Maps, Mayans, and Muggers

November 13, 2009 at 11:47 pm 1 comment

October and then some. . .

So after my epic vacation in Utila, I had a week or so before my mom came, which equates to 1 week of work done in the month of October. However, I would like to point out that by my mom visiting, I was working on goal #3 of the Peace Corps, which includes sharing Honduran culture with foreigners and promoting cultural exchange. My mom got plenty of that, as you will soon read.

Another one of my side projects is painting a world map mural on an outside wall of a school. A fellow volunteer and I started it back in September with hopes of getting the whol 6th grade class involved, but alas, the Honduran political “situation” struck again. Because of possible election snags, the current president, Micheletti, decided to shut school down early. . .  like a month early. That left me with the school closed and zero children. Fortunately for me, several girls who love arts and crafts agreed to meet with me a few times a week and work on the mural. We found someone who had a key to the school and it has been going wonderfully. How do you draw a 2 x 4 meter world map on a wall, you ask? Simple: use a grid (and a already written manual) The idea is to copy the world from a smaller grid printed on a piece of paper, to a larger one on a wall, square by square. Or, you could use a projector (if they are available). The biggest pain in the ass was to draw the grid, all 1,568 squares, and to make sure the squares were indeed squares, not rectangles or trapezoids or rhombuses (can you believe I remembered that word, rhombus?). As of this week, we just finished the pencil outline of the map. It’s been really nice because about 3 girls show up so there is plenty of work, and it isn’t too crowded. They tell me their wish list of countries they would like to visit and I realize my geography isn’t really that good. Did you know that Kiribati, a country consisting of a string of islands in the south pacific, is freakishly close to Hawaii? Who knew?

Went to Tito’s for the umpteenth time, this time just for one day to do a survey of all the houses in Quebraditas, 93 to be exact. I needed to take down every house’s name, inquire about their drinking water/latrine situation, and draw a some-what accurate map, I hate to admit this, but I kinda planned it so that Tito would be out in the field working so I could maybe have a chance of finishing it in one day. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating every 2 hours and taking siestas intermittently in a hammock throughout that day, but with my mom coming, I had to finish. So, I was pleasantly surprised to have Tito’s eldest daughter, Bessie, accompany me on the day long expedition, and boy did I need her help. Aldeas don’t really follow the ‘grid’ method when city planning. You could say it’s kinda like Pittsburgh. . . someone threw up on a map and called it good. There are so many houses tucked away into the forests, behind other houses, in ravines, houses that look like shacks, shacks that look like houses. I would have been lost. Not to mention dechipering the names of the campesinos. Names down here are spoken with pride, and everyone has at least 4, if not 5 names. And campesinos have a different accent altogether. So, when I ask someone what their name is, all I hear is “Don Juan jumblemumbleskittyskat Vasquez”. Sometimes I only put the last name. That should be ok, right? NOPE. Many people don’t leave these aldeas, so everybody has the same last name. So, Bessie was my hero that day. We went up hills, we went down hills, we went back up the same hills, someone wanted to give us oranges, we were followed by kids, we stopped in the only house in the town with a very large tv to watch 20 minutes of a telenovela. It was amazing. We finished just in time for Tito to come back from the field and offer us coffee and pan, and I even got to take home some fresh pataste from his garden. Yum! To keep you all informed, I am currently working on the design right now. In fact, my spreadsheet is open, and I should be working on it but I am typing this instead. Once I turn it in, the waiting game begins on when and from where the funding will come from. Fortunately, I think the world is warming up to the idea of accepting the outcome our upcoming elections, which means for foreign aid might open back up. Keep your fingers crossed.

The second half of the month was spent with my mom, which there are no words to describe. I was so happy, almost to the point of euphoria upon seeing my mom at the airport. There is nothing more comforting that hugging your mom. Especially when you are in a developing country and an emotional yo-yo every other day. The extra bag she packed full of American goodies for me was an added bonus! We spent the first few days in Santa Rosa, walking around, seeing the sights. And of course, focusing on Honduran “cultural exchange”, like I had mentioned earlier.  In addition to meeting some of my co-workers, neighbors, and my landlady, my mom also had the pleasure of power outages, no water in my apartment followed by a flooded bathroom, and of course, cockroaches in my kitchen. As we all know, my mother is made of steel (as on of my friends puts it), so she helped me clean up the flood and managed to catch both of the very large cockroaches between a saucepan and a plate, while I screamed like a little girl in the background. On top of it all, my landlady called the next day informing me that a plumber was going to demo my bathroom due to a pipeleak below, so I should ‘go ahead an move into the vacant apartment next door’. So, my mom and I rallied and made the swift move in no time. Thanks for working on your vacation! I also introduced her to the Honduran phenomenon of cutting in line. Not that I taught her how to cut in line, but simply how to keep a stiff shoulder so not to lose her spot to someone else. But, she did enjoy some strange fruits, such as lichies, which are red and spiky, but taste like a grape, and grenadinas, a close cousin to the passionfruit. I did not make her try nance.

After her introduction to Santa Rosa, we hit the road to Copan Ruinas, the only Mayan ruins located in Honduras. Copan Ruinas is very tranquila and has a very European feel to it. Coffee shops, dreaded backpackers, and hippie markets line the cobblestone streets. We soon found ourselves at fabulous café munching on Thai green curry and a cobb salad with real lettuce (not iceberg) and bacon! Yes, real bacon! I was in heaven! In addition from the mini-culture change from the rest of Honduras, the ruins were breathtaking! I have never seen any kind of ruins before, but my mom has and she said they were pretty spectacular. We spent a good three hours wandering the immaculately green grounds (it would put Augusta to shame), looking a stelas, temples, and mounds while reading about their significance. Looking at the ball courts, I read that if you were the unfortunate soul to lose a ball game, you would be sacrificed. Now wouldn’t that be great if we put that idea to use in the states? Then, our society wouldn’t be inundated with disgustingly overpaid, underworked, sports stars. And I digress. Then mom and I came to temple 16. Deceiving to the eye, it appeared like any other pyramid-like temple. However, 2 separate temples are buried beneath; one was discovered just recently. They have tunneled cautiously through the temples, careful not to disturb what’s above. Unfortunately, most of the tunnels are off limits to tourists, and the few that are open are ridiculously overpriced. So, we read about it instead in an archeology magazine that she had brought from the states (along with many back-issues of the Science Times, please send more!).

After Copan, we made our way back to Santa Rosa for a few more days before our big trip to the beach. Of course, I had contracted another amoeba, which required some medical attention and a crap load of pills. Somehow, my mom didn’t get sick once. Like I said, made of steel that woman is. We celebrated her birthday with some of my friends here and the next day we were on a bus up to Tela, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Our hotel was located right on the Caribbean beach, with water as warm bath water. A little less pristine than Utilia, but I didn’t care. We took a trip to Jardin Lancetilla, a botanical garden that houses tons of plants, fruit trees, and an immaculate river that was clear as glass (an anomaly here in Honduras).  We stumbled upon a university student who was studies there, and was super eager to give us the grand tour, and of course practice his English. He took us all over the place, identifying plants, picking fresh liches from trees, and dragging us to find the “largest” tree in the garden. My mom understandably was tired from the heat and the hiking, so when I (sola) went to find the “largest tree” with our guide, I should have known better than to go with him. In Honduras, everyone estimates “5 minutes” to arrive at your destination, which is a lie They tell you what you want to hear. So when 20 minutes passed by while hiking, I got concerned about my mom. When I returned, my mom had told me that a passerby informed her that it was “bien peligroso” for her to be there by herself. Boy, did I feel like an ass and a bad daughter. Fortunately, that passerby notified the park security about it. Wow I am such an ass. Thank the lord nothing happened there, but, as life goes, ironically my mom and I were robbed on the beach right around our hotel at 11:30 in the morning. Talk about karma. What the hell did she do to deserve that? I’ll spare details, but her passport, among many other things were stolen. After a long and chaotic day talking with my pop (who was surprising calm), the police (useless), the US embassy, and the Peace Corps, we headed down to the capital the next day on the 6am bus. Once again, who was calm and collected? Yup, you got it, my mom. I was crying, yelling, and swearing up a storm, both in English and Spanish. I did laugh once though, when the man at the hotel assumed I was pregnant and told me not to cry because it would upset the baby. “I am gordita, not pregnant, idioto” I said laughing and crying at the same time.

But not all was lost in our vacation. My mom and I had a blast in the capital. The embassy was really nice about issuing a new passport. We went to the mall, went shopping, ate at TGI Fridays, and caught an afternoon matinee at the movies. All of these things I detest in the states, but LOVE here. There’s something comforting about it. And my mom hadn’t seen a movie in years, I’m talking 15+ years. We met some characters making huge business deals in suits and ties at the swanky hotel, where we enjoyed appetizers (I’m talking brie cheese) and happy hour specials. But as all good things come to an end,  my mom made it to her flight ok (although a day later and in a different city). I was really sad to see her go, and my (new) apartment is still not the same. However, I did finally get back to work and am happy to be back in site. In addition to my water design, a new project I’m tackling involves teaching a local women’s support group how to bake! I think I have found my calling. All week I have been testing cake and bread recipes using cheap, locally available ingredients. Talk about a fun science experiment. I’ll keep you all posted! Until then, enjoy the pictures!

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Troublesome Tela Baking!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Deb  |  November 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Kathryn, I just discovered this blog (though I am sure I was notified of it once upone a time! I miss you and love hearing of these crazy adventures (especially the part where you are swearing in both english and spanish :o)). Loves and hugs!

    Reply

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