Archive for April, 2009

3 Weeks Left!

So this past week was a little more low key that others, but I continued to enjoy myself nonetheless!.I am still working on this water system design, which has proven to be more difficult that I thought. Tuesday and Wednesday we visited two local potable water systems to inspect their condition. We walked the system up to the top (both were gravity fed) to visit the fuente (source). On the way back down, we also interviewed the Junta de Agua (water boards) and the locals to find out how the system works for them, how they treat it, and what could they improve. Now I know what I am up against.

Thursday we were trained in HIV/AIDS education, then gave a 4 hour charla to high school students Friday. Yes it was 4 hours long, but it went great! The kids were participated and seemed really enthusiastic, even though there were some awkward moments. Another tool I can put in my back pocket! I think we have one of the highest reported HIV/AIDS rates in Latin America and discrimination still is very prevalent.

I turned 26 this week. I will be 28 when I leave here. Holy hell. I might as well start collecting stray cats and bags down here, there are an abundance of them. My teachers and friends threw a surprise party for me on Tuesday night. We had the pleasure of watching Anchorman with Spanish subtitles at my party. I am turning everyone into Will Ferrell fanatics! Wednesday my mom woke me up at 5 am blasting Feliz Cumpleanos from the stereo. She was kind enough to give me a gift: a blouse with matching earrings . . . she also owns the same ones. “We can be twins!” she said. Hilarious! My family threw me and my friends a party that night complete with popcorn, arroz con pollo, sodas, cake, and reggae music (my host dad really enjoys Bob Marley). It was a great birthday. Thanks for the calls and emails! If you sent letters, thank you too, even though I will probably get them in June!

Soy una residente, una catracha (slang term for a Honduran)! It is official. All of us gringos got to spend yesterday at the office of immigration becoming “official”. What a great feeling. And we also had the pleasure of dining at the classy Pizza Hut (it is actually a sit down restaurant). I have never been so happy. I think I ate myself sick. It was also fun re-uniting with my friends from the business and health training group.
I am sad and excited to realize that I only have 3 weeks left in training. My friends and I are all really close, so it will be hard to leave. We are all anxiously awaiting our site announcements! We will find out a week from this Monday. Our boss is having fun being the puppeteer and teasing us with possible site locations. How mean. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the west!


April 26, 2009 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

Pics Corresponding to the Prev Blog. . . Enjoy!

April 19, 2009 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment

Happy Earth Day!

Finally, after a grueling week, semana santa is over. It ended last Sunday with Easter. I had built up excitement (if you want to call it that) and anticipation over the climax of Easter week. On Friday, teenage kids designed a beautiful alfombra (carpet) of painted sawdust right outside the church. It’s a tradition over Easter week in all of Honduras. The alfombra stays outside the church until a procession destroys it on Sunday. So, after a long, hard day at the beach on Saturday, I was naturally looking forward to my Sunday mass. Whilst eating breakfast Sunday morning, anxiously awaiting my cue to leave with my family, all hell broke loose. More family came over, some people wanted to go to the beach, some wanted to stay, someone didn’t want pancakes for breakfast. Alas, an hour later, we were late for church and my mom decided not to go. The holiest day of the year, after all she put me through that preceding week?!!! Well, in all honesty, I didn’t lose much sleep over it.

This week was the environmental week (and dirty week) in training and has probably been my favorite week so far. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we visited the local school and gave the little kiddies charlas (talks) on the recylcling, trash, and the environment. What a blast! We played games, made posters to hang around town, and got them excited about trash. All my fear went out the window. Trash here is a monumental problem. It’s in the streets, it’s in the river where they swim, it’s everywhere. And if they don’t throw it on the ground, they burn it. Love the smell. Needless to say, our charlas were awesome! Friday, we took the same children out into the streets of Pespire and collected trash and plastic bottles to recycle (recycling here is almost impossible due to the expense). I was surprised to see how much fun they were having. My class made it into a game to see who could gather the most trash. It was really rewarding and it is a great feeling when the kids scream your name on the streets and hang all over you.

I played with poop this week. Groups of us worked on making fogones, adobe open fire stoves, for 4 poor families in the neighborhood. Some families had been using traditional open fire stoves, while others were using the “u” shaped stoves. The old stoves function properly, but due to their thermal inefficiency, they require a lot of firewood. Thus, families have to spend more on wood, instead of food. In addition, these stoves do not have a proper chimney or no chimney at all. With an inadequate chimnet, all of the smoke enters the house, thus causing a serious health hazard. Mi abuela back in Zarabanda has a chronic heinous cough and is always getting respiratory infections. So, the stove we built are new AND improved! They have chimnies and an easily accessible ash chamber to clean. They are also thermal efficient and require less firewood and stay hot for longer periods of time. There is also an “oven” underneath the fire to make bread or cookies. I was so happy to get my hands dirty, and yes it literally was poop. All you need is clay, cow or horse poop, water, bricks, a tin can, a metal sheet for the comal (cooking surface), the chimney, 8 hours, and a little lovin’. Very satisfying.

Other fun things this week included mapping a microcuenca (watershed) on our GPS, then using mapping software to create maps (of course). We also learned how to start a nursery, which is actually more complicated that it sounds. When to plant, what to plant, plant grafting. . . pretty interesting stuff.

Another hit down here has been karaoke. Yes, karaoke. Some volunteers down here live with a family that owns a restaurant with a karaoke machine. Holy hell I’ve never been so thrilled. Fortunately, everyone down here shares my affinity for 80’s music and singing loudly. What do you do on a hot evening in Pespire? Naturally, you sing karaoke while drinking cantelope juice. Yes the singing was done SANS alcohol. Imagine that. This is how we entertain ourselves down here. We have already been back twice. I have demanded that everyone buy banana clips and/or scrunchies because apparently they never went out of style down here.

This week will be more computer activities (boo!) but will be useful. My mom’s throwing a birthday party for me with arroz con pollo, sodas, and cake for all. But the real party will be next Saturday. We will officially become residents of Honduras on Saturday when we take a trip to the capital! Saturday is also the Mango festival town, a yearly party Pespire has to honor the town’s trademarked mangoes. Mangoes, music, dancing, and beer (that is if my family does not go). Regardless, it will be fun times had by all.

Only 3 more weeks in Pespire and 1 more in Zarabanda, then I will be official! Plan your trips to visit!

April 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm Leave a comment

Cows and Cultural Day

April 12, 2009 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

Palm Sunday

April 12, 2009 at 8:06 pm Leave a comment

Spectacular Semana Santa

So I couldn’t talk my way out of church, but it is just as well. I forgot just how big Semana Santa is in Latin America. This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. At 8 in the morning, a huge parade wound through the streets of Pespire. Local “actors” dressed as Jesus, his apostles, Mary and her crew, and children acted out the story where (I think) Jesus walked through the streets while hordes of people fanned him with palms. Then, Jesus mounted his colorfully clad mule and paraded through the streets. And that is what happened here. Joyous singing and praying, note the “joyous”. Usually, catholic processions are pretty depressing and disheartening, but not here. We marched to the church, following our parade waving our intricate palm crosses. Mass started at 9:30, half an hour late in typical latin style. The church was packed, and I had the pleasure of standing for all 2 hours. But, it was all worth it. I am now bracing myself for the week to come. There is an “official” schedule of events. And there is a dry law in effect starting this Friday. Did I also mention that the whole country is on vacation this week? The town is inundated the people from the capital visiting their relatives.


Another (politically incorrect) traditional festivity took place the other night. While taking my mandatory second shower of the day, I hear my host mom yell “Mire! Las brujas de la Semana Santa estan caminando por las calles” (The witches of Semana Santa are walking through the streets). I quickly dressed to see what the fuss was about. Three men dressed in robes, wigs, and scary masks were walking through the streets scaring children and asking for money and food. What the hell, I said to myself. I asked my mom what was up.


-“Oh, of course Kathryn! They are the scary Jews that rose from the dead. They run through the streets looking for Jesus so they can kill him. This is a great tradition during Semana Santa”. 


Ohhhh!!! Yea, thanks for clearing that up for me, mom. I was wondering about those Jews. . . . .


Let’s just say Latin America lets it all out. They have no mouth filter whatsoever. For example, my mom told me I was “la gordita” again yesterday. Or when my friend got whistled at and solicited by a 4th grader. Or when the worker on the corner says I have nice tits everyday. Or just blatant racism, period. I’m not saying this is better or worse than the states, because I know it still exists there, but nobody here holds back. On the contrary, if you are offered food that you don’t want or don’t like, it is a grave sin to say “no”. You must make up a ridiculous lie saying you are allergic, or you already ate, or you are watching your weight, as not to insult the hostess.  


I would like to share with you more Honduran-isms. For example, it is perfectly normal to cut in line, or even push people out of line if you feel like it. This makes me want to scream, but alas, I cannot do a thing.


Pointing your finger here is considered rude. If you need to point at something, point with your lips while you are talking.


Hondurans also like to drink out of plastic bags. En serio. It’s actually pretty convenient. If you are your friends want to split a liter of Coke, all you need is a few plastic sandwich baggies and straws. Pour the fresco in the bag, tie a knot around the straw, then enjoy! Another popular item in Pespire is called a charamusca. It’s basically a Popsicle in a bag, without the stick. Prepare any type of juice you want, place it in a baggie, tie a knot, then freeze. When you want to eat it, bite a tiny hole in the corner and suck. Bizarre, but it leaves no mess!


Wednesday, as a kick off to Semana Santa, we had cultural day party. All of us gringos, our host families, and our teachers got together to share each other’s food, songs, dances, and favorite pastimes. And this how I know how to milk cows. I got up at 5:30 this morning and walked with my mom down to my abuelos house across the river. He has about 20 cows. Of the 20, he milks about 4 or 5 of them every day. However, because they are in the dry season, they only produce about a 5-gallon buckets’ worth. Milking a cow is not easy, and it is kind of gross, but it was fun, none-the-less. He also showed me his $5000 toro that he uses to impregnate his cows. “It’s from Texas”, he said. Go figure.


 The rest of cultural day was tiring, but fun and informative! All of us had to explain how to prepare our Honduran recipes and perform skits about American pastimes. Of course, my awesome group did American football (go Steelers), Some of my friends line danced, and others sang “La Bamba” (not very American, right?) In turn, our families performed traditional songs and dances of Honduras. I am a little disappointed because I still haven’t eaten anything too weird here yet, just exotic fruits. 


Oh, and for the record, I have had 2 Pittsburgh encounters this week. First, I was reading the local Honduran paper (or should I say trying to read) and saw an article on the shooting that happened this past week were I guess some police officers died. I know, pretty morbid, but mayor Luke Ravenstahl was mentioned too.


While I was sitting on my front porch reading that very same paper, I saw a Honduran man walk by wearing a Pens jersey, with Lemieux on the back. I snapped a few pics as proof.    


I continue to enjoy it here more and more, despite the heat. My teachers are supportive and encouraging, and my fellow team members are awesome. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. Next week, we will start a water system design for the town we did a topo study of last week. Hopefully it will be feasible. I am actually working on it today. That was my excuse for getting out of the last station of the cross (kind of). Today is Holy Friday, the day Jesus died. The same actors from last week acted out the passion of Christ. Christ carries his cross through the street with his crown of thorns, while the romans beat him. Lovely. It got too hot for me, so I ducked out to come here at write the rest of my blog and work on my project. My mom doesn’t make her own daughters go to church. Sounds vaguely familiar. . . my childhood perhaps? 

April 10, 2009 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

Notes on the pics

I havent figured out how to add titles to my photos , so I will try to explain. The family infront of the cabbage fields is my family back in Zarabanda. I love them! I think the rest are in the south in Pespire. Some where when we were taking the topo study with the cows. Others are views of the little town. My house is the yellow and blue house with the fence around it. Then there is the rive I swam in. The school pics are when I went to my sister´s bday party. Sorry this blog is random. Enjoy the pics!

April 3, 2009 at 11:53 pm 3 comments

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