Lauren's Peace Corps Experience in Honduras

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed and experiences described in this travelogue are mine personally. Nothing written here should be interpreted as official or unofficial Peace Corps literature or as sanctioned by the Peace Corps or the U.S. government. I have chosen to write about my experience online in order to update family and friends; I am earning no money whatsoever from this endeavor. Please do not copy or forward any of these contents without my permission.

Monday, October 11, 2004

My Assignment

I thought I'd take some time to explain my assignment - or at least how I understand it. The thing Peace Corps people say is that your expectations are never right on target - that's what's so exciting about it!

With my invitation came a booklet describing my assignment and a book all about Honduras, the PC program there, packing lists, and letters and advice from volunteers there right now. Here are some of the exerpts from current PCV's letters:

"Congratulations on accepting the best assignment the Peace Corps has to offer!"

"Don't worry about those last meals--you can find just about any type of food here. However, do enjoy those hot showers while they last!"

"You would be hard pressed to find a people more friendly and welcoming" than Hondurans."

"The next two-plus years will hold numerous challenges. I often describe my service as a roller-coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs. For me, the ups have definitely outweighed the downs."

"Don't worry, you'll fit everything you need in your 80 pounds after about five tries. We can't wait to have you here."

"The people here are very hardworking and determined, but have limited economic resources. Yet, they are likely to offer you their last tortilla and a cup of coffee when you arrive at their house."

"Leave behind your worries and strife, and bring with you flexibility, the ability to laugh, and lots of patience. In Honduras, life can be slow, but there is never a dull moment. Peace Corps/Honduras has been the best experience of my life. Hasta muy pronto."

So now you can see why I am so excited! Not only do the volunteers there seem awesome, but I know that Honduras and the Honduran people are going to teach me a lot about living.

Now, you ask, what will I be doing there? My program is called the Child Survival and HIV/AIDS Prevention Program.

I am going because (and I'm going to be heavily quoting my assignment booklet here) "the Honduran health system lacks resources for health education. The Ministry of Health personnel work mostly with sick people and there is little time and few resources for educational/prevention activities. Peace Corps volunteers help fill this gap within the Honduran health system."

"The major need in the health sector of Honduras is education. Without health education, it is not possible to lower the high incidence of several preventable diseases or health conditions such as malnutrition in children, high maternal mortality rates, high teen pregnancy rates, and high HIV/AIDS prevalence."

"Although access to health care services has improved in Honduras in recent years, the maternal mortality rate is still high, and 45% of children in rural areas are malnourished. Also, Honduras accounts for nearly 60% of Central America's HIV positive individuals even though it represents only 20% of Central America's population."

So my duties might include:
1. Train youth leaders on HIV/AIDS/STDs and other adolescent-specific topics.
2. Provide education with an emphasis on children and women.
3. Selecting and facilitate training of midwives and women leaders.
4. Promoting child survival activities in the community.

Most volunteers also take on a secondary project related to an interest of theirs or a need they identify in their community. Common examples are coaching/starting a soccer or basketball league for youth, workshops on self-esteem, motivation, teamwork, and positive attitidues, theater classes, teaching English, cooking classes, or starting a community garden.

My hours are supposed to be like a normal job, but that varies too. I get 24 days of leave (vacation) a year. My living allowance (intended to cover the cost of food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, entertainment, transportation, and other random items) will be about $190 a month (woo hoo!). Remember that everything is extremely cheap there (a nice meal in a restaurant about $2.00-$3.00; it's easy to live comfortably off a couple bucks a day). When you move into your new place - an house or apartment you rent or perhaps a stay with a family if you choose - the PC gives you an extra $235 to settle in and buy furniture and supplies and whatever else you need. Obviously I will be living modestly, but even so, I will be considered very well-off.

One reason I'm doing this is so that I don't take the beaten path - I'll be doing something different and exciting and unknown. Living.

And until I start that part of my life, I'm definitely going to enjoy hot showers, my mom's cooking, visits with Chris, my family, my soft comfy bed, and all the other little things we all take for granted!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Hunting and gathering...

Though I still have a little more than 3 months before departure, I have been collecting appropriate clothes over the past few weeks. I figured that it may be hard to find summer clothes in January so I'd better take advantage of end-of-summer sales. Well that was only the beginning. Since then, I've been online shopping every week and spending mucho moolah.

The Peace Corps says not to spend a lot of money on clothes and supplies, etc. But the problem is I'm moving to a conservative Latin American country where I can expect uncomfortable stares from Honduran men, so I feel like it's a good idea to cover up a bit more. And over the last few years, I've only bought clothes for work that would never stand up to the washing they will get in Honduras. Or clothes that are not decent for Honduran society. Most of my current wardrobe is pretty useless.

Thus, I've needed to collect high neckline tank tops, comfortable wrinkle-resistant pants, various clothes good for travel, a rain jacket for the rainy season, Tevas (not my style at all but hey, they work), short sleeve button up shirts and long skirts (they expect us to dress business casual the first three months of training!), bras without underwire, long shorts, and that's only the beginning!

I still need hiking boots, new running shoes, waterproof pants, a camera, and more.

Exciting finds include a solar powered batter recharger! So I can bring a portable CD player and recharge AA batteries even if I don't have electricity (which I should have, as well as running water - I hope).

I've given my mom a hefty Christmas list this year, which includes a tiny scrunchy sleeping bag, sleeping pad, a short-wave radio, and a Swiss army knife.

I know whatever I can't afford or fit into my allotted 80 lbs. of luggage I can probably find in Honduras. But when a girl has months to get ready, it's inevitable she will start collecting a ton of stuff to bring. *sigh*

Sorry people, no Christmas presents from me this year ;) Just kidding!

Love always,