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Archive for August, 2011

For the third installment of the Parental Adventures, we took the Lee’s to Copán Ruinas (the archeological site).  Kristi and I had been before but it was still freakin’ awesome.

Cool

The boys at the ball court

Half of the ball court from high up on another temple

Dad wishes he was a Mayan god/king...

...so do I

Jaguar head

Jaguar babe

Handsome crew

After touring the ruins we went to the museum that is near the site.  Many of the more important stellae and carvings were moved from their original locations into the museum for preservation.

Replica of early Mayan temple that was discovered beneath the ruins of a later, larger Mayan temple

Awesomely preserved carving of a water deity

One more Parental Adventures left, then we’ll get back to some more work related posts…

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–Insert sarcastic commentary here about navigating Honduran roads in the tiny car.   Summary:  We left Trinidad and 3 hours (a million potholes, and countless speed bumps) later we arrived without incident at our next destination.–

On the next leg of our trip with Ma ‘n’ Pa Lee we visited the city of Copán Ruinas.  Copán Ruinas is without a doubt the prettiest of any Honduran city due to the wealth of income and international funding attracted by its Mayan ruins.  The city is something out of Disney World.

Besides the Mayan ruins, there are several other attractions including canopy tours, horseback riding, and tons of local and international restaurants.  We opted to skip the canopy tour this time (Kristi and I did it on our last trip to the area, survived, and are done) and chose to visit Macaw Mountain.

This beautiful bird sanctuary was founded by an American expat in the area and includes more than 20 species of birds.  The sanctuary is set in an old growth forest and the grounds are exquisitely maintained with loads of native tropical plants.  A local tour guide gave us a tour, in English, of each of the bird habitats.  Although it was her third day on the job she was very knowledgeable and definitely enhanced the experience.  (Side note: pretty much everyone in Copán Ruinas speaks English.)  The birds in the sanctuary are rescued or donated from private owners that could not properly care for the birds.  Birds born in the sanctuary are often released into the wild.  Many of the released birds live at the archeological park.

The tour concluded with an opportunity to meet several of the birds face-to-face.  I’ll let some of our photos explain:

Curious bird

Cafe over the river

Buffy (!!!) on the left and Mitzi on the right

Parents & Parrots

Although not pictured, my mom at one point had a bird on each arm and one on her head!

This crazy Toucan was hopping all over the place

As alluded to in the previous Parental Adventures post, I mistakenly erased all of my mom’s photos from her digital camera that included pictures from Trinidad and Macaw Mountain.

The little birdie told me to do it, I swear!

I have subsequently been banned from all electronics other than my cell phone.  This blog was actually dictated to Kristi as I am not allowed to touch her computer (joking – mostly).

Still more to come from Parental Adventures!

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After months of anticipation our very first guests, David’s parents finally arrived in Honduras! Several months ago I took some time and planned out the whole trip with the hopes of including a good selection of what Honduras has to offer.

The idea of making the in-laws endure the crazy bus rides of Honduras was kind of comical but definitely not an option. So instead we made them endure the stress of driving a clown-sized rental car on torn up, pothole filled roads with the reckless, common-sense-ignoring renegades that are Honduran drivers.

Once we had collected the parents at the airport and fed them popular Honduran food (Wendy’s) we headed in the tiny car to Trinidad. After unpacking the mountain of goodies (thanks to both sets of parents!) we headed to Lourdes’ to introduce everyone and pickup the tamales she and I had made the day before. All the girls were there including Lourdes, her two daughters, her mother, her sister Lila, and her daughter. I can imagine David’s parents were feeling a little overwhelmed at 6 girls laughing, joking, and talking over each other all in Spanish! The ladies also gave us some bananas from their farm (which they often do) so that the parents could try a banana straight from the finca. I could tell Lourdes had dressed up a bit and put on some earrings for the occasion, which I thought was incredibly sweet.

That night we had an authentic Honduran dinner of beans, tamales, chismol (pico de gallo), and avocado and couple of Port Royal cervezas. After some chatting and catching up we turned in early.

The next day’s adventure was to Lago Yojoa. Originally we wanted to visit Panacam Lodge for its hiking trails, waterfall, and bird watching but unfortunately we were unable to reach anyone by telephone to inquire about the road conditions. With serious doubts that our tiny car could handle anything outside the norm we went for plan B and headed to Pulhapanzak falls. David and I had first visited the falls in March and it was incredible to see the difference in the water flow now that we’re in rainy season.

Pulhapanzak

The next stop on the itinerary was a traditional fish lunch at one of the many restaurants by the lake. We chose one that we had been to before that had a second floor dining area with great views of the lake and even a dock to walk out on. David went for the whole fish while the rest of us enjoyed fillets and of course tajadas (fried plantain chips). When we made our way down to the dock we found it in a state of half completion but ventured out anyway to find gorgeous views, blooming purple lilies, and tropical birds at play. It was well worth the kind of scary walk out!

Someone's excited about their fish!

Purty

On the journey back we made the obligatory stop in Arada to stock up on more baskets. It was mainly so the in-laws could pick up souvenirs for those at home but of course I did some of my own shopping as well, I couldn’t help it! We found some really great ones and nearly cleaned the ladies out. Then it was back to Trinidad for an afternoon walk up to the cemetery where we found a herd of cows mowing the grass around the mausoleums. Another dinner of beans and tamales and off to bed we went, resting up for Part 2 of the Parental Adventures!

(Lack of photos to be explained in the next post…)

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While David was off playing in the woods with Glen, Patricia and I were busy in the campo kitchen.  (Please excuse the terribly antiquated gender role stereotypes).  To refresh your memory, Glen and Patricia were PCVs in Honduras in the 70s and are back for a few weeks to work with a local NGO.  Unlike our time spent with medical brigades and other gringo groups, there was no translating involved as Glen & Patricia have both maintained an excellent level of Spanish.  (Don’t tell but in some cases their vocabulary was better than ours, que pena!)

Anyways, it was a bit unclear what Patricia and I would actually be doing with the campo ladies.  Patricia had heard that she was supposed to be giving nutrition workshops and helping the ladies create a healthy recipes book.  As always, things didn’t quite turn out that way but we did have a great time and learned a lot.  This cooking experience coincides with a new book that I am reading, “A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances”.  What is so interesting to me is that many of the cooking methods described in the book as being used by women in the early colonial times are quite similar to method used by campo ladies!

Let’s start at the beginning, what is the campo?  The campo is the equivalent of what we call the “boondocks” or “the sticks” in NC.  Over time these clusters of houses in remote areas have become small communities with the addition of public services like schools, electricity, and in some cases, water systems.  The traditional campo house is a small square structure using sticks as framing with mud/adobe walls, dirt floors, and usually a tin roof.  The inside of the house is then divided in half with the front half being the kitchen and the back half being a shared sleeping space for all family members.  Some houses have a wall separating the two areas or some have curtains.  In one of the houses we were cooking in the mother used feed sacks to create a cloth wall.  The kitchen half of the house is equipped with a traditional woodstove or fogón.

Making tortillas on the fogón

The house may or may not have windows but will have a couple of doors to allow for air circulation.  These doors are usually left open all day which means the animals of the property, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, and even pigs, have access to the house.  This is one of the hygiene issues we try to address in communities but it can be very difficult!

Candida cleaning local greens for a blended green lemonade, tasty!

Back to the cooking experience: the first day we went to Candida’s house loaded down with produce and soy beans bought in Santa Bárbara.  Note: I did not necessarily agree with bringing in these products, I thought it would be more interesting to cook with what was available in the community.  However, this would have seriously hampered the nutrition aspect as I suspect we would’ve just been eating beans, eggs, and tortillas.  There is a truck that sells fresh produce but it only comes by once a month!  So in the interest of promoting a balanced diet with more vegetables, we brought them with us.

Sorting the vegetables before washing

Candida has received several trainings from the FUCOHSO team and is now an expert in making various products from soy beans including, milk, chorizo (sausage), cheese, and tortas (patties).  Part of the reason we cooked with Candida was so that Patricia and I could learn the soy recipes so that they could be taught to women of another community that we would be visiting the following days.  In the end we did mostly assisting and observing but I did make my first corn tortillas, which turned out rather well!  When the men folk returned from the fields we all enjoyed the super tasty soy recipes!  My favorite was the chorizo which was a mix of ground soy, chopped onion, tomato, green pepper, cumin, and salt which was then cooked and eaten with rice.  David’s favorite was the tortas which was the same mixture as the chorizo with added flour as a binder then shaped into patties and pan fried.  Yum!

Lil cuties, Andrea and Nicole

A few days later we went to a different community and women from the first community taught other women the soy recipes they had learned.  On the first day Candida had already ground the soy in her tabletop corn mill but on this day we had to do that ourselves.  In bigger towns ladies often carry their corn to an electric mill but in the campo everything is done by hand.

Little girls learn lifeskills early in the campo; milling corn for tortillas

By the time this lady and I finished milling the soy we were both dripping sweat!  Campo ladies make tortillas for every meal and therefore must mill corn three times a day!  (The masa will dry out too much if you do it all at one time).

My turn - cranking out ground soy beans

On top of milling multiple times a day the ladies must also go out and cut wood for their stoves.  In some cases the stoves are outside but they are often indoors and create a very smoky environment which is a leading cause of upper respiratory infections and pneumonia in these populations.  Many PCVs in Honduras have been involved in improved stoves projects that use a better design to reduce smoke.

Making soy milk and soaking vegetables in chlorinated water

Another aspect of the cooking demonstrations was to reinforce kitchen hygiene practices.  Since treated water is nearly nonexistent in Honduras, the ladies are taught to treat the water themselves with chlorine.  They are also taught to soak vegetables and produce in a chlorinated water to disinfect and kill harmful bacteria.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to monitor this practice because many families are very tight on money and see buying chlorine (even though it is cheap) as an unnecessary expense.  But it was great to see the ladies being so vigilant while we were there and hopefully enough repetition will help them adopt the practice in their own homes.

The ladies put out all the food and said "dig in!", notice who raced to the table

I love cooking so this was a really fun experience for me!  I also came to appreciate even more the luxuries we have in our home here such as a sink in the kitchen with running water, a gas stove, and a refrigerator!  Even though there is a rather limited amount of fresh produce in our town, I do feel lucky that we are almost always able to buy some type of vegetable.  Can you imagine only having fresh vegetables once a month?  (And forget about canned or frozen, those are even less available than fresh).

And lastly, here is the adorable kitten we almost took home.  The sweet doña of the house offered her to us but we let reason and responsibility win out.

Why didn't we take her?!

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