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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ups and Downs in Dulce Nombre

Hi all! Hope all is well in the states, and that the hurricanes aren't affecting anyone too badly. It's been pretty crazy to watch everything from here, when I can - I hardly watch the news on TV, but I have been getting the Christian Science Monitor, the internation edition, a pretty damn good publication actually, and it only comes a week late, it's great! Much better than the month-old Newsweeks Peace Corps sends us anyway.

The last week or so has been busy and eventful. The "down" mentioned is that there was a murder in the area. The son of the mayor in the next-door town of ConcepciĆ³n was killed by some "bad men" last Thursday, who apparently wanted his pistol. The weird thing was that I was with the mayor in Santa Rosa when it happened, because I am working in Concepcion and San Juan in the upcoming months with the latrine project. I was with the mayor to buy cement, and he had promised me to do a couple of other important things in the next few days. Well I had no idea that his son, younger than me, would be killed that afternoon in San Juan. He was supposedly a very nice kid, with young children already, who loved to joke around. Most people around here were shocked and sad. Many think it was an act of revenge toward the mayor, who is rumored to have done some shady activities during his office. It's a roadblock for me not only because the mayor will be grieving and doing other traditional activities after a death here and thus won't be thinking much about his responsibilities with my latrine project, but also because I was used to walking to ConcepciĆ³n and San Juan to do my work. Now it is not safe to walk there, so I have to find a ride or find someone to walk with me. I was in San Juan the morning they were looking for the son (they still weren't sure if he had been killed), and saw his abandoned motorcycle still here. So don't worry mom, I will be safe. I don't think someone like me would be targeted in political revenge or people looking for a gun, but I will still not walk alone out there. It's otherwise a pretty safe area, and this is not the norm.

Otherwise I have been up to my normal activities. This Saturday I am hosting my friend Danyel who lives near the Copan Ruins, who will come to Dulce Nombre to give a workshop on how to make the wallets and purses made out of chip bags, called "churros" here. It's hard to explain to you at home, but the staple of the Honduran kid's diet is chips and sugar, sadly enough, and these chip bags get thrown out on the street everywhere. Well it turns out you can make this cute little bags and purses, as well as picture frames, hotplates, and other items out of the colorful little aluminum bags. I have been using a wallet made out of churro bags since I was in Siguatepeque and it is still holding up well. Some volunteers have started women's groups making these items to sell in the states and in tourist destinations, as they are pretty cool actually. So Danyel is coming and giving a workshop on Saturday to several people in my community as well as me, teachers, my counterpart, and possibly some other volunteers will come to Dulce Nombre to learn.

I am also giving a leadership talk to the church youth group here on Sunday. I had gone before, but as it is a Catholic church, I wasn't too interested in attending again. But I was invited to come talk to them, and I am looking forward to it as they are a great group of kids.

I made a stove yesterday and am making another one on Thursday. The one yesterday was really rewarding because the woman had helped me a ton during the latrine project implementation in Dulce Nombre the past couple months. Her house had been full of smoke everytime I went, and she managed to obtain the stove top, bricks, and some other materials, and I gave her an extra chimney I had and a piece of metal for the oven. She was really excited.

Another mini-mini-project I am taking on is giving piano lessons. My counterpart has gotten hold of a keyboard on loan from the church, and I started by giving her lessons, then her son, then two high school girls who work in the house, and now two high school boys will start learning tomorrow so that they can help play at religious activities. My mom sent me some piano books, which I am loving playing again, but they are a little advanced (Les Mis, the Phantom of the Opera, some classical, and popular music) if anyone has beginner music that would be appreciated. But on the whole my students are learning fast, although they are accustomed to using "Do-re-mi" instead of letters for the notes, like c-d-e. Another difficulty is that I don't know terms like "measure", "time-signature", "flat", "sharp", "piano key", and other basic piano words in Spanish. So I am kinda making them up :)

The library project is still going, and we are still raising money around town, slowly but surely, and the committee is planning something to thank all of you awesome people who donated money. So keep your eyes open in the future!

Well I hope all is well. I miss you all tons and hope to hear from you soon! Take good care of yourself.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Reconnecting with my other awesome PCVs

Hi all!

I feel like it's been a while since I've been able to write. Haven't been using internet as much these days, but I'll try to do better.

I just got back to Dulce Nombre yesterday. I left last Sunday to go to Siguatepeque for our reconnect conference and project workshop, which is meant to get your old training group back together and discuss what we've been up to, things that have gone well and not so well, and learn things for the upcoming months. I had an awesome time seeing everyone. I also learned a lot...I have all these ideas now for things I want to do in the next few months - stuff with the youth group, a world map project, ideas for getting money to do projects, health talks for men in pool halls (by men of course). It's hard to believe we have already been in our site for 6 months, making that more than 8 months in Honduras - where does the time go! I stayed up late just about every night socializing with everyone, and woke up early every morning for more items on the agenda. We ate very well the whole week, so it's time to go on a mini-diet now that I'm back in my site! The last night we had a talent show and our bosses brought in a disco. Ordinarily talent shows are pretty lame, but I have to say this was the best one I have ever been to. Highlights were some awesome music, banjo and guitar playing and singing, comedy acts, acrobats, a dance routine to Michael Jackson's thriller where we were all the zombies, one guy hypnotized a chicken, a great video one guy made during the conference that was hilarious, titled "the sexual awakening of Hondu 5" which is our training group. The word on the street, although we didn't win, was that me and friends Bryan and Karen got people's choice award. At the last minute we decided to since "A whole new world" from Aladdin while Karen did interpretive dance. Only the thing was, Bryan sang like Neil Diamond and I sang like Betty Boop. It might not sound that funny, but people were laughing so hard they were crying. Karen had a towel that served as the magic carpet. But I thought it was a pretty good act thrown together at the last minute. Very fun. Then we danced like crazy and talked and stayed up til 3 am as usual.

The next day most people left to go back to their sites, but I stayed an extra night to hang out with my host family in Siguat. It's always good to see them. I am hoping to take my mom there in December or January because they want to meet my family and she will have enough time.

On Friday I came back to Dulce Nombre just for a night, because I missed my bed and also my cat. Oh yeah, I didn't say I got a kitty! Another PCV in Gracias raised some kittens and gave me one before she left to go back to the states. It's 2 months old, gray with huge green eyes, and I named it "Piropo", which is what they call catcalls that all the men have been taught to do at an early age at any female that walks by. Anyway, it's fun to have him in the house...he's already broken some stuff, but I figure that's part of the kitty growing up process. He loves to play and snuggles with me at night, although he likes to play with my feet in the morning before I am ready to get up. Instead of using kitty litter, I get sawdust from the coffin-makers across the street and put in in a box. Except for peeing on my bed once (grrrr) he has been pretty good about using it. Anyway, Piropo and I are doing pretty well together, when he behaves himself.

Saturday night we had a party at the Santa Rosa house, a mix of a goodbye to Hondu 2, who leaves in the next month, and what we call a "Chavo/Chava Party", where we all dress up like Hondurans. It was really fun going out dancing and playing games at the house. I used up the last of my brownies Chris brought me, and they were a bit hit.

Now I am back in Dulce Nombre, thank goodness, and spent the day doing laundry out in the pila, cleaning up, and relaxing. I have a lot of work to do, but needed a day to get settled after the week of traveling.

Well I miss you all a lot! Can't wait for more visits, calls, emails, whatever you can give me :) Lots of love!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Feria Fun

Well it's feria time in Dulce Nombre, this month of September.

I somehow managed to get sucked into the festivities this past weekend. As you all know, I am on the committee for this new library in Dulce Nombre. Well the committee decided to make a float for the "Carosa" parade on Saturday. I was just supposed to take a few pictures with my digital camera to send to the Rieken Foundation, and that's it. The parade started at 10 am, supposedly, but I had agreed to help some high school kids make an improved stove at 8 am. So I run up to my house about quarter to 10, muddy, a mess, and dunk my head in the pila real quick to make it look like I was clean (I have a related update on my water situation, but it will follow) and changed my clothes real quick. So I run to the central park at 10 on the dot - I still haven't been able to let go of my punctual tendencies, dangit. There I spent an hour in the strong sun, snapping pictures of the somewhat unfortunate looking library float, and the other more attractive floats. Right before they set off, an hour late of course, another person on the committee says, Lauren, get up on that float. No, I say, I have no desire to go on it, No No No...there is already a girl up there ready to go. No, she says, you have to go to help hold down the flower pots we put up there. I really don't want to, please. But in the end, I give in, thinking it won't be that big of a deal and not to worry so much about it. I was wrong. We set off, and I enjoy the first 5 minutes, throwing candy to the kids and waving. Then the crappy roads start and I am hanging on for dear life, one foot holding down a big flower pot, and the other hand grabbing a flower put up on a pillar, my last hand with a death grip on the side rail of the trailer. Those flower pots were such a terrible idea, the dirt was spraying all over me. So went my next two hours. The bad parts of the roads would come and go, but it didn't matter, I was miserable. Of course, I had to smile and laugh the whole time because I was up there in front of the whole town. I got sunburned, because I hadn't expected to be in the sun so long (my original job being to take a few pictures) and was just wearing a tank top. Half way through my ordeal, I pleaded with another member of the committee to come up and relieve me of my duty, but she refused, thus starting my anger. I was mad until about 2 hours after the parade. Finally it ended, I jumped off and escaped to the internet cafe to down an orange juice and complain. I didn't wait around for the judging part. Our float by that point was a mess of flowers, dirt, candy wrappers. People in the town said, I later heard, what a shame that the prettiest girl was on the ugliest float! Haha, I wasn't the prettiest girl up there, but I have to agree that our float was pretty sad looking. Anyway, I will never again succumb to peer pressure.

Later that afternoon I got in a better mood because the youth group I have been helping with put on a show for their parents, with theater, pantomimes, music, stilt walking, and puppets. It was great, and I was really proud of them.

That night, even though I was exhausted from making the stove that morning, the parade, and the youth event, I got convinced to "pass by" the dance that was going on that night. We ended up staying until 12 midnight or so, and I danced with various guy friends. It was pretty fun actually, letting off some steam. My exhaustion finally caught up with me and I begged my friend Maria Luisa to get going with me. Sunday night I also went to a dance, but only for an hour. It was supposed to be a "carnival" outside, but due to light rain they movied the dance indoors. So I danced again, but only for a bit, with my friends Ephrain, Maria, and Geovany - we four are pretty much always hanging out.

Tonight, Tuesday night, we are going to Santa Rosa to celebrate Ephrain's birthday. We will probably go out for dinner and then do some dancing - I do a lot of dancing down here if you can't tell :)

Other than that, this week I am busy with the latrine project (I am finishing up in Dulce Nombre - this afternoon I am giving out the roofs - too bad about 60 latrines still haven't been started in Concepcion and San Juan because the mayor is always traveling and can't get his part of the deal straightened out). Also I am having fun without water. I haven't had water in my house for about 10 days...that's a lot. Apparently there is a busted tube below my house and the water company had to shut off my water. They aren't sure when it will be able to be fixed. I talked the water guy and paid him some money to buy stuff, and my closest-in-proximity adoptive parents (Ana and Dr. Ephrain, friends of my boss in Teguc who feel responsible for me) are putting pressure on the poor guy to get the thing fixed. In the meantime, I am taking showers at Ana's place, who lives about 5 houses from me. I bought a bunch of disposable plates, cups and napkins so I wouldn't have to wash so many dishes. It's hard to cook also, without water. I have to use my big bottle of purified water, which is a pain. Last night it rained really hard so I filled up a lot of large buckets with water to wash my dishes and flush the toilets. It's kinda funny in a way, that I am collecting rain water! Anyway, as you turn on your faucets, take a moment to appreciate the luxury of available water, especially available hot water. We really don't appreciate it much in the states.

Well that's about it in my exciting life. Take care everybody, and I miss you!