Friday, December 28, 2007


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.