Thursday, October 26, 2006

I went to the pitcher

"Se fue a la porra" (the title of this entry) is an idiomatic expression I've heard from Isai quite a few times, which describes a common situation with the work around here. It means the person you were working with was left with some kind of responsibility and they just took off to go do their own thing. This week, that person is me because my peace corps friends in Western Honduras, most of whom I haven't seen since last January, are organizing a shindig for Halloween and I finally couldn't resist leaving my paltry responsibilities in Agua Fria any longer. I have gone on a couple decent vacations already (Semana Santa in El Salvador and with Dad in Guatemala) but the reason I consider this event a first is that I pretty much decided, definitely, to do it last night, and now I'm in Tegucigalpa getting some stuff taken care of before I continue on to the town of Copan Ruinas. If you didn't guess, this is a pretty touristy spot that has direct access to the Mayan ruins of Copan. I am still in the inicial stages of this journey, so I will have to give more details about it when it's over.

My work lately has been the usual mixture of different things, but for some reason I'm starting to feel a little less anxious about the lack of a big meaty project. I have always said, since I first started, that if I had any spare time I would put it into education projects and now I want to set aside time specifically to do that. I am starting to figure out what I'm going to be doing exactly in the next few months too, which is EXCITING! It's coffee harvest time again and there's a shitload of work to do with the cooperative, so I'm going to help out with any of that stuff that I can and work on setting up our office here, and start planning for the next school year which starts in Febuary.

This week and the last one I spent a decent amount of time running back and forth with Guillermo Martinez doing a small proposal for funds that we're going to send to the FHIS (Fondo Hondureño de Inversion Social) to build a couple cement culverts across the large creek that runs through his community of San Juan Arriba. Our computer here in Agua Fria has been messed up lately and working/not working erratically (I think it's either the humidity or irregularities in the electric current) so we had to go down to El Corpus to do that work, and then we found out that the FHIS wasn't going to do any cost studies, i.e. they had to present the entire thing with the costs, including quotes on prices for materials and stuff, so Guillermo went to Choluteca for that stuff and we went back to El Corpus yesterday to finish the proposal. It's short but sweet and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. If it passes, which seems to be a more likely scenario with the FHIS than it is with certain other institutions, it will be one of the most significant things I have done here, which is ironic considering the relatively small amount of time it cost me.

Yesterday had a couple other interesting events besides that.... one was that, when we got there, the electricity was out so we had some dead time, and I went to the health center in El Corpus to have them take out a "torsalo" that I have on my head. What's this, you ask? It's a larva of the botfly, an insect that lays its eggs on you and the larva lives under your skin for a few months, feeding off your live flesh until it's ready to come out. I went to the health center in Agua Fria a few days ago, but the nurse there told me to go to El Corpus because "these Cuban doctors don't numb you before taking the larva out, they just start cutting. And they don't always get the torsalo out."

So, confident that I was going to get a serious medical treatment, I went to the doctor in El Corpus. This was his solution: Put me on a gurney to stabilize my head and squeeze my scalp as hard as he possibly could, while his helper hovered overhead with a pair of tweeezers waiting for the larva to show itself so he could grab it. It didn't work. I guess I have to wait until it gets bigger.... well that's freaking wonderful. I'll probably stop by REAL clinic in Choluteca that the peace corps will pay for on my way back to Agua Fria.

That same day in El Corpus, I bought a 750 ml bottle of honey (Flor de Caña rum label still attached) and took it back to Agua Fria with me. It was unusually cheap (50 lempiras, or about $2.50) and really good. I arrived in the afternoon and got caught up in some stuff with Isai, so it was about 7 pm and dark when we were ready to go back to Agua Fria but a rainstorm descended, so we headed to a friend's house to wait it out. While there, I decided to show them the honey I had bought and share a little because it was so good, and when I opened my bag I saw a liquid disaster. At some point in the trip from El Corpus to Joselino's porch, the glass bottle had broken (guess it wasn't as sturdy as it looked) and emptied its beautiful amber contents all over everything in my backpack, which of course only contained the following things:
My cell phone
All my papers and notes relating to the Maestro en Casa classes
All the notes I've taken relating to other work since like June
My calculator
A bunch of other less-important stuff

The cellphone, currently, still works, even though the honey oozed all up inside it and who knows how much longer it will last. I was able to SORT of wash off the notebooks, but the paper had absorbed that honey and is never going to be the same again. I didn't have time to clean my bag thoroughly so I left it hanging from a beam, but it'll probably be an ant nest when I get home anyways.

I need to get moving. Hope everyone is well!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Melancholy Winter Days

Been feeling kind of blue lately, stuck halfway between seeing Dad and seeing other people from my family, fighting off yet ANOTHER cold, not really in the middle of any significant projects and wondering if I ever will be. I suppose the title of the blog might conjure up images of me sitting around in my house and watching it piss rain, although actually I can’t even claim that excuse. The weather has been bizarrely dry and sunny for over a week now, which is not only very weird for this area in October, it’s really bad for the farmers who all need another month of rain for their crops or they will lose the harvest. Funnily enough, it just started raining right now as I’m typing this, so let’s hope the trend lasts.

Me, I’m just sick of being too hot all the time. I stared longingly at a picture of Dad and Daya in front of a snowy Tum Tum house for quite awhile the other day. I kind of thought I was supposed to have gotten over this kind of homesickness by this point, but I guess not…. A lot of things, actually, that I assumed I was ¨over¨ from my past life continue to dwell in my mind. I miss hot showers a lot. I miss my computer and the wonderful magical things it does still. I miss my bike. I miss Washington weather. Most of all, of course, I miss my old family and friends. We hang out a couple-three times a week while I’m sleeping, but unfortunately it’s not a good substitute for the real thing. I know I should be making friends here, and to some extent I have been, but my two best young friends that I had in this area both moved to Choluteca to get jobs and I see very little of them. In the rest of the community, I haven’t really found anyone to replace them who’s very close to me at all, distance-wise and age-wise. A lot of the people I work with or even interact with on a daily basis are simply old. This community has a serious deficit of smart young people, because, being smart, they have all left for the cities looking for work.

The times I do get for visiting have been sort of slow lately too. I normally spend a lot of time BSing with Isaí, but he’s been really occupied in his finca for over a month, trying to get some little coffee plants that he’s got in his nursery planted out in the finca, and he’s thrown himself headfirst into tomato and sweet pepper production too. I also had kind of an upsetting conversation with him the other day, in which he spent about an hour telling me how, besides himself and Juanita, nobody else in the area is capable of stepping up and running the coffee cooperative and he fully expects it to become inactive the instant they step down from president and vice-president (which is this month). He doesn’t seem to think anyone has the skills for the job, or the least interest in working for the good of the group, which may be true, but if so, then what the hell am I doing?

Saying that working with the producers around here is a big fat waste of time because they’re not interested in changing the way they work their fincas (not very many are, it’s true) and that they have even less interest in helping each other out has kind of depressing implications on what I am doing and continue to do. I got a little bit pissed at Isaí and I don’t think he really caught onto this or why I might be; didn’t make the connection between what he was saying and what it meant for me. Either way, if he wants to sit around and work his own finca and not worry about the other producers, that’s fine with me, but I’ll have to find others people to do projects with. This bums me out because I really like working with Isaí, but I need to do something and I need to believe in what I’m doing.

This not having a solid ¨main¨ project defined for myself is starting to really bother me too. More than half of my Peace Corps service has now passed, and I’m dangling at the end of a string with these funds from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE), with which we planned to do the tree nursery project. We have been working on this proposal for very close to a year now, and the higher-ups really don’t seem to give a shit, nor have they in any moment since we started, that these projects actually get done. Two weeks ago I thought that I would know what the deal was by last week, according to what they told me. Last week, I called and they said we’d know this week. Still no word has come. When do I know when to give up on this? They keep saying we’re getting closer and closer to completion; that in any moment things might happen. Yet we still have not heard anything remotely like a definite date from the bank itself. I continue to keep myself busy with the Maestro en Casa classes and other little projects, but I want something more definite and solid to be working on, my OWN project, something substantial that afterwards, I can say ¨I accomplished this in the Peace Corps.¨ The truth is, the project we have planned to do with the BCIE money would be perfect, and I could even do a lot of that work on my own without much in the way of funds. But I keep wasting time with this proposal, for some reason.

I reckon it’s time to start thinking about what I should do if the BCIE project fails, and I can already think of several things that would be enjoyable. One is, I would like to work more with the young people of the community. I’ve neglected this sector in the past because, by and large, the young people here in Agua Fría are mainly looking to get out of Agua Fría, not stay in the community and contribute to its development. But the truth is, I pretty much consider any time spent working with the formation of young people time well spent. I could do some limited computer classes here in the COCAGUAL office with our one computer, I could do a lot with environmental and natural sciences education in the 1-6 grade school, and I could simply hang out more with the young people and share ideas with them. I recently acquired a chess set and have been wanting to put it to good use… maybe we could start a club of some kind.

Speaking of those small projects that I’m keeping myself busy with, there have been several lately since my last blog posting. One was resuscitating the soccer team. I stopped playing and participating much in the organizational aspect for awhile hoping they would get their act together, but they didn’t and myself and another guy named Amilcar who’s the real leader of the team got sick of not playing. :) So we organized a game for last Sunday, which was a disaster in most aspects. First of all, 3/4 of the good players that used to play with us have moved to Tegucigalpa and are working there. Not only are the best players gone, but nobody else seems to have any interest any more. We sent a challenge to another local team a couple days before Sunday with full confidence that we were going to have enough players because EVERYBODY said they wanted to play, and then of course ¨a la hora de la hora¨ only six showed up, counting me. We had to go door to door scraping together people and bring on three extras from other communities and we STILL had to play 10 vs 10. Then we got frickin’ shellacked like 11-0, and one of our players who’s always a pain in the ass started a fight and got himself expelled from the game. When I tried to explain to him that it’s better to deal with a few elbows and bad calls than lose a player, he said ¨But that ref is so horrible Gabriel, he doesn’t even know his own name.¨ Ok, whatever dude, I’m sorry that you’re 30 years old and you still haven’t learned to keep your mouth shut or behave yourself. The main thing that keeps me loyal to this bunch of jerks is Amilcar, who is an excellent guy and puts a lot of effort into the team even though they mostly don’t deserve it. I’d feel bad to leave him hanging, I guess.

Last week I also spent three days walking all over the place collecting signatures from the presidents of the local Patronatos (these are like the village councils who work on community projects). We’re putting together a letter to SOPTRAVI, the Honduras highway institution, soliciting them to come this year with the caterpillars and everything to turn that dirt thing that winds through the mountains to Agua Fría into something that most people would recognize as a road. I mean heck, it’s only twelve communities and like 6,000 people that depend on it. No big deal, right? Well, I got nearly all the signatures for that letter and it should be turned in by the end of the week.

I also did some follow-up stuff to a little extensionist work that I’d started a couple months ago, doing finca management plans, identifying problems and solutions and what kinds of activities people want to implement in their fincas this year. The project never really got anywhere, I guess because these guys all know exactly what they want to do in their fincas, but the main reason they don’t invest in improving them is because they don’t know how to manage money. I feel kind of lost in how to proceed with THAT theme, but at any rate I managed to get a couple producers interested in grafting a few mango and avocado trees, which went quite well. First I talked to my good friend Guillermo Martínez (president of the Patronato of a local community) who is a whiz at grafting, and followed him around a couple days that he went out to graft to see how the pros do it. Then I arranged a day to work with Don Foncho and Lucas Galindo, the interested parties, and went and got some stems from Guillermo that morning. After a few screw-ups, I think I was getting the hang of it and I’m pretty sure more than a few of those grafts are going to pegar, as they say here (stick). Ahem, si Dios quiere.

Check yall later.