Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April 28, 2012
Elena has planned my weekend. First a trip to Zamarano to visit her friend Leslie.  We had so much fun the first time we visited she invited us for another.  This time she added her “nutrologist”* and her children to the group.  She is an avid gardener and wanted to see Leslie’s orchid house and collection. 

We arrived late due to the flat tire we had on the way out. Elena, very well prepared as usual, handled the situation well. She found a good place to pull over, right next to a pull off for trucks and with in a couple of minutes some very pleasant young men had volunteered to help. In four minutes and twenty three seconds the car up and the tire changed. The car with the nutrologist and family was following and took the tire on to the “garage” to get it repaired. We followed and again within a very short time all was repaired and replaced and we were on our way.

The "tire center" on the way to Zammarono.
 The attached convenience store and resturant.
 Elena oversees the change.
Another view of the tire center.  

It was slow going for a good while but we had the comfort of knowing that we would have a soft landing if anything happened.

Leslie greeted us warmly and we settled in the living room with fresh fruit juice ( I had the tamarind juice) and the first round of conversation.  The brunch table was full with four young people and four “grown ups”.  The conversation was lively and fun.  The brunch traditional and delicious – sausages, scrambled egg, cheese, tortillas, beans, cantaloupe, rolls and great coffee. 

 We eventually toured the orchid house, took lots of pictures and then sat on the porch that is on cool side of this lovely stone house and continued our conversations until it was time to go.

*nutrologist – the term we came up with to describe a medical doctor who specializes in the medical aspects of nutrition.

We took Leslie with us to meet up with her husband in Tegucigalpa and then we went for a coffee and desert. It was a very, pleasant end to a lovely day.  I came home rested and refreshed.  

April 29
The next morning we headed out for the town whose name means “where the frogs sing” for their annual festival. We followed the road that goes past Valle de Angeles and follows the edge of La Tigra national park. A beautiful drive with no tire incidents up into the mountains and then down into the valley and town. The narrow streets were packed with cars but Elena, played the “old foreign lady” card and got us a very good parking place just a few feet from the central plaza. 

Among other entertainments it is known for having “extinct” foods.  The extinct foods turned out to be very traditional Honduran food that are sentimental favorites, four kinds of soups, corn on the cob with butter and cheese, a variety of meat on a stick over small charcoal grills. 

There were all kinds of fruit dishes and drinks, horchata and a very sweet drink made from lightly fermented corn and/or pineapple, sugar cane served in bamboo tumblers.  The plaza was packed with families, young people. 

We had run into Leslie and her husband  and after we had toured the booths of food and crafts we found a table under a tarp shade and enjoyed our extinct foods and watched the stilt dancers and the traditional dancers.  Colors, brass band music, movement a delight for the eye and way too many pictures.  

So many images fill my mind’s eye, booths decorated with palm leaves, bamboo, and trimmed with Spanish moss, wash tubs full of soups, busy women stirring, turning, and serving.The nose will remember the scents of charcoal fires grilling meats, steam from soup pots, boiling and roasting corn.

 On our way back we took a short detour to visit what Elena called a ghost town.  It was the first of the mining towns around Tegucigalpa now abandoned by the mining company.  A rushing stream runs through the town with its newly re-cobbled street and access road. 

 The road goes on up to La Tigre National park and cloud forest.  It is also now the home of a stained glass artist who has a large studio in one of the abandoned processing buildings.

She was recognized by Hilary Clinton for her entrepreneurship and artistry. The artist holds workshops on various methods of class working. The studio was closed but we did a short walk about in this all but abandoned village which no doubt will get a second life as a tourist destination very soon. 

 We had planned to stop at Valle de Angeles for coffee and desert at a family favorite coffee shop.  The town has been developed to attract tourist, local and foreign and so was still very crowded on late Sunday afternoon.  This is the town were artist Julio Visquerra has a gallery.  The streets were crowded so Elena dropped us off to tour the gallery while she found a parking place. The two girls and I walked in and started absorbing the works.  Sitting close to the entry was the artist himself chatting with some visitors.  I recognized him from the picture in his book. When we were out of earshot the youngest one whispered to me, “I think he is the artist”.  Elena joined us and I told her I would like to meet the artist and have my picture with him.  So, Elena greeted him and explained that I was the art teacher at Discovery school and that I had done a lesson with second graders based on his portraits. 

He was very pleasant and gave me his card so I could email the student pictures to him. We posed next to his latest portrait composition since it was not included in the book of his work that was published in 2010.  A new edition is coming out in November and will include his works since 2009.

We took our leave and went on to find our coffee shop. 

As we were walking I was thinking about my student project and one student in particular who had done an amazing work.  No sooner were we settled in the coffee shop than in walks this student and his family. We greeted each other chatted a bit.  We finished our coffees and “milk cookies” aka sugar cookies or in some places snicker doodles.  

Back on the road we drove in a caravan of cars heading back to Tegucigalpa.  We pulled over for some roasted corn to munch on as we rode on down the mountain.  

Another full and lovely day with Elena, her girls and friends!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

“Miss, do you have a frog?”  Nicolas asked standing in the doorway at lunch time yesterday. “What?”   

We found him or her as Luis corrected me hiding under the cabinet that holds a trash barrel.  Not a frog but a very large toad, when “sitting” covering the palm of my hand and extending to the second joint of my finger.  All deep green and bumpy backed with a creamy throat and a hint of chartreuse around the mouth and a little rosy at the throat.  Luis helped me capture him – we put a large bowl over him then slid heavy cardboard underneath and made the transfer to a large plastic bin. Christina brought a roll of screening over from the science room and we covered the bin and added a dish of water and some rocks.  Later we posed for pictures together with Warren as the camera man. Here I stood at age 65 standing with a giant toad in Tegucigalpa Honduras

I am sure no one could understand my excitement and the thrill of holding this toad giant.

Time travel - I am six years old on my first Brownie Scout outing to Camp Delwood.  We had been wading in the river/stream/creek that runs through the camp and then we saw what seemed like hundreds of small (nickel sized) toads leaping about from under the forest floor of  old leaves, wild flowers, mushrooms and other debris. We raced about trying to catch them.  When successful we held them cupped in our hands and peeped in at them staring back at us in fear. I had the thrill of "capturing" a wild creature. We found jars and cups to contain them and after our afternoon we released them to find their homes again.  

Next a visit to Toad Hall in friend and neighbor C’s bedroom where she had a screened cage about 12 inches square with sod on the bottom and a water pool and Thaddeus T. Toad Esquire in residence. As I recall there was a sign stating his name and address “Toad Hall” over the door to the cage. I don’t recall how he happened to come to live in C.’s bedroom or what his destiny was. It seemed that he lived there a very long time. But he sparked my imagination and a lifetime enjoyment and appreciation for the book The Wind in the Willows. 

At the end of the day after much discussion about his fate, my toad was transported by Warren to the lower field and released.  There he hopefully found his way back to a safe “home place” and to his friends Mole and Ratty.  His great adventure behind him at least until the next time the mowers roar into action. 

Oh, yes I have a “frog”!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Cabin in the Sky

Last Saturday Ivonne invited me to take a short road trip to Ojojona, a small town less than an hour outside of Tegucigalpa. There she and her husband have purchased several acres of land near the new windmill farm.
On our way to their cabin we stopped at Ojojona. We visited a couple of small shops
and purchased freshly made, warm tortillas from a home/resturant. The grandmother of the house welcomed us and shared that she was 90 years old and had been in a film that was shot on location in the town not long ago. She recited her lines for us. She is standing next to the tradtional wood burning stove. Everyone was very welcoming even if we did interupt their breakfast.
They have built a one room "cabin" with a front porch that offers a panoramic view of the valley that holds Tegucigalpa.
The cabin is a joint venture with another couple who have been friends for many years. Both couples have children in the same age range. Almost every weekend the families join forces and have worked to clear, landscape and build "conveniences". The cabin is solid and has one room with a sleeping loft. The cabinets and table, ladder to the loft and other elements are made from shipping crates that her husband's materials for his custom window business come in. The windows were a project for the dad and the kids. They have a well and have figured out a water system. There is a shower and toilet system some distance down the hill from the cabin.
They contribute to their community in many ways. Their church has a medical mission on nearby land that they plan to develop into a community resource center.
At the cabin Ivonne made pancakes and shared stories about her mother, her family and growing up in Honduras and then moving to the US and coming home again. We had a feast of warm pancakes, tortillas, cheese, hot coffee and fresh air. I filled my eyes and camera with views and with details of the many small wild flowers. I especially enjoyed the swaths of blue that cut across the landscape. We had a long slow drive home through saturday afternoon Tegucigalpa traffic. I was ready for a nice afternoon nap by the time we arrived home about 2:00pm. A lovely morning. I am honored and happy that Ivonne shared this very personal space with me. A labor of faith, love, family and friendship.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Up All Night and a Visit from the Prince

I had the library lock in last night with the now 11th graders who started the project when they were in the 9th grade. We didn't finish but we can see the end. They are already pleading for another "up all night" lock-in work session...Oh my, I am not sure I have it in me. But they make it so easy. My two colleagues Warren and Vincent were really the ones who made it possible, both coming about 10:00 pm to do the "overnight" part. I went to the nurse’s room about 10:30 and had a reasonably good nights sleep on the “sick bed” until about 5:00 am. Then I was up - bird bath - and started the "coffee" for breakfast. The kids were tucked in all over the library. As the rooms got lighter I would see someone in a sleeping bag under a shelf or between stacks of books. The coral reef room looked like dolphins had beached themselves with five sleeping bags lined up in a row. Sleepy heads munched on fruit loops, chocolate chip cookies, drank coffee and hot chocolate and went off to class, some of them still in their PJs. We have a half day today, with parent conferences in the afternoon and then a three day weekend for MLK. Sleeeeep, I want sleeeeeep and quiet.

Emails I most probably will never receive again after I return to the states.
From the high school principal: “Dear Teachers,
The B- - - - family will not be in school on Thursday, and will leave early on Wednesday due to the visit of the Prince of Spain to Honduras.”

Father is the Spanish Ambassador to Honduras. The email just kind of tickled me. Thinking of all the excuses for absences I have received in the US, never one like this!