Friday, November 11, 2005

More travels

I spent another five days traveling this week for the second training event relating to coffee production and commercialization up north from me in the department of Santa Barbara. There isn´t too much interesting news from that, to be honest.... we talked some more about the beneficio process and ecological management of waste products from it (specifically the outer husks that are taken off first, and the ¨honey water¨ that´s left over when they wash off the fruity part around the coffee grain.) We also visited the finca of the guy who won the coffee taster´s cup in Honduras last year to check out his operation. I was expecting a big fancy facility, but actually his setup is simpler than the majority of the people in my community.

He produces very high quality coffee there, and quite a bit of it considering he doesn´t have much land, but doesn´t seem to be making a whole lot of money, which I found interesting. One of the problems is that Honduras has such a bad reputation with the world community for coffee that it´s hard for producers here to market their product as high-quality and get a good price. Another problem is that there are no governmental standards controlling the quality of export-grade coffee, and the exporters, who are rich and big and have more say in the government, don´t have much interest in changing things because they make the same amount of money to commercialize and export low grade coffee as high grade. As with almost every step of the process, it is the little guy that gets screwed.

On the other side of things, the same day we also went to visit the guy that exports the coffee of that producer who won the taster´s cup. He plainly told us that he wasn´t as interested in ¨niche markets¨ as in volume, but he is an exporter with one of the best reputations for quality in the country and seems to take a fair amount of pride in his operation. We toured the facility which was pretty big and impressive, saw some bags of coffee that were heading for Europe, and then visited for awhile about politics. He and the IHCAFE guy fired some shots at each other about where the blame lies for the problems with coffee production in Honduras, which was pretty entertaining.

I stopped and stayed the night in Tegucigalpa on the way back, and met a few other volunteers who were there. Also got to go out to eat at Pizza Hut! This would be average pizza back home, but it is most definitely the best pizza I´ve had in Honduras. The cheese is everything.

I´ve got to get moving now and get ready to head back up to my place for another good while. I will be traveling again the 23-24th for Thanksgiving in San Marcos de Colon, and I think I might not update my blog til then. Take it easy everyone. :)

Friday, November 04, 2005


This means ¨smashed¨. In the school system here, it isn´t uncommon for students to not pass final exams and have to retake the test in order to pass onto the next grade. I had to aplastar 18 English students out of my 62, and really it should´ve been a lot more but I passed people down to 60% (D-). I was pretty disappointed with the overall test results since so many people failed. I am trying to figure out why, because I frickin´ handed the test to them on a silver platter, dedicating a fair amount of time in the two classes before to explaining exactly what I was going to put on it and what they would need to study. Based on my best guess, I think the problems most people had fall into the categories of: Didn´t pay attention in class, Didn´t understand and was too timid to ask a question, Didn´t study, and Has no experience whatsoever in test-taking. The people that failed probably mixed and matched a few of these. I stood up on the last day of class, after reviewing all 5 sections I was going to put on the test, and said ¨if anybody doesn´t understand this, ASK ME NOW. If I get a pile of lousy scores on the test, then at least I´ve done my best to help explain this stuff to you.¨ Not a single person raised their hand, but obviously a bunch of people should have. Fighting this kind of thing is going to be annoying, I can tell.

Hurricane Beta messed up the North coast of Honduras, but all we got down here was a couple days of drizzle. Now it´s cleared up again and the weather is beautiful - 70-80 in the day with sun and wind, and 6oish at night.

On Wednesday I went around inspecting some coffee fincas (a finca is like a family farm, but I hesitate to use that word because it conjurs up images of corn, cows, and barns and that´s not what the deal is here). This is work that the coffee cooperative wants me to help them with, and I am somewhat reluctant to do because I have to be ¨Mr. Inspector¨ to all these new producers that I am making friends with. They get kind of embarassed because they haven´t done a damn thing we talked about in the capacitations and with every problem I find, they say they either do it right normally or are about to fix it. This is what keeps me strict, the excuse-making. A couple of the places had in fact started working on improving their beneficios though, so that was cool to see.

Played soccer again on Sunday. We won the first game, then I left and and we lost the second. Har har! Maybe I am good luck. We have a big 4-way tournament coming up on the 13th in which the politicians are going to donate new uniforms to the team that wins. They are chucking free stuff left and right at the moment since it is election time. This is important because even though we´re pretty good, our uniforms are like the suckiest of all the teams in the area.

I´m here in Choluteca right now because I had to go to the bank today before I head off to yet another training event in central Honduras and I wouldn´t have time to do it in the morning before catching the bus. So I did that and now I´m going to tool around town for the rest of the day and leave tomorrow. It´s nice having plenty of time in Choluteca because any other time I come here I´m always in a godawful rush. I may end up spending yet another day in town because it appears I got my messages mixed and the thing starts a day later than I thought. I have to call up to Agua Fría after this and figure that out.

I answered some emails this time and hope I did not miss delivering any information that people wanted. If I am indeed still stuck in Choluteca tomorrow I will check my email again. Maybe somebody wants me to call them?