Me and Spanish

Yesterday a friend suggested that I should keep a journal to keep a track on how my Spanish is improving and the day before I asked a previous volunteer how she had felt about hers after 2 months. It is difficult to know whether you’re doing badly, ok or actually quite well. Within 10 minutes the other day I had one person telling me I’m doing well and I’ve come a long way and then someone else get frustrated because I didn’t know what they were saying to me and telling me I needed to learn a lot more! So I thought it might be helpful to tell you all how it is going with learning Spanish, then I can look back at how much I’ve learnt (hopefully) in a years time and also if future volunteers look at this blog it might help them to know what to expect.

Before I came to honduras I did a few google searches on how easy Spanish is to learn as I was getting more than a bit nervous about not knowing anything… pretty much all the responses were that it is the easiest language to learn. I took this as it would be quite easy – that was a mistake. Obviously I haven’t learnt any other languages, but if they are harder than this then I might just stick to Spanish!!

I would advise as much possible to future volunteers to learn as much as they can before they arrive – I’ve been there, waiting to go and wanting to learn a few phrases etc. but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I think it was most likely avoidance of facing what a challenge I had coming up! But I wish I had at least learnt a few basics just to open my brain to something it hasn’t done in a long time. We had 10 days of Spanish lessons when we first arrived but there is so much new information and a lot of it doesn’t make any sense at that point. It wasn’t until I began my project (where 1 out of about 30 people) speak English that I was forced into learning it but it helped a lot. I would also say it is much better to live with a family who speak little or no English, one of the volunteers who is living in a much smaller place than Tegus where no one speaks English, has learnt very quickly. Although it must be massively daunting at first… but it will definitely help in the long run.

So what’s so hard about Spanish?? Well a lot… the masculine/feminine rule is ok, that just takes some getting used to and is quite easy once you get it. What I, and the other volunteers, are stuggling with is the lack of rules. It seems like you have a word in Spanish for each word in English but as soon as you say a whole sentence new words come out of nowhere! For example, the sentence ‘I called her but she didn’t answer’ is translated into ´Le llame pero no contesto’. I’m sure this makes loads of sense to Spanish speakers but to me I want to know where the ‘yo’ (I) and ella (her) went??

Also, they take one way of saying something and turn it into so many different ways of saying different things. Like you would think saying ‘it is’ whichever way you say it would be the same… no. ‘It is 8 o’clock’… ‘Son las ocho’; ‘It is Wednesday’… ‘Hoy es Miercoles’; ‘It is sunny’… ‘Hace sol’. So instead of having to remember how to say ‘it is’ one way, you have to instead memorise how to say each one of these different phrases. Ahhh! And don’t get me started on verbs and the different tenses…

However I know that I have improved a lot over the last two months. I had lunch for an hour with a girl from work on Monday (and she knows no English) but we still managed to talk the whole time about the most random stuff. And yesterday I could go into a shop and tell the sales assistant what I needed and talk to the taxi driver about where I’m from, what I’m doing here etc. I can’t use a lot of the words I would usually use in English but I just find a way of saying what I need with the words I do know. Like yesterday, I somehow managed to say that I put money in my bra to keep it safe but that morning I changed my bra after I’d put money in and it had fallen out. I have no idea how I said that in Spanish but I found a way.

So to my Mum who asked me after about 5 days of being here if I was fluent in Spanish yet, no not quite yet… but I’m hoping I can be by the time I come home. I would love to visit schools after my volunteering and try to encourage students to recognise the advantage of learning a language while they can. I definitely wish I had paid more attention to Spanish at school.

 

In other news, I think I am going on a motorbike and climbing up a mountain today. But I’m not 100% sure… I can’t tell what they’re saying!! Haha wish me luck…

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Another post already!

Ok, so I know I have posted a lot lately but I guess it is just the excitement of finally having my laptop after two months and it being so much easier now for me to say lots of things to you all!! Also, I thought I would post a few pics… my parent’s refuse to use facebook so I thought they would appreciate seeing a few photos!! 

So I have some big news… It isn’t 100% official yet as I technically still need to apply but I am pretty sure that I will be continuing to volunteer in Latin America, rather than Vietnam, after Honduras. I have chosen to change my second destination country for three main reasons – I love it in Latin America, I want to have the time to travel in South America between my volunteering and I want to become as fluent in Spanish as possible. So I have spent the last few weeks trying to decide between Costa Rica and Ecuador… I am swaying more towards Ecuador but nothing is final yet. So this also means that I won’t be in the UK for a few weeks in the summer as I was going to be… there are moments when it hits me that I won’t be home and able to see my family and friends for so long but I’m also very excited for the next year. 

Tonight, I also sent a long and quite emotional email to my parents and sister thanking them for being so supportive! They often have a tendency to avoid using the internet and email… but it is good to hear from them when I do. It is really difficult to think I won’t see them (or Lauren, Vicky, Becca, George etc.) for such a long time but I think being away so long will help me to appreciate everything at home more. I do have occasions when I just can’t see the poverty here anymore and want to avoid it and live a nice, easy life in the UK again… but I just know (and the people that know me well will agree) I would love being back for a few days and would see everyone and do lots of things… but after that initial excitement I would quickly be bored again and want to go on my next adventure! 

In fact, recently when I was bored at my project and didn’t have much to do I decided to make a quick list of everything I definitely want to before life gets all serious and boring (yes, I know in my last post I said I’m trying to plan less but I can’t help it!!) so here is a quick summary: 

1. Live in London for a year (mainly to keep Lauren happy and get some money to afford the rest of the list)

2. Live in New York for a year

3. Work for a human rights NGO… hopefully in the area of teaching people in developing countries about HIV, violence etc. 

4. Travel around Europe for a month by Interrail 

5. Visit a few countries in Asia… Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia etc. 

6. Visit Oz and hopefully New Zealand again… I have two cousins out there at the moment so hopefully they’ll stick around there and I can get a couple of free places to stay!! 

7. Go on another holiday with Lauren… I crave being back in Kavos with my bestie all the time!! Although maybe we’ll go somewhere a bit nicer next time… 

8. And finally, get a puppy! Which will have to be a pug of course… 

So I wrote all of these things down and got all excited (and clueless about how to afford all of this) before realising I would be 27/28 before I managed to tick everything off the list… if I even managed to do it all in a nice order one after the other. Then I decided that actually, maybe I should concentrate on where I am now… but at least now I have a few goals. And I suppose things like getting a puppy can wait… 

I had a three day weekend just gone which included two nights out, a trip to the Nicaraguan border and a trip to a beach on the Pacific coast (which included waking up at FIVE in the morning) so I was very tired by last night and I’m looking forward to taking it easy this week before Semana Santa. In Central America (and South America too I’m guessing) the entire region has a week off for Easter… which sounds great, a week off… but the problem is that everyone is on holiday at the same time and all flock to the same places (the North coast and the Bay Islands). So everything shoots up in price! So at the moment I have managed to get plans to visit Tela and La Ceiba (both on the North coast) with Brynja, the volunteer from Iceland and we will be staying at her friend’s friend’s house for free. So fingers crossed this plan goes ahead!! I will keep you posted 🙂 

So for now, here are a few pics from the last few days… 

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So very true…

So very true...

For those of you who can’t quite see it (Mum and Dad!!):

Driving in Honduras: Rules of the Road

1. Blind curves are ideal for passing
2. Use horn in all situations
3. Green light signals start of the race
4. Red light means ‘watch out I’m coming through’
5. All rubbish goes out of the window immediately
6. When driving at night at least one headlight
7. Must be out of order at all times
8. In all city driving situations, jungle rules apply

Things I don’t miss about England

As promised, here are a few things that I don’t miss about England…

1. The weather!! Having seen a lot of new stories about the snow, rain and wind in the UK since I left I can definitely say I’m not missing being cold all the time and having to wear a lot of layers every time I leave the house…

2. How expensive everything is in England… I went out here last night and had 3 glasses of wine and 3 beers and had a tab of about 260L which is about £10. This is good news for my bank balance. 

3. I definitely don’t miss having a smart phone… seriously. I have already decided that when I come back I’m not going to let myself get another one. It is so nice to not have the constant distraction of facebook, twitter, emails and the internet. It actually encourages you to interact with the people you are with and save contacting the rest of the world until you’re on your own in the evening. 

4. Motorways… yes they would be more convenient here sometimes so you can get to the next big city in half the time but having spent four years driving up and down the same bit of motorway for 4 years at university it is really nice to having windy, scenic roads… even if they are a little dangerous. 

5. Racism. A few weeks before I left for Honduras, I was in a cinema watching Life of Pi when some disgusting man muttered (very loudly) a racist joke to his partner… he was also sat next to a 5 year old boy who wasn’t with him. If we could hear it, I’m sure that boy would have been able to. When did it become acceptable to air your racist views in a packed cinema?? It seems to me that there is a lot less racism here than in the UK (or it is in a less viscous way here at least) but then again that may be because of the language barrier… but it is still nice to get away from hearing stranger’s slurs and reading about a woman shouting at a foreign student in an NHS waiting room because she was black…

6. What people and the newspapers moan about; obviously there is a lot going on all the time that is bad and should be a big worry. But there is also a lot of news about roads with potholes, NHS waiting times and prices going up a bit. I know these things aren’t good but really when you compare it to the problems here, people here would laugh to know what we complain about! The largest children’s cancer ward in the country has 24 beds… so it’s not an issue of waiting time, it’s an issue of will a child with cancer even get a bed in the hospital. It’s hard to explain but it feels like the problems here are more serious and so are more worth hearing about. 

7. How shy and conservative we are in the UK… in Honduras you meet everyone with a kiss on the cheek and a ‘mucho gusto’ and being foreign is definitely a good conversation starter so you end up meeting so many people. We tend to be too reserved to go up and just start a conversation with people in the UK… I think I’m going to try and introduce the kiss on the cheek thing when I get back!! 

8. My habit of always planning the next thing I’m going to do… as most of you will know I’m slightly obsessed with making plans and booking things way in advance. But it’s actually nice to be right in the middle of actually doing something different and amazing! And I try hard not to spend too much time planning the next adventure… 

So they are just a few things I’m not missing about home, I’m sure there are more but I know I have to return there eventually so I’m trying not to list my frustrations too much… 

 

Things I miss about England…

I know everyone at home is feeling down about the cold weather and never ending petrol rises etc., so I thought I would do a post reminding you all why you have it lucky as I obviously have an expert’s view having been away from the glorious UK for two months now. (I should also point out for anyone who isn’t aware I have spent the majority of the last 10 years in both Wakefield and Loughborough… definitely not the most appealing places in our Island so I may miss out on some of the nicer things from more picturesque parts of the country!!) 

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1. Firstly, I miss an trip to a good English pub so much!! I have been to one place that kind of, sort of resembled a pub but it was more like the rough around the edges, bikers kind of place… and it was all outdoors, definitely not anywhere you would find in England! I am craving to go to a good pub (preferably the one in the picture – Lauren you should recognise it), order a large glass of wine and sit by the fireplace in a big, cosy sofa! I think I may be spending a lot of time in pubs when I eventually return home…

2. Naturally, thinking about English pubs leads on to thinking about the menu a good pub would have. Fish and chips, steak, pie and even burgers. I don’t exactly find myself craving these things but whenever someone asks me about British food and I give them a long list I find myself wondering how I am going to go so long without it all! Especially when I tell them about Sunday dinner and the totally British thing of roasties and yorkshire puddings! I think everyone reading this should have a roast this Sunday and send me pictures, please! 

3. Also chocolate. We haven’t seen much sign of Honduran chocolate yet and we have to avoid the supply of American chocolate – Hersheys mostly. Myself and Laura have developed a strong relisance on the only good chocolate we have found – M&M’s!! They are everywhere so they are definitely a staple part of my diet while I wait for a lovely package from my sister with some good English chocolate! We did find some Milka in one of the supermarkets but they stopped selling it in our second week… why?? 😦 

4. Carpets – definitely one of those things I have now realised we 100% take for granted at home. No one has carpets here, I don’t think I have seen one room with carpet in yet. I didn’t tell many people this but in my first week, as I was adjusting to having a single rather than a double bed, one morning my alarm went off on the floor next to my bed. And me thinking I had a whole double bed to get across, flung myself towards the alarm and then fell with some force onto the rock hard, tiled floor. Ouch. You also find your feet being dirty ALL the time even if you have just come out of the shower or have worn socks all day… 

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5. Baths – I know I shouldn’t complain because I had a very hot, powerful shower which some of the other volunteers don’t have but I miss baths a lot! I did make the most of them in the last few months at home but I am craving a long soak in the bubbles with a book or magazine. I will have to treat myself to a nice hotel some time and make sure there is a nice, big bath waiting for me…

6. A proper duvet. Obviously a big fluffy duvet wouldn’t be very practical here due to the heat (which is getting rapidly hotter as we approach summer), but it just isn’t the same when you get into bed and you only have a blanker to snuggle into. Definitely something I will appreciate more when I’m back living in a cold country.

7. Being able to write text messages and not even notice how many texts I am sending in the message. Now having a pay as you go phone for the first time in my life and somehow using all the saldo (credit) I put on ridiculously fast, it is a necessity to restrict all texts to a one page limit! This is especially difficult as most of the people I text in English are not native English speakers so might not understand what I mean when I say ‘atm’ or ‘becos’ and I am definitely not ready to use shortcuts in my Spanish texts… 

8. Having said that, I also miss hugely being able to just phone or text everyone at home. Having to email and wait however long for a reply or arranging a time to skype with a 6 hour time difference is a huge pain sometimes. It’s often tempting to just phone people anyway just to say hi quickly and demand an email telling me all the gossip – but reason 7 quickly makes me realise that would be stupid. 

9. This one may sound quite strange but I actually miss the excitement of it being a warm day! It is hot here every day and I have quickly gotten used to it so when I leave the house in the morning, I’m actually happier when I feel a nice breeze. So it is strange but I’m missing the odd, slightly warm day in Britain as when it happens it’s a treat and it’s like everyone suddenly has a better day because of it! 

10. I really, really, really miss driving around – and in particular Hugo. I recently skyped my family and they asked if I was missing everything at home and I had to admit ‘no offence but the things I am actually missing the most are my car and the dogs’! Oops! I miss being able to hop in the car and pick Lauren up and go off somewhere random. Or driving to Loughborough, London or Louth to see friends and play music ridiculously loud and have a little dance around by myself. But the roads and driving here in Tegus quickly make me realise that’s something I’m more than happy to wait until I’m back on the roads of England for… 

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11. Finally, I miss going on little trips to the pub, walking places like Newmillerdam and other random places. I get so jealous when I hear that Lauren and Vicks are going to the pub, or my Mum and sister are going for walks in the snow with Molly. My Dad sending me pictures of the dogs in the snow last month almost made me get straight on a plane back to Middlestown to join in the fun! But I know all these places will be waiting for me when I get back and I will hopefully appreciate them all more… for at least the first few weeks anyway!

I will post soon with things I don’t miss about England – just to make it an equal argument of course 🙂 x

It’s March already!!

The time goes so fast here!! Every time it gets to Friday I don’t understand where the last 5 days have gone – but Sunday nights seem to come by way too fast as well! So by the time you get a chance to look at the date it doesn’t seem possible to be so far through my adventure here. Today, of course, is International Women’s Day which doesn’t mean that much to me at my project (except that all the men aren’t here today but none of the women speak any English so I can’t ask where they are!). Although, for Laura it is quite exciting as she is volunteering for a feminist women’s organisation so she is going around Tegucigalps on a march today! Some people say ‘oh that’s great’ and some say ‘whaaat, but its so dangerous!!’ so who knows but I’m sure she’ll have fun…

My project is still amazing – I really can’t say how much I am enjoying it and from speaking to the other volunteers I seem to have the best one so I feel really lucky! Last Thursday we had a meeting and the director was saying something about ‘tomorrow’ and ‘half past 6’ and ‘a trip’ so I thought ‘ooo we’re going for a meal in the evening’! No… she meant half past 6 in the morning! The rest of the day I had everyone telling me there was a swimming pool where you were only allowed to wear two things – your hat and your sandals. Literally had this joke ALL day. So I dragged myself out of bed the next morning and got there nice and early… but, of course, we didn’t leave until half 7! Then we had a two hour bus ride to the San Martin Ecoturistico Hotel and Park in San Ignacio. We had breakfast when we first got there – the plato tipico of plantano, frijoles, eggs and tortillas – and then went to the hotel pool where we just messed around fo about four hours. We then had lunch which was fish and the plantain chips (I need to find out what they’re called!) which was really nice. After this, I started to feel really tired after a long swimming pool session and a big lunch so I was looking forward to getting back on the bus and getting home. But then we got onto a different bus for a tour of the Park´s features – first we saw a big valley thign which the guide gave a big explanation of but I failed to understand any of it! But then we went to the thermal pools which was really cool – having been to New Zealand, they like to tell you a lot there that they have the only thermal pools in the world etc. – but these ones could definitely rival it. It smelt exactly the same as Roturua in NZ so it was like being back there and they had a swimming pool that literally almost burnt just to touch it. But they also had some jacuzi type pools that were a lot cooler – we also saw an iguana which was fun! And then we went to their eco-lake which I´m guessing is where they caught the fish that we had for lunch so all in all it was a really amazing experience and hopefully I can find a way of taking the other volunteers there but it is in the middle of nowhere! Afterwards, I had arranged to meet Laura in the centre and stay at mine – we were meant to meet at 6 but of course we were a good 45 minutes late because we stopped 3 times on the way back for everyone to buy different foods from the little stalls you have everywhere. But when I finally met Laura we managed to order a pizza for takeaway which was a proud moment so all good!

The next day we met a couple of people from my project and went to a village outside of Tegus called Valle de Angeles – all of the guide books and websites about Tegus say that at weekends it is overtaken my tourists and people visiting from the centre but it isn’t overcrowded at all. You can see why people come here from the centre though – it is so relaxing compared to the city with no noisy traffic, no staring as the people must be a lot more used to white people and fresh air!! We had a wander round and some lunch with my project friends before they had to leave and then me and Laura just sat in a cafe all afternoon relaxing…and getting sunburnt of course. When we first got there, at about 10am, we were in a shop when the power went off but we’re quite used to this by now and we assumed it would be back on within an hour. It wasn’t. We got to our hotel for the night at about 4 in the afternoon and still no sign of it – in the end it didn’t come back on until midday the next day. So when Brynja came to meet us, we had to walk down to the centre of the village in pitch black for about 15 minutes. And I mean pitch black – we couldn’t see anything!! It was terrifying, especially when a man walked past and whispered ´hallo!´ to us. But we managed to find a restaurant serving food – no idea how they cooked it – and bought some candles so we managed to have some light and warmth back at the hotel. The next day we had another problem when we couldn’t use any of the ATMs because of the power cut so we had to go back to the city in hope of electricity – so we did manage to survive a night with no power in a tiny Honduran village but had to give up pretty earlier the next day.

This week I have been with my project to a couple of places – on Wednesday we went to a market in Comayuguela and on Thursday a community centre in a tiny village outside of the city. They were teaching the children about self esteem and what they need to do to become tutores to younger children. The activities in the village were also for the parents (there were about 40 mums and one dad!) and I saw with one of the guys for a bit while he was taking details from the mothers about their family and home. One of the questions was weather they had electricity or televisions in their homes – most did have electricity but hardly any had TVs. And also what kind of floor they have, most said concrete. It’s so strange how close they live to the capital city of Honduras but they have completely different access to things such as water and electricity. Also, one woman I’ll use as an example was 34 – she had four children, the oldest being 18 – and her husband was 47. So she was 16 when she had her first child and her husband was 29. But that is a completely normal family here. As we were walking back to the main road to get the bus home, a little boy walked with us and he had no shoes on – and the ground was all broken up and covered in stones etc. The people from my project asked him why he didn’t have any shoes and he said his family couldn’t afford them – so sad. He seemed perfectly happy and friendly though. The children in Honduras are unbeliveably cute by the way – I want to bring them all home!!

This weekend is going to be full of a salsa club on saturday, a picnic in a local park and, hopefully, a swimming pool so I’m sure I will have lots to update on next time. Still no laptop but as soon as I get it I will put photos on Facebook and some on here.

Have a good weekend everyone! x