Monday, April 30, 2007

Cellphone

BTW, I have a cellphone now, my number is 504 9837-9755. I believe you dial 011 if calling from the USA. You can also send me text messages for free from this website: http://www.tigo.com.hn/

The site is in spanish, so here's how you use it:

1. On the homepage there is a red/pink box in the lower right hand part of the screen. The first box is the area code, and should be preset to 504.

2. The box next to the area code is where you enter my number: 98379755

3. The box next to my number is where you put your name.

4. Click 'Invitar o Adicionar' (my number should appear in the box below)

5. Enter your message in the text area below my phone number.

6. Click 'Enviar Mensaje'

7. If I have money on my phone (it's a prepaid thingy) I can write back and my message will appear in the lower text area, like a chat session.

Trujillo

Thursday through Saturday was my first visit to Trujillo, which will be my community for the next two years. Before the visit, we had to meet our counterparts. On wednesday morning, we hauled all our luggage to the central park in La Paz, where we were met by a bus carrying the business group from Cantarranas. It was great to see old friends again after 5 weeks apart, and we shared stories and site hopes and expectations on during the bus ride to Siguatepeque, the location of our "Community Partner Day."

The event was held in a private conference center outside of Siguat, probably the nicest accommodations I've had since arriving. After unloading my stuff and eating lunch, I met my counterpart. She impressed me as being motivated, friendly, and very outgoing. She works for the Foro Nacional de SIDA (FONASIDA - The National AIDS Forum) in Trujillo. We talked a lot about prevention efforts underway, and working with people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Ever since working with Healing Waters in San Francisco and learning about the PLWHA initiatives here in Honduras, I have been really excited about the prospect of having a site where I could support organizations and groups that do such work.

The day consisted of activities to help us and our conterparts get to know one another and know what to expect from one another. It was fun, but after packing all night long I was ready to go to sleep. But, after the activities and dinner, there was a talent show. I have to admit to being pretty pessimistic about the whole thing and wishing I could just go to bed, but it was a lot of fun. One counterpart from Olancho sang several beautiful spanish ballads, another pair did traditional folk dance. But the most impressive was a Garifuna counterpart to danced Punta for us. Punta is a dance brought to Honduras by the Garifuna. The best way I can describe it is belly dancing on speed. Very entrancing. The music was largely percussion and very similar to some rhythms I used to study, and I'm definitely going to seek out someone who can give me some music lessons in Trujillo.

The next day we traveled to Trujillo. The director of the Health Project gave us a ride to La Ceiba and we took a bus from there, but the trip still took a good 9 hours. I don't think I'll be making many trips to Teguz once I get to site this weekend. But, the tradeoff for the isolation is a lot of natural beauty and a very tranquilo community (but with many opportunities for work). Trujillo is right on the beach of the Bay of Trujillo, a natural cove that makes for very calm, warm water. It is where Columbus landed during his third trip to the Americas in 1502, so there is a lot of history including an old fortress and cemetary.

I stayed with my counterpart, who is Garifuna, and she and several others in the neighborhood showed me all over town and introduced me to several dozen people on Friday. I was invited to meals, and greeted warmly by all. There are pickup basketball and soccer games nearly every day which should help me get to know a lot of the younger men in the community. Trujillo is pretty big (about 33,000 in the town and 43,000 in the municipality/county) and it is going to take quite an effort to integrate into the community and get handle of who's doing what there. I've been brainstorming different ways of getting to know people and organizations, and will have my work cut out for me when I get back. But it is all very exciting.

There are other volunteers in Trujillo. Two Peace Corps volunteers, and a canadian volunteer with the NGO Pure Water for the World. They invited me over on Friday night for dinner, and brought out a big cake to celebrate my arrival. It said "It's a Boy!" because for a long time they had been referring to me as "it" since they didn't know the gender of the volunteer who was going to arrive.

Saturday I left Trujillo and traveled to Olanchito, Yoro with my sitemates. This was partly for logistics, as the trip from Olanchito to Teguz is a little shorter, and the bus from there is much nicer than the one from Trujillo. The bigger reason was the Carnaval de Jamo. The Carnaval de Jamo is an annuel celebration in Olanchito where people eat iguanas. Jamo is a kind of iguana that they used to eat, until it was hunted to extinction. Now they eat a different kind of iguana, but still use the original name. We were there to eat iguana.

Iguana is served rostizado (roasted) with casamiento (beans and rice) yucca, plantain and iguana eggs. The meat is dark and tough, but pretty tasty. The iguana skin looks rough and scaly, but was actually pretty tender and tasty, like the skin on roasted chicken. The part of the meal that took the most courage to eat were the iguana eggs. Iguana eggs have skin instead of shells, the consistency of a thick plastic bag. It's very hard to break the skin, so you have to bite the skin and tear an opening in order to get at the contents of the egg. As soon as you do, the egg squirts out into your mouth. The egg matter tasted vaguely egg-like, but had the consistency of liquidy, lumpy oatmeal. That consistency was probably the grossest part of it.

Unfortunately, I couldn't take pictures because of my lack of memory card, but a fellow PCV did and I will post them as soon as I get copies.

After lunching on Iguana, we watched a parade (Honduras' president Mel Zelaya was in it) and wandered the streets, which were filled with vendors, stages with merengue, salsa and punta groups, and lot's of people. We went to bed early, but the party went on all night long. There was still music playing when we got up at 6am to catch the bus to Teguz.

The bus ride to Teguz was 9.5 hours long. Then another hour to get to Santa Lucia. We were exhausted after the trip, and I'm very glad I only have to make this trip once more in the near future. Speaking of the future, tomorrow we do our immigration processing, then we swear in on Thursday, and travel to our sites. I think I'm going to break up the trip and stay with some PCVs in Santa Barbara, so I should be in Trujillo by Monday or so.

Monday, April 23, 2007

And the site is....


TRUJILLO!!!

Info: 1, 2


Friday, April 20, 2007

Why Honduras isn't the USA (and vice-versa) #1

Every so often, I'll see something here or remember something from back home and think of how said thing is emblematic of a cultural/social/political/economic difference between Honduras and the U.S. So, I'm starting to write them down, and here is the first installation of "Why Honduras isn't the USA (and vice-versa)."

1. Dogs get stuck together. This is a pretty common sight in Honduras. Two dogs, joined at the groin, standing around with sheepish looks on their faces. It turns out that when a male dog ejaculates, the head of his penis inflates and prevents him from withdrawing for several minutes.

2. Baby-making/having is no big deal. Cats and dogs are sexual creatures here (see #1). My host family's cat is going to have kittens any day now (I sure hope it happens before I leave). With humans there is also a notable difference. Baby-making is just not as big a deal here as it is in the U.S. Many people give birth at home with traditional birth attendants, and don't get as worked up about birthing and child-rearing as people in the states. In many ways it's refreshing. There's no playing classical music to your unborn child, no convenience cesareans, no epidurals, no doctors treating a completely natural process as an illness. But there are drawbacks as well: poor or nonexistent prenatal care, untrained birthing assistants not recognizing danger signs in time, or giving completely inappropriate treatment for obstetric emergencies.

3. Gestures. In just two months, I have learned to have completely nonverbal conversations. The following two exchanges can be accomplished without speaking any words:

Me: "Hey, can I have a ride?"
Driver: "Sorry, we're packed in like sardines."

Guy #1: "See that girl over there?"
Guy #2: "Where?"
Guy #1: "Over there."
Guy #2: "Man, she's hot. You should talk to her."
Guy #1: "No way!"
Guy #2: "You chicken."

The intricate sign language is fun to use but can be kind of off-putting before you learn what the gestures mean. Especially when people point with their lips. Yeah, it's as weird as it sounds.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quick update


Alfombras
Originally uploaded by StormyPetrel.
Tomorrow marks 2 months in-country. Like many of the aspirantes, I'm getting anxious to finish training and start my service. Exciting times are coming up. Site announcement is next Monday the 23rd. That's when all of us find out where we'll be working for the next two years. After that we travel to Siguatepeque to meet our counterparts (the Host Country National who will be our contact and possible coworker in our sites) and visit out sites. Then back to Santa Lucia to do immigration processing and say goodbye to our host families. Then swearing-in at the embassy in Teguz, then traveling to our sites.

I lost the memory card for my camera so I might not be able to post many pictures. :(

Two weeks ago was Semana Santa, a very big deal in all Latin countries, and Honduras is no exception. The picture here is of an alfombra (carpet) in Comayagua. Starting late at night on Holy Friday, hundreds of people work all night long in making these rugs. Most of them use dyed sawdust, but some (like the alformbra pictured here) are made out of "natural" ingredients like different varieties of beans and rice, fruit husks, wheat, etc. As soon as they finish, there is a big religious procession commemorating the crucifixion of Christ and all the carpets are trampled.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Pelea de Gallos

On Sunday I went to a palenque (cockfighting arena) to see my first ever cockfight. It was pretty interesting. I shot video:

video

The cocks have super-sharp blades strapped to one of their legs, and they go at each other, usually to the death. Bets are placed before each match, with the odds being made according to the weight and possibly the breed/pedigree of each rooster.