September 24, 2009

What is the greatest lesson that I have learned to date? Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Hope…well…I have a lot of it. (I think it’s probably an intrinsic character trait of any PCV.) On a volunteer level, I hope that the ETC kids will be willing and able to participate in some basic business administration training as their program will terminate in December. For that reason, I spent several weeks at the beginning of the month preparing a lesson plan, charla papers (basically a flip chart), and activities
covering various requested topics as well as meeting with those in the Vivero to solicit their participation. I hope that the PRAF women’s groups will be successful in their microenterprises as funding for their program is currently frozen and may be cut indefinitely with a new government. For that reason, I walked two groups—organic paper and coffee—around Gracias and introduced them to business owners I know as well as prepared a marketing survey with the PRAF promoter for a group of women that are going to start to make cleaning products. I hope that the support group for those individuals living with HIV/AIDS will follow up on the business plan that they started to create at the workshop in Santa Rosa as this group is one in most need for income generation. For that reason, I sent several emails/text messages/calls and am prepared to continue to push for a meeting with the individuals that attended the workshop to ensure that the progress on the plan continues.

On a personal level, I hope that my computer will continue to survive and thrive as it encountered MASSIVE issues the past several weeks which required it be to returned to factory settings (thus losing all programs and updates) four times…that’s right. (It is amazing how dependent I am on this little guy. It’s an Acer, by the by, in case I forgot to mention it. I never knew a machine could control my emotions so much…and then I realized how dependent I really am on it for preparing lesson plans, writing blogs, saving pictures, playing music, doing podcast exercises, looking up recipes, watching movies, saving contact information, etc.) For that reason, I spent (and this is a fair guess) about fifty hours más o menos constantly adding and updating, adding and updating, adding and updating files and programs while all the while trying to combat the evil viruses that roam the networks in Gracias. I don’t know if I will ever win that battle and/or be fully protected, but I am sure going to try. (My dad is sending me a computer protection package. Cross your fingers! In the meantime, I am just going to cafes with a thumb drive.) I hope that I am able to go on my scuba diving certification trip that has been planned for months with about fifteen other PCVs as Zelaya returned to Hondu this week thereby inciting demonstrations, causing the closure of all international airports, and prompting day and night curfews in the entire country. For that reason, I…sigh…just pray.
So, as I said, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Be realistic but never afraid to dream. (A butterfly just flew up to my window. That’s pretty neat.)

Random thoughts: My butt hurts from sitting on it so much from trying to revive my computer and watching movies while being restricted to my house during curfew. I will never be able to get rid of the ants in my apartment nor the scabies in my bed and so we thus live in harmony together. How does it make any sense that my apartment floods when it’s ON THE SECOND FLOOR?! (Someone had too much guaro.) I’m so happy to have a futon where I can sit to read or offer as a bed to visitors. Whoever informed me about the temperature in Gracias lied: it is always hot and sticky a.k.a. I never go a day without profusely sweating. The women in the coffee group gave me the best nickname I have ever heard: Shanito. Write that down. It’s money.

I hope that my sitemates liked my Gazpacho and peanut sauce...

…in the event they didn’t, I prepared piña coladas…


September 2, 2009


Roses for the place I miss the most…Roseville

SO MUCH happened this past month that has left me with radtastic PCV memories (/incriminating photos), a dent in the PCV account (/personal checking account), and the panza of a Honduran man (/nalgas of a Honduran woman).

Strawberries, fudge, cab sav…fancy

Gouda cheese, Ritz crackers, sav blanc…shmancy!

Homemade appetizer of marinated cucumbers and tomatoes with ricotta cheese, homemade dinner of French onion soup, and homemade dessert of caramel brownies…all for my loved sitemates!

To start off strong on the first weekend in August, I wanted ya’ll to know that, yes, I successfully baked my Nana’s famous caramel brownies (they should be illegal they’re so good) and that they were much enjoyed by host family, Hondu friends, and PCV homies per the comments that I received. (I would also like to note that no one suffered from E. Coli after their brownie experience.)

The first week of August days were spent in Santa Rosa attending an income generation workshop for persons living with HIV/AIDS with other PCVs, patients, and leaders from organizations that support such individuals. The taller went very well and covered the basic business concepts that we, as PCVs, learned in PST. At the end of the workshop, each PCV worked with his or her respective attendees to formulate a business plan for a microenterprise to hopefully launch once back in site. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to work with my group since the workshop but hope to meet with them next week to re-motivate the participants and develop their business plan further.) The first week of August nights were spent playing (or rather dominating) ping pong games on the roof of the hotel (holler to Walton Way tournaments!), sipping on Hoegaarden and Stella (Broham and Biggy would be so proud!), and rocking the mic at karaoke at a local Mexican restaurant/bar. (A fellow BZ PCV beat a Honduran in the final round! That’s right…we were all business that night.)

Stunning Santa Rosa sunset, take 1

Liz and I trying to capture air on our volleyball approaches

Some H14ers rockin it rooftop: Erika, Liz, Me, Fortunato, José, and Jen

Made sure to get my diploma

Being as silly as we should be: Hannah, Kathryn, and Me

Stunning Santa Rosa sunset, take 2

The weekend after the workshop (second weekend) I was finally able to move into my new apartment, and I could not be happier with it. It has green walls (instead of pink), a classier ceramic floor and bathroom décor (sometimes I am shocked at how American it seems…and then the water or electricity goes out and I remember where I am), WAY more sunlight (Sunshine Shannon! I doubt anyone reading knows this reference…Mom?), and a lack of my favorite neighbors (riiiiight). It’s hotter than heck most of the time up here, but I am so willing to pay the price!

Living room #2, camera 1

Living room #2, camera 2

Living room #2, camera 3

Kitchen #2, camera 1

Kitchen #2, camera 2

Bedroom #5, camera 1

Bedroom #5, camera 2

Bedroom #5, camera 3

Bathroom #3, camera 1

Bathroom #3, camera 2

The first half of the second week of August I traveled to a conference center on the border of La Tigra National Park (so beautiful) to get trained as a VOS member. The training went well and taught the same listening skills that I had learned from my training on the hotline in SF. It was relaxing to meet other PCVs with similar personalities and to spend some time in a gorgeous location.

The second half of the second week of August and third weekend (confused yet?) I traveled by bus from Santa Rosa to San Salvador to meet up with my brother and his girlfriend, Carrie. The reunion was AWESOME (minus the stress of being out of contact during the trip and an hour late arriving to the bus station)! After hugging it out for days (six months, dude!), we were taken by our driver (Right! When they arrived at the San Salvador airport the night before, Chris and Carrie met a personal driver that worked for the Marriott that offered to assist them throughout their time in El Salvador. This guy was the ish of a driver: he waited with them for an hour at the bus terminal, picked us up from the coast to drive to the capital on his day off, and picked them up from the hotel to take them to the airport at 4:45am!), to the chilliest little hotel in El Tunco complete with bamboo showers, infinity and waterfall pools, beachside hammocks, and one of the most impressive restaurants that I have ever been to both in quantity and in quality (complete with quail, rabbit, and iguana). That first day we enjoyed a fabulous lunner (Well, alright. I tried the iguana, and it sucked because it was overcooked, but Chris’ snapper stuffed with shrimp in a rich cream sauce was just absurdly fabulous.), a delightful dessert (crepes with Nutella, the richest chocolate ice cream I have ever tried, and a Mayan cocoa drink…not all mine, gez!), and good times playing cards in the room while the ocean roared and sky sparked during some redonk hurricane weather. The second day we rolled down the black sand beach to pick up some surf lessons (I stood up three times, YAYER!), delighted (I don’t know if Chris agrees with me here) in an indigenous sweat hut experience at the hotel, and hung out at the local cave bar (Trip, this reminded me of you!!). The third day we made our way back to the capital to stay in the Marriott (holy crap, this was the best culture shock I have had yet), feast on Benihana surf & turf (soooo yummmmy), and see a movie in a movie theater (it’s a big deal to me alright). We hit the local pub after (how sad that they were out of Guinness because it apparently unheard of in Hondu per our PST) and tried to stay up all night chatting over Spanish tele and local brews in the hotel. Chris and Carrie left before the sun came up the following morning while I snoozed all over (you heard me) my queen-size bed, hit the nearby malls to buy some cheap clothes (cheaper than Ross!? ¡Que barbaridad!), and fully took advantage of the free internet at the Marriott. All in all, the trip was so friggin fun and bien memorable but completely surreal. (I have yet to see the pictures, Carrie!) I never would have imagined that my brother and me would vacation to Central America together and then not return home to the same country…que raro.

My temporary site

Crash landing site

Cave bar site (just like in Spain!)

Extensive eats site

Sweat hut site

Free at last!

Split decision?

I-guana order something else

El Tunco surf spot

Nothing like lazy dazin on a hammock

After returning from San Salvador (we are now in the third week in August), I spent the night in Santa Rosa, made my way back to Gracias the following day, and then spent the rest of the week visiting five different PRAF microenterprises: condimentos (seasonings), asistines (disinfectants), café (coffee), encurtidos (pickled foods), and ropa interior (undergarments). There is an organization called PILARH in Santa Rosa that has partnered with PRAF to assist the coffee group. The women seem to be very motivated and understanding of what it takes to run a business. The two organizations and I are going to work together to reinforce the areas of production and commercialization to hopefully develop a profitable and sustainable business with the women. (The group gifted me a packet of coffee which I will taste in the very near future to see how/if we are rocking it.)

The Café Crew makin coffee…

The fourth weekend (don’t judge the accountant who counts) was spent in Gracias attending a PCV REF (Religious Equality Forum) meeting with about 17 other people. This group is unique in that it is the only of its kind in the PCV community worldwide (from what I was told). The meeting is to serve as a round-table where PCVs can comfortably disclose their religious/spiritual beliefs and experiences or lack thereof with other volunteers while avoiding proselytizing. (The point is basically to create a safe place to share.) The first half of the event was spent sharing upbringings and family belief systems while the second half was spent in smaller groups with similar belief systems discussing similarities and differences. The event closed with a group discussion and Q&A session. I must say that I was very surprised at the diversity of belief systems represented – including Atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, Congregational, Jew, Mennonite, Quaker, and more – and at the high level of respect that was maintained throughout the event. (I would expect nothing less on that second point but had heard that the past event was lacking a bit in that area.)

PCV Hondu REF 2009

Holdin it down as hosts to the event: Anna and Me

Rollin with Reb always

The morning after the meeting ended and for a third of the fourth week, I traveled with a friend, Rebecca, to the town of Copan. (Holy shnikees, it was so adorable!!) We hit the town hard buying some of the cutest souvenirs I have ever seen in Hondu and thus spent more than our share of our monthly living allowance on presents for family and friends. We delighted our hunger on bagels, pita sandwiches, and filet mignon (which cost about $8 and was better than most that I have tried in the states) and disappointed our thirst on a sour mojito and half orange juice tainted sangria (both worse than anything I have ever tried in the states). We wrapped our quick trip with a stop at the Mayan Ruins (so dope and crazy to think how old they are) and then made our way to Santa Rosa to park for the night before Reconnect.

Wishin we could rock this site: Rebecca and Me

Seriously!? A restaurant called “We will see…?” Who does that?

We can rock the shades, though: Rebecca and Me

A sangria gone wrong

Starteth the Ruins

Endeth the Ruins

Now cometh the two thirdths of the fourth week (I am just humoring myself now. I’m sorry I’m being annoying). All of the BZ PCVs from H12 and H14 went to Siguatepeque for most of the week to share site experiences (Our group, namely my training group consisting of three projects, is called H14. Three projects form a training group that comes to Honduras every six months. Business, Health, and Water and Sanitation come at the same time and represent the even H numbers while Municipal Development, Youth Development, and Protected Areas Management come at the same time and thus represent the odd H numbers. The groups used to be labeled like randomly generated passwords are – 8675309KWOW – but then someone decided to KISS – keep it simple, silly – and change it to H whatever. Clever.), participated in some random training sessions, and played some stellar volleyball and ping pong matches. I ran in the mornings and kicked it with the homies in the nights thus closing out my week without much sleep. (Mi modo…just like the good ol’ days in SF.)

The biz kids makin some jalapeño encurtido (gotta wear protection because it stings the nostrils)

Numbers men: Kyle and José

Very cute: Rebecca and Erika

The lumberjack and the sage: Harrison and Reggie

My first friend in PCV before I even left Cali: Erika and Me

The last weekend and probably most overdone weekend in August was the last…the fifth (…like the element). On Friday night, about 70 (ya, that many) went to Santa Rosa to celebrate La Noche de los Fumadores. (There is a cigar factory in Santa Rosa that hosts this classy event every year during the city’s fería.) The night included music and dancing, appetizers and cheeses, wine and rum tasting, and cigar rolling demonstrations. The event didn’t meet my expectations with such a rad description, but I cannot say that I was disappointed hanging out with so many volunteers sippin on wine and smokin cigars. The celebration did not end at Noche but instead moved to the club that I mentioned in a past blog, Flamingo, where a massive amount of dancing was had with massive men. (You heard me right.) For some reason the Honduras national basketball team was at Flamingo that night and was all about shaking it. I even had some seven foot plus dude lift me off the ground with my arms over my head! (Random but notable: these gents were the most respectable Honduran men that I have yet encountered in Hondu. It was very refreshing to hang with them.) The next day brought laziness before continued movement. During the day we hit Zots for brunch, rolled to the central park for some coffee tasting, and then went back to the hotel to nap before round two. We hit Cuates for a despedida (goodbye party) for some departing PCVs and then made yet another appearance at Flamingo to shake our groove thang. (Oh no, the month isn’t over yet.) To close “Awesome August” out right, a huge group of PCVs came back to Gracias to enjoy the hot springs and bonfire sessions that are so commonly had in my site. We made s’mores and hot dogs as well as made sure to stay up until the sun came up (for the third night in a row!) enjoying Mountain Dews (I should have had licorice in hand, too), garlic popcorn (you should really try it), and watching The Best of Will Ferrell (More cowbell!).

Night to be smokin...hot

(Catching my breath...)

So now here we are in September, and I think I have a whole new round of ish to work on that will be unrelated to PCV activities. Don’t get me wrong, I had a whole ton of fun this month with volunteers but really did miss my site and trying to develop activities in which I could support. Lucky for me, I came back to requests from five different sources (including the Escuela) asking that I assist in some regard. I am stoked to get these inquiries but a little nervous and stressed because each project is asking that the activities be wrapped by the end of this year. I am happy to help but a little worried that I am going to spread myself thin trying to help out everyone. I don’t want to say no to one and give all to another as I really am uncertain as to which, if any, will be available for my participation next year. On the other hand, I don’t want to get involved in so many projects that I can only give what a half-asser would.

I would like to end the blog by saying this: I’m tired but content, excited but nervous, and born a blonde but now a redhead. Funny what drinking the water here will do to you…