Monday, April 26, 2010

Cribs: Peace Corps Edition

A look inside my house in Honduras. I am home in Arizona right now for a friend's wedding (more on that later) so I was able to take advantage of the fast internet to upload this video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brooke returns to Honduras for Semana Santa

As I said in my last blog, Brooke visited Honduras for the second time to spend Semana Santa with me in Ocotepeque. We didn't plan a whirlwind tour like we did the last time that she visited and we just planned on hanging out in my site and enjoying the festivities of the week. Some of the highlights of the week are documented in photos below.

One of the days that she was here, a friend of mine taught us how to make ticucos. Ticucos are a traditional Honduran food that are kind of like a small meatless tamale. The process to make the corn husk rolled masa treat is pretty arduous. I think it took us about five or six hours from start to finish.

Here I am sorting beans. After buying beans, you have to sort through them to pick out all of the rocks and bad beans before cooking.

We went to the grinder to grind the masa that consisted of corn, onions, garlic, green pepper, and water. Brooke got a chance to work the masa coming out of the grinder.

We then mixed the masa with the beans, a TON of oil, and chipilin (sp?) which is an herb of some sort.

The mix was then rolled up in corn husks and cooked for about two hours before they were ready to eat. Here is Brooke proudly displaying a few of these tasty nuggets before we devoured them. mmmmm

Another highlight of Brooke's visit was a hike that we had planned with another Peace Corps Volunteer, her boyfriend, and five other Honduran friends. When you look into the mountains to the west of Ocotepeque, on the highest peak you can see a radio tower and the top of this peak is called the Peña Rojada. I had been wanting to hike to this point ever since I got here so I was pretty stoked to get a chance to do it. None of us had been there before so we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. We left at six in the morning with a bag full of ticucos, about 20 bags of chips, and a three liter pepsi (typical honduran fare) and finally got to the trail around 9. From there, we started our ascent which took about 4 hours to get to the top. It was exhausting but the hike and views were beautiful. Once we got to the top, the trial continued on so we decided to walk a little further to see what was up ahead. We wondered onto a campground that was teeming with Salvadorians. Turns out that we had arrived at the highest peak in El Salvador-- El Pital (about 9000 feet). After inquiring with the other visitors, we found out that you can drive to the peak from the El Salvador side and camp up there! Oh well, now we know for next time. When the authorities started hassling us for our passports that we didn't have, we decided that it was time to head back down. We arrived back home at about 6 o'clock at night ready for a shower and sleep.

Brooke and I catching a breather in El Volcancito which is the last pueblo that we came to before entering the forest.

Me standing on top of the Peña Rojada.

Cute little Honduran mountain town.

Finally, here is a picture of Brooke washing clothes on my pila.

That is it for now. Hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Medical Brigade and Story Hour

Many volunteers are called upon during their service to use their language skills in one way or another. They may be asked to teach English classes, translate grant applications, or translate at the many medical brigades that roll through Honduras. I have been asked to help out in some capacity in all of the above tasks during my time here and last week I participated in my first medical brigade. Organizations like "Doctors Without Borders" will set up shop in different locations throughout the year. Doctors will spend their vacation time volunteering in third world countries and serving the less fortunate people of that country. Most of the time the doctors will not speak the language so translators are employed to help them out.

I was recently asked to come to a little village about an hour away from my site to spend three days translating for a group that was coming down and doing eye exams and giving away medication, prescription glasses, and sunglasses to the people of the village. They brought along thousands of pairs of glasses that had been dropped in boxes at the Lions Club and subsequently repaired and calibrated by prisoners in Wisconsin.

In the three days of the brigade, we gave away nearly 600 pairs of glasses to people in the village of Cones and its surrounding areas. While translating, the doctors would point out to me the problems that they would see in the patient's eyes. I have never seen so many cataracts, eye cancers in which a layer of skin is growing over the eyeball and causing blindness, and other problems that were impairing the vision of these people. Many times the problems called for fixes that the doctors at this brigade were not equipped to fix and it was sad having to turn away people knowing that they would never have the resources to get the treatment that they needed. But for all of the heartbreaking cases there were also some very rewarding moments. Children that were failing in school because they could not read the blackboard and having constant headaches receiving a pair of glasses that would help to remedy their situation or old men and women of 80 years looking around astonished at what they were able to see after being nearly blind for 20 or 30 years. When we were headed home after three days, it was neat to see all the people walking around sporting their new glasses and sunglasses. It was also good to see the end result of the all those donation boxes that we see in the U.S. So next time you get a new pair of glasses, don't throw away your old pair. Donate those puppies and they will probably find a second life here or in other impoverished countries around the world.


Taking a little break from work to try and find the highest prescription glasses available. These ones modeled by my friend Luke were -12.0. Didn't know they went that high.

Another project that I have taken up here is a story hour in the local Reiken Library. The Reiken Library is a foundation that was started by a former Peace Corps Volunteer that came upon some wealth later on in his life and donated some money to start libraries in towns and villages throughout Honduras. Here in Ocotepeque, we are fortunate to have one such library. Once a week I bring in a class of 20-30 kids from the local school and we spend about an hour learning about what the library has to offer, playing games, doing crafts, and reading stories. It has been a project that I have really enjoyed and has allowed me to meet many of the children that live around me. I am always looking for new ideas of things to do with these kids, so if all you teachers out there have any ideas I would be interested to hear them.

Imparting knowledge on the youth of Honduras

I guess that is it for now. Next week is Semana Santa here in Honduras and is also celebrated all over Latin America. The week before Easter is one of the biggest holidays here and the whole country has the week off to celebrate (and mourn) the events of the week. The week will be especially exciting for me because, in addition to not having to work, Brooke (the gf) will be coming to spend the week with me. I am looking forward to seeing her and it will be the first time since I was home for Kellyn's wedding that we will see eachother. So here's wishing you all a happy Easter and I hope you are all able to celebrate with friends and family. Until next time...

Feria Patronal de Ocotepeque

Every city, town, village, and pueblo of Honduras has a town "fair" once a year to celebrate the place's patron saint. Ocotepeque celebrates its feria from the 10th to the 19th of March. During this time vendors come from Honduras and El Salvador and set up booths selling tons of fried things and crap that is made in china (shame that with all of the local artisans that do beautiful work, people here still prefer their plastic wares). There are also many sketchy looking rides that have been set up on top of 2x4s and cinder blocks. For some reason, these ferias are pretty popular and tons of people come from all around to eat drink (alot) and be merry. Both weekends saw the biggest influx of people that came to partake of the festivities.

I have been playing basketball with a group of guys here in the afternoons and I recently found us a league in Santa Rosa (a bigger city about 2 hours away from my site) that we are going to start in April. Our team invited a few teams from this league to play a tournament in Ocotepeque as part of the feria and they agreed to come out. We planned the four-team tournament for the first Saturday of the feria. In the week leading up to the the game we spent time repainting all the lines on the court, putting up new nets, fixing the rims, and cleaning things up around the court. On Saturday, the court looked the best I had ever seen it. When the teams started warming up for the games, people took note and by the time the first game started, there were probably 150-200 people around the court curious to see what was going on (basketball is a pretty foreign sport to them). We also had some food vendors and announcers in the mix. Other than having to deal with a little bit of sun and heat, the event was a success and the other teams were impressed at how well the event was organized. If you are wondering which team won the tournament, I'll give you a hint. It was the one that had the tall skinny gringo on it:)

A team picture before the games got underway

Look at that intensity!

After the games, there was a concert in the park on Saturday night. Polache, who is probably the most famous singer here (look him up on YouTube), came to play. A few other volunteers came into town to watch the tournament, see the feria, and go to the concert. We were all invited to an "exclusive" after-party with Polache too. There were thousands of people at the concert, but no matter where I stood, I had a pretty good view because I am about a foot taller than the average Honduran. haha. All in all it was a pretty fun day and I am hoping to plan the second annual basketball tournament for next year.

PC friend Brianna, Polache, Me

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day that my group of 49 (only 30 remain) wide-eyed volunteers landed in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to begin our 27 month stint as Peace Corps Volunteers. It seems as if it were just yesterday but when I think about all that I have experienced in the last year, it starts to feel like I have been here for a while. I have lived through three months of exhaustive training, three different Honduran host families, infectious bug-bites, a military coup, national curfews and road blocks, an election and innauguration of a new president, hours and hours spent on buses, made lots of new friends (Honduran and American), and many new and different jobs and tasks. This is just a small sample of some of the things I have done and I continue to live new experiences everyday.

I do miss many things about the United States but I am really trying to take advantage of the time that I have down here in Honduras. I am happy here and know that the rest of my time will continue to fly by and, before you know it, it will be over. As my journey continues, I remain optomistic that I have and will make some sort of difference during my service and I look forward to everything that remains to happen during the next 15 months.

Congratulations to all my fellow H14 volunteers for all of our successes over the last year and for staying with it through all the ups-and-downs. Truly a great accomplishment!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Year Update

Hello again friends, family, acquaintances, and people that happen to stumble upon this blog. I know it has been a LONG while since I have written anything on here and I know you all are itching (I am making an assumption here) for a little update on what’s going on in my life here in Honduras. So here it is. Even though I am a little late, I want to start by wishing you all a very happy new year. I wish I could have been home to celebrate the holidays with you all but I was able to make the most of it here in Honduras with some great new friends that I have made. More on that later.

Since it has been so long since you all have heard anything from me, I am going to start where I left off and bring you all up to speed. I am going to leave out the minor details so that this blog doesn’t bore you all too much and because I have probably forgotten a lot of them. So here it goes in rapid-fire chronological order:

  • Spent most of October working on a report on the apiaries (bee farms) that are part of the cooperative that I work at. This included visits to eight apiaries, two each Saturday, at times having to walk more than two hours to arrive because they are located way out in the campo. But I was usually rewarded with a nice piece of honeycomb to suck on and make the walk back a little easier.
    • The one-piece beekeeping suits that the cooperative has don’t fit me too well and on one occasion I didn’t secure the suit down around my ankles very well and those clever bees figured out that I had about a half of inch of leg exposed and attacked with gusto. I was bitten about 10-15 times and swelling and fever ensued. I have since acquired a pair of rubber boots to keep them out. Thanks Austin.

  • Halloween brings a Peace Corps wide party to the Copan Ruins. I attended along with about 120 other Peace Corps Honduras volunteers. My costume was designed by another business volunteer to make light of the political situation that was going on in the country at the time. It was a puzzle with former President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya’s picture on it, moustache, cowboy hat and all. It was a lot of fun and we were all quite the spectacle. Imagine 120 costumed gringos running through a small Honduran pueblo! The people were out with their cell phone cameras documenting the action.

  • At the beginning of November, after a business volunteer workshop in Gracias, Lempira, I returned home to Arizona for the wedding of my little sister and her fiancé, now husband, Coby Hiatt. The wedding was beautiful and the couple seemed extremely happy. I was a proud older brother. Congratulations guys!

  • While home I was able to spend some much needed quality time with friends, family and girlfriend. It was great seeing everybody and I want to thank you all for your hospitality. I look forward to seeing you all again when I return home or maybe sooner as some have expressed desires to come visit me here. All are welcome.
  • After another difficult goodbye, I left Arizona and returned to Honduras just in time for Thanksgiving. Obviously Hondurans do not celebrate the holiday but I needed my fix of football, turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and gravy so I headed to a friend’s house in Marcala, La Paz. About 12 volunteers from my group crammed into a small one-bedroom house for a couple of nights. It was nothing like being home with family for the holiday but a delicious spread was put on the table by some very talented cooks that managed to serve an ample amount of food to all in attendance using only a two-burner electric stove and a toaster oven. I was very impressed.
  • At the beginning of December I was summoned to Tegucigalpa by the Peace Corps doctors to receive an inoculation for H1N1. While in route, one of my porcelain teeth fell out while biting into a sandwich and broke into little pieces. So a visit that was only supposed to be two days lasted a little over a week because of numerous complications with the dentist. A silver lining was that I got to watch the Cardinals lose to the 49’s on Monday Night Football while shoving my face with a large Pizza Hut supreme.
  • When I returned home and tried to work a few days before Christmas, I found that not much happens here during the month of December. School is out, employees are granted long two-week vacations, and people generally stay home and enjoy time with family. When in Rome…I thought, so I joined some friends and neighbors at their celebrations.
  • For the actual Christmas holiday, I went to Santa Rosa de Copan and spent a few days with volunteer friends. Once again I was amazed by the food and treats that we were able to enjoy that were cooked in our meager kitchens. Hondurans celebrate the holiday a little different than we do in the states. On Christmas Eve, they typically attend a ten o’clock mass and then come home at around midnight and shot of firecrackers for an hour and then have a feast and stay up talking until they pass out. Christmas is usually spent sleeping and recovering from the night before. We had more of a traditional American Christmas and enjoyed our meal on Christmas Day after a jaunt through the city in the morning.

  • After a week back in my site it was time to celebrate New Years. My friends and I weren’t too keen on a big party so we decided to do something a little more tranquilo and booked a few beds in a jungle hostel in the Pico Bonito National Park up near the north coast. For those of you who have seen Avatar, the landscape in the park reminded me of the movie. It was gorgeous. We spent our time relaxing and reading in hammocks, whitewater rafting, and kayaking. We were woken up every morning by exotic birds singing and howler monkeys barking as opposed to motorcycle fumes and roosters as has become the norm for me.

  • In January I spent time working and planning activities for 2010, fixing things up around my house, and hanging out with neighborhood kids. I also had to return to Tegucigalpa for another week to try to get my tooth figured out. The porcelain tooth the dentist made me did not match the other teeth (third world dentistry for you) so I complained and had him make me another one, that I have still yet to receive. So another trip to the capital (12 hour trip each way) is planned for February.

I guess that about brings everybody back up to speed on what has been happening in my life. One of my New Years resolutions was to do a better job updating my blog. As you can see I have already failed on that as it took me a month to post anything but I am going to continue to try and post things more regularly. If you all have any questions about life here that you would like me to answer, let me know. Some of the weird and unordinary things that happen here have become normal for me so I do not think to write about them anymore. Again, I hope 2010 finds you all happy and a healthy. Keep in touch. Until next time…adios.