April 23, 2009

¡Gracias a Dios (que mañana) es viernes! That’s right, team. We (almost) made it. Bienvenidos.

I wanted to drop you a few lines about last weekend, last Saturday actually. The day’s events were completely unexpected but really reinforced what it takes to be a PCV. I spent almost all of the night on Friday night preparing emails, a blog, and for research that I needed to do on a couple class projects. I had planned to wake up early the next day and get a quick yoga practice in before going out to Santa Ana to use the internet for a few hours. Basically, I had plans to be super productive on Saturday. Well, things don’t always turn out as expected. (Life much?) I woke up early on Saturday to find out that both Ojojona and Santa Ana had been without power since about 2am that morning. Apparently a car had run into an electric pole in one of the outlying aldeas, and all surrounding areas were affected. Now, me being the optimist that I am, I proceeded to engage in my yoga sesh in my room while patiently waiting for the power to be restored. After I finished up and talked to my family over breakfast, I learned that my dream for the day would never become a reality as the towns were expected to be without power until the following Monday. (In a town like Ojojona, the loss of power is not normal but is not normally a problem either as most families have outdoor wood burning stoves to take care of the necessities.) What did become a reality was the awareness there are indeed 3,600 seconds in one hour…and most of my activities on Saturday can be quantified as such. Allow me to elaborate. I worked on translating my resume from English to Spanish in my room until my computer died (lasted about 900 seconds), took a bucket shower (lasted about 600 seconds), stared at second-hand clothes in the Ropa Americana store that I don’t have the cash or space in my luggage to buy (lasted about 300 seconds), sent meaningless text messages to my friends asking what they were doing with themselves on a day like this (lasted about180 seconds ), and then finally ended up on my bed wondering if this was a premonition of things to come (lasted about 60 seconds). The rest of the day was spent working in my Spanish Grammar Manual until my eyes were blurry. What did I learn? Things change quickly, so I better be able to do the same. Adaptation equals survival.

Fortunately, Saturday night’s events definitely trumped any ill sentiments of the day that any of us PCT-ers had. When the sun went down, we reunited at the house of Richard, the gentleman that I mentioned previously, to thoroughly enjoy a true American summer night. (I should preface this by informing you that in addition to much else Richard owns an upscale Italian restaurant in Teguc and had offered to throw us a pizza party during our time spent together the weekend before.) Right after the sun went down and darkness set in Ojo, we arrived at the house to find a patio aglow with candles, an enormous wood burning oven ablaze, ten pizza dough crusts accompanied by all of the fixings waiting for our creativity, and glasses of red Italian wine ready to be enjoyed. (I felt like I was back in SF for my last night of revelries!! Miss you, roomies!) For the next couple hours, every single one of us stuffed as much pizza as we could into our bellies in fear/realization that an event like this would not happen again for at least another two years. We relished the smoothness of the wine, the sweetness of the coffee ice cream and Rum Raisin cake desserts, and the company of one another. What did I learn? Things change quickly (we leave Ojojona in two weeks), so I better be able to do the same (I gotta find a pizza joint that delivers long distance). Adaptation (eating dessert regardless of how full I already am from five pieces of pizza) equals survival (no regrets!).

The solid and saving stone oven

Awaiting greatness…

So happy and

Cheezy wizard!

Achieving greatness!

The man that made it happen: Richard

My fav pic of the Cali couple: Bryan and Liz

A couple of Richard’s favorites: Erika and Rebecca

Solid gents: Kyle and David

Strong exterior, soft interior: Harrison

Thankful to have a friend from home

Thankful to have a fellow lover of jumping rope

This week has been trucking along nicely but with a lot of work. In between the classes and workout sessions throughout the week, I translated my resume from English to Spanish (to the best of my ability), thoughtfully completed a site assignment questionnaire to be used in our third and final technical interview next week, gave a presentation on “The Soccer War” (total misnomer) between El Salvador and Honduras, and wrote a paper on the city of Gracias. Tomorrow I will finish out the week giving a charla about HIV/AIDS prevention to a class of students in the local high school. Solid.

I hope that all of you are doing well and have had wonderful weeks. I appreciate all of the feedback that I get on these postings, the short but sweet emails, the lovingly long letters, the texts from friends, and the calls from family. All of your love and support have brought me to this point, three weeks until becoming a PCV. I hope that we can continue on this journey together and make our experiences as successful as possible together…because when it comes down to it, we’re all on the same team.


April 17, 2009

Holy crap, it’s already mid-April!! “What happened? I blacked out…” (Will Ferrell, Old School…doy) That basically means that in less than one month (yes, one!) from now we will be sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. Now, I know we have all been waiting for and looking forward to this day, but check it. We started off in Hondu with a group of about fifty people. That number dropped to about twenty people when we moved to Field Based Training. In a month, that number will significantly drop again (actually, it will be nonexistent). Basically, we will be ON OUR OWN in about thirty days. “Can you deal with that?!” (Ben Stiller, Meet the Parents…yayer) I don’t know about you, but that’s kind of a big deal. (You know this one.)

Enough of the serious. How did your Easter week finish out? (I swear I sometimes hear my computer responding to my nonsensical dialogue.) Mine was def interesante. I did, in fact, go to the talent show on Thursday night but was in no way prepared for the night (/am not yet accustomed to the Honduran lifestyle). After starting an hour late, listening to band play for an hour and a half, and eating dinner at 9:30pm, I was a little lost in translation as to when the night was actually going to begin. Well, as I soon learned, the night of talents does not actually begin until about 10pm and lasts until past midnight. Unfortunately, I could not hang and thus, with the permission of my family and with all due respect, turned in early. (I am still getting ish for my “gringa” ways that night from my extended family. I would like to make a point here that “grino/gringa” is a very common term for a North American here and, although it comes from Spanish wartime translation of “Green Go,” it normally does not hold harsh sentiment in daily practice. I would prefer that the nickname fade, but unfortunately, behavior change is challenging. Again, I recommend Google or Wiki for further clarification on the term.)

Talent night…ya, I missed it

Thursday was another day of learning. (I think that could pretty much could be said about everyday here.) On Friday, several of us joined another PCT and his host family for a picnic. (That sounds harmless enough, right?) Well, after hiking for about half an hour in jeans in the hot sun carrying heavy food/drinks/condiments, we reached a barbed wire fence that was the entrance to our picnic spot (a.k.a. the slope of branch-filled and ant-infested hill with nowhere to comfortably sit) and a soccer field (a.k.a. barren land in the shape of a rectangle, pretty standard here). We remained in this spot (sweating, confused, and a bit perturbed as we clearly did not know what a picnic here entailed) until we were finally forced to hike to the other side of the field and climb through the barbed wire fence. Upon reaching our designated area and consuming a plethora of catrachas (fried corn tortillas with ground beans, shredded cheese, and pico de gallo or chísmol), we were then requested to play a game of soccer against some locals before coming back to eat the second half of lunch (¿cómo?): hotdogs. Needless to say, all of the men that attended were gentlemen and partook in the activities as well as second lunch. The rest of us ladies instead posted up sideline, talked only about how much we were looking forward to the cold bucket shower that awaited us at home (who saw that coming?), and politely consumed a single hotdog before saying our goodbyes. When I finally made it back home, I was down for the count as I felt the dog chase all those cats in my stomach for the rest of the night. (Kinda like the ninjas, right JoBo?)

Honduran BBQ site

The boys being gents and partaking

The girls sweatin it out on the sidelines

Saturday was stellar (how can it not be, it’s Saturday!). I spent the first hour of the early morning running in circles (literally…I lapped the soccer field almost twenty times) because I didn’t have a partner to rock the run to Santa Ana with that early in the morning. (I know I’m still crazy for waking up with the sun.) The afternoon was spent rooftop at the house of a Honduran born/American educated gentleman who works for the Foundation of Ojojona and offers his home as a relaxing spot for PCTs in town. This experience was quite refreshing as we were able to have intelligent dialogues about the world, politics, religion, etc. which we have not yet had the time to do throughout the many hours spent in training and with families. After enjoying some enchiladas (which are tostadas in American terms) and tacos (which are taquitos in American terms) for dinner at a local comedor, we ended the night with a movie at the training center to celebrate another PCT’s birthday.

Sunday was probably the most relaxing/uneventful day that I have had in Ojojona thus far. I relaxed in house for most of the day and really only left once to attend culto (mass for Evangelicals) with my family to celebrate Easter. The event lasted about an hour and a half and was filled with singing and clapping, professions of faith from the pulpit and the crowd, and readings and reflections from the Bible by the pastor. Unfortunately, I did not get to see my host father in action as there was another pastor leading the ceremony, but I was welcomed as a guest and invited to come back anytime. I don’t think that I will be attending again but am thankful to have had shared the experience with my host family.

Monday was money! We had language classes during the morning and then hit the road for the beach (holler!) in the afternoon. On the way, we stopped at Restaurante Ocotal (the restaurant/zoo that we visited a couple weeks ago) and then at La Guayaba Dorada, located on the beach at our camping site, to interview the owners. Once the interviews were up, the tents were up, and the fire was blazing, we had the pleasure of consuming hot dogs and tuna sandwiches (I don’t know who picked that combination), roasting marshmallows (sadly we lacked all the ingredients of s’mores), and playing Mafia (oh the good old days of recess at St. Rose!) in the moonlight. We slept (/laid down and sweated) four to a tent that night but were ever so happy to be at the beach.

Holla to Amapala

Just another day at the office

This is how we do it

Rockin the fire pit: Tony and Sarah

Breakin Hondu custom by sporting bikinis: Liz, Katie, and Me

Professionals: José, David, Harrison, JP, Bryan, and Brent

Tuesday was tubular! We ate plato típico at La Guayaba Dorada, packed up and headed to Amapala, and then hopped a boat to Isla Exposición. The island was absolutely beautiful, and the water was fabulous to bathe in. Most of the PCTs took mineral mud baths as the sand is some of best with such close proximity to a volcano. Afterwards we hit the third and final restaurant, Restaurante Veleros, to interview the business owner and lunch. We were treated to a variety of and the best local fare yet– including cheviche, pescado frito, pollo frito, camarones en ajo, and paella – while sitting beachside and drinking homemade lemonade. We made it back to Ojojona with bronzed skin, full bellies, and a greater appreciation of our director who made this whole trip possible. ¡Gracias a Jesús! (That is the name of our director. Classic.)

The maestros setting a good example with their life vests

Ama (clap clap) pala

Working on some tourism initiatives…

The rest of this week has been enjoyable and informative although I am still a bit worn out from the trip to the beach. We had the opportunity to interview some local artisans in Ojojona on Thursday and presented another business plan for each of the restaurants that we visited today. Tonight’s dinner was a treat – leftover Chinese food from Tegucigalpa (hey, I will take what I can get) – and tonight’s rest is sure to be one for the books. I hope your dreams are as sweet as your realities. Duerma bien.

**To clarify: After another review of my language interview, the language director determined that I did not reach Advanced Low proficiency but instead Intermediate High + proficiency. Regardless, I did change classes and as expected am kicking my butt daily to keep up with the others.


April 9, 2009

Shmingling with the Wat/Saners at the Rest/Zoo

Wondering where in the world he is (like Carmen San Diego)

Happy Easter Week or Semana Santa! Because this is a holiday week, we get a few days off from training to hang with our fams and check out the local celebrations. The festivities actually began this past Sunday when the Catholic families of Ojojona showcased traditional rugs (más o menos) on the main street between the two Catholic churches in town. (As I understand the process leading up to presentation, the families first create a mold/outline of the religious images/sayings/symbols that are to be showcased inside of the rug. This process could take up to a couple days. Then the sawdust needs to be created and colored, although I am not sure on this specific process. Finally, at about 3am on the morning of the Sunday before Easter, the families go out to the street and lay down the colored sawdust in these molds/outlines to create a huge rug. This is a very labor-intensive process but worth it to create the beautiful rugs. I would Google it for further explanation if you are interested. It is a tradition celebrated by most of the big cities in Honduras during Easter week.) The celebration continued yesterday as we hosted a cultural day for our families. Before the event began, we learned how to and cooked a local dish with our families. The PCTs and families then reunited to share our food and recipes as well as showcase an activity from each language class. Our class set up a piñata for the kids. They dug it (and I know all the PCTs, including myself, were jealous that we couldn’t partake in the fun)! The PCTs were able to reunite, however, and have our own fun last night. We all got together to watch Office Space (you didn’t get the memo?), eat some fruity cake (obvi my type of cake), and play Uno (never goes out of style). The reunion was in celebration of my and another PCT’s birthday this week.

Rug lineup

This reminds me of St. Rose

Bien hecho, ¿verdad?

My FBT host bros and sis: Keyner, José, and Ruth

Well…it was a solid effort

My (somewhat) pregnant host mother: Ana Christina

LMU Alumni: Me and Bryan

Incubate this: Me and José

BZ Ladies

BZ Gents

A fruit cake! Seriously! It’s fabulous!

Those who got the movie memo: Taylor, Brent, Ashley, Reggie, José, Katie, Liz, and Theresa

On that note, I wanted to thank all of you (the fam especially) for the heartfelt calls, cards, emails, and postings on my birthday. Although it was a bit different (and probably better than last year since I spent the majority of my day last year in a cubicle…oh how fitting was Office Space last night!), it was extremely touching to receive local love from PCTs in the BZ and Wat/San group as well as from abroad. You all rock and keep me going! Thank you!

The rest of this week should continue to be delightful. Today I am planning on going on a small hike with the homies and then attending a talent show put on by the Evangelical youth of the community. Tomorrow will hopefully hold some more volleyball and movie fun in the training center. There is talk from my family of hitting the mountains to go horseback riding on Saturday, but I really don’t know if it will come to fruition seeing as there has been a massive amount of traffic accidents this week in Honduras with the huge amount of people traveling. I will probably round out the weekend by trying out an Evangelical mass with my family on Sunday to celebrate Easter and preparing for our camping trip to Amapala on Monday. (THAT’S RIGHT! Bring on the beach!) I see sun (and sunblock), swimming, and s’mores in my future…¡Feliz día!


April 3, 2009

Alriiiiiiiiighty, then! (Solid JC quote; you know it.) Hello, greetings, sup to all. As you can probably tell, I AM WELL. Already two weeks have passed in this stellar little town, and I am diggin it. I think time seems to be moving a bit faster for most of us now that we are a little more accustomed to the country and culture as well as a little more refined in our language and lessons. (Well done!)

Let's get right to it. The first weekend here was delightful. I spent most of my Saturday morning waiting patiently for several web pages to load but luckily was able to get a few words out there. (Hope you enjoyed. A special shout out to the Hortons for their approval.) Afterwards I prepped a presentation for my Spanish class on José Francisco Morazán (who is kinda like the Franco of Spain) and played some volleyball with other PCTs. Saturday night I hit an ever-so-random birthday party of a brother of one of the trainees. The actual celebration did not start until after a few of us left at 10pm, which is actually a late check-out seeing as we customarily need to be in by 9pm. (I guess some Spain still remains in CenAm. Well played Hondu.) Sunday was just as lovely. A group of chilled at a vaca house in San Buenaventura of a friend of the current PCV in Ojojona. While there we def relished (like on a hotdog at an A's game) in some solid American pastimes...that's right...we had a barbeque, played bocce ball, and danced the night away to some Tom Petty. Good times.

Bocce ball crew

Lovin the summer sol: Me, Theresa, and Liz

Brazilian bud: JP and Me

Cribbage fanatics: Brent and José

Wondering if we ever lit the charcoal…:No idea who this is

Just a Shady McShaderton and Me

I’m with the DJ: Kyle, Me, and Katie

Here’s to a solid BZ BBQ

This week has also definitely been fulfilling. We had our second round of language and technical interviews, and (I gotta say) my stokedness level jumped through the roof! My language interview went well, and it is rumored that it went well enough to push me up two levels, from Intermediate Mid to Advanced Low. (YAYER! Who ever thought that day would come?) I know this is a solid achievement on my part, but what it really means is that I'm gonna have to work my arse off keep up with the avanzados in my new class. (No pain, no gain, I guess.) The technical interview was also dope. My directors have a solid idea on where I will be going and the type of work that I will be doing. Lucky for me, the project fits me perfectly! It is also very refreshing because it guarantees an abundance of work and possibly a stellar counterpart. (To clarify, a counterpart is a resident of the PCVs site of service who is meant to act as the intermediary between the volunteer and his/her community. The quality, in all regards, of a counterpart is one of the key factors to the success of a PCV in his/her site of service. Experiences with counterparts range from outstanding to outrageous.) I would love to elaborate on the exact project that the PC Hondu has in mind for me, but alas, things change. I would prefer to keep my mind (and yours) open to all possibilities.

In addition to great news from the interviews comes great experiences from our technical training. We spent the majority of this week shadowing local businesses, learning how to write a business plan, and creating a business plan (which is actually a summary since the businesses are already in existence) for the owners. The activity allowed us to practice presenting ourselves to the community, learn about local business, and determine how we can best apply our skills and knowledge to assist local businesses. Needless to say, I have lost a good amount of sleep this week with all the emotion and activity.

This weekend is looking to continue the greatness. Tomorrow we are headed to Sabanagrande to meet up with some homies in the Water and Sanitation group. We are meeting up at a restaurant/zoo (Restaurante Ocotal) to hang for the majority of the day. (I really have no idea how to explain the place. I guess you will have to wait for the photos. Let's just hope a monkey doesn't steal my camera.) Sunday will most likely include homework and volleyball. (P.S. I have gotten back into not only volleyball but jumping rope and am loving it! I even considered creating a routine to show the other PCTs...in time ;) ) I hope that you all have just as fabulous a weekend. Lo merecen.

And now my shout out: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FIDDLE!!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!