Monday, November 15, 2010

What´s a party without food??

A little cultural note. So there´s this weird thing about parties in Honduras... I have noticed this at the Senior Graduation party last year, baby showers, at pretty much every work-related party and even at kids´ birthday parties at church. Any party in Honduras that is not hosted by Americans will be this way...

They don´t serve food until the VERY END.

At first I thought maybe coming fashionably late to a party was, well, fashionable. Now I think it´s a survival technique. You see, when you get to an American party there are usually hors d´oevres or some kind of buffet table. In fact, this may be the only food at the party, but it keeps getting replenished as the night goes on. When you arrive at a Honduran party, there is NOTHING. Maybe soda. Maybe one bag of chips for 50 people. People warned me when I first got to Honduras especially before work events that I should eat something before I went. I was like oh no, I shouldn´t eat too much because they will serve the food soon and then I won´t be hungry or I´ll eat too much. Now I eat a full dinner and then go to the party where I will *maybe* eat another dinner 6 hours later. I say this because I actually left one party because I was so hungry and thought I would be able to eat within an hour of arriving. I simply couldn´t take it anymore and went to fix dinner at home (the hosts were kind of mad at me, but hey, lesson learned)!!!

So the big question is... why?? There is a common saying here in Honduras that something like ¨Indio comido, indio ido.¨ ¨Indio¨ here is more used to insult oneself than to actually insult other people (that I´ve noticed) and it´s kinda like hillbilly. So Hillbilly eats, hillbilly leaves. Based on general bad manners of wanting a free meal, people serve the food at the VERY END, like midnight if the party starts at 6 or 7, because they want people to stay and keep them company. They think everyone will leave if they serve the food too early. I think it´s kind of a vicious cycle... the longer you wait to serve the food because you want people to stay, the more they just want to leave!!! So next time you are invited to a Honduran party, enjoy the company, the games, etc., but please, do yourself a favor and EAT before you go :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moon Rocks!

Ok, so it's been about six months since my last post and a LOT has happened!! One small update--I am back for another school year here in Honduras and this year I am also teaching an Earth Science class. I'm really excited about it since I was a geology major in college and it's one of my favorite subjects. One downside is that there don't seem to be many rock or mineral samples available to see in a museum or to purchase (hobby shops apparently aren't big in a country where most people are trying to just get by!). While looking for museum displays or places to take the kids to see mineral samples, I found out about a case of a stolen moon rock that has now been returned to Honduras. Check out this little interesting clip from Wikipedia!! :)

Honduras' Goodwill Moon Rock & Operation Lunar Eclipse

In 1998, a unique Federal law enforcement undercover operation was created to identify and arrest individuals selling bogus Moon rocks. This sting operation was known as Operation Lunar Eclipse. Originally two undercover agents were involved in this sting, Senior Special Agent Joseph Gutheinz of NASA's Office of Inspector General, posing as Tony Coriasso, and Inspector Bob Cregger of the United States Postal Inspection Service, posing as John Marta. This sting operation was later expanded to include Agents from the United States Customs Service. Agents posted a quarter page advertisement in USA Today asking for Moon rocks. The Agents were targeting individuals selling bogus moon rocks, which con-artists sell to the elderly and to space enthusiasts. What they received was a solicitation to buy what turned out to be a gift President Richard Nixon gave to the people of Honduras in 1973, the Honduras Goodwill Moon Rock, one of 135 Apollo 17 moon rocks given to the nations of the world. The seller of this moon rock offered it to the undercover Agents for 5 million dollars, a huge amount for something that weighed only 1.142 grams.

After two months of negotiations, this sting operation ended up in a Bank of America vault where the Moon rock was seized. The Moon rock was then subject to a 5 year civil case known as: "United States of America v. One Lucite Ball containing Lunar Material (one Moon Rock) and One Ten Inch by Fourteen Inch Wooden Plaque". This case resulted in the forfeiture of the Moon rock to the Federal Government on March 24, 2003.

After the Moon rock was officially handed back to the American Government it was sent back to Johnson Space Center where it was refurbished so that it could be once again presented to the people of Honduras, which happened on September 22, 2003 in a ceremony at NASA's Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe presented the Moon rock to Ambassador Mario M. Canahuati, of Honduras. Also in attendance at this ceremony was Joseph Gutheinz, the leader of the sting operation, who gave a first hand account of the sting operation to Ambassador Canahuati. Finally on February 28, 2004, NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe flew to Honduras where he formally presented the Moon rock to Honduran president Ricardo Maduro. In 2007, Gutheinz, a past recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, was featured in the BBC Two documentary Moon for Sale talking about the Honduras Goodwill Moon Rock and this unique case. Today the Honduras Goodwill Moon Rock is on display at the Centro Interactivo Chiminike an education center in Tegucigalpa that receives hundreds of young student visitors per day."


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dia de las Madres

Mothers' Day is apparently a BIG FREAKING DEAL here in Honduras. Every grade was required to put together some kind of drama, song, act, dance, etc. There was a show after school for all the parents and there was even a "parent of honor" for each grade who got to sit at a special table up front. Mothers' Day is on the same day in Honduras as it is in the United States (2nd Sunday in May), but Fathers' Day comes earlier here--in March instead of June.

One big discrepancy I noticed was the sentiment shown at the two events. Our school is big on decorations (sometimes I think they are more important to some folks than academics, but that is another blog entry...), and our Principal is big on the virtues of motherhood. The meticulously cut letters pasted above the stage for Mothers' Day read something like "Nothing comes closer to showing God's love on Earth than the love of a Mother." WOW, that's a pretty big statement. I don't disagree when you have a loving mother, but not everyone might feel that way. In contrast, the message for Fathers' Day was something like "The best legacy a father can leave his child is a little of his time every day." Like, smack me upside the head, spend some time with your dang KIDS, you idiot!!! Hmmmm... I don't know any concrete statistics on Honduras regarding single moms or "deadbeat" dads, but the chosen sentiments of the two holidays said a lot to me about familial attitudes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Spring" in Comayagua

While spring is getting into full swing over in the US, I just thought I would give you guys a picture of what life is like here in Comayagua with the changing seasons. Gone are the pleasantly warm, dry days and now we are full swing into the rainy season. Basically when I am not at school (where there is A/C) I am sweating and my not really all that warm shower feels EXCELLENT. During the "cold" season only a few months ago, this shower to me was unbearably cold. About 5 days of the week, there is a thunderstorm in the afternoon about 4 or 5 pm, and we even had a day with 3 thunderstorms in a row. It has been difficult to do laundry because of this :P The unpaved roads have been quite muddy lately, and on my friend's street, people have been plodding around with plastic bags over their shoes! We have been seeing lots of what my American friend calls Junebugs and what Hondurans call Ronrones... basically big clumsy light brown beetles that tend to fly into just about anywhere and crash-land awkwardly. Probably the best part of the season, which thankfully isn't nearly as wet as the rainy season I experienced in Costa Rica, is the fact that the mango trees in our backyard are finally heavy with fruit. Occasionally the wind will knock one off with a loud thunk. We can't wait to start making mango jam, mango chutney, mango salsa... Mmmmmmmm So there you go, just a quick picture of the changing seasons here in Honduras :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homage to Dona Azucena from Abroad

Today, my new friend Dona Sonia is going to help teach me how to make pupusas. I will blog on this hopefully later today. Sonia is my friend Elisa's new "host mom," even though we're not on study abroad or anyhing, but Sonia and her two sons have been exceedingly welcoming and friendly to me and to Elisa, who rents a room just off their back patio. Sonia runs a little Mexican restaurant out of her house (her late husband was Mexican, so she's quite authentic!), and has already opened up her kitchen and home to me on more than one occasion. I love having cooking/cultural exchanges as I think food is one of the best ways to get to know the heart and soul of people (but then again, I just really like food). In return, I will be teaching Sonia and her kids how to make Peanut Butter Blossoms in the coming weeks!

But before I go on my pupusa making adventure, I just wanted to set the record straight about one thng. I am still convinced (much to the chagrin of all the Central Americans to whom I mention this...) that the best pupusas in the WORLD--yes, the WORLD--are served at Dona Azucena's on Glebe Rd in Arlington, VA. This seems to be confirmed by the interwebs ;) (See reviews below) Why? I find them to be the cheesiest and most delectible pupusas I have ever had. Extra cheese makes everything better. So when I make my pupusas today, I will have all the good folks in the kitchen at Dona Azucena's in mind. I only hope I can pat out a pupusa like them someday ;)


"...when you try to open the door to Dona Azucena, you are up against a wall of people trying to get in. All the tables are full, and there's a line three deep waiting to order at the counter."

"When you are starving and the rent is due, yes you can afford to eat out. It is called... the Pupusa.

I don't know how I would have made it through college at the Univ. of Maryland without this handy standby at the Flower Avenue location. Plus, I know of no other pupuseria in town that offers the bean/cheese combo as does Dona Azucena's. To me Dona Azucena's is an unofficial Washington area landmark, it introduced the pupusa to many a gringo such as myself and it was and remains cheap.

Viva Dona Azucena's!!!"
--Shahnaz S.

"I've never eaten better pupusas, not even in El Salvador!

This place is 100% authentic, from the way they're served to the curtido and salsa. It will be a huge culture shock if you've never had it before, but just pile on the curtido (cabbage) and red sauce on top of your pupusas and dig in. My favorites are the Revuelta (Cheese, Pork and Beans) and the queso pupusas. If you want to try something really different go for the queso con loroco (loroco is an edible flower from Central America).

If you are feeling adventurous for something different, or nostalgic for something Salvadorean this is a great place."
--Ana O.

Both quotes from


After we get though one more week of exams, I will finally be going to Roatan for spring break, THANKYOUVERYMUCH!!!

Here is where we are going:

Since it's an all-inclusive resort, Cecilia and I can only afford to go for 2 nights, but all-inclusive resorts get kind of boring after that amount of time anyway. We will also be spending 2 nights in La Ceiba which has lots of fun clubs and restaurants :) Can't wait!!! I'm finally getting to the Bay Islands!!! Woohoooo!!!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


In keeping with the recipe theme, here is another way to use up pineapple skins.. homemade vinegar for encurtido! I did this back in... october? november? And my batches are only just now turning vinegar-y. I'll continue to check on them and hopefully be able to make my own encurtido. These pickled vegetables are one of my favorite parts of Honduran cuisine :) Enjoy the article (reposted from an English-language Honduras weekly news site)!

Here are my personal batches of vinegar-to-be bubbling on the stove :)

Prepare your own 'encurtido' at home


On the table of many restaurants are large glass jars of pickled vegetables, generally called chile or encurtido, which are placed on bland dishes like scrambled eggs and pupusas to add some zest.

In preparing encurtido, many cooks prefer to use pineapple peel vinegar that can be made according to this recipe contributed by Miriam Herrera:

2 liters of water|
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 block of rapadura de dulce (raw sugar cane, available in markets)
pineapple peels

At least 1 teaspoon of ginger, spices (especies), oregano, allspice (pimienta gorda), cloves, cinnamon, 5 bay leaves, a little bit of hot pepper.

Boil the water with all these ingredients. Let them ferment for one month, then bottle it.

There are a number of vegetables that can be added to make chili or encurtido. To begin you could try these and then vary according to your tastes.

2 medium carrots
10 green beans
1/2 medium cauliflower
3 small onions
1/2 red chili
1/2 green pepper
3 baby corn (jilote)
1/2 broccoli
hot peppers

Wash all the vegetables. Peel and cut them up. Scald each vegetable the time it needs. Place the mixed vegetables in previously sterilized jars. Add vinegar to cover. Remove the air by moving a kitchen knife around the glass. Seal the jars.

Apply the final sterilization by boiling in a little water for 15 minutes as if for canning. Open, let the air out after 24 hours, then close again immediately.

Other vegetables that can be added are pataste (chayote), small cucumbers, green mangos, and radishes.

Different vegetables need to cook different times, which is why many people prefer to make encurtido with only a few vegetables. Cauliflower (1 minute), carrots (3 minutes), green beans (3 minutes), green mangos (2 minutes), pataste (2 minutes), cucumbers (1 minute), baby corn (2 minutes), cabbage (3 minutes), broccoli (2 minutes), chiles and green peppers (30 seconds).

If you do not want to do all this work, there may be a woman in your neighborhood who makes good encuritdo. You can usually encargar or order some.

It is also possible to buy commercially prepared encurtido. But no one makes it commercially in Honduras. The bottled encurtido sold in stores is usually made in Guatemala.

Gloria Ferrera, a native of El Paraiso, explains one possible reason why this is true. "My mother made excellent encurtido. As children, we used to help her deliver it to the neighbors. Between all of us, we could have gotten together enough money to help her start a small factory to produce encurtido commercially. But we did not think big. She just sold to the neighbors. Now she is too old, and my children have to eat encurtido from Guatemala."

There are dozens of homemade foods, like traditional candies, jams and jellies, pickled foods and homemade wines that could be produced commercially. Often it is small problems like where to get jars in significant quantities, how to price the product, how to get a label to stick to glass, lack of clarity if the jars are really sterilized, how to apply for a health department registration approval number, how to apply for a small business license, what taxes need to be paid, and a complete lack of access to credit, that prevent many women from starting these kinds of businesses.

Although millions of dollars are donated annually to help Honduras support small business, Honduras has no Small Business Administration where people could go for help, information, advice or loans. There are all kinds of incentives to bring foreign businesses here, and no help for local people who want to start local business such as producing encurtidos, jams or jellies that could replace Honduran dependence on imports.


Some new recipes!

I just wanted to share a few recipes that I've tried in the last few months that take advantage of the variety of tropical fruit here in Honduras! We have a HUGE mango tree in our backyard that is just starting to be pollinated and produe tiny, bean-sized mangoes... apparently in April, they will be in full swing and we will have so many we won't know what to do with them! Until then, I present you two other recipes...

Our neighbors have a papaya tree that also blesses us abundantly... half the time, when they share a huge slice with us, I can't think of what to do with it before it goes rotten. After some searching, I found this recipe that has been a hit at the potlucks we have every so often.

Papaya Tomato Salsa

1 lb ripe papaya (one small or 1/2 large), peeled, seeded, and finely diced
4 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 tbsp finely minced jalapeno peppers
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
zest of one lime
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

Gently combine ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.

My friend Ms. Karen (the one whose house and farm up on the Volcan I absolutely LOVE) showed me the following recipe, a good way to use up pineapple peelings from the fresh fruit you eat here. I've noticed a difference between the pineapple here in Honduras and the one we ate in Costa Rica. The fresh pineapple here is called azucarron ("really sugar-y") and it tastes a lot like the supersweet canned pineapple we get in the states, even though it is in fresh-fruit form. It has a deep yellow fruit. The ones we ate in Costa Rica had almost a white fruit and were much firmer and tart--like eating a sweettart candy. I got used to the acidity and got to like it by the time I left--some people liked it so much and ate so much of it that they got sores in their mouth!!! Not going to happen with Honduran pineapple. Anyway, this is a good way to reuse those peelings before you compost.

Pineapple "Tea"

Core + peel of 1 pineapple, well-scrubbed
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp whole allspice (pimienta gorda)
1 1" hunk fresh ginger
2 qts water

Boil all ingredients together for 10-15 minutes. Strain in a colander and serve hot. Taste tart and cinnamon-y, like hot apple cider! Add sugar, to taste, but I didn't need any.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Misty morning on Lago de Yojoa

Another cross-posting from the gratitude challenge :)

"Take a picture of one thing, person, place, or specific moment that makes you feel grateful. Share it with your social network."

Well, my camera doesn't work anymore (at least, i'm pretty sure it doesn't), so I couldn't take a picture specifically for today's challenge. More on that in a moment... I'm going to include one from a recent trip instead.

This picture was taken at about 7 in the morning on the edge of a river emptying in to el Lago de Yojoa. I was just setting out for a birdwatching tour of the lake with two of my best friends here in Honduras (Elisa and Shirley). I was excited to be out at that time of day... it reminded me of all the times I went up to watch the sun rise at Pretty Place in South Carolina... there's something so quiet and intimate about the mist rising up off the world when the sun first comes out. As we would say watching the sun rise, God puts on a different and amazing show every day. You just have to take the time to be still, be present and watch it. I'm thankful for anytime I can roust myself out of bed to experience this recurrent moment on the Earth. It truly is one of the most beautiful things that can be seen.

I was also thankful for learning about an amazing ecosystem during my day on the lake, and learning how different birds fill different niches on the lake. It was good to come to know Honduras a little more and feel like I could relate some of what I learned to the kids I'm teaching (out of North American biology textbooks that often seem very out of context). I learned so many fascinating things.

I was extremely thankful that day for the company of my friends and of our guides. I was especially thankful to have this picture at all, since I dropped my camera and it sank to the bottom of the (thankfully shallow and clear) lake. The oarsman got out and retrieved my camera (I was able to salvage the pictures from the card), so I would not even be able to have shown you all this picture if it weren't for his act of kindness.

So this picture represents a lot of things for me, and I hope that you enjoyed hearing about it. :) I AM SO THANKFUL for the people, places, and forces that brought it to me in the first place and also that got it back to me!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Taulabe Caves

A couple of weeks ago, Elisa and I went to check out the caves of Taulabe and had a nice time! We were scheming on the way back from our personal trip of ways to take our classes to the caves and to also plan the trip together. Well, after quite a bit of planning, we all made it back in one piece from the caves today! I was glad we both got to draw on our outdoor education experiences and incorporate some of the activities we had done at our outdoor schools into our program for the kids. We even baked them all cookies!!! A triple recipe = 6 stick of butter = really good sugar cookies :P

Anyway, I'm kind of "cross-posting" again on this block since I wrote about what I am grateful for on the trip through the "Gratitude Challenge" that I'm doing for the first part of Lent. Enjoy!

"Write about something you feel grateful for in your life today."

Well, I dunno about life in general, but I can definitely talk about today! We went to the Taulabe caves today with 5th and 11th grade, and I was grateful to know that the students can have this kind of experience with their friends and with their school. I'm not sure if any of them is nearly as excited about geology as I am, but I think it's important for people to come in contact with nature and I'm glad we did it.

I'm also grateful for the way my students took care of each other today--the 11th graders helping th 5th graders and even helping each other out when the cave darkness gets scary. Seeing Juan Carlos give Graciela a hug when she needed it was cool. Seeing Graciela be "mom" to the 5th graders was cool. Seeing the 5th graders be the first to step up and thank us for organizing the field trip was also pretty inspiring. I'm grateful that somebody's grateful for me/my efforts!

I also was grateful for a moment alone in the dark cave when I was picking up the little candles we had left and making sure everything was cleaned up. The group was far ahead of me and I walked back alone in the dark (or relatively so since I had a flashlight). After a day of lots of people, it was a beautiful thing to have a moment alone in the cave... it's a powerful place and it's nice to experience that without distractions sometimes.

So thanks to all the people and places that made today special!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hondureñismos, aka fun Honduran slang!

For all you Spanish speakers out there, I thought you might enjoy some fun Honduran-isms... little slang words or phrases that tend to pepper Honduran Spanish. One of the big things I had to get accustomed to was the VOS form in Spanish which is not taught in US schools... For a long time I thought everyone was simply speaking Spanish like a bunch of uneducated people, but it really is a whole separate form of address with its own verb conjugations. NO ONE uses tú, and they all think it sounds very Mexican... HMMPH! I´ve noticed that Hondurans don´t like Mexicans very much...

Anyway, here are some examples comparing the tú and the vos forms:

tú command -- ven
vos command -- vení
tú command -- siéntate
vos command -- sentate (stem doesn´t change, accent on the second syllable)
for normal conjugations, it seems to take after the vosotros form from Spain
tú present -- tú sabes
vos present -- vos sabés

Que pedo = What's up? literally, "What's fartin'?" kind of vulgar, used usually by men who know each other REALLY well.
Oye, loco

Goodbyes, conversation wrapper-uppers
Va, pues
Vaya, pues
Cheque-leque Panqueque

de miedo (like awesome, powerful)

Random words
guirros (imagine there are two dots over the u)

expressions that make me laugh although they are totally normal
some of you enjoyed my separate blog entry on ¨andar + noun¨ which still seems weird to me... Do you have a pencil sounds more like are you walking a pencil?
Ocupar here means like to use something... like ¨ocupas ese vaso?¨ Are you using that glass? To me it sounds like ¨are you occupying that glass?¨ Well, no, I don´t think I can fit inside :P

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Club part 2 :)

Don't Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From The Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado Don't Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From The Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado by Medea Benjamin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I absolutely tore through this book due to its conversational style as an oral biography. While the themes and topics addressed are definitely worthy of additional thought and reflection, the language was like an IV instead of digesting a pill. That said, although this book was ¨easy¨ to read, it certainly doesn´t let the reader off the hook. Everyone kept asking me why it was called ¨Don´t be afraid, Gringo¨ when the story was clearly about some Honduran lady... and why should we be afraid of her? The last few pages of the book are a powerful call to action to readers in the US--to influence changes in US foreign policy and military intervention to help Hondurans more than any type of charity ever could... and don´t be afraid of your government, Gringo! Fear only inhibits action.

That aside, I was constantly comparing this book to the last book I read about Honduras... ¨Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras¨ Being that Don´t be Afraid (DBA) was published in the mid-late 80s, and the other book (WHDH) about 20 years later, certainly a lot has changed. For one thing, DBA mentioned that there really aren´t many oligarchic-style families in power running Honduras as there are in many other central american countries... Well, WHDH points out many of them and which maquiladoras and media outlets they own. Both book have similar arguments in that they say that delinquency, alcoholism, poverty, and violence aren´t the fault of the people... WHDH argues that more egalitarian economic deveopment is needed to provide jobs to all (the book definitely is more urban-industrially focused) and DBA argues that the same problems could be solved by giving campesinos enough land to farm that would actually feed their families. Elvia Alvarado argues that campesinos aren´t afraid of hard work--those who do have enough land to farm are too busy to waste time drinking!

There are lots of great messages in this book for organizers and activitists (don´t be afraid, pep talks, education and training is KEY, and don´t organize around projects--organize for the sake of organizing and let the projects develop organically), for people who want to know about women and machismo and Honduran culture in general (through the first few chapters about Elvia´s pre-organizing life), for those who want to know about really rural Honduras (while I´ve done lots of travelling here, I haven´t gone places with no roads, so largely I haven´t seen the ¨real¨ campesinos she Elvia is working to organize). It also is good for those who would like to see some analysis of how policy (both US and Hondurans) affects everyday people without the ¨filter¨ of academic language--coming straight from the people who are affected by it. While I was excited to read a book ¨by¨ Medea Benjamin, as I respect her activism and work with the peace group Code Pink, I was also thankful that she stepped back and let Elvia tell her own story.

I hope more people who are ¨on the ground¨ doing aid work and development work in other countries read this book and get some major insight into the people that they´re working with... and HOW they should work with them. An excellent read.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, January 11, 2010

Saying goodbye to an "old friend"... and helping out some new ones.

Today I gave away my little brown vinyl suitcase that I've had since I was five years old. This thing went on family trips to the beach at Lewes, Delaware with me... it went to Puerto Rico... Mexico... Honduras... pretty much everywhere. It has absolutely no modern features such as wheels, etc, but it was a nice little size and perfect for pretty much everything. My parents got me a new set of (bright RED!!) luggage for Christmas... Thanks Mom and Dad!!! Anyway, I no longer "need" my old friend the little brown suitcase.

Its new home is the same place where I donated some of my clothes before I came home for Christmas break. My friend Cecilia (another teacher at my school) volunteers at a home for HIV+ women and children, many of whom are orphans or whose parents can't afford to take care of them or meet their medical needs. The folks there don't have much, so it works out quite well to have them receive donations. Cecilia says that she usually takes over clothes in a suitcase and leaves the suitcase, so I was working within her little system without even knowing it! I hope I can visit someday and check out the place and meet the people there.

I was also inspired back in October 2009 when I visited Horizontes, an "orphanage" for boys in Comayagua. My friends Lovisa and Leigh Ann, with whom I traveled to the North Coast, work there and invited Elisa and me to visit. Once again, many of the boys there are not true orphans, but rather come from extremely large and extremely poor families who simply can't afford to feed them and take them to school on a regular basis. This is why I was rather confused when they told us that some of the "orphan" boys had "gone home" for Christmas to celebrate with their families. For others, however, it's Horizontes or life in the streets.

Here are some pics of the Horizontes boys and the facilities:

By the way, if you ever need any inspiration to give away your stuff, you should come visit Honduras and see how the average Honduran lives... or you can watch this show.
It's like a trainwreck... so awful but you can't tear your eyes away... :P Thanks to Susan (my ex-roomie, life coach, and declutterer extraordinnaire) for introducing it to me!!

Book Club

A while ago, my friend Elisa and I ordered several books on Honduran history, sociology, economics, etc, in order to understand our "new home" and I finally finished one of them!! Here is my review on Goodreads. Enjoy!

Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras by">Adrienne Pine

My rating:">4 of 5 starsAs someone who is currently living in Honduras, this book definitely confirmed a lot of things that I observe everyday, and also gave me some needed historical context/anthropological perspective on Honduras and its people. I must say that I have never formally studied anthropology before so some of the terms were confusing at first, but I found it to be a fascinating perspective on human behavior and the outside forces that lead to "embodied fear," etc.
The most relevant and fascinating chapter for me was the first one, on violence. This one, more than maquiladoras and alcohol, is the most relevant to me and the people that I know in Honduras. There are religiously-inspired bumper stickers on more than a few cars here that say "No mataras" (Thou shalt not kill). At first, I thought these stickers were laughable... "yeah, DUH!" As time went on and I realized how much of a problem (perceived or real) this is to everyday Hondurans who have lost family members to street violence and economically-motivated murders, I have started to have a slighty more somber reaction when I see the now.
I think the concept of embodied fear and resultant habitus made a lot of sense in the way that my roommates here in Honduras (who are Irani-Hondurans) behave and react to threats (real and perceived). They also would probably approve of the "mano dura"-style punishment policies and are currently calling on Pepe Lobo, the new president, to implement the death penalty to create "real consequences" for committing crimes. I often think their way of thinking is a little too harsh or overreacting, just as the author did occasionally when talking with people who approved of the "death squads" to rid the streets of gangs. And, like the author, I often get the response, "you would understand this if you lived here long enough to have seen and felt the same things we do."
After reading the book, I have become more sensitive to the subtle and not-so-subtle messages in media and through general conversations confirming the theme "Honduras is violent." The day I got back to Honduras after going home to the States for Christmas, a paperboy hawking papers on my bus read the headlines (which included gory pictures of a car crash on the front page, just as the author noted in her book). At one point he even said, after announcing an increase in gang-related crime in San Pedro Sula, "asi es Honduras, no?" That's Honduras for you, isn't it?" If you heard that every day of your life, you'd feel a little different about your homeland, wouldn't you?
Another thing from my observations down here that the book confirmed was the general Honduran inferiority complex... not only in relation to the United States, but also relative to other Central American countries (and especially Costa Rica). Unlike my brief travels in Bolivia, where being American was decidedly UNcool at times, American clothes, domestic products, etc are definitely considered status symbols and highly desired. The American flag really does appear everywhere to sell just about anything. "It must be better than Honduran goods..."
I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 mostly because I felt that some of the arguments presented in the book were a bit of a stretch, and the fact that I would have preferred a stronger conclusion for each of the three "chapters." All in all, a fascinating and extremely helpful read.">View all my reviews >>