Saturday, June 11, 2005

Recent events and thoughts

I´ve been pretty busy lately, working on school projects and getting out with my friends when I can. We saw ¨million dollar baby¨last night (it takes movies awhile to get here.... Episode III comes out next week) and went out to eat. Got diarrhea again.... so I´m 2 for 2 with restaurant food. huzzah. Already feeling better this time, though. They say my stomache will acclimate to most of the baddies here. When I got home I played some Playstation 2 street hoops game with Edgar, my house mom´s little brother.... I guess he borrowed the machine from a friend. That was pretty surreal. No tekken or soul caliber apparently. :(

We´ve been working out in the finca a lot, which is a huge improvement over the endless classroom sessions of last week. Sometimes it´s hard physical labor, like swinging a pick for a couple hours, but I welcome the excercise anyways, and planting trees + vegetables is really fun. They told us one of the areas we´re going to concentrate the most on is agroforestry, so I could conceivably end up doing a project fairly similar to what Dad did.... but Protected Areas Management is very diverse, and if I did have a tree farm I would almost certainly be working on other things at the same time. The idea is to teach several aspects of sustainable agriculture, especially because a lot of these methods work really well together.

Yesterday, the American ambassador to Honduras came and visited us. We had to stop what we were doing and go to the large meeting room, where they told us to stand up when he came in and address him as ¨Mr. Ambassador¨ because he represents the president. I was thinking ¨guy comes out in the middle of a random weekday to visit 30 peace corps trainees, I bet he´s pretty cool.¨ This turned out to be even more true than I thought. Mr. Palmer is a 6´5¨or so black guy from Georgia, maybe 55 years old, with a shock of grey hair and a huge smile. In fact he is an ex PCV (peace corps volunteer) from Liberia in like the mid 70s who got involved in international politics afterwards and has been doing the ambassador thing for I think 15 years now. It was an absolute pleasure to hear him talk about his days as a PCV, and what he and the embassy are trying to do in Honduras. He also talked about the burden of doing his job and the responsibility placed on us as PCVs, because we are some of the most important representatives the USA has abroad. He compared his own experiences in the embassy... of having to represent the Bush administration because he was representing America, even if he didn´t agree with how things are going now. We were all bummed to find out that he will be leaving his position in a month, so some new guy (probably a career politician appointed directly by Bush, if what he tells us about the current administration´s methods of choosing ambassadors is correct) will be the one to swear us in. Still, I don´t know if this is relavent information to anyone, but if you get a chance to meet former Honduran ambassador Palmer, TAKE IT. He is all kinds of cool and made me feel better about US foreign policy, even if I hate what we´re doing right now... at least I had a reminder that there are good people working for us.

Today we had four hours of classes ..... on a SATURDAY, I know, it´s a crime. But it was at least interesting stuff. A couple of current volunteers came in to talk about volunteer support groups, and their experiences, which was alternately depressing and uplifting. They told stories about volunteers getting harassed, mugged, date raped with drugged booze, etc. and how we can deal with that kind of thing. One of them told a story about how her best friend was hoping for a husband that would respect her to the extent that he wouldn´t cheat in plain sight. That´s how the women think about fidelity here.... not that men will be faithbul, but that they hopefully at least will be tactful enough with their infidelity as to save face for everyone. When a guy cheats on his wife here, she is shamed as much or more than he is. Yikes.

They also talked about some of the great things about this culture and why they love it so much here, despite some of the social problems that we find apalling. People in aldeas with literally nothing but a couple pairs of clothes and food for survival would feed them, giving them bananas and coffe, being totally generous and friendly every time they visited an aldea they had previously worked at. They said that the homeless - the drunks and especially the mentally handicapped - are nearly always accepted and cared for by the community they live in and around. That families are absolutely there for each other when the chips are down... a mother or father can count on their children caring for them no matter what and vice versa. Some of these things they feel we have somehow lost in our US culture, and I don´t know how or why that could happen but I think they are right. I would much, much rather be poor or disenfranchised here than in the USA, because of the way people take care of each other.

Going to play some basketball (the real kind, outdoors and suchlike) with Edgar and some of his friends tomorrow. Other than that I dunno what I´m gonna do this weekend. As usual, wishing you all the best. :)


At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Vince/nox` said...

Gabe sounds like your getting along pretty decently over there, I hope your takin care of yourself. Can't wait to see ya/hear from ya when you getback in the states. :) Later man, best of luck.

At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, Gabe. Just trying to see if I can publish here. It was great to talk to both you and Vilma, your house mother last night. She sounds like she's really enjoying having you too. You must let her know that she is one lucky 'other mother', OK?

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Jeremy (Kashll) said...

So how is your spanish progressing? ;) Just curious how fast it is possible to pick up the language, and whether you have had any prior experience/teaching with it?

Your comments on the culture are stuff that we have briefly gone over in Spanish class, but it is fascinating to hear it from a direct perspective. The comment about our Television and culture is really depressing... it is one of the reasons that I don't watch tv... although i'm probably being a hypocrite since I participate/get exposed to that culture in more subtle ways.

Sounds like you are having fun, or at least quite the experience. Very inspiring and nice writeups.

At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabe, I'll be waiting for more posts. It great to hear the everything is going well. For me it's nice to know that there is still a strong sense of community and family in the world. You have helped me gain a stronger perspective. Take care,

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Sandy / CrossBox said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hola Gabriel, Hace tiempo que no escribiste! Que pasa? (was that right?) -- You're making me homesick for America Latina.
It's interesting hearing the things people say about the US. Here are a few I heard from Brazilians:
"Americans greet you with open arms. But then they don't close their arms!"
"You Americans are so straightforward - you say what you think."
"Americans are always saying 'oh my god I didn't get anything done today!' But we say, 'I had a great day! I didn't get anything done!'"
"Americanos -- sempre tirando o sarro!" -- meaning we're so critical, we're always picking the tartar off other people's teeth.
Ant nancy

At 4:32 PM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Hey guys, nice to hear from yall. Jeremy - I studied spanish in college (I minored in it) so I think I´m picking it up a little faster than my classmates for that reason. I started out at kind of a low level for speaking, but I know the grammar fairly well and I can hear myself making mistakes, which I think helps.

Nancy - some of those quotations definitely sound like the attitudes in Honduras. Especially the one about saying what we think - people here almost always tell you what they think you want to hear. I think it´s partly because we´re outsiders, but it´s partly cultural as well.


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