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.