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.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Life goes on...

Hi all!

Wow, it's been a while since I've written a post, huh? Well here I am finally. Things are going well here as February draws to an end. March is sure to be very busy. The first week of March a large group of students from the University of Maine is coming for the presentation of a small book my counterpart (The Profe) wrote about Dulce Nombre and they published. They are also going to help support the library and hopefully some other projects, such as the improved stove project (by the way, I will let you know when the solicitation for the project goes through...I've been procrastinating somewhat, and I know many of you have already offered to support us down here). They will stay with host families and I will squeeze 4 in my house with me, which should be fun. Then the second week I have 5 of my favorite gringos coming to visit - Rachel, Sarah, Heather, Tim, and Brian. We will spend a day or so in my town, head to Santa Rosa for a Pub Crawl my volunteer friends and I are putting on, and make our way over to the coast and Roatan to spend 4 nights over there diving and relaxing and patronizing many beach bars I am sure. It should be awesome :)

Since my mom has gone things have been pretty laidback (what else is new?). Sometimes I wonder how I will able to cope with the real world when I go back - the Peace Corps live is soooo laidback and easygoing. I think just about every day the thought crosses through my head that it's just too wonderful to be here while so many people are slaving away back in the states, and I feel a bit guilty because originally I came here to work work work and sacrifice and instead I feel like I am on a permanent vacation in another country with about 10 hours of work scattered across the average week. Whenever I say this to someone they list off all the projects I am involved in, and in that way it sounds impressive, but I know how much time I spend hanging out in my house and visiting other people in my town to chat and drink coffee and traveling to Santa Rosa and reading a million books. Anyway, that's my life down here, and I intend to cherish the year or so I have left of it.

The work I have been planning with my counterpart lately is soliciting the new stove project (I'd like to do 100), doing a class for parents that will be broadcast on our local cable station about how to raise healthy kids (her being the voice of experience and me being the "child development expert" hahahaha- thank goodness my dad brought me several thick child development books about ages and stages and strategies for parents), and planning the whole University of Maine week. In March I get to help out with training of the new group of health volunteers freshly arrived to Honduras and teach them how to make stoves, which should be fun. I'll have to go back to Siguatepeque for that. I'm also hoping to start up with the Plan youth group again and teach them how to give AIDS prevention charlas to younger kids and do some community projects, but so far it's been really hard to get them to show up to the meetings again, since we don't have a real leader, save for me, or a consistent meeting place, so we'll see how that goes.

I've been spending a bit more time in Santa Rosa lately...some months I just want to get away and stay in our PC house, and other months I don't even leave Dulce Nombre, it just depends. But I figure I pay the rent in the Santa Rosa house, and I should use it, right? Another recent trend is that I am starting to run again, though still a bit inconsistently, between 1 and 4 times a week. I walk a lot here, much more than in the states, but I don't think I am as in half a good a shape as I was in the states, going to the gym and running frequently. The life here is more active in general though, washing clothes outside by hand on the concrete washboard and basin we call a "pila", sweeping dust every day, walking down the street to buy food for a meal, walking up a huge hill in Santa Rosa to avoid spending money on a taxi, stuff like that.

Well everyone, I send my love to you all - I miss you so much and I can't wait to go home in May! I haven't bought the plane ticket yet but I am planning to be in DC and Richmond between May 17 and June 1 or 2. It should be great - I have a lot of things I want to eat :) Haha, 5 pounds here we come. So clear your calendars and see me :)

Friday, February 03, 2006

A heartfelt farewell

Hi everyone. This is the last journal entry From Lauren's Mom.... And only because Lauren asked me to write about the things I think I will miss most about Honduras. :)
Before I do, I want to say that the last week I was there was so much fun. I guess we just tried to squeeze every last thing we were able to in the remaining time I had left. But also so many people that I met there, made the effort to stop by to see me one more time before my trip back home. Several brought me gifts, and unique food items that I would never find in the states. And then the night before my trip home, the house was filled with group after group of folks stopping by, one group arrived about 8pm, and showed up at her front door singing! The neighborhood must have thought there was a party going on. hahah It was so absolutely endearing,and of course I cried. At first I asked Lauren what was going on, her face beamed and she said "They're serenading you Mom!" :D
About 25 people stood on her doorstep, then paraded into the house still singing. It went on for about an hour, then they presented me with a certificate. There were lots of tears and hugs and well wishes. But it wasn't over...after they left another group came, this one brought a cake! The famous "tres leches' cake that is so popular there.
It was truly an experience that I will never forget. I can only wonder at the farewell that Lauren will receive in 07 when it's time for her to leave.
Which brings me to the one thing I will miss the most, second only to our daughter, Lauren, and that's the people I met there.
Every little thing you do for them, even just a verbal exchange of friendship is something of great value to them. Their hearts are so big. I just love them.
They also gave me a stack of thank you cards, which they designed and wrote a message on for me to mail to all of you who donated to the library project.

I had a chance to read the report Lauren had prepared before she submitted it to Peace Corp headquarters there, and it basically detailed the latrine project. I was really impressed.
I think the number was 139 families that benefitted directly from the latrine project. To clarify that, it was supplying a latrine for families that up to that point did not even have the luxury of using a toilet. Yes, they would just find a bush or something outside. That is something that is so foreign to any of us, that is to imagine a home without a toilet.
The latrine project was started and nearly completed by the previous PCV, but Lauren sort of put the finishing touches on it. One of Lauren's biggest projects is the stove. That entails not only knowing how to build one, but giving classes to the families interested in getting one, in Dulce Nombre, San Juan and Concepcion. The poorest houses, are usually mud houses with dirt floors, have only one room, no bathroom, and any cooking is done inside, using wood, but with no air ventilation.
The stove requires about $25 of supplies, including the metal stovetop, and cylinder tubing which goes through the roof , directing all the smoke outside. Such a simple thing, yet it is something so valuable to the families that are able to receive one. Lauren's goal is to supply 100 families with a stove. Often times, those fortunate enough to receive one, share the benefit of it to a great extent with their neighbors.

What else will I miss.....? I will miss the beautiful sight of the green lush hillsides and mountains surrounding Dulce Nombre, the gorgeous sunsets, and the stars. There, the night sky is especially beautiful with so much less light pollution.
I'll miss the clip clopping of the horses on the cobblestone streets, and shopping for dinner items at the pulperias.
I'll miss the quiet moments we spent together, reading and talking....and washing our clothes in the pila. No kidding....I loved using the pila. ;)
I'll miss her garden. (we sort of bonded)
And I'll miss Piropo, her crazy kitty. He really has a lot of personality!

But I have to confess, I am really enjoying my hot showers! ;)

Now we are looking forward to Lauren's visit in May, In the meantime she has several other upcoming visits from friends which I am sure she will share with us.

Keep up the good work there Lauren, we are all so proud of you! May God continue to keep you safe and fill your life with blessings and goodness.