So we now have just a couple of weeks until we leave
For the last couple of months one of the communities near Gracias has been digging trenches for supplying water and are building a little dam in the river near our house to catch the water. They bring up lots of loads of gravel and stuff in these big trucks that can barely turn around. One day we were walking home from school and just as we were getting to our house we saw one of the big trucks coming down. We breathed a sigh of relief, glad that it was gone for the day but once we got right to our house we realized that it had ripped the power line from our house. I think this is a good opportunity to use the word flabbergasted and that we were. We just had no idea where to begin solving the problem. I like trying to fix things but I’m pretty scared of messing with anything electrical. We didn’t know who was driving the truck, who they worked for or anything. We don’t know any electricians, there isn’t really a power company so we thought we might be out of power for an extended time. We were just standing outside our house looking dumbfounded. Our neighbor who works on the water system came walking down the mountain as we were standing in the middle of the road and after looking at our faces asked what was up. We told him our plight and he was like, oh I have a friend who is an electrician and I’ll call him and get him to come up. With Honduran standard time measurement being on the slow side of things and everything we kind of just assumed that he might stop by in the next week some time and went inside getting all of our candles ready for the night. 15 minutes later a guy comes up to our house in a motortaxi and we thought he was picking up some tourists but nope it was the electrician friend. He and three of our neighbors proceeded to take apart the power line and the meter that used to be attached to our house and spent an hour getting everything reattached. We were worried that it was going to cost a lot of money and we might have to try going through the process of recouping it. So when we asked the electrician how much we could pay him and he said 100 lempiras ($5), we were amazed again at how helpful everyone is here. So far our experience here has been extremely positive as far as interactions go with everyone. Even more so than in the states my first reaction is to trust people and that makes every day that much less stressful and communications more open even with the language barrier.
Some of our kids making recycled castles for Earth Day
Leaving the kids is going to be so hard but the actual job we have here will not be that hard to leave. We work with a lot of really great people but this week we were reminded strongly of how little we entirely understand this culture especially at school. The last couple of months there has been construction on a new basketball court at school. They just finished it this week and it looks awesome!!
The first rule was that the kids can’t play on it for another week. The reason for this is that there was going to be an official dedication ceremony with some of the donors who gave money for the project and I guess they don’t want the court to be dirty. For the dedication ceremony two high school teams were bussed in from the other side of the country to play while the parents watched. The teachers played both the teams and surprisingly we won. It was sad that the younger kids weren’t allowed to come and watch the ceremony or the game. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders came but none of the younger kids could come. The principle told my class they couldn't come because they would be noisy and annoying. I was sad to hear the principal say that to my students and really sad that they didn't get to go to the ceremony for the basketball court, something that they are so excited about. There was another weird sports related event at school too. During one of Melanie’s classes the principal interrupted her class to ask her if she would play in the girls soccer game this weekend. The older girls at the school have been practicing a lot the last couple of months and have gotten pretty good but apparently this weekend they are playing a really good team and there is some rule loophole where people up to age 28 can play on the team. There are a lot of girls on the team already who don’t get to play much and it seems really strange to ask one of the teachers who isn’t part of the team to play and take playing time from the people who the team is meant for.
A few weeks ago we had a really nice time visiting the country estate/ farm of the founder of our organization. We caught a ride to La Union and had a tour of the school and some of the development things the organization is doing there. They really have made a big difference in that community and are starting to make big changes in the challenges that poor people in rural areas face. The only awkward part was when they wanted to show us the houses of a couple of the scholarship students at the school. We understand how poor people are here and it was a little strange going to people’s houses just to see how they live in poverty.
The leaders of Vida Abundante are such thoughtful and genuinely nice people and they have made a positive impact in Honduras. At the farm Eunice, the school superintendent, cooked us three or four 4 star meals and her dad, the pastor and leader of the whole organization, took us for walks around his property showing us what La Union is like.
Coffee plants in bloom in La Union
Some of the new classrooms they're building at school. The bricks are made from the dirt they used to level the land so the building cost is close to zero.
We’ve been so lucky this year to have so many friends come visit us. In the beginning of May our friends Klaus and Mimi came and visited us and they did an amazing job navigating the travel challenges the big H can pack. Mimi is in vet school at NC State and was doing a veterinary mission in Central Honduras and they stopped by Gracias before heading over there. All of our other visitors had rented a car or spoke some Spanish. They made it all the way from San Pedro (a cab ride and two buses) to Gracias speaking no Spanish. We met them in Santa Rosa and got to share the bus ride back to Gracias with some good 80’s tunes cranking on the stereo. They came in on Wednesday and after a good dinner at Guancascos we had a fully loaded down moto-taxi ride up the continually worsening road to our house. The tuktuks are only supposed to have a driver and two passengers but we were barely able to squeeze the four of us, the bags they brought, and our shopping for the week. After this and our other experiences I’m beginning to think Moto-taxi Diaries would be a great sequel to the motorcycle version. On Thursday they went up to the park and had a good meal and fun communicating with Dona Alejandrina. They did a really good job piecing together Spanish phrases and came back with some bags of her awesome coffee. Thursday evening we just relaxed around the house and made some pizza and then Friday they came to school with us. It is always so great having extra hands in the classroom and they were a really big help in my math class and with reading groups. Friday after school we hit up the hot springs with our neighbor Mauricio and waited forever for some tacos to tie us over until dinner. There aren’t many souvenirs in Gracias but Klaus found some gems at the hot springs, some polo shirts with pictures of the pools. The other funny part of their visit came on Saturday morning when we were taking them to their bus to get to Siguatepeque. We had heard that there was a 5:30 direct bus to La Esperanza which would save a bus transfer and got down there 15 minutes early and started looking for it. We found the type of bus that usually makes the trip and asked them if it was the direct bus. They said no, and so we asked when the direct bus was coming. The driver then sort of laughed and said there aren’t any direct buses and so we got their bags up on top of the bus. Just as about we were about to leave another bus pulled up that was the direct bus. The two drivers were apparently good friends and they probably chatted everyday at the same time. I guess the first driver was just trying to get the Lempiras. We were glad that there actually was a direct bus and got their bags on the right bus and said goodbye. It sounds like their vet trip was successful too. I think they dewormed something like 4,000 animals and Klaus went around to public schools doing a presentation on public health. Talking to Klaus afterwards I feel like he made a pretty astute observation about Honduras. He was talking about how isolated most of the country is. Almost the entire country is rural but more importantly 90% of it is really isolated. This isolation comes from the fact that infrastructure and basic services don’t make it very far at all outside of towns and cities. There are so few paved roads, water systems, and medical and educational services so that even if you live ten miles away from a town or city it might as well be 100 miles away.
The kindergarteners practicing their dance for gradutation.
A picture of a strange sky phenomenon we've had a couple of times called a Sun Dog. It's a big cloudy circle around the sun with a rainbow on the edge that looks like it is a spaceship coming to land.
Whenever you ask someone when some weather event such as seasons you get a vague unique answer from everyone you ask. The one thing that is more certain than the seasons is the selection of bugs and insects that visit us. It seems like we have become premium members of the Bug-of-the-Month Club. When we first arrived our main battles were against 2 or 3 different varieties of ants. Throughout the year they’ve progressed, sort of like video game levels, and I’m hoping we don’t have to face the boss insect soon. Back in May the cicadas came out, really loud and really made the summer here seem authentic. The dry whistling of cicadas is probably the sound that is most tied to summer in my mind. The interesting part was everyone knew that the cicadas would be here for three weeks. Apparently the cicadas are brought to life by the first torrential downpour that breaks the dry season and then killed 3 weeks later by the next torrential rain. The late May bug was quite a doozy, a ¾ inch flying ant that all woke up out of the ground one rainy night and swarmed the light emanating from our house. All the kids at school had been talking about them and how they like to fly in your ears and burrow so for a couple of days the kids were walking around with paper stuffed in their ears to protect them from the bugs. When we saw them outside our windows we thought, “Great. Well at least we have screens on our windows.” We thought we were all good. The next day we were cleaning up the kitchen and we noticed all these half-inch worm type things crawling around. We assumed at first that they’d gotten into our food and it took about ten minutes to figure out these were the same flying ants from the night before that had shed their wings and after looking found there more than 100 around our house. They were creepy and crawly and easy to kill but there was an added challenge in that our power was out so we had to add headlamps to the flipflops we were using as weapons, bent over walking around the house squashing the bugs. Our latest bugs are no-see-ums that come at night and bite you as you try to sleep. I usually have zero problem sleeping but getting bitten and then wondering about when you are going to be bitten next makes falling asleep a little tougher. The solution we have for getting rid of them is lighting one of those bug coils, but then our bedroom is a little lucky. We’ll have to wait and see what the bugs have in store for us these last couple weeks.
Our classes have been doing well though. We've both been trying to do some fun educational things to tie up the year. Melanie's class has been doing a morning news show with weather and announcements and a couple of her kids are desperate about being able to use their video cameras (aka arms with a hand "turning" the reel) to tape it. In my class we just finished up a Boxcar Children movie. We had a competition to see who could write the best Boxcar Children story and then we made it into a screenplay. There was a lot of drama about who got what part but it turned out pretty good.
As you can tell from the picture a couple of the scenes were darker than the original books.
We hiked up another trail on the mountain a while ago. The trail went along the ridge for a long time and on one side the mountain was completely scorched from the forest fire, but on the other side it was the dense green we are used to.
Melanie's class after winning the mass soccer game
So two more weeks and we’re on a plane back to the states for a full and crazy summer. We’re going to have tons packed into these last couple of weeks so I’m sure there will be one or two more blogs. We can’t wait to see everybody soon!