Peace Corps - Honduras.
Jason is both a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student in the Loret Miller Ruppe Peace Corps Masters International Program at Michigan Tech. Find out more about this program at http://peacecorps.mtu.edu/ .
30 August 2004
All is well in Honduras. I am in Siguatipeque, and Mike Jones is here too. I will be visiting Olaf next week for the Trainee visiting experienced volunteers visit part of Training.
Honduras is so much like Mexico in appearance that not much has surprised me yet. The people are much different though. I really like the fried plantains and bananas. I have tried 4 types so far. I was bringing a jar of Thimbleberry jam to Olaf, but it broke in transit.
14 September 2004
Training has been both a joy and a pain. I have been fortunate because these last few days have been my first incidents of diarrhea. Though, I did get sick a few weeks back and the nurse had to put me on antibiotics. I guess they are not taking any chances here. It seems like all of the larger guys in the group got sick first, and now some of the smaller girls are getting sick. People have been in and out of the hospital the whole time we have been here. There has been nothing too serious, except for Megan's bout with dysentery.
A little about my host family. My family is very nice. They try to include me in things that they are doing and explain things to me when I don't understand. My host mother's name is Berta. Her husband died a number of years ago, but they had 5 children altogether. Two of them are in the States, one is in El Salvador (I think) working as a pastor, Moises lives with us and is 15 years old, and Yasmari, also lives with us. She is 21 and has a month-old baby. Sadly, the father of the child is in the states and they are not married. The feeling I get is that he will not be coming back. They have two borders in addition to me. A guy named Alin (16-17) and another guy named Mardin (also 16 or 17). They live in different small towns close to Siguatipeque that do not have high schools, so they live with us during the week to attend high school.
General Structure of training: There are 61 trainees, all of which live with different host families spread out across Siguatipeque. There is a bus that circles the town morning and evening picking up and dropping off trainees. I need to arrive at the bus stop at seven am to catch the bus. Each day we have four hours of language training, generally in the morning. Spanish classes are broken up into class sizes of 3-4 people per instructor, and the instructors change every 2 weeks. Lunch is at 11:30-12:30pm. The afternoon session is 4 hrs and devoted to project group training. Each project has about 20 people in it, though PAM (Protected Areas Management) has the most people. PAM also has the highest concentration of low-level Spanish speakers.
When we are not in general project-training groups, we are all together in large sessions learning about safety and security, medical issues, or community development strategies.
Summary of Training:
Week 1: Aug 18-22
Arrived in Honduras, move in with host families, have language interviews and team building activities.
Week 2: Aug 23-29
Language classes start, 4 hrs per day. Technical Training starts, and we build a compost pile on Thursday. On Friday we plant trees, and plan tree nurseries. Over the weekend I travel with my host family to Berta´s brother who lives in the mountains. There I try sugar cane in the raw, and we take some back and crush it to make juice. I get to try the juice for the first time. It is very good with a little limejuice in it.
Week 3: Aug 30-Sept 5
Language classes continued all week, four hours every morning. We learned about medical problems during service, security issues during service, and about the other projects active in Honduras (Municipal Development and Water and Sanitation. On Thursday and Friday we learned about Home gardens. I made a sweet potato pie for my host family on Sunday. They were very pleased with it.
Week 4: Sept 6-12
Language training for four hours ever morning this week. During tech training they warned us about working with NGO´s, that things could be sketchy if we get involved too deeply, or get involved politically. On Tuesday we went over tree nurseries, how to plant and take care of them. On Wednesday we covered STDs, fun stuff. On Thursday I went to visit Olaf and stayed there until Sunday morning. His life seems slow to me, the newly arrived American. He is positive about his time there and seems to not have any true complaints. He works from time to time on water projects with Christopher, who works in the Water and Sanitation Project for the Peace Corps. Olaf also works with volunteer groups and medical brigades that come to help the people of Honduras. So far, many of them have been from North Carolina, which is just fine for Olaf, because he is from NC as well. Olaf also teaches an English class at night during weekdays. This seems to be his favorite activity during the week, because it is regular, and it is his opportunity to ¨reach out and touch someone¨.
The trip to see Olaf was very good because he has integrated well into his site, and has made quite a few friends there. On Friday we went to Chris´ going away party for his training group that has been in Honduras for two years now. I got the chance to meet a bundle of them and talk about their pitfalls and successes. On Saturday we went to a nearby waterfall. It had rained heavily the night before, so the waterfall was gushing more than Olaf had yet seen it gush before. There were three kids there climbing on the fall and jumping into the water. On the way back the kids stopped at one of their family's farm to pick coconuts for us to take with us on the way home. During the walk home we spotted a bright green lizard and had wild parakeets fly overhead. That is what I thought Honduras would be like.
29 October 2004
This is my first group email, so you guys will have to bear with me. I have been in Honduras for almost three months now training to become a volunteer with the Peace Corps. I will complete my training next week with a swear-in ceremony at the US Embassador´s house here in Honduras. Then, on Saturday, I will travel to Gualaco, a town of about 3-7 thousand inhabitants in the region of Olancho, to start my two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV).
My emotions, as well as my heath, have been on a rollercoaster since I arrived in Honduras, and I am sure this will continue throughout my service. Already I have learned much about the culture and language of Honduras, and I know that I will be learning throughout my service. I still have to get used to rice, beans and tortillas, but I am a step ahead of the game because I have already contracted malaria. I got malaria two weeks back, but caught it early enough in the cycle that I went through none of the normal symptoms. I went to the doctor on Thursday, and was pretty much well by Saturday, though it took a few days more to recover my strength.
Gualaco is located in the region of Olancho, a region known for their cowboys and for their scenic beauty. The town sets between two mountain ranges. To the south, lies the Parque Nacional de Sierra Agalta, and to the north lie many miles of rain forest, and an area proposed as a new national park. Within Sierra de Agalta National Park, are some of the largest tracts of cloud forest and dwarf forest in Honduras. Since the town is relatively large, they have running water, elevtricity, mail service, internet and a health center. I should have my own house, but will share the city with another PCV named Karen, in Peace Corp´s Youth Development Project.
My work responsibilities will be broad, but should be focused on assisting the Water Administration Board in protecting the watershed that provides water to the town and continueing the work started by the previous Peace Corps couple on a common plants book of the National Park. Since the couple doing the work, just finished their service earlier this year, I should be moving into their fully furnished house. I will be doing agriculture work, helping out my sitemate with the youth, and any number of other small projects in the next two years.
From an email on 4 November 2004.
I will be meeting my counterpart tomorrow and traveling to my site on Saturday. I am very excited about the site, Gualaco, in Olancho, and think that I will be able to move right in to a project started by previous volunteers. The two volunteers before me, Ryan and Jenna, wrote a book on common plants of Parque Nacional Sierra de Agalta, and have had it published by US-AID. I just talked with the head of the environmental part of US-AID today, and she said that she is looking forward to working much more in the national park to increase tourism, and increase the understanding of what is present there. They would like to do a diversity analysis as well. All this will take a long time, and I am not expecting to start anything right away, but it is nice to have ideas and support already in place. I will be meeting my counterpart, a man named Fransisco Urbina tomorrow. I was just sworn in today in Teguc. They put us up in the Maya near the PC headquarters. We got to meet the US ambassador and the president of Honduras. I got to shake the presidents hand, one of the things that I will have to add to my list of life achievements.
Thanksgiving Day email, 2004.
Happy Thanksgiving! As that it is Thanksgiving, I forgot to say thank you in my last e-mail for the package that you sent me. I got the M&M´s when I went to Tegucigalpa to swear in. They had almonds in them, and were a VERY nice treat after so long without any chocolate at all. I shared them with the entire PAM group, everyone got three, and I ate the rest. They were gone before I finished my tour of the PC-HQ. Thanks for the hot sauce as well, Hondurans are not too fond of anything spicy. In fact they lack much of any cultural foods, or music. There is more in Olancho, and so I am happy to be placed here. Olancho es mas ancho, as they say They also say, En Olancho, vive en un rancho, y monta en un chancho (pig). Also, Olancho es mancho para entrar y angosto para salir, or En Olancho, entre que quiere, y sale que puede. Thanks for your support. I met with the guide association today, and went out to the Caves of Susmay. They have a nice house there, with battery powered electricity and a nice fence that was built through a government grant secured two years back. It has sat unused since it was built. Now they would like to resurrect the Guide Committee that disappeared after Hurricane Mich and get some tourism started. My worry is that it is close to the Talgua Caves, in Catacamas, which are only right over the mountains, and much more easily accessable. But, we will see what we can do. Tomorrow I am going to a place called Rancho Paraiso, which seems to be the hub of paternalism in the area. If what Ramon (one of the guides active in the caves) tells me is correct, they have some 1000 gringos come down every year for mission trips through an organization called Honduras Outreach, have you heard of them? Hope all is well in the UP. In many ways (with the exception of the climate) this place reminds me of Houghton, the remoteness, the country|outdoors nature of the people, far away from the hussle of large towns.
22 January 2005
There used to be an active guide committee here in Gualaco that operated like an NGO. They had their own building on COHDEFOR property, and their own equipment gained from some sort of funding they were able to secure. After Hurricane Mitch, the guide committee gradually faded out of existence. Francisco Urbina has been holding the equipment that used to belong to the guide committee for the last six years, but the building that they used to meet in has fallen into disrepair. The floorboards are rotting, and the roof needs to be redone. What is inside the house must have been quite official and impressive at one time. There is a room that has been remodeled into a model cave system, another room with a number of museum-like displays of the animals and plants of the national park, and an entry room with a glass counter holding old tour guides, and other reference books of plants and animals. COHDEFOR and PRORENA still use the building to hold their meetings. Ramon Veliz used to be a member of the old guide committee and wants to restart the old glory days.
I took Mike Jones advice and have tried my best not to say no to any idea or suggestion offered to me. I have been meeting people at the meetings and arranging with them visits to their properties. I think that people are so nice here because they expect things from me. They don't have a very good idea of what Cuerpo de Paz is, and seem to expect it to be much like the other active volunteer organizations in the area, Rancho Paraiso (Honduras Outreach) and the Iglesia de Christo. When I tell people that most of my work is with contacts and information, they are not bothered, I can just as easily contact the people with money and give them the information they need to receive money from these organizations.
I decided that one of the best ways that I could get to know Gualaco, get out to meet people, and get to know my local resources, would be to map the community in which I lived. I started out at the Junta de Agua to figure out how many barrios and houses were supplied by the local water system. Then I started at my house, with a compass and a note pad to map the pueblo of Gualaco. It wasn't before long that most of the people here had never seen a compass, and were very curious what a gringo could be doing taking notes around their homes. I was worried at first that people would be suspicious of my activities, but as time passed, more and more people recognized what I was doing. Now, most of the people in the barrios that I have already mapped recognize my face at least, and know that I am a member of Cuerpo de Paz. I have met more people of different types than I ever would have going to meetings. Each time I go out to make my map, I spend three quarters of the time talking with people on the street. I introduce myself, tell what I am doing, and mostly answer questions from that point on. Most people ask me for things, or tell me long stories about their relatives who are in the states. I get many ridiculous questions about the things that are present in the states. Most people expect me to teach English, and most everyone has known a previous volunteer in the Peace Corps. I have a running list of twenty some previous volunteers in Gualaco and the surrounding aldeas. Most people like to tell me just how close they were to their favorite previous volunteer.
I have finished mapping about half of Gualaco, but have found the task exceedingly difficult. The farther I get out from my point of origin, the more my distance estimates are inaccurate. I am pacing each street to measure distance, and the number of hills and twists in the roads make task difficult. So, even though I have not been able to produce a map of Gualaco, and suspect that I never will, the task has been very good at its purpose, to introduce my face in Gualaco.
Airport - there is an airplane landing strip in Jicalapa, an aldea just South-East of Gualaco. It was up and running before the main road was put in about 25 years back. The airport no longer runs, but the people keep the landing strip clear of trees in the hopes that sometime in the future, planes will once again land in Gualaco.
The Ferria in Gualaco drew people from all the surrounding aldeas to ride the three juegos mechanicos they had here. There was one that has chairs on ropes, and spins in a circle so that the chairs fly out. There was one that was a train, that ran up and down for kids like a little rollercoaster. There also was a pirate's ship that swung from side to side, also kid-sized. The streets were filled with vendors that sold food, and cerveza, so that the streets were also filled with drunks.
11 May 2005 - Some pictures from the nursery.
15 September 2005 - Excerpts from the September quarterly report.
Gualaco itself seems to get a lot of money from people in the States. I have only met one person living here in Honduras who does not have a family member in the United States. In the Aldeas I can see a distinction. It seems that the aldeas that make their money from coffee sales live well, though those living off basic grain production work to live for tomorrow.
The radio station has graciously invited me to host their English hour, 8-9pm on Saturdays.
The colegio (the high school) has two career options, Bachillerato and Comercio. Bachillerato is all about agriculture and comercio is all about business. Each year the two groups take a trip to La Ceiba to visit places of interest and have some fun for the students. I was privileged to be invited to go with Bachillerato on their yearly visit. We went to visit CURLA University, where we saw their germplasm bank, really more of a seed bank than an actual germplasm bank one day. The next day we went to visit the Botanical Reserve Lancitia, which was very impressive. All in all it was a great trip that allowed me to get to know the students better and to see some of the sights in Honduras.
15 December 2005. Excerpts from the quarterly report.
I have been working diligently in the vivero in the colegio so that the plants will not perish. It seems that, as the end of the school year drew near, less and less people had interest in the vivero. I tried to get people interested in planting the trees that remained, or at least to donate them to other agencies. Professor Galileo kept telling me that he would take some trees and other people did the same, but they never came. Eventually, I realized that no one was interested in planting the trees that I had selected to grow in the vivero. So, I had some 3,000 trees that were left over from all the work that the students did to plant trees along the roadside, along a soccer field called Las Crudités, in the local soccer stadium, and in the new campus for the colegio. I urged a non-government organization, PRORENA, to take the trees to give them to people living in aldeas within the municipality. They made empty promises that they were interested, and next week, next week they would come. They never came. So, I have worked extra to prepare the trees to survive in bags until the next school year comes. I still have a promise that PRORENA will come to retrieve the trees, but have little hope. Since I am busy this month (December) with other things, I have finally admitted defeat. Some 3,000 trees may die in their bags due to my lack of foresight. I should have planned the project backwards, preparing sites to plant trees before I actually planted seeds in bags. All the literature I have tells me this is the first step, a step that I neglected, but will not neglect next year.
My radio program, Los Clasicos en Inglés, continues to air every Saturday from eight until nine at night. I have had fun with this small side project, and am gaining quite a bit of fame among the people within the listening area of the radio station. Radio Babylonia is the only station in Gualaco (as that the other one Gualaco Esterio was struck by lightning and did not have the funds to repair the burned out equipment). What I have been doing is asking whomever what songs they would like to hear and playing those songs. There really is only time to play some 10 songs within the hour, depending on how much I talk. So, I only have to find ten people to tell me their favorite songs in English, and I have the program all set.
The mountains surrounding Gualaco are high mountains rising up over the fertile valley of Agalta, where people in San Esteban have become rich for cattle ranching. The Pech Indians have lived here for times past, and before that, there have been human settlements in this region since nearly the cave dwelling time. In the caves of Talgua, on the other side of the Agalta mountain range from Gualaco, the southern side, cave explorers have found burial chambers deep within the caves. These chambers are still being studied. On this side of the mountains, the northern side, the mountainside is riddled with caves. The most famous are the caves of Susmay. There are four primary caves, one high up on the hillside, two further down, all dry, and the current one, where the river flows out. What has happened is that the river has slowly sunk, or is it that the land has risen up, leaving dry caves up the slope and the wet one down at the base. In the dry caves human evidence has been discovered. Traces of old fire pits and old bones have been found. Yet, the caves of Susmay are just the most well-known caves. The caves that lie on private property may yield findings more interesting to science. A number of people have boasted about caves and the remains that they find in them to me. There is a cave called El Espino that has a legend about it. They say that it is haunted, by a spirit that lives in the cave. If a rooster crows as you enter the cave, you are doomed to die. A lady was telling me about a cave that sits on her property, where they found clay pots, remains of a fire pit and other human evidences. They told others about it, and eventually all the artefacts were stolen or removed from the cave. Her father finds old arrow-heads and throwing lance points on the field every once in a great while. He once found a carved disk that had numerals on it that he claimed to be Mayan. She showed me some of the arrowheads. One was black and made of some type of volcanic rock, about as long as a little finger, and about as wide as a thumb. The other was white, about the width of a hand, and the length of a hand as well. I have a friend in San Pedro whose father has found a number of similar things. I have yet to see the whole collection, but he brought me a heavy carved stone. One side is rounded like a ball, and the other is flat with a series of ridges etched into it. When I visited the caves of Talgua, I saw the same stone, and found out it was used as a measuring weight for indian scales. It is interesting how people think of these ancient artefacts. Some people try to protect them. One guy claims that he knows where a full exposed skeleton of a huge animal like a mammoth lies exposed on the forest floor well inside the national park. He said that he is waiting to meet the right scientists to tell the location of his discovery. Others think they are novelties, and bring them home to sit on their mantle pieces to impress guests. One guy found a fossilized tooth of something like a mammoth. It was about as big as his fist and was flat on top. He brought it home, but it broke while his kids were playing with it. So, he just threw the pieces out like so much more rubbish. I have met a few people like this, who claim that they have fossilized bones, or other artefacts. One guy told me that he went into a cave and found it filled with stalagmites and stalactites that glittered like gold under his flashlight. So, he went home, retrieved a pick-axe and hacked a huge chunk out of one of them to take it home with him. Unfortunately, the thing broke when he was trying to get it out of the cave, but he did not seem to mind, it turned out not to be gold anyway.
12 January 2006 - Just back from a Christmas visit back home in the US.
I am excited about starting off this new year and looking forward
to doing quite a few things differently. Over the holidays I ate
copious amounts of cookies, enjoyed long walks with my parents and
their new dog Barrack, a black, mid-sized lab/Sharpe mix. I took
him walking almost every day while I was home, and my parents say
he misses me already. I enjoyed the time at my home church, and got
to see all the people I really wanted to see. I read two books and
started on a third, one was The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
(heard of him?). My Dad is a fan. The second was The Maker's Diet
by Jordan Rubin (read most of it though I ran out of time to finish
it), and I started on a year's reading of the Bible. So, I figure
with these three books under my belt, finances, health, and
spiritual, I should be a perfect person by next January (don't hold
17 March 2006 - Excerpts from Jason's quarterly report
This year the tree project continues. Last year we had great success. We planted 850 trees of eight species along the roadside, 53 trees in the colegio nuevo, 33 trees in the Stadium, 35 trees in a soccer field called ¨Las Crucitas¨, and some 914 trees in the aldeas. This year, the teachers of Bachillerato, Galileo Duarte, and Davíd Montalvan, would like to protect and care for the trees along the roadside. They have assigned seven trees to each student in second year Bach, ten trees each to the students in third year Bach, and eight trees to all the first year students. The remaining trees are to be cared for by a class from comercio. Each tree has to have its own fence (they all had fences last year, but some have been damaged by the cows, or by people), which needs to be painted, the grass has to be cut, and the trees need to be watered. They are hanging 2-liter bottles full of water above the trees so that the water slowly drips down to water them. I am very pleased with this, because it was all their own initiative. I would like to see another vivero, definitely a smaller one, done this year, but the teachers are in no rush. So, I will wait.
Took Francisco Figuroa to the doctor. He injured his hand badly with a machete about four days before and had not even gone to put in the stitches that it needed. So, I took him to the health center to buy some antibiotics against infection and get them to bandage the thing properly, cost me just 225 L (about 12 dollars.) It is sad, even outrageous, that the poor people can not even get the medical attention they need because the Health Centers in this country are not stocked with medicine for the needy.
I have been rather lax with my description of Gualaco. There was a recent change though. They built a cell tower near Gualaco so that this region now has cellular service. Ben, a Wat-San volunteer also in Gualaco takes it as a victory of private enterprise over state-run programs. Hondutel, the state run ground-line service, even though they started to plan and build before the cell tower idea, has yet to be completed. Ground lines take time to put in, but come on, a full year and a half!
I was in La Venta the other day with Francisco Urbina, my counterpart. A friend of his greeted him on the street and started to relate a health problem she had recently. Apparently, a cockroach crawled into her ear in the night and could not get itself out. She went to length to tell Francisco what a pounding headache she had from the thing, and after a day or so finally could stand it no longer and went to the doctor to get it taken out. That morning, in fact she had a wing of the cockroach fall out of her ear. Her headache was gone, and she was much better. Francisco chided her a little for not coming to him to have him pull the thing out, but she said that she did not want to bother him.
Ben, a Peace Corps Volunteer also in Gualaco, noticed the other
day that the drunks are not disgruntled as they are in the States.
Drunks in general, as long as they don't have guns in their hands,
are tolerated and even fairly accepted in Honduras. The drunks
can wander wherever they want to, sleep wherever, and are pretty
much free to pursue their lives like regular individuals. They
are a content bunch, not the disgruntled, marginally dangerous
people that you would meet in the States. This says a lot for
the Honduran culture. They are a passive people, great for social
integrity but sometimes detrimental to development work.
Another great thing about Hondurans is their acceptance of physical defects and mental retardation. They let people be, treat them like normal, respected citizens, and let them work if they are able at whatever their capability level. There are very few social programs, nor charity programs among Hondurans, perhaps because it is a third-world country, but perhaps as well because the extended family functions here. Family members care for their own and the extended family actually cares for one another. Also, I think the churches do a rather decent job of caring for their members. This is something that the churches in the States sometimes lack.
9 May 2006
Cultural Differences between Honduras and the United States.
1. Staring In Honduras there is no problem with staring. People in the aldeas are worse than city people, but I think this is just because they have longer attention spans. I tried staring back for a while, but it doesn't work. They have no sense that it would make you uncomfortable. Indeed, guys who like a girl will look at them steadily until the girl notices. It is one way of saying, wow, I am interested in you. It makes sense, if you are curious about something, you look at it.
2. Questions - Questions of all types are accepted here. If
someone is curious, they ask, which is only logical.
+ Kids will ask for money to buy candy.
+ Adults will ask for things from the States that perhaps they can't get here.
+ Money is a wide open topic of discussion here. Most times people are curious how much you make, or how much items in your possesion cost you. Example: That is a nice hat. How much did it cost you? Where did you buy it?
Personal questions: Your personal life is not off limits here. Indeed, there is a whole different concept of personal space, personal life, and privacy here. Poor families of ten live in a one room house. They may divide the house with tarps or grain sacks into rooms, especially to divide the living room and bedroom. The kitchen is often separate from the main house, as are the bathrooms. Note: When you ask for the bathroom here, you are asking for the place where you can bathe yourself. If you would like to ¨use the bathroom¨ you should ask for the latrine. Poor families may have a single spicket for the entire household. So, the entire family may bathe right out in front of the house. Most put up some sort of screen, but some do not. They do not bathe naked, but may bathe in their underwear or in loose clothing.
Other personal questions may not been seen as personal. For example, if you have a girlfriend, Do you have sex with her? If you do not have a girlfriend, Why?, Do you have any children? If not, why? and How many children are you planning on having?
Strange questions- There are several wide spread myths about
people from the States that generate some rather strange questions.
+ Have you already served your mandatory military service? - Assuming there is mandatory military service in the States.
+ Is the race of people that live in the States the same as that of Canada? -Assuming that there is only one race of people in the States, tall and white.
+ Do they grow corn in the States? Beans?, Are there cows? horses? - This is ironic because they are open minded at this point assuming that the States are different from their homes. Yet, tell them that there are no bananas or coffee, and they will be quite surprised.
+ Do women loose their virginity at birth? - The assumption here is that along with circumcision for males, which is widely practiced in the States, females loose their virginity as well.
3. Stereotypes - Your typical Estadounidense - white, rich, tall and promiscuous.
4. Time - Time is not perceived the same here as in the States. It is thought of much the same as people in Mexico think of time. Time is not money here. Time is not a commodity, nor can it be possessed. In fact, most people do not worry about their lives too much, because, like time, life belongs to God, to be given, or taken away.
5. Breast feeding - This goes along with privacy differences. Women who breast feed, do so in public without covering themselves. In fact, I have been with groups of people, where a woman breast feeding may have a perfectly normal conversation with the people around her.
26 June 2006 - excerpts from the quarterly report.
The tree project has been fully turned over to Galileo Duarte, who is doing an excellent job maintaining the trees that we planted last year. What he has done is to divide all the trees along the road between the students in his classes, first through third year bachillerato, and first year comercio. In bachillerato, first year needs to care for eight trees, second year, seven trees and third year ten trees. First year comercio students have to care for two trees each. I have been revising the trees along the road once a month to count how many trees there are of each species. What I am looking for is to keep a record of the death rate for the trees.
On a side note, I have been curious about something. My counterparts in Honduras, even educated folk tell me that trees produce oxygen. This is true. Yet, they say that other countries are cutting their trees, and will soon run out of oxygen. In fact, some countries have a shortage of oxygen and people are actually selling oxygen on the streets. They say that if Honduras does not cut its trees, they will soon make a business of selling oxygen to other countries. Now, I have heard of oxygen being sold in Mexico City because of the rampant pollution there, but I have do not think they will run out anytime soon.
On March 23rd, I went over to a guy's house who said that he had found something ancient that he wanted to show me. What he had was a mask made of a green stone about the size of an open palm. It was about three quarters of an inch thick, made of pure green stone, and carved to resemble a face complete with eyes, nose, mouth, chin and ears. The cheeks were carved with a figure that looked like the head of a cat, much like a Mayan figure. It was an impressive artefact. I have heard that the there were no Mayan Indians in the eastern part of Honduras. I have also heard that the Lenca Indians copied a lot of Mayan art. I have also heard that there were mostly Payan and Pesch Indians living here, and not so many Lenca. So, I don't know what kind of group made the piece, but it was impressive. I have never been that close to a real artefact.
The guy found the mask when he was digging the foundation of a new house he was building on the property. The face has a chunk taken out of it where the pick axe struck it while he was digging. He found it about two feet down in the ground, lying face up on top of a smaller mask about the size of an egg, but flat. The smaller mask looked to be made of clay, but was the same design as the larger one. Maybe man and woman? I asked if he found anything else around the spot, but he said no. He said he looked around, but how much looking can you do in a foundation hole, which is about a foot wide and two foot deep? A house is now built over the spot.
I was talking with a development worker with a project called PROLEÑA that builds firewood economical wood burning stoves. She said that when she went to La Mosquitia, the people there had the development workers wrapped around their fingers. They not only wanted the stove materials for free, but they wanted to be paid to build them. They refused to build the things if they were not paid for the privilege. Apparently the people have been treating development workers like that for a while. People would build a house for them, and then the Mosquito's would demand a payment to move into the house. The worker said that the people they trained to build the stoves were charging their fellow men some 1500 Lempiras to build the stoves for others in the community. Here in Olancho, people are charged 500 Lempiras for the transportation and labor of building the same stove. I am not sure what the root problem is, but the Mosquito's are not cooperating much with stranger's attempts to ¨develop¨ them.
1 August 2006
I went to a little tiny village this last week that has only some forty two houses. There is a new road that was just put in to a neighboring village, but it has not yet been made of a quality for vehicle access yet. From the nearest village with vehicle access, it is a three and a half hour horse ride to get there. I went with a friend of mine and his mother. I came to give a friend of mine a kerosene lamp that my mom had brought to me when she came to visit during the first week of June. The guy that I delivered the lamp to was so happy. He is an interesting character. He has cows, so I always get fresh cheese and sour cream when I go to his house, which I enjoy immensely. They have a lot of sugar cane as well, so I got to drink freshly pressed sugar cane juice, and drink something called ¨chicha¨, a type of home brew alcoholic drink made of pineapple and boiled down sugar cane juice, which they call honey. He was so pleased by me, that by the end of my four day visit, he gave me permission to marry his oldest daughter, who is studying in the colegio, the high school in Gualaco. I have visited the village three times before, and have visited his house each time, but I was still surprised by his offer. I don't even know his daughter, who is only 17 or eighteen years old, but my friend who came with me tells me that she is a quality girl. Their family just got a new baby parrot. This is not special in itself, but it is the only parrot I have ever seen that drinks coffee every morning from its own tiny little glass cup.
Another family in the community has been advising me to marry a girl named Luz (light). She just turned fifteen last week, and her mother told me that she would be delighted if I were to marry her. Luz lives in Gualaco for now, looking for a small job to earn some extra money.
The guy I came with has already graduated from High School, and is looking for a girl. We went visiting around town looking for candidates. He found someone, but his mother actually rejected me as a potential suitor, saying that I should marry another lady in the community. I was quite surprised, having already received two marriage opportunities, to be rejected by the third.
Anyway, while we were there I got to see what I expect to be my first and last machete fight. Get this. A guy in the community married a girl from a little village some hours away and brought her back to live with him in his parents' house. This is not uncommon in Honduras. One day, he came home to find his wife with another man. He, as well as the family was outraged. His wife, ashamed and possibly afraid as well, left in the middle of the night and walked to La Boca, a four hour walk away. Her husband left the next day to bring her back. All this happened while I was there. He brought her back to his parents' house, but his father was not happy. He gets drunk from time to time. He came home at about two in the afternoon raging drunk and tried to kill or injure his son with a machete. They fought in plain daylight in front of the house. Fortunately, no one was injured. The girl took off into the forest, and the drunken father-in-law chased after her. I left the next day, so I don't know what happened next, but it is quite the story. I believe that the father-in-law did not find the girl, but who knows what will bring peace to the household. Olancho is famous for things like this happening, but it was until this week that I saw my first and possibly last, machete fight.
I got to try an animal called a Watusa. I believe that it is in the rodent family. It looked like a brown, furry, tailless beaver. It had buck teeth. I am not sure to what I can compare the meat. It reminded me a little of the bear that I tried in Houghton one time. I got to drink plenty of freshly pressed sugar cane juice, which I am rather fond of, and plenty of good coffee, grown and harvested in Planes. They sweeten the coffee with boiled down sugar cane juice, which is sort of a molasses consistency. I like it. I still laugh when I think of the parrot drinking coffee from its own tiny little cup. It is just one more of those little things that adds to life.
22 September 2006
My radio program continues, with several additions. I get enough calls now that I seldom get to select the music. I have a segment where I play different classes of music, to introduce the variety of music that there is in the States to Gualaco. I play one song a week of a different type, like jazz, rock, blues, country, etc. Another segment is to speak in English for a couple minutes. People seem to like it. I always say in general what I will say, but do not translate directly.
I was talking with a young attractive girl the other day. She told me that she doesn't like guys who are big and muscular. She liked guys who were more like me, you know, more fragile. I tried to explain that guys like to think of themselves as strong and tough; that fragile was not quite the compliment I was looking for.
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