Hi, everybody! I am currently writing you from the island of Roatán, where I’ll be interning for the next few months. I’ll be spending this summer in Honduras, more specifically, on the island of Roatán. Roatán is the largest of the Bay Islands, but at about 8km in width, one is never very far from the water! While a part of Honduras, Roatán is very unique, with a culture(s) all its own. It’s even home to multiple different language groups, including different variations of English, Spanish, and Garifuna. This being my first time on Roatán, in the Bay Islands, and in Honduras, I have a lot to learn! I’ll be doing my best sponge-impersonation, trying to take in as much as I can both from my host-organization, and from my host-country context, here on beautiful Roatán.

The view from the top of my building!

The Work

So while I just arrived on Roatán two days ago (!!), I’ve actually spent the past two weeks at my host-organization’s headquarters in DC, meeting the team, getting to know the office, and getting prepped on the must-knows of the program in Roatán. First, I’ll tell you a little bit about the program, then I can say a bit more about what my role actually is. 

The program here in Roatán leverages Interactive Audio Instruction to teach English as a second language, along with work-readiness skills, to youth. Interactive Audio in this context refers to lessons that are pre-recorded, then distributed in school districts via radio or MP3 along with a Teacher’s Guide. The teachers can then use the guide to facilitate lessons and design post-activities. Another major component of the program is its contextual pertinence, meaning that the lessons use popular music (and even some well-known artists in the region!) to teach new skills. The program has already been implemented in a number of Latin American countries, the latest of which is Roatán! So that is the program, but….what am I actually doing? 

While I haven’t totally started working here in Roatán yet, the following three tasks are my primary focus right now. 

  1. Program Monitoring. I’ll be cooperating with Roatán’s Direccion de Educacion to monitor program effectiveness through school visits and interviews. We’re currently working to design new assessment instruments, and will eventually use them to come to produce a status report (Another HUGE thanks to Dr. Thapa, for this one!!).
  2. Content Development. Now that many classrooms are nearing the end of the program, the organization is in the process of developing content for Level 2. So we’ve been supporting them in developing leveled stories, organizing the songs, etc. 
  3. Proposal Development. We’ve also been able to support the team in responding to requests from ministries outsideof Honduras for proposals on the possible adaptation of the program to different contexts (Here comes another shout-out – Big thanks to Dr. GK for the intensive concept note practice!!)

Sound like a lot to take on in one summer? Well, it feels like it too! As part of a very small team, we have been given some significant responsibilities. I am under no illusions of being able to complete it all, but I am still very appreciative of the freedom that we’ve been given to really engage with all aspects of the program! All of that aside, here’s your reminder that I we haven’t gotten started yet! In fact, there have been a series of strikes, meaning that the schools haven’t been in session as of late….I’ll report back in a few weeks with the actual day-to-day of my work life. But I am very excited to get going! 

A street view of the West End, where I live!

Adjusting to Roatán

In the meantime, I am settling right in to life on the island. The very first thing I noticed stepping out of the airport…it is HOT. Like, really hot. And humid. The air feels like a blanket. But that’s okay! I’m from South Florida, and I would take this over a second Philadelphia winter any day. 

Day 1: After waking up at 4am, flying to Roatan via Miami, and taking a taxi to my Airbnb from the airport, I set off to explore! The apartment is only about a 6-minute walk from the West End. I walked into town and up and down the main street, and took an hour or so to just chill on the beach. I am staying near one of the most touristic parts of the island, and there are a lot of other Americans here, (to give you an idea, most of the stores, restaurants, etc. have their signs in English and their prices in dollars). so I’m definitely excited to do some more exploring when we visit schools. A few hours later, Meilin arrived! Did I mention, I’m here juntas con a fellow IEDP cohort-mate! We took the afternoon to unpack before heading into town to try a delicious Baleada. By this point we were both pretty much falling asleep in our chairs, so we made the trek back to the apartment and fell asleep at about 7:30pm! (It was still so hot omg). 

A nice **shady** portion of my walk into town.
My first Baleada! A classic Honduran dish made with a flour tortilla, filled with mashed fried beans, and folded in half. This one also had chicken, cheese, and a montón de otras cosas. I promise it tastes even better than my photography skills allow it to look!!

Day 2: Our first morning in Roatan and it is still so hot!! In Philly, I am up and exercising every morning by 6:30am. I am attempting to do the same here, but after this morning’s 30-minute walk, I felt (and looked) like I had run a marathon. On the plus side, it’s mango season here (my favorite time of year!), and while walking I picked up a bunch of fresh mangos, straight from the tree! After a very fresh fruit-salad breakfast, the Airbnb host very kindly offered to drive us to the grocery store in the island’s capital, which is a ways away on public transport. I won’t bore you with the minutia of grocery shopping, unpacking, and making lunch, but we did take the afternoon to visit a new beach. Water taxis leave every few minutes from our nearest town to the next, as soon as they get at least three passengers. So within a few minutes we were on a boat and off to West Bay! The area had a lot of hotels, and (surprise!) more tourists, but the beach was long and beautiful, and the water was so clear that you didn’t need a snorkel to see schools of fish from above. We stayed on the beach until sunset, before coming home to boil some green bananas for dinner. 

Me shamelessly collecting mangos on my walk home (this is every morning….)
Taking a water taxi out to the nearby West Bay!
The Westernmost point of Roatán

Day 3: Day three and it is finally time to get to work! After my usual morning walk, I got all dressed up in my professional clothing, and we set into town to catch the bus to the Dirección Departamental de Educación, where we would meet with the District Director and the Técnica in charge of Bilingual and Language Education on the Island! We flagged down the mini-bus and took a very-crowded 20-minute ride. On the way there, we weaved in and out of some smaller communities, picking up riders, and it definitely felt nice to see some more residential parts of the island! The Dirección is way bigger than where I worked in the Dominican Republic, and was very full of people. The director’s office even had air conditioning (!!!!). I left our meeting feeling simultaneously worried and hopeful. We can’t start the monitoring or data collection process until at least next week, because class still isn’t in session due to general strikes. But we definitely have a lot on our plates!! In addition to our primary project, the District Director has asked us to host a workshop offering additional support and review for the teachers implementing the project. 

Watching the sun set over Half Moon Bay on my first night on the island

So as of now, you are all up to date! In summation, Roatan is beautiful (albeit HOT), and everyone that I have met thus far has been nothing but welcoming and helpful. These few months are going to fly by, I can already feel it. Here’s hoping that I am able to learn as much as I can during this time: about the island, about working with the ministry, about the challenges of monitoring and data collection, and everything else. Like I said, I have a LOT to learn!