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, February 26, 2007

It´s gettin´ hot in here...

Nothing new going on here...the weather has been rainy the last couple weeks and cold, but now the last couple days it´s been sunny and hot. Around March, April, and May it gets the hottest here in Dulce Nombre, and dryer - the water supply decreases and we only get water in the pipes every few days. I was talking to my friend Lauren Dickson yesterday, and I mentioned I hadn´t been very productive the last few weeks because it had been raining, and she laughed, saying "only someone who has lived down here would understand that statement." It´s true though, when it rains plans just go out the window. I couldn´t supervise stoves because of the mud, and people don´t go to meetings when it´s raining. People just stay inside. So that´s my excuse. Today though I went out, in the hot sun and dust, to go see stoves in two neighborhoods, and tomorrow I´m hopefully gonna finish supervision in Dulce Nombre. I am still waiting on word to go out to Oromilaca, the remote little town where 36 stoves will be made, to do the demonstrations.

This week I am planning to continue helping with preparations for the University of Maine group that comes on Saturday, March 3. We´ve been having extra meetings and also lots and lots of arts and crafts to give them gifts and also things to take back home to sell, and to decorate for a public event we are having while they are here. Other than the supervision, I also am going to give a talk in the schools about dental hygiene and start going to the kindergarten again for our weekly English classes. It´s time to get serious about working - I only have 4 months left! It´s easy to get sucked into a good book one is on your back making sure you are getting things done, but I really wanna tie up loose ends and fulfill any promises I have made while I am here. Sometimes I can´t believe that the time is coming to an end, and it makes me sad. Other times I am really excited about going back and being in a university environment again. So far I have only heard from UGA and Indiana and am waiting on the others. We will see! For me it´s back to sushi, the gym, schedules and stress, and no more leisurely cups of coffee with my neighbor or a nice rainy day where all that stuff I had to do is no longer necessary....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Close of Service Survey

Hi all! So I know I have a few months left still since I am extending, but most of my training group leaves at the end of March, and we are all expected to complete a COS survey to share little stores and other tidbits from our two years. They are all sent to a PCV Honduras publication called Alli No Mas, which is full of PC Honduras info, stories that PCVs send in, poems, recipes, advice, and opinions. I thought it would be fun to post my COS survey here, although I have added some stuff since I sent it in to Alli No Mas.

Name: Lauren Beth Mohlie
Site: Dulce Nombre de Copan
Sector: Health
Nicknames: Laurita, "Mohlie", "the Bad Lauren"
Biggest Accomplishment: 120 Stoves, 108 Latrines, Seeing the library full of kids, being called "Vos", learning how to bailar danza, having my tortillas called "bien ricas"
Biggest Disappointment: That a planned cable show by my counterpart and I to parents about raising kids never happened; that I never learned how to dance the punta; also the 10 cavities I got in one year (no fluoride and lots and lots of sugar); that everything is political here (jobs are given in terms of what party the person is a member of, instead of ability, and that all projects intended to help the whole are viewed in terms of what party the person whose idea it was or the person who leads the effort is...makes me sad)
Biggest Regret: Not getting out to the aldeas more because of safety concerns of walking alone, not traveling after service (going straight to grad school), not seeing all my training group's volunteer sites, especially in Olancho and the south.
Biggest Fear during Peace Corps: somehow getting HIV, also getting robbed or raped, getting too gorda
Defining Peace Corps moment: Eating beans and fresh tortillas and chatting with the Honduran woman who had learned to manage the project in an aldea after a successful stove demonstration; also when I helped with Hondu 8's training by showing them how to make a stove, and the house we were in didn't have the adobe banco ready, so as we were taking it apart to start building the stove, hundreds of huge cockroaches and biting ants flooded out - I had to overcome my extreme disgust and work in the midst of all that because it was my only chance to teach the trainees - I got lots of ant bites that day.
Things you will miss most: Having so much free time, other PCVs (so many awesome people in one place), coffee breaks, hanging out in Santa Rosa,not worrying about paying rent or medical expenses, plato tipico, speaking Spanish every day, being more globally conscious and not stuck in the bubble of the U.S., my Honduran friends, the Santa Rosa house and the volunteers from the West and the stupid things we did together because we could, interesting conversations, something interesting and story-worthy happening to me almost every day, everything being cheap, watching how a poor kid treats a gift with genuine appreciation and innocent excitement, having everyone really care when I get sick and helping out, the occasional liberating jalon, my pretty house and garden, my pila, the pace here
Things you will miss least: The rumor mill of a small town, seeing skinny kids live off of bags of chips and coke, amoeba-infested water, trash in the streets and trash thrown out the window in buses, piropos (although I sometimes wonder, will I feel sad when no one throws me piropos anymore??). worrying about safety, not having a car, manteca (lard) billboards pretending that it is healthy to eat manteca, because it has vitamin E and "no cholesterol", the hen that keeps getting into my back yard, and my neighbor who refuses to do anything about the hen and laughs at the suggestion (the same guy who spies on me through his window, and spends all day in the pulperia across the street from my house gossiping..a real winner), also dogs barking and roosters waking me up
Biggest irony: Having a Honduran boyfriend when I was never attracted to Latin men before
Worst Illness: Sure, amoebas and bacterial infections were bad, but I'd have to say the week-long Flu I got was terrible, I looked like a zombie
Biggest Freakout: When my cat destroyed overnight the Christmas tree I had worked so hard find in the wilderness and decorate my first Christmas in Honduras and was trying to feel somewhat normal and missing home
Strangest chisme (gossip) you heard about yourself: That I had a husband hidden somewhere in my house
Most useful thing I brought: leatherman with wine bottle opener, pictures from home, Bible, digital camera, my everyday backpack, tiny space heater/fan for cold Copan nights, electric hot pot, hat-gloves-scarf combo, adaptibility and curiosity, sense of humor
Least useful thing I brought: booklight, hiking boots (just wear my running shoes), all camping stuff
Favorite activity when bored: sleep, read, go to Vita's house and eat or watch tv or chat, sweep and clean house, burn my trash, give kitty catnip and laugh at him, send text messages
Weirdest thing I did when bored: Got out my crayons and colored in a coloring book for a couple hoursFavorite Hondurenismo: Vaya pues, es masiso!, Viera..., de miedo!, santisimo!
Greatest lie I told at my site: The good ol' "I have to leave town for a Peace Corps meeting" lie
Favorite Honduran phrase: Se la van a robar....(when I was walking alone, saying I'd be taken away because I was pretty)
Favorite Honduran inquiry: Y su mama...? (for a year and a half after she visited for several weeks); also, "Haven't you left yet?" when I'm not around a few days. And of course, "What are you gonna do about your Honduran boyfriend when you leave?"
Best Honduran gesture: My plan is that the lip point will catch on in the states if I try hard enough...who's with me?
Favorite CD/song during service: all Jack Johnson, Nick Drake, U2, Mindy Smith, Norah Jones
Song I would be content never to hear again: Anything RBD
Favorite book(s) during service: The Time Traveler's Wife, Wicked, Freakonomics, Ben Franklin's Biography
Favorite Honduran fashion: men's pulled up shirt, belly-out look
Oddest randomly shouted comment: I want to bite your lip!
Best jalon (free ride): With 5 other Westerners going to Reconnect and going through a huelga (protest that blocks the road) near La Entrada, we got a jalon from the huelga to Centro San Franciso in Siguat
Worst jalon: From Gracias to Santa Rosa on the back of a flat bed truck with 5 Honduran friends holding on for dear life at every curve...though I was gonna die.
Best bus ride: Hedman-Alas anytime (should have done it more than twice!)
Worst bus ride: With my mommy when she got very carsick
Favorite food: Pastelitos, chimol, Quesillo, Tamalitos de elote, mantequilla, maracuya (passion fruit), the amazing ruby red grapefruits, the best mangos anywhere, green mango with hot sauce and salt
Worst thing I ate: Any piece of meat that was more fat than meat, atol chuco
Worst thing I smelled: Nances of course...and the pigs next door to my host family my first months in Dulce Nombre
Stupidest thing I did in the last two years: Walked from Dulce Nombre to almost Santa Rita in the rain (cutting across instead of bus way through La Entrada),through tiny towns, crossing swollen rivers, with two other PCVs, alone in the middle of nowhere, for more than 8 hours
Untrue fact told to you as undeniable truth: When you bite your nails a big ball of bitten-off nails gets stored up inside you; such a ball of nails was found in a friend's appendix and shown to him by the doctor
You know you've been in Honduras too long when: you start to consider staying and look for good places for a house, and when 8 hours on a bus doesn't seem so long
I never though I would: find such amazing friends in this country, or be working in mud and loving it.
If I had to do it all over again: I would rinse and repeat.
Favorite Piropo (cat call): my kitty, named Piropo.
Favorite aralen (the medicine we are supposed to take for malaria, causes odd dreams) dream: My normal dreams are weird enough, thank you.
Most bizarre intercultural exchange: Speaking in Spanish with a JICA volunteer (Japanese) and sharing how a rooster crows in Spanish, Japanese, and English
Favorite Ropa Americana T-Shirt: Seeing a macho guy in my town with a Sigma Kappa sorority t-shirt on
Favorite animal story: Somehow a big horse got into my back yard through a tiny gate and I couldn't get him out and ate half of my flowers and herbs - it was a surreal PCV moment; also Kattrina's story about the chicken running through her house without a head
Best habit acquired: visiting neighbors and valuing proximity to family, remembering special days, being able to talk to anyone and being at ease when surrounded by strangers, walking everywhere, not watching much TV, savoring and enjoying the small stuff, appreciating all the blessings in my life, big and smallWorst habit acquired: expecting 10 hours of sleep a night, not going running enough, eating too many fried foods, expecting a shower of attention upon visiting someone's home, not sleeping unless using ear plugs to block out the roosters and dogs barking, execting to stay in bed with a good book on rainy days
Thing you missed most from the US: Deli sandwich meats and cheeses, low-fat foods, my family and Chris, household internet, mobility, paved roads, hot showers, customer service, church services in English, clean streets, punctuality, carpet
Thing you missed least from the US: consumerism, traffic, stress, schedules, routines, parking lots, deadlines, materialistic people, conversations with little depth, spend spend spend
Favorite location in Honduras: my house in Dulce Nombre, Santa Rosa and the PC house, and Lodge at Pico Bonito
Honduran highlights: Training with Hondu 5, host family in Siguat, Reconnect talent shows (year one singing with Brian keating and year two singing with Justin and Eric) hiking Celaque, Pico Bonito, visits from Mom and Dad, Ian, Chris, and college roomies, diving in Roatan, walking to the aldeas with Pri my first few months and singing songs together, playing spades with Danyel and David, learning from and wanting to be like Debbie and John, Santa Rosa nights with house members, mornings after with house members where the couches suck you in and on TV is always either E! or VH1 or sex and the city dvds repeated over and over, care packages from my mom, July 4 in Gracias and the ensuing knife incident with Jen; Angela, Mike, Sarah, Justin, Eric, Jen, Paul, Karen,"good" Lauren, Guatuemala with my brother Ian and Lester - hiking the volcano and playing guitar and singing in our room, Trujillo reunion with Hondu 5, many cups of coffee and chats with women in my town, the first annual Santa Rosa Cantina crawl, Thanksgiving in Santa Rosa, New year's Eve 2005 in my town, kareoke nights, homemade everything, even Kahlua. Teaching English in the kindergarten to adorable kids, moments alone in my back yard reflecting on what a great life I am leading and so thankful to God for bringing me here to change and to grow; COS conference - guaro inventions and going to the disco with a training group that I will never forgetThings you'd wish you had known when you signed up: That it would change all my plans for the future
Most likely to: Not be allowed to escape his town because of being too loved, Mike. Getting a life in Honduras, Lauren Dickson. Raise pigs in Central America, Justin. Be turned down by a Honduran chava, Eric. Get our toes tapping, Eric and Justin. Be the sweetest ever and most missed by me, Sarah Morrison. Pull a knife on a Honduran guy, Jen. Be her back up ass-kicker and piropo-comebacker, Angela.
Plans after Peace Corps: Grad school (I hope!) and try to find volunteer work with immigrants, also try to not get back into old bad habits of spending too much, try to save money and invest, give back to the community always, spend more time with my family, try to keep in touch with friends in Honduras
Additional comments: I'll miss you all for all your unique oddities and each of you has given me a different unforgettable has been incredible.
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