Archive for December, 2010

Truth be told we are not totally clear on the history of the chimeneas tradition in Trinidad.  Chimeneas are paper mache figures that generally have a cultural significance relating to current events.  The chimeneas are put on display in the town streets and on the final day of the festival are burned.  The tradition started very small-scale (decades ago) and has transformed in the past several years into what are now known as Chimeneas Gigantes….because they are literally gigantic.   The past couple of years have seen a heavy political influence which evokes mixed opinions from the Trinitecos, but most folks seem to enjoy the festival nonetheless.

As for us, we had been hearing about the chimeneas for months and were not quite sure what to expect.  Early in the week we took a tour of the chimeneas while still under construction and were quite impressed by their scale.

Big guys

By the time Saturday rolled around we noticed an influx of “city folk” in our little town.  While sitting in the park we noticed things we haven´t seen in months including women smoking cigarettes (that´s how conservative our town is).  We were also surprised to find that Honduras has a bohemian scene – hippies, musicians, and artists were everywhere. 

On display

Despite our first thought, this is actually supposed to be the president of Honduras

Honduran Minister of Education


Attention to detail

Perhaps the most controversial


Honduras has jam/rock bands! Café Guancasco

Monster on fire

Thousands of people (mere feet away) and 50 feet of flames...we kept our distance!

This guy had smoke coming out of his mouth and ears

Can´t wait to see what they come up with for next year!


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Our recent trip to Tela wasn´t entirely spent lounging on the beach and at the pool.  We managed to tear ourselves away from the sun and sand for a few hours to visit Lancetilla, the second largest tropical botanical garden in the world. 

In 1925 the United Fruit Company hired William Popenoe to study all things about the banana plant and thus began Lancetilla.  Popenoe expanded his research to a miriad of tropical plants and is credited for bringing the valuable African Palm to Honduras.  In 1932 Popenoe´s wife, Dorothy, died at Lancetilla after eating an unripe akee fruit that was thought to have poisoned her.  The park is said to be some of the best bird watching in Central America, over 300 different species have been recorded. 

Here are some photos of our visit…

The infamous fer-de-lance or barba amarilla (yellow beard), venemous pit viper. Luckily we did not see any others!

Bamboo Tunnel

Poisonous plant


The not so infamous barba negra (black beard)

Admittedly we found the park´s history a bit more interesting than the grounds themselves.  Lancetilla is visited by over 30,00 visitors a year and is still an active research station.  We´re glad to have crossed Lancetilla off of our “Honduras To-do List” but in reality the park is probably better appreciated by birdwatchers and those with an interest in botany.

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There are many different ways to be a productive Water and Sanitation PCV.  After more than 6 months in site, I want to share some of the expectations I had coming into PC and some of the realities I have encountered.  I hope that this will be helpful for the incoming H18 training class that will be joining us in February.

I was classified as a W/S Engineer due to my degrees and experience in civil engineering.  Based on my previous experience, the materials provided by PC before I came here, the technical training I received in my first three months in Honduras and my assigned work counterpart, I had certain expectations as to the type of work that I would be doing.

I assumed that I would be doing many topographic surveys followed by hydraulic designs which I would hand over to my work counterpart (a local government agency) so that they could get funding for construction.  From talking to other W/S volunteers, this is a possible scenario and it seems that many volunteers end up doing just this over the majority of their service.  As a water resources engineer (my job in the States) and my several years of experience as a surveyor, I was sure that this is what I would be doing.  I had prepared mentally for this and was ready to hit the ground running when I got to Trinidad; however, the reality I encountered was much different.

My work counterpart doesn’t quite function how I expected.  They haven’t been involved in a single water or sanitation project since I have been in site (they have shown minimal interest in a couple of projects I suggested that we look into).  The vast majority of the work that my counterpart has done since my arrival has been road improvement and paving projects.  The extent of their involvement in water resources work has been in a regulatory role; reviewing proposed projects designed by local engineering/construction companies.  Unlike some of my fellow W/S volunteers, I haven’t been asked by my counterpart or any of the municipalities in my area to do much water resources work even though they are all completely aware of my abilities.  On the bright side, this means that they are hiring Honduran surveyors and engineers to do work that I could’ve done for free – which is the way it should be.

As a result, I have branched out to work with other NGOs such as International Rural Water Association, Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC), and Water for People.  I have also, with a lot of help and support from Kristi, started working directly with small rural communities without any outside support in the project development stages with the hope of attracting funding and support from organizations such as the International Rotary Foundation and Engineers Without Borders.

My role, strictly as a surveyor and water system designer, has evolved to include many other aspects of international development.  While I sometimes feel jealous of my fellow W/S volunteers who have had ample opportunities to do topo surveys and hydraulic design, I am grateful for the varied experiences I have been afforded and look forward to continuing to build on these experiences over the next 18 months.

The lesson to gain from my experiences (at the ¼ mark) for the incoming W/S PCV and to all other potential future PCVs is to come into your service with an open mind.  It is fine to have certain expectations, but be ready to use the situations and events that you encounter as your guide to make your service unique and fulfilling.

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