Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy Holidays

I apologize for not updating in so long. I'm not much of a writer, unless it's for school, so I have to force myself to write every time I do a blog. And this past month with all the holidays, it's been even harder.

I’m going to start with Donkey Polo, which took place December 12-13. Donkey Polo, or Burro Polo, was started by a Municipal Development Peace Corps Volunteer 12 years ago in the town of Yuscaran, which is in the south-east, near the Nicaraguan border. Donkey Polo is basically what it sounds, a simplified game of polo played on donkeys instead of horses. It’s always volunteers versus the Hondurans of Yuscaran, and every single year the Hondurans have won. By a lot. This year we scored 2 and they scored at least 13. The game takes place during the Yuscaran town feria, so there are lots of food stands set up in the park, music, and a stage with events going on. Yuscaran is a beautiful town, and it’s near where we had our field based training for about 6 weeks, so I already had a good impression of that area of the country. I currently live on the complete opposite side of the country, but since Honduras is about the size of Tennessee, traveling across it is worth it for something as fun as Donkey Polo.

We played on a concrete soccer/basketball court, which was covered in donkey poop by the end. Because so many of us wanted to play, we broke it up into quarters and switched up each quarter. I played last, and my stupid donkey would not move, no matter how hard I hit it. And when it did decide to move, it would run in the opposite direction of where the action was! I was getting pretty frustrated with it. For most of my time in the game, I was smushed up against the fence because that’s where my donkey wanted to stand. On the plus side, I got some good pictures of myself on a donkey. On the down side, I don’t know when I’ll be able to post those pictures, because whenever I try, they don’t load. But overall, it was a really fun weekend. Donkey Polo was a once in a lifetime thing, only to be experienced in Honduras.

Now for the holidays. I’ve now spent my second Christmas and second New Year’s in Honduras. Christmas really isn’t the same here as in the US; it’s just not such a big deal here. There’s not much Christmas music, or decorations, or Christmas cookies, or exchanging of gifts. People usually get together with family and the woman make tamales and pan (a type of bread eaten with coffee). And at night lots of men get really drunk, someone told me there were 30 murders Christmas Eve night from drunk people having machete fights, or shooting each other. I don’t know if the number’s correct, but I’m sure there were a lot of drunken murders that night. It’s so sad that happens on such a holy night.

I spent Christmas at a fellow volunteer's site, in Nueva Ocotepeque, which is at the western most part of the country, near the borders of El Salvador and Guatemala. There were 5 of us there, volunteers from my group. On the 23rd, we went up to an aldea so that Brianna (the volunteer who lives there) could give out Christmas cards and cookies. On the 24th, we made lots of good food and hiked up the side of a mountain behind the house, which has an amazing view of the town, and we had a picnic and watched the sunset. It was beautiful. . It’s tradition to stay up until midnight on the 24th and set off fireworks, the same as the 31st, but we went to bed around 10, which was probably safer. The 25th, we made lots of good food again, and had a nice dinner and a secret santa gift exchange. The next day, we walked to this old cemetery and that night we went to karaoke (I didn't sing). So it was a really nice few days.

For New Year’s Eve, I went with another volunteer to his Honduran counterpart’s house, and there was a small party. There were tamales, honduran chop suey (they use ramen noodles, soy sauce, and lots of vegetables), and some other snacks. The night was really fun; there was music and lots of fireworks. Here it's tradition to have fireworks for Christmas and New Year's. And they make a man out of old rags and put clothes on him, kind of like a scarecrow, and they stuff him full of fireworks and set him off at midnight! Its supposed to represent the old year.

Not much happened over the Holiday weeks, since most people either had family visiting or were gone visiting family. I’ve been helping out in the library a lot, getting ready for the New Year. We took everything down, cleaned, and made new decorations.

The Sunday after New Year’s I began to feel really sick, kind of like I had the flu. My body was really achy and I kept getting the chills, but I was still up and functioning part of the day. By Wednesday I still wasn’t feeling well, and it suddenly occurred to me that I had the symptoms of dengue. Achy muscles, cramps, fever, chills, headache, pain behind eyes, tiredness, etc. Some of you might remember I was in the hospital my first week in Honduras, and dengue was a possibility. But I’m fairly positive that wasn’t dengue, it was just some kind of virus.This time it really is dengue. So Wednesday morning, I called the Peace Corps doctors but they just told me what I already knew, drink lots of fluids, take Panadol (local version of Tyenol), and rest. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Wednesday and Thursday were probably the worst days. It’s awful being sick. But people have really been taking care of me. On Thursday morning I texted the librarian that I thought I had dengue, which is why I hadn’t gone to the library the afternoon before and I didn’t think I’d go that day.

So on Thursday, Laura, the volunteer in the town next to me, came over to take care of me all day. We talked and she brought me food and made me tea. It was really nice of here. And a few people in town stopped by to see how I was. The man who works in the mayor’s office and is president of the library junta stopped by, the lady who works in the market gave me a Gatorade, and right after Laura left at 4, the two librarians (they are both about my age) stopped by and brought me crackers and juice. They stayed for about an hour. One of them told me stories of a heart condition she had when she was young and she had to get her lungs drained. She described what it was like to be in the children’s ward of the public hospital. They wouldn’t even let the parents in to be with their children. There were lots of little kids there with swollen heads, and bellies, with tubes sticking out of them, and they were all scared and alone. After listening to her stories, I felt much better. My dengue seemed like nothing next to the suffering of those kids. One of the things that makes me saddest in life is seeing really hurt or ill little kids. So anyway, it was really nice of them to come see me. After they left, I slept from 5:30-8:30, woke up, had some soup, read a little, and went back to bed at 10. This morning I’m feeling somewhat better, hopefully the fever doesn’t come back.So that's the start to my New Year. Hopefully this will fill my sickness quota for the rest of the year.