Monday, March 28, 2011

The Men of Honduras

It's been a while since I've stopped in to let you all in on my life in Honduras but since I have one month left in country I felt it was about that time. This post will be based on the men of Honduras...the good the bad and the ugly.

Let me just say that in my town there is not much eye candy. The men here are either married with lots of kids, town drunks, or my colegio students. I recently received a phone call from a mysterious man named Oscar who apparently lives in the next aldea over and is "in love" with me. I responded to this phone call by telling him I had no idea who he was and so it was impossible for him to be in love with me. Something tells me he probably sat in on one of my condom demonstrations during an HIV prevention charla.

Those of you that know me are well aware that I have not dated anyone since coming to Honduras. Mainly because I have not been attracted to anyone. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the men here are ugly. I'm just saying that the majority of men here are under 5'5'', usually missing a few teeth, work really hard in the fields with limited access to showers (meaning their smell leaves some to be desired), like to show off their panzas and in general just look like they've lived a hard life.

I had basically given up on the idea that I would meet a Honduran man who could light my fire. Then a friend from the states came to visit me and we decided to venture over to the beautiful island of Utila. Turns out that all the good looking men have been hiding out on this little oasis. Obviously I was in heaven as every man I met got better looking - and spoke English so I didn't have to make an ass out of myself trying to communicate in Spanish. These guys had great smiles with full sets of teeth, muscular builds, were tall, and for those of you who judge a man by his hands (sweet Jen!) had very large and strong hands.

So for all those volunteers that have given up on Honduran men...go to Utila. Go scuba diving, watch some sunsets, drink yourself retarded, dance yourself clean, and enjoy the views!

Shot time!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Bichos Muertos is the name of a game I play with my students after I give a charla. The purpose is to review material discussed that day by making teams race against each other to answer questions I ask. To mix it up a little I’ll sometimes ask them to bring me back something other than an answer. For example, a shoe, a watch, a cell phone, until finally the last thing is a dead bug (bicho muerto). It’s a lot of fun and my kids LOVE it.

However, in my house this game takes on a whole new purpose and love is not the word I would use to describe it. Basically, I kill any and all living creatures that enter my home. I know it sounds cruel, but as a single lady living in a tiny village in the middle of Honduras it must be done.

Let’s talk about all the fun creatures I’ve had the pleasure of meeting while innocently hanging out in my house.

Geckos – these are one of the few animals I let live and mostly because they help eat things that like to bite me such as mosquitoes, ants, and spiders. I can stare at these little guys for hours. I once even got a late night ‘Skinemax’ showing of two geckos enacting in foreplay. It involved strobe light flicks of the tale, cat and mouse chases, and catcalls from both parties. It entertained all the lucky volunteers who stared at the ceiling for probably an hour mesmerized in disbelief by the gecko porn we were watching.

Millipedes – my new farm house was infested with them when I first moved in. I even looked up how to get rid of these creepy crawlies only to discover it involved filling any cracks in the house and eliminating any leaks. Good luck finding that house in Honduras – it does not exist. Luckily the numbers have significantly dwindled upon my first couple weeks in the house.
Wasps – I have some of the biggest wasp nests hanging from my roof outside. For obvious reasons I do not disturb the nests and only spray with raid the small nests that are inside my windows. The screens protect me from any angry wasp retaliations.

Tarantulas – I was reading a book on my bed when I looked over and saw a tarantula the size of my fist taking a late night stroll across my floor. Only slight panic escaped me as I scanned my room looking for the answer. I was unable to put up my mosquito net because of my cement walls & roof so I decided it had to die. I squashed it with my hiking boot. Then I left it there so the ants could devour it, and that they did. There must have been a thousand ants that came to eat its remains – by morning there was not a single trace of the tarantula.

Scorpions – My first experience occurred in my host family’s house in my bathroom. I rounded the corner and stopped dead in my tracks as I saw a creature I had never seen before in person. I ran back into my bedroom, frantically called two other volunteers to discuss my options, put my rain boots on to prepare for war and then searched the bathroom to find out where it had run off to. I found it under a suitcase and smashed it with my hiking boot. I think I’ve used these boots more as killing tools here in Honduras than I’ve used them to actually hike.

The next experience was much calmer. I spotted the scorpion walking across my living room floor, snapped a couple of photos of it, and then crushed it under my flip-flop.

However, my most recent experience did not go so smoothly. I put on my backpack and had just walked out of my house. As I bent over to pull my keys out to unlock my fence, a scorpion fell directly from my shoulder area into my sports bra. Throwing all my bags to the ground, I bent over grabbing at my shirt and bra trying to coax it out. I think all the jiggling only scared it further into my bra unbeknownst to me. Although I did not see it fall I could not see or feel the scorpion in my bra so I decided it was safe to pick my bags back up and walk to the bus. Ten minutes later I got to my bus, found a seat near the back and tried to calm myself down. But then I looked down and noticed legs poking out of the top of my shirt. Holding for dear life nestled comfortably between my breasts this little guy was not going anywhere. I silently scream to myself so as to not draw any more attention to the only gringa on the packed bus and was finally able to flick him out of my bra. Thankfully I received no stings and only exposed my breasts to a couple of people from my community.

Snakes – I had been sewing a baby blanket for a couple of Peace Corps volunteers that had accidentally gotten knocked up while down here in Honduras, so at the time my floor had a lot of scraps of fabric in random places. Even though I had just swept, the long dark thing on the floor didn’t set off any alarms because I thought it was just a scrap I had missed. Then I stared at the fabric and it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t a piece of fabric. Nope, the more I stared the more it began to resemble a snake. Yep, definitely a snake. I found my camera and returned as it coiled into a ball and allowed me to snap a quick photo of it. The flash freaked him out and sent him slithering into a corner of my living room. Since I have no idea how to identify a poisonous snake I decided it had to go. Unfortunately I feel too guilty to tell you how I got rid of the snake. Just know that some other animal(s) had some enjoyable feasts off of its death.

Ants – There are so many types of ants down here it’s crazy. You have the tiny almost microscopic ants that cover any dish that food once touched. You have the bigger sugar ants. Then there are the mean black ants that love to bite and the larger carpenter ants. There’s also the leaf cutter ants that become violent when disturbed. Finally my least favorite ant of all – it’s the flying ants. They are so obnoxious! These ants lay eggs inside walls and doors and then all hatch at once during one lucky sundown and begin flying around your house and ceiling all at once. With hundreds of ants flying around and trying to get into your food, drinks and in your face it gets a little crazy as you’re left to run around with one hand occupied spraying raid everywhere and the other hand swatting down the ants. The only plus side of this is you get in a good workout trying to rid your house of these crazy things.

These are just a few of the animals that I deal with on an almost daily basis. I can’t even describe the number and or size of the wolf spiders I have in every corner of my house.

Can’t wait to discover what’s in store for tomorrow. I’m hoping I’ll come home one day to find a cow in my house like I saw in one house they’re building down the street. At least then I won’t have to kill it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Don't Disturb The Bear

After mas o menos 30 hours without power, it has returned and I have decided what better time than 2:30AM to update my blog.

For those of you who know me even a little know a few basic rules of what not to do. Unfortunately, due to cultural differences and language barriers, Honduras has not yet clued in to them.

Rule Numero Uno: Think of me as a bear...a bear in hibernation. You do not want to be on the receiving end as the person who wakes me up. Over the past couple of weeks I've been fighting a cold/allergy sinus infection. It finally caught up to me and I called into the health center in the morning to cancel a class I was giving that day. Having taken all the necessary steps of a sick day (i.e., I called into work to let them know I wasn't coming in instead of just not showing up), I took some nyquil and passed out. A few hours later I'm startled out of my sleep by some honking. Hmmm, weird. I recently moved into my new house and was exstatic to not be on any major roads. The only vehicles that pass in front of my house now are those of the four-legged kind. So, clearly this is a surprise to me. Then I hear a couple coworkers from the health center yelling my name. I groggily make my way to the window to discover yes indeed it is my coworkers yelling and honking at me in front of my gate. Still in my pajamas I hastily look for a jacket and shoes and trek outside where it's pouring rain. Still half asleep and very pissed off I go to the gate where my coworkers are happily sitting in their truck (i.e., not sick and standing in the rain in their pajamas) to find out what's the emergency. Yeah, they're just stopping by and want to come in - did I mention they brought my town's Cuban doctora with them. I am horrified. The last thing I want is for my coworkers to see me looking as horribly as I felt or see my somewhat disordely house. I politely, okay as politely as a bear woken out of hibernation, ask them to leave because I wasn't up for visitors. Really? As if that needs to be said. Well, now I'm left to clean up my mess of being the very rude and unhospitable gringa who turned away my coworkers who just stopped by to make sure I was okay. In their defense there are cases of hemorrhagic dengue going around the municipality and they were only looking out for my well-being. In my defense, DON'T DISTURB THE BEAR.

Rule Two: Men - stop being creepy. Married, single, fathers holding their infants in front of their wives/girlfriends, high school boys, elementary school boys, etc., stop trying to pick me up. And stop trying to pick me up in English. The words you are using but clearly have no clue what they mean are highly offensive and I will not stand for it. Just treat me with respect and I'm likely to stop and have a conversation with you.

Final Rule: Don't cut me in line. Hondurans really have no sense of waiting in lines and frequently try to cut. Bus lines, checkout lines at the grocery store, lines at the bank, etc. They love to cut. I didn't learn how to box out from one of the best defensive coaches in basketball, a.k.a. Bob from the Kansas Belles, for nothing. I will hip check you into tomorrow if you try that move on me. Not gonna have it any more!

And that's it. Pretty simple. Wow, this seems like an angry blog post. In reality, I'm not angry at all right now. This helped. Thank you and good day. I SAID good day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Muere El Gusano, Muere!

The past five months have been a whirlwind of adventure. Here´s the 4-1-1

Mafia Warfare:
My town of Gualaco was caught in the middle of a power-struggle of two rivaling families in Olancho. It consisted of a hitman and four other accomplices being dragged out of their houses during midday on a Sunday only to be led to their deaths. They were taken into the mountains and shot and then the car was set on fire as the assailants fled the scene. This led to a roadblock of about 20 armed men -none were police- being set up in order to catch the assailants. Upon nightfall, a family was passing through and got scared. Unfortunatly, they decided not to stop and were shot down. All the men (including some young teens) in the car were killed or injured, but the women were left unharmed. At this point around 20 deaths had occurred in a 24-hour period and Peace Corps decided to temporarily remove me and the other two nearby volunteers from site. I had the great luck of being sent up to Trujillo where much of my downtime was spent relaxing in a hammock on the beach. The day before we were to receive word as to whether we could return to site or not, a 20-minute shoot-out occurred in the middle of my town and a few more people died. Obviously Peace Corps said we could not go back yet and continued to monitor the situation. About two weeks later when things had cooled down Peace Corps gave me the option to return to site or have a site change. Given that I had never felt unsafe in my community (aside from some moments when the Coups started), I asked them to give me two weeks where I could return to site and see how I felt. Upon returning, I realized my town had this eeiry ghost town feeling where everyone seemed to be afraid to leave their houses even during daylight hours. After a week I started to get in the groove again and things started to feel better. That night three truck loads of armed men began driving through our community, including in front of my apartment, searching for men to kill who were on their hit lists. After this, I decided it was too much. I asked Peace Corps to change my site rather than wait around for another shoot-out to occur.

Site Change:
My new town is still located in the department of Olancho, about two and a half hours southeast of Gualaco. Unfortunately, I am no longer located in the mountains. Instead I am in a very hot valley between two mountain chains. Good bye to cool nights and a very nice studio apartment. My town is much smaller and rural than my last site, but still just as dusty. After only a couple days I had a mental breakdown that involved me sobbing to my mother over the phone while she talked me down from the ledge. As of now I have been in my new town for almost two months and the town is slowly growing on me. I am with my fourth, and hopefully my last, host family. They have a really nice house and have been very good to me. My spanish is improving ever so slightly and I am located only 15 minutes from the city of Catacamas meaning I have access to better food and other volunteers. I have a lot of work in my new town as I have been training the older students to help me out with my health charlas in the high school. Also, I am now teaching basketball and volleyball gym classes once or twice a week. This involves lots of yelling, dragging kids to participate in my drills since they can´t understand my broken spanish, and lots and LOTS of sweating. The kids seem to really like it though and have a lot of fun. Considering the only sport played here is soccer it´s a nice change of pace for the kids.

Despedidas Galore:
The H12 training class that came in a year before us are no longer volunteers. They have graduated from their services. Many are traveling to different parts of central and south america, many are returning home to the glorious and ever-so-comfortable U.S.A., and a few are remaining in Honduras to continue their service or find local non-Peace Corps work. It´s sad to see them go, but even more sad to know that it will be us next year. This past year has gone by so fast and through the good and bad, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. Good luck to all those who have gone and to the rest of us left.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I realize I have been slacking on the posts so here is a SUPER-post in which I will recap some major events that have occured during the last 4 months.

TRAVEL...I have traveled now to almost all of the departments of Honduras; just five more to go. I´ve visited the beautiful beaches of Trujillo a few times (what I like to consider my second site), canoed on Honduras´ lovely Lake Yojoa, and spent Halloween at the Mayan Ruins. Most recently I was at the Lake for Thanksgiving, cooking and laughing with my fellow volunteers. Although it wasn´t exactly the home cooked meal with the fam that I´m used to, it was a wonderful time had by all AND included some great food. I was also lucky enough to be able to leave the country to visit my family in the States. Trust me when I say lucky; just days before leaving a national 24-hour curfew was implemented and all us volunteers were put on STANDFAST. The curfew was brought on due to the extradited President, Zelaya, sneaking back into the country and holing himself up in the Brazilian Embassy. We were not allowed to travel or leave our sites. The airports closed and all flights were cancelled. Thankfully the day before my flight, the curfew lifted allowing me just enough time to travel to San Pedro Sula and catch my flight the next morning.

WORK...this will be a short one. Schools closed early for the National elections, and by early I mean in October. Upon arriving back in the country from the U.S., I realized I would not be doing any more health charlas in the school and have spent the last few months trying to figure out how to make myself useful. Currently I am working with some girls from my town teaching them to create beauty from trash. We are making purses and jewelry out of potatoe chip bags. I am also learning how to weave baskets out of pine needles.

RELATIONS...I spent almost a month in the States nursing my mother after she had surgery. It was a taxing but enjoyable time being able give back to my mother for all those years she took care of me. However, my time abroad meant lots of time for my town to make up lavish gossip as to why I was ¨really¨ away. My favorite being that my sitemate, a.k.a. the OTHER gringo, got me pregnant and I had to leave Honduras in order to have the baby. Gotta love chisme. Needless to say, I spoiled that upon my arriving back in site without a baby bump! More volunteers from both my project and my cohort have up and left Peace Corps for various reasons. Medical and lack of work seem to be the most at fault. However, I´m sure being in a country during times of political rest, aka The Coup, has had its share of influence. I´m still working on making a Honduran friend, which is more difficult than it sounds. You risk being considered a hussy if you befriend men and I have little to offer in terms of conversation for all the married mothers my age. Currently my friends are my 14 year old host sister and my 50 year old comedora (lady who cooks for me when I want plato tipico). Here´s hoping for 2010!

FIRE...unfortunately, the sun isn´t the only source of me sweating. On my way back from visiting the Peace Corps doctors in the Capital I caught the last bus back to my site and about an hour into the ride the engine caught on fire. Luckily I was sitting next to the fire exit, but unfortunately in the panic I forgot I was sitting next to it. Being in the middle of the bus I examined my escape towards the large flames in the front or towards the back where I´d have to fight my way through all the giant bags of rice and beans that were blocking the doors. Luckily I didn´t have to make a decision because the bus ayudante had a bucket of water that he threw onto the flames. The next day my shower almost caught on fire as it sparked and burnt part of the plastic nozzle. I now shower with my power turned OFF in my apartment. So much for having an electroducha to warm my water. Feel free to send me a fire extinguisher for Christmas.

FOOD...I accidently broke my mini-refrigerator that cost me about three months rent when I took a knife to it. I was trying to chip away some of the excess ice in order to make room for the boneless skinless chicken that I bought while in the larger City. Unfortunately, I also chipped away part of the tray causing all the freon gas to be released. I am very sad. But on the brighter side, I was able to cook up the chicken with barbecue sauce and had some tasty chicken for ONE whole day. It was beautiful.

I think that should do it on the recap. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I´m enjoying my time here in Honduras.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Your Guess is as Good as Mine

After finally having the clearance to travel outside of our departments, it was revoked two days later. Things around my town have slowly become more and more confortbable...that was until I read the news reports today and discovered that tension is once again heating up. Just when I finally unpacked my evacuation backpack Peace Corps Honduras´s future once again looks dreary. We´re getting no official reports of being evacuated, but all the news reports suggest future conflict. At this point in time, your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not things will settle down.

Since there has been very little work for the vast majority of volunteers, we have resorted to using theme parties as a way to pass the time. Our first party was ¨Ropa Americana¨theme, which translates loosly to anything American thrift stores were unable to sell, followed by 80s Prom Night. As you can imagine, Olancho was able to see some fantastic costumes by the gringos. Special appearances were made by Don Johnson, Samantha Fox, a Lenny Kravitz whannabe Michael Jackson, Sixteen Candles´very own Long Duck Dong along with a mix of see-through mesh spandex and neon-sheen puffiness. It was AMAZING.

Thankfully my spirits have picked up since classes began today after a three weeks of strikes. With my first HIV charla in site planned for this week, I´m hoping work picks up too. However, things have not been easy. My health project team has lost 6 volunteers so far (and we´re only 5 months into our Peace Corps service). Since we only started with 14 the health team is desperately holding together. In addition, two others from the health team are having to be moved due to safety concerns in their sites. They are some of my closest friends (both in terms of distance outside of Olancho and relatonships) so I´ve had my share of low points. However, I´m relying on lots of phone calls and visits with other volunteers within Olancho to keep me going.

As especially described in my last two posts, this rollorcoaster is taking me for a ride. I´m hanging on though and for the most part am enjoying the ride. I´m thinking of you all and want you all to know I am safe and staying strong. I miss you all. Stay tuned for more Worlds of Fun fun!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I did not cause this international incidence!

In the shadow of Michael Jackson’s death, many of you might still be unaware that Honduras is experiencing political turmoil in the likes that it has not seen since the last Cold War. Last Sunday around midnight the President, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was arrested and exiled to Costa Rica in his pajamas. This military coup occurred on the eve of a referendum that would have allowed Hondurans to vote to change the Constitution that currently only allows a President to serve a single term of four years. The referendum was to change the Constitution to either allow a second term or unlimited terms. With the Congress and the Military against Zelaya, they deemed the referendum to be unconstitutional. Instead of going through the democratic process of impeachment, the Congress decided to take him out and put Congress in command.

As you can imagine, Hondurans and the Peace Corps Volunteers are in a minor state of distress. Stories are spreading of military police making their rounds through towns confiscating weapons and arresting boys and men between the ages of 15 and 45 to draft them into the military. I walked out of my house today to find the streets eerily empty and everything closed down. Even the three donkeys that hang out around the corner were no where to be found. Now how am I supposed to escape if even the donkeys are out of business? Bus tires have been slashed and roadblocks have been placed throughout the country to prevent protestors from entering the Capital. I walked hesitantly down the block expecting for a truck load of armed soldiers to turn the corner and force me to fight for the Honduran army. I’m prime real estate down here considering I’m bigger than most Hondurans.

The U.S. and the U.N. are calling for Zelaya to be reinstated and there is talk of Zelaya coming back on Thursday with military reinforcements from Venezuela. The Congress has not backed down and is threatening to arrest Zelaya upon reentering the country. All signs are pointing to a showdown with opponents on both sides. I live in Zelaya country considering he is from Olancho and the people are very upset with his arrest. The anti-Zelayas support the Congress’s actions as they feel Zelaya was leading Honduras down the path of a dictatorship.

At this point in time, I feel a possibly false sense of security. Although my community feels safe, the frequent calls to other volunteers and family members have me on edge. Just about every hour my phone rings or I get a message from other volunteers and we discuss what crazy things are going on in each of our towns. My one bag that we´re allowed to take if evacuated is packed as I wait for the text message saying we´re heading to safer grounds to wait till things calm down. The last few days I’ve holed myself up in my room surviving on mangoes and peanut butter.

Meanwhile, the new training class of volunteers that was scheduled to arrive in Honduras on Wednesdayon is heading off to the Dominican Republic to wait this ordeal out while the rest of us currently serving volunteers stay the course! I guess this is what they meant by the slogan “How far will you go?” Well, I think a few earthquakes, a pandemic flu outbreak, and now a military coup is pretty damn far? Especially, considering I haven’t even been here for five months.

I hope you all enjoy your Fourth of July weekend, but remember the 200 or so volunteers here in Honduras who are on lockdown waiting to see how this crisis plays out. Here’s hoping that my next post will be written under much calmer and happier circumstances.