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Archive for April, 2010

I think you get the gist now… the traveling back and forth for our visits runs about 4 to 6 hours, so I’ll just say my trip here was uneventful and I was damn glad when I finally made it to La Paz for our final visit before the end of FBT. 

This time in La Paz was much like the last minus the marathon baby shower and plus a neat little hike up to a marble church on a hill adjacent to La Paz which afforded us views of the entire town.  Also, to combat the near 100 degree heat, we found an internet café with A/C and coffee slushies (granitas).  I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking because I’m sitting here in La Paz as I write this and I want to get back to enjoying my time with my wife!  Kristi will have to let you know in a future blog post how long it takes me to get back to El Paraíso…hopefully less than 8 hours.

View of La Paz

La Catedral

The little green building in front of the big yellow building is Kristi´s room!

La pareja (The couple)

Sunset from the mini-porch

PS. David made it safely back to El Paraíso in 7 hours.

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Two weeks after David’s visit to La Paz it was my turn to hop the buses to El Paraíso.  Luckily my host brother takes the Saturday morning bus to Teguc every week for class so I was able to ride with him part of the way.  We set out that Saturday morning at 4:30am for the bus stop – arriving a few minutes later to find the bus had already left, ahead of schedule.  The bus company assured us the next bus would be leaving at 5:30 (sharp)…for some reason I was weary of their claims.  Well 5:30 was rapidly approaching and the departure time changed to 6:00.  My brother was anxious to get to class and I was anxious to get to Teguc and make my connection so we got a refund, hopped in a cab, raced toward the highway, and caught a bus to Teguc.  Unfortunately they are working on the highway to Teguc which can lead to some major delays.  Eventually we made it to the city, my brother put me in a cab, and we raced off to my next bus.   I had about 5 minutes to spare before the bus was supposed to leave and my taxi driver got lost!  As we were getting our bearings we saw the bus to El Paraíso pull away!  I thought I was going to have to wait another hour for the next one but luckily my driver saw another bus, phew.  I finally made it to El Paraíso at about 10:30am.

It was great to see David and finally meet his host family that I had heard so much about.  His little nephew was adorable, but not too sure about this person who had come and taken his friend away!  For lunch we met up with some of the WatSan’ers that I hadn’t seen for a month or so.  It was great to catch up with the guys and enjoy a really tasty lunch!  As a surprise, David had commissioned one of the other host moms who also bakes to make us a cake as a little treat.  He thought it would be a little mini cake but it turned out to be a full size bundt cake!  It was a delicious marble cake with caramel and crushed peanuts, yum!  Unfortunately later in the evening I got a bit of a stomach bug…perhaps from our lunch (one of the friends we ate with came down with a pretty violent bug)…and we decided to take it easy for the rest of the night.

Sunday I made it back to Teguc to the Peace Corps office to catch a ride with my training director.  On our way out of town I spotted something I never thought I’d see in the next 2 years…a Bojangles!  My heart soared at the thought of a Cajun chicken biscuit!  My training director dismissed it as ‘gross’, but I won’t be convinced until I’ve tried it myself.  I do have some doubts on the Central American take on a biscuit but I doubt it’d be the worst thing I’ve eaten here.

Well, there aren’t too many photos from El Paraíso…but here is the yummy cake!

Yum!

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Per Peace Corps rules, Kristi and I were allowed 3 visits during our seven week FBT period.  Each visit was paid for by PC but could only be for Saturday night.  For our first visit I went to La Paz to see Kristi the Saturday of Semana Santa.  It had been two weeks since we’d seen each other.  Luckily we had cell phones and were at least able to talk everyday.  The visit started at 3:15am Saturday morning in El Paraíso.  I had gotten ready the night before, but I wanted to make sure I had enough time to wake up my brother who was going to give me a ride to the bus station.  We headed out at 3:45am for the terminal and I left on the bus at 4:00am.  I arrived in Teguc with no time to spare, caught a cab to the next bus terminal and made it just in time to catch the 6:00am bus to La Paz from Teguc.  This trip only took about 3 ½ hours total, not bad.

It was amazing to see Kristi again.  We’d only been apart for a couple of weeks but it seemed so much longer since so much had happened in those two weeks.  We had a wonderful, relaxing weekend touring La Paz (see pictures below), watching movies, attending a baby shower for her host sister, and enjoying some great food!  We didn’t have too much time but the time that we did have was perfect!

Being that it was Semana Santa, the trip back to Teguc was a mess.  First I wasn’t able to catch the bus I needed from La Paz, but thanks to my extremely smart wife and her Spanish skills I was able to fit myself onto another bus that left only a few minutes later.  The road to Teguc was packed!  It took 3 hours to return on the same road that took only 1 ½ hours the day before… exhausting!  I made it to Teguc and got a ride to the PC office.  From there I rode with my boss Carlos back to El Paraíso; the return trip totaled about 6 hours.  All was worth it though to see Kristi.

Reunited and it feels so good!

Full view of the park...designed by a former PCV!

David´s sweet new jersey

PS.  Kristi’s host sister gave birth to a healthy baby girl a few days after the baby shower.

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Weighing Babies

One aspect of the health project in Honduras is increasing the child survival rate.  There are several factors that contribute to the low child survival rate including malnutrition, diarrhea, and other preventable diseases.  One way to combat malnutrition is to weigh babies every month, chart their growth, and counsel their mothers on nutrition, hygiene, and other relevant information.  Our group took a trip to a small aldea (community) in the coffee country of La Paz to practice the monthly baby weighing.

The mothers are already accustomed to the program and each has a growth chart for their child. First we interview the mothers to find out the background information of their family and living arrangements.  Sample questions include – how many people are living in the home, do you have running water, do you have a latrine or sanitary toilet, are there any pregnant women in the house, etc.  After that the babies are measured and weighed – something they really did not enjoy!  Next the baby’s growth is charted on their card and the mother receives a mini-counseling session on how her baby is progressing and things she can do/continue to do to support her baby’s growth.  Then the mothers are given a mini-charla on various topics, for example my group discussed the proper procedure for hand washing.

Unfortunately while we were on this visit we met a mom with 2 severely malnutritioned children.  The youngest was 18 months and weighed about 10 pounds.  The older child was 5 and weighed about 20 pounds.  Both children were listless and fussy with tiny limbs and very thin faces.  The older child did not walk or talk.  The worst part about this problem is that for the most part children in Honduras are not malnutritioned for a lack of food but rather for a lack of knowledge on behalf of the parents.  This was a heart breaking case but it was also a very real reminder of why we are here.

Here are some photos of the process…

Coffee country

Interview

These kids were very interested in me...

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Coffee Farm Visit

Our final trip of the last couple weeks was to an organic coffee farm.  Being a certified organic coffee farm helps get higher prices for the product.  Here they employ several practices that ensure the environment is protected during the coffee production process including using zero pesticides, recycling process water for fertilizer, conserving water during the processing of the beans, as well as other strategies.  As water resources engineers here, we can help to find ways to treat the “honey water” instead of discharging that water into the streams where it contaminates drinking water.  This process is done in a very small percentage of coffee farms here in Honduras.

I found this trip extremely interesting and really hope to have the opportunity to work with some coffee communities.

Pictures…

Aguas Mieles

The machines in this area hull and clean the beans.

The seedlings are first planted in raised beds until they have 3 leaves, they are then transferred to the bags to grow until they have 7 leaves after which they are transferred to the ground.

Here are a few more pictures of my nephew here and my Spanish class…

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As part of our technical training so far we have learned about breast-feeding, nutrition, reproductive health, abstinence, HIV, and lots more.  Several times throughout training we practice what we’ve learned by giving charlas (lessons) to various groups throughout the community.  For the charlas we work in small groups of 4-5 PCTs and we carry out the entire lesson in Spanish (obviously).  Here are some photos from a charla we gave to a group of 6th graders about self-esteem.

6th Grade Self-Esteem Charla

Working hard

Self-Esteem Shield

Throwing insults...good thing she has a shield!

Time for a game...

Pop the balloon with no hands!

Defining abstinence terms

6th grade boys

Health PCTs

Every project group practices giving charlas but as health volunteers we will probably be doing more of this in our actual jobs than the other groups.  The key to a successful charla is starting with an ice-breaker/interactive game and ending with a snack!  Somewhere in the middle you give a little talk on whatever topic from hand-washing to preventing HIV.

Because health and water/sanitation are so closely linked, there are a lot of great opportunities for David and me to work together once we are in our site.  For instance, we can give a charla on the importance of clean drinking water and hygiene to prevent illnesses such as diarrhea, intestinal parasites, etc.  I would also like to be involved in environmental education as well (I will save the rant on the trash problem in Honduras for another post!).

Still ahead in our technical training is a workshop on women’s health as well as one for men’s health (which we will be presenting to ~80 police officers).   This week we are also giving a 4 hour HIV charla to high school students – I will try to take some pictures to post, especially of the infamous condom/banana demonstration!

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Tree Nursery Visit

We visited a nursery recently where trees are planted and cared for in order to be replanted in micro-watersheds to help improve water quality at the different sources.  We made biodegradable planter boxes, sifted manure and dirt for planting material, planted and watered the seeds, and talked a lot about how to implement a mini-nursery in whatever community we end up living in.  A couple pictures…

WatSan'er Eyal

Forming banana leaf planters with wine bottles for molds

WatSan'er Mark

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