Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Ok, that address I posted sucked. This is what mail should be directed to:

Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado Postal #3158
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
CA (I guess this means Central America)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Snail mail info, favorite hondureñisms, more


But anyways, not as much of note has happened since my last post. We´ve been digging into Spanish classes pretty hard (7 hours yesterday!) and we took a short trip out to a youth camp last Friday-Saturday. The goal was to learn more about youth development, which probably most of us are going to end up doing in our spare time, especially as it pertains to leadership training and environmental education. That was mostly fun, and I found out that there´s a microbrewery/restaurant near Lago de Yojoa, where, it is rumored, they actually serve brew of a shade somewhat darker than urine. Inasmuch as the beer here is generally horrible to the point of near-toxicity, for me this is basically like finding the goddamn fountain of youth. Didn´t have a chance to go there last weekend, but I certainly will in the future. Oh, I guess the leadership camp was cool too. We did teambuilding activities. Woo.

On Saturday, Vilma finally cornered me on the subject of religion and I had to admit that I´m not a Good Christian(tm). She said that she was very surprised, but still thinks I´m a good person. Phew. Between my poor spanish and my very abstract beliefs, it was basically impossible to explain to her that I don´t think God doesn´t exist, but I don´t go to church. I don´t think she really differentiates between the ideas of believing in God and being a religious, churchgoing person which for me is an important distinction. I am actually going to have to learn to lie about this before I go out to the middle of an aldea, which could be one of my greatest challenges. But I had a good discussion with Vilma. She cited several uncontrovertible religious experiences between herself and other friends/family, and said that since I have an open mind I´m bound to find God someday, though it makes her sad that I´m like, not a complete person right now. Toward the end of the conversation I was like ¨so are you going to try and save me?¨ and she said that was my personal responsibility. That was good to hear anyways.

On Sunday, we went up into the mountains to visit the house of Myrna, a cousin-in-law that lives with Vilma and works in Siguatepeque during the week. She has a small house out in the country with a few crops (more guava than anything else), some cool children, and a worthless husband that doesn´t do jack shit. Vilma was telling me that this guy threatened to kill her and her kids if she left him, but it was a lie. I could have waited to learn that info til after I had to meet the guy. As it turned out he was pretty friendly around everyone else and he took me and Frank up to a sweet waterfall in the mountains. I´m guessing it was at least 150 feet high and a pretty fair sized river. We had to machete our way through an unused rainforest to get there too. Still, it was kind of hard hanging out with the dude.

I´ve been hanging out some more with Edgar, the 18 year old in my household, and he taught me a few expressions that the younger generation uses, and of course, the oppressive older generation doesn´t care for. I´ve learned some good ones in my spanish classes too. Here are some of my favorites, their meanings, and for your amusement, their literal translations.

Cheque - ¨check¨
Basically means the exact same thing as OK, which they use also from time to time. Often said as ¨cheque leque¨ which is kind of like ¨okey dokey¨, ¨cheque leque pankeque (pancake)¨ (okey dokey smokey) or our group´s version ¨cheque leque en Siguatepeque¨.

Me puse una gran borrachera - ¨I put a great drunkenness on myself¨
Self explanatory.

beber hasta los codos - Dunno the literal translation but it basically means to drink as much alcohol as is physically possible.

¿Qué pedo? - ¨What the fart?¨
What´s up, what´s crackin, how you doin´. An appropriate response would be ¨todo bien¨ or ¨todo cheque¨.

Que Fresa - ¨What a strawberry¨
I´m pretty sure this applies to girls or other Bonita things. Edgar said ¨niñas¨ which is like children girls, but that might be more slang. Oh, the youth these days!

Que Mango - ¨What a mango¨
Choice male specimen.

Me cae mal - ¨he/she falls poorly on me¨
This is generic spanish, but it´s too wierd not to include. Means you don´t get along with the person you´re talking about, like your personalities don´t mix. Can also apply to food and other stuff.

That´s all I can think of for now, although I know there´s more that I´m forgetting.

I know there are some people that are interested in sending me stuff through snail mail, mostly direct family members and whatnot, and I finally got ahold of an address to send stuff to. This is the Peace Corps main office in Tegucigalpa, which can send stuff out to me wherever I am so I think it would be the best place to direct mail traffic. Always keep in mind that mail can take 2 weeks to months on end to get here. Mom/Dad/Maya, if you guys are already sending me something, I would like to request that you include some pics of our family and house and stuff because people keep asking me. Also a random person who I can pretend is my girlfriend back home would be good too. I need some way to deflect all the relationship questions people ask around here, and a good excuse why I´m alone and not married right now. Apparently this kind of behavior is downright bizarre and unnatural.

So anyways here´s the address.

Peace Corps
Colonia Palmira
Avenida Republica de Childe
Apartado Postal #3158

I guess you could write my name somewhere on the package, and/or say who it´s going to inside a bigger envelope.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Volunteer Visit

This past weekend, we all had a ¨volunteer visit¨ which entailed traveling somewhere in Honduras to visit an existing volunteer at their site for two days, living with them and checking out how things are gonna be once we´re out of training.

I went to a site that´s maybe 60-70 miles directly north of Siguatepeque as the crow flies, but it took an hour and half by bus, then 20 minutes by taxi, then another hour and a half by truck to get there. The volunteer, Andrew, lives in a small aldea of about 500 people called El Palmital right next to a Parque Nacional with some pretty sweet mountains. I met him down in the larger town of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, we did some shopping, and then we took the aforementioned truck ride up a dirt road to his site. In the town of El Palmital, maybe 2 people have vehicles and they use those as a business venture, running people down to Santa Cruz and back for basically everything that a person would need to buy.

It was pretty nice just visiting with Andrew, who has been at his site for 6 months now and has been pretty isolated from the world because of its location and because it´s really important to stick close to your site in the first few months while you´re building confianza (trust) with the people in your community. He definitely seemed happy to have some company that spoke the mother tongue.

On the first day we took a hike out to an abandoned farm, ate some green mangos (pretty good, tastes like a granny smith) and forgot to bring water.... big mistake. It´s not painfully hot around here in the mountains, but you overheat fast in the muggy weather. Lesson learned. We mostly spent the evening visiting and he showed me around El Palmital and introduced me to his ¨host country counterpart¨, Roberto.

Roberto was a really interesting guy. He´s 100% campesino, but he had a very different outlook than the majority of his community. I think it´s partly because he spent his youth traveling, so he´s actually seen the world and knows what kind of things are out there. His coffee, bananas, corn, beans, etc are probably the most integrated in the community, he actually uses soil conservation techniques, and he talked about bringing electricity and ecotourism to the aldea, which other residents barely know the meaning of. The thing that struck me the most about him though was his attitude. He had a certain pride about him that most of the others lacked. I think they have been exposed sufficiently to city culture, especially from America, that there is a general sense of worthlessness in being a ¨lowly¨campesino, substance farming, having land but not a lot of it, etc.

One of the big problems in El Palmital, Andrew told me, is that the smart, motivated men almost invariably go to the United States. In fact a significant majority of the adult population there was female. A lot of the men that still live there are bolos (drunks) and/or gamblers that don´t grow anything but corn and beans, have malnutritioned kids, and waste their money. I know these people live a much rougher life than we do, but El Palmital is a clean town with great soil and growing conditions, and most people own enough land to comfortably feed their families. It seemed like the largest problems were definitely social.

At any rate, it was nice to meet Roberto (and a few other people) who were smart and motivated and thinking big thoughts. For the most part, the visit was very inspirational. The chances that I will be living in a small, beautiful mountain town are pretty good and I´m psyched about that.

The rest of the visit we mostly did touristy things. The second day I helped him fight weeds in his little milpa (corn and bean field), then, unbelievably, beat him at chess (he has a chess club in his town and I had played once in the last 10 years or so). Later another volunteer, and two trainees from our group visiting her, came up and we walked out to a beautiful clean pool up in the mountains and swam for a bit. The water actually didn´t smell like manure! Incredible.

That evening we had wine and lentil soup by candlelight, did some yoga, and I played soccer barefoot for about an hour with the campesino kids. Man those little guys are tough. There was one little dude who couldn´t have been more than 12 who was just burning everybody.

The next day we got up at 5 am, did the three stage trip in reverse, and made it back to Siguatepeque by 10:30 am. I have to write a four page report on the experience in Spanish by tomorrow so I suppose I should get my ass off the computer and go do that. =) Resume translated to Spanish and a bs project also due this week. Argh.

oh p.s., they switched up the spanish classes this week and I moved up from Intermediate Medium to Intermediate High. Sw00t.

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. :)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


The three missions of the peace corps are more or less paraphrased thusly:

To improve the living standards of people in undeveloped third world countries, especially those struggling for survival, by providing skilled and educated help for their development;

To increase understanding of the United States and its citizens by people around the world;

To increase understanding of the rest of the world and its cultures in the United States through cultural exchange.

So as a Good Volunteer, I´m going to try and do my part to fulfill goal three by posting some things about Honduras.... culture and whatnot.

Honduras is a really conservative country. Many people in the states, especially those that live in areas with a large hispanic population, might already have an idea of this. Latin America in general is pretty catholic, and while Honduras is actually less so (evangelical christianity is pretty big here) it is still very conservative and paternalistic overall. Gender roles are a whole lot more defined than in the states. Women stay home and cook or raise kids (¨ama de casa¨is considered a career here) and men go out and work. It has been hard for me to get my family to let me do my dishes (or invade their kitchen at all actually). Hopefully with some more adjustment they might even let me cook a little bit. Vilma also has a habit of cleaning my room on the sly while I´m at the center studying. Her standard of cleanliness is pretty darn high; I personally think I´m doing a good job keeping the place in order heh. Could be worse though, some of my compatriots have complained of filthy rooms and roaches.

Practically everything they know about America here comes from television, so suffice to say they have an even more wapred view of our culture than I suspect we have of theirs. Guys from the USA are rich, irresponsible, do nothing but party, etc. And they think the women are ALL total sluts. Sorry to use that word, but it´s the only one that adequately describes the mindset. They see rap videos on TV, clothes commercials, etc with scantily clad white females shaking their butts, and to their culture it´s not hard to see why they draw this conclusion. Also, I hear that porn is sort of common here and it´s all from America... so that doesn´t help in the least.

They have a pretty strong family structure. People sometimes live with their parents long after getting a job, but if they get married and have children of their own they usually move out. However most of the time they live within walking distance of their parents still.

The educational system SUCKS. I´ve been helping my house brother Frank with his homework, and it´s pretty obvious the teachers at his bilingual school are concentrating on memorization and absolutely nothing else. Frank´s a bright kid but he has no problem solving skills at all. Or those that he does have, he does not even know to use. They have a pretty strong emphasis on teaching English here now, which I think is good, but they really aren´t preparing their kids to compete with the rest of the world in business or science or anything really.

The country on the whole is kind of dirty. I dunno why this is, but people have trouble with the concept of putting garbage where it belongs. They just throw it everywhere. Nobody fixes their animals, so there´s lots of ugly, bony, mutts running around that either don´t belong to anyone or aren´t cared for properly. Cats seem to be in much shorter supply. I guess people figure that a dog can at least guard their house (theoretically).

The commerce is really cool. There is a corner store literally on every corner.... they call them pulperias and a family will just run it on the side of their house, selling churros (bags of potato chips or cheetos or whatever), soap, rice, and other basics. Supermarkets are rare and extremely small by our standards. But there is a very large outdoor market near my house where people sell lots of produce, and some clothes and goods. It´s pretty cool to walk around it and check out all the farmers and small-time artisans hawking their goods. When people go to buy stuff, they just walk out of their house and go get it, and visit with the many other people in the street playing, talking, shopping, etc. It is one of my favorite things about the country and culture, as opposed to the extreme lack of interaction in the states. We get in the car, drive to the supermarket, buy stuff, exchange a few pleasantries with the cashier, and drive home.... all the time often not seeing anyone we know or talking with anyone besides the cashier.

What else? Honduras is one of the poorest countries in central and south america. It´s not very rich in natural resources to begin with, and those it has have been exploited and sucked dry by corporations from the United States that just bring the money back home. This is still completely true today. I think the average yearly earnings is something on the order of $500 and a pretty large portion of the people farm for subsistence. Crime is pretty bad, especially in the cities, where gangs have been prevalent in the last few years. The government is known to be notoriously corrupt; it is now and has been for a long time. Still, somehow their road system and public utilities actually aren´t too bad.

Going to leave off for now; I probably won´t have much more generic information after this but I thought some of you, especially those in BLE and pdX, might find it interesting. Take it easy everyone, and post comments if there is anything relating to Honduras that you are particularly curious about or interested in.


Monday, June 06, 2005

First post - recent news in Honduras

Sup everyone,

I set up this blog primarily for the purposes of getting information to my friends and family about my adventures/misadventures as a peace corps volunteer in Honduras. I came to the conclusion that it´s extremely superior to email for several reasons:

The crappy mail servers here don´t like to send more than a few messages at once.

Some people aren´t going to want to get spammed by me as often as others, so this way anyone can check on me as often as they like.

People can respond and discuss with each other on my page if they wish.

Mass emails get smacked down by most spam filters these days.

To my direct family members, I imagine we will continue to exchange emails about specific things, but for general news and happenings this is where I am going to post updates.


So, what has been going on lately, you ask? Oh, lots of stuff. I am fairly well settled in my training city of Siguatepeque now, and I feel like my host family and I have gotten to know each other well. They are very friendly and eager to help me learn spanish. The cooking is a little bit repetetive, but at least I´m accilimated to lots of beans and tortillas from years of living with dad. :) For those of you who don´t know, I my host mom´s name is Vilma, she´s 32 and her husband works in New York; she has two little kids named Frank and Rosaura who are 10 and 8, respectively. Also living in the house is a student guest named Estela who is 20 years old and studying industrial design, and Vilma´s little brother Edgar who´s 18 and going to school. Also Vilma´s older sister Esperanza is around a lot of the time, but I´m still not quite sure where she lives. Almost every day there is someone new visiting, and based on my travels around the neighborhood with Frank, at least 20-30 direct or extended family members live in the immediate area. It´s all very confusing.

Training is coming along well. My spanish is improving steadily, if slowly, and we´re finally getting into the meat of our technical training. ¨Technical¨ might be slightly too strong of a word since so far we have learned how to make compost piles correctly. But that´s what they´re calling it. ;)

My companions are a great bunch. For the most part we have gotten along swimmingly, with essentially no drama. Some members of the group I feel like I don´t have that much in common with, but many I do and I really don´t have a PROBLEM with anyone. There´s a guy from Idaho who studied archaeology, and a couple girls from Oregon that are interested in sustainable farming. The rest of the Protected Areas Management crew are pretty similar, but those are the ones from my corner of the USA. Some of the Business Development people I connect with very well too, since I have my geeky side.... There´s a few of them from the IT field and it´s nice to have someone I can talk tech with. Some of my outdoorsy friends back home would look at me like I just sprouted a second head if I started talking about computer games.

We´ve all been working very hard the last couple weeks, but we got a chance to relax a little bit last weekend..... we had enough days off in a row (the last time we will before finishing training, I bet) to take a vacation to the Caribbean coast. That was pretty damn sweet. We hopped a bus en masse (10 bucks for a pretty long journey, on a really nice bus, woohoo) and stayed at a beachfront hotel for one night while swimming, eating great food, and drinking the occasional Cuba Libre. We also went out dancing at night, which is not usually up my alley but the place we went to had a very good DJ and actually enough room on the dance floor to have a good time. That was great. I dug into my cash reserves from the USA for the trip, but all told it still only costed me about $50 and hell.... it was my birthday, darn it. So going back to classes today was kind of hard after a beautiful caribbean vacation, but another adjustment day and I´ll be fine.

Other news..... I dunno. My health is fine again. Almost everyone in my group was in the hospital last week or the week before for extreme diahrrea and fevers, etc. I got some meds when I went and it took me about a week to feel normal again, but I´m back in good spirits and appetite.

If I have more time later this week, I will comment further on the culture and my other thoughts about the country. However, this is all for now. I miss you guys, especially Sam and Maya, and I will try to get a phone number for Vilma´s house. I´m pretty sure we can take calls from the usa there. Note that they will be extremely expensive for the caller though.