Monday, May 08, 2006


This week I´ve got a pretty fair amount of time free to plan my activities (how novel!) and a friend of mine informed me on Saturday that there was a soccer game in Choluteca on Sunday - the local professional team (Valencia) versus one of the bigger pro teams from Tegucigalpa (Motagua). Valencia usually gets eliminated fairly early on, but they have been doing good this year and are currently in the number 3 spot in Honduras, plus I´ve been here in Honduras for almost a year already and haven´t seen one professional soccer game, so I figured I had to go. It was definitely worth it.

We hung around Agua Fría all morning waiting for a ride, and finally got one just in time to get to the stadium 30 minutes before the game started. All the good seats were already gone of course (or should I say ¨places to stand¨) but me being a tall guy here has its advantages and I didn´t have a hard time finding a person to stand behind that was short enough that I could see over his head without any problems. The crowd was crazy. The little stadium got absolutely jam-packed full, and it seemed like everybody had some kind of banner or noise-maker. Ther was lots of drum-pounding and a small horse show while the players warmed up (since Valencia´s mascot is a horse). Motagua seemed to have at least as many fans as Valencia (maybe more!) because most people in Honduras, sick of their local team never winning, end up choosing to root for one of the two Tegucigalpa teams, Motagua or Olimpia, who always seem to face each other in the finals.

The game started right on time at 4, and at first it looked pretty bad for Valencia. They were almost never controlling the ball, and making a lot of errors like passing poorly and kicking the ball out of bounds. Motagua, which is backed by a lot more finances, played much more in-control, passing more smoothly and controlling the ball for more time. There domination of the ball would continue for the rest of the match, but after about 15 minutes Valencia got into their groove and started making some nice attacks on the other goal. It was interesting how much difference in style there was between the two teams, Valencia playing a lot more agressively and losing the ball more, but also getting some really nice fast breaks. They also clearly had a better defense than Motagua, especially their sweeper.... he was this enormous black guy who towered over everyone else and looked like he should be playing american football rather than soccer. Despite his size, however, he was quick, and he totally dominated Valencia´s end of the field.

After about half an hour, Valencia had a nice attack where four or five of them got a fast break on the goal, and they scored. I screamed a bunch and the rest of the crowd went nuts too, mostly telling the other team ¨salite!¨ (Just leave already) or ¨Fuera!¨ (get out!). The game pretty much continued in the same after that, with Motagua controlling the ball but not managing to get past Valencia´s D. With about 10 minutes left in the game, Valencia scored again and the Motagua fans started leaving, getting harassed by the Valencia fans I was standing with as they walked by. Judging by the general fervor I expected to see at least one fistfight, but nothing happened. I think everything was pretty much par for a central american soccer match.

The other interesting thing I´ve been doing lately is helping the community prepare for a little environmental festival that Juanita envisioned and mostly planned for the 3rd of May. This day, for the Catholic church, is ¨día de la cruz¨ (day of the cross) and traditionally they do mass on top of Cerro Guanacuare at the big cement cross that the church built about 50 years ago. Lots of people from the aldeas around Agua Fría come, and people even show up in cars from bigger towns like El Corpus and Choluteca. Juanita´s idea was to use this large group of people as an opportunity to do our own event and be guaranteed a crowd, in order to start promoting Agua Fría as a touristic possibilty... not necessarily for tourists from the states and Europe, but more likely locals, because Choluteca is hot and crappy and the Cerro Guanacaure already has a lot of local fame as being very cool (ha! that´s a relative term) and beautiful.

We planned a few meetings at the outset, getting together representatives of all the important community organizations (the catholic church, the water committee, the patronato, guys from the new military post, and representatives of the Maestro en Casa program) to brainstorm activities and delegate responsibility for them to various groups. The church ended up agreeing to organize some stands of organic produce that members of the cooperative could bring from their fincas, I decided to organize a group of people to do a cleaning campaign and get rid of all the trash on the road into and through town (helped by the Patronato and water board) and the students and teachers from the Maestro en Casa program decided to do most of the work putting on a presentation of environmentally-related poetry, music, theatre, and some traditional dansas (dances).

After meeting again with the Maestro en Casa students and other community members, we fixed a date for the cleaning campaign and asked an NGO that´s been working in our area if they could help out by bringing us some plastic bags to put the trash in, which they agreed to. The day of the event rolled around, and we had a huge force of Maestro en Casa students - maybe 60 - and 12 or so community members. I´m sure the students showed up because they assumed they were going to get points for it, and it was a good thing because otherwise we wouldn´t have had nearly enough people. Even less community members showed up to clean than the ones that came to the meetings, and I told them to tell everybody they could about it and bring as many people as possible. That was pretty disappointing, but at least we didn´t lack for manpower. I split the volunteers up into four groups, each assigned to a different part of the road, with certain more responsible individuals in charge of each group. The group I was with started in Agua Fría and went down the hill towards Choluteca, covering about 2 km down to the community of San Juan Arriba. It took us about 3 hours and I was quite happy with the job we did and the enthusiasm of my group. All you had to do was wander 10 meters from the road to find massive amounts of trash that we´d never have had the time to clean up, but the idea this time was just to make it look good for the event.

The cleaning campaign was on Thursday the week before the festival (which was the following Wednesday), and after that I concentrated on trying to make a video of all the beautiful areas and wildlife that one can find in the Cerro Gaunacaure to show at the presentation. Sure, the people were going to climb the mountain themselves, but they wouldn´t see a lot of my favorite places in the area where the biggest trees are, and they sure as heck weren´t going to see any wildlife with the huge groups that were coming. I spent a couple days getting footage around my house, then passed the camera off to another teacher from Maestro en Casa who took it down to his side of the mountain to get some better shots of the nice trees and scenic parts of the stream that they have down there. He sent the camera back on Sunday and I took it in Tuesday to get edited (mostly just cutting out the bad parts and adding some music, text, and transitions), which I knew wasn´t going to leave us enough time but that was what we had to work with. I ended up having to stay the night in Choluteca on Tuesday to wait for the editor to finish it on Wednesday morning and try to get back up to Agua Fría in time on the afternoon of the festival. We still didn´t have enough time and I had to take a half-finished product, then I ended up missing the bus and getting back to Agua Fría through a mixture of hitchiking and walking in the suffocating, dusty heat, and missing part of the festival in the process. Luckily I actually didn´t miss that much of it, being as they started two hours late (nothing ever starts remotely on time in Honduras).

We didn´t have a projector like we wanted, or a TV, so I set up our computer on a table where most people could see it and tried to play the movie. It didn´t work. I had told the guy at the video editing place the format I wanted the video to be in, because I knew all we had on our computer was an outdated version of Windows Media Player, but apparently he misinterpreted me or something. Well, that was the rotten cherry on the dog-turd sundae. I´m actually going to go back to that place today because the same guy said he would finish up the editing job right and give us a finished product. Maybe I can also get the codecs we need for our computer so it can play these videos.

Besides my glaring failure to deliver, the festival actually went pretty great. Josh randomly showed up, great friend that he is, after going back and forth between Choluteca and El Corpus a couple times in buses trying to find the turnoff for Agua Fría, and walking 4 or 5 kilometers in the aforementioned smothering heat. He´s been to a coffee festival that another town put on with the help of their Volunter last year, and he said that in most regards, the event that we did was better organized and had a LOT more community participation. I would have to say that the Maestro en Casa students totally saved our butts, but you know it´s not necessarily a bad thing that the younger generation is involving themselves even if their parents seem kind of disinterested. My favorite part about the event was the ranchera band that we paid to come up from a nearby aldea and grace us with their tunes, ¨Los Pérez¨. They were awesome! I hope we have an excuse to invite them back before next year´s environmental festival.

Josh spent the night at my place (my first real vistor at my house!!!!) and it was really nice to have some gringo conversation for the first time in awhile. He didn´t have to worry about taking a packed school bus back to Tegucigalpa, either, because he got a ride the next day with couple of my supervisors from the peace corps who swung by to check up on me and talk about the possibility of putting another Protected Areas Management volunteer in the area. I had already been thinking about this and I know some local aldeas I would recommend, which I´m going to visit this week. The next group of volunteers starts training in June, and will be going to their sites in September. I can´t wait!

The next things on my burner are that, start teaching Isaí how to use a computer, and fix my termite-rotted door and roof. whoo! I can move at my own pace more, though, and I´ve decided to just put this tree-nursery project out of my mind for awhile until we either hear yes or no, and continue on either way. It´s not like I´m going to be bored around here if the project doesn´t pass, and it was certainly a great experience working on that proposal.

Hope THAT update satisfies the complainers.

Cheers all,



At 8:20 AM, Blogger mollymcmommy said...

interesting read :)

good thing you have the height to tower you over everyone to catch the game :)


At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like your staying busy enough budday. Sounds like the futbol game was a blast. Are you undertaking the roof repair all on your own, or is someone helping you with direction?

I'll try to email ya when finals are done...


At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like I need better word choice


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