Monday, December 8, 2008

Thanksgiving and World AIDS Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

futbol and café

Wednesday night was a big soccer game, Honduras vs. Mexico, playing in Honduras. As a fundraiser for the library youth group, we set up the projector in the community center and showed the game in there. They charged a little for entrance and sold popcorn and pop. It was fun watching the game on such a big screen. Honduras won, 1-0, so of course everyone was super excited. Thursday morning I went to pick coffee in the farm of one of the old men who sells in the market. Coffee picking is hard, dirty work that pays practically nothing. I just went for the experience and to spend time with people. I picked a decent amount, they said. It’s definitely not something I’d want to do on a regular basis. At least it wasn´t raining. It’s been pretty cold this week, but not too rainy.

Right now, I’m putting together a group to plan activities for World AIDS Day, which is December 1st. We decided to make it a week-long event and have things each day, from the 1st to the 6th, and end the week with a little parade, Sat the 6th. It should be good, but there’s a lot of work to do.

On Sunday I think I’m going to a wedding. It will be the 3rd wedding I’ve gone to in the past month. Weddings here are definitely different than in the US. It´s fun going to different weddings and birthday parties and seeing how people celebrate.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

yay obama!

It’s been a while since I last wrote, so let’s see. All the people who were evacuated have now returned to their houses, so that’s good. School lets out in about a week so I want to start a sport club and an environmental club to do with the kids during vacations. Coffee season is starting, the coffee berries are turning red and ready to pick. So during break, a lot of kids will be busy picking coffee. We had some super cold days last week, but the past 4 days or so have been really warm and sunny. It’s weird how the weather changes so drastically.

My friend from college, Ashlee, was here this past week visiting. She speaks Spanish well, so it was nice introducing her to all my friends in town. We spent time in my town and then for Halloween we went to a big party that volunteers have every year in the town of Copan Ruins, which is a touristy town near Mayan ruins. It was my first time there, and I really liked it. It’s clean, pretty, and has lots of good restaurants.

There was live music both nights and a costume party one night. There were some pretty good costumes. I was a nance tree. Nances are this little yellow fruit that is absolutely disgusting. It looks similar to a cherry, but it’s yellow and has a putrid smell, and gross taste and texture. They only grow in Honduras, as far as I know. Pretty much every volunteer hates them, and Hondurans are always trying to give us nances or nance juice. Once I was at a teacher’s house and she gave me nance juice, and I didn’t want to be rude, so I tried drinking it, but I couldn’t do it, it’s a gag reflex. So I thought a nance tree would be a scary costume. Anyway, the party was fun. We didn’t actually visit the ruins, because it’s kind of expensive to enter, but hopefully I’ll be able to go back before I leave.

Ashlee flew in and out of El Salvador, so we went to San Salvador the day before her flight. San Salvador is so nice; I was really surprised. It has nice malls and stores, and I think it’s just all around nicer than either of the big cities in Honduras. I definitely enjoyed going to the nice malls.

We were able to watch the elections on US channels, in English, so that was good. Watching Obama win just made me so extremely happy. And I’m reading Dreams from My Father right now, wish just makes me respect him even more. When he wrote that book, he didn’t have presidential aspirations, so it’s a very honest book. He’s had such an interesting life.

I saw Obama speak at Georgetown University in October 2006, my senior year. He was giving a talk about fossil fuel possibilities and I took the day off of my internship at the Sierra Club to go see him speak. I remember it was a beautiful fall day, and I walked to Georgetown from my apartment. He was such a good speaker and I thought then that some day this man could be President, and I’m seeing him speak right now. I didn’t think he’d be President so soon! Everyone here is really happy he won. People in El Salvador and in Honduras have been congratulating me on Obama winning and saying how happy they are about it. It’s such an exciting time to be an American. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so patriotic.

In other news, we think my duck, Paco, is actually a girl. So I´m thinking up a new name. Also, our town library now has a webpage up if you want to check it out. It´s in Spanish and it stills needs some work, but it´s something. There are some good pictures under the ‘Galeria de Imagenes’ tab. Here´s the link:
Go to it so we can get more hits!

Friday, October 24, 2008

natural disasters

there´s been a lot going on here the past week. Last Friday there was a huge landslide up in one of the mountains, which wiped out an entire aldea (village). Luckily, they had some warning and everyone got out in time, but they lost everything in their homes. Then the dirt from the landslide fell into the river, creating a large, natural damn. So whenever this damn breaks, all the water behind it will come rushing down the river. About 5 aldeas down the river were evacuated. There are hundreds of evacuees staying in the school and in the munincipal meeting room of the town next to mine, and about 25 people staying here. So I´ve been going almost every day to play with the kids and keep them occupied. They are just waiting; they can´t go back to thier homes until the damn breaks. I have to say the local government, police, army, and NGOs have been very organized taking care of the evacuees and keeping everything in order. Also, throughout the country, there has been a lot of flooding, and, in certain parts, tremors. So people are being evacuated all over. It´s pretty crazy. The other volunteers near me and I are safe, and Peace Corps is well aware of the situation. In other news, I have a friend from the US coming on Tuesday, so I´m excited about that. It´s fun having visitors.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I just want to write a quick update. I decided against having a cat; I just don't really like cats. So I gave him back to the people who gave him to me. My duck is doing well and getting big. He pretty much lives at my neighbors' but he's happy because he has a pond to swim in and geese to hang out with. My neighbors had a couple turkeys, but the male turkey just attacked and killed the female turkey! I told them he's too aggressive and dangerous. I don't want my duck in danger of a turkey attack. So we are going to kill and eat the aggressive turkey. He gets the death penalty for killing his wife. I think we're going to have him for Thanksgiving. Hondurans obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving but they know what it is, so we'll have a little Thanksgiving dinner.

The map is finally finished! It took exactly one month to do. Next week we are going to celebrate. Me and the students will write our names on the wall and I'll make a cake. And I want to organize some geography activities. The map looks pretty good, although it's far from perfect. I'll post pictures of the whole process when I get a chance. The electricity has been going out a lot lately, so I haven't had much chance to use internet.

Right now I'm in the Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa. My group is here for mid-term medical exams. We have to poop in a cup, get a physical, and go to the dentist. I traveled all day yesterday to get here, I have the medical stuff today, and I'll travel all day tommorrow to get back to my town. It's just so far.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I had a really good weekend. On Friday during the day I hung out in the market. I didn’t paint the map border like I had planned because we ran out of paint thinner and the one hardware store in town didn’t have any. I didn’t feel like going to one of the neighboring towns to get some, so instead I just hung out and talked to people. We played soccer for a little while and I made paper airplanes with the kids. It was really relaxing, and sitting there making paper airplanes, I thought about what a great job I have. In the US, I’d never be able to be sitting around on a Friday afternoon making paper airplanes and get paid for it.
Around 4pm I left for my friend Kyler’s site, a volunteer about 35 minutes in bus from me. It was the feria in his town this weekend. It was bigger than our feria, but we had better rides. The ferris wheel in our feria was pretty big and it went super fast. At this feria, they had a little ferris wheel, and it was manual. There was no motor, just a man standing at the bottom, hand-pulling it. He was a very strong man.
On Saturday, there was bull-riding. We had bull-riding in our feria, but I didn’t go because it was raining. So Saturday was the first time I’d ever seen bull-riding, other than on TV. There were 9 bulls and a small ring, and the guys took turns riding. Kyler said he was going to ride one but I was kind of skeptical. He was all ready with his sombrero, belt, and cowboy shirt. During the event, he stood down by the riders and the bulls and I sat in the stands with another volunteer, Meghan, who came to watch. It was pretty scary to watch the riding, and a couple guys almost got stepped on by the bull, although no one did actually get hurt. So I was really thinking that Kyler would back out and decide not to ride. But then he was suiting up to go. The participants wore a helmet that looked like a baseball catcher’s helmet, but was a little different. And they wore a padded leather vest. I was kind of nervous when Kyler got on the bull, but he did well, stayed on for about 5 seconds, and he fell well and didn’t hurt anything. And then the announcer did a quick interview and congratulated him. It’s not everyday you see a gringo riding bulls in Honduras. It was all pretty exciting.
Sunday, I went with my neighbors to their niece’s 12th birthday party. The party was in a community in the mountains, so we all crowded into the back of a pickup truck to drive up there. It was a nice, small party. We ate tamales, talked, and had cake. I knew most of the people there, so it was nice to talk to people. There were some cute little kids there, too.
Sunday evening, walking home from the little store down the street, around 6:30, I saw a little animal in the street. It was kind of dark out and at first I thought it was a rat, but then realized it was a tiny kitten. So I chased it and grabbed it, so that a car wouldn’t hit it in the dark, and asked around to see who it belonged to. The twins across the street, two 8 year olds, said it belonged to them, their cat recently had 3 kittens, but that they were giving away the kittens and I could have it if I wanted it. I don’t really want a cat, but this kitten is just so little and cute. And it needs care, it’s dirty and skinny. I told them I wasn’t sure I wanted it, but could they loan it to me. So I brought it home, gave it a bath and some milk, and it’s sitting in my lap sleeping as I type this. I don’t really want a cat, but I do like this kitten. And my duck’s kind of left me, so I no longer have a pet.
Things have been going well lately. The map is almost done, we should finish by Tuesday I think. It´s looking great!

Friday, September 26, 2008

1 year in site!

Saturday the 27th is my 1 year in site date. I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer for a year. I’m half-way done. That actually seems about right, I wouldn’t say the time is passing slow or fast, it just seems likes it’s been a year. This past year I’ve met many people, formed strong friendships, become a part of this community, and have learned a lot about Honduras and Hondurans. I’ve gained a much better understanding of the factors holding back Honduras and why. There are so many things I’ve learned and grown to understand this year. This experience is definitely preparing me to work in the field of international affairs. I’d really like to get my master’s in international environmental policy at some point after Peace Corps.
I came to my site with a lot of big ideas and plans. Now I’ve come to see that most of them aren’t really feasible, but that even if I can’t reach my big goals, my time here isn’t wasted. Although there is more I’d like to be achieving, I know my relationships and the lives I’m touching does count for a lot. I do complain about certain things here and how hard it can be, but I’m so happy I’m doing Peace Corps. There’s really no other experience like it. Even working in an NGO or government organization in a developing country wouldn’t be the same, because here I’m free to work in whatever I want to and whatever the community wants me to; I’m not tied down by a work plan, boss, or budget. This next year, I hope to get involved in more sustainable activities and get to know more people. I think the next year actually will go fast. There´s so much I want to do in work and travel, and planning for my post-Peace Corps life.
That´s all for now. I don´t think I´ll be celebrating Saturday, just working on the map, but I´ll be thinking about how my time here is half over.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

independence day and map making

There are a few exciting things going on right now. Last Wednesday, the 10th, was Día del Niño (Day of the Children/Kid’s Day). All the schools have a big party for the kids with food, games, and piñatas. The idea is that a lot of kids in really poor families don’t really get to celebrate their birthdays, and some kids don’t even know when their birthdays are, so Día del Niño is kind of like a big birthday party for all the kids. The morning of the 10th all the kids were so excited, it was really neat to see. I made cookies for the kids that live near me. Other countries, at least in Central America, also celebrate Día del Niño, but on different dates. I think there is a Kid’s Day in the US, but it’s not really celebrated because there every day is like kid’s day. There you don’t really see 8 year olds selling things on buses or 6 year olds filling potholes by hand or 11 year olds sifting through garbage dumps.

Also in this month is Independence Day, September 15th. Every town has a parade for Independence Day and the students and the bands march in the parade. For the past week the schools have been doing almost nothing except practicing marching. It’s a very big deal. I don’t think people really celebrate with parties and fireworks like in the US. Last year for Independence Day I was in training in El Paraiso, which is a bigger town in the eastern part of the country. They had a very nice, big parade.

The parade here was good, but not that big. It was neat because every kid in town was in it. First came some students carrying flags, then the mayor and other officials of the municipality, then the high school band, high school honors students, a car float with the queens of the feria, and the rest of the high school students. Then came the school group, first some kids holder a banner for the school, then the school band, then the honors students, then some girls dancing, then the rest of the students. They were all supposed to march the whole parade, but they didn’t really because they were tired. After the school came the kindergarten. They had two car floats with some of the kids sitting in them. It was really cute. And the rest of the kids walked. So that was the whole parade. They made a circle through the main part of town, it lasted about an hour. The rest of the day was pretty boring. Everything was closed and no one was doing anything.

September 16th is Teacher’s Day. The teachers deserve a rest after all the work they put into Día del Niño and Día de Independencia. So schools have only been in session a few days over the past 2 weeks.

My exciting project right now is a World Map project, which is the painting of a large world map in a public place, usually on a wall or on a playground or basketball court. This is a project designed by a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1988 in the Dominican Republic and has been done in many Peace Corps countries and in the US. I have a Peace Corps manual explaining the project. You draw a grid and then draw the map according to the grid. In the manual there are sheets for each section of the map so you can do the grid. After drawing the grid and the map, you paint all the countries and then label them. It’s a very time consuming project but it will be fun and educational.

Last week, I just decided I wanted to do this in the town market and I told the market group my idea. I went to the high school to get some students to volunteer to help. The wall in the market is made of concrete block, so I had to get some concrete and get someone to finish and smooth the section we were going to paint on. So I organized that in a day. Then I went to local hardware stores and got them to donate us paint. I’ve actually been really pleasantly surprised how much people are contributing to this project. On Saturday me and one of the men who works in the market started by putting sealer on the wall and painting it blue. We draw and paint the countries over the blue, it’s easier than painting blue around the countries. The section of wall is 2 meters by 5 meters but the map will be 2 meters by 4 meters, so it will have a little of a border on each side. On Sunday a few students came to help measure and start the grid. We didn’t get that much done because they came in the afternoon and it started raining. On Tuesday the same students came back and a nearby volunteer also came to help. We worked most of the day and got a lot done. We finished drawing the grid and finished drawing most of the bottom half of the map- South America, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. It’s kind of fun working on, drawing all the countries, and it’s going to look soooo good when it’s finished.

I have also been busy working on a project proposal and budget for these workshops my host family wants to give to the group of women. They want to give baking and needlework workshops so the women can start producing and have sort of a microenterprise. We had a meeting with the group last Friday and the community is really excited about it and already planning the workshops. So I think it has potential to be a good project.

Monday, September 1, 2008

pics of Paco

Paco el Pato

I have a duck! I went to visit my host family a few weeks ago and told them I wanted a baby duck and they told me that my host mom’s sister had some. So I went to visit her and see the 5 ducklings. She said she could give me one but I’d have to wait until they were a little bigger and less delicate. So on Thursday I went to a meeting in an aldea with my host parents and slept over at their house, and then went to see the ducklings. They were big enough to take one, so I did. We think it’s a male because it’s one of the bigger ducklings, but we’re not positive. You can’t really tell until they’re more grown. But, assuming it’s a boy, I named him Paco. In Spanish, duck is pato (Pah-toe), so he’s Paco el pato. I really like having a duck, he’s so cute. He makes funny noises and shakes his little tail. One of my neighbors has 11 ducklings, so I think I’m going to get one from him too, so that I can have 2 and they can keep each other company.

Right now I´m keeping him in the house, but when he gets older I´ll have to make some kind of enclosure for him outside. A duck is a good pet because they are easy to take care of. I can leave it home alone, which I would feel bad doing with a dog or cat. When I leave Honduras, I won’t be as sad leaving a duck as I would with a dog or cat. Ducks aren’t loud and mean like geese or chickens. I’m really happy with my little duck.

The meeting on Thursday was in a community that we helped with forming and training a caja rural (rural bank). My host parents had the idea of forming a group of women in this community to train them in making something that they could sell. So people in the community formed a group of ten women, elected officers, and the group came to a meeting with us to discuss what they want to learn to make. They decided they wanted training in baking and in knitting and crochet. The idea is that they can sell these products and form a sort of micro-enterprise/ rural bank. We are writing a project proposal and budget to apply for funding for the training expenses. My big concern is that people will back out. Right now the women say they want to learn and produce, but I hope they don’t give up or lose interest. A few people in the group are young. There are two 13 year olds and a 15 year old. I think it’s a project with potential and it’s a good community to give the opportunity to since they are very motivated and organized. Hopefully we’ll have some success.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

let there be light

The week of the 11th I was in Tegucigalpa for training for a volunteer peer-support group. It was actually a pretty good session. We talked about different stressors of being a volunteer in Honduras and different ways to deal with them, and about good listening skills. The idea is, volunteers can call us if they are having problems and just have someone to talk to. We also made a bunch of cards to give volunteers who are in the hospital. It was nice getting back to my town after the trip. I always appreciate my town more after being away from it.

My electricity finally got reconnected, last Thursday, and I appreciate it a lot more now. The library, on the other hand, has been without electricity for about 3 days now. I´m posting this in an internet café. Hopefully the library doesn´t have to wait to get electricity connected as long as I had to wait.

I just hung some shelves in my house, which make such a big difference. I had the carpenter cut me 4 small planks of wood and I hung the 3 smaller ones with nails and rope and the bigger one with brackets. It took some work, since it’s really hard to nail into my concrete block walls, but I eventually got them all up and they look nice. I’m seriously considering getting some ducks. I know two people who have ducklings right now and offered me a couple. But I need some kind of enclosure with a roof for them, and some kind of water. And I’m a little worried about them pooping everywhere. But I think ducks would be a good pet because they don’t require too much care and I wouldn’t be sad to leave them behind like I would with a dog or cat. So the ducks are a possibility.

Last week I had a slightly frustrating but pretty normal situation. This is kind of a long story, feel free to skip it, it’s just a sample of what I go through on a normal basis. One of the woman who works in the market asked me to help set up an organized sport hour in the market, since there is a basketball court there (without hoops, but the kids just play soccer). I thought that was a good idea, since there aren’t any sports in our town. So I went to talk to the president of the market committee, who is also president of the library committee and works in the mayor’s office. I know him pretty well and we talk often, but he never seems to take me seriously, he just jokes around with me. I’ll call him Don C.

So I told him I wanted to organize an open sport hour in the market for whatever kids want to come and that I would supervise and organize games. After staring at me for a minute, he said we’d have to talk to the school principal, and I said no, this wouldn’t be anything to do with the school. The principal told me I couldn’t take the kids out of the school to do trips to the library, so if they can’t go to the library, they definitely can’t leave school to go play sports. Don C laughed and asked well who’s going to bring the kids to the market, and I said, well they’ll bring themselves, no one has to bring them. And then he said, well we should make it a competition between barrios (neighborhoods). I told him that would be nice, but much harder to organize, and if we were going to do that, I’d need help to organize it. And then he stared at me, and I asked, well, how are we going to organize it. He said we’d get the presidents of each patronato (neighborhood committee) to organize their kids. So I said fine but are we going to visit each of the presidents or are we going to have a meeting and have them all come. And he says ‘yes,’ so then I asked, well which? Are we visiting them or having a meeting? So he tells me that on Saturday we could go visit the man who works with all the patronatos. And I said ok, that’s fine, but organizing teams is going to take a couple weeks, meanwhile I’d like to just start an informal sport hour. And he tells me no, it will only take a week.

Well, Saturday comes and I call Don C to go visit the other man, and he tells me no, we’ll have a meeting with them all instead. So Monday I go to talk to Don C in the mayor’s office and ask him about the sport hour, and he’s acting like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. The entire exchange has been so slow and complicated. It’s like every little thing that should just be easy and simple turns into some big complicated thing. I just wanted to make a couple signs saying we’re having an open sport hour, and see who shows up. I’m still just going to go ahead and do it and not wait on them to organize some competition between barrios, because that’s going to take a while, if it even happens.

On a more positive note, last Friday I did some baking with this same woman in the market. We made banana bread and carrot cake. She sold all of it Saturday morning; it was a big hit. This week, she’s going to make more bread and we’re going to make cookies. I really like hanging out in the market. The people are nice and it’s a pretty and calm place to sit.

Sunday morning, I went to a community up in the mountains to help with English classes. It’s a program called Educatodos for communities that don’t have schools. The classes receive books and CDs and community volunteers facilitate the classes. They have math, social studies, science, and English. But the facilitators don’t usually know any English, so it’s hard for them to teach it. So I’m helping out in a couple communities, going once a month to help with pronunciation of words and answering questions. I like going because these communities are really high up the mountain, and I probably wouldn’t have a chance to go to them otherwise. The teacher’s husband came to pick me up and take me on Sunday. We had class and then I ate lunch at this woman’s house whose sister is in the class. Then she gave me a pot of flowers and we walked around a little. The people there are so nice. Sunday afternoon, when I got back, I went to a meeting of the group of women in town who we helped form a community bank. The original idea was to get them to form a micro enterprise of bread, tortillas, etc., but now they don’t want to do that. It was a good meeting, they’re doing well as a group.

Tuesday I started a series of charlas (talks) with the 6th graders about business fundamentals. It’s a five-part charla, the first one was about savings and feasibility studies. This is a pre-made charla, by Junior Achievement and Peace Corps. They gave us a manual with all the steps; we just have to do it, so it’s pretty easy. The kids really liked the first two days. In the session on production, we make an assembly line to make paper airplanes. There are a lot of fun activities. The library has started giving computer classes, so I’m going to see if I can help out with that. I’d really like to teach typing, since no one knows how to type, and it’s definitely a useful skill.

So I have some good activities going on right now, but nothing major. A gecko just pooped on my head. That’s disgusting. They live in my rafters. Last night a grasshopper, about 4 inches long, fell from my ceiling right in front of me. It really scared me. One of my biggest challenges is bugs in my house. One day I’ll write a whole blog just about the bugs in my house.

I’m right in the middle of my time in Honduras. A year ago today, I was here. A year from today, I’ll be here. Hopefully I’ll get some visitors in the next year. (hint hint :) ) This is kind of a long post, but it makes up for all the time I haven’t posted.

Friday, August 15, 2008

back from US

note: this is a delayed post because i haven't had a chance to post in a while

Aug 5, 2008

Well, my trip home was great. I’ve been back a little over a week now. While home, I was able to visit with almost everyone, although I did miss a few people I wanted to see. It was so nice talking to people; the hardest part about being away is that I miss everyone. I thought it would be really weird going back to the US after a year, but I got used to things really quickly. Mostly, I was impressed by how clean and things were. It was fun going places, seeing people, and eating. I ate a ton, I really think I gained at least 5 pounds in the one week I was home. I had to eat everything I’ve been missing. Going into stores was kind of overwhelming; there was just so much selection and everything is so big. I did a lot of shopping, since I was really in need of clothes. I also got some little presents for my friends here, which they enjoyed. My neighbors recently got a puppy. He’s sooo cute so he’s going to be partially my puppy, too. They said I could take him on walks and play with him whenever I want. So I got him some chewy toys and flea collars. The little boy next door named the puppy Dogny, or something like that, which doesn’t mean anything, isn’t Spanish or English, and no one knows how to pronounce it. So I just call him either puppy or perrito, but I’m going to start calling him Doogie; that’s better and it sounds similar to whatever his name is.

Anyway, I had a really good and busy time in the US, and it’s kind of tough being back. I’m happy to be back and everyone here missed me and they’ve all been asking how my trip was and how my family is. But still, now I miss everyone and everything at home more than before, because now it’s all fresh in my mind. And it’s not like when I first got here and I missed everything because then being here was new and exciting. Now I miss everything and it’s no longer as exciting being here, it’s just life. But it’s ok, I’ll get over it soon. The next year will probably go by really fast and I want to make the most of it.

I haven’t had electricity in my house since I’ve been back. The problem is that this house has never actually been connected to the power line; it was somehow connected to my neighbors’/landlady’s house. Because of this, I don’t have enough power to run my electro ducha, which is this small thing you connect to your shower, where the water comes out, and it heats the water. If this sounds dangerous, connecting an electric heater right where the water comes out, you’re right, it kind of is dangerous. In some showers, when you touch the water tap to turn the water on or off, you feel a slight shock. Not everyone has an electro ducha, but a lot of people do. It’s the only way to have a hot shower unless you heat water on the stove and have a bucket bath, which I do sometimes. So anyway, to fix the problem of not having a strong power supply, my landlady told me that while I was gone in the US, she’d get the electric company to come hook my house up to the power line. When I got back last week, my house had been disconnected from my neighbors’ house but not yet reconnected to the power line. The electric company said they would come in 2-3 days, which I didn’t believe for a second. It’s now been over a week, but supposedly they’re coming Friday. So we ran a super-long extension cord from my neighbors’ to my house, which I’ve been using, but I don’t want to plug too much in it. Also, last week, the power went out in the whole region for a day, and this week it went out for 2 days.

Throughout town, they have been digging ditches along side the road so that the rain and sewage water doesn’t ruin the dirt rocky roads, which have just been repaired. (Repairing these roads means that they dump a lot of rocky dirt on them and roll over it to pack it down, which actually makes a big difference) Now my house has a big ditch in front of it, which turns into a creek when it rains, so this guy made me a little bridge, which is really just a plank of wood. I really like it, I feel like I have a moat in front of my house. My house is really secure. I’m improving the inside, too. I’m having the carpenter cut me four planks that I’m going to put on the wall to make shelves and keep everything less cluttered.

I’m not sure if I already wrote about this, but I’m going to do a workshop with one of the woman in our town market to teach her to make cookies and bread and things like that to sell. She recently bought a large oven, so she can make all kinds of things in it. People here don’t really bake cakes or cookies or anything really; they don’t usually have electric ovens, and if they do, many don’t know how to use it. Some people have big wood-burning ovens outside. They’re kind of dome-shaped and made of concrete, I think, and they make different types of cookies and bread to eat with coffee, but they all taste pretty much the same, and are usually really dry and crumbly. I make banana bread and cookies a lot, to give to people, and they really like them. So it’ll be fun if this woman actually starts baking and selling.

That’s about all for now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

things i miss about the US

I leave in a few days for the US! My first trip home in a year! In honor of my trip, I'm posting about things I miss from the US.

-Family and Friends (of course) I really miss people and I miss being among people who really know me and who have known me my whole life. I miss certain conversations and jokes and memories.

-DC I love Washington, DC. I really enjoyed living there. I like that you can walk around and that there's a good public transportation system. It's pretty, it's international, there's always a lot going on, there's free museums and monuments and lots of history. I miss living in DC.

-Food The food here isn't bad, I enjoy it, but I just really miss food from the US.
I miss good ice cream and good bread. There isn't really any good bread here. Like sourdough and wheat bread, etc. Also, I never liked hamburgers, but now I get cravings for a good hamburger, mainly just because there are no good hamburgers here. I miss barbeque. I miss skim milk and cereal. There's skim milk here, but it's not the same. And there's not as wide a variety of cereals, and the good cereals I can't afford. I really like cereal. Also, I miss salads, especially spinach salads. Big salads with lots of vegetables. There's a lot of food I miss, I can't really list it all. I plan on eating non stop while I'm home.

-Hot showers I've always really liked showers. Here, I have no hot water, and sometimes my water pressure is really bad, so the shower doesn't even really work. So if I want a warm shower, I have to heat water on the stove, dump it in a bucket, and take a bucket bath. It's just not the same as a real shower. I never feel really clean.

-Cleanliness- In general, I miss things being clean. Streets without garbage in them, houses that aren't bug infested, dishes washed with hot water in a dish washer, clothes washed with hot water in a washing machine, etc. Just the idea of cleanliness.

-Bathrooms- not that there aren't bathrooms here, but adding on the cleanliness theme, I miss clean bathrooms that are complete with toilet paper, water, soap, and towels. Also, there aren't really public bathrooms, and people are awkward about letting you use the bathroom in thier house. So finding a bathroom is always an issue. I miss being able to go into any fast food restaurant or Starbucks to use the bathroom, or being able to ask to use the bathroom in someone's house without it being weird.

-Internet- I miss having internet in my house. Having wireless internet and a working laptop seems so amazing right now. The idea of looking up any information at anytime, or of talking to someone online at any hour, is just incredible.

There's a lot more I miss, like museums, and safe clean cities, and good stores, and malls, and good places to run, and more, but I have to go now because my time is up on the computer and this little girl is standing next to me staring over my shoulder, because she wants to use the computer to play some game.

I can't wait to see everyone!!!!!!

more birthday parties!

Yesterday my host cousin, Danielle, had a party for her 5th birthday. It was at thier house, in the aldea on the mountain. It was really fun. There were probably around 50 people, my host family, my host mom's siblings and their families. And some of the families of the inlaws of her siblings. There were tons of little kids. We had baked chicken, fresh from thier farm, vegetables, mashed potatoes, and rice. Then the kids beat up the piñata, which was fun, and then we had cake. The cake was really big, and it was a mix of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. My host mom's sister, who made the cake, knows I like chocolate, so she found me a piece that was all chocolate. I took lots of pictures for them, since they don't have a camera. Danielle had a pink party dress, it was really poofy. She mostly got clothes for presents, but I got her a mini magna doodle, which she loved. She didn't put it down for the rest of the day! In the evening, after most people left, we had some dancing. All my host mom's brothers wanted to dance with me, they wouldn't let me sit out at all. I was rotating between 5 different men. I thought it was really funny. At about 9, we finally left, one of my host mom's brothers drove me home. I left my house at 11am and got home at 9:30! It was a really fun day, thier family is so nice to me!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Well, the feria's over, it was fun. I have a few new small projects going. I'm doing weekly trips to the public library with the school kids. Last week me and one teacher brought 60 1st graders to the library and I read them a few books whith children's rights themes, like right to education, to equality, to family and care, etc, and we talked about what rights are. It was fun and the kids really liked the books. On Wednesday, I´m going to bring the 3rd graders.
Also, a program called Educatodos, which does continuing education for communities that don't have middle schools or high schools, asked me to help them with English classes. So on Saturday I went up to one community in the mountains to answer thier English questions and practice pronouncing vocabulary with them. On Friday I'll be going to another community to help them. Sorry this entry's short, but I've got to go.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Birthdays and the Feria

My host sister’s 15th birthday was on the 8th and my host parents had a big party for her. They spent over a month preparing. There were 5 big cakes, all different flavors, and one of the cakes was shaped liked a princess. My host mom and my host sister crocheted thier dresses. For the table centers, they hand-made flowers and in the middle of some of the flowers were barbies, which they crocheted little dresses for to match my host sister’s. It was a really nice party. They set up so much, I can´t even describe it all, but it was a very big deal. We ate chicken, pork, rice, tortillas, vegetables, cake, and lots of Coke.About 50 people came and it was fun seeing everyone all dressed up.

My birthday was the 10th and it was really nice. My friend Becky was here from the US so it was great that she could be here for my birtday. Some of my neighbors gave me gifts and I recieved some cards and packages and phone calls from the US. I had lunch at a friend´s restaurant with a few other volunteers who are in the area. It was a really good birthday. I can´t believe it´s been almost a year since I left for Honduras. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here a long time, but it’s also been going pretty quickly. About 15 months more in Honduras.

Our town feria (fair) has been starting up for a while but this week is the final, big week. Saturday night there was an event for the Queen of the Feria, which was kind of like a beauty pagent with the high school girls. They elected one Madrina (godmother) of the Feria, a Madrina of Café, a Madrina of Ganaderia (cattle), a Madrina of Deportes (sports), and a few others I don’t remember. They also elected juinor madrinas, which are little girls, like between 5 and 8. Sunday was a parade with all the madrinas. The car float for the Madrina of Café was decorated with coffee plants and bags of coffee beans. I liked the float for ganaderia, it was pulling a cart with two baby cows in it. It was a fun parade. All the mothers who had daughters in the parade were excited and nervous and they all wanted me to take a hundred pictures of their daughters.

There are more booths set up now, selling more food, like pizza, french fries, tajadas, candy, and they set up a couple small rides, like a carasol and a tiny roller coaster. The whole fair is about two blocks long, on just one street, it doens’t have a whole fair grounds. This week, there are events planned every day. There will be dances, another parade, bull riding, an art exhibit, a cow show, and a horse race. And it’s good timing because all next week is school vacation, either for all the schools in the department or in the country, I’m not sure.

This morning the high school students I’ve been working with in the next town over sold the bottles they’ve collected. Since they have so many, I arranged for the buyer to go to them, so they don’t have to worry about transportation. They got almost 3,000 Lempiras which is like $150, which is about what most people here make in a month. We spent all morning classifying the bottles.
Although they’ve been having lots of success, I’m not having as much luck recycling in my town. Last week was really frustrating because, long story short, no one wanted to help with the project or offer support. So I’ve decided to drop the recycling project in my town and just focus on working with the high school kids in thier recycling project. It’s disapointing because I’ve been working really hard on this for a while, but it’s just not feasible here. So now I’m looking for new projects and to involve myself more with the munincipality. I have a bunch of small project ideas but I’d like to start something long-term. That’s about all that’s going on right now. We will be celebrating our town feria all week, it’s the most exciting time of the year for San Pedro!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Parades and Parties

I´ve had an exciting couple weeks. The 23rd and 24th of May I went to La Ceiba, on the North Coast, for Carnaval, probably one of the biggest events in Central America. It´s similar to Mardi Gras, but Honduran style, and near the beach. My friend from my training group is a volunteer there, so those of us who went stayed at her apartment. On Saturday there was a really big parade with horses and fire trucks and lots of floats. On the floats there was music and dancing and people throwing bead necklaces. I thought it was really well put together, I really enjoyed it, even though I often don´t like parades. We stood in the central park to watch the parade. The park is beautiful with lots of big old trees, and there were tons of people selling food, jewelry, clothes, and other things. All along the streets people were selling things too.

Toward the end of the parade, we were walking along the sidewalk to meet some other friends, and walking down the sidewalk toward us was the president, Mel Zelaya, and he paused and shook our hands! I shook hands with the president of Honduras! I lived in DC for four years and never even saw the US president or anyone important.

Saturday night was a big street party. There were a bunch of band stands set up with music and dancing. It was a lot of fun. I really like La Ceiba as a city, it´s the third biggest city, but it´s not as dangerous, dirty and crowded as Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. It was a really great cultural event to go to.

The following Wednesday, we had our regional safety and security meeting, so we got to meet all the new volunteers in the area. They all seem really nice. And we got to stay at a nice hotel in Santa Rosa.

Sunday was my towns feria inauguration, so they had a little parade. The people in the munincipal office told me I could ride a horse in the parade if I could find a horse. So I borrowed my neighbor´s horse Sunday morning and rode down to the park. The park was full of people waiting for the parade and the other people on horses were lined up and the school band was waiting, and they all thought it was really funny I was riding a horse. But, as we were waiting, the horse got really scared because of all the noise and motorcycles and other horses, and was beign really skittish and not doing what it was supposed to. So people were laughing and I decided there was no way I could ride that horse in a parade, it could be dangerous. I rode the horse back to my neighbors and walked back to the parade. I did have fun riding the horse, but I just couldn´t in the parade.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Proj Cit

All last week I was at the Project Citizen workshop with the rest of my project group, outside of the capital. it took 9 hours to get there and 9 hours to get back, on the bus. The highlight of the trip was that I got a haircut from another volunteer. It´s pretty short, like a little above chin length, with lots of layers. I like it. I got back Saturday night.
Every town has a feria, like a town fair, which is the day of the patron saint of the town. We are San Pedro, so our saint is Saint Peter, who´s day is June 29th. So it's a month and a half away, but the feria has already started! In the central park, there are booths set up with food, and fussball tables, and people selling candy. When the feria really gets started, there will be a feris wheel and other rides. They also do bull riding and events like that. Some towns only have their feria for a few days or a couple weeks, it´s exciting we have a 2 month feria.
Wednesday I have to leave for another Peace Corps meeting about Safety and Security, which I´ll write about later. I have to go now because the library is closing.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

so on wednesday, we went to the special ed school and talked to the teachers. it was great. there are about 15 kids, of a variety of ages, and two teachers. they are in the process of building a new school since the building they are in is being loaned. this woman, the director, has a boy with down´s syndrome, and she almost single-handedly fought to get this school running. they are still lacking a lot. it was so nice to see the students and talk to the teachers. we are setting up a meeting with a lawyer to see what their educational rights are under the law.

i held the meeting to form the environmental committee, and only 4 participants came. so we went ahead and talked about the purpose of the meeting and showed a video on the future of the world in 2070, which was pretty powerful, and then we rescheduled the meeting for next sunday.

on monday, i have to leave for Tegucigalpa to go to a Peace Corps workshop for Project Citizen. i´m not that excited about it, because it´s such a long trip and i´ll be gone for a week. i don´t like leaving for long periods of time. but it´s a good project to do in the schools, and it´ll also be nice to see people I haven´t seen for a long time. That´s about all for now.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I almost forgot, I went with the high school students a few weeks ago to sell thier bottles to recycle and they had about 1,500 pounds, and earned about $150, which will go toward building a water tank in the high school, since it has no water now. I´m worried though about when school is over, because I want this project to continue, not to end when they graduate.

exciting news

Yesterday Rachel, a nearby volunteer, and I were in Corquin (one of the towns next to mine), giving recycling talks at the school. Then we went to the post office and were talking to the husband and wife who run it, who are a really nice, young couple. And the husband told us about a special education school for children with Down´s Syndrome and other disabilities, that´s in Corquin. This was really exciting to hear! It was an issue I had been thinking about for a while, wondering if I could get involved with special education, and I had no idea this school was there.

I´m not sure if it´s true, but he told us this is one of only two special ed school in the country, and to think it´s right here! The normal schools do not have special ed programs. So we are having a meeting tommorrow morning to see what kind of support we can give the school, in the form of funding, book donations, programming, things like that. Right now it´s being run mostly with money from the families. Also, another nearby volunteer in youth development actually worked as a special ed teacher in the US, so she´s going to come tommorrow to talk to the teachers and see what they are doing and what support she can give. I´m really happy we found out about this. I think we could get some funding, expand the school and publicize it so that more students can attend. I´ll let you all know how the meeting goes.

In recycling news, things are going well. I have given about 20 talks about recycling, talking to hundreds of students, in 4 schools and 2 high schools. Last Saturday I went with the high school students to pick up bottles in the streets. People were congratulating them on their trash collection. It´s a really good group, I like hanging out with them. On Thursday we are having a meeting here in my town to form an environmental committee.

On Saturday I held a training session for 5 patronatos in my town. Patronatos are kind of like town councils or neighborhood committees. There is one in each little neighborhood of the town. We talked about democracy, citizen participation, transparency, avoiding corruption, and how to prioritize community needs. It went very well, about 14 people came. There was lots of conversation and discussion, and people had some really good things to say about community participation in the government. Honduras has one of the highest corruption rates in the world, so citizen action is really important. The group decided to have a meeting with the mayor today, since they aren´t really happy about the way projects proposals have been handled lately.

Next week we have a Peace Corps workshop in Tegucigalpa for Project Citizen, a project to do in the schools. We are supposed to bring a teacher or community member but I can´t find anyone who is able and willing to leave for a week, so I might have to go alone. It´s a good project, I´ll explain it more later.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


The weather has been really rainy for the past week, which is kind of unmotivating. I also haven’t been able to do laundry. Things are going pretty well, otherwise. My recycling plans have changed a little. We are going to sell at a different location than I was originally planning on, but it makes more sense this way. The high school students I’m working with have a huge pile of sacks filled with recyclebles which they are going to transport on Monday. We need to do some calculations, but the amount they will recieve from the sale should cover gas for transportation. In my town, the high school isn’t doing this project, so there is no group organizing things. So, rethinking things, and the selling situation, I decided we should really form a neighborhood committee to manage logistics, like storage and transportation and the funds. I talked to the mayor and the director of UMA, the environmental office, and they supported the idea and set a date to have a meeting to form an environmental committee.

My house is looking even better. A few volunteers in the area just finished thier service and left so I inheirited a fridge, a toaster oven, a blender, some chairs, and some shelves. I now actually have a kitchen. Every couple of days I’ll try cooking something. I’m trying to improve my cooking skills. Otherwise I eat easily prepared things or I eat next door. My neighbor feeds me often, they are really nice, they say I’m like family to them. I got so lucky with my house and my neighbors. I’m really happy with my house, it’s really important to have my own nice space to go to at the end of the day. The new group of volunteers will be getting to site in a couple weeks. The town next to me is getting a business volunteer. Hopefully he or she will be fun. And interested in recycling. I have a hammock now, which I spend way too much time in. It's just so comfortable. It's hung on my front porch, but I live on a really quiet street so hardly anyone passes by. Well, that's about all I feel like writing for now. My hammock is waiting for me.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I just realized how long it's been since I posted. Ooops. This will be kind of short because I'm in the library writing it and I don't have much time. Last Monday we planted lots of tree seeds in the school in the aldea, in the mountains. It was fun, all the kids were helping and a bunch of parents came to help. We cleaned up the weeds, prepared the dirt, filled seed bags, and prepared a seed bed, prepared the seeds, and planted them. It took all morning. I want to do another tree nursery in some of the other schools in the mountains.
Saturday was the youth baseball regional tournament. A bunch of volunteers have youth baseball teams, and a few times I went to help out a volunteer near me with his team. These kids just started practicing in October or November, knowing nothing about baseball, and they've improved so much. The tournament had 3 teams, and they played on a soccer field, so there was no back stop or infield, or outfield fence. It was fun watching, and the team I had been helping won! Those kids were so excited. It was a good day.
Sunday I had to help my counterpart give a training session to representatives from 4 different rural banks. There were about 30 people. The training was about accounting and managing all the books they have. This other guy, who is actually an accounting teacher, is part of my counterpart's NGO, but he ended up not coming, so we were kind of unprepared. But it actually went really well. I ended up explaining most of it, and we did lots of example problems for finding balances and calculating interest rates. Some people were really confused at first, but by the end I think they all got it. The weather has been really warm and sunny, so that's nice.
That's about all for now.

Friday, March 28, 2008

semana santa

I haven´t written in a while because last week was Semana Santa (Holy Week) so everything was closed all week. A lot of people take advantage of Semana Santa to travel and go to the beach, which makes it not a very good week to travel because the buses are really full and everywhere you go it´s really crowded. I stayed in my site and spent time with my neighbors and I spent a couple days with my host family. We sat outside in the cabañas, in hammocks, near the fish ponds, and my host mom made roasted chicken and grilled fish and beans and tortillas and salad. It was nice until it started pouring and it got really cold. We had 2 and a half cold rainy days and then it got really warm and sunny again. I also painted my bedroom a purple-blue color, which is really pretty. Easter wasn´t that excited. I thought there would be processions and things, and I guess there were in some towns, like Santa Rosa, but nothing much happened here. When I lived in Costa Rica, there was a long procession through town for Easter, and the kids and adults were all dressed up in pretty costumes and they had drums and it was really pretty. There’s no Easter Bunny in Honduras, no painting eggs or chocolate bunnies or jelly beans. I had a nice Easter, it was a beautiful day and I ate tilapia with my host family, but it didn’t feel like Easter.

The kids at the school in town have already collected a lot of plastic bottles to recycle. I went to the school this week and talked to all the afternoon classes about recycling. I don’t know if I’ve explained this before, but the medium to large size schools have two shifts of classes- in the morning grades 1-3 and in the afternoon grades 4-6. The smaller schools, which only have like 2 teachers, just have class all day. Some of those small schools only have one teacher for up to 50 or 60 students. So I’m going back a different day to speak to the morning classes. Also, in all the schools the students have uniforms, white button-up collared shirts, and navy blue slacks or skirts. The education style is different than in the US. Here, there is more focus on repetition and copying things down, and less focus on critical thinking or creativity. If, for example, the teacher shows an example drawing of a picture of a house and asks all the students to draw a house, they will copy the example. There’s a lack of thinking outside of the box. Most of the teachers have only high school degrees and many of them, especially the grade school teachers, are very young, just out of high school.

Right before Semana Santa, I went to the high school in Cucuyagua, one of the towns right next to mine, and I met a teacher who was very supportive of my recycling project. He is working with a group of about 50 students who are graduating this year but who need to do a project to graduate, so recycling is going to be their project. I met with a small group of them and we formed a plan with a timeline. This Saturday I’m going to give them a charla (a talk) about recycling and then they are going to give the charla to the other classes. In addition to the recycling, they are going to use organic waste to make a compost pit to make fertilizer. I’m really excited about this group. They seem like very hard working students. It makes up for the high school in my town. The director/principal said he doesn’t want to do the recycling project because there isn’t room in the school to store the recyclebles and he doesn’t want the students bringing in more garbage because there’s already too much garbage in the school. I was pretty mad and frustrated when I heard that. Maybe he has a point, but he’s not looking out for the future or the good of the community. So I told the Cucuyagua high school they have to do this project well to show up the high school here.

I’m also trying to work on things with the library. My town has a Reicken Library, which is a group of libraries spread throughout Honduras, funded by an American businessman who was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I think in Honduras, but I’m not sure. They are very nice libraries, small by US standards but very pretty and well designed. The Reicken Foundation has a very strict selection process and criteria for choosing communities to get libaries. The community has to form a committe to solicit the library. The community has to provide the land, labor, and afterward they have to take care of the maintanence of the library, and pay the librarian. The library in my town opened in October, right after I got to site. The library has a finance committe and a support committe, formed by community members, and they have to program all kinds of activities. A representative from Reicken visits every few weeks to see how the library is doing and they give capacitacions to the librarians and work with the committees. Each library has a few computers with free internet (which I love), but the committee has to come up with fund raising to support the free internet. I’d like to give classes on how to research on the internet. Reicken Libraries also have meeting rooms, complete with a projector, which are available to any group in the community by request. Kids use the library the most. I hardly ever see any adults in any of the Reicken Libraries, but the librarian is trying to change that. So I’m really lucky my town has one of these libraries. It’s a really nice place and a great opportunity for the community, especially with its programming.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Books I´ve Read

I´m posting a list of books I have read. I havent been reading that much since I moved into my new house, but in Oct-Dec I was reading so much. Some of the books I brought with me, a few were sent to me, and most I borrowed from other volunteers.
Books I have read since coming to Honduras, in order of being read, with country of the setting in parantheses:

Pillars of the Earth (12th century England)
*True Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (all over the world)
Snow (Turkey)
*The Piano Tuner (Burma)
Mosquito Coast (Honduras)
News From Paraguay (Paraguay)
*The Bookseller of Kabul (Afghanistan)
An Open Heart (Dalai Lama philosophy/theology)
The Other Boleyn Girl (16th century England)
The Little Prince
*A Thousand Splendid Suns (Afghanistan)
Prep (United States)
American Gods (United States)
Memoirs of a Geisha (Japan)
The Boleyn Inheiratance (16th century England)
Dreaming in Cuban (Cuba)
Honor Lost (Jordan)
Zorro –in Spanish (early 1800s California and Spain)
The Reader (Germany)

* These books I would highly reccomend to anyone, and which were especially useful to me from a Peace Corps context. There are a few other books on the list which I really enjoyed but I would only reccomend to certain people, so ask me if you're looking for a good book. I´ve also read a lot of magazines, mostly Newsweek, The Economist, and National Geographic in Spanish.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The recycling project is moving along. Last week I visited the school in the town next to me and talked to every afternoon class, which is 7, so about 250 kids. I also went to the aldea, where the school is I was visiting last school year, and I gave them the recycling talk, about 35 kids. It all went well and the kids are excited to start recycling. The director is getting cans this week so we can begin. So I´ve been pretty busy going to all the schools trying to organize things. On Friday I had the meeting with one of the patronatos (neighborhood committees) that got canceled last Sunday because no one showed up. Well, they didn´t show up again, just one guy. On the other hand, last Monday I had a meeting with a different patronato, which is mostly women, and everyone showed up, and on time, and we had a good, productive meeting. So it just depends. I´ve been trying to post pictures, but the internet is just so slow. Soon hopefully.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

tiedye, tarantulas, and recycling

On Thursday I was doing laundry (hand washing in the pila) and I accidentally got chlorine, which I was using to soak my socks, splattered on my blue tank top. I only have a few tank tops and I want to wear them everyday because it´s been hot, and then I ruined my favorite blue one, getting chlorine on it. So then I decided to turn it into a tiedye shirt, and I poured spots of chlorine all over the shirt. It turned out decent; I´m going to wear it alot. I´m becoming more of a hippy every day. Haha. Just kidding. Kind of. I do use a lot of Raid. That´s not very hippyish. I had an ant problem. There were tons of really tiny ants coming into my house, through the ceiling. There would be lines of tiny ants from the ceiling down to the floor. I don´t know what they were doing, because they weren´t getting into my food. They were really driving me crazy, so I bought Raid and that really works well. Also, when I got back from being gone for the Peace Corps meeting, there was a large tarantula in my house. It really scared me, it´s the biggest spider I´ve ever seen outside of like a zoo. So I caught it and put it outside. It was just too big to kill.

When I was living in the mountains, I found in my room at different times: a mouse, a toad, a slug, and lots of ants. Since I have been living in town, things I have found in my house: geckos (all the time, they live in my window frames), little frogs (they are in my shower sometimes at night, I think they crawl up the drain), a tarantula, cockroaches, and lots of ants. And lots of other types of little bugs, moths, mosquitos. But now I have Raid to protect me.

The last couple weeks have been really busy. I´ve been making myself busy, and it makes me so much happier than having nothing to do. It´s so much easier living in town. There´s always work to do if you look for it and get yourself involved.

The most exciting thing that I´m doing now is a recycling program. Garbage is such a problem here. Very few towns have garbage dumps. My town doesn´t have garbage pick up so people burn their garbage or throw it in a pile somewhere. There´s always lots of garbage in the streets. And there´s really no recycling. In some of the bigger cities there are people who buy metal cans or plastic bottles to resell, but not really around here. But now that is changing. A nearby volunteer has been working to start a small business that buys plastics, metals, glass, and paper, to resell in El Salvador and other places. They have been researching and organizing for months and just this past week they started to buy recyclebles.

So I am starting recycling collection in the kindergartens, schools, and high schools in my town and a couple of the neighboring towns. The idea is that the kids will bring the recycleble materials to school and every two weeks or every month we will sell it all to the company. To start off and motivate the students, we might do a contest to see which grade can collect the most, and they will win some kind of prize or party. This is going to be a really big project. I´m going to visit each classroom to explain why we are recycling, and the specifics of how, like that we have to seperate different materials, crush cans, take the tops of the plastic bottles, things like that. I think it´s important to go to each classroom to get the students excited and to make sure everyone knows the process, however, these are fairly large schools. I´ll be talking to a few thousand students in total. Once we get going in the schools, I´d like to start collecting in restaurants and stores. So far, I´ve been talking to the mayors, school directors, and some teachers. I think I will start visiting classrooms next week.

There are lots of details to work out. I need to make sure each school/classroom has a system to collect and seperate the recyclebles; get scales so we can weigh it all, since each school will need to keep track of what it´s collecting and how much money it should get, and a transportation method. I´m more excited about this than anything else I´ve been doing. We can get garbage off the streets, reuse recycleble materials, and the schools can make a little money off it. I´m so nervous something isn´t going to work.

I´ve also decided to start working with the patronatos, which are like neighborhood committees that meet each month to talk about what the neighborhood needs. My town has 5 barrios (small neighborhoods within the town) and each one is now forming a patronato, which is an initiative of the mayor. Some of them had inactive patronatos before, and some are forming new ones. So I heard they were being formed and went to the mayor´s office to say I could help to organize them and capacitate them, and the mayor gave me the names of the patronato presidents. Then I had to find the presidents to tell them I could meet with their group, so I walked around and asked where these people lived, found them, talked with them, and set dates for meetings.

As I talked to the patronato presidents, I realized I really didn´t know what I was doing. What did I want to talk to them about? How could I help them? I don´t know anything about patronatos and I have no experience with local government. But it doesn´t really matter. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you don´t need to know much about things to start working on them. Peace Corps provides enough resources and materials that I can get all the information I need in whatever area I need it. And I really just need to know more than the people I´m capacitating, which usually isn´t that much, and then I learn as I go along. When I started with the community banks, I didn´t know anything, but now I have a much better understanding.

Anyway, I decided to do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Oportunities), with the groups to begin to see how they are organized and where they lack. Then we´ll talk about the importance of citizen participation. It is very common for people to be apathetic and inactive in the community. So I went to the library and looked at some books about citizen rights, munincipal laws, and citizen participation. We´ll also talk about the function of a patronato and how they can write solicituds to the mayor´s office and things like that. From there, I´ll see what else they would like capacitaciones in. My first barrio meeting is Saturday evening, there´s another Sunday and another Monday, each in different barrios. It should be interesting. Before I left for Peace Corps, I thought a lot of my work would be with people to inform them of their rights as citizens and to increase participation, and now that´s what I´ll be doing, so that´s exciting.

So that´s mainly what I´ve been doing lately. I´m going to do other various projects and talks in the schools after I get the recycling started. Another exciting thing that is coming up is that the Energy Department is interested in the biodigestor project that my counterpart is thinking of doing and also in the improved stove project that my counterpart completed with the previous volunteer. So a few representatives from the Energy Dept., including the Vice-Minister of Energy, are coming here the first week of March to see the improved stoves and the biodigestor.
Also, I can make friendship bracelets now.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Last week I went to the capital, Tegucigalpa, for Reconnect, a Peace Corps meeting. They are annual meetings by project group. In my project, Munincipal Development, there are 29 volunteers; 14 from my training group and 15 who have been here for over a year and are leaving in September. The workshop was at a nice hotel up in the mountains. It was pretty and they fed us a lot.

The first day was just the 14 from my group and we each presented 20-30 minutes about our sites and our work. It was interesting hearing what everyone is doing. Some people are really busy and others have hardly anything going on. Some sites are much harder than others. Projects that people are doing include: starting neighborhood committees, training community banks, updating the munincipal action plan, starting youth groups, helping conduct censuses, building improved stoves, giving micro finance classes, marketing traditional pottery, giving computer classes, and giving English classes. The next two days we heard presentations from the volunteers who had been here longer, and also from different organizations in Honduras that we can work with. It got boring sitting through so many presentations all day, but it was really nice seeing everyone and hanging out together.

When we got back to the capital, we went to the mall, which was a strange experience. I felt like I was in a different world. There was so much stuff, and lots of US stores. I didn`t really buy anything, though. After the mall we went for sushi. There are two sushi restaurants in Tegucigalpa. It was really good. I got a California roll for $3 and it was good quality. There were like 30 types of sushi on the menu.

I got back to my site, and I was really happy to be back. On Sunday we had a town meeting. The mayor and everyone came to explain what projects they are going to do this year. At least 200 people were there, and they served everyone a cup of Coke and a package of cookies. It`s practically mandatory to give out a snack at any sort of meeting. Anyway, some people weren`t too happy with what the funds will be used for, but it didnt make a difference in the end. The munincipality is receiving about $100,000 from the funds for the Reduction of Poverty Strategy, (ERP in Spanish) which was started by the UN Millenium Challenge Goals. These funds only go to Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), which include Honduras. I learned about all of this in school, so it´s interesting to see it in action now. The funds go to each munincipality each year for development projects, and they are distributed locally so the community can decide what it needs, rather than the national government, or some foreign organization. However, there are still problems, because the funds can be politicized, misused, or stolen. So accountability and getting community involvement is really important.
School started today, so I´ll be busy this week going to the schools to give talks. It´s a great way to get to know people. That´s all for now.

Friday, February 1, 2008


For the past week, I’ve been watching my friends’ golden retreiver puppy. It’s been an interesting experience having a dog here. I walk all around town with him and everyone comments how pretty he is. Dogs here are mainly mutts and basically all of them are dirty and aggressive. Most people have dogs, but the dogs aren’t allowed in the house and they often just walk around on the street and bark at people. There are lots of dogs, but you can’t pet them because they will bite you. So it’s unusual to see a pretty, well-fed, clean, friendly dog. And I usually keep him on a leash, which is also never seen here. When the puppy gets close to people, they are often afraid, because they think he will bite, so then I have to say he doesn’t bite, he’s not mean, you can touch him, and then they pet him and comment how pretty he is. It’s weird to see people afraid of such a cute little puppy. After a week of walking him around, most people recognize him and the kids get really excited to see him. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch him again soon, since he has lots of friends now in my town. Having a puppy is definitely a good community integration tool. He’s helped me meet a lot more people in town. People think he’s my puppy so I always have to say I’m just watching him this week. They all want to know how much he cost and where I bought him. So then I say I don’t know, he’s not mine. I definitely wouldn’t want an expensive, full breed dog here. People think I have money because I’m walking around a well fed, pretty dog, and I would be afraid of someone stealing him. I liked having him for the week, but I couldn’t have my own pet here, it’s too much work.

Yesterday, I took a walk with my neighbors, the two sisters, to buy tiles or shingles for their roof, since the roof is leaking. Tiles here are an adobe material and are big. They are called tejas We ordered the tejas and I asked the woman how they are made, and she said why don’t you walk over to where they are made so you can see. So we walked down the street to where they make the tejas and the woman gave us kind of a tour. They make a mud mixture, and wake up at 2am to mold the tejas, because they have to do it when there is no sun, so they don’t dry out before they are supposed to, or something like that. The place has light bulbs hanging outside so they can see what they are doing at 2am. Once it gets light out, the tiles are left to dry under the sun, and after they dry for a day or a few days, they are baked on top of a huge oven. It was pretty interesting. I felt like we were on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, taking a field trip to a community business. One tile costs 3 Lempiras, which is about 15 cents, which is a lot when you think about how many tiles one house needs. It’s really hard work to make them, though. The family invited me to come one morning, early, and I could try making some tejas. It sounds exciting.

Today I had a meeting that the environmental office (UMA) of a nearby town invited me to. They want to start a micro bank for the farmers involved in the town farmers market. The woman in charge of UMA didn`t tell me I`d have to do anything, but when I got there, she asked me to explain to everyone what a micro bank is, what it does, and to form it. I had nothing with me and wasn`t expecting to do it. So I just stood up and explained it all off the top of my head. Then they elected the president and all the other board members. It`s a good project. They want to better organize the farmers market. It was an all day affair, but very interesting. I think I`ll definately be working more with this town`s UMA, the woman in charge is very motivated. She`s not really in charge of anyone, she is the whole office. So she has a lot of work managing water sources, avoiding forest fires, etc. She told me she would find me a pretty sombrero so we can work in the field together.

Next week I have to go to the capital for Reconnect, a Peace Corps workshop. All the volunteers from my project, Munincipal Development, will be there, and our project managers, around 30 people. We have to present what we’ve been working on since we got to site and then we have to listen to presentations about different things. I’ll be gone all week and when I get back I need to meet with the school principals since the new school year begins Feb 14.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Medical Brigade

Last week I went to help translate for the medical brigade in Lempira, a neighboring department. The people in the brigade were really nice. There were 3 doctors, 2 nurses, 2 woman working in the farmacy, 2 women working with the kids, and 3 men doing construction projects. Most of them were from Arkansas and they had very strong accents. In addition to me, there were 6 other volunteers there to translate. So we had a really fun group and it was great spending time together and showing off our knowledge of Honduras to the people from Arkansas. Some of them had come many previous years, but for some it was their first time here.

We stayed at sort of a compound, a center for training groups and retreats. There were a bunch of buildings. We slept there and ate there and the patients came there to be seen. They fed us so much. We had breakfast, a snack, lunch, another snack, and dinner. And there was so much food and it was really good. I felt like I was on a cruise, with the amount I was eating.

The first day we had a little over 100 patients. There were less the next days, and in the afternoons, we didn`t really have anything to do. They were hoping for more people to come. The first two days I translated for the nurses, so I was just asking people what was wrong, for how long they had had the conditions, and asked them to step on the scale. It was pretty easy.

The 3rd day in the morning I translated for one of the doctors. That was very interesting. Our first patient was a pregnant woman, and we got to listen to the baby`s heartbeat! There was another woman with extremely high blood pressure. They would have rushed her to the hospital in the US, she was really on the verge of having a stroke. They couldn`t do much, though, just give her lots of medicine. There was an old woman who they thought probably had throat cancer, and told her to go to a specialist, but she probably won`t be able to. There was another woman who probably had schitsophrenia. It was an interesting week.

I also helped with the farmacy, explaining medicine dosages to people, and fitting people with eyeglasses. Mothers would come in with thier 3 children, and they would be getting all different medicines, and in many cases the mother would be illiterate. So then I would have to carefully explain which medicine was for what and when to take it. It made me nervous, because it would be hard for her to keep straight all the medicines.

In the mornings I went running with one of the other volunteers. It was a really pretty area. We would go on walks in the evenings. One afternoon me and one of the other volunteers went to help the old man fish in their tilapia ponds. That was fun. At the end of the week, the nurses prepared goodie bags for us, with vitamins, coloring books, and lots of other good stuff. They were a great group.

This week I am puppy sitting my friends` golden retriever puppy. He is so cute but a lot of work. I will post pictures soon.

Friday, January 18, 2008

It`s really nice living in town. It`s more of what I pictured my Peace Corps experience to be. I like being able to walk around and talk to people and go to the mayor`s office when I feel like it and be able to go to nearby towns. This morning I had a meeting with the director of the Environmental Office of the munincipality next to mine, and the woman was really nice and they are doing a lot of interesting projects that I can help with. When school starts I`m going to start a big garbage education program. My neighbors are really nice and keep giving me things, like eggs, platanos, oranges, tortillas. The last few nights I`ve been playing soccer with the kids in the neighborhood. My landlady`s little boys have a Sega, but they only have the Sonic the Hedgehog game. And my other neighbor`s little boy has a PS2, but mostly just car games. Their fathers are in the US working and they sent the game systems here for the boys. Pretty much everyone in my town has either lived in the US, has a family member living in the US, and/or wants to go to the US to work (mostly illegaly). People have been asking my to teach English classes, but I think a lot of them just want it so they can go to the US, and I don`t want to endorse that. Itell them all it`s better to stay here and take advantage of the opportunities in their own country than to risk going to the US. Every day planes full of deported Hondurans land here. It`s a really hard situation.
Next week I am going to help with a medical brigade. Doctors from the US are coming and they need translators. There will be 6 doctors and 6 volunteers to translate. Meals and housing is provided for us. The brigade ends Thursday or Friday and then I`m going to my friend`s site to help with events for National Women`s Day. She works with a big coalition of women and they have lots of activities planned. So it will be an exciting week. Then I need to come back here and try to meet with the principals of all the nearby highschools.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

pictures of my house

my pila in the backyard where i wash clothes and dishes

my small bathroom, which i painted orange

the town park

the front of my house

the main room of my house, looking at the back door. that is the table i had built to use as a kitchen, with my electric stove on top. the red curtain is a traditional blanket with a dog pattern that i made into a curtain. and my pretty green walls. the other wall i am going to paint light brown sometime this week. i have been painting almost every night, it´s kind of addictive.

Monday, January 14, 2008

first week in my new house

12 jan

I´ve had a good and eventful week. Monday and Tuesday I spent buying things for my house and setting things up, and I painted my bathroom orange. I´ve been getting to know my neighbors. On Tuesday I went to the library for story hour. About 12 little kids came to listen. The librarian is a great story teller, she read Curious George, or Jorge el Curioso. After the story, she showed the kids different species of monkeys on the computer and then they drew and colored monkeys. They were all really cute. I love the library, there are so many good books in Spanish, and I can use the computers for free.

On Wednesday I went to a nearby town for a meeting with an organization that is building a garbage dump and beginning an environmental education program. I´m really interested in doing a similar project in my area. I was with two other volunteers having lunch before the meeting and my project manager, Jorge, called me to say he was on his way to visit me for my site visit. We all get site visits in the first few months in site so they can see how we are doing and what we´re working on. Jorge apparently sent me an email, but I don´t check email every day, so I had no idea he was coming. So then I was kind of flustered, because I had a meeting, but I had to meet with him, too.
But Jorge said no problem, he could come to where I was and meet with me there Jorge did our training, so we were with him for 3 months. He´s a great person and I get along really well with him. He got there a little before 2, and the meeting was at 2, so he came with to the meeting. It was a very interesting and beneficial meeting. We talked about the landfill, garbage collection, recycling possibilities, and environmental education. After the meeting, I met with Jorge and talked about everything I had been doing and my experiences. Then he came back the next day, Thursday, to meet with my counterpart. Jorge had some good advice and he said that he thinks I will do great things in my site. He probably says that to everyone, but it was nice to hear. Also, he brought me a bike that another volunteer had left. So now I have a bike, and I´m going to try to ride it to the aldeas in the mountains. He also came to see my house and he said it´s very nice and it´s secure.

I really like my house. It has one main room, which is the kitchen livingroom, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. I painted my bathroom orange one night, like the color of a ripe orange, and yesterday I painted two walls of the main room kind of a forest green color. It´s really pretty. I´m going to paint a third wall a light brown and the other wall I might leave white, because it´s a really high wall. My bedroom I´m going to paint blue and purple. I bought some traditional type blankets, made in Guatemala, to use as curtains. I have my bed, a shelf set for clothes, a plastic table, and a plastic chair. The carpenter is building me a large, tall table for my kitchen, since there aren´t any counters. It´s almost done, he just has to put some shelves in the bottom. I bought a 2 burner elctric table-top stove on Thursday. I don´t have a fridge, but some volunteers are leaving in April, so I´m going to wait and get one of their fridges, because I don´t want to have to buy one. Before I bought the stove, I was toasting bread over a candle flame. It felt very Peace Corps. I have a nice little backyard with banana trees, coffee plants, a white poinsetta, and some other flowers. And I have my own new pila to wash clothes and dishes, and it´s tall, which is nice, since I´m tall. There´s no sink in the house, so I use the pila for everything.

In the next couple weeks I need to meet with the school principal and the highschool principal to plan some things, and I need to meet with the environmental offices of all the nearby towns to discuss the garbage situation. I don´t have much time before school starts. The week of the 20th, I will be in a small nearby town to help a medical brigade. Doctors from the US are coming for a few days and they need translators. I think it will be interesting to see them at work and to learn some medical terms in Spanish. And the first week of February I need to go to a Peace Corps meeting. Everyone from my project, Munincipal Development, is going to this meeting to share our work and listen to some talks. It will be nice to see people I haven´t seen and hear about what they are doing. So I have a lot to organize and not that much time.
I´m really happy living in town. I love being able to walk around and say hi to people and go to the park and the library and it´s much easy to work and organize things. It was a good experience living in the mountains, but harder to get anything done. I´m looking forward to the next couple months and the projects I think we can start.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New House!

I moved into my new house on Sunday! It was pretty easy and fast to move, since the only furniture I have is a bed and a plastic chair. My host dad moved it all down with his truck. Sunday I spent unpacking, doing laundry, and getting to know my neighbors. My neighbors on my right are my landladies, they own my house. They are sisters, one is a nurse and one is a teacher, and the nurse has two little boys. The grandparents also live with them. They`re really nice. Today I have been going all over to buy stuff for the house. Like curtains, and paint. It`s so exciting having my own house! This afternoon and tommorrow I`m going to the library and to the mayor`s office to do some planning on how I can help them. Wednesday I have a meeting with a group that is building a landfill for some nearby towns. I`m really interested in seeing if it would be possible to build one for the munincipalities around here. Now that I`m living in town, I have a lot to do. Lots of people to meet and projects to start. This is the first time I`ve lived all alone, but it`s nice. I have a lot more independence. And it`s safe, my house is very secure, my neighbors are nearby, and it`s a safe neighborhood. I`m a few blocks from the central park where the mayor`s office is. It`s really pretty. I`ve taken some pictures, I just need to post them. My computer is still broken, so I`m trying to figure out where I can upload the pictures.

I`ve been in Honduras for almost 6 months now. I`ve experienced every month in a Central American country, because I was in Costa Rica January-June and in Honduras July-December.
I`m definately getting used to living here. I like it. That`s all for now.