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Archive for June, 2010

As many of you probably remember from your childhood, when it seems like there is absolutely nothing in the world to do you gotta put on your thinking cap and get a little creative.  So one slow, hot, sweaty Sunday here in Trinidad we decided to take a little hike up to the town cemetery just for fun.  Early on in our time here I spotted the colorful mausoleums on top of the hill (from very far away) and commented to David that “those might be some really nice apartments up there!”  He just laughed and said, “I don´t think you want to live up there.”

So we made the short hike up a very steep hill (in mid-day sun) to check out the cemetery and the city view.  Here are some pictures from the top…

Trinidad from above

Apartments...of sorts

 

One of the tenants took a photo for us... (joke by David)

 

Malcolm Delaney loves cemeteries!

Thriller?

 

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Here are some important lessons learned in our first month in Trinidad.

  1. Boredom can almost always be quelled by people-watching in the park.
  2. It is possible to sweat 24 hours of every day and not die.
  3. Fans rank between fire and the internet for greatest innovations ever.
  4. A trip that takes 25 minutes by private vehicle will likely take 5 hours by bus.
  5. Don’t be discouraged by a “full” bus, there is always room for 50 more people.
  6. Cold showers immediately after exercise cause arthritis and possibly death many years later (according to practicing physicians).
  7. You must wait 30 minutes after a meal to shower, this too may cause future death.
  8. Ants outnumber people 1,000,000 to 1.
  9. Food chain: cats eat geckos, geckos eat mosquitoes, mosquitoes eat us (we do not eat cats).
  10. The assumption is that we are brother and sister; never has a hondureño assumed that we are married.
  11. Coca-Cola is single-handedly rotting out the teeth of every hondureño, one child at a time.
  12. David sweats like a fat hondureño (as noted by a fat hondureño).

 As well as a few more pictures from swearing in:

Chillin´at the Embassy

With Luis, one of our awesome trainers

Some more of our awesome trainers, Javier and Jose Luis

We´ll miss you, Blue!

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This week I gave my first charla to the pregnant mom’s club in Trinidad.   The club consists of women from our town and the surrounding smaller communities.  Once a month the women travel to the health center for their monthly check up and also meet together as a group to receive a small charla.  I was in charge of planning this month’s charla which was on breastfeeding. 

It is extremely common to see women breastfeeding their children in public in Honduras.  I have seen women whip out their breasts on the bus, in the waiting room, in the park, in a meeting, etc.  In America we get a little squeamish about this for some reason; I have even heard very passionate arguments from people who are ‘disgusted’ to see a woman breastfeeding in public.  But here it is great to see because that at least means the mother is breastfeeding. 

There is a great emphasis on breastfeeding here because so many children suffer (and die) from malnutrition, diarrhea, and other preventable diseases.  The risk of diarrhea is multiplied when the mother chooses formula due to poor sanitation of the bottles. 

However, many mothers are attracted to formula by shiny ads with chubby, smiley babies.  Mostly due to a lack of information, some mothers think it is better to have a chubby, formula fed baby with diarrhea than a smaller, healthier breastfed baby.  Some women also think that because formula is expensive, it must be better.

Side note – aside from confronting a lack of education, we are also up against a strong network of beliefs passed down through the generations among village women.  Here are some examples of beliefs I have heard in my short time here – after giving birth a women should not bathe for 40 days during which time she should also eat only tortillas and cheese; cloth diapers hung on the clothesline at night will make the baby sick; male babies should not be breastfed past 1 year because it will cause nosebleeds; a person deemed to have a ‘strong look’ or ‘bad eye’ should not be permitted to look at the baby or the baby will become sick (a red bracelet is worn by all babies in Honduras to protect them from the bad eye), etc.  This is not to say that every woman in Honduras shares these beliefs but they are widespread enough that I have encountered each more than once since being here. 

So as you can see there is a lot of ground to cover on the topic of breastfeeding.  To be effective, a charla must not be too long or too broad or else the mothers are likely to get lost along the way.  There are also women in the group who have very little education and cannot read.  So the idea is to keep it relatively short, include pictures when possible, and focus on a few key points. 

The key points of this charla were – begin breastfeeding as soon as the baby is born (also beliefs that the child should not drink the colostrum), give only breast milk for the first 6 months, and no bottles!  The discussion also included advantages for the mother and child, when, how, myths, etc.

A future blog post will cover the logistical obstacles I face in delivering a simple charla (for instance start to finish time for this event was 5 hours with the actual charla taking only about 30 mins.).  But in the end it was a success and the first of many, many more charlas to come.

And finally, a good thing about being around a bunch of moms all the time is you get to have some fun baby time (then give them back when they get fussy).  David and I had a fun time playing with this little boy during one of our meetings this week.

 *Don´t know why it turned up so blurry…but the cuteness comes through.

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Now that I’ve been here a bit longer I can provide a little more detail on how it seems my work will be here in Trinidad…

C.R.A.

Thus far, my counterpart agency, C.R.A., has been very busy with various projects throughout the mancomunidad; however, they have not been very busy with projects that I would be of much help with. As I said in my previous post about work, I have been doing some preliminary work on a possible landfill project as well as several wastewater treatment lagoon projects. I have completed the research stage of these projects and assembled a presentation on each topic to be given to the individual municipalities. Also, I have been helping with two water system improvement projects. The flowrate study is complete and the next step will be to complete topographic surveys for the proposed new water lines for later designs. Juan (my counterpart) and I should be working on these topo studies within the next month or so. This is all very interesting work but due to the pace of work and the fact that Juan is working on 2,389,423 other projects unrelated to my abilities, this has not been keeping me very busy…

Other work

I have come to the realization that the best course of action for me is to mix my work with C.R.A. with work of my own. For this reason, I have begun the process of soliciting other work in communities that my agency is not currently working with. To do this I am compiling a database of small communities in the area and documenting demographics and information about their current potable water and sanitation situations. The local chapter of Cruz Roja has been very helpful by sharing their files with information about the communities that they currently are working in. I will also be asking other PCVs in the surrounding areas to help me gather information using a simple survey form that I am creating. I plan to use this database in order to select the communities with the greatest need as well as the apparent motivation and resources to take on a water or sanitation project.

The following is what appears to be a very general workflow that a wat/san engineer can expect:

1. Identify a community in need of a project

2. Gather necessary feasibility data

3. Complete a topographic study

4. Complete a design with engineering drawings and calculations

5. Compile a budget for construction/project implementation

6. Solicit funds using the design and budget

After funds are obtained construction activities can commence. Construction is usually completed by community members with the support of outside contractors, masons, and plumbers. PCVs, if fortunate enough to obtain funding and still be around for construction, may be involved in the construction and construction supervision. Hopefully this gives you an idea of how a PCV wat/san engineer might operate down here. Obviously, this workflow is very general and many, many differences will be encountered from project to project.

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Way back during FBT, the WatSan´ers decided to have a beard growing contest.  It became apparent early on that David was a favorite and ultimately he won the superlative of “Best Beard”. 

Before getting rid of it entirely he decided to try out a few new looks.  Please vote on your favorite in the comments. 

And now for your viewing pleasure…

Full beard

English beard

Fu Manchu

Standard mustache

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Usually, the first thing Hondurans do when they meet a gringo is invite them to eat, have coffee, or… go to some property they own hours away.  In the U.S. if a perfect stranger invited you to join him and his machete-toting friends on a trip to the middle of nowhere (where nobody would hear your screams), you’d probably decline.  That’s why it’s a little funny that here, in a country much more dangerous than the U.S., we found ourselves on the following excursion.  (Don’t worry, we did ask a trusted friend beforehand if we were likely to return from this voyage and he assured us we were in good hands).

One of the professors at the high school here in Trinidad has invited us several times to visit his coffee/plantain/banana/spinach farm.  After a few weekends of complete boredom we decided to take him up on his offer.  Not knowing what to expect or how long we would be gone (this is true for everything that we do in Honduras), we met Ramon in front of his house at 11:00 am on Sunday morning.  We all got in the cab of his ’77 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ pick-up and headed out.  The drive took about an hour and twenty minutes with a top speed of 10 mph due to the unpaved mountain roads and the condition of the FJ.  This particular FJ is started by jamming a kitchen knife directly into the starter which dangles from the dashboard.  I’m pretty sure I could’ve run to the farm quicker than we drove.

David & FJ

The farm was beautiful.  We parked at a house on the property and met the tenants, one of which was a giant pig.  Armed with a machete and our camera, Ramon, Kristi, and I set out on our jungle adventure.  First stop was a spectacular 18 meter waterfall with a small wading pool below.  The water was cold and refreshing.  Living near the waterfall were snails with cool spiral shells.  After a bit of wading around, it was onward and upward.

Ramon y machete

Kristi and the waterfall

David wading

Snail taking a bath

There were three beautiful streams on his property as well as several small houses where campesino families live and help tend to the property.  We stopped by one of the houses for some suuuuper sweet coffee; by sweet I don’t mean awesome, I mean 80 spoons of sugar.  Most of the coffee here is served pre-sweetened and is difficult for a black-coffee-man like myself to stomach sometimes.  We scored some bananas and some spinach too on our hike around the farm.  This was the first spinach we’d seen here, but are excited to try and grow our own once we get our own house.  It appeared for a while that we were quite lost in the jungle because Ramon kept stopping and turning around.  There was no trail to follow just Ramon and his machete.  Kristi and I exchanged more than a few “I think we are lost and gonna die” glances, but finally we emerged from the jungle only a couple hundred yards from where we started.

Bananarama

Hiking down the stream

Little brown butterflies

The ride back to Trinidad was relatively uneventful except for one curious cow that seemed to think we were in its way.  She gave us a few nudges but eventually moved on and we were able to get on home.

Moooooove

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More Pics

By request, here are a few additional pictures of our town.   At first it seemed Trinidad might be a bit small but we have decided it is the perfect size for us.  In the few short weeks we have been here we have already gotten to know many people in the community and we can´t walk anywhere without seeing someone we know.   There are still plenty more people to meet but we are off to a good start and feel very comfortable and safe in our town.   

Central park where we frequently enjoy evening ice cream cones

Back shot of church and surrounding mountains

Hilly street leading up to our house on the right corner

David in front of his office building

Sunset view from our front stoop

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