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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My 25th Birthday!

Birthdays here are pretty special. I spent my birthday last year in the states so I didn´t really get to experience it last time. I got so many calls and hugs and "congratulations!" here that it was really nice. On Saturday Lester and I drove to Copan Ruinas and had a nice relaxing time´s such a cute town and so close to Dulce Nombre and feels like another world! Lots of Americans and Europeans walking around, great restaurants, good music, fun shopping. We went to Via Via to say hi to my friend Eric who´s bartending there for 2 months before he leaves with Justin on a Central America trip, and then we went to a restaurant and got this huge shishkabob to share with all the sides, and I splurged on a piña colada with millions of calories. He gave me my present which was a nice pair of jeans - the "latest fashion" he said. Can you imagine an American guy daring to buy a pair of jeans for a girl? I can´t. But they are very cute. Sunday we had a great breakfast at Via Via and then I bought some souvenirs to take home with me - I want some stuff in my Baltimore place that remind me of Honduras. I got a pretty flower vase and two mugs and a colorful fabric. Sunday we just drove back and had a chill day...Kito and I spent several hours reading in my house and periodically playing with the pup.

Monday, which was my actual birthday, I got up imagining I had nothing to do but get ready for a workshop the next day. I got a phone call from a young woman up in Barrio Morazan asking if I was still planning to go to the kindergarten that day. I had completely forgotten I had agreed to go! So I called up Kito bc I wanted her to meet the kinder people and we went. It turned out to be a birthday party for me put on by the teacher and moms and kids. It was so cute! The kids are the most adorable things you could ever see. There was another little girl Cecilia turning 5 the same day so we shared the party. I got lots of hugs. They had a piñata, food, a cake, and goodie bags! It was really nice of them. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. Vita will be making me a birthday dinner later this week because she hasn´t had a night free.

Yesterday we had a workshop I had been looking forward to for a long time. Paul´s friend, Devana from Chile, agreed to come and talk to a group of 25 women about gender, women and work, gender differences, domestic violence, and how women can work together. It was a great workshop. The NGO Asanog helped us out with snacks and lunch for the women. The women really liked the topic I think and we had some good discussions. It got me fired up to work in that area, creating some kind of safe house in Dulce Nombre for women and setting up a Municipal office for women...but I am leaving. It´s up to Kito to keep it going if she decides to. I hope the group stays together....many women who came don´t usually attend workshops and aren´t used to working together...women from different statuses, political parties, religions. So it was incredible to see them doing skits together yesterday, playing cames, having discussions.

Well I gotta go. I just wanted to tell a little about my birthday week. Lots of love to you all!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hangin´out in Dulce Nombre...

Well hi to is feelin´good right now. It´s a breezy lazy Friday afternoon and I feel like I was very productive this week with wrapping up projects and feel like I almost am on a vacation, coasting through my last few weeks. It´s been fun showing Kito around and introducing her to people, hanging out with her and our puppy in the afternoons and being silly...did I write about our pup, Maní? She´s my niece, or better to say, I´m her aunt, and Kito´s her mom. I take her at night cuz Kito´s with a host family. It´s making my like dogs a lot more...I guess I just got used to having cats even though I like dogs, but now I am starting to get used to having a dog too.

Today we walked out to an aldea, Las Caleras, to supervise 10 stoves that the women made this was my last supervision and it went quick since there were so few. We walked there and back, no rides passed by...but as it´s the closest aldea, it was only an hour walk each way. It felt good, the weather was nice, and except for the occasional trucks passing by and lifting up a cloud of dust, Kito and I enjoyed our chatting. It´s weird walking around speaking English with someone...everyone looks at us funny, and rightly so. But yeah, I am finished with the stove project! We made 116 stoves with the money from my friends and family (a bit over $2000) and the $200 from the University of Maine. This little old lady who we visited today to see her new stove was sooo soo happy to see us and couldn´t stop thanking me. She kept saying how much she had needed a stove and had prayed for help from God, and He sent two little "gringitas" to help. She was so sincere I felt the tears coming on, she was just so cute and happy. She sent us away with some bananas for the road, a gift to show her gratitude. All I have left to do is write up the evaluation of the project and sent it to Peace Corps.

Other than that I have been enjoying my last few weeks here. I have helped some in the library, last night with a parents of the youth group meeting (they are trying to start bi-monthly adult meetings for fellowship, reading, activities and snacks). I have been planning a women´s workshop for next tuesday, the 29th, that I am excited about. It´ll be a workshop with 30 or so women, about gender and work, women and men, gender and self-esteem, etc. A woman from Chile I met while in Santa Rosa is coming to give the workshop - she travels all over Honduras talking to women. I just had to get the women there, a locale, find funds for the lunches and snacks, and find a projector. An NGO named ASANOG agreed to fund the food for the women. So that´s next week. I think this weekend I may go to Copan Ruinas with Lester to celebrate my birthday and just get away for a bit. Other news, there´s a new internet place in town! Which is where I am. It costs 15 Lps instead of 20 Lps like the other place, and the connection is a little bit faster, and more importantly, it´s right by the church, so much closer to me - although the walk to the other one was good for me. Kito is excited. It´s good to see a little bit of progress. Now what I would love to see are paved roads, trash cleanups, and a reliable water system. But good internet is a start.

One sad thing that has started up for me is now whenever I see friends or people I know in the street, the first thing they say is, "When are you leaving?" or "I thought you had left already!"...they look very concerned, but still, I´d like to enjoy my last time here instead of being constantly reminded! Denial is good :)

I have been using more internet lately looking on Craigslist for an apartment and looking at cars, and I think I may have an apartment in Baltimore. It looks nice and the girl I have been corresponding with went to visit it this week and liked it a lot. So that´s exciting :) I´ve been busy at that but it still seems unreal, to be living in the states and all that. It´s hard to imagine. I´m sure once I´m there I´ll adapt quickly, but sitting here in Dulce Nombre, in my little internet cafe with a fan blowing on me and hearing the roosters crow outside, it seems unreal.

Well lots of love to all...I´ll try to write more soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fun times...

Hi family and friends,

I have been busy the last couple weeks, what a change! Kitomile, or Kito as we all call her, arrived about 2 weeks ago and it´s been fun having a site mate for a bit. She is adapting really well so far I think. I have taken her to some of the aldeas for stove demonstrations, brick and supply transportations, stove supervisions, a health fair in Veracruz where we did charlas on dental hygiene, exercise, and hand washing to the kids. We went out to Oromilaca for stove supervisions and we found her a puppy there, whom we named Maní, which means peanut. Since Kito is living with a family I agreed to take care of the puppy at night, which has been more work than I imagined! She is just like a baby, crying when left alone and peeing all over the place. But she is cute at least.

Hey, I´ll have to write a bit more later cuz I have to go...Reina, the lady who helps me with projects here, is throwing me a birthday lunch here today I think (although she didn´t tell me what the event was she invited me to, but I suspect). The people are sweet to me here and I will miss them! I will write more later...sorry so short. Love to all!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Winding down...storms....other observations

Hi all! I feel like it´s been a while since I´ve written. Well, I just wanted to comment on a few things. One, it´s so weird to me that I only have a month of work left...May´s pretty much all I have, and then June I´ll still be here but traveling El Salvador, a week in Teguc for Close of Service, and then a few days in the islands for a PCV´s exciting but also disturbing about how fast two years have flown by.

I got stuck in this mini-hurricane about two weeks ago when I was walking back to Dulce Nombre from an aldea and I never did write about it online...I wrote about it in my journal though and since I´m feeling lazy I will add the story next time and bring my journal with me.

I have been mainly working on finishing the stove last demonstration is next week in Las Caleras and then I have to do supervision in Oromilaca, where I did the demonstration with my dad, and that´s it! The new volunteer Kito comes here in two days and I am very excited to work with her and introduce her to Dulce Nombre. It really has been a great place to work, with all it´s problems and frustrations, but compared to many other sites, it´s wonderful. it´s a small place that´s easy to get to know people in, but big enough for basic comforts and close to Santa Rosa. I liked being the only volunteer in my made me improve my Spanish and make some amazing Honduran friends. The other main thing I have been working on is getting the application ready to apply for funds to do an orchard project...I found 26 families and measured each of their yards with an engineer from the library committee and figured out that we can put in 927 fruit trees (mandarin, orance, avocado, lemon, nance (a disgusting fruit that they love here) amd some others). I am excited about it. The funds come from the Honduran government and USDA, so I am getting everything ready...the budget, history, and other parts, so that when Kito gets here we can send it together...she will be the one managing it. It´s been a good bit of work but fun visiting the families and talking up tree planting and improving the earth....if the funds get approved I will be responsible for almost a thousand more trees in the world :) Deforestation is a huge problem here...and it´s much better that the fruit will nourish the families and provide a small income as well.

I was running the other day and I started to reflect on how typical it is that running becomes a completely unique experience in Honduras...every few minutes a car passes and kicks up a huge cloud of dust, making my hold my breath and run with my eyes closed for about 15 seconds. Then there´s dodging the piles of manure in the streets, the kids waving and shouting "Lauren!" and the landmarks I look for...the soccer field, the huge rocky hill by the cementary, the fork in the road, the central park of Concepcion, the house where the old man always throws me a cat call. I will surprisingly miss much of this, when I am running on the boring clean streets of my neighborhood in Baltimore in relative anonymity. Or maybe I will cherish the experience in the states as well. We shall see.

Well I gotta sign out...Lester is waiting for me right now to go get something to eat. We came into Santa Rosa to pay the light bill at the bank, buy groceries, pick up his passport from the visa office (he got it renewed!) , use internet (as we speak), pick up the tops of the stove chimneys, and get my silver necklace cleaned...a full day :) Btw, I made some delicious calzones last night...I was very proud of myself!! Lots of love to all.