Have fun when you can. Think all the time.

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December 17, 2010

Christmas Traditions

“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, Everywhere you go…” Well, not really. Not here, not for me. Which, has made me think a lot about Christmas, the traditions, and what exactly does Christmas mean for me. This is my first Christmas away from home, and I think my saving grace is that it feels like summer, there is no snow, and it’s really easy to forget its less than a week away—but I have watched Love Actually about 30 times, so the Christmas spirit is going strong even in this tropical climate. In fact I’m making Christmas cookies with the boys tonight, and Saturday we’re having Christmas dinner (but Mom, make sure you save me some perogies) because I want to share some of my Christmas traditions with my Honduran family.

My family has a lot of Christmas traditions, from going into the woods to cut down our tree to be decorated by hand made decorations accumulated over the years, to the advent calendar we each take turns filling for the day with 6 special treats, kind words or a fun evening activity, to making rum balls with my brother, to playing ‘Taste of Christmas’ (a compilation of scremo style Christmas songs) while decorating because I used to be a scremo kid and my brothers and I still enjoy the CD, to attending Church on Christmas eve and embracing my mothers East Coast roots with mince meat pie. I even have some traditions of my own, that my family doesn’t necessarily like, such as heading to Paul's and playing shootable snakes and ladders with Christmas inspired shots while Santie Clause is busy dropping of toys to the good girls and boys, but they support because it’s important to me and I still get out of bed at the crack of dawn when my little sister is ready to open presents before the sun has had a chance to rise. To taking turns watching each other open presents slowly and deliberately, to the log channel on T.V. that my dad insists on putting on even thought we have a real fire going, to mimosas and smoked salmon/cream cheese bagels once the living room looks like a battle ground of wrapping paper and bows to watching its a Wonderful Life after Christmas brunch because its my moms one of my moms favourite movies. To preparing Christmas dinner for all of my wonderful beautiful, slightly loco extended family and close family friends, to playing in the snow with my little cousins, to lots of hugs, laughter and a warm fire.

For me Christmas is a feeling, that extends just the one day and can fill up the entire month. It’s about family—for better and for worse—and its about the warmth and happiness I get from seeing so many of the people that I care about and love at the same time, and sharing these special traditions and moments with. Its about the accumulation of (22 years) of memories and experiences, its about feeling warm even though its cold outside, its about making people smile by picking out the perfect gift (or a thoughtful action), its about going to the mall on December 23rd looking for that last minute thing to pull everything together and rather than battling the swarms of last minute shoppers, reveling in the last minute Christmas chaos while sharing the moment, and its about regardless of the annual Christmas eve ‘disagreement’, knowing that your family is family and the next morning (before the sun rises) you’ll be thrown together into something magical—and to me that is something special.

When I have a family of my own (don’t worry Dad—it wont be for a (long)while), I want to share my families traditions with them, and make some of my own—I’ll probably ditch the Christmas shooters—and share the special magical feeling that my parents were able to share with me when I was little and continue to help me feel until now, for my first Christmas away from home sans family and sans snow—but not sans Christmas spirit. I’ll miss my family (friends and loved ones) this Christmas. I’ll miss our traditions, making gingerbread men with Kaitlyn and Damien, drinking eggnog by the tree every night with my mom and a warm fire, spilling my coffee Christmas morning (every year without fail) because I didn’t move it when my dad told me to because he (still) always knows best. I’ll miss the laughter, the smiles, and even the Christmas eve ‘disagreement’, but I will be thinking of them and (I hope) they’ll be thinking of me, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s enough to keep the Christmas magic alive.

Merry Christmas—knock back a few Spiced Nogs for me ;)
Delaney C.

Love and Hate: Tegucigalpa

Slowly but surely I am beginning to feel more and more love for Tegucigalpa, something I did not believe possible until...well my last visit. Its huge, the pollution is bad and the traffic is worse, everyone is honking and blasting sirens, its not safe, and taxis are dangerous to take alone, and there are people everywhere, tons of people. But, there are tons of people everywhere so instead of standing out…I blend in, hiding between the waves of people. I don’t get yelled at or harassed constantly, its not dusty, and unlike El Salvador (which has a pretty homogeneous population) Honduras has a truly cosmopolitan vibe with people resembling many different ancestries, and it’s beautiful.

I had to go to Tegucigalpa to extend my Visa because I will be here for longer than 90 days, and this was the first trip I had taken to Tegucigalpa with it being the destination rather than an annoyance while trying to get somewhere else. I took the bus from Juticalpa (~3 hours), buying my ticket from two guys who made me repeat L (L-eh) after spelling my name, roughly 12 times because it was “so beautiful”. I think I was extra nasally. When we got to Teguic. I got a taxi (rather than calling one of my trusted numbers) and managed to describe where I needed to go AND I got a cheaper price rather than (like usual) getting ripped off. Sandra and I decided that it would be best for me to head to the Office of Migration the next day rather than rush so I worked in the office until Sandra was done and we went back to the house she shares with a friend where she let me crash so I didn’t have to spend money on a hotel, and for which I was very grateful for. I headed to the Office of Migration the next day and spent an hour confused, walking from line to line, and getting cut at every possible opportunity( I might need to work on being more assertive) but eventually managed to get everything sorted out, so in three days I can go back to pick up my passport and should be able to stay in the country for the rest of my internship ☺

I found another taxi (which doesn’t seem like a lot, but is HUGE, because of how dangerous it is, because I (sometimes) still have trouble articulating where I need to go, and because I always pay a gringo price) which took me to my next destination, La Colonia Mega, the grocery store of all Honduran grocery stores, with one thing on my mind…Christmas. I have wanted to cook a ‘Christmas’ dinner for my family since I got here, so I decided that this Saturday would be the day and was very excited to pick up some supplies that are not available in the city I live in. I totally got caught up in the festivities with decorations everywhere and Christmas tunes playing over the intercom wandered around mindlessly and lost track of time, but I am pretty impressed with my haul and confident/happy to report that my Christmas dinner will be 98% complete (only missing perogies due to unavailability…I’m not sure how many Ukrainians there are in Honduras, haha).

I headed back to the office to check in with Sandra, and as I was zipping in and out of traffic dodging motobikes, pedestrians and other cars while talking with Juan Carlos (my newest taxi find) in a taxi that more resembled Fred Flinstones car (I could see the ground as we shimmied between tall buildings and narrow streets) than Cinderella’s carriage I realized—I felt like a princess.

Don’t get me wrong Tegucigalpa in no way parallels Camelot, and life here couldn’t be further from a Fairytale, but there was something special in the air that day. In Winnipeg I never take taxis, and in the rare occasion that I do, I am usually intoxicated and crammed in the back seat with 4 friends either singing off tune, or trying to come up with ‘insightful’ questions to ‘entertain’ the first poor sucker we managed flagged down to take us home in return for money, and here I was in Tegucigalpa, flitting in and out of traffic, up and down steep winding roads with the sun on my cheeks and the reggaton pumping, still in a post La Colonia Christmas high, and this, this was my Fairytale. Now where’s my night in shining armor? Hola me amor…..eerrrr no gracias. Which, because I am full of inner dialogue these days, made me think of the fairy tales (and the princesses) I used to admire when I was little…back in the day.

I remember going to see Mulan in the theaters for my friend Jordan Vincent’s tenth birthday, and at the end of the movie I stood up and clapped—a standing ovation—which could very well have been for the very reason that I was (and still am) a total goof, but I’d like to think it had something to do with the fact that instead of being a damsel in distress, she was totally a bad ass.

I mean, she was noble and brave and full of honour (she pretended to be a boy so her father would not be send to war), she was tough, determined, and perseverance (she worked her ass off to become as good as and even better than all of the boys in training), she was smart, witty and clever (she used her intelligence to outsmart the rest of the army, figured out how to use her brains rather than brawn to beat the bad guys, and her jokes were top notch), she knew what she wanted and she went for it, and she saved China a second time even after she was kicked out for being a women and all of her friends abandoned her and told her she was worthless. If that’s not an inspirational role model, then maybe I should call up Paris Hilton or something.

I also liked Belle (as in Belle from Beauty and the Beast). She was beautiful, loved to read, was friendly to everyone and knew that she needed to expect more from herself and for her life. She wasn’t a bimbo like the blond barmaids looking to marry the creepshow Gaston, who was quite possibly on steroids and couldn’t have had an IQ higher than a lampshade, and like Mulan she was noble and brave, taking her fathers place in the dungeon. She was patient and compassionate becoming friends with the beast even though he was a huge asshole at the beginning and was keeping her prisoner. She was caring and compassionate, teaching the beast how to be kind, patient, and caring, even though he was after all…a beast. And even though the Beast had to come and rescue here in the end because she was bad with directions and got attacked by wolves in the forest, she’s still up there in the spectrum of bad ass Disney princesses.

My day might not have met the criteria for a fairytale, but it was a magical day nonetheless and I’d like to think that slowly but surely I’m beginning to acquire some of the attributes that I so admired in some of my earliest idols…and I’m even becoming a little bit more bad ass…getting some street cred?

The more time I spend (especially on my own) in Tegicigalpa, the more confident I become (with my Spanish, with my ability to keep myself safe), and the more positive experiences I have, the more a little bit of my heart warms up to the Honduran capital. I’ve come a LONG way since my first night in Teguic. (when I refused to do wander out of sight of the hotel I was staying at) and dare I say…I am looking forward to my next visit and the adventure(s) that will accompany it.

With love,
Delaney C.

December 13, 2010

And that's what I call a success!

Last Thursday and Friday was my two day youth worshop for Youth in Defense of the Environment in Salama and I am beyond impressed with the outcome. As always, I was freaking out Thursday morning, certain that it would be a huge flop ending in disaster. And, as usual I was (pleasantly) wrong. I really need to stop being to nervous before these sorts of things.

One of my presenters cancelled last minute, but Jose Luis was able to use her powerpoint to give a presenation on the Rio Platano Bioforestry Reserve so it ended up being okay. Thursday we started almost an hour and a half late (obviously running on Honduran time) once all of the participants showed up. The presentation on the Forestry laws went really well, and the students from Silca who came to talk about their recycling program did a really great job explaining everything and had some interactive activities illustrating the biodegradability of different materials and the importance of recycling in their communities. After their presentation I showed a video on the recycling process in Honduras made by a Peace Corps volunteer and the kids (and Jose Luis) seemed to love it and asked tons of questions. Eyal and Mark did a presentation on watersheds and water contamination with lots of dinamicas (activities and running around) which the kids lost their minds over, and ended up being a great end to the day. I also got them each to fill out a questionnaire on their perceptions of the environmental concerns in their communities and their involvement in their communities and their insights were inspiring considering some of them were as young as thirteen.

At the beginning of the day Karen would repeat everything I would say in Spanish because she said no one could understand me, which made me very frustrated and disheartened because I had been practicing my pronunciation for a week, but as the day went on she stopped, and I think the participants got used to my Canadian-Spanish accent and were able to understand me pretty well so I felt better. Eyal (who has never heard me speak Spanish before, but has heard me talk about my struggling with it) told me that my Spanish was phenomenal for the time that I had been here, and Mark and TJ also commented on my Spanish, so that was good to hear and gave me a bit more confidence in my Spanish ability. Another highpoint of the first day was when Adrianna came up to me at the end of the day and told me that the participants had thought this was going to be another boring taller and none of them wanted to come, but now that they knew how fun and interactive this taller was they were exited to be coming back the next day, which made me beam with happiness and made me super excited for the next day as well.

Friday started late again, and even I arrived almost an hour late because I spent the night at Maria’s in Silca instead of spending another night in a hotel (because any opportunity to spend time in Silca, and visit Maria is one I wont pass up). Breakfast was late so I started them off on a discussion of their thoughts on the environmental challenged facing Olancho presently, to be followed later that day with a discussion group getting them to think about looking towards the future. All of the activities went over really well and the participants seemed to really enjoy the group discussions and sharing their ideas and information with each other. At the end of the taller each group gave a 10-15 minute presentation that they had come up with using some of the information, skills, and activities they learned throughout the taller. I was not to sure how well this would go over, but I was blown away with the results. Two of the groups performed short skits, one group had a environment inspired reggaton/rap song, several of the groups used dinamicas in their presentation to get their peers to answer environmental trivia, and all of the groups were able to show just how much they had learned throught the two days. At the end of the presentations while we were waiting for lunch one of the participants came up to me and explained that he helps facilitate a youth group every Sunday and he was wondering if he could have some extra paper to do some of these activities and excercises with the group this coming Sunday…CHA-CHING! That was exactly what I was going for with this workshop (for the students to take the information, skills, and tools that they learned through this taller and to share it with their peers, and their communities in whatever forums or networks they have at their disposal), and I could not have been more happier. I’m pretty sure I was high with happiness for not only the rest of the day, but the rest of the weekend as well.

Mark, Eyal, TJ and I got a ride back to Juticalpa with Jose Luis and we went to see the Recycling video at the movie theater (there was a free screening both Thursday and Friday nights), and then I headed to the Salon to meet up with Silvia and Keyla. I was supposed to do something with the Peace Corps crew, but when I got home I realized how much I missed my family so I opted to hang out with them and spend my friday night playing word games with Darien and chilling with the baby, Keyla, and Tatiana.

Lots of Love,
Delaney C.

December 1, 2010

Sometimes my nerves get the best of me

Today Hermilo came to Juticalpa to visit and we had a meeting about the upcoming conference I am planning for the ninth and tenth of December. I am planning an interactive workshop for 40 high-school students who are members of environmental organizations.

FLM has had youth conferences in the past, but they are usually for 200 students in a big hall, with some dry presenter rambling on while the students throw paper air planes and fall asleep on each others shoulders. When I was a student I could not stay awake for those types of lectures let alone learn anything substantial even if the topic was muy interesting to me. So for this workshop I decided to change it up a little bit, because I want these kids to get excited and I want them to feel passionate and I want them to take something away from the experience. There will be four presentations from professionals or specialists (One on the new forestry laws, one on the situation of the water systems in Olancho, one on Recycling, and one on Climate Change and the situation of Olancho's Forests), several activities that help illustrate what the presentations are trying to teach and get them thinking about the issues in a different medium, and discussion groups for them to share their thoughts and ideas. Each day the students will be given time to work on a 10-15 min. presentation in their smaller groups that they will present to the other groups at the end of the workshop. Presentations can be formal and informative, take the form of a game, quiz, song or play, or any medium that the group of students want to explore to share their ideas, what they have learned, their hopes for the future, and of course have fun while doing it!

I would be nervous if I was facilitating this in Canada in English, because that's my style (I always get nervous, I always over plan, and then usually everything works out and I am very pleased with the results) but trying to pull this off in Honduras at my (fleeting)level of Spanish brings a whole new set of challenges. I am pretty comfortable with problem solving, thinking on my feet, and corralling unruly high-school students but without having mastered the language (although I am doing much better than when I first arrived) I am very nervous for the success of this event. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I am also nervous because I can almost see the the sand of time passing through the hourglass (at an alarming rate) as I race to finish this post...time is going by that fast, and I have a whole lot of things I want (need) to accomplish before I can leave (feeling satisfied). I have been working on my preliminary research and have been working with Hermilo to fine tune my interview schedule so after the conference I can begin interviewing. I am hoping to get a few interviews in before the country shuts down for Christmas Vacation (which I have been warned about by several people) so I will be able to finish the remainder in January, compile the results and finish the report before I head back to my home and native land at the end of January.

I'm not sure how I feel about being here for nearly five months and doing so 'little'. If I had to explain what I did in a day it wouldn't sound like much and even without going into boring details, stories about the work that I am doing while in Honduras would put even the best intentioned to sleep and leave many of you asking, "That's it?". But I am always busy. I am always doing something or talking to someone or scurrying off somewhere to try and get something done so I really don't know what to tell you or where my time goes...its a mystery.

I do feel quite strongly that I should not have came here (been allowed to come here) with my level of Spanish. At least for the purposes of this internship. Two months in and my conversational Spanish is functional, and if I was traveling I would be set. However working in Spanish is still a challenge and I can't help but feel that the quality of my work and my ability to help the FLM and MAO would be dramatically different if I were fluent on arrival. But I am here, and I am not fluent in Spanish (yet), so I will just keep working my ass off to catch up and make my time here count now wont I.

My stomach has decided to strike against my will. Against frijoles that is. I like beans I really do. I have nothing against them, but my stomach has had enough and against my wishes flips over and refuses to allow entrance when they are placed before me. Beans are served three meals a day here and there is no escaping them, which was fine for a while, and I'm sure will be fine again...but for now, my stomach is on strike and there is nothing I can do about it until its needs are met(likely a week or two of bean free dining).

Also, today when I got home from work Silvia (mom) told me I would have to unfortunately pack up my stuff and move to another room in the house because her (ex)husband is moving back to the house. Because the house is in his name there is little she can do (according to her lawyer) to keep him from coming back, and he ended things with his hunny bunny (someone is pregnant but I couldn't figure out who or why it was a problem) so he needs a place to live. Im not to thrilled with this for a couple of reasons. I can tell that Silvia is less than thrilled, which makes me less than thrilled because I have her back, I liked my room (although that's not a huge issue at all, rather a minor convenience), and I had liked living in an all female house (minus the kidletts) although I guess I didn't realize how much until the dynamic was threatened with change. I'm a bit apprehensive because I cant walk two feet down the street without attracting relentless unwanted attention over and over and over and over and over and over (you get the picture) again day after day and the house was kind of like my refuge not to mention the fact that I have been asked several times by the Uncle to date him, if I want to marry a Olanchanan, if I will have Honduran children and many other real gems of questions and I really really hope that doesn't happen on a daily basis...because that will get exhausting quite quickly and change my wonderful living situation into a rather uncomfortable one. But, not to get ahead of myself...I'm sure things will all work out and I am apprehensive for nothing :)

Tomorrow I head to Silca to talk to the secretary of MAO about the organizational structure, mobilization, and training of MAO. Im taking a bus and having a sleepover, which should be interesting although I am excited because Maria is one of the sweetest, most caring and passionate individuals I have met while down here so I'm sure it will be fantastic and good to get out of Juti (if even for a night).

Dream Sweet,
Delaney C.

November 22, 2010

El Salvador

Information Saturation

I’m reading a book about a boy whose Dad died in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. I remember parts of that day still today. I remember seeing the planes crash into the buildings on T.V. before going to school. I remember not fully understanding the extent of what was happening, but knowing that it was bad. I remember sitting in shop class and talking to my teacher about what was happening while kids around me played with scrap metal.

I still remember the look in his eyes. It wasn’t compassion, but it wasn’t indifference. Back then I couldn’t really place the look, but now I think it was tired. Tired of years of hearing about bad things happening everywhere else, tired of having to protect the people around him and hope that the bad things stayed on T.V. and in the newspapers far from home. Tired of trying to care for people whose faces he had never seen and voices he had never heard.

Sometimes I get tired and sometimes I don’t know for whom or what I care for anymore. And there are days when I feel all cared out, like I have no more caring left inside of me. Sometimes I get frustrated that it feels like I do all this caring for other people by myself. On days like this I wish that I could be an accountant or a statistician and care about numbers instead of people…because numbers can’t let you down or disappoint you, numbers can’t carry out genocides, numbers can’t hurt other people, numbers can’t have corrupt governments that prevent aid from getting to them and things from getting better. Numbers can’t be greedy, numbers can’t look someone in the face and hurt them and their families because they have different beliefs, numbers can’t be abused by their parents and then take that anger and pain out on other people.

But I don’t like numbers. I like people. And (most days) when I am not feeling so tired and exhausted I care about people (a great deal), and I want people (not numbers) to be happy and to succeed. Sometimes I wish I could be okay with taking care of the people surrounding just me—my little circle of family, friends, and maybe an acquaintance. But I don’t know if I could be. I don’t know that I could stop thinking about the faces I have never seen, and the voices I have never heard, with the hungry tummies and the cracked lips, with big dreams and tied hands. I might be able to for a while—if I kept really busy, but I think eventually I would begin to think and then I would not be happy within my little circle of security in my cozy house with my child(ren) and my partner. I guess I’ll never know if I don’t try—but I’d like to think I know myself pretty well by now, and I’m not sure I have time to stop caring while I figure out that not caring isn’t for me.

For that matter, I’m not sure the world (or certain places in the world at least—and the rest of the world indirectly) has time to stop thinking and stop caring. In five to ten years the forests of Honduras may be damaged beyond repair if things continue the way they are and do not change dramatically. Honduras will not be alone in their crisis. Will not be the only country facing the reality of exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources. With damage beyond repair and the loss of a million dollar industry the damage to the soils and water will intensify, and the people—of Honduras, of Central America, of the North America, of the European Union—will suffer, directly or indirectly. There is a timer tick tick ticking away and every moment we let go by without confronting these issues is another moment that we can never get back to help protect the places we live in as well as our way of life. Things are going to happen a lot faster than we’d like to think, and just like a week swimmer falling of an edge in the ocean, by the time we realize we are in over our heads it will be too late to call for help.

I think good intentions have unfortunately helped fuel people’s indifference. People are overwhelmed by the barrage of ‘issues’ they are asked to care about, to donate money towards, and to volunteer their time to. Put forth by ‘passionate’ people and spread by mass media we are introduced to exponentially increasing numbers of causes, campaigns, issues, and problems affecting every aspect of our societies. So many issues that peoples heads spin around causing them to get overwhelmed and choose not to focus on any of the issues at all, and rather on what to cook for dinner and what to do on the weekend.

Aids, cancer, poverty, clean water, conflict diamonds, floods in faraway lands, poor countries torn apart by earthquakes, dying children without mosquito nets, urban violence, police brutality, low voter turnout, municipal elections. What to care about? Where to spend (valuable) time? Who to give my money to? Saturated by causes, by information, by disasters, and sad news, people opt to block it out, to not think about it, and to do nothing rather than take advantage of the age of information, with everything at their fingertips…kind of reminds me of the bystander effect in psychology. With an increase of information, technology our interconnected world is causing people to withdraw into their secure, safe little circles of comfort and try to block out the bad news and bad thoughts.

We have time. Right? I don’t mean to be a downer, but I’m not so sure. ‘Bad’ and unavoidable things will start happening in our neighbourhoods in our backyards sooner than we would like to think. When these ‘things’ begin to happen we will not be able to ignore them. And by then it will be too late. The damage will be done, and there will be little to repair and we will have to suffer the consequences of denial, ignorance and indifference…but we also like to react to things we can’t ignore rather than acting proactively which is another rant just waiting to be unleashed.

Thinking about the Future (trying not to be entirely cynical),
Delaney C.

Never Forget

Before heading out to Santa Caterina we visited UNA (one of the main Universities in San Salvador). Coincidentally it was twenty first anniversary of the murders of the Jesuit Priests that took place on campus and there was a special exhibit. Its a pretty powerful and moving experience being in the same room(s) where the priests and female students were not murdered, violated, tortured and brutalized. For me it’s an uncomfortable feeling, but one that I cant end prematurely. Its an uncomfortable feeling I force myself to endure until my chest gets tight, I begin to feel claustrophobic and someone says its time to leave or move onto another section. I need to feel uncomfortable, I surround myself in heavy all encompassing feeling of the room in an attempt to make myself realize, truly realize, that people are horrible vicious monsters and just what they are capable of.

Part of the exhibit that is available to the public is photo albums with graphic pictures taken of the people who were murdered. Some people cannot look at them, the images are too graphic, too raw, and make the viewer feel something they can’t handle—too uncomfortable. I can’t take my eyes off of them. I remember the first time I saw them and not being able to look away, while at the same time being confused as to how I, as a compassionate human being could look at these images without becoming physically sick instantly (possibly some combination of desensitization and a biological protection mechanism), not to say that I wasn’t effected, I was, but I couldn’t help but thinking the images I was faced with were so disturbing I should be physically crippled and unable to go on with my day.

This time I looked at them, again unable to look away, wanting the understand how and why people [are able to] do such horrible things to each other; never wanting to forget what humans are capable of. It saddens and perplexes me how humans are able to do unimaginably atrocious things to each other, and how we continue to allow these tragedies to repeat themselves again, and again.

As individuals we may be able to learn from our mistakes, but as whole societies it seems that we are designed to continuously repeat the same tragedies time and time again not learning from past atrocities but rather introducing new techniques to inflict pain and suffering on others.

Like an Elephant,
Delaney C.

El Escalon

This school has a piece of my heart however I’m not sure even on my most articulate days I can express (with justice) how much this school, its teachers, and its students mean to me, but I hope that those of you who have been able to see me at the school have been able to see a glimmer of how important it is to me. The road to the bottom of the hill where El Escalon primary school is nestled is haphazard at best and becomes completely washed out in the rainy season making the walk (that the teachers and many of the students are subject to) illustrate their dedication and motivation to education. Kids play soccer in the dirt path in front of the chain link fence surrounding the entrance to the school that is pressed with curious and excited faces shouting both ‘Hello’, and ‘Hola’, and I feel like I have been welcomed home.

Being able to visit this school three times in the last three years makes me one of the luckiest people in the world. Being able to see these kids grow as our relationship grows has been a phenomenal experience that I won’t even try to explain. Admiration, respect, compassion, love and a plethora of other incredible feelings surge simultaneously through my body when I am around these teachers and children and every ounce of my being is elated and filled with an energy I have never experienced outside of El Escalon.

Due to the massive rains the schools kitchen, left vulnerable in the absence of a retention wall, was destroyed by a mudslide. Presently only two-thirds of the school is protected by a retention wall, and although the school itself remains intact thus far there is a chance that as the rainy seasons worsen one of the classrooms will follow the fate of the kitchen.

Regardless of my views on development, on the criticisms of the Alternative Spring Break Program, of all the nay-sayers, I would do anything for this school, its teachers, and its students, and without a doubt they deserve every good thing that comes there way (and a whole lot more). I hope that this was not my last time to visit El Escalon, and I know if I want to go back I will find a way (just like I have done). My pockets are full of cards written for ‘Trini’ and ‘Celini’ because Delaney is too tough for the Spanish tongues to pronounce, my camera is full of pictures of dancing butterflies and smiling faces of old friends, my cheeks are full of lingering kisses and my heart is full of new memories and lots and lots of love. That’s enough to make be feel (even if just for a moment) that the world is in fact a beautiful wonderful place and there is a little bit of hope left after all.

Full of Love,
Delaney C.

November 4, 2010

02 Noviembre 2010
Día de Muerte

I have always had a sort of morbid obsession with cemeteries and death. I’m not sure when it started but it was intensified when I took Death and Concepts of the Future in my first year—a course discussing how different cultures react to death and ‘afterlife’—and today I had the opportunity to participate in the Día de Muerte with my family. The Día de Muerte is a two day festival that celebrates those who have died and left this world. On November 1st is the Día de Muerte for children and on November 2nd is the Día de Muerte for adults. Central park is filled with merchants selling beautiful rich colored flowers, and plastic ornamental disks. Silvia bought an assortment of flowers and then we arranged them at the house.

When we got to the cemetery there were people selling food and children running around laughing and screaming. Not the typical somber and heavy atmosphere one would expect at a cemetery plagued by grey and black granite in a grid like pattern with dark eerie tombstones marking the place of loved ones decaying under the ground…but that’s not what was waiting for us inside the cemetery. Marvelous tombas covered in bright coloured tiles, pastel coloured coffins, upright artistically designed wrought iron crosses, vibrant flowers and ornamental discs displayed on ever grave and tomb. Children were running over and around graves laughing and playing, families sitting with loved ones (from the past and the present) talking, smiling and laughing. With no grid like order to the graves they seemed to fit together intricately, like a puzzle I did not know the rules to yet in a haphazard but beautifully elaborate way. This was not a day to be sad and mourn the dead, but rather a day to celebrate life and a part of life being—death. How revolutionary and uplifting, not to mention a much healthier way to deal with death. Instead of mourning and wallowing, crying about the loss of a life, the selfish grieving, the focus being on the one who has been left behind on this cruel life...the focus is on the loved one who is no longer here, on their life, and their great journey; of remembrance and of hope.

I have already decided that I don’t care if I am buried in a cemetery or cremated. Those are just details to me and that will be left up to whoever I leave behind as long as a tree is planted, near where I lay (figuratively, or literally); a big hulking, strong monster of a tree (not a sissy fern or shrub) that can bring me back to the earth and reach up towards the sky. But if I do find my ‘final resting place’ in a cemetery, I hope it is in one similar to the one I visited in Honduras; a cemetery that offers hope and love to the people who I leave behind, helping them rise up instead of bringing them down, honoring my life with celebration not with a dark cloak of mourning and too many tears.
Breath Deep, The World is Beautiful
Delaney C.

31 Octobre de 2010
Salt and Lime; Funerals and Divorce; Living for the weekend

I have never been one of those ‘I live for the weekend’ kind of people. I credit that to the fact that I have always loved what I was doing—whether it be work or school—so the weekend never seemed like that big of a deal to me—more of the same old stuff, mixed up a little bit. Here, in Honduras, I find myself becoming one of those people—waiting for the weekend, ticking down the work days mentally in my head, until Friday afternoon when I feel a sense of relief in that for the next two days I am on my own time—or rather my weekend routine. Why have I become this person seemingly overnight? Is it the warmer temperature…perhaps the Latin vibe?

I think it largely has to do with the fact that I lack direction at work. It’s not that I don’t love what I’m doing, it’s more that I rarely know what I’m doing. I show up because I have to but often occupy my day by looking for things to fill my time with.  Some that I don’t mind doing, like helping out with office stuff, reading documents, doing research for my report, practicing Spanish…and other things that I do just to kill time that make me feel useless like playing minesweeper and Sudoku (both of which I have gotten rather good at). I like the weekends, because I like not feeling the obligation of using up my time in the office. I like being able to walk around town or read a book in the sun. And I love going to Jutiquila on the weekends with the family going on walks with the kids and ‘trying’ to teach them English. I think (fingers crossed) it will get better in December (or once I get back from El Salvador), and I will be able to speak more and be able to talk to Jose Luis about starting to get into the communities to interview people. One of the problems with being the first intern for this NGO is that neither of us wants to speak up too loudly as to what their needs are so we both end up saying nothing. From my position, I’m really flexible either way, I just want to be doing something that won’t be a complete waste of time and that someone will benefit from on some level. Patience Delaney Patience.

The other day my stomach was feeling upset and Silvia told me to have some salt and lime. Interesting. This is the cure-all solution offered by Hondurans (like Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Take half a lime, squeeze the juice into a shot glass, add a repulsive amount of salt, mix it up, and slam it back and Tada! no more stomach ache, ear infection, broken leg, or lung cancer…well that last one might be pushing it. It was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated (although I wasn’t about to grab a second glass just for the taste). My stomach stopped aching, although it might have been because my body was so confused with what I had done to it that it just gave up. Interesting medicinal practices Honduras has going for them.

If I ever decide to live in this glorious country for an extended period of time I have locked down the two most profitable sectors to invest in…those involving Funerals and/or Divorce.There is at least a funeral a day here (although the city is rather ‘large’), but usually once every day I see a coffin in the back of a pickup truck covered in flowers and people weaving slowly through the streets followed by a mass of people toting umbrellas and children. Sometimes they sing and chant, and sometimes they are silent. I once had a professor tell me that the ‘death industry’ is recession proof—people are always going to be dying. However there does seem to be a funaria on every second street corner so maybe I’m not the first to recognize what a booming business this industry is...at least in Honduras.

Another area sure to leave you living quite comfortably in Honduras is divorce. O infidelity.  I have come to realize that everyone in Honduras has had at least three husbands/wives by the time they reach 35, sometimes starting as early as 16. I would also love to get my hands on someone’s family tree to figure out the tangled web of children, (ex) spouses, who belongs to who, who went where, who’s related and how ect.I left Thursday for the conference in Rio Plantón and everything was fine and dandy, however when I returned Sunday Claudia’s husband had (in the month they have been in Juticalpa) decided that he had found someone else and that he was leaving her…adios, see you later. Horrible. Although she didn’t seem as upset as I would have expected …more like her ego was a little bruised, as if someone picked her last for a team or her best friend blew off plans with her for someone else. I asked about their kids, only to find out they are not his. It was like opening Pandora’s box.

Claudia is 28, has two kids (not sure if they are from the same father) and will be going onto her 4th husband (soon I am sure…she had a date last night). Keyla (21) has two boyfriends at the moment, and one of them is married. And like I mentioned earlier Silvia’s husband left her (and the two kids) for his mistress but not before drinking and gambling away their money and properties. Not shocking enough—all of this is typical Honduran behavior…Mind equals blown.
I felt frustrated because I couldn’t comfort my friend the way I would like to, other than repeating over and over again, ‘todos los hombres es tontos’ which she seems to agree with (for the time being), and then I felt frustrated with normalcy of this situation.

I don’t understand how if all of these children grow up seeing their father(s) leave their mothers, essentially abandoning them time after time how i) the girls don’t grow up to be fiercely strong refusing to tolerate that kind of behavior, as well as refusing to add to the cycle and be the ‘mistress’ and ii) how the boys don’t grow up to be compassionate to their mothers/sisters situation(s) and vow to not cause that kind of hardship on their own families. In fact the opposite seems to be true and it is a social (and expected) norm. Sheesh. I am going to be alone forever.
Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.

October 25, 2010

Mi Dia

Most mornings I wake up at 6 am with the sun streaming in through my windows and this very high pitched shrill bird (who may or may not have a nest inside my room it sounds so loud) going off on its ‘Good Morning World’ mating ritual routine. I splash some water on my face, brush my teeth and get dressed. I head to the kitchen and Keyla either cooks me something delicious or if there is milk I have some cereal. I grab my bag, say goodbye to Keyla and the baby and walk to my office, which is right around the corner. A crazy man, who hangs out by this little water hole, screams random things (that even if I could understand Spanish perfectly wouldn’t make sense) and greets me. He hangs out there and offers to wash the taxis that speed past for 40 limps. I usually get the office before Jose Luis, but on the odd occasion he beats me to it. We do work in the office, usually preparing for a conference, focus group type meeting, or paper work for the past week’s events. Jose Luis goes home for lunch at about 1pm and it is not uncommon to have a two or two and a half hour lunch break. Sometimes I go home for lunch (if I have bought apples), and other times I stop by a pulperia for a Baleada, enchilada or something equally as tasty…and cheap. For about 10-50 Limps ($0.50 - $2.50 Cdn) you can have a delicious meal. On days when we are not traveling to Catacamus, Silca, Salama, or even Tegucigalpa (which is an entire day trip) I walk into town (about 30 minutes to the center) to meet up with one of my Spanish tutors who works at a resource center near the central park. On this walk I get yelled at…roughly 13-18 times, with varying aggressiveness and sleaziness. Wherever I walk there is a chorus of “Adios” that follows. Sometimes they say “bye” which doesn’t really translate well. People say “adios” like we would say “how’s it going,” “have a great day”, but keep walking to where we are going, so when they translated it to English and say “bye” it just doesn’t really fit—however it is entertaining to see a bunch of children chirping “Bye, bye, bye, bye” like a little flock of birds whenever I pass. I say adios, unless the comments are coming from a sleeze-ball, in that case I have been practicing my very annoyed death stare which I grace them with…although I’m not sure how intimidating I end up looking… but one can hope. I practice with her for two to three hours and then start to head back out of town. Sometimes I wander around, buy fruit, or sit at central park and watch people on the street—however when I do this, I usually have more people watching me, and people fighting each other over who will sit next to me on the bench, although they never talk to me…just sit beside me, smiling at their friends because they are sitting by the white girl. Most days I stop at the beauty salon Keyla works at and chat with her and the lady she works with. Sometimes I stick around until 6:00pm (when it is too dark for me to walk home alone) and I walk home with Keyla. We take a different route than I usually do which is nice, and even if I can’t participate in the conversation as much as I would like it is comforting to listen to her and her co-worker talk back and forth like people my age. Sometimes we stop and get Baditas (not sure of the spelling on that one), which are coconut and milk popsicles that some lady sells out of her window—they are delicious. We get home and I (usually) help prepare dinner, or work in my room on reports or translating documents for my personal use. We eat dinner (usually at 7:00 pm) together as a family, after dinner I play with the baby or Darien, talk with Keyla, Claudia, and Sylvia, and then go to my room at around 8:30 or 9:00pm. Sometimes I read, journal, or write blogs that I will post later and sometimes I pass out cold. Nothing I do is physically demanding (not even close), but sometimes my brain is so exhausted that I am pretty much K.O.’d. Sylvia and Keyla ask me if I am sad here from time to time, and I do my best to explain that generally I love it here and I love staying with their family, but during the week my brain gets destroyed by working so hard to keep up in Spanish, studying Spanish, trying to understand these new (to me) forestry laws and terminology, and also it’s an emotionally demanding job with some really sad themes. I’m not sure they believe me, but that’s what I try to get across.

On the days where we are traveling I don’t get to see my Spanish tutor, but I have another one that comes over to the house after dinner to work on grammar so those are usually the days I have him over—if I am not too tired…because my brain is useless if I am tired. On the days when we travel to Tegucigalpa Jose Luis picks me up at my casa at 5:30am and we head into the city. It takes about 2 hours to get to the outskirts but almost another full 2 hours to get to our office because traffic is so congested. When we work out of that office I talk with Sandra and help her with administrative stuff and sort of just fill in wherever I am needed.

The weekends mix things up a bit. On Saturday I usually sleep in till 8:00am. We drop Keyla and the baby off at work and go to the supermarket or the market place to get fresh vegetables, and the carnaceria to get meat. We head home and start cooking lunch. Usually we have guests (whether it is friends or family) for Saturday lunch. We bring Keyla lunch and come back home. Saturday is water day, when we get to do laundry, wash the windows and take a ‘real’ shower…which just means without taking a bucket shower with water from the pila. I read or practice Spanish, and try to keep Darien busy for at least a little while. We go pick up Keyla and the baby at 6:00pm, come home and make dinner. Sometimes I go over to my friend’s apartment (which is nearby but he comes to pick me up if it’s after dark because the road I live on is very dangerous for gringa’s to walk on alone after dark—three of the female volunteers for CECOM have been robbed or assaulted while walking home along the road after dark) and there are usually a couple of people there. We talk, sing karaoke (that someone has on their computer) or sometimes watch a movie that someone has downloaded. Sunday’s I sleep in till 8:00am. We have coffee y pan for breakfast. Sometimes I run errands with Sylvia, and we make lunch. After lunch the family heads to Jutiquila to visit the cousins, aunts and uncles. I usually tag along. Keyla’s eleven-year-old sister is infatuated with me, and I try to teach her English words and get her to help me practice Spanish. After it gets dark, we head back home and cook dinner. I hang out with the family a bit, and then we all go to bed.

The other day I had a chat with Jose Luis (my co-worker) about what my goals were for this internship, and what his goals were. We talked for a long time and I think I will have three main objectives, along with continuing to help with the advocacy, conferences, and administrative stuff:
1) Doing research and conducting interviews on the impacts of the illegal deforestation in Olancho by conducting interviews and facilitating focus groups with members of MAO in the different communities they live in.
2) Photo documenting the devastation by getting to go to areas of varying degradation ranging from untouched to completely deforested, and
3) Facilitating a workshop for the Youth Environmental group in Salama (if it goes well possibly other schools), to discuss the environmental issues they are facing in a more interactive way, and to look for ideas that they have that they can implement now. Also to discuss recycling and see if it is a project that can be introduced to their schools.

Of course I need to get better at my Spanish in order to do this, but I hope with the help of some other people I will be able to get the second and third one done, and then possibly find someone who wants to be my translator for the interviews because even if my Spanish gets to the point where I feel comfortable with it, I do not want to misunderstand someone while collecting information for research. Those are my goals for now…they will likely change fifteen more times (at least) before coming to fruition…O NGO’s, how I love thee.

Yesterday I did laundry and then sat in the yard reading my book (‘The Fountainhead’—which I recommend) and catching some sun—which was awesome because even though I’m in a country that is always sunny, I don’t get as much sun as you would think. At about one thirty we headed to Jutiquila to visit the family. We sat and talked for a while. They were cooking meat over the fire and we hadn’t had lunch so we ate. Estefani, Luis David, and Gerson took me for a walk through the Aldea. They showed me their homes; all the places they thought were ‘bonita’ and took me a little river they were proud of. I let them take pictures with my camera and it was cool to see the places where they live that they were most proud of. On the way back Luis David disappeared into a tree and started throwing oranges down at us. When we got back to the house they skinned them and we sat on the steps eating our oranges. The last time I had come to visit they had told me they wanted to learn English… so I tried. I started with teaching them the alphabet and having them repeat after me. We practiced for nearly three hours, and then I gave them homework to practice the ABC’s, and spelling their names. They are smart kids and they were dedicated enough to sit on the steps with me for all that time while their cousins and friends were running around screaming and yelling so I give them huge props, and hopefully by the time I leave they can feel like they have learned something.

I realized something about myself while by being continually surrounded by a swarm of children who are all want my attention. I never choose to give my attention to the kids that come barreling towards you begging for your attention, screaming, pulling and pushing, ensuring that they are the center of attention. That’s the obvious response, and that’s why I don’t do it. I always see the kid hanging back, at the edge of the group. Not because they are shy, but because they can wait, and don’t have to be the center of attention. I choose the calm child who is waiting for me to notice them because they are waiting and I don’t want to disappoint them. I think this is partially because I find the first type of kids obnoxious and rude, and I refuse to support that kind of behavior—ask my sister, and partially because I am that kid—now (not when I was actually young—hypocritically I was a lot more melodramatic—somewhat theatrical —when I was a kid). I hate asking for things from people, I don’t like putting myself in the center of attention (although I can handle it well—if its someone else who puts me there—on the behalf of a group of people, a concept or for a cause) and I don’t like drawing people’s attention to me (by begging for it) unless they have chosen to give it to me.

Last night without fail, my Malaria pills delivered noteworthy dreams, this time assisted by being startled awake by four gun shots at four o’clock in the morning. I don’t know about you, but it really got my heart going and for a split second my brain went nuts and I wasn’t sure of what was going on…‘Where am I—what’s going on?’ ‘Is my family okay?’ ‘How did someone get inside the gate?’ ‘What should I do now—go check on them, or hide?’ Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, like my own personal gunfire. A split second later I had it sorted out, but my heart was still racing. I tried to fall back asleep and this time I found myself on the dirt road that my house is on. It was dark; there was no one on the streets, no cars passing by, and no sounds in the distance. I walked slowly—almost floating—down the road and I remember feeling apprehensive and threatened, knowing that it was a dream but that I needed to get out of there as soon as possible. Every so often I would see the glimmer of headlights through the dust, and I would search for an alley to run into, a driveway to hide in, until the lights were coming from all directions and I was stuck—like a deer in headlights—unsure of which way to run, trapped by uncertainty and fear. Not a good dream. Not one that I want to have again.

Breath deep, the World is Beautiful
Delaney C.

October 20, 2010


Here are a couple of links that lay out the Forestry Situation in Honduras...or try to as it is rather complex. I also realized I have failed to explain my sort of day-to-day schedule, what I do at work, the projects I am working on, and all that good stuff that I overlooked...because I am doing it and instead have ranted (a lot) about development, garbage, accountability, driving, and everything in between. Sorry.

Also if anyone has figured out how to send objects over the internet (Like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), contrary to Dylan's bet that I would miss cheese first, I miss Spagetti Squash...and I would really like a pumpkin too, just in time for Halloween.

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50366 http://www.internationalreportingproject.org/stories/detail/510/

Also as a sneak peak (although in Spanish)
are events that I have helped plan/facilitate, and take pictures for :)

Also...here is my SFD blog which is less frequent, and has a very differnt tone

Lots of Love,
Delaney C.

October 19, 2010

Another Day, Another Story

16 Octubre de 2010
A “Learning” Experience

Once upon a time there was CECOM. CECOM was a private school in Juticalpa at the end of a dusty dirt road (near my casa). One day there was a volunteer. He was supposed to work with another school but that fell through so he walked up to CECOM with his golden charm and talked to the administration about how he was a volunteer and they could become bilingual with such ease. The administration at CECOM (who were never trained to be teachers, but rather in business instead) saw dollar signs in his eyes and said, “When can we begin.” With a rash and hasty plan in his hand the volunteer got to work, and in a month after seeing an add on Idealist.org volunteers from Canada and the United States were on their way to teach math, science and English! Two months later Mr. Volunteer patted himself on the back for a job well done…the school was bilingual, and everyone was having fun. What a success! He moved onto new projects to grace with his presence should they be so lucky, and to do more good deeds single handedly saving the people of Honduras from themselves.

However the reality was…switching a school to be bilingual is much more complex, and there were [and still are] many problems. The volunteers arrived to a situation much different than the one they had signed up for—with no training, no resources, a corrupt school(*note 1) , hostile working situations, and no one to voice their frustrations to. Several left before the year was over, and new volunteers had to be found…creating even more instability for the students. The Spanish teachers didn’t want to be bilingual and are resistant to having English teachers in the school, the parents of the students don’t know English so it makes it difficult for them to help their kids with homework (*Note 2), the administration wasn’t ready for the transition and didn’t come up with it themselves, rather adopted it, because an ‘outsider’ put the idea in their heads (*Note 3), and the curriculum in both Private and Public schools in Honduras are in shambles so to speak. This raises a whole wack-load of issues…where to begin.

First, the administrators of schools in Honduras are rarely teachers but rather have went to school for business. This is a problem when the people running the schools are trying to maximize profits and don’t know how to teach students, or what teachers need, or what students need. Making education a business screams disaster. Because the schools are now a business grades can be bought—if you have the money. Teachers report that they each have a student or two in the class who doesn’t show up more than once a week, and who according to them is not meeting the requirements to pass on to the next grade, but the administration gets paid off by the parents overriding the teachers suggestions. This means there are 13 year olds who can’t read, or do simple addition or subtraction when they are supposed to be doing long division…and this also means that all it takes is one of these children in a classroom to ‘poison’ the dynamic of the classroom for the other children and effect their learning.

This raises several questions for me: What are these kids supposed to do after they graduate unable to read, or do math? Do their parents think they are actually helping them? What is a diploma worth if it’s bought? And what is in store for the next generation? I have been intrigued by the school system in Canada, and the States for a while now, and it seems to me we are headed for trouble. Canada and the States aren’t quite as bad as Honduras, but that’s not to say that they don’t have their own wack of issues cut out for them as well and are desperately in need of an overhaul. I am frightened for the next generation, “The Dumbest Generation” (*Note 4) and what is in store for them.

The teachers at the school, as well as being common at other schools, are not great teachers—and many receive teacher certification as part of their own high school diploma. They don’t really teach, and what they do teach…isn’t necessarily the things then should be teaching. Because the discipline system is all wonky, kids are rewarded for lying and tattling on each other, and investigation is never done to examine the ‘two sides’ of the story.

To recap, what we’re learning here is, you can buy your way out of anything, being mean and catty is rewarded, education isn’t important… and a cornucopia of other ‘great’ life lessons. ¡Ai-Curumba! (sp) What’s more is they didn’t (and still don’t) want ‘white people’ in their school…making this transition to becoming bilingual primed for disaster.

Now onto the issue of development—this reaffirms my thoughts that successful development projects are INTERNALLY initiated. The stakeholders involved think about what will benefit them, think about the pros and cons, do all the benefit analysis stuff, and if THEY think it’s a ‘good’ idea, development can occur from there. NOT from someone walking into a community and saying, “Here’s a good idea for you guys to try out…it works really well in A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CULTURE.” Derrrrr.

Also, CECOM going bilingual seems to be a perfect example of the ‘tornado style’ of development. Whip in with a superficial solution, slap it onto the situation, take some pictures and cut a ribbon, name a baby after you, and whip out with a good taste in your mouth, leaving being destruction, and often more problems. I think that type of development is lazy, and the people that model that development aren’t really thinking about, seeing or understanding the communities they are working with as deeply enough as necessary to be effective. Development takes time, takes relationships, takes foundations, takes planning, and takes talking, takes listening…really listening; development takes being wrong, takes figuring out what DOES work, takes realizing you might NOT have all the answers, takes sharing (with each other), takes learning (from each other); takes unique approaches; takes thought and consideration.

What this volunteer told Breanne (one of the CECOM volunteer teachers) about this year was, “Well haven’t you learnt a lot this year? Think of it as a learning experience.” Derrr. I am all for learning experiences. I will be the first person to say, “Do it! Keep learning, learn lots, and never stop.” I love learning, however I think it is very important to be conscientious of, at whose expense do these ‘learning experiences’ come at? The parents who are paying money for their children’s education assuming that it is a better one than is offered at a public school? The children themselves, who are supposed to be getting an education? Who is loosing out while we are ‘learning’ from these ‘experiences’? I think you can learn without taking away from other people, I think you can learn from each other, and I think the best learning is symbiotic and reciprocal —where the teacher is also learning and the student is also teaching. I think everyone has something to offer as long as you are willing to see it and are willing to listen.

The Alternative Spring Break: El Salvador has been criticized along these lines (of taking more from the community while not giving enough back), and as it approaches its third year I have my own personal concerns and worries that it is headed to a place where good intentions have negative impacts, however if we are conscientious of our impact(s)—positive or negative—there are steps we can take to mitigate our negative impact, and ensure that our learning does not occur at the expense of others and we can avoid this ‘tornado development’ that often goes hand in hand. Instead creating something sustainable, something long-term, and something that [hopefully] in the end doesn’t need our presence at all.

1)Want a good grade? Buy it.
2)Or do it themselves.
3)Development fail.
4)Good book

Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.

18 Octubre de 2010
Sesame Street Style

The Word of the day is A-C-C-O-U-N-T-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y. Accountability: (of a person, organization or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible—as in a government must be accountable to its citizens. The word accountability is one of my favourites (and I LOVE words)…and not just because it has a nice ring to it—but rather for its definition. Unfortunately both at home and aboard (and all to often) there is a lack of accountability which, in my opinion [often] results in inefficiency, ineffective programming and quite bluntly in failure.

Why is being accountable so important? Accountable to whom? How is one held accountable? What instances are you talking about? I can hear everyone asking with urgency…maybe that’s just the thoughts in my head. Accountability ensures quality of goods and services; accountability ensures justice; and accountability ensures that if something does not go as planned, if something fails, if something breaks, there is someone to answer to my (the consumers, the voters, the beneficiaries) complaint(s). In The White Mans Burden, by William Easterly he discusses how lack of accountability in foreign aid is one of the failings—when a ‘plan’ fails, when aid doesn’t work…no one takes the blame, and no one takes responsibility for what when wrong…or what didn’t go right. He shares a story about a young Bangladeshi girl who was from a poor family who got a scholarship from USAID and the World Bank to finish secondary school. She is now is a bicycle paramedic for 515 families in the countryside around Savar, Bangladesh. She is the only health worker for these 515 families. She earns twenty-five dollars a month working for “the Peoples health Center”. Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury created this program by training teenage girls to treat common ailments, deliver prenatal and postnatal care to pregnant women, and refer any emergencies to the hospital that he built. Foreign donors and the Bangladeshi government gave Dr. Zafrullah money, but he also charged his poor patients modest fees to expand services further. He found that even the poor were willing to pay for good service. “Charging the poor modest fees for health care—a notion that outrages Planners and anti-globalization activists—is a way to increase accountability for delivering health services.”(*Note 1) If villagers don’t get good service after they have sacrificed to pay for it, they complain loudly. “If a women dies, the worker has to face the village. Accountability is here.”

This example helps to illustrate a question I have been toying with for a while…Are free services necessarily the most effective way to extend aid to developing countries? Personally I am not so convinced. (*Note 2) I believe projects/programs with community involvement and some sort of community investment—finances, time etc—that ties individuals, the community, or the group to what is being provided and with an investment there comes accountability—because if something goes wrong, and my money, my time, my future is on the line I am going to speak up and try to right that wrong or ensure it doesn’t occur in the first place. It is to the person (people) receiving the good or service that you (the producer) are accountable; to the stakeholders…the beneficiaries of the ‘service’…whoever they may be.

There is an all to common occurrence of that if it is ‘free’, if the project is run by ‘volunteers’ there is an acceptance of cutting corners lack of regard to the details, inferior work and a sort of ‘you’ll get what you are given mentality’—even if it is a school, when really your community needs a good road to link you to markets, hospitals, and water sources. I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again what is the point of giving aid to programs or projects that the people they are created for will not utilize them—and who are we (Northern aid donors) to think that we know best for a community that we have never lived in, and are unaware of unique cultural needs? A waste or misallocation of resources, that if channeled into initiatives that actually listened to the beneficiaries by people that spent the time to get to know the communities, the beneficiaries, and the historical context could be well used. Which is also [one of the reasons] why we have seen billions and billions of dollars go towards foreign aid but don’t see any real comparative results and instead continue to our governments make vague general and utopian goals that under our current aid structure are unfeasible and often made by officials to remain politically appealing to the citizens (voters) of the wealthy donor countries.

Personally I would rather pay for something (a good, a service etc) and know that what I am getting is worth the small sacrifice because if it doesn’t work, I have someone (who I paid for the good or service) that I can talk to, hold accountable, and give me a product or service that satisfies the need that I PAID FOR, rather than getting something that wont work for me in my unique situation for ‘free’—most ‘free’ stuff is garbage anyways or comes with strings attached (*Note 3)…unless provided by thoughtful introspective individuals who take the time to get to know the communities they are providing this ‘free’ service for. And I’m not so sure those happen very often. This is also why I have no problem paying for my tuition. (*Note 4)

I would rather pay for my education rather then receive a free, or receive an education fully paid for by the government because by paying for the service of attending a post secondary education I am able to choose where I take my business, and if my chosen University doesn’t meet my needs or my criteria I can leave, and spend my money at an institution that does. It also means that I have a say as to what goes on at my University, and if I have a problem with my classes, with my level of education, with my access to resources, there are people who have to answer to me—because I am a paying customer. Paying also ensures a certain level of quality that if I were receiving a cost-free education would not necessarily be present—or possible. With institutions flooded with people, the best quality (within my price range) might not be possible, and when entering the job market there would be more ‘qualified’ professionals than the job market could support and I would be left unemployed. I think that education is an investment, and one that I value, and as and as Benjamin Franklin said, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” There are some sacrifices that come with being able to attend University, however for me the sacrifices are worth it, for the value I place on obtaining an education, and (hopefully) for the job I will be able to obtain once I finish my [formalized] education.

In Honduras University education is free for all Hondurans. However it is not necessarily the land of milk and honey or the utopian dream that you would think. (More later)

Although don’t put words in my mouth. I am not letting people off the hook and blaming everything on the system, the institution…the man (shudder). It is up to the people, to the customer, to the consumer to demand accountability and to do some evaluating and monitoring themselves. Individuals need to become involved in the process…ready…set…go!

1)The White Man’s Burden, by William Easterly page 56
2)Unfortunately due to my limited resources and access to Internet I haven’t been able to further research this case study. I am not saying it is perfect, or without flaw, however it helps to illustrate the importance of accountability in development projects.
3)Structural Adjustment Loans.
4)This has the potential to turn into one of my UMSU rants…you have been warned.

Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.

October 7, 2010

I don’t have the Internet often SO… here :)

01 Octobre de 2010
Me Familia En Honduras
Everyone’s Story is a Tragedy

Heather and I were talking one day about the families we live with in Honduras and she said, “It’s like everyone here has lived a tragedy.” Her observation might not be too far from the truth. Not only is Honduras a country that is always in a state of chaos and crisis, whether it be political, economic, natural disasters, droughts, flooding, strikes etc. Its and understatement to say: Honduras, and its people lack stability and security.

I moved in with a family. There is Sylvia, (~40) Kayla (21), Tatiana (13), Michael (11), Darien (5), and Pedro (9 months). Sylvia and her husband used to be quite wealthy. They lived in the states and worked for eleven years in Long Island. Michael was born there and is an America Citizen. After Michael was born they returned to Honduras. They owned several properties and built a very beautiful and large house (*Note 1) on the edge of town (near the hospital). When Michael was about two years old he got very sick with a high fever and the doctor said he needed an injection (to the back of his neck) in order to keep blood flowing property. The doctor who did this hit an optic nerve in doing so and now Michael suffers from some form(s) of brain damage associated with the incident. They took him back to the states for several operations and the doctor in the U.S. said it all could have been avoided if they had have initially seen a doctor there. The husband gambled away lots of their money, including the deeds to numerous properties that they owned, developed a drinking problem and, in true Hondureno fashion (*Note 2) last year he left Sylvia for his mistress, whom he had fallen in love with.

Darien is Sylvia’s youngest son. He is always messy, filthy in fact, always full of energy, and quite possibly infatuated with me. Needless to say I already love him to pieces. Kayla and Tatiana are Sylvia’s Prima’s (nieces). Kayla works at a beauty Salon in town during the week and she also helps takes care of Pedro, so she stays at Sylvia’s rather than in Jutiquilla where her family lives, which is about a half hour drive away and I had the pleasure of visiting today. Tatiana lives at Sylvia’s [during the weekends] and helps take care of Pedro and cleans the house (*Note 3). I am still trying to figure that one out because today we left her in Jutiquilla because she goes to school during the week. Pedro is not Sylvia’s son…well he wasn’t, but now he is. When Pedro was three months old (six months ago) his mother (Sylvia’s sister) passed away. I am not sure how, however I met his father today. He lives in Juticalpa, however I am unsure if he helps (financially) in any way to help take care of Pedro at all or what he does for a living; I do know that Darien and Michael’s father doesn’t help Sylvia (financially or other), and is not in their life at all.

I am so happy to be living with a family (I have to practice Spanish CONSTANTLY, I get to help them cook, and I love being around people) especially a family that is so welcoming, warm and understanding—and lets get serious it probably doesn’t help that there’s kids :)

1) Fortunately (for Sylvia) mortgages don’t really exist down here, so she owns the house, and does not owe anything to anyone in that regard. As soon as people have a lump of cash they throw down the first $1000 worth of bricks, and so on and so on, until the house is completed and they owners move in. This also explains why in the Campo there are so many half constructed houses littering the side of the road…people are waiting for more money until they commence Phase II. This is also why, although Sylvia has no money now (or very little) she lives in a gorgeous and quite large house…and doesn’t have constant running water …absurd to think about when contrasted with Canadian standards.

2) I am told that every Honduran man (even the good ones) has more than one girlfriend, every married Honduran man (even the good ones) has a mistress, and every married Honduran man (even the good ones) cheats on his wife. I cant substantiate that with any facts or statistics, but I do know that I have been the target of ‘propos’ or ‘cat-calls’ on several occasions by men (pushing strollers) walking down the streets with their wives/girlfriends. My friend Megan said that she has been asked out by men wearing wedding rings that say “I’m not married tonight”, or a plethora of other excuses. Cheating exists in Canada, I’m not that naive, but I can’t imagine living (OR wanting to date/marry someone) in a culture where cheating is not only normal, but…expected?

3) It is common here, if one sibling in a family is wealthy and the other is not, and the less wealthy family has a lot of kids, to send a child (or two) to live with the wealthy family to help with the cooking, cleaning, and raising of their children. Although Sylvia is not wealthy anymore, I believe this was the prior arrangement and even though circumstances have changed the plan is still kind of in effect.

Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.

04 Octobre de 2010
Slow by necessity

The pace here is much slower than in Canada, not that that is surprising, however with each day I am more and more convinced that it is slow (er) out of necessity. First, the roads (which I will explain in detail later) prohibit you from going anywhere with speed. Second, it’s hot; Very hot. If you went places fast, or worked at a pace that in Canada might seem acceptable, you would last all of five minutes before you keeled over. Third, no one shows up anywhere on time so a good portion of your day turns into waiting…sometimes fifteen minutes, sometimes and hour and a half…and never consistently (*note 1) Also, people are always sitting/standing around as if there is nothing in the world they could possibly be bothered to do…and I think there might be at least half a truth to that. I’m not entirely sure that are activities that exist that would help these people generate an income that is fairly reflected in the task…and there are many other things that are valued over having a job—such as spending time with family, helping out a family member, sharing each other’s company etc. The pace is slow here because it has to be. Because the climate, the infrastructure, and the social/cultural norm can only support a slow paced slow moving society—an attempt for anything different would result in an [more] un-functioning society.

1) Debate is still out on this one as to whether or not it’s a ‘cultural’ thing. Chad and I are under the impression that it is, where as Oscar (a Honduran) says that it is not cultural. We have also had this identical debate as to whether or not the lack of direct communication—and the inability to do so—is cultural or not…I’ll say it is. For example, I was practicing Spanish with Heather, and Barbara (a Honduran) when a joven walked in wanting to sell flashlights. Immediately Heather, and myself said, No thank you, we don’t need any flashlights,” while Barbara on the other hand went into a long story about how she had to buy medicine the other day because she was sick, and she had to buy text books because she started university…implying that she had no money to spend on a flashlight, but refusing to say it out loud—in a direct manner.

Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.

05 Octobre de 2010
“Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

Chad and I were talking about the widespread corruption that occurs in Honduras [and other areas of the world], and I am not so convinced it is black and white. One of his projects was with a bean cooperative in Salama. Once the cooperative got up and running, his counterpart bought 20,000 Lempira’s worth of non-cooperative farmed beans and sold them to the cooperative because he knew that when they were sold he would get a better price. This raises a couple issues. The counterpart was supposed to be helping this cooperative and the people belonging to the cooperative get better pricing for their produce—he was not supposed to be financially gaining from this development. Also there is a cap on how many kilograms (or whatever measurement) of produce will be bought at this special (higher) rate, so by putting an additional 20, 000 Lempira’s worth of produce (that he did not work to produce) into the mix, as a result a farmer might not receive just payment for his produce. On the other hand, this man is not wealthy by any means and he saw an opportunity to make some money for himself—although potentially ripping off members of the group that he was supposed to be helping out.

So…who’s right and who’s wrong? This brings me to my quote for this entry, “failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever” – ironically taken off of a Starbucks cup, but has always caught my attention.

Sandra told me that anyone who is wealthy, is probably wealthy because they have done bad things to get wealthy—drugs, illegally working in the States, killings, exploitation, and the list goes on. This was confirmed by Chad the other day when we were talking, and he asked me if I knew what it took to become the mayor of Juticalpa. The answer? A whole lot more of those not so very nice things. Me still be a wee bit on an idealist begs to ask the question—Isn’t there another way? A better way? But at the same time, the realist in me understands that if an individual feels abandoned by their government(s) and cannot rely on the social system to have their (or their families) needs met, and another ‘opportunity arises’ sometimes that alternate opportunity becomes a viable option, and once that path brings you success—maybe in the form of a nicer house, and nicer car, nicer clothes, allowing your children to go to a good school, stability, and security—it’s nearly impossible to convince that person (or yourself) that what you are doing is ‘wrong’ and what you are doing is taking food out of the months of your neigbours.

So who’s right, who’s wrong, where’s the failure, and what needs to change? How much if this problem is human nature, and how much of it is learned behaviour? Is there a solution for every problem? Questions to think about—one’s that I’m not sure even have answers.

Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.

06 Octobre de 2010
Driving in Honduras es loco

Driving in the city is an entirely different, if not all the more terrifying of an experience than driving in the campo…which is also an adventure. Every day I am grateful that 1) I don’t scare easy and 2) I don’t get motion sick (unlike the poor Hondurerna with us the other day who vomited all over the back seat…yikes). Driving in the city consists of one hand on the horn and one of the shifter (that is when you are not shouting into your cell phone Digame! Digame! *Note 1). Speaking of driving and cell phones—the law hasn’t kicked in here yet (ha-ha) and the other day Jose Luis was talking on BOTH of his cell phones…at the same time…and driving…it was an interesting experience. The horn is used much more frequently than in Canada…and by more frequently, I mean constantly. You honk when passing someone else, when someone ahead of you is not moving [fast enough], you honk when someone cuts you off or when you want to cut someone off, you honk when making any sort of turn, and you honk…just because everyone else is honking.

The roads (even the highways) are also really not roads or highways per say, but rather a path from point A to point B. Sometimes it is paved, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it has craters that children get lost in, and other times it is filled with hundreds of ‘dimple’ like bumps that turn the next stretch into an obstacle course for the driver. I say it is a ‘path’ because there are no lanes. A driver weaves left to right, back and forth avoiding bumps, potholes, and other cars and a rate that contradicts everything I have previously mentioned about the pace in Honduras. We pass cars while going up hills around corners…and sometimes there are four cars side by side going a variety of different directions (and this is when I cringe). At night, not all cars have headlights, and people walk and bike sharing the same pathways without reflective gear. The dark makes it even harder to check the condition of the road…but that doesn’t mean that anyone slows down.

There are also speed bumps in the middle of the highway…interesting. You will be hurtling down the highway at 130 km/hr and then WHAM! down to 25 km/hr to avoid becoming airborne as you hit a speed bump. Due to the inconsistency in the quality of the roads it is also very jerky, and stop and go. Distance (162 km to Catacamus) means nothing because for 62 of those kilometers you are traveling at 130 km/hr, 50 at 35 km/hr and the rest somewhere in between. I have learnt that the best mentality to have when driving here in Honduras is… “Well get there when we get there—hopefully in one piece,” which isn’t hard to adopt when the views leave me absolutely awestruck and Jose Luis is pumping the Mas Romantica station—love it.

1) I think it’s interesting to note what is considered rude in Honduras juxtaposed with what is considered rude in Canada. In Honduras being clear and speaking directly is very rude, where as in Canada it is necessity. In Honduras picking up the phone when it rings and shouting Digame! (which translates to Talk to Me!) is not rude, however in Canada I would think that person was a douche bag, and probably not want to talk to them. It also is common to stare (not just at us gringos—but everyone), shout, and point at things/give directions with your lips…while shouting. Also I’m beginning to get the feeling that the propos I talked about earlier are not seen as rude to Hondurans as I personally feel they are…and might even *gasp* be welcomed…should I feel flattered?

Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.
Where this time C stands for ‘Complete’…as in remaining in one piece :)

07 Octobre de 2010
Donde es le basura?

Garbage. Garbage everywhere. In Canada my Nalgene water bottle is an extension of my right arm. I take it EVERYWHERE with me, and it has seen better days. The point I am trying to make is, I don’t like buying bottled water, and it’s relatively easy to bring a reusable bottle everywhere. Here however, I no longer have the luxury of filling up my trusted Nalgene whenever I want some water (only when I am at my home, or the office), which means I have to buy a bottle of water, or something else to drink.

The other day, I had to buy a bottle of water when I was in town. After I was done, I looked for a recycling bin (non-existent in Honduras), and then for a garbage can. I had some time to kill, and enjoy wandering the streets before it gets dark so I walked…and walked..and walked..and eventually walked home, all while making note of how many public garbage cans I passed. Two. In the entire time I spent walking (roughly two hours) all over town I passed two public garbage cans, both were in the Central Park and about 50 meters apart. This brings me to the issue of garbage in Honduras—which believe me is a HUGE issue in itself.

I asked Sandra what you do with the garbage, like if the municipality is supposed to come pick it up or if you have to take it to the dump yourself, and she told me that the municipality is supposed to take care of it, but often they are unreliable and so people take it into their own hands—which also means dumping it on the streets. Problem: You have garbage (in your hand, while on the bus, in your house etc.) and you need to get rid of it. Solution: toss it, put it on the curb, throw it in the ditch…No more garbage for you. Absurd? Likely. Common? Very.

Megan was riding the bus one day and a child in front of her had finished his soda (Hondurans drink A LOT of soda) and he reached up to the window to toss it out, but before he could his mother grabbed it out of his hand. At this point Meghan felt happy because FINALLY someone cared about the environment and realized that it was not okay to toss garbage every-which-way…but then the mother opened the window wider and tossed that bottle far and clear. One word: Depressing.

One of Chad’s projects was to start a recycling program with the public schools in Honduras, getting the kids to recycle their bottles and in turn helping generate profit for the schools. I think about 45% of the schools he introduced to the program are still recycling, but that still doesn’t help the general garbage situation because without informing the general public about the importance of recycling (and potential income it can offer) it is unlikely to catch on.

Drink some tap water for me—because you can :)
Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.

September 30, 2010

Alternative Spring Break: El Salvador
My Two Cents

The Alternative Spring break offers students an opportunity to work with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in El Salvador over reading week, and travel with a purpose. This program is entering its third year, and I have been lucky enough to travel with the group twice, first as a participant, and again as a student mentor. Projects are community initiated and facilitated by the partnership between the NGO, the UofM, and the sustainability of the project is taken into consideration. Working side-by-side, community members determine the most efficient and effective way to utilize the natural environment and skills of everyone working on the project. Upon arrival, students pull on their work boots, throw on some gloves and pick up a shovel.

However the focus of this program is on sharing information, experiences, and compassion; about learning from each other, and from yourself; about getting an introduction to development, to non-governmental organizations, and a new culture, NOT just on creating something tangible that will remain for decades (although that is one component).

Being able to participate in this program in two very different capacities, and return to the community a year after the UofM’s initial visit has been a tremendous opportunity that I am very lucky to have been able to experience. An often understated part of this program is the individual impact participation can have. To the individuals who have participated, the Facebook profile picture isn’t of a foreigner and a local but rather of two new friends. The school supplies collected by elementary school students in Canada who have never met their Southern recipients, doesn’t show the attempt of two people from two very different places accepting each other for who they are with empathy and compassion.

Upon return students share photos and stories with their friends and family exposing them to a reality they might be unaware of and in turn inspiring them to get involved (in some capacity or another). However, pictures [see picture above] don’t show how a two-week experience can lead to a lifetime of engagement and participation. I look back over the emails, the Facebook messages, and think back to all the long distance phone calls I have received from my new El Salvadorian friends over the last two years, and am still baffled that my brief time in El Salvador has transpired into friendships that will last a lot longer than my time spent in country.

The Alternative Spring Break program has a five year plan that began last year with the initial preparation of a two and a half acre plot of land alongside members of an agrarian cooperative with future plans to develop an education centre, further organic development as well as marketing strategies which will hopefully be accomplished through the joint collaboration of the University of Manitoba and the Community Based Organization (CBO) and NGO based in El Salvador.

Experiences that engage and inspire while creating interest are a fundamental way to generate and spread awareness, and are crucial to encourage global citizenship. When people are inspired they do great things and it’s important to remain ambitious. To continue to change how much you’re willing to push the envelope and to always challenge the status quo—as cliché as that is, and to demand more from yourself, and from those around you.

-Delaney C.

September 28, 2010

Juticalpa: The Texas of Honduras

**Please mind the typos on this one**

YEY! It only took me 10 min today to figure out how to make this computer work for me! So....I have been in Juticalpa for 3 full days now. On Thursday I headed to Catacamus (4 hours out of Tegucicalpa) for a inter-regional exchange of information for environmental organizations in the area at the National University of Agriculture. Within twenty min of leaving the office it started to pour. By the to,e we reached the outskirts of the city (about a half hour of rain) it was crazy. The road was completely submerged in places, so we just drove through hoping that: 1) we could go fast enough that you wont get stuck and 2) there is still something left under the water so you can make it through and impromptu water falls appeared hurling mass amounts of water off the cliffs and onto the highway. It was absolutely crazy to see and I cant even imagine living in some of the homes we passed along the way...there is no way they are able to hold their own against such a torrential assault. And then....an hour later, the rain stopped and the sun came out...just crazy.

On this four and a half hour drive I also had the opportunity to experience my first police check stop...which was pretty terrifying considering I wasn't too sure what was going on or what they wanted most of the time...make that the entire time. It ended up well and we were on our way.

The conference was very interesting,although I´m not sure I understood enough to fully appreciate the knowledge and passion of the participants and presenters I did my best to learn new words and absorb what I could. I got to meet some of the people I will be working with in Salama from MAO, as well as people from other organizations that are working on the same issues, and find out a little bit more about the challenges and difficulties they are currently facing, as well as what successes they have had in the past. Coincidentally MAO, who I will be working with, focuses mainly on the illegal exploitation of trees in Olancho and the environmental degradation that occurs as a result. Thanks to my time spent in BC treep-planting I had a little bit to share on Canada´s own forestry regulations, and some of the associated risks and challenges that we are currently facing. Thanks to Sandra´s pushing, when it was my groups turn to present I gave a short synopsis of what is happening with the pine beetle as a consequence to planting a monoculture of trees in hopes to gain the biggest profit. It wasn't a long presentation by any means, and I think I blacked out half way through it, but I think everyone appreciate my miserable attempt to speak Spanish and share information...even though Sandra had to explain what I was trying to say after I finished so everyone could understand.

Our last night in Catacamus we came back to the hotel to a full blown party...and oddly enough the Black Eyed Pea´s Tonight´s gonna be a good night on repeat. It was a girls Quinceañera...which is a huge celebration in Latin Cultures for the 15th birthday. It was pretty cool to see, although Sandra was grumpy because the music was blaring until 1 in the morning and she couldn't sleep.

Sunday morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and then Sandra, Hermilo and I drove to Juticalpa. They took me to the HUGE office that they thought I would be able to live in, however there is some regulation in FLM policy that prohibits that so that´s no longer an option, and then they dropped me off at a hotel...which is where it was not so great to have an over active imagination. Realizing that I was totally alone and can barley speak Spanish sent me over the edge for about 2 hours...then I calmed myself down and decided that going for a walk would be a great idea and when I returned unharmed my imagination could take a break and I would feel much more comfortable. This is exactly what happened. Questioning the cleanliness of my bedsheets led me to sleep clothed, on top of my fleece that I am very glad I decided to bring (although it was probably just my imagination playing tricks on me..and what can I really expect for 250Ls a night, which is like $13CDN). On Monday I ventured to the streets again and bought some bedsheets to put over top...no luck on finding a pillow but that can wait until I am more settled and find a place to live.

While trying to find someone to teach/tutor me in Spanish I got connected with someone living in Juticalpa from the Peace Corps. Last night to avoid going crazy in my hotel room watching more Spanish television after it gets too dark to wander around getting lost and un-lost in the winding streets i met up with him and my potential tutor in central park. It was great to talk to some people, and they filled me in on some background history of Juticalpa and the projects he had worked on over the last two years he has been here. Apparently Juticalpa is like the Wild Wild West...the Texas of Honduras. Everyone carries a gun, and everyone is a little trigger happy. There is tons of machismo which explains all the comments that, gratefully, I don't understand whenever I walk around. And there is tons of very well formed and structured laws.....but little to no reinforcement. As long as I don't start selling drugs in someone else´s turf, steal someones women, or cut someone off while driving I should be okay...and don't worry, I don't plan on doing any of those things. After talking in the park the tree of us went back to his apartment, which was cool to see...and gave me a fiscal reference as to what I could expect for what price. He also mentioned he might be able to set me up with his host family that he stayed with at the beginning...which is cool, and the option I am leaning towards because I think it will help the most with picking up Spanish. Then he walked me home, which I was pretty grateful for because: 1) I would have without a doubt gotten lost 2) I still don't feel confident that I could get myself out of trouble if I find myself in it and 3) the city is an entirely different beast at night.

There isn't a lot to do while in limbo (waiting for Jose Luis to get back to Juticalpa, so we can go to work, and living in the hotel) and I have run out of little things to buy that give me an excuse to take a separate trip around town fore each thing...but I spent most of today trying to practice my Spanish, watched T.V. to pick up some slang, wandered around the streets, and started reading "The Great Gatsby" in central park. I think tonight I will call up Oscar and hopefully convince him to help me practice Spanish...or set up a day for the future.

Con Esperanza y Amor
Delaney C.