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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.