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 cafĂ©. 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.