Friday, January 20, 2006

Finishing the proposal

Well, here I am sitting in the peace corps office in Tegucigalpa once again. I signed up with Isai for a project design workshop here a couple months ago not knowing the other things we would be embroiled in at this point. That's all waiting for me when I get back to Choluteca later today. For now, I just finished the project workshop.... but without Isai. At 10 pm the night before leaving to go to this thing he wakes me up while walking past my house to tell me he couldn't come because of an emergency thing to do in order to get this 50,000 lbs of coffee sold for the cooperative. I understand how that takes precedence but it still sucked. I had to show up and tell the people here that I had nobody to work on a project with, and really this workshop was for the Hondurans more than the volunteers (7 volunteers came and we each brought a counterpart). But Tim (my closest volunteer neighbor) and a guy from his community came so I mostly worked with them on developing a project of cover crop beans. Overall it was a lot more productive than the Project Workshop thing I had last time in Tegucigalpa with only volunteers. But cold! I found my clothing to actually be inadequate, and this is with long shirts and pants. Had to enjoy it though. It's already starting to get toasty in the south.

I took care of another thing while here in Tegus, which was going to the office of an agency that did a study in my area, looking for information I can use to finish this proposal for a tree nursery/agroforestry project. The Banco Centroamericano gave us 10 extra days to finish, but it probably still won't be enough. I remember when we first started working on this thing we basically sat down and filled in the blanks on the format they gave us. I spent a fair amount of time arguing with Isai about this approach, but he figured we would go out and collect all the really relavent information from the communities in which we were going to work after the money came. This of course was dead wrong (and terrible planning to boot) but he had to learn this for himself when we showed someone from the bank our rough draft and got told exactly what we needed to do. But to this guy's credit he didn't blink and now we're desperately trying to collect data on the communities about land owners and preferred topics of interest (do they want us to work on live barriers more in their zone? Fruit trees? Wood trees? etc). This all has to be ready by next Wednesday. I think it's possible, but the proposal probably won't be very well written because I'll have about two days to do it once we have everything. Still feel no better than 50% that it'll pass, but now we're really getting somewhere.

I also visited an agency here in Tegucigalpa from an information-gathering project called Proyecto Mitigacion de Desastres Naturales (PMDN) that was working on some extensive studies in this area. I found out that they are almost just about to finish them and release them to the public, and these studies, compared to anything done previously, are awesome. They have maps of precipitation, soil use, hydrologic and hydrogeologic studies, critical zones, and lots of recommendations for combatting damage done by drouts and preventing landslides throughout my area. We will definitely be working more with PMDN in the future. Unfortunately they couldn't give me any info to use for the proposal right now because they were still working on rough drafts and hadn't officially released anything yet. However I'm pretty sure it will still help to mention what they are doing and how we can use it in our project.

The meeting with PMDN was really a revalation for me, because I've been spending so much time looking for previous studies in the area. They certainly have been done, but nobody keeps records and there's nothing very comprehensive. I walked around Choluteca for four days last week talking to NGO's and looking for info, with minimal success. The first two days were especially great. I started out in the Alcaldia of Choluteca (this is like the mayor's office but with more stuff) asking who to talk to. They sent me to the Unidad Municipal Ambiental, who sent me to a couple other government agencies and another NGO, who in turn sent me to the Choluteca water organization and yet another NGO. Then the day was over and I had to schedule meetings for the next day, which I spent in much the same way. About 2 pm I ended up in the Alcaldia again, exactly where I started about 28 hours earlier, and finally found the link to PMDN. Hilarious! Based on what they told me I thought I could come back and get the study right there, but then I found out it was in Tegucigalpa since PMDN has no office in Choluteca. But throughout all that I made some good contacts so it wasn't all a failure.

Besides work, the other big news lately is more problems with security. Between Christmas and New Year's, some guys from Tim's community broke into his house by removing tiles from his roof and stole about half his stuff (something like $600 worth) while he was sleeping inside. There's already rumors that they drugged him with opium, but where the hell would some campesinos get that? Besides I can honestly see the same thing happening to me if they did it right, and those of you who know what a deep sleeper I am know this is true. It took me awhile to figure out this had happened, since the peace corps never contacted me or told me anything and in fact they didn't get back to Tim either for more than two weeks because our security officer was on vacation in El Salvador. I realize he needs vacations too, but can't he take them at another time of year? During the two weeks around the holidays there were like 10 incidents. Tis the season to commit crimes.

So now, after not doing shit for 22 days, they are probably going to force Tim to move sites because -gasp- they thieves know he knows that they did it and might seek revenge. Although these people have never committed a violent act against anybody before, and EVERYBODY knows they are thieves (last year they stole somebody's stereo and TV, and when that family went to their house and made some implied threats, they mysteriously got their stuff back the next day). The security guy never once came out to Tim's site to assess if it was dangerous enough to warrant a site change, which to me is inexcusable. Tim doesn't feel threatened, and he's spent five months finally getting to know the community and start projects. Luis Estrada, our project manager actually did come, but apparently the security guy Juan Carlos never talked to him or got his opinion. I live like an hour and a half away, and Juan Carlos wants me to move into a house with a family which I really don't want to do.

Once again, I understand that our security ostensibly is Peace Corp's #1 concern as they always tell us, but nothing about this makes sense. At the same time they're opening up travel for us to San Pedro Sula, which was formerly off-limits because its murder rate is 12 times that of Washington DC, the most dangerous city in the US.



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At 8:42 AM, Blogger Joseph Bergstrom said...

Hey Gabe, you forgot to mention that although San Pedro Sula is open for volunteers the nudie bars and other seedy places are not. What's the point of opening up a really dangerous city if you can't do anything fun there? PC is also trying to move some other isolated PAM volunteers out of there sites. this is all very reactive and going in the wrong direction. The two security incidents I heard about (Tim's and Mike's) really couldn't have been prevented, the only thing they did wrong was decide to be Peace Corps vonteers in Honduras. alright alright keep up the good work.



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