When you say the name of this beautiful country aloud, every Tom, Dick and Harry has a word of caution for you. “Honduras is dangerous;” “Avoid it if you know what’s best;” “There isn’t anything to do there except learn to dive!”
We want to say – WRONG.
After 8 months on the road, I saw a position advertised for an English Language teacher at a bilingual school in Tela, Honduras. Within 4 days, I had my interview, was offered the position and had moved into the provided housing a minutes’ walk from the Blanca Jeannette Kawas Bilingual School, and our home for the next 5 months.
So what is it like to live and work in this dangerous and super scary Central American country?
It’s great! As this is my first opportunity teaching since gaining my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, my first week was spent shadowing the departing Maestra. The kids – all 20 of them – were very welcoming and I felt confident I would be ok, even though I would be teaching a full curriculum including Science, Social Studies and Mathematics on top of Reading, Grammar and Spelling/Phonics.
My first day solo however was a complete disaster. I struggled to maintain order and the kids ran riot on me. Monday morning the Principal confirmed my failure, telling me to be stricter and more disciplined. So it was no more Miss Nice and hello Miss Tough.
Luckily the kids have responded well to my discipline methods and in the following weeks I have received better feedback from both the Principal and the parents. But life here isn't all about the school.
We are lucky to live rent free, sharing with two other teachers from the UK, Hannah and Caitlin, both here on a year’s gap leave through Project Trust, a charity specialising in over-seas placements for school leavers. The house is a stone’s throw away from school and local restaurants where we occasionally indulge ourselves with baleadas and pastelitos.
The house is no different to houses back in Australia, except the laundry is outside and it's all done by hand. Laundry services are available in town but we don't mind the exercise or the savings on the hip pocket! When we moved in, there were some slight maintenance issues that needed attending - no water in the bathroom sink and cold water showers. For less than the equivalent of AUD $20, Justin managed to buy and install an electric heater and fix the sink. Justin makes quite the house husband actually, he has fixed doors, electrical faults, cooked and cleaned AND helped me with school projects for the kids. It's great having his support and encouragement while I explore this new career option.
Then there were 8. The four of us had decided to become parents so we bought some chicks from the local farmer's market. Unfortunately our happy family was short-lived. In the first week of bringing our chicks home, a stray dog broke in and used three of them as toys, leaving a lone chick who was aptly renamed #Lucky. Lucky was soon joined by two more chicks, Babs II and Duck though coming home this weekend we discovered one of the little ones missing. It's quite the mystery as there are no ways in for a dog and there are no feathers in the yard. We pray she just went for a walk and will turn up eventually...I like to tell myself she is a wanderer like us and just went exploring in search of new adventures...
Then there was #Ginga (G-ING-A not ginger). Coming home from school one day, I saw Justin at the front door...holding a little, malnourished, mangey kitten, covered in fleas. After learning she had been thrown out a car window earlier that day, I agreed she could stay - outside - until we knew she had no fleas or worms. The little tiger wasn't impressed with her vinegar bath to rid her of fleas but she soon she forgave us and has started giving us loving snuggles. She does have the tendency of disappearing overnight, with a little girl up the street only too happy to bring the "Gringa Cat" back. When #Ginga is healthy and well-recovered from her ordeal, we will get her spayed and hopefully find her a more permanent home.
Tela is a beautiful, yet small town that rests along the coast of Honduras, 95 km’s from San Pedro Sula. While the town itself takes no longer than an hour to explore, the beach is close by as are tourist drawcards, Punta Sal, Los Micos and Punta Izopo, all well regarded due to the Garifuna people that live there. We are yet to visit these places as the weather here has been ever-changing, so we are waiting until summer arrives when there will be sun, sun and a little more sun!
Tela is also home to Lancetilla Botanic Garden, the second largest tropical botanical garden in the world set on over 1600 hectares of biological reserve 2km from town. We borrowed our housemate’s bikes and headed up the road to explore the garden’s collection of plantains, orchids, palms, mangoes and the oldest Honduran forestry plantation. Entry is LMP 170 (USD $8.50) for foreigners and you will have the chance to also spot a range of birds and other native wildlife. If riding isn't your thing, you can hire a taxi to chauffeur you around the park.
Another good spot on weekends is El Progresso, a 45-60 minute bus ride away. It has a mall and cinema with most movies shown in English with Spanish subtitles. No terrible voice dubbing either! The supermarket also stocks a wider range of groceries that can’t be found in Tela.
When we are not traveling we also like visiting Veranda Café B&B. A great spot for lunch and a cupcake! Owners Steve and Doris are very friendly and the food is always amazing.
Outside of Tela, we have taken a road trip to Lake Yojoa for a weekend escape. The weather during our stay wasn’t all that so we were rather lazy save for a walk through Los Naranjos Ecological and Archaeological Park (USD $6.00 per person). A boardwalk through the park allows for a gentle stroll through the marshlands surrounding the lake and some unexcavated ruins. This area is perfect for bird watching and if you’re as lucky as us, you’ll get to see an armadillo!
We also took a walk through the Bio-P-Arque coffee and fruit plantation where Justin found a secluded pool for a swim – sans bathers!
We have also gone back to the big bad city of San Pedro Sula where we indulged ourselves for a Valentine’s Day weekend. Staying at Tamarindo Hostel (USD $25.oo per night) in a private room and going for a bite of sushi at Sushi Itto. We spent the day walking the streets, visiting the Cathedral, Anthropology Museum and City Mall to see a movie. A movie we didn’t end up seeing as the choices on hand were Sponge Bob and Fifty Shades of Grey…pass! The highlight of our trip would have been the visit to Los Andes Supermarket. They have everything! Well almost everything. I’ll still have to rely on my Mum’s care packages for Vegemite and Redskins but there is rice paper for Vietnamese Spring Rolls, smoked salmon and cottage cheese, smoked oysters and every fruit and vegetable you can think of. They even have all the little things like gravy that seem to be missing in the smaller towns.
Still think Honduras is dangerous? The weekend just past we took another road trip after school was cancelled on Wednesday for the remainder of the week. We visited Siguatepeque, Comayagua, La Esperanza and Gracias. The biggest danger is the bus drivers. They fly at break neck speeds down unpaved roads and around blind corners. The occasional bus runner (boy that helps with bags, stops, etc.) will rip you off on your ticket, but mostly we have found everyone we have met friendly and more than happy to help with anything you need help with.
Honduras has a bad reputation yes, but after two months here we feel fairly safe (touch wood). We’re not about to start wandering dark alleys at night time though and putting ourselves in risky situations. Our best advice is to use common sense when travelling, something you should do in any country and or city you visit.
We do have more weekend escapes planned to explore this country and next quarter you can read about our road trip to Trujillo in Honduras’s far North and a return trip to Lake Yojoa, including a visit across the border and into Belize when we take a week off from school in Placencia. We just might even return to scary San Pedro Sula for some salmon. Stay tuned!
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