Monday, April 30, 2007

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.

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