Hello, everyone! I apologize that it has been so long since my last post. Sometimes it’s hard to motivate myself to sit down and write something eloquent when I’m wrapped up in my daily routines. Things are continuing to go very well down here in Cofradía. For those of you who are still waiting for the snow to disappear, you might be jealous that summer has already arrived here, while we’re convincing ourselves to embrace the inevitable sweat dripping down our bodies starting about an hour into the school day. We’ve also been embracing a lack of reliable running water in the apartments for the past few weeks and have been humbled by lugging water jugs from the spigot in the park to the third floor. My kiddos have been spending the last month learning the food vocabulary words, practicing their addition, and adding (almost) the last few letters to their alphabet books. One of my favorite things we’ve done is start a weekly “conflict/resolution circle,” as I like to think of it. If I could go back, I definitely would’ve implemented this from day one, but the kids sound so cute saying “Please share,” “I’m sorry,” and “That’s OK!” in English.
March brought some fun events, starting with Santa Mónica’s first Dia Típico. This was a morning in which family and community members came to the school to sell traditional food in champas (huts) they had made, play traditional games, and watch dance performances. It was a really fun day with the students and their families and we raised a lot of money for projects for the school. In the middle of the month, I was fortunate enough to have visitors! My mom and my sister came down and were able to spend five days getting to know my town, the school, and all the people who are important in my life here. It was really beautiful to see how warmly they were received by everyone, and I certainly gained a fresh perspective on everything I experience on a daily basis. For Honduran Father’s Day, many families came to see all the grades perform songs and cheer on the fathers in a game of fútbol against some of the teachers and nuns.
Unfortunately, the last week has been far from easy for the Santa Mónica community, and this is what I wanted to write about since it has been the most important thing on my mind lately. I don’t intend to scare any of you (I’m grateful for all of you that are concerned about my safety) but rather to share a glimpse into what some people’s ordinary lives are like here. Last Friday, we were informed at school that one of our student’s brothers was killed overnight in the town. This kind of thing happens far too often in Vida Nueva, but this family is one that is very close to the school. The father has been working diligently for weeks to put new sewage pipes in the ground and to begin the construction of a new church, so this news hit more close to home. That same day, I was told that it was possible one or two of my students might be leaving the school soon. Their families are related to a man who was the patronato (town leader) of Vida Nueva, and this man recently left the town because he felt threatened. (There’s a whole history and network of gang activity between arriba and abajo that I still don’t know much about). Therefore, because of their connection to this man, there was a chance my students’ families would leave as well, feeling they would be safer elsewhere. On Tuesday, at our school meeting, we were told that one of my student’s families had made the decision to go. Despite the challenge this student sometimes is in the classroom, he has such an adorable smile and a kind heart, and I kept thinking of how far he’s come since that first day when he said “Me voy” and walked out the door. (The latest news on this student is that he will only be a few towns over and hopefully he will return when his family has enough money to pay for transportation.) On top of this, our administrator told our entire team that night that we are no longer allowed to go on home visits in colonias other than Cofradía because of gang activity. As you can imagine, all of this news was weighing down on me by this point, and I finally let go and cried. To those of you who know me well, yes, I did actually cry. I have just felt so infuriated by how ordinary violence is in this culture and how desensitized everyone is to it. I have wondered many times how on earth the violence came to be so ingrained and how we can possibly begin to change that. I can’t begin to imagine living in a situation where I might have to hide while a gun fight goes on outside my house, where my entire family could be harmed because I associated with someone from the other side of town, where I’d have to give up my child’s bilingual education because I didn’t feel safe in my own house. But this is their reality. Great families live surrounded by people who may bring them harm at any moment. They lose loved ones and think that is just the way things are, and they handle it in the best way they know how. Children grow up and are socialized into a culture where they learn that the way to solve any problem is with violence. It’s an issue I find hard to write and talk about because it’s just so hard to wrap my head around. The silver lining in all this is that we can clearly see how meaningful our work is in providing somewhere safe for these children. At school, they can be kids—they can get excited to sing about fruits and vegetables and worry about who wins stickers at the end of the day. No matter what I have accomplished in terms of behavior management or academic content this year, I know that I have helped contribute to an environment where our students feel safe and loved, despite the reality they deal with when they walk out of our doors.