Work

One of the most common questions I heard before leaving for the Peace Corps was how I came to the decision to join. For me, there are numerous reasons as to why I chose to consider volunteering in the Peace Corps for two years. Reasons included travel possibilities, learning a new language, and the exciting idea of life in a new country. It was because of those reasons I applied. But I didn’t come all the way to Honduras because it seemed like something exciting to do. The overriding reason I am in Honduras now was the idea that I would have the opportunity to volunteer and work abroad. I would have the opportunity to help even if ever so slightly. The past few weeks here in Honduras I really started working. Unlike the previous weeks of observing events, I am now starting to make initiatives and assist in the difficult process of improving the water and sanitation conditions in the aldeas of Ilama. I’m finally starting to do what I came here for.

We would be doing diagnostics of 14 aldeas existing water systems.   This would be done by splitting the work up between Sandra an employee for Water for People, Tony the water technico of Ilama, and I. Since arriving in Ilama, these have been the three people that I have worked with almost daily. Water for People is a large nonprofit organization based out of the United States. They work all over the world in all aspects of water and sanitation. They have their Honduras headquarters in San Pedro and are currently working with 4 municipalities within Honduras that I know of. Ilama happens to be one. For this, I am pretty thrilled. I have come to a municipality that has an organized work plan. Water for People will be working with the municipality for at least the next two years. Other than having an organized work schedule, which is more to say than the majority of volunteers when arriving in their sites, I also have a source of funding. I know when I complete a topographic study for them it should be completed. This is pretty sweet, because most communities have the topo studies done and then have to go look for an organization to sponsor it. So overall the work situation appears to be perfect for me.

After dividing up the aldeas, it was determined that I would be going to La Mica. La Mica is about an hour and a half from the town of Ilama. Despite being so far, La Mica still fell within the municipalidad of Ilama. At the time I visited they didn’t have water. It had been 2 days since they last had water. This really isn’t that long of a time to be without water for an aldea in Honduras. The day before La Mica, I visited San Juan. It has over a thousand people living there, with a new water system, and a water tank of 30,000 gallons. Despite this the overwhelming majority of the town has gone without water for the past four weeks. Four weeks without water due to poor management and allowing people to tap into the conduction line. So two days wasn’t that big of a deal, and we would find out the problem with my visit. When first arriving I would have guessed the aldea had about 10 houses and maybe 100 people living there. I soon discovered that La Mica is similar to the municipalidad Ilama in that it has a small center with those 10 houses that I first observed, but it encompasses a large portion of land with the majority of houses spread throughout. In reality it has a total of 70 houses with a population around 420 people

Doing a diagnostic of a simple gravity water system is actually quite simple in theory. First thing to do is to make sure that you have the people that have the most knowledge of the water system with you for the diagnostic. This usually includes members of the Junta (community group that works to maintain the system) and the fontonero (plumber or guy that does the actual repairs). With them and a 5 gallon bucket you go visit the water source. We got a ride as the source was 40 minutes away in car. The truck can only go so far though, and this is where it starts getting difficult. All of the water sources are a good ways up in the mountains, which means a quite a bit of hiking. At the source you take note what type of source it is. Most common that I have run into is simply a stream with a dam. That’s what La Mica had as you can kind of see below.

Next you look to see if they have a filter of some form such as a sedimentation box. La Mica did not. They had a natural filter above the dam, but only a simple desarenador. So after noticing the obvious stuff, I have to grill them with questions. Questions about repairs, valves, microcuenca management and more. I had a 12 page packet that I would be full with info once I finished the diagnostic. This questioning process was entertaining as well as frustrating because of the little quarrels that would break out with each question. It took me till I had scribbled out several answers to realize that after they gave me an answer I still needed to give them a few minutes to think and debate, leading to a new and final answer. Once finished with that we would take and aforo. This is where the bucket comes into play. Basically, someone holds the bucket under the water flow while I record the time. This is done to calculate the flow of the source in gal/min in order to see if the source is strong enough to support the community’s population. By the time we completed all of this it was around noon so we ended up eating lunch there at the source. I only brought a few bags of chips, but as many Hondurans are they were super generous and specifically packed me a lunch of fried chicken.

After lunch I continued with the question bombing, but now on the subject of the conduction line to the tank. The question I was most interested in hearing the answer for was how many meters of piping does your conduction line have. That would answer how far I would have to walk to get back. Unlike the trip there, we would have no truck for the journey back. Needless to say I was interested in how many kilometers I would be walking, but of course they didn’t know the answer to that question. So I would just have to wait and see. After the questions we set off walking the line to check the information that they gave me. Below is a pick of the first rompecarga, a box that breaks the pressure, which has been broken into.

We took another aforo here and it was only about a half a second slower here then the source, which is especially good considering this section of the line was built in the 70’s. However, only a few hundred meters further down we encountered their problem.Basically, it’s a creek that their conduction line had to cross. The problem is that they are using exposed pvc to cross it. This leads to problems such as this….

and this….

In reality the original design probably specified the use of iron pipes, but to cut costs in either the original construction or reparation they used pvc. From here we trekked on to the next rompecarga, where we found evidence of more tampering, and obviously no water. Here is a pic of the view.

The president of the junta with fresh bananas from the café finca that we were passing through.

A view back to where we walked from. The water source is not in the pic, but it’s up and to the right of the top corner. We had been walking for over 4 hours at this point at a brisk pace and I was told that the tank and town were still a good hour walk ahead of us. The second photo below is of where we were walking towards.

We did finally make it to the tank, but there wasn’t much to do as they didn’t have water. So I finished up with the questions I had and walked to the road, glad to see that Eric and Tony were there waiting with a car. It turned out that the system that Tony went to inspect has a 24 km conduction line from source to tan. He couldn’t possibly walk that in an afternoon so he asked his questions and visited the tank, but didn’t come close to the amount of walking that I was put through. I’m fully confident he knew the information about the communities when we were dividing them up. We picked up Sandra and started to make our way back to Ilama at around 5 in the afternoon. After my first real day of work I was thoroughly exhausted. Since then I have done several other diagnostics, I’ve visited San Pedro for a meeting with Water for People, and tomorrow I am to do my first topographic study. The work has definitely begun.

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Ilama y Fútbol

As of today I have officially been living in Ilama for exactly one month. Ilama is the town where I will be living and working for the next two years. It’s a small town with about 3,000 people living in the city center.  It has a handful of pulperias which are family run convenient stores,   1 hardware store, and a comedor.   So there’s not too much going on.

However it is in a convenient location for traveling or having visitors.  Ilama is about an hour and a half from San Pedro, which has an international airport and buses going to every part of the country.   Also, Ilama is only twenty minutes north of Santa Barbara which is a larger city with three other volunteers living there.   This makes it really easy for me to catch up with friends over the weekends.

Most importantly though is that the town does have a full sized futbol field with lights.  El campo is a vital part of the town, entertaining hundreds of people every week.   Ilama is famous for their soccer field, as well as their players and refs.  This probably can be attributed to the pickup games they have every Tuesday and Thursday.  So far I haven’t missed one of those yet. They usually have enough people for three teams and have refs and linesmen as well.   I lucked out in that my work counterpart is also a well-respected soccer player, so that first Tuesday in site he invited me out to play.  He introduced me to the mass of people that were there waiting to start and hooked me up with a spot on his team, with a few other co-workers from the municipalidad.   It was a big change from playing with a bunch of gringo volunteers to a field full of Hondurans.  Despite this though, I managed to score our second and final goal.  It was definitely lucky, in that I got a perfect ball, and somehow managed to chip it over the charging goalies head into the back of the net.  It was a good start that I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Since that game and first goal I haven’t scored another.   I have gone as far to miss the goal while the goalie was completely out of the net.  Making it worse, was that it was during our competitive tournament this past Sunday when I missed the wide open goal.   A week ago Ilama started a tournament with teams from all over the municipalidad.  Saturday night under the lights was our first game.   When I showed up there were literally three people there and one of them was painting the lines.  That changed in a matter of minutes.  The three people went to a few hundred spectators.  I was pretty surprised as to how many people did turn up, and a little nervous to have to play in front of them.   But gracias a Dios it started pouring during the first half and by half time it was torrentially down pouring.  So I was saved till the next day when we resumed the game at ten in the morning.  At ten in the morning it’s already scorching hot here, so I struggled to get through the 45 min half.  My struggles not only included me barley being able to run, but the miss on the wide open goal, as well as having a 4 inch scab ripped off from someone’s spike.    When the whistle blew to end the game I couldn’t have been more relieved.   We did win the game 1-0, so my miss wasn’t too big a deal.

So that’s really the important stuff I’ve been up to here in Ilama.  I do also go to work every day, and have done several water system diagnostics already, but that stuffs not quite as interesting so it can wait.  Finally, I made a few new pages.  One page has contact info if anyone feels generous enough to mail me a card or package.  The other page is of photos that I have taken which unfortunately thus far is only a few.   Oh, and the mayor of Ilama was very kind and bought a modem basically for me, so I have no excuses for not getting back to anyone’s emails or updating this blog in a timely matter.  Take care.

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Final Week of Training

So in “Honduras time” a few days can mean up to a month.  I am still working on finding a consistent access to internet which makes it really difficult to reply to emails and update this blog.  I tried buying a modem the second day in my new site, but the store only sold pre-paid modems which are more expensive and a hassle in comparison to a monthly unlimited plan.  The only way I can get that is if I make a trip to San Pedro, which is about an hour and a half from where I’m at.   Although, I might not even be able to get one there, in that other volunteers have tried to get one in San Pedro but were denied because they weren’t Honduran and could not prove their residency.  Basically, it’s a big hassle.

Since my last post I have been quite busy.  First off, we left our FBT site in El Paraiso and returned back to Zarabanda for a little over a week to finish out our training.  That week or so was packed full of events, beginning with site announcements.  The first day back everyone was excited to see members from the other projects and catch up.  But that excitement couldn’t touch the anticipation we had for the site announcements which were conveniently scheduled for the last hour of the day. So we sat through our classes, chatted about FBT and rumored sites all while waiting for our project managers to show up and fill us in on where we would be spending the next two years at.  Our project manager for Wat/San was late of course, but he did come with pizza and refrescos.  We all met in our usual classroom and basically went through a presentation of sites.  I was surprised to find out that I was going to Ilama, Santa Barbara.  Before the announcement I thought I would be going to a town near Danli and in the same department as El Paraiso. Somehow I lucked out and received a site in the west, the region I preferred to be sent.  From the info I received at the time all I knew was that Ilama was a small town out in the western half of Honduras about a little over an hour from San Pedro.  I was pretty excited about the site and eager to see if other volunteers would be near me.  So I left the Wat/San meeting to check out everyone’s site placements.  Turns out no one from the other projects were placed in the department of Santa Barbara, but that’s not a big deal because a good friend of mine Roy as well Julia from Wat/San were both assigned to sites in Santa Barbara.   Later that evening the Los Planes crew went to Santa Lucia to talk about the new sites.  All of us living in Los Planes received a site in the west minus Che.  His site was less than an hour south of Tegucigalpa, which meant hours from the west.  Everyone seemed pretty content with their sites.  Most excited was definitely Slater  who lucked out with Santa Rosa de Copan, a larger city that is famous for its tourism.

Los Planes Crew

That Saturday was the first of several “despedidas” for all the volunteers.  A despedida basically means a going away party, which volunteers used excessively in the last week due to its weight it carried with host families.  If you told a host family, at least mine, that you were going out to meet friends they would have a barrage of questions.  However, if you told them about a despedida they encouraged your attendance.

The following week we had the most unorganized Spanish classes due to the lack of interest in both teachers as well as volunteers.  We also had our final language interviews.  I had no reason to worry about the interview because I was already placed at necessary language level to go to my site.   Despite knowing this I was still nervous, and a little frustrated with the direction it took.  The teacher steadily asked me more difficult questions and somehow we managed to get on the theme of skiing.  Which at first was fine, explaining my favorite ski trip was simple enough.  But then she started asking about if it is a dangerous sport and to tell her a time that I got in an accident or was in trouble when skiing.  I guess I didn’t managed to mess that response up enough for her because from there she went on to say she was interested to learn how to ski, asking me to teach her.  How was I supposed to teach a Spanish teacher that has never seen snow, how to theoretically ski, in Spanish?  I haven’t been learning a lot of vocab that entails to skiing as I am living in Honduras a country where it doesn’t snow.  Not to mention the small fact that I don’t know how to ski, I know how to snowboard, but I didn’t know how to say that in Spanish so I went with skiing.  That’s basically where the interview finished up at, 30 minutes after it started.  I was pretty confident that I muffed the interview and I would be staying at the same level.  But the following day Manuel, the head Spanish teacher informed me that I did manage to bump up to the next level.   Also, we learned that turns everyone reached the level necessary and all would be leaving this upcoming Saturday for our new sites.

Because of this we decided to have another despidida at the house/restaurant of a volunteers host family.  It was a relaxed event with the excitement of our new sites dying down by now.  I left early to make it home for dinner with my host family, which turned out to be a lucky choice.  It started pouring at 8 and from what I was told a few volunteers ended up wading home through knee high water at points.

Thursday was our last day together before our counterparts showed up and we were split up to our sites.  It was a pretty relaxed day.  We didn’t have language class, only several logistical sessions to help us prepare for the arrival of our counterparts and the swearing in ceremony.  The only real interesting thing to discuss was that it would be our last time to play “ass”.  A game of soccer where you form a circle and juggle the ball, passing it from person to person.  You get a letter each time you make a mistake.  Once you have three letters you’re out of the circle.  When a sufficient amount of people are out they line up against the wall and the others attempt to kick the ball as hard as possible at their asses.  It was a simple stupid game that managed to entertain us during the last weeks of training.

The game of "Ass" , after 4 people were eliminated

Friday finally did come, and everyone came dressed in their formal attires in anticipation for the arrival of counterparts.  I kind of hopped mine didn’t show, or at the least was late.  I couldn’t see myself talking for the hours that were scheduled to get to know your counterpart.  Of course though, my counterpart was perfectly on time and he even brought the mayor of the town to meet me.  It was a nerve-racking first few minutes, highlighted by a dumb question of mine.  I managed to ask the mayor if he works in the municipality with my counterpart Tony.  Clearly he does, as he runs it, but at that point I didn’t know because I didn’t hear when he said he was the alcalde(mayor).  It’s a big joke now that Roy loves to use whenever I fumble with my Spanish.  The remaining hour of conversation went significantly better, as I calmed down and we discussed the town of Ilama and what water projects they were currently working on.  After lunch we split up in to busses and were off to the embassy for our swearing in ceremony to finally become peace corps volunteers.

It was raining while everyone waited outside the embassy to get past security.   Several volunteers had raincoats or umbrellas and there was an overhang that many were able to use, but even so a good portion of the volunteers were pretty wet for the start of the ceremony.  The ceremony was short, with speeches from the director of the peace corps, volunteers, and the ambassador.  Afterwards, we took too many photos and discussed our evening plans.  The counterparts were to head back to their hotel in Valle, but we were able to get dinner in Tegucigalpa.  So a group of us went to El Patio to have steaks and beers.  It was our final despedida, with all of us leaving at different times directly from our houses on Saturday morning.  After dinner we meet back at the bus to head back to Zarabanda for our last night.  That night I scrambled to pack all my stuff because I was leaving a 6 the following morning.

Right on time, my counterpart and the mayor showed up in their pickup truck.  I said my farewells to my host family and was off. Six hours later I arrived in Ilama.  I’ve been in Ilama for about three weeks now, which I will have an update in the following week.  Sorry for the long post, but it has been a while and that particular week was pretty full of events.  Hope everyone is well and enjoying the start of summer.

Wat/San

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Field Based Training

So similar to the other post this was written quite a while ago, but my previous site had terrible internet and I was unable to post it.  Currently, I am back with my first host family and will have another post either at the same time as this one or hopefully in the next few days.

As of now I have about finished up the last part of my training and am about to be sent off to my new site where I will end up spending the next two years.  I completed my volunteer visit, which was an interesting experience, but I am ecstatic that I won’t be living in that area for the next two years.   For my volunteer visit I went to the way south of Honduras.  And the best description I can give of the area is that it is ridiculously hot.  I was there for three days and each day the daily high was at least 105 degrees.  So basically I ended up traveling with one other trainee from wat/san to visit a volunteer.   I spoke the higher level of Spanish so I had the responsibility to make sure we were able to catch the right buses and make it to the site.  Which was a good thing because it gave me added experience dealing with bus and taxi drivers.  In all, the trip took us around an hour and a half to get to Teguc from where we took a taxi to an overly packed market where our bus to the south would be leaving from.  After talking to a few people we came to the conclusion that there were no direct buses leaving due to the fact that it was Sunday.  So we had to settle for taking a chicken bus.  The trip took us around four and a half hours due to the unpredictable stopping of the bus.  In the site we meet the volunteer and just relaxed the first night.  The next day he took us to meet his co-workers and show us what he has been doing for the past few years.  We ended up back at his place around eleven in the morning.  But by this time I was already covered in sweat and praying that I wouldn’t have to live in a site like his.  The rest of the day we just sat around in hammocks in the shade.  But even sitting in the shade we were sweating due to the dry heat.    The best part of the volunteer visit was our trip to Choluteca, the fourth largest city in Honduras, where we meet a bunch of other volunteers as well as trainees.  From Choluteca we all took a bus to the beach.  We ended up spending the whole day on the beach swimming and eating fresh fried fish.  After the beach we all headed back to Choluteca where we spent the night and then the following day the trainees returned to our sites.

So basically in my site we continued with the normal day to day grind of Spanish lesions as well as technical training.  The next real big highlight was our trip to the nearby city of Danli to challenge the negocios training class in a game of soccer.  When we first went we really had no idea as to where we could play.  But a group of us went early and asked around and found that we would have the best luck at the actual stadium in the center of the city.  So we headed over there and talked to the groundskeeper, who assured us that we would be able to play in the stadium for 700 lemps(35 dollars). So in reality we were playing in the nicest stadium around in a city that has over 100 thousand inhabitants for 35 dollars.  We ended up having to wait for a few hours, but were able to play.  And of course the wat/san trainees owned, controlling the game similar to Barcelona.  But in all seriousness, we won 2-1 and it was a really great time getting to see our friends from another project that we haven’t seen for over a month. 

After the soccer game we only had a few more weeks of training in El Paraiso.  One of those weeks included semanasanta, which is basically Easter week.  Nobody works for the majority of the week and a good portion of Hondurans travel to places.  My host family ended up going to two swimming pools.  Which at this point was nothing new to the other trainees due to the fact that my host family had taken me swimming 5 times to three different pools.  But for semanasanta my family and extended family rented a bus and took a trip to “la playa blanca” for the day.  Which was basically a stream dammed up to form pools and a lot of imported white sand.  It was a good time, but I was the only gringo there out of at least 300 people so I got my fair share of stares. 

As for technical training, we haven’t done as quite as interesting activities as learning how to design systems.  We had a few days learning about latrine construction where we actually built two new latrines.  We also learned how to build fugons, which are basically wood burning stoves. Most recently we have been doing a lot with environmental education and given charlas to students/juntas de agua     (group of ppl that managed small water systems).  One activity that I really enjoyed recently was learning about the process of producing coffee.  Coffee is huge here in Honduras, and the typical way they harvest it is quite harmful to the water sources.  Usually coffee producers wash their coffee directly in streams contaminating the water source.  We were able to visit an organic coffee farm that is certified to sell their coffee at higher prices to the US due to its cleaner process of operation.  It was a great trip where we were able to walk through the finca of coffee and we learned about the entire process from planting to harvesting as well as cleaning.  Afterwards we were all able to try a few cups of the coffee. 

That’s basically been it. I have a little over a week till I am back with my first host family.  Also, I should be finding out about my permanent site really soon, which I am starting to stress out about.  Hope all is well back home and I hope to be able to post more consistently once I leave El Paraiso.

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Moved Sites

So I wrote this like two weeks ago, but the internet here is ridiculously slow and I can’t even upload a word document at the internet cafes.  But, a friend of mine let me borrow her wireless modem for the weekend so I am finally able to post this.

Since my last post there have been a significant amount of changes.  Most notably is that I have moved locations.  I am now living in El Paraiso (The Paradise), which is a much larger site.  Only the wat/san volunteers are here, so there are 18 of us living in a small city of 40,000.  The health and business volunteers moved to different sites as well.  El Paraiso is about 15 kilometers from the Nicaraguan border, so one of these upcoming weekends I hope to take a trip to check out the border.  Although, as a trainee I am not allowed to leave the country yet.  The house I am staying in is literally right on the Pan-American Highway.  So each morning I wake up and go for a run towards Nicaragua and it’s kind of neat to think that I could theoretically follow this road right through all of Central America.  The house itself that I am living at is a significant upgrade from my previous in a materialistic point of view.  My room is larger and I have my own bathroom.   Also, the food here is great.  I haven’t really had a meal that I could complain about minus Mundongo soup. The soup consists of cubed random vegies and to my discovery the stomach lining of some type of meat. When eating I assumed it was really chewy pig skin because you only eat 3/4 of it leaving the outer layer off to the side.  The meal wasn’t horrible, but I definitely wouldn’t choose to eat it again.

In this house, I have two host brothers that are 12 and 19.  So pretty similar to my first house, except that here the brothers are quiet and reserved while the brothers in los planes were pretty outgoing and more willing to talk.  But I’ve only been here a week, so that could easily change with time.  There is no father in the house, just a single mother who works as a teacher.  However, at the moment she is not working.  I don’t know if this news would make the states but there is currently a nationwide strike by public school teachers.  The strike has been going on for the past 4 weeks, so the majority of kids here in Honduras haven’t been to school in quite a while.  It’s a pretty big deal, with large protests in Tegucigalpa.  One teacher was killed a few weeks ago when she was hit by a car.  According to Pepe, the pres, if teachers don’t go back to school this upcoming Monday and Tuesday they are going to be suspended without pay for a particular duration.  So it will be interesting to see how it plays out.  I’m nervous to talk to my host mom about the situation as it is a touchy subject with most here in Honduras, especially teachers.

My average day hasn’t changed too much since my move.  Here in El paraiso I am doing pretty much the same stuff as in my first site, but with fewer gringos.  I still have 4 hrs a Spanish every day as well as technical training in the afternoon.  The main difference I feel is the increase in Spanish as well as the more hands on technical training.  This morning we were climbing up a mountain through a café finca using gps in order to mark points around a watershed.  So pretty fun stuff.  Although, El paraiso is significantly further south than los planes so every day it is sunny and hot.  Which means I am sweating through a good portion of the day, including the presentation that I had to give today with one other volunteer.  We were assigned to give a presentation in Spanish to auto mechanic students in El paraiso.  I struggle to give presentations in English in front of a class, but somehow I managed to get through one in Spanish.

I have definitely improved my Spanish since first arriving.  According to the first language assessment I was a novice high, but I we were re-assessed yesterday and I moved up two levels to intermediate medio.  Which is technically the level that I need to be at when we complete training in order to be placed in a site.  I definitely feel that I have to significantly improve my Spanish before feeling more comfortable.

Besides moving and class I haven’t really been up to anything exciting.  I did get to go to a public swimming pool with my new host family.  The pool turned out to be much cleaner than expected, so I did end up swimming.  I am starting to get used to the staring/standing out here in Honduras.  At the pool I was the only gringo and I definitely got my fair share of glances.  Even just walking to classes I can expect some glances, but the guy cruzing down the middle of the street on a horse with a pile of wood on his back and a machete on his side is completely in the norm.  But after the pool I ended up having dinner and a beer with my host mom on the porch, which is really nice in the evenings.  It gets a nice breeze and there is hammock.  The other interesting activity was getting involved in a street soccer game with one other volunteer. We played a game of 5 on 5 at a basketball court.  During the game I managed to score the first goal which caused a decent raucous in the crowd of spectators. That ended up being the only highlight during the game, other than me getting tripped up and scraping most my body on concrete.  Our team then went on to lose 2-1.  We were then informed that we needed to pay, which wasn’t cool.   We ended up joining a cash game and neither of us had money.  So I got my soccer ball and informed them that we had no idea the game was for money, we had no money, and we were leaving.  At this point the entire court including spectators went silent.  Walking out was beyond awkward.  It will be interesting to see our reception when we go back with some money.  It is only 5 lemps a game if you lose, which is a quarter, so we are planning on going back.

This Sunday I am off to Langue(sp), a city in the south close to the pacific ocean.  I get to go visit a current wat/san volunteer for three days to get a taste of actual work.  Then back to el paraiso for 5 more weeks of training.  That’s pretty much it. Hope all is well back home and I enjoy hearing from everyone so shoot me an email, although it might be a month before I do end up getting back to you.  Ohh and I’m not quite sure when the phills opening game is, but that is something I definitely will miss. Especially when they own the Nats, which Jesse will be an expert on witnessing by the end of the season.  Also, I am still trying to upload some photos, but the internet here is ridiculously slow, so I think I will have to borrow someone’s modem to do that. Hopefully by the end of the month I have some pics.  Finally, below are some fun facts on Honduras.

Fun Honduras Facts (To scare my mom)

Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world in that it has the highest murder rate per 100,000 ppl.

Tegucigalpa is the 5th deadliest city in the world and San Pedro Sula is the 3rd.

42% of the world’s supply of cocaine travels through Honduras

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Training

I figure it’s about time for an update, although not too much has changed since my first few days in country.  Mon-Fri I I attend “school”, at least according to my host family.  In reality the training we receive is quite similar to school in many aspects.  The majority of trainees get picked up in an old American school bus. We normally have Spanish tutorials in the morning followed by an hour lunch break.  Lunch is usually pretty interesting in that everyone compares each other’s lunches that were packed by our host mom’s.   Everyday there’s always someone that has an interesting lunch.  Whether that be an unidentifiable meat, fish you can smell across the lawn, or possibly be that cool kid with a whole sliced mango.  What’s for lunch is always a surprise and offers some entertainment.  We even have a list of “lunch finishers” who go around and bum the scraps and discarded lunches of other trainees.   A typical lunch for me has usually consisted of a vegetable side, rice or tortillas, beans, and some meat.  My weirdest lunches so far have been spaghetti with ketchup/tomato paste, a can of giant chunks of sardines in a weird sauce, and 4 baloney sandwiches. The sardines definitely took 1st place in the worst lunch category.  By the time everyone’s done inspecting each other’s food and eating theres usually still a good half hour left to just chill.

Despues de lunch we split up into our projects to work on the technical aspects of our training.  I get to go learn about water systems in Honduras with 17 others that are in agua y sanamineto.  Everything we have covered so far has been really interesting and I am pretty stoked that I was selected for this particular project.  I think over a third of the group have engineering degrees so I am a little behind in that aspect, but the water systems that we will be designing are fairly simple so I should have no problem picking it up.  I think Muntz, Conrad and Stowe would definitely find some of this stuff pretty interesting.  In general, as wat san volunteer I will be able to survey the proposed area for a water system and form a design for the community to then possibly use in the creation of their system.  So far we have covered the basics of surveying, which included a field practice.  We also covered the basic aspects of a water system based solely on the use of gravity.  We also took a little field trip to visit an existing water system to see what we have been discussing in class.   In a few weeks we will head to our field based training location where we will really begin to go into further detail and have more hands on practice.  The designing of a water system seems like something that I will really enjoy doing, especially out surveying in the Honduran mountains.  But system designs are only a fraction of the work that a wat san volunteer can do.  They also help building pillas(concrete tubs that hold water for homes), latrines, giving charlas(chats) to schools about water issues, teaching junta de aguas (Community committees that take care of  the water systems) as well as other  side projects.  So, hopefully I won’t be too bored the two years that I’m here.

On weekends I have been doing a variety of things.  Sundays, I usually go watch my host brother and father play in their soccer league.   Also, trainees usually tend to meet up for some activity at some point over the weekend.  This past weekend on Saturday about half the volunteers met to either play futbol or do yoga.  Clearly, I was in the yoga group.  Then a bunch of us met up in Santa Lucia for dinner.  Sunday, the los planes crew and a few others took a trip to La Tigra, which is a protected park up in a cloud forest.  We ended up jaloning (hitchhiking) with an empty van that was headed in our direction and offered us a ride.  On Sundays the buses run few and far between so we were pretty lucky for the ride.  Not to mention he offered to drive us all the way with no stops and at a significantly faster speed.   To put it in perspective, it took us slightly over 20 minutes to get there. But on the way back we took the chicken bus and the ride took us over 45 minutes..  A chicken bus is an old american school bus that are used for public transportation.  It’s called a chicken bus because they literally squeeze as many people on the bus as possible.  Each time I have taken it I’ve been standing, squeezed between random Hondurans.  Forget about personal space.  On the bright side, they are super cheap with most rides under 10 lemps which is around 50 cents. Not to mention they have the best of the 80′s blasting on the radio.   But back to the park.  Overall the hike was really interesting, especially in the change of scenery from the start to the finish.  Where we started was in a valley, which was dusty and dry.  As we hiked up it went steadily changed to more tropical jungle.  We ended the hike at a giant waterfall that unfortunately wasn’t near as impressive as it would’ve been if we visited during the raining season.  Hopefully I can upload some pics to go along with this post, but I haven’t found any café that has internet that’s quick enough.

Oh, and I guess I forgot the most interesting thing that I’ve been up to so far.  That of course was my visit to the hospital in Tegucigalpa.  I am fine now, clearly, although I am 5 lbs lighter.  So if anyone wants an easy diet, come to Honduras and get a severe viral infection.   Side effects may include severe vomiting, diarrhea, and an inability to even drink water.  Needless to say it isn’t the most enjoyable way to loose 5 lbs., but it is efficient.  In the hospital, I spent 5 hours and got an Iv as well as some meds. I was good to go a few days later.  Sorry, if that was too much info.  But to put it in perspective I know of at least half a dozen people that have made trips to Teguc due to medical issues, including ecoli and bacterial infections.  The pc med staff gets plenty of work and is good at handling it.  Also, getting sick is kind of accepted as part of the job.  Everyone expects it and jokes about it.  The trainees even have a pool on who will get dengue first.  I’m really hoping that one isn’t me.

Well that’s basically what I have been up to these first few weeks in Honduras.  Hope everyone is well. Oh, and I’m feeling an upset with PSU over Temple.

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I made it and all is well.

Hola todos!

I made it and all is well.

So, we arrived in the capital Tegucigalpa around 2ish, a little later then what was scheduled due to a storm lingering over the airport.   The landing was pretty sweet, with the wing of the plane being scarily close to houses.  We then met a good deal of the Peace Corps staff, ate some food(dominos pizza), and then proceeded to load up a bus to take us to the training center.  At this point everyone is pretty excited.  We were given a data sheet describing the basics of our host family, which I will get into a later.  The ride was around 45 minutes.  At the training center we meet the rest of the staff and given a general overview of what to expect.  Which, at least for me,   was kind of difficult due to the fact that we knew our host families were all waiting for us right outside.  Once they wrapped up their expectations/welcomes we were taken in small groups out to meet the families.  It sort of had an auction or gym class draft feel to it, and of course I was last to be picked.

At the training center I met my host mom, who is great.  Easily the most willing to put up with my mangled spanish.   But, because I was in the last group taken out we missed our ride with the other volunteer that lived in the same are as me (los planes).  No worries though, we snagged a ride with several staffers.  Los planes is about a 5 minute car ride and the house where I’m staying is about a 5 minute walk to the pickup point, so it’s real convenient.   For classes the 7 of us volunteers that live in los planes get picked up  by Javier.  Other volunteers that live closer have to walk. Those that live further take a yellow school bus.

I first arrive at the house with my host mom and I can hear music blasting.  Which of course would be the 12, 14, 20 yr old sons hanging out.  I get introduced to them and shown a quick tour of the house.  The house is nice, and I have my own room with desk and bureau.  No complaints there.  I end up unpacking and then on to the socializing with the younger sons.  A Liverpool futbol game was on so I watch that and make small talk about futbol.  Turns out the whole family are big fans of soccer and all play on the weekends including the father.  For dinner we had beans, tortillas, plantains and an egg.  A pretty typical meal.   Then after dinner it turns out the Honduras club Olympia was playing a Costa Ricanteam in concaaf, so we ended up watching that as well.  Olympia lost in case anyone’s interested, but it was due to a ridiculous early red card.  At that point it’s around ten and I’m exhausted so I head off to bed.   That’s when I noticed the blanket on my bed.

Go figure, I go to Honduras and get given a Cowboys blanket.  I was planning on not using it out of principle, but it turns out it gets relatively cool in the evenings so I had no choice.

The nest day I get wakened at 6 by the host family’s dogs.  Which, I completely forgot to mention when giving a quick summary of the host family.  At the moment my family has 7 dogs, 2 parents rex and princesa as well as 5 pups around 5 weeks old.  Oh, another important fact about my host family is that they live very close to their extended family.  Just tonight there were at least 12 people over hanging out. For breakfast I had….pancakes.  I then waited for the other volunteers to walk past my house and joined them on the way to the pick-up point.  We had safety, health, language and other briefings that took up the whole morning.  We then had our language placement oral interviews after. I was in the first group to go. I thought overall it went well, but who knows.  It will be interesting to see what level I end up at.   While people were taking the exams we were split in groups receiving vaccines if needed as well as having basicspanish class.  This lasted until around 5, at which point we were then allowed to return to our host families.  Which I compare to leaving middle school to head home, but you somehow end up in high school.  Although, my host family is super nice and very helpful which makes it a lot easier on me.  According to Diego, the 12 year old son, I am the 5th peace core trainee that the family has hosted so they definitely have plenty of experience.   The host mom did say that my initial Spanish is better than the most recent volunteer they hosted, so I am off to a good start.

So,its Friday night and I’m exhausted and I think that’s a pretty good summary of whats been going on in my first 2 days in Honduras.  Need to be up at 6:30 tomorrow for a Saturday classes, which my host mother loves to keep reminding me of with little jokes.  Some of my host family is off to Tegucigalpa and others to play soccer, so I think I got shafted with this class business.  Hasta Luego.

Oh, and about the double post.  It turns out I don’t have internet where I’m at or hot water… go figure.  Basically, I pre-wrote these and then went to an internet café to upload them.

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