Sunday, May 30, 2010


A seemingly easy trip to Guatemala turns out to make headlines! First we traveled right outside of Antigua to hike a volcano called Pacaya. It was a difficult hike, for me at least, but well worth it. We rounded a bend and there it was, a huge black mountain dripping with firey red lava. I had never seen anything like it. Apparently the group that had come through in the morning hadn´t seen very much lava (unbeknownst to us at the time, obvious foreshadowing for what was to come). Some people brought sticks and marshmallows, although couldn´t get close enough to toast them. The site was mezmorizing, much like a campfire, but at such a different natural level. Here we are 2500 meters high on a volcano, looking out at several other volcano peaks enraptured by the steady oozing flow of hot lava. By far this has been one of my favorite experiences of the last 2 years.

The day after I was there, literally 24 hours later, Pacaya erupted. We were at Lake Atitlan when we heard the news (a few hours from Antigua) and I had ventured out early before breakfast to grab a coffee and watch the quaint lake town come alive. On my way back a boy was selling newspapers and without even looking at the headline I bought one, figuring it would be nice to peruse while eating before heading out for our boat tour. Tucked under my arm, coffee in hand I walked into the hotel to meet my friends when she grabbed the paper and exclaimed "Pacaya erupted?!" Apparently a reporter was killed, and possibly several others. The small village nearby was evacuated. We carried on with our tour of the lake, but not without expressing our relief that we were not on or near the volcano when it erupted.

Lake Atitlan is nestled in a small port town called Panajachel. The road heading into town was a windy mountainside ride filled with a beautiful view of the lake and waterfalls cascading down the hills. It was intoxicating. All the while a tropical storm Agatha was slowly making her presence known with her drizzly fog laden welcoming. We made it into town just long enough to drop our bags and take the next chicken bus out of town to a local market in a town called Chichicanstenango, which is said to be one of the biggest and best in the country. It did not disappoint. Set at the foot of the steps of a large church the spread was overwhelming. Jewelry, macadamia nuts, tapestries and so much more all for "very good price" as the local merchants advised us with the English catchphrases they had memorized for the tourists. The colorful aroma of freshcut flowers surrounded us while we explored the grounds for several hours.

As we made our way out of Panajachel, Agatha was letting us know she was there, and she meant business. We were one of the last cars allowed to drive that road because the amounts of water indundating the path, mudslides and falling rocks. We made it to Antigua, in double the time it would normally take, and were there to stay for the next few days to wait out the storm. Unfortunately this chopped off the end of my planned vacation up to the north of the country to visit Tikal, but mother nature had a different plan which included good friends, lots of movies and some salsa lessons!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrating, Cleaning, Relaxing and Feeding

Remember when you were 15 or so and someone talked about someone who was 30 and images of weathering, wrinkly skin flashed into your mind, along with the faint, pundgent smell of moth balls, merely at the mention of such a cryptic human being? Can you believe, I have morphed into one of these "old" people, yet no adult diapers or false teeth, it's amazing!! To celebrate my non-oldness, I taught English, because that's what I do on Saturdays, but with a twist. Susan, Scott, Jim and Ginnie, the missionaries that live where I teach English classes were so sweet and bought a pinata and made a ton of yummy cupcakes for the younger students in the morning. It was filled with all kinds of goodies- candy, money and deoderant!? I took a couple of swats at it, but nobody can really do in like los ninos latinos! Post-burst the normal scramble ensued, after which several of the kids gave me handfuls of their goods at the realization that I hadn't partaken in the scrapping for candy. I won't remember the flavor of the candy, frankly, I may not always remember the names of the kids who gave it to me, but what I will remember is the Honduran children trying to give me some of what they had because I had none. Later, my afternoon class, which consists mostly of adults had an exam. I know, what a big ol meany of a teacher having an exam on a day which was clearly destined for a party. Being the good sports they all are, they appeased me and negociated to take half of it home as a take-home portion so that we could celebrate. They brought a cake (into which my friend Iris tried to smash my face according to tradition), sang Happy Birthday in English and Spanish and took me out for a beer later. Yes my friends, entering the harbor of 30 somethingland was smooth sailing.
Before I became a Peace Corps volunteer I worked for a non-profit organization called RSVP of Greater Cleveland n.k.a. Greater Cleveland Volunteers. This name change and the generousity of the Executive Director were the inspiration for a community clean-up day which we recently held. You see, the organization had all of these T-shirts with the old name and logo and where I live there tends to be an overabundance of people lacking good clothes. When the packages arrived with the brightly colored shirts I knew I wanted to give them away, but not just randomly. Honduras, and other developing countries I suspect, have a real problem with garbage. For most there is no magic fairy called the garbage truck that swoops onto the tree lawn at night to wisk away remains or, more importantly, the recycleables. For this reason people get very creative with the disposal of their garbage. The public green space and local river happen to be favorite deposit spots in my town. I pulled together lots of people to help; the local high school, my English classes, the volunteer firefighters, Standard Fruit Company (Dole) and a church group from Canada. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We hauled away about 1,500 pounds of garbage, and that was only the tip of the iceberg. As a reward I handed out the RSVP T-shirts as well as reusable grocery bags donated by folks in Haliburton, Canada to all who participated. The local news interviewed me and asked me why we were doing this because tomorrow people are going to continue throwing garbage where we had just picked it up. With nothing clever to say, I simply said this, "If they see people that don't even live in this country care so much about it, maybe they will feel embarassed the next time they go to do it again, but if not, we will continue caring in the hopes that maybe one day it will resonate."

So who knew that when I signed up for this gig that I would be right off the coast of the Caribbean, which contains a small family of islands called the Bay Islands. Having visited Utila last May, I still had Roatan to check out. Of the these two islands (there is a 3rd one called Guanaja and is more remote) Roatan is a more touristy spot, especially during the time I chose to go, Easter Week. This is the view I saw most of during the week. It really was quite beautiful and hosted less foreigners than I had imagined. The cabin we rented was off the beach just enough to make it super quiet there, while activity was still happening on the main strip. My vacations often consist of the following: laying on the beach, sleeping, eating, dancing and drinking adult beverages. This vacation was no exception to those guidelines.

After all the great stuff going down in my life over the past month, you wouldn't think it could get any better, and then, my best friend comes to visit and trumps every bit of it! My very best friend Nicole and her amazing husband Sanjay told me they wanted to visit and wanted a feel true feel for what it's like to live my life as a Peace Corps volunteer. I try so hard through this blog, through letters and phone calls to accurately describe my life here but it is incredibly hard to bring to life the sights, smells and feelings that go along with that, so you can imagine my delight at the prospect of truly showing my dear friends what my life has become. When they first told me they would only be here 5 days, 1 and half of which were travel I was sure we couldn't accomplish as much as we wanted to between visiting the orphanage (one of their few requests), buying food to distribute and showing them my projects and my everyday activities. Somehow the days grew longer and allowed us to do it all. They had raised quite a bit of money stateside to bring down for the purpose of buying food for those who need it most. You may remember several entries from my blog about Grandma's Kids. To say they need it is a true understatement! With the money contributed we were able to pass out rice, beans, eggs, flour, powdered milk, juice, cereal, plantains, chickens, cans of vegetables, parasite medicine and much more. My favorite memory of the trip was waking up the day after making a food delivery to Grandma's house and thinking about the full breakfast that was filling their tummies and that moment. In addition, they brought suitcases full of stuff to give away. Hats, sidewalk chalk, flashcards, candles, clothes, vitamins, jump ropes, workbooks and so much more. Lots of these items were given away at the 2 orphanages we visited. Thank you so much to all of those who contributed, prayed and had anything to do with Nicole and Sanjay's successfull trip to Honduras.

Friday, March 12, 2010

So, it´s all abowt the teeth, eh?

Once again, Dr. Bill Kerr´s Canadian dental team has come and gone, leaving a trail of clean healthy teeth and encouraged kids with toothbrushes in hand. The team did a wonderful job and actually saw some improvements from one year ago when they were here last. This year we really concentrated on including Hondurans more with this project so that they can continue assisting the team as they return every year. We trained the high school students to give lectures on dental hygiene and a bit on the environment to the grade schoolers while they were waiting to get their teeth cleaned. The local dentist was also very involved, learning new techniques from Dr. Bill and taking up some slack where she was able.

The sugary pop and candy continues to exist, no matter how much floride you give them. As you can see, the culture here as far as dental hygiene goes leaves much to be desired, leaving our Canadian friends with a tough battle. I commend them for tackling this issue with such gusto and I hope I can assist the team again in the future.

The coconut robbers have become my friends. I caught them one day and told them that I would be happy to share as long as they knocked on my gate and asked my like a civilized human being rather than jumping my fence. We make an event out of it now. They come, very politely, and ask if they can go into the back yard and eat, drink and be merry. I join them and they cut open as many coconuts for me to drink as I can handle. We all walk away with full bellies and as many coconuts as they can carry.

The library is done! We had the inauguration recently and lots of students attended as well as the core group if people who had their hand in the project (from left to right, Iris (Honduran community member who helps with Anne´s projects), Oscar Funez, high school teacher and small business owner, some crazy American girl looking to make a difference, the ex-mayor Rene Lozano, and the infamous Anne Fowler. Thanks to Ames, Iowa Rotary Club for making it happen. The kids are thrilled to have computers with internet, a projector and a ton of books.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Looking Back to Look Ahead

At times it is necessary and therapeutic to literally put it down on a piece of paper. Journaling has never been my release because I find I am not honest enough with myself. What does work for me is telling the people that care for me about my successes, weaknesses, ideas and hopes; it forces me to be honest with them, and in turn with myself. I find myself at a place where I need to talk about what I have done, how I have succeeded, and at times failed, in order to pull myself through my remaining 8 months of service.

A million years ago I set out to a country in Central America called Honduras. Where is that I wondered? What will it be like? What will the people there be like and how will they receive me? Most importantly, what can I bring to the people to make their lives a little better, a little easier? Nearly 19 months later I am a little closer to answering those questions.

The first 3 months or so I observed, as I continue to do, but these first months were dedicated solely to soaking in my new surroundings. I walked to and from my place of work, the municipality, every day. Along the way I began to develop relationships with people; Letti, the lady who walks around town twice a week picking up plastic bottles to recycle, Oscar, the owner of the local grocery store, Eva, the 88 year old lady who loves talking to Gringos, Marvin, the 12 year old boy being raised by his grandparents and Aide, the entrepreneur who sells baleadas and fresh squeezed juice from a cart that she pushes around town. Being a relationship person, this task came very easily to me. In doing so I learned more about Honduras than any book could have ever taught me. Soon came a time when it was rare for me to walk down the street without hearing my name, a true feeling of belonging.

Those relationships allowed me to start my “real work” here, not to downplay my role as a community member, as cultural exchange is practically half of my job here. The project I was selected to partake in was Municipal Development, however, after sitting in the mayor’s office for 5 months observing and having very little luck with someone actually including me in any projects, I began to explore other options for work. Along with all of the locals whom with I had developed relationships, there are a handful of North Americans living here and doing various types of projects for the community. Scott and Susan are two of those people and they run a mission house which is equipped with a classroom. This is where my first, and longest standing project began, English classes. Many Peace Corps volunteers come into this with a strong aversion to this type of project, questioning its sustainability and real value for nationals. At this point, I wasn’t doing much of anything else, and it’s one of the requests my community had, so I dove in. I have been holding English class all day on Saturdays ever since, basic instruction in the morning and intermediate in the afternoons. Are my students getting anything out of it? Absolutely. Is that something the ability to communicate in English? For a handful, yes. As for the others, it is a safe, fun place to go every Saturday and hang out with their friends. I am at peace with this, but it took me a long time to be Ok with the fact that all of my students are not going to be fluent when my time comes to leave. If I have inspired one kid to continue and work hard, or one adult to pursue further classes, it’s valuable and worth my time, hands down. Not to mention the relationships I have built with my students, these days I cannot walk down the street without some kid yelling out, “Bye teacher”.

Aside from my partners at the mayor’s office, I was also assigned with work with Anne, a Canadian woman who spends half of the year in Toronto and half of the year here. The programs she has developed are mostly in the schools and for children. They are presentations regarding health issues, mostly dental care. We take four puppets and perform skits to teach kids about brushing, going to the dentist, how to eat a little better, washing hands, and throwing garbage where it belongs. Along with those skits we hand out toothbrushes, give them a fluoride treatment and check their vision. Last year after visiting about 5 schools I organized a bus to take all of the kids that had major vision problems to an eye clinic about 3 hours away to have them treated. Several of them received glasses and 2 kids received surgery they needed to correct a crossed eye. It’s like the story of the kid on the beach with a million starfish washed up on the shore and he is throwing them back, one by one. An old man stumbles upon him and asks, “Is that really going to make a difference, there are so many?” to which the boy picks up a starfish, throws it into the ocean and replies, “For that one it did.”

At this point I had still not given up on the municipality. I still went, and still go to this day, to see if there’s a fit for me there. A new project came to the municipality which involved a large sum of money coming in from the European Union for a project to protect the border of a river in town, as well as other environmental projects. Again, as before, I went to the municipality every day for 2 months, going to meetings, gaining knowledge on what the projects entailed. One part of the project being touted was to bring some type of garbage collection to my community, something I had been interested in from the start. Every day I was told, don’t worry, we are going to work on this, blah blah blah. A year later nothing has been done and I have been told by more than one person that the money has been “lost”. The fact of the matter is, most places in the states don’t really use volunteers efficiently, so in a developing country this inability is exponential. Between the mismanagement of government offices that is prominent in all municipalities in the country and my undefined role, working for the municipality as originally intended is not exactly working out. Though not all is lost; I have created relationships with the people there and have come to know the role they play in the community. It ends up I am a pretty good liason when it comes to showing community members where they can seek resources for myriad reasons.

Venturing outside of our intended roles is commonplace for Peace Corps volunteers. Rolling with the punches and going with the flow have become my way of life. Being content with affecting one person with the possibility of never even knowing that affect is reality for me; one that I still struggle with, but I’m getting better!.

Looking ahead while my optimism comes and goes, my plan is to continue with my English classes (we are on week 4 of the 3rd 12 week session!), working with Anne (we will be hosting a dental team for the second year who will clean about 300 kids’ teach and provide further care for those most in need) and open the library for the high school which we worked with a rotary club in Ames, Iowa to build. My newest interest is with a group of all volunteer firefighters who are in the process of building a fire station which will also serve as an ambulance service for the community. If anyone happens to know of an organization that might be willing to work with us on this project I would love to contact them. This is really the first project I have felt really encouraged about. Everyone in this group is a volunteer. They are building the station from the ground up on donations they seek. Once the building is established, they will continue to volunteer their time as firefighters and ambulance drivers. In addition, this is my favorite part, they are a group of community volunteers interested in educating the youth on health and environment issues. They have asked to be involved in any of my projects for which I need their help, regardless of my involvement with them. This is so encouraging to me, having volunteered most of my adult life. The concept just doesn’t exist here; it’s more of a “what do I get out of the deal?” attitude. Volunteers helping volunteers, I like the sound of that!

Here´s my intermediate English class. For most of my students this is their 3rd 12 week course! The cheeseball smiling and not taking her quiz like she´s supposed to be doing is Isabel, my best student and dear friend.

These beautiful ladies are all part of a women´s bible study I have been attending on and off since I got here. This was our Christmas luncheon where we had White Elephant gift exchange. I wish I would have gotten the granny panties with pockets!

A few weeks ago I helped another volunteer put on a seminar for kids on the environment. The kids had a ball, as you can see. The guys that helped are a group of volunteer firefighters that I have just stumbled upon and plan on working with them. Read further to find out more about them.

This is Josiah, aka Jojo. He is irrisistable. He is the son of one of Scott and Susans´workers. He was born in the mission house while I was visiting the states in August. Susan jokes that he has kicked my biological clock into overdrive, I don´t attempt to disagree. I kid with his mother that I am going to steal him, she laughs like I´m joking. Really, I am joking... she says with a devilish grin.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And dontcha ya come back no mo no mo no mo

So for a couple of weeks now I have been lulled to sleep every night by the soft hum of honey bees. Rather soothing actually. It was, however, not so soothing when I woke up to 8 of the little buggers in my room and a screen full of them in my bathroom! 6 am or not, I needed to deal with this. A quick phone call to my landlord and a day later we were ready for battle. An English speaking neighbor, Susie, brought some kids over with a stack of newspaper and book of matches ready for business. We were gonna smoke em out! As we gathered kindling from around the yard I thought, oh man, this could go bad. Susie started the fire and the smoke went right up into the roof where the little guys had made a home. Immediately the collective hum of the intruders was fierce, they were being invaded and new it. They started fleeing, little by little. The next phase, Raid, aka, one of my best new found friends here in Honduras. I sprayed and lots more headed for the hills. Well that was that, right? Of course not silly. One of the boys climbed a ladder to the scene of the crime. He proceeded to break the ceramic roofing to get a better look. And there it was....

Now I am no beekeeper, obviously, but these suckers had to have been there for a while to be this far along on a hive. It was so beautiful and intricate, truly a work of art. So now what do we do? It´s not like I was with a professional, I mean this kid was just winging it. And I of course, hav no clue what to do because in my old life I had the Marks of the world to assist me with these types of home invasion issues. So he takes his machete and slices the cones one by one and dumps them into a cardboard box to be burned. Ok, I can live with that. As the day came to a close I was satisfied with our work, until I heard the faint familiar buzz again. I think it may have been even lounder than before. I barely slept imagining the revolt of angry bees swarming my head in the middle of the night. The next day we not only smoked them out, but literally we smoked me out of my house. They had three huge piles of dry leaves and things going and I have never seen more bees come out of a roof in my life. Ok, so I had never seen bees come out of a roof, but I was a ton! It´s going to take a mighty bottle of Frebreeze to regain some normal scent to my belongings. So I called Susie and told her that I had good news and I had bad news. The good news was, they bees are all gone, I am certain of it. And the bad news she asked? They have already renested in the neighbors tree! Oh well she said, not our problem anymore!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Back to Normal, Almost.

I have emerged from the coming home blues. All it took was another vacation of course! Let me explain. I already had to take the almost 9 hour bus ride into the capital city for midservice medical checkups, so I figured why not take advatange? First I stayed with my very first host family, Patty, Javier and Alejandra in Tegucigalpa. They just had a new baby, Javier. While I only stayed with them a short time, any time with them is held dear in my heart. Plus I had to drop off some gear to represent! Then, because riding in a bus for 9 hours in one day wasn`t quite enough, I hopped on another one the next day for another nearly 7 hour ride to Morolica, Choluteca to visit my friend Kristin. Now when I say ride, I mean dirt, winding, bumpy roads with the most amazing mountainous views I have every seen. Every corner you turn your breath is taken away again unexpectedly. What a rich country, so lush and natural with little golden nuggets like Morolica tucked away at the foothills. Morolica was severely damaged by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and they have rebuilt the small town at a higher elevation just a few kilometers away from the old site. We did get to tour Old Morolica which was amazing to see because of stories I have heard about the devestation. The other great thing about visiting Kristin was experiencing her Peace Corps experience. Most people don`t realize how distinct our experiences are from each other. My house is very private, very enclosed on a street where hardly anyone passes by. Kristin had neighboors stopping by, bringing food, offering to take us places. Everyone that passed by the house greeted her. Also, she doesn`t always have water and the electricity goes out all of the time. These are things I don`t have to deal with, but she does with a smile on her face.
Apparently there are two things I just can`t get enough of, busses and the beach. We hopped on a couple more busses for a couple more hours and arrived in the department of Valley, Honduras. Then we hopped on a boat and headed to the island of Amapala, which is right on the borders of Nicaragua and El Salvador. We rented a big house right on the beach and hung out, swam, played games, created music and cooked. It was so relaxing and such a boost to be with good friends.

Next it was back to Tegucigalpa for midservice medical checkups, which weren`t particularly fun, but what is fun is having our Municipal Development group all together in one place. Then it was back home where I found an old friend. Anne is back and ready to work my butt off, so I am super pumped about that. We have big plans for the school health program, the dental team and some other neat projects. We are meeting soon to plan the next six months.

As for the municipality I am still working on a project which is protecting the borders of a nearby river through reforestation and education. Part of that project is creating a garbage collection service for my town, a much needed service. We hope to start on that portion of the project soon. Of course my English classes are still going strong, well, at least stronger than any other work I have going on. Some Saturdays, like yesterday when only 3 of my 12 adults showed up, are disappointing, but at least I got to those 3! I brought back some "snow" from the states to show the kids in my morning class. It was just a package of some sort of crystals that you add water to and it puffs into real looking, real feeling snow. We did a whole chapter on weather and at the end that was a treat for them. You should have seen their faces. Never have they seen snow, weird for this Northeast Ohioan to imagine. The high school library that I am working on with Oscar 1.0 is coming together nicely. We just ordered a ton of books and reference guides. This was made possible by the Ames, Iowa Rotary Club.

Politically things are calm as candidates campaign for the upcoming election. The President who was removed by the military and Congress has not been put back into office as an agreement between himself and the newly appointed President was never reached. Schools have been closed more than a month early and, because of the disruptions with teachers striking, the government has decided that every child will pass on to the next grade regardless of their performance. My hope is that a new President will be elected in November, take office in January and the strikes and closed schools will be less frequent. Everything else aside, this is my main concern. Why would a government want their people to remain uneducated? Jarring.

For those of you who read my last blog, here is the little visitor that surprised me upon my return home from the states.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's Good to be Home

And... where might that be?

Disclaimer: Today is probably not the best of days for me to be writing, but I decided to forge on and allow a brief glimpse into that other side of life for a Peace Corps volunteer that is oh so hard to explain, albeit equally as important as the laughing, getting suntanned, swinging in hammocks all day side. After an amazing two week trip back home to Ohio I find myself in a haze. They tell you the "what the heck am I doing here" moments will come and go, but having them at a time when I could still smell my mom's perfume on my shirt, still see my dad's great big smile chuckling at me, still feel the soft skin of my best friend's son on my shoulder, and still hear my niece and nephew laughing at nothing I have to wonder if I can shake this one.

Think positive, think positive. Ok, here it goes, but I can pretty much guarantee this is going to take a turn into that indescribable land of clutter brain that is the Peace Corps life. Please bear with me. My trip home, ahh, my trip home. From the moment I left my little town until the moment I landed back 3 pounds heavier from the all the Reese's Cups I smuggled everything was bliss. My best friend with her beautiful one year old son who I had never met along with my mother and brothers met me at the airport and there it is was, the life I had left behind. I found it just as I had left it (other than the few extra human beings who had arrived into the world since I left). Everything just picked up where I had left it. I kid you not, just about every single person I spent time with said "It feels like you never left". I'm not sure what I was expecting. The horror stories of volunteers going home and feeling abandoned and like a freakish outsider danced in the back of my head during my first year. What if we don't have anything to talk about anymore? What if I feel differently about something that was commonplace for me before? What if the people I love the most don't feel like they know who I am anymore? Nonsense I say, nonsense. The only problem I had adjusting to my old life was not having enough time, and even that I managed like any red blooded American, with lots of Starbucks. My voice literally went out on me from spreading my stories and experiences. This was the only hint that I had gone anywhere. I never tired of all of the open arms and hearts from people at my Dad's doctors' offices, to all of the wonderful people at Heinen's and my dear friends from Greater Cleveland Volunteers who follow my life and have genuine concern and interest. I never really knew life was that good until I stepped away from it for a minute and came back. With that, I now must go back from where I came, for another year.

My heart is not heavy from this, on the contrary, I feel more light and free here than anywhere in the world. Dun, dun, dunnnnn. Enter the huge "but" you all knew was coming. With the pleasant northeast breeze of Ohio nipping my back I landed, as did the drops of sweat to the ground from my brow. Seriously, I am melting. So I call the hotel (and by hotel I mean a room in someone's house) to pick me up. No he says, we don't pick up from the airport. Fine, I will just have a taxi take me from here, I say. Wait he says, are you a Peace Corps volunteer? Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am. He says, I will come get you for $10, those guys will rip you off big time. Now to the average optimist this seems like a great turn out, right? Well it is, for Honduras. In my own country I would have friends to come get me, or a car to drive freely, or know the public transportation system well enough to get myself wherever I needed to go, at my own control. In the states $10 is lunch at Panera, here it is about 4% of my monthly income. Ahh, this relativity thing is really a mind boggler.

At least I had a not so warm welcoming from an unexpected friend when I returned, at my very own house in fact. My friend Oscar and I entered my house and I went straight to the kitchen to put some food away. Jessica, come here my friend said. Hang on, I am doing something I reply. No, Jessica, seriously, come here he says. Writhing in the door jam was a creamy yellow slithering snake which had apparently followed our steps into my house and when the door shut an ear piercing crunch led Oscar's eyes to the door jam, where he introduced me to our newest houseguest. In typical girl fashion first I shrieked, then I jumped up and down on each foot like I was playing a terrifying game of hopscotch, then I ran. My very manly Honduran friend grabbed a large rock, which normally serves as a door stop and, in a very "me protect Jane" fashion started taking stabs at the cold blooded creature's head. Just as he landed a good blast a scorpion ran across my path as if to say "Ha ha, you can never get us all!". Another shriek and hoppity skip later both invaders were slain. Funny now? Sure. Just oh so far away from another life.

The pressure had been building, in my chest that is. Literally as soon as I landed in Honduras, I wrote it off as the immense climate change. That and the weight of my own expectations suffocating me. Oh, and the anxiety from the thought of not having another Iced Carmel Macciato for another year. Worse and worse it got. Before I knew it I was hacking up colors of the rainbow one should never see in phlem. This brings me to a cultural breakthrough as well as an upper resipratory infection diagnosis. It is very customary here to hauk up whatever goop that ails you from within and spit. Out a car window, out your front door, on the floor of the municipality, wherever nature calls. Eeww! Disgusting! How could anyone? Well, they can and should, I now feel their pain. I don't know if it's the dust, the burning garbage or the exhaust that leaves you hacking in the busses path, but it is real and necessary. If there were a group on Facebook I would be a fan, I Hauk Loogies! Who am I kidding, I am sure there is one. Oh, and by the way, I had to Google both "hauk" and "loogies" for the correct spelling. That brought up some interesting results.

Yes, these experiences give me great fodder for my new found vehicle of expression, but under the humor there is confusion. How is it that this experience feels like the most wonderful love I have ever experienced while all the while stitches of the most intense loneliness on the planet are sewn throughout? I am struggling. Maybe the reason I have come here was simply to give me the courage to utter those three little words. I could never muster the strength before now.