miércoles, 16 de diciembre de 2009

Regular Adventures

It all started in Wisconsin at my Aunt and Uncle’s cottage along the serene shores of Lake Michigan. After breakfast, I would explain to my mom that I was going out to explore, climb trees, throw rocks, build forts, jump in the icy cold water, etc. As you may or may not know, though, I love to find shorter, more interesting ways of relaying information (delicious sandwiches crammed into our pockets and snuck into concerts=sandiddy a la Bret Labadie for example) and usually gave only the brief explanation that I was going to go on an adventure. “What kind of adventure?” she always asked with a smile knowing full well what the answer would be (anybody catch that line from a TWO song?). “You know…a regular adventure.”
When my friends, Morlin and Santos, said they wanted to take me to explore the river last Friday, they should have just asked if I wanted to go on a regular adventure. We took off early in the morning to avoid the midday swelter equipped with slingshots, a machete, and a backpack full of rocks. The machete is like the Honduran spork, it can be used for anything. But that day it was brought along with the specific purpose of cutting off a jícaro branch to make a new slingshot for myself. We followed the curve of the river all the way up into the hills that flank El Tular shooting doves, catching iguanas (later used to make a delicious soup- I’m not sure if the sarcasm of that “delicious” will actually get across in digital form), avoiding beehives, shooting down mangoes from an enormous tree, swimming, and pausing our platoon in silence every other minute to discover that the rustling in the bushes was just a lazy cow and not another chance for a prized catch. I’m no Dennis the Menace, but the other guys are deadly with the ole’ Goliath slayer. I was already feeling a lot better about my site in general. I had made new friends, work was picking up, and most of the stares had turned into smiles and waves. But this ordinary every-day expedition shed a whole new light on how beautiful the community really is once you dig a little. Over the weekend, I had a friend come to visit my site and I got to show someone else my life for the first time. We spent one of the days on the beach with another volunteer that lives nearby and my good friend Graham, a Scottish giant who works for a NGO in Choluteca. Graham is a character and I plan to devote an entire blog entry to our escapades. We found a cave with an outlet to the ocean and decided to swim through the darkness to see what would eat us. Nothing did but there were thousands of bats and it was incredible. If/when you come to visit; we will go see that again. A new comer to El Tular caused a bit of a stir and plenty of people came by that night to greet/stare through the fence at the new stranger in town. It was a blast to show someone else all the cool stuff and it helped give it some perspective in my own mind. On Sunday, we went into Tegucigalpa where I expected to be mugged immediately upon entering the city limits. It actually turned out to be a really amazing couple of days and I learned to love the grittiness and chaos of that enormous mess of a Capital. If/when you come to visit; we will also see some of the gems of Tegucigalpa (mostly great restaurants). Maybe pump some iron a bit before so nobody will want to mess with you (See the Brian Seward workout manual How to be a Buff Hip Dude, it will change your life).
I spent Thanksgiving with 15 other volunteers who also call Southern Honduras their home. The city of San Marcos de Colon was chosen as the gathering point with good reason. As I departed my sun-baked valley and ascended the mountains up into the little town, I felt the air temperature drop by about 15 degrees and I muttered some words that I wouldn’t repeat to my mother in regards to the luck that these volunteers fell into. San Marcos is a beautiful town and the volunteer that lives there has a house to match. The smell of Turkey, gravy, stuffing, and all the other goodies emanating from the kitchen turned the house into the good ole USA and I settled into a day of rubbing my belly. I stuffed my face and it…was….good.
If you are interested in hearing the detailed story of a very fun weekend I had recently, please send me an email saying so and I will personally send it along to you as it is too long and too funny for this very concise and serious blog.
If you are wondering why I almost never post pictures, it is because the internet is painfully slow and I am too impatient. Dont be like me. Be patient while I search out a solution. I promise pictures sometime soon. We are getting closer and closer to Christmas, and I am missing the people close to me more and more. I will not be able to come home and plan to spend Christmas here in El Tular. It should be a very fun and interesting experience but I know already that it will be very hard to wake up on a steamy Christmas morning far from my family and friends. Thank you to all of you for being so dear to me and I can assure you that I am thinking about you at some point on any given day and wishing we could share the holidays.

martes, 1 de diciembre de 2009

Mr. T Day

Winter is over. It vanished without a trace after only 2 weeks and I am now getting used to seeing blurry plastic Santa Clauses through lenses of sweat. I think as one gets closer to the equator time starts acting funny. Superman flies against the spin of the earth in order to stop time, I have a further trip with each rotation than the majority of people reading this, and the seasons here essentially never change. What does that mean besides rambling nonsense? It means my brain can’t attach any of the usual seasonal landmarks to the months and I have no real sense of the passing year. Geez, Turkey Day already passed and it’s about to be Christmas! I have a lot to be thankful this year- my beautiful niece Ella was born, my sister got married, Mark and Annie got married, Ky and Susan got married, I continue to hear from my wonderful friends all over the globe, and I am still living healthily and happily. My life sounds like a 50’s sitcom. I am also very thankful for the Honduran mail service, which despite its eternal bootleggedness, has allowed me to step outside the modern age a bit and communicate with my loved ones the old fashioned way. When I do indeed receive something, I usually make the trip back to the bus buzzing with excitement, arms out to both sides winding down the street making gleefully idiotic airplane noises through my enormous smile. You can imagine I cause quite the ruckus thus drawing the attention of 100% of anyone nearby as opposed to the normal 90-95% when I am walking calmly. Thank you to everyone that has sent me something. I can assure you that it is received with love and I now have enough Swedish Fish to last through the end of the month.
My host dad is named Geronimo but since childhood has gone by the name of Chombo or, to those especially close to him, Chombito. He only has one eye and I’ve never rustled up the gall to ask what happened to the other one. I figure the story is bound to come out one of these days. There is not a speck of color in his shortly cropped hair but he pulls off the silver fox look as well as any. He is part of the cooperative that brought potable water to El Tular in 1998 (after Hurricane Mitch) and it is now his job to ride his bike around town all day turning on and off the valves connected to various parts of the village. The water is pumped from the river, passes through a small processing plant, and is piped into concrete tanks known as “pilas” that sit in the middle of each yard. Water for bathing, cooking, cleaning, and drinking (for anyone who doesn’t have a weak American stomach) comes from the pila. Children and gringos have to buy big jugs of water to drink. Chombito is one of the most inquisitive and curious people I have met thus far in my experience. He has asked me about everything from physics to American foreign policy in the Middle East and I gladly oblige with as much BS as I can muster. The vast majority of people here have never traveled beyond San Lorenzo and have no real news source so Chombito’s curiosity is especially surprising. He spends a lot of nights in front of a short wave radio that must be the source of a lot of his information. I love the idea of him scanning the waves and coming across a new discovery. I take for granted how easily I can learn about anything and everything whenever I want (at home).
Two weekends ago was the El Tular fair which consisted mostly of soccer games, popsicles, and a coronation ceremony that was just as confusing as it would be in the states. The “El Tular Arriba” team, of which I am a (very small) part, hosted 3 other teams for a battle royale with a pretty sizeable cash prize. Game one was against Nacaome and went into penalty kicks to decide the winner. At the sound of the final whistle, fans stormed the field and surrounded the penalty box to torment and heckle the opposing team members taking the shots. We won on a diving save by our goalie and I was swept up in a wave of cheers that very quickly turned into a giant brawl. It was awesome. I didn’t get any pictures but I saw a few cameras so hopefully I can track down some good ones. At night, the town queen was brought in on the back of a flatbed and a makeshift stage was setup for the passing of the crown ceremony. Between the drunkards approaching me to be my best friend, the gurgled microphone, and the already fuzzy logic behind these kinds of ceremonies (have you ever been to a debutante ball?), I didn’t understand at all what was going on. Either way, I was for the first time feeling like a quasi member of the community and loving every second of it. The ceremony ended with a giant sign erupting into the name of the new queen with each letter spelled out in fire. What?! Why have I never had my name spelled out in fire?! Then the dance started. The flimsy concrete structure that served as the venue was packed wall to wall and reeked of cologne and firecracker smoke. The volume of the music could be described by any number of adjectives: deafening, extreme, absurd, you name it. I moved my hips a little bit, caused a lot of laughter, and decided to go out on a high note. The dance, somehow, went on without me and ended long after the damn roosters started crowing to the morning light (more on how much I hate roosters to come). Happy Thanksgiving! I am very sincerely thankful for my wonderful friends and family.

Coming soon…What I actually did over Thanksgiving, Election Day, iguana hunting and more!

Books reading: Just finished David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries which I absolutely loved. Now starting Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins- weird but entertaining

viernes, 13 de noviembre de 2009

Total Eclipse of the Lame

The month of October has come and gone. I survived my first full month in site and I am now in the thick of the South Honduran winter. Winter here is actually just a word they use for “the month when it rains” and has nothing to do with the temperature. Although, there were tropical storms on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the country earlier this week, so I did get to experience a little bit of what cabin fever feels like after the 72nd straight hour of rain. Who knew that dirt plus water equals absurd amounts of mud? Most of my late afternoons are spent playing soccer and right around 5:45 the setting sun and low lying grey clouds turn the sky into my dad’s back seat when I left a handful of orange, red, purple, and yellow crayons sitting on the blue cloth in the Houston summer sun (It took me a decade or so to stop hearing about that one). Around this time, the game usually has to pause to let a herd of naked children chase their herd of goats or cows across the field whacking them with a stick every couple of strides. The game then dissolves into nothing more than blatant fouls, laughter, arms in the air imploring a whistle from the guy who got stuck being the ref, and trading free penalty kicks. As far as I can tell from the Odyssey 2001esque early man hoots and hollers, the entire day is just a build up to these 15 minutes. If a storm does indeed come through, the power usually goes out, I eat a romantic solitary candlelight dinner, and sit out on the porch to watch the lightning over the sugar cane fields, which only I ever seem to find interesting. I’ll usually say something like, “Wow! Did you see that lightning bolt?! That was amazing!” to which my host dad drily responds something like “yeah it’s raining.” After reading under the light of my nerd (head) lamp, I climb into bed and start my nightly hunting routine. It turns out that my Maginot mosquito net is not quite as impenetrable as I had hoped and a few persistent little buggers make their way inside throughout the day. Well I don’t rest until every single one of them is dead. It’s actually quite frightening what I have become in just these few months of relative solitude. I find myself gleefully saying things like “Oh looks like we got a tough guy,” “Just where do you think you’re going?” and “That’s right and go tell your friends that the same will happen to them (enter maniacal laugh).” Then I fall asleep ashamed.
My English class fun day camp thingy for the 9th and 6th graders has been going really well and provides a good energy kick in the morning. On the first day of class, I got to the library early, set out all my supplies, wrote encouraging phrases on the board, twiddled my thumbs and waited… for nobody to come. Nuts. So I went for a walk hoping to run into some of the kids so I could find out with the deal was. Going to the different houses actually turned out to be a full day’s ordeal in itself and was pretty enlightening. Even in a tiny community where it seems like everyone should know each other, parents are very wary about letting their kids out of the house—not surprisingly, more so with their daughters. That and the kids had to be convinced that they didn’t just finish school to start a new boring class. I assured the parents and kids that I was trustworthy enough for them to come to my class but not too much so that it wouldn’t be super cool learning time. Since then, I have had two very full classes with a lot of energy and it’s been great. This week we made flags that depicted things we’re good at, our dreams for life, and what has been our biggest achievement thus far. Some highlights were one kid very seriously saying that his dream was to ride an elephant (I’m right there with him) and another saying that his greatest achievement was being in my English class (enter Full House live studio audience ahhhhh). It was hard to hear so many kids say that their dream was to someday be reunited with their parents that left to go to the states. It seems like there is a whole lost generation here. So many households, including my host family, consist of little kids with their grandparents. They loved this activity and the flags turned out beautifully.
There is a very strange phenomenon going on here in Honduras and possibly all of Central America. Bad songs that were popular in the States 20 years ago are making a huge comeback, sometimes translated and sometimes not. I’m curious about what else is out there but here in my little town there are three songs that I hear every single day. The first is the Spanish version of Celine Dion’s Titanic-whatever -it’s- called crappy song. I always catch people closing their eyes and feeling the emotion. The second is the Spanish rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses” which always sparks the horrific memory of being in elementary school and my sister walking in on me listening to the song in the dark staring up at the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling and contemplating the future world of love. That was one of those cd’s I stole from her collection and made sure to add –rin to the initials E.M. so that whenever anybody said “dude what the hell is this doing in here?” I could reply with “psssh my sister must of put that lame cd in my book.” To which that person would probably reply “yeah lets listen to how lame it is,” and we would secretly rock out to “I’m a cowboy.” The third song is the English version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in which I always belt out the verse with the brilliant, Old School inspired f-bomb right in the middle. Every day I realize again that if people know one word in English, it’s that one.

miércoles, 28 de octubre de 2009

Haunted House Music

I wouldn’t call myself a “super fan” or anything like that. I mean I don’t feel the same way about the guy that say Dan Bui feels about Don Henley (picture on the refrigerator, late night listening sessions in the dark, fan club emails, restraining orders, etc.) but I’ve been known to let my imaginary dreads hang loose and put on a few Bob Marley tunes every once in a while. But I came to a rather stunning realization this past week when I was in the back of a moto-taxi on the island of Amapala listening to “Could you be loved.” Bob Marley has got to be the most culturally exportable thing on this planet since Coca-Cola. It has been said to me in passing before—“aint nobody that don’t like Bob Marley.” But I never really took in the full implication of that statement until I was able to do some traveling. There really is no place in the world where they don’t get down to the Wailin’ beats. Australia, Mexico, Israel, and now Honduras all confirm the thesis in my limited experience. They each have their own individual musical backgrounds but somehow always find a way to trace their roots to the jamrock. Perhaps this should be something to continue studying for someone with an astute ear and large lung capacity-I’m sure I have some friends that would gladly volunteer for the job. But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Bob Marley has nothing to do with what most would consider music for a haunted house. That title has to do with a completely different story.
Most of the music I hear in Honduras is either on the bus or blasted from the absurdly huge speakers of the nearest pulperia. There is no such thing in this country as “too early to play music” so a lot of it is heard muffled through the pillow folded over my head. I would venture to guess that around 85% of the music I hear is the same 10 ranchero, reggaeton, or Bob Marley songs. But every once in a while, a gem will sneak in there and surprise me. For instance, I was walking down the street the other day and heard the Ghostbusters theme song! Oh how that takes me back to my blanket fort movie watching days (college). My point being that the Pulperia is the pulpit from which music is preached to the people of Honduras. When I first met all the other volunteers in my training class lo those many 4 months ago, I did what any respectful musician would do. I forced my band’s cd into their suitcases and made them promise to love it. I got a call a week ago from a friend who is about 12 hours away from me in a tiny little farming community out west and her host family happens to own the village pulperia with the absurdly huge speakers. It just so happens that on the day when they were searching for something to put on, TWO fell out of her backpack and into their lives. “How did they like it?!” I or course asked. “Well…they liked it, I think. But they were really weirded out when the song that sounds like a haunted house came on.” I’ve never been so happy to know that I was a part of creating something that was described as such. T-dub crew, if you are reading this, thank you. This Saturday is Halloween! Supposedly the biggest, most fun, don’t-ever-miss-this-party-ever Peace Corps event of the year is the Halloween bash out west. Of course, that falls within the two month period in which I cannot leave my site. So I will be spending the night dressed in my usual smelly ragged clothing (zombie? hobo? zombie-hobo?). Looking for some tunes to turn your boring party into a monster mash? TWO- track 4 on repeat
Like I mentioned, last week I was zipping around the island of Amapala in the back of a moto-taxi seeing the ocean fly by behind the thick green blur of the jungle. A moto-taxi is essentially a mix between a motorcycle, golf cart, and a rickshaw and is the principal means for getting around the island. All the volunteers of the south region were meeting for a few days to get to know each other, hear about successes, failures, other crazy volunteers (most of whom are now reliving the memories from the magical United States after being a little too crazy---if that is possible), and meet with the country director and safety officer about any issues. They were nice enough to pick this paradise as the setting for such a meeting. Rough life huh? Amapala is only a 30 minute bus ride and 10 minute boat ride from my site so this was by no means the last time for me to go there (this month). Most of the island is a dormant volcano which can be climbed in 4 sweaty hours and is worth every second. El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the mighty Pacific Ocean all stretch out in front of you. Here are some pictures none of which are of this view.

Warning: There may be parents walking their bubble boy to school

Me towering over my Zarabanda host family. There were some men in the family too but they wouldnt let me take their picture.

sábado, 24 de octubre de 2009

God and Potatoes

Before I get into the meat and….starch of this post (lame I know), I want to tell two little stories that I read about yesterday in some emails from dear friends back home. Also please take note that I changed the mailing address that I previously posted to one that will be closer to me. In order to protect the innocent I won’t name names but just know that it kept me pleasantly awake last night chuckling to myself. I haven’t quite caught on to the not subtle at all humor of the crowd I’ve been hanging around (the running joke seems to be giving each other a good slap to the face and then falling over laughing as the other person then seeks revenge. When I really think about it, my friends and I do much more pathetic, much more humiliating, and much more painful things to each other that we consider humor but I guess it’s the subtleties of the non-subtle humor that a foreigner will never quite get). I have had to master my fake laugh the past few weeks so some real laughing was just what the doctor ordered. One friend related a story that appeared to be one of the highlights of the past couple months, a story that he called a “race against the clock” piece. Apparently he had replaced the alternator on his car a year ago and it crapped out on him again. So he drove to the auto parts store where they informed him that he had exactly one hour until the one year warranty expired. So he had to race home, figure out how to take out an alternator, take out the still scalding hot alternator, and race it back to the auto parts store just in the nick of time making him feel like “a real tough guy.” Maybe you aren’t laughing but I was. The other story was from a friend who, unlike me, is in the real life working world and told me of his excitement having recently received some executive recognition of his hard work. He then, however, lamented that he felt rather lame for being excited about it because it would “never be as cool as a 40 second keg stand or anything like that.” Cheers fellas
I decided that every once in awhile I would post a little segment entitled “Grandma Wisdom” because there is just too much of it to keep to myself. These are the kinds of nuggets that could only come from the type of lady that brags about being up for hours by the time I start my day without mentioning, or course, that she not only went to sleep at 7:00 pm but also was getting ready for her third nap by the time I woke up. Last week, I was feeling some of the inevitable frustrations that everyone said I would encounter in the first couple of months in site. I was searching in vain for ways to make myself useful as the school announced that the 3 month vacation was now a 4 month vacation and that it would be starting October 16th instead of December 1st. I have since started planning some different activities and classes that will start next week and things are getting busier. But at the time, time seemed to be crawling rather slowly and I found myself calling my grandma to offer some advice. Having grown up in Ireland my grandma has undying faith in God and only slightly less in potatoes. “Eddie, anytime things aren’t going your way, you just need to turn around and say ‘come on God, what you doin’ there, help me out!’ He likes to be called out like that every once in awhile.” Great advice but I think she could also, like any good mother, detect the boredom in my voice so she had this to add: “If you are ever bored, you just need to plant yourself some potatoes. That way you can just have a ball watching a half a dozen pop up where you only planted one. And everyone will want to be your friend because you will have all the potatoes and you can show them how to make a half dozen pop up where you only planted one.” We are talking about someone who is 97 and still kickin’ it so you know this is advice worth heeding. Thanks Grandma.
I am now into my third week in site and, like I said, things are slowly but steadily getting busier while, at the same time, I am feeling more and more comfortable. I am still very much a freak in town. But a freak whose name they know. The Library, Health Center, and Kindergarten, where I will be doing a lot of work, are all literally right next door to each other and about a 15 second walk from my house. My other main counterpart is the primary school (1st through 9th grade) which is only another minute or so walk beyond that. My community is very tiny but if I´m not careful I can find myself never going more than 100 feet beyond my house unless I want to do a lot of aimless wandering, which I am not above. Luckily, I have a bike coming my way from a departing volunteer and I recently discovered the beautiful river that runs behind my house. For some reason, nobody uses it to go swimming even though it is perfect on a hot day (everyday). I figure there is some crazy bacteria/insect/reptile/monster they all know about that I don’t. But I’m happy to keep myself blissfully ignorant for the time being. The first week I was here I took the long way home from the library and walked by the soccer field where the same group of guys play every day. At first the game would stop so they could stare, wonder, and yell the English words they knew. “Hello my friend, Waats cookin man? Sammanabich.” of course followed by riotous laughter. After a couple days of that, I finally asked if I could play and they warily replied that I could. Call it beginners luck, call it destiny, call it what you will but I was a regular Pele that day. “Pass to the Gringo (again riotous laughter)!” They yelled. The ball arced towards me and I swatted at it with my foot like a giant fly and it gracefully backspinned and stopped right in front of me. In disbelief, I ran towards the opposite goal, and when the opposition approached I got tripped up in my feet and kept the ball right with me in such a way that only someone who either had no idea what they were doing or was a seasoned professional could do. I eeked out a cross field pass that came right back to me perfectly in stride and I scored a textbook goal. After the game, everyone was suddenly a lot more interested in me, asking all kinds of questions about where I’m from, what I’m doing here, what the names of my family members are (a popular question that always gets some good laughs), and how I could possibly be 23 and not be married and/or have kids. Wow, I thought, I really won some friends here! Then the kicker was when they invited me to play with their league team that Sunday against a neighboring village. “Sure!” I replied thinking that somehow I had gone from not good to really good over night and that I would soon have tons of friends.
Sunday rolled around and I was picked up by a busted up old van that had 17 sweaty guys stuffed inside. After breaking down twice, sitting on the side of the road for a few hours, and watching a lot of the slap game I already described above, we finally arrived to the neighboring field. The entire community was lining the perimeter, the official uniforms were waiting for us, and I could suddenly feel it in my bones that my beginners luck had run dry. “Uhh hehe so guys I actually uh don’t really uh know at all what I’m doing. Maybe I should just watch this game.” They laughed. I had to be joking! I was their saving grace and I would surely quiet the sideline hooligans who were already shouting things I’m glad I couldn’t understand at me. So we played… I will spare the details a) in an attempt to maintain a shred of dignity and b) because most of the memories vaporized in a heat exhaustive haze. But I played like…well I played to my real ability which is not a good-enough-to-win-friends-who-take-nothing-more-seriously-that-soccer level. Needless to say, the sidelines had a ball and the car ride home was quiet. I was a bald man wearing a toupee and meeting someone for the first time. The truth had to come out sometime. I have since gone out to the soccer field in town and somewhat redeemed myself and I think found a few people that are genuinely interested in being my friend. One fellow, named Franklin, has asked me several times why I decided to come to his little village. I recall a conversation I once had with Benny, the German foreign exchange student who lived with Mark in high school. Similarly, I asked him why in the world he would choose to come to a Houston suburb, to which he replied “well, I didn’t exactly get to choose but I like it here. It seems very much like the real America.” I’m pretty sure we took him that night to the parking lot of the strip mall where we hung out on weekends and drank soda. I hope Benny really did feel the same way that I do because I really do like it here. Franklin assured me that the team has a short memory and knocked on my door the next Sunday to make sure I was coming to the game. It makes me feel like I’m the loser kid in Sandlot. My luck well also came up empty in another sector of my life. The blender inside my stomach was set on one of the red buttons (liquefy, gooify, pulverize, etc.) and nobody bothered to put the top on or hold on to the handle to make sure it didn’t make a mess. I have my suspicions about the source but its best not to try to wrap your mind around something like that because you will get lost in an eternal vortex of beans and weird meats. I look at it as a rite of passage for living in Central America. It’s like going from boyhood to adolescence. You just can’t do it without making an ass of yourself at a family wedding. But that passed and things are great. Despite school now being over, I have 2 different English classes for the 6th and 9th graders that will be starting next week and a rather large scale building project for the library. I’m not expecting too big of a turn out for my first couple of classes but every kid I’ve talked to is very excited about having something new. English is, as I expected what everyone in town expects and wants me to teach all the time and I was really hesitant because of all the other needs. But I plan to turn it into more of a day camp weaving in a lot of different topics and doing a lot of different activities. We’ll see how that one gets off the ground. Did I mention that last week Honduras made it into the World Cup for the first time since the 80s! The good ole USA sealed the deal on a last second goal and this country went nuts. Im excited. I just got back from a couple of days on the island of Amapala for a regional meeting with all the volunteers in the south and the country director. I have lots to tell that will have to wait for the next post when I have more time. Its beautiful and only 30 minutes away! Another incentive to come visit! I promise I promise I promise that picures are coming soon! Very soon! I just have to get them from my camera to my usb thingy and then to the world. I miss you.
Albums I am currently loving:
John Hartford- Steam Powered Aereo Takes
Stevie Wonder- Innervisions
Ween- Live in Chicago

sábado, 10 de octubre de 2009


Well here we are at last. It only took 3 months but I finally got myself into gear and became a full-force official “blogger.” If you are looking at this, I have tricked you into thinking that my life is interesting enough to warrant you spending your time reading about it. Either that or you are my mom who has spent the better part of the past 3 months looking at other people’s blogs. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me “hey is your mom’s name Marilyn because she just befriended me on facebook.” Hi Mom! Anyway, whether you are my mom or not, thank you for reading. On my end I will try my best to only include the funnier and more exciting parts of my day-to-day life and leave out all the boring fluff.
To start things off…I am currently listening to some of the choice cuts from the most recent (not the last by a long shot) T.W.O show at Carousel Lounge that Dan sent me and they are amazing! I highly recommend that you make your way to http://www.wonderfulorganization.com/ as soon as possible and check them out! Maybe you can even hear yourself heckling in the crowd. We also did a few recordings just before I left that should be on the website sometime soon as well. Talking about music might be a good place to start in describing my experience thus far because the first thing I discovered upon getting off the plane in Miami was that the fragile sticker on my guitar was out of date or something because the headstock was almost completely broken off of the neck and with it all my dreams. We were informed that there was a change of plans because of the political situation in Honduras and that we would be starting our training in The Dominican Republic. Since we were leaving in three separate groups spread out over three days, I had a whole day to walk to the nearest Home Depot, buy supplies to fix my guitar, and in the meantime spend some time getting to know my roommate Luke who was nice enough to join me on the 5 mile walk through suburban Miami. As it turns out, my guitar is now in working order and I have been writing a lot of music which has been great. I have aspirations to somehow record them in the next couple of months so I can send them to the T-dub crew to make them awesome. Then I’m hoping we can put them down for real when I come home to visit. So that brings us to The Dominican Republic- guitar intact, dreams repaired, backpack busting at the seams, ready to go. In the words of Samuel L in Jurassic Park, “hold on to your butts.”
There’s an old saying that’s probably not very old at all that says that the national religion of the D.R is… baseball and that the national pastime is… gossip. It sounds better when there are real pauses. Baseball, beaches, beer, bachata, babes, busses that are crazy are all things you can easily find in this beautiful country. There are other things that don’t start with the letter “b” but they aren’t worth mentioning. People all seem to applaud us for sticking with Peace Corps even though we have been run around so much but we are actually probably the luckiest group out there because our extra time in the D.R was awesome! We spent the first night sweating through the sheets at a monastery in Santo Domingo and then went the next morning to the training center where we would be spending the next three weeks. I’m trying to think of a good way to describe the madness that is the streets of Santo Domingo. Lots of people yelling, motorcycles racing each other, cars not adhering to any kind of traffic laws, sneers, jeers, and a lot Dominicans wondering what these hordes of gringos were doing trying to navigate the circus. We were set up with host families, which was pretty incredible considering the staff only had 2 days notice that we were coming. A number of us were living in the Los Cocos barrio either in the same little compound or within a few seconds of each other which made the living experience a blast. Most days were spent at the training center doing training stuff but as soon as we all turned the corner into Los Cocos in the late afternoon, we could see our family already sitting out in the street bumping the jams from the nearest colmado (food store/neighborhood hangout), playing dominoes, and gossiping about how weird we were. I loved that street corner. It was the site of many a dominoes game, a couple different late night cookouts of rice and sausage in a big witch like cauldron (a Saturday night tradition called “locrio”), and presidente beverages with the family. Luke and I were paired up again for some reason and lived in the house of Doña Luisa while our friends Christine and Miles lived above us with our host mom’s son and daughter who both had their own families and lived in two separate apartments. Miles played Ultimate in college at the University of Illinois and claims he remembers me. I´m not so sure if I believe it but I wish I had known him! If he wasn’t in the PC he seriously was going to join a circus as a professional juggler. I could have learned to juggle so much sooner! I’m working on learning some of the tricks these days so be prepared to be wowed when I return. On the weekends, we played “pass the pig,” a hilarious game that involves rolling two plastic pigs and acquiring points based on how they land. It’s mostly just funny to see people get really into it and shout out “Oh yeah I got a double-snouter!” We also went to the beach a couple of times and got rained on both times but still had a lot of fun. One of the beaches was mtv spring break Dominican style and was packed and really dirty, but the other was almost completely vacant and really beautiful. The first weekend we were there our family invited us all to a baby shower and told us to get ready for a good time. Remembering my brother’s baby shower which fell just short of being the best time of my life, I was expecting old ladies watching a young lady open presents and then playing games that really get the heart rate going. This turned out to be a completely different type of fun. Baby shower is to the D.R as bachelor party is to the U.S. Huge speakers were set up in a parking lot to blast meringue and bachata music while games were set up on the other side of the dance floor. One such game was a lovely contest where a female would sit on a male’s lap and he would “feed” her a baby bottle full of beer. Take down notes Will because I expect to see this at the next one if you want me to be your wingman again. The last weekend, the family decided that we needed to celebrate my birthday a month early since I wouldn’t be there to celebrate the real thing. So Suel, our host sister, took us all out in a big group of Dominicans and gringos to a fancy bar. Throughout the night, as we were dancing, the dj kept announcing “and don’t forget that there will be strippers here later.” I thought it was strange but when I asked if he was serious all the Dominicans just laughed and wondered why I would even be wondering such a thing as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Well it turned out that it was male strippers who came out dressed as hot cops. As disappointed as I was to see the objectification of the male body, these guys were professionals and really knew how to get the party going. It turned out to be a very memorable night that came to a close around 5 in the morning after a round of locrio in the street. All in all, The Dominican Republic was an awesome place with really amazing and super friendly people. I ate a lot of mangos, plátanos in various forms, and strange meats. I couldn’t understand a word of the Spanish but it was a blast and I was sad to leave. My intestines were probably ready to go though and I was excited to get to our real destination. While in the airport, we were informed that yet again something had happened in Honduras and that we would have to suffer 5 horrible days in the Doubletree Hotel in Miami with nothing to do but lounge by the pool and eat good food. I don’t even want to recall those dark days. But on July 20 something, we finally made it to Honduras. Yea!
We spent the first week and a half just outside Tegucigalpa in a place called Zarabanda up in the mountains where the people complained about the heat if it was any temperature above 75°F which it rarely was. I was put up with a host family that lived in a small little compound just off the highway that ran from Tegucigalpa all the way to Valle de Angeles along which all of the volunteers were spread out. We were really lucky to have the closeness we got in the DR and extra time in Miami because there is no way we would have been such a close group if we had spent the whole time living so far away from each other. My family ran a little pulperia (the equivalent of a colmado) out of their house so people were coming in and out a lot but I spent most of my time sitting out in the little courtyard talking about ghosts with my host mom. “Are there a lot of ghosts in the United States,” she asked one day. “Well of course there are. Are there a lot here?” She informed me that around midnight some nights a ghost came down the street driving a truck that had tires full of skulls. I thought I heard it one night but it was just a flat tire. They were great people and took good care of me. We had a couple days of training all together in Zarabanda before we departed with our individual projects to different “field based training” sites. Youth Development went to a somewhat bigger town called Talanga that was about 2 ½ hours from Tegucigalpa by bus. Busses here are quite the trip. All of them are school busses that I suppose were shipped down from the U.S because they still have the school district written on the side. I can’t wait to find a bus from Texas that I recognize. The drivers also pimp them out with speakers, neon paint, and various religious holograms. It’s great. Talanga was not the greenest of cities but had a nice backdrop of mountains that were best viewed from the roof of the giant mansion I was living in. My host father was the former mayor and provided me with any luxury due to a peace corps volunteer. They decided the first weekend that we were there that we needed to celebrate my real birthday which really was that weekend. I neglected to tell them that I had already celebrated. We were all sitting up on the roof chatting it up when my host mom came up to tell me the music was starting. They had hired a mariachi band just for plain old me! We danced and looked like fools. Luckily for us, someone was video taping the whole thing and it was replayed in its entirety, completely unedited, the next night on “Talangavision,” the local station. Training was actually very busy and we spent most days from 8-5 learning how to work with the youth of Honduras and then going out and giving charlas or workshops to classes of various ages. Dental care to kindergarteners, HIV to high schoolers (I couldn’t stop giggling obviously), Life skills to middle schoolers, etc. My Spanish class did a community project with the local boy scout troup to adopt an area of town and keep it clean. We started with a movie night to raise funds which actually worked really well and was exciting to see everyone coming together. Then we met with the mayor, met with the troup, planned stuff, and had a big clean up day. It turned out pretty well. My host dad also took me out to their farm a lot where I could ride around on horses and feel like a cowboy while he did real cowboy stuff. I grew to really love Talanga but I was ready to leave and get to the real thing. We left after 7 weeks and my host mom cried. This was now the third crying mother I had experienced in less than 2 months (Houston, DR, Talanga). We came back to Zarabanda and came back together as the whole group and moved back in with our original host families. We were supposed to just have a few days going over last minute procedural stuff and then departing for our sites but once again the proverbial mierda hit the ventilador. Ole Mel had snuck back into the country and walled himself up in the Brazilian embassy. There were two straight days of 24hour curfews, the power was going in and out, and all cell phone signals were intermittently shut off. At least that was the case for the first couple hours. But after that it was all calm and nobody was out doing anything. It was like a snow day! Things were only really happening in the city (Tegucigalpa) so we hardly noticed. But after a weeks delay we were finally ready to go to site. On site announcement day I found out that I was going to El Tular, Valle in the southern most department of Honduras. Hondurans could tell me nothing about the place except for the same joke every time that when the devil comes to Honduras he stays away from the south because its to hot for him. Well I was nervous in general but for the most part very excited so I didn’t care. The night before the swearing in ceremony I decided to join some of my friends in shaving a mustache for the occasion. Based on the fact that my family thought me reading in a chair was hilarious, you can imagine how much they laughed when I was shaving outside and then when my friend Josh came over to touch his up with a little hair dye. The ceremony was at the American embassy and we celebrated and said a tearful goodbye to each other that night as we braced for the isolation that was ahead of us. I left the next morning after consoling my 4th crying mother and headed down south to El Tular.
We are almost to present time. Thank you so much for still reading and I promise the next posts won’t be so ridiculously long. I arrived to my site late last week and was picked up at a gas station just outside of town. We turned off the paved road and onto the dirt road that would be my home for the next 2 years. El Tular is very flat and very small but is within 30 minutes of both San Lorenzo, a bustling little fishing town, and Amapala, an island famous for beautiful beaches. The town is surrounded my low lying green hills whose sharp features make me think of that movie Congo for some reason. I really have barely seen that movie but it always comes to mind. It actually does look a lot like an African savanna here. We are in the rainy season so it is pretty green and the giant expanses of grass and flat- topped jícaro trees look straight out of National Geographic. The inedible jícaro fruit looks like a really big granny smith but it grows directly out of the bark and not from the branches. It looks like they were just glued to the tree. I’ve never seen anything like it. I moved in to Doña Francisca´s house where I was immediately informed that I had to go buy a bed. So I went into town and now I have a bed. She is the grandmother of the two little boys that run around in their underwear all day because both their parents are in the U.S just as hundreds of others from this community are. Its really amazing and I have already heard young people talking about wanting to learn English so they can go to the states soon. There is also a great grandmother who is blind and with whom I have now had two horrifying interactions with because she didn’t know I was right next to her. I’ll leave those to the imagination or personal conversation. I spent this week meeting my various counterparts that I will be working with and trying to figure out my best plan of attack for starting. The community wants some really cool things and I am excited to be a part of it but it will be a challenge to get things moving especially since school is letting out for the next 2 months next week. I also walk around a lot. Some people just slow down, but others come to a complete stop to stare at me unable to say anything as they wonder what in the world this giant goofy looking gringo is doing in their town. But everyone is very very nice and I already hear my name a lot as I pass different houses. It feels really strange at times like any new place would for the first couple of weeks, especially when you don’t know a soul. But I am very excited for the present and future. I miss you all very much and think about how lucky I am to have the family and friends that I do. I also have a mailing address now!
Eduardo Mathis VCP
San Lorenzo, Valle
Honduras C.A

No numbers. They’ll call me when something comes that’s why you have to write Eduardo. I’m really getting into letter writing so I promise I will write back. Until the next time. Thanks for reading.