Friday, December 18, 2009

Walk Like an Egyptian

Greetings on This Last Day of School

The campus is very festive today and spirits are high. Little ones and big ones came by my room this morning proudly delivering holiday packages “To the Art Teacher”. All over campus students are practicing their routines for Song Fest tonight. The multi-cultural nature of our school means that this event is mostly lip sync and dance to popular music. Some classes go all out and hire choreographers and have professional costumes made. It is definitely and pointedly not a Christmas program. However, the school choir will wear blue robes and sing real Christmas music.

The second graders selected a Michael Jackson song that has a reference to Egyptians. So, in art class we have been making their costumes. The boys used the sewing machine to make a simple seam for their wrap around “sarong”. The girls have twisted crepe paper to add to their headdresses. Both boys and girls have made the all important cobra snake head to adorn their gold headdresses.

Tuesday we put all the elements together and posed for pictures. Each student’s headdress was “fitted” and the snake attached. All the effort was well rewarded when I handed them the mirror to look at themselves. Oh, such smiles and sparkling eyes.

One by one they were dressed in their regalia and went off to admire themselves, practice their dance moves and just plain play. Boys got on their knees and bowed down to girls. They took turns sitting on the stack of extra chairs at the side of the room, turning it into a makeshift throne. Giggles abounded.

Tonight is their big night. Moms and dads will gather with students in the art room to get dressed. Moms will put the make up around the eyes and some girls will even get to wear lipstick.

It may not be a Christmas program but the Spirit is here; families adoring children, a community coming together in joy and harmony. Ah, it is the Season!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fabric Shopping In Tegucigalpa

Elena in center waiting for needles. Ribbons, ribbons, ribbons!

Fabrics to make your mouth water. Clerk and papers at school supply store.

Fabric Shopping in Tegucigalpa

Next week is SongFest at Discovery School. From what I can gather it is an evening of musical fun where each grade level performs to popular music. The second grade class has selected a Michael Jackson song that at some point refers to Egyptians. Therefore, they want to dress like Egyptians, ancient Egyptians of course. Their teacher Miss Elena asked if I could help with making headdresses for them to wear. And since one thing leads to another, I have expanded the “lesson” to include making tunics and “wraps” to wear with the headdresses.

I made creative use of the meager materials (crepe paper and heavy paper) available in the art room but found that the gold paint I was hoping to use for the head pieces was not useable. Then we expanded our scope to include sewing the costume itself. Miss Elena provided a singer sewing machine and offered to take me shopping for the other materials. So Saturday morning I set out for new views and places, leaving Debbie curled up with her book.

Our first stop was Cortitelas Morazan, the fabric store. Ah! It is a huge fabric store with long aisles of every kind of fabric from gingham to silk satin. Pulse and respiration increased as anyone who is familiar with the saying, “the one who dies with the most fabric wins”, will understand. With Elena the official translator we quickly found exactly what we needed. Sixty inch wide white cotton-poly blend at only 30 Limperas a yard. That is about $1.50 a yard plus 12% sales tax.
We purchased 20 yards. Then we roamed the aisles soaking up the colors, patterns and textures.

As I walked and looked and touched I sped back and forth through time. I was standing knee high to my mother while she touched and figured and planned her fabric purchases. I heard my little brother whine pathetically at the end of along downtown shopping day, “not more ‘terial”. I saw every costume that was made for me or by me, every prom dress, school dress, party dress. I recalled the dress friend Judy made to add to my small college wardrobe and the evening dress she made for me as a young married out of the 10 yards at ten cents a yard gray jersey knit fabric my mom had bought thinking I might need to make an elephant costume someday. I may still have the “elephant dress” somewhere in the garage.

They had eight different patterns of animal print upholstery fabric, long rows of drapery and curtain fabric, terrycloth, wedding and evening satins encrusted with seed pearls and crystals, veiling in every imaginable color, taffetas, jersey, gabardines and men’s suiting and shirting fabrics, a fabric feast! And for every fabric a happy memory. We wandered as long as my energy held out then headed for the cashier and on to the next stop.

When I set up Elena’s sewing machine I found the needle was broken so it was onto the “notions” store. The fabric shop sold only fabric, no needles, no threads etc. The notions store is located in a moderate sized two story enclosed mall. We took the elevator up to the second floor to the small shop. The front window was full of bundles of small ribbon roses in every color. Inside, one wall was covered in spools of ribbon, another embroidery thread and buttons. The cases full of pins, needles, bobbins, safety pins, thread, thimbles, more buttons, even google eyes. We took our number and waited and looked. Then when it was our turn we showed our broken needle to the clerk, who disappeared to the back of the shop and returned with a match, Singer 1024. We selected thread and pins. I snapped a few pictures and we left. We stopped at the center of the mall at the Café American kiosk and order coffees and sat and sipped giving us time to get to know each other a bit better.

Elena is a bright woman who started in “banking”. She got her degree in business and international banking and went to work for a firm in Tegucigalpa. In a few years she was awarded a fellowship by the Italian embassy to study in Milan, Italy. She earned her masters degree in international banking there and came home. She returned to her banking firm and eventually married. It was when she was expecting her first child she decided to make a career change. Twelve years and one more child later she had her teaching degree and started teaching at Discovery School. She chose between “the big paycheck” and enjoying her work and her family. I think she has no regrets.

Coffee finished we head for the Utiles de Honduras a small office and school supply store. There we find sheets of gold and silver paper fit for Egyptian royalty. I add a box of colored chalk and a pad of drawing to the basked and snap a picture of our helpful clerk.

We drive up down and around to get back to my side of the valley, Elena helps carry in the parcels and she is off on her busy Saturday. She has received several calls while we were out and about and I am sure has had things added to her list. One friend, who is having a barbeque party tonight, has asked for the loan of her maid. So she must go home and “carry” her to her friend’s house.
I get a little glimpse into another woman’s world. For me I am happy to be home with my goodies ready for the school week, ready to reflect on the sights and scenes of the morning and ready to share it with you all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Art Cafeteria

Yesterday I had my first “art cafeteria” with the second and third graders. The “lesson” came as a result of “what can I do with the second graders” type day. I pulled out all kinds of bits and pieces – colored paper scraps, markers, crayons, pencils, shape templates, crepe paper, tissue paper, ribbon, plain white paper, graph paper, scissors and glue sticks. We have a short discussion about what a cafeteria is, what you do when you go there etc. Then I have them get in the cafeteria line, take a paper plate “tray” and go down the line. They tell the cafeteria “lady” (me) what they want and I fill their plates. They can come back for “seconds” on their own. They love it. I love it. They work independently, are very creative, learn to figure things out like “how can I attach this without a stapler or tape”. Kids made every thing from karate headbands to beautiful cards to their parents, even a “fruit bowl” out of the paper plate and crumpled crepe paper. And they get to take their work home. I got to work on my supply order.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hounduran Sawdust Carpets

The following is a draft of an article I hope to submit to Arts and Activities, an art education magazine. It also gives you an idea of what was going on last week.
October 23, 2009 Tegucigalpa Honduras

The campus of Discovery International School is quiet this afternoon. Just a few short hours ago it was a kaleidoscope of color, sound and fragrance celebrating United Nations Day. Our pre-K through grade 12 students’ toured parent hosted booths representing many of the 30 nations that are home to our student body. Maps, posters, handicrafts and a taste of nations from sushi to cheesecake were sampled with the mellow tones of a marimba band in the background.

The eighth grade visual arts students decided to contribute a traditional Honduran sawdust mosaic carpet, decorando las alfombras tipicas de Semana Santa, at the entrance of the school. I had found a post card picturing people working on one of these and shared it with my students. Several shared their memories of seeing the carpets created on streets for holy week processionals.

We discussed the significance of the carpets, why they were made of dyed loose sawdust. We compared them to the sand mandal created by Tibetan monks to mark important events. Both of these arts remind us of the impermanence of all things. They help us focus on our beliefs and philosophies and remind us to appreciate and value the present.

As a group we agreed on a simple design that would represent the spirit of the United Nations. Students made stencils of the shapes we would use. We had just finished a unit on graphic art and block lettering, skills that helped in the cutting of the stencils for the words.

In the art room we found two large cardboard boxes filled with bags of sawdust dyed in brilliant colors. Working from the postcard and the memories of mosaic carpets viewed in the past we made our first experiment. We used the sawdust dry and leveled and pressed it down with concrete smoothing tools borrowed from the maintenance department. Our experiment weathered the night winds and morning dew. An observer suggested that we dampen the sawdust before we spread it out. That worked even better.

We waited until the week of the event and began work on the “carpet” during Wednesday art class. Students were released from four other classes, came early and stayed late and worked up to the opening of the event Friday morning. The project took a total of nine hours to complete.

There were many challenges in the process; figuring out how to spread the sawdust, without disturbing the sawdust base, making adjustments to the design when we ran out of colors and finally coming to the end, ready to stencil the words around the boarder only to find we had no sawdust left. What could we use, spray paint? We didn’t have any. We tried some baking soda from the art room but it was too fine and difficult to put down. Finally our watching cafeteria managers came to the rescue with bags of table salt. It worked perfectly!

The carpet was ready to greet our visitors just minutes before the event started.

The student met their objective, a brilliant display communicating the mission of unity and support of the United Nations. But more important students from many nations, worked together, worked through difficulties, solved problems. They overcame frustrations with the materials and at times with each other. The enjoyed the pride of accomplishment and as difficult as it was at the end of the day they gingerly stepped onto the carpet and “danced” it away with their feet until it was thoroughly mixed and swept away, Reminding us of the impermanence of all things, but leaving us with the joy of the memory.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Early Walk and Fire Works Wake Up

Debbie's car had to go in for some work so we have been dependent on the school bus/van to get us here and back. That means that my a.m. departure time has been changed from 6:15 to 5:45am. This morning I did my walk in real world not treadmill. There are parts of the school I had not seen until this morning. I made it all the way down to the fourth terrace today - no way am I ever going down to the fifth terrace which is way, way, way ,down a steep hill. All the playing fields are there and some people hope someday a swimming pool.

I found several new (well new to me) plants and or stages of plants I had not seen before. The papyrus is in bloom, and the small variety of birds of paradise have set seed pods which are fascinating. I feel a new lesson plan coming on "The Art of Nature". Hope I can find some magnifying glasses.

So, I am back from my little 15 min walk - which worked out the kink in my hip and leg nicely - and have picked up a cup of coffee from the teachers lounge. Real coffee. So strong it coats the sides of the cup and the spoon. And it has to be triple the caffeine of regular coffee. Ah, definitely only one cup a day for the sake of all my little children. Not too much else to report.

Oh how could I forget! l went to bed early last night about 7:00. At about 8:30 loud thumping popping sounds out my bedroom window - too close. Different from other popping (firearm sounds I have heard) I finally woke myself up enough to go see what was going on. Just as I opened the blinds a huge burst of twinkling light right over my back view of the mountain. Fire works were popping all over the city! Ah, Honduras has won the soccer game, one more step to the World Cup. I could hear the cheering sounds floating up from the valley.

The soccer team and the playoffs to the World Cup has been the one bright spot in this politically tense country. I find it a testimony to the spirit of these people that they can come together to cheer and celebrate in spite of the terrible political divide. So great to see the thumbs up and broad smiles. At nine o'clock last night a national holiday was declared for today. Debbie and the board decided to keep the school open. So it is anybody's guess who will show up.

It is 7:05 now and my cleaner has just arrived. The coffee was perking at 6:05 so somebody else was here. I have seen no staff and no students yet. But then staff is not required to be here until 7:30. I only have three classes today grades six, two and three. So it is a light day anyway. I have class "narratives" (descriptions of everything students have done for the first quarter that accompany the report cards) to complete and grades to do for all classes (all 8), the usual lesson plans etc. so I have plenty to do and hope that students stay home today. But I bet the little ones come...just to get them out from under parents feet. We shall see. I am so glad they had a win. They needed it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meet Jose

At Best Life is Boring
October 12 – Columbus Day

Like many of you, I will have a three day weekend to celebrate Christopher Columbus. Thursday we stopped for some groceries and vegetables so the fridge was well stocked for the weekend. Friday we drove straight home from school and crashed.

I am the early riser and Debbie is a night owl. This assures that we each have plenty of alone time which is why we make good housemates. We also are comfortable with quiet. So, Saturday I was up, did my laundry, cleaned the kitchen (my one “house” chore other than cleaning my bedroom and bathroom) and “walked” (on the treadmill). I spent the rest of the day, reading, doing some internet research on sciatic nerve etc. and napping in between meals. We have very different diet needs so we pretty much fix separate meals. Debbie stayed in pajamas and read all day.

Saturday evening we watched an episode and a half of West Wing (Debbie has all seasons on DVD) before the power went out on our side of the valley. Fortunately the power stayed on across the valley and at the stadium where a major soccer game was in progress. We could hear the periodic roar of the crowd and city noises, cars honking, closer cheering etc. We lit some candles to wait it out but finally Debbie went on to bed. I stayed up and played solitaire by candle light until the power came on after an hour or so later and I could sleep with my “breathing machine”.

Sunday morning was about the same as Saturday. I walked, washed sheets and towels did some ironing and more reading. Debbie went to school to catch up on some work and was gone all day so I had the place to myself. I watched a couple of movies on HBO while I ironed. One was Chicago but I can’t remember the other, hmm. Not a good sign. I dust mopped (lots of dust here) my bedroom, rearranged my closet and painted a little picture to send to Freya. Later Debbie and I watched two more episodes of West Wing and I went to bed to read.

So now it is Monday. I have “walked”, made my bed, and had my coffee. Debbie has set off for the office and I am left to my own devices. My big project for the day will be to get Jose to come and change the large water bottle for me. Jose is our very helpful building “man of all trades”. He waters the outdoor plants, washes cars, helps carry in parcels, keeps the building secure. He takes care of us. But he speaks no English. I will get out my phrase book and write down the minimum words necessary to communicate my needs. Then I will choose my moment when I see he is unoccupied to get up my nerve to go out and mangle Spanish. The rest of the day I plan to fill much the same way I have filled the previous two. I am thinking I might try a water color sketch of the vista from the balcony…we shall see.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Recess Rain

Just thinking about you as I watch the rain sweep down the mountainside and onto our campus. The lunch recess spirits were quickly dampened and the playing field next to the cafeteria was quickly emptied by the shower. These kids get almost as excited about rain (which they have all the time) as the kids in Qatar who got excited over a misty drizzle two or three times a year. Oh well, rain is rain when you are a kid and in school. Things have settled now that the bell has rung.

I am having a good day with students, kind of low key. We are at the end or in the middle of projects so it is just doing the work. So I put my "concentration" music on and things get quiet pretty quickly. I love the "sound" in the room when they are all deep into their right brain. It can last up to 20 minutes sometimes.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Search of Red Hibiscus

September 26, 2009

Saturday morning cool and clear. I am up early as usual. I read a bit and go downstairs to the treadmill and do my 20 minutes. Then I finish the laundry I started on Friday, tidy the kitchen and sit down with my coffee to make my list.

We are going to the bank and then to do some shopping. I am writing Spanish phrases from the Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish phrasebook that Johanna provided for me. With draw = Sacar dinero 2,000 Lempira (about $100.00). And “can I have smaller notes” = me lo pueda dar en billetes mas pequenos. Followed by, I need US dollar check = necessito dollar cheque. I also carry a little card next to my bank card that Debbie provided me with it says: Los siento = I’m sorry, No entiendo = I don’t understand. No se= I don’t know, Quiero = I want, and Necessito – I need. I use this little card a lot. It will cost $50.00 to do an electronic transfer to my US account so I have decided to send a check to Johanna once a month. Both require that I make a monthly visit to the bank.

I have a list for Office Depot, box cutters (2). I already have one and two more is all I want. I cannot supervise more than three, tenth grade boys, cutting card board shapes with a razor sharp knife at the same time. Crayola Markers for second and third graders, binder clips to go with the newly cut masonite drawing boards that were delivered Friday, pocket folders (hard to find here), ultra fine point sharpee pens and pencils complete the list for this stop. I have another list for the DaVinci art store and a short list for the grocery. Debbie has two things on her list, one Office Depot and the other “flowers”.

We stop at the bank first. Saturday is a busy banking day since so many people are paid on Friday or Saturday. We drive by the main bank that handles international banking and find it closed. So we try a branch of “Bac Bamer” located in a small shopping mall. We were told it opened at 9:00 and to get there early. We arrived at 9:50 and were 9th in line….the bank does not open until 10:00. We are given a number when we enter and take a seat in one of the rows arranged facing the 5 teller windows. Within 10 minutes our number flashes on the electronic screen over the teller windows. Debbie finishes her transactions and then helps me with mine. At last I have my own Lempira in my pocket and am not dependent on the Bank of Debbie. But unfortunately they cannot make a dollar check for me from my dollar account. So I will have to leave school on Monday to take care of this. ARGH!

We zigzag up and down and around to get to the Office Depot, I find everything on my list and check out, all by myself, and wait in the car for Debbie – who loves office supply stores and can wander up and down the isles indefinitely. From there we head for the Da Vinci art supply store but take a detour at the Café American for a frapaccino. We sit outside and watch the one dark cloud in the sky move toward us. Debbie has spotted an art supply store just a couple of shops down from the Café American. We finish our treats just as it starts to rain so we run on into the art supply store the Don Quijote. There, we meet Jose Leonardo Nolasco Blanco, General Manager. We browse and I take notes on what is available and costs. Jose Leonardo is very helpful and offers us a discount when he finds out we are teachers. He asks if I give private lessons as he has many people “you know people with dollars” who ask him if he knows people who give private art lessons. Something to think about since the school is considering organizing a Saturday workshop schedule as a way of advertising the school. I leave with some conte crayons, some water color paper and as a “bonus gift” from Jose Leonardo, two small sheets of canvas paper that can be used in a computer printer.

Before we zigzag across town again to DaVinci art supply which has items that Don Quijote does not, Debbie says, “Flowers!” and we head for the mountain road.

Winding and climbing up and up I get new views and sights. My ears start to “pop”. We pass several “mountain resorts” and open air restaurants and get a closer look at the trees that cover the mountainside. At the top of a large tree next to the road are two huge black birds with longish necks. These must be the large birds I see circling over the city. I ask Debbie if she has ever found out what kind of birds they are. She tells me she thinks they are vultures, and that when she was told that she said, “oh, no! I don’t like vultures” and was then told, ”ok call them condors”. So, whatever, vultures or condors they are magnificent in the air but a little homely on the perch.

We are in search of a nursery. Debbie has filled the balcony with potted plants but wants some color. The geraniums she bought have not bloomed well. But the double yellow hibiscus has been giving us quite a show. Now she wants just a single red hibiscus to go with it. After about a 20 minute climb up the mountain she pulls off to the nursery. We walk the narrow paths through the plants, ooo’ing and ahhh’ing but no Red Hibiscus. Down, down, down the mountain, zigzag across town to Debbie’s favorite lunch spot – Subway- the one place I can order for myself (pretty much).

On to DaVinci, up, down, around….it is closed! Flowers! We have passed several street flower vendors and Debbie finds her favorite and pulls in. Oh, a feast for the eye! All kinds of tropicals, birds of paradise, protea, and exotic things I have no names for. Debbie gets a bundle of stargazer lilies, six or eight stems and an arrangement for the table. I have a lesson with flowers for the second and third graders so I need a variety of shapes and centers. I get a bundle of very long stems (about 3 feet) with light purple bell shaped flowers along the stalk, eight sunflowers and a dozen different colored Gerber daisies, all for about $10.00. What a treat!

We head for home with our back seat full of parcels and the trunk full of flowers.
The rest of the day is spent, arranging flowers, reading, snacking and watching TV…. AND Debbie figures out how to get me reconnected to the internet which has been off since Thursday night so I can send this out to All of you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To the Beach, To the Beach

Yes! We made it to the beach!

Debbie's staff were determined she get a beach holiday and took over the planning. After three days of phone calls plans were set for a Tuesday morning departure to Roatan Island and the Mayan Princes hotel. Our flight from Tegucigalpa was direct on Taca airlines and in just over an hour we went from the cool breezes of the mountains to the hot and sunny beaches of the Caribean.

As we drive across the small island to our resort we pass small pastel painted houses or cottages with all colors of bougainvilla climbing around them. They look a little like a jumble of those little "pillow mints" that were put in party favors back in my youth. The names of hotels and shops catch my eye, The Elizabethan Inn, The Twisted Toucan, Purple Turtle and Bananarama Dive Shop.

I will not gild the lily. The resorts are back to back and belly to belly along the west end white sand beach. Our resort is lovely. The pool beckons but is only about four to five feet deep and very warm, stewing in the caribean sun. For $10.00 a day, day trippers can buy access to the hotel beach front and resturant and bar. The first day the pool is full of children and families. The second day must have been the end of their holiday and we had the hotel to ourselves with only one or two other rooms occupied. The mornings and evenings (before mosquitos) were lovely. The afternoons so hot we were driven inside to read in the airconditiong.
Our mornings were spent snorkeling in the coral just a short walk down the beach and a short wade into the water. Sadly you had to swim past a lot of dead coral, victims of our human curiosity. Further out was a wonderful display of color and variety of shape and so many friendlyand curious fish. They would swim right up to my mask and seem to stare in and say, "hello, where are you from". I no sooner put my face in the water than a ray swam right in front of me. I remembered to put sun screen on all the places that would be exposed to the sun (in the Maldives I forgot that one snorkels with the bottom up) so my two days of snorkeling were pain free.

The flight back was uneventful. Coming home from a beach holiday is never as much fun as the going out is. A pictures is truly worth a thousand words and these will have no heat radiating from them and can be viewed in absolute silence with no music blaring from the resturant kitchen.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Early Holiday

Thursday September 10, 2009

2:45 p.m.

Last period of the day. The third graders are on the playing field that is terraced just below the art room and next to the outdoor cafeteria/snack bar. I love to hear their play voices - from a distance.

Word has just gone around school that we will start our Honduran Independence Day Holiday early and extend it beyond the planned four day holiday till the end of next week. The ministry of health finally got to us and has shut the school down due to flu. The two large American International schools were shut down last week and this week. We have been shutting classes down - that is keeping students in a grade home for five days if two students from that grade have reported flu. The 9th, 11th, and 6th grades have all had their turns out. Now we have one confirmed H1N1 case and the school will shut down until September 21.

I have 10 days ahead with no school. Debbie and I missed our island holiday opportunity by not getting reservations early enough…everything is booked full. Not too disappointing since many of those will be students and families from our school and others. A beach holiday needs to be QUIET.

We will look through the tour books tonight and see if we can come up with a plan. There is some kind of Picasso exhibit at the city museum and there are some day trips possible from here into the mountains. We may even find a mountainside bed and breakfast to enjoy. Of course a list begins to form minutes after the news of bonus off days is announced. “Oh, I can get my Dick Blick supply order completed, lesson plans made for the rest of the quarter and maybe more, type up my journal notes, set up group emails lists, clear out the 2013 emails in my inbox, raise the hem on a dress I brought with me, read one of the four books I have started, work on a couple of writing projects I have started, paint.” See how I can suck the fun out of a surprise holiday. I will hope that both Debbie and I stay healthy throughout so we don’t have to waste any precious free time being sick. Although, Emilio (third grader) did turn his head when he sneezed last period he did not cover his mouth in any way and the fan was blowing in my direction….Ah well. We shall see what the next few days bring.

We have a fridge full of food and drink at home and it just might be good to hibernate for a couple of days. Hmmm bonus days….what shall we do, what shall we do?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Tuesday August 24, 2009

Last night Debbie and I had Sundowners on the balcony; Debbie with her glass of wine and me with my decaf coffee. We watched the rain move over the mountains toward the school. Cool late afternoon air, large birds circling above.

The school sits at the foot of a flat top almost iron shaped hill (mountain). We can just see the tops of the red tile roofs from where we sit on the opposite side of the valley. Behind “our” mountain and the school is a small valley with mountains rising up to the sky all around.

As we looked out over city we say a huge, broad, rainbow that slowly faded in to a brilliant full spectrum rainbow. It was about a quarter arc, the rest of the arc hiding in the dark cloud hanging over the mountain. It was hovering right over the school and what I now call “happy valley” behind the school.

I resisted the temptation to run for my camera, knowing that photographing rainbows is really difficult. So we just sat in awe as the colors grew in intensity.
It posed for us for almost five full minutes before it began to fade into the mist.

Then about ten minutes later it was back and it brought its twin…the other quarter of the arc hung over the neighboring hillside. Two lucky rainbows in one day, could I be any luckier? We soaked them up in silence until they slowly faded again into the mist.

I asked Debbie, if she saw rainbows here often, thinking that with the low hanging clouds and the frequent misting rains they must be frequent occurrences.
She said, “never, this is the first.” Then almost on cue a third rainbow faded in darker, brighter and more intense than the first two sightings. It too hung almost directly over the roofs of our school. The school was “standing in a rainbow”. A blessing or good omen if you prefer, I think this is going to be a good year.

Debbie and I sat quietly for a good while two Rainbow Gluttons full on a feast of color and magic.

(I did run and get my camera and snapped a picture just as it was fading. I am attaching it. Since it has been a long time since I have taken and sent pictures I am still working on remember the easiest way to move pictures into emails it may take some time to download. You may be able to see just a faint bit of color in the center of the picture. )


Journal Entry Saturday August 22, 2009 6:40 am

The cloudscape is different everyday. I guess like sunrise and sunset there will never be two alike. This morning there is a wide variety deep dark gray like a giant caterpillar sitting on top, the length of the mountain. The sun is blocked by a light smoky gray cloud bank and straight over my head is a large swath of bright sky-blue with bright white fluffies.

The clouds make huge shadows on the mountainside so the green varies from deep dark blue greens to an almost chartreuse yellow green with every green shade in between. If I were to paint them I would start with hookers green my favorite water color green. The valley and the mountains are inspiring but almost too much for me to think about painting.

Today I am hoping to get some school work done, some writing and some meal planning. Debbie’s dinner last night was a bowl of popcorn followed by a snickers bar and a large bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate cereal. I stuck with the popcorn and high fiber cereal. I don’t feel deprived but will shop for some better choices this weekend.

I think it will be a challenge to find a pool here and with transportation issues as well I have decided to try the treadmill downstairs in the little exercise room that is off of the parking garage below us. In addition to the treadmill it has a stationary bike and a “universal” with all configurations of weight work out “stuff”, some free weights and curiously a set of golf clubs. I will stick with the treadmill. The room has a large window across the wall facing the valley so I can walk with a view.

Sunday August 23
A good day Saturday. Got lots of school work done, laundry for the week and shopping with Debbie, Office Depot, Price Mart (ie Costco), a small bookstore where I bought another book in the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series, and lunch at the French bakery. I had a conch soup, a cheese panini, carrot cake and a latte. We sat outside and I saw my first Honduras hummingbird. Then we went to the grocery store. I finished the day with a bit of a read and as Emanuel used to say “The Good Nap”

When I woke up I found Debbie at the dining room table with a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle spread out. I feel a bit like we are on vacation. I think it is all the balmy air and sun. Plus I have no garage to clean here and no weeds to pull. Maybe it is a vacation.

Later in the day Debbie surprised me with the sound track from Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. We saw a production of it in Cape Town S.A. We sat and listened to the whole thing and then we watched Shirley Valentine.

I finished the day with a nice video chat with Johanna and Kevin. I am eager to be at school. It is great to feel that way again. It is a bit like teaching in 1968 when I started out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

From the Balcony

Sunday August 16, 2009 6:05 am

I am sitting on the balcony overlooking this city of hills and mountains. Clouds veil the tops. I am told we are near a cloud forest and I am eager to learn more about what that means. Church bells and traffic noises float up from the valley.
A bird calls and another answers – they have a short conversation interrupted by barking dogs. At the lowest part of the valley from my vantage point you can see a main thoroughfare. From one end to the other large signs stand above the buildings – Chili’s, Burger King, Pizza hut, Ruby Tuesday’s, Applebee’s, Wendy’s and more.

From the balcony I look down on homes – the half blue half white house (painting interrupted by what I wonder) is empty. Next door for trees are pruned into perfect cylinder forms. I look straight down into the swimming pool of the home just below us. This home is also empty and the pool green. Next to this house I can see the top of a bright red-orange flame tree (like the ones I saw in Africa) it is in this tree the calling bird is perched.

It is a cool morning after a night of rain with a fine display of thunder and lightning. My clouds are lifting a bit and I can almost see the tops of the mountains across the way. I can see the red tiled roofs of the school across the valley and at the foot of a flat topped hill.

I brought my binoculars out with me so I am able to get a closer look at things. I am able to get a better look at the huge statue of Jesus that stands high atop the mountain to my left that overlooks downtown, the old city. I could see it at night well lit, arms lowered but reaching out. Well, my coffee has gone cold and it is time to make a shopping list. The clouds have retreated up into the very blue sky leaving just a wisp atop the highest one.

Away to Honduras

Journal Entry Sunday August 16
Written Sunday August 23, 2009
6:30 am

It has been a long time since I started one of these, too long. I am sitting at the desk in the “office”. That is the room between the two bedrooms of this apartment. From the window I look out onto the mountain side, lush green rising up to the sky and a few other homes perched on the side. I can look out onto the top of the fruit tree next door with granny smith apple-like fruits that look like I could reach out and pick them…except that I would have to climb and stand on our compound wall to reach them. It has been only 11 days since Debbie’s email offering me the art position at Discovery School.

What a wild ride, one I could not have managed without Johanna and Kevin’s support. Johanna, making all my travel arrangements, packing and supply coordinator and Chicago passport run driver. Kevin, getting my new computer up and running, warranted and orienting me to it so I can make best use of it. The passport delay gave me a couple of days to catch my breath and rest up before take off. We packed the car Friday night with my overweight luggage and got a few hours sleep before our 3:00 am wake up to get to the airport by 4:30am. Johanna and I left a sleeping Kevin and Freya and headed for the new airport. This was Johanna’s first drive to the new terminal. Neither one of us had been into the new terminal with all of its art installations, my eyes were full already. When we checked in at Continental I had the option of upgrading to first class for only $99. I couldn’t say yes fast enough. We had a sigh of relief. The extra luggage allowance for first class more than covered my bags. Then we relaxed with a Starbucks coffee until it was time to set me on my way.

The first leg of my flight went smoothly and I hiked across the Houston airport to the international terminal and my connecting flight to Tegucigalpa. I checked the gate number and my ticket and sat down for a forty minute wait. Then I noticed people lining up with their tickets in hand and decided I had better do the same. Standing in line I noticed the destination on the board behind the desk was not Tegucigalpa – don’t know what it was but it did not start with a T – I decided I better check the departures board…oops! Gate change! Wrong gate! It was a fast hike to the opposite end of the terminal and then a short 10 minute wait to board. So glad I had upgraded. That was the only drama of my flight until we approached Honduras and I could look down on emerald green wrapped in wisps of clouds and edged with white surf from the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, a couple of wing tilting turns and a quick drop and stop onto the shortest airport runway in the world.

Another perk for first class is to be first off the plane, first in line at immigration and first baggage off the plane, a helpful porter put my luggage onto a cart.
He plunged ahead through customs and without a pause or blink I was out the door looking at the sea of faces waiting to greet passengers. There was Debbie front and center in bright pink calypso pants and top and close on her heals was Reynaldo who commandeered the bags while Debbie and I laughed and hugged. She whipped out some lempira to pay the porter – he waved her away since I had already paid him in dollars. A short walk to the waiting van and we were off.
It felt a bit like Toad’s Wild Ride, weaving along narrow curved roads and up and down steep hills. Tegucigalpa is “set in the mountains at 1,000 meters. It is an old mining settlement that…grew out to take over an entire valley”. Right above Tegucigalpa is the cloud forest LaTigra. Everything is terraced onto the mountains that surround the valley. I have not seen downtown (old town) yet. Maybe it has some flat spaces. Ahhh, we pull up to Debbie’s apartment building (six units) and I am in my new home for the year.

The apartment is on the first floor we walk down a flight to get to it and down another flight to get to the car park. It has three bedrooms two baths, living room/dining room, kitchen, laundry room (washer and dryer) and a balcony full of large potted tropical plants. From the balcony you look down and over the city to the school perched high on the mountainside across the valley. You can just make out the red tiled roof in the surrounding green. My room has a very comfortable bed with a table on one side and a bamboo bookshelf on the other side. A rattan settee and a very large double door closet along one wall. There is a large window that opens onto the mountain side and over looks a small patio with large potted plants. My bath is just across the hall, blue and white tile and a large shower.

We fix a bite to eat and chat a bit and then we are off to visit the school and see a bit of the city. The school is fairly new construction. There are four terrace levels. You enter at the top. Fortunately my room is on the ground floor of the first building. That means I walk down a flight to get to my room and up two flights to get to the copy machine and mailboxes. Stairs are good for me.
The art room (as expected) is very poorly equipped. Worse than school 55 but with no paper! It is a bit of a mess. The teacher taking leave made his decision at the last minute…I would like to think he would have cleaned it up a bit but really doubt it. Hundreds of small paint bottles mostly empty or dried out. A large stack of once crumpled packing paper from the library book shipment – six pairs of scissors (three are left handed), bits and pieces of pastels and oil pastels, lots and lots of plastic bowls (all sizes, all dirty) and a sink encrusted with acrylic paint.
No construction paper, no drawing paper of any kind. There is a roll of brown paper and a package of very thin almost tissue-like brown paper.

Back at home I spend the rest of the day unpacking and settling in, sitting on the balcony and chatting. The day ends with rain with lots of thunder and lightning. Debbie keeps all of the windows and patio doors open all of the time. They all have screens and the overhang is such that rain would rarely come in. A gentle breeze drifts through the apartment almost all the time. I cannot remember the last time I slept with windows wide open with a complete sense of safety and security. It was a good first day in Honduras.