Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nance--Sour Yellow Cherry

I am so excited because a friend just gave me a gift of nances--something I know I will not be able to find in the US (correct me if I'm wrong!).  Nances are a sour yellow cherry-like fruit that grow plentifully here in the valley of Comayagua.   The picking season is from June to August and most people don't eat them fresh.  They are very popular as a conserve or a ferment with lots of sugar (and sometimes alcohol).  I was told that the bottled nances are best one they have set for about 6 months.  Here, people eat them straight out of the jar (like my second picture,  complete with the little pits), or use them as a topping for ice cream or snow cones ("minutas")  much like we might use maraschino cherries. 

For more info, see this link to Wikipedia :)


Monday, December 29, 2014

La Canasta Basica

One of the best gifts that many families can get during the holidays is what's called a "Canasta basica" or a "basic basket."  This consists of basic staples such as rice, beans, maseca (corn flour for tortillas), coffee, sugar, vegetable shortening or oil, and soap.  Some might have a different combination with spaghetti or wheat flour, etc.  Since the holidays are a time of increased costs for many families, this gift basket can be just the boost they need.  I remember pitching in with a friend and putting together a big one for my future mother in law once (now we just buy her the supplies and forgo the basket).  The plastic tub part of the basket is actually very useful for many families as they are truly multipurpose--soaking and washing clothes,  soaking whole corn to make tortilla masa, holding clean dishes, etc.  My school used to give a canasta basica to all of the cleaning staff at our Christmas and mothers day assemblies which I thought was sweet (until I got a little cynical about it and thought the best gift would be paying them enough to not need a canasta basica, but that's another story).  I saw this nicely packaged version at the supermarket this week--already assembled for about $18 and wanted to share rhis tradition.

Note: the phrase "canasta basica" or "granos basicos" is also used in Honduras to refer to the price of basic goods that everyone eats and uses and is also used to gauge the national economy.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad from Honduras!

Here are a few shots from the 24th to show how Hondurans get ready to party on the 25th.  I couldn't resist snapping one of the ginormous amounts of Salva Vida beer being unloaded and distributed at the grocery store.  The others are of some neighbors and friends' set up for making nacatamales, a traditional food at Christmas.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I haven't posted in a while...

...because I have secretly become a Honduran money launderer.

Just kidding! Although I did just wash these bills from my hubby's pants pocket by accident.  I think the new
 plastic 20 lemp bill held up the best :P

Here's a quick update on my life.  Despite the blog's name, I am no longer Diana IN Honduras, although I am temporarily back for the month of July 2013.  In July 2012, after completing my third year as a science teacher at a bilingual school in Comayagua (and completing my M.Ed. online), my husband and I moved to the US.  I had my half-Honduran daughter there in January, and we are back introducing her to her Honduran family here this summer.  Lots of big life changes!  But Honduras and its people are always in our hearts, minds, and prayers.  I have a few updates from my time back so far to post!  Stay tuned...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Visiting and Sharing

The pace of life in Honduras is so different than in the US.  In the US, or at least in my city, Washington D.C.,  life is centered around work, and right now I am making plans with some of my best friends for a month from now because that's when the three of us likely have time for each other.  There is not much of a culture of just dropping by, at least not for those of us who have kids and probably too many commitments.  In fact, the last time I can remember thay dropping by and seeing who wanted to hang out happened in college, when our peer group lived very close together with large blocks of unstructured time.  I started to write this post a year and a half ago (Finishing today on 12/29/14), which was my first visit back to Honduras since leaving to live in the US again, probably because this daily habit of visiting was so different from what I was living.   This time visiting is no different--I wonder how everyone has so much free time to just hang out.  The short answer,  a lack of formal work and a strong sense of community. 

One of the beautiful things about visiting friends in Honduras is that no matter what time of day it is, everyone always makes sure you are well received and fed somehow.  Most of the time (and since most of our friends are in the lack of formal work category) that involves sending one of the kids out to the pulperia around the corner to buy a few bags of churros (chips and snacks) that are 1 or 2 lempiras each.   Top it off with a 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola or Tropical and you've got yourself official visit fare.  Informal business like pulperias make it possible to make people feel welcome on short notice ans build up the economy and relations of the community.  We have also had the pleasure ro be received with strong, sweet coffee and little cookies or bread (rosquillas, quesadillas, etc).  Alternatively we have also shared tiny plates of lunch and dinner with folks which we accept graciously knowing that we are probably stretching what little there is to go around.  Most families have a stack of inexpensive plastic chairs or stools to set out at a moment's notice to accommodate extra guests.  It's these little ways that people share that make Hondurans, despite all that goes on around them, generous and hopeful.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The view from my porch

This is an introductory assignment I wrote for one of my grad school classes... thought it was quite appropriate for the blog, and I hadn´t posted in quite a while!  Enjoy!

The view from my front porch in Honduras doesn´t get very far—almost all the houses here have large perimeter walls topped with barbed wire, so my view ends up smacking up against a bleak cinderblock wall across the street.  This is a pervasive aspect of Honduran life, along with the crime that spurs it, and I have blogged about it (subsequently republished here: http://www.hondurasweekly.com/our-walled-in-life-201107033833/).   I have been in Honduras teaching high school science at a private bilingual school for two and a half years now, and still the issues of crime, fear, and security are never far from my mind. 

Our wall has a metal grate on it, so we can see out into the street, and those in the street can look in to see our beautiful, bright magenta-flowered Napoleon tree (also known as bougainville).  Also looking out from my porch I can see my potted rosemary plant, a few lime seeds I planted in hopes they would be trees someday, and some orchids that never seem to bloom.  Dotting my yard is a local variety of cilantro that looks more like dandelion leaves, but my husband´s aunt loves picking it when she comes over and taking it home to throw in her bean and egg soup.

While I can´t say I exactly have a view, I do appreciate watching the world go by, especially the people who walk by selling various items like ice cream, furniture covers, and on a good day, homemade chicken and pork tamales.  Because our yard is open (via grate) to the street, and our street is unpaved, we do get plenty of dust blowing in from the street.  Comayagua´s dry climate and intermittently-supplied water make the environmental issue of water one of the most important in my opinion.   I have also blogged about water use and availability in our city in my (also intermittently-updated) personal blog, here (http://dianainhonduras.blogspot.com/2011/10/happy-water-day.html)

By far, the best part of this view is around 5:30 pm, when, just over the top of that cinderblock wall across the street, I can make out the sunset streaming over the peaks of mountains that surround this dry valley.  I love sitting on the porch and watching the light flow in rays, filtering through the clouds.  It is one of the most peaceful moments of my day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Happy Water Day!

Today, October 2nd, is National Water Day here in Honduras.  Our school principal encouraged the science teachers to decorate and raise awareness, and it came at an opportune time in our 10th grade curriculum when we had a couple of lessons on the properties of water and its biological importance.  Unfortunately, at the staff meeting, I thought our principal said "International Water Day" instead of National Water Day, so the 10th graders did a lovely job decorating their classroom door with some slightly incorrect information.  Oops!

Perhaps Honduras doesn´t celebrate World Water Day (March 22nd) with everyone else because it usually falls in what Hondurans consider to be their "summer" (March-April) during the hottest and driest months in the country.  The irony of celebrating water during national drought is not lost on many local journalists...


However, all this talk about water has caused me to reflect on the ways in which water is used and delivered here in Honduras as opposed to in the States.  I feel like I save more water here in Honduras but it is not necessarily of my own volition.  Let´s compare the houses in the States with some of the living situations I have encountered here in Honduras.  Where I lived previously in the States, houses have hot water tanks, 99-100% reliable water delivery (unless they are repairing a pipe in the street), and drinkable--even tasty--tap water.  Washing machines are included in any house/rental, as hand-washing clothes is truly a thing of the past.  You are only considered to be at a disadvantage if your house doesn´t come with a clothes dryer. 

When I first lived in the teacher housing that my school provides, I had an electric shower head for "hot" water, a cistern backup storage tank, and an electric pump to provide the house with water.  Although it is a common practice to dump a little household bleach in the cistern to keep it mildly sanitary, it is still not exactly potable, so everyone must buy large 5-gallon drums of purified water to drink.  We also had a (sigh! the luxury!) washing machine.  In June 2010, I moved into a tiny apartment closer to my husband´s (then-fiancee´s) family´s house.  There was no washing machine, no hot water, but at least there was a cistern and pump.  This weekend, I moved into a larger house where there is a set-up for hot water shower heads (but we haven´t bought them yet), no washing machine, and as far as we can tell, no cistern/pump.   That means we have to rely on city water which only is available for about half the day every day until we figure something out.  Because of the unreliability of the delivery of city water, every house in Honduras has a pila, or basically a big wash basin with a built-in washboard that you can fill and use for washing clothes, dishes, or anything else (like hauling buckets of water over to the bathroom to flush the toilet).  However, if your pila is empty and the water goes out, you are basically screwed.  Most city-water houses also keep a large barrel of water in the bathroom for "bucket baths" and for flushing the toilet without having to go out to the pila.

Since I have gotten used to cold or lukewarm showers in Honduras, I have definitely saved not only water, but also energy.  In the States, I was the kind of person who would turn the water up as hot as it could go, and just stand under it for a few minutes, enjoying the warmth before I would start washing my hair, etc.  Here, I have become accustomed to taking "sailor showers," or turning on the water just to get myself wet, then turning it off to shampoo, scrub up, then turning it on once again to rinse.  Almost no one has hot water tanks in Honduras because of the expense to buy one, the expense to operate one, and the fact that the coldest water here is nowhere near as cold as it is in the States in winter.  Electric shower heads are the cheap and space-saving solution, although they break easily and either don´t warm the water up very much or they give you fun (mild!) electric shocks... hence the nickname, "suicide showers."  Without hot water to strip away your skin´s oils and in a hot climate where you sweat a lot, your face always feels a little greasy... just another thing you get used to.

I still enjoy looking at sustainability and "ecological footprint" websites and I like raising awareness when I teach about human impact on the environment, but those websites are geared towards usage in the States.  The fact that water is not reliably delivered by local governments forces Hondurans to save water, plan ahead, and use it wisely or do without.  The fact that there is no real winter and no need to heat anything means that water and energy use in the tropics is much less than in the States.    What I described in this blog entry is my experience living in a Honduran mid-sized city.  As you can imagine, in rural areas of Honduras, people rely on wells and creeks, or have to haul buckets of water long distances to be able to use it at home.  Life is just that much harder for them because of it.  There are many charities focused on bringing water to people around the world so that they can spend some of their time and energy on something besides just basic survival.  If you are at all interested in development work or in making a difference in the lives of people around the world, please consider donating to a water project.

http://www.hydraid.org/act/donate.html  <-- has affordable water filter projects in Honduras

If you know of any other great water charities that people should know about, please leave them in the comments section!

No matter where we live, fresh drinking water is a precious resource and should be conserved.  I encourage everyone to think of ways you can be less wasteful with water today, Honduran National Water Day, and again on the real World Water Day on March 22nd.   Thanks for reading!