Sunday, July 31, 2011


is exhausting. Especially when your body is not cooperating with you.

I’ll start with the Sunday after my last post. I had planned with Lauren to take one of my girls to the movies. We were going to go to the mall, have lunch, and see the new Harry Potter. I got no further than the center when I started to get sick. I ended up throwing up and sitting on the floor of the Tegus Burger King bathroom unable to move. Fortunately, there was a Ranch van coming back from the city that was able to come pick me up and take me home. Lauren and Dixie dragged me across Central Park to the van so I wouldn’t pass out. Not fun.

I felt well enough to go to school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Wednesday was my last day in second grade, so I brought cupcakes. They all drew me pictures that I have in a little file to take home. Joel wrote me a really heartfelt letter that made me feel really good about my year here. I had the kids design new covers for the books I’ve been having them read and was gratified to see both more creativity and understanding in them. After school on Wednesday, I shared a cake I had made with my Montessori compatriots and did a little training that Momo had asked me to do. I shared observations, suggestions, and teaching strategies. I was a little frustrated because they were rushing me to get started so they could work on Día del Indio decorations. But they ended up really appreciating my ideas, and Micaela said my Spanish was spot-on. Momo said she didn’t know why she hadn’t had me do a training every week and that she hoped I’d do some when I came back to visit. I think I would have been really happy to have had that Learning Specialist role, but I think it all worked out how it needed to work out.

That afternoon, I had a nasty headache which I attributed to the shoe polish we’d been using for some of the decorations. I ate a little bit of casamiento (rice and beans) for dinner in hogar and then crawled into one of the girls beds. At 8:00, when it was time to lock the hogar and for me to go home, I started throwing up. I got back in bed, where I continued to puke for another 2 hours. Saravia, bless her heart, cleaned out my bucket something like 5 times. When the tía realized I was still there and sick, she and two of the girls took me up to the clinic. They gave me a shot and some meds and I went back to sleep in the hogar. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was so uncomfortable and restless.

In the morning, I called Momo knowing I couldn’t cover for Kenia in first grade like we’d planned. I stayed in bed all day willing myself to be better for my going away party with the girls. At about 5:00, I was still feeling pretty icky, so Tiffany hooked me up to an IV and gave me a liter of fluids. I was able to go to my despedida, although I wasn’t at my best. It was still fun. The tías made catrachas (I managed to eat one and a half), and we hung out in the salon of the leadership house. I made a slideshow of pictures from the year accompanied by memorable music. I gave the girls new losa (plates and cups) and wrote each of them a card with my favorite memory with each one. Several of them teared up, and Fanny Nicol full on cried because she didn’t want me to leave. We wrapped the night up with ice cream sundaes (for which I exceeded my despedida budget). Although I couldn’t enjoy one, it was worth it to give my special girls a special treat.

For the weekend, I’d planned a trip to Caridad with Tía Mirna, my friend Laura, and her husband Chris. I wasn’t sure I was up to it, but I was convinced when it was decided we’d rent a car. We headed out for Tegus in the afternoon to pick the car up at the airport. We stopped for pizza and were on our way south. Caridad is about 3 hours away (6 on bus), and we got there in the evening. It is Mirna’s hometown, as well as that of Rosa Lilian, Laura’s goddaughter and the young girl who died this past New Year’s Eve. The town is charming, nestled in the hills, but hot as all get-out. Before heading out on Sunday, we spent time visiting with friends and family of Mirna and those who were close to Rosa Lilian and her siblings (including an older brother and his pregnant wife), swam in the river, and left flowers at Rosa’s grave.

This last week, I haven’t had to work at school. I’ve been busy packing up and saying my goodbyes. I visited other classrooms, trained the third grade teacher in using base ten blocks for multiplication and division, did craneosacral sessions with Momo, gave a sponsorship talk to the visiting medical brigade, delivered letters to my godsons, left stuffed hippos in the care of my daughters Gabi and Natalia, divvied up my things I’m not taking home amongst my girls, and spent time with my special people. My hogar did a despedida for me on Wednesday, where they fried about a million tacos. On Thursday, the Montessori team took me to Siria for a lovely lunch of fried fish.

Friday, the four of us who are leaving spent the day dealing with the residency debacle. Max and Sona went to cancel theirs on Monday, where they were told they needed further documentation (which has never been required before). Since our residency was granted based on our affiliation with the Catholic church, we had to get special letters from the Archdiocese (which required special letters from NPH to the Archdiocese). It went a little like this:
Ranch transport to Cerro Grande
Colectivo from Cerro Grande to the center 12 lempiras
Colectivo from Parque Central to Hospital San Felipe 12 lempiras
Walk to Archdiocese (God bless the Hermana for awesome directions)
Get letters
Taxi to immigration 70 lempiras (between three people)
Realize that immigration has moved
Taxi to new immigration building 90 lempiras (between three people)
Wait in line forever in the most inefficient place on Planet Earth
Finally get residency cancelled
Colectivo to the center 12 lempiras
Colectivo to Cerro Grande 12 lempiras
Public bus back to the Ranch 20 lempiras

Friday night, we had what would normally be a Saturday night activity because the visitors for the medical brigade were leaving. I had to judge one last time, and then we all had a big party where I danced the night away with my godson. I ended up talking to one of the visitors, Karen, who mentioned really wanting to help aspiring athletes from the Ranch. I gave her my e-mail so we could keep in touch, her being from Seattle and all. She mentioned that her last name was Moyer, and I might have heard of her foundation: the Moyer Foundation. As in JAMIE MOYER. As in her husband. As in one of my favorite baseball players from the golden age of Mariners baseball on whom I had a major crush in high school (second only to my beloved Joey Cora). I was beside myself with glee not only for a little glimpse of fame but also because now this really great organization could be involved in my personal favorite really great organization.

I spent Saturday packing and cleaning my room. We had a tearful mass where all the outgoing volunteers were presented with a wooden plaque. Stefan said some nice words about each of us. For me, he said he’d noticed that I was someone who didn’t just work at the Ranch but really lived it, and I appreciated that. He also said he knew what a good job I’d done because now they had a big headache trying to figure out what to do now that I’m leaving. Not sure that’s true, but it was nice. Several of the girls came to see me off from the gate, including Margareth who came to cut a lock of my hair as a recuerdo. We headed off to Tegus, where we had dinner and a night of dancing. It was annoying getting that many people organized, but in the end I genuinely had a really good time.

I’m sitting here in the Granada for the last time, thinking how strange it will be not to see every day all the people who have made up my life here. And I’m asking myself how my life will ever be the same, but I think I already know the answer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kimmie as Mary Murphy

So one of our on-going Saturday activities has been a dance competition a la So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. Each week, the same couples of kids of the same age compete in two dance categories and are judged by a panel of “experts.” There are three scores plus the “Voto Secreto” and there’s a running tally to decide who goes to the finals.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to help the Hijas de María and San Francisco (the youngest kids after Casa Suyapa) with their merengue. It was fun to teach my students something outside of school, and I love when little kids dance in couples. When I showed a new step, they all wanted to try it with me, which is quite funny since I’m just a bit taller than the average Honduran 8 year-old. I bowed out of helping with punta because I can’t do it. It’s a booty-shaking dance with roots in the Garifuna culture of the north coast and is completely exhausting.

Even though it was my weekend off, I showed up to watch the performance. There, I got roped in by the tías to being a judge. It was really fun being on the panel and getting to see all the dances, until…Yamileth came out to dance with her partner “Justin Bieber.” Turns out Yami had some trouble finding a partner, so she got one of the other girls to dress up as a dude and they danced an excellent merengue. During the performance, the powers that be decided they would be eliminated because the rules were that it had to be a boy and a girl. I was so infuriated. I gave them a standing ovation, and when they passed me the microphone I congratulated the girls on finding a creative solution to the problem that sometimes the boys just don’t want to dance and that for me, the performance was a 10. The crowd of kids erupted in cheers of, “¡Te queremos, Kimmie, te queremos!” The MC and several others came to congratulate me for speaking up. Some people probably weren’t too happy, but if they didn’t want my opinion they shouldn’t have asked me to be a judge. End righteous indignation.

So after that, I got roped into helping with several more dances for this week (again for my weekend off). I again helped the little ones, this time with a bachata, which is a slow, romantic style that I love. Friday night, I helped Yamileth and Hallan (she got my godson to dance with her so she could qualify) with their rock and roll number. Tía Mirna asked me to create a dance for Pilares, not as part of the competition but just as a demonstration, so we worked on that Saturday after mass. The night was really fun. I judged again (this time the Secret Vote) and felt really comfortable given constructive criticism in Spanish and felt like I had good pointers for the dancers. Nataly and Isaac (brother of Eliu, my favorite dance partner – see a previous post) did an absolutely killer rock and roll number that had me on my feet and cheering. I danced with Pilares; we forgot some steps and one of the girls ran out in the middle from having pena, but it still turned out all right. And thus ended my last Rancho Santa Fe dancing adventure.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I have to give it to the Rancho Santa Fe: they sure know how to make a girl feel special on her birthday. I was awakened by the sound of my Pilares singing the Spanish birthday song (“Las Mañanitas) outside my bedroom window at 5:30 a.m. I then headed to hogar at 6:00 a.m. so Fanny Nicol could do my hair. She did all the hair for the quinceañeras and I’ve been asking her to do mine for a long time; it seemed only fitting that she should do it for this my treintañera. She created the most elaborate updo I’ve ever seen (photos to be posted on Facebook). I sat with my head down for half an hour while she did three upside-down connected French braids. It was topped off by a loopy, flowery bun on top and secured with mountains of bobby pins and hairspray. It was definitely a labor of love, and it didn’t hurt my feelings at all to be told how beautiful it was all day.

The day was full of wonderful surprises. Everyone seemed to know it was my birthday, and everywhere I went people greeted me with felicidades. The second I arrived at the school, Kenia and the first graders serenaded me with “Las Mañanitas.” The music teacher showed up to second grade with his guitar, and they sang to me as well. My little Jeison sang a poem. There were phone calls from Magda, Camila, Stefan, Laura, and a mystery man, and texts from Dixi and Leila. Dori and Xiomara both brought me chocolate treats, and the lady who runs the little caseta that I always go to for my morning snack gave me a 1.5 liter bottle of Pepsi! The little girls in Hijas de María drew me a picture and wrote me a letter in which they also warned me that I would be getting egged, but I miraculously managed to avoid that all day.

One funny thing I’ve learned about Hondurans is that they really like surprises, but they’re really bad at them. I started to suspect something after school got out when Xiomi went to get water and didn’t come back for an hour. When she finally did come back, she was clearly trying to keep me occupied until 3:00 finally rolled around and we still hadn’t eaten lunch. We went to the third grade classroom where all the Montessori teachers were waiting to surprise me. They had prepared gringas, tacos, and lots of other treats. Momo brought a huge chocolate cake as well. Micaela, Xiomara, Kenia, and Momo gave a toast of sorts and all said very lovely things that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And they sang “Las Mañanitas.”

My hogar has had me suspecting something for days. Tía Mirna said she wouldn’t be there for my birthday because she had to run errands, and Tía Delmy said she had to go to a training. The girls said we’d be alone and it would be boring, but to bring my camera (???). This afternoon, Saravia insisted the tías wouldn’t be there but said she had to keep me busy until 7:00 (???). So it wasn’t so much of a surprise when I showed up to a darkened comedor and was greeted with shrieks, squeals, confetti, and another rousing chorus of “Las Mañanitas,” but it certainly didn’t take away from anything. The tías and girls from all the hogares of the upper house had made fried chicken, rice, salad, and cake. Gloria (who isn’t even in my hogar) gave a little speech all in English that made me cry. After tucking the girls in for the night, I headed home. As I passed the darkened windows of Talita Kumi, I was once again wished a happy birthday and many more.

I came home to take my hair down, take a shower, and go to bed. But around 9:00, I was roused by the unmistakable sound of Lauren’s voice saying, “¡Vos vieja!” I came out to find a spread of popcorn, M&Ms, Skittles, piña coladas, and one of Tía Sona’s famous cakes (which read “Feliz cumple GORDITA). The volunteer crew attempted to sing “Las Mañanitas,” but it was rough going since I’m the only one who knows all the words. ;) I got a lovely card with messages from all the volunteers and many hugs goodnight.

Xiomara in school and Nancy in hogar said very lovely prayers for me, and I was mentioned in the petitions in mass the day after my birthday. And then after mass, of course, the whole Ranch sang to all the cumpleañeros…wait for it…”LAS MAÑANITAS!!”

I really thought 30 would be a bigger deal, but I don’t feel all that different. So much has happened this year and so much has changed, including me. I feel happy and I feel loved, and I have a feeling it’s just going to get better in this my fourth decade.

Fourth of July

I have to give DeeDee and Jason major props for planning an epic Independence Day celebration for the volunteer house. Sunday worked better for everybody, so we celebrated America’s birthday on the 3rd. We were requested to bring the following:
1)A winning attitude
2)Your love for red, white, and blue
We all dressed up in the colors of the flag. I snagged a killer shirt in La Isla and painted my nails to match (these colors don’t run!!). We had a bonfire on which we roasted hotdogs, and DeeDee managed to make one of those classic American flag cakes with strawberries (blue candles in lieu of blueberries) from scratch (not a box, which I had forgotten you could do). There was a fantastic USA playlist that included everything from Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” to Madonna’s rendition of “American Pie” to lots of Bruce Springsteen. When we lit the candles on the cake, we sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and I’m not joking when I say it gave me chills. We followed it up with “Happy Birthday” to Pete and in Honduran tradition, we cracked eggs over his head. The night was topped off with the exiting volunteers (Jason, Sona, Max, and me) tearfully singing along to “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” soon joined by Tiffany and Pete, the rest of our original group who are choosing to extend their stay. All in all, another great out-of-the-country 4th of July (my fifth!).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Things I AM Going to Miss…

Feeling guilty about the last post, I have composed the following…

1. Tucking my girls in at night, with hugs, kisses, and “Te quieros.”
2. Feeling like a rockstar as I walk around the Ranch and have my name yelled.
3. Hot tea from the kitchen.
4. 3 month-old Ricardo falling asleep on my chest after his bottle.
5. Being called Tía Kimmie.
6. Bantering with Kenia at school.
7. Visiting the conses in the baby house with Saravia.
8. Cokes and tortillas con quesillo in the caseta at school.
9. Natalia telling me I’m her mom.
10. Mass. (I know, but I really like it.)
11. Cheap movies from La Isla.
12. Living simply. That one blue plastic plate has lasted me all year for all my meals.
13. The sound of cracking nits (lice eggs) between my thumbnails. Don’t judge. I can now delouse someone and am thus thinking of becoming a full-time catracha.
14. Being half of Tío Richard’s conses al cuadrado. Or maybe I’m the square root?
15. The feeling of always being on somewhat of an adventure.

Things I’m NOT Going to Miss…

As my year comes to a close, I thought I would go negative and write about what I’m not going to miss. In no particular order:

1. The smell of unwashed humanity on a skanky public bus to Tegucigalpa.
2. Tegucigalpa.
3. Community living i.e. Passive-Aggression 101 and cleaning up other people’s disgusting messes. Note: last kitchen duty this Thursday – woohoo!
4. Banging my head against the wall trying to get my students to analyze or think critically.
5. Having to do so much with so little.
6. Packages I know about that never arrive.
7. Forgetting important dates such as birthdays, which I never do at home.
8. Doing without electricity, cell service, water, or Internet at any given moment.
9. Being the Internet go-to girl for my girls during my free time because there’s no other way they can do their homework (thank you, talleres teachers). See above for more related frustrations.
10. Going hungry at work because there just wasn’t enough food.
11. Cleaning my own classroom.
12. Year-round bugs that find me inexplicably delicious. (Little known fact: my eyelids are especially tasty.)
13. Lice, scabies, and pink eye. Not that they don’t exist in the States, but I’m not as likely to get them.
14. Campañas de limpieza (cleaning campaigns).
15. Having my personal and professional life be one and the same.

I think I’m perhaps doing this because my subconscious knows how hard it’s going to be for me to leave, and focusing on everything that sucks might make it easier. But, as Mr. Gendreau used to say, it was in my craw and I needed it to come out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

27 Baptisms and 2 Baby Boys

Last week, we 27 of our children were baptized into the Catholic faith. Each of them was dressed in his/her finest, all the little girls in dresses of white. They all had a godfather and godmother. I was asked to be Natalia’s, but was unable to because I’m not Catholic. I was really honored to be asked, however. The baptisms were done by Padre Cheche, a Mexican priest and my favorite of those who give mass here, and Father Luta, a visiting priest originally from Uganda. Padre Cheche gave a really interesting explanation of baptism. He said the purpose of baptism is to wash one clean of original sin. But, he asked, are these little ones capable of sin? No, but they come into the world sinners regardless. He gave an example of a baby born with HIV. It’s not the baby’s fault, but the baby still has the disease. And we do everything in our power to help that baby cope with the illness. Similarly, he explained, these little ones are born into sin through no fault of their own, and we do everything we can to help them, which means we baptize them. I’m not sure if I’m explaining it or translating it well at all, but it was something that stuck with me. It was fun to see the kids’ different reactions to water being poured on their heads, from laughter to tears. Henry, one of our special needs boys, really wanted to play in that pool of water. I really love how steeped in tradition the Catholic church is, and it was special to be a part of an important moment in our NPH Honduras family.

In other Ranch news, our newest additions are twin 3 month-olds, Alan and Ricardo, and their 3 year-old sister Berenice (it sounds so much prettier in Spanish). They come from the nearby town of Talanga and were part of our comedor project, but have now come to live at the Ranch. The boys look like two little old men. I had my first up close and personal encounter with them today. I went up to the clinic where all new kids stay for a few weeks, and Tiffany had just prepared a bottle for Ricardo. I had the pleasure of giving it to him, which brought back my Connor nanny days. He fell asleep in my arms like a little caterpillar and managed to nuzzle his head right under my chin. I know exactly where I’ll be spending all my free time for the next six weeks.