Wednesday, July 27, 2011

La Vida Hondureña

So in a nutshell here are some updates and random observations about life here so far!

1) I just found out that besides working with the brigades (American medical groups) who come down, I will also be helping out with the education program. We have a library here and I will be working with a Honduran named Kelvin to help with the after school programs. On Mondays, we do a story time where we play a game, read a book, and then do a craft relating to the book. Tuesday is reading club, Wednesday is life skills class for the fourteen-year-old students and Thursday is another story time usually with a faith-based theme.
2) Running alone here as a female is nearly impossible as there are a lot of hills, rocks, and dogs that chase you. It’s always an adventure (and usually one I choose not to partake in).
3) The food here is delicious! We usually have beans, tortillas, eggs, chicken and veggies in some form. The fresh fruit is amazing. The Marias (the cooks who work here) also make a killer pizza on Saturday nights!
The road in town leading to the clinic

 4) As I guessed before, nothing can really ever be planned ahead. Something will always change or come up. It’s just the Honduran way. For example, yesterday Kelvin and I expected to have 20 students present after school and we only had materials prepared for 20. Yep 31 showed up.
5) Soccer aka fútbol is huge here. School is canceled when the elementary schools play each other (and they only have a half day to begin with). Yesterday I was playing with some girls from the education program and kicked the ball over the fence…whoops. It took us about a half hour to figure out how to get it.
6) A lot of the dogs here are mean. Hondurans keep them as pets (well feed them anyway) and they guard their houses and sometimes will growl and chase after you when you walk by. I usually carry a rock with me for this reason.
7) Since being here, I have painted more than I ever have in my life, I have helped put up a counter and learned how to use an electric saw and drill (well watched others use it if you will) but needless to say I’m becoming pretty handy.
Kelvin the Education Director here reading at story hour
8). The other day we went to the river on the border of El Salvador to swim. We walked over the bridge to stand on the other side. A new country? I’d say that counts, right?
9) Cold military showers aren’t so bad especially when you are drenched in sweat from a mere twenty-minute walk into town.
10) The geckos here are soooo loud. I honestly don’t know how it’s possible that so much noise can come from such a tiny little thing.
11) Some of the executive board members came from the States and brought us a whole lunch box full of dark chocolate. It has been a lifesaver this week.
12) I rode with Kelvin on a motorcycle to two neighboring communities today to visit the schools there. Shoulder to Shoulder runs an empowerment program for girls in fifth and sixth grade at nine different schools in the region. Being the clueless gringa that I am, I wore flip flops. While we were going over hundreds of rocks up a steep hill and I’m holding on for dear life, Kelvin turns to me and refers to the road as “tranquila” meaning calm. Not exactly the word I would use.
13) This week I finally get to move into a room in the apartment upstairs and I’m so excited to get settled in somewhat. However, I leave on Friday to go get a brigade in the city and won’t be back to Santa Lucia for a week!

Miss you all! I will try to update soon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beauty in the Little Things

“ While the world is in worse trouble than we usually think, it is also a more wonderful place than we realize.” –Dean Brackley
View from our sunrise hike
This morning we got up to do a sunrise hike to the top of a nearby mountain. It was breathtaking! We were above the fog surrounded by green mountains that seemed to stretch on forever, it was the perfect start to the day! In this region, the stunning scenery exists alongside the evident injustices.  The people here are so far removed from the city that they have limited access to their basic necessities. Most children in Intibuca do not continue school past sixth grade, many women raise their kids on their own with little income and prior to the clinics established by Shoulder to Shoulder, the nearest hospital was three to four hours away. However now that Shoulder to Shoulder has a contract with the government, there are clinics staffed by at least one Honduran nurse in most of the communities. With that said, access to care is still limited. Yesterday, while we were painting inside the clinic, a father and his nine-year-old son came in. They had traveled for two hours to get to the clinic as the little boy had been bitten by a dog and had a huge gash in his leg. While we painted, we listened to his screams from the other room and watched as more patients filed in waiting for care that would not have been available to them just a few short years ago.  The Shoulder to Shoulder model focuses on primary and preventative care rather than specialized care. Instead of treating chronic diseases and pulling teeth, the organization concentrates on caring for those with common illnesses and educating children about proper dental care as a means of future prevention.  Through this, Shoulder to Shoulder has set up a more sustainable system that is available to the people of Intibuca all year. 
The 5 volunteers and brigade assistants
 Life here continues to be an adventure everyday. Whether its hiking at five am and being followed by two men carrying machetes (an essential staple for most campesinos), getting picked up and riding in the back of a pick up truck while walking to a neighboring community, or having the power go out while attempting to cook dinner for fourteen people in the middle of a thunderstorm, I am constantly reminded of the unpredictability of life here. Yet that is what I love about it! As I get to know the Honduran staff at the clinic and talk with those in the community, I am always amazed at their spirits despite how little they have. They are truly an example for me in how they live their lives and I continue to be inspired here everyday with everyone I am meeting. Thinking of you all!
P.S. The Internet here is very touchy and goes out constantly so the best way to keep in touch for me is e-mail!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A New Adventure

After two hours of sleep, a nearly missed flight in Houston, and a relatively short journey to what seems like another world, I have arrived safely into San Pedro Sula. My first few days were very atypical of my future time here as we went to two nice shopping malls, ate at a delicious Italian restaurant and had Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. However, the poverty is still evident here as I encounter the beggars on the streets, the trash everywhere, and the random sites of goats and horse drawn carts galloping down the roads. Sites such as Pizza Huts on every corner with tin shacks behind them and people riding in a cart pulled by a horse while talking on a cell phone show the contradiction of the appearance of wealth and the apparent poverty coexisting. Yet even in my short time here so far, I have experienced the warmth of the Honduran people in their smiles and willingness to welcome us gringos. It is also nice to know that everything I need is in the city. The market we went to sells everything from toothpaste to remote controls to pirated movies that aren’t even out on DVD yet (Que Paso Ayer? Parte Dos aka the Hangover 2 is literally on every street corner).
We stayed in the city for two nights in order to pick up all the volunteers from the airport. Besides me, there are four other volunteers who will be doing the same job as assistant brigade coordinators. We will also work on individual projects when there are not brigades here. It has been wonderful getting to know everyone and we have a fun group who will be good travel buddies and a great support system for me during my year here! After staying in the city, we began the trek to a brewery which is about two hours outside of the city. The brewery is also a hotel owned by an expatriate Oregonian who brews his own beer and runs an ecotourism resort. We ate under a little cabana, surrounded by a pool and the Pandora station “The Coffeehouse” blaring in the background, not exactly a true reflection of Central America! 
Our view of the clinic from where we will be living.
 We then continued on to where we will be living, which is another six hour drive through smaller towns and winding dirt roads. It’s funny that while the plane ride from Colorado is relatively short, the travel time within the country will definitely make up for it! We are in the southwest corner of Honduras and almost to the El Salvadoran border. The region in Intibuca where we will be living is the poorest region of Honduras. It is beautiful though and we are surrounded by lush green mountains on all sides. This first week has been very busy with staff orienting, meeting the Hondurans who work here at the clinic, traveling to neighboring communities, and painting the basement of the clinic where pregnant mothers will be able to stay before and after they give birth. Since many people come from hours away to receive secondary medical care here, it is definitely an advantage to have a place for them to sleep overnight.   I am excited to see the logistics of the organization though and can already tell that it is clearly making a sustainable difference here not only in health but also in education, nutrition, and dentistry.
Another volunteer Amy and I in the room we will be staying in for a few weeks.
 Some tidbits I have learned about Honduras so far:

·    It is not customary to tip except for at nice restaurants and in resort towns. Sweet…cheaper taxis!
·    You always use the usted or vos form (you formal) even if it is a close friend.
·    Balleadas are a well-known dish here that consists of a tortilla, eggs, cheese, beans and a sour cream type sauce. Yum!
·    From July to October, it will rain every afternoon and probably night, and when it rains, it pours!
·    A break after lunch (at least until 2) is key.

Other volunteers Amy and Amy painting the basement of the clinic.
More to come soon!