In honor of Gabrielle's birthday, we went to Santa Barbara with some friends from San Pedro for a cake picnic, which is the best kind of picnic. Cecil wanted to show us the Castillo Bogran, which is the ruins of an old president's country home. People in Santa Barbara are either very protective of their local attractions, or no one knows where anything is...we asked several people for directions to the "castle", and also to a lunch place, and only one person knew where anything was. We think he might be the mayor.

Luis Bogran was president of Honduras from 1883 to 1891. He did a lot to improve the country's education system, and his old house in town has since been converted into a public library. No one seems to know why his country home up in the mountains has become a ruin. It is a shame, though, because it is located in a really beautiful spot. I would live there. It isn't/wasn't fortified in any way, so I am unsure why it is referred to as a castle. But it is still lovely, and a recommended spot for a cake picnic (or any kind of picnic) if you find yourself in the Santa Barbara area.

Before I head home for a weekend of slow internet, I thought I would take advantage of the faster connection at school to upload some more signs for you guys.

1. Paper or Plastic?

The grocery store near my apartment accepts all of your cards. Visa...Visa Electron...Visa...

2. Who you tryin to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?
Unfortunately this place was closed the days I was in town, so I don't know what "crazy food" entails. But I am hoping to find out soon.

3. Monumental chicken

So these little green signs (bottomish left) are everywhere to point you in the right direction to other cities or important areas around town, like the airport or hospital. Or, in this case, the local chicken restaurant. That is highly visibly from the street. And has its own sign (I couldn't fit all 3 items in the picture). I can think of no good reason for the government to have spent money on this sign, other than the fact that it provided a good laugh for me everyday on my way to school.

4. Thank goodness for white-out

My students LOVE white-out. To an excessively ridiculous point. Apparently it is a cultural thing, as you can see from this sign. It was cemented in facing the wrong direction. Fortunately, whoever made that mistake was adept at liquid paper usage, and the wrong was quickly whited...I mean righted.

5. Cheapest PADI certification in the world

So as I was exploring Roatan, I came across this sign noting that a good scuba place is nearby. The only water within a 10 minute walk in any direction is this scummy drainage pond. yum. There really are tons of beautiful places here, despite this unfortunately placed sign.
In keeping with the Latin American tradition of violence, "baleada" means someone who has been shot. Only in Honduras would a delicious food be named after that.

Baleadas are my favorite thing to eat here. You start with a thick, delicious flour tortilla. If I can figure out how to make this kind of tortilla, I will be able to bag me a world class husband. Straight up. Thick tortilla baleadas taste better than thin ones. A plain baleada has refried beans, cheese, and cream (kind of like sour cream, but a little sweeter). Sometimes the plain will have eggs as well. My favorite baleada is beans, chicken, avocado, cream, and encurtido. I had one for dinner last night. It is almost like a light version of a fajita, but without all of the negative connotations that come from being light, and with a better tortilla than you have ever had. I truly cannot stress how much better this tortilla is than any other tortilla out there. I fully understand why I am not married, as I am unable to produce this amazing tortilla.

The best baleada I have eaten is from the cafe on the corner near my apartment, El Cocodrilo Cafe. But a very close second comes from Baleadas Express. It is like a Subway, but with baleadas. And fortunately, they operate on the Starbucks business plan, so you can find one on literally any street corner in Honduras.

This picture does not show the baleada in the most appealing light. And it is a baleada from the school cafeteria, which is still delicious, but definitely not the best. But alas it is the best picture of an uneaten baleada that I have. Many of my adventures down here have been fueled by baleadas, though, so you have already reaped one of the many rewards of baleada consumption.

So, as many of you who live in Texas will understand, I am not very well acquainted with seasons outside of "summer" and "March". Honduras has the summer season down, so that was a very comfortable transition for me (comfortable might not be the most accurate word, but you know what I mean). Although they label their seasons as summer and winter, a more accurate description for you non-tropical folk would be rainy and dry season.

The dry season runs from November to April, more or less. December and January can have cold/rainy days if a cold Northern wind blows in. This year was kind of freakish in that it got really cold (for here) for nearly the whole month of January. Normally that doesn't happen. Even with the preparation I had from living in Texas, the dry season down here was the hottest, stickiest several months I have ever experienced. When rainy season hit, it brought sweet sweet freedom from hot weather oppression.

During the rainy season, it is really hot until it starts to rain. Once the drops start to fall, it cools off, and it is really pleasant. Unlike weather in Texas, weather here is fairly predictable. Every day during rainy season, it will start off cloudy. The clouds will dissappear around 8:30 or 9am, and the sun will try to beat you down. The clouds make a comeback around 3:30 or 4pm, when a delicious breeze carries them in. Then it starts raining between 5 and 6 until sometime after I have fallen asleep. This is the weekday schedule. Magically, the rain knows when it is weekend and children do not have recess, and it pours pretty much non-stop Saturday and Sunday.

My feeling towards rainy season are conflicted. I love the refreshing climate the rainy season brings. On the other hand, the hot and sunny days are ideal for washing laundry. Because, in case you do not remember, we wash our laundry by hand in the pila and then hang it out to dry. And leaving laundry out for nasty city rain negates any washing that occurred. Which means that I am running out of clean clothes. And Febreze-ing my dirty clothes isn't an option. (just kidding mom, I never really did that. often) I think I figured out a clever schedule where I wash my clothes when I get home from work, then leave them in a wet pile in a bag in my kitchen overnight. Then I hang them up in the morning when I wake up. I think one more load like that, and then I can hold off until I have access to a real washer and dryer. I never have been so stoked to do laundry.
In one week, I will be walking out of Freedom High School for the last time. Although I am trying to stay grounded in the present and not to dwell too much on the future, I realized that there are people who read my blog who do not read my friend Erica's. So y'all have some catching up to do.

I have made references to job hunting in some previous posts, but have not given the results here. So, in case you have not heard, I will be teaching science in Bratislava, Slovakia next school year. The reason this was announced in my friend Erica's blog is because she will be a mere three hours away in Ostrava, Czech Republic!! If that wasn't awesome enough, the Slovak word for brothers is "brats". I can already tell that I am going to like it over there.
So as I was job hunting, both this year and last year, I noticed that most international or bilingual schools require their employees to be native English speakers, or at least have that level of fluency. At the particular school I am at, this is not the case. It has definitely made for some interesting encounters with coworkers who speak zero English. Even among the ones who do speak English, few speak it well. Unfortunately, the English teachers are among these. So these kids are learning English from someone who speaks really awful English.

This causes problems when a student says something incorrectly and I correct them. Because they have been taught (sometimes for years already) that the way they are saying it is correct. And whenever I correct them, they act like I am trying to trick "hahaha, I taught these kids how to sound stupid!" or something. So it is generally a fight to convince students that I know my language a little better than them, and I really want to help them at least sound intelligent. For example, you don't ask "When we are going to recess?" ask "When are we going to recess?" That took a good month before they finally believed me.

This morning, the biology teacher came in to talk to Gabrielle and I. He was talking about lizards with webbed necks, and that kind of transitioned into Turner syndrome (one of the manifestations of this disease is a webbed neck). He kept referring to the webbed neck as an enlarged cervical membrane. And he wouldn't believe Gabrielle or I when we said that the cervical membrane does not refer to extra skin on your neck. It literally took 15 minutes and the help of Google before he believed that the cervical membrane refers to special lady parts.

sucker. I can't believe he fell for that...
Although I have been unable to substantiate this claim, I am willing to bet that the National Anthem of Honduras is the longest national anthem in the world. When all seven verses are sung, along with the chorus, it takes a good 20 minutes to get through...closer to 30 minutes when you sing it at the appropriate tempo. The lyrics are really lovely and poetic, though.

In a conscious effort to curb my natural tendency towards super long posts, I am only going to post the chorus and 7th verse, which is what is sung normally (kind of like how the Aggie War Hymn technically has 2 verses, but people only ever know the 2nd verse). That way you can see how lovely their anthem is.

Tu bandera es un lampo de cielo (Your flag is a splendor of sky)
Por un bloque de nieve cruzado (Crossed with a band of snow)
Y se ven en su fondo sagrado (And in its sacred depths there can be seen)
Cinco estrellas de palido azul (Five pale blue stars)
En tu emblema, que un mar rumoroso (In your emblem, which a rough sea)
Con sus ondas bravias escuda (Shields with its wild waves,)
De un volcan tras la cima desnuda (Behind the bare summit of a volcano)
Hay un astro de nitida luz (There is a star of clean light)

Por guarder ese emblema divino (To guard this divine emblem)
Marcharemos, oh Patria, a la muerte. (We will march, Oh fatherland, to the death.)
Generosa sera nuestra suerte (Our luck will be generous)
Si morimos pensando en tu amor. (If we die thinking of your love.)
Defendiendo tu santo bandera (Defending your holy flag)
Y en tus pliegues gloriosos cubiertos (And shrouded in its glorious folds)
Seran muchos, Honduras tus muertos (There will be many, Honduras, your dead)
Pero todo caeran con honor. (But all will fall with honor.)

Isn't that pretty? When this is sung, you begin and end with the chorus, like a really long and patriotic musical sandwich. So even the one verse on its own is probably the longest national anthem. In order to graduate, every senior in Honduras must memorize all seven verses, as well as 100 questions and their answers about various parts of the anthem. They are given a test in which a verse, and a certain number of questions are drawn randomly. The student must then perform their chosen verse and then answer the questions, verbatim, with the answer given in the booklet. If the answer is not verbatim, it is not correct. As one of my coworkers says: "Who says schools in Honduras don't raise independent thinkers? We have been independent since 1838!"