#8 – Plans realized

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JUNE! It’s JUNE??? That can simply not  be true. (I realize that it is now in fact July, but this was started in June).

Well as seeing that I have completely slacked off with my writing this blog I owe at least two posts, so this one will be a professional focus and the other will be a more personal focus.

Since the last time I wrote the first business plan was written and completed with great success.  After I wrote up all the information from the community visit/assessment I put all the information together using the template that I had created and then translated it (with the help of Google).  The problem of course after was that it still didn’t make a lot of sense to the native Spanish speaker (kind of comforting on on the one hand that the internet hasn’t mastered the art of human conversation but at the time very frustrating!).  So I sat down with the technical staff and they assisted with the translation.  Meaning that I was taking up time of theirs that could have been used in MANY other capacities.

BUT it was complete and the funding to repair the cooking vat for the cane sugar was approved, so that felt great.

Soon after that business plan we went on another community assessment, this one was not as far in the mountains but getting there was still very bumpy, VERY bumpy.  I was again very excited to be there and felt like I was getting into the groove quite nicely.

I was with the same member of the technical team that I went with for the first community visit and we see each other in the office quite often so I knew him quite well.  Between his  half English and my half (okay 1/4 but whose calculating!) Spanish, we manage quite well.

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We sat down as a group to discuss what was needed.

We had gone to collect information on alternative medicine and a women’s group in the area but when we got there the plans changed and we were suddenly walking up a mountain to look at the water source for a new farm cooperative initiative.

Once we got to the top and took a look at the water source for the farm we sat down and my colleague looked at me and said “okay Erin! what information do you need for the lagoon?”, I gave him a look that must have said ‘the what now??’ It had been decided through earlier discussion that what was now needed for the growth of the enterprise was to clean out an old lagoon pit and fill it with fresh water and then buy baby (fingerlings) tilapia to fill the lagoon.  This would assist the community in a couple of different ways.  For one, food for the families themselves, secondly for the community nearby who doesn’t have a lot of access to fish, and being a source of income for the newly formed enterprise of 11 people.

So there I was staring blankly at the group and I was like uhmmmm okay, well, what exactly is needed here for the lagoon to be successful and what is CDH ready to contribute.  This was all information that I would have normally liked to have prepared to go INTO a community meeting or assessment but you learn to go with the flow.   The lagoon needed to be cleaned but they have a water source which is fresh water from the surrounding mountains that they have connected with an irrigation for the rest of the farm, so the fish is what was needed.  I then asked questions about the group and how long they had been working together and what their main sources of income were.  I also asked about the care of the fish and and the necessary upkeep of the lagoon.

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This is the space that would be used as a lagoon for the Tilapia. It needed to be cleaned out and refurbished slightly.

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This was the water source for all their agriculture and the future lagoon, it was an intricate pumping system up in the mountains.

In all honesty, I didn’t know anything about tilapia except for the recent information on the web about how they can be unhealthy because of high chemical levels and low regulation standards.  So after the meeting we went back to the office and I started researching.  Thankfully CDH has worked with tilapia before so there was a lot of  information on hand.  I learned A LOT about tilapia! Like the space they need to breed the most safely and sustainably, why they are a good choice for ease of care and how good they are at breeding. They have a high success rate in the kind of environment where they would be living so it at looked very positive.  I wrote up the plan and again waited to meet with the technical team to edit it,  this proved a lot more difficult then the first time.  So I waited.

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Close up of the babies in the bags in the back of the truck, they were about the size of my thumb

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Bags in the back of the truck, reminded me of picking up a gold fish and bringing it home, except there were about 1000 of them per bag.

But in the mean time one day a while later (quite a while later) I was invited to the community to…..take the fish! SO exciting.  I woke up at 5am to get out before it got too hot for the fingerlings, and they showed up at my house at 7:30..lol there were three giant bags in the back of the truck and I felt like I had just gone to the pet store and got my own pets!  There were two members of the technical team sitting in the back of the truck to stop the bags from being too violently shaken on the the rocky road,  and we headed to the community.

When we got there, the bags were taken to the lagoon and put in the water to equalize the temperature in the bags (think eeeeeeee – baby fishies screaming the same way we would if a hot shower suddenly turned cold).

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letting the temperature inside the bag equalize before putting the fish in their new home.

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The fishies being released from the bag….FREEEEDOMMMMMMM!

The bags were slowly emptied and they swam around in their new large area.  Three babies had unfortunately perished during the trip but we had originally counted for 500 out of the 3000 to die over the life cycle so three at the beginning was already better than what was thought.

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We all watched as the fish were released into the lagoon.

After all the fish were released everyone sat down and the technical team talked about the care of the fish, and the best times to feed them etc.  CDH also provided them with food, which consisted of a five part mixture that was prepared while we were there.

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there was a five part mixture to the food, it was all weighed and prepared there.

It was incredible to be able to see the project come together after starting with a community visit and then writing the plan and then being able to be with the team as the tilapia were delivered.  It had a great sense of ‘full circle’.

We left with a feeling of excitement and dropped off members of the cooperative on the way, which in some cases was a large distance from the farm.  We got invited into all the homes we passed and we stopped into one to see a new grinder they had gotten to ensure that the fish food wasn’t to coarse for the fingerlings to consume.

It was a great day.

P.S just in case anyone is wondering, the original plan for the alternative medicine business plan was not wiped out, but done with another group.  They received their ingredients and are doing quite well with their own iniatitive.

#7 – Time flying and goals being realized…

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I cannot believe it has been as long as it has.  This has been a reminder in how quickly time passes, and how we should do our best to do something everyday that we are proud of.

Since I last wrote there have been so many great moments and I would have to write pages and pages to give a full update, so I think I will focus on the ones that have been the most important to me.

After my last post, (I swear there was one in there that I did since then but I must be mistaken) I had a meeting with the Directors and we created a plan.  I was so excited that in retrospect I should have ensured my complete understanding before concluding the meeting so eagerly.  I think sometimes people (okay me) tend to bite off more then they can chew in moments of excitement.  (Especially when the meeting is in Spanish and you are dying to show your level of understanding!).

You probably have an idea of where this is going but after the meeting I was looking over the notes and I realized how highly financial based the plan was.  They wanted me to create a project based on the cost benefit analysis of a three year project and then be able to present it to the technical team so there would be a synthesis in the outline in the financial analysis of proposals.  I was worried about this because, those who know me, know that math has never been a favorite subject of mine.  Because my background is not in the financial sector I felt apprehensive about working on something that effects all aspects of the organization, and if done incorrectly can really have horrible repercussions for everyone.

So I talked to the director and suggested that there might be a bit of confusion with my area of specialty.  The post profile had been created based on project management and although financial aspects are a part of that, the expectations in this plan were much greater than my knowledge base.  I knew my position wouldn’t be word for word the same as the post profile that I had originally been given, but as financial experts know, there is a lot more to it then just crunching numbers; especially in project management where the financial records are integral to the funders, the organization, the team, and the community.

We met again and created a new plan, one that I made sure I completely understood before getting too excited.  This new plan went until the end of December and it included me creating a template for a business plan, doing two community assessments, and then writing the required business plans.  I was PUMPED!  This was exactly why I had come to Honduras and has been my goal since I started University.

I created a business plan template based on what I know and after looking at a lot of different examples, I was pretty happy with the end result.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be for a couple of reasons.  One, the traditional business plan that I have had experience with is created for organizations that are doing strategic planning for their upcoming year or future years and is an important official document that is used in numerous ways.  Project proposals are typically created to request funding and are very detailed documents completed after a lot of research and information gathering .  This business plan template was something that the organization was using to justify the need to use funding already received.  So I basically combined a formal business plan template with a proposal template, the result being something that could be used at a community level or an organizational level.

We met to discuss my template when it was complete and it was received very well.   After comparing it too two others that the organization has worked with (one was, cough cough, a very large organization) the Director said mine was the best for community development (YAYYYYY!!!!).  The other members of the technical team seemed surprised that I had written what was on the board in front of us.  I think I have been seen as the Canadian that is here learning Spanish and no one really knew what I had to offer.  So it felt great.

The next step was going to the community to understand the context of what was needed and to understand how best to approach the business plan.  We had written a timeline for when this should all take place.

That of course was drastically different than the reality, which I had expected to some extend but was still a bit frustrating.

The time came eventually (about a month after the decided date) for the community visit/assessment.

I had my clipboard with my CUSO t-shirt on and my runners and I was all ready to go!  The only thing that I was missing, I was told on the way, was a hat.  This was rather silly of me because it is quite the necessary accessory in this Choluteca heat and sun.  We stopped at a place on the side of the mountain and my colleague found me a hat.  (see picture below) It is Che Guevara on the front.  I felt like a combination of a try hard tourist and pure awesomeness.

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We continued our route and then, suddenly, my colleague couldn’t change gears, or use the clutch at all for that matter.  Long story short, we could not go any farther with the car.  Luckily enough we had someone that could come and take the car to a garage in the next town up.  There we stayed for a couple of hours, where, coincidentally my colleague lived with his two children and his partner, whom I got the privilege of meeting and being welcomed into their home.

Our next attempt was a couple of days later.

It was,

perfect.

It was a beautiful hot day and we drove into the mountains, and I mean INTO the mountains.  When I think about driving into the mountains I think about hopping into the car and driving to Banff.  This was Driving through rocks and hills and dodging crazy crevices.  It was pretty bumpy.  We then stopped the truck and started the walk to the community we were heading to.

The first place we stopped was a family that the CDH works with already, it was, humbling to say the least.  There were three separate buildings, it was my understanding for the different generations in the family.  The kids all came running out to see us and my colleague asked to see their report cards that they had received that day.  Their marks were very good!  I wanted to take photos of all of these people but I felt a  bit uncomfortable as I didn’t want to seem like I was overstepping. this was not  family I knew and they were surprised to see me there.

After we left we continued walking down the path, and we got to where we were supposed to be.  This farm was quite the contrast from the first home.  There were two separate buildings that looked like they could have been build that week, there were a lot of cows, and tons of different agriculture.  It was obvious that this farm has more resources at their disposal.

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One of two new homes built on the farm.

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The new family oven!

We walked through the farm and I was shown all the different produce that was being cultivated and it was a very impressive site.  I was showed the huge sugar cane plants, coffee, a zucchini field, onions and other fruits that I cannot label.  I was there specifically for the sugar cane production.  The factory needed some replacement parts for the upcoming harvest.

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The factory. it consists of the vat in the front which has an oven attached where the juice is condensed.

After I got the tour of the whole farm we went to the factory.  It was nothing like I expected the factory to be.  It was a very simple covered area with an oven and a large vat to hold the sugar cane juice.  Outside of that there was a machine which is where the sugar cane is fed into and then squeezed, cows turn the machine around and around in this process.

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The sugar cane ‘juicer’. The sugar cane is put in that hole and two cows turn the machine, it squeezes the juice out and it comes out the other side.

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Sugar cane plants.

We then sat down and discussed what was needed for production to continue.  There are about 10,000 plants on the farm and it takes about 15 days for him and two others to process the sugar cane from start to finish.  What he needs at the moment is the metal lining of the vat in the factory replaced.  This costs, approx. 2500 lempiras, which roughly exchanged is about 124 dollars Canadian.  So I wrote down the numbers and I said okay! What else!?  He looked around and said, no that’s it, that’s all I need for this years production.  My reaction must have been a bit taken aback as I had expected such a great expense for the overall factory.

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Sugar cane, with skin and without.

We walked back to his house and he came back with a chopped piece of sugar cane.  At first I thought oh no! He just wasted one of his plants to show me this, but he was so happy to show me what he had grown that the feeling soon dissipated;  ESPECIALLY after he peeled it and handed me a piece about a foot long.  Both him and my colleague said okay now bite into it and pull down, huh??!  I followed their instructions and yanked on piece with my teeth. It was SOOOO good!  Very hard to describe but it was like the texture of celery with the taste of pure sweetness.  I took it with me on the walk back and MAN did have a lot of energy!

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My chunk of sugar cane. Teeth marks included.

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The rest of the day I was so happy.  The day could not have gone more perfectly, this was in a large part because of the assistance of my colleague that had brought and helped with the translation (although I was pretty impressed with how far I could express myself).  We walked and then drove back and it is hard to express the feelings I had, but I could not stop smiling.  It was quite the process getting there, and the time in waiting was such a personal challenge for me, but it was worth it.

Since then I have written the business plan and then translated it into Spanish, with a lot of help of a friend.  It is the hope that the replacement part will get there in the next month or so that the sugar cane can be produced before the rainy season starts.

I now have a second community visit planned with another business plan required on alternative medicine.

This experience so far for me has been such a roller coaster of experience, and breaking down expectations and learning to go with the flow more.  I continue to appreciate every day that I am here and just enjoy every moment that I have.

That will be all for now, but I promise I won’t leave this much time in between posts!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years with your friends and family.

Best,

Erin

#6 – Perspective and Celebrations

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I recently returned to Choluteca after a week home.  It was five months into my placement and it seemed like a perfect time to take a wee break.  It was good to get some perspective and visit with family and friends.  I was comforted to realize how excited I was to get back to Honduras – which is a good thing considering I have a year remaining in my contract. Although I miss my family and friends at home I am no where near to being done with experience here.  I returned with some gifts for my friends in Honduras and I was so excited to give them.  There had been a couple of requests – chocolate, and lots of it; a hand bag and one of my co-workers asked if I could try to find a cell phone in their budget, as they wanted one with all the bells and whistles.  Everyone was very excited – I brought back pens and pencils with the Canadian flag all over them and they were a big hit.

As for perspective – I had decided that when I came back to Choluteca I was going to talk with the Executive Director regarding my role and what I was going to be focusing on during my time with CDH.  When I came back I sent an e-mail to her and we have a meeting set for next week which I am looking forward to.  I asked her if there was information I should be  preparing for the meeting and she said the Action Plan with CUSO, which I took to mean the post profile.   I was prepared to be ready with that all set to learn about what I will be doing.  However, I now realize that this isn’t enough.

I had a great talk with a colleague in Calgary, we were in the same class at Humber, doing International Project Management.  He has worked in Mexico – in a different field – and even though Mexico is not a part of Central America, there are cultural similarities.  He brought it to my attention (in a way that only he can – haha thanks Beans) that I wasn’t thinking proactively enough about my situation.  I was thinking along the lines that I should wait to have my course of action plotted out in a nice neat little package – what is needed and expected from me, instead of creating possibilities.  I have have had time now to find my bearings, get better in Spanish (not full fluency, but I know enough Spanish to get me started and to enable me to work at a level that can allow me to be proactive).  I had a fear that if I jumped right in I would come across as assuming I know more then anyone else in the organization and that I have all the solutions (neither of which is anywhere near the truth).  But there is a difference between being presumptuous and being proactive with the knowledge that you have and taking the initiative to create ideas – this not only allows me to explore possibilities and move forward, but it shows that I am ready to get started and have the skills to participate in a meaningful way with the organization.

Probably the most important realization for me (thanks again B) is how I am used to working in the past.  In most of my previous positions there has been a clear outline of my job description and duties.  There were things that needed to be done and I did them.  The solutions were not always laid out and I worked a lot on my own but I have not had a lot of experience with creating my own parameters.  This is going to be good for me as it forces me to think outside of the box – and what an immense amount of possibilities ‘outside of the box’ has.

I decided to take the original post profile, which the CDH wrote, and with the organization’s strategic plan, came up with different work plans which I will bring to the meeting next week.  They might be completely opposite to the direction that the Executive Director has in mind but they might also create new ideas and room for further communication.  Either way it will enhance my experience here and mean that I am doing more then awaiting instruction.  I am happy with what I came up with and I think they will create a great starting point for the meeting – as well as for my next steps.

It’s funny to think of people that I don’t know reading this out of interest about another persons experience – before this blog I had never even read one before. I have now read a couple different blogs and they really are an interesting medium – what a captivating way to learn about another individual’s interests and passions. You also have to be very careful about your writing – for example, I was reading over my last entry and realized I had inserted the wrong ‘there’ – GASP! I was devastated! By this time 37 people had read it (according to my handy stats) and I thought, Oh my, I am going to be judged. So for the record, I realized the mistake at once and it was rectified! Thank you, I feel much better now that you know I know it was an error. (hah!)

Regarding the ‘celebrations’ in the blog title, there are two events I wanted to share with you that I was fortunate enough to take part in recently.

The first was Lempira day.  Lempira as an indigenous Lenca chief who, in the 1500’s led numerous tribes against Spanish conquerors.   The Honduran currency, the Lempira is named after him and July 20th is a day where schools celebrate with the students dressing up similar to the traditional native fashion and have a contest for who has the best costume by using local materials.  I was invited to partake in the activities at a local school that my colleagues daughter attends.  The school went all out with decorations, and a dance choreographed with the older students.   I have seen a couple different schools through out the country and they look rather similar in design, however this school in particular has more resources then the average school, which enables them to celebrate in quite an impressive way.

The young students walked down a path created for them, like a runway and of course as is the usual with young children in such scenarios, hilarity ensued watching them trying their hardest to follow directions and not get distracted.  The contest seemed more directed at friends and family then the students – as they were so young – but it was definitely more playful in nature.   The preparation of my colleagues daughters costume took a lot of time,  and it was very impressive, she is also a beautiful girl who wins a lot of these contests at the school.  There was a big fluster as we got to school and dressed her up – felt like I was behind the scenes at a fashion show. 

The second event that I attended was in San Marco de Colon which is a city about 40 minutes outside of Choluteca. We happened to go on a day where there was a large parade.  I didn’t really understand what it was all about but it was a parade of horses – and their owners prancing through the streets.  The horses had been trained to actually dance when music started playing and they would prance back and forth.  It was extremely hot and I felt kind of bad for them but there were a lot of people both participating and watching.

Both events were very different but the results had a lot of similarities – celebration and pride for the local community and the traditions that have been created.  They didn’t differ that much from say a school recital or a parade at home and these are the things that should be noted when thinking of the Honduras that is portrayed in the media constantly as such a dangerous place.  This is what life is about in a lot of the country – not drugs and violence.

To close this entry I would like to thank my Nan, June, for making the first donation to CUSO.   I have a goal of $2500 – which the Canadian government matches 9-1 to allow others to take part in the volunteer placements all over the world.  My Nan has always been one of my greatest supporters (as she has been to all her grandchildren) and I feel very fortunate to have her in my life.  Thanks Nan! There is a link at the top of the page (Erin’s cuso page) where you can learn more about what the organization does and if you so desire, see the placements available.

Best to all.

Erin.

#5 – CDH – Centro Desarrollo Humano

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Hola!

It has been a while.  And I have gotten some comments regarding the lack of a post.  It’s nice to know that people read it.🙂

As the title suggests this post will focus on the organization that I am working with while I am here in Honduras.  I have briefly mentioned it in the past but now that I have been in Choluteca for two months I now feel as though I have a greater familiarity of both my work environment and the country.  By familiarity I mean the knowledge that I have gained through research, community visits and my colleagues at the CDH – this is by no means makes me an expert on the country nor the challenges that so many people deal with everyday.

The CDH (in English the Centre for Human Development), has been in existence since 1985.  (*embarrassing note – I have previously called it The Center for Human Rights which was my bad translation, I mixed up the Spanish Words Desarrollo and Derecho.)   Their mandate has changed throughout the years but they have their hands in so many different development issues in Honduras that it really is quite the perfect organization for me to get a real taste of of community development. They focus on woman’s rights, youth rights, sustainable resources and farming, risk management, equality and education.

here is their mission statement: (or a very close English translation)

The HRC is an organization of social movement that accompanies and promotes economic empowerment processes, political and cultural development of local and national stakeholders, particularly youth and women, promoting their own agenda and organization to achieve human development alternative, comprehensive and sustainable.

The CDH office in Choluteca, we moved to this new office soon after I got here, nice and close to my apartment.  The second photo is the main room where meetings are held and such.

There are mucho statistics regarding Honduras and it is repeatedly referred to as one of the most dangerous places in the world – if you look at the statistics it is indeed a scary place.  The media in North America has a huge hand to play on the negative and focus of danger in the country.  It is important to remember though that for every story that is read about a shooting, or a narcotics bust or a gang issue there are more people that are living their lives just like me and you live at home, trying to work to support their families, wondering what the future holds and what how they can make things better – except for the HUGE disparity between living conditions, monetary gain and economic freedom.  I don’t want to throw out a bunch of statistics, as they are easily found online if anyone is interested.  But I will give one:  In Honduras over 59% of the population remain below the poverty line and 36.2% in extreme poverty, the definitions for these differ according to different organizations such as the World Bank or the UNDP but typically extreme poverty is under $1.25 per day and poverty is about$2.00 per day.  A lot of us hear these statistics quite often but lets put it into some context.

Kids playing after the rain in the community where CDH held a agricultural fair.

Making $2.00 per day is around $62.00 per month.  PER MONTH.  We do of course have to take into consideration the difference in prices in Honduras.  Some more context: $62.00 equals approximately 1,182 Lempiras (Honduran currency). Living on my own, per week I spend about 500 Lempiras on food (mainly fruits and vegetables, tortillas and bottled water), rent is 7000 Lempiras (however this is HIGH as I live in a secure building in town).  Consider a family of four (which is on the smaller size in Honduras) and if there is one person working there is just no chance to stay afloat, and this is not taking into consideration the expense of education, electricity, clothing, transportation and health care.  The rural population has other issues to think about as a lot of this population doesn’t have access to potable water, electricity or health care.  On drives through out the country there are makeshift stalls with people selling honey or fruit in attempt to create an income.

The CDH works at a community level with the local population to increase their own capacity working with local resources and solutions.  The entire staff at the organization (I believe in the two offices there is a total of 28 employees) is Honduran, except for a French volunteer in Tegucigalpa and myself in Choluteca.

When I first started my placement I was reading a lot about violence prevention and a project that focused on refurbishing an area in different communities where people could gather for different meetings, presentations, educational opportunities and the like.  When the CDH  did their base line data they found that it was the belief of the community that the majority of the violence came from the fact that there wasn’t a central place for people to gather and come together in a proactive way.  So, working with the community they created a space in three different communities where people can gather.  I visited one of the communities where this community center has been completed and the reaction of people when they saw the truck was incredible, all the kids smiled and wave and adults come to talk and greet us.  This is before they even see who is in the truck! It was incredible.  The space is now used for a primary school, meetings with community members and weekly events.

A house in a community in Choluteca, everything is used to create a functional space.

I was excited to learn that I would be working on phase two of the project which was to create, through partnership with other organizations in the community, programs and workshops, in the spaces that were created, to engage the community and increase youth leadership and educational possibilities.  The topics chosen were decided on by the community and it looked as though it was a great opportunity to use my project management experience to create the proposal – it sounded as though it was a multi- year project where the government was going to be invited to get involved.  This is what I have spent the last couple of weeks researching and prepping for – mostly research and background information.  I have just found out that this has now been scrapped.  I believe it is because of numerous reasons, mainly timing issues but I was a bit disappointed when I found out.  I then had to remember this is how it is with development projects, money doesn’t come in, or there is a lack of it; there is not consensus on where the project is going, or permission cannot be given to proceed – no matter how worthy and important the work might be.

I will now turn my focus to risk management in the approach of a new project for the fall regarding environmental factors and the severe damage that occurs with the yearly storms and extreme weather conditions.  I don’t know much about this  yet and I have a lot of information to read.  I look forward to learning where I can assist the organization in this area.  Adaptable and motivated – two qualities CUSO looks for when recruiting, most definitely important.

Regarding CUSO – I have just come from a two day meeting with in San Pedro Sula, to discuss with partners and CUSO volunteers the role that CUSO can play in the future in Honduras.  Because of the security issues in the country CUSO in Canada put a freeze on any new volunteers coming to the country.  The meeting was a great way to get people together and discuss the issues from different perspectives.  Not that I participated to much in the conversation; I was so frustrated with my Spanish – it was my first group environment and it was a real challenge.  The first day was small groups and I found that it was okay and I contributed a couple of times; the second day however was more of a presentation and I didn’t have the chance to offer much.  As soon as I caught what was being said and was able to think of something to add the conversation was two topics ahead.  It was also a very technical discussion – and while I could add some thoughts on the little information I have, most of it was beyond my level of awareness and experience in the country.  However my Spanish is definitely improved over the months – which I am quite excited about.

I think the information gathered could really help CUSO go in the right direction – in a way that is sustainable for the country, and not, as some people see it, as a placement agency (as someone at the meeting said).  I thought about this a lot and what it means for my role with the CDH and what I will leave when I go.  Because the CDH has been around for so long they have a great amount of experience and a large knowledge base.  As it has been explained to me, they lack the man power for the proposal part of the process, they have the technical staff but are missing the man power for writing of proposals to get the funding.  There are definitely people that can write, the director and country reps as well as the staff are great writers but for the amount of work they have there just isn’t enough time or resources.   The point for CUSO volunteers is for information exchange and an experience for the organization and the volunteer to be left with something they can use in the future enhancement of their respective futures.  I know, without a doubt that I will be transformed, through experience, and awareness and many other aspects to my ‘self’, but I wonder if my work with the CDH will be enough to make a difference in their organization.  I don’t pretend to think that I will ‘improve’ or ‘teach’ anyone anything they don’t already know (that was never the point) but I do hope that I bestow something to the organization.  They are a pretty incredible group of people and I find the work both intimidating and exciting at the same time, a perfect mix for me!

I think I will stop there before it gets to long! Thanks for reading, and I hope  you and yours are well and taking care of each other.

The surroundings of the agricultural fair, it had just rained and we were in the mountains.

Here are my top observations for this entry:

2) The lack of recycling!  Now in Calgary the city has just recently started the collection but we have been recycling for a while. A bit of perspective does have to be used here, as recycling would not be a main concern when there are so far more important things to worry about, concerning your children and how they will eat and get to school, your own personal safety and employment and ensuring you have a roof over your head.  I also knew this when I came – but I didn’t really think about how difficult is to re-program yourself to put everything in the garbage – and the amount of waste that it creates!  it is really incredible.   It’s not like everything is just thrown into a dump, the bottles are all re-used and there are bottling plants where restaurants take their used bottles but for me there is a lot more garbage.  There might be other options that I am not aware of also as I have noticed one or two stands that had a large amount of milk jugs hanging from them.  I will research this.

2) The difference with the relationship with the animals.  It made me think about how ridiculous the locals would think we are for dressing our animals, or more so, having stores that exist specifically for these accessories.   On a more serious note, I find it difficult to see the numerous dogs roaming around looking for food, or the horses with fly’s all over their faces starting at you blankly.  This is not to say that the people here are cruel to their animals or do not feed them, one has to understand though the priorities are different, because the need for food, or money for electricity or water for their family trumps the needs of the homeless animal.  I have yet to see an animal clinic in Honduras – I assume, because the vet would not survive on the demand of the population for animal care.

mmmmmmmmm yummers!

3) cashew wine – something that has been created through the attempt at sustainable farming and production, soooo good!  However, I feel as though if I had more than a cap full of what I was given it could mean a headache!

#4 – My new home

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Greetings and Hola from Choluteca – what must be one of the hottest places on earth.  It really is a crazy kind of dry heat, where when you move, you sweat.  Everything you do, there is sweat – it is now a fact of life. You stand there talking to someone andwithout moving, you can feel the beads forming all over your face.  This does take some getting used to but it becomes reality – however, I will probably not complain about the weather variety in Canada for a while after I get home  – for at LEAST two weeks anyway.

I have almost hit my three month mark in Honduras!  Amazing that the time has passed at the rate that it has and I can honestly say that I am still very happy to be here.  I miss things of course, for the most part family and friends – but I am enjoying having the opportunity to achieve a goal that I have had for so long.  I haven’t experienced a lot of homesickness up to this point and the culture shock has been a minimum.  I believe this is due to a couple of things:  First, that I had Brendan here for a month during my move to Choluteca and settling in process; it was amazing having him here so he could see where I live, meet the people I work, see some of the country and kill the cockroaches!  Secondly, Although Honduras is a developing country and I was unsure about what to expect about my accommodation, I have a safe and comfortable roof over my head, great people to work with and support with CUSO.

My new apartment is coming along nicely.  After a couple of initial…fun experiences, it does indeed feel like home.  FUN experience number one,  the Cockroaches!  My apartment had been vacant for a while so we believe that they had found their new home.  We crashed their nightly party and the battle was on.  There we were watching a movie on night two and this giant THING comes crawling under the door. I didn’t see it at first but heard Brendan’s WHAT THE (expletive) is that!  I looked and was like ummm ahhh it’s a cockroach!  To which Brendan replied no WAY they don’t get that big!  With the help of the pringles can near we (lets be honest I wasn’t anywhere near by) scooped him and took him outside.  Please see below for said pringles can holding who we lovingly, no….respectively called Carlsam (Brendan didn’t think he suited the name Carl and I wasn’t feeling  Sam so we compromised).

Letting him go outside is was in respect for my love of all things living and not wanting to kill CarlSam- I mean we were in THEIR space.  I must admit this kind nature did not remain the next night when went to do a nightly ‘roach check’ and found three in the living room and two in the screen door.  Brendan went on a rampage with the dust pan as it was decided there would be no sleep if we were sharing the space with these creatures- i did nothing to stop him.   The next day we promptly got some spray as a preventative measure and did all the doors and drains.   It seems to have worked as the only place we have seen them is my laundry room which is kind of outside, and we have made a if I can’t see you you’re not there sort of agreement.

I really do love the apartment though, I got some nice curtains and need a couple of decorations but I have lots of time for that. It came furnished which was great! The landlord bought me a new couch set and a new kitchen table.

My building from the outside. There are stores down below and 6 apartments above.

my fancy new couch and table!

My kitchen, where if it wasn’t already 45 degrees, and if I liked to cook, masterpieces would be made!

Bedroom

It is clean and safe, with a gate to get in the apartments above and a night guard who hangs out out front.  I was really lucky to find it as the first one we looked at was, to put it lightly, not as nice. (if I wasn’t putting it lightly I would say I wanted to run the other way).

CUSO pays for our accommodation, so they ensure that you meet their specifications with such things as rent, safety etc.  I was lucky enough to have my friends at the CDH helping me with all of this.

Work has been – slow going.  I think because of my lack of professional level Spanish there has been a bit of delay on the project introduction.  There was also the office move and meetings between the Executive Director and the Regional Director.  So I had been translating the strategic plan.  It was a great way to get a handle on the vocabulary I will be using on a daily basis, besides the conversational that I have been learning.  And then last week I got handed a project proposal and was asked to read over it and see what I thought.  I have been reading/translating it and it is a great project!  I found out yesterday that I will be helping in replication of the project in other areas of Honduras.  It has so many aspects of the the things in my experience.  In a nut shell, it is the re-construction of buildings to use for community centers to work with the local youth network to create programs to decrease the levels of social and gender violence.  I look forward to learning more about the project and the role that I will be playing in it’s future development.

Because it was Brendan’s last weekend here we decided we had to see the Copan Ruins.  We thought, how many times will we have the chance to see them !  they were amazing!  We saw so much and had a great experience.  It definitely exceeded my expectations.   I had read that it was the smallest of the ruins in Central America but that it was also the most culturally significant – that we could see most definitely.  I would suggest though, to anyone that makes the trip to any Mayan Ruins….pay the extra 15-20 dollars for the guide!  In the grand scheme of things if you make the expense to do the trip from anywhere else in the world it is worth it.  The knowledge we gained and the things that were pointed out were worth much more then the expense.  We saw a couple of people

walking around by themselves and we couldn’t help but see the things they walked right by without knowing what they were (Like we would have had we not had our guide).  It also supports the local economy and our guide had been working at the ruins since he was 12!  It was him and another person when they started and he learned English with the people that he guided through the ruins.  Overall the trip was a great adventure – we walked through a waterfall, I mean WALKED through a waterfall, as in can’t see in front of you, holding hands in a chain and gripped rocks blindly to get through.  It was a great time.

The Waterfall! It looks small here but we were in there! Right at the bottom of the first big drop.

my list of fav’s and observations:

1) the bank tubes!  They are AWESOME!  You line up in drive through styles and there are three lanes each with a tube that goes into a building.  It works like a vacuum and you put your money in side and it sucks it to the person inside! It is like something from  the Jetsons.  I was so excited when I first saw it that I’m pretty sure I made something like eeeee sound and then re-enacted the sound the tube makes when it goes into the machine…something along the lines of thhhhhhwump!

3) Now that I am using my Spanish more on a daily basis as much  as I can people are correcting more on the mistakes that I make, which I do appreciate as it helps me with my language skills and also decreases the amount of confusion by those around me.  The best story regarding this is probably the TIGO phone store with Brendan.  On his second to last day here the USB modem ran out – it lasts for a month and allows you to use 5GB online.  Brendan decided that he was going to go out on his own  and get to the store and purchase another month worth of time.  I was being EXTREMELY helpful and wrote down the exact instructions for Brendan to ask the sales person in the store.  “Yo necessito una mesa for mi modem por favor” and then he was going to show them the modem and they would of course smile politely and proceed to get him what he needed.  INSTEAD when Brendan repeated what was on the paper, the store clerk heard ” I need a table for my modem please”.  After showing her the piece of paper that I wrote this on he got the blankest stare! I am sure she wanted to say, sir, we don’t sell tables here and I don’t know why you are pointing to your modem to explain that you need one? I wasn’t even there and I had managed to cause Major CONFUSION, quite impressive.  Secondly, I was sitting at my desk and three of my colleagues were discussing something rather rapidly in Spanish and I caught something about tiredness and how it was almost the end of the day, ever the little participator I spoke up VERY confidently, as I was so excited to be able to understand parts of the conversation “Estoy muy calcetines también!”… I am very SOCKS too! (Calcetines =socks, cansado=tired).  They all looked at me, trying not to laugh and I looked back with a smiley expression on my face, eh guys! ehhh? me to! I agree!  When Hugo, one of them burst out laughing and said Calcetines es..and pointed to his feet.  Oh. RIGHT.  ya, no I totally knew that, pff, u must have heard wrong.

4) My last observational note – I had my first juice in a bag the other day! This is something I have observed since my first day in Honduras. On the side of the roads, in the city, in stores there are bags about the size of a ziplock bag and people take them, bite a hole in one corner and suck on them to get needed hydration.  It really is quite brilliant – saves plastic as well as transportation space and is a convenient size for personal use.  NOW my own, perhaps ignorant issues with this fun innovation – how clean is the bag that I am sucking on and how do I bite on a corner in a way that I don’t spill said fluid all over myself. Three of us from the office were getting lunch one day and someone passed me this bag with a Large amount of brownish liquid with a knot on one end.  The two people in the front chatted away, bit one corner off and assumed sucking, and one of them was DRIVING, so I thought pfff come on Erin.  I giggled as I bit the corner and drank.  The juice inside was rice milk and some fruit juice, and it was soooooo good!  It did take me quite a while to finish the bag and there was definitely a couple of drops on my shirt, but all in all – great success.

On another note –  I have had a couple of people ask how they could help.  At the top of my blog page there is a new tab called Erin’s personal CUSO page.  This is where people can learn about CUSO (the organization that I am a co-operant of and that brought me here). They are funded partially by the Canadian government and try to place as many people all over the world to utilize their  skill set where needed.  The Canadian government matches any donations that a volunteer makes 9-1, this means that if I can round up $2,500 in donations it will bring in around $25,000 which would allow another person to use their skills in a place where they can truly make a difference.  There is no pressure here, I just had a couple of people ask so I thought I would bring it up.  Please feel  free to click on the link – even if you don’t want to donate there is a link to CUSO so you can just find out more about the organization if you so desire.

As always thanks so much for taking the time to read about my adventure!  I will write again soon.

Best,

Erin

#3 – People, perspectives and my new home!

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Hola!

Wow, it has been almost a month since I have written – which seems crazy to me.  This means I have been in Honduras for seven weeks, and how time goes by.

Since I last wrote I have packed and traveled a couple of times!  I have had a great time exploring, meeting people and experiencing different parts of Honduras but I am extremely excited to be in my final destination –  ready to focus on my new position.

I completed my Spanish classes a week ago, not because I have reached anywhere near a full level of bilingualism but because it was time to move on.  I know that I could have spent numerous weeks there learning and I am not at a conversational level but at this point I am jumping into learning through experience and the sort of sink or swim approach.  I was starting to find that I wasn’t retaining a lot in the classes and I think that was due to not enough practice.  This might have also come from frustration from the fact that I was not bilingual in my four weeks in the class.  I did an extra week as I hadn’t gotten to where I wanted to be and I thought it was important to get as much as I could from the class – this proved to be a bit monotonous as I got sick and went to class coughing and feverish – not wanting to hear about the 15 ways you can say ‘ to be’ in Spanish. (*there are not really 15 ways to say ‘to be’ in Spanish, wee bit of an over exaggeration)

My trip has taken a bit of a different perspective as I have gained a companion!  My partner in crime in Canada has come to Honduras for four weeks! Brendan  was fantastically supportive throughout my whole application process.  He knew how important this was for me and wanted me to just go for it.   Throughout the whole process of applications, assessments, medical check- ups, shots and departure he was excited for me – even though we would be apart for a year and half.  So it was super exciting when we decided that he would come for a month.  This is a great time for him to come as I had one week of Spanish school left and then was going to head to Choluteca where I would have to find an apartment and start my new position.

Roatan – West Bay beach

 

After my classes were done we went to Roatan, a beautiful island off of the Honduran coast.  It was a great gateway before starting to work and being done Spanish, and I was happy that Brendan could have something like a vacation while he was here.

After Roatan we got on a plane and heading to the capital Tegucigalpa and stayed at the B&B where I had stayed my first week here.  We were only there for two days while I met with the Director of the CDH – the human rights organization I will be working with while I am in Honduras.  Thankfully the CUSO Coordinator came with me for the meeting as I would have gotten way less out of the introduction to the organization without her there.  The Director is an amazing woman that has an incredible amount of passion for the people and future of Honduras.

The day after the meeting a driver from the CDH picked us up and along with another employee ,drove us to Choluteca.  They were incredible, he spoke a bit of English and I spoke a bit of Spanish so between the two of us we had a pretty good conversational base!  We stopped in San Lorenzo on the way for some lunch and it was already hotter than the north – this is something that I have heard NUMEROUS times about Choluteca…”oh you’re going to Choluteca, MAN it’s soo hot there!”.

We arrived in Choluteca and it was a lovely 39 degrees, (weather report says feels like 45) – we are going to have get used to the permanent glow of sweat and stickiness of clothing.  I had teased Brendan about his need for air conditioning as I had believed I had acclimatized quite nicely, but in Choluteca most of the homes have it and wow, is it a fantastic comfort.

Since Then I have met the people in the office of the CDH and found a great apartment!!  The people have been amazing.  I feel so welcome and they have helped me in every aspect of my experience, including the apartment, groceries, moving from the hotel, and just being a newbie in general.  These sound like little feats but they are so much more complicated than at home.  Picture not being fluent in a language and signing a one year contract for a lease.  You are signing your name to this thing and you have no idea what it says.  In my case there was the landlord, Martha, my lifesaver at CDH, and Yeny, my lifesaver at CUSO, all communicating back and forth as I stood in the apartment bobbing my head as the phone got passed to each of them.  It was quite hilarious.

I really like Choluteca, the people I have met have been great and the city itself is very interesting – it doesn’t have the crazy feeling of Tegucigalpa but there is lots going on.  I have also realized that my Spanish is not that bad!  I have been able to communicate (albeit on a beginner level) with taxi drivers, store people, and those that I work with and even Brendan seemed impressed with my level of understanding.  So I think in time it will come.

On a more serious note, Brendan and I had a good chat today.  He has been here for two weeks now and is here for another two and we were talking about life in Choluteca.  Through conversation with his family back home, we found out that the Canadian government has upped the travel advisory in Honduras to do not travel from moderate travel; this coincided with CUSO cancelling another volunteer’s arrival until a security briefing could be prepared and we talked about how quickly things can change and how to know when you’re in an unsafe environment.  It was a good conversation because sometimes  you can forget where you are and focus on experiences you have instead of the country and city as a whole.  I am a pretty glass half full person and have to be careful to not have a level of naivety when it comes to dangers in a developing country.  You definitely have to be vigilant of your surroundings but at the same time you don’t want to get paranoid and let it control your experience.  It is a fine line.

For now I am enjoying my new home and ‘settling in’ while learning the in’s and out’s of Choluteca.  I have been at work a couple of days but the office is moving so I haven’t had the chance to go over my work plan yet.  The next week will be a great sign of things to come.  Brendan has been getting into the work as well with the CDH!  He spent a day at a farm unloading 90 pound bags of cement and other supplies for the family to build a water system for their crops.  He said that he wasn’t aware that the human body could produce that much sweat, and I was very proud of him.

I said this would be a long one (oh, perhaps I didn’t warn you).. and I was right!  Here are my highlights for the month:

1)      Definitely has to be the people.  From small interactions to people I am going to be building relationships with this has been the most enjoyable part of the trip so far.  My two most memorable this month would have to be 1) Daniel from the Hedman Atlas Bus depot – I was travelling to San Pedro Sula to meet Brendan at the airport and I asked him about the best time to meet Brendan’s 10:40 flight.  He said the 5 am bus because if I took the 10 am I wouldn’t get there until 1.  I had been told that it was unsafe to walk to the bus depot at 4:45 in the morning and when I mentioned my apprehension Daniel replied, “well where you live, I know cab drivers that will pick you up.” (cab drivers aren’t around 24/7 like at home).  After I told him where I was staying he said, oh! live right near there, I will pick you up, the only thing is that I have to be here for 4:30 to open so If you don’t mind that than it’s no problem.  Now, at home this might be a bit weird, no one would offer this!  And, to be honest if they did I would probably be weary of the offer; but this is how things go here, and people don’t think of these as favors, it’s just a matter of fact. 2) The doctor that I met while in my last week of my home stay.  He came to the house and was staying for three weeks.  He lives in the United States with his family and I would say he is in his late fifties.  He was born in Central America and comes back every year for a couple of weeks and helps to train new emergency medical staff at the hospitals where needed.  He would come home and tell me about his day and there were some pretty sad experiences but what struck me was his nonchalance about what he was doing.  This is something he does every year because, in my opinion, he likes to feel like he’s giving back and he gets enjoyment from watching others learn.  He could do that at home – but he chooses not to, and I applaud him.

There are more, but this is getting to long.  I will not wait another month to write so you won’t have to read so much in one entry! If I have lost you and this became too long winded, well you won’t see this so I won’t bother with the banter, but if you stuck it out and read through THANKS!  I appreciate it.  I enjoy the thought that there are people experiencing my journey, even if it’s through my eyes.

Take care – and all the best.

Erin

Welcome to La Ceiba!

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Buenas Tardes Everyone!  Good afternoon!

First of all thank you for all your comments and well wishes!  It was great to have such great feedback for my first blog!

I have now been in Le Ceiba for dos semanes (two weeks) and it has just flown by!  I have to admit I am very lucky – before getting down to business with the work in Choluteca which is Southern Honduras – I am privelaged enough to spend a month in the North Caribbean coast.  IT IS SOOO HOT!  I mean Tegucigalpa was hot, but my kind of hot, mid – high 20’s.  In Le Ceiba it has rarely been below 30, and is usually 33-34 which is something to get used to!   I am here learning Spanish which is necessary because in the South, where I will be working, English is spoken very little, from what I have been told.

I am getting ahead of myself however.

Two Sundays ago, Don Rafael from the Spanish school in Le Ceiba picked me up at the Le Ceiba airport.  He has been so helpful my whole time and is a great “principal”.  The school is in an area called Le Saousa (please excuse my spelling) and it would be considered suberbia at home, an affluent neighborhood with nice homes and people that make a bit more money than average.   The school is in what was once a home and has a main area, kitchen, and about four other ‘bedrooms’ that are set up as classrooms with a desk in each.  They do one to one teaching so you have a teacher all to yourself most of the time.  In my case however when I first started I was grouped with an American who was at about the same level – just for the one day.  We really liked the dynamic of the three of us because we found it was good for review or clarification that we were together.  The teachers are all pretty young and have been doing this for a while.  By young I mean in their early 20’s, and let me tell you – their Grammar skills would make a Canadian blush (maybe not all Canadians but I sure felt ignorant!  and my American fellow student agrees).  I sit there while my teacher Josua (pronounced hoes-way) talks about direct and non direct pronouns, reflexive verbs and possessive pronouns and I am thinking ummmm pardon? I have to do what with the word when I am saying what???

The Spanish is, lets say, coming along!  I am definitely improving but at the same time I am kinda freaking out because I only have two weeks left to be fluent enough to be in a professional environment, although it is a good way to learn!  I am spending this weekend in the books and practicing with my flashcards that I have JUST completed!  It is definitely a work in progress, and there are such frustrating times where I feel as though I am just NOT getting it.  But then I over hear bits of a conversation and I laugh or something and I think ‘oh my goodness! Was that Spanish!? I understood some of that!’  haha.

The Students at the school have the opportunity to live with a home-stay while they are here, which is what CUSO hooks you up with.  Now this was a bit of issue with me before I left – not the idea of living with a family just the expectations of what it would be like…would I be able to communicate?  Will they like me?  What if I can’t eat the food? Will the water be safe?  Will my space be clean? Let me just say, WOW am I ever lucky!  My family is absolutely incredible.  I heard horror stories about this and even with some of the other students there have been some unfortunate occasions (which is to  be expected and people are bound to click with some people and not with others).  I get fed amazing food three times a day, and  I feel so welcome!  It is different then having your own space though for sure.  I am always worried that I am wasting food (she makes sooo much! for example – lunch – ribs, rice, a salad, vegetables, a large class of the freshly grounded fruit of the day, and usually a fried banana); or wasting their electricity or interrupting their normal flow, but I don’t think this is the case at all as we have figured out how best to co-exist.  We had to have a sit down as my home stay mom thought I was un-pleased with her cooking and I had to explain that while she is an incredible cook I just can’t consume more food than her husband in every given meal.

The school has a person that creates activities daily and weekly for students who would like to participate.  They cost extra but some of them are definitely worth it.  I have promised myself this weekend is Spanish review focus – but I didn’t put any rules on WHERE I have to study.  So I think  I might head to the hotel on the beach where there is a beautiful pool and for 100 lempiras you can spend the whole day there (about 5 dollars Canadian).

Le Ceiba is where a lot of tourists have home base or where people travel to and from the Bay Islands – because of this it definitely is more developed than a lot of parts of Honduras.   It also feels like I am on a bit of a vacation because a lot of these attractions are so close to where we are.  So while I am enjoying time on the beach with the palm trees or sitting by the pool it becomes glaringly clear that the locals very rarely experience these luxuries.  I don’t presume to assume that it is because of money, for all I know it could be because they know where the better locations are and have other things they would like to do with their time.  I do know though that when I walk back to my home, between there and the resort at the beach with five star views, there is quite the disparity.

 

It is amazing however how your perspective changes.  I knew that this would of course happen, my intercultural training and experience has taught me that!  It still amazes.  For example, the laundry – there is a laundromat downtown where we all take our clothing but it is about a ten minute walk.  Now this doesn’t sound bad but when it’s 33 degrees and you’re carrying a bag of clothing, mannnnn! You really start to appreciate the washing machines from home.  Also with things like the food, and bugs.  My first morning here I was getting ready for school and in the bathroom there was a mosquito, I jumped and though ahhhhhh! malaria!! – the people at school all laughed at me because there hasn’tbeen a case of malaria with any of the students and really isn’t a problem in Le Ceiba (the malaria mosquito’s come out at night) the ones you have to think about are the day time ones with Dengue.  Also on my first day here, I was unpacking and tried to open the window and there was this scurrying, I was like ohhhh man what was that – but it was that in  between not wanting to know but needing to know (like that stupid girl in the horror movie that goes to check what that sound was).  It turned out it was a gecho! hahah PHEUF.

I will digress here as this is becoming rather long but my highlights this week:

Hot pool in the jungle!

 

1) Learning, or rather trying to learn Spanish and the people involved with the whole process.  It is coming along!

 

2) My first activity – we went to the canopy zip line tour place, however, after realizing that i didn’t bring enough money we left out the zip line and decided to go swim in the natural hot springs.  WOOWWWW, we were sitting in the jungle, in a natural hot spring with flowers falling all around eating fresh fruit – followed by a massage and mud bath!  I couldn’t believe it.  Note to self: this is not the typical life of a development worker.

3) Last weekend a group from the school went to Utila, the closest of the Bay Islands,  beautiful spot!  white beaches, and just very different then what I have experienced.  A LOT of tourists and backpackers here but it was a good time.  The best part for me had to the cave diving.  I have never done, or thought i would do something like that!  Enclosed spaces, candles lit, exploring underground caves to get to this pool of water at the end. It was like a movie where you’re thinking,

The view from the docks in Utila.

The caves on Utila! Don’t let the flash trick you – it was pitchblack except for the candle!

 

oh ya stupid tourists nothing could go wrong there – except for the fact that a number of our teachers were there and are well practiced.  Josua loved telling us once we were in the pool “ya it was crazy – after the big earthquake this all shifted and now it’s all different” and then just stared at us as we gawked at him as if to say what’s up guys?

4) I have to give a shout out to Ivana (I hope she doens’t mind).  She is a fellow CUSO worker and has been in Le Ceiba for almost a year now as her placement is in the city.  Her start in Le Ceiba was not as smooth as mine and it is because of her great advice and constant assistance that I have been able to have as little bumps as I have, so THANK YOU!!!

One last thing – if you read my first blog you might remember me being very excited because I had not had any stomach issues…..wellllll I definitely spoke to soon.  I had four days where it was awful – i think it was just acclimatisation, a LOT more home-cooked meals mixed with the heat.  If this was a sponsored blog I would say thank you to Imodium for your support – because of you I was able to enjoy my weekend in Utila. I know – to much information.  But that could come in handy for someone traveling, that stuff WORKS! I had never tried it before as I generally don’t like putting non-necessary medicinal products in my body.

And that’s it for this week!

Thanks again for reading everyone!

Oh and if you would like to follow my adventures (big presumption here) feel free to click on follow at the top of the page – you get updates when I add a post instead of me forgetting to e-mail someone!!

Take care!

Stay warm wherever you are (mwahhhhhh!!!)

Erin.

The Adventure Begins

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Greetings everyone!

This is my first entry into my first ever blog!  First a wee bit of history…

Once upon a time in a land far far far, depending of course on your perspective and geographical locale – a girl in Canada dreamed of finding her passion and making a difference in the world around her.  After graduating high school and having no idea what to do with her life she stumbled on Development Studies at the University of Calgary.  It seemed very exciting to her as it was the first program that met her desired topics: sustainability, culture, community development, politics and the study of policies.

The next ten years consisted of working and traveling through Europe for almost two years, working with UNICEF Canada, getting a post grad certificate in International Project Management, working with the United Nations Association of Canada, with Immigration at the Tim Hortons Head office and with Literacy Alberta.

Each of these fabulous experiences taught her a lot and were the right step in her future but they never felt like the RIGHT spot.  The dream was to do development work overseas but with the hundreds of applications through out each step, nothing seemed to come to fruition..

FLASH to present day…

I am VERY excited to say that I am writing from HONDURAS. A week tomorrow I left Calgary, Alberta, Canada to join CUSO International in an 18 month position with a Human Rights organization in Choluteca Honduras.  The position is capacity building creating projects and proposals for the organization in areas of Youth and Gender equality.  I DID IT!!!!! I am (pardon the cliche) LIVING THE DREAM!!!

My first week was my orientation with CUSO in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.  The information was fabulous, as are the people that I have met in my first week.  They are well prepared for their volunteers at CUSO, even with my below par Spanish.  I have been in town, experienced the driving, and I know one thing for sure – I WILL NOT be getting behind a wheel here! It is crazy! Like nothing I have ever experienced.  The lanes of the road don’t seem to exist until there is suddenly a motorbike or car there and traffic laws are created on the spot.  It is amazing to watch, even though my first few days I white knuckled it the whole way.

Tomorrow I am on my way to Le Ceiba which is a city about 8 hours north on the Caribbean coast, and I will be there for a month learning Espanol!  I’m super excited about this as being in a country and not being able to communicate freely is awful.  You feel so inadequate, and even though CUSO had someone with me that spoke English you feel pretty lame.  I had tried to prepare with Rosetta Stone before I left but when  you`re not getting the one on one practice or fully integrated it’s really hard to retain.

After my month in Le Ceiba I will be heading to Choluteca which is the exact opposite of Le Ceiba, and is in the South.  Every native of Honduras has the same comment when I say Choluteca…Mucho calor/ very hot!  This coming from people in Tegucigalpa where it has been mid to high twenty’s all week!  Haha I might be in trouble.

My experience so far has been very positive, although there are definitely things that you have to watch out for, I don’t wear any jewelery and keep minimal cash on my person at all times due to the high robbery factor (native Hondurans refer to this as assault and I was petrified as assault is way more serious at home -when I found out it was robbery my reaction was ohhh pfff just taking my stuff, oh that’s fine!!! haha, amazing how  quickly your perspective changes).

So after my first full week here are the highlights:

1) My first night here there were these CRAZY sounds outside my hotel room, one sounded like a child screaming the same word, kind of like a muffled no over and over again and I was traumatized, until I realized that it is a cat in heat attempting to fraulic with her gentlemen callers..it seems she`s a night kitty.  This was mixed with the at first quiet COCKADOOODLE DOOOOOO, which quickly became extremely loud.  I sat up and laughed OMG it`s a freakin rooster!  It didn`t remain as funny for the next 5 nights at 10:30 and then 6 am each morning.  This rooster must have have it`s time zone`s mixed up….that or it`s attempting to shush up the dogs that are fighting to beat it`s sound barrier.

2) By far the best part has been the people I have met, the staff at CUSO, and I don`t want to write names in case they would rather that I didnt, but the three of them in Tegucigalpa have been amazing, and they have put together a great orientation.  Through them I have met some pretty fabulous people, two ladies in particular who have been educating me on the history of Honduras as well as Woman`s rights in the country,  these women are inspiring and so passionate even with all they have been through.

3) No stomach issues!  For the people that know me well, this one is a BIG deal, as many jokes were made about the status of my intestines over the course of the trip.  This is of course soon to say, so I am knocking on wood as I write this.

4) Today I went to Santa Lucia, a very pretty mining town about 20 minutes away from Tegucigalpa.  I got some great photos.

I know will attempt to fit everything in my pack the way that I had when I left Canada, this is going to be difficult.

Thanks for reading my first entry!  I started this for a couple of reasons:  one, CUSO  asks that you attempt to get the word out about what they do and the difference that people can make – I fully support them as they helped me achieve the goal that I have had since I started school.  Second, I thought it was a great way to keep in touch with everyone at home! It`s also a great way to keep my thoughts on paper.

So please feel free to comment, although please don`t be mean, come on, it`s my first blog – it will get better as I go!  And ask any questions that you want!  I am of course making a big presumption that anyone will actually read the thing to begin with, but HEY go big or go home!

Take care,

and I will update you soon from Le Ceiba!

Buenos dias!