Monday, April 5, 2010

Moving along in Honduras

Hello Everyone!!
I apologize for not writing for forever and a year, but things have been busy and I have not been thinking too much about the blog-I apologize. Things are moving right along this year as school has started, along with many projects that come with it.
As for an update on the political situation in Honduras, everything seems pretty "tranquilo" or calm. As many might know, there were protests when the new president Pepe Lobo was elected and sworn-in in January, but since then things have been better. Ex-president Zelaya is now hanging out in the DR-rumors say. One of the main things that has changed is the teacher strikes. Last year it was definitely an issue-not all teachers were getting paid, and caused many children to lose school days. I can happily say that there has not been one teacher strike so far this year, yay!! God only knows how much we need each and every day of school here in Honduras.
As for the work I am doing in the community this year, it is very similar to last year. Lots of teacher English classes and working in the elementary schools. I am focusing on literacy in the schools-there are many 3rd and 4th graders who can not read, and are not getting the special attention they need to be able to learn. I go to each school at least 2 times a week, trying to make a difference in the education of these children.
Also, after many requests from community members, I was finally able to set up a computer course for teachers with the help of a fellow volunteer. Those who know me well know that isn't my speciality, so the help from my work partner is very much appreciated.
I am still working on creating a Coaching Baseball in Honduras manual-so if anyone has any ideas or drills they think could be helpful, I'll be happy to take them!
Currently I am working towards starting up a sex-ed 4 week course for my high school students-teen or pre-teen pregnancy is an issue in my site. We are hoping to talk about the stigmas of bisexuality, being gay, and other community perceptions of getting pregnant while teaching the realities of STIs and protection.
I plan on starting up my leadership program with the high school as well, though the issue I run into is getting a community member to do this project with me. I feel that I did too many projects alone last year, and to make a project more worth while, I need to do it with someone who can continue it when I leave. This becomes an issue with many projects-and thus is one of my main goals this year.
As for what is specifically going on in Honduras, nothing super exciting-which is probably all for the best, considering we had enough of it last year. One issue Honduras is having though is the lack of water. Rainy season wasn't all that rainy-and thus citys like Tegucigalpa don't always have water (I also know of some volunteers who are taking showers with essentially bottled water because their town hasn't had water for 2 weeks). Hopefully, the dry season isn't extremely dry-maybe I should do a rain dance!
I still have to deal with piropos, or "cat calls," though they are less frequent now that I my boyfriend has moved to my site- At the moment my favorite one is "I love you gringita, give me you eyes!"
Best thing about my site at the moment: I have a beautiful river that goes along the outside of my town that I can go swimming in.
Worst thing about my site at the moment: It is super dusty due to no rain, so going running usually consists of an unhealthy intake of dust.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Al Mundial!

I just had a very memorable, crazy time in Tegucigalpa (the capital city) last night. I happened to be in the capital for our yearly physical exams the same time Honduras was playing against El Salvador in their final attempt to go to the World Cup. A group of around 10 friends and I went to a restaurant and watched the Honduras/El Salvador game as the Costa Rica/USA game was going on at the same time. In order for Honduras to qualify to go to the World Cup, the USA would have had to beat or tie Costa Rica (because Honduras lost against the US last Saturday 3-2), and Honduras had to win against El Salvador.
The tension was crazy in the restaurant as Honduras was winning 1-0 with 2 minutes left in the 45 minute half. It was hard to find someone who knew what was going on with the USA/Costa Rica game-the last time I had checked the US was down 2-1...then, as the Honduras game came to an end, the restaurant exploded with the sounds of screams, chants, noise makers, and people crying. Apparently, the US had scored off a corner kick in the over-time minutes to tie the game. Honduras had qualified and was going to go to the World Cup in South Africa 2010.
So as the restaurant exploded in chaos, storms of people rushed out of the resturant and other surrounding buildings into the street. Thousands of people were all of a sudden in their cars, on motocycles, and running/dancing in the middle of the streets--horns were honking, people were screaming into their cell phones, others were hugging anyone with open arms. Beds of trucks were over-filled with people waving flags, wearing their Honduras Selecion uniform shirts. Others were hanging out of windows of cars or jumping on the hood of cars as they made their way down the street through the swarms of people. Chants of HON-DUR-AS held as the heartbeat of the crowds of people that walked down the street in a sort of parade-type assembly. My friends and I became a source of attention as many of us looked very much like "gringos," and were given many "thanks yous" because the US won their game against Costa Rica. We gave a lot of high-fives (which was interesting because it's not very common in the Honduran culture) and some of the more friendly-feeling of us gave out a lot of hugs. The excitement was contagous as we walked down the street trying to avoid getting hit by cars and motocycles. We heard fireworks as our phones went off with congradulations and ecstatic messages from friends back in our communities and around Honduras. I passed the rest of the night dancing with my friends and taking in the amazing experience that I know I could never forget. I have to say that it was 10 times the experience I had on Lawrence's Mass Street with KU won the NCAA national tournament in 2008.

Viva Honduras y La Selecion!

For those who would be interested, Honduras has not been to a World Cup since 1982.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Turtle Eggs

Hello everyone! Life in site is going well. Hot as always, but usually a storm in the afternoon to cool things down. Projects are going great, especially the library projects in the two elementary schools. Right now the teachers and students are rallying together to raise money for the transportation of books to Victoria from the United States. A number of friends and acquaintances have donated books to these schools. I´ve been able to get some back to Victoria already, but there´s another load to be taken. The kids and teachers are very excited about the help their school is receiving, and are very much willing to do whatever they can to help. We have received a good number of books so far, but I am hoping to get even more into the two schools-if anyone knows anyone that would be willing to help out and collaborate with this project, please let me know!!
Besides working, I was able to get away a couple weekends ago to Danhli and El Paraiso, El Paraiso (Paradise, Paradise—who wouldn´t want to go there?!?). I got to see a great PC friend down in El Paraiso and help out with her baseball team as well as make it to the infamous Corn Festival that´s held once a year in Danhli. That was an awesome experience. There were shops set up everywhere selling anything from bras and underwear to ice cream and corn on the cob. There were parades, shows put on by the Japonese volunteers, car races, and bull riding! I had the pleasure of going to see the bull riding with my friends, and it was great. Definitely different than in the states, it´s a little slower paced, the clown is a little more aggressive (it tackled a bull and made it smoke out of its nose), and instead of people walking around selling hotdogs and hamburgers, vendors were selling turtle eggs (expensive but heard they are good) and nail files. I have to say that I was really craving a fat, juicy hotdog, but the experience was priceless.
On the way there and the way back we had to push ourselves through the crowds, one of my friends almost getting pick-pocketed in the process. There were so many people there, but with good reason because it was the night of the carnival-when they block off about 6 streets and put a live band and/or Go-Go dancers at the end of each street. We had a blast dancing in the streets (even though I wimped out after a few hours and had to go back home to change out my heels). We all definitely had our share of corn that day as well. There were pupusas (corn tortillas filled with cheese and sausage), elote loco (crazy corn, or corn on the cob with mayonnaise, ketchup, and cheese), atol (a sweet corn drink), fritas (a fried corn pastry), tamales (a corn mix filled with vegetables, meat, and sometimes rice, then put in a corn husk and cooked), and many other foods that I can´t think of at the moment. Needless to say, we had our week´s worth of corn intake that day. I would definitely recommend it for anyone wanting a taste of the Honduran culture.

Some cultural insights to my site-since they are so normal to me now that I forget they might be intriguing to others:
-There are not many cars in my site, most people take the bus, bicycle or a motorcycle.
-If you´re seen talking and smiling to the same guy or girl twice, many people think you are novios (boyfriend/girlfriend).—maybe that happens in small-town America too, huh? (It´s happened to me here already)
-The electricity likes to go out every now and then. Sometimes for a few hours, other times for a couple days.
-When it rains a lot, the water contaminates the water in the pipes so if I try to brush my teeth or take a shower, it´s with brown water or no water at all.
-The Spanish in my site can be difficult to understand-in smaller towns words start to get clipped and squished together with other words.
-Music is a big part of the lives of many people-I would say more than I have experienced in the States. There is always music playing, and a lot of the time people are watching music videos on TV.
-The 15th of September (Independence Day) is coming up, and so recently school days have been committed to preparing for this (this year it could be marching in the parade or only preparing for a cultural event/night).
-People (mostly kids) walk around the streets of Victoria selling things that their families have prepared in the house whether that´s cheese (we make our own cheese here), bread, or perfumes.
-Many people are very proud of the beauty of the land in which they live, and love to have discussions on which towns or villages are the prettiest or the coolest (usually they are about 5-10 minutes drive away).

Let me know if you liked the cultural insights and I´ll keep doing it!

Paz y amor,


Friday, July 31, 2009

Sigue Adelante

Things have been very “tranquilo” or calm in Victoria the past month. I haven’t experienced any earthquakes (like the 7.3 a few months ago) nor have I experienced the aftermath of a shoot out lately-which is very comforting. Honduras only just kicked out their president, so besides some strong and not so strong opinions, nothing crazy has happened in my site. I do have to say though that for me the worst consequence of the political mess is how it affects the children here. The kids in my site were lucky with only missing about 2 ½ weeks of school due to teacher strikes (the teacher’s way of protesting the Zelaya/Michelletti swap), while others were out for longer and now only have school 3 days a week (half-days 7:30-12, common for schools in Honduras). I wish the teachers would find another way to protest-taking away the education of an already disadvantaged child could not hold a positive outcome. Some students in my high school STILL have not had certain classes due to the teacher’s refusal to have class. I am praying that everything settles quickly and is not drawn out another month. Si Dios quiere...
Well I apparently thought that I did not have enough work so I started three more projects this past week. Another TEAM or English (level 2) class, a project called Yo Merezco (“I deserve”-with a sexual education, self-esteem, morals/values building, etc emphasis for young girls (6th grade)), and a literacy/creativity/self-esteem/writing project (still looking for a worthy name) within the libraries of both of the elementary schools. This library project is connected with the one I am still working on-only now I am trying to get books donated to both elementary school libraries. I didn’t know that the other elementary school even had a library-there’s not much to it. However, I would like to say THANK YOU!!! to the wonderful people who have donated books already, the kids were so excited when I told them I had story books for them. With the help of my site-mate, I plan on using the books in the literacy/creativity/self-esteem/writing project throughout this school year and during the next as well. We could use a lot more books to fill up the shelves in the library if others are still interested!
I feel very comfortable in my site nowadays. Walking down the street I am always hearing “Adios Sarita!” and I get invites to visit people frequently. I was just talking to my site-mate today about how different it is for us (volunteers) that Hondurans spend so much time chatting with their family and friends. It’s hardly uncommon for people to chat for a few hours at a time drinking cafe. Not that people don’t visit and chat with friends and family in the States, but it’s definitely not nearly as common. Life is so much more relaxed, and it makes me question my go-go-go attitude I had in the States.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting rollin'

I am really starting to feel integrated in my community-I have a great relationship with my host family, I have some great friends, people know where to find me (where I live and work), and I get occasional visits from the neighborhood kids and my baseball kids. Not to mention the 7 am house calls from high school kids that want help with their English homework. :)
Projects are up and running while more are getting ready to start. I just got back from a training in a town called Zamorano just south of Tegucigalpa. I learned about an awesome program called Yo Merezco, which is a sort of abstence/sex education program for 5th and 6th girls. I'll be starting that project along with another (Business Fundamentals) that teaches skills of saving and starting/running a business also with 6th graders in the elementary schools. I have two elementary schools, Jose Miguel Valdez and Florencio G. Molina in which I will be doing these projects. Joven a Joven is another project geared towards high schoolers that helps prepare them for life after they graduate-for example teaching them how to write a resume or aiding them with deciding what to study in college if they choose to go. My counterpart and I plan on starting that project within the next couple of months. Besides these hands-on projects I am also going to start working on a baseball manuel that incorporates life-skill trainings. This will eventually be taught in what Peace Corps calls a TOT or Training of Trainers in which I, with another volunteer, will hold a 4-5 day training on the manuel. This is part of a job that I am inhereting from volunteer that will be leaving soon. In September I will be the new Peace Corps Volunteer Coordinator of the baseball league that works with the Honduras Baseball Federation. I will be in charge of organizing/supporting/providing trainings to approximately 25 teams around Honduras that have a Peace Corps volunteer. I'm very excited to have this responsibility.
As for what I am currently doing, it is not far from what I thought I would be doing when I came to my site. I still travel to a surrounding villages to give trainings or talks about domestic violence to our women's group (which still consistes of women throughout our municipality and has started to include men as well). In addition to helping the Women's Office in the municipality with this project I am also supporting them with a project called La Red Departamental where we go to different places in the department of Yoro to give trainings to other coordinators of the Women's Office so that they have the skills to start the women's groups we have formed in Victoria. I have started giving English classes to elementary school teachers (TEAM 1 and 2 or Level 1 and 2) and will have that project until September. As a baseball team we are on break, but we just started a baseball team garden, so I will still be working with my players while we're breaking from baseball. Another interesting project that I've been working on is the Colgate Dental Program. I work with a dentist from Victoria and we travel to a far-away small village to give talks about dental hygiene and work on the teeth of the students (grades k-6 about 200 students). I of course can not do any dental work on the children but I did help floride some of the kids last time we went. BTW I didn't know this, but you shouldn't wet your brush before you use it to brush or teeth!

I am still popping my head in the high school about once a week to work with the seniors on a leadership program I conjured up- hopefully some of the classes will be helping me with projects around the community soon. Good news about scholarships! I have been working with 3 different "kids" or high school graduates applying for a scholarship to study in the United States (a very competitive scholarship) and one has been selected! We'll all very proud of her and excited for all the great things she has yet to experience.

Lastly, I have been working to try to build up the library in one of the elementary schools in my village. It hardly has any readible story books but plently of reference books- too bad the reference books do not really attract the children in the schools. I have therefore, after trying to have a Reading Club without many books, been trying to get story books into Victoria. I applied for a donation through one organization from the United States, and they gave me great books, but only 30 pounds worth (their agency's limit). I am now on a mission to get more. With the books to fill the library I know it will open the door for children to get interested in reading and expanding their worlds. I plan on having different Reading Clubs (with the help of my high school seniors), specific talks or clases on analizing stories and creativity, plus going into the poorest parts of my community and others near it to read to the children who can't afford to go to school, nonetheless have a book to read. For those who are unaware, Honduras has the lowest reading and language scores of all of Central America and the department of Yoro (where Victoria is) has the lowest scores of Honduras. There is a great need.

A better reading and language program in Victoria can only be possible if there are books to read, and the children cannot improve their scores and knowledge without a program that addresses the issue at hand. To try to improve the school, I have created a wish list on under the name "Victoria Children's Library." If you would like to help and donate a book or two, it would greatly appreciated. I am having the books sent to my house so that I may take them back with me (at a cheaper rate) when I return to Honduras after visiting the U.S.

Well, it's getting ready to rain here in Tegucigalpa so I should wrap this up. I'll be updating my blog soon, but meanwhile if anyone has any specific questions on what's going on in my community or my Peace Corps experience let me know.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life in Victoria

Top-the street that I live off of and walk down everyday. Above-this is what I see when I walk out of my house-a horse and a cantina. Then the police office and my aunt's house.

Pictures of Victoria-the left is on a road going towards the municipalidad and the central park.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Oh, Nicaragua

I took my first official vacation in February with my two friends Sara and Melissa. We decided to backpack across the border and go to León, Granada, and the island of Ometepe. With a general sense of where we wanted to go, we met so many awesome people and got to know the backpacking culture a little bit. We met people from England, Canada, Germany, the States, Beligum, other parts of Europe, and tons of people from Israel. We even got to know the PC volunteer on the island of Ometepe (man, did he luck out to get to live on an island). We met some wonderful people that for me have made an impression that will last a lifetime.
In León we did what I consider the best part of the trip. We went volcano boarding on the volcano Cierro Negro. The volcano had last erupted in 1992 and was still very much active. Historically it had erupted every 10 years, so it is definitely due for some action. Like the name says, it´s completely covered in black rock, lava rock-which makes it one of the most beautiful things in nature I have ever seen. It was also one of the hardest things I have ever climbed (which isn´t saying TOO much coming from a Kansas girl), but none the less it wasn´t easy trying to haul a wooden board up a volcano with small rocks that sank with each step. Of course it was gorgeous by the time we got to the top—we could see for miles and miles. However, my previous balsy decision to take a “fast board” was regretted when I saw where we were supposed to slide down. No one wanted to switch with me either. So, after watching one guy go down the volcano standing on his board, I decided that I´d just have to suck it up going down on my butt. After the explanation on how to sit on the board, where to put my hands, and how to break, I decided that I wanted to start out breaking. The guide looked at me funny, but it´s a good thing I did because I think I had the fastest of the fast boards. Before I knew it I was going so fast that my breaks weren´t working anymore! I had to really dig into the rock (throwing it in my eyes and mouth) to slow down so that I wouldn´t die (maybe not really die, but that´s what I was thinking). Turns out that I made it alive and was totally ready to do it again-maybe some day. Melissa made it alright, as well as our newly-made friends, and then we were all watching my friend Sara go down. She was going so fast that we were cheering like crazy for her—until she wiped out. Everything was going fine until her board went sideways and she went rolling down the volcano. Complete silence--I was sure that we were going to be going to the hospital--and then she stood up and started laughing. None of us could stop laughing after that, and I will never let her live that down.
Granada was a completely different atmosphere than León. There were a lot more tourists and a lot more opportunities to spend your money. We decided to spend our money on a hike on another volcano and a zip-lining tour. We got to see quite a bit of beautiful flowers (including the 2nd largest orchid in the world), some little critters, and even the gas holes in the side of the volcano. I´ve been zip-lining before in Costa Rica, so it wasn´t completely new, but I had never done the monkey or the superman while strapped to a cable hundreds of yards above the ground. It definitely was a rush and what better than to do with my friends. I got to try salsa dancing that night too-that´s one dance here in Honduras that I don´t have down yet (not many people in my town dance salsa). It was a great night, normally gringas don´t have a hard time finding a willing Latino to teach them how to dance, so I picked up some moves.
The island of Ometepe was a totally different experience as well. It was a lot more tranquil and relaxing. It is also where I think I got the 2nd to worst burn in my life. What joy that was-and I still think that I am recuperating from it. Don´t worry, I had SPF 45, I´m just very white and didn´t reapply it enough—not to mention that I forgot I was taking medication that makes my skin more sensitive to sunlight (also forgot I was so close to the equator…opps).
In all, the trip went very well. We made it back alright and in one piece. We even survived the guys that jump on you at the border (people love to try and take advantage of foreigners who don´t know exactly what they are doing). It was a great experience that I couldn´t ever forget.