV, then both have sex with new partners, the disease spreads, etc., until in about four days, all 10, 14, or 17 of the kids has HIV. This lead to a 9th grade braggart assuring me he will buy condoms after school (yes, I am sooo impressed by your sexual prowess) and a shocked expression on Antonio’s face as the exercise ended. Ultimately, I’m skeptical of my overall usefulness here, but if my teaching gets these kids thinking about who they share their feeling parts with and how, then it was worth it. If it encourages my girls to be strong when they’re pressured, because they will be, and makes them less afraid of learning what they like, then it was worth it.

On a related note, the 9th graders laughed when I told them that some schools in the US don’t allow sex education teaching. All grades also enjoyed practicing safe sock wear.

10. More cats. During the Parents’ Day celebration, a 9th grader gave me an itsy bitsy quite-obviously-still-needing-its-mommy kitten, because “Miss theresa likes cats.” Now, she first tried to pawn off the kitten on the Volunteer Coordinator, so it wasn’t a gift for me specifically. Despite my protestations that I couldn’t care for this kitten, it was left on my lap and my student and her father left. Fortunately, my geeky boy loves animals and together we were able to convince his mother to let him take it home to his bunnies and birds. The kitten is doing very well.

3 weeks to go,

theresa

P.S. Today’s picture is the winning project for 7th grade. These were very popular seats.

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SalvaVida sign

Soy El Hulk! Soy un hijo de Dios!

Here are a few observations that have been on my blog topic list for awhile but my brain has not yet formed into a full entry, kinda like a blog version of Radiolab‘s Shorts! episodes:

Dogs

Dogs roam about the town, pant on street corners, sleep in the road, fight with each other, and bark at all hours. Sizes range from tiny to medium. Their minimal flesh clings to ribs and tailbones, unpadded by fat, their testicles outsized in comparison to their bony frames. Many have open sores and limp.  Most are male, for reasons I don’t want to fathom, and the females, with their distended and swollen nipples, look overused.

Dogs crawl through the fence that borders the school to scavenge for scraps (or participate in Monday’s Acto Civico assembly) and are chased or harassed by the children, though I did see a boy give a dog his lunch. Yesterday I tried to give one the stray bits of popcorn he was sniffing for under the table, but my movements scared him and he fled. Well, he fled when he saw the guard running toward him. They’ve learned a raised arm releases rocks in their direction.

Still, dogs here are dogs everywhere. They make friends and play with each other; even the scrawniest look happy-goofy as their tongues loll out, panting in the heat, and once a dark brown longer-haired mutt, who appears better cared for, goosed me in a friendly sort of way.

Those dogs with homes are used primarily for protection though I have seen a few well groomed, anything-but-fierce pups on leashes held by children. Some of my students speak fondly of a dog they once had and played with, and I’ve met a few lapdogs of the Chihuahua and Min Pin variety.

Dogs are the preferred pet, with cats prized for their rodent catching abilities. The cats are rough and ragged and refuse to be pet. Our house feels no ethical qualms that Nova, the cat that adopted us, may have belonged to a family, because we intend to spoil him as only cat-spoilers can. It took him no time to accustom himself to the new lifestyle.

El Señor es Amor y Paz

People tend to be Catholic or Evangelical. Our teacher meetings start with a prayer, as do our Monday school assemblies. On Saturdays and Sundays, one of the houses across the road plays church services at top volume. When a minister leads a prayer, people also pray aloud, but some fervently, with their own words and at their own speeds. They close their eyes and raise their hands, sometimes pulsing their arms. This style contrasts with the listen in silence or repeat what the pastor said style I grew up with.

Traveling to La Ceiba, I passed many signs celebrating the love and peace of God, and all the hired vehicles dedicate themselves to Jesus and El Señor with worded inscriptions or paintings of Jesus in his crown of thorns or a cross. My favorite tuk-tuk is painted with a picture of the Incredible Hulk, who proclaims, “Soy El Hulk!” and a picture of a man, I assume the driver, who responds, “Soy un hijo de Dios!” the message, no doubt, that the man, backed by El Señor, can kick anyone’s ass. I call the chicken buses “Jesus buses” because when I first saw the inscriptions, I though they were used specifically for taking people to church. But, despite the odes to that higher power, no one finds it odd that the Jesus-blessed bus also shows hyper-sexual reggaeton videos.

I can’t deny that the religiosity bugs me. The poorer people are, the more religious they tend to be, and on its face, this doesn’t make sense. How can someone praise how they are blessed when there are bars on the windows and no food on the table? It reminds me of Freud’s observation that the pleasure we experience from relief of pain is a sick pleasure because to feel it, we first must feel agony (I wonder now if he was talking about S&M, in which case, I’m taking him out of context.). So people thank God for the food they have, overlooking or somehow justifying the days without it.

Vintage

On the main road is a stretch of wall covered with a peeling advertisement for the Honduran beer, SalvaVida. It took me some time but I finally figured out why I find it so pleasing. My aesthetics have been corrupted by the ‘vintage’ look. In the States a person can pay very high prices for furniture either made of weathered materials, like wood or rusted metal, or designed so that it looks like weathered wood or rusted metal. You can pay people to make your stuff look old and worn out. It’s a pretty interesting people-with-money idea, and I’m as guilty as the next corrupted person to find my favorite bakery in Portland, Back to Eden, adorable with its use of old (or old-looking) cabinets and “reclaimed” wood. Then there’s the ubiquitous pictures of European villages and streets with centuries old buildings that are disheveling in an oh-so-quaint way…. So that SalvaVida sign? It fires all those quaint and vintage aesthetic receptors in my brain. But the thing is that there’s nothing fashionable about the look of peeling paint and crumble here. It’s the look of someone who doesn’t have enough money to repaint, repair, or replace. It’s the look of poverty.

How did that worn out look become so popular? What makes it so special, and is the pleasure confined to white urban people with money? When I see a worn out cabinet being used to store flour I think of how well it was made so that it is still useful now. I admire the use of real materials rather than a bunch of woodchips slathered with glue to make a board, then screwed together into a shelf that will definitely not survive the zombie apocalypse. I think of farms and outdoors and simplicity, when men were men and all we had to do was live on the land, that sort of nonsense fed to me by Hollywood. I think of when people cared about quality.

In other news, today is March 1. The countdown to the end of the school year is going strong, too strong. But that relief is mixed with panic as I wonder what is next.

As ever,

theresa