Laundry 101

If there is a hell, then this is it. I mean, the only way doing laundry could be worse here was if someone were to blast rachera music while I was doing it, which sometimes happens. So I’d thought I’d share with you how I do my laundry so you folks at home can be grateful for the greatest invention, the washing machine.

Hondurans have what is called a pila (pronounced pee-la). It is basically a giant utility sink filled with water with a washboard cemented to the top of it. It’s pretty brilliant, actually. Every volunteer I have talked to wants to build one in their backyards when they go back to the states. It’s a place to put your dirty mops, filthy rags, wash your dog, clean 16 lb turkeys, pot plants, retrive water for a buket-bath when your water system isn’t working, and unfortunately wash clothes. One drawback is that mosquitoes love the stagnant water so it is often a war zone when washing. However, at the Centro de Salud, one can pick up a tan, sand-like substance in a plastic baggie called abate (they pronounce it ah-bah-tay). Poke holes in the bag, drop it into the water, and it kills mosquito larvae. I actually have no idea what it is, although I think it is a pesticide. I don’t ask. All I know is that I don’t want dengue fever (aka break-bone fever).

So, back to washing clothes. I cannot lie to you. There is a drop-off laundromat in my fresa town. However, I use it only for washing sheets and towels. If I didn’t, I think I would buy new towels every time mine was dirty and probably would NEVER change my sheets. They charge 100 lemps for 5 lbs, which isn’t bad. Drop off your clothes, give ’em your number, they call when you it’s ready. So why don’t I use them regularly, you ask? Because there is a Honduran man there that likes to steal my phone number and call me and send me inappropriate text messages, that’s why. *Sigh*,  I can’t  win down here. I digress.

How to wash clothes by hand:

Step 1. Procrastinate doing your laundry until you have an obscene amount of dirty clothes on your floor and you are out of underwear.

Step 2. Swear, then gather up your clothes and your Ipod.

Step 3. Place clothes in a large bucket with water and laundry detergent to soak.

Step 4. Place hands in bucket and swish clothes around like a washing machine would (it looks like a really bad dance move).

Step 5. Pick an article of clothing out of the bucket and place onto the washboard. Roll what is called a jabon stick over article of clothing to add extra soap if necessary.

Step 6. Scrub the shit out of your clothing on the wash board (mine is made of concrete, which is why I have holes in everything I wear).

Step 7. Rinse off said article of clothing with a bowl (called a pana) of water from the pila until suds are gone.

Step 8. Wring out and hang up to dry on the clothesline.

Step 9. Repeat until finished.

And somehow, all of my clothes still end up dirty and soapy when dry. And I end up wet and angry and tired.

I want you all to now go down into your basements, laundry rooms, or your local laundromat, and give your washing machine a pat on the back, maybe even a hug.


March 6, 2010 at 6:50 pm 3 comments

Spectacular spectacles

March 1, 2010 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

A year and counting. . .

So yes, I know it has been a very long time (again) since I have written a blog. Fortunately, I have been in contact with the only person who reads it (my mom), since the last entry.

To be honest, I have been waiting for something spectacular (read: positive and exciting) to write about. But then I realized, every day here is spectacular: Of the nature of a spectacle; impressive or sensational. Something that is spectacular, as:

a. A single dramatic production of unusual length or lavishness.

b. An elaborate display.

Everything is a damn spectacle here!

So what have I been up to for that past few months, other than trying out new baking recipes, reading copious amounts of Bill Bryson books, and downloading the dance moves to Soldier Boy (yes I did that)? Well I have been working of course! Shocking, I know.

My first spectacle includes attending a water system inauguration in a local community. I didn’t have anything to do with their design, as it was done before I came, but I am currently training their Junta de Agua. They have named their water system “El Milagro” because it is, well, a miracle they have water. They live atop a mountain, and therefore had no water source for a gravity-fed system. The women fetched the water every day abajo, and now all the viejitas are about 4 feet tall with perfectly curved backs. With foreign money, the community drilled a 100+ meter well and then bought a pump to pump water up to a holding tank. So in true Honduran fashion, they had an elaborate celebration, which included prayers and thanks to God, diploma-giving to local officials (a favorite pastime of Hondurans), tortillas and fried chicken, coke and banana flavored soda, music, and inappropriate dancing by 6th graders who can shake their hips better than I can (tried to upload that video, check on Facebook). All these festivities started about 2 hours late and lasted 3 hours long (again, in true Honduran fashion). I was accompanied by the engineer in my office, Marquez, who by the end of the party was taking tequila shots with the local mayors. I was invited to the “man’s circle” for beers and shots, but politely declined because the women were glaring at me. Ok, well I drank a beer. Ok I drank two. Why were the women staring at me, you ask? Well first, I am perceived as a potential “threat” in terms of their not-so-faithful husbands. Second, women drinking beer Honduran culture is frowned upon and often times associated with, well, less-than-holy behavior. But when the mayor of the town is giving me free beer, what is a girl to do? Needless to say, it was a spectacle. And a great experience. The community is so very grateful for water, and every time I go to give a training, they all come out in full force. Nothing like community participation to prove that water is not taken for granted here.

On the theme of community participation, I recently visited another community located on top of a mountain to see about a water system. El Conal is located in my municipalidad, but to access it you must drive through another municpalidad, San Jose. It has recently been blessed with electricity and all of the hardware is installed, but of course, due to political and bureaucratic reasons, the electricity has not arrived due to its unfortunate location. They would like to be connected to electricity grid from San Jose because it is so much closer, but because it is part of Santa Rosa, there are issues. Sigh. Anyhoo, I went to visit the community with Marquez on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. We met in their school house, and as soon as the cow-bell was rung, hordes of people filed into the room. Practically all of the community showed up and crammed in. The patronato (head of the community) explained the predicament. The community currently has 3 sources of water, all of which are located about .5 to 2 kilometers away and 100 meters below. Women and children make the schlep every day and carry buckets of water on their heads up to their houses for drinking, cooking, and bathing. “Can we see these sources?” I inquired. “Vamonos!” he exclaimed. And with that, all 30+ men, women, and children set off on foot to show us their water. What a spectacle that was! “Todos tienen ganas de agua,” I heard one campesino say with a chuckle. The community hiked down the hill, then back up, then back down, over creeks, under barbed wire fences, through cow pastures, and managed to accompany us the whole way. After 2 hours of hiking through the woods wearing my sandles, carrying my GPS, notebook, camera, with children and ticks all over me, we carefully documented all of their sources, and managed to catch a beautiful sunset. So, in summary, this is what we are looking at. Obstacle #1, they do not own the land where the sources are located or the land they live on for that matter. Obstacle #2, the do not have electricity (yet) to operate and maintain a pump. Obstacle #3, the water sources are probably less than a gallon/minute, which negates the use of a pump. What to do? Well, we asked the community to search for another feasible water source and secure their electricity first. In the meantime, I am mapping out the community. Let’s hope for the best

Next spectacle (or maybe cluster-f is a better word). So the Mayor of Corquin, a local municipalidad where my dear friend Hannah resides (she stars in many previous blogs involving topo studies and insects), has asked us to figure out why one of their conduction lines is not providing the amount of water according to the 1995 design. Although forensic work is usually fun, in Honduras it is a bit more difficult. You know the project will inevitably be an uphill battle when the muni takes a week to locate their water system design, in which half of the plans missing. Guess it wasn’t really that important? Anyways, Hannah and I pieced together what we had and concluded that the future growth for her town was underestimated. Next step took us to the water source itself, located in Parque Nacional Celaque. The fontanero (plumber, literally, but the keeper of the system) Melvin kept telling us to expect a grueling, long hike for at least half the day. Fortunately for us most Hondurans exaggerate, so when we drove the furthest we could up a logging road, we walked maybe 15 minutes to the caja toma. Ha! All seemed to be working well, except for a little leaf clogage. We walked down the system a bit and were then informed that none of the air valves worked in the system. We then noticed the rompecarga overflow was abnormally high. A trip to the 15,000 gallon distribution tank revealed only 4 inches of water at the bottom! What is going on? Our next step is to aforar (taking flow measurements) at each inlet/outlet of the system; the dam, pressure breakers, distribution boxes, and tanks in order to figure out where exactly the low flow originates. Of course, the past 2 times we have tried to go, we were fijese que’ed with excuses, some true, some not. And I wasn’t even mad this time! I skipped my usual tantrum of spanglish swear words and just laughed. This means I am fully integrated into Honduran culture, or maybe just stopped caring.

So while I was in Corquin getting fijese que’ed, Hannah and I celebrated our 1 year-in- country date, February 25th. Can you believe it? I am sure all of you jerks at home forgot I was gone, but I sure haven’t! We were well equipped with a kiddie pool, a trash-rap playlist on our Ipod, 11 lemp beers (about 50 cents a pop), homemade cookies, and a bottle of the bubbly. Of course, Murhpy’s law struck and a cold front came, the water went, and so did the electricity. So no kiddie pool, no showers, but of course everything else was consumed.  To reflect on the past year, here are some of the life lessons/things I have learned:

1)      Have no expectations

2)      Be patient, (or be less impatient in my case)

3)      Be flexible

4)      Be content with what ya’ got

5)      You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need (thanks Mick Jagger)

6)      True friends are hard to come by

7)      True friends are easy to keep

8)      It’s ok to say no

9)      How to bake bread

10)  How to speak Spanish (kind of)

If those ten things are all that I get out this whole experience, well then, I will be quite happy. Until next time!

March 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm 2 comments

Christmas and New years pics!

January 10, 2010 at 7:52 pm 1 comment

Feliz Ano Nuevo

Hace mucho tiempo que he escrito algo. Sorry, it’s been along time. And I would like to say I have been very busy with work and saving the world, but that really isn’t the case. I was pretty much a bum the whole month of December. Partly my fault, partly baby Jesus’s fault too. The municipalidad pretty much shuts down for 3 weeks around Christmas time. My office happened to be open, but 75% of my co-workers took vacation. I wanted to check out potential water sources for 2 communities, but after being fijese que –ed twice (meaning I showed up to the office with my GPS, lunch, and gear, only for them to tell me, ‘ohhh katy, lo siento, pero . . . FILL IN BLANK WITH EXCUSE’), I decided to take my own vacation too. I know what you are all thinking, vacation from vacation. Well. . . . .yea.

It all started one day when miraculously a wireless internet signal showed up on my computer. A blessing and a curse, I say. I proceeded to lock myself in my apartment for an entire week to surf the web in search of the end of the internet. Well, not really. The only pages I look at are gmail, toxic facebook, BBC, and an obscene amount of cooking blogs and recipes. Within this one week, I had planned the most delightful Christmas dinner and had found the world’s best cookie recipes. On my hiatus, I also read a ton of books, which is an anomaly, because anyone who knows me knows I don’t really read. Of what I’ve read, I recommend: The Brief and Wondrous life of Oscar Wao, Water for Elephants, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and The Sex Lives of Cannibals. I am in the middle of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I also highly recommend.

I did, however, leave my house for several Christmas parties and church celebrations. I went to my office Christmas party, complete with carne asada, plato tipico, ronpopo (eggnog), a live band, and enough rum, whiskey, and beer to shake a stick at.  I was delighted to find out that the “special” beer of the night happened to be Milwaukee’s Best. The Beast. My office knows how to get down without being fresa like most of the folk here in Santa Rosa! After the eating, drinking, dancing, and the karaoke I was forced to sing with my counterpart (seriously, he dragged me up on stage), the highlight of my night came at the end (sarcasm). We all participated in amigo secreto, aka secret santa. The name of the game is to step in front of the microphone and describe to everyone your amigo secreto so people can guess who you have. Well, due to some fluke, another fellow (who shall remain nameless) and I managed to get each other’s names. We were the last ones standing of course, and I was a bit relieved that I did not have to speak Spanish into a microphone.  Well to my surprise, my (hammered) amigo secreto grabbed the microphone, in front of ALL of my co-workers, and proclaimed, “Mi amiga secreta es bien chele, la gringa mas bella, que pechosa, que PECHONALIDAD!” The rough English translation: She is white, the most beautiful gringa, how busty, nice tits! Yup. This is how he described me. And this is why I don’t go into the office very often. I placed my head on the table, and held back tears and the urge to throw some blunt object in his general direction.

I also attended an Evangelical party/service with my dear neighbor Carol. I like going to these things just so I cant get to know more people. It still is hard to integrate when you are in a site of 30,000+ people. It was a wonderful service, and still can’t get over how happy evangelical services are. Where are all the dreay, solemn, catholic chants dripping with guilt? I mean, yea, the evangelicals are still are preaching about El Senor, but when everyone is smiling and clapping hands, how can you not join in?

So those were my Christmas parties/obligations. Fortunately, Christmas day turned out great! I had 10 close friends and their visiting family members over for a 2-day eating marathon. The menu included: vegetarian chili, cornbread, sesame bagels, dill dip, real cheese (not Honduran dry squeaky cheese), guacamole, chizmole, potato latkes, potato perogies, stuffing, steamed veggies, butter crescent rolls, 2 roast chicken, chicken gravy, and a mountain of Christmas confections, 7 varieties to be exact. Yes, I look at food blogs, a lot. I know the feast sounds pretty common, but it was a miracle to find all the ingredients here in Honduras. It was another miracle to cook everything on my 2 burners and tecknochef toaster oven. Carol was nice of nice to lend me her oven for the chickens. Although it was sad to be away from family in the states, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We played white elephant, you know, that game where you find whatever is lying around the house and wrap it up to give away. Everyone draws a number, and based on the number, you wait your turn to pick a gift from the center. Choice gifts this year included: 2 kazoos, a gorilla costume, maracas, and a grapefruit scented eye pillow. I hope you all saw the kazoo video I posted on facebook. We also played a couple rounds of world geography, thanks to my mom’s world map she sent me (well, it’s supposed to be donated, but it has found a place on my wall) and my sitemate Bryan’s uncanny resemblance to a gameshow host. That map was referenced many times that night.

After Christmas, the gang left, and new gang came it. Many of my friends’ parents/family members have been visiting this past month, so I have been lucky enough to meet most of them. After entertaining more visitors, and embarked on a magical journey to Honduras’s only microbrewery to meet up with another volunteer and her family. The microbrewery is owned by an ex-pat and is located on Honduras’s only lago, Lago de Yajoa. Well, turns out I never really saw the lake because I was too busy drinking pale ales, ambers, and stouts and Bsing with friends. And I don’t regret it. I even ate a real hamburger.

New Years found my in the Rio Cangregal, right outside Parque Nacional Pico Bonito, La Ceiba. Stayed in a quaint jungle lodge along the rio. Gorgeous. I am always amazed how beautiful this country is. Went boulder jumping up and down the river. While rafting, I managed to get thrown out and under the raft only once when we flipped on a rapid called “The F**ker”. Appropriately named, I thought. Grateful I didn’t fall out more that once, the guide had it in for me when he caught me mocking his New Zealand accent. It wasn’t on purpose I swear, it’s just a bad habit! The next day we leisurely kayaked through a mangrove and a lagoon that led to the beach. Despite being bit UP by mosquitoes and sand flies, we got to see some monkeys, a ton of cool birds, some bats, and a breathtaking vista of Pico Bonito. Couldn’t have asked for a better new years.

Back in site right now and trying to get into the swing of things. I am very happy to be attending my Sunday markets again. Let’s say it is like church for me. The fruits, vegetables, flowers, eggs, beans, etc. are so fresh and colorful and beautiful. It will definitely be on thing I will miss dearly when I return to the states. I even took a picture of my produce today to show you all how wonderful it is! (Did I mention I look at food blogs?). I bought a 6 pound papaya (according my scale), mandarinas, grenadinas, radishes, a pound of carrots, a pound of onions, and a pound of broccoli all for 70 Lempiras!!!!!! That is roughly $3.70. Amazing. Ok, enough rambling for now. I will write more when I have something work related to say.

January 10, 2010 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

World map casi done!

As you can see in the pics I’ve posted, the World Map is almost done! After a grueling day of erasing pencil gridline with teeny tiny erasers, my sitemate Bryan and I came to the conclusion that we would have to finish next week. Question: If you were making a world map, would you want to put country names on it once you had finished? Bryan and I have been fighting over this for about a week. HE says that the names will make the map ugly, I say the names will make the map useful, no? Fortunately for me, some of our friends voted on it, 3-1 say the names go! Thanks Mo, Rachel and Harrison!

So you are probably wondering how I am writing this at 8 at night? No, I am not at the office (I’ve avoided that place all week due to my touchy feely counterpart. No he has not stopped his shenanigans). I’m in my apartment miraculously getting an unknown wireless signal. A blessing and a curse! I haven’t left the house except for a few quick errands in 2 days. I am ravenously searching the internet for delicious cookies recipes and christmas dinner ideas. I am also pathetically watching Muppet Chrismtas specials off of youtube in 5 parts (the internet isn’t too fast). December has been a slow month. The kids are out of school, joining the campesinos in the fields to cut coffee. It doesn’t help that folks are already starting their vacations for the christmas holiday. So, here I am, trying new baking recipes and reading book after book. Can’t complain, but all the alone time is making me miss family and friends.

What else? Oh yea, the elections went alright, maybe you have read on the 20th page of the newspaper. Word on the street is that the US, among other countries, is recognizing the outcome of the elections (booyah, maybe funding will start to come in again!) Zelaya (ex-president) is STILL in the Brazilian embassy, and the Honduran congress voted 11-14 NOT to reinstate him a president. I have a feeling he will be tried on some sort of charges, but who knows.Graffitii is sill pretty rampant around here too;  “fueron golpistas!” or “no vote!” scrawled in red of blue. People try to cover up the words with the same color paint, but it still looks pretty crappy after it’s covered up.

Still trying to make peace with the ladron that robbed my mom up in Tela. Also trying to overcome my fear of men down here, but it sure didn’t help when I was running on the track the other day and passed a man blatantly masturbating while watching me run. How messed up is that? And that was the second time!

So, like I said, I am keeping busy inside my apartment. My friend Rachel and I cut down some juniper branches and made myself a real wreath the other day so my apartment smells like a Christmas tree! Still not quite the same without snow. Hope all of you are enjoying that winter storm I’ve been reading about! In the meantime, remember that the holidays are NOT about presents (sorry I am getting all cheesy), but about family and friends and thanks and forgiveness (yea, I guess it IS  Jesus’s birthday too).

December 10, 2009 at 2:18 am Leave a comment

Ta da!

December 10, 2009 at 1:44 am Leave a comment

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