Even as I begin to adjust to life here in Honduras, every once in awhile I catch myself and realize that my surroundings, my activities, and experiences everyday here are unlike anything I would be able to do anywhere else. Whether it be the beautiful mountain drive to the hot springs, being able to navigate my way to the best local Pupuseria (a great local food we´ve discovered) from anywhere in the city, or learning a Honduran perspective on both US and Honduran politics. I think slowly the comfort zones of everyone in our group have expanded and will continue to do so as we continue our travels and eventually find work and friends in Yorito. Despite minor setbacks like attempting to navigate a bathroom in complete darkness (due to occasional power losses) and a general lack of clean clothes, we´re still foraging ahead and loving every minute of it!
So it has been a while since the last post. Interestingly enough, this is the final day of our trip. So really, this entry will contain our activities from July 12th to today. I suggest firing up the microwave and get some popcorn.
The last two and a half weeks have been more than hectic. Our project took some harsh turns as Cochabamba was entirely out of rebar. No rebar, no significant building. So we put together a pilot program and furnished the building with a refrigerator, chairs, tables, a stove, a small library composed of donated books, and school supplies. The pilot program ran three days a week with Tuesday and Thursday left for minor construction. We divided the children of the community by grade. Teaching hygiene has been our main focus. We have been encouraging hand washing and teeth brushing.
The water has been hooked up to the local pump and electricity will be connected soon (we bought all of the materials and left them in the hands of Ernesto, the man in charge of the entire operation). The project will take much more work before it is a full fledge orphanage. Bolivian law says that an orphanage must have a wall and a security guard. We have quite a bit more to go before this project leaps from a community center to an orphanage. This is not at all to say that our work is in vain. More than 60 kids are a part of the program that will run to the end of August. Reinforcements will arrive in March to continue the construction.
Since the last post, the culinary adventures of our group have continued with great satisfaction. We have tried beef heart, kidneys, beef tongue, and llama. Beef heart is interesting. Chewy, flavorful, a bit grainy, definitely worth trying. Most of us, including the “vegetarian” of the group enjoyed it. Kidneys taste much like sausage. Though we were never informed of which animal the kidneys were actually from, they were delicious. Beef tongue is tender, juicy, and lean. Cooked for hours in tomato sauce and spices, served with potatoes, pasta, and beans, the tongue leaped to a Bolivian favorite. Llama is not just tasty. It is the manifestation of delicious. It was partnered on a skewer with bacon, fresh red peppers, and onions. Try llama.
On our weekends, we have been making a point to get around Bolivia. One Saturay we decided to travel to Mizque. We set off at 7AM and stopped for a lovely breakfast at a truck stop. After that we went to a lovely, relatively overlooked ruin called Incallajta. A beautiful waterfall cuts the ruins in two. The history is fascinating and the site is astounding. We made our way to Tatora, where the intended 50 kilometer bike ride was intended to begin. Five minutes in, one bike broke. Thirty minutes in, the bikers got split up. An hour and a half in, two more bikes broke. 3 hours in, the bikers were reunited. 4 hours in, another bike broke. Around 8PM, in an attempt to cross a river, our Volkswagen bus broke down. We resorted to cuddling for warmth in the frigid Andes for a night. It was below freezing. At 530AM the owner of Casa International and one of the adventurers hiked and biked the remaining 40km to Mizque on the remaining two bikes. Those that stayed behind enjoyed basking in the river and a wonderful view. A taxi picked up those that stayed behind and all were reunited in Mizque. We enjoyed a steak dinner that seemed to be an entire cow. The next day, we made our way home on a bus.
This last weekend, we traveled to Lake Titicaca and spent a night on the Isla de Sol (Island of the Sun). Unfortunately, we never made it to the Island of the Moon, but regardless, Lake Titicaca is overwhelmingly fascinating. Consider this, 13000 feet above sea level sits the highest lake in the world. It holds the largest volume of water in South America for a lake. Surrounding the lake are brown mountains, around those, 16000ft snow capped Andes. No more than 10 boats are visible at any time and all of them carry no more that 30 people. The lake is pristine. The islands are a direct connection to the history of the religion of the Aymara. It is difficult to grasp the concept that Lake Titicaca is actually real.
After completing our national park project in 2 short days, we indulged ourselves in a whale watching island adventure. About 20 miles off the coast from Puerto Lopez there is a small island, around 3 miles long, named “isla de la plata” that is better known as the poor man’s galapagos. On this island you can see blue footed boobies, sea lions, masked boobies, and many other interesting species. We were lucky to be led on this journey by 2 of the park rangers from Machalilla, one of whom served as our guide once on the island.
We departed from the beach right when the fishermen were finishing up their morning exchanges. We hopped onboard and we very unprepared for the nausea that was to come, especially on my part. The waves were powerful, smacking the boat.
A typical day in the Old Town area of Quito involves passing by Romanesque churches with towering arches and intricate rose windows, juxtaposed with small shops and helado venders, occasional cobble street roads, and narrow paved streets flowing through a tall valley of multistory edificios. Spanish-Franco architecture elegantly blankets the tiendas with pastel hues of peach and sky blue, finished with adorned balconies. A typical day involves taking numerous taxis, which are just about as common here as in New York. It also includes witnessing black clouds of smoke that offend the lungs, perpetually exhaused by sardine packed buses, underneath the perpetually creamy white clouds that blanket the Andes verdes. Taking the bus this morning blasting Michael Jackson’s eighties hit “Beat It”–bus rides are always an interesting experience, involving passing vendors, guitarists, and the occassional beggar–I pondered all the curiosities of a city affected by the amenities and conformities of globalization. Here, American music and culture (food, fashion, language, you name it) is what is in. And I mean all of it: including the fast-food that we begrudgingly look down upon as the disease of the American multinational corporation infecting the entire world. And the white-washed overpriced taste of Hollister and Abercrombie. Yep. Dancing at a bar we listend to numerous American techno hits. Learning English is the road to success here. Talking to Tatchi about my apathy towards foreign language studies in high school presented a stark contrast between my situation of already speaking English and the grave importance of the American economy and language for Latin American countries: it is more of a necessity for students, accounting for the extra drive.
But then then there are certain things that are uniquely and distinctively American that have not been adopted. One of them includes excessive apologies and unnecessary politeness. “Don’t be sorry,” Alicia tells me with confidence. “That’s very American.” Another thing is the need to plan ahead, to organize our lives and the world around us. Busses don’t have any schedules, and plane flights are impossible to arrange far in advance. Also the weather is unpredictable. I wanted to know how the weather would be like for the weekend, and that was simply not forecasted in Ecuador. There is no Ecuadorian weather station–the vicissitudes of nature’s variable moods are deemed beyond human measurement. And that makes sense in a place where there are only two seasons per year, yet four seasons in one day! (Quote from Luchito, our excellent invernadero-builder Political instability is prevalent in Ecuador tambien. Ecuador has had eight Presidents in the last ten years, governance changing almost as erratically as the weather. As a result, political activism is ferfent and strong. I asked how old you have to be to vote and was very surprised to discover that you only need to be sixteen to vote (and only 18 to drink, of course), making me ashamed that I was one month too young to vote for Obama in ’08. The importance of politics is readily visible when walking anywhere in the city, for nearly all the street names are dedicated to historical events and important people. There is even one
Trapped in Paradise
Prose inspired by la Cascada de Peguche, Otavalo
Standing in the mouth
of river sculpted hollows
We watch the outpouring
of momentous froth;
A tongue of unrelenting roar
Pounding and pounding to form
ripples upon the cavern floor
And drips of saliva mist along
the moist, padded walls of moss.
We are at the mercy of nature’s
will and wonder, power and grace
We are at the hands of her care
and the hospitality of her
Humble abode’s dreams and dangers alike.
We are small, powerless;
We are nothing in comparison to
this grand mouth within which we are enclosed
To be consumed, mesmerized, and entranced
while consuming, with each and every
one of the senses wide awake
No one with a human heart
could resist being partially consumed
Stretched to bit of bias before this
To see the mystical and precious power that
the passivity of nature provides
And the grace of which none can deny.
We are Jonas trapped within
the mouth of the whale
Much bigger and grander and
more forgiving than us,
this mouthful of wonder
shows us both beauty benevolent
and the price of bounties burned.
After a week of crazyness and graduation…we finally made it to guatemala! It is more beautiful than I could have every imagined. I am in the town of El Jicaro in the district of El Progresso in Guatemala. Our town is safe compared to others. We are staying in a quaint little hotel called ¨Mi Casita¨painted the traditional bright colors of Guatemala and adorned with the typical Guatemalan hammock. The people here are constantly smiling and staring at the awkward ¨American tourists¨. We certainly stick out among all the locals. Tuk Tuks are these little open air, red cabs that swerve violently throughout the streets, without regard to pedestrians, dogs, or anything else that may be in there way. So far it has rained everyday, but not the whole day. Right now it is raining with thunderstorms, but it is a refreshing change from the dry California climate.
We met the women we are working with on Tuesday. Our driver, Lepe, drives us there and back everyday for about 20 quetazles, which is the equivalent then less than 3 US dollars. Breakfast is about 15 to 20 quetzales and dinner is about 20. Everythin is about 2 to 3 US dollars. As our dollar goes a long way, people are still suffering the turmoil of poverty. Many live in homes made of scrap metal, wood, even hardened clay. The little rooms are at max capacity as the whole, often extended family piles together. Many are illiterate. Tortillas and beans are the staple diet which they make from scratch daily on a stone stove outside heated with fire and wooden logs. Chickens, stray dogs, and sometimes even cats roam the village as if they owned it. The village that the women live in is caled ¨31 de May¨. Even though they lack our daily American indulgences they are grateful for what they have. They´re permanent warm smiles tell me so everyday. I have taken 100s of pictures of the kids. They are breathtaking.
The women of 31 de Mayo seem to need a lot of help. They are still in the beginning stages of starting their own shampoo business. We are here to really organize their ideas and make the investments that will lead to a sustainable future for these women and their families. 2 weeks is not enough, but any short amount of time is enough to make an impact.
- A Dog, A Cow, and Llama – Es Una Vida Dificil June 9, 2011
- Home Again! June 21, 2011
- One Week has Flew By! June 6, 2011
- Pre-Cameroon Musings May 30, 2011
- Time dilation in a far away nation June 7, 2011
- Announcing our 2013-14 Student Board Members May 20, 2013
- Getting down to the nitty gritty May 19, 2013
- Pre-Departure May 16, 2013
- Getting Ready For the Trip! May 15, 2013
- And the journey begins! …well almost. May 14, 2013
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