Saturday, 26 May 2012

Through my Camera Lens

It has been a BUSY week here in my castle home as we prepared for the Graduacion de Genesis Escuela de los Artes! The graduation happened last night, and apart from a few raindrops before the outside concert began, and a power outage halfway through the program, the event went well. The kids got to display their art and perform their music, friends and parents finally got to see what their children have been working on for the last three months, and there was food to be eaten by all!

It has been so good to see my students confidence increase over the last semester. One of my students in particular was SO SHY when the semester started. Even though she went to all the practice times and classes, and completed all her homework, she was still very shy and behind the rest of the students. She lacked the confidence to ask questions when she did not understand, and she often would just give up and guess the notes she needed to play. One week ago she told me that she did not want to perform in the final concert, and I agreed that she probably was not ready to perform in front of fifty plus people - particularly as she was too shy to perform in front of four of her classmates! But sure enough, in our last class before the concert (Thursday!) she told me that she really really wanted to perform at the graduation. We had a mini "audition" for her to see if she was ready, and she was ready indeed! It was fun to see her play "Ode to Joy" last night in front of the audience. Such a contrast from just a few weeks ago!

Here are some photos of the past week, ranging from tormentas and butterflies, to conciertos and children:

Storm clouds rolling in from the West, with sun pouring in from the East. Beauty. 

Craziest light of my life, with raindrops mingling with the sunbeams. 

TORMENTA! But really, photos just don't capture it. I had to push my door shut because of the wind, rain, and hail the size of ice cubes that were pouring in!

Cool kids eating cookies in the gorgeous post-tormenta sunlight. 
Once upon a time I found this on the wall of the Castle....

And then a few days ago I found THIS!

My piano students who were performing! I do not know why they look so miserable here. The photo below is more indicative of how they usually look. 
MUCH better :) Playing Twister Musical!

Art Students!

Sending out the invitations for the grand fiesta...

Our stage the night of the Graduacion!

I don't think that venues get better than this. 
Volunteering with Genesis has been a lot of fun, and a great learning experience. I know that I am going to miss my students! But I know that the weeks to come are sure to come with their share of adventures and excitement.

Hope you are all having a lovely May weekend!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Rain Storms and Thwarted Plans

Just as the heat suddenly hit Honduras a few weeks ago, rainy season is now upon us. The air is heavy with moisture, and most days begin with me standing confused in front of my suitcase debating whether or not I want a sweater or a tank top, because I can't decide if I am warm or cold. Given my already indecisive nature, this ambiguous climate certainly brings an element of minor anxiety to my day to day life.

Some of you may know that I really don’t like rain. To be more specific, I really don’t like the low grey cloud cover with its accompanying drizzle that hangs over BC with the tenacity of a leaky faucet between October and June. But these days in Copan I have been learning to resign myself to rain – and it isn’t just because I am happy to escape the heat of dry season!

I love that rain brings life. The rolling green hills surrounding Copan, with the lush gardens of the central park wouldn’t be possible without it. Neither would the BC forests I love so much with all their glory of ferns and moss. The climates and beauties I most hold dear are only made possible by the rain that I often loathe. Keats wrote a poem called “Ode to Melancholy” (with his typical cheerfulness) that states that "in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine."  I think that the same policy applies to rain. 

Here are some photos of a recent rainy adventure:

I am becoming a big fan of intentional rest, the kind of rest when you decide in advance that it is perfectly ok to simply sit, breathe and rejuvenate. And so, I made plans with my friend Rachel to go on a picnic this Sunday. We planned it in advance, making sure to plan to eat in the late morning or early afternoon in order to miss the rains that usually hit in the late afternoon. We went to the market and bought our fresh fruit, cheese, bread, and wine, thereby supporting the local artisan economy. And then we made the trek out to one of my favorite places in Copan: the nature trail by the ruins. Here is one highlight of the trail that runs through the forest surrounding the ruins: 

And here is our idyllic spread, complete with delicious food, mason jar wine glasses, vocal jazz thanks to Rachel’s portable speakers, and A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, which we are reading with our coworkers as a book study:

Enjoying our feast: 

And here is our perfect picnic location:

Yes, we are having a picnic at the site of an ancient Mayan football field in the middle of a Honduran forest. It is strange to think about who else in history has also sat in the same place! The above picture was taken as a few stray raindrops falling from an ominously heavy sky were slowly developing into a true rainstorm. A few moments later, the backpack was repacked, and the two of us were walking along the soggy trails with the picnic blanket held high over our heads. If we didn't already look ridiculous having a picnic in the middle of the nature trail, we most certainly looked ridiculous then! 

Luckily, we were able to set up camp again on the (covered!) roof top patio of a local hotel to continue our picnic festivities:

Like so many of my plans, things didn't quite work out as planned. But it was still good and beautiful.

Life in Honduras is definitely making me cling less devotedly to my plans. Things like power outages and rainstorms that flood the street threaten the structure of my day, and the plans I love to make. But I am beginning to learn that if the power goes out, you can make do with candles. If the streets flood with water, you can just stay where you are - or go ahead and get wet because it is so hot you'll dry in no time. And if - dare I say it - you are late for something, the world will not end.

I think that just as Keat's suggests, we need to pass through the rain storms of melancholy sometimes to discover the accompanying delight and beauty. And sometimes you don't even need to wait for the clouds to clear to find it.

Anyways, on the update side of things, we are busy at Genesis School of the Arts this week as we preparing for the end of semester graduation this Friday! Miraculously, many of my students can now successfully execute "Ode to Joy" using the left hand, correct fingering and all. And one of my students (the only one with a keyboard in the casa) can play "Swan Lake" using both hands! Things are looking up. I am looking forward to a fun night of piano, guitar and choral performances, an art show, and the food prepared by the cooking class. Pictures will hopefully come at some point!

Adios for now! 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

UPH Blog Post

Hey friends!

I wrote a post for the UrbanPromise Honduras blog this week. Check out this link to read my post and other posts written by my coworkers to learn more about what we are doing here!

May you have a blessed, joyful and restoring weekend!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Top 10 Highlights of a Typical Week

I haven't had any particularly eventful adventures this week to share through pictures. So, I thought it would be fun to share my top 10 highlights of a typical week here in Honduras! (But they won't be in order of least favorite to most favorite, or vice versa. The best I can do is narrow down my highlights to just 10 because a "Top 100" list would just be ridiculous.)

Aaaand here comes the list:

(1) Hosting a TEA PARTY here at my castle home for some of the lideres jovenes and staff from UPH. As you may or may not know, I LOVE tea, LOVE dressing up on occasion and LOVE eating cookies. This all adds up to a tea party being just about my favorite thing ever. With the added bonus of playing some exciting rounds of musical chairs and sardines, it was a most lovely day. This is the only event that I have some photo documentation of, so here are some pictures to enjoy!

(2) Here is the scenario: I am sitting at a table with a bunch of the youngest children during cooking class. We are in the process of consuming the baleadas we have just learnt how to make and one little boy, Alex, is talking away with his mouth FULL of baleada. Food is flying out of his mouth as he speaks so I feel the need to remind him not to speak with his mouth full. The little girl sitting beside me decides to primly pipe in: "it is bad manners to speak with your mouth full." He promptly replies, "LIAR! It is GOOD manners to speak with your mouth full!!"

(3) Using the song "Someone Like You" by Adele to teach English to a group of teenagers who are wanting to improve their English. Turns out that Karaoke is a great motivator!

(4) Playing a new game, "Musical Twister," with my piano class. My slightly nerdier version of Twister involves playing on a giant musical staff taped to the ground and obeying directions like "put your left hand on Do central!" and "put your right foot on Sol in the Treble Clef!"

(5) While leading a special club during recess at camp, I gave the club members each a pulsera (bracelet) I had made to commemorate our time making friendship bracelets together. One of the little boys didn't want to put his on, which surprised me because he has been asking me for that particular bracelet for a couple of weeks! He told me he wanted to save it for later. Later that day I saw the same pulsera on the wrist of one of the leaders. And it wasn't the first bracelet he had given her; he also gave her every single pulsera he made during our club, adding up to a total of four bracelets! On the other hand, another little boy in the class left camp that day with three bracelets tied around his wrist. He didn't seem to grasp the concept about giving away friendship bracelets as a symbol of friendship...

(6) Walking to a giant Ceiba tree close to the Mayan Ruins with a friend. Probably one of the most peaceful places I know in Honduras.

(7) The kids at camp can choose to either read a book or write a composition after they finish their homework. Yesterday the topic was to write a story about a princess and a dragon. One boy wrote a full page in extensive detail about a prince and a princess and the evil king who owned the castle they lived in. He described the upcoming birthday party of the prince at great length, ending the page with the king saying to the prince, "I am going to kill you." On that suspenseful note, I turned the page to see the one sentence conclusion: "But he couldn't kill the prince because the prince believed in God." Although I am not sure about the literary value of this rather simplistic denouement, it is evidence indeed that he is paying attention in Bible class!

(8) Reading through a book of prayers from Iona that a friend lent me. Praying the through the lines "as the mist scatters from the crest of the hills may each ill haze clear from my soul O God" while looking out over the mist-covered hills of Copan is a truly beautiful and restoring way to start my morning!

(9) Making the mini-pizzas of patience with the youth leaders who work at the same camp as me! I call them the mini-pizzas of patience because we could only bake two at a time in the oven and there were some very hungry people waiting for them...

(10) I FINISHED reading War and Peace! It was a wonderful read; I would even consider re-reading it in a couple of years. However, my one concern was that it really felt like Tolstoy added a few too many essay-like sections about historical theory. Interesting stuff, but sometimes all I really want to know is what is going to happen next to Natasha and Prince Andrew - not ten pages about whether Napolean was truly responsible for the failure of his military campaign in Russia. The celebration at a nice restaurant with friends afterwards (celebrating other important events like acceptance to university and a completed dissertation) was also lovely!

I congratulate any of you who have actually succeeded in reading this blog post in its entirety! Hopefully this gives you a bit of a picture of the joys of my daily life in Honduras.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Las Ruinas and a Noche of Tomales

The heat has officially struck Honduras.

After spending the entirety of Sunday morning touring the famous Copan ruins in the hottest sun I have yet experienced in Honduras, I spent the entire afternoon lying in bed dizzy and headachy, recovering from dehydration and heat stroke. Thankfully I am feeling MUCH better now and am drinking more water than ever I have before!

And on another happy note, I was relieved to discover this weekend that against all odds I have NOT acquired lice from the children! This may seem like too much information, but I really think it is worth celebrating. Just as Honduras has transformed me into a devoted consumer of agua, it has also transformed me into an obsessive hair washer in hopes of deterring all lice from setting up house in my hair. 

Enough of lice and my body's responses to extreme temperature. Here are some pictures of LAS RUINAS!!

Pictures of the great Mayan temples. There are layers of older temples beneath this one. 

The picture above is of the mansions of the Mayans; the political elite lived the closest to the great temples and political building. Everyone else lived on the other side of a river. 

(Proof that I was there, FOR REAL)

Looking out over the playing field for the Mayan version of "futball." This was a religious sport, and the ball they played with was supposed to be kept in the air the entire time, representing the flight of the sun. After every game the captain of the winning team received an award of great honor- to be sacrificed to one of their gods.

This is a carving of the sun god. If you look closely you can see that he is cross-eyed. 

This staircase is huge, and it contains carvings that are  referred to as the Mayan encyclopedia. 

It is hard to capture just how HUGE this site is, but here is a (weak) attempt! You can see the large buildings stretching up beyond the one in the foreground. Back in the day there were no trees here, and the plaza was completely covered with white limestone to reflect the sunlight. 

Such intricate carving! Having studied the stelae of Ancient Greece and Babylon in an Art History class, it was interesting to see the same form show up on the other side of the world in Honduras. 

And of course, what would a trip to the ruins be without a photo of myself sitting on top of them? This is where Mayan rulers would stand, in the middle of the lime-stone covered plaza, to speak to the people. 

(And just a side note - it is always fun to see how living in another country, away from friends and family, can transform the way we make friends. The girl sitting to on the right of me is Kodee, a new friend I met on the streets of Antigua, Guatemala several weeks ago. After staying in touch via facebook she ended up coming to Copan for the weekend. It was fun to have a visitor!)

It was a surreal experience to be at the site of these ruins. Just looking over these pictures it is strange to think about people so different from myself sitting and standing on the very same rocks as as I am in the pictures above. Who would have thought that some white girl from waaaay up north, would one day be posing for a cheesy touristy photograph in the middle of the most important political and religious site of the people who laboured to pile those rocks, one by one, upon one another?

Another highlight of my week was going to the home of two of the girls who attend Camp Hope for the birthday party of their older brother. This was unlike any other birthday party I have been to before! For one thing, we appeared to be the only guests - and we had never met the older brother before yesterday. For another, my friend and I were served food before anyone else in the family - even the birthday boy. They did not even begin their own meal until after we had left their home, but instead chatted with us while we ate our plates of tomales. They even insisted that we take several tomales along for the road!

While eating our meal, the mother spoke with us at length about how prayer and her faith in God has helped her in her life. It was really a remarkable conversation - all about how she has seen God intervening in her and her family's lives in big ways. For example, like many Hondurans her family was living in a house made of mud bricks. They were miserable - for one thing because every time it rains (which is a frequent occurrence during rainy season!) the house leaked a lot. For another thing, there is a kind of bug that sometimes lives in mud houses that is dangerous, and even deadly. After much prayer for the sake of her family, they came into possession of a lovely home made of cement. It is really amazing to see how much they value and appreciate such a simple building. From speaking with them, it was evident that they viewed their material possessions as pure gifts from God. 

After leaving their home, I felt honoured by this family's hospitality and touched by their true gratitude for the material gifts God gives us. Their willingness to share special tomales reserved for special occasions, their warm greetings as we came to their home, the insistence of the kids to carry our bags for us while accompanying us to our taxi when we left, and most of all their incredible thankfulness for something as simple as a house that does not leak and is not infested with bugs - all reminded me of what true hospitality is, and what it means to live in the consciousness that whatever we own is not a right but is a gift from God that should be used accordingly!