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.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving and Election Day

Well, happy belated Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone enjoyed the family time, the yummy eats, and the football. My Thanksgiving here wasn't all that different, only my family were other Peace Corps volunteers, and the American football games had announcers in Spanish. But at least the Peace Corps house in Santa Rosa, where we celebrated, gets good cable with Fox Sports and ESPN, so the boys and some of us girls were content. I went into Santa Rosa on Tuesday early because one of the PC doctors was in town giving flu vaccines. She also brought me lots of goodies (i.e. cough drops, nasal spray, advil, tampons, decongestant, bandaids and anything else I asked for) and refilled our prescriptions. Afterwards I hung out in the house and rested up for what I knew would be a full couple of days. On Wednesday with my friend Paul, we looked up some recipies (although I had enough from my mom) and made shopping lists and went to the grocery store and the big indoor vegetable and fruit market. There's no experience quite like roaming these markets looking for delectable produce, interacting with the vendors, and bartering over prices. I managed to find a variety of sweet potatoes there for my mom's famous Sweet Potato Casserole recipe, a fresh ripe pineapple, and bananas for my banana cream pie, and we also got potatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic, cheeses, tomatoes, and anything else we needed for our recipes. Then we lugged our shopping bags to the more modern shopping alternative, the grocery store. There I bought tin pans for cooking, cherry pie filling, flour, sugar, margerine, crisco, milk, whipped cream and whipping cream (miracle finds in our opinion), and a few bottles of wine. By this point it was almost noon and I was already beat. But we found a taxi because we couldn't carry it all home, and almost right away I took advantage of the empty oven and started the sweet potato casserole. The sweet potatoes here are different, and yellow on the inside, but they taste and smell the same. Then I made space for others to make their dishes. Yummy smells filled the house all day. In the evening with my friend Karen I made 5 pies - 3 pumpkin, one cherry, and one banana cream. Everyone was dying to start in on the pies but I held them off. Meanwhile the live turkey ("Sparky") my friend Eric had brought was being prepared for the kill. They bought a bottle of liquor to pour down the pour things throat so that it got drunk. The guys were loving this, and the girls were mostly trying not to see. Then they took it outside, chopped the head off, and carried it up to one of the showers where they hung it and later cleaned it out and defeathered it. Quite an experience for them all I am sure. The other turkey was storebought in San Pedro luckily. We all cooked until about midnight. Thanksgiving Day was great. We got up early to season, stuff, and put the turkeys in the ovens. People started showing up. Eric brought out his layer bean dip, we put out veggie trays and dip, and little sandwiches. The football was turned out and the beers started on. Lots of great conversation. Dinner was amazing. Both turkeys were delicious and we ate around 4 pm. We had all the essential dishes: 3 different stuffing recipes, sweet potatoes, homemade scalloped potatoes, cornbread, rolls, waldorf salad, pasta salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, an awesome wild rice quiche, and much more that I am probably forgetting. There were about 7 pies for dessert and brownies, and we made some of the famous delicious Honduran coffee. All in all between 25 and 30 volunteers showed up. I got phone calls from home from Chris and my family. We made some plates for our landlord who had loaned his stove so they could try some of our typical delicacies. Afterwards the beer and wine continued to be drunk and some of the guys lit up some of the world-famous Honduran cigars (best after Cuba) they had bought for the occasion. There was much contentment in the house that day. Somehow that night I was convinced to go out dancing with some friends and we had a great time workin off some of that turkey dinner to reggaeton music and merengue. All in all a great Thanksgiving! I was exhausted though :)

I got back to my town yesterday, Saturday. I stayed in Santa Rosa longer than expected to hang out with some friends visiting from Yoro, Karen and Bryon. We did some shopping, made an amazing turkey soup with the leftovers, and rented lots of movies to watch (Batman Begins, Aviator, the Longest Yard, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and others).

Today Sunday is Election day. Almost all of my friends are helping in some way with the polls. The voting ends at 4 pm and tonight sometime we will know the outcome. Not only the president is up for change, but also the mayors, which affect us a lot more. I spent the morning washing some clothes, cleaning up the house a bit, and reading another good book. One thing Peace Corps is great for is catching up on your reading. Volunteers are constantly passing books around and the 4 big rooms of the Santa Rosa house is full of bookshelves filled with books of any type.

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about my holiday. I feel really lucky they I have so many great friends to spend this time of year with. This year we got to mix old traditions and make new ones, which was really fun. Take care everyone and hope to hear from you soon!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sick of politics!

Hi everyone!

Well still haven't gotten too good at keeping up with this blog yet, but I am making a feeble effort :) I want to write about two things today...politics and some recent friendly visits. Well pretty much since my group got here in January the politics scene has been active. When we got here they were having the presidential primaries. Then it died down for a while and now it's been up in full swing for a couple months. Honduran has two major parties: the blue party, the Nationalistas, and the red party, or the Liberales. Supposedly the blue aligns with Republicans in some vague way, and the red with American Democrats. The red candidate is Mel and the blue is Pepe Lobo. Cute name huh. Well people are crazy about their politics here, worse than in America. It sometimes translates into certain injustices when a mayor is of a certain party and doesn't respond to the people in the community of the opposing party. There are whole neighborhoods that people say are ignored here because they are not of the mayor's party. Well most of Dulce Nombre is going for Pepe. By the way, Peace Corps volunteers are not allowed in any way to involve themselves in political activities of any kind: parties, rallies, protests, etc. It can get hard sometimes, for example the other day I was in Santa Rosa and it was a Sunday and I was trying to catch a bus for Dulce Nombre. Well I had no idea that because Pepe was in town that Dulce Nombre had chartered every bus to take people to Santa Rosa to see him. So little old me gets near the bus terminal, see the DN buses in the wrong place surrounded by a huge crowd, and was stuck in the middle of hundreds of people wearing blue, or with Pepe on signs. So I had to hang out with them to get back to Dulce Nombre, and that could have looked like I was supporting that particular political party. Now, the presidential race here is not really made up of any kind of intelligent political debate between people. From what I have seen, everyone pretty much considers both parties corrupt, but are still die hards for their particular party and will vote for that candidate no matter who he is, what he's done, and what he stands for. It's kinda depressing. People don't seem to recognize any ability to change the way the goverment is. So meanwhile, small parades of people roam through the streets of my little town, yelling, honking horns, and blasting songs about Mel or Pepe that run through my head 24 hours a day and are driving me crazy. From what I can see, it seems like Pepe will win, but we'll see. The potential future president looks vaguely like a monkey with huge ears on the side of his head. The election falls over Thanksgiving, next week, so Peace Corps is advising us all to be very careful as we travel those days as die hard politics anywhere can get volitile. But at least it'll be over soon!

Otherwise I have been good lately. One of the new volunteers in the training group after mine came to visit me for a couple days last week to learn about the latrine project, as she is planning to do one as well. She is a volunteer in Protected Area Management, and mainly works with the environment. Deforestation and thus mudslides, dirty water, trash, and bad farming practices are big problems here. It was fun having here though. She is quieter than I am, but had fun going around and chatting with all my friends here. My town is much bigger than hers - she lives in a tiny town - and apparently much more modern. All the graduations from the school, kindergarten, and high school happened this week, and I was the Godmother of a 6th grade graduate and of the whole kindergarten where I gave English classes. Every graduate, no matter if from the kinder, the school, or high school, have their Godparents attend and they have to bring a present. As I was the Godmother for the whole kinder, I was supposed to give presents to every kid but as I was not advised ahead of time, I brought nothing, oops! But I sat up front at the "Principal Table" with all the important people, got a really beautiful clay moon and sun to hang on the wall, and sang "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands" with the kids in front of the parents and godparents. So my friend went around with me to all that nonsense, and then during the day we walked around Dulce Nombre, and Concepcion to see how the latrine project was progressing. In the small towns, very very slowly, but oh well. One day it will be over. The mayor still has not bought the toilet bowls, after three months of promises! I also made it out this weekend to visit a volunteer friend from my group, Justin, who lives about an hour and a half from me on the other side of Santa Rosa in another department, Lempira. I really should get out to people's sites more often, I have no excuse. It was an easy trip, and very fun meeting his friends and seeing how he lives. It's interesting how much each volunteer's experience varies according to where they are located. His town only has 2000 people but it is located right on the highway, so doesn't feel as country. Mine is 7 km from the highway, on a usually well-kept dirt road, so the feeling of the town is more small town, even though there are about 6 or 7,000 people. He is a water and sanitation volunteer, so he works in the little towns all around his town to put in water systems so that people can have a faucet at their house (although the water is never still have to boil it and put chlorine in it, or buy purified water like me).

This week I am mainly going to meetings - library meetings, a capicitation for women starting a micro-business of making sweets every afternoon until Thursday, aerobics, meeting with the communities to give out water barrels to store water, and possibly a radio stint with the library committee to solicit money from donors to buy the land for the library (we still only have 30,000 Lps. of the necessary 100,000 Lps; in other words, we lack about $3,000 still! hoo). Other than that, not too busy. The weather hasn't been AS cold, but the nights can still get chilly. The coldest season is coming up in December and January, but right now, there are still nice sunny afternoons in the 60s and 70s, with nights in the 50s. The rain has also slackened off. Life is good here though, and I am still happy, even though the bulk of my time is spent hanging out with people from my town, which is not hard work to say the least. I am getting really excited about the visit from my parents and brother in December, yay!

Well take care all, miss you all lots!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Brrrr in Dulce Nombre

Well right now I can't fee my hands from the cold here in my town. Well they are not quite numb but it is close. Who woulda thought it got so cold here? And apparently it gets worse. It's been cold here the last few days because of the remnants of Hurricane Beta that came through. It dissipated before it got to us though, so it just drizzled for about 3 days here and got chilly. I can't wait for my parents to bring me some sweaters and warm fuzzy slippers. I have been living in my rain jacket and black fleece and walking around my house in socks and's a very attractive combination by the way! Haha. A lot of families don't have many warm clothes or blankets so I feel for them. If anyone wants to send things down with my parents, second hand clothes, they would be welcome. But mainly people are staying indoors and drinking a lot of tea and chatting about the cold. (A very typical conversation: Enter person, "Argh, it's cold out there huh?", "Yeah it's pretty cold out there", "I can't stand it, it's giving me a cold too", " Yeah, I have a bad cold too."....then that repeats for the next newcomer. So at least it's a conversation starter, although not very interesting.

I spent about 5 days in Santa Rosa over the weekend, including Halloween. Angela was passing through to collect her things before going back to the states, so my friend Michael came down from the coast and with Sarah we all hung out all weekend. We went through a few bottles of wine and watched movies and went out to restaurants and were generally pretty lazy. Because of Hurricane Beta we were made to stay where we are and not travel, so a bunch more volunteers ended up at the Santa Rosa house and it was pretty full. But the "standfast" ended up being only a precaution when the storm broke up. I was excited that my friend Tim called on Sunday...the very first non-family member, non-boyfriend who has made the effort to call me down here, which is not that congrats, Tim! I am hoping he'll come down in March with Heather, Sarah, and Rachel. I got back to my house in Dulce Nombre on Tuesday and have been sleeping a lot since then with a cold and post-gringo-time tiredness. Today I went to the last day in the kindergarten to give an "English test" to the kids there. They have pretty much mastered parts of the body, simple commands, the ABCs, greetings and farewells, colors, numbers 1-10, and songs like the Hokey Pokey and If You're Happy and You Know It. I'll miss going there for the next few months until classes start again in February.

Well that is just about it! Not too busy a like at the moment. Just hunkering down until the cold weather takes a break. A little sad cuz I have more than 2 weeks of laundry to do and the water is too cold to take and the weather too cold and wet to dry clothes. So I am getting creative in my wardrobe and wearing lesser-used items, which is good I guess :)

Lots of love to all and hope to hear from you soon!