Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Home Sweet Home

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it."- George Moore

Surprise! I am home! I’s a  little early, but I wanted to surprise my sister Erin on the race day of her first marathon! She did wonderful despite shedding some tears when I popped out at mile 20!
Erin's cheer squad
 My last week in Honduras was a blur. Despite my pleas for no goodbye parties, my last week was filled with 5 (yes 5) despedidas. Hondurans love their despedidas and no party is complete without some cake and pop and the immediate exit as soon as the food is consumed. Seriously, this happens at every single party…no joke.  Maria (the clinic cook and my Honduran mom), my roommates upstairs, the clinic staff, the kids in the library, and the clinic staff who lives at the apartment all threw separate parties for me. I have never had so many people do that many nice things for me! I was so thankful and was really sad to say goodbye to all those who I have come to befriend this year. The kids, the nurses, the clinic staff, and my roommates have all been a huge part of my life and it is weird not seeing them everyday.
With Maria at my first despedida (notice the cake and Pepsi)

The library kids surprised me! (Cake and Pepsi yet again!)

A few of the clinic staff, I will miss them!
         Being home has been great but a bit of an adjustment. I miss the excitement of everyday; the fact that even though I lived in the middle of nowhere, I never knew what would happen. Whether it was a drunk man chasing us through town, a pig on a leash, or a cultural difference that made me laugh, there was always the unexpected. I miss the sounds of Honduras, the dogs, the roosters, and the mototaxis whizzing through town. I miss the views and the smells and the food. However,  I could not be more grateful for this year and I know I have left a wiser person and I changed for the better by being touched by the many lives I came into contact with this year. I know it is not goodbye as I know one day I will be back! Besides with Facebook and technology, staying in touch is not that hard! (I have already gotten about ten calls from the kids in the library!). Yes sometimes it was hard being away from the amenities I am used to, working through the cultural differences, and adapting to a new way of life but it was completely worth it and I would have not changed this year and what I learned for anything. The one thing I will continually take away is those relationships, the friends I made (both North American and Honduran) and the people that I think of often as I begin this new chapter of my life in the United States. Because after all, without the people, my experience would not have been as wonderful as it was. And for that, I am thankful.

Thanks for following, for staying in touch, and for all your support. I could not have done without all of you! All my love!

~La Sopita

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Last Brigada

          Last week, I had the privilege of spending time with the University of Rochester in the San Jose community about two hours away from Santa Lucia. It was great to be back after 6 months, seeing familiar faces, enjoying the cool nights, and the beautiful green mountain views. The University of Rochester’s approach is different from many of our other brigades. While they no doubt see patients in the clinic, they also are more focused on public health initiatives as a means to prevent the problems rather than just finding a temporary solution.  I got to hike out to the high school to meet with the scholarship students, act as the main character in our skit about microfinance and management about small businesses (needless to say I will not be pursuing acting as a career) and help with a community health worker meeting as well as with water filter “charlas” or educational chats. All of these, paired with some interesting cases in the clinic, made for a great week! 
At one of the microfinance meetings, educating about the difference between personal and business money
 One of my favorite parts was the microfinance project. In November, we gave out 10 loans and all of the recipients (mostly women) paid them back with 2% interest and want more money to expand their businesses! These loans are a minimal amount (about 1,000 lempiras which is $50 USD) but with this little amount of money, these people are able to start a business and begin to save and get their family out of poverty.  Some of them started a bread making business, another opened a pulpería (a small store) from his house in a tiny community, and a few bring fruit to sell at the market in La Esperanza (the biggest city in Intíbuca which is about an hour and a half away). It was truly inspirational to see them creating a business plan, picking fair prices, and knowing that they had been successful. I was so glad to be a part of it! Rochester also does other projects such as latrines, cook stoves, and water filters. Check out their website for more information:

Teaching a local woman how to use a water filter
          While my time in this community with a great group of Americans (the two attending doctors are truly amazing people) and Hondurans was a great learning experience, I am also reminded of the reality of development work when there is not a constant overseer. Part of my job in helping with the scholarship program was visiting the students’ homes or places where they are staying. As most students live about a 3 hour walk from the high school, the scholarship program gives them extra money to pay for food and a room in the town of San Marcos where the high school is. Those students who live an hour and a half away receive less money as they can walk. We met with the students and asked where they lived and then went to visit the houses to make sure that they were living there and that everything was ok with the living conditions. However, of the 12 students who are studying at the high school, it turns out four of them were lying about where they were living or living with their families and not telling us so they could take the extra money. It is these moments, when I feel that it is much harder to make a difference as there are always unintended consequences but the more I think about it, the more I can’t blame them. I would probably do the same thing if I had the opportunity, even it meant walking 3 hours a day. Again, I am reminded that we are all human when it comes down to it! But despite this, these scholarship students are making it past sixth grade, something that only 7% of the people in their communities get the opportunity to do, so that is definitely something!
The scholarship students and parents (in front of Día de Las Madres poster, it is a HUGE deal here!)
 Sadly, this was my last brigade and as my time begins to wrap up here, I am extremely grateful for my experience. It has been a tremendous learning opportunity to be on the ground working for a non-profit and seeing the problems, the solutions, and all the little things that come up. It is amazing to think how far I have come from July in truly learning how things work, knowing Honduran culture, and in my Spanish abilities. I wouldn’t trade these past eleven months for anything! Hope all is well. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Things I Love About Honduras

The way people say “Adios” to you instead of “Hola” when you encounter them on the street. I mean makes more sense right? We are parting ways!

The rain. The sound of it on the tin roof and the way it downpours suddenly. Now that I have lived through dry season, I have come to appreciate the rain at a whole new level.

The views of  the mountains and the dirt roads (especially in the morning when the fog rolls in) when I’m running and walking.
With my roomie Flor
 The 80s music that they blast on the buses. They even have a Spanish version of Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On”. Awesome.

The way I can just “be” and be fine with it.

The sights of the moto-taxis zipping through town and the shouts of “Hola” or the beep of their horn that usually signify their arrival.
The mototaxis that are common sight here (and without a doubt they will head straight toward you until they veer off at the last second)

 Reading in the morning on the hammock before breakfast on our apartment balcony with a cup of tea/coffee and/or my trusty Nalgene!

The kids from the library. I love walking through town and hearing them yell my name from their houses. I’m already sad about saying bye to them.
With Seidy, Indira, and Luis in the library
 The carefreeness of riding in the back of the pick-up trucks with the views of the green mountains that go on forever.

Knowing that no matter what, I can always count that the doctors who live in the clinic will be watching TV in the comedor.

The fact that I can hang up my laundry in the sun and my sheets are dry in twenty minutes.

People watching in the plaza.

Maria. The cook here at the clinic. She is so motherly and caring and strong. I will miss her!

Maria’s daughters, Cindy, Jori, and Marisela and our weekly Sunday play dates. 
Marisela (aka Marisposa) , Cindy (Cindy Lou-Quien) and Jori (Eureka)

Photo shoot with the girls
I'm a little obsessed!
 Balleadas and pupusas, enough said. Really,  just the  Marias’ cooking in general!

The view from our apartment balcony. It’s a perfect view of the town and the mountains behind it.

Feeling part of something bigger and more meaningful than just myself. Working for a cause I believe in and despite the difficulties and the opposition and the pace of how things move here, realizing that it’s worth it.
The Chiquita truck in front of the clinic
 I head out to San Jose on Sunday to go on the University of Rochester brigade. I’m excited for the change of scenery, the cooler climate, and the peacefulness of this community. Thinking of you all! Happy May!