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.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Getting into the swing of things....

Well it´s a lovely Saturday here in Honduras. I´m sure some of you would kill for the weather we´ve been having. While it's pretty cool at night, during the day it gets in the 70s with a beautiful blue sky, usually behind beautiful green moutains. The sun is really strong here. It doesn't feel hot but several people have gotten sunburned while on breaks between classes and during the short walk home. It sort of sneaks up on you!

Today I walked to an internet cafe in downtown Siguatepeque with my friend Kattrina, who lives in my barrio of San Francisco. In a few minutes I am meeting my hermana Lizeth to meet my abuela at a family lunch. Then at 2:30 I´m meeting a bunch of other volunteers at a movie theater to hopefully catch a matinee, either Ocean's 12 or the Incredibles I think. It's a beautiful day and I like walking around here! The only annoying thing is the lip smacking and hissing you get when you walk by guys here. They say you get used to it and it is harmless.

I had hoped to try again and post some pictures up here, but the connections seem to be so slow here and makes loading pictures on a website or email agonizingly slow. So I think I might send the CD with my first 60 pictures to my mom or sister with instructions how to put them up for you all to see. I want you to see my pictures of Honduras from the air, the beautiful training center in Siguatepeque, my host family and their casa, and some of the nights out with my fellow trainees.

Last night a bunch of us met at a place called Iguana Mia after dinner for a few beers. It is cute, like a college bar, with an ourdoor patio with lights strung up and an outdoor bar. Since most of our curfews are at 9 pm (because of the fact taxis stop running at that time) I returned early, but it was still fun to chat with everyone. Since we are a smaller group than usual, only 34 people, we are all pretty close already and I can tell I will have some great friends when all is said and done.

Training is picking up the pace a bit and getting tougher. We have spanish classes with about 4 people in each, according to our level (I am intermediate middle) from 7:30 - 11:30 each morning, an hour to eat the lunch our families pack for us and to hang out in the sunshine, and then have either CORE (general lectures about safety, culture, Honduran history, ect) or split off into our separate projects, either Health like me or Water and Sanitation from 12:30-4:30. Then I walk to back to my house with some friends. We all usually have a good amount of homeowork every night for spanish class and reading for our projects. Yesterday we were all happy to have the weekend start, believe me!

The other day for spanish class we had to go out into a nearby neighborhood and knock on a door and go in and ask some questions of a family. Intimidating believe me! I didn´t understand a good bit of what the poor lady was saying to me, so it was a bit of a reality check for me. My family and spanish teacher must speak clearer to me so I have been feeling pretty comfortable with my spanish progress, but now I know I have a lot of work to do.

Well I miss everyone believe me! I hope all is well. Time is so precious on the computer and usually only have an hour once or twice a week to read 30 emails, attempt to put pictures up, write something back, and anything else I need to do. Pretty difficult, especially when the connection is slow. Maybe I can come back tomorrow, Sunday. My hermana loves going to the internet cafes to write her friends, so she's usually up for going with me.

I haven't gotten any letters yet, but no one has. They are going to start bringing mail to the training center from the capital once a week. Date the letters you send so that I know how long it took, k? Mom will be starting to call my Tias house 2 times a week at 8 pm so that will be nice to look forward to. Call her for the number if you'd like to call, and she'll tell you the system we've worked out.

Lots of love to everyone! Lots of hugs and kisses :)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

First Impressions of Honduras

Hi everyone :)

It is Sunday and I have come to an internet cafe in Siguatepeque with my host family sister, mi hermana, who is really really nice. I'm already finding it difficult to write in English. I keep writing Spanish words and then correcting myself. Also the keyboard is different so I'm slowly learning where " ' ? : ) and all these other symbols are. Another issue in Honduras is most of the computers are slower than we in the states are used to. So a half hour online is enough time to read maybe 4 emails and write one short one. So be patient with me!

My Spanish has improved a lot in just a few days. It helps when you have to spend hours with a family who knows no English. It's hard first thing in the morning to talk in Spanish over breakfast. I said several times this morning when I couldn't think of a word, "No puedo hablar español en la mañana, necesito mas cafe " - I can't speak spanish in the morning, I need more coffee - and they laugh with me and understand.

I'm getting more comfortable with my family. The mother Elsa is really quiet but she is slowly coming out of her shell. Liza is very talkative and we are becoming friends. Cindy is the 10 year old, a little chubby and her sister and mom regularly make jokes about her being fat. They think this is hilarious. Liza is tiny, and she makes me feel tall even though I am barely 5'4". We are the same age though. Another regular presence is Cindy's cousin and best friend, also ten, Eblin, and it took me forever to understand her name, let me tell you.

I have already taught them how to play Pick-Up Sticks and Uno, both of which they love. They have a lot of time here so love games. Another favorite activity is listening to music, both in spanish and familiar American music like Avril Levigne (sp?) and watching television. There is usually one or both of these sounds on in the background.

In the morning I have been waking up about 6:30 on my own. I am so happy I brought ear plugs because the roosters and dogs barking go alllll night. It's a crazy sound that is hard to understand unless you have heard it. I have been sleeping like a baby. I think I have their best room, with a double bed with a mosquito net over it (although I have yet to see a mosquito). It gets chilly at night so I have a sheet and 2 blankets over me, and am very comfortable. Since I typically go to sleep around 9:30 or 9:40 I wake up early when I hear the house starting to come alive. By the time I take my now hot shower (I learned how to use it!) and get dressed, they have breakfast waiting for me. My breakfast is typically a type of grilled cheese and ham, or bread with chicken, or beans and chicken with tortillas. I usually have pineapple, peach, or other juice or some delicious Honduran coffee - it's so good. Then I take a packed lunch to "school" in a thermos.

I'll write more about training in a bit, we start spanish classes tomorrow and for me, Health classes for my project. I hear training can be very hard and tiring, so we'll see how I hold up.

Last night we went to a restaurant that volunteers frequent a lot called Mangosta, and had dinner and a few Honduran beers. We were celebrating a birthday of one of the other trainees, Eric. It was a good time - I had a hamburger and french fries :)

I love you all and hope to continue hearing from you! I am doing well and liking Honduras a lot so far. It´s still strange but I'm slowly getting more comfortable here.

Friday, January 21, 2005

I am here!

Hola! It's nice to write to you all finally. I am in Honduras for my second morning.

To back track a bit, staging was really fun. We had it in D.C. and everyone in my training group is really really cool and fun! Staging was a bunch of icebreakers, group discussions, talks by the PC staff about safety, culture adjustments, and the logistics of travelling to Honduras. The first night we all went out in two large groups for dinner and had a great time with good food and drinks at Capitol City Brewing Company. The second night I spent with Chris one last time. We stayed up really late into the night and talked and hugged and cried. That last look was really hard and I will miss him a lot! I took my possibly last hot shower around 3 a.m. and was down in the lobby with all my luggage by 4 a.m.

After a long day of travelling we arrived in Tegucigalpa for an exciting landing! I'll put the pictures I took from the air on here soon. We had a 2 hour bus ride to Siguatepeque, where the new PC training site is. We stayed there the first night in rooms with 4 beds each, it was sort of like camp. It is chilly here right now and a lot of volunteers were only prepared for hot weather! Not me, I'm fine in my fleece. The first night we had a great dinner of steak skewers, refried beans, plantains, rice, tortillas, and cheese. The coffee here is so fresh and so good. Then we played with 2 pinatas- much more fun than in the states, everyone was cracking up! That night we set off Honduran fireworks - they weren't the safest or most predictable, and we had a few close calls, but it was really fun.

The first morning in Honduras we woke up early after a full night of much needed rest. We had a lot of orientation. We met all of our teachers and staff, which all seem great. I only have 3 more minutes online so I'll skip the rest to get to my host family.

At 5 p.m. yesterday we met our host families with much nervousness and fear. We had survival spanish but I still wasn't feeling comfortable. My host family is awesome. The mother is Elsa, and the older daughter is Lizeth (Liz) who is 22 and soooo nice. The younger daughter is 10 named Cindy. I will tell more about them later, but they have had a volunteer last year and so know how it will go. The room I have is nice by Honduran standards, with a double bed, a closet, a desk. When I got there there was a vase of roses for me with a balloon saying Welcome to Honduras Lauren! Also there was a nice card. I have a hot shower in theory, but I haven't figured out how to get the hot water yet. The shower this morning sure woke me up! The food is good, and smaller portions than at the training center, thank goodness.

Well I have to go, more will come later. I love and miss you all! I don't have much time to answer or read all my emails, so be patient. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!

Love always,

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Leaving tomorrow for D.C.!

Well, the time has just about arrived. Tomorrow morning I'm going to church one last time with my family, then going out to a lovely brunch with everyone to say farewell, then loading my bags into Chris's car to drive up to D.C. It's hard to imagine saying goodbye - it feels like the moment has come quickly and taken forever to arrive at the same time.

My bags are just about at 80 lbs now, plus or minus. One bag is 50 lbs and huge (going over the measurement limit of 62 inches by several inches) and the other bag is 30 lbs, and then I'm taking a pretty large carry-on backpack. I may have to pay a fee for going over the airline luggage limits, but we'll see. My mom is worried that I won't be able to carry it all. I have a few things that I decided to let her send me too.

I really can't believe I'm leaving home tomorrow! I'll stay with Chris tomorrow night and then on Monday afternoon he will drop me off at the hotel in D.C. where staging will be and I'll check into my room and meet everyone at last.

Even though I get scared sometimes, I remember what someone told me once: that courage is not defined as being scared of nothing, but instead, courage is having a fear and facing it anyway. Well, of course I'm scared of saying goodbye and leaving everything I know and living with strangers and being in a strange culture and being alone, but I'm going to look at it as a challenge and try it and see what happens. You can't go about life by always taking the safe route, or else looking back you'll regret not living life to the fullest.

I know I have so many people back home supporting me, and I appreciate everything sooo much! Please continue to pray for me and I know I will be ok :) I will miss all of you so very much and hope you will try to visit!

Monday, January 10, 2005

My Wish List

Hi everyone :)

One week until staging! I can't believe it. Pleeeeease pray for me! I am really excited and really nervous at the same time. I'll need all of your support so much.

A few of you have been asking what you can send me to raise the spirits. Though I'm not really sure what I'm going to miss the most, I can give you a few ideas.

First of all, I have a wish list at full of books and CDs I would love - Go to - click on "Wish List" at the top of the page - and type in "Lauren Mohlie" to access my wishlist :) Thanks in advance!

Generally, I would love to be sent:
- Good reading books!!
- Letters!!
- CDs
- Pictures from your life
- Taped episodes of Lost, The OC, and reruns of Friends and Sex and the City
- Chai tea and sleepytime tea
- Good smelling soaps and candles
- Face/body wipes
- Milano cookies
- Vegetable Thin crackers and Wheat Thins
- Health/Energy bars
- Magazines: Newsweek, Time, Cosmo, etc.
- Interesting newspaper articles
- Word jumbles, word search, and not-too-hard crossword puzzles
- Seasonal decorations for my house/apartment
- Good pens and markers
- Recipes with some ingredients; Spices

(**See post titled "It's becoming real, staging and contact info" for my mailing address and helpful tips for sending a package to me; in general, use air mail).

That's all I can think of right now. I'll add to this list after I arrive in Honduras. Of course, you don't have to send me stuff unless it's on your heart to...what I'll really look for are letters!