Saturday, September 26, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
This last two months was hard due to the “coup” or golpe de estado, or change of government or whatever you want to call it. We missed about half the classes. So, I just finished up with three of the five classes, all ciclo comun or middle school grades. I wrapped it up with colors, numbers and clothing, fun yet functional things to know. The second to last week we did a cultural day where they had to present on several cultural themes of Honduras, and I did a presentation for them about Oklahoma (and used some of those great postcards people had sent me for my collection!). It was tons of fun and a learning experience for both me and the students.
Today was the last day of classes. It was also dia de la bandera, flag day, so it started off with some presentations by the teachers and students, including hanging the flag, a poem and a rap about Honduras among others.
(Doing a regeatton rap to celebrate Honduran patriotism)
Afterwards, it was time for the final test. Since I feel kids in this country don’t get enough creativity, I drew people in bright clothes and they had to write on their test papers the clothing type and color. I had also made them do homework over the past few weeks including cutting out things in the primary colors and drawing rainbows, as well as silly numbers games such as bingo to put learning back into a fun environment. After the tests, I got pictures taken with most of the kids, got a cake and a song and several hugs. (Taking the final exam, and afterwards, enjoying my goodbye cake!)
It was an amazing, if not exhausting and learning experience. I learned I can teach and manage several youth at once, they learned a bit more of English, a little about US culture, and hopefully I made a positive impression on them. They sure made one on me. So much so, that I convinced the youth development project to place a new volunteer there when I leave….hope they drive them as crazy as they did me, yet also touch their heart.
My favorite class, who I also did Project Citizen with, II Ciclo Comun
Friday, August 21, 2009
I haven't posted any pictures recently, and since we are wrapping up our Peace Corps service soon, I figured I should get to it. The last two years, we have had an anual "Recycling Fair" in our town that Drew andI participated in putting on. This year my mom got to be there for the event, which included several sculptures made with recyclable materials, the motorcycle being our favorite. Anything that promotes environmental awareness in Honduras is a great thing, since the country is plagued by bad habits including throwing trash out of cars and buses, dirtying water supplies, not using trash cans or having trash service, or burning trash containing hazardous materials. I've seen little old ladies to young kids just throw their trash along the road, without a second thought. These fairs have been fun ways to improve "conocimiento" or awareness, use creativity, and get the community talking about how to better take care of our mountain town. Instead of using disposable plates and cups, community groups sold foods such as tamales that didn't need it, or used real cups to serve homemade juices using local fruits. They had music and traditional dancing, and activities for kids and adults alike. Also, local groups sold products made with recycled and natural materials such as the chip bag woven purses, bags made of leftover materials from t-shirt factories, and baskets using pine needles. It was fun to have my mom there to see the event, and see my community promoting such a good cause.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I helped someone today. It cost me $5. I neither taught a man to fish nor gave him a fish, but rather, I bought him a fishing pole. I suppose the cause was worthy of my $5, but I'm still struck by doing what I did.
I don’t give money nor lend it here. It is a bad policy. One 5-year-old gets a nickel and the following day your front yard looks like recess at the kindergarten. Adults are better, but not always. If someone comes by asking for money, it is usually just the town drunk looking for food or more drink. Sometimes people come by asking for money for food, but rarely appreciate a couple bananas and a best of luck.
A middle aged man came by on a Sunday, probably 40 years old, but looked 60 with front teeth completely MIA. Thus, he was immediately twice as hard to understand as anyone else in the world who has front teeth.
I don’t recognize the face. This doesn’t mean I don’t know the person. He has the look of a man weathered by 25 years of working in the sun. The skin on his face looks like leather and his eyes droop. He’s wearing a blue checked shirt like a
He starts talking to me like we’ve known each other for years. I assume he must know me since people from the country here won’t even say hi, let alone will they start a conversation. He’s saying something, but I am missing most of it, partially because I can’t figure out why I know him and I am concentrating on that and partially because the man has no teeth and mumbles. Eventually I give up on trying to figure it out and start listening full time; hoping clues in conversation will give something up.
It’s not long before I figure out what the man wants. He used to have some steady work and the people he worked for would lend him a machete. He’d work for them most of the time, and when he had a day off, he could use the borrowed machete for work. The people recently moved and he’s out of work and he’s out of a machete. He wants me to give him one.
Usually this would have been the end of the conversation, but the community I did stoves with was so nice to me, even though I was doing work for them for free, I still feel like I owe them any help I can offer. I am not going to give money to anyone. If 2 years of my time can’t help, my money can’t either, but he man had me curious and I didn’t want to ask outright why he came to me specifically.
I didn’t know what to do. I was in a situation where under certain conditions I would want to help, while under others, I would tell the man I was sorry, but I couldn’t help. Regardless, I had no idea what to do. I had to up the stakes. I tell him I don’t have any money, but he can pass by my office Wednesday morning and I’d try to work something out for him. I had no idea what the something was going to be.
He thanks me, tells me a little more about himself, and thanks me again. He is from a village, but not the one I thought. He has no idea who I am, he just stumbled upon me. I don’t know why he chose my house, but he did. Luckily I’m already in a position to put off decision making, so I don’t worry too much. He would likely not pass by my office and I would not have to make any further decisions.
I forget about the conversation for the most part. Tuesday night it occurs to me that he may come by, and my plan is to refer him to the microfinance organization in his area, that would lend him enough to buy a machete without much question. The $5 he needs is not a ton of money for them to lend a first time borrower.
Of course I wouldn’t be writing this if he didn’t show up. I try to determine a few things before I carry out my plan. I ask him if knows my name, and he does not. I am not surprised. I figured he didn’t. Now I want to determine that he did not come to my house because I am an American. People who beg from me from for that reason annoy me to no end. They see my skin and assume I am rich. In comparison to most people here, I could be rich, but I put those dreams aside to work here for a few years. He passes that test too. He was asking everyone. He actually passed a test I didn’t know I was giving too. He wasn’t begging for money. He had asked every house up the street from me, but as soon as I told him I would try to work something out for him, he stopped asking. It made me feel better about him. I don’t entirely know why. Perhaps it was just because he didn’t take any pleasure from asking for things, and he didn’t ask any more people than he needed to. He just had a need and as soon as it was filled, he was done with that.
His answers confirmed a variety of assumptions I had made. He was the sole worker from his family, and he had a wife and kids. He’d worked outside his entire life. School and dental care were far from his reach. I couldn’t get a hold of the people from the microfinance organization and at this point I was starting to realize I didn’t want to. I wanted to help him find work.
I don’t know what made me think about it except I was at the office, but a year ago the group I work with planted some trees, and they are responsible for keeping the grass around it trimmed, at least until the trees are established and water competition between the trees and other plants is a non-issue. I ask the person from the office when the last time the grass had been cut. She thinks I am about to complain at her, so she tells me it had been 2 weeks (this means it’s probably been 2 months), but also acknowledges that it needs to be done again. Usually the kids from the high school do it, but with school being so random right now, the kids are hard to locate and usually busy. If we wait for them, it will be another month.
So I decided that while I had no hope of providing permanent employment to the man, I did get a chance to see if he was serious about being willing to work for the machete. I propose to him that I will gladly buy him a new machete and sharpening stone (about $5.50) if he would agree to chop the grass around the trees (using a machete to chop grass is a standard job around here, and the $5.50 is about a normal wage, though that depends on if the person is using a using a borrowed machete (about $3 a day) or has thier own (about $5 a day)). I kinda expected the guy to realize I was not going to give him money, and I was going to give him a crappy job to get his machete, and he would going to groan and say he’d rather just have some money and leave. But I was surprised by him again. He didn’t get upset. He got really excited.
So, I went and bought him a machete and something to sharpen it with, and the lady from the office told him that our group would pay him another $5 when he was done (she heard his story too, and also felt the guy was pretty genuine). She took him to the trees, and he is there chopping grass now.
After reading this over again, the whole story seems like I am a stingy guy working in the wrong field of work, but this is the dilemma of a Peace Corps volunteer. We’re not a funding organization; we don’t have money for projects. We really only offer our knowledge. Every time we consider giving a handout we have to remind ourselves what happens when you give a mouse a cookie. When we do go out of our way to help an individual the whole thing can go one of two ways. We can feel like I did today, like I didn’t do all that much, but rather just put him on the right track, or we can feel taken advantage of. It is a tough call every time. In the long run being ripped off for $5 isn’t awful, but in the short run, it’s my food budget for 2 or 3 meals. I can’t help everyone who needs it, and when I do help someone, the only outcome I want is to feel like it was worth it. In this case the man already knew how to fish, but poverty stole his fishing pole, and I happen to be in a position to replace it. Now he can find work on his own. I wouldn’t be surprised to find him outside my house again, but this time I expect he would offer to cut my lawn for a few bucks.
I admit openly it was a hard decision to make, and I may have made a mistake, but I feel pretty good about things anyways. I’m curious… In my position how would you react? What would you have done? In the end, was giving the machete the right thing to do? Or does the whole moral conundrum make no sense to you?
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
There is a bit of a crisis going on in the country right now and I still can't really talk about it. Fortunately, I can still explain my work and the like.
Okay, I can't get the pictures to upload.... Sorry. Sadly this will be just another boring pictureless blog.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
My favorite activity was while we were in Copan Ruins. We went to a bird park where they rescue tropical birds. The small fee to enter the park helps maintain the park, and they had birds in almost every color. They also have a coffee farm near the park and you can buy fresh beans and enjoy a hot cup of java after the tour. They also let you hold some of the birds and see them up close, and they are quite friendly. One liked me so much it nibbled at my shirt and then poo'd on my shoulder, all while cooing in my ear. My shirt was orange, I guess I looked like tasty fruit.