Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Día de la Independencia . . . un poco tarde

This morning, we celebrated a belated Día de la Independencia (it really is Sept. 15) by having a big parade down the middle of one of Honduras´major highways. We all piled into yellow school buses and got dropped off about a mile down the road in La Venta at a military batallion. From there, we had a pretty impressive parade complete with girls twirling batons, kids dressed up like national heroes, a bus decorated with a styrofoam map of Honduras on the front, and lots of drums.

The soldiers stood around, gaping at the female volunteers and holding machine guns. They helped us stop traffic and, so, most of our audience was unwilling, trapped in buses and pick-ups, unable to get where they were going, annoyed at our untimely celebration. It took us 2 hours to walk the mile from the batallion to the Ranch. Then, we had a program at the school that lasted another 3 hours complete with the new principal leading the students in a salute to the flag which made everyone (Hondurans included) uncomfortable and prompted many whispered references to Hitler. He tried to get the kids to salute and scream three times, "Viva la republica!" Half of them weakly joined in--the other half stood with looks of confusion and repulsion on their faces. Needless to say, the German volunteers were very uncomfortable.

I spent my afternoon doing laundry by hand, which is how it is done here. I decided that the first thing I do when I visit home in November is to throw all of my clothes in the washing machine. Mostly to get all the soap out. That seems to be the problem. We end up looking tie-dyed under the black lights at the club. It is a never-ending process, laundry. It doesn´t help that we are washing our clothes in water the color of weak tea.

With this, I am off. The computer lab is noisy with password-less kids trying to hack into the internet. I should kick them all out, but I don´t have the heart to do it right now. Let them figure it out the hard way. I will go and seek a few minutes solitude in my room before heading to hogar.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Still have sand in my shoes

Well, folks. I am back on the Ranch after a 6 day vacation in Tela, on the North Coast. I am tired, but brown and content. It was a perfect time with plenty of adventures, too many, in fact to tell here. But here´s a little, just to make you a bit jealous.

We (Hannah, Hilary, and I) arrived by bus Wednesday night around 8:30, checked into our hotel Cesar Mariscos
, cleaned ourselves up a little (Hannah still had streaks of dirt on her neck from the travelling) and went out for pizza and a couple of beers. Well, our pizza was good and the beer was cold and we were enjoying the music blasting from the club, Iguanas, next door. Convinced that there was a live band, we went over to take a look. We had another beer, started dancing, another beer, and so forth. After the dancing, we took a swim in the Caribbean and watched the sun rise over the palm trees that mark the transition from town to beach.

Thursday, we spent on the beach and playing in the waves, trying to body surf and only resulting with sand-filled bikini tops. We passed the afternoon (and several others during our time in Tela) in our rooftop pool, ordering up margaritas, watching women walk by beneath balancing tubs of coconuts on their heads and carrying machetes, and filming ads for Port Royal (Honduran beer) on my digital camera.

Friday, we spent walking around town and in the pool again. I think. (I am getting a little confused about what happened and when. The result of relaxation.) We went out for a bit at night, to a bar called Max, owned by a Honduran with impeccable English (no accent--we thought he was from the States) and a taste for American hip hop (nice break from reggaeton!). We turned in early-ish with plans to go to Punta Sal, a national park known for its gorgeous beaches and wildlife, with
Garífuna Tours.

Saturday morning, we awoke to grey skies and were caught in a downpour on our way to our tour. Needless to say, we got up early for nothing. No tour. We walked back to our hotel, had a big breakfast and 3 cups of coffee each to ward off the cold. We spent a lazy morning lounging around the hotel pool and catching up on Desperate Housewives and got our lazy butts off the pool chairs around noon to go to La Ensenada, a Garífuna village about 3 kilometers down the beach from Tela. We spent the afternoon on the nearly empty, thatched hut filled beach listening to traditional Garífuna music and reggae blasting from a little restaurant. When we needed a break from the sun, we had a late lunch of fried fish, and plantains and a good dose of Bob Marley. Too incredible to be real, right?

That night, I experienced my first foam party. Yes. Foam party. As in the stuff that floats on top of your bubble bath. Imagine that same foam on a dance floor, blown out of huge machines until you are knee deep in bubbles and everyone around you is sporting white mohawks and dripping in green apple scented soap.

Sunday, we made it to Punta Sal National Park. It is getting late and Punta Sal deserves an entry all of its own. Still, let me say this: clear emerald water, snorkeling, monkeys in the trees, typical Garífuna lunch, sand still in my shoes.

We left paradise today, somewhat reluctantly. Still, I am happy to be back, happy to have these memories. Happy to be here, in Honduras. This is the best year of my life, friends.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I was on as long as I could take it, watching the video and reading about the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. I am trying not to cry as I write this, trying not to disrupt the other people in the computer lab with the sobs that surely are deserved.

It is especially hard to be away from your country when disaster strikes. There is some obligation in my heart---I should be home, mourning with the rest of my country, helping how I can. And yet I am here, in Honduras, watching video clips of bodies covered with white sheets and old women screaming for someone to help them. I cannot help these people.

Then, of course, I remember where I am and I remember why these video clips seem familiar to me, why these horrors seem like something I have seen before. I have seen many of these things before--here in Honduras, people live like this everyday. People live with sewage running through their yard, eating spoiled food if they have food at all. Parents abandon their children because they feel helpless, they cannot feed them. People here live without reliable police protection, without clean water, without adequate shelter. The reality is, the scenes on the streets of New Orleans are tragically like a normal day on certain streets in Tegucigalpa.

Still, this doesn´t lessen the pain I feel at reading the accounts of people on the streets, the fear and vulnerability I see in their eyes on the videos. I mourn deeply for the lives lost and the lives being lived in the horror that is the wake of Katrina. It is an indescribably horrible thing, this chaos and disaster and my heart and prayers are with everyone affected by the hurricane.

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