Tegucigalpa

Honduras Blog #9: Guests


It’s 10 pm on a Monday night in Honduras. Mimi and I are in our pajama tops and shorts, sitting side by side on the edge of the bed we will share that evening.

Mimi: Look at all these bites. *points at red bumps around her knees* Do these look like bites or is this a rash? *pokes at some of the bumps* I think it’s spreading.

Me: *nods* Yep.

Mimi: Yes. I definitely have more than I did before. And they itch…

Me: *noticing for the first time that I have bites and a rash around my own knees* Hey… Lookit. I have them too… *pokes at itchy red welts*

Mimi: Ruthie… *pause* I don’t think these are mosquito bites.

Me: *suddenly realizing it is a little strange that for all the random, non-mosquito-bite-looking bites I’ve been finding scattered around my body over the past few weeks I have yet to see a single mosquito* Nope.

Mimi: *pause* We might have bed bugs.

Me: We might.

Mimi: Well… goodnight…

And with that we climbed into the bed and went to sleep.

Honduras Blog #8: Super Gringa


Mimi and Carol at Mall Cascadas

Sunday 8/15/10
Mimi and I waited and waited and waaaaaited until it was late enough in the day to take a taxi down to Burger King for lunch.  Yep. That’s what we refer to down here as a “slow day.”

Things picked up when we got back to the mission house and I got a call from our friend Carol (she and her husband work in child services here) asking if we were free to meet to “talk blog stuff.” (I’m helping them with a blog project.)

YES! YES! WE’RE FREE!! PLEEEEASE COME GET US TO TALK BLOG STUFF!

She said she was excited to get started on their new space here at WordPress, and so was I, so off we went in her truck (with seatbelts!) to Hiper Paiz (the Honduran Walmart) at Mall Cascadas for some quick grocery shopping before settling into a booth at the McDonald’s across the parking lot.

Gotta love free wifi, air conditioning, and the smell of french fries.

Flooding in Tegucigalpa

You don’t gotta love rainstorms on the drive home, however. It was so bad that a huge section of the road collapsed and a guy on a motorcycle ended up lost in a water-filled, 65′ deep sinkhole. This was five days ago and as far as I know the body still hasn’t turned up. And the stories keep rolling in about houses (read: shanties) being caught up in mudslides and rolling down the mountains surrounding the city.

Yeah– bad.

Monday 8/16/10
Monday brought the departure of Krystelle, the mission’s most recent intern. It’s hard to lose somebody so awesome and so willing to help with literally everything that comes up. I am sure she’ll be missed more than I could possibly realize!

The seriousness of the occasion did not, however, keep me from enjoying the ever-loving daylights out of a mocachino from the airport Espresso Americano. I mean– it’s sad and all, but let’s not get crazy and miss an opportunity for some awesome, cheap coffee, right?

Christine and Mimi in an HCA classroom

Post-lunch Mimi and I joined Christine and Rex Morey at Harvest Christian Academy, the bilingual school in Periodista where Christine teaches. Now there are some people who know how to make incredible use of unusually shaped rooms! It’s a gift, and the people at HCA have it in spades.

The building they’re renting for the school wasn’t originally designed to be used as such. Originally it was used as a sort of landing pad for Honduran periodistas (journalists, writers, etc.) Casa Club Periodista, it’s called. Neat place. I’d include links, but they all come with malware warnings. Yeesh.

A view of HCA from the back of the school. I love the architecture-- and their playground!

That said: It makes an awesome school.

It’s got loads of space, an auditorium, yard space for a playground, and a spectacular hill-top view of fields, mountains, hillside colonias, and the airport. If they waved at planes taking off and landing, they’d get a response from every passenger with a window seat. So. Close. Amazing views all around.

School starts this coming week so the place was full of teachers getting their rooms ready for the new year’s students. We got to meet just about everybody there, which I loved, of course. New people? And they teach?! YAY! I just hope there’s no quiz coming up on the names. :S

Welcome to the neighborhood.

After visiting the school we drove over to the ministry center they’re building in Predios de Recreo.

It’s a rough area. When we pulled up to the property’s outside wall Christine shared the very sad story of two young men who were shot at different times right there in that area. Anyone in any neighborhood could provide countless similar stories. We think we know gun violence back in Milwaukee. By comparison: We’ve got nothing on Tegucigalpa.

Rex and Christine Morey at the new ministry center

I’d describe the center, but it’d just be a repetition of the text of the Morey’s website, so here it is in their words. It’s “a three story building that when finished will have an auditorium for 220 or more people, 6 large classrooms, a dividable multipurpose room, administrative area, kitchen, library, computer lab, 2 stories of storage space, 7,000 gallon cistern, restrooms with showers, apartment, soccer field & multi-sport field (3rd story), playground, and a youth room.”

Awesomely multi-purpose. And after having toured more missions, schools, churches, etc. than I can count on this trip, every single room-type listed in that description has me nodding in agreement. Yep, that’s needed, that’s good too, mondo-cistern is a go, playground totally rocks… And as big as it looks and sounds, I can already see it being packed beyond capacity from Day One. Click here if you want to get involved in this truly awesome outreach.

Dinner at Las Tejitas with the Moreys. L to R: Grace, Olivia, Abigail, Christine, Mimi, me, Rex.

From the center we headed over to the Morey’s home for a little mid-afternoon rest out of the sun before going to Las Tejitas for dinner. My dinner was called the Super Gringa. No kidding. It was two tortillas with chicken, guacamole, and beans, and then there was a salsa bar on the lower level of the restaurant. Fun, open air place. Great meat. Yummy salsas. Grainy horchata. I guess it’s Mexican horchata or nothing for this gringa from now on. Those folks know where it’s at and God bless ’em for it.

The internet was down most of the day yesterday due to a thunderstorm that brought internet-blocking rain… lots and lots and lots of rain… so I’m still catching up on internetty stuff. Hope to catch up on the rest of our trip so far by tomorrow afternoon? Sunday maybe? Got to get back on track as we’re only here for six more days. Yipes!

Off to “eat dinner at Marina’s” (read: “gain four pounds”).

Honduras Blog #6: Revolución Yip


Donna, her son Stephen, and Michael flew back to the States today. It was sad to see them go, but there’s something exciting about it too, you know? Like– here you go on the next leg of your own personal adventure, and it’ll be that much more interesting and informed having just completed the work you’ve been involved in here. (I’ll blog some other time about all the stuff they were up to; now I’m trying to get this post up before the rain cuts off the internet.)

Lunch at Church’s Chicken. L to R: Me, Krystelle, Mimi, Blanca, Brenda

Mimi and I went along to say our goodbyes at the airport (nearly missing our chance to do so when they ended up past security earlier than we’d expected – oops), and to enjoy another sweet treat from Espresso Americano. Yum yum $1.43 mocachino!

From there we headed to Church’s Chicken across the street for lunch with Mimi’s friend Blanca. Brenda and Krystelle joined us, which made it all the better. It’s the company that makes the occasion, you know? The whole thing was a little surreal. There we are in the middle of Tegucigalpa eating fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes with gravy, washing it down with Cokes, while an American football game was being aired on the two flat screen TVs hanging on opposite sides of our sparkling fast food restaurant in the heart of Central America. Or maybe it’s not that strange at all and I’m still just getting used to the fact that other places might actually want the things that other nations, and we ourselves, ridicule ourselves in the States for having (ie. unhealthy fast food restaurants everywhere, super hyped up sports teams full of overpaid players, etc.).

Deserted MAJOR thoroughfare, barricaded airport entrance, riot police with shields and clubs, and yours truly to prove we were there.

After lunch we walked outside to get a taxi to take Blanca home, and to take Mimi, Krystelle, and me over to Supermercado Yip where I could buy some school supplies for the public school we visited last week in San Lorenzo.

But there were no taxis. In fact- there were no cars of any kind. This is unheard of at that intersection; Church’s is directly across from the entrance to the airport. There’s ALWAYS traffic there, complete with enough diesel fumes to choke a herd of bison.

But today? Dead. And across the street blocking the entrance to the airport? A squad of military riot police with riot shields and batons. In front of them in the intersection proper? More police, dripping sweat in layers of black and bulletproof vests, loaded down with rifles.

A young man standing near us heard us talking about what was going on and he joined us in English. He said his name is Fernando and he lives in Miami but has family here. He said just a few blocks down (he pointed in the direction we needed to go) the teachers had the streets blocked off as part of the strike that has caused kids to miss school all this week, plus weeks- months- already this year at other times. You couldn’t take a taxi that way even if you wanted to, he told us. And he advised against walking that road in lieu of driving it. He said if anyone around us were to even touch one of the soldiers it would be sufficient to turn things violent. I thought of the police station we’d have to pass, no doubt packed with soldiers by this point, and just said “Yup.”

Power lines across from the airport. This is actually one of the cleaner telephone poles in town.

Fernando’s Civic-History-Lesson Time: He said when the people here want to demand their constitutional rights be upheld, the first thing they often do is go to the streets and stop traffic to make their voices heard. In a hub like Tegucigalpa, interference with traffic is a big deal. The whole city grinds to a halt if enough major intersections are cut off. And in the meantime every building within spitting distance of the blockages end up covered in graffiti. He said these gatherings shouldn’t have to happen, that the government should always do for the people what their constitution dictates. (Can’t argue with that.) However, he went on to say, in this case the teacher’s union is interpreting the constitution incorrectly for their own gain and asking for things that aren’t really constitutionally protected or guaranteed. It’s hurting the entire country’s children, he said, and higher pay isn’t a constitutional issue in this case so shouldn’t they stop?

I don’t know enough about the whole thing so what else could I do but nod yes? (And I later learned the blocking of the airport was done in an attempt to keep the president from flying out of the country for a few days. The attempt failed, incidentally.)

So back to Church’s we went to wait out the day’s “revolución” in the air conditioning. Ten minutes later cars were back on the road and we could continue on our way. As we passed the police station I saw that– sure enough!– it was crawling with armored vehicles and heavily armed men in uniform. That’s Friday for you, I guess.

After dropping Blanca off, Mimi, Krystelle and I taxi’d on toward Supermercado Yip, a two level store that sells groceries on the lower level and all manner of household goods and school supplies on the top. Noé recommended I go there for school posters when I told him how long it had taken me to complete my multiplication table poster by hand (4 hours!!). He said I’d love it, and wow was he right.

Supermercado Yip: School Supply Heaven!!

As soon as we got upstairs I was in absolute heaven. Aisle after aisle of school supplies, and all for cheap cheap cheap. In the end I bought 18 little notebooks (one for each student, plus an extra), 2 small abacuses (abaci?), a 12-pack box of chalkboard chalk, a chalkboard eraser, 3 pairs of scissors, alphabet posters in English and Spanish, a poster of geometric shapes, a clown poster that teaches colors, alphabet flash cards, two kinds of wall tape, an English/Spanish dictionary, a basic Spanish dictionary for kids, a 12-pack of manila folders, and two 24 count boxes of colored pencils. That’s 37 separate items. Grand Total: $30.31!!!!! Best store ever. If I lived here I would shop there all the time. Great great great.

Now to de-pricetag everything in the luxuriously cool 85+ degrees of our bedroom to the hum of two fans on full power. Ahh. This is the life!

Honduras Blog #5: All About the Benjamínes


A statue in a garden we pass between home and the airport. The graffiti says "Fuera Golpistas," essentially telling those involved in the recent coup to "Get out!"

Wednesday 8/10/10

Yesterday was a bit of a free day. Two new fellas flew in from the States so Mimi, her friend Brenda, and I hitched a ride to the airport in the mission’s van. Across the street is a little strip mall where Brenda needed to get some copies made for a class she’s teaching, and then the three of us planned on heading over to Pizza Hut for lunch.

Ahh Pizza Hut and your delicious stomach-response-predictability.

While Brenda made her copies Mimi and I hit up a couple stores to pass the time. First we stopped into a book store where half the books were in English but they were all pretty expensive so we just looked. When we went to leave we noticed the door opened into the store instead of outward toward the outside of the building. You couldn’t have that in the States– it’s a fire hazard. We checked as we continued our walk and most of the other doors in that strip mall opened the exact same way.

It’s the little differences…

We walked a little farther and stopped in at a bakery where we bought some cookies and a giant brownie. Everything looked delicious but dry. Don’t know if that was true of everything there, but it sure was about that brownie. Manohmanohman. If that brownie had been a joke even Stephen Fry wouldn’t get it.

Pizza Hut was, y’know, Pizza Hut.

The police station a few blocks from the mission house.

Mim and I walked the rest of the way back to the mission house. It’s only a little over half a mile, but in that heat and sun- phew! I was practically dripping sweat to the rhythm of each step. While sweating our way through town back to the house we passed a book store we kept seeing and saying we should go into. So by golly we did.

The store is called Book Master (we went to the one at the top of the page) and it’s a supply store for teachers at the bilingual schools in the area. Everything inside the store is in English. Very little is even in both English and Spanish. Even the stickers! I’d wanted to find some wall posters to give to the school in San Lorenzo when we go there next Tuesday for our third medical brigade, but those kids won’t likely speak any English at all, let alone enough to make any of these posters mean anything to them. The ability to speak English is an increasingly valuable skill here, but access to that type of education simply doesn’t exist in a lot of these mountain schools because teachers who can teach it are all at better paying schools in the city.

Not to be totally undone I instead bought three large pieces of poster board so I could make my own posters to hang on the walls there. I also picked up some rulers for the classroom, and some cute stickers of small, smiling pencils. I know I’m going to make one poster with a multiplication grid and multiplication tables up to the 12’s for sure. Depending on whether or not my writing implements bleed through the paper I can either make 2 more posters or 5 more by using the back of each sheet. Still gotta decide on content for those last few. It’s hard to narrow it down when the classroom currently has nothing in it whatsoever and caters to 1st through 6th grades.

Jesús and his *hairdryer kebab* trick

After a brief cool-down at the house we all packed into the van to drive to the home of Ana and Deniss, the couple that runs the mission. They live with her parents about 7 minutes over and up (literally) from the mission building. We were joined by more friends of theirs, one of whom was given the task of grilling the meat. Unfortunately something was wrong with the grill… or the coals… or something, so he had to keep using a hair dryer to keep the fire going. Not– not quite sure how that worked, but it did. And the meat- served kebab style- was goo-ood. Dessert was brownies, courtesy of Krystelle. Gooiest, softest, yummiest brownies I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE LIFE. She said they’re from a Ghirardelli box mix. Note to self: BUY MANY BOXES OF THIS MIX.

Thursday 8/11/10

Krystelle and me with some of the kids at the feeding program at the church in Villa Franca

Today was all about the kids. We drove out to Villa Franca with an enormous pot of spaghetti and a big ol’ jug of juice to feed the kids there. They’ve got a nicely organized set-up in place. They lined the walls of the church with plastic chairs where the kids sit and wait for the food to be brought to them. This works perfectly as it keeps a crowd from forming around the food table, and it’s especially nice for the littlest ones who can’t carry their plastic plates back to their chairs without spilling. It’s quite a feat when you’re two, y’understand.

Krystelle was telling us this is her favorite place to go and that she loves the kids there. I could see why right away. The only way they ever greeted any of us was with a huge hug. The littlest ones employed the jump-hug method, ensuring they’d be picked up and swung around. And wouldn’t you know a swing-around-bear-hug is just about my favorite thing to give out?

We came back to the mission house for a quick lunch ourselves, then hopped back into the van and headed over to a grade school a few blocks away. A group from Mision Caribe visits this school every Wednesday, and another school every Thursday.

Mariela reading the kids a story while Krystelle and Oneyda lead them in the motions

The game plan for today was to go into four different classes to share a Bible story with the kids and then to head back home. We got a late start so we arrived shortly before recess. We went into the first class where Mariela, a young woman from Honduras who works at the mission, read the kids the story of Elijah from I Kings 18 where Elijah and the prophets of Baal each call upon their own gods to set fire to their altars. Every time she got to the word “Elijah” we had the kids shout “Escuchame!” which means “Listen to me!” because Elijah was a prophet. Whenever she mentioned the sacrificial bueyes (bulls) we had the kids make finger horns and moooooo. There were a few other words like that where we had things for the kids to say or do in response. It was fun. :)

Recess at the neighborhood elementary school

Recess was its own adventure. As soon as the kids came outside we were swarmed. Word got out that I speak a little Spanish, so it was instantly Q&A time for me with my particular gaggle of girls. And you know what? I think I did all right. There were a few words I just didn’t have, but the thing is: All these girls were the same age I was when I was learning Spanish, so my vocabulary level and composition is probably closer to theirs than to anybody else’s. ;)

When recess (aka 20 minutes of DRIPPING sweat even in the shade along the edges of the cancha) ended I was sitting a little ways away from the group with some 4th grade girls, laughing with them about a tiny deck of cards one of them received from her “noooooviooooo!” (boyfriend) *cue: eruption of giggles* As they ran back to class I saw a crowd gathering around a much smaller girl, who was being led around by the arm by another small girl. I couldn’t see what was happening and the only word I caught was “sangre.” Blood.

Aw geez.

The guard outside the elementary school

I ran over and the first little girl had sliced her finger open pretty badly and her friend was leading her in circles instead of straight to the nurse like she said she was trying to do. She looked a little overwhelmed by the burgeoning crowd so the circuitous route was understandable. :S

I took the hand of the girl who’d been cut and her poor little finger was gushing so much blood so quickly that immediately my own hand was dripping too. I think you’re not supposed to do that in the States… Her friend and I walked her to the nurse’s room where I used my Big Teacher Voice to order all the kids back outside so Bleedy McWeeperson could gush in peace. Turns out she had a glass lip gloss tube and when she fell with it in her hand it broke and sliced her open something fierce. Whoops.

Mini-adventure now ended I rejoined the group and we shared the Elijah story three more times before hitting the road for home and an enchilada dinner. All in all: A wonderful day!

Honduras Blog #4: There’s a hole in my bucket


Stepping into my *shower* this morning.

We got city water tonight around 7 pm so I was able to wash my hair after this morning’s “head-dunk-into-a-bucket” shower. Mim and I got a good chuckle out of that one. ;) (Click the picture to the right to read about Tegucigalpa’s water issues.) Now we’re waiting for someone else’s stuff to dry so we can throw our own things into the dryer. It’s good to have clean, dry socks here, folks. Good good good. I sweat right through mine down here and it. is. gross.The solution, of course, would be to just wear flip flops. But I’m not into  easy solutions. They’re just not my bag.

That and 1) I’m bad at navigating rough ground and sloping, broken sidewalks in slippy-slidey shoes, and 2) I don’t want to add my own two instruments to the near constant cacophonous orchestra of flip-flopped foot shuffling you hear down here. It’s an odd sound and you can never quite get away from it. It’s not a bad sound, it’s just like this weird kind of white noise that follows people around wherever they go.

I wish high heels werent so cute. Itd make not wearing them so much easier. :(

Speaking of shoes! Oh wow– I wish I could get pictures of the shoes the women wear here without looking like some kind’a creeper. I’d say about 85% of the women we see walking around down here are wearing 3″+ stilletos with zero support, narrow components, and held in place with the flimsiest of straps. With dresses, with jeans, with sweatpants. Little girls, young women, middle aged women, elderly ladies. The Ubiquitous Heel. Up and down broken sidewalks in a country comprised almost entirely of MOUNTAINS they walk mile after mile each day in shoes lacking enough raw materials to construct a headband, let alone a shoe. How they manage I will never know.

And certainly- any *sexiness* that could potentially be achieved with that look is completely lost on me as it is such a frightening site to behold.

The Phil-Beth-Alan team flew back to Kansas yesterday, which meant a field trip to the airport. There’s a beauty shop there that was advertising $5 manicures, and there’s a team of two men flying in tomorrow. Hmmm… May just have to go along for the ride and get my li’l digits prettied up.

I’ve had four manicures in my life. The first was when I was about 6 or 7 and my Aunt Sharon did my nails for me as a special Sharon-and-Ruth-Day treat. The second was when I was 25 when I was a bridesmaid in my friend Libby’s wedding. The third and fourth were cheap-o deals at paint-and-dash shops during plays at Sunset when I realized at the last minute my nails looked noticeably out of character and had to be fixed quickly so I could go on stage in less time than I’d need to run home and fix ’em myself.

All this to say: I’ve never been much of a manicure kind of girl.

But I’ve also never been much of a “sit around and do nothing while travelling” kind of girl, so if manicures are what come up then by golly manicures are what I’m going to get!

Friday's dinner, left to right: Cheese, beef, chicken, refried beans, tortillas, rice, fried plantain, avocado, tomato & onion "salad" as topping

The other thing to do at the airport (besides browse souvenir stores where most things cost twice what we’d find them for in Valle de Angeles!) is grab a fancy frozen coffee for $1.74. I’ve already bought or been treated by Mimi to three yummy, frozen coffees since arriving here 10 days ago. I don’t go out for coffee that many times in a year in the States! This’ll be a hard treat to leave behind. :S

It’s not all airport glamor, though, folks. We’re not always hanging out around airplanes (I know, right?), running clinics, staring at each other across the sitting room, uploading pictures to Facebook, staring at each other across the dining room, or updating each other on whether or not the toilets can currently be flushed. Sometimes we’re making an outing of walking around the block to the gas station for a sandwich and an ice cream.

And by “sometimes” I mean “once, yesterday.” Donna, her son Stephen, Mimi and I were looking for something to do and settled on hitting up the Dippsa for empanadas, chips, canned fruit juice so concentrated I might be apple-d out for the next three years, and ice cream bars. I would definitely make that li’l journey again. ;)

Blanca and Mimi at Mision Caribe

We, uh, we do do* more than eat here, though. I promise. Yesterday morning Mimi’s dear friend Blanca joined us at the mission to go to church with us at… Oh dear. Now that I’m writing about it I’ve forgotten the name of the church. Nueva Esperanza maybe? Anyway… Blanca, who is now 80 years old, is from Honduras and she and Mimi have been friends for years. Mim was so happy to get to see her on this trip. Seeing the two of them greet each other at the airport when we first arrived was enough to make even me tear up.

The church we went to was just wonderful. The message, the worship service, the prayer time– thought-provoking, powerful stuff. Inspiring, even. While there we got to see another friend of Mim’s, Christine, who started the church with her husband several years ago as a place for young people to hang out, then a Bible study, then– well these things just really grow sometimes you know?

Mimi & Christine at Nueva Esperanza

Christine asked Mim for her help for a minute in their little clinic upstairs, during which time Mim saw they had boxes of donated eyeglasses there on the shelves. Blanca, who has pastored two different churches in her time, is no longer able to read the Bible for herself ever since her own glasses broke. Perfect timing! One donated pair of glasses later and Blanca’s able to read on her own again. :D

In another instance of “hallylooyahthatsneat!” Christine told Mimi about this Laurie woman who’d recently moved down here from the States to work with feeding programs for kids and who goes to their church and works with friends of theirs.

Me: Wait wait wait. Laurie… Is her name Laurie M– by any chance?

Christine: Yes. How did you know? Do you know her?

Me: OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH! MIMIICANTBELIEVEIT! THISISHER! THISISTHEWOMANWHOSEBLOGIREAD! THISISWHOIWANTEDTOMEET!

That’s more or less how the entire conversation went. I couldn’t believe I’d just stumbled upon an opportunity to meet this woman whose mobile library project has been on my mind since I first found her blog this Spring. How awesome is that?!

10:10 pm. That’s late enough to go to bed, right?

*Hee hee hee! That one’s for you dad!

Honduras Blog #3: At A Glance


Life in the Mission House

Staying at the mission house at Mision Caribe in Tegucigalpa, HN is a far cry from what I’m used to back in Waukesha, WI. There I have a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment all to myself (the ferrets don’t count). Here I live with a big ol’ group of folks, only one of whom I’m related to, where everyone shares a room with at least one other person and a bathroom with at least two. (This is when there isn’t a regular team here. When that’s the case you’re living 6+ to a room/bathroom.)

The People Who Live Here

Krystelle, me, Mariela, Mimi. Taken as Mimi and I prepped for the pharmacy in town to buy more med's for the afternoon's clinic. Just realized I'm the "tall one"...

First there’s the college intern, Krystelle, who I like more and more every time I talk to her. One o’ them smart-and-sweet-and-awesome types. She’s here for a 42 day stint. I’ll be sad to see her go. (Does she look a little like Rachael J. in this photo?)

Then there’s Michael, an early 20-something fella here for about 2 months to conduct surveys on “health behavior” under a university grant. Cool guy. Bakes his own bread.

Then there’s Melissa, who started out as an intern here three years ago and who still lives here at the house, assisting the folks who actually run the place.

Then we’ve got Mark, a guy who’s been here about 6 years helping with anything and everything that comes up.

The People Who’re Staying Here

Mim and I have a room to ourselves, which is awesome and kind of a luxury. There’s a bunk bed in the room which we use to hold our stuff while we sort medicine on the bed we sleep in. Our shared bed is king sized, but it feels like what we’re using are actually two, 3″ deep twin mattresses held together by a king sheet on a metal, king frame.

Melissa, Alan, Phil, and Beth on "the climbing hill" in La Victoria

Then there’s a group of three 1-week visitors from the church sponsoring Melissa; Phil, Alan, and Beth. They got here on Sunday and they’re here to… um… observe stuff. I think. Not really sure so I’ll just leave it at: They’re here to see what the mission does and what it needs.

Finally we have Awesome Donna Pharmacy Queen and her son Stephen. She’s been here several times before for and thought it’d be great for her and her son to spend a month working here at the mission while she’s on summer break from Bible school. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Next up: a friend of Mimi’s named Brenda who will be coming in on Saturday. She and her husband lived here for years and years, and her’s and Mimi’s friendship goes way back to some of Mim’s earliest days here back in the late 90s.

Security

The men loading the supply truck for our trip to La Victoria. You can kind of see the barbed wire on the wall on the right.

The compound (for lack of a less cult-ish sounding word) is surrounded by 7′ high cement walls, topped with three lines of barbed wire, with a security guard manning the office by the front gate during the night. We’re not supposed to leave the compound (there’s that word again…) without a Honduran escort, preferably male.

Apparently there’s a decent chance of getting accosted, mugged, whatever; gringo or not. I imagine it’s a money thing? Honduras is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti. I guess I don’t really need to tempt that reality with afternoon strolls all by my lonesome. Still and all, though: It’d be nice to get out of here just Mimi and me for a change. She said we might be able to go out on our own in a week or two if we take a taxi…

Bathrooms
Honduras is one of those “don’t flush your toilet paper” countries. But don’t worry! There’s a trash can right next to the toilet where you can toss it when you’re done! Kindly wrap it in more t.p. first though, please… We can’t drink the water here (it’s not a weenie American thing; the water has parasites in it and the most common thing we treat are the resultant stomach worms) so every bathroom has a covered water pitcher next to the sink for us to use when we brush our teeth.

We have city water twice a week here, and for the rest of the days we have a water tank we use for showers and cleaning and things. Melissa said she’s not sure how much water is in the tank, but that it’s fairly large and costs about 600 Lps ($31.71) to fill. To conserve the tank water the pump is turned off for a large portion of the day, so before using the toilet you always want to check the tap first to make sure the water’s on so you’ll know if you’ll be following up with a flush or not. And there’s no widow-maker in our particular shower, thank goodness. Though with the constant heat and humidity the idea of a cold shower is rarely an unwelcome one.

Food

There are a couple of ladies who work here at the mission when there are teams staying here and they are all amazing cooks.

Evening meal in La Victoria

Marina fields most of the meals here at the house. Mimi told me before we got here she hoped we’d get to enjoy Marina’s arroz y pollo and there it was our 2nd night in. This is a meal Mimi’s remembered and wanted for the past 5 years and now I know why. Delicious.

Another one of the women, Oneyda, was in charge of cooking the meals while we worked at the clinic out of town. That girl performs miracles. The picture above is of dinner she prepared in La Victoria with Melissa and the lady of the house. (Oneyda’s the one in the blue shirt.) Carne asada cooked on a metal grate over coals on the ground, a pot of refried beans, and juice I didn’t want to drink.

Not because it wasn’t good, or refreshing, or oh so welcome, but because an outhouse in the pitch blackness of Hondurans mountains at night is not a fun place to be any more than absolutely necessary…

Transportation

Traffic leaving Tegucigalpa, HN

So far every time we’ve gone somewhere down here it’s been in the mission’s big white van. One o’ them 15 passenger types. The traffic here is incredible, not because of the density so much as the insanity. Traffic related deaths are sky high, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to get drivers to stay on their own side of the road, use turn signals, or wait until after blind curves (of which there are many as there are mountains EVERYWHERE) to pass another vehicle on the road. Security comes into play here, too, as we are under no circumstances permitted to ride the city buses without a guide– period!

This section wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the airport, which is about 3/4 of a mile from the mission house. You’d think this’d interrupt things more than it does, but with only a few planes landing per day during times we’re actually around (and none at night that I’ve ever heard), it’s really not bad. Still– it’s a little weird opening the front gate and watching planes taxi down the runway…

Church

So far we’ve only been here for one Sunday morning church service, but every day starts with devotions, with a different person sharing something each time.

Playing after service. Abigail, Aileen, Angela, me, David.

I’m dreading my turn. I have zero idea what to talk about. Lots of ideas, sure, but among the many reasons I got out of secondary education in college was that I’m a bit of a dud at preparing stuff like this to share and then, y’know, sharing it. We’ll see how it goes…

Regular church was pretty cool. Lots of songs I recognized so I could hum along until they sang them through enough times for me to pick up the words. One of the guys at the church is retired army so he got up and spoke for a little bit in full military dress. Neat to see the different patches and pins and things. The person who was going to preach that morning was unable to attend so they asked Mim to preach. She was awesome.

After service I was putting away chairs and had my camera with me. I took it out to take a picture of two little girls who’d been sitting with me during service, when one of them asked if she could take my picture with it. Why not? It’s only a digital camera… my baby… eep!

So for the next half hour this 7 year old cutie pie named Rocio ran around the church snapping pics of everything and everyone that caught her eye, including me and the other girl who sat with us, 6 year old Aileen.

Shopping

Frogs for sale in Valle de Angeles

No trips to the grocery store or anything like that for me just yet. Soon hopefully, though. We did get to spend a few hours in Valle de Angeles on Sunday 8/1, however, which was pretty cool. Mimi and I only went into a couple of stores; not really anything different from one to the next and it all costs about the same from one vendor to the next. Lots of cute things, but the kind of stuff that does two things for the person you buy it for back home:

1) It shows them you were thinking of them (which can also be accomplished by emailing them while you’re away), and

2) It takes up storage space in that unused shelf in the hall closet. Not that one; the one you can’t get to because the vacuum’s always in the way and it’s down that hallway nobody ever walks down.

Plaza at Valle de Angeles

Mostly we just strolled about enjoying the sunshine and the fact that we could walk without an escort because of the greater police presence there versus where the mission house is located. Sweet sweet freedom!

We went to a nice little coffee place called Espresso Americano and Mim bought us each a granita de cafe con crema (frozen coffee drinks with whipped cream; only $1.74 a piece!) which we drank while enjoying the breeze and people watching. And boy were there some people to watch… People and dogs.

Across the street from us during our coffee break was a photo op grizzled old man in a cowboy hat, faded pants, and a vest covered in pins, seated at a wooden table nursing a handful of beers. Mimi asked him if she could take his picture and gave him 50 Lps. He said “Of course!” and handed back the money. She took the pic, gave the money back to him, and returned to me.

The Aviator, Valle de Angeles

A moment later he walked over, gave the money back, and told us about himself. Said he used to be a pilot and that now he’s a “newspaper man” living a short way up the street. As he turned to leave I saw one of his tinier pins bore a swastika. Hrm?

Three minutes later he was back again to give Mimi a shot glass with flashing lights in the bottom that turn on when you press against them underneath. You know: For all those shots my grandmother drinks. *hee hee* Maybe she can use it to hold toothpicks…

By far the coolest thing that happened in Valle de Angeles for me, though, was when Mimi and I stepped into Galería Sixtina and found ourselves surrounded by, wow, just the most luscious, extravagantly sensual paintings I’ve ever seen, all by an artist I’d never heard of, Julio Visquerra. I was struck stupid at the sight. I said to Mim it was a shame there weren’t any postcards or something you could buy with any of the paintings on them because they were so lovely and taking photos in the gallery wasn’t allowed.

As we took in the largest of the paintings I noticed a man standing next to me, sort of overseeing the room. I asked if it was his gallery.

Me with Julio Visquerra at Galeria Sixtina

“Yes,” he said. “But just this room. The paintings in the other room are by another artist.”

“Wait– you painted these? These are your paintings?!”

“Yes, yes. All of these here,” he said quietly, motioning toward the beautiful brightness on the walls all around us. The man was Visquerra. I cried!

I hugged this strange, mustachioed man in the middle of an art gallery in Honduras and cried. Not the *big weepy mess* kind of cry, mind you, but definitely the *red cheeked, watery eyed, sniffly* kind of cry. He responded by hugging me back and laughing.

“Do you have anything I can buy? A print? A book? Anything??”

He walked me over to a table with a book on it containing prints of all of his work. I opened the wrapper on the spot and said I was buying it (I had no idea how much it would be) and asked if he’d sign it for me, which he did. Mim even got a picture of us together in front of one of the paintings. He was just so lovely. (You’d love his work, Old Dave. You’d just love it.)

Cheap coffee, amazing art, *leather* frogs… I’d go back to Valle de Angeles. :)

Medical Brigades (aka Clinics) and Visiting Churches

A painting hanging on the wall at the pharmacy. I don't know who it's by but I just loved it. Please leave a comment if you know what this is!

We had our first clinic on Monday afternoon in the village of La Victoria. I believe it’s only about 60 miles outside the city, but it’s up in the mountains on roads that actually merit Hummer ownership, so it took about three and a half hours to get there. But first things first.

For our initial clinic we hit up the pharmacy first to stock up on children’s vitamins (2,000), worm medicine (2,000), and antibiotics (200) for a grand total of 2520 Lps. That’s right, folks. All that medicine for only $133.21. Just incredible.

By the time we got back from the pharmacy everybody was pretty much ready to make the drive out to La Victoria, a mountain village where Mision Caribe established a church. We were told the village (dirt roads connecting one room houses sprinkled across a mountain with no electricity) is only about 60 miles away from the mission house, but the roads we take to get there track back and forth across and around mountains almost the entire distance, and aside from the first 20 miles or so it’s all unpaved and deeply ridged by mudslides, so it took us about three and a half hours to get there.

Mimi and I working at the "clinic" at the church in La Victoria, HN.

Five minutes after we pulled up at the church and unloaded our mattresses and the generator: the sky opened. Great timing! We took advantage of the rain time to get our gear stowed in a corner in the one room church building (cement walls and floor, windows covered by shutters, tin and tile roof) and to begin setting up the clinic. This involved organizing the medicine (all either donated or paid for with donations) on wooden benches, bagging and labeling the de-worming medicine we’d picked up that morning, and arranging chairs and tables for the different stations. (ie. Blood pressure station, Mimi’s visitation table, etc.) And as soon as we opened the doors when the rain stopped: There was our day, waiting for us in a line 200+ people long. Some of them had walked for hours to get there. Lots of mothers with children. All told we saw about 150 people before we ran out of medicine and daylight. (The generator operated lightbulb hanging from the ceiling just wasn’t cutting it.)

Bedding down for the night. L to R: Mimi, Oneyda, Donna, Melissa, Stephen

We closed up shop and walked in complete darkness at 6:30 pm through mud and horse… piles… to a nearby house for dinner (see pic above in the “Food” section), stretched it out as long as we could, and finally made the dark, muddy walk back to the church to get ready for bed. We laid our mattresses out on the floor, covered them in bath towels and throw blankets for warmth, and tried to find ways to keep ourselves occupied until it was late enough to go to sleep.

Around 7:45 the Coleman lantern started to dim, so that put an end to playing cards. The last time I looked at my watch it was 8:22 pm. I think I fell asleep out of sheer boredom and an intense desire to will myself into the next day. I had to go to the bathroom sooooo badly, but nothing could induce me to leave my chilly mattress and brave the muddy path to the pitch black outhouse with it’s seat-less toilet, 1″ of standing water on the floor, and unsee-able mosquitoes in a country plagued with dengue fever.

We were up the next morning at 6 or so, breakfasted around 6:30 next door, hiked up a nearby hill (I didn’t die, but I did need a hand a couple times), had our morning devotions around 7:30, said goodbye to the folks who’d gathered to watch the goings on, and hit the road for San Lorenzo.

Jose Cecilia del Valle in San Lorenzo, HN

We didn’t stay in San Lorenzo very long, maybe 3 or 4 hours. We stopped at the school, Jose Cecilia del Valle, to give the kids some school supplies donated by one of the other missionary’s church. They sang some songs with us (yes there were motions and yes I totally learned the words and sang along and did all the motions!) and the teacher, Olinda, told us a little about herself and the school. She’s got 35 years of teaching under her belt (33 of them at this mountain village school) and is retiring next month.

We were walking out the door to do some home visits of church members when I asked if it was okay if I stayed behind to sit in for the rest of the school day. It’s a one room school house catering to 1st – 6th grades in a mountain village in southern Honduras. How many chances to you get to do something like that, you know?

The 4th and 6th grade boys playing soccer at recess

I think Olinda thought I was a teacher sent to observe how she managed the classroom because whenever a child acted out or answered a question incorrectly her face pleaded with me to understand.

She’d explain “I have so many classes in one room and they are all learning something different at the same time…” Of one first grade girl she said: “This one’s mother had a thyroid problem when she was pregnant with her so I think it’s made her a little, you know *touches her head and frowns* so that’s why she gets so many things wrong.” She said this to me out loud in front of the entire school (17 students) but no one seemed to think anything of it. As for the little girl: Expect her to get some things wrong. It happens when you’re six. No worries! :)

Olinda was great, though; truly. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate themselves to 35 years of service in a country classroom when the money is almost exclusively in the city.

We had lunch (hot dogs with refried beans) at the church around 12:30 and then hit the ol’ road. But not before I got some fun footage of the church there. Maybe I’ll insert that video into this post once I’m back in the States. (The connection here’s a bit slow so upload times aren’t too video friendly.)

Sightseeing

Jesus statue at El Picacho

I don’t know that there are too many things we’ll do with the mission that are exclusively “sightseeing” related activities, though spending a month in a foreign country means everything is sightseeing in one way or another. We did spend a couple hours this afternoon taking a break at Picacho Hill (aka El Picacho), though, and that was pretty cool. El Picacho is home to the zoo (which I’ve been told is a horribly depressing place and by all rights should be closed immediately), a beautiful state park, and an enormous statue of Jesus. The hill overlooks the entire city of Tegucigalpa, so it made for some pretty neat photo opportunities as well. If we’re friends on Facebook you can find a few such pics in my “Honduras 2010” album.

America

You can’t get away from it, even in Honduras. Since arriving we’ve seen the following businesses: True Value Hardware, Sherwin Williams, Midas, Burger King, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s, Quizno’s, Subway, Applebees, KFC, Popeye’s, Baskin-Robbins, Church’s Chicken, TCBY, Domino’s, Little Caesar’s, and TGI Friday’s.

*****

It has taken me four days to write this post. A mission house is a busy, busy place sometimes! I realize I’ve probably made this thing a nightmare in terms of loading times what with all these photos. Sorry ’bout that. :S Hopefully the next one won’t share the same burden of having to cram four days’ worth of activities into a single post!

One week to go!



Hair stuff, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, tooth brushes, Tylenol, Neosporin, floss

A week from today my mom and I will be driving to my grandma’s (Mimi’s) house in Chicago before Mim’s and my flight on Saturday to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Excited as I am about the trip, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when I think about how much I have left to do before we leave. I’ve gotten a lot of things done already, except that so much of it is stuff y’can’t see, so sometimes it feels like I’ve accomplished approximately zilch. But I can live with that. ;)

Among the things I’ve gotten done so far that you can’t see are attending a new church here in Waukesha, El Buen Samaritano, to work on my Spanish. My comprehension is SO much better than I had hoped it would be seeing as I haven’t used it in 6 years nor studied it in 9. Whoops! But speaking? Wharbargl… It is hard… and I am le tired… I first learned about the church when Aaron and I met the pastor, Rosa, at an event in Frame Park about a month ago. I’d hoped to attend every Sunday until our departure, but missed one week for a wedding, and another week to attend Elmbrook to hear Jill Briscoe speak. It’s been great to go when I’ve been able, though. Such a warm congregation.

Among the things I’ve gotten done so far that you can see are finding some great children’s books to leave with the mission, and picking up a few meds ‘n’ things for distribution. Nowhere near the quantities we’ll ultimately need, but Mimi’s the one fielding that part of the trip, thank goodness. I’m just the nOOb trying to find small OTC medicines to cram into every available space in my suitcase. ;)

(And thank you SO MUCH to everyone who’s donated goods, time, and financial assistance toward this trip. I’ll take as many pics as I can so hopefully you’ll get to see some of those goods in use!)

Wahoo! So many books!

As for the books- sad to say but a few will undoubtedly not make the trip. They’re just so stinkin’ heavy! It’s possible to pay extra for luggage over the weight limit, and for taking extra bags, but with all the medicine Mimi has gathered we’re already at the ultimate baggage limit. While that is actually great news because it means we’re taking along as much medical aid as we’re physically able to carry, it’s also a tough reality for me to face on a personal level.  The need for books, for education in general, is just so great. And as education and reading are so close to my own heart I want so much to be able to get involved in some way in connecting those things with people who need them.

There’s always the mail, though. And donations to existing education-oriented groups. And additional trips… ;)

To give you a taste of what it takes (me, anyway) to get ready to spend a month volunteering with medical clinics in the Western Hemisphere’s 2nd poorest country (after Haiti), here’s a snippet of what’s left on the ol’ To-Do lists…

Tryyyying to write something to share

HONDURAS TO-DO LIST
Write: testimony, 2-3 devotions, update red journal from Mimi
Email: Pastora Rosa, Laurie, Mimi’s peeps at MC (“about me”), Old Dave
Shopping: lightweight tops, capris, dresses (2), shorts, watch, netbook, netbook case and sleeve, heavy-duty sunscreen
Books/Research: Finish “Intermediate Spanish” book, attend EBS for Spanish review, taking blood pressure, field pharmacy organization tips, maps
Pharmacy: pack OTC meds, print 360 labels, downsize packaging on purchased meds
Paperwork: Confirm passport is still good; make copies for mom, Mimi, suitcase
Pack: books; meds; netbook (cord, mouse, case); camera (charger, memory cards); cell (charger); clothes (shorts, capris, dresses, light tops, jeans, swimsuit, scrubs); shoes (walking, dress); toiletries (sunscreen, bug spray)

 

To Do List...s

PERSONAL TO-DO LIST
Write: Blog update about trip (books, meds, basic itinerary), thank you to M.K.
Email: Jerry W. re: health ins, Marcy R. re: SHE IS BEAUTIFUL, Mark S. re: German dialect tapes
Shopping: David’s birthday present, apt keys for mom ‘n’ dad
Ferrets: baths, razor talons snipped, wash cage/misc, transfer to mom & dad’s house, buy more food
Apartment: laundry, clean kitchen & bathrooms
Job Search: reschedule/attend Remployment class; update resume/job site profiles;  resume to dad to submit for me with list of potential employers
Online: Change Facebook password and give to Becca R., cancel Blockbuster, arrange for bill payment
Call: Bank re: using card abroad, Cell carrier re: int’l usage rates
Fax: Student loan deferment forms

Brodie sleeping... somehow

UPCOMING EVENTS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
7/23: 8 pm “Hair” at Sunset Playhouse
7/25: 11am Church, birthday lunch
7/26: 3 pm RTW audition (1:30 arrive early to read the stinkin’ script first!!)
7/30: 9 am Drive to Chicago with mom
7/31: 5 am Fly to Houston> Tegucigalpa…

I don’t know where I’d be if not for Aaron and the fam. They’ve not only graciously agreed to stop by my place to pick up my mail and check on my apartment while I’m gone (Lord knows the only things of value in it are my netbook and passport and those’re coming with me…), but my folks have also agreed to watch the weasels for the entire duration of the trip. Yippee!! The boys are very excited to stay with their cousin, Patches, and to show their Mimi how good they are at using their litter boxes at least 60% of the time…

And just like that it’s 5:35 pm. Time to get crackin’ on crossing a few more items off the ol’ list before heading to Sunset Playhouse tonight to see their production of Hair. (Pics should be available on their Flickr account soon.) Everybody’s raving about this show, and I’m not surprised in the least!

Beads, flowers, freedom, happiness everyone!