Monday, April 19, 2010

Optimism

Yesterday I read an article that said according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Honduras was one of five Latin American countries lacking human rights last year. Honduras was the only one of the five countries (also including Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti) that wasn’t on the list the previous year. The cause of the increase in problems was blamed on the coup of last June.

While some people here who support the coup would deny an increase in human rights violations, most international organizations disagree. The most recent news has centered on how Honduras has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. So far this year, 6 have been murdered. I’m also reading Working Hard, Drinking Hard, an anthropologist’s take on why Honduras has the problems it has. It’s both fascinating and depressing to learn more about what I see all around me, and it makes clear that human rights violations have been around a lot longer than since June, 2009.

While my life right now is personally sheltered from most of the problems here, of course it isn’t totally. It would be hard for me to find a Honduran I know who hasn’t been affected by violence. I know people out of work and struggling financially, I see children and old women on street corners asking for money and violent deaths on the front page of the newspapers nearly every day. Closer to home, a student at our high school has been kidnapped for ransom money and hasn’t yet been returned.

It is hard to be hopeful when surrounded by such desperate poverty, violence and corruption. Also, my sense is that most people here have accepted the way things are and don’t really see a way out of Honduras’s problems, or at least don’t see a way to the radical changes that are necessary if Honduras is really going to be a peaceful country.

I recently read an interview with environmentalist Alex Steffen, and there’s a bit I really liked about optimism. Though he’s talking about the environmental movement, I think it has a broader implication, and it is the type of thinking that keeps me hopeful.

Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience. What’s really radical is being willing to look right at the problems we face and still insist that we can solve them. A stubborn commitment to solving problems and a faith in our ability to do so doesn’t need to be na├»ve.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is anybody still there?

Is it too late? Is anybody still reading this? I wouldn't be surprised if not; I've been awfully slack in the postings lately. Mostly that's because my life is pretty calm which doesn't really make good blog writing fodder. The thing is though, I'm totally happy and this year, especially after last year, feels like a much-needed (and much-deserved, if I do say so myself) rest.

I started to write this blog entry a few weeks ago when we didn’t have classes. Due to severe winds that came through our part of the city two Wednesday nights ago, the electricity at school was out and they needed to clean up trees and repair damages. Though the people here said the winds were similar to hurricane winds, there was no hurricane or even rain. It seems a meeting of cold and hot fronts caused the winds, and with it extensive, but not terribly severe, damage. Here’s a picture of the road leading to the pre-school at my school.



This week is turning out to be a light work week also. Last night our principals told us that we’d have the next 4 days without students due to an H1N1 case in the elementary school, though we still have to be at school each day from 8-12. Another class has several students already out from other types of flu, there are some other cases of H1N1 in the city, one other bilingual school has closed and the others are supposed to close later this week: they’re trying to prevent the spread of the flu before it gets worse. While I know H1N1 is a concern everywhere, I also think prevention is more important here where good health care isn’t as easy to come by.

I definitely enjoy the time off of work. We’ve had an extremely busy few months at school, so we all needed and appreciated the breaks. Despite it all, I can’t complain. Because it’s my first year at this school, it’s a lot of work planning, but I love it. The students and staff are great, and I have all the resources that I could ask for.

It does feel strange to me though. These students are basically the children of the richest families in the country. It’s not uncommon for a driver to bring forgotten homework to school or for families to take weekend trips to Miami. In so many ways, their lives are almost the exact opposites of the students I’m used to and love teaching, the students where I volunteered last year and at San Miguel in Minneapolis. I miss them, especially the San Miguel students. I miss the feeling of knowing that the people I was teaching were the people who needed good teaching the most. I miss the feeling of knowing that I was truly working to create justice. I’m not so sure of that anymore.

However, the good thing about teaching is that it is always good, no matter who the students are, because children are children and they need good teachers. I’m trying to figure out the core of teaching the rich instead of the poor, and what that means. Literally, they are the future leaders of this country. Their families are the ones that rule here. If I can teach them something about justice and fairness, then maybe I can have an impact in a different way. It is a switch from who I’ve always thought myself to be, and I don’t really have an answer when people ask me why I’m here, but I do know that it is the right place for me to be right now, and I trust in that.

It helps, just a little, that today is a beautifully sunny day when my friends at home are dealing with snow and I’m headed to the pool with some friends. I don’t take many photos, but here’s one of me and Carlos from a few weeks ago when we went to the beach for the day with his friends.