We are over the 8 month mark. A completely ridiculous thing to think about. For me – Jamie Blaikie – it is such a crazy thought as I have become so invested in the Project and in the teaching and living in Punta Gorda that I cant imagine how life is going to change when I go back to Scotland. Moreover I cant imagine life without our wee house, without Merilus cooking and without teaching nutter kids every day!
Back to Punta Gorda
I last wrote to you as we were heading into this year so now I feel is a good time to update you on how things have been since returning from our travel. We got back to Punta Gorda midway through January, slightly earlier than planned, due to the political situation in the country being very tense. We thought wed be on the safe side by returning early, a decision I was very happy we made as I had missed PG a lot whilst we had been travelling.
We had around 2 weeks of being in Punta Gorda without school as that started in the first week of February. We had a lot more time to explore different parts of the island and spending more time with people we hadnt previously spent so much time with. For example we started giving English lessons to Claudie and Nustly, two lovely girls from the village, every Tuesday and Thursday (just Tuesday when school started) and we started meeting Ricardo again for an English lesson (mainly just a chat as hes already pretty solid and just wants to improve his conversation English) on the weekend whatever time works out. So I feel even in that short period of time when we were free from school but in PG we became a lot more known amongst people in the community, a really nice feeling.
A new school year in Roatan
School had a very slow start as expected, in fact I dont think there was a set timetable for at least a month, instead it was a case of every day going down to find out which grades we had. It was always a lovely surprise to find we had 7A, 7B, 8 and 9th grade in a row straight after lunch because some of the other teachers hadnt turned up! The days when that happens are always the ones that we come out of most knackered but at the same time with the feeling like we kind of know what were up to!
I feel as though this year we have improved the way we teach. Last year we had a lot of repeat after me exercises as the main learning section of the lesson, which is not only tiring for us but possibly not the most effective way of learning for the kids. So this year weve given different activities a go. We have put lyrics to a song (All I Want by Kodaline if youre interested) on paper with gaps and they fill the gaps as we listen. We also started making more worksheets for them to do as the main body of learning in a lesson to take a bit of the pressure off us in the class and to give the kids more of a test each class.
And the last thing that we have experimented with that I will mention is our couple of weeks doing poems and poetic techniques (only with grades 7-9). We did rhyming and syllables which was fun to teach and Im sure it was a new thing for the kids to learn. They were great ways of helping them to understand sounds and phonics in English. This topic ended in the kids writing their own poems. It was awesome to see them use rhyme and adjectives in their poems and we got some great pieces of work, and some not so good but its all about learning!
Prof Lee – a new friendship
Another new thing about the new year was Prof Lee, a teacher that worked at the school before but took a break before returning to our school at the start of this year. He is a really nice guy and has had us round at his place for lunch and to meet his family and has taken us to the beach as well which was a lot of fun. He is really into any sport so we have good chats about the football and the basketball. He actually has a basketball team on the island who we went to go and watch in Coxen Hole (the biggest town on the island) with Will and Ted who are other volunteers that work in Tela on the mainland (the only other boy volunteers in Honduras). It was so much fun and the standard was pretty high. Lee even asked me if I wanted to play and I said no since he asked me around 2 minutes before the game started and I wasnt mentally prepared! I have told myself I will play at some point though as I really enjoy basketball and it would be a great experience to play for the Dolphins with a crowd watching.
Another really nice thing Lee has done for us is giving us his sons television and sorted us out with a cable so now in the evenings we can watch the basketball when its on. Its a really nice and relaxed piece of kit to have! There was a moment when it wasnt so relaxed though. Im not sure if you keep up to date with the Champions League football but in the last week or two there have been some ridiculous matches involving Barcelona and Real Madrid. And in Punta Gorda the kids are either Barca or Madrid! So what happened was, during the Madrid vs Juventus game some kids caught us watching it on the TV just casually while doing some work in the house for classes, and 6 kids stormed our tiny room and took over the chairs. It was very funny as they are all great kids but if Profa Ligia (our host and headteacher) knew that 6 kids had come into the house during school time, actually exam time, Im not sure who would come off worse, us or them! It was a lot of fun and the conclusion to that game, which we didnt watch at the house, we had kicked them out before then, was ridiculous and Im glad we didnt have 6 avid football fans watching as they would have torn the house down! All good fun! Anyway, Prof Lee no longer works at the school, that latest stint only lasted around a month as he has a lot of difficulties with Profa Ligia and he has plenty of other schools around the island happy to have him. We still keep in touch with him though and my dream of playing in his basketball team is still alive!
African Heritage Month
April is the month of African Heritage in Honduras which is a hue deal in Punta Gorda as it is THE Garífuna community of Roatan if not all of Honduras. So last Thursday was the main celebration of the full month of celebrations. And what a celebration it was. It was an all day, all night thing. It started with a march along the seafront road with drumming and singing. Everything that the Garífuna people do so well!
Another cool thing was that they rowed loads of boats in the sea alongside the march on the road so when both arrived at the destination they combined to create a mad atmosphere as both groups were singing and dancing and, WOW it was a crazy moment. The boats were to signify the landing of the Garífuna people on the island and it was a lot of fun, we could really feel that their culture and history means a lot to them. The rest of the day consisted of drumming and dancing by the kids from our school and as well as that there was traditional Garífuna style cooking on offer in different tents along the beach. It was a great day and everyone we know from the village was out in amazing spirits, as well as loads of school kids from around the island watching this amazing spectacle.