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