Friday, September 25, 2009

Last Day in Honduras!

Right now I'm sitting in the Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa, the capital. The last few weeks have been pretty eventful. My second to last week I was busy trying to finish up with the grant proposal I'd been working on. I was pretty busy getting stuff done. The second to last Saturday in my site, I had a goodbye party with volunteers in the area. There were about 15 people and it was nice. I made chili and dirt dessert for everyone, and when the chili was cooking, I went to take a nap, and when I woke up it was completely gone! They had eaten every last drop of it. I was very dissapointed, but at least I still got some dirt dessert. The next day, six of us went up the mountain to the river and swam for a little while. We brought the puppy of one volunteer with, thinking he's be fun to play with, but he slept under a rock the whole time. It was a really nice weekend, but sad saying bye to people.

My last week in site was sort of hectic. I had to clean out my house, give stuff away to people, pack my bags, and say goodbyes. I left a lot of stuff for the volunteers replacing me. I haven't gotten to meet my replacements, but they are a married couple and I hear they're really nice. One is in the municipal development project (the same project I'm in) and the other is in the youth development project. I've been joking with people that I do so much work, they had to put two people to take my place. That's definately not true though.

I spent a lot of time my last week visiting people and it made me wish I had spent more time with certain people before. Saying goodbyes really made me realize how much people mean to me and how much I mean to them. It was tough. Sunday was my last day, and it was so hard. I was saying final goodbyes all day to people I've spent two years with but will likely never see again. It was depressing.

I got to the capital on Monday, since we had to spend the week here to do administrative and medical stuff before leaving. But while on the bus here, we got word that Mel Zelaya, the exiled president, had snuck back into the country and was in Tegucigalpa. We arrived at 3:30 to find out that the current government had called a nationwide 4:00 curfew. So we rushed to get food and get to the hotel. Then we find out that the curfew was extended the entire next day! So no one could go outside the entire day. So we just sat in the hotel. There were about 18 volunteers here, and we stayed in this little, rundown hotel that Peace Corps always puts us in. The first night the electricity was cut, but it came back the next day, so we pretty much watched TV all day. We got woken up at 6am that Tuesday to the sound of protesters on the streets, disobeying the curfew. There was a huge police force out there throwing tear gas at them. We went up on the roof of the hotel to watch the action.

Since we were stuck in the hotel and couldn't leave to get food, and everything was closed because of the curfew, Peace Corps called the US Embassy to help get us food. So they sent over two US soldiers with MREs for us to eat. They gave us a little demonstration on how to make the meals. You add water to this packet, and it automatically heats the food. There were lots of different options, including: Vegetable Penne Pata, Sloppy Joes, Chicken Breast, BBQ Veggie Burger, etc. They pretty much tasted like frozen dinners or something. And they came with little snacks.

On Wednesday, the curfew got liften from 10am-4pm, so we all went to the Peace Corps office to get stuff done. We were supposed to get lots of medical exams done, see the doctor, etc., but since we lost so much time, they gave us vouchers to get everything done in the US. At one point, there was a huge demonstration outside the Peace Corps office and no one was allowed to leave. On Thursday, there was no daytime curfew, so we were able to get all the administrative stuff done with Peace Corps, close our bank accounts, and all of that. We made it to the mall and the grocery store, and we were hoping to go out to dinner, but at 6:15, they called a 7:00 curfew, so we were stuck inside again.

Today we are just finishing up a few things at the office. I fly out tomorrow at noon. Going through political unrest is an interesting experience, and it makes me sad for Honduras. People here have enough problems without corrupt politicians trying to make power grabs and messing everything up. It's been a frustrating week but it does make it easier to leave. I'm looking forward to going home and not worrying about curfews or protestors or tear gas. See you all soon!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hot Tamales!

This past weekend was really good. On Sunday I hiked up the mountain to visit my host family and spent the day there. They cut down a bunch of corn in the morning and we made tamales. My host mom’s brother and his family, who I’m close to, came over to help. Making tamales is a long process. We husked all the corn, keeping some of the husks to cook the tamales in, then degrained the cobs, ground the corn to make meal, mixed it with some other ingredients, filled the husks with the corn mixtures, and put them in a pot to boil. There are many different types of tamales, some are cooked in banana leaves, some have meat and vegetables in them, some have beans in them, some have nothing, some are sweet, etc. Before coming here I had no idea there were so many types of tamales. I don’t like them that much. Depending on how ripe the corn is when you pick it, you can do different things with it. Some corn was put aside to make tortillas, other to make tamales, other to make elote a.k.a. corn on the cob, and the juiciest corn was used to make atole. Atole is kind of like pudding, or flan. To make it, you grind the corn really well to get all the juice out, which is kind of milky. This is mixed with milk, sugar, and cinnamon. It’s another dish I don’t really like. So, throughout the day, I ate corn in four different forms: elote, atole, tortillas, and tamales. It was nice day though, and I hadn’t seen my host family for two months, so it was good to visit with them.

Last month we finished the cultural talks with the 5th graders. To finish the session, we put the students into groups and had them research and present a topic. I talked to them about good research and good presentation techniques. Each group chose a country or region and a theme. Some examples of themes presented: Chinese festivals, Central American sports, European food, African wildlife, famous people of the US, US sports. Some of the groups I was pretty impressed by, and others not so much. The day after the presentations, the librarians and I organized a party for the students. We made “cultural food,” which included: spaghetti, nachos with salsa, hummus, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and oatmeal-raisin cookies, and scones. The party started at 4pm, so the two librarians and I spent all day preparing the food, which was a pain but kind of fun. The party went well, except that it rained for about half an hour and it was an outdoor party. But all the food went over really well, and after the rain stopped, I played a bunch of games with the kids.

Lately, I’ve been pretty busy working on a couple grant proposals. The municipal government of my town is in the process of building a garbage dump with good environmental standards, and they want to have an educational aspect to the program, so I’ve been working on writing a couple grants to focus on education and awareness. I helped the library that I work with to write a grant proposal to fund garbage management workshops with several community groups: civic leaders, youth leaders, small business owners, food service owners, and teachers. The idea is to train 100 community leaders in themes including: the importance of not littering; separating trash into organics, non-organics, and recyclables; utilizing the garbage service when it starts, etc. Instead of receiving a diploma for completing the workshop, each participant will receive a canvas bag, with an environmental slogan, to be used for shopping, instead of using plastic bags. Our municipality has actually been talking about making the pulperia (small store) owners charge for plastic bags in order to encourage people to bring their own bag when making purchases.

The other grant I’m working on is with another volunteer, in coordination with a local NGO (non-governmental organization), to do an environmental education campaign. This includes having television and radio announcements and programs, as well as billboards with environmental messages, specifically promoting good waste management practices. The budget also calls for promotional items (keychains, stickers, pens, canvas bags, etc.) with the campaign’s logo and an environmental slogan. If we can create a stigma against littering, less people will be likely to do it.

The other component of the campaign focuses on the local buses. With the grant money, signs with environmental messages (ej. “Don’t throw garbage out the window”) will be purchased and placed on the insides and outsides of buses. An agreement will be reached with the bus companies to implement a trash collection policy so that passengers will be able to deposit their trash in trash bags. Also, a professional will be hired by the project to give informational environmental talks on the buses and hand out the promotional items. The bus companies have been pretty responsive to the proposal of these activities. We’re submitting the proposal to the Coca-Cola Foundation and are looking for other funding sources. It’ll be really exciting to see billboards and bus signs with environmental messages, but I won’t actually be here to see it.

I only have one more month in my town, then I go to the Peace Corps office for a couple days to do closing medical exams and administrative stuff, and then I go home. It’s hard to believe I’m leaving so soon. I’m getting pretty sad about it, but it’s time to move on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

2 years in Honduras!

Saturday, July 11th was my two-year mark of coming to Honduras. “Does it feel like it’s been two years?” people ask. Time here sometimes goes fast and sometimes goes slow. It does feel like two years, it feels like a long time. But, at the same time, I think back on something that happened, and it’s hard to believe it was almost two years ago that it happened. And, for me, it’s sometimes hard to take note of how the time passes, since there aren’t really seasons. And it’s been the first time since I was 5 that time hasn’t been marked by school breaks and summer vacations. That’s something everyone faces once they finish school, unless you become a teacher I suppose. But here everything moves slower than in the US, which is sort of double-sided.

How do I feel about leaving in 2 months? Well, I’ll save the real insights for when I’m actually leaving, but I would like to say that I’m so happy I’m here. For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting tired of being here and ready to go home, but overall, I am very happy to be here. There are always ups and downs. I believe you could ask any Peace Corps Volunteer in any country and they will tell you that there are extreme highs and lows. At times, I feel so content, at peace, happy with my life here, and I don’t want it to end. I love my town, the people, my work, my life. But at other times, I feel frustrated with everyone and everything and I just want out or to give up. Sometimes I’m just tired of it all. And of course, there are mediums in between the extremes. But the thing is, you can experience the range of these extremes within the space of a few hours, or even the same hour. You can go from the high to the low or the low to the high in the space of an hour. Happy to frustrated to angry to content. We have to deal with such a range of stresses here that we are often on edge. I’m going to be really sad to leave. When people talk about it, it makes me want to cry. But there are also a lot of things I’ll be happy to be over with. It’s going to be really, really hard to leave here, but I’m ready to go home.

Ok, those are my thoughts. Now as to what’s been happening for the last couple months. I can’t remember the last time I wrote or what I wrote about, so I’ll just start with my birthday. My birthday was June 10th, my second birthday in Honduras, and it was really nice. In the morning, as I was getting ready, the two librarians, who I’m friends with, came to my house bearing gifts. They gave me a tank top and underwear. Haha. They were nice though. Then I went to the kindergarten for Wednesday morning story hour, and all the kids sang to me and every single one gave me a hug and wished me happy birthday. In the afternoon, I went to the town down the road where there are two volunteers, and I met with them and a couple other nearby volunteers for lunch, so that was fun. We had a delicious chocolate cake and I got some presents! Then I went home and visited people all afternoon. In the evening, I went to my neighbors for my birthday dinner, which was good, and they gave me even more presents! All together, it was a very nice birthday. The following Saturday I went to my friend’s town a couple hours away and we had a combined birthday party. About 18 volunteers were there and a bunch of Honduran friends, so it was really fun.

In May and June I worked a lot with the schools. Every Wednesday I do culture talks with 5th grade. Each week we talk about a different continent and the way of life there. I use library materials and one or both of the librarians come with to do the talk with me. There are two 5th grades, so we have to do each talk twice. We’re usually there from 1-4. (The school systems a little different here. Grades 1-3 have class 7am-12:00pm while grades 4-6 have class 12:00-5:00). The talks have been going well. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures soon.
In mid-June my Peace Corps group had our Close of Service Conference in the capital. It was 2 and a half days long and it was pretty helpful. We talked about searching for jobs, presenting our Peace Corps experience, readjusting to life in the US, administrative things about leaving, and some other things. Since it was the entire group I came to Honduras with, it was neat seeing everyone together again for the first time in almost two years, although we have lost many people who left due to medical or personal reasons. I saw people I haven’t really seen since we swore in as Volunteers. So that part was fun. I will have my end of service medical exams the week of September and will be flying home September 26.

The past few weeks have been a little crazy. As some of you have heard, there was a coup in Honduras. I’m not going to explain the whole thing, I shouldn’t get into politics, but any online news site will have articles about it. BBC News, CNN, and Washington Post have all had some good articles. If you have specific questions or want to know more about what’s happening, just email me or leave me a comment. The coup happened on Sunday, June 28th. Peace Corps kept in contact with us and we weren’t allowed to leave our sites for over a week. Now we’re allowed to travel, but only nearby. There’s been a national curfew in place since it happened. Although there have been lots of protests in the capital, and some violence, things have been pretty calm everywhere else. There have been some roadblocks and protests in other areas, but nothing too serious. So we’re really in no danger. But the day of the coup, and that whole week, everything was really uncertain and it was hard to get good information about what happened, what was happening, or what was going to happen. At first many of us thought we’d be evacuated out of Honduras, but since none of us have been in danger, that’s not going to happen.

A lot of work and projects were put on hold, and we weren’t allowed to travel, so it was a tough, anxious, boring couple of weeks. The teachers went on a nation-wide strike and schools were closed (which is a fairly common occurrence here) meaning that I haven’t had much work to do. Thankfully, classes are starting up again this week. Again, I could go into detail about what people are saying about the situation and what I think, and all of that, but this isn’t really the spot for that. It’s important for volunteers to stay neutral when talking to Hondurans, which is what I’ve been doing. It’s not really clear what’s going to happen, since negotiations last week fell through, but things are slowly returning to some normalcy.

Lately I’ve been busy applying to jobs. I’m mainly looking at non-profits in DC in the environmental field. I’m really worried because this obviously is not a good time to be looking for a job but I’m going to be persistent and I’ll settle for what I can get. I’ve applied to a lot, and plan on applying to many more. If anyone has any suggestions, leads, or knows of any openings, please let me know. Email me or leave me a comment. I can use all the help I can get!
I’ve written kind enough for now, I think. More to come soon, hopefully.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Earth Day

I just want to write a quick entry about stuff I did on Earth Day. Wednesday mornings I take the kindergarteners to the library for story hour, so I did that and read them books about animals. We talked about why it's important to take care of the animals and the water and the Earth. Then the librarians had the kids color and cut out paper Earths and they hung them around their necks to take hope. And they learned an Earth Day song. It was really cute. Those kids are usually really well-behaved too.
In the afternoon the librarian and I went to the school to start our culture talks with the 5th graders. Every week we are going to cover a different continent. This first week was an introduction and we talked about why it's important to respect different cultures and people of different races. We played a country identification game, which they did ok on. It went well I think. And next week we are learning about Europe and Russia. I think I'm going to have to kids make little castles. In Honduras, they have an Environmental Day as well as an Earth Day, so I want to do more environmental activities for that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

i´m still here

I haven’t updated in over a month! Shame on me. I’ll make this a long entry to make up for the lull. As I type this, I’m sitting in my house, in my plastic chair at my plastic table, eating vegetable bean soup and listening to the cicadas outside. I made the soup yesterday, and it’s good, but this is the third time I’ve eaten it since last night and I still have a lot left. Honduras has really taught me to love beans. I crave them when I don’t eat them for a while. Here red beans are more common, but in Costa Rica and I think in El Salvador, black beans are more popular. I like both.

A note on the cicadas: they are HUGE, they three inches long. And, unlike cicadas at home that are considerate enough to only come out every seven years, these guys come out every year and make tons of noise for like two months before they disappear again. Sometimes they sneak their way into my house at night and fly around banging into the ceiling. They’re so gross.

So, you’re probably wondering what I’ve been doing. Right after my last entry, I had to go to Tegucigalpa to the Peace Corps office to see the doctors and get some tests for the brucela, my raw dairy disease. Everything turned out ok. I’m now done with the antibiotics and I think I might have to get another test to make sure they worked. The weekend after that, I went to visit my host family who I hadn’t seen in a while. They are all doing well and were in the process of building a very large swimming pool when I was there. I hear that the pool is now complete, is very nice, and has many visitors. I’m not sure if they’re charging admission or what the deal is. I’ll probably go see them this week. They are so high in the mountains that it’s usually too cool up there for me to swim. Here in town it’s considerably hotter. It’s in the 80s all day and it hasn’t rained in weeks. The sun is so strong is sometimes gives me really bad headaches. One week, I had a headache for three days straight. I think it’s because, not only are we near the equator, but we’re at a high altitude, so the sun is really strong. The rain will start in about a month.

I’m doing monthly talks at the high school with the 7th graders. (Here, grade school is 1st-6th and then high school starts at 7th). This month, in honor of Earth Day, I’m giving a talk on global warming on the 28th. I can’t do it closer to Earth Day because the students are in exams all that week. Last month, two other volunteers came to help me, and we did a talk on HIV/AIDS, which went pretty well. The problem was that we did it with 57 students at once, and it was just too hard to keep order. But it’s such a long charla that I didn’t want to have to do it twice. For all the other talks I do, I’m going to split the kids into two sections. The day after the AIDS talk, I went to the kindergarten to do story hour and one of the teachers hadn’t come, so the other teacher was stuck with all 58 kindergarteners. That’s a lot of little kids, but I have to say they were better behaved than the 7th graders. This week the librarian and I are beginning the culture charlas with the 5th graders, so that will be fun.

The library has all kinds of problems right now. We have very little participation from the town, and no funding. They are trying to reconnect internet, with a different, cheaper provider, but there are issues with the foundation. We’ve tried to get funding to pay for internet from various local organizations and companies and from embassies, without any luck. So we’re still looking for possible counterparts to help keep the library running. Fundraisers don’t work very well because they are a lot of work, and we don’t have to manpower to run them, plus people in town don’t really have the money to support them. We’re also exploring strategies to get more local interest in the library. It’s all very frustrating.

On a more positive note, we just had Semana Santa, or Holy Week, where pretty much everyone has the week off to spend with their families, and go to the river or the beach to cool off. I went to La Ceiba, on the north coast to stay with a volunteer there. A bunch of people came and it was a lot of fun. We swan in the pool, went to the beach, went to the mall, saw a movie, had some good food. It’s nice having a common week off where everyone is celebrating at the same time.

Sunday I spent a lot of time doing laundry and cleaning my house, which was getting really dusty. It was kind of gross. The longer what bugs and I go without cleaning, the more I dread cleaning I’m going to find in the process. Luckily, I didn’t find anything gross today, just lots and lots of dust. Last night there was a very large spider on my bedroom wall, which made me realize I could no longer put off cleaning. So now my house is nicer and cleaner. I also spent some time today reading in my hammock. My hammock is not as nice as it once was because it’s gotten really stretched out and hangs low and isn’t very comfortable, so I’m debating whether I should buy a new one. I’m reading a book by Jane Goodall about chimpanzees. I was really surprised my some of their behavior, such as killing each other, cannibalizing infant chimps, and having war among chimp clans. It’s an interesting book. I haven’t been reading as much lately because I’ve had a lot of other stuff going on. And I’m getting back into computer chess and spider solitaire, so sometimes I play one of those instead of read. Also, planning English lessons and charlas is pretty time-consuming. Well, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed all my random news and thoughts.

Monday, March 16, 2009

new jeans!

I’ve had really good weekends lately. On Saturday, I spent the day in Santa Rosa, the biggest town near us, with another volunteer. We went shopping and I got a new pair of jeans, which is pretty exciting. All my clothes are in a sad state so it’s really exciting getting something new.
On Sunday I took a trip with this man from my community who is the president of the library board and the market board and works in the mayor’s office. We went to a town about 45 minutes away to visit his brothers and sisters and we decided to call the volunteers who live in the towns we were in so they could come along with us. So four of us drove around with Don Carvagal to meet all his family. We went to seven houses in one day and of course at each house they’d give us something to drink. At the first house we had coffee, tamales, and birthday cake (at 9:30 am), at the following houses we had: Coke, another Coke (which I managed to decline), horchata (a local drink made from corn and cinnamon), a big lunch and green mango juice, banana soda (it’s kind of disgusting), and coffee. Of course we appreciate people being so hospitable, but it’s really rude to refuse anything, and it gets hard to drink so much sugar. And then I got home at 5:30 and it was my neighbor’s birthday so I had more birthday cake and Coke! It was a really interesting day. I got to play with a cute dog, hold a really cute baby, and meet a lot of good people. One thing I really love about Honduras is how hospitable, friendly, and open people can be. Often, even though you’re meeting someone for the first time, they act like they’re your best friend and invite you to do things and give you food and just be really nice and make you feel comfortable. I love that.
Last week was pretty busy. Our library just lost its internet and a lot of financial and logistic support that it had from the foundation, so we are writing proposals/solicitudes for funding and researching organizations we can solicit from. I’m doing a cultural project with the library for 5th grade in the school. Once a week the librarian and I are going to visit the school and do an hour session with the 5th graders about the cultures of the world. The first half hour will be a talk about a continent, including how people dress, eat, live; religions; wildlife; some history; etc. We’ll show pictures, maps, music, and videos. The second half an hour will be an activity, like face painting, drawing, doing a craft, etc. If anyone has any good ideas for this, please let me know. It’s an 8 week activity and the final week, the students have to present in groups about something specific of their assigned region, such as food, sports, native tribes, animals, or whatever they want.
Another activity I’m doing to promote the library is story hour with the kindergarten. It’s the cutest thing. My first day of it was last Wednesday and I had 40 little kids in the library. I was surprised by how well behaved they were, which I attribute to their amazing teacher; she is so patient with them, and they listen to her. I read them four or five little books and asked them questions and we did some little activities and they loved it and I loved it. There are two kinder classes so I’m going to rotate weeks with them.

I’ve also been visiting the high school. I gave them a long explanation of Project Citizen, which is an excellent 3 month activity about civic education for the students. They select a problem in the community, research it, research the current policies, and create their own public policy for the problem. They conduct interviews and use internet, newspapers, books, and generally learn how to research and develop critical thought. At the end, they present their findings to a committee. The director really liked the idea, but after I presented it to the teachers, they decided it would be too much work. It’s too bad, because I really would like to do it; but it’s not going to happen without support and participation from the teachers. So I’m going to visit the high schools in the two towns next to me to present it. On the plus side, I did schedule talks to do with the students, one a month.
I’d like to get the recycling going again, but prices have dropped from 2 lempiras a pound to 1 lempira a pound, which wont even cover transportation, so I’m not sure how it’d work. I’m going to develop a proposal with a local NGO (non-governmental organization) to look for funding for a garbage project. There’s so much I want to do, but everything takes so long and it’s very difficult to find someone really willing to work. But things are going well. Ever since I got back from the US, I’ve been so happy here. I don’t think I’ve had any bad days. That’s all for now. I’ll try to update soon.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

back in honduras

Hello all. I hope you all read the wonderful previous entry by my good friend Becky. Thanks Becky! So I left the US on Feb 6th, and managed to get back to my house the same day, despite my bus being held up for an hour in a huge line of cars due to an accident with a semi blocking the entire road. It was sooo nice to come back. And when I walked around on Saturday, everyone was so happy to see me and saying they had been worried and that they were missing me. Being in the US for so long was great; it was really nice enjoying hot showers and good food, but it also made me appreciate my relaxed life here. I love Peace Corps.
I´ve spent the last week catching up with everything. School started on Monday, so I´m planning some activities to do with the students.
My illness is no longer a mystery. My last test results just came back and apparently, I have brucella, which you get from eating unpasteurised milk products. Of course I didn´t know I was eating unpasteurised milk and I don´t know where I got it. It´s a pretty rare disease. But I should be ok, I just have to take antibiotics every day for 6 weeks.
So, that´s all for now. Happy Valentine´s Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hello from Becky!

Hi Everyone who reads this blog! This is Becky, Kristyn's friend from college.

(Kristyn and me, senior year of college!)

How are all of you doing?

I'm doing pretty well :) Kristyn wrote an entry for me today in my blog, so I thought that I would be nice and reciprocate. Kristyn hasn't written an entry in a long time, so I'll try to help her out and let you know what she's been up to.

First of all, Kristyn arrived in the US about three weeks ago. As some of you may know, she was sick with what she thought was Dengue. She was really tired and had chills...and all of this happened right before her big DC trip! She was disappointed, but excited to come visit anyway.

For most of her trip, Kristyn stayed with our friend Julia (her room mate from college). Julia just got a nice house in Arlington, VA. right outside of DC so Kristyn was excited to go see it. For the first few days of her trip, Kristyn was pretty busy. She went to some museums in DC, out to dinner with friends from college...she even got to visit with a family that had babysat for during junior and senior year of college. She stayed with that family a few nights too.

A few days after Kristyn arrived, her friend Brianna, who's also a Peace Corps volunteer came into town. Brianna had gotten her and Kristyn some tickets to great events going on. Saturday, January 18th Brianna got Kristyn and her tickets to a women's luncheon that Michelle Obama was supposed to go to. Unfortunately, Michelle didn't make it...though there was a cake/candles/singing for her! Later that night, Brianna scored FOUR tickets to an inaugural ball...which I was able to go to too! I even brought a friend's girlfriend with me as my date.

(Kristyn and I at the ball. Look at our cool VIP passes!)

Kristyn, Brianna, Jackie (my friend) and I went to the People's Inaugural Ball. It was at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, DC-very nice. There was dancing, a live band, some hors d'oeuvres, drinks, a fashion show-a very fun evening! Later, we went and met up with a friend from school, and went out dancing! Even though Kristyn was sick, she stayed up pretty late that night...missing the metro, having to catch a cab back to the house she was staying at in Maryland.

The next few days of the 'inauguration' weekend were pretty fun. We all had brunch at Julia's house in Arlington, VA on Sunday and hung out for the rest of the day.

(Kristyn, Julia, me and Giuliana)

Kristyn slept a lot because she wasn't feeling well. On Monday, her grandma, Aunt (Karen) and Aunt's boyfriend came to pick Kristyn up. They took a day trip to Thomas Jefferson's house in Monticello, VA. It's a bit of a drive from DC (around 3 hours I think) but it was very beautiful there and they had a good time.

(Aunt Karen, Kristyn, Grandma at Monticello!)

Tuesday, the BIG inauguration day, Kristyn was very busy. For some reason, the people who were organizing the Peace Corps delegation in the inaugural parade took her name off of THE list and Kristyn thought she might not be able to walk in the parade! She and Brianna were very upset! Luckily, after making some phone calls, and meeting with a guy named Corey, Kristyn was put BACK on the list and allowed to march in the inaugural parade. She had to get up at 4:30 am, take a bus from where she was staying with her Aunt and Grandma, to the DC metro and then take the metro into the city. The metro was packed and because of the MILLIONS of people that came in for Obama, took a while. She waited outside for most of the day, but was finally able to march in the afternoon. How exciting!

(Kristyn and Brianna, waiting to march in the Peace Corps tent)

(The group gets ready to march!)

The rest of the week, Kristyn wasn't feeling very well. She was supposed to come visit ME in New York City where I live, but she wasn't able to make it. It was very sad. She had to go to a few Peace Corps doctors...and it took a long time. She got some blood work done, including a MALARIA test.

Once Monday rolled around, Kristyn was actually feeling a bit better. At this point, she was again staying with our friend Julia. Julia was happy to get to spend some time with Kristyn after not seeing her much over the past few years. She had another doctor's appointment, and the Dr. told her the Malaria tests, among other things, were negative. The doctor told her though that she couldn't go back to Honduras for another week at least because he wanted to monitor her and make sure she didn't have anything more serious.

Kristyn didn't know what to do. She hadn't told anyone in her town in Honduras that she would be gone this long, and she was missing the other Peace Corps volunteers. But she had all this extra time so...

she came to visit ME in New York City! I was so happy! From this past Friday, January 30th, through early Monday, February 2nd Kristyn was here! We did a lot of stuff while she was here. We went out Friday night, and Kristyn got to meet my room mates (I have two) and some of my other friends. Saturday we went to brunch (a very New York City thing to do) and then to a modern art gallery near where I live. Saturday night my friend had a Kansas Day party, so Kristyn came to that with me. Sunday, we went to a Chinese New Year parade in downtown Manhattan and then to the NYC transit museum in Brooklyn. We ended our day at my friend's apartment in Astoria, Queens (where I live too) and watched some of the superbowl. It was great having her here, especially after seeing her place in Honduras when I went to visit in June.

(Kristyn and I in an old subway car at the NYC transit museum. She loves to take pictures like this :) )

Monday morning Kristyn headed back to DC for another Doctor's appointment. The doctor wanted to run just a FEW more tests even though Kristyn seemed fine. The next day she had another Doctor's appointment and on Wednesday she found out that she could head back to Honduras on Friday morning. She's still not exactly sure what she had in the first place, but it was probably something like Dengue.

Kristyn was very happy!

In the meantime, the waiting between Doctor's appointments and extra down time wasn't all bad. Kristyn got to see 'Slumdog Millionaire', do a lot of shopping, eat some good 'American' food like Dairy Queen and Potbellys. And she got to spend time with her friends, which is never a bad thing.

All in all, Kristyn has had a great trip to the US but she's ready to go back! I was so happy to get to see her, since I miss her a lot! In college we talked every day, multiple times and hung out a lot. So, it's been hard not having her here to talk to. But, now I got to spend a little bit of time with Kristyn, and it won't be so hard when I dont' see her until September.


That's all for me. Hope you're all having a good day and Kristyn says 'HI' to all of you!


Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy Holidays

I apologize for not updating in so long. I'm not much of a writer, unless it's for school, so I have to force myself to write every time I do a blog. And this past month with all the holidays, it's been even harder.

I’m going to start with Donkey Polo, which took place December 12-13. Donkey Polo, or Burro Polo, was started by a Municipal Development Peace Corps Volunteer 12 years ago in the town of Yuscaran, which is in the south-east, near the Nicaraguan border. Donkey Polo is basically what it sounds, a simplified game of polo played on donkeys instead of horses. It’s always volunteers versus the Hondurans of Yuscaran, and every single year the Hondurans have won. By a lot. This year we scored 2 and they scored at least 13. The game takes place during the Yuscaran town feria, so there are lots of food stands set up in the park, music, and a stage with events going on. Yuscaran is a beautiful town, and it’s near where we had our field based training for about 6 weeks, so I already had a good impression of that area of the country. I currently live on the complete opposite side of the country, but since Honduras is about the size of Tennessee, traveling across it is worth it for something as fun as Donkey Polo.

We played on a concrete soccer/basketball court, which was covered in donkey poop by the end. Because so many of us wanted to play, we broke it up into quarters and switched up each quarter. I played last, and my stupid donkey would not move, no matter how hard I hit it. And when it did decide to move, it would run in the opposite direction of where the action was! I was getting pretty frustrated with it. For most of my time in the game, I was smushed up against the fence because that’s where my donkey wanted to stand. On the plus side, I got some good pictures of myself on a donkey. On the down side, I don’t know when I’ll be able to post those pictures, because whenever I try, they don’t load. But overall, it was a really fun weekend. Donkey Polo was a once in a lifetime thing, only to be experienced in Honduras.

Now for the holidays. I’ve now spent my second Christmas and second New Year’s in Honduras. Christmas really isn’t the same here as in the US; it’s just not such a big deal here. There’s not much Christmas music, or decorations, or Christmas cookies, or exchanging of gifts. People usually get together with family and the woman make tamales and pan (a type of bread eaten with coffee). And at night lots of men get really drunk, someone told me there were 30 murders Christmas Eve night from drunk people having machete fights, or shooting each other. I don’t know if the number’s correct, but I’m sure there were a lot of drunken murders that night. It’s so sad that happens on such a holy night.

I spent Christmas at a fellow volunteer's site, in Nueva Ocotepeque, which is at the western most part of the country, near the borders of El Salvador and Guatemala. There were 5 of us there, volunteers from my group. On the 23rd, we went up to an aldea so that Brianna (the volunteer who lives there) could give out Christmas cards and cookies. On the 24th, we made lots of good food and hiked up the side of a mountain behind the house, which has an amazing view of the town, and we had a picnic and watched the sunset. It was beautiful. . It’s tradition to stay up until midnight on the 24th and set off fireworks, the same as the 31st, but we went to bed around 10, which was probably safer. The 25th, we made lots of good food again, and had a nice dinner and a secret santa gift exchange. The next day, we walked to this old cemetery and that night we went to karaoke (I didn't sing). So it was a really nice few days.

For New Year’s Eve, I went with another volunteer to his Honduran counterpart’s house, and there was a small party. There were tamales, honduran chop suey (they use ramen noodles, soy sauce, and lots of vegetables), and some other snacks. The night was really fun; there was music and lots of fireworks. Here it's tradition to have fireworks for Christmas and New Year's. And they make a man out of old rags and put clothes on him, kind of like a scarecrow, and they stuff him full of fireworks and set him off at midnight! Its supposed to represent the old year.

Not much happened over the Holiday weeks, since most people either had family visiting or were gone visiting family. I’ve been helping out in the library a lot, getting ready for the New Year. We took everything down, cleaned, and made new decorations.

The Sunday after New Year’s I began to feel really sick, kind of like I had the flu. My body was really achy and I kept getting the chills, but I was still up and functioning part of the day. By Wednesday I still wasn’t feeling well, and it suddenly occurred to me that I had the symptoms of dengue. Achy muscles, cramps, fever, chills, headache, pain behind eyes, tiredness, etc. Some of you might remember I was in the hospital my first week in Honduras, and dengue was a possibility. But I’m fairly positive that wasn’t dengue, it was just some kind of virus.This time it really is dengue. So Wednesday morning, I called the Peace Corps doctors but they just told me what I already knew, drink lots of fluids, take Panadol (local version of Tyenol), and rest. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Wednesday and Thursday were probably the worst days. It’s awful being sick. But people have really been taking care of me. On Thursday morning I texted the librarian that I thought I had dengue, which is why I hadn’t gone to the library the afternoon before and I didn’t think I’d go that day.

So on Thursday, Laura, the volunteer in the town next to me, came over to take care of me all day. We talked and she brought me food and made me tea. It was really nice of here. And a few people in town stopped by to see how I was. The man who works in the mayor’s office and is president of the library junta stopped by, the lady who works in the market gave me a Gatorade, and right after Laura left at 4, the two librarians (they are both about my age) stopped by and brought me crackers and juice. They stayed for about an hour. One of them told me stories of a heart condition she had when she was young and she had to get her lungs drained. She described what it was like to be in the children’s ward of the public hospital. They wouldn’t even let the parents in to be with their children. There were lots of little kids there with swollen heads, and bellies, with tubes sticking out of them, and they were all scared and alone. After listening to her stories, I felt much better. My dengue seemed like nothing next to the suffering of those kids. One of the things that makes me saddest in life is seeing really hurt or ill little kids. So anyway, it was really nice of them to come see me. After they left, I slept from 5:30-8:30, woke up, had some soup, read a little, and went back to bed at 10. This morning I’m feeling somewhat better, hopefully the fever doesn’t come back.So that's the start to my New Year. Hopefully this will fill my sickness quota for the rest of the year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thanksgiving and World AIDS Day

I’m trying to think of everything’s that happened since I last wrote. Thanksgiving went well. We had about 20 people, mostly volunteers, but also a few Americans here teaching at bilingual schools or working with other organizations doing Peace Corps-type work. Everyone there I had met before, and several are some of my best friends here, so it was nice gathering.

We found frozen turkey in the back freezer of a little corner store, which was good because it was easier than killing a turkey, but had me a little worried because we didn’t know how long it had been in that freezer or whether it had been defrosted and refrozen several times. Despite my doubts, the turkey turned out excellent. We had excellent homemade stuffing as well as Stove Top Stuffing, homemade wheat bread and garlic rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and some other dishes. There were many excellent desserts, including pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan pie, dirt dessert, peanut butter chocolate bars, a fruit salad, a jello mold, and more.

Our biggest setback of the day is that the water went out sometime Wednesday night and when I left Friday morning it still had not come back. So we spent all day Thursday without water, which made cleaning, cooking, washing plates, flushing the toilet, etc., a challenge. We took buckets and made trips to neighbors’ houses begging for water. No one in the neighborhood had water, but they all have pilas (like water tanks) whereas the house we were staying at doesn’t, so they were able to spare us some water. Despite all the setbacks, the day turned out really nice.

A couple days before Thanksgiving, my host parents and I had a meeting with a rural bank in one of the aldeas, which we helped form. They invited us for a celebration 1 year anniversary lunch. It was pretty neat to see that this group we helped form and train is going strong a year later. It’s a really great community with motivated people.

This past week we celebrated World AIDS Day, which is December 1st. I organized a small committee to plan events for the day, and we decided to have activities the whole week. Our committee included the Doctor from the health center, the librarian and her assistant, a local pastor, a representative from PDA (the local chapter of World Vision, a Christian aid organization), and representatives from the municipality. The doctor is a woman, and just started at our health center a few months ago, although she lives in our town. I really like her, she’s very motivated and friendly. I’d like to work more with her. Of all the activitys we planned for the week, about half actually happened.

On Monday, the 1st, we had an inauguration of the week, with the mayor, doctor, and pastor giving little speeches, and then, with the school band and some HIV/AIDS banners, we walked from the health center to the park. Our town’s TV channel came to film it all, and for the rest of the day I had people telling me they saw me on TV.

We were discussing having a health fair in the park on Tuesday, with the nurses doing HIV tests and handing out pamphlets, but that didn’t quite get organized. On Wednesday night I gave a talk to a group of 8 teenagers about HIV/AIDS. It’s a pre-prepared charla that Peace Corps gives us, and it has a lot of activities and games, rather than a lot of talking. Another volunteer came to help me out, and the Doctor came to participate and explain some of the more complicated medical parts. I was really worried no one would come, and it did take away to round up enough kids to participate, but in the end it went really well.

On Thursday we were supposed to have an AIDS patient come in to talk to a small group about his/her story and how it is living with AIDS, but the person in charge of the activity fell through, so that didn’t happen. I spent all of Thursday in the library, helping put together decorations for the float for the parade Friday. It was fun, I had never worked on a float before. I’ll try to post pictures of it. So we were in the library until 8pm on Thursday, cutting, gluing, etc. Friday morning we all meet at 7:30am to decorate the car. It was a really overcast day, but we decided to go ahead with it. As we were finishing up the car, it started raining steadily, so I went to talk to the doctor, and we all decided that we’d have to postpone the parade so that the rain wouldn’t ruin all the decorations. It was pretty disappointing after all the work we put into it, but now everyone has more time to improve their floats!
So it’s been a pretty busy week, with good days and bad days.