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, August 29, 2005

Chris's Visit

Hey all!

I tried to write an entry halfway into Chris's visit but the power shut off in the middle and I lost everything! That's how it goes here sometimes :)

Anyway, Chris and I had an awesome time. He got here last Saturday, the 20th of August, and I hired one of my friends, Oscar, or "Negro", to drive me out to San Pedro Sula from Dulce Nombre to pick up Chris, accompanied by my friend Maria Luisa. It was more expensive this way, but I am not comfortable traveling in San Pedro alone, and was especially worried about going around with Chris's suitcases in the highest crime area of the country. So it was a lot more tranquilo to go in Oscar's truck. We waited for about an hour at the airport, a really nice place actually, and finally Chris came out and we hugged a lot and then jumped in the back of the pickup truck to go back to Dulce Nombre. He got to see the sights that way, and I got to eat some of the snacks out of the suitcases my mom had sent me :) So we rode in the back for the 2.5 hours back to my town. Chris was cold because he was used to the hot weather of Virginia, and the mountains where I live are pretty cool at times. We finally arrived to my town, tired and hungry. He liked my house a lot I think :) We walked down to the little diner down the street and he ate his first Plato Tipico, or the typical fare of Honduras, which he also liked. We walked around a little bit that night, seeing the central park and the big church. The next few days in my town we spent eating a lot of food in other people's houses, teaching English in the kinder class, attending a party Sunday night given by my counterpart, La Profe, where Chris was forced to dance with everyone and we had a great time (he got to meet a lot of my friends and the ladies that go to my aerobics class), he learned how to make tortillas (mas o menos), he practiced his Spanish, he played basketball and soccer with some of the town kids, and we went into Santa Rosa one day where he saw the Peace Corps house, the place I buy my groceries, bought some excellent cigars for his dad, ate lunch with one of my PC friends, Sarah, and walked around the pretty city. All in all it was a packed few days in my area. Chris held up well, but his allergies kicked in and his eye was bothering him a bit for a day or so. We had fun just hanging out in my house with some of my friends, or alone reading in bed or watching TV. He even learned how to wash his clothes outside at my pila, or cement washboard. I was proud of him :)

On Wednesday we left Dulce Nombre by bus for Tela. We passed through San Pedro, and finally got to Tela, a pretty little beach town, around midday. We had an awesome seafood lunch on the beach surrounded by swaying palm trees and looking out over the white sand and turquoise water. Then we drank some beers and piña coladas by the pool and was great. We stayed in this great hotel in a room with an awesome balcony right over the beach, palm trees giving us shade. It cost about $50 bucks and was probably the most pricey room in the city - awesome huh? We just stayed one night because we had reservations the next day near La Ceiba, in the Lodge at Pico Bonito. This place was postiviely amazing, maybe the most luxurious place I have ever stayed. The rooms were these gorgeous cabins, really private, all wood interior, a comfy hammock outside, 2 huge beds with terry cloth robes waiting, tropical flowers in vases all around the room. They greeted us at the door with delicious drinks in cups carved out of coconuts. They gave us the tour of the lodge and pool and drew us maps of the hikes on the property. The lodge is right next to the Pico Bonito National Park, which is gorgeous, with huge mountains towering over. On one hike we did, we could see the ocean over the jungle. The lodge sits between two pristine rivers, full of natural swimming holes and waterfalls. We hiked to two of them and were the only ones there, it was awesome. The restaurant at the lodge was possibly the best part...every meal we had was amazing. The dinners were 4 courses and everything was excellent. The staff was super professional and nice, always looking out for us. On Friday we went into La Ceiba to meet up with two of my PC friends, Ely and Lauren D. We had a great time having cocktails, going out to eat at a good Expatriates restaurant, and then going to a club and beach bar right on the beach. We went back around 12:30 pm to the lodge in a taxi, about a 20 minute ride. When we got to the lodge it was dark but staff was waiting there for us with flashlights ready to lead us to our cabin - what service. On Saturday, our last day, we had a full day planned. We were planning to go white water rafting. So that morning after another awesome breakfast on the porch of the lodge, a taxi came to get us and take us to the Congrejo River near La Ceiba. Our guide from Omega Tours was this crazy guy from New Zealand, just crazy. He first took us on a hike through part of the Pico Bonito National Park, pointing out interesting things along the way. We saw holes where bird-eating spiders live, vines that monkeys and apparently New Zealanders can climb, termite nests (where we were told you can eat termites to survive and we all actually tried them...they taste like mint. Oh also, you can rub them on you for mosquito repellent). We finally got to an amazing waterfall with a beautiful deep crystal clear pool at the bottom. After enjoying that for a while we headed back for lunch at Omega Tours. After lunch our guide taught us how to navigate the river. The river was absolutely beautiful, lined with massive boilders towering over us, and the thick jungle of Pico Bonito. We learned how to cross strong currents, go down rapids feet first into the rapids, and how to jump off 20-30 foot rocks into the rapids (our guide would say, "Aim about 2 feet in front of that big rock and you won't hit anything"...great). We had to climb this rocks with ropes they were so big. A couple of the jumps had me scared witless, but I did it and had a great time. Last thing we did was the white water rafting, which was awesome. We did mostly Class III and IV rapids. It was my first time so I was scared but our crazy guide was surprisingly professional and knew what he was doing. After one Class IV which he had prepared us for, he said, "The other guides wouldn't have taken you down that's way too dangerous"...yeah. But it was awesome and Chris and I had a great exciting time. One last boulder jump at the end, our highest of the day, maybe 30 feet, finished off a crazy but fun day. Chris and I were glad to get back to the Lodge, a relaxing haven after a tiring day. We enjoyed cocktails on the beautiful porch of the lodge and then had another 4 course meal. It was our last night and a bit more sentimental, but we had fun recalling the week. We turned in early. Yesterday, Sunday, we took a bus from La Ceiba to San Pedro and arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. We ate at the Wendy's there for lunch and used internet, and sat and talked for a bit. I got picked up by my friend Geovani who was going back to Dulce Nombre that day from San Pedro, and so I said goodbye to Chris with a big hug and a promise that he would call me when he got home safely (which he did). Anyway it was a great week and I am going to recommend Pico Bonito to everyone (go to - it was so so wonderful. Anyway, gotta go...this week I have a lot of work and will be busy. Can't wait for some more visits though!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Upcoming visits, Latrines, and all the stuff in between

Well life has been good here, but busy. The money that Pri solicited before leaving arrived, and so the big latrine project has begun. At least 105 families in 3 towns will receive pour-flush latrines, and hopefully 90 families at least will receive big water barrels to store water in (half the year these families of 8 people live without regular water or a method of storing water when it comes for a few hours...meaning they can't wash clothes, wash their kids, cook with clean water, wash dishes...imagine!). So last week I went with the mayor to Santa Rosa to buy materials and bought 120 bags of cement, 210 pieces of metal roofing, 210 30 foot pieces of iron strips, and 105 3 tubes 3 inches wide, and the porceline toilet bowls the mayor is giving. We already did the demonstration for the 40 families in Dulce Nombre, so on Saturday I invited them to come to pick up their materials. Ugh, what chaos. We tried to make it organized by giving everyone ahead of time a ticket with their name on it whereby they could get their share of materials. But with all the planning, problems still happened, and by the end we were short the iron strips because a few people had their taken when they weren't looking. SIGH. Anyway, I know all these details are enthralling, but I wanted to share my work. I never thought I'd be involved in a latrine project, but there is a big necessity here. I much prefer making the stoves and plan to solicite more money for that project.

What else is going on...hmmm. Oh, last Thursday was the big inauguration of the new central park in Dulce Nombre. I had been helping out with that new youth group I think I wrote about, and so for the inauguration they did some acts with their puppets, theater, and stilt walking groups. It was pretty cool. I sang a song in English with my kindergarten class that I had taught them - "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands" - haha. But they were adorable. A ton of people came to break in the new park where they have built a new pavilion, planted flowers and trees, and put in playground equipment. The money to build it was given by Plan Honduras, an organization who does a lot of different projects down here. I help them by giving stove demonstrations now and then. Anyway, the inauguration of the park was cool, and I enjoyed hanging out with all my new friends and coworkers, but I was out in the sun for hours and ready to chill afterwards.

Chris comes in 6 days, yay! He's coming into San Pedro Sula (2 hours from me) around 1 pm in the afternoon on Saturday and I think some of the people from Dulce Nombre want to come with me to get him...haha. Very exciting though. My mom is sending a big suitcase with him full of who knows what from her and my dad...poor Chris. Anyway, this will be my first visit, and hopefully there will be many more!

That's all for now....hope to hear from you all soon!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hard rock in Honduras

Well I had a good weekend, but busy. On Friday I spent the day with the new youth group I am working with - they have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday capacitations/workshops with people who come from Tegucigalpa to teach them stuff like self-esteem and theater and music, and I hang out to help out and learn stuff too, such as guitar. I was helping with piano, which reminded me how much I love to play! Mom, maybe you can send me some of my music and some of those beginner books I still have to give to the kids learning down here. I might continue giving lessons every now and then. I taught them how to play "Heart and Soul", every piano and music teacher's nightmare in the states, but here it is a novelty :) But it was a lot of fun. A few of them are getting pretty good on their stilts, and are getting ready for a show for the community.

Saturday I went to a barbecue all day with Carmen and the family I used to live with. It was a lot of fun. I went to their house early and helped them make a mountain of fresh salsa, then around midday we piled into the pickup truck and made our way into the beautiful countryside, sooo green and mountainous. We got to the very nice ranch of their uncle with a pool and tons of chairs and tables set up, and tons of food, soft drinks, and of course, beer and tequila. The men went off to the barn to start getting drunk and I went for the food first, of course :) Steak on the grill, salsa, refried beans, tortillas, cheese...the typical cookout fare. I was hesitant to drink a beer there because a lot of the time women aren't supposed to drink, but I was basically with family and they were very chill and convinced me that it was fine. So I found a couple women who I clicked with and sat with them and drank beers and chatted all afternoon. About 30 people were there I'd say. It was a very chill laidback time. I got a ride back around 7 pm, and then called my friend Sarah in Santa Rosa to see what she was up to. She said she was going to see a popular rock band that sings American songs, so I decided to go. I went in to Santa Rosa with my friend Geovani and some other muchachos, and since the month-long feria has started, we stopped off at the carnival area first. I don't know if it was the smartest thing but I got on the ferris wheel that was going double time from what I have seen in the states. So I got on the Honduran ferris wheel and sped around in circles, front and backwards, for about 10 or 15 minutes. You could see all of Santa Rosa, but it had just rained so it was kinda chilly and muddy. Very fun though, I was laughing the whole time, hoping I wouldn't die on that thing. We finally made it to the restaurant where the band was playing, got a table in front, and ordered some Honduran beers (Salva Vida for me) and french fries, Sarah came in, and we enjoyed a great show from the band, called Instinto. I requested a U2 song but they never got to it, sniff sniff. But all in all a great time. We made our way back to Dulce Nombre about 1 a.m. and I went to bed happily exhausted.

This morning I got up at 8 to go help with the youth group, ugh, not a morning person, but I went, and after my usual amazing cup of Honduran coffee, I was feeling almost human. Spent the morning there and then went home, hung out with the post office lady for a while, shared some of my music with her son, helped some students with their English homework, then made some spaghetti and went to visit my friend Maria Luisa after dinner. Now I am in the internet cafe, and you know basically my last few days down to the hour :) No seriously, my life is pretty normal here, not that different from the states even though I don't have a fridge and speak in Spanish all day.

Ok well lots of love to you all, I miss you as always. Hugs and smooches...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

It's a beautiful life

Hi all,

Hope all is well with my wonderful family and friends! Since I sent out that email about the library for Dulce Nombre I have received pledges for $700.00 so far. Thanks for your support! The community will really utilize your donation. I feel very lucky to have family and friends that are so supportive of me and a community that they have never seen.

Life is great down here. Sometimes I don't know how I will go back to the big scary United States - everyone here knows me, I feel very loved and accepted and utilized, I also have visitors and people inviting me in for lunch or dinner or coffee with sweet bread, and hanging out with other volunteers is such a treat. Of course I miss some of the more important people in my life back in the states, but I gotta say, I am enjoying this more than I expected.

Speaking of important people back in the states, my brother Ian and sister Wendi sent me some amazing packages this week and I just wanted to thank them publicly ;) No seriously, the photo album made my day Woo, and Ian I have been listening to your CDs, eating my favorite Milano cookies, and started that book that you sent me. I can't wait to see you in December.

Work is going well here, although it is laidback. The money for the huge latrine project finally came so now I am starting to make plans to buy the materials and organize the 100 families again to gear up for the project. I just have to wait for the somewhat too-relaxed mayors to get a move on...sometimes it's like watching molasses (a mom-ism) working with political figures down here. I know the people need those latrines so I get impatient to get on with it. Also in the works is a new youth group. I have been going to meetings for the last week with a group of about 30 youth - I didn't initiate the group, but was approached to offer support and will probably help with some activities and am hoping to do HIV/AIDS prevention work with them in the future. For now, they are receiving capacitations every weekend for the next 4 weeks in theater, puppets, stilts, and other artistic pursuits...also they are learning about gender roles, violence, self-esteem, and other issues. People from Teguc have been running the workshops and I have been participating and trying to keep the youth in control. I've really enjoyed getting to know them though, and feel like I found another link to the community. They will do community projects in the future, and exhibit their theater and puppet shows and stilt walking (a Mayan tradition) in the upcoming Dulce Nombre feria in September.

We had a party in Santa Rosa this past weekend, mainly because we hadn't had one in a while and because the new group of trainees were passing through as they finished their Field-Based Training nearby and were returning to Siguatepeque for their last few weeks before swearing-in. Remember that? I was going through the same thing 5 months quickly the time passes! They find out their sites this week. Finally, we are not the newbies anymore! I still feel like I just got here though...but yes, progress has been made, both in language (the Spanish is going well) and in cultural adjustment and comfort with the work and pace of life. But it was great to see the other volunteers and we had a little too much fun as usual, and went out dancing together...I went to sleep as the sun came up, and only slept for about an hour and a half that night/morning...and I still went to church that night, even though I was half falling asleep. I found a great church in Santa Rosa and have started going there on Sunday nights when I can get a ride, which I usually can. It is like the church I was going to at home, West End Assembly of God, with lots of community feeling, clapping and singing, great messages and church retreats, humor....the only thing it is that it is in Spanish...a slight hiccup I am trying to overcome.

Well that is just about it for the week I think. Miss you guys and keep in touch please...take care! ¡Que Dios les bendiga!