December 15, 2008

Thanks for reading

Welp, as I am sure some of you have already heard. We’re not in Honduras anymore. We have returned stateside for good (well at least for the foreseeable future). We enjoyed our time in Honduras and we were a little sad to leave, but glad to be home in our own culture with the weather we are accustomed to. I feel like I should have something profound to share with all of you, or some sort of wisdom to impart after our time in Honduras, but I don’t. And I can’t think of anything I have broken or destroyed recently to talk about or any terrible illnesses to describe. The only thing that seems appropriate is to thank all of those people that have been thinking about us, praying for us, listening to our stories, supporting us in our adventures and reading our blog.


Family, friends, brothers, sisters, kinfolk, neighbors, amigos, associates, acquaintances, colleagues, contemporaries, backers, benefactors, contributors, patrons, advocates, sponsors, supporters, accomplices, collaborators, cronies, countrymen, comrades, compatriots, companions, compañeros, confidants, cohorts, allies, sympathizers, well-wishers, and brothers in arms…… Thank you.

We are home. WAHOO!

November 19, 2008

Papaya anyone?

So over a year ago when we moved into our house that we now rent, we planted several papaya trees. And about 14 months later, here they are, well over 10 feet tall and producing a riduculous amount of 5-10 pound fruits. I don't know how many of you have tried fresh papaya but it's well...stinky. Luckily I figured out that blending it with milk, ice, ripe bananas, and a little sugar makes it tolerable. I know lots of people like it (all the Hondurans I know do) but the texture combined with the smell makes it a difficult fruit to swallow, even though it apprently is really good for you. We planted the trees simply because someone told us they grow fast and they do. There is more than 25 papayas growing on this one:

Another tree with less papayas:

One of the first ones to ripen, cut in half:

October 20, 2008


I think I blogged about the PEPFAR grant I got awhile ago (PEPFAR = President´s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). The first part of the project has been working with a group of 14 girls in their early teens from two neighboring communities about an hour from Danli. I take a bus that leaves Danli at 11:20 and arrives around 12:20. It´s dirt roads most of the way and since it´s been raining so much lately, it´s pretty slow going (and bumpy!). We started classes in September and have been meeting once a week for 2 hours. The manual we´re using is the manual I helped write and edit. The class has really been enjoyable for me and for the girls. We´ve talked so far about good communication, self-esteem, abstinence, and anatomy. There are still about 8 chapters left to cover. The goal is to finish the class by mid-December. Here are some pics of the girls:

Working on drawing a self portrait for a self-esteem activity

One of the girls doing an activity
We did ¨trust falls¨one afternoon
They really got into it and started passing the girls down the line
The second part of the project is training 24 9th graders at the middle school in the same community in HIV prevention. The goal is to train them so they can train the younger grades. Last week we did 4 hours of training and then on Friday we divided them up into 4 groups and they each received their training manual. They had to go through the manual and decide who was going to do what activity and then fill out an ¨Action Plan¨. When they finished with that, they got the necessary materials to be able to complete the HIV training themsleves (bascially the same one we had given them). They were very excited to get their materials and got to work right away. Tomorrow they have an exam that they have to pass with 90% or above to be able to participate in the training of the 8th, 7th, 6th, and 5th graders next week. Hopefully they do well!
Working on doing a transmision activity

Busy cutting & coloring

October 7, 2008

Weekly market trip (minus the cat)

After I went to the market last week, I decided to take a picture of what I bought. Tito, our cat, decided to get in the picture as well. There are three grapefruits in the back - citrus fruit is in season now and very delicious. Luke loves popcorn so when I remember, I'll pick up a couple bags (front right) when I go to the market. Corn harvest began in August and the back left you see small corns called "jilotes" here. In the US, we usually only see them canned. We really like them in soups and stirfry. I can't remember exactly how much I paid for everything but below the pic is a pretty accurate estimate (remember L19 = $1):

Grapefruit = L3 each
Jilote = L15
Red onion = L 15
2 lbs tomato = L 14
Head broccoli = L12
Carrots = L10
Popcorn = L10 per bag
Flour tortillas = L 10
Cucumber = L 3
Zucchini/squash = L5

September 16, 2008

La Niña de la Independencia

Oh the places you will go….. or more accurately end up!

So today was “El Día de la Independencia” here, or independence day. There wasn’t a lot going on except for a large parade in Danli. We could have spent the day inside our house avoiding the heat (a popular alternative with me on some days), but Annie was asked to come to a celebration in a small town nearby where she gives classes. And I was expected to come along which I didn’t mind because I have not spent a lot of time in this particular community and it was a chance to see where she disappears to weekly.

I have stopped asking a lot of questions about where I am going or what I am getting into lately. It´s not that I don’t want to know beforehand, but that the things I get into are equally ridiculous whether I have prepared myself for them or not. I naively assumed this was just any old independence celebration….kids playing loud drums, drunk people, small explosives, and maybe some guys on horses…these are things I don’t mind and sometimes enjoy, excepting drunk guys who have been recently deported from the states….so much cross-eyed anger!!

It was not to be. We had been invited to celebrate the independence of Honduras at a jardin de niños (a pre-kinder educational center) in order to help celebrate the crowning of the village of Linaca’s 3 year old princess of independence. Seriously?! Being a 6’4” gringo in Central America makes a guy stand out enough without attending the crowning of child princesses. If you think preschool chairs are small at home just imagine how small the chair I sat in today was. At one point Annie looked at me and said “don’t cross your legs like that, you look funny” to which I had no reply except to change my position behind my “desk” to an equally awkward and ridiculous pose, to which Annie replied “oh.”

It gets better...we weren’t just guests, we were the honored guests. We were to sit (sit is the wrong word, crouch is more accurate) at the “mesa principal” (the head table). Not only did I look and feel ridiculous but I had to do it from the most prominent spot in the small concrete school building. At this point I noticed that I was the only male in the room who wasn’t breastfeeding - this was not a celebration attended by males over the age of 2.

Now I was officially stuck for the duration. Sitting at the mesa principal the only thing I could hope for was a quick ceremony, not a likely thing I have found. Soon something occurred to me...we were going to have to give “palabras” (words). At every event in Honduras with a “mesa principal” from the crowning of child princesses to the signing of important legislation everyone at the “mesa principal” has to give their speech. And these are not short speeches; they are customarily to go on and on about whatever it is that the people at the mesa principal want to talk about – usually a lot of flowery vocabulary, thanking so-and-so and doing lots of name/organization dropping. What was I to do? There are only 3 topics with which I have sufficiently developed Spanish vocabulary to talk at any length whatsoever. These topics are in order of competence:

1.) Water resources engineering
2.) How cold it gets in the States during the winter
3.) Toyota pickups, 1984 – 1992 models

I had no idea what to do, but Annie being the sympathetic wife that she is (sympathetic and also sensitive to being embarrassed by her gigantic sweaty husband who changes every conversation to one of three topics) saved the day and let her “palabras” go long and used the “we” form a lot and pointed to me as if to say “he isn’t smart enough to say anything, but we’re together… ladies understand…isn’t he ridiculous looking in that chair.”

But, anyhow ask me about it when we get home, and if you’re ever in the village of Linaca in southeast Honduras walk around and look in the houses to see if you can see a picture of me on someone’s wall pinning a sash and crowning a 3-year-old princess.

September 3, 2008

Conquering Celaque!

A recent 2-night trip to climb the highest point in Honduras at a little under 9,500 feet reminded why I love backpacking. The mountain, called Celaque (meaning "box of water" in the local Lencan language), is in a very dense, lush cloud forest just outside the city of Gracias in western Honduras. The mountain gets around 2,000-4000 mm of annual precipitation so we prepared accordingly with plenty of ziplocks to store dry clothes and water-proof tarps. Neither Luke nor I had gone camping/backpacking since living in Colorado so we really enjoyed it. The only thing missing was our dog Moose!!

Setting off with our friends Sara & Javi, with Celaque in the background covered in clouds

One of the many stream/river crossings

This is on our first leg of the hike (4 1/2 hours to first camp)

Our tents set up on first night (check out the awesome A-frame design with the tarp - nice work Luke & Javi!). It rained on and off the 1st night and all through the 2nd night but luckily we all managed to stay fairly dry.

This pic gives you an idea of the dense forest...trees covered with moss, vines, and ferns in the misty clouds. This pic was taken from our the second camp, about 2 hours from camp 1 and an hour and a half from the summit.

We made it! This is in the afternoon of day 2, it's a steep climb to the top from camp 2. It was chilly up there!

Looking out over the mountains and communities below from the top of Celaque.

A nice view from the top

August 26, 2008

Campo-style living

So lately I've had a good share of "campo" and "aldea" time. "Campo" means anything not in a city and "aldea" is any small community. You'll find thousands of these tiny aldeas - some as few as a dozen families - scattered around the countryside and mountains of Honduras.

Last week I spent two days in a row in a community about a half hour from Danli. I am starting a class there with young girls that focuses on good decision-making skills with regards to life planning (avoid teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and STI prevention, thinking about what to look for in a mate, etc.). (You can read more about the course called "Yo Merezco" in my Aug 8 blog). Anyway, last week over the course of two days the young Honduran woman who's helping me with the class and I visited 16 different houses to drop off formal invitations for the girls we chose to be in the class (determined by their teachers to be "at risk"). It was really fun to show up at people's houses with no warning or phonecall ahead of time and see how Hondurans treat unexpected guests. Because this community is in a valley, there is a lot going on agriculturally...lots of corn (see pic below), beans, tomatoes, and green peppers as well as lots of cows. Therefore everyone has a fence surrounding their house. I followed Nohemy's lead and walked right into the fenced area. As we approach the house, we would wait for someone to "saludarnos" - greet us - and for them to say "pasen adelante" - "come on in." They would then, without fail, produce two plastic chairs for us to sit on. Everyone has an outdoor porch and each time this is where we would sit to discuss the class that we plan to start and ask the mother's permission for their daughter's participation. We would stay about 5-10 minutes, thank them and then take off for the next house. Many times we were offered food to eat. During the course of the two days, I was offered and ate the following things at various houses:

- Tamales (like Mexican tamales but without any filling or sauce)
- LOTS of sugary coffee
- A hard boiled egg with tortillas
- Boiled jilote (the field corn before it is mature - tiny cobs that they boil with a few of the inner husks left on -
you eat the whole thing)
- Rosquillas (corn and cheese biscuit type things)
- Horchata (a drink made from ground rice)
- Boiled pastaste (a vegetable sort of like a potato)
- Chicken and rice
- Red beans
- Sweet bread
- Coca-Cola

As you can see, I definitely did not starve during my visits! Because the teachers chose the girls and we visited girls from two different schools, the houses really were scattered all over the valley so we did lots of walking. I enjoyed it very much and realize how living in a big city in Honduras really is very different than living in the "campo."

This pic was taken not on my last trip but the trip before to Linaca so the corn is much bigger now!

Yesterday and today I spent time in another small community (where the well is being drilled currently - they still haven't found water yet). I stayed overnight and gave a 4-hour workshop (2 hours yesterday and 2 today) on HIV/AIDS prevention to the women of the community with the help of my PCV sitemate, Ann Marie, who also came. It went very well and was very fun to stay overnight in the community. They don't have electricity and because it gets dark around 6:30, everyone is usually in bed by 8. We ate our beans, tortillas and fresh cuajada (a soft cheese - made that very day) by candlelight in the kitchen for dinner. They have to haul all their water from a creek or lagoon so there is no "shower" to speak of. Most people bathe (half-clothed) in the creek. I bathed after it got dark with a bucket of water under a tree near the house. I ate LOTS of corn products because right now is harvest time. I had tamales twice, elote (boiled field corn), and corn tortillas twice in less than 24 hours. We also had delicious fresh red beans from the recent harvest and chicken for lunch today that I saw running around in the morning! The woman (she's 28 too) I stayed with butchered it about 8:30 this morning and after plucking the feathers, put it in a pot on her "fogon" (brick/adobe stove that uses small sticks and pieces of wood to keep lit) to boil. She then later cut up the chicken into pieces and fried them in some oil in a saucepan. I think that was the freshest chicken I've ever eaten! The workshop went very well and we had a great time hanging out in the "campo".

August 18, 2008

Cost of living in Honduras

I can’t remember if we’ve ever done a blog on the cost of living in Honduras (thanks to fellow PCV Mary for the idea!). According to PC, volunteers are given a wage that allows them to live near to the level of the majority of people in their community. So PCVs monthly “salaries” (not including rent) in Honduras vary from 4,200 lempiras ($221) to 6,100 lempiras ($321). This all depends on the size of your site and location (north coasters get more…they get to live on the beach and get paid more – arrg!). PC pays our rent separately. They have a “ball-park” figure for the cost of rent in each site and it is up to the volunteer to find a place to live within that amount. For example, here in Danlí, the maximum PC will pay for rent per month per person is 2,500 lempiras ($131.93). Luckily, if you’re married you get double for rent!

Here are some examples of prices in Danlí (18.95 lemprias = $1)

Water bill: $3.69 per month
Bus ride to Tegucigalpa (capital, 1 ½ hours from Danlí): $3.38
Bus ride from Tegucigalpa to north coast beaches (about 7 hours from Tegus): $10.77
Baleada (flour tortilla with beans, cheese, eggs, sometimes avocado): $0.37 - 0.79
1 lb of red beans: $0.79
1 lb of rice: $0.58
Corn tortillas: 10 for $.18
Eggs: $0.11 per egg
1 liter of milk: $1.21
1 large plastic container of purified water (5 gallons): $1.58
1 lb. roma-sized tomatoes: $0.53
1 whole medium-sized frozen chicken: $3.96
1 lb lean hamburger: $1.27
1 lb hard “Honduran” cheese: $1.32
1 lb of chicken breast (with bone): $1.42
A meal at a typical “comedor” here in Danlí: $1.85
(Typical breakfast and dinner meal: meat (usually beef), beans, fried sweet plantains,
scrambled eggs, avocado, tortillas. Typical lunch meal: meat, rice, cabbage salad, cooked vegetables, tortillas)
A glass of fresh juice: $0.42
Oranges: $0.11 per orange
Mango (during season): $0.16 per mango
Pineapple: $0.79-$1.32 per pineapple
Avocado (during season): $0.26 for a large one (twice the size of a Hass)
A small bag (from lady on street) of sliced green mango, ciruela, mamones,
nance, or other fruits in season: $0.26
A small cup of coffee: $.32
A “latte” from the Honduran chain “Espresso Americano”: $1.16 (beat that Starbucks!)
A 3 lb bag of “Gati” (cat food): $1.16
A ½ liter bag of water: $0.12
½ liter of Coke: $0.58
Local beer: $0.69 per bottle
Postage for a letter to the US: $1.32
Call home (to the States): $0.11 per minute
1 hour of internet use: $0.53

If we stay in Danlí for a month without leaving, we can definitely get through the month easily on our $263.85 allowance (that doesn’t include rent). If we leave to visit friends, go to Tegus for errands, etc. we can barely scrap by. With gas prices so high, bus and taxi prices are high! Just in the last few months we’ve seen our bus fare to Tegus go up by nearly 18.5% an. taxis in town now charge 25% more.

Recently in the news around the world, including here in Honduras, there has been talk of the rising cost of food. In Honduras the “canasta básica” (basic basket of food) has gone up considerably since last year. One local paper reported a 34% increase since 2007. The media continuously alludes to what could be a steep increase in the cases of malnutrition here in Honduras in the next few years if prices continue to climb.

(Anything else you want to know the cost of? Leave a comment & ask!)

August 8, 2008

Trip home, work here, etc.

So here’s the promised blog with pictures. The last three months have been busy – involving lots of traveling and even quite a bit of work (thus the lack of blogging). Anyway, here’s what’s been going on…

In late June, we made it back to the States for my brother Chad’s wedding. It was a great time to go home (for the wedding plus 4th of July). The weather was great and we got to spend lots of time with family and friends. Here are some highlights of the trip:

Chad and his wife Sarah

With my brothers Chad & Josh

Luke & I on his parent´s farm

We had lots of great time with our nieces! Anica above and Aila and Lila below

The Gingerichs (and Huddles!)

Upon returning to Honduras, I immediately got back to work on a new manual that the PC Honduras Health project has been working on for 2 years. I joined the team this year and have been in charge of editing and revising the manual. The course is called “Yo Merezco…” which means “I deserve…”.

The cover of the manual

It’s a class designed for young girls, ages 10-15, and deals with topics like self-esteem, good decision making, what to look for in a spouse, domestic violence, reproductive health, sex ed and HIV prevention. The focus throughout is on sexual abstinence (delaying the first sexual encounter). PC Honduras received money from President Bush’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) to design and implement this course. So we worked on finished up the manual to get it published in time for the national workshop that we had (July 23-26). We invited about 20 PCVs and their Honduran counterparts. We spent Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday talking about the manual, how it’s to be used, and teaching several of the chapters in small groups so that people could get a feel for it.

The tables set up for the workshop

Doing an activity with the participants

Me teaching the chapter on anatomy to the participants

On Friday, the participants (who had been split into groups) went to a school where they were to teach a chapter of the manual to a group of girls (like a practicum). Unfortunately, there was a teacher’s strike that day (and the day before as well) so there were very few girls there but we made do by calling parents and telling them to send their girls to school and by just having smaller groups than we originally planned. By Friday afternoon the workshop was over.

4 of us 5 leaders making phonecalls to parents

Doing a trust-fall activity with the girls during the practicum

Doing a peer pressure activity with my group

All in all, everything went well and we (the team of 5 of us in charge of the manual and the workshop) were just glad it was over! The next phase of the project is for PCVs around the country to implement the course in their communities. I am starting a class in a small town outside of Danlí that starts the first week of September. A young woman in the community who is very active and enjoys volunteers work (a rare concept for most Honduras) will be helping me with the course. Another phase of the project is to develop a similar course except for boys.

Soon after that was over, I came back to Danlí and started helping with the group from the Episcopalian church (same group I helped and blogged about recently). They drilled another well in a community near Danlí (same community where I will do the Yo Merezco course). While that was going on, I helped with health and hygiene classes for the members of the community (mostly women show up but this time we did have one gentlemen and several young men). We did 6 days of classes with the participants from 10 am – 4 pm (with an hour and a half lunch). The graduation ceremony was just this past Wednesday.

During class with the community

A group picture of the participants

Here’s a little update on the community we worked in last time and didn’t find water (read my blog from June 10 to get a better idea of how desperate this community is for clean water): Luckily the group (they call themselves the Water Ministry) recognized the need this community has for clean water and have made them a priority. After they finished up the well earlier this week in the community where we were doing the health and hygiene classes, they went back to San Lorenzo and started drilling again. They had problems getting permission from the land owner on the first go round to drill where they wanted to and ended up drilling in a less than desired spot only to not find water. This time, they were able to get permission to drill where they originally wanted to. I hope to hear some good news next week that they found water. Here’s a pic of a young woman from this community hauling water from a nasty lagoon which is where all the water for consumption and domestic use is gathered.

The months of August-October will be busy for us! Luke has recently been busy with several projects and starting soon, will have 11 communities that need surveys and designs done. We are lucky to start feeling like we have some meaningful work (it only took a little over a year of living in Danlí to find some!). The school year ends in November and after that (at least through January) things will slow down a little. Come February, we only have 2 months left of service. Time is starting to fly and I’m feeling like there’s a lot to be done before we’re finished here. As most of you know, our service thus far (18 months) has definitely had it’s ups and downs (generally more downs than ups) but we’re looking forward to our last 8 months and hoping we can leave Honduras feeling good about the work and service we were able to do.

We´re blogging again! Check out Luke´s recent blog below...

August 7, 2008


Welp…. sorry for not blogging recently, to all those who have faithfully been checking the blog in hopes of something, I apologize. I have tried in earnest to get myself in to some sort of exciting, dangerous or hilarious situation, but to no avail. Life is normal (or it has developed the sense or normalcy) and normal seems hardly blog worthy. I can think of nothing to write about, but in place of writing I will make lists.

Things that have recently happened…

1.) I paid a guy 250 Lempiras to pull out and chop up our giant “zucchini” plant that managed to take over our entire yard and produce only 2 small tasteless gourds. It took him almost a day and a half.

2.) Our “canícula” recently ended, canícula is the word for the month long period during the wet season when it doesn’t rain. Good riddance canícula.

3.) Annie and I did a topographic survey last Monday for a community called “El Ojo de Agua” or “The Eye of Water”. They have a well and need me to tell them how to get the water to the houses.

4.) We found (more accurately rescued) another turtle, this one is painted red with a white stripe down his back. We found him on the road outside of the liberal party headquarters in town (red and white are their colors). He/she and Umberto are currently chasing each other around in our compound either mating or fighting, or both.

5.) Band practice has started again! So we will be serenaded until the Sept. 15th Independence Day celebration with daily 4-hour marching band practices by all of the nearby high schools.

6.) The neighbor kid got a saxophone (help us!).

7.) Avocados are now in season……Hallelujah!!

8.) Food is getting more expensive. This has taken a toll on most everyone we know since the majority of people’s income here is spent on food.

9.) Our oven (stove part still works) broke…this is a disaster!! Annie lost her main source of entertainment and I lost my only source of baked goods.

10.) Hondu 9 is leaving for home; this makes our Hondu 10 group the next in line to take off.

11.) The papaya tree we planted 12 months ago is giving fruit (papaya tastes awful by the way).

Things I did yesterday, in no particular order:


Worked on the distribution system design for “The Eye of Water”

Went for a walk because it was the first nice cool day in a long, long time

Priced large plastic barrels at the large plastic barrel store. No really, it is actually called “Large Plastic Barrels Corner Kick” (translated from Spanish)

Talked on the phone to 2 people about potential projects next week

Purchased 50 Lempiras of prepaid cell phone minutes

Called a missionary to find out where on earth the church is that I agreed to meet some people at tomorrow

Made two grilled cheese sandwiches

Fed our cat

Watched the turtles fight

Went for a run

Got whiffs of our terrible smelling compost pile while working on the computer

Made sketch of small methane digester to put compost in

Played Spider Solitaire on computer

Wrote cover letter to send to a company in the States

Washed dishes

Annie´s got a blog with pictures that she´ll post soon so stay tuned...