Monday, November 21, 2011

San Juancito Jazz and Culture Fest

Ok so it's official I am in LOVE with my site! This weekend my counterpart hosted San Juancito's 11th Annual Jazz and Culture festival. The event took place all day Saturday and Sunday and had a variety of awesome performances, diversity of foods, and sale of art made by the students at the art school and local artisans. I am so proud to announce that I sold six paintings made by wonderful students. Two pieces were chosen to be auctioned off at the event! Below is a picture of my student's art on display.

The performances blew me away! Not only were there great jazz bands from Honduras, there was also an urban dance group, a band playing covers of Bob Marley, a drum circle with fire dancers, an acrobatic dance group, JAICA volunteers performing a dance kendo-style, and finally a fireworks show to the sound of music by Beethoven. Ahh it was all so amazing!

I can't begin to explain how great it was listening to live jazz with all the beautiful scenery in the background. Perfection.

One of my jobs at the event was to lead the painting of a mural with my students. I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like although the plan was to let the children be free and creative with what they painted. So, I started with an outline of mountains to represent the town and let my students fill it in with color and designs. All of a sudden it got crazy when random kids started showing up and grabbing paint brushes and joining in. Then random teens and adults showed up and started painting too! I was kind of stressed out at first but then I realized the whole thing went in a really cool direction. It become a community mural where kids, teens, and adults from all over could be creative and expressive together. It was a beautiful thing.

Let me also just say again how amazing my counterpart is to have put this event together for the community. She is a true believer in the power of art to transform lives and I am in awe of all she has done for the town and the results of her work. All the money raised at this event goes to fund the Escuela Magica and the Escuela Taller. I feel so incredibly blessed to be part of this organization and hope I can contribute all I can to carrying out its mission. I can't wait to keep working with my kids and helping them to develop their own individual, creative styles and find their voice through through artistic expression.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

First month

Today is one month since I moved to site! It had a very slow start but thing are starting to come along.

Since I got here I’ve been having meetings with my three counterparts to discuss what they need help with and setting goals for the upcoming school year.

At the high school they are pretty much giving me the freedom to do whatever I want which is both exciting and stressful. I have tons of ideas for projects I’d like to do with the students but after two meetings with the youth I realized it’s going to take a lot of work. They weren’t as enthusiastic as I hoped they would be and it was a struggle getting them to contribute their thoughts and opinions. When I arranged the meetings I had hoped to have the students take over and create plans based on their suggestions but that did not happen, I ended up talking more than I wanted to. The goal is to create young leaders and help the youth learn to take initiative. We’ll keep working on that…

At the elementary school I will be working on promoting literacy and helping children with learning disabilities. I have already started working with groups of children from each class. The other day was a bit saddening when I realized a lot of these children are far behind on their writing and reading comprehension level. I even had students as old as 12 and 13 who have no idea how to read and write. It was heartbreaking. :(

I began the art classes as soon as I got to site. I have two classes for ages 7-12, and one on Saturday afternoons for children ages 3-6. Next week, I will start evening classes for an older age group 13-18. The classes have been fun but sometimes hectic. The children can get a bit out of control at times and I have to get in to strict teacher mode (which I hate). For the most part though, the children always come eager to learn. This year the director wants me to focus specifically on North American artists to expose the children to different styles of art and encourage them to think outside the box. One of the first artists I taught them about was Jackson Pollock, which so far has been their favorite. Oh they loved getting to splatter paint around!

Life at home is fun. My host brother is a total character and my host mom is very sweet and nurturing and loves to give good advice. She is also teaching me how to cook which has been hilarious. She playfully pokes fun at my lack of cooking schools and says it’s essential I learn for when I get married (a constant topic of discussion). “Ay no, Michelle! Y cuando te cases?? No es posible!” (Oh no, Michelle! What about when you get married? It’s not possible!”) LOL. Thanks, Reina!

Finally, living in a small town of only 3,000 people has it’s positives and negatives. It can get lonely at times and there is nothing to do on off times! When I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. There are no little restaurants, no cafes, no parks, not even any one around my age to hang with...

I jumped for joy when one of the teachers from the elmentary school invited me to a fair in a neighboring town last night. I couldn’t wait to get out! It ended up being a lot of fun and I ran in to another volunteer there and we got to hang out for a bit.

The positives of living in a small, quiet town is it’s been great for relaxing on off times and clearing my mind. Outside my room is a terrace with an amazing view, where I set up a hammock. I’ve been able to read, write, draw, and meditate in complete peace.

It’s also been nice walking around town and getting greeted everywhere I go. I especially love when the kids in town yell my name whenever they see me and run up to me to give me hugs. They are the cutest little things. : )

One of the kids in town, Alejandro, always asks to help me when he sees me carrying things back from the market or work. The other day I got back to town late, after a day of running errands in the capital. It had gotten dark and I was worried about walking home. As the bus approached the stop in the middle of town I saw Alejandro there, smiling and waving at me. As I got off the bus, he yelled “Hi teacher! Reina told me you would be getting back late so I waited here for you so that you wouldn’t have to walk alone in the dark!” Aww, my heart melted!

So, that’s been my life for this month. There’s also a lot coming up which I am so excited about! Next week, I get to celebrate Halloween on an island. ;)

Hasta la proxima!


Saturday, September 24, 2011


Oh my! Where oh where does the time go? Last time I blogged I had barely gotten to Honduras, and now I've been living here for almost three months. Training is now over, and as of Thursday, September 23rd I was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer! Yesterday, I moved in to my official site, San Juancito, where I will be working for the next two years. My new host family is a mom, her son, and a female Japanese volunteer (with JICA, the Japanese version of the Peace Corps) staying here for about the same time as me.

The last three months of training definitely had it's up and downs but I don't think it will compare to what's coming up. Training seems like a mini vacation now! To begin, it's been strange being separated from the fellow volunteers. I'm really on my own now, living in an entirely new town that is so much more quiet than the town I lived in during training. I also went from a very comfortable home to a...more traditional one. I now have to experience what it's like to take a shower with a bucket and right before writing this blog post a I had to kill a huge black spider in my bedroom! ugh! ;(

My host mom has also been making me cook my own food (during training they were provided for by our host families). Friday night I was completely lost and hadn't had the chance to go grocery shopping..and no, there is no Trader Joes or Whole foods nearby. The closest grocery store is a 20 minute bus ride away but the bus system here is sporadic and dangerous so I had no choice but to shop at the local pulperia (similar to a convenience store). The selection at pulperias are slim so I bought rice, a tomato, and a can of sardines. Fine dining. oh yeahhh.

On the plus side I have an amazing counter part in San Juancito. For the next two years I will be collaborating with the fabulous Regina Aguilar, owner of the Escuela Magica, a free art school for kids, and the community tier, where she trains local artisans in various crafts (including metal art, woodworking, and ceramics) which are then sold in stores across Central America. This woman is amazing and has done so much for the community. I'm excited to work with her and am sure I will learn a lot under her guidance.

Some of my tasks for this year are to teach painting and drawing at the art school, set up exhibitions showcasing student work, help promote an upcoming jazz fest in November and an arts and crafts festival in December, and help with a bunch of other projects we're still discussing.

Along with that I have two other counterparts at the elementary school and high school. At the elementary school I will be helping kids improve literacy skills, and at the high school doing workshops on life skills (including building self-esteem and leadership skills), early teenage pregnancy prevention and HIV & AIDS prevention. I will also be leading TEAM, classes where I will be training teachers on how to teach english so they can, in turn, teach their students.

So, that's what I will be up to in the upcoming year. Sorry for the super delayed post! Promise to blog more this time.

Please wish me luck and keep me in your prayers. :)



My new view...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Missing mi media naranja

Meanwhile I'm not the only one on an adventure. My media naranja (the Honduran word for your "other half"), is doing big things in Palestine.

You are amazing and your work is inspiring.

Love and miss you. See you here soon.

Bienvenidos a Honduras

I have seriously lost track of time. My last week in SF flew by so freaking quick! Before I knew it I was on a plane to Washington D.C., had the first day of orientation where I met the fellow 14 trainees, ate dinner, got back to the hotel, reorganized my suitcases, woke up at 2 a.m., headed back to the airport, and arrived in Honduras a few hours later where we were greeted by Peace Corps staff.

Since then we have had all day trainings in the capital of Teguicgalpa, covering culture, safety, and language. We also met our host families the first day we arrived to country, in a town half an hour away from the capital called Las Canadas.

I have to gush about how lucky I got! I was placed in a home where I have my own room and bath, I can take hot showers, there's internet access, and it has a patio that looks out in to a lush green jungle (my host dad said I can set up my canvases there and paint). My host family, Carmen, Julio, their son Daniel, and their maid Lillian and her one year old son Josue ;), are the best! We instantly clicked. They're incredibly warm and friendly and have a great sense of humor. Last night they invited family over and we laughed over a game of pictionary and ate homemade fruit tarts. I'm worried I'll get too used to this as my stay here is temporary until we finish training and then our real two year service starts in another part of the country. If I could live here the whole time though I swear my service would be a least these initial three months will be easy to get through.

I have been homesick, not gonna lie. Being here I realized there's really no place like home and my group of friends are one in a million. I keep telling myself it's only been a few days and this feeling will eventually pass...I hope...

Just wanted to let everyone know I arrived safely, I'm doing well and Honduras is beautiful...more pictures to come.

Missing you all like crazy.


Check out my backyard....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Heartbreak and headaches

There's not enough days in a week. I can not believe how fast time is flying.
I've gone to sleep every night with a pounding headache thinking about everything that I still have to do and people I still have to see. Not to make this a negative post but I don't think I left enough time in between my last day of work and my date of departure to get everything done!!! When I have another few minutes I'll write specifics about what exactly is on the packing list. For now, I just wanted to take a minute to say how much I appreciate my friends and family, and how great it was seeing all my favorite people at my goodbye party this past weekend. Luckily, I didn't get emotional (I was worried about that). I love you all so much. See you again soon...