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Archive for March, 2010

FBT Week 1

Well we made it through week 1 of FBT.   It has been a bit of a tough week for us with being separated, settling in with new host families, and the loss of Davids grandfather.  We really wish we could be with our family (and each other) during this time but for various reasons it is not exactly possible.  Alas, we are forging ahead and ready to enjoy a weekend without class.

The upcoming week is a short one for us with no class on Thursday and Friday.  Easter week, or Semana Santa, is a pretty big deal here and there are lots of various activities planned within the community.  Also, David will be able to visit me in La Paz for one night next weekend.

As for now, I am off to a private pool in town with a friend for a little while and then a teen theater production this afternoon.  I have found a really quick internet cafe with brand new computers so I will be back in a couple days with various photos and some stories from La Paz!  Hasta luego!

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The majority of this post will be dedicated to the water system project that I was fortunate enough to be able to observe while in La Esperanza.  This project was a joint effort between Chris (PCV), an Engineers Without Borders group from Tampa, FL, and a small community named Segovia located just outside of town.

Segovia was formed by a collection of squatters who built small casas of wood, plastic sheeting, and other materials on a piece of land owned by a local bank.  The bank decided that they were ready to develop the property and had their engineers come up with lot divisions and designs for the roads and water and sanitation systems.  They intended on forcing the squatters that occupied the land off, but one of the engineers (with the last name Segovia) decided to advocate for these  people and lobby the bank to sell the land to the people who were living there for a reasonable price.  Now this community is known as Segovia.  It is very primitive – without electricity, water, or sanitation system.  A local missionary group as well as EWB has adopted this community and have been working alongside community members to provide basic necessities.

When I arrived on site on Monday morning the Segovians had already begun trenching for the water lines.  By best estimate, they trenched over a thousand meters of 2ft to 3ft deep trench in less than three days using only pick axes and shovels.  In the previous year an elevated storage tank and well were built to provide the water to the system.  This project was funded by the EWB team and the local missionary group.  The tank is still under construction, but as you can see from the pictures, it is very close to complete.  I was on site Monday and Tuesday and helped to lay the sand bedding for the PVC main as well as install about 800 meters of the main.  It was amazing to see how hard the Segovians were willing to work for this project.  Children as young as 5 years old were carrying materials around and elders were digging trenches and hauling sand.  Just as many women were working as men.  It was definitely inspiring to see people fighting for clean water.

Although I had to leave on Wednesday, the EWB team along with Chris will be there all week with hopes of having chlorinated water running to spigots at every home in Segovia.  Every day the community pitched in to cook a fantastic lunch for us, a meal I’m sure is beyond what they usually eat themselves: pork chops, rice, salad, and beans on Monday; beef meatballs, rice, and beans on Tuesday.  Of course both meals were served with fresh hot tortillas.  I ate as well in Segovia as I would in the States.

Other highlights from our visit included checking out the local scenery, climbing the 16 meter water tower (go Kristi!), and enjoying a couple cold beers after some very hot, long days of work.  Big thanks to our hosts Chris and Robynn.  Couldn’t have had a better volunteer visit experience!  Also I would like to thank the EWB team: Cristi, Brooksie, Andrew, and Eric for showing me how to get things done in Honduras.  Good luck with your future projects here and in the States.  We hope to connect with this group on their future visits to Honduras.

Check out the pics from our trip…

View of La Esperanza

Water source at the public baths

Banana walnut waffles...guess PCVs don't only eat rice and beans once in site!

Segovia water tower, under construction

Trench for water pipe

Kristi climbing the tower...scary!

View of Segovia from the top of the tank

Panoramic from the top of the tank

On top!

Kids assembling valves & spigots

Chris teaching locals to thread pipe

Everybody lending a hand

That’s all for now, folks!

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Teaser

We´re on our last night in La Esperanza for the volunteer visit.  We´ll have a real post soon with lots of pictures and details on what we´ve been doing here the past couple days.

One of the PCVs we are visiting also has an Engineers Without Borders group in town to work on a water project in a very poor area on the outskirts of town.  David has been working with them and I have been spending time with a female volunteer touring the town, markets, and learning about life in a big site.

We´ve had some great food including banana walnut waffles, homemade pitas with all the greek fixings, best baleadas ever, and more!  One night we went to a restaurant and got a family meal for the whole group – I took a few pieces of meat and passed it along.  Turns out I got liver!  Good thing I have a great husband who´ll trade 🙂

Tomorrow we head back on the early bus to Teguc to continue training for the rest of the week before FBT.  Later this week David will write up some technical information on the EWB water project with lots of pictures (including us climbing the new water tower and some panoramics from the top) and also some of the pictures I took of the city.

As always, thanks always for reading along with us and leaving encouraging comments – it is a real motivation to keep writing our random thoughts, observations, and experiences.   And feel free to give us suggestions of things you might like to know more about!  Nos vemos!

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Not much to say today…It´s Saturday – we made it through another training week and some Sat. school.  Today we are hiking to some nearby waterfalls with some other PCTs so that should be fun!   Tomorrow we all hit the roads for our volunteer visits.  We will be visiting current PCVs in their sites, observing their work, grilling them with all kinds of questions, and having a little fun too!  David and I are headed to La Esperanza which apparently is a pretty big town and is also said to be the “coldest” city in Honduras.  I think for this time of year cold means low 60s.  Bring it on! 

So I guess you noticed me scrubbing away at the clothes with a washing machine in the background!  I just assumed it was more of furniture than it was an appliance but I found out it does work but the family only uses it for washing very large things like sheets. 

As for the climate, we are not too sure about the seasons just yet.  Right now we are in the dry season which means warm/hot days and breezy nights.  Teguc is at a lower elevation and gets much hotter during the day…probably close to 90 degrees or even hotter.  Our training site is about 30 minutes outside of the city and in the mountains so we are treated to cooler temperatures.  We´ve had some hot days this week with temps probably in the mid to high 80s.  But luckily it´s not hot at night so we´ve been sleeping fine!

I´ve stopped updating you on the creepie crawlies because there are more than I care to acknowledge.  We continue to find ticks every now and then and even see them crawling on our floor in our room.  Some roaches and wolf spiders have also made an appearance.  Others in our group have had scorpions but luckily none for us yet!  When we got home from school today the fire truck was parked at the bottom of our hill and apparently the bomberos (firefighters) were up the mountain trapping a 2 meter long snake that was in someone´s yard!!  Our family assured me many times they don´t have snakes in their yard…hope not! 

Today for lunch we had nacatamales which are basically giant tamales with pork, rice, potatoes, and other things inside.  Quite delicious!  We´re still enjoying the food but are also looking forward to cooking for ourselves on the volunteer visit! 

We return from our visit on Wednesday and the following Sunday (3/21) we will depart for Field Based Training (FBT) for 7 weeks.  David and I will be living in separate towns (4-5 hours apart) during this time but the PC will pay our transportation costs for up to 3 weekend visits.  Both of our computers are loaded up with movies/tv shows and we have plenty of books to read to occupy our time when we´re not hanging out with our new host families.

Finally, props to Mom & Dad K for sending the first letter to Honduras!  Thanks for the card and the pictures!  We´ve heard this week from several other PCTs whose parents/family are reading our blog…hi!  Thanks!  If you haven´t already, send your PCT a letter!  Mail day was very exciting and we were happy to have something to open 🙂

Think that´s it for now.  Our next post will be more interesting with pics and details from our volunteer visit!  Nos vemos!

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Today marks 2 weeks in Honduras!  In some ways it seems like it has been a lot longer but the days also go by pretty fast.  We have already learned so much about Honduras and its people – imagine what we will know in 2 years!

One thing I´ve learned is there is a lot of work involved in maintaining a household around here!  From washing clothes by hand to making 3 meals a day from scratch (no box foods), it´s definitely a full-time job!  I´ve also been told many times that in this ´machismo´culture I am expected to take care of my husband and if others see him doing chores or looking sloppy it will look bad on me!  Not fair!  Good thing we´re here to share more about American culture, aka equal division of household chores!  I should say though that our host family is not machismo at all and our dad and brother both cook and contribute to the house as much as the ladies.

Anyways, here are some pictures from the weekend of washing clothes and making pupusas!  Our mother is a teacher and one of her student´s mothers came over just to teach me how to make pupusas.  She was a very kind woman and we had a great time chatting and cooking!   I think she is going to come back one more time to make sure I really got it.  Here are the pics…

Soaking clothes in detergent in the sink filled with water from the pila

Step two, scrub on the metal washboard. Use water from the pila to rinse.

This is the pila, right to the left is the metal washboard. This is where families store water to use for cooking, bathing, washing, etc. So far our family has had running water every day and only uses the pila for washing clothes. Other PCTs have been in houses where the pila is used for everything. Notice it is outside - ours is covered with a roof and apparently the government gives you chemicals to keep mosquitos from breeding in the water.

Sasha the cocker spaniel. Cute lil thing but probably the source of our ticks.

One of the salads to put on top of the pupusas. Beets, Cabbage, and Carrots - much like cole slaw and tastier than it may sound!

The other salad to put on top, cooked carrots, onions, and jalapenos.

Pupusas: make a masa out of corn meal and water. Grab a handful and pound it in your hands rotating it and forming a well. Take a blob of soft cheese and put in the well. Seal the edges and pound it flat with your hands.

Put them on the plancha and flip several times until they are golden brown on both sides. This is the fogon - outdoor woodstove.

Finally, eat and enjoy! Delish!

Ok, that´s probably enough pictures for now!  Obviously since we are blogging we survived our solo trips to the market in Tegucigalpa.  Overall it was a good trip and we are a little more familiar now with the transportation system.  This weekend we are headed to visit a couple of volunteers in the mountains for some fun and to see them in action!  Nos vemos!

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So our host parents went on a day trip today to the department of Choluteca (nicknamed CholuTexas) to visit a sick uncle of our host dad.  They felt terrible about leaving us so they put their son in charge of our meals and entertainment.  He woke up early to fix our breakfast and while we were at class he prepared us a delicious lunch of chicken tacos with chismol (like pico de gallo) and guacamole and a giant 3 liter of Pepsi (called Pecsi here).  Can you imagine an 18 year old in the States doing this?! 

Here are some other random observations on Honduras:

As PCTs we are given Walk Around money that equals 54 Lempiras per day.

$1 = 19 Lempiras;  1 hour in the internet costs 20 Lempiras;  Depending on the cell company a call to the US costs 2 Lemps/min;  1 stamp to the US costs 25 lemps

Tortillas do not always mean tacos.  As you read before we have tortillas at least twice a day.  David and I usually take whatever food is on our plate and make a taco with the tortilla, the rest of the family simple eats them on the side like a piece of bread.  One of our first nights our parents said we ate like Mexicans…always making tacos.  However, sometimes they actually are tacos!  We´ve had some delicious tacos of turkey, chicken, and refried beans.

Eating with utensils is optional.  Most foods can be eaten with your hands or with the help of a tortilla.

As noted in the title, Pepsi is called Pecsi here.  Our teachers said it´s difficult for Hondurans (or perhaps all Spanish speakers) to pronounce a P in the middle of the word.  Therefore, Pecsi.  You may also say ¨¿Que Pecsi?¨as in, ¨What´s up?¨ I think I will call it Pecsi from now on (even when we´re back in the US).

If it is below 70 degrees you should probably wear a toboggan or a scarf wrapped around your head/face, regardless if you are male or female.

It is polite to greet everyone you encounter.

And finally, watch where you step.  There could be anything from a sleeping dog to horse poop.

We are having a great time getting to know more about Honduran culture and our host family.  We feel really lucky to have gotten such a great family that really loves to teach us (through long explanations and at times grand role plays)! 

Tomorrow a family friend is coming over to teach us how to make Pupusas.  David first had these in El Salvador and really loved them!  As best I can tell they are basically a masa ravioli with meat, beans, cheese, or other things inside.  We´ll let you know after tomorrow!

Also on Monday we are headed to the market in Tegucigalpa.  After an intimidating role play this week about bus safety, we are off on our own to find the market!  We were given instructions (in Spanish) on how to get to the bus station where we will find our teachers.  Lucky for me I´m going with some of the Advanced speakers!  David will be going on Tuesday or Wednesday so hopefully I can give him some tips!

That´s all for now….Nos vemos!

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Typical Training Day

Here we are again!  We have received some questions about what exactly we´re doing and what our days are like.  So here goes…

5:45  Wake up, cold shower, get ready  (technically our shower has a device called an electroducha to heat the water but it doesn´t work)

6:30  Eat breakfast with the family (breakfast items include: eggs, chorizo, beans, tortillas, toast, “oatmeal” that is more like sweet soup, pancakes with honey, etc.)

7:05  Catch the bus with fellow PC trainees

7:30  Language classes in small groups of 4 or 5 (we were interviewed to determine our level, Kristi is Intermediate-Mid and David is Intm.-Low, all trainees must reach Intm-Mid in order to be sworn in as volunteers in May)

11:30  Lunch break – jockey for position in the microwave line and compare what our moms sent us (lunch items include: rice, ground beef with veggies, fried chicken, noodles with cheese sauce, spaghetti, bananas, cantaloupe, Ritz crackers once!, lots of tortillas, potato hash browns, etc.)

12:30  Begin afternoon session – we are beginning technical training within our project groups (Kristi is Health, David is Wat/San), during this time we also have entire group sessions about Safety & Security, Transportation, Food Safety, Health, Water Safety, etc.

4:30  Take the big yellow school bus back to our neighborhood

5:00  Arrive home and chat with the fam, do homework, tell jokes with our siblings

6:30  Eat dinner with the family, dinner is generally a smaller meal than lunch and may or may not include meat (dinner items include: plantains, yucca, beans, salsa ranchera (warm enchilada sauce basically), tortas made with rice and eggs, and of course lots of tortillas)

After dinner:  Finish homework, continue chatting

8:00-8:30:  Retire to our room and get ready for bed, by this time we are completely exhausted and fall asleep almost immediately (and have wild, vivid dreams induced by anti-malaria meds)

There are many roosters and chickens around where we live and they crow/squawk/sing/scream, etc. pretty much all night.  We are lucky there are none in our yard (which is fenced) and although we hear the distant dying sounds of various roosters, it doesn´t bother our sleep thankfully!

And now, we leave you with some photos from our training site and our hike in La Tigra.

View of the valley

Hiking in La Tigra, looks like NC!

PC truck & niño at the training site

Beautiful flowers everywhere, they call this one Napoleon here

Lito, the screeching parrot! He loves to talk in the afternoon

OK, that´s all for now!  We will take some more photos this weekend – we hope to go hiking to a nearby waterfall!  Also, if you have any other questions let us know 🙂

Nos vemos!

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