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.