Stand and Deliver

There is a wonderful tradition in Honduras of giving impromptu speeches at important events. I’m sure there are some basic conventions, but to an outsider they appear spontaneous and authentic. Everyone can participate, if they are willing. At the beginning of each school visit and at the end there are a round of these speeches given by teachers, parents, students, administrators and someone from our group. Linda is our first choice, not only because of her fluent Spanish, but because she seems to know our minds and hearts and give a view of these to the villagers. Sometimes I will ask her to say something specific, something that needs saying at that moment. This year I wrote speeches for particular schools and Linda translated them as I spoke. A word to the wise: google translate does not pick up nuance or connotative meanings. I tried using this application on these speeches with laughable results. My editor( read Sally) has warned me that I am dangerously close to bombast in these posts, so I will simply reproduce the speeches as presented. After this I will include another collection of pictures. The first text was read at the Special School in Siguatepeque. I’ll enter the second tomorrow.

” My favorite place in all the world is my house in Seguin. This is because my wife lives there and, for a time, my son did as well.  My house is filled with love and openness, with caring and compassion.  It is a place where you can leave the cares and frustrations of the world behind and enter the Kingdom of God.  On the best of days, I wonder why the world cannot be like my house, filled with acceptance and idealism.

My second favorite place in the world is this school, because it feels like my house. I am a teacher and in my profession there are often very selfless and committed people, but I have rarely seen teachers like yours; their every movement and word seems full of caring and authentic concern.  I can see something miraculous in your eyes as well, you students; I see such vulnerability and trust, such openness, enthusiasm and curiosity. Jesus said that only those who can become as children will enter the Kingdom of God. You have helped me to understand these mysterious words.

I miss my son very very much. He was a beautiful soul. Thankfully, so is his mother. Thankfully, too, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the light of his eyes in yours. It is a very beautiful memory. Thank you all. We hope that you will enjoy these computers, and that they will empower your creativity and wonder. There is much in the world that is wonderful. You have some of that magic here, and we hope you find more in your futures.”

Here are more pictures:

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The Heart Has Its Reasons That Reason Cannot Know

 

Pascal anticipated the world we live in today, a world where we live too much in our heads. Our hearts and bodies are ready with their wisdom, but we cannot hear them. I thought of this when we all arrived at the Zari Hotel in Siguatepeque long after midnight. Our minds were exhausted but our hearts were full and our bodies knew what to do. Even our Forestry Ministry driver, Raul, seemed caught up in our comfortable transition. Freed from the tyranny of thinking, I could look on in wonder at our gathered group and feel the miracle of our shared love and commitment, the many years we had been in exactly this same situation. All those experiences shifted into a single frame and made the very air itself seem somehow deepened and full of magic. The faces of these people I know so well seemed to shine from within because I was in the presence of saints. Sometimes in a pleasant dream I will walk through a familiar place but the experience is charged with some powerful symbolic significance, as if nothing was as it seemed and that everything was to be cherished as full of meaning and wonder. I have yet to wake up from this dream of Honduras. I floated through breakfast the next morning and on into the trip into the mountains to visit our first school. It is very rainy and humid this time of year and this serves to intensify all the aromas of rural Siguatepeque. You can literally smell the fertility of the mountainsides, the saturated dark earth, the profusion of leafy green and the many flowering shrubs, trees and flowers. Most beguiling are the scents of the  tropical fruits, fruits on trees and displayed on roadside stands. Surely Eden smells like this!!   Arriving at the school, we soon saw the faces of excited and expectant children, lined up before us like precious fruit. I can’t express the impact of these faces, so full of curiosity and anticipation. It is humbling and inspiring at the same time, making our hearts open like flowers. I woke up from this pleasant dream three hours later, after we had completed all of our lessons and the children were exploring in a room full of laughter and gasps of surprise and amazement. I’ll stop now and let you see the pictures which will make my words seem shallow and unnecessary.

 

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The Sangreal

As a young boy I loved the Arthurian legends, particularly the search for the Holy Grail. When Lancelot or Gawain set out to travel to a rural chapel, their path, though simple at first glance, was always fraught with adventures and challenges which put unexpected obstacles in their way. A journey of an afternoon ends up lasting months. Hungry for the destination, for the goal, I was always anxious to move on with the narrative. Now I realize that the tests along the way are just as important as reaching the goal, that the slings and arrows of fortune are a necessary preparation. Sally and I are often very anxious before our mission begins. Making flight connections, checking shipping logistics, anticipating customs duties all seem like dragons to be faced. Yet as soon as we board our flight, it seems as if everything were happening by itself, as if some larger fate or destiny were drawing us forward. After 16 hours of relatively uneventful travel we arrived in San Pedro Sula to meet Linda, Richard and Natalia and to begin our quest for the Sangreal.

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Be It Ever So Humble…..

 

We returned to Santa Rosita on Thursday and it was like returning home. The long ride in the back of a truck.;the early morning mist still obscuring the steepest hillsides; the distinctive scent of ripe fruit, dew-drenched vegetation and rotting leaves; the cool draughts under the pine trees: all of these brought back very distinctive and very pleasant memories. The first school in Santa Rosita that we saw five years ago was a mud and wattle structure covered in mold and smelling of mildew. There were twenty ramshackle desks for the 50 students and 2 teachers. I’ll show you what we saw this time below:

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The transformation was stunning. What was most changed were the students themselves. Instead of the shy, reluctant and hesitant participants of the past, these students were bright-eyed, confident and openly curious. They took to the tablets immediately. More later.

Mark

 

 

 

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Andy Warhol Was Right

Somewhere Andy Warhol wrote that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. If he is correct then the eight of us are finished with our moment of fame. Last night after a glass of wine at the home of Dr. Oscar Gross, we were invited to be interviewed at a local television station. We imagined a hand- held microphone and a portable camera. Instead we went on live television on a set reminiscent of Good Morning America.

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Sally and I had to sit on high  barstools, making us feel like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.at a night club. The moderator was a long-legged young lady in short shorts who spoke faster that I ever thought humanly possible. Linda acted as translator and Oscar Ochoa introduced us and gave a summary of the project so far. What was most off-putting was that we could see ourselves on several monitors. Sally got the giggles and soon we were all trying not to laugh aloud. Many of the questions were about our emotions, and how we remembered Owen as we visited the schools. Thank goodness we were so disconcerted and full of hilarity because I might have cried on live television. Instead it was a surreal experience worthy of Warhol.

Mark

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El Dorado

 

Spanish conquistadors sought a fabled city of gold. They may even have been in Honduras in the central mountains where we were today. They were unsuccessful because they were looking for a treasure contained in rocks. We have been looking for a treasure found only  in faces and smiles.

Here’s what we found in El Dorado:

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The picture in the center of the collage shows what awaited us as we walked into the school. What it cannot show was the air of hushed anticipation, of welcome and excitement. There is a part of the Episcopal service that reads ” Let us join our voices with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven who forever sing this hymn of praise and thanksgiving..” I now know what the company of heaven means after being greeted in this way. It was as if we were all part of something transcendental,  full of mystery and meaning; of some endeavor that called us to be our better selves. It was so innocent and pure. I felt weightless and free. Natalia, Casey and Mimi were equally caught up in some mystery they could not explain.  We all visited El Dorado today.

Mark

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Whereof One Cannot Speak, Thereof One Must Remain Silent

The title of this post comes from Wittgenstein’s work the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. It appears at the very end when Wittgenstein says that there is much about life that is beyond the power of language to convey. I was reminded of this when we went to our first school in Siguatepeque. It seems that Honduras and Texas are experiencing heavy rains and flooding. We couldn’t get to our school in the mountains near Tegucigalpa because of washed out roads so we set up shop at the Zari Hotel in Siguatepeque and visited a special needs school nearby. Most of the students there were deaf ,which was initially a bit disconcerting. We were already laboring under language difficulties because of our basic Spanish. This seemed to complicate matters even more. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. The teachers at the school translated our lessons into sign language, moving around the classroom facilitating interactions with the children in an unobtrusive and effortless manner. Sign language is full of passion and beauty. Being an Italian, I talk with my hands, but their communication was of a higher order. The yearning to make contact with another human being radiated from their fingers. The register of emotions on their faces,  the light in their eyes, the intensity of their gazes were more expressive and full of intent that any words might have conveyed. I suddenly realized that Wittgenstein may have been wrong about silence. Here silence was full of wonder and love. I can’t quite explain it but we all felt bathed in love. It seemed as if the students were surprised and gratified that we had come, that we had thought of them. When we started to move among them, to direct them to interesting applications, they reached out to touch us. Their touch was electric, totally vulnerable and trusting. Their enjoyment of the games and music on the XOs was just as innocent and heartfelt as everything else they did. Surely this is what Jesus meant when he said that only those who can become as children can enter the kingdom of God. Once again we came to teach, but it is we who are taught. I’m sure that I was not the only one moved by this special atmosphere. At first Casey and Mimi were a bit reserved, looking on and themselves the center of much interest. Yet very soon they too threw themselves into the experience, laughing and sharing; their eyes just as bright as those of the students. What a beginning!!!

Mark

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