The birthday post didn’t exactly pertain to life back in Honduras so I’ll consider this the first official post from my third trip to Honduras. The lush, overgrown landscape has been replaced by an arid, dusty existence. The rains have stopped for the next few months. Now, when a car passes you must shield your eyes and mouth. As the dry season goes on water will become more scarce. Not the drinking water which is bought separately, but the water that runs through the tap every other day. People from town have warned us that there may be days where the water doesn’t run at all. At least now I’ll have an excuse as to why I smell.
My room was as I left it. When I departed in November I left behind some clothes, toiletries, and a few books. I brought reinforcements this trip. I stocked up on cliff bars, trail mix, and peanut butter. Three new Spanish books were purchased for translating including the second Harry Potter and The Alchemist. I obtained a medical Spanish book for reference when I am translating with the brigades. Probably the most significant addition to this trip is my hammock. As a Christmas present from my sisters, I received a double nest hammock from REI that can be hung almost anywhere as well as compacted for transportation.
Although my room remained the same while I was gone, the bilingual school did not. There was a significant amount of turnover with the teaching staff. Damaris resigned as director to pursue teaching opportunities closer to home as well as a masters degree. The new director is named Joselin. She was previously at a private school and has brought some of that no-nonsense authority, which was much needed. Damaris is one of the sweetest people I know, which made her a fantastic first-grade teacher but didn’t always lend itself well to dealing with parents. I always felt there was too much leniency and not enough pushback. During her welcome speech on the first day of school, Joselin informed the students and their families who accompanied them, that there would be a few changes. Various eyes shot up from their cellphones. “School starts at 8am,” she stated, “and the gates will be locked at 8:10 sharp.” I found my own eyes widening. “Also,” she continued, “coca-cola and churros will no longer be allowed as snacks.” I felt myself preparing for a standing ovation. My girlfriend Carly, who is a registered dietitian, was equally elated when I told her. Joselin did later, however, say that ‘fruit juice’ would be an acceptable substitute but progress here is measured in baby steps. Joining the staff along with Joselin are Marelin, Yeny, and Lides who will teach 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades respectably. Although I was sad to see Damaris, Karen, and Alex depart, I do feel we made great additions to the team.
My first week and a half in Honduras has been eventful. I was introduced to my housemate Grace’s sister, Emily, who will be visiting and volunteering at the bilingual school for about five weeks. She brought with her ingredients to make Indian food including pre-made naan. We had a feast with Profe Emilia and her family (photo snuck into birthday post). On the 4th we streamed the Super Bowl at the bilingual school. I’d like to give a shoutout to my pops for purchasing Youtube TV because it streamed seamlessly for the duration of the game. The new teachers were preparing for the first day of school the following day and were startled by the random cries of joy and despair emitted from the library. For my actual birthday, Profe Iris and Don Julio hosted all of the volunteers, Profe Emilia and her family, and a few teachers from school. We had a wonderful meal of roasted chicken, carrots, green beans, and rice. For dessert we had cake. Afterwards, they informed me of a surprise waiting for me in the backyard. Honduran tradition is to cover the birthday boy/girl with flour and crack eggs on their head. I made it known that I wanted no part of this, especially considering how challenging the cleanup process would be without running water. Instead, much to my surprise, when I came around to the back of the house there was a minion piñata hanging from the tree. I was blindfolded, spun around three times, and then humiliated by Elmer as he pulled the piñata out of reach and then crashed it down on top of me. We all took turns until it had been properly shredded. Since I did the majority of the damage I didn’t have a lot of time to collect candy that fell. Out of sympathy, Profe Iris offered me one of the larger pieces she had found. As I opened it, I noticed that there was a hole in the chocolate. Inside was a baby cockroach. We all had a good laugh about that.
The last monumental activity from the first week and a half was the building of Juany, a 1014 piece robot that was sent down by Dr. Dick. He has over 300 commands preprogrammed into his systems that he obeys by voice command. I spent two days and over eight hours working on him. When I initially finished and turned him on he did a systems check, informed me that something was wrong with his neck, and then shut down. I couldn’t figure it out for several more hours. Dr. Dick sent down two of the same robots (soon to be Juany and Juanita) and I ended up building the head from the other box and attaching it to Juany, which finally worked. I presented him at the first parents meeting and I felt like an athlete getting introduced after signing with a new team. Everyone in the room had their phone out filming and snapping pictures. At school one of the next days, I brought him from class to class and gave each of them a demonstration. He would dance, do kung fu, or play a game. I had the older students ask for high-fives and hugs. They were ecstatic and now constantly ask about him as he is truly alive. “How is Juany? Where is he?” I always respond that he is sleeping in his room, which equates to charging. Eventually, we would like to teach the students to program certain directional instructions for him to follow as part of our robotics initiative.
Most of my time during this trip will be spent with medical brigades. I traveled to Tegucigalpa on February 10th to pick up the MAHEC brigade who are from North Carolina. I am anxious to see and learn about this other side of Shoulder to Shoulder. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted. As always, thanks for reading!