Friday, September 14, 2007

Wrapping it up

Well, the time has finally come (sort of). My peace corps service officially ends the 28th of this month, and I need to spend the three days previous to that date dealing with pending administrative and health issues in Tegucigalpa, so I only have about twelve full days left in my site. This week and next I’m going to be working on fixing as many loose ends as I possibly can before I scramboozle (which certainly isn’t as many as I’d like to), but if I stuck around until everything I have been working on was definitely concluded, I’d be living for the rest of my life in Agua Fría.

Probably what I’m going to get the most closure on is my Maestro en Casa 9th grade class, although even there I won’t be able to stay until they finish this school year. I have had to make some tests to be applied and graded in my absence, but I’ve gotten to the point of knowing who the capable people around here are that I can leave this kind of job with, and I’m not extremely worried about it. Right now we have a couple extra Saturdays, since it suddenly turns out that we’re ahead of schedule, so I’m doing a small presentation on AIDs that I learned two weeks ago along with the trainees. I think this is a pretty great idea and I’m glad I got to learn and implement it before leaving.

The proposal to get a Centro Básico built around here that I started working on a couple months ago is now officially turned in, but I suspect there will be follow-ups necessary to keep it moving. In Honduras, simply having 70 sixth graders annually with no access to further education isn’t enough to get a project built on its own merits. You need to have political connections as well, send five proposals, stage a demonstration outside the regional office of Public Education, etc. Either that, or start greasing palms left and right, which isn’t really a viable option for myself or the Agua Fría community organizations. The least I can do, I guess, is recommend the project in the strongest possible terms to my replacement (still don’t know who this is going to be just yet, but I will next week). As I may have mentioned previously, it’s really a shame I fell into this idea too late to follow it all the way through.

Speaking of the trainees, I finished my last section with them last week, which was probably a good thing since I was starting to get strange paternalistic feelings towards them. This group of PAM volunteers is quite substantially different than my training group was. Very few of them have the kind of background you might expect for a Protected Areas Management volunteer (Only a couple are real educated hicks, like several people in my group were). They’re also so cool and unflappable with the cultural adjustments, at least as far as I can tell. I seem to remember that we had a much harder time with it. Then again, as a whole they speak much better Spanish than we did. Furthermore, they seem to have a minimal interest in partying. The entire time I was with this group, I don’t think I ever heard a discussion about being inebriated. You couldn’t spend five minutes with my training group without that subject coming up. I think my overall assessment is that they’re going to do a great job, as long as they’re patient and stick it out.

I’m starting to reflect a lot on my service: the good times, the bad times, the fun, and the frustrations. Certain vignettes stick out especially. I clearly remember the feeling I used to get walking from my house up in the middle of freaking nowhere down to Agua Fría every day, marveling every time that I was actually living in another country, I was actually walking to work through coffee farms and tropical deciduous forest, seeing tropical birds, tasting tropical fruits, and working with people who spoke a different language. It was so cool. That kind of excitement wore off a long time ago, but I can easily recall what it was like.

I remember with a distinct shudder all the conversations I had with the director of the Maestro en Casa program, trying to work out a solution between us and the elementary school so they wouldn’t lock us out of the classrooms on Saturday. I’d try to drown out her bitching about the elementary school’s director by imagining what it’d be like to stand up and say “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? THESE ARE TRIVIAL PROBLEMS!! THE ONLY REASON THEY EVEN EXIST IS BECAUSE YOU AND PATRIK BOTH PUT YOUR PERSONAL PRIDE BEFORE THE EDUCATION OF 80 STUDENTS! HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT PEOPLE LIKE YOU CAN BE EDUCATIONAL DIRECTORS?” But of course I didn’t say anything. Then I’d have to go and play both sides of the argument, reasoning, pleading, and cajoling until I got them to come to some kind of agreement through me, hating every second of it. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

I recall the way all the conversations I have with Isaí go, the both of us alternately defending or denouncing Honduras or the United States, discussing what was wrong with the world or awesome in Agua Fría, or going over the miniscule details of his agricultural methods. Every conversation with Isaí is a kind of argument, but somehow you’re always in agreement at the end.

I clearly remember something a técnico said yesterday in the middle of giving a training session on small agribusiness management. He was talking about how it isn’t good to blindly follow the directions of other people; how it’s important to try things out and see them for yourself. He then gave the example: “If I hear a preacher say something, for example, in church, I don’t just going to take his word for it without thinking at all myself! I go home and consult my own bible, and see if he got it right!” Cue hand-over-eyes-forehead-slap. Incline head forward and shake slowly, if desired. Talk about stifling cultural paradigms.

Another incident that comes easily to mind was the cold, windy night in January 2006 when we started loading up the 2005 coffee harvest to send out in trucks the next day for Siguatepeque. It took three times as long as anybody thought, and at 11 pm I finally started pitching in just so the poor workers, who were all threatening to go home, could get the job done. At about 2 am we gave up and I half-slept curled up in the middle of a nest we’d made of full coffee bags on Doña Ada’s front porch with cold air leaking in all night (somebody had to be there so they wouldn’t get stolen).

I remember lonely nights spent in the middle of the city of Choluteca, and nights spent alone but happy in my house, well-accompanied by a candle and a book or a pen. I also remember the night I spent during my first October here when a thunderstorm rolled in around 7 pm and raged until after ten, the lightning strikes hitting so close that I’d count less than half a second between the blinding flash and the earsplitting crack. I sat out on my front porch for awhile as that storm started, and actually had to go cower inside because it got so violent I was too scared to stay out any more. Half a bottle of rum saw me through safely.

I could go on like this with recycled material all day, but you get the general idea. Right now I mostly feel impatient to finish going through all the motions that need to be gone through, and anxious to see my family again (and Washington!). Stand by ‘til October 19. :)


At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabe, enjoy all your last moments in Despoblado.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Suzanne said...

It sounds like you're doing the exact same nostalgic rehashing that I did just before I left...keep doing it because it's a lot harder to recall those moments once you're thrown into life in the States again. I've been here two weeks now and I can almost forget that I ever lived in Honduras because there are so few emotional cues to remind me of my time there. But then I speak Spanish to some Salvadoran on the street and it all comes back...

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Photo Jesus H said...

Well, as far as I know they aren't putting anyone exactly in your location. There is a muni-d PCT in Santa Ana de Yusguare though.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

C'mon, I think I'd know when they're sending somebody to my own site. :) I met her last week.

Hi photo jesus, who are you?

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Photo Jesus H said...

I'm the fervently concerned boyfriend of a PCT (PCV tomorrow actually). I shuffle though just about every active volunteer blog there is.


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