October 27, 2009

Oh what a night! (Oh man, how I miss those Jersey Boys performances in the city with Pa…) Well, not a night exactly, but instead a series of weeks (three to be exact) since we have last “touched base” (Where did that phrase actually come from? Do you think it has something to do with the guy who stands at third base? I miss baseball games. Go A’s!) that has continued to test my resilience as a PCV in Honduras.

The first week was much like the many leading up to my vacation to Utila: uneventful at work, busy at home, and with little time spent out in the community out of a sheer lack of desire. (I am still frustrated to this day at how ambiguous my feelings are about my town. Sometimes I feel so happy to be here in a safe, relatively intimate community where I can run into someone I know and encounter what I need with ease. Sometimes I feel so sad to be here, in an unstable political environment that divides my city where I run into countless strangers, adults and children, who give me unwanted attention and where I can find no escape but in my own apartment. Maybe this is every PC’s trial. Maybe it’s just mine.) I did a lot of reading, fixing up my computer (oh ya, it’s on its seventh life or something…), practicing yoga, jumping rope, watching movies, and cooking. I was also very stressed out not being at home with my family while my grandfather’s health rapidly deteriorated and while the country proved yet again that there is no end in sight for the current political crisis. (10-day ultimatum? Not so much.)

Proud of my vegetable samosas, Italian green beans, and pickled beets…Top Chef, pick me!

The second week and third weeks contained more volunteer activities but unfortunately much disappointment. Two different women from previous visit from the coffee group came to the city seeking my assistance in selling their products, 50 bags of café puro, but without any of the client information that had been gathered with the previous group: contact information, quantity purchased, preferred flavor, etc. This experience was QUITE frustrating as we found ourselves returning to current clients who were already overstocked with bags of puro, returning to potential clients that had previously requested bags con pimiento, and finally forced with leaving all remaining product on consignment so that the women wouldn’t have to carry the bags back to their community. I know that the learning curve is different here, but it would help me, as a volunteer, to at least see some effort made at updating knowledge and skills when I continue to devote my time and efforts to this group for that purpose. Continuing with news on the PRAF groups, I recently accompanied the women who will be making cleaning products on a marketing survey. I brought small candies for them to hand out to those that participated and which they, once given, quickly shared among themselves for personal consumption. (You can imagine my face right now.) Upon recently analyzing the results of the survey, most of the recorded responses were incomplete, did not answer the question asked, or nonexistent. It appeared (and I saw it myself as I accompanied one of the groups on the survey) that the study was done in a slap shod manner with little interest and intent on caring about the results. Needless to say, this experience was also QUITE frustrating. In addition, the ETC trainings on business administration FINALLY (yes, finally…they were supposed to start when I arrived in May) began with a programmed schedule of Tuesday and Thursday night trainings. The turnout needs no explanation: 5 on Day 1 (introduction to the schedule), 3 on Day 2, 3 on Day 3, 1 on Day 4…The trainings will not begin again until mid-November, so we will have to wait and see what happens there.

The hardest part of this month (and definitely one of the hardest times here) occurred when I received news of my grandfather’s passing. I know he was “getting old” and it could have been “his time,” but that doesn’t make it any easier. It sucked to be here throughout the whole experience: not being able to visit him before, not being with my family when it happened, and being completely swallowed by the circular stress of being away from one another since. Pops was a dedicated soldier, brilliant accountant, adoring husband, loving father, and admirable grandfather, and I will miss him dearly.

On a better note (and I’m sorry my notes have been pretty melancholy until now…such is life), in the in between time these past couple weeks I assisted Jen (the girl I used to do yoga with) with a project that Plan Honduras is currently undertaking. I helped to evaluate potential surveyors that will be conducting a study of living standards of about 75 communities around the department of Lempira in the upcoming months. I also translated the survey from Spanish to English. I don’t know if I would say that type of work is appealing, but it was nice to practice. Tomorrow I have a day-long meeting with the leaders of CONEANFO (the organization that took over direction of ETC) to hopefully set up a training schedule for some microenterprises around the area. Thursday I have a workshop with Unidad Técnica to work on local economic development for the Mancomunidad. Then Friday through Sunday I will be traveling to Copan to celebrate Halloween with fellow Hondu PCVs. (I guarantee the number one costume worldwide this year will be Michael Jackson. I learned of his death from Hondurans MOMENTS after it happened! I have not gone a week since without hearing one of his songs.)

The following week will bring me back to where my heart remains: home. I will be traveling to Los Angeles to attend my grandfather’s services and then back home to Northern California to spend some time with the fam. When I first came to Honduras, I had no plans of coming home because I thought such a trip would be harder on my emotions than not. I basically thought it would ruin me rather than rejuvenate me. I stressed out a lot last week with this same thought when deciding to come home…I think I finally realized that it was time to come home when my mother told me so. I think she’s right...I miss home, and I need to be there. As such, this is my sign-off until my return to Hondu. Hopefully it can withstand until my return, and I think it will. (Elections aren’t until the end of November. No doubt something’s gonna happen.) Until then, be good to yourselves and each other (Jerry Springer...gotta love him.)


October 7, 2009

YAY for the 10-day ultimatum starting and ending when I left for and returned from vacation! What is that you may ask? Oh, just a little threat that the new president (Micheletti) gave the Brazilian Embassy when the old president (Zelaya) secretly returned to Hondu and set up shop there. The current government is demanding that the Brazilian Embassy “hand over” Zelaya to the authorities, but the Brazilian Embassy is contesting that he cannot be harmed as he is on diplomatic ground, a “safe haven” cannot be breached. The 10-day ultimatum was issued two Sundays ago, the day that I left for Utila, and ends…well…TODAY (if I counted right). That’s some irony for you. (All of the above information is based on local and international news articles.)

Before I go on with all the political b…happenings…I want to let you in on one of the BEST vacation spots that I have been yet: Utila, Bay Islands. What a little spot! (And I say that because it really is a little island, about eight or so miles long with about six thousand or so inhabitants.) We arrived on a Sunday to get settled and oriented, spent the following Monday through Wednesday attending classes and being tested on scuba diving knowledge and safety as well as underwater and surface skills tests, and finished out the week on Thursday and Friday diving around the island checking out the many fish, eels, rays, lobsters, turtles (although I personally didn’t get to see one, I still have my memories from Hawaii) and coral. The visibility was average because it was the end of the dive season but the experience was top notch. I am now a certified open water diver who fully plans on taking advantage of that fact in future vacation spots. (Roatan maybe, Dad?) Between all these scuba related activities, there was some definite fun had with the other twelve volunteers that accompanied me to the island. We feasted on amazing seafood (barracuda, king fish, amber jack, snapper, and tuna), hit the local night spots to dance on the docks and under the stars, and took walks and runs next to the gorgeous white sand beaches and light blue ocean water. The people on the island amplified the experience. Most are travelers (mostly divers coming through for months to a year at a time) from England, Australia, and the states. The rest are locals with a rich island accent (not Spanish) who have never been to the mainland and with a pleasant contentment with life. Utila, to me and many of the other volunteers, was not comparable to Honduras in the slightest. For example, I had no pena walking around the island in my bathing suit, and I actually got another favorite nickname from it: Roxy. (It has the brand name on the back of my suit.) The only downside about being on the island was the plague of sand flies that roam the beaches by day and the mosquitoes that roam the land by night. They were VICIOUS, and I am in no way exaggerating! I mean, they were incomparable to anywhere else I have ever been in the world.

I and Bry

The U-T Crew

Me and Kat P

Make sense?

Flyin on the ferry

Utila at day

Our dive instructor: Niv

Troublemakers: Hillary and Me

Cali lovers: Liz and Me

Utila at dusk

Since I have been back to Gracias, I have been welcomed by the ever annoying piropos, further postponements of meetings and/or trainings, and never ending discussion about the political crisis of the country. Needless to say, I miss Utila already.

On a better note, I went back out to Santa Rosa this past Monday to catch the Monday Night Football game on ESPN. (How friggin RAD that they play the game at Zots!!) VIKINGS WON AGAINST THE PACKERS! How ironic that Favre stepped all over the green while reppin the purple?

As I mentioned previously, the 10-day ultimatum ends today. Micheletti attempted to ban constitutional rights last week and was quickly overruled by Congress. The states continue to call for the reinstatement of Zelaya before the November elections. Micheletti refuses to accept the San Jose Accord...(again, all based on news articles)...I wonder what this month is gonna be like…