In March, 2001,
Friends--it picks up but slowly. This week a lady who comes by tennis once in awhile gave me two names of newly arrived single ladies my age looking for work. So I met each and liked one. Actually the latter has got me all excited about applying for the Peace Corps, something I've been thinking about for years. She's just back from Jordon of all places and was very encouraging. So we'll see what happens.
I had actually thought about the Peace Corps for the first
time the previous year when my daughter,
So while still in
Was I crazy? My license plate in
Can I just say that you are by far one of the coolest women I have ever known. I can not believe that you are going to be going to the peace corps! I am so proud of you for being the socially conscience women that you are. I am always so proud to tell the people I meet here about you..."Yes my mother will be going into the peace corps this summer, it is her way of giving back to the world..." I just want you to know that you are the kind of women that Barnard strives to form. You are the kind of women that many girls here only dream their mother could be like. Here at Barnard we are called "strong independent women...making a difference in the world.." Well mother, you are the epitome of all of Barnard stands for, and I am proud to have you as a mother. I just remember when I was younger being so embarrassed of you because you were not those "perfect Presentation mothers" with their silk suits and expensive shoes. Well, you are still not those mothers, you are better than that--you are the strong independent women that I only hope to some day be like....I love you…thank you.
occurred during this time, but the country hadn’t really had a chance to adjust. The big changes to our collective psyche didn’t begin to sink in until I was gone. I heard later that the attack spurred a big increase in Peace Corps applications. Nevertheless, by the end of September I was actively into the application process. It was complicated; I needed references and even letters. I’d led a full and active life that included two marriages. The Peace Corps application process meant that I had to find all sorts of documents that were filed “somewhere.” I think I also needed to list all the places I’d lived—for the legal investigation. Of course I had to write essays explaining why I wanted to do this, why I thought I could do this—but that was the easy part of the application!
Hope all's well with you guys. I'm filling out an application for Peace Corps and want to put you down as 'past work supervisor,' OK?? Can I have your current office address/phone number??
Say, I'm applying for the Peace Corps!! How about that! So, I need to provide someone at Intel they can call to, I am told, verify that I was there those 8 years. Any ideas? I can have my brother (did you know he works there now??) see if Peter Klauer is still there, but I can't even remember my last supervisor's name.
are things? I heard from John about the mix up--he was taking off for
filling out an application for Peace Corps!! Who knows, maybe this could be
interesting. I've been thinking about it for years, and yesterday met a woman
my age just back for Peace Corps in
Guess what? I'm applying to the Peace Corps!!! Can you please give me George's email, etc. for the forms?
awaiting 2 more confirmations on phone numbers and then I will send that Peace
Corps application off and get back to living. I plan to ignore it and see what
happens. I'm only concerned about the health questionnaire, really. Let's see
if they reject me outright or at least ASK me for details re the question
"Did you ever attempt suicide?" I mean, shit, it WAS almost 40 years
ago. So, I will put it out of my mind... Oh, one more interesting tidbit: my
friend mentioned that I would have to produce my divorce decrees so I went
searching in my papers. When I got divorced the first time I was REALLY nutsy--either that or incredibly stupid. Cause
what I found was an Interlocutory Decree not a final. Jesus, hope the idiot
lawyer got me a final or... So I was on the phone today--lawyer doesn't exist
anymore--sent a request to the
Thanks, Ken! Apparently there will be forms (some day) for you to fill out and return within 7 days--but I hear this entire application process takes 12-18 MONTHS. Anyway, I won't know what I would be doing until after they accept me, IF they accept me. Thanks for your support.
so glad to hear from you!! I am still in
I play tennis and bridge. I applied to the Peace Corps--who knows, they might
even send me to
I am helping my daughter fill out her applications for university. This takes a lot of time, too. And I am typing my mother's diaries and letters and my youthful diaries--my sister insists that our future generations will want this.
So is your new business still fiber optics?
I had been to
Apparently it took Peace Corps headquarters a couple of
months to decide I looked good so far. So the next step was an official
interview. The Peace Corps office nearest to
Peace Corps interview went great; girl said she was recommending me. Now just have to wait for the med part. Wait, wait, wait. She said probably June-ish just like my friend said
A month later:
Got a letter from the Peace Corps. Your letter must have been great--they recommended me. Now I have to do the medical stuff ASAP which is turning out to be a pain.
Also the Peace Corps is moving forward. I was officially recommended so all that remains is the medical stuff. May be sending you a postcard from the ends of the earth soon!! Next is a trip back to LA for a physical. Don't know when yet.
Having no financial or legal problems in my past, Medical, especially my history of psychiatric counseling, would end up being my big hurdle. It started on January 14:
Also in the mail from the Peace Corps is paperwork they want filled out by the doctors who hospitalized me 35 yrs ago and the dr. who prescribed Prozac. Then... well I HAVEN'T had a nervous breakdown and we managed to survive so far. I'll call and tell you the rest and, who knows, maybe some will be resolved this morning.
Yeah, Peace Corps. I asked for
Doctors from 35
years ago? You’ve got to be kidding. Even the psychiatrist I hadn’t seen
in 20 years had retired, so I had no “evidence,” no diagnosis or completed
treatment plan to provide. Peace Corps decided they wanted me to get a minimum
three-session psychiatric “evaluation.” This was difficult to put together
because most psychiatrists aren’t interested in a three-visit patient. Happily,
I eventually found a psychiatrist-in-training at the
So another month passed:
Nothing new on the Peace Corps. Currently doing psyc review to see if I will fall apart in the boonies.
And another month later:
Corps: I've asked for
Nothing new here. Finished my psych evaluation for the Peace Corps so expect the medial/dental paperwork to come through any day now.
The Peace Corps is sending out my medical packet today (I called them), so next week I can start my physicals, and, who knows, might be outahere in a month or two. Which reminds me: would you be willing to board my cats for two years if I gave you money for food and paid any vet bills, etc.? Please let me know--I'm kind of up against a wall here. They're so old I've thought perhaps I should put them to sleep rather than ask them to adjust to a different person (environments they have adjusted to twice now). But your house is so like mine in that your cats come and go as they please, yes?
I got my medial packet from the Peace Corps yesterday--now I just have to do the physical/dental and I'm outahere!! Starting to get excited but it will probably be several more months.
Just got home from going to
Peace Corps had told me that I could get my physicals performed for free at any VA hospital, so I shopped around for one. A March 21 email mentions a possibility. And I was already planning the rental of my house:
My realtor says Southwest decor is popular in rentals so I picked up about $100 worth of trinkets to help decorate my house as I remove personal items and photos. Around here houses go for up to $2500 a month in the winter months, then maybe $8-900 a month for year round. Wierd huh? However, unlike rentals I'M used to, one can leave there personal stuff in the garage. The realtor said because I have a 2-car garage, I can even leave my CAR!! She said she'd come around once in awhile to start it for me.
sister got me an appointment for the Peace Corps physicals at the Veteran's
Happily, I located a VA in
Hi--All's well. Starting Peace Corps physicals tomorrow so now you'll probably have to wait two years for your roses!! Anyway, glad life’s busy for you!
The Peace Corps is incredibly careful and cautious about insuring that future volunteers have no medical conditions that they will be unable to support in the field. Therefore, given the bureaucracy involved, the process can seem interminable! Getting through the application process is a test of a future volunteer’s ability to work the system. It is absolutely necessary to follow-up, follow-through, jump through hoops, and bug them, bug them, bug them! My personal delays were caused by health concerns, but I imagine the same goes for legal, financial, or any other parts of the application.
This morning I'm going for my Peace Corps physical, part II. Can hardly wait till this week is over. then I can start bugging them: where, when!!!!!
Merritt, but she had to give me a name in
all's very well. Resolved the Peace Corps med problem very handily--scouted
around and found a Veterans Hospital in Tucson and have completed all the stuff
FREE!!! Today I completed the dental exam and Monday eye test and I'm done. In
about two weeks, the VA will have accumulated everything--all blood tests,
etc.--and will call me in to pick it all up. I will send to
Unitarian services today, Sandy Bogar told me about her daughter’s disastrous
Peace Corps experiences in
I'm compiling lists of stuff to take with me, like which of my CDs, is there something I need to buy? What are my all time favorite movies that I should get on CD, but only those that I would want to watch over and over. My friend Darlene (always negative, bless her heart) says no one can send me anything because it'll get stolen. I said I read too fast so can't possibly TAKE enough books to mean anything. Nevertheless, I suppose I ought to consider some hugely long books. Any suggestions?
had been nominated for the
waited a year for
The best laid plans, etc. When
ordered a ton of books on Amazon.Com again. Starting my
Unitarian church Barbara introduced me to Mary ? who 10 yrs ago was in
new here? Yes, the PC is taking a long time, and actually the longer it takes
the more jaded I become. Not that the PC is forthcoming with information.
Rather my friends, acquaintances, and reading are providing continued confirmation:
this is not going to be a vacation. The latest is that "they don't want
you," and they probably hate you. Ick. Oh well.
From the application end, I'm awaiting medical clearance from the VA in
This Peace Corps application process was like a snowball—once it got rolling, it just kept on rolling. The process was frustrating, yes, but perhaps because I usually finish what I start, I just kept plugging along. And it was sometimes exciting to plan a trek off into the wilderness. I asked for and received advice on electronics from a friend, but I still didn’t know for sure where I was going.
think it won't be long now. Have you a suggestion as to what computer to take
along? And phone? I think I can't be assured of stable electricity but will
know more when I find out the country. But all I'm reading about the
Sounds like you've heard where you will be going?
I'd pick a laptop which has a 12volt cigarette lighter cord available (most) Probably a heavier (sturdier) model, rather than the lightest. Dell, or something from CostCo /Staples? Speed isn't as important as space. Partition the hard drive into 2, and copy files you think are important to both partitions. Get a CD burner, and backup to that (only "My Documents", the rest is wasted space.
Same for Cell phone. Rugged, with a car charger cord (in addition to 110v)
Then you could let the computer charge up all day, and use it for a while daily. The solar charger wouldn't be able to keep up with actual use, but should be enough to recharge for about an hour's use daily?
Of course, most places will have phone and power. One final point. Find out whether there is US or European power, so you get the right charger/adapter.
I hope there's phones. I want to get email from your adventure.
I was reading a lot!
Continuing with my reading on the
Finished at last, finished at last:
are so cool, thanks so much!! Really good news today: medical completed--I am
healthy and ready to go according to the VA. So I FedX'd everything off to
Little did I know that the Peace Corps would now suddenly
realize that I was of an age when all women are supposed to have annual mammograms. Oops, since you can’t get a mammogram in the
I’m REALLY starting to drag with impatience. My diet has
gone all to hell in the past week, and I’m depressed. I’m just very frustrated
at how slowly everything moves. This is not a good sign. My days are just too
empty, but then again the reason I don’t attempt to fill them is because
anything I do will be interrupted. Like volunteering at
Borderlinks. Or taking bridge lessons. I have
always been so quick at anything. Maybe I should go to the library—I did spend
some time on the internet recently, researching, but not knowing which
country…don’t want to spend time learning about the wrong place!! Shouldn’t
matter, but… plus learning about the
Actually Mary Brennan provided a clue to the process, and that is that the med folks “are working on the May” people, but I am a “June” person with an August departure. Now, whether August is real or just 6 weeks after June, I don’t know. These people are so secretive; I wonder if it’s that they have a trillion people to process or that experience has taught them to be circumspect… oh well. So I guess that I could possible be waiting another 2 months, til the end of June, before I hear anything. C’est la vie. Question is: should I begin a bit of Spanish study? Wouldn’t hurt, but then again… I guess I’ll focus on getting the house ready and the cats placed. One good thing: apparently I’ll have no concerns about being here through July so I’ll be able to take care of Gina’s tuition/financial aid for next semester.
HI- I know you called this morning...things are very hectic around here, but you are clear and ready for your invite, so Congrats! I may need you to brush up on your Spanish. How is your Spanish? Would you be willing to do an over the phone language test in Spanish?
There was no way I could pass a Spanish test! Sure, I had
lived all my life in
Stressing out over the Spanish test. Everyone’s trying to reassure me, and I’m trying to get my head in shape. Started an online Spanish course for review. Bob wants me to spend time at his house, but I feel intense pressure to get home and get going on some program.
Deedee, the sweetheart, took cassettes out of the library for me to listen to on the way home.
Drove home from Bob’s. Very tired but listened to Spanish tapes all the way, well most of the way. No more radio except Spanish. Can’t understand a thing. The Berlitz tapes are great; wish there were more. The Living Language tapes are too difficult for now.
Just to let you know that they told
me I could go to
Email from Darlene
Congratulations! I knew you would receive that packet sooner or later. Now it is official. You are on your way....Darlene
Though the "Dress Code" states that "...shorts and sandals
are unacceptable..." perhaps, given the injunction to blend in, grass
skirts (if they're long enough perhaps?) will fly.
I'll check with the "Honduras Desk" in
Well, finally the day is coming,
and the Peace Corps will be sending me to
Thanks for your help!
Busy day. The PC packet is so confusing I haven’t started reading it yet. Contains a country handbook and PC handbook plus some tabs for resume and stuff. Actually, what is confusing is the instructions for getting passports. Need to call them cause, claro, I already have one.
over the language thing. Feeling like the more I learn the more I don’t
know (sounds familiar!!!). Took a long nap and feel better. Change
of pace—read the
I don’t know how it’s going to work out with Dora as tutor. Didn’t like her class this morning. Too disorganized. Will see how tutoring goes tomorrow morning.
I ended up using every option I could think of to improve my
Spanish. I used a tutor, took a conversation class in
Feeling better about the Spanish—don’t know way. Maybe cause I can understand so much more. Listening to the radio the other day on the way somewhere and I understood the question that the disk jockey was asking the audience to call in to answer. Also, went to Manual’s for lunch yesterday (to try to get one of the waitresses to play tutor), and successfully ordered lunch in Spanish. Also found out that Rona Chumbock used to teach Spanish. She will play singles with me 2 days next week and afterwards will speak Spanish to me—well, on the phone arranged this totally in Spanish. Also beginning to sometimes think and hear Spanish. Bueno!!
Feeling very wired, and it’s
getting in the way. For example, the night before last, I was not able to sleep
even a single hour!! And then had to get up and play singles with Rona!!!
Actually did very well, too. We were even 5/5. Talking Spanish with her is
great—probably because she is a former teacher. She gave me time again today
after tennis, and we will play again (singles) next Tuesday. Like others, she
can’t believe I’ve only been doing this a month.
had last meeting with the tutor—a waste of time but at least it was some talk.
Tomorrow I will meet with Maria at —will
ask her to lunch!! Remembered (can’t believe I forgot) that my neighbors across
the street stay in
Then, too, accosted Scott on the tennis court (the man I played with some months back who recommended the “Destinos” tapes). Anyway, he brought me home to talk with his “wife” Denise who barely speaks English. We had a lovely 1-1/2 hours. Unfortunately, when I called yesterday their was no answer—and I have a Spanish magazine of hers! Well, will try again. Soooo—I seem to have several opportunities to speak Spanish. Finished Pimsleur’s Spanish II this afternoon and went to the library for Spanish III. The Conversation class is over also; Tuesday we will have an oral “exam.”
Bob bought (for me with my money) a lap top for $700+. Now it just has to arrive and get software on it. Of course it goes to HIS house. He and Linda are supposed to come out here next week and then the following week we will all drive back together, taking the cats along.
So—the staging packet arrived, and I’ve started to do all the paperwork. Lots of loose ends.
Just got of the phone with the Spanish test lady--she said I did really well (she lied!!), but I guess it's official now. I'll be leaving here next week, and God knows when you'll hear from me again, so be patient.
The Peace Corps experience in
Well, here I am completing my 2nd day in
All but three of the other volunteers are in their early 20’s. Two are in their mid 30’s and one is even older than me!! She’s 66 and retired. So—there’s very little work experience involved here!!
Some of us were extremely stressed over baggage issues—I
sure was. American Airlines had told me on the telephone that I could have 2
personal items to carry on board, but when I tried to change planes in
The flight to
Debarking was again incredibly efficient. The Peace Corps
The weather was on the cool side, very comfortable. Again,
everyone was saying it was due to the season and not typical of
I was placed with a youngish woman, Sonia Perez. Her husband
(I learned later) is working in
This morning, after ANOTHER night of little sleep (guess I am mucho stressed!!), I was feeling very fragile, ready to cry any second. Didn’t help that we were going to have a language evaluation. You know, you can TELL yourself that it’s only a placement thing, but you still feel stressed. Everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is stressed over the language thing. And there are kids here with ZERO Spanish! (And I thought I was low…) Also found another person—in my own project, economic development—who had had to pass a telephone Spanish test. I think they must have wanted a bit more from us econ folks. Anyway, considering how much I’ve been speaking, I’m not really worried. Everyone says that many people have come here in the past with ZERO Spanish and left with enough facility to do their job. Anyway, after the test and after meeting with my project folks, I began to relax and now feel pretty much ok.
On the way home I asked someone to show me the internet café—we have one in our town—which is Valle de Angeles (valley to valley!!) Anyway, so I separated from my compadres, and got very lost finding my way home. A bit scary, as dusk approached. Plus it was an uphill walk!! However, eventually I actually asked a passerby for directions, and he guided me to the correct road.
So there we are. I am writing this on the battery because the electrical outlet here cannot accommodate my 3-prong cord. Hope I can find something soon. Anyway, time for bed!
First Sunday in
Happily, when we arrived home (Sylvia’s father and daughter
still being in
This morning, Sunday, I helped Sylvia cook the main meal, lunch. I peeled and grated yucca, watched her add egg and milk, mixed it up and fried pancakes. I told her it was just like my mother’s German pancakes! Even tasted somewhat similar. But they served it with sugar! I requested salt and put on a few drops. There was also some meat dish, tortillas, and a salad with beets (which I love). I think there was also something else, but I can’t remember. Breakfast was Honduran pancakes—somewhat like French pancakes but served with honey and mantaquila (?) rico (?) which was sort of like thick buttermilk.
I gave my Henry Potter book to Andrea, telling her that I
preferred Sylvia’s newspaper. Then we just hung out for a couple of hours.
Sylvia cleaned the kitchen, and I read the newspaper (with the dictionary).
This has been a restful day, and I needed it. I didn’t get out of bed til . It’s nice to feel rested for a change.
Monday, tomorrow, starts study in earnest at the PC. Oh, I forgot to tell you
that someone ET’d on Friday (early terminate); said it was not for him and went
Got my language classification: Middle Novice. Gee, and I had myself pegged as low intermediate—based on their criteria. Disappointing. However, it probably increases my possibility of success as it is required that you move up at least 2 levels and it is required that you end up at least a Intermediate Middle; so I have two levels to go. The teacher said that we (in his class) know a lot of words but can’t put them together (talk) properly. So possibly we will move rapidly???? There are only 3 of us in the class. This is a really wonderful opportunity and a first-rate instruction program. Too bad I feel so overwhelmed. They ask you to do so incredibly much and yet you’re in school from to every day including Saturday morning. By the time we take the bus home and eat dinner it’s . I’m “chilling” tonight. Screw it. All the
Two and a half weeks! Wow. Tomorrow I’m throwing a birthday party. Invited all the “aspirantes” in Valle de Angeles and told the others to feel free to crash if they could figure out how to get home. Bought 3 cases of beer, 2 big bottles of wine, and some coke, lots of munchies, and balloons. Sylvia is supplying the birthday cake and a piñata. Should be fun. I’ve heard lots of people are coming.
My language class was changed. Now it’s just me and one
other student, Azar. We have such a good time often and today was one of those days. With just the two of us we get a lot
of attention. I’m sure we’re making progress. I do a lot of speaking. Next
week, on Tuesday, we have to go to
Last weekend went to Tegus with my family both Saturday and
Sunday. Saturday got on the bus and went alone to Tegus. Sylvia had given me a
note that said something like ‘ask the driver to drop you off at the hospital.’
So, with my heart in my hand, I set off. A man behind me watched me reading my
note and indicated with gestures that he would tell me when to get off. Isn’t
that sweet! Apparently, typically Honduran. So trip
was uneventful. Grandpa Jorge picked us up in town, and we drove to Ohohono
where Sylvia likes to buy handicrafts to resell here. I took pictures. On
Sunday afternoon we went back to Tegus to a baptism and a fiesta afterwards.
The baptism was reminiscent of
Let’s see. How about some stats? Fifty-one percent of the
AIDS cases in
This is a really rambling note. Wish I had time to write every day. Now, a friend has suggested that I write just a little bit every day. So maybe I’ll try that next week. This past week I had lent out my computer anyway.
Wow, what a party! Mi fiesta fui muy bueno—lots of noise, lots of people, lots of beer, lots of food, lots of music. The kids brought me a piñata so we didn’t use the one that Sylvia bought. , so I’m really beat this morning, AND after everyone gets up we have to clean the house!!
Many of us started the day (well, after Saturday class!) with a “Field Day”—everyone put on their workout clothes and adjourned to the local sports field for basketball, Frisbee, and soccer. So I, on the day of my 60th birthday party, played soccer for the first time in my life! I played with the children—just my speed. Had a wonderful time. Now I just need to get someone to teach me some moves…When I got to the field, the boys were playing basketball; no one was playing soccer. So I just started kicking the ball around. Soon a little girl looked interested, and I invited her to play with me. (I have a beautiful ball—my carrot-on-the-stick!) Lots of children on the field doing religious school, so when it was over, gradually more and more children joined our play. The children: other than being delightful as all children are, I noticed two things. They are very generous. When we took a break, they brought me their cookies and candies that their teacher had given them. Also, no concept of using the garbage can—heck, no garbage can. One kid asked me for water so I gave him my remaining water; he drank it and promptly dropped the bottle to the ground and walked away. Obviously, garbage is everywhere. Also, obviously, there is no water available at or near the field, and the children apparently do not have containers to bring water or???? Anyway, I had a ball. Even fell down and bloodied my knees, so I am now officially initiated!
To prepare for the party I blew up about a thousand balloons and fried “chips.” Thank God Sylvia knows how to throw a party because I sure don’t. I took direction from her. She taught me how to fry up the chips: put some Crisco-like stuff (comes in plastic like Jimmy Dean Sausage) into the frying pan, cut tortillas into fourths, fry, turn over, put into paper towel-lined bowel.
After not having rained all week, an hour before my party we
had a torrential downpour. Stronger than
I spent a lot of money on the party but it was worth it.
Last weekend when we were in Tegucigalpa Sylvia took me to PriceMart—the
Costco-like store that you need a card to use—and I bought 3 cases of beer,
wine, chips, cups, paper plates, forks, etc. etc. The wine was
So for the first time in
Well, guess I’ll go do some work. I have to prepare a lesson on writing objectives for my group. Well, I volunteered. But I am a little concerned that these youngsters know essentially nothing about teaching…
Just returned from the volunteer visit to San Nicolas where
I have finally experienced the REAL
I’m attaching a picture of this 95 year old woman and her daughter who is cooking some kind of tamale to sell. Apparently the difficulty here (or rather one of them) is that the people are so beaten down that they cannot conceive of anything positive happening. So men drink up their wages, and women watch their children die. The 63 year old volunteer in the Health Sector is a veterinarian; as she described life outside of town, I guess the unincorporated area, she was pretty negative. My other hostess invited her artisanias to come over and show me their beautiful handicrafts; they weave straw bags, mats, etc. She has latched onto them because they clicked, and the women have grasped the idea that they can change. They have become empowered and are making new designs and even new products. (Others cannot grasp the possibility of change; they do everything the way they always have.)
I was sent out to practice my Spanish one day—go down the
street to the nearest pulperia (hole-in-the-wall 7-11), and buy one egg and a
bag of milk. (That’s right, milk comes in a plastic bag, about 2 pints but
doesn’t look like a quart… or in boxes… cause you
can’t trust that it was properly refrigerated.) You can also buy, for example,
two tablespoons of yeast!! I also practiced my Spanish on the 5 hr. trip back
to Tegucigalpa because I was alone—the other volunteer who had gone out with me
wasn’t at the bus stop… she speaks FLUENT Spanish, so I’m not concerned that
she’s lost of anything. Then I had to get a taxi all by myself and go across
The countryside reminded me of
Letter to Sarah
I’ve been thinking about you, especially this difficult past week. I was riding in the bus to school, and yet again no one had sat next to me. I was feeling close to tears, and I started to think about you. Knowing how we are always on the same psychic plane, I remembered that I was NOT alone; you are there, enduring a worse struggle. Later, after I sobbed my guts out in Spanish class, my buddy, Azar, gave me HIS bit of wisdom, which basically was a reminder that I probably PREFER a struggle, a challenge if you will, to the alternative. Life without challenges would be very boring and unfulfilling for us, no?
Nevertheless, it sucks. Like you, I focus on the moment and don’t worry about tomorrow. But sometimes just getting through the moment without crying is a challenge. I can’t seem to find an appropriate outlet. I get an hour of exercise by walking to and from home every day, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Plus, with tutoring (3 days a week) I get a ride home. There’s no waaaay I have the energy to do anything about it. Screw it. I have no interest in watching my American movies or listening to my American music; hummm, maybe I WILL do that today and see what happens. I’ve decided that I will try just BITCHING. No one else gives a shit, but I know you do, so I will. (It’s the PROCESS you know, so don’t worry about me, I just need to TALK to someone who UNDERSTANDS for a change…)
Last Thursday I gave a presentation on objectives. I
VOLUNTEERed for this, if you can believe, because I’m concerned that those
young people have absolutely no skills in teaching. Oh well. So I have
“facilitated” this particular “learning experience” many times. I invented a
card game, one of my most masterful achievements, as an activity. My students
have ALWAYS loved this game. For my little brats here in Honduras, or more
specifically, the 10 little brats in my project—economic development—I spent a
great deal of time writing objectives and translating them into Spanish (no
small achievement), acquiring card stock (no small achievement), getting the
objectives onto the cards, cutting the cards up, etc., etc. Then I had two
little fucking brat boys who were bored or whatever and wouldn’t play, didn’t
take it seriously, made up their own game, and just in general fooled around. I
was totally shocked. I was not prepared for THIS in
Happily, there are some I am comfortable with—hummm, guess it’s essentially those in my group. And Jason and Linda, who I was out with last night, are both in my group. Jason gave me the sweetest birthday card, telling me how much he values and admires me and is so grateful I am here. Imagine! I certainly do not FEEL like a person to be admired, not yet anyway. Haven’t done anything except endure. Although perhaps THAT’s something. Wonder if I’m a masochist? Jason and Sarah (Sarah was in our party last night; interesting girl, very religious I think from what she says and she wears a cross every day. She’s a “know it all” but has a good heart. They tell us that basically all the virgins succumb during service. Sarah is sooo pure, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the thought. I’m very curious as to whether she’ll grow into a REALLY nice person or one of those goodie-two-shoes matrons. She’s frequently annoying but not the least bit judgmental and really sincere, so…) anyway, we were saying that we each feel committed to remaining here, no way we could face those at home otherwise. It’s very interesting that no matter WHAT one feels, there’s someone else feeling the exact same thing. Linda has told me to watch, no one sits with her on the bus either. So I know there are others feeling exactly like me, maybe worse. We did lose another volunteer after volunteer visit. She had been having diarrhea ever since getting here and couldn’t take it any more. I know Azar had a TERRIBLE day yesterday. He didn’t cry, but maybe he had a worse morning than I did. Certainly Manuel (teacher) laid into him about his errors during the interview, harp, harp, harp. I know Azar works as hard or harder than I do. Like we don’t need to constantly be told how “importante” it is to study, study, study. Like we don’t? He sent Azar home with all this special homework. Not me. I have no clue how I did in my interview—although I guess better than Azar cause I UNDERSTAND better than he does. Possibly Manuel was avoiding me due to the earlier tears.
Well, I was going to bitch about my bitchy mama-hija, Sylvia, but I feel so much better now—plus I’ve locked myself in my room, away from her insulting bitchy voice. I think I will watch a movie!!
PS The attached pic is how we need to view life! This was at my birthday party
We got new Spanish teachers on Monday which, as yet another change, is distressing for some of us. Then before we even have a chance to adjust, we get our second language proficiency interviews. I had a mostly depressing week. We saw a video on culture shock, and boy is it true. I have felt isolated the entire time I’ve been here. Because I’m old and everyone else is young. They’re nice to me, but we’re just not buddies, for heaven’s sake. And the other older woman lives as far from me as you can get and speaks fluent Spanish because she is Puerto Rican. Then, too, because I live so far UP the hill, I don’t just go hang out downtown. Twice now one of the kids specifically invited me to join them, and of course I traipsed down the hill and had a good time, but generally, with the inability to communicate thrown in, it’s pretty tough. During the culture shock discussion, we were told that it can literally have a physical effect on a person. They also said that everyone experiences it: trying to function in an environment where you feel isolated, and all the “rules” you are accustomed to have changed. Generally it comes in two waves, the first immediate and the second 6 months or a year later. So I’m probably in my first wave of culture shock. This is the first week that I’m finally sleeping through the night—thank you God!! And yesterday morning I was so frustrated at my inability to communicate to the Spanish teacher some specific suggestions (instructional designers shouldn’t take classes!!!) that I simply broke down and sobbed. Poor Azar and the teacher didn’t know WHAT to do with me! But I recovered, blew my nose, and actually ended up having an absolutely WONderful day.
Sylvia (my host family mother) had invited me to
The movie was a kick. “The Souls at ” or something. Interesting on many
levels. Made totally in
We got back to Valle de Angeles about , just in time for the coronation! Turns out that this year’s “Queen” of the city was being crowned. Sylvia told me that the high school students select the queen, but later a fellow aspirante told me that it’s the girl who contributes the most $ to the fund raising activity. Whatever. It was soooo charming. There was a “hall,” split in half lengthwise from the entrance with a pathway made from grass and flowers. There were candelabra along the edges, and the new queen’s name was spelled out in flowers along the path. So then, with much pomp and circumstance, these girls start walking in, each on the arm of a young man. Each couple takes, in unison, one step to the left, feet together, one step to the right, feet together, one step to the left, feet together, and so forth. And SOMBER.! With his right hand, the fella holds the girl’s hand high, like they’re dancing an old fashioned quadrille or something, and places his left hand in the center of his back at the waist. They walked up the path, split apart, walked around a central decoration, rejoined, bowed to the audience, and walked on towards the stage at the head of the pathway. Then the next couple started. All the while, an announcer is singing their praises (I presume) and pomp and circumstance music is playing. It was soooo sweet. The girls wearing evening gowns and boys wearing suits. The new queen was so shy (and so un-Americanishly chubby!). Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me.
Gee, and the day wasn’t even over! My friend Jasen came to
pick me up at 9:00, and we joined some others at a
karaoke bar downtown. Had a lovely, relaxing evening, hoisted a few, and got to
bed at just in time to miss
those Black Angels!! My first late night in
Thanks for your letter! Yes, it WAS fun putting the training department together. For me it was some of the most rewarding work of my career. God, the economy SURELY must improve soon. I hope you’re hanging in there as I know, as I’m sure Angela does, how valuable you are.
You asked about the work and incidentally I found out
yesterday what I’m supposed to do and it’s really exciting. I’m going to
consult for the only female co-operative manager in
So that’s it in a nutshell. I’m hoping you will send me via
email (or provide an FTP site where I can retrieve) those files from our
fabulous train-the-trainer workshop. I probably could reconstruct what I want,
but it would be easier with the mat’ls. (obviously I
only need day 1-3, nothing of JDSU 1:1 training and safety.)
Wow! Almost a week here in Talanga now.
Recovering from a bout of parasites. First time in my
life stuff was coming out of me from both ends at the same time! Ick. We had heard that Talanga was the ugliest city in
The other morning Claudia (the mother’s name) got me up at 4:00 am, and we went to a “seranata” which is a serenade, 3 musicians—guitar, bass, and a stringed instrument smaller than a guitar—singing and playing to honor someone’s birthday. It was neat.
One day last week our training group went out to a farming community about an hour away and learned how to plow and plant corn and make a compost pile. The people were very friendly and kind. Insisted on giving us lunch.
Friday and Saturday we were doing a business simulation whereby we make and sell a product. My team decided to do crepes, no less, with chocolate. So there I was making crepes with no utensils other than a fork and a knife. Interesting. However, they came out really good, and we managed to sell them all. The other team made popsicles with Kool-Aid and 7-up. Next week we’re supposed to give a 3-day workshop to some local high school kids. Given the level of my Spanish, I’m glad I have a partner. So basically, here we’re supposedly getting used to the kinds of activities we’ll be doing in our site which I guess is giving talks. Does nothing for me…
Claudia taught me how to make corn tortillas. What a kick! I have enough experience with dough so it wasn’t too difficult. Mostly you need to get the water/corn meal proportions right so the dough is workable. Most people don’t make their own tortillas because they’re so cheap to buy.
Well, I’ve spent the morning exploring my site—Langue. It’s
in the department (state or county?) Valle, in the south
about an hour from the
I went by the collective this morning which is where my assignment is. Three ladies asked for my help to make a slanted text item in Microsoft Word. I taught them how! My first success. Not bad considering everything was in Spanish, I couldn’t understand much of what the ladies were saying, and I couldn’t handle Word as well as I would have liked. Nevertheless, they were thrilled to learn something new about Word.
After visiting the collective, I headed for the Mayor’s
office, where I heard the only telephone is. (I need the number for a Peace
Corps locator form I have to fill out.) So I walked in to the building, and,
low and behold, I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting! Wow, deep in the
Yesterday, the mayor took me to Nacaomi, the county seat more or less, for a meeting on economic development. It appeared that they are trying to put together a regional organization for this, and representatives from other cities were there. The only thing I really understood was the talk on gender equality (for goodness sakes!!!). I’ll bet that a lot of aide money is contingent on programs for gender equality; otherwise why they would have such a presentation in such a situation is beyond me. Certainly in this machismo society such outside influences are having a good impact. There were plenty of women in attendance. Anyway, the lunch was great—roasted chicken, rice, salad—just like home!!
On Thursday, Carlos (director of the high school, president
of the collective, and owner of the hotel where I’m staying) drove me around
town, and then we went on an outing (taking his wife and 2 youngest children)
to the border town of
I came into Nacaomi on Wednesday afternoon with Lydia
Sanchez, the 63 year old, who is to be posted in Nacaomi. We were invited to
stay the night with Will, a volunteer in Water and Sanitation currently posted
there. We thought his house was pathetically inadequate and then learned it’s
down as a “great place to live.” We have a lot to get used to. Anyway, Will
pointed out the mountain top of Amapalla in the distance. Supposedly, in the Summer—March, April—people travel there a lot, to the beach.
I came in with
Last night I went to a fund raiser for the local maternity hospital. Supposedly dinner and dancing commencing at . We arrived at and hardly anyone was there. Eventually had dinner—very good—about 10:00. However, we couldn’t stand it there cause the music was so loud it hurt. I could hear it in my bed two blocks away!! Very Honduran, I’m beginning to think, to play music so loud you can’t talk.
Thought I should mention that there is no place you can go
Last week we went out into the country to observe a sugar making co-operative. Fascinating. I’m sure their process is archaic, but it was fun. An ox-drawn cart brings up 4’ long pieces of sugar cane. Then they manually put the cane into a power-driven press. They juice goes down a little viaduct into a big wooden cauldron built over a huge oven in which they burn wood to boil the sugar into syrup—just like making fudge (except that most, if not all, of these young people have never made fudge!). At the softball stage they move the syrup in buckets to a coffin-sized wooden box and proceed to stir it ‘til, just like fudge, it’s done, at which time they pour it into quart-sized molds—presto! Brown sugar! Of course THIS brown sugar has entombed thousands of bees, no kidding, cause they stir the bees right in, making no attempt to keep them away from the syrup. Obviously the process is very hygienic. I wonder if people eat the bees? Kind of like chocolate covered insects.
Friday I got bit by a dog! My own fault for not heeding the
warning of my Spanish teacher, but, nevertheless, I had to go to
Back in Valle. I was probably the only member of the team who didn’t want to leave Talanga, but I sure do love my Talanga family. Spent most of the day at Jasen’s house cause my family wasn’t home (not expected I guess). I heard that Mike, a natural resources aspirante, has returned to the states having decided that he can’t be effective here. Those nat resources folks are very intense. We’ll miss him though. Jasen told me that several of our group are not happy with their sites and that Linda has contemplated leaving because she questions whether the Peace Corps is effective. Don’t we all? But it’s a very individual thing. I will at least give Langue a try. I know it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish my task. I’m supposed to help them improve their computer system so they have more visibility into defaulting/slow loan payments—but, heck, it’s a proprietary system, and it’s in Spanish! Oh well. Step by step. I did a “charla” last week—that’s what they call it when you teach something. I had to teach something about accounting to a class of high school kids. What a kick. I had come up with a great exercise and so was able to read a lot of my presentation, but, still, had to interact with the kids IN SPANISH!! Since I’m the only one in my group with teaching experience, I was able to be somewhat effective. The experience reminded me how much fun teaching can be.
Only two weeks to go!! Sylvia tells me that a Dr. Santos has a house in Langue that he’ll rent to me; I think he’s supposed to call me today. And Claudia in Talanga will follow up for me with the woman who also owns a vacant house there. So housing is looking promising.
What a wonderful sister you are! I got your PACKAGE in
Talanga. No one else—family or friends—sends me mail and now a PACKAGE! Thank
you so much. I especially liked the post card of where you work. It’s so
Hope everything’s going ok with you guys. Did I tell you that the doctor here put me back on Prozac? Probably just in time cause nothing seems to bother me now, but that first week in Talanga when I got sick I had a panic attack. Told the Peace Corps I wanted to go home and got all the way to Valle before I changed me mind. I think the Prozac kicked in. Plus I had talks with my manager and the PC head, and they were very supportive. I think I had been worried about Spanish, but they said if I needed more Spanish, I could stay longer in training. Well anyway, I stopped worrying and went back to Talanga.
We’re all REALLY SICK of training and chomping at the bit to get to our sites—for better or worse. Final language interviews this coming week, but I have no idea what happens if I don’t make the minimum grade. Will keep you posted.
Today my Economic Development group built fogones—the brick or adobe stove/oven that just about every house here has along with its pila. Basically a fogone has 2 chambers—one tiny one for baking and one bigger one for burning wood—and a metal plate on top for cooking stuff on. Heck, I might need to make one for myself! Actually, our training manager told us that she used a stovetop oven. Just put a tin can into a big pot, and put your baking disk on top of the tin (then it doesn’t rest on the bottom of the top). She said it works great and works out to about 350 degrees. I told my friends that if I get an oven—a REAL oven—they’re all invited for Thanksgiving; otherwise I’ll travel up north to cook at my friend Jasen’s house cause he already has an oven.
My housing options are looking bad. Yesterday one lady told me she didn’t want to rent to me, and another offered me his house for 7000 Limperas a month!! Since we get 900 to use for rent, I think he’s a rapist. Langue is not making me feel welcome this way. At this rate I’ll be back in that hotel next week.
This afternoon we practiced singing the
Somebody asked me about Honduran men. True, our trainers say
that 99% of all trainees will have a sexual experience during their two years,
but it’s hard to believe. I’m sure there are some tall, good looking Honduran
men but I haven’t seen any. The guys have it tougher, in a way, cause the girls are willing, but American men are kind of
turned off by their placidity and submissiveness. For the women the problem is
rampant machismo. It’s socially acceptable for men to screw around, and we’ve
been warned and warned and warned to never believe the men. Plus
Well, anyway, I think Hondurans tend to be short—bad diet I guess. Almost all the women are fat. Starting at puberty, even the skinny girls get a roll of fat around their bellies, and by the time they’re 40 they are REALLY fat.
Yesterday I got into a conversation with a young boy. I asked him if he was going to the fair, but he said no, it took money for that. Turned out he was in Andrea’s class at school, so I asked him if, like her, he would be going to “collegio” (high school) in January. He said no, he was going to work on a farm up the mountain. It’s hard to see all these children working. My Talanga mother, Claudia, told me that the government pays NOTHING for high school kids. This means that in addition to not earning money for their families, high school COSTS money--for uniforms, books, pencils, paper, etc. Even though education is “mandatory,” most kids drop out at 12 because of money. So you see kids everywhere peddling stuff—ice cream, cookies, bread. I was very much aware of them today at the fair because there were so many rich Hondurans wandering around with their fortunate kids.
Friday (18 Oct) we officially became real, live “voluntarios”
at last. The jovenes partied all night.
I was offered two more weeks of Spanish so I said yes.
Others were offered, but no one but me accepted. One other, Stan, was FORCED to
accept; guess he didn’t score high enough on the test. So I’ll be here with
Stan for two more weeks. I was given
Spent the weekend in Talanga. On
the way home, I saw one of those really nice things about
Took the bus to
999999999999999 where’s the thalidomide entry from Langue?
Got out of Spanish class one day early because
This weekend is Langue’s saint day celebration. Carlos invited me to go with him at in the morning to visit his mother’s grave. Apparently this is part of the celebration, and there’ll be a lot of candles and stuff.
Didn’t sleep all night as the hotel room
is on the street adjacent to the central park. All night long there were
fire crackers and noise. I could hear families in the street about so I got up. At Carlos and one of his daughters and a friend and I
walked to the cemetery. So did half the town.
And carrying votive candles, fresh flowers in tinfoil-covered cans, or paper flower thingees to hang up—about 2’ by 3’
ovals. Apparently they’ll be going there all day long. So the cemetery is
packed with people, each person at his family plot, putting up candles and/or
flowers and/or cleaning or sweeping the grave. Big business
in candles and flowers today. Also street vendors
selling food. The cemetery is packed with graves, and like any cemetery
The water tank in Carlos’ hotel broke. This means that there’s
no water in the room. So I moved to a
hotel in Nacaomi. Commute every morning to Langue. Finally someone found me a
house. Three rooms, no water in the house, no toilet, no sink. Only a pila and latrine in the backyard which is shared with the
neighbors. I said no. I just didn’t think I could take such lack of
privacy. Too much roughing it. Everyone thinks I’m
crazy. Crissy and Tim (they’re from
Wow, still no house. In fact, Maria, my Peace Corps manager,
has decided I should change sites. Course I have to find my own work—no
problem. So here I am today in Nacaomi, bunking with
My body is drying up from this climate. Finally figured out what that rash was on my hands when I settled down here in the South—allergy to the soap. Here in the South my hands have started peeling. It gets worse everyday. Today I bought some rubber gloves, and I’ll try that, and I’m trying to avoid soap in the shower--I mean bucket bath—but, given that you are sopping wet 10 minutes after you leave the house, frequent “rinses” are helpful. The only clothes I can stand are the few cotton polyester things I brought. All those cotton bras I worked so hard to find are horrible, like wearing a damp t-shirt all the time. And using the fan is a toss-up: cool down a little bit and dry your skin up or…
Dian asked me to send her a Honduran blouse. Problem is that
there is no longer a Honduran style of clothing. Well, there is, but it’s based
Dian also asked about the food sold on the buses and what, if any, I ate. Let’s see. They sell pints of water, in sealed plastic bags. (These are a major source of litter; I’m collecting them now and hope to stuff a pillow as an experiment. Some entrepreneur could make a fortune!) They also sell Coke and Pepsi and pour it into plastic bags and serve it with a straw (so they can get the refund on the bottle. Unfortunately, these plastic bags go out the bus window with the rest of the litter.) They also sell “fresco,” which is extract of tamarind or rice water and spices mixed with water. I’ll always drink anything. Maybe that’s risky, but I think that “agua pura” is so much a part of the culture here that everyone uses it. Plus you can tell by the price: a bag of water goes for L.2 while a bag of fresco goes for L.3.
I’ve bought (and enjoyed) candy which is probably essentially sugar and coconut. Baked goods—muffins, rolls—very heavy and usually a little on the salty side, but when you’re hungry… They also sell fruit: oranges peeled, cut in half, and offered with salt (I pass on this cause it doesn’t come with a Kim wipe) and pieces of mango served with chile (crunchy but tasty.) I’ve also bought peanuts.
I always pass on some things. There’s a mouthwatering looking thing. I think it’s banana chips served with shredded cabbage, lime, and a piece of tomato. Looks great but I’m afraid of the cabbage (we were warned that it’s very difficult to clean properly). Unfortunately, shredded cabbage comes with most if not all of the street/bus food. I would eat a chicken something, but since I can’t understand what they’re saying most of the time, by the time I figure out what Charlie over there is eating, the bus is moving again, and the vendor is gone.
More on buses. I really like the
buses. Where in the
Wow, hard to believe I finally got a house! Now if only I
could clean it. Oh, what we take for granted in the
While I was living in Nacaome I went one day to the lady’s co-operative there and waited (in vain) for three hours for the manager to show up. So while waiting I talked to the women. One I asked why she was here—to apply for a loan. Why? To buy a freezer. Why? Seems she and her husband make a marginal living selling on the buses. She sells cheese, and he sells mangos (green fruit seasoned with salt and chile), and they earn less than L.100 a week, I think she said around L.30. She wants a freezer cause then they could sell water or fresco which has a bigger profit margin. Consider that a Coke costs L.5 to L.10, the 45min-1 hr. bus ride L.9, a cheap lunch L.20. However you slice it, that’s pretty meager earnings. My friends in Talanga thought you could live pretty well (I guess like they do) for L.5000. I hear, for example, that cable costs L.200, while newspapers cost L.5. Let’s see—seem to recall that in SJ normal cable costs around $30 and a newspaper, what now? $.50. Oh well, you figure it.
Last week Dona Maria (a very friendly lady who took me
around looking for rental houses) insisted I rest in her house. I didn’t feel
well and really wanted to lie down, but she insisted her house was very near. Hahahaha. Twenty minutes later I ended up resting in a
hammock in... a mud hut!! Yes, indeed, one of those
mud huts, with cardboard keeping out the wind. This one even had one wall
bolstered with, yes, an old bedspring!! She of course
invited me to live next door, we were friends afterall. Eventually I got home
to rest. Unfortunately, I think Maria was angling for some food and coffee,
telling me she had no money. That I don’t doubt, and of course when anyone is
with me I always offer them one of anything (like coke or ice cream) I buy, but
we were strongly urged not to give ANYthing away.
“Regalame” (give, as in gift, me) is a real problem in
Another young person, Angel, I think he’s 24, asked to go with me to Nacaomi to buy household supplies for my new house. Angel was married at 18 but is separated now, happily with no children. He says in the future he will want only two children. HIS father has 20!!! Eleven with his mother and 9 with another woman. The poor kid has nothing to look forward to. He works in the mercado selling women’s underwear one day, fixes shoes another day, doesn’t work another day, goes to El Salvador on some kind of business another day.
Oh, did I mention that I was invited to supper (chop suey made from cup-o-noodles—everyone LOVES cup-o-noodles here) at someone’s house where the mother teaches at the little elementary school out in the country on the way to the Pam Am highway. Anyway, she told me that those 16 computers there aren’t being used. Why? Because they can’t afford ELECTRICITY!!!!!!! Cripes, they should SELL the computers and buy books. Which reminds me, if anyone wants to go around finding books in Spanish, especially for children, feel free to send them to me at
Of course, feel free to send me trashy novels in English as well or cookies or candy or handsome young men. My computer—supposed to be my mainstay in this difficult first three months—decided to go completely bonkers. So now I have no movies, no music, no diary, no games, no English version of Microsoft Help, nothing, nada. I am writing this at work—cause of course THEY don’t use the computer much. Lately I have been teaching one lady to put the financial records into an Excel spreadsheet. This is rather difficult for me cause—while I have done EVERYTHING in Excel, including programming, over the last 15 years, I—like many of you—lately have a memory like a sieve. I can’t remember how to do the simplest thing in Excel and now I have to try to decipher Help in Spanish! Life is NOT fair.
Well, I think I will call it a day. Tomorrow I am going to Nacaomi to use the internet and fax my locator form to the Peace Corps. That’s so they know what bus to send a note on if they need to get a hold of me... only kidding. Actually I have a beeper so if they need to get a hold of me, they beep me and I get to take a bus somewhere to call them.
During the last two weeks I made the trek to Nacaomi twice to use the internet only to find it “down.” Yesterday it was because all electricity in the town was to be down all day so work could be done on it. (Another thing we take for granted: advance notification by authorities.)
Well, the house is pretty clean, thanks mostly to Ligia. The
neighborhood kids have befriended me and are always filling my house. Ligia and
a 14 year old, Alma, taught me how to make carne asada (pieces of beef
marinated in vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, other stuff, then roasted and
served with a salsa of tomato, green pepper, onion, lemon juice, etc.—marvioso!!)
Started a compost pile in a corner, confounding everyone who is used to burning
everything, and am training all my visitors to deal with four different kinds
of garbage—food (for the compost), paper (for burning), clean plastic bags and
bottles (for God knows what, crocheting bags maybe), and everything else (for
burying). Started passing out books to the kids—my new “Langue Children´s
Library”—and they’re just inhaling them, so DO send me books if you can. The
teenagers are reading my adult mysteries; gees,
Also, I am learning that there is poverty and then there is
poverty. It’s really hard to befriend someone who is REALLY poor. Poor Angel is
breaking my heart. He asked if I would “regalame agua” (gift me water) to
bathe—turns out his house has no water OR electricity. Yesterday he wanted to
give me directions to the house he will be staying at over the next four weeks
(he’s going to work in a distant town) so I could visit on my way north. He had
to get his little sister to write it cause he can’t
write. Why? He left school at age 7 to work. I’ve also learned that he wasn’t
married and isn’t 24. He’s just 18 and had a girl living in his house for 3
months when he was 16. He tells me that in
People are lining up with work for me. Come February I’ll probably be swamped. (All schools are closed in December and January.) My next door neighbor is an official with the Dept. Of Ed and he convinced me that the primary school kids really need a head start learning English so I guess I’ll start having lunch with them in Feb. (Their schedule does not permit a class.) Sooo—anyone know any fun games for children? I’m so old I don’t even remember how to play Simon Says. I figure that some songs might be fun. Actually, I have no idea how to pursue teaching English as a second language. Anyone who has any materials or books, I would be forever grateful for your assistance.
Had a bad scare last weekend. It’s
really difficult to internalize all the ways that are different here, but
hopefully I won’t do THAT again! Well, I planned to go to Choluteca to buy some
things that were not available in Nacaomi or Langue. So I planned to go to the
bank first and get some money and hopefully pick up an ATM card that I could
use at the grocery store. And I also planned to use the internet since Nacaomi
had been unavailable. Unfortunately, work took longer than I had planned, and I
didn’t get to Choluteca til only
to learn that the bank closed at .
And I have only about L.100. Shoot. So as not to totally waste me trip, I
decided to go to the grocery store and buy just a few things. But I wasn’t
really thinking because I needed the fare BACK to Langue, and taxi (L.10) twice
(to and from the grocery store). When the clerk in the grocery store gave me my
change and I realized I didn’t have enough money, I asked to cancel the sale.
He said no. I said but I don’t have enough money to go home. He shrugged his
shoulders. I said ask your manager. She shrugged her shoulders. I did not say
“shoot” this time... What to do? With my last L.10 I took a cab to the house of
Elizabeth and Justin, praying they were home. They weren’t. So I sat down in
front of their house prepared to wait for the weekend if necessary and feeling
like an idiot. This isn’t the
My feelings continue to be up and down. Lately the days have
been good; someone will come to visit me or something I teach someone will
tickle them and, wow, it feels good to be here. Other days have been very
boring. However, I’m well aware that I could be bored anywhere. I keep trying
to tell myself that this is an
Well, hopefully, I will be able to send this huge letter on
New Year’s Eve was PARTY time here. So many fire crackers
that the next the street in front of my house looked like
Yesterday there was a power outage that lasted long enough to totally defrost my refrigerator. My neighbor had told me that this is why some people have stoves with two electric and two gas burners. Anyway, it didn’t bother me; I generally go to bed at dark because there’s nothing to do anyway. The lights aren’t good enough for reading in comfort, so I’d just as soon lie there and listen to the neighborhood. Now I have ANOTHER reason for going to bed at dusk—I hear that power is very expensive! My neighbor spends about L.400 a month. I’ve come to realize that the Peace Corps wants us to be POOR. We get L.2800 a month which is less than L.100 a day for food, clothing, transportation, everything except rent. Hondurans tell me this is MUY POCO dinero. The other day I went to the market and spent L.150 and only bought some fruit and vegetables, soap and bleach. I decided to start keeping a journal of what I spend.
The neighborhood children are driving me crazy with “regalame” agua or chicle (gum). And most of them have no understanding of thank you or please. I started just saying NO. Then the daughter of a woman I know came and asked for agua. Confusing. I asked my neighbor, and she gave me some insight. Apparently water is cheap, only about L.30 a month for us in the colonia. But we have a different water system than the pueblo at large. Frequently the pueblo doesn’t have water. Then it is normal for folks to come and ask for water. ´Course she said that generally the MOTHER comes and asks and, when pressed, said no one’s asked her in ages. And this is different from those really poor people who never have water cause they can’t afford to pay; I decided to offer them a jug of water any time they want to wash my floor. In this way I won’t be GIVING it away.
Yesterday being Sunday I went to the market to get what I’ve heard is a bargain on food. I DID get a big bag of oranges, but everything else seemed the same price as normal. There was a huge selection of stuff though, much more than during the week. With hesitation I bought a fish, and then later had to figure out a way to steam it. I am proud to say I did it: put three rocks in a big pot, topped them with the inverted lid of a smaller pot, and, voila, a steamer. With a potato and string beans, I ended up with a thoroughly American dinner!!
Found out that Christmas officially ended on Jan 6 which is
the Day of the Three Magi. So, I am told, Christmas starts on Dec. 24 and ends
on Jan. 6. Everyone took down their decorations on Monday, and the newspaper
included a little article reminding everyone what the day was about. The three
wise men (as we call them in the
This coming weekend, Jan. 11, begins the week-long “feria”
(fair) to celebrate the “Black Jesus.” What, you ask? But they don’t know why
or the significance of this. Possibly I will find a priest to ask. But anyway,
the feria includes a coronation of a queen (just like in Valle de Angeles and
Talanga I imagine) and all kinds of activities. I’ll miss the first weekend as
I’m going to a meeting in
Oh, I found out that here I am NOT an “American.” Ooops, how
self-centered we are. My tutor tells me that he, too, is an American, for
Yesterday I had my first conversation on my new telephone!
Yes, I have a new cell phone, and it thinks I live in
Yesterday also there were some men from Tegus at the co-operative because apparently the financial software had a glitch, and their company had written and installed the software. I mentioned to them (cause I doubted that they knew—and I was correct) that the co-op staff didn’t use the system and didn’t understand the system but, rather, ran a totally redundant manual system. So we—the software analyst, I, and the co-op supervisor—had a brief conversation about why. The supervisor says this is necessary considering that at any time the power can go down for 2 or 3 days, and how would they function? I think we have opened a can of worms here. Talk about inefficiency. However, perhaps if (should I say when?) I understand the system, I can at least help them incorporate an efficient manual backup and at least USE the computerized system for analysis or something. Anyway it makes one wonder why they got a computerized system in the first place. It’s like those computers at the elementary school that all they do with is draw (so I hear; next month I’ll be able to observe, but considering they don’t have a functional printer, they would only be able to use it with educational software CDs which they probably don’t have.) Oh well, poco a poco (little by little).
Oh, and just when I was wondering how I was going to dig a hole for my plastic garbage, I learned that THERE IS GARBAGE PICK UP IN LANGUE!! Wow! I learned this because Monday morning as I was walking to my tutor’s house, I observed a truck pull up to a house, and a guy run up to the door and yell “garbage!” So I asked him, and sure enough, I can go the mayor’s office and pay for garbage to be picked up every Monday. Which reminds me of ANOTHER inefficiency. The mayor’s office came looking for me because they had a problem with their printer. I decided that they had a bad printer cartridge (things sit around for so long that I wonder how often they are expired or otherwise no good...). Turns out they had thrown out the last one before testing the new one and had no others. Turns out they have to buy the cartridge in Tegus, where the mayor happened to be at the moment, but there was no way to contact him. He’d be back in two days and probably wouldn’t return to Tegus for another couple of weeks. “How about the mail?” I asked. Takes 8 days they said. “So what will happen to your printing job?” I asked. It will wait, I was told. Soooo, I instructed them that in future they were always to buy two cartridges and never to throw the old one away before testing the new one. They of course replied that cartridges were very expensive, and I should tell this to the mayor. Poco a poco.
I’m sitting in a bakery in Choluteca waiting for the
Internet Café to open in three hours. Oh well. So—some random
thoughts. Yesterday I watched a neighbor make tamales, Honduran style.
Into the masa (corn mush) she put a dab of Honduran rice (rice with a bit of
carrots, peas, etc.) and a dab of chicken with sauce. Based on what I saw, that chicken must have
been plucked and then thrown whole into the pot! I couldn’t believe it, but one tamale actually received two chicken feet! Haven’t seen chicken feet since
Honduran tools. My friend Sherry thinks it very ZEN of me, but I recently spent a solid hour laying in my hammock and watching men shovel dirt, marveling at the beautiful arc of the dirt falling from the shovel. The shovel is the only Honduran tool familiar to me. I also watched these men dig a lovely six foot deep hole using nothing but that shovel and what appears to be a 1” diameter 6’ long spike. Poke it in to loosen the dirt, take up a shovel full… Hondurans have nothing but time. Every other man owns and carries his personal machete, a 2’ long knife. Most of them carry it in a fancy sheath. The machete is used for everything, starting with mowing the lawn. Can you imagine how hard it would be on the back to stoop for hours cutting grass? I talked once with a 19 year old kid who, for a living, used his machete to work the corn, which includes cutting down all the corn stalks when they die. Not surprisingly he said it was hard work. Hard work for a 19 year old; can you imagine how hard it would be for a 60 year old? Recently learned that Angel’s father, that drunken old one-armed reprobate father of 20, will be 80 years old at his next birthday!!
This past week was the fair, and Friday I went to the torriada. Not a bull fight, it turned out, but a bull RIDING event. However, never having attended a rodeo, I enjoyed it immensely. Some of the bulls were excitingly fierce, but I was thoroughly amused when several just sat down and refused to play, I mean literally SAT down with the rider sitting on them. Hysterical.
More on Honduran clothes. Matrons
wear a costume of sorts. Nothing like embroidered blouses.
No. These are two-piece tailored suits, kind of. Straight
skirt. Top is short sleeved but tailored and fitted (in at the waist) to
the hips. I think there were suits like this in the
Angel left this morning. He moved to Progresso to start a new life. I’m happy for him in that respect and hope he really does start a new life, but, for myself, it’s really depressing. He’s my only friend in Langue. He jokes with me, he has helped me innumerable times, he relates to me as a real person. I mean, we have a relationship that is as close to real as I expect to find here. I guess “real” translates into interactions that are familiar to me. We have conversations about things I can understand and relate to; he isn’t superficial and wrapped up in politeness. He’s a real scamp. He delights in correcting my Spanish and teasing me. Add to this the fact that the first week I knew him he propositioned me. My dream is to have sex with you, he said. Wow. I told him I was old enough to be his grandmother and that there was to be no more talk like that or he wouldn’t be welcome in my house. And that was that. But I was surprised to find myself “lusting in my heart,” as President Carter would say. Afterall, I don’t see myself as a 60 year old. Those dewlaps on my arms are my mother’s, not mine. That crape paper skin is my grandmother’s not mine. I am the 25 year old scanning the audience at the dance, hoping to see “THE guy.” I am the sexy young thing who wants those bedroom eyes looking my way, who daydreams about those full lips, and waits for glimpses of that taut, brown stomach. There are a million such images stored away in my brain, and Angel brings them all back. The mind is a powerful thing. I am reminded of that Star Trek episode where Spock, I think, helps his old captain, now only a brain on a machine, reunite with his old love on a planet where everything is a hologram designed by the mind, so that the two will live happily ever after as they used to be. Oh well. I know Angel, like everyone else here, is only after what he can get, but at least from him I get something in return, and I’ll miss him a lot.
Gina just called me, and during our conversation she
mentioned that tomorrow is Friday. No, I insisted, it’s Thursday. So we got
into a big discussion about how I would know what day it is. Since tomorrow
turns out to be Friday afterall, I know
Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Angel
didn’t leave afterall. Good thing I didn’t get all maudlin… Course I have
transferred my sexual fantasies to another, fickle woman that I am.
Last Sunday I bought some berries at the market, and yesterday got around to doing the mandatory soak in Clorox treated water so I could eat them. Icccckkkky. Oh well. Think I’ll make them into jam, I thought. So I dumped in a bunch of sugar and made jam—only about a cup, but it is delicious. I was talking about this at the co-operative, but was told that berries were only for drinks, not for jam. And pineapple is the only fruit that can be made into jam and put inside pastries. Why, I asked. Because. During training we heard about this attitude—passivity or rigidity or traditionalism or—and it’s a real barrier to change here. People have difficulty thinking out of the box.
School starts this month, and this week parents are registering their kids at the high school (ages 12 through 18). Parents do this, not the kids. And they pay—L.600 annually this year. (Which I am sure is another reason that most kids drop out of school at age 12.) And if they fill up, not room for another kid, you have to go to a high school somewhere else—which I suppose means further away. So I had a little discussion with a neighbor about taxes. I don’t think Hondurans pay taxes, at least not consistently. Businesses that want to grow (not the micro-businesses like pulperias) register and pay taxes, but the government has difficulty collecting. I explained to my neighbor how Americans pay tons of money in taxes so the government has money for schools and roads and stuff.
More on clothing. I meant to tell
you that all these women who sell things carry them on their heads like women
It has started to get hot. December/January are the coldest months here. “Cold” means that you are not sopping wet ALL the time, and nights are quite pleasant. I always used my sleeping bag as a blanket (and in January when we had “reconnect” training in Santa Lucia, everyone FROZE to death. Santa Lucia is high up in the mountains; here in the South we’re only at 1200’ (I know cause I brought my trusty altimeter!). So now we’re learning what really HOT is. Even in the shade you’re wet all the time. The next two months—March/April—are the HOTTEST months here. I hear that there is never a breeze, and even at night it doesn’t cool down. I started sleeping in the hammock this week. I hear it’s cooler. It wasn’t bad; I was surprised.
The other day the co-op was preparing invitations for its 500 members for the annual meeting. They used a hand-cranked mimeograph machine—haven’t seen one of those in more than 40 years! Then, after all 500 were printed, folded and stapled, they hand-addressed them. (Now I have another project; teach them how to do Word’s mail-merge.) Now that they’re all addressed (name only), they’ll pay some kid L.80 to personally deliver them. No mail system you know. Well, not a mail system like we know. After all, MY mail is personally delivered—but that’s because my tutorial is down the street from the postmistress, and she walks by me all the time.
Wow, more than a month and a half. Oh well, I have a new
computer so I should be able to write again. Last month I attended two very
interesting meetings, the annual meeting of the Co-operative and a town meeting
in a nearby aldea (unincorporated area). Here in
Last month I also did two weeks of English classes for 4th,
5th, and 6th graders. This was only one hour three times a week, or 90 student
hours total, but it was fun. The kids were fun and really loved the class. Taught them to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “my name is…,” and the ABC
song plus about 7 verbs and the regular conjugation. Kids all over town
were begging to get into the class and some wouldn’t take no for an answer. To
be fair to all, however, I went to the school and arranged with the principle
to teach this 6 hour class to all the 6th graders (cause next year they start
learning English formally). Also, the high school students are anxious for a
class, so I am putting together a program and ordering some books and
cassettes. Apparently the English classes in
The community doesn’t seem interested in anything other than English. I visited some lady hammock makers and tried to get them interested in learning to make other products because there’s no market for hammocks. But they were pretty apathetic and unwilling to do anything. Maybe it’s because most things require an investment and an act of faith. Like the lady in the park who I’m trying to interest in selling Jell-O to the high school kids. She wants to branch out and sell other things but doesn’t want to try Jell-O. Maybe it’s too different or maybe she doesn’t have 100 limps to buy the raw materials. Whatever. Anyway she’s willing to let ME sell Jell-O from her refrigerator, so I hope to be able to convince here that she can make a good profit with it.
Yesterday I experienced the power of the law in
I’ve been meaning to mention another thing about the buses. They sometimes have snake oil salesmen! A man or woman gets on with a suitcase and starts talking about the efficacy of some health product and then walks up the aisle handing out the product for folks to see, touch, smell, etc., talking all the while, and then comes back up the aisle collecting product or money. My favorite one is the cure-all for intestinal bugs; these guys have a visual! Big color drawings of all the microscopic organisms that do those horrible things to your insides. Vitamins are very popular, but, unfortunately, the ones I’ve looked at have not been multivitamins but only one thing, like iron. Religion is another popular talk—hoping for contributions I guess—and once a blind person was led on board by a child to walk up the aisles begging.
It’s mango season. Wow! Yesterday some neighborhood children asked if they could climb my fence to get at the mango tree next door (the house is unoccupied; I heard the owner went to the States…), and they gave me three mangos as they left. So this morning I breakfasted on mangoes. Talk about sensual. Remember that famous scene from “Tom Jones” (well those of you MY age) where Tom and his girl friend are eating chicken or something and getting the grease all over everything and licking everything? Mangoes are like that. Peeling them is kind of like a cross between peeling a kiwi and an orange: the peel comes off like an orange but the fruit sticks to the peel like a kiwi so you can lick the peel—and of course you NEED to lick it cause it’s very juicy, and just peeling it is getting sweet mango juice all over your hands. After it’s peeled you have this huge seed, probably twice the size of an avocado, with incredibly soft, sweet, gushy mango fruit adhering to it. Not much fruit to the mango so you have to get it in your mouth and work that seed. Believe me a knife and fork wouldn’t do it. Afterwards you take a bath…
The other day in the coop a woman came in to get a check for a loan she was making. I watched as she entered a thumb print in lieu of a signature. After she left, I confirmed that, yes, she could neither read nor write. Apparently this is common in the last generation because outside of the towns there weren’t any schools. Nowadays, the government has put schools out in the aldeas. Wednesday I was asked to teach an English class at one of these schools. Since I’ve been doing it in town, I figured it was only fair to do it out there, too. So Angel escorted me to what had been his primary school, outside of town probably no more than a 30 minute walk but markedly and obviously poorer than Langue. The school was pretty new, about three classrooms, but the 6th grade was combined with the 5th grade because they didn’t have enough teachers. Even so, I think there were only about 25 students. Even this was too many for me, having no experience teaching little kids, but I went through the A,B,Cs anyway.
So I’ve been thinking that
It’s been so hot here that, just as I was warned, all I want to do all afternoon is lie in front of the fan. Currently have three classes of 6th grade English in the morning. Temporarily stopped the English class in the aldea cause I can’t face the walk in the afternoon.
My group had planned to go all the way to our destination in one day—eight or more hours in the canoe--but we couldn’t find a free boat, so we stayed the night after the three hour ride. Beans, rice, and water, no electricity, outhouse, river water for bathing, brush your teeth on the porch and spit into the… wherever. The next morning we hired a boatman to take us up river another 8 hours to our final destination, Las Marias. All the boats in the Mosquitia are actual dugout canoes, long but narrow. Five passengers can sit Indian style in a row. One boatman runs the outboard motor (modern advance!) in the back, and in the front another is lookout and guide, directing the other into the proper channels and occasionally steering with a four foot hand carved oar or poling with a stout branch fashioned into a pointed pole. Overhead the sun was horrendous. I was wishing for an awning or at least an umbrella but had to settle for covering up completely. The others put on fresh sun block every 15 minutes. The Rio Platino is very shallow; I don’t think I ever saw that four foot oar get covered up, but plenty of times we were scraping the bottom! The river was maybe 100 feet wide with a pretty brisk current. There was always a nice breeze in the Mosquitia so all in all the climate was a lot more comfortable than what I had been used to in the South (I am writing this in my co-op, and when I entered this nice air conditioned building this morning, my blouse was literally wringing wet after two hours of teaching English in the un-air-conditioned school.)
All the houses in the Mosquitia are
one room wooden huts, on stilts, with thatched roofs. I don’t think there were
any towns between our two stops, but we saw a lot of onesey-twosey houses. No
stores or restaurants in between either so eating was a problem if you hadn’t
brought snack food. The drivers had difficulty finding gas to buy; a couple of
times we had to try several different places. We saw a lot of other canoes on
the water, most without motors, propelled simply with poles and/or that oar.
Once I saw a dog in the prow, his front feet together at the point of the prow
and one each of his hind feet on either side of the canoe; what a kick! Lots of cows wandering around the shore, lots
of birds, especially white egrets like I saw along the
Never saw, thank God!, any druggies (who probably would have just killed us outright according to the Peace Corps), but, ironically, while I was gone a druggie jet actually crashed in Langue, right down the street from my house, killing the pilot and co-pilot and strewing millions of dollars worth of cocaine around. I head lots of people picked some up, but only Angel was caught and thrown in jail for the night. Scared the
…was termed intermediate to advanced so I opted not to go. Good thing cause the kids came back reporting it had been the most strenuous hike they’d ever done. Instead I took a 6 hour hike and turned around before the end because it was too difficult. Everything you do there is with a guide, big surprise. You’d get lost in 10 minutes otherwise. Anyway I DID get into the primary forest, and it DID look like a jungle and like the environment of Medicine Man kind of. The path was very narrow; my guide used his machete once in awhile even though the trail was obviously well maintained. At one point we came to a stream and had to take off our shoes and socks, wade across, and put them back on again—without a towel of course. Leaves can remove SOME dirt… But after awhile, when I was huffing and puffing up hill and down hill, I asked him—so what’s up ahead, anything different? He said no, at the end a little view, but the trees are the same, etc. So, I said let’s go back. Thank God, because going back up those hills I had a really hard time for awhile, but happily I was by myself and didn’t inconvenience anyone. I think I got dehydrated—it’s so hard to drink enough water under those circumstances. No one even tells you to bring some!!
The “hospidaje,” or hostel, we stayed at in Las Marias was run a nice family of mixed Mosquito and Pesch natives. Apparently mixed villages are very rare; generally the two groups don’t get along. Diana was a good cook even though too often our meal was only water and beans and rice. My friends kept pointing out that everything has to be trekked in, except maybe bananas and chocolate. We got some excellent hot chocolate several times and some equally excellent chocolate CAKE a few times. The natives were selling chocolate (I bought some), artisan products (purses, too-small hats, water bottle holders (bought one for my hike), and cheap looking carved animals.
On our return trip we headed for a Garifuna village on the coast where supposedly we could see sea turtles come ashore and lay their eggs (it’s the season) and see a performance of Garifuna dance. Unfortunately, I took an instant dislike to the hospidaje we stopped at. The Garifunas have a different culture than the Mosquito and Pesch, and our hosts clearly had NOT attended the workshop on tourism that the Las Marias folks had. The place was filthy. Two of the group got sick and blamed the food (I refused to eat there), so after a HORRENDOUS night which, sadly, did NOT include turtles, we hired a special boat and got the heck out of there. Our last night, back in Palacio, meant that we didn’t have to get up at to catch our plane, plus it was a motel with SHOWER!!
Back in La Ceiba we learned that Tegus airport was shut down because of pollution. What a shock. Apparently this is common when the people start BURNING the terrain for farming?? Anyway, I waited 6 hours in the airport for my flight. Might as well have taken the 6 hour bus ride. However, on the way home I was shocked to see the entire country in a haze from the fires. Bizarre. You’d think the government would take some action since this is so disruptive to travel and commerce. Oh well.
So now I’m back home in Langue, sopping wet from the heat, but it’s nice to be home.
Spent last week
in Tegus with a medical problem. This included two days in the hospital
so now I can talk about medical care in
The hospital was, not surprisingly, a far cry from an American hospital. I think the bed was broken cause I saw no way to move it up or down; so I could only lie flat. No one ever came to fill up the water jug, pushing the button for the nurse had no effect, and I could receive phone calls but not make them (or at least I couldn’t figure out how to do it). The big difference was the food. At meal times a girl would plunk down a 6” picnic plate and a 4oz. cup with an appropriate small plastic picnic fork or spoon and a paper napkin (Honduran paper napkins are always 2-ply whereas American paper napkins are 4-ply). The breakfast and supper beverage was always coffee with milk and sugar, like it or not. Lunch beverage was a juice like tamarindo. Needless to say, the amount of food on a 6” picnic plate wouldn’t keep a bird alive. I had a private room and air conditioning but no mosquito net so had to sleep under the sheet.
The other day a man came into the co-op holding a chicken (feathers and all) by the feet and wanting to sell it. No takers. But I bought some frozen chicken pieces and made some chicken soup. Put the chicken pieces in water with some carrots, onion, and celery. For spice I could add salt and espacia (a mix of cumin and pepper sold by the teaspoon in paper envelopes). I had found some stuff that looked like peppercorns, so I threw some of them in. But that’s about it. (One day I found cloves, paprika, something that looks like dill). After awhile, and in their own good time, I threw in yucca, potatoes, carrots, string beans, and little corncobs. Someone PLEASE look up and tell me the nutritional story on yucca!! Not bad soup. However, I had to eat soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then throw the rest away cause the pot wouldn’t fit in the tiny refrigerator. Wonder if I could buy a single piece of chicken?
I had been telling Edwin how much I
like quesadillas so yesterday his grandmother volunteered to show me how to make
them. In the western
(Regarding the quesadillas: When I said mixing was a “hand job” I meant that literally. They didn’t use a spoon or fork, only hands.)
Yesterday I spent in Nacaomi
getting a driver’s license. Edwin had recently gotten one and offered to shepard me through the process, so I took him up on it.
Never know when you want a driver’s license.
Anyway, first I had to get an eye exam at an oculist shop. Well actually
I just had to PAY for the exam paper but didn’t actually get an exam. Edwin
told them not to do it. Then I had to go to a doctor and get a
“physical”—meaning height and weight. And you of course have to pay for this,
too. (But I didn’t--cause the doctor was very
interested in the fact that I was a Peace Corps volunteer, and we had a lengthy
discussion about the disastrous state of English instruction in
Sunday, Mother’s Day, was pretty bloody here. A policeman guarding the drug plane was shot five times (and killed). I should ask the police, but I bet that was the first time a policeman was killed here in the line of duty. And then a truck ran over a drunk in the marketplace. I bet THAT happens a lot. Sundays especially there are drunks passed out all over the place.
I’ve had the computer in the coop
because of the air conditioning, and I’ve been playing music for the ladies.
Yesterday and today the darn computer was shutting down every few minutes; very
frustrating, and I was about to complain to my brother when it occurred to me
that it could be a power problem. So I plugged into a battery, and, sure
enough, that took care of the problem. Here in
By the way, the murder of the policeman last week was NOT the first according to my co-op guard, Luis. The first he remembers was two policeman who killed and were killed by two fellas in the cemetery for heaven’s sake. Another died in the city hall, but he doesn’t remember the circumstances. So that isn’t too many in about 45 years…
Turns out Mayra’s
grandfather was also the father of my next door neighbor, Jose, so I saw
lots of people I knew. Because Mayra is a member and employee of the co-op,
they wrote up a paper signed and sealed by the President and Secretary. I don’t
know if they gave the widow money or just the paper, but anyway, Carlos (the
President) drove us all over to the widow’s house after lunch where “the vigil”
was in process. The casket (the little glass window visible so you could view
the deceased) was in the living room, and all the furniture had been
temporarily replaced with chairs so about 50 ladies were sitting there. All the
men were hanging about in the back yard. We paid our condolences to the widow, viewed
the deceased, sat around for awhile, and left. At
the casket was moved to the Evangelical church for a service. The “hearse” was
a pickup truck with a device on the bed of the truck for holding the casket.
After the service the casket was returned to the pickup truck and driven to the
cemetery. All the mourners walked from the church to the cemetery. There was
quite a crowd. I thought they were largely family until I learned that the man
had only four children and two siblings, and one of his sons is in the
At the cemetery gate, the family took one more look at the grandfather, and then closed the door of the casket. A couple of young men were crying, and one woman was sobbing, but in general it was not a very somber occasion. Friends and family simply accompanied the casket to the grave. Finally, the casket was carried from the cemetery gate to the family plot where the tomb had already been opened. This is one of those above ground rectangular stone or cement monuments. Anyway, there was no further service; some men just put the casket into the tomb, added the flowers, and then, with cement, sealed the tomb with cement blocks. People drifted away all along. I talked for awhile with my next door neighbor, and then, as it was dusk, figured I had better start for home and left.
Romero told me that Catholic funerals last forever. First they have tons of food and drink each day for nine days. Then they repeat this party at 40 days and again at 6 months. Very expensive. I asked Aricela if the family needed to buy the plot, and she told me that this cemetery was ancient, and the family solely needed to get a ticket from the city hall. But there is another, new cemetery where people need to buy the plots.
five days working as translator (????) for some
My job was very rewarding. Some of the time I sat in with a doctor to help translate for the patient, but both doctors had a smidgen of Spanish. Once I worked with the two doctors as they dealt with an infant’s infection, and once I held the flashlight (yes, FLASHLIGHT) while a dentist stitched up a man’s gums. (That man was missing his 3 front teeth, but insisted there were teeth in there, and they hurt. So the dentist said, ok, I’ll slice him open; low and behold there were two teeth in there!) The worst thing I saw was the man who had problems with his feet. I said, “Show me,” and he proceeded to take his boots off even though the people around were saying, “no, no!” Sure enough, he had the most disgusting and evil smelling set of fungus-covered feet you can imagine. Then there was the woman who was 3 months late but insisted she wasn’t pregnant; she was pregnant. Almost every person who came in said he/she had a rash, headache, stomach ache, back ache, general body pain, pain with urination, eye pain, and parasites. It’s true that their were a zillion rashes, but for the rest—the word got around fast that if you wanted pain medicine you had to describe some pain, if you wanted glasses for reading you had to describe eye strain, if you wanted vitamins you had to describe “poor appetite,” etc. However, EVERYone got vitamins, etc. so it was confusing mess. I just would have given everyone who came in the door a sack of over-the-counter drugs and THEN asked who wanted to consult a doctor. Because MANY people couldn’t get in. It was a stampede all the time. On the last day, when there weren’t any more medicines, I just explained to the person, and then asked “what is your MAIN problem?” And even after the doctors quit, and the medicine was all gone, people STILL wanted in, wanted medicine, pointed out their little child or their aged parent… It was sad and not very well managed. Too many people who could afford stuff were in there getting free stuff while too many poor people couldn’t even get in the door. Sadder than that was the fact that this was very LIMITED medical care. The dentists could only extract teeth, not fill them. The doctors could only prescribe general medicines. Anyone with other needs was simply referred to another physician—and we know they don’t have the money for that.
Anyway, on the last day the mayor hosted a dinner for the entire crew. Unfortunately, many didn’t attend and so I found myself the only English/Spanish speaker (well, the best English/Spanish speaker), and so the head guy asked ME to say grace in Spanish. Oh God. Talk about stress. Never even said the word “God.” However, I DID manage to sneak in the word for Lord once…
Wrapping it up in Langue today, including working on diplomas for my English students. I was missing a lot of “complete” names and asked Areceli for help. Interestingly, she not only knew their father’s last name, but their mother’s last name and their middle name. Guess that’s what comes of everyone growing up in a small town.
Sabanagrande is a lovely town, with streets paved with cobblestones. I’ll be working for a foundation, Ambos, funded to provide food and other support to needy children and the elderly. It’s funded in part by a company here that fabricates and exports various high-end decorator catalog items in clay, wrought iron, and corn husk (flowers and dolls). The “factory” is a fascinating place for me, having spent most of my career involved in manufacturing. The American owner has instilled a lot of quality and consistency controls. For example, I observed potters at their wheel periodically pull out a tape measure to measure the diameter of their product. I also watched a lady constructing a new corn husk angel to a customer-provided spec drawing. However, since I’m working for the foundation, I had to tear myself away and spend the day at “the center.” The foundation managed to acquire a huge building from one of the state’s children’s agencies. Now they hope to get sufficient funding to utilize the space for one thing or another. For now, they simply FEED three meals a day to 54 assorted children, from infant to 18 years, I believe, plus a number of oldsters. The children are the lowest of the low, some having been horribly abused, but all terribly poor. The center gives them food and school supplies (notebook, pencil, uniform) and books. I had thought that the government supplied these things at the elementary school level but am now learning that the government merely provides teachers and classrooms/desks. Which means the poor are at a terrible disadvantage.
The center also provides a place for the children to congregate. There are a few toys, a TV and vcr and a number of children’s tapes. However, everything is in English, for heaven’s sake. It’s interesting to observe the children raptly watching, for example, “The Princess Bride,” without understanding a single word. Their storybooks are also in English. (Feel free to send stuff here to
The children can bathe if they want to—no towels or hot water—but they’re grateful for it. Just like Angel’s family in Langue. It’s just so hard to grasp what it means to live in an environment where WATER is a precious resource. Reminds me of “Dune,” but, for heaven’s sake that was science fiction! I think it’s going to be hard to work here. You immediately start to see where MORE is needed. After reading the menu for two weeks I said to the manager, “the children get milk only once a week (with cornflakes).” Yes, he said; it costs like L.18,000 to feed them for 15 days. Our children get milk three times a day, at least, but these poor kids are kept alive on a diet of carbs. I joined a group for lunch today—beans, rice, ½ a potato with Honduran butter. At first the woman brought me the plate with a hardboiled egg and piece of fried baloney, but I said, no, I want the same as them. Still she brought me their meal plus a hard boiled egg which I promptly, surreptitiously slipped to my nearest kids. The kids, like all kids, are as sweet as can be, fighting to hold my hand while we walked, making drawings for me, breaking open a coconut seed to give me the little piece of nut meat inside.
My first job here is to build a web site to advertise the foundation and hopefully increase their donations. They would like to be more self-sufficient. I have no experience in the charity business but know that it is a constant battle to raise money. Plus the founder doesn’t want a boring web site and doesn’t want to use pictures of pathetic children to raise money. He wants these children to make something that they can give to people in exchange for their donation. Any ideas? I suggested that the children could draw on clay objects that the parent factory could then fire. They liked that idea. I think children’s drawings are always popular. Right now they have a 19 year old French girl working here with the children (she was sent for 6 months by some European foundation. She’s going to get them to make embroidered cloth belts. (Girls here learn embroidery in school.) She told me it’s difficult to get the children interested in activities because they like the TV. I’m going to ask the director more—they should restrict that activity and offer others—whatever THEY are. Again, any ideas? I don’t know much about children. I saw a basketball, and they have a piano for heaven’s sake—but no music and no basketball court. I think I can show them how to make checkers and a checkerboard. But see? Already I’m getting off track; I’m supposed to be working on a WEB SITE.
Well, I painted a checkerboard on the porch with a permanent marker and had the kids find a bunch of bottle tops and started teaching them how to play checkers. This is rather a pathetic place; there are NO activities. I think it’s mind boggling to watch 20 kids watch a movie in ENGLISH. Anyone remember how to play 4 square or other games with one ball? I wonder if hopscotch is too basic. Humm, tomorrow I’ll show them hopscotch. Today at lunch I joined the old people. I won’t be able to do it again; it’s too depressing. They were obviously hungry cause they sure cleaned their plates. I didn’t; Honduran spaghetti, pataste, and tortillas just doesn’t cut it. Again the lady in charge cheated and gave me lemonade while everyone else had water.
The kids wore me out today. They
have absolutely NO social skills, so I feel like a third grade teacher. Deedee,
HELP!!! Unfortunately, I have no experience with handling 20 youngsters; they
need a teacher or social director or something. I made several checkerboards,
and there’s always someone who wants to play WITH ME, but if I don’t play, they
can’t seem to get through a game what with arguing and hitting each other. I
made a hopscotch and the same thing happened. I made
them sit in timeout if they hit one another, and I make them say please and
thank you, but it’s exhausting. I hate to just abandon them, but I don’t have
the energy for this. I asked
A rainy Sunday and I should have
stayed indoors, but during one lull I decided to walk into town and check out
the market. Langue’s Sunday market is huge afterall. Oops. Turns out that
Sabanagrande’s market is more like the
Last week I met with my
“counterpart” in Tegus and made up a work plan. Work plan? My God, this is
The pulperia has one ESPECIALLY big difference—you can’t go inside. There are bars on the doors and windows, and you go up to the window and ask for what you want. This is often frustrating for me cause I don’t know the NAMES of things and would much prefer browsing the shelves… oh well.
Doors, gates, cupboards, etc. in
Addresses—like here in
Sabanagrande—can include a “kilometer” notation, such as my physical address
which is KM 49. This tells you that I am 49 km. from
By the way, AMBOS is DESPERATELY
looking for a donation of 2nd hand computers to put into their
center for the children to work on and as a money-making idea (internet
café—ATUTO will donate the internet hookup, and they have the facility).
Anyway, all you
Some of you asked about what the children and oldsters need—wow, try to imagine people who have nothing. Children going barefoot or in shoes too large. I mean we’re talking BASIC here, like toothpaste, clothes, shoes, hairbrushes, combs, barrettes, underwear, to say nothing of Spanish videos (which might be easier to come by now since the advent of DVD). Toys and games would be great. The things WE (oldies) used as kids are big here—marbles and jacks!! Oh, and basic learning the piano sheet music. I could teach them, and they have a piano but no one even taught them chopsticks (and I can’t remember). Whatever strikes your fancy. Incidentally, the children’s pottery making activities are waiting on ME. I have to learn the pottery biz and decide what is appropriate for them to make. I was kind of thinking of little tiles with drawings etched in them, but I’ll see what is possible. What do you think of napkins or maybe placemats? It would be easier to control the basic quality. Afterall, this needs to be FUN not work. Anyway, they are such sweeties—wait til you see the web site I’m building, you’ll fall in love with them! One little doll just always wants to get cuddled, doesn’t want to play, just have me hold him. But these are happy kids. It is such a miracle to see that human beings are so incredibly resilient. Well, I’m going on and on and on and you’re probably bored.
Yesterday I had another adventure on the bus. Wow! I was loaded down, carrying a purse, briefcase, heavy grocery bag (including both a big bottle of bleach AND a loaf of bread) and big bag full of various candles. The bus was so full that people were standing packed solid in the aisle--but there’s always room for one more. I insisted on sitting on the step. No way could I ride an hour standing up. Of course everyone is very nice. You can’t imagine--I was sitting on the first step, a young man was standing on one foot on the second step, and two delightful 20 year old boys (the employees, not passengers) had a ball hanging out of the bus (of course the door stayed open the entire trip, oh EXCEPT for the two seconds it took to pass the transit police blockade. They must be well aware of the rules but ignore them cause they want the fares. Frequently on a bus the standing people are asked to squat down while the bus passes the transit police. ) Anyway, the boys hung out like riding on a cable car--except of course we’re traveling at probably 70 miles and hour!! Boys of that age are SUCH a kick, so the epitome of the masculine spirit--fearless, adventuresome, self-confident, foolhardy even, full of fun. Now, every time the bus stopped, I’d get off, the other guy got off. Then any other passenger could disembark and THEN the young man in the yellow shirt and I would climb back up to our steps. You’d think that over time the bus would empty out a little, but I didn’t sit down in a seat until about 15 minutes from home because people continued to board even with yellow shirt and me on the steps.
Forgot to mention: when I was last
in Talanga, I watched my first ever soccer match. I enjoyed it and decided that
the only difference between here and in the States is that the field was
littered with little pint sized plastic bags—from the millions of bags of water
that the players drank and tossed. They didn’t have bleachers or a score board,
but plenty of fields in the
Saturday I took the bus south
because some friends in Langue wanted my help in buying a computer. Decided
that riding the step gets old in a hurry… Anyway, my friends picked me up where
Went to the doctor in Tegus yesterday for a follow-up on my dizziness episode. They tell me that this was caused by some vertebrae in my neck being out of whack????????? Which reminds me of another difference with Honduran doctors. This guy, typically, BEGINS seeing patients at . Also, when was the last time that you brought a consult to a doctor and he examined you and wrote up a response on the spot? You may wait an hour (first come, first served) and may have to bring your own x-rays, but otherwise it’s pretty efficient.
A new woman was hired at the
fabrica last week so I lost my neat workstation. I’m still keeping an “office”
there tho, because of the phone and internet access. So, have I mentioned
before that in
La cucaracha, la cucaracha. I had
never seen a cockroach before I came to Sabanagrande. I didn’t even know that
“cucaracha” meant cockroach. Langue had its own endemic insects; Sabanagrande
has cockroaches. If you’re like I was, let me describe them: an exoskeleton,
black, about 2” long and ovoid. Pretty disgusting.
The new woman at the fabrica got
fired. I think
It’s very cold lately. Well, cold
is relative. Windy and chilly. I always sleep with 2
blankets and sometimes add my sleeping bag. I keep asking people, if it’s this
cold now, what’s it going to be like in winter? Everyone says it’s colder in
winter, very windy.
Which reminds me
of the filter project. What an amazing product! Developed, I think, in
I don’t know why it took me so long
to notice this, but apparently in
I was in a pulperia today, drinking a soda, when a little boy came in and bought a pack of cigarettes. L.12, about 75 cents.
Passed my second
There was something else I wanted to tell you, but I can’t remember. I’m exhausted. Today I did the clay project with the children. Oh. My. God. Twenty children with clay. All you ex-teachers are joining my sister Deedee as she rolls on the floor laughing. I am covered in mud. Remember, I’ve told you these children have no social skills. Oh God. Well, it was to be an activity for “self expression” as they say in the manuals. For that it was wonderful. Some of the little children automatically say “I can’t.” So I say, sure you can, and take a little ball of clay and mush it around. I had a bunch of coasters already cut out so they could draw on them and I had a big pile of clay so they enjoyed themselves. We used large nails to draw with so OF COURSE when I’m not looking some of the older boys are punching nail holes in everything. The morning session wasn’t too bad, and I learned. I told my colleague (she’s in the water san group but like me finds it hard to resist the children), my sister would have scheduled 15 minutes for clean up so in the afternoon I’ll do that. But in the afternoon we got a little out of control. Ended up children—AFTER they got all dirty—would start taking their school clothes off. Then some of them started throwing mud at their friends. Oh dear. And of course the water wasn’t running so they couldn’t use the shower. My colleague’s sister and two children (looked about 9 and 12) were visiting. They were quite taken aback by the rowdiness. And the little girl asked me “why is he running around in his underwear?” I said, well he only has the one set of school clothes and doesn’t want to get them dirty. I think I was a baddd day care worker. But they got so dirty that I improvised. Set up a girls bathroom in the pila room and then scooted them out and let the boys have the pila for awhile. Some of them washed their little white shirts on the spot. One kid couldn’t FIND his shirt. He said his mother would hit him so I lifted one from the office. These children are very undereducated and experienced. Even after I showed them how to make a bowl or suggested an ashtray or a head or whatever, they couldn’t do it. But they were just thrilled to show me their little clay thingamajigs and their drawings. Dian, give up your idea of getting a pottery from them. They were getting the hang of the drawing on the coasters tho, so I think this will work out. Do I have the energy to bring those coasters back after firing so the children can PAINT them?? I don’t know. Need to rest up first. Do I have the energy to do this project again? Oh my God. Deedee I think you should come visit me.
Oh, the web site is up. Check out www.AmbosFoundation.org and meet my kids. It’s no where near complete, but you can see the place and the children.
Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you about sickness. Very interesting. I have a cold, a bad cold. People say I should get a shot. They all get shots at the drop of a hat. The last time I visited my friend Claudia in Talanga, her brother in law came by with a drip bag for her to inject him with (she’s a nurse). I asked what/why and was told it was “vitamins” because he felt “weak.” Bizarre. Also, very sad to relate, one of the Peace Corps volunteers had to leave early because they discovered he had triconosis for God’s sake from eating bad pork. Needless to say I never eat pork from street vendors, only reputable restaurants. Scary tho.
Well, think I’ll send this off.
My colleague Charissa had a check written in red ink, but the bank refused to cash it. Against the rules. She tried in vain to learn WHY, but all they would say was it was against the rules. However, with normal American ingenuity she just wrote over the red with black ink and cashed the check.
Went with a group
down the road a ways to El Ecotel, a restaurant and zoo. Three of us
rode in the back of the pickup—this is the normal mode of travel here. Two or
20, makes no difference. And folks (probably those 20 year old boys) love to
sit on the edge of the bed. Scares me to death.
Anyway, the zoo was interesting but pathetic. Lots of beautiful parrots, some
peacocks, a pelican, a turtle, spider monkeys and white faced monkeys, some
panthers, a pair of raccoons, something that looked like a coyote, chickens,
turkeys, some little deer-like animals, a couple of other mammals that I can’t
remember. The zoo looked relatively clean, but the cages were not adequate for
the mammals. The pair of raccoons looked to be in a cage 2´x 2´x 4´. They were
constantly circling, neurotically. Probably wouldn’t last long. Very sad. Also the coyote-like animal was constantly
circling his cage, but it was at least a little bigger and he didn’t appear
QUITE so upset by it as the raccoons. The panthers
were just apathetic. The monkeys were monkeys. Now, this is
I was told the public zoo in
I was talking to the guard the
other day about employment in
On the other hand, people are pretty friendly here, especially in this small town. The other night I got a phone call. I couldn’t understand much of what the woman was saying but caught the words “youth center” and “post office.” So figured she was asking if I was the lady who works at the youth center and if so I should go to the post office. Sure enough, when I went to the post office the next day, there was a package and a letter waiting for me. Turns out that the post mistress had mail for me, but I wasn’t picking it up. So she put an announcement on the RADIO!! “Camila Flores has mail.” For a week people were telling me to go to the post office. What a kick.
Also, I went looking for the vegetable truck one Saturday but couldn’t find it. I had thought he always parked in a certain place. So I mentioned this to my neighborhood pulperia (7-11 type store) owner and he said, “well they drive down this street every Saturday. I’ll send a message when they come.” Sure enough, later that day a fella came knocking at my door to tell me that the vegetable truck was waiting for me at the corner. What service! And what interesting vegetables. Potatoes with the dirt still on them, incredibly huge heads of broccoli, incredibly huge (and misshapen) carrots. The stuff is right off the farm, but even so it doesn’t look like stuff we buy at those little stands in the country. Stuff is just not PRETTY. Americans want their food to look pretty.
I made a cream of broccoli soup
with that huge head of broccoli. Tasted wonderful.
Another week I bought some apples—not the ones imported from
This past weekend I tried—for the FIRST time!!—to cook something with meat. Here you don’t go to the supermarket meat counter and pick out something wrapped in plastic (except in Tegus you CAN do that). No. Here you go to the carniceria where slabs of beef are hanging in front of your eyes. I had been asking people what you call it when you want thick pieces to make a specific thing. It’s difficult. I wanted chicken breasts, but you can’t buy them. Most people buy packages of frozen chicken pieces—pieces like necks and other icky, boney stuff. However, I learned that I could ask for a “portion” and get a breast-wing or leg combination. So I was able to make a chicken stir fry! I was ready to throw the rest away but, at the last minute threw it into a pot and made soup. Anyway, the meat. I never did go to the meat store—a friend brought me a nice thick slab of beef that I was able, with great difficulty, to cut up into little pieces for a stew which turned out fantastic, and I had company in to eat it all up.
Well, that’s about it. Still enjoying the sounds of the creek behind my apartment and still enjoying the fierce rain and thunder that comes by most afternoons or evenings.
Someone asked what I DO here. Well,
I have a “workstation” at the Atuto factory, and I generally work there from
8-5. There I have access to telephone and internet so it’s very convenient.
They like me to write the emails because I’m the only one fluent in English, and all their customers are in the
Recently I began working on another web site—for Atuto, but it is a very tedious and boring project, unlike the Ambos web site—so I’ve been thinking of doing some other things. I’ve contacted Junior Achievement and will do some work with the Ambos children and probably also the local school. I also volunteered to help/teach the mayor’s office web design. Apparently there’s a new law that every city has to have a web site. And, finally, I visited the school and said I would like to teach English and maybe advise the computer classes in February (school ends at the end of November and there’s a two month break).
The other day I was sitting at my
“desk” in the afternoon and suddenly felt like some ice cream. So I decided to
go across the street and get some. Being a well-bred person, I started asked my
neighbors if they wanted me to get them anything. Oops, half way across the
office, after half a dozen people said they would like ice cream too, I
remembered that in
Yesterday a bunch of kids came over
to my house. It was kind of fun trying to come up with ways to entertain them.
First I gave them each some orange. There were two pieces left over though, so
I put the kids into teams and asked them to tell me a number from one to 10 to
guess the number I was thinking of. I don’t think they had every done that
before and enjoyed it. Then I had them stand up in birthday order. That was
fun, too. Remember that my friend had been unable to get them to do it on their
own while standing on a 2x4. But by simplifying the game--removing the2x4 and
giving them a bit of help—they could do it, well a couple of the older ones
understood. They ranged in age boy: 5, 6, 2 sevens, 3 eights, 9, 12 or
something like that. I was amazed because in the
This past weekend I went out east
to Via Santa in El Paraiso to visit my friend Lynda. Great
trip. Via Santa is a little town up in the piney woods, and hour and a
half up a dirt road. At one point the bus drove through a small creek. Guess Via Santa can become isolated when it rains a lot! I took my
Langue friend Angel along to keep me company on this 6 hour voyage. I had lost
the directions Lynda had given me, and I couldn’t even remember the name of the
town, but I was undaunted because she had drawn me a picture of the place where
the buses to her city waited. We actually arrived right on schedule with no
trouble at all. Lynda is in love with her Honduran boyfriend. He is a real
sweetheart, but I had to tell them that, honestly, I didn’t recommend the
marriage that they are contemplating. They have nothing in common. Oh well,
they’ll do what they will. Angel is also getting married. He came up a week ago
asking to borrow L.500 because he needed to impress his girl friend’s family.
At least I THINK that’s what it was all about. My site mate Charissa and I were
totally perplexed by his meandering story, but it seems that he—he’s only 18
remember—has been keeping company with a 16 year old in a town near Langue, and
they had sex. This is statutory rape in
Saturday night in Via Santa we all—Lynda, her boyfriend, another visiting volunteer, Valerie, and Angel and I—went to a dance. Typical Honduran. Incredibly loud music, but contemporary, all young people dancing. Bunches of mothers sitting along the wall “chaperoning” their daughters. Lots of little kids who came with the mothers I guess.
The other day I was riding in a
taxi in Tegus, and I got another lesson in city driving,
This morning as I walked to work I passed by a butcher shop, and a number of women were lined up at the window. So I stopped to see what was going on. Turned out they were buying pork. The lady behind the window just sliced off some meat from the hanging haunch of pork, weighed it, and off the customer goes with her meat. We would go berserk at the unsanitary conditions, but it IS kind of back to basics, yes? You can probably get exactly what and how much you want, that is, IF you know how to say it. Then again, I know how to ask for chicken breast, but too often, such as yesterday, I end up with leg instead of breast. They sell “portions” of either breast or leg quarters of chicken, but I guess it’s hard to tell the difference when they’re frozen. I could buy a whole chicken (again frozen), but it doesn’t fit too well in my pot. Here in Sabanagrande I never see the live chickens like I saw all the time in Langue. I guess we’re so close to the capital that we “benefit” from the market advances like frozen chicken.
Yesterday my friend and site mate,
Charissa, asked me to accompany her on a long walk into the aldeas to invite
children to this week’s toy giveaway (courtesy of Continental Airlines). It was
very interesting. We walked up the highway a ways and then turned off onto a
dirt road and walked up, and up, and uuuuppppp, catching one ride along the
way. Then we went to each house, telling them what we were doing and asking if
they had any children between five and 12. We recorded the names and ages and
gave our little “tickets” for admission. These aldeas are considerably poorer
than the city of
The toy giveaway was a disaster! First, it’s always a mistake to have something for only SOME of any group. So the 300 chosen children went into the social center where the affair was to be held, and then 10 trillion OTHER children—or rather their mothers!—clamored at the door to get in. It was a real zoo. I explained til I was blue in the face that this was for POOR children, but everyone hung on the door anyway. I chatted with one woman and told her that this reminded me of what I went through when Cabbage Patch Dolls were the rage. Mothers don’t want to deprive their children of ANYTHING!
Secondly, the Continental folks arrived 2 hours late. Can you imagine 300 children from infant to 12 years sitting quietly for 2 hours? It was a zoo, but I must say the Honduran children are a lot more patient.
Thirdly, someone didn’t have any
organization or communication skills because after they had insisted that we
record everyone’s name and age, they had identical toys for each age group and
just handed them out. It was more than chaotic. They demonstrated that the
people who hung around were smart afterall, cause if
they simply got in the door, they would get a gift. The gifts weren’t too
spectacular, but—whereas our kids in the
I think it’s one of the big
problems here. And that is that people in the
I also think that it’s difficult to get CLOSE to needy people—I mean it’s pretty easy to donate money to an organization, but although they always do good work and certainly need money in order to do their good work—they deal in generalities not particulars. They don’t interact with Angel and Gabriela and Rudy and Tingo. I especially felt this when I came back from Christmas in the states with two suitcases jammed full of as much as I could bring of clothing and shoes. I was overwhelmed. I said to the children, who needs shoes? They ALL raise their hands and show me their bare feet or the flopping soles on the pair of shoes they’re wearing. It was really another nightmare trying to distribute what I had in an equitable manner.
Former French volunteer Alexandra sent me more than a thousand limperas (proceeds from selling jewelry made from Honduran seeds) to buy the children a gift. So I asked them to write down what they wanted. I can hardly wait to see the list. I’m afraid from some of the comments I’ve heard that I’m going to see things like pants and shoes. I’m probably going to have to go back and say you each get 20 limps. However, I was curious. If you could have one present, what would you want?
New Year’s Eve here in Sabanagrande was fun. I finally saw some real cultural traditions. First, they burn scarecrow men, or effigies, at the stroke of . One person told me that the one I photographed was supposed to represent Maduro, the President. Oh well… anyway, the effigy was full of fire crackers so as it burned, it set of a continual stream of fire crackers. Actually scared me to death as I was standing too close. Fire crackers themselves are another cultural tradition. People are setting them off continually throughout the holiday which culminates on New Year’s Eve. Some of us can remember when Fourth of July was like that. The Hondurans haven’t yet come to accept our reason for not having that stuff any more so the Honduran newspapers are full of pictures of children and adults who have blown off their hands or burned their faces, etc. I don’t think anyone was injured in Sabanagrande though. The last tradition I saw was at the house of a friend who invited me for New Year’s Eve dinner. Again at the stroke of she filled a bowl with a mixture of beans, rice, some kind of seed, and some coins. She said she will leave the bowl on the table all year as it’s supposed to bring good luck.
Last night Pavel came to collect
his shoes. Pavel is a young (28 years old) doctor who works in an aldea and
lives in Sabanagrande. He speaks fluent English, and I think he’s a really nice
young man. Anyway, he had asked me to buy him some shoes while I was in the
So what do you think your kids would say if you said you were going to give them a present and what would they like to have? That’s what I did to the foundation kids this week. A previous volunteer had sent me L. 3000 odd to buy them each a present. Anyway, kid after kid wrote “shoes,” or “shoes and pants.” One little doll wrote “a surprise basket of snack food and sweets.” Then when I broke the news to them that they each got to spend about L.50, everyone wanted a watch. What kind of a watch do you think you get for the equivalent of $1.75? Oh well, they were happy. So I had a bunch of kids selecting a watch plus underpants and/or socks. Can you imagine your kids spending their present buying themselves underwear? One little girl caught on really fast and ended up with a watch, some lip gloss, some underpants, some hair ties, some little girl thingy, and some jacks. Some boys combined their fund and bought a soccer ball and had money left for a watch each. One kid said his mother could add fifty limps to his fifty limps and this would buy a pair of shoes he had seen at the “Used American Clothes” shop. So we went over there, but unfortunately the boots were a tad too small.
Someone had told me to just buy them all the same thing, but I couldn’t bear to. They’re always treated as a number, simply one of a group, and I wanted them to be individuals for once. It was, however, a real chore. These are VERY undisciplined children, so taking 10 or fifteen to the store was exhausting.
And this was AFTER I started an English class for the sixth graders and 1st year collegio students. These kids were light years different from the Langue sixth graders. They are little wild things. Unfortunately, I haven’t the patience or skill to deal with that so I ended up kicking them out one after another until I had six kids left who were able to “stay on task” as my school teacher sister would say. So we’ll see how it goes. Today there’ll be more shopping and more English class.
And I wonder how many watches will still be working today. The proprietor warned them that these watches were not waterproof. We’ll see. Already two boys lost their brand new soccer ball to a bully boy who took it from them on the street. I said, can’t we tell the police or something? Because the boys know the kid who took the ball. The day care worker at the foundation, Olga (a real go-getter and a very sweet lady), said wait awhile. I think she feels that the ball can be retrieved without going to the police. Again, we’ll see.
Well, we’ve finished the buying. Final result: tons of watches, underwear, socks, couple of shirts, several soccer balls, several jacks, several cars, several watch caps (believe it or not baseball caps were way too expensive!!)
Considering that the FHIS project has also just come up with 100 assorted toys, it’s been interesting to watch the kids. Not enough dolls—all the girls want to play with a doll. They also like the jump ropes and the jacks. The boys like the little toy people (like soldiers but I think these are farmers) and the leggos. Several of the older kids take out the games—checkers, Parcheesi, and chess—but I found out they’re not playing the game that goes with the board. I think they’re playing some strange version of checkers with the chess pieces. And of course they have no interest or patience to learn the games. I finally confiscated the monopoly games because they hadn’t a clue how to play and were just going to lose all the pieces. The director bought too many educational games, I think. There are some neat multiplication and division things that you push a button to check your answer, but the only ones to play with it are tiny tots who just like to push the buttons.
There was a tragic accident this weekend
that killed four people in Sabanagrande. A young man, his wife, an infant, and
a 12 year old were killed and a 6 year old is in the hospital after a semi
truck lost control on the highway on a curve and flipped on top of them. This
happened about on Friday but
it wasn’t until the next day that the bodies could be removed. How do you lift
up a semi? By the way, the highway is really just a 2-lane road (one lane each
direction) that goes from Tegus south to Choluteca. This highway is the only road
south so everyone uses it. I’ve mentioned before how similar driving on it is
to Highway 1 in
Well Sabanagrande is, of course, a reasonably small town, so most everyone knew someone in the family so devastated. The bodies were laid out in the town social center (the same building where we had the toy giveaway), and everyone paid their respects—a wake—until Saturday afternoon when they were interred.
Apparently, the mother of the
infant had just arrived (illegally) in the
A couple days later I found myself walking along self-same highway—ooooh, scary. Those cars and trucks whiz by at up to 60 miles per hour.
My phone has been dead as a
doornail for the whole month. Interesting because I was thinking recently that
the thing I like best about
Some engineers from
Some of my friends have been
experiencing the complications of love in
Another friend, Charissa, took up with a Honduran boy, fully intending to leave him behind when she leaves, but her “adventure” tells the tale of the role of gossip (chisme) in a small town. The boy (I can hardly call him a man since he’s only 20) lived with a local woman for several years. She ended up having a child but claimed that the father is one of the high school teachers (this is financially advantageous because he has money for support—so who knows who the true father is…) No sooner had the young man taken up with Charissa then the other woman (30 years old to his 20!!!) began harassing her, accusing her of stealing her man. Before you could say Jack Robinson, the whole town is talking about Charissa and her boyfriend and not in a complimentary way either. And this is after she’s lived in the town for over a year and works harder than any other volunteer, and everybody likes her. Charissa feels that the town “doesn’t know” her boyfriend but have lumped him in with the rest of his family who everyone regards as no good and lazy. She also grants that it may be true that he’s lazy considering that at 20 he has no high school diploma and doesn’t work… I’m so glad I’m post-menopausal.
The woman who works as a day care worker in the foundation—I like her very much—asked me the other day if I could help out two kids who want to go to high school but don’t have the money for the uniform (which includes closed shoes). I asked her for an amount, and the next day she came back with L. 800-1000, and I told her I would do it. I believe that this small amount of money should never keep a hardworking kid from high school or even university. We’re talking, total—including fees—of less than $100 A YEAR!! Would any of you care to join me in setting up and funding a scholarship fund? More than 50% of Honduran children leave school at age 12, but kids who are motivated and can maintain good grades should be able to continue.
Charissa told me another sad story of politics here. Seems that someone was hired to help get people to pay their water bills. (No one pays their water bills.) So he sent out a note saying “pay your water bill or your water will get shut off. Then there were many complaints about the note so they fired the man. Today of course no one pays their water bill.
School started up again in February, so this past month I have been going over to the high school trying to set something up. This is the first time I have spent any time in one of the high schools. Eye opener! I started assisting in an English class, and the first thing I noticed was that about 15 kids had to sit on the floor cause there were not enough desks. Needless to say the teacher doesn’t have a desk or chair either. No big surprise that the teachers don’t have a teacher’s lounge.
I thought the English teacher did a pretty good job, not like the stuff I had seen in homework coming out of Langue’s English classes. But, again not surprisingly, they have no books or even dictionaries. The teacher had some Xeroxed hand-outs which weren’t bad. He said next month he will begin Xeroxing pages from a real book. The sad thing is that the kids have English 2 hours a week. Who can learn this way? When the teacher asked the students to list 25 action verbs (these are not beginning students), the best student from last year could list only three verbs.
Next I signed up to help the Commercial Career director with her equipment class. This high school offers only one “career.” (In Langue they offered tons: commercial, teaching, woodwork, metal work.) So if a student wants to learn to weld, for example, he has to find another high school somewhere that offers it and then travel there. So here they offer only Commercial. Guess how many computers they have? Four. The teacher hasn’t even been teaching the students computers because she has only 2 hrs a week of a workshop in typing, adding machine, and computers. Plus the computers have English software that she doesn’t understand. So starting tomorrow, I’ll be teaching groups of 4 students in 20 minute segments. This will be interesting. I heard from the mayor that the elementary school has a bunch of computers but that the teacher knows nothing about computers. I’ve been over there a couple of times, but the director’s not been there. Supposedly, he is arranging for me to teach English.
Anyway, back to the high school. They have a guard at the gate, and they LOCK the gate!! When I first went there, the guard had to go find the person I wanted to talk to and get the OK to let me in. They won’t even let in students who don’t have classes. Now, I have a written pass that the director gave me. Of course, now the guard knows me, and I don’t even have to show my pass. However, this morning I had to wait at the gate for 20 minutes because the guard was absent. Oh well.
It’s that time of year when water becomes scarce in
Adios for now!!
Oops, what was it I said about being lucky to have water? Saturday night as I was brushing my teeth---the flow of water trickled to a stop!! Sunday night more water was delivered to the cisterns, but this morning my shower turned into a trickle after my hair was all soaped up! Oh, dear. It may be time to start filling my pila for emergencies.
I believe I’ve mentioned the Cuban doctors who live in
Wow, real problems with water! No water at all in the apartments
yesterday. Am starting to think I should store some.
No classes yesterday at the high school because the teachers were on strike. I have always heard that the teachers go on strike every other minute, but now that I work at a high school, I’ll learn about it first hand. Already I see a problem. The English class only meets on Thursday and Friday. Last week they didn’t meet for some reason or another, and now this week there are strikes. Hummm. I heard that the teachers were striking because they were short one teacher. So today the STUDENTS went on strike demanding their teacher and blocking the entrance with their pickets. I doubt that the national department of Education pays any attention, but I’ll keep you posted.
Yesterday, the teacher in the 6th grade at the elementary school where I teach English told me “no class Thursday or Friday because I have a doctor’s appointment.” I guess they don’t have substitute teachers here… But the 6th graders are delightful, and so quick. I’ve decided to offer myself to the director of the elementary school all afternoon, and he can decide if he’d rather have computer classes or English classes. THAT should keep me occupied!!
Wow! No water again. Now I hear that April is the worst month. We’ll get water every four days. Sooo, it’s time to readjust. I’m going to start using the pila, meaning I’ll clean it and allow it to fill with water. Then, when there’s no water in the apartment (which will be usually), I’ll at least be able to wash dishes and clothes outside and collect water in a bucket for a bucket shower. Wow! After a year and a half I’m going to be taking regular bucket showers???
Planning to go up to visit a friend over Samana Santa, and it is becoming a problem. Why? Because no one can tell me about the buses. (Last Samana Santa I was vacationing in the Mesquitia for the whole week.) Anyway, Samana Santa (Easter week) is a big holiday here, bigger than Christmas. Schools are closed the whole week, and businesses are closed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. So are buses: some people say they won’t run on Friday, others say Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So if I go somewhere, I might get stuck for three days. I’ve decided to go anyway. Might as well have nothing to do somewhere new as nothing to do here.
LOVE teaching English to the 6th graders! I always did like middle school kids. Anyway, they are delightful, and I’m having a really good time. Originally I had told the director I would teach only one class so would teach a month in each section and take the best 10 students from each class; but after a week of teaching section A, I felt that I couldn’t bear to leave any of them out because they were all so good. So I told the director I would teach all three 6th grade classes. And so I discovered that I believe they’re tracking. Section A is noticeably better than section B, and section C is a nightmare. You teachers will totally understand. This last week, after we had spent a week going over I eat-you eat-he eats-she-eats-it eats-who eats-we eat-you eat-they eat (and 9 other action verbs), I threw up some food nouns, almost all of which they knew already (chicken, chips, milk, juice, etc.). Then, after we practiced for awhile (I eat chicken, I drink milk) I asked them to write five sentences using the food (like “I eat chicken”). A group had no trouble with this. One kid even came up with “I drink juice orange” (which is fantastic and understandable because in Spanish adjectives follow verbs. However, B group gave me blank looks. They simply could not think independently. Rote learning is a major, major problem here. Actually this made me feel really good because I feel I am contributing something. So I led them by the hand. First, identify their favorite food and write the phrase “I eat (or drink) [that food].” But they couldn’t do that either. So I ask a kid what his favorite food is and tell him to write “I eat [that food].” They were thrilled. After I did that with a couple of kids, more caught on. Then I said, now ask your friend what his favorite food is and write “He eats [that food].” Again, they didn’t get it until I went through the exercise of saying ask you friend what is his favorite food, getting an answer, and telling him to write “he eats [that food].” Again, after a couple of times more kids caught on.
C group is like all C groups, but unfortunately I’m not like all 6th grade teachers. I left early the other day and told the teacher I didn’t think I would be able to handle it. (Funny, but C group’s teacher is the only male teacher in 6th grade!) Then too, the class is immediately after recess. He must have had a talk with them, though, because yesterday I made it through the whole class. One boy in B group is deaf and dumb. Talk about mainstreaming. He’s such a little cutie with a delightful attitude, but I wonder how he can be learning much. The other kids communicate with him with some kind of very basic sign language, and I watched him play kick the can with another kid during recess. He is obviously lucky to have been born into a family that isn’t poor. With schooling he’ll have some chance in life. (I met an American lady a few months back who adopted a little deaf and dumb boy she encountered 10 years ago. He was so neglected he was practically dead from starvation. Today he’s even learning to talk and is happy and doing well in school. )
I sit and watch the kids at recess (4th, 5th and 6th graders) and believe that kids are the same everywhere. They run and scream and laugh. Lots of running. The boys kick a ball and run around. The girls jump rope. I’ve seen a few girls playing with the boys and a few boys playing with the girls. Everyone (well, I guess, except the poor kids) buys snacks—chips, cookies, donuts, cokes. These are sold by, I guess the poor kids, and one teacher sells stuff, possibly a school fund raising deal.
Wow, I had a lovely Easter vacation. Here in Honduras Easter
is the biggest holiday, bigger than Christmas. In fact, EVERYthing
closes down for three days—Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. No buses. So wherever
you are on Wednesday, you’ll stay there til Sunday unless you have a car. This
year I went to visit a friend in El Porvenir. On Thursday I accompanied him and
a whole family group of his friends to a family picnic at a nearby river. Just like
fourth of July in
On Good Friday my friend and I were driven to Comayagua (we paid for the gas and lunch of the friends who drove us in their truck). Here they have a contest every Easter. It reminded me of the Pasadena Rose Parade. All kind of groups and clubs or civic groups or whatever create a “rug” made out of colored sawdust. They call it a rug, but actually it’s just a drawing of a rug, with religious and resurrection themes. Some are quite beautiful. At the end of the day, the rugs are all destroyed. We hear that people come from all over the country to see the sawdust rugs. It’s one of the few indigenous cultural activities still remaining in the country.
On the way back from Comayagua, my new friends dropped me at Talanga to visit other friends. On Saturday this family, too, planned an outing to a river. I think everyone spends all their time, even weekends, working, so Easter is the only time people can actually get away. Saturday night all the cities have a candlelight procession to the church, and Sunday the buses start running again.
My computer got stolen a couple of days ago along with my digital camera and my 35mm camera. This was a houseguest--a friend of a friend! They keep telling us not to trust anyone, but who wants to live that way. The pathetic irony is that the digital can’t be useful without the cable (in my purse) to take off the pictures; the 35mm was broken; and the computer was not working (although I had hoped my brother could fix it sufficiently to retrieve stuff from the hard disk). So, who knows, maybe I’ll learn the intricacies of the Honduran Justice system. I did provide the police with the guy’s name and the phone number of his mother!
Still having great fun with my classes. I’ve spent the last two weeks teaching a business simulation class at the high school. The kids form a little business, produce something, sell it, etc. It’s been fun.
The 6th grade English class is more fun, probably only because I’m more comfortable with the age group. I have been somewhat surprised by the fact that neither high school nor 6th grade does the homework you assign. As a matter of fact, the 6th grade isn’t able to follow instructions, period. On more than one occasion I wrote a verb conjugation on the board and asked them to copy it into their notebooks. Later, the example is not to be found. Yesterday, again, no one could show me the verb conjugations in their books. So I said OK, we’ll write them on the board AGAIN, but this time you can’t leave the room until you show me the 6 verb conjugations in the correct form in your notebook. Believe it or not, even then, several kids didn’t do it until I wouldn’t let them leave the room when the bell rang, and many others didn’t do it correctly until I wouldn’t let them leave the room. I don’t think they get enough work, but the problem is that there are no supplies. I would like to give out worksheets every day, but to do so I would have to pay for the copying. The alternative is to have the kids copy a worksheet from the board, which means errors upon errors, and it takes forever.
Both high school and elementary school don’t have classes waaayyyy too often. ´Course, apparently they have
plenty of reason. There are no substitute teaches, for example, so whenever a
teacher has a doctor’s appointment or something--no class. Plus, when the
teachers want to get paid--THEY have to travel to
Last week I loaded Sabanagrande’s new website on to the internet. Check it out at http://www.geocities.com/sabanagrandefm/ except that it’s in Spanish. An employee of the mayor’s office put it together and I made some enhancements and fixed it up a bit, found the free site, and put it up there. I also started teaching two of the foundation’s brighter students the concepts of web site maintenance. Hopefully, by the time I leave, they’ll be able to maintain the ambosfoundation.org site.
The foundation opened its new internet cafe last week, and it immediately began earning money. This wouldn’t have happened without my brother Bob’s technical help. Thanks again Bob!! Believe it or not in the same week, a second internet cafe opened two doors down! Wow, what a shock. What a shame. The other cafe is probably going to have real problems because the family hopes to support themselves on the proceeds whereas Ambos hopes only to provide "funds" of some kind to help support the children.
Well, I’m off to
The other week as I was walking to work I saw a man decorating the outside of his house with cloth hangings, kind of like an alter, so I asked him what was up. Turns out it was some kind of religious holiday, and some folks decorated their houses because, as I later observed, a procession from the church walked through town, stopping to pray at the decorated houses. The procession was led by the priest carrying something and a half dozen little boys in red and white altar boy clothes. A couple of men set up rockets in front (fire works) of the procession which consisted of about 100 people. When they stopped at a house, they sang some music accompanied by a guitar, and then the priest said a prayer which said something about "the workers."
My 19 year old friend from Langue, Angel, stopped by the
other day and told us all about his abortive attempt to "mojado" into
That's it for now, guys.
Basically only a month to go because I’m
taking a 9 day vacation to
Nowadays I spend all morning maning the internet cafe. We don’t do much business in the morning, but every limpera helps. This, of course, is contrary to Peace Corps philosophy, that is, working a job as opposed to sharing-teaching a Honduran, but if I didn’t do it, no one would because the foundation can’t afford to pay someone. It helps allay the boredom. I spend a lot of time sitting on the front steps watching the world go by. Yesterday, I watched some men down the street offload a bull from a truck. They were none too gentle, no ramp or anything, and the bull must have sensed he was going to be meat within the hour because he wasn’t cooperating attall!! They resorted to tail-tweeking a lot, but I guess that’s no worse than a cattle prod.
When I think about
In my final weeks I’m going to try to set up a process for a
scholarship fund. I can’t bear the thought of bright kids leaving school after
6th grade when a few bucks would keep them in.
Well, that’s it for now. Sorry about the pictures, but hopefully
I’ll do better in the
It’s been raining daily here for some weeks, and consequently power goes out every day for hours at a time. Since the sun sets around I’ve been playing like Abraham Lincoln and reading by candlelight! When there’s nothing to read, I go to sleep REALLY early. Also, there’s still no water in the taps so usually it’s a bucket bath for Charissa and me.
My English class is still delightful. I’ve been teaching the kids songs--Row, row, row your boat and, currently, Mary Had a Little Lamb. They love it. Also, we’ve started a special project: I’ve asked them (in groups) to write a little "play." What a kick! And revealing!! One group has a play about a little girl and her father. The father tells the girl to go out and sell tortillas, the girl goes out to see, a customer buys, she returns home and says "No one wanted to buy tortillas and I only have 5 limpiras." So the father yells at her, smacks her around and says go back out. Wow...! A couple of groups are doing a scene from Red Riding Hood. One a scene from a story I read them about a mouse freeing a lion from a trap, and another interesting one is a father, daughter again, wherein the daughter wants a certain color flower from the garden, but the father says, no, I want the other color because it reminds me of your mother’s lips. There’s more to it but we haven’t translated it into English yet so I’m not sure. Romantic, yes??? These are SIXTH GRADERS!!!
I also learned something very interesting about school: the teachers start with a class of first graders and stay with the same group, changing grades every year, through sixth grade. Again, wow! Every year a new set of lesson plans, and you can bet they don’t save anything for six years!!
The other day they had a holiday because the principal was retiring (leaving 3 months beFORE end of term!! They’ll have no principal for the rest of the year). It was interesting. Picture an entire elementary school in the auditorium (course here there’s no auditorium, just classrooms surrounding a central paved area), sitting wherever they want without teacher supervision. Little kids are running all over, across the "stage" or whatever. Hummm. Anyway, there were performances--a couple different groups of girls performed "dances," not folk dances, just movements to pop music, but they wore little costumes more or less and got experience in the spotlight. One little boy about 8 sang a popular song with a recorded accompaniment, darn good. Except that they do not have a "sound system" like we're used to; they had a single hand mike that kept cutting out. This made it a bit interesting when a group of kids tried to recite something or sing a song.
Well, that’s about it for now. Real soon I’ll send you news about the scholarship fund. The procedures are almost ready.
Only a couple weeks left!!