Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Camp Hope!

This week I FINALLY remembered to bring my camera to camp so I have some photos of the lovely children I work with! On Mondays and Wednesdays I teach English at Camp Hope, an after school program in a neighbourhood of Copan Ruinas called Nueva Esperanza. In English this name means "New Hope." Nueva Esperanza is one of the poorer, rural neighbourhoods in Copan. We run the program in the local school:

The school has a small building for their kindergarten program, as well as the building pictured above, which has two classrooms and is for all students ranging from grade 1 to 6. This means that during the morning, when classes are held, each teacher has a class of three grades! Here is a picture of the classroom for the grade 1-3 students: 

The after school programs are run primarily by youth leaders, who range in age from 14 to 20. They help students with homework (as is happening in the picture above), lead games, maintain order, and teach classes of art, health, cooking and discovery. They are a lot of fun to work with! My friend Katie - who is pictured in my post on baking paska - is director of Camp Hope, and I come 2 or 3 times a week to teach English and help out!

And finally, here are some of the beautiful faces of the kids! Most of the older kids were busy playing a game of soccer, so these are primarily of the pequenos (little ones): 

As I said, beauties every one of them!

Here are some pictures of the kids doing what they do best - having fun! 

I hope that these smiling faces brighten your day, just as they do mine!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Be Encouraged!

I have always loved Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry - both the aesthetics of the sounds that he uses and the meaning of those sounds! I always leave Hopkin's poetry with a sense that in spite of the chaos that we as humans create in the world, God is in this place, breathing his spirit and life into the world and into us.

As an exercise in creativity this afternoon I spent some time playing around with the formatting of one of his poems as a way to reflect on its words and its nuances. Please read and be encouraged that in spite of the fact that this world we live in is wrought with injustice, it is also CHARGED with God's grandeur!

(And because I am and always will be a fan of MLA formatting, here is my work cited list:

Hopkins, Gerard. "God's Grandeur." Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose. Comp. W.H. Gardner. Londond: Penguin Books, 1985. 27. Print.) 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Post-Semana Santa Craziness, El Rio and Bird Parks

After the peace and relaxation of Semana Santa, returning to the regular pace of life last week felt really busy! After school programs and music lessons began again last week, and it was fun to see the kids again after the break. The kids here are beyond cute. One of my favourite moments of last week was attempting to comfort a little boy at an after school program after he fell down and hit his elbow. He is one of the more difficult kids to work with, as he has some significant behaviour "challenges" shall we say, and yet he does not respond well to any kind of discipline. He was still wearing his school uniform from his morning classes, although by that point in the day it was smudged with stains and his shirt buttons were not quite aligned so that one side of his shirt was longer than the other. I wasn't able to get a smile out of him until I asked him to flex his muscles, proving that yes, his arm does still work and he will survive.

It is always heartbreaking to see the challenges faced by some of these children. For example, one little boy showed up to camp today in the midst of a raging tormenta without any kind of footwear whatsoever. Another little boy in my neighbourhood is attending elementary night school (yes, such a thing exists!) because he works during the day. Sometimes the contrast between my own childhood and their childhood experiences can seem quite stark.

However, at the same time, these kids know how to have fun! We had a great time at camp today in spite of the fact that there was no electricity and we couldn't really spend much time outside - even the little boy without shoes!

This past weekend I was able to take a few opportunities to relax and simply enjoy the beauty of the area around Copan. On Saturday I went with my housemates to the river.  Almost every time I ask a child que hiciste durante la semana santa?(what did you do during the semana santa?) the response is fuimos al rio (we went to the river). Clearly, el rio is the place to be. Here are some pictures from our journey:

BEAUTY! The river was most lovely. 

Giselle and Jason walking to find the perfect spot to sit. 

We found frogs! 

My lovely housemates, Giselle and Jason. Sometimes I walk into the kitchen in the mornings to discover that Giselle has breakfast waiting for me, and tonight Jason made us a Spanish plate of eggy deliciousness (I can't remember the real name). Does it get any better than this? I think not.

Me and Giselle! Next weekend Giselle and I will be travelling together to San Pedro Sula to visit her family, her church, and to see a movie.

On Sunday I went with Katie and the lideres jovenes (youth leaders) who work with us at Camp Hope to the Bird Park in Copan. Again, it was lovely to be outside in the beauty of the natural world.

Here are some of my attempts to capture a bit of the beauty we saw:

I have decided that just as it is practically impossible to eat too much chocolate, it is also impossible to take too many foliage photos. Whenever I walk through a forest here in Honduras I tend to spend a significant amount of time staring upwards through my camera lens!

Anyways, it has been a good week and I look forward to the weeks to come!
Just to end off, Sufjan Steven's "Vito's Ordination Song" is a song I have been loving of late. Many children in Honduras don't have father who play a significant role in their lives. The lines "I have called you son, I've made amends between father and son, or if you haven't one, rest in my arms, sleep in my bed" are particularly powerful living here.

You can listen to the song on youtube here:

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Poetry, Paska and Alfombras

Easter takes on a special significance here in Honduras. Preparations for Semana Santa have been going on since I got here, culminating in Copan Ruinas with a procession along the alfombra-covered streets on Good Friday. Throughout Lent, the Procession of the Cross passes throughout the streets of Copan Ruinas every Friday evening throughout the year to commemorate Good Friday and reflect on Christ’s suffering. I have been spending some time this weekend just reflecting on the despair and hope that surrounds Easter. One piece of writing that I have been thinking about a lot is the poem “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward” by one of my favourite poets, John Donne. Here is an excerpt from it:
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
 For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is ‘t, that I am carried towards the west
This day, when my soul’s form bends towards the east.
There I should see a sun, by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget;
But that Christ on this Cross, did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.

I agree with Donne that the forces of business and pleasure so often move us from the course that we want - and are created - to take in life. Just as he writes that his “soul’s form bends towards the east” but he is carried by the distractions of business or pleasure towards the west, it is all too easy to be distracted from the miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is so easy to neglect to focus on the bizarre reality that “a sun, by rising set, and by that setting endless day beget.”
Here in Honduras it can feel like people focus almost exclusively on the “setting” of the sun – Christ’s death – with little to no focus on the endless day that comes from it – the resurrection. My prayer for myself is that I will begin to focus more on the resurrection in my personal life, trying to focus on the east in spite of the distractions around me. Just a few of my thoughts on the eve before Easter!
Anyways, here are some photos I took of the alfombras here in Copan Ruinas. They were made Thursday night, with people working on them past midnight. The procession of people carrying the cross over the alfombras to the cathedral happened on Friday night.

Here are some photos of the central park in Copan. I still can't believe I live in such a beautiful place!

Another highlight of this Easter weekend has been embracing the Easter tradition of making paska together with the help of Katie, who is the director of Camp Hope at UPH. Baking paska in Honduras is a different experience. Here are some photos from the journey!

If you look very closely you will notice that the "Gold Star" flour is listed as "especial para baleadas" (translation: special for making baleadas). I discovered when making paska that this means it is NOT special for making paska! We ended up using three packages of baleada flour in our attempts to make functioning dough!

The above photo documents our attempts to beating the egg whites into "stiff peaks."  We discovered through this journey that humid climates are NOT ideal for beating egg whites and spent a very long time fruitlessly trying to beat the eggs into submission. Another Honduran addition to our baking experience was the presence of many ants throughout the kitchen. Although lime zest and orange zest are very delicious, zest of ant is not quite as appetising. My apologies if anyone eating our paska discovers a little added protein; we fought a valiant fight against any insects so it should be (mostly) safe!

As you can see, Katie and I enjoyed posing with our batter. This was a first for both of us and I wanted to document these moments!

And finally...we had paska! After starting the process at 9am, we had delicious paska ready to go by about 3:30pm. I now understand why we only make paska once a year at Easter! I look forward to sharing paska with friends tomorrow.

As I look forward to Easter tomorrow, here is another excerpt of poetry written by another favourite writer, Gerard Manley Hopkins:
“Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east”

May our hearts be turned towards the east in the midst of this busy Easter season!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I hiked Mount Celaque and survived.

Translation: Welcome to the highest point of Honduras!

This photo is evidence of the fact that I hiked right to the top of Mount Celaque in Parque Nacional Montana de Celaque. This week is Semana Santa - Holy Week - which  is an extended holiday here in Honduras. And so, I drove with Rachel, the youth director at UPH, and two other friends to the small mountain village of Gracias on Monday morning with the intent of reaching the top of Mount Celaque! It was truly an incredible journey - and probably the most difficult 7.43 kilometres that I have ever walked in my life!

Here are some pictures from the trip, starting off with some pictures of Gracias, the town at the base of Mount Celaque where we stayed on Monday night.



Walking towards the cathedral.



The beginnings of a tormenta (storm) in the central park of Gracias.

Tormenta! Although rain is unusual at this time of year, it rained on Monday night and also all night on Tuesday - while we were camping on the mountain.

The original coffee grinder - we saw this in a cultural house in Gracias.

We left our hotel at 6am on Tuesday morning to make sure that we would have enough time to reach the summit of Mount Celaque and set up camp before nightfall. The picture above is of me a couple hours into the hike.

The forest was absolutely beautiful! I don't think I have ever taken so many pictures of foliage alone...and in the end cameras simply cannot capture the beauty of all that we saw!

Finally, at around 4pm we made it to the top of Mount Celaque!

Here are the girls of the group, myself and Rachel.

And here are the guys, Jorge and Adelson.

Here is the "view" from the top. As you can tell, the rain clouds were coming in quickly! We had a wet night, although Rachel was able to make a fire strong enough to make pasta and roast a delicious assortment of vegetables.

Rachel and I posing on a rock wall along the trail - just as the wall where we were sitting began to collapse!

Although absolutely exhausting, this was a great trip. Hiking always reminds me of how the rough patches of life, with those moments when all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, can bring us to the most amazing of places.

I tend to think about worse case scenarios when I hike. For example, what should I do if I am attacked by a jaguar? Or what should I do if my legs cease to move after the next step and I need to spend the night alone on the trail, just myself, the jaguars and pumas and who knows what kind of insects? Or what do we do if we take a wrong turn and the trail is not to be trusted?

I think that following God can bring with it the same kind of ambiguities. Sometimes the trail isn't exactly clear ahead of us, and sometimes the dangers and struggles can seem to outweigh the potential goodness. However, we need to trust that putting one foot ahead of another will take us to the end destination, and the destination is worth every bit of the arduous journey.

Just a few of my thoughts from the journey!

Anyways, I hope that you all have a blessed Semana Santa this week, with plenty of opportunities to reflect on Christ and the journey He is leading us on.