Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Honduras

Well, as many of you may know (no thanks to the offical blog), we are alive and well after a month in the hills of Honduras. After much deliberation, reflection, and persistent guilt tripping (thanks attendees of the parent's weekend), we are now ready to continue proporting our prolific and poignant ponderances to you, our esteemed followers.

The morning of February 4, 2011, we hopped off a bus in La Entrada, Honduras, not sure what to expect. We were soon shuttled off in various vehicles to different parts of the country, accompanied by the leaders of the NGO groups that had agreed to organize our homestay experience and monitor us in the case of complications. One by one we were dropped off in front of homes, the nearest CASP member up to an hours walk away. As most of us were more than slightly preoccupied concerning the coming month, we found that we had irrationally expected Honduras to be a desert wasteland, devoid of vegatation, common amenities, human affection, or any sort of happiness in general. We were surprised to find a beautiful panorama of green mountainous hills, coffee fields of high altitude and even higher quality, and a people with a general interest in making clumsy and interculturally inept gringos feel quite at home.

Maybe it was just the caffeine rush that came with accustoming oneself to drinking five or more cups of coffee on a daily basis, but many soon found the energy and willpower of the people in their communities contagious and began to form a niche for themselves in their respective pueblos.Some found themselves the agregiously unprepared educators of eager and energetic Catracho (Honduran) youth, working in the local schools as English teachers in an education system that at times is sorely underfunded. Other members of the CASP team worked long days in the coffee fields or spent even longer mornings milking cows. Some learned to make tortillas and baleadas, handwash clothes, prepare the days corn or beans while generally attempting to soak in the vast knowledge of a community much different than our own. Whatever the task, CASP members completed it with a wholehearted desire to speak Spanish, learn the culture, and grow in more ways than one.

As you may imagine, there are too many wonderful stories to be expressed in this humble blog. Every experience was unique, and this makes it impossible to generalize. We hope to be able to get a list of personal blogs of people on the CASP team up soon so that you all can get a richer perspective of the last few months if you desire.

What can be said- We gained new friends, family, and a wider worldview than any could have imagined previously. Through trials and triumphs we lived a month in Honduras - a month none of us will ever forget.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

el PLUNGE! Very, very late... :)

Hola todos!
Sorry this has been so long in coming – I actually started writing this when we were in Antigua and had the best intentions to post it, but didn’t have time to finish before we left for Honduras. I guess the Latin American concept of time is sinking in quite a bit :) Anyway, this post takes us back to one of our last experiences in Guatemala: "el PLUNGE!" For this weekend trip, our group of 20 was split into 5 grupitos of 4 people each. We met in Parque Central at 9 AM Saturday morning to say goodbye to Xela, find out our group members and receive money and the name of a town we were going to travel to. The goal of the weekend was to travel to the town, explore it, and return to Antiugua in a way that let the group members spend the least amount of money possible. While we all had wonderful and varied adventures, I'll share a little bit about what my group did, learned and experienced.
Stephen, Andrew, Laura and I went to Champerico, a little town on the southern coast of Guatemala. It was beautiful, sunny and HOT, with a black sand beach made that way from volcanic ash. We took a few buses from Xela to arrive there, and met the nicest people along the way. One of the friends we made on our first bus even bought us a book of maps and some oranges to eat!
Once we arrived in Champerico, we found a hotel and dropped off our stuff to get out of the heat. Soon we made our way to the beach, but heard from a variety of people not to go too far down to the left since it was the more dangerous part of town. The town is small and relies primarily on the fishing industry, although it does receive a few tourists from other parts of Guatemala. Very few gringos go there however, so it was pretty obvious that we were out-of-towners! The beach has horses that tourists can ride, and Champerico also hosts the national surfing competition each year. The water was wonderful, but the waves were big so we could understand why people go there to surf!
After spending a little time on the beach, grabbing avocadoes, bananas and tortillas from the market for dinner and returning to the beach to eat, we made our way back through town. We had heard that it was dangerous to be out past 7, and as we were going back to the hotel we were stopped by a young guy with a wife and little boy. He asked us in good English if we needed help, and we said no thanks but started to chat with him. We found out that Erick (the guy) had won a scholarship competition and had the chance to study in the states for two years through Georgetown University. He lived in New York and loved it, but came back to Champerico to be with his wife, 3 year old son and the rest of his family. Although Erick is extremely well educated, he hasn’t been able to find a job in Champerico for the past 2 years because of the economy. Even so, he says that aside from the lack of work life there is perfect. He was extremely friendly and after only a few minutes of conversation he had invited the four of us to his house for dinner. At the home he is renting we met the rest of his family – 12 and 13 year old sisters who are in school, a younger brother who fishes on the sea with his dad, and his mom. They were all extremely friendly and welcoming, and after a dinner of tamales and mangoes we left feeling delightfully full and completely blown away by their hospitality.
The next morning we met our friends for Catholic mass, and then Erick’s dad took us to the port where he leaves in and out to go fishing. He’s often out at sea for 2 days at a time, 4 days a week, and since he does not own his own boat most of the money he gets from selling the fish goes to pay rent. However, he does have a work visa to go to the US, and hopes to raise just enough money to buy his own boat so that he and his son can work for themselves and better support their family. After seeing the port, the family took us to the Sunday market. On the way there we passed by the circus that was visiting the town, and the girls kept on asking us if we had any plans to go. As a way to say thank you to the family we decided to treat all of them to a night out at the circus as a surprise, so we tried to be frugal with our money for the afternoon. We ate another lunch of tortillas and avocadoes, and found the BEST frozen tamarindo juice! We spent more time on the beach and eventually met up with the two girls again in the evening. On our way back to their house we treated the two of them to dinner – they chose a great taco stand – and then we came back to the circus with the fam. It was a really fun and memorable way to end our time in Champerico, and we all felt that by the end of these two short days we had formed rich relationships with our new friends.
The next day we traveled for 7 hours with 6 vehicle transfers to make it to Antigua. Although it was an exhausting day, it was great to finally be reunited with the group again and hear everyone else’s stories! For me the Plunge was an awesome reminder of the importance of relationships, as well as a great confidence-booster for Honduras. :) It was humbling and inspiring to befriend a family so quickly, especially since they had scarce economic resources but were so willing to welcome us into their home. I’ve been blessed to continue to meet warm, welcoming and loving people throughout my travels here, and am so grateful to have had these experiences.
~Annie / Anita