Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas

People have been asking my about Christmas here and how it´s celebrated. It´s not as big of a deal as it is in the US. Some houses have lights and trees, but not everyone. There´s not much gift giving, mostly just for the kids. People make tamales and stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve and shoot off fireworks. It didn´t feel like Christmas at all. There was no Christmas music, or decorations, or snow, or presents. I had a nice Christmas, but it was sad not being home. I miss you all and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

13 dec

The past couple weeks have been pretty good. Although last week I had several meetings not work out. Last Wednesday, the 5th, I had a community meeting to talk about a kindergarten and only two people showed up, so I said I would just start having classes and maybe more people would join later. So I had my first Kindergarten class last Friday. Last Thursday we had another meeting with the women who make bread, to form a community bank/ micro-enterprise, but not enough people came so we rescheduled it for the following Monday. The following Monday more people came and we were able to have the meeting. Last Saturday, I went to a meeting at the library in town that the director for the youth program was giving. It was really good. About 10 kids came and they seemed really excited about it. The director talked a lot about the importance of reading, which you don’t hear much of here. Nobody I know of reads just to read. The library will have drama groups, debates, and reading clubs.

I’ve had three days of kindergarten now and it’s fun. It’s more like preschool since the kids are 2-4. I have 3 or 4 kids and have class for 2 hours. We are learning colors, counting, coloring, and drawing. We played Candy Land one day. They are having a hard time remembering the colors, but they’ve definitely improved already. It’s really tiring though, I can’t imagine having a whole class of little kids and being with them all day every day. I have a whole new respect for teachers. Last class the older sister of one of the kids came with to help and she was really good with the kids, so I’m hoping her and another teenager nearby can continue the classes on their own. One day after class, I was walking around the aldea (village) and the streets were lined with chip bags, so I started picking them up. There is a project of making purses out of chip bags, which I didn´t learn how to do yet, but I figured I´d start collecting bags to do it. So I picked up a ton of bags, then went home and cut them and washed them. Some of them were pretty nasty, since they had been sitting on the road and were all dirty.

On Tuesday I went to help out a nearby volunteer who has a youth baseball team, with a practice. It was so much fun. These kids have never played baseball and since no one plays it here, it’s really a foreign sport to them, but they really play pretty well. Not that many kids are going to practice now, because they are out picking coffee, but they started out with a lot, and once school starts again, more will come again. So I’m hoping to help out a lot with that. It’s great to have the chance to play baseball. I’m happy I brought my mitt to Honduras.

My house is coming along. I can’t wait to move in.


19 dec Wed

Yesterday I walked to the village to give kindergarten class. I spent a couple hours on Monday cutting Christmas tree shapes out of cardboard so that the kids could decorate Christmas trees and then we will glue them to toilet paper roles so they stand up. I think it will be a fun project, but I don´t know when I´ll be able to do it, because the last two days haven´t worked out. Monday was a really foggy morning and the trees looked pretty in the mist. At one point, one of my host brothers was on the horse riding toward me, and he was wearing a gray sweatshirt with the hood up, and in the mist he looked like an elf from Lord of the Rings. So I walk all the way up there to the house where I do classes, when we don´t go to the school, and find out that the whole family is going to Santa Rosa. So I would be losing a third of my students, since I only have 3 students. So I said, ok, I guess I´ll come back tommorrow, and I turned around to walk all the way back to the house. I was ducking under one of the barb wire fences and I hit my head hard on the post. Then, as I was walking down one of the hills, I completely slipped, and skidded down the hill a little. I wasn´t hurt at all, but my pants got all muddy. So then I had to go home and hand wash my muddy pants in the cold, with freezing water. That I didn´t even mind so much. I´m lucky we have a washing machine and I seldom have to hand wash clothes. But what bothered me is that the family only has one pila, and they use it to wash clothes and to clean to just killed chickens. They currently have like 600 chickens, and pretty much everyday they are killing, plucking, cleaning, and packaging chicken. So when I wash clothes, I have to do it in the same place they wash dead chickens, and the ground is littered with chicken feathers, and it smells bad, and I wonder how clean my clothes are getting if they are getting covered in chicken germs. Anyway, it wasn´t a great day. In the afternoon we had two meetings with rural banks, and they were pretty boring and I was so cold.

Today I was going to go give classes so we could make Christmas trees, but it was really foggy and they told me it was better not to go.

Lately, I´ve been spending a lot of time visiting my hostgrandparents. They are really tiny and old. They live in the house next to us. My host grandma has a hard time hearing me or understanding me, so our conversations are kind of funny, because I´ll say something and she´ll reply with something completely different. She likes to feed me, and she makes really good tortillas. And my hostgrandpa is really interesting. So I really like visiting them.

On Saturday, they are coming over, with my host grandma´s two sisters, and I´m going to show them how to make Christmas cookies. We´re going to make the peanut butter cookies with the Hershey Kiss in the middle, sugar cookies with M&Ms, oatmeal raisin cookies, and lemon bars. I´m really excited. I need to buy cookie trays, measuring cups and measuring spoons because no one has any of that.

I started to make a purse out of the chip bags I collected. You cut strips out of the bags, and then kind of criss cross them together into strands, and then sew the strands together. I´ll have to take a picture. So I made all the strands, and now I need to find a big needle to sew them together. I´ve been really bored lately. Nothing is going on. Last week was really warm and sunny but all of this week has been cold and rainy. My couterpart host dad´s been out of the house all day working on coffee and chicken stuff, so we haven´t been going anywhere or working on anything. I have the kindergarten classes, but I can´t even always go if the weather´s too bad. I can´t wait until school starts again, and I can´t wait to live in town.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Moving out

After a lot of thought, I´ve decided to move out of my homestay. When I first got here, I thought maybe I would stay here, but now I´d really rather live in my own house, and in town, for many reasons. I´ve been living with host families for nearly five months, and I miss the privacy and independence of living on my own. It´s true I have my own little house here, but it´s still connected to the family´s house, and I don´t have a kitchen. I miss deciding and preparing what I want to eat, and eating when I want to. It´s hard being on someone else´s schedule and eating what someone else feels like cooking. Also, I can hear everything from my room and they can hear everything I do. For example, one night, I had a cold, and I was up all during the night blowing my nose, and the next morning, they were all asking me how I felt, since they could here me up all night with a stuffy nose. I would like a little more privacy than that. And my room shares a wall with the house bathroom, so I can hear everytime someone uses the bathroom. I just would rather have my own independent house. Two years is a long time.

More importantly, I feel really isolated where we are, and really dependent on my host parents all the time. There are only 3 other houses here! How am I supposed to integrate into the community and work with the community if I´m not living in the community? It makes things really difficult and it´s really hard to get around. I´m also with my host family all the time, since they are also my counterparts. They are great counterparts, I couldn´t imagine better counterparts, but I´m here for the whole community, and I feel limited in what I can do with my current living situation. And I feel like it´s not a great idea to live with your counterpart. There´s a lack of a divide between home and work, and you become too dependent on that person. So I really need to move out of the house, and have my own house and more independence.

Also, I think I´ll be happier in town. This whole past year, while I was waiting for my Peace Corps assignment, when I found out it was Honduras, when I was in training, I always pictured myself living in a small town. I like where I´m living- everyday I can´t believe how beautiful it is- but I think I could be more effective as a volunteer in town. I´ll be able to walk around all over. I can work with all the schools, and the mayor´s office. There are three towns all right next to each other, so I can work with all three munincipalities. My project is Munincipal Development, which is working with the local government and community based organizations. We learned all about how the government functions in training, but I haven´t done much with the government because I haven´t been in town that much. Of course, I want to continue working alot in the aldeas, in the mountains. I really like the people and there are some great projects I want to work on here. But I think I can be more useful in town.

So I told my host dad two weeks ago that I decided to move out, even though I really like living with them, but that I´m used to living alone, and that´s just how we are, all volunteers have thier own houses. I was really nervous about telling him. I had been worrying about it for weeks, since I know he wants me to stay living with them, and they built me that whole little house, and I feel guilty about leaving after all they´ve done for me. But then I thought, if I was able to tell my own family that I was leaving for two years to live in another country, then I should be able to tell this family I met two months ago that I´m leaving their house to a house 40 minutes away. That gave me some resolve to tell him. He was disapointed, since they were expecting my to stay with them, but he said it was ok, he understood. He said it would be hard to find housing in town, though, which made me worried it would be months before I found an available house.

So last Saturday, Dec. 1, was World AIDS Day, and there was an educational fair in the town next to my town. The volunteer who lives there was helping to run it, so I went to help out. I was talking to one of the nurses who lives in San Pedro, my town, and I said I wanted to move there and did she know of any houses available. This was the first person I asked about housing, and she said yes, her sister had a house that no one was living in. They were renting it out to students but now it´s empty. It was so lucky that the first person I asked about houses had a house available! So later that day I went to see it. It´s a few blocks from the park and mayor´s office. It´s a nice house, and it´s in a quiet, pretty area of town. The house has two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a main room. It doesn´t have a pila (which is like a large sink that also stores lots of water, I keep meaning to take a picture of one to post) but they said they could build me one. The house doesn´t have tiled floors, just concrete, but that´s ok. It has a nice front porch. So tommorrow I´m going back to talk to the woman about improvements that need to be made and rent, and to sign a contract. I´m hoping to move in in January if everything´s ready. I think I´m going to buy a new camera next week, since mine won´t turn on anymore, and then I´ll take some pictures of the house.

Now that I´ve decided to move out, and that I´ve told my host family, I feel much better and more positive. I have something to look forward to, and I´ll be doing what I wanted to do from the begining. I did give it a shot here, and I´m going to live here through December, and maybe part of January, but to be happy here for two years, I want my own house and I don´t want to be so isolated. So I´m really looking forward to the oppurtunities I´ll have in town and the independence I´ll have with my own house!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

pictures from the biodigestor

me with a 1 day old baby calf.

inserting the bag that holds the biogas into its ditch

my host brother crawling through the bags in order to put one bag inside the other,
to double bag them

rolling out the plastic

my blue bedroom

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I haven´t been writing much lately because my computer is broken. I´m hoping to get it fixed, but I just don´t know if it will be possible. Anyway, things are going well. The weather has been pretty nice the last few weeks. It hasn´t been raining too much, and it´s been in the 70s during the day.

I decided recently that I like life here, in Honduras as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and that I could be really happy here for the next 2 years. There are many moments when I really miss people or places in the US, but I think the time will pass really quickly.


This month me and my counterpart organization helped form two rural community banks. They already had members but we explained the functions, the rules, and had them elect the officers. It was pretty interesting. We have to go back to give them training in accounting, transparency, savings, credit, and things like that. Yesterday we went to the town meeting at the mayor´s office, and the two banks were made official and given funding to begin. There was a great photo op of the mayor shaking hands with the bank president and handing him a thick stack of bills. Unfortuneately, my camera hardly turns on anymore, so I wasn´t able to get a picture.

Sunday was the 6th grade graduation at the school I was giving charlas at. School ended a few weeks ago, but they just had the graduation. There were only 4 students graduating from 6th grade, my host brother, and 3 girls. It was a nice ceremony with cake. I told the parents that I would like to give Kindergarten classes to the little kids in December and January. So I´m having a meeting tommorrow with all the parents in the community who are interested. I want to have class 1 or 2 days a week for a couple hours each day, and have someone from the community, maybe my host sister, helping me. And then in Februrary, she can continue giving classes in someone´s house, and can find another helper. That is, if the community wants to continue with it. I like working with kids, but I don´t want to be teaching kindergarten for the next two years, which isn´t even sustainable. But I think if I start it off, have someone helping, and show it can be done, people will like it and want to support it. That way they can have sort of a kindergarten without needing a building or teacher. It´s better than the kids sitting at home all day, anyway.

I´d really like to do a garbage project. In the aldeas, in the mountains, everyone burns thier garbage. I´m not sure what to do about that, because it would be really hard to start a functioning garbage dump out here. Everyone is so spread apart. But it´s something I´m going to look into. In town, where there is garbage collection, I want to start a program to encourage throwing away garbage, not dropping it in the street, and building garbage cans in the town parks. I really want to do a big program to educate people about reusing and recycling. There isn´t any kind of recycling program, but a volunteer near me is working in starting one, so I want to see what I can do. It would make me so happy to get a good garbage and recycling program going.

This Saturday, I´m going to a meeting at the new Reicken Library in town. They are funded by a man in the US, but the community has to provide the land, labor, and maintenance. Each library gets computers and some books to start out, and it´s up to the community to get more books. They are really nice libraries, with free internet, good books, a community meeting room, and lots of programs, for all the members of the community. These libraries are being built all over the country. Our library was finished about 2 months ago. I want to help coordinate reading groups, writing groups, drama groups, and an environmental club through the library. I´m really excited about it beacause I love libraries, and books. And this library has free internet!

I have lots of other ideas for projects. Hopefully they will work.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Nov 12

this is an entry i typed weeks ago but never had a chance to post, so i`m posting it now.

12 november

I haven’t written in a while because I have had much positive to say, but now I have some interesting things to write about.
Last week the kittens were born, and there are 2 males and 1 female. They are so cute and tiny. I’ve never seen kittens right after they were born, they’re like mice. The boys are white with orangish-brown spots and the girl is grey and black striped. I’m going to name mine Mateo Miguel Fernando. They have to stay with their mother for a while still; they haven’t even opened their eyes yet.

More work-related, we finally had the biodigestor latrine workshop this weekend. A volunteer who has built a lot of them traveled here on Saturday to teach us how to do it, and another volunteer who lives near me came to see it. It was nice having them here and showing them where I live. The project is basically a large tunnel of thick plastic lining, of several meters length, to hold the waste, and the gases go up a pvc pipe to the stove. The waste goes into one end of the tunnel, the gas goes up through a tube in the top, and runs to the cook stove. The bacteria dies in the plastic lining, and the remaining waste liquid that comes out can be used to fertilize a garden or a fish pond. It’s pretty simple. To start the gases working, you have to pour in five buckets of a mixture of manure and water every day. It should start producing gas after a month, and produces about 6 hours of gas a day to cook from. The plastic we had was smaller than what they normally use, so ours will only produce about 3 hours a day of gas. It’s a free source of fuel for cooking, and saves a good deal of fire wood.

The next step is to get people interested in the project, write a proposal, and submit for funding. Peace Corps provides funds up to $6,000 to volunteers to do small projects like this, so I’m probably going to apply to that fund. It can take up to 6 months or more to get funding, so this is really something for next year.

The volunteer who came to do the workshop is a really interesting guy. He has already been here over two years, because he extended for a few months, and when he finishes his service at the end of the year, he will stay in Honduras to work with an NGO here. He got married to a Honduran in June, I think she is his counterpart’s daughter. When he got to Honduras, he didn’t know any Spanish, just a few words, and now he speaks like a Honduran. He even tells stories like a Honduran. He has tons of stories, I learned a lot.

Also, he got his Master’s in forest science, and he knows the name of every plant, tree, and fruit in English and Spanish. It’s really amazing. We walked all around the farm and he and my counterpart talked about plants. I’ve never heard so much about plants in my life. I could probably take a semester class in botany and not learn as much as I did from him in two days. The quantity of fruit varieties in just the area behind the house is overwhelming. There are little fruits that look just like tangerines, but they are lemons, and taste just as sour as any yellow lemon. And there are lemons and oranges that are bigger than grapefruits. And there is a huge tree of passion fruit, which grow really big. And a fruit that tastes like a squash, but it grows from a tree, and they hang down almost on vines. And most of the fruit falls to the ground and rots. That just begins the strange fruits growing here. On the property here, there are probably like 10 varieties of oranges growing. No bananas, because it’s not hot enough, but there are platanos (plantains), some of which can be eaten raw, and some which are harder and have to be cooked. There are 50 varieties of platanos in the country.

In other projects, we are supposed to give training to the rural micro banks, sometime this week, hopefully. Last week there was another meeting at the mayor’s office about the women’s bank but only 8 women showed up, and only 2 were the same from the week before. So I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. School is over, so I’m looking for some kind of youth group or something that I can work with and give charlas to. I also want to get some funding to get Christmas presents for really needy kids so we can have a Christmas party for them and hand out presents. That’s about all for now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sorry I haven´t updated in a long time. I´ve had really limited internet access, and then when I do get a chance to use the internet, it`s either extremely slow, or it doesn`t accept my USB memory stick, so I can`t update. I have a couple blogs written, and some pictures, but this computer won`t take my memory stick. Hopefully this weekend I can really update. But things are going alright. For a while I was feeling really discouraged and negative, but now I`m feeling more positive about things. I don`t have much work going on. In the next 2 weeks we are going to do some training sessions for some rural banks. I want to start giving kindergarten classes a couple times a week, so I`m trying to organize that. That`s all for now, I`ll try to post my previous entries soon.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Week

On Monday I was going to go to the school to give a charla, but as I started to walk it started drizzling and then my host grandpa, a little old man, yelled up the hill at me to turn around, don´t go, you´ll get rained on. So I sighed and walked back down the hill. He gave me a ride in an ox cart, which was interesting. Oxen are kind of scary, they´re so big. Then I sat in their house for a few hours and drank coffee. It rained hard all day so it´s probably good I didn´t walk 40 minutes to the school in the rain. Monday afternoon I read magazines.

Tuesday morning it was raining really hard again. So I painted my bedroom a pretty blue color. It was the most exciting part of my week. It looks really nice. In the afternoon I went with my host family to deliver chicken and cheese to people and to visit some friends.

Wednesday morning we had a meeting at the mayor´s office with a group of woman who make and sell tortillas, bread, and cakes, to talk about forming a group of them. As a group, they could get loans and expand their enterprises. The mayor wants to start sort of a farmer´s market, which would be an outlet for these women to sell thier goods. Unfortuneately, only 5 of the 20 women invited came to the meeting. Of course, the mayor´s office only told them about it the day before, and the meeting was at 9am, which isn´t a good time for women, especially bakers, to leave the house. So we planned a second meeting for this coming Wednesday. Despite the lack of participants, the meeting still lasted 3 hours. Well , really 2 hours, the first hour was just waiting and talking, because people generally come an hour later for community type meetings, so the meetings start 1-2 hours after the set time. But it sounds like the women are interested in forming a group, so hopefully this Wednesday´s meeting will have some results. Wednesday afternoon I took a long walk in the mountains, because it was actually a sunny day, and it was so nice just being able to walk, and it´s a beautiful landscape.

On Thursday we went to Santa Rosa so I could go to the bank. Thursday evening we went to my host mom´s brother´s house for his birthday. Unfortuneately there was no cake. Last week i taught my host family how to make Rice Krispy Treats and they were really amazed at how easy they are to make, and they really liked them. It was one of my bigger successes so far, making Rice Krispy Treats. I would definately reccomend that to other volunteers.

Friday I finally made it to the school. I gave the little kids a talk on values and then we sang ´head, shoulders, knees, and toes´in English. They really liked that. And then Simon says, using the body parts we learned from the song. A few of the kids just didn´t get it though. It didn´t matter if I said Simon or not. Then I worked with the bigger kids, and we reviewed the English I taught them last week, then we sang ´head, shoulders, knees, and toes´ which they loved, we did it like 10 times, and we were going pretty fast by the end. We played Simon Says, and 3 of the kids I couldn´t fake out, so after a while, I called all 3 winners. It was a fun school day, but it was my last charla for the year because next week they have tests and then they are done. Next year I´m going to start charlas on the environment and also civic education.

So that was my week. I also got in contact with the volunteer about the latrines and he is coming next Saturday to do the workshop.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pics!


Coffee season is starting.




ripe coffee beans/grains are red








the little coffee procesor at the house


you pour the grains in the top and
the machine takes off the peel/pulp, leaving just the white bean












The white beans, depulped (without the peel)



The leftover pulp (peel)



This leftover pulp is a huge waste issue. It is very acidic, and can easily pollute the water, yet there is no good method for disposing of it, people just dump it wherever they can. And can you imagine the quantity leftover, since everyone is depulping large quantities of coffee for three months. We are hoping to work with the biodigestor latrine to use it to dispose of the pulp and use its gases to cook with.

I don´t know if I´ve talked about this latrine, it´s a project we´re starting next month, which uses the methane gases from human waste to cook with on a gas stove. So it´s avoiding deforestation, since no wood is needed to cook, and it´s a latrine.

Before electricity

1 month down! (23 to go)
Today marks one month in site. It went pretty fast. I did a lot, although not that much work. But no one expects you to do much your first couple months, it´s more of a time to settle in and get to know people and your surroundings. I´ve had a few days where I felt really homesick or I felt like this is just really hard, but overall, I´m happy and positive.
The past 4 days have been really cold, well in the lower 60s/upper 50s probably, but it feels colder because there is no installation or heat, so it´s chilly inside, too. It´s warmer in town, during the day, but up on my mountain, it´s really cold. I´ve been sleeping in sweat pants, long sleeves, and socks, with 3 blankets. I don´t have a comforter, just some fleece blankets, so I just pile them on. And it´s going to get colder. Still, I´m really happy I won´t have to deal with a real winter, with freezing wind, and ice, and snow. This will be the first year of my life without snow.

Tuesday the electricity went out around 4:30 pm. It’s pretty dark out by 5:30 or 6, so we had to light candles and sit in the dark. Apparently a large region of the West was without power and they said there have been times when the power went out in the entire country. The power outage led to a really interesting conversation with my host parents.

I learned that they just got electricity in the community about four years ago. So then I asked what they used to do at night, since now they watch TV at night, but they didn’t have that a few years ago, to which they responded that they would talk, de-grain corn, and go to bed early. They didn’t have fridges, and they didn’t have iceboxes, since there’s no way to get ice, but there were some people with gas-powered fridges. Mainly they just didn’t have things that needed to be kept cold. If they killed a chicken, they would eat the whole chicken that day. Beef and pork they would dry in the sun or else smoke it above the stove in the kitchen to preserve the meat. Since there were no phones, the towns used telegraphs to communicate between themselves, Morse Code style. Then they told me that people in the community only began to get cars recently, everyone used to only travel by horse or walking really far, and they used oxen to transport. There are still many horses in use for transportation, but most people in my community have cars. My host mom said she was in 6th grade the first time she ever saw a car. And she’s only 34.

The conversation got more surprising. They explained how they didn’t have plastic cups or glasses so they used cups made of mud, or gourds, and they wrapped things in leaves since they didn’t have containers. My mouth dropped open when my host dad said that when he was in elementary school they didn’t have pens or pencils so they had to use feathers to write and they had to make their own ink. And he’s only 42. And I didn’t believe him when he told me that they didn’t have matches, so they had to start fires by rubbing rocks together. But he was serious. People carried flint around to start fires. And they didn’t even have candles, they had to make candles out of beeswax. I was really taken aback. Life used to be like that in the US, with horses and making candles, and feather pens, but it was like 100 years ago, not like 20 years ago. It’s amazing how much things have changed in the community in the last few years, since now everyone seems to have a TV and a fridge, and lots of other things.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Food y más

I’m going to write a little about the food, because it’s different here than what I’ve been eating in other parts of the country, during training. The tortillas are much thicker, you can’t roll them, they’re more bread like then other tortillas, and they’re really good. We always eat them warmed off the stove, and I like them a little burnt.

There is a lot of dairy, since we have cows and the family sells cheese and butter. The butter is completely different than in the US. It’s white and liquidy and doesn’t taste like butter, but more like yogurt or sour cream. Some people call it crema. It’s good. They don’t really put it on anything, but just on the plate with the beans and everything, it’s good to dip the tortillas in. The cheese is white and I don’t know what kind of cheese to compare it to, it’s pretty different, but good. So for every meal, there’s some combination of cheese, or butter, or cuajada, which is like cheese, but spongy and more curd like. They drink the milk right out of the cow, they just boil it first. And then the kids drink it hot with sugar and Corn Flakes. I don’t really like the hot sugary milk, but I don’t really ever have cereal for breakfast. We have beans, tortillas, cheese, and butter, usually, sometimes eggs, and sometimes thin pieces of grilled chicken. And always coffee.

We have lots of fruit trees- oranges, lemons, guava, papaya, an apple tree, and other fruits I’ve never heard of before coming here. There’s trees with lemons the size of large grapefruits, it’s really strange. I love guavas.

We have chicken every other day or a little more, and it’s really fresh, like the milk and eggs and pretty much everything else. About once a week we have tilapia from our fish ponds. They cook the whole fish, either fried or grilled. That’s basically the only fried food we ever have. It’s really nice because in Santa Lucia I was eating fried tortillas about every day and I really didn’t like them.

We have a lot of vegetables- tomatoes, onions, white cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, potatoes, squash, carrots. About once a week or so we have soup with lots of vegetables in big pieces, with a big piece of chicken or beef. I’ve only had beef a few times since I got to site, and no pork, mainly just chicken and fish, which is perfect for me. We don’t eat that much rice, sometimes with lunch, but not always, which is fine with me. Every afternoon we have coffee with cookies or bread or crackers. So, that´s basically what I´ve been eating. I think I got pretty lucky with food here.

This past week included a meeting with the mayor and other municipality officials, a meeting about rural micro banks, a couple trips to nearby towns, construction of an improved stove, a meeting about building a high school in the community, and giving a talk in the school to 1st-3rd graders. The mayor was excited to have me and it sounds like there are some interesting things I could do with the mayor’s office. We’re going to be doing a lot of work and training sessions with rural banks (cajas rurales) which are formed by the community members to provide small loans within the community, like micro finance. It’s definitely something I’m interested in, so I’m excited to start that. Also, I finally got in touch about the volunteer about the latrine project, and he’s coming in November to give us the workshop, although I’m still waiting to hear when.

My community, Yaunera, is talking about building a high school since right now there’s not one nearby, so now people either stop school after the 6th grade, or they have to travel to other communities, or like my host family, go to town on Saturday morning. The people in the community have to pay for the land and construct the school and this organization, I’m not sure what it is, will provide the teacher and computers and other materials. It would be such a great opportunity for people. And, personally, I’d really like to have a high school in walking distance because there is a lot I could do with older students.

On Wednesday I went to the school to give the same self-esteem talk to the younger students 1st-3rd grade, It was much harder than working with the 4th-6th graders. Some of them were really slow to understand the games, so I had to explain many times, and even then, some didn’t get it. So I doubt how much they got out of my self-esteem talk. There were a few kids who really into it and seemed to be getting something out of it. The first graders can’t really read or write, so that made it more complicated. It was an interesting experience. I have a lot of respect for teachers, seeing what they deal with every day.

We’re talking about a lot of really good and interesting projects, I just hope we’re actually able to do them all.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Two weeks in site

On Wednesday I gave my first charla as a volunteer. I walked to the school in the morning with Kristian and Kelvin, my two younger host brothers. I talked about self-esteem, but I kept it pretty short since it was my first talk and I wanted to know the kids better. I had three games, it was really more games than talking, so they really liked it, but I’m not sure how much they actually learned. They’re really cute kids, and they were well behaved. When I finished, they asked me to teach them the days of the week in English. So I taught them that, and then the numbers. They’re really excited to learn English. I told them to think about what they want to learn in English for my next charla.
When I finished with the students, I looked at the three computers the teachers said weren’t working. These computers have been sitting there for three months because no tried to connect them. That’s not really surprising though, stuff like this happens all the time. For the first computer I just connected the cords to the different parts and plugged the whole thing in and it worked. It doesn’t have Microsoft Works, though, which is a problem, I have to try to find the disc somewhere so I can install it. The second computer I got on, but it kept giving me strange error messages that I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure what to do with it, I’ll try it again next time. The third computer, I got working, no problem, and it has Microsoft Works and a really good Encyclopedia installed. So I’m going to start giving computer lessons to the kids. Some of them haven’t used a computer before, so I’ll have to figure out where to start.

On Thursday there was a community meeting at the school to talk about opening a high school. Right now there isn’t a high school, just two grade schools, which go up to 6th grade. So a lot of people just stop going to school after 6th grade, or others travel to the next closest high school. My host parents, my host brother, Kevin, who’s 13, and my host sister Karen, who’s 14, all take classes at the high school in town on Saturday mornings. They spend all week doing their homework and studying. It’s nice seeing them all work together. So it sounds like they’re going to get a high school for when the new school year starts in January. There’s another meeting next Thursday to talk about specifics. This school year ends in early November and school starts again sometime in January. So I think Nov and Dec will be tough months for me, because it’s coffee season, so everyone will be occupied with that, and I won’t even have the schools to work at. I’m hoping to do something with the mayor’s office during that time. Thursday night, three of my host mom’s brothers were over, and we netted some tilapia out of the fish ponds and grilled them. It was really nice sitting outside with everyone, and the fish was really good. I’ve always been afraid of eating a whole fish, but I’ve done it three times now. I don’t eat the tail or fins or head, but even eating around all the bones takes work.

On Tuesday last week, I went to Santa Rosa (our nearby big town) with my counterpart and some other people. They had to pick up some baby chicks, since they raise chickens, and get some other supplies for my room, and other things. I was walking around on my own , and I ran into some other volunteers whose sites are nearby. One of them was from my training class, but from a different project, and the others I hadn’t met before. It was really nice seeing them and getting to talk in English for a while, and compare sites. Current volunteers are a big help because they’ve experienced the beginning phase and know what we’re going through and that it will improve. The baby chicks are really cute. They set up a little incubator up on the little hill where I have to go to use my phone, so I can look at them when I make calls and check messages. I’ve been trying to get ahold of a volunteer to do a latrine workshop for us, but I can’t get ahold of him. We really wanted to do the workshop in October, so we could start the project in January.

Right now a bunch of trees are flowering white, and it’s really pretty. They don’t at all compare to DC in spring, but they’re nice. It’s been raining almost every night, soon the raining season will really get going and it will be rainy most of the time. Some of the coffee is starting to get mature, it’s a pretty red color. They’re have to start picking it soon.

Monday last week, we spent all day working on my room. We put in light switches, hot water, and did some plastering. It’s pretty much done now, we’re still missing a couple light switches and electric outlets, and a screen on one of the windows. My closet doors are beautiful, they’re a pretty wood color and each door has a full length mirror. My host family is also having a table built for me, which I definitely wasn’t expecting. I said I wanted a really big table to make charla papers on, since the paper is really big, and that I would go to a hardware store in town to see about getting wood to make a table, and the next thing I know, they tell me my table will be done on Sunday. They say it’s big and has a large drawer in the center. I’m overwhelmed by everything they’re doing. I´ll be so happy when I can finally unpack everything.

That`s all for now. I miss everyone a lot!

Pictures of my site

Pictures from the 40 minute walk from the house to Yaunera, the aldea. This is what my host brothers walk every day to get to school. I was running it for a week before I found a better alternative. It`s all mud and really hilly. It is really beautiful, and goes through coffee fincas, and forests, and has overlooks of valleys.
pretty view from walk

part of the path
really muddy part of the path

view of valley- there`s a river at the bottom, which you can hear

the white spot on top of the hill is my house

self taken picture with pretty sky

baby sheep, born the day I got here

baby chickens, which I will be eating in a few months

pretty sky, building where some animals and equipment is kept

another self-taken shot with pretty sky

Pictures from Swear-In Ceremony- Sep. 27


Munincipal Development Group

Enjoying lunch after the ceremony


Youth Development Group



Tegucigalpa from the bus

Me with Peace Corps flag!


Me with Alejandriana and Jorge, our project managers





Me with my friend Jordan





Our Munincipal Development group with our Spanish teachers


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

October 5, 2007

I’ve been in my site a week now. I don’t have to much to report. I’ve been thinking a lot the past week, and I’ve made a lot of observations, but it’s difficult to put into words. The way of life is so different here in the campo, up in the mountains. This is the closest to culture shock I’ve experienced. Every day I’m surprised by something. It’s just so different from anything I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes it’s not just the way of life that surprises me, it’s the fact that I’m living this way of life, and I’ll be here living it for two years. I’m not just passing through. It’s not just that the houses are different, transportations is different, the food is different, but the way of doing things are different, and the way of thinking is different. It’s not that shocking, but there are things that make you think twice, or make you wonder. I also just feel really remote. It’s like a 35 minute drive to the closest paved road, I’m probably a 30 minute walk to the closest store of any kind, even a pulperia.

The best thing about living here is my host family/counterparts. They are so energetic and ideological about the development projects we’re going to do. And they’re just so happy I’m here, which is obvious by the little house they’re building me. They actually have an extra room in the house, and there would have been nothing wrong with them giving me that, but they took it upon themselves to build an extension onto their house for me; it’s really meaningful. They are willing to invest all that money, time, and effort to make me comfortable. It’s really incredible, and it says a lot about how invested they are in having a volunteer here. It makes me feel a deep sense of responsibility to work hard and really give a part of myself. I’m continually surprised at the work this must have taken and that they actually did this for me. The room is pretty much finished. They just have to connect hot water to the bathroom, install the electric outlets, and put doors on the closet. I’ve been sleeping in here the past few nights, and it’s really peaceful. There’s no furniture yet, except for the bed, but I like the feeling of sleeping in a new house, before all the furniture is in yet. It gets me excited about possibilities and new beginnings. The room even smells new, like construction. Eventually I’d like to paint the walls. Hopefully by the end of next week I’ll have some furniture. I’m so excited to have everything unpacked and set up finally.

This week we didn’t do too much. One day my host mom and I walked to the school where my two youngest host brothers go, it goes up to 6th grade. I think it’s about a 35-40 minute walk from here, mostly uphill and muddy, but with really beautiful views, and the boys have to walk it every day. It’s a two room school house with two teachers and around 30 students. When we arrived, the kids were at recess and a sheep was standing outside the gate of the schoolyard, looking in, just like Mary and her little lamb. Speaking of lambs, the day I got here last week, a little white lamb was born. It’s really cute. Anyway, at the school, the teachers said they’d like me to come 1-2 times a week to give charlas and to give computer lessons. So I’m happy I have some definite work. I think I’ll go on Wednesday to give a self-esteem charla, and my next charla after that will be on leadership. I really want to do an environmental education program. The problem is that the school year ends in early November, so I won’t have much time with them until school starts again in January. The other day I was playing with the cat and I said I wanted a kitten, and they told me the cat was going to have kittens soon, so that was surprising, not the answer I was expecting. I’m really excited about having little kittens. That’s all I really feel like writing for now, but I’ll probably have a lot more to say next time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I'm a volunteer!

Yesterday was our swear in ceremony at the US embassy. The Ambassador was there and the country director and all the training staff and we had the ceremony in the lawn of the embasssy. The press was there and there was an article about us in the paper today and we were on the news. Everyone gave speeches and it was really inspirational. It really felt like graduation again. After the ceremony we went to the ambassador's house. There was a pool, tennis courts, and sand volleyball. The house and lawn were huge, literally bigger than a lot of the sites we are going to. We played sand volleyball and it was a lot of fun. It was really sad saying goodbye to people because we won't be seeing each other. I've had to say so many goodbyes in the past few months. I am really excited that we're finally volunteers and I'll soon be starting projects and getting to know new people.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


my host family (the little girl in front is a niece, the others are part of the immediate family)

view from the house
view of the house





my room, still under construction
me with the previous volunteer and my counterparts

Site Visit

Recommendation: PRINT THIS ENTRY, it’s pretty long, and you’ll have a better chance of reading it all if you print it, and it will be easier to read.


My new address:
Kristyn Oldendorf
Rdo. Angel A. Soto
Honducor
Cucuyagua, Copán
Honduras, C.A.

(This is the address of the local post office, and when I get letters or packages they will let me know and I can go pick them up. Make sure you use this address and not the previous addresses I gave you. Please feel free to send me stuff, just don’t send any really big boxes, and nothing perishable.)


This past weekend was our site visit, from Thur-Sun. Counterpart day was Wednesday, all the counterparts from our sites came to the training center to meet us, and the directors gave some speeches. It was interesting seeing all the different counterparts from all over. On Friday we traveled back to our sites with our counterparts. I took all my stuff with me, except enough clothes for this week.

My counterpart is also my host family. My host dad is Arnulfo and my host mom is Yesenia. They are really energetic and involved in the community. They have a small, new NGO, and it’s part of my assignment to help them organize and get things going. Also, my host mom/coutnerpart is president of the caja rural (rural micro bank). My host mom is also part of a group of 7 women who crochet shirts and bags and things, and make wedding dresses. They have four kids, aged 14-9, named Karin, Kevin, Kristian, and Kelvin, which is funny because my name just fits right in. The kids are beautiful and it’s nice having kids in the house. Also, they have a computer and the previous volunteer installed a game which is all the original Nintendo games, onto the computer. So all weekend the kids were playing original Super Mario Brothers, which was exciting.

The house is basically on top of a mountain; it’s about a 40 minute drive from San Pedro, the town, up to the house. It’s a beautiful drive up the mountain, and there are a few rivers, which are really pretty. The road is terrible, all muddy and rocky and full of holes and bumpy. I live in caserio, it’s called, because there’s our house and a couple other houses and that’s it, it’s so far out in the middle of nowhere. Also, it’s a farm. They grow coffee and have chicken coops, pigs, tilapia ponds, cows, turkeys, ducks, geese, sheep, and goats, all right outside the house. It’s crazy. It is nice that we get tons of fresh food from all the animals. The tortillas are really good, and my host mom makes good homemade pizza and cake.

I was also really surprised and happy to find out that they have running water all the time and it’s drinkable right out of the faucet, which is very unusual, but they get it right from the source, since they’re on top of the mountain and the water doesn’t have to make it down to the town. Also, they have a washing machine, which makes things so much easier. I knew they were building me a room, but I was shocked when I saw it. They built me my own little apartment, minus a kitchen. There’s a large front room, a bedroom, a good size bathroom, a closet, and a little patio area. It’s really amazing. They were still finishing it up when I was there but it will be done by the time I go back at the end of the week. I have a bed and little fridge from the previous volunteer but I’ll need to buy a desk and chair and whatever else I want. I’m paying about $150 a month for rent with all my meals included.

I only am required to stay with them 2 months, but they want me to stay longer and I’m considering it, but I’m worried about transportation because I’m so far up the mountain and my only way of getting around is to get rides from my host dad/counterpart. There’s a bus into town once a day at 6am, and it returns at 2pm. But if I’m working more with aldeas in the mountains, it would make more sense to live in the mountains. So I’ll have to wait and see how it goes. A big negative is that I don’t get cell phone service in the house. I can receive text messages, but I get them a couple hours after they’re sent. There’s a little hill outside next to the house where the water tank is, so I can go there to get reception and make calls. I might buy an antenna for my phone, which might help. When I stand outside the house and look around I literally can’t see anything except trees and mountains, there’s not one house in view. It’s really pretty, but it was kind of a shock. Usually people from the Municipal Development program are in municipalities, close to the mayor’s office. I can move to the municipality after my two months home stay, but I’m not sure if I will.

Also, I’m replacing a volunteer, and I was able to meet her, we spent all weekend together. She’s leaving this week though because she just got a job at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. So that’s kind of funny because I just came from Bethesda, so it’s like we’re switching places. She’s from Maryland and went to UMD. It was really helpful hearing her experiences and suggestions, and she’s really nice. She gave me lots of tips. We’re really close to Guatemala and El Salvador, so it’s easy to travel to both, and she gave me some info on buses and hotels for when I travel. On Sunday we traveled together back to the capital, because she has to do administrative stuff this week with Peace Corps before she leaves on Friday for the US. She lived in the town of San Pedro her whole service, and she started out with a different counterpart before she found my current counterpart, so I will have a different experience. She had a cat while she was here, Tigre, and she decided to bring him back to the States with her, so it was an interesting trip back to Tegucigalpa, traveling with all her luggage and a cat. The cat was really good though, and very calm the whole day. We left San Pedro at 5am and got to Tegucigalpa at about 4:30 pm and I got back to Santa Lucia at 5:30pm. It was a long day. We did get to stop at Wendy’s for a quick lunch, which was exciting.

I had a good weekend. We spent most of Friday driving around to different aldeas and meeting people. Saturday evening we had a goodbye/welcome dinner and cake for the old volunteer and me, which was nice. It was really sad watching her say goodbye to everyone, it makes me think about how hard it is going to be to leave here after two years.

The big project my counterpart wants to start is a latrine project, so hopefully we can get that going in the next month. There are a lot of possible projects but I think it will take me a while to find my place. I’m also kind of worried because the coffee crop is from November through Jan or Feb and everyone’s going to be busy in the fields all the time, so it will be a challenge finding projects to do. I’m really excited to get going. The other people in my group had good visits. Almost everyone has some concerns about something, but everyone is still committed. Thursday is our swear in ceremony at the embassy and our reception at the Ambassador’s house and Friday we travel to our sites for good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

my site!

My site is San Pedro de Copán! It’s in the west, near the Guatemalan border, near the town of Santa Rosa de Copán, which is a popular tourist site for the beautiful Mayan ruins that are there. You should really google pictures of the ruins of copan, honduras, you´ll get some beautiful pictures. I´m a few hours from the actual ruins, but it is really cool. There are some indigenous groups that still live in the area. I am so excited. My site description sounds amazing and it’s supposed to be absolutely beautiful there, and I’m near a national park. I was expecting to be extremely hot for the next two years, but my site is actually really cool, with an average tempearature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, because of the high altitude, so I was surprised about that. I’m going to need to buy some more jeans. I have all kind of possible projects to work on. There is a volunteer there now, Nicole, and she wrote me a very long, very informational letter about the projects she’s worked on and about possible projects I can start, and about all the people I can work with. It’s really helpful. It turns out she’s leaving her service early to start a job in the States, so we won’t be overlapping at all. I’ll get to meet her Thursday when we go to visit our sites, but I think she’ll be gone be the time I get there for good. Hopefully I’ll get to inherit a lot of her stuff, which will make it much easier when I go to live in my own house. We swear in the 27th at the embassy and then we leave the 28th for our sites.

For the first two months I have to live in a homestay, which will be in an aldea (small town) of San Pedro, probably like 500 people or so, but I’m not sure. My conterpart is my homestay. After two months I can keep living there or I can move to San Pedro, and I can even take over Nicole’s house there. I’ll be about a 10 hour bus ride from the capital, Tegucigalpa, which is hard, but at least I’m near a popular area to visit, so hopefully other volunteers will be in the area visiting, and when people come visit me we can go there and go to my site. There is another volunteer about 20 minutes from me, and from our training class, there is another volunteer, Brianna, about 2 hours away, and Rachel, about 2 or 3 hours away, I think, and they’re both really great, so that’s exciting we’ll be close. Most of the others will be really far away from me.

Some of my possible projects are working with a group of women who crochet sweaters, shirts, skirts, dresses, and bags, and are looking to market their products. I’ll have the opportunity to work on fair trade initiatives with them, which is pretty exciting. There is also an interesting latrine project my counterpart is just starting, and an improved stove project in progress. My counterpart is an NGO (non government organization) that is working to develop the munincipality. Also, there are several active schools that I can work with. She listed a lot of other possible things I could look into. I basically have a lot of freedom to explore and work on what interests me and what I think I could be useful in. My site sounds pretty much perfect, hopefully I stay this excited when I go visit it. We meet our counterparts on Wednesday and then go back with them on Thursday to visit for the weekend. I’m soooo excited.
Most people are pretty happy about their sites. There were some surprises about people who thought they were going somewhere else. One girl is going to La Ceiba, which is a really touristy, fun city on the North Coast, on the beach. So that’s pretty exciting. Five people are going to the South, where it’s really hot. The others are near the El Salvador border, but southeast of my site.

We also had our goodbye party today, which went really well. We made American food, like deviled eggs, hotdogs in a blanket, potato skins, veggie trays, cheese and crackers, guacamole and salsa, stuffed jalepenos, ricekrispie treats, cookies, and blackcows (because there is no rootbeer for rootbeer floats). Everything was so good.
I’m really sad to leave here, because I really like the town and my family. I’ll miss Brayan a lot, he’s really sad I’m leaving. I told them I’d come visit, but it would take me days to get here from my site. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to come. I’ll miss everyone in my training class, too. It was really nice being all together here, and we got pretty close.
I can’t wait to go see my site, I couldn’t stop smiling while I was reading my site description and my letter, it sounds so amazing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

left- planting trees with high school students
below-me in front of my house


left- the cemetary in town
below-me, Alice, and Dan




left- me during our field trip to the countryside in my friend´s hat. i´ve decided i need to buy a hat.

below- us fishing with our home made poles



















left- brianna in a cool tshirt her friend sent her with the tiny fish she caught
below- a baby cow

Last week, on Thursday, we had a field trip in Spanish class to a tobacco factory just outside of town. It was really big and we got a tour about the whole process. It was really interesting. We watched the whole process and learned a lot. The place smelled really strongly of cigars, though. I think my favorite part was seeing all the pretty wooden boxes they get sent out in. After the factory, we went to this woman’s house were she makes vino del café, or coffee wine. I didn’t understand what it was until we went and tasted it. It actually tastes like a mixture of coffee and wine, it’s a strange combination, I prefer the two separate, but it wasn’t bad. She explained the process of how she ferments the café, it really is a unique idea. This woman also makes wonderful cakes with coffee. We had some, and it was so moist and chocolately, with a taste of coffee. It was definitely some of the best cake I’ve ever had. It was a really fun day.

Monday we had cultural day, so we each made a typical dish with our families and then we all got together with the families and had a little party. We each had to explain in Spanish the recipe of what we made. All the volunteers had to come up with games to play, like we had pin the tail on the donkey, the hokey pokey, and pictionary. It was really nice. We had it in the evening, and the house we had it at has a big patio with lots of plants, and it reminded me of Lord of the Rings in Hobbiton, with the mossy trees and the lanterns. It was so peaceful. Some students performed some traditional dancing for us. We only have five more days here, and I’m really sad about it. I’m going to miss my buddy Brayan. I plan on coming back to visit, if possible. I really like my family here and the town.

We had our third technical interviews Monday with the project directors and they gave me some clues about my site. I’ll be in a small site, near a city, and after my two month home stay, I can move to the city if I want. My counterpart is working in developing the municipality, and his wife is working with a group of women who want to start micro enterprises, so I’ll have lots of project options. They told me that my counterpart called Sunday to check when to come pick me up and he´s really excited to have a volunteer, so that’s exciting. My counterpart will also be my homestay family, and they actually just built me a room, so they’re really getting ready to have me. I found out I’m replacing a volunteer, which makes me a little nervous because I won’t be blazing my own path, I’ll be following their projects and expectations the community already has. But it will make integration easier and it should give me more freedom to start and expand projects, hopefully there will be less setbacks. We will have three months overlapping, of working together, so I really hope we get along well. I meet my conterpart in less than a week. We find out our sites on Monday and we meet our counterparts on Wednesday. It’s so crazy. I’m getting nervous, Peace Corps is really about to begin. So far it’s been pretty easy going, just going to Spanish class and working together on little projects, but in a few weeks we’ll be all alone and responsible for integrating into our communities and starting our projects. I’m excited though.

Tuesday and Wednesday we had our rural tourism field trip to Los Llanos and it was a lot of fun. We slept in this big room which used to be a restaurant and the property was really big and there was an empty swimming pool and a fire pit. Tuesday we rode horses to a farm and learned about cows and pigs, and we went to a sugar cane farm and got to cut down the cane with a machete and then we ground it to make this sugar cane drink. Riding horses was really fun and it was exciting getting to use the machete. In the afternoon we made hand-made fishing poles out of sticks and fishing line and used screws as weights and we went fishing in this pond out in the countryside. A couple people caught fish but they were about the size of your little finger. It was really pretty and relaxing. When we got back, we played soccer in the empty swimming pool. Then we all sat around the empty pool and talked and it was really nice. Saturday night we had a campfire, which took a while to get started since all the wood was wet, and we roasted marshmallows. We couldn’t find normal ones, we could only find the colored tropical flavored kind, but they were still really good. We have a really fun group. I really hope I get stationed near some of them.

Wednesday we went to a different cow farm and a saw a fish project in Las Manos, on the Nicaraguan border. The farmer was a good speaker and explained things well and had good insights about the environment and the importance of agriculture. Jorge, our project director, gave us a speech about how people are malnourished from lack of knowledge or change of thought, and we have to show them how they can start fish projects and things like that. He’s so motivational. Then we went to a café finca and learned about the café harvest, which really begins in December. Then we picked some corn and roasted it, and it was excellent. That was pretty much it, I love field trips. We leave El Paraiso on Tuesday to go back to Santa Lucia, where we started off. I can’t believe we’re almost done with FBT!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

HIV/AIDS charlas, strikes, tamales, and corn festivals

We’ve been working on our field based projects for a couple weeks now, and they’re going well. I usually walk up at 5:10, go running, shower and eat, go to Spanish class, and then we have self-directed projects or tech sessions. For our Self-directed projects, we’re in groups and we have to work on our own in the community. My group of five is working in Jacaleapa, a nearby town. We’re working with the mayor’s office, the schools, and some community based organizations. We have certain objectives we’re supposed to achieve and we don’t have much time. In the mornings we have Spanish class and a couple afternoons a week we get driven to Jacaleapa in Peace Corps vehicles. The other afternoons we have training sessions here.

It’s frustrating trying to schedule things, because of this tight schedule and other setbacks. We’ve had a lot of setbacks. For one example, this past week Monday and Tuesday the teachers went on strike in the whole country so we couldn’t do any talks in the schools, which we need to do. The strikes are really frequent. The teachers just announce they’re going to strike certain days and then there are no classes. It’s such a shame because the students are suffering. They don’t get the greatest education as it is, and then when they lose all these days of class, they get more set back. Also, there was a road block Monday, so we couldn’t even get to Jacaleapa. There were three simultaneous strikes going on, one was a bus company, one was the teachers, and the other was Hondutel, the national government phone company. It seems like there’s always someone striking. Sometimes it gets violent. Last month there were incidents during the miners’ strike.

Anyway, we’ve done some interesting things in our project. Last week, on Wed, the 22nd, we went to a meeting with the mayor for a program called atención a jóvenes (attention to youths). The senior citizens in the town spend time with jóvenes a riesgo (youths at risk) once or twice a week. So we got to sit in the meeting with all the senior citizens and with about 12 or 14 teenagers. At first the mayor had us sit at the front of the meeting hall and then we had to introduce ourselves. It was an interesting meeting and I really like the program. In the afternoon we had Spanish class but it was an exciting day because we all had class together and the other classes taught how to make recipes. First, Brian and Susan taught how to make tamales. It was really fun. We had to shuck a lot of corn and then cut the corn off the cob and then we all went in the Peace Corps van to the molino (small hand-operated mill) to have the corn ground. Then we made the tamales. It was really fun. Next, Rachael, Dan, and Brianna Bailey made guacamole, which was delicious.

Last weekend we went to Danli for the corn festival on Saturday. We met up with people from another project, Protected Areas Management, who are doing Field Based Training in another town. It was really fun to see them. There actually wasn’t much corn at the festival. There was a mountain of clothes and shoes though. People were just lining the roads with there stalls of clothes and shoes, some of them were just piled up several feet high. It was an interesting site.

This past week was good. On Wednesday, the 29th, my Spanish class, which is me, Alice, and Carmen, went to the health center to give a self-esteem talk to a group of pregnant women. Our teacher came with to watch us and see how we did with our Spanish. It went really well. We talked about self-esteem in yourself and your own life, self-esteem in relationships, and teaching your children self-esteem. At the end one woman said we did a good job and another said it was really good to be reminded of these things and she was happy we came. That was my first charla (talk/lecture) and I was happy it went well.

On Thursday some current volunteers came to teach us how to do an HIV/AIDS charla. Although we’re not the Health program, HVI/AIDS education and prevention is a main goal of Peace Corps and it’s everyone’s responsibility to work toward this goal. The charla we did is a pre-planned charla and it’s mostly dínamicas (games/acitivities) so there’s not too much prep work to do with it except preparing the materials. So Thursday morning the volunteers did the charla with us and in the afternoon we got in groups of 3 or 4 and prepared to give it the next day.
Friday we went to one of the high schools and each group had a different class of 17-20 students ages 13-16 . It was about a 3.5 hour charla. Jordan, Brianna Bailey, and Susan were in my group. There were activities like: a race to find the HIV/AIDS vocab word that matched the definition, a true false game about AIDS, an activity with pictures in which the students have to say if the activity can transfer HIV or not, a game in which the students had to put in order the steps of using a condom, and then we had to demonstrate the steps, and have each student practice all the steps. Honduras has a high HIV/AIDS rate, the highest in Central America, I’m pretty sure, so these talks are really important.

It was definitely one of my favorite activities that I’ve done so far. I think the kids really enjoyed it and got something out of it. It was exhausting doing the charla, even though there were four of us giving it. But it was really loud in the room, because of outside noise, so we had to yell just to be heard, and even when someone else in my group was leading the activity, I was making sure the kids were paying attention or explaining it to kids who didn’t understand. It was also really hot, and by the time we were done I was so tired. That was the first time I’ve worked with a class or a big group of kids and I really enjoyed it. I’d definitely like to give the AIDS charla when I get to site, but I don’t think there’s any way I could do it alone, or even with the teacher, because it’s so tiring. I’d need another volunteer to do it with me. But it’s definitely a good activity to do.
Friday afternoon a women living with HIV came to talk to us and share her story. It was really emotional and really brought to life the problem. So it was a good day, but difficult.

Two more weeks until we find out our sites! I feel like half our conversations are about our sites and where they could be and what we want them to be like and if we’ll be close to each other. It’s hard not knowing, but it’d also be hard knowing. I have kind of mixed feelings about going to my sites. I’m ready to start working and I have lots of ideas of what projects I want to do, and I can’t wait to find out who I’ll be working with and what I’ll be doing. I’m so excited to go. But on the other hand, Field Based Training is really fun, and we have such a good group and we’re all friends, so it will be hard leaving everyone when we disperse all over the country. We’ll get opportunities for some of us to meet up, but it will be hard for all of us to get together again. We don’t actually leave for our sites until the 28th, so there’s still time. It will be so exciting to see our homes for the next two years.
So, that’s all for now, it’s been an eventful two weeks. ¡Hasta luego!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Photos of El Paraíso

Trip to the café finca

Left- my buddy Brayan holding bananos

Below- my host dad with his café and banano plants

Bananos

Brayan and my host dad loading bananos onto the truck














Left- central park
Below- a street





Left- view from the finca of El Paraíso

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

El Paraiso is great. I like that it’s a bigger town so there are lots of stores and restaurants and things to do. It has a really big plaza as well as a beautiful central park, so that’s really nice.

Today I was feeling a little down, for no real reason, I was just bored and kind of frustrated and tired of sitting in classes all day. So after training I took a walk around the town and as I was walking some kids were playing soccer in the street and the ball happened to come to me and I kicked it back and then we started to kick back and forth. Then all the kids wanted to know about me and how to say their names and various words in English. One little girl who is 6 talked to me for a long time. She was really cute and just very talkative. It really cheered me up to have all those kids so friendly and interested in me. I told them I would go back and play with them again. It was great timing to cheer me up.

My host family is awesome. I already wrote about them a little. My host mom’s friend, Maria Louise, is really funny and she kind of reminds me of Lois. She comes over every day to eat lunch with me and she’s really nice. My host dad is funny, too and he took me to the finca (coffee farm) on Saturday, which I’ll write more about in a minute. Also, there’s a little boy named Brian who is always at the house. He’s 11 and he’s from a poorer family and his parents aren’t really around. So he’s at our house all the time and my family feeds him and he helps out around the house and on the finca on the weekends. He’s my new best friend. He’s so nice and helpful and curious about the US. We talk alot. He´s really funny. Brian helps me with everything, mopping my room, doing my laundry, washing dishes. Yesterday he shined my shoes. I feel guilty that he does so much. He’s so energetic about it, he seriously won’t let me do anything myself.

The food is awesome here. I get fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh chicken from our chicken farm, bananas from our banana farm, and fresh honey, also from the farm. Also, my family sells paletas, which are like popsicles made of milk, sugar, vanilla, and whatever flavor they are, kind of like a fudgesicle. They’re so good. There are chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and coconut. I’ve only tried strawberry so far. It’s basically frozen strawberry milk. My host mom is a really good cook. Hardly anything is fried, unlike the food in Santa Lucia. The tortillas are also so much better than the tortillas in Santa Lucia. I love pretty much all my meals here.

I had a really good and eventful weekend. Saturday morning I went running with Rachel, my running buddy, at 6. Then I showered and had breakfast. Around 10:30 my host dad, Brian and I left for the finca. A finca is basically a small farm but it looks more like a forest than a farm. There’s really no other word for finca. There are plants growing wild, but the crop is growing along side the other plants. I visited a couple of them in Costa Rica. My family’s finca is in the mountains, about a 20 minute drive from the house. It was really big. There are coffee plants growing all over, and banana trees. Coffee needs lots of shade, so people always plant banana trees to provide shade for the coffee. They grow several species of coffee, including Lempira, which only grows in Honduras. I ate bananas fresh off the tree. They also have several varieties of bananas, including purple ones, which are really good. Banana trees only produce fruit once, so to get the fruit down, they simply cut the tree to get to the fruit. It was pretty cool watching my host dad hack down trees with his machete. We walked all over the finca and then walked through someone else’s finca to visit some people who live on the mountain. They gave us coffee and cookies and we talked a while. It was so beautiful and peaceful being on the finca up in the mountains. It’s definitely one of my favorite experiences here so far. We were gone a little over 4 hours. Brian pointed out all the different types of fruit trees to me, and my host dad explained all about how coffee grows. I got to practice a lot of Spanish and I learned a lot.

Saturday night our families had a welcome dinner for us, which was really nice. We all got to meet each others families. Some high school students performed traditional dances for us and the food was really good. Afterwards, I went with three other trainees to a little café in the park where a guy plays the guitar and sings on weekends. He’s a tenor in the Honduran national symphony, so the music was beautiful.

Sunday I washed my clothes in the pila for the first time. I was lucky in Santa Lucia because my family had a washing machine, most people have pilas. I don’t really know how to describe a pila, I should take a picture of ours. Towns only get running water a few hours a day, so they keep all the water in a big cement container called a pila, and that’s where you do laundry, and where you cook and wash dishes when there’s no water. It has a wash board kind of thing to the side. I don’t know if that’s the best explanation, maybe you can google it. Anyway, it was hard work washing clothes by hand and it took me a while. Sunday afternoon I went to a cultural festival with my host family, including Brian, and my host mom’s friend, Marie Louise. There was traditional food and music. There weren’t that many people there, but it was nice. The guitar player from the café was there, so I talked to him for a while and got to see his adorable little kids.

Every morning we have Spanish class. There are two other people in my class, and they were both in my class before, in Santa Lucia. Our professors are also living with families here, so our class is in the house of the family our professor is living with. It’s a really pretty house with a big garden in the courtyard. We go home for lunch from 11:30-1.
In the afternoons we have technical training. Our first day here we made a map of the community, which was really fun. We’ve had talks about a couple different things. So of our 40 hours a week of training, we have 20 hours of language, and 20 of everything else.

On Thursday we’re going to begin our self-directed projects. We split into 3 groups, 1 of which will do work here, while the other two will go to nearby towns to work. I’m in a group with 4 others, and we’re going to Jacaleapa, which is about 20 mins away. We will have to give talks to students, including talks on civic participation, on leadership, and on HIV/AIDS, all in Spanish, of course. We will also do things with the mayor’s office and with community based organizations. I’m really excited about doing some actual work. This is sort of our practice run before we begin our work as volunteers. We don’t find out our sites for another month. I’d like a medium sized town, with other volunteers nearby, but not too close, and I’d like to work with juntas de agua, environmental clubs, civic education, and I don’t know what else.