Have fun when you can. Think all the time.

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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.