Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Brooke's Visit

As promised in the last blog, here is a little bit about Brooke's visit. So as not to bore you all with a long blog, I made a little video of our time together here in Honduras. Enjoy!

P.S. I am coming home in November for my sister's wedding. I will be in Phoenix from the 5th until the 16th. Hope I get a chance to see some of you. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

You All Made My Day

I turned 27 years old on September 8th and I think that most of you already knew that Brooke came down here for a couple weeks to spend my birthday with me (more on the trip later). In the months leading up to my birthday, Brooke had been telling me that she would be giving me the “best birthday present ever” when she got here—I could have never imagined what she had been cooking up. I think many of you already know what she got me but I had no idea and I am surprised that no one spilled the beans.

We stayed in a hotel room for Brooke’s first three nights in Ocotepeque so that I could ease her into the idea of no running water to shower or flush toilets with. On our last night in the hotel, the night before my birthday, Brooke gave me the gift (it was a good thing that we did it this night because she got sick on my actual birthday). I opened the box and read a letter from her. In her letter it said, “I hope all the cards from home offer you support and encouragement”. When I read this, I looked into the box and saw a bunch of letters, and when I started flipping through them and seeing all the return addresses I was so amazed. I can’t even begin to explain how nice it is to get a letter from home (emails are good but there is just something about a card). I spent the next two hours of the night opening and reading all your cards and letters. Some made me laugh, some made me cry, but they were all special and I have probably read them all about four or five times in the last two weeks.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for sending me the cards, letters, dvds, cds, photos, magazine/newspaper articles, and money. They all reinforced to me how awesome my friends and family are and how much I miss seeing all of you. So thank you all. I especially want to thank Brooke for putting all of this together it was literally the “best birthday present ever”…and I have gotten some pretty good birthday presents during my life. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

Since arriving in Honduras six months ago, it has been hard to overlook the stark contrast between all of the splendor that the country has to offer and the ugliness that humans have created here. Some of my first memories of the country include walking down a beautiful road in the middle of the forest on the way to my host family’s house, gazing up at the beautiful green mountains and marveling at God’s great creation but then being appalled when looking at the ground and seeing that the road was lined with trash. Also, I have memories of sitting in a bus on the way to visit another volunteer and seeing a grandmother encouraging her grandchild to throw a plastic Coke bottle and Doritos bag out the window and then applauding when the child did it.

Honduras is well known for its flora and fauna from its rich tropical forests to its beautiful white and black sand beaches. It is less known for the trash lined roads, polluted rivers and lakes, and utter lack of respect for the environment. I imagine that much of the problem of pollution comes from the socio-economic status of the country, or better said, the majority of people here are more worried about where the next meal is coming from so that they can fill their family’s stomachs than they are about cleaning up a few pieces of trash on the ground. In addition, it is hard to keep a place clean when it is lacking trash pickup services, plumbing, and any sort of environmental laws. The people have to resort to burning trash (which is probably worse for the environment than leaving it on the ground), having wastewaters drain into rivers, and bathing and washing clothes and dishes in the same rivers. 

I have had many conversations with Hondurans about this and have gotten many answers. One person told me that having disposable plastic bottles and bags has been something that has come about recently. Before that, people were accustomed to eating fruit and throwing the pits or seeds out on the street and getting their Coke in a glass bottle that needed to be returned in order to get the deposit back. These glass bottles were then washed and reused. Now with the influx of sweet and salty snacks and drinks being wrapped in plastic there is more garbage being created and people’s habits of throwing things into the street have not changed. Others have told me that they can’t do anything about the problem because they lack the basic infrastructure to carry away garbage and sewage. They tell me that the government has apportioned funds to improve infrastructure but that things never get done because corrupt governors and mayors are stealing the money instead of using it for its original purpose. Other Peace Corps Volunteers that work in mayors’ offices have attested this.

Regardless of the causes, something needs to be done to solve the problem of pollution here in Honduras. I don’t know if I have the answer, but I get sick of seeing rivers that I can’t cool off in because they are too polluted or having to hold my breath as I pass a pile of burning plastic. I think that the problem could be solved by both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. The government needs to work on improving local infrastructure and the people of Honduras need more education on environmental protection. I admit that this is probably a long-term goal especially given that the government is in the middle of trying to resolve a coup d'état. Hopefully something will be done or is being done to solve the problem because Honduras has too much beauty to offer to be snubbed out by a pile of trash.

Don’t get me wrong, Honduras is still a picturesque country and I can’t even begin to count how many gorgeous vistas I have seen since I have been here and I have barely had an opportunity to see much of the country. I say this now because I am trying to recruit visitors to come see me. My first visitor has already scheduled her trip and she will be here for two weeks in September. No surprise that this first visitor will be Brooke and I am stoked to see her and do some traveling together. Hopefully she will return to the states telling stories of how awesome it is so that more people will come down. So, let me know when you all are coming so I can pencil you in to my busy schedule.

Below are a few pictures of the contrast that I described between beauty and beastie:

Beauty: My friend Ryan on I on a hike to the hot springs that are close to Ocotepeque.

Beast: This is a pila in my host family's house. This water is used to cook, clean, bath, brush teeth and wash dishes. The water comes from the rivers in the mountains and as you can see is pretty dirty and full of parasites. Needless to say, drinking is not recommended, but some people still do it.

Beauty: Picture of me up on a hill at sunset by my house. Contemplating life.

Beast: Pile of trash that I encountered while walking around. I see things like this on a daily basis.

Beauty: Waterfall about an hour from my site. I don't know why blogger doesn't want to show the whole thing.

I was going to add more pictures but my connection is slow. Hope everyone is well.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


As people all over the United States celebrated the Fourth of July with barbeques and fireworks, a different type of patriotism was being seen throughout Honduras as Honduran citizens, young and old, took to the streets to rally and protest. As you may or may not know, last Sunday morning (June 28th) there was a coup d'état here in Honduras. The cowboy hat wearing, motorcycle driving, moustache faced ousted president, Manuel Zelaya Rosales (aka Mel), was accused by congress, the military, and the supreme court of Honduras of breaking the constitution.

Ever since I arrived in Honduras I had been hearing about something called La Cuarta Urna which aimed to amend the constitution of Honduras to allow a president to serve more than one term of four years, among other things. During the first four months that I was here, I would see commercials, billboards, and other propaganda all over Honduras as the President attempted to garner support from the Honduran people.

Many people said that Mel was trying to follow in the footsteps of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (he did something similar a few years back and was able to remain in power). Mel’s term is up at the end of this year and the people thought that he was trying to make these changes for his own benefit and was attempting to be able to remain president of Honduras for an indefinite period of time.

Last Sunday this proposition was to go to vote. In the week leading up, knowing that the vote would controversial, Mel asked the head of the military to provide support in hopes to keep order. The military head refused; saying that the vote was unconstitutional and Mel immediately relieved him of his position but he was reinstated by congress just a few hours later. After these events, it could be seen that the vote would not go smoothly but it went on as scheduled. On a side note, the Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa told us that we were to stay in our sites and couldn’t travel between the morning of the 27th and the morning of the 29th so that we would stay away from any protests or roadblocks that may be happening.

Well, the morning that the vote was supposed to happen, the military rushed into the presidential palace, supposedly with guns, and took Mel, said to be wearing his pajamas, to the airport and flew him to Costa Rica. Immediately thereafter, the man that lost to Mel in the last elections, Roberto Micheletti, was sworn in as president.

During the past week the news of what happened here has been gaining national attention. I have not heard of a single country that supports what the new administration is doing and many have withdrawn their ambassadors from the country. The World Bank has frozen credit and, after failing to meet a 72-hour ultimatum to reinstate Mel, Honduras has been kicked out of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Mel has threatened to come back and take back his position on various occasions. First he was going to come back on Thursday, then he was going to come back yesterday, then he was going to come back today. But, alas, still no sign of the guy. The new president has threatened to arrest Mel if he attempts to re-enter the country and he closed the airport today so that Mel couldn’t fly back. Micheletti says that he is not afraid of Obama or Chavez and the only way that he would give up his new position would have to be through force. As the saga continues, Hondurans continue to choose sides and take to the streets in support of their favorite. It seems that there is now a clear division between Zelaya and Micheletti supporters and whatever happens there is going to be one group that will not be happy and some fear violence will ensue.

So that is where we sit as of right now. Here in Ocotepeque, things have been relatively peaceful. There have been a few rallies in the park but nothing violent. We have been under a national curfew from 9 pm to 6 am since last Sunday, the “Standfast” order from the Peace Corps has been extended and we continue to be stuck in our sites. Don’t worry about me, I am in a safe city hours away from where most of the protests have been happening. The Peace Corps says that they are in communication with the U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps headquarters in Washington D.C. and will let us know of any new developments.

Because of all that is happening, work continues to be slow for me. I work with an organization that is supported by the government and, with all the uncertainty, people are less motivated than usual to do any work. The children of Honduras suffer as the teachers have been on strike for the last two weeks because they have not been paid. But other than that, life here continues on as usual. There has been much speculation by volunteers on what will happen and what we think should happen but I guess we just have to trust that we will be taken care of. Since I am so close to the borders of El Salvador and Guatemala, I was thinking that if things got really bad, I would just run down the street and hop the border. 

That’s all I got for now. I hope all of you had a fantastic Fourth of July and that you were able to spend the day with friends and family. I will keep you all posted on what happens here. My hand is all better, gracias a Dios, and I am happy and healthy. I will leave you all with a picture I snapped from my porch the other day as the afternoon rains were seceding and a rainbow appeared above the hills. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Charlie bit me. And that REALLY hurt.

The morning of the swear-in ceremony I woke up with a slight pain in my right hand. When I looked down at my hand, sure enough, there was a small blister on the ring finger of my right hand. I immediately assumed that I had been bitten by something but was not that concerned about it as it has become normal to have a few bites on my body at all times. Since we were headed to the Peace Corps offices in Tegucigalpa for the swear-in ceremony, I took advantage of the situation and slipped into the doctor’s office to have a doc take a look at it. I told her, “Something bit me while I was sleeping last night.” To which she responded, “Do you know what bit you?” I said, “No I don’t. I was sleeping when it happened.” She did not seemed all that concerned about it, gave me some anti-allergic pills and a cream that was supposed to keep away infection, and sent me on my way to the swear-in ceremony. It was pretty appropriate that I got to raise my bug bite swollen hand to swear in to the Peace Corps.

Over the weekend I applied the cream and took the pills but my hand continued to swell up even more. By Monday morning the wound had opened up even more, was spitting out pus and constantly felt like I had slammed my finger in a car door. I called the Peace Corps doctors and they wanted me to go to see a doctor but, as luck would have it, the doctor in my city was out of town for the week. So I had to get on a bus and travel a couple hours to a hospital in a city called San Marcos.

When I saw the doctor in San Marcos I explained to him that, “Something bit me while I was sleeping last Thursday night.” To which he responded, “Do you know what bit you?” I said, “No I don’t. I was sleeping when it happened.” Then he examined my finger and put me through a most excruciating pain by squeezing my finger harder than it had ever been squeezed in my life. He said that he was trying to extract all of the pus but I do not know why because it returned a half an hour later and now my hand hurt even more than it had before. He prescribed me some kind of anti-inflammatory medication and Penicillin (thank you Alexander Fleming) and told me that I would need to keep squeezing the pus out of my finger for the next three or four days.

The bus ride back to my site was terrible. I was sitting on a crowded bus with my hand throbbing and feeling nauseous when the bus overheated going over some mountains and we had to stop for an hour to let the bus cool down and add more water. I got back home and started taking the medication but things didn’t start looking better for about three days. I thought I was going to loose my finger. Needless to say, it made the first week of being in my site a little rough. Finally the infection broke and I was able to sleep through the night without waking up with a throbbing finger.

Everything is better now and my hand is back to normal but I still do not know what bit me. Whatever it was, I hope those guys are not here in Ocotepeque. Mom and Dad, this is probably the first you are hearing about this. I did not tell you because I didn’t want you guys to worry and I didn’t want to you hear you say, “We told you that you should have put up your mosquito net.” Sometimes you have to learn the hard way and, I’ll tell you what, I learned my lesson.

I am including some pictures of my hand as it progressed. I am sorry to anyone that has a light stomach.

The morning after I my hand was bitten:

Three days after:

Four days after:

Five days after:

Two weeks after. Pretty much back to normal:

Check me out. I´m a volunteer!

Well, it’s official, after three months of putting my time in as a lowly Peace Corps Trainee; I am now a Peace Corps Volunteer. At the end of our training day on May 14th, I was presented a piece of paper that ended with the phrase, “Having no specific recommendations for Kyle Horton, training staff recommends that Peace Corps Honduras swear him in as a Peace Corps Volunteer of the training group Honduras 14.” Radical!

The next morning, we all loaded on to the bus just like every other morning…but something was different. Instead of the disheveled and tired looking bunch that usually occupied the seats, everyone was dressed to the nines looking like we were ready for a power lunch at a fortune 500 company. We headed down to the Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa where we met our counterparts and had an hour to introduce ourselves. From there, we loaded the buses again and headed across town to the U.S. Embassy for the swear-in ceremony. Like you might expect, security was pretty tough at the embassy. Upon entrance to the building, we were made to pass through a metal detector and to surrender everything except for our cameras. We passed through the building and out into a beautiful courtyard/garden overlooking Tegucigalpa. For the first time since I have been in Honduras, I was able to sink my feet into a nicely manicured lawn (St. Augustine I think). The place was like a slice of America in the middle of the third world.

The ceremony was pretty uneventful. It started with all the Hondurans singing their national anthem and us doing our best to keep up with the lyrics that were on the back of the program. We sounded terrible. Then we sang the United States national anthem and some of the Hondurans in the crowd did us the favor of making us feel a little better about our effort at singing their anthem. The singing was followed by various speeches by the PC training director, the PC Honduras director, a couple of Hondurans that told success stories of their work with PC volunteers, the US ambassador, and one of our own. Finally, came the moment we had all been waiting for–the swearing in. We were told to stand up raise our right hands and repeat the following:

I [state your name]
do solemnly swear
that I will support and defend
the constitution of the United States
against all enemies foreign and domestic
and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
That I take this obligation freely
without any mental reservation our purpose of evasion
and I will well and faithfully
discharge my duties in the Peace Corps.
So help me God.

This was followed by a bunch of tears, cheers, handshakes, and hugs. Of the 49 people that started training, 44 were sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. We then had a little time to have some cake and snap a few pictures before heading back up to the training center for lunch and a bunch of boring meetings with our counterparts that mostly centered on how the volunteer counterpart relationship is supposed to work. Then we were sent home to pack for an early departure the next morning without anytime to celebrate and say goodbye to some of the friends that we had made over the last three months (Not fair. Even the President gets to let loose after his swear-in day).

We were picked up the next morning at around five o’clock with our insane amounts of luggage and dropped off at the numerous bus stations in and around Tegucigalpa to head out to all corners of Honduras. As I said in my last post, I was sent to Ocotepeque, which is about as far west as you can go in the country. Since the infrastructure of Honduras is not all that it could be, I had to take a roundabout way of getting over here. My bus left Tegucigalpa at 7 am and I arrived in Ocotepeque at around 6:30 pm. That is a long time to be in a bus, especially when you consider that Honduras is only about the size of South Carolina.

So here I am in the city of Nueva Ocotepeque in the department of Ocotepeque. I have seen varying reports on the size of the city, anywhere between 10,000 and 25,000 people. The city lies in a valley is surrounded green mountains on all sides. It has a tropical climate with highs in the mid to upper 80s and lows in the 60s and we are now entering the rainy season (May-October) so it rains pretty much every afternoon. The city is about 8 km from the border of El Salvador and 22 km from the border of Guatemala. Because it is a border town, there is a lot of traffic that passes through. It also means that there is a lot of commerce and it has a pretty sweet open-air market where I will be able to pick from a large variety of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables once I am able to cook for myself. I am now living with my third and final host family and, for the third time, I am forced to walk through the house with my head bowed or else I will hit every doorjamb. The family is nice. The father (Roberto) is a mechanic and the mother (Geraldina) works in a local hardware store and they have two kids. Carmen Maria (16) and Ricardo (9) who both attend school during the day.

My days have seen an abrupt change since I arrived here. I went from having days chalk full of training activities from seven in the morning until five in the afternoon and then homework to occupy my nights to having pretty much nothing to do unless I actively seek it out. We are supposed to have 2-3 months of integration where we are supposed to spend time chatting with our host family, talking with our counterparts and trying to figure out exactly what their organizations do, walking around town and introducing ourselves to the “movers and shakers”, and getting to know the community. This is all fine and good, but there is only so many times that I can stand walking to the local pulperia to have a coke and trying to shake as many hands as I can on the way. This new pace of life is going to take some getting used to and hopefully in a few months I will be able to find out what it is that I will be doing here. This is what I signed up for and I have to embrace it. So, here we go!

Below are a few pictures from the swearing-in ceremony:

I was in the paper right next to Beyonce (top left corner):

Me with the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens:

A pic with the our Peace Corps business directors Jorge and Jesus:

The whole business group right after being sworn in:

A few of the business dudes:

Stoked to be a Peace Corps Volunteer!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This is going to be a quick post. I had to come to Tegucigalpa today to see the dentist because one of my teeth fell off but I got it glued back on and am back to normal.

We had our site anouncements a week ago and I found out that I will be going to Ocotepeque, Ocotepeque. The city is in the far west of the country about 15 minutes from the borders of both Guatemala and El Salvador. I will be working with a small savings and loan that deals with agriculture producers. These kind of businesses have a tough time obtaining financing and the cooperation that I will be working with makes things a little easier for them. I am pretty happy about my site but we will see if all my dreams come to fruition when I travel there this Saturday. The trip takes 10-12 hours because I have to take a roundabout way of getting there.

We are now in our last week of training. I found out yesterday that I made it to the advanced level of Spanish which was pretty exciting. We swear in as official Peace Corps Volunteers on Friday at the U.S. Embassy here in Tegucigalpa. The U.S. Ambassodor will swear us in so it is pretty prestigious stuff. ha. Anyway, I have to get a ride back up to Zarabanda now. My next blog will be from my site once I find a place to use the internet. I hope everyone is doing well. I miss you all.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Semana Santa and Mud Baths

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. I missed being there for the festivities but I can definitely say that Easter here was different than any that I have had before. The whole country has the whole week leading up to Easter off of work and most of the people in the bigger cities head to the beach or small colonial towns like the one I am living in. Although we didn’t have the whole week off, we were given Thursday and Friday off of classes so we were able to participate in some of the things going on around town.

It is traditional here in Honduras to build rugs out of sawdust on the street so that the processions can pass over them and ruin them just a few hours later. This tradition started more than a hundred years ago in a city called Comayagua. The city was the capital of Honduras before Tegucigalpa. The tradition has spread to other cities around Honduras and Central America. Here in Ojojona the rugs are made but on a smaller scale. The rugs are started early in the morning on Good Friday and are finished mid-afternoon and the procession begins late in the afternoon.

While a couple of us were walking around and checking out the rugs Friday afternoon, we met a man who started talking to us in English and asked us if we would like to help him finish building some of the rugs. We hesitantly said that we would help and, from there, the relationship has turned out to be quite profitable. At first, we noticed that he didn’t look like a typical Honduran and it turns out that his father was Italian and his mother was Estonian. They met while attending the University of Michigan and then were sent here to help set up the Bank of Honduras in the 1950’s. The man’s name is Richard (we affectionately call him Dick) and he was born here. I say that meeting him has turned out to be profitable because, since we met him, he has invited us up to hang out at his house a several times. His house is a mansion by Honduras standards. He has running water, a nicely constructed roof, loads of real furniture and three macaws. He is also the owner of an Italian restaurant in Tegucigalpa and two weekends ago he offered to bring some pizza and wine up to his house and we gladly took him up on his offer. It was an extremely entertaining night and it was nice to have some comfort food that reminded us of home.

The day after Easter our business group headed down south to spend a couple of days learning about tourism in Honduras as a few of us will be working in that area. It was nice to get away from the classroom for a few days and spend a night camping on the beach, roasting wieners on the campfire, and getting to know each other a little better. We camped at a beach called Guayaba Dorada and, except for the loads of trash on the beach, it was beautiful. The beach was located in a small bay and when the tide went out at night, you could literally walk a quarter of a mile out from where the water had been during the day until you reached the water line during the night. The next day we packed up the tents and took a boat to an island called Isla de la Exposción. The island was uninhabited and the beach was clean. The sand was volcanic sand which meant it was black and we spent a few hours swimming and knocking a volleyball around on the beach. I swam out a little ways and went down to the bottom to find that it was covered in a very muddy mixture that I could almost stick my whole leg into. I pulled some mud up from the bottom and it was very fine, soft, and it smelled like sulfur. I took a handful of the mud in to show some of the others and they were pretty disinterested. I started rubbing some on my face and making the joke that I was exfoliating and everyone thought I was stupid. When I washed it off my face it made my skin feel extremely soft. I went back out for some more mud and convinced a couple people to try it. Everyone was quite impressed and by the end of our time on the beach, I think that almost everybody had rubbed the stuff all over their bodies and kept asking me to swim out for more. One of the older ladies in our group kept thanking me and telling me that that was the kind of thing that she and other ladies her age would pay a couple hundred bucks for in the States. We then hoped back in the boat and cruised over to a bigger island called Amapala for a tour of the city and a lunch (one of us will be placed on the island and since we have been there, a few people have had their eye on the site). After we toured the city we headed to a restaurant that a Peace Corps volunteer had help start about 8 years ago for lunch. The had a delicious spread ready for us that included ceviche, salad, fried fish, pollo asado, garlic shrimp, carne asada, and a seafood paella. It was incredible and a good way to end the trip.

Since the trip we have been back here in Ojojona finishing up classes and getting ready to head out on our own. Next week we are doing a business simulation with some kids from the local high school. We will be teaching them about marketing, production, and accounting and then they are expected to come up with their own business, create a business plan and then produce and sell their product. We are giving them 350 Lempiras as seed capital and they will have to pay that back at the end of the week. There will be 50 kids split into 5 groups and at the end of the week, the group with the biggest profit wins.

A couple other happenings are that we are now all official residents of Honduras (essentially equivalent to having a green card in the U.S.). Feels good to finally be official. Also, on Monday the 4th, we will find out where we will be going for the next two years. We have had three interviews since we arrived in Honduras and they will be trying to match up our business and Spanish skills and our wants and desires for the next two years with sites that they have developed over the past year. We are all quite nervous, to say the least, about what we will find out. Guess that’s it for now. I hope you all are doing well and I will let you know what I find out about me future site. Lastly, I wanted to say thanks to Miss Blumling´s class at Tonalea for sending me the picture and to Mrs. Valenzuela´s class at Balsz for thinking of me. I miss all you guys.

Below are a few pictures from the last few weeks.

My friend Dave and I working on the sawdust rug.

Kissing the fish that I was about to eat.

My host mom and her mom and sisters make bread to sell to the community once a week. Here we are standing in front of the bread oven. No I am not standing on a stool.

This is the son of one of my host brothers. I put this bandana on him and he wanted to take a picture.

Business boys signing ¨My Girl¨acapela at cultural day.

Me and my host mom at cultural day.

A church in Ojojona.

In front of a church in Amapala

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Zarabanda and Ojojona

It’s Saturday morning at 11:00 and, just like every other morning since I have been here, I was awoken at about 5:30 to the sound of roosters crowing. I reluctantly got myself out of bed at about 6:00 am, stretched, yawned, unlatched my front door, and walked outside and kicked some chickens out of the way. I hiked over to the bathroom to take a pee and then crossed my fingers and tried to flush the toilet. Dang!...once again, the water was not running. I dunked a bucket into the pila (device used for holding water, washing clothes and dishes, and attracting mosquitoes) to get some water and then dumped it down the toilet to flush it. I then sauntered inside to say buenos dias to my senora, who was busy getting breakfast ready for the family. I chatted with her for a second before she served me up a heaping plate of fried beans, fried eggs, fried bananas topped with butter, half of an avocado and a pile of corn tortillas. While eating breakfast, the family and I discussed tonight’s soccer game between Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago. The team actually has a legitimate chance of making next year’s world cup for only the second time in history.

After the artery-clogging fried breakfast, I arranged to go exercise with a couple other trainees at a park that I had seen the other day while walking home from training. We effectively used our resources that included the playground equipment, a few rocks, and a nearby hill and we were able to do some pull-ups, push-ups, military presses, some lunges, abs and a few sprints up said hill. Feeling energized from the workout, we decided to walk around town and shoot the breeze with the locals. After walking past a few garbage fires, we discussed the fact that almost everybody, including the kids, has a cell phone and most of the homes have cable tv, but their basic needs like water and trash collection services have yet to be met. After some more conversation that mostly centered around the socio-economic situation here in Honduras, I returned home to clean my room, take a shower and have some lunch. While my senora heats up some water for me to take a bucket shower I decided to come out to my room and jot something down to post on my blog. After lunch I am planning on heading into town to meet up with a group of trainees to play some volleyball and then I will finish off my day by watching the soccer game with the host family.

You may be wondering what exactly I do as the above makes it sound as if I don’t do much. In actuality I have been very busy with training and haven’t had much time for anything else. When we first arrived here in Honduras we were whisked away to a little community called Zarabanda where we had the first three weeks of training. I lived with a host family in a little pueblo outside of Zarabanda of about 1,000 people called Cerro Grande and it was everything you would expect out of a small town in the third world. Arriving at the first host family’s house after leaving Miami just a few short hours earlier was a shock—almost like being in another world—but in a good way. We went from being in the firstest of first worlds to a place that is known as one of the poorest countries in all of the Americas. And, as such, the accommodations were not up to par with the Holiday in that we had left in Washington D.C. or even the Motel 6 for that matter. The family I lived with made a living by growing corn and then grinding it to sell to their neighbors so that they could make the copious amounts of corn tortillas that I have become accustomed to having with pretty much every meal. The family consisted of a father (Catalino), mother (Melva), a 28-year-old son (Dennis), a 25-year-old daughter (Arline), and a 17-year-old son (Garrison). The eldest son was married and had two daughters and the youngest son knocked-up his 15-year-old girlfriend three months ago and had a baby on the way…much the chagrin of his parents. The family was very hospitable and treated my like one of their own. Although the people here are very poor, the majority of them are willing to offer you all that they have to make you feel comfortable. Most of the time with this family was spent trying to have conversations in my broken Spanish, watching telenovelas, and having them laugh at me every time I hit my head on one of the door frames (for some reason, most of the doorframes are only about 6’ tall. Probably has something to do with the fact that most Hondurans are pretty short. This has made it difficult for me in various situations). I stayed with this family for three and a half weeks and look forward to returning for one more week towards the end of training.

While I was in Zarabanda, my days consisted of waking up every morning at about 5:30, heating up water to take a bucket shower, eating breakfast, and then hitting the trail at about 6:20 to catch the bus at 6:45. I was picked up at the first stop and then had to ride to all of the other stops to pick up other trainees and make it to the training center by 7:30. I felt like I was back in school. This feeling was fueled further by the old U.S. school bus that we rode on every day. The morning was filled with Spanish language classes (I was placed in the intermediate-high level). This was followed by an hour break for lunch, during which a group of us would always juggle the soccer ball or toss the Frisbee around…very Peace Corps, I know. After lunch we would usually have classes teaching us a myriad of different things that will come in handy during our service, including how to prepare so as not to get a tape worm, how to properly clean a pila, and what to do if we are held up at gunpoint on the streets of Tegucigalpa. We would then arrive back home at about 5:30 every night and eat dinner with our host family before doing some homework and then going to bed at about 9 or so.

In my group there are about 50 trainees divided equally into three groups: business, health, and water and sanitation. After the first three and a half weeks in Zarabanda, our groups were moved to three different places around Honduras for field-based training. My group was sent to a place about an hour and a half south of Tegucigalpa called Ojojona. It is a neat little colonial town with a beautiful climate. We have been here for about a week now and are really enjoying it. There are 18 people in the business group, 11 of which are living with host families in Ojojona and seven are living about 2 miles away in a pueblo called Santa Ana. I am one of the lucky ones that has had the privilege of living in Santa Ana and riding the bus everyday into Ojojona (we are not supposed to walk because of safety issues). I am living with a single mother (Angela) and her thee boys Ronny (28), Dennis (26), and Mauricio (24). The youngest two are married and the youngest one has a boy named Daniel (4). Also, there are always aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews running in and out of the house. Everyone lives here in the same “compound” which includes about four or five different structures. I have my own room away from the house that shares the patio with everyone. Like my family in Cerro Grande, the family here has been very hospitable and Angela has been waiting on me hand and foot since I arrived. This includes cooking for me, cleaning up my dishes after I eat, doing my laundry (this is extremely appreciated because laundry here is done by hand and the first few times I have tried to do it, I have spent hours to washing a few undies and some socks), heating up water for me to take a shower with, changing the sheets on my bed and cleaning up my room. I bet if I asked her to flush the toilet for me she would, but I don’t want to take advantage of the situation too much. Haha. Needless to say, she is great. So far our days here are relatively the same as they were in Ojojona. Mornings are usually filled with language classes and after returning from lunch we go to technical training classes, which have mostly replaced the Honduras survival classes.

Well I hope that helped to fill you in on what has been happening here. Though I may have had a somewhat sarcastic tone for some of this post, I am really having a good time and when I think about what I would be doing if I were back in Arizona I am glad I made the decision to come down here. Minus the whole being away from my girlfriend thing. I mean, I am living in Central America, getting fed three squares a day, learning a new culture and a new language, meeting some great people and getting paid for it…albeit only $3 a day. Hey you can’t have everything.

…The above was written about a week and a half ago. I just haven’t had a good chance to get it posted until now. Sorry for my delay in getting something up here. We are now in Semana Santa and just finished our last day of classes for the week. Apparently there will be a lot of festivities going on here during the rest of the week, as this is one of the biggest holidays here in Honduras. At the beginning of next week our group is going down south to an island in the Pacific called Amapala where we will be learning about tourism in Honduras and spending a night camping on the beach. I will fill you all in on these happenings sometime next weekend. Below are a few pictures that I have taken since I arrived. I wish you all a happy Easter!

P.S. I want to extend a congratulations to Wiley and Meggen for their recent marriage (sorry I couldn’t have been there) and to Austtin and Lindsay. I wish you all the best.

This is a view from the bus ride that we took everyday to the training center in Zarabanda

I took this picture on my walk back to my house in Zarabanda

This is a picture of the training center in Zarabanda

Here we are packed onto the bus ready for another day of training

Sorry that is all the pictures I have for now. My internet connection is pretty slow. More to come.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming Soon...

I know that you are probably on the edge of your seat in anticipation of an update to this blog. Well, I have some good news...the pace of things has settled down a bit and, more importantly, I finally have a more reliable internet source. I will fill you all in on this and other happenings in my next blog post. Look for it this weekend!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Washington D.C. (Staging)

I arrived in Washington D.C. at about 9:00 last night and had meetings all day today. I was hoping the President would stop by to shake our hands--as he has done in the past--but, alas, he was a no show. He had some speech to make tonight which apparently took precedence over coming and saying bon voyage to a bunch of Peace Corps Volunteers. I think he made the wrong decision:) 

Anyway, today was full of meetings. There was not too much information given about Honduras, but it was more about the Peace Corps and general policy and procedures (I was told I needed to add the new disclaimer on this blog), health and safety, managing risks and threats, and logistical information about our trip tomorrow. We were also all given our no-fee government passport and a debit card with about $200 on it (who says this PC gig is a volunteer position?). 

After the meeting I went out to dinner with a few other volunteers, toasting all night to our impending journey and this new chapter in our lives. Now I am back at the hotel doing a few things before we have to check-out and head to the airport in about four hours, so I probably will not sleep tonight. 

We were told that we will be headed to the training center in a place called Zarabanda for the next three weeks and the town does not have any internet access so I need to warn my friends and family that they might not hear from me for a few weeks. Don't worry, I will be back in action on this blog as soon as I get a chance. 

As ready as I am to get going, it has been difficult saying goodbye to everyone. Especially the ol' GF. So if you guys see her, give her a hug on my behalf. Alright I guess that is it for now. Goodbye everyone. I will miss you.

P.S. I was hoping to get out and do some sight seeing here in D.C. but did not get the chance. I saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capital Building from my shuttle to the hotel last night and the attached picture of the Washington Monument was taken from my hotel window.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Peacin' Out

It is now two am and I will be leaving Phoenix in 11 hours. I just finished packing my life away for the next two years (thanks for your help mom and dad). I have about 110 pounds worth of luggage which is about 30 pounds more than what the Peace Corps "allows". Hopefully they will still let me on the bus...

I am feeling a little sad, nervous, anxious, and all the normal feelings that come along with a trip into the unknown. I am also very excited which I think outweighs the rest.

I want to thank you all for coming to my going away parties. It was great to see everyone a last time before I head out. And as I said before, I love you all and will miss everyone immensely. You should all start planning a trip to Honduras sometime during the next two years.

I am not sure when I will get a chance to update my blog from here on out, but I will try to keep you all as informed as I can. I guess there is just one more thing I need to say...Adios.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Truck

If you or anyone you know is in the market for a new truck, I am selling mine. It is in very good condition. The listing can be found here: 

Let me know if anyone is interested.

Getting Ready

As most of you know by now (some may still be unaware), I will be leaving Arizona in about a month to spend the next 27 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras. Getting to this point has been a long, arduous process. I submitted my application in December of 2007, had an interview in February, was medically cleared in May and was finally invited to serve in October. All in all it has taken fourteen months from the time I submitted my application to the time I will be leaving. 

Some may ask, "Why the Peace Corps?" Well, it is something that I have thought about doing since I was in high school. I've always thought that it would be a great opportunity to travel, learn a new language, experience a new culture, and most importantly to help people that have not been blessed with the same comforts that we here in the United States and other places in the developed world take for granted. Though I had thought about joining, it was never in the forefront of my mind until I got a job sitting in a cubicle for nine hours a day. During the long hours spent staring at said cubicle wall I decided that there is no better time than now to do something that I had been dreaming of for years. After being let go from that job in June due to the bad economy, I was sure that the Peace Corps was something that I wanted to do, and here we are. 

Being that I have a degree in finance and have worked for a few years as a securities analyst, it seems fitting that I have been invited to serve as a business advising volunteer. Though the details of my job are still rather vague, I do know that I will be using the skills that I have acquired over the years in order to "assist organizations and individuals sustain economic growth and improve their economic opportunities." 

I am very excited of the prospects the next two years holds, but sad to be leaving family and friends that have meant and will continue to mean so much to me. I am starting this blog so that you all may be able to keep up on what is going on in my life down in Central America and hopefully keep in contact with me to let me know what is going on in yours. I am not sure how often I will be able to update, but I will try to keep things on here current. Thank you all for your support during the initial phases of this process. I love you all and hopefully I will get to see some of you in person before I leave on the 24th of February. Take care!