Kathryn's Peace Corps Adventure

The opinions expressed and experiences described in this blog are mine personally. Any musings that you read here are not affiliated or endorsed by Peace Corps or U.S. government. Or Starbucks. And I'm not making any money from any of this, so don't send a lawsuit my way. Got it?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

ready for the good times!

Well FBT is just about here (assuming we don´t get locked down by Hurricane Beta). I leave tomorrow morning for Siguat. My new family will be a mom and dad, 2 sisters, and 2 grandkids. I´m excited. Other news? I´ve advanced a level in Spanish! Hooray! I will spend this afternoon packing up my stuff and cleaning my room in Santa Lucia. I am sad to leave my family. But I´ll only be gone for 26 days, which isn´t much. In the 6 weeks that I´ve been here, I have learned a lot about my family and Honduras in general. That has been great.

For FBT, we´re (YD) going to give talks (from this point forward will be called charlas) in the biggest high school in Siguat for the first week, then for the next two weeks, we´ll break up into 3 teams of 5 and work in a small community planning activities for 2 weeks. It´s pretty intense and really scary too. Of course among all of that, I´ll still have 4-6 hours of Spanish Mon-Fri.

Can´t forget about that!

clique-y, clique-y!

Remember high school and the groups that would naturally form cliques? That´s kind of what training is like. But maybe the cliques are a little more advanced. There is the obvious split: YD vs. Muni-D. This is natural because we spend most afternoons together and have gotten to know more about each other. Now there are your more common groups: the jocks (or runners) and the smokers.

And then there are the complicated ones:
-the ones who live in the same neighborhood
-the ones that have bonded over not wanting to gain weight
-the ones that have bonded over lack of veggies and wanting veggies
-the ones who have cell phones
-the ones who have met the Canadian girl in Santa Lucia (really!)
-the ones who have bonded over alcohol
-the ones that have the same Spanish class together
-the ones that live on the right side of Santa Lucia, few and far (me)

Crazy huh?
Someone should do a sociology study on these groups. Sometimes training is like high school-full of gossip, we have homework, we bring our lunches with us, classes we love and hate, instructors that we love and hate, and competition. It´s a crazy time but I love it!

7 egg salad (mayo included!)...

...is what I was served for lunch on Wednesday. Sorry family, I love what you´ve been serving me but I couldn´t eat this, let alone smell it. Lucky for me there was someone who loved egg salad, so I was saved.

Before that disasterous lunch, I had my second technical interview with my project manager. The reason I didn´t bring up the first one was because it was a disaster. I was nervous and just vaccinated and was about to burst into tears. This one was MUCH better. Basically it wasd a "tell me your strengths" and "what do you picture yourself doing for PC"?

Want to know?
Well, I´m pretty certain that I will be teaching because of my backgroud and I am hoping that I will get a baseball team. Honduras has a baseball league with 12 teams right now and this year they want to go professional (not exactly MLB, but close enough). I would like to live in a larger town and anything that is cooler than San Lorenzo. Not that any of these needs will be met, but at least they´re out there.

Only 4 1/2 weeks until site announcements!

ice, ice, baby

It is freakin´chilly in Santa Lucia! The weather right now is really fall like weather-which in any other circumstance I would love-but I left all my cute fall jackets in Chicago thinking (foolishly) that it would be steaming hot in Honduras. At night, I wear long socks, pj pants, 2 shirts and a fleece and sleep with 3 blankets. It´s not ice cold-it´s just that the cold air comes in through the doors and windows and it can hit you at 2 a.m.!
This week has been more intense than others. Like I mentioned, I had my Spanish interview, I had my tech interview with my project manager, I had to write a Halloween story for Spanish, and I had to give a 20 min. talk in Spanish for YD! We were also expected to dress up for Halloween, which isn´t even a Honduran custom!
Don´t get me wrong I´m as happy as a clam but it can get crazy with all the stuff that we have to do.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

kristofer bayona is so hot like the White Sox

Not that I´m a White Sox fan in anyway. I stay true to my team. I will be a Cubs fan through thick and thin. I just wanted you to know that I´m thinking of you. This one´s for you Baby B. I miss you more that you think.

when you´ve had it up to here

This past week has been extremely trying on my patience. I am frustrated in my Spanish class. Peace Corps approach to language is world renowned-speaking Spanish from day one-which I have loved, but I doubt that they were ready for my classmate-let´s call them Sam. Sam is an extremely nice person, not phony and doesn´t care what other people think for the most part-but as a learner? Sam needs to write every little thing down and needs clarification on every rule. For example the verb to wash "lavar" can sometimes be reflexive "lavarse" (I wash my hands. Me lavo las manos.) Sam will ask, "What times? Can I have a list of when it is and when it isn´t? How about in the past tense? Is it the same?" That is the way that Sam learns and I am not asking them to change that. It is trying though.

Sam and I got into an arguement on Wednesday. I won´t describe the whole incident here, but Sam yelled at me in class and I got mad and ghetto Kathryn was about to make an appearance. Sam accused me of not being adaptive to their learning style so I have been EXTRA careful the rest of the week to not be out of line. But after clss on Friday, I was mad. Class always moves slow because Sam asks so many questions and needs clarification. Sam always walks up to the board to write and wants to draw on the board or stand up and give demonstrations. So I began to think, "My classmate and I have been adapting to Sam´s learning style, why can´t Sam adapt to ours?" I have an oral proficiency interview this Tuesday and I hope I can do well enough or Sam does well enough that we will not be in the same class next cycle.

Like I said, Sam is a nice person. I just can´t be in the same class.

Sorry for the vent.

the almighty Lempira

I went to the mall with my family yesterday. We went into this department store called Mendel´s to look around. My mom said, "We´ll just look at the prices because they´re so expensive". It´s hard not to think like a person from the States sometimes. A denim jacket costs 225 lempiras about $12!!! Jeans cost 175 lps. about $9.50. I would love to find jeans in the US for $9.50! But when I think 175 lps., well, that´s a lot. I make about $80 a month. Last week, I spent almost $25 on postcards and stamps alone. It´s hard to think in Lempiras bceause I always think in dollars too. But my salary is in lempiras, not dollars. So I think, is a box of cereal worth 68 lempiras? (yes) Or 55 on a jar of peanut butter? (not if it gets stolen) How about 95 on a bottle of mouthwash? When I start my volunteer service in December, I´ll make about $190 a month.
Watch me blow it on Golden Grahams and soy milk!

I´m not the AIDS educator, I just have the condoms

Last week we had a cross project feria which meant #1: we learned a lot about other projects like health, protected areas management, and municipal development. #2: it was a day of nothing-no Spanish class, no responsibility. For YD we did a bunch of icebreakers in between our lectures to help keep people interested-one of the icebreakers was playing "telephone"-where one person starts a message, then it is whispered along until the end to see if the message had changed. The starting message for my group was "I thought they´d teach AIDS education as a course" and ended up as the title of my blog. Crazy isn´t it how things can change. The rest of the day was filled with lectures on harassement and a lecture on Honduras politics from someone who is running for Congress in Francisco Morazan. Was it interesting? I don´t know-maybe if she didn´t promote her party the whole 2 hours, I could have learned something and paid more attention. It was a little frustrating.

To help me get through it, I just kept thinking, "I´m not the AIDS educator, I just have the condoms".

¿de veras?

The phrase "¿de veras?" or really? has been the most useful phrase I learned from my family. As I´ve mentioned before, I understand Spanish but I can not speak it very well. So sometimes people will say something interesting to me and all I used to say was "si", which isn´t that interesting. Now I can bust out the phrase "¿de veras?" and it´s all good. For example:

My mom was telling me a story about a former trainee that stayed with them in 1998 and ended up marrying a Honduran woman. My mom and his mom (who met the wife for the first time at the wedding) cried for hours after the wedding because they both hated her-even though my mom spoke no English and his mom no Spanish.
¿de veras?
Boom! She continues the story with excitement and animation. If I were to say "¿si?", it could have appeared as though I wasn´t interested.

It´s a powerful little phrase. In other news, time is moving fast here. Have I been gone for 5 weeks? I feel like I arrived yesterday. My days are packed and just fly by. I know that I´ve mentioned that 4 hours of Spanish a day is a lot, but it´s not as much time as it may seem anymore. Next Sunday I am moving to Siguatepeque for 4 weeks for Field Based Training (FBT). FBT is the tough part of training-when we go out into the communities and schools and give charlas (talks) about self-esteem, pride, HIV, etc. Scary! One of the interesting things about PC is how fast you know people. In the states, 5 weeks is not really that long but 5 weeks here and we´ve learned a lot abou each other. It´s really fascinating.

"¿de veras?"

Ha! Works like a charm!

pila love

Using a pila is one of the more interesting things in Honduras. One major difference between a pila and a washing machine (besides the hand washing, obviously) is that it is much faster for me. A load of laundry takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes in the US but a load of laundry here takes about 10 minutes. With that being said, let me list the downfalls:
-I need to wash my clothes 3-4 times a week so I don´t have a huge pile waiting for me come Saturday.
-If it´s rainy, it can take 3 days to dry, so I definitely have to make the decision of whether I should wash or not.
-It´s hard work! I give credit to those who do it all the time because in the end, this is only temporary for me.
-I have yet to master the art of creating good suds when washing my clothes which leads me to believe that some soap may never come out of my clothes.
-I love to wear jeans. I hate washing them. The process is pure evil.

However, washing clothes is super fast so it makes up for the disadvantages.

Well, except for the jeans.

dirty south, can ya really feel me?

My trip south was good. I got to see what a YD volunteer can do. The volunteer I visited, Karla, teaches teachers to instruct English, gives HIV/AIDS charlas, feeds orphans on Saturdays, and runs youth groups. San Lorenzo is HOT. Hot like I want to walk around in a bathing suit all day hot. But it was nice. Especially because I got to meet other volunteers. I met Karla´s roommate, Caroline, who is a water/sanitation volunteer and Aida, who is a health volunteer. Aida was visiting for the weekend and lives an hour away.
The best part? Aida lives on an island and invited me to visit her Saturday afternoon! So I went to the island, Isla del Tigre, on the Gulf of Fonseca. To get there you take a 15 minute ride in a speedboat--very cool. The island is small. It is about 26 km around. The town, Amapala, is a colonial town. It used to be a port town until the 70s when a corrupt mayor sold the indursty to San Lorenzo-so Amapala lost it´s top business overnight. The warehouses/factories are still there, but they´re abandoned. Aida took me on a tour of the town-she knows everyone-and then we went to a restaurant that had a deck right on the gulf. Naturally, their specialty was seafood-so I had fresh fish with banana strips and salad. It was soooo good. The island was really beautiful-in the center there is a huge hill, which once was an active volcano but is now covered in trees. From the island you can clearly see the volcanoes of El Salvador, which back in the day erupted and created the black sand that now covers Amapla´s beaches.
The rest of the weekend I was in San Lorenzo and I met a PCV who served in Fiji 35 years ago! He opened up a restaurant with his wife in Honduras. It was really nice-full of hammocks and a deck along the Gulf. It was nice to be away, but it´s nice to be back too.

Friday, October 14, 2005

San Lorenzo, Valle

I am in San Lorenzo visiting another volunteer this weekend and it is much warmer than Santa Lucia. Fortunately, they have a super fast internet system here so I am able to blog. I had to take the bus by myself to get down here, which was an adventure and the bus I was on had a flat tire so that was interesting. San Lorenzo is much larger than Santa Lucia and I can see Nicaragua and El Salvador from the coast here. I would write more, but my time here is almost up.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

unsolved mystery

Next weekend, I am going on a volunteer visit to San Lorenzo, Valle which is in the super south of Honduras. (and it is supposed to be HOT.) During this visit we get to see what a YD volunteer's life is like, what they do, how they live, etc. We were also highly suggested by our trainers to pick up a small gift as a token of thanks. In Teguc, I purchased a small jar of peanut butter (I also got a small bag of almond m-n-ms for myself), which totaled 65 lps., about 1 1/2 days of salary!

We trainees place our things in this hallway which is supposed to be "secure". When I went to pick up my things to go home my pb and m-n-ms were missing! I asked around but no one has seen them. I am making an announcement at our community meeting on Monday.

Really though, who takes a jar of peanut butter?
And I was really looking forward to those almond m-n-ms.

...is that I can't blog properly!

I hit publish by mistake so excuse the previous blank blog!

Remember how I wrote that as trainees we were forbidden from going to Teguc until we went as a group? That "group" meant something different to me. I though that we-all 34 of us-would go as a group to Teguc. Nope. Instead, the trainers give us directions to Teguc from Santa Lucia and we are supposed to find our Spanish instructor at the designated place in Teguc. So we got our instructions, paid the 6.70 lps, and boarded the bus to Teguc. That was the easy part...

Before I continue with my story, let me say that PC LOVES secrects. They love to wait to nominate you and then invite you to a program. They love to wait until the end of training to tell you where you're going to live for the next 2 years and your official job-and this Teguc trip? No different. What makes me laugh is that they have spent all this time saying "Teguc is dangerous. You can't go there. Don't go alone at night, be sure you know where you're going at all times" But then they give us directions and say, "You get off the bus at the hospital, then take a taxi to the meeting place, but you have to bargain with a taxi driver for a fair price (in your Intermediate Spanish!) and we'll see you there"

...so we got off the bus and looked for a taxi and "regatear" (bargain). In Teguc, the direct taxis have a flat rate for wherever you go-it's not by the minute. So I go up to the cabbie and
He says, "Adonde va?"
I say, "Banco central de Teguc"..."Cuanto vale?"
40 lps. That's a pretty good deal. We were told to expect 50-60 lps. But I ask anyway, "Cuanto menos?" (Cheaper?)
Then he says, "Listen. Gas prices are out of control and I am already giving you a good deal"
Cheque. We get in and the car is BEAT UP. The windshield is full of cracks and the "windows" were packing tape but the driver was super nice. It took awhile to get to the bank because it was really bad traffic. So we sat in traffic for awhile and my only complaint about Teguc was the smog and traffic-but it's just like Manila, Mexico City, or San Salvador, or as I've heard anyway. We get to the bank, meet w/ our teacher, then we get in another cab to go to Mercado Jacaleapa and we bargain the price down from 50 to 45 lps. This cab was in good condition. The driver cut in front of a line of buses by driving down the sidewalk. It was like an urban game of chicken! Every major market here is also a bus station and it was pretty interesting. I had a list of fruits and veggies that I needed to purchase for my mom and she told me not to spend for than x amount for each item. We also asked several bus drivers their routes, how much it cost and their schedules-suprisingly all the bus drivers were helpful and didn't seemed to be annoyed considering we didn't buy a ticket. From there we went to a supermarket and I was overwhelmed. Peanut butter, yogurt, soy milk, olive oil, wheat bread, etc. We must have spent 30 minutes in there wandering the aisles like a bunch of cheles saying, "Oooh. MnMs. Snickers. Oreos!" But the novelty wore off fast due to the prices. 106 lps for a small bag of Snickers, 48 lp for a 4 oz. bottle of olive oil, 25 lp. for a loaf of wheat bread-so we left, got in cab #3 for the PC office with the #1 feature of the day-DSL. Oh, high speed internet, how I've missed you. I was finally able to send 2 emails (success!). But it was short lived because we had to leave to go to Santa Lucia. What did this trip show me? Don't get me wrong, I love Santa Lucia. It is a beautiful town and peaceful. But in the end, I love the fast paced life, action, and hustle. I'm a city girl.

the ironic thing...

gettin' dirty

On Tuesday, we got to work on this really cool project. All the people in the YD group went over to the house of a Santa Lucian family and we built a trail and two stools for them in a few hours. How did this happen? Well the family asked for help from us and our trainers decided it would be a great project for us. We used only local resources-tires that the family had, cement, rocks, and 20 oz. pop bottles filled with sand. The house was at the top of a hill and she wanted a trail to the toop of the hill. So we dug into the hill, placed tires (that served as stairs) into the holes, filled the tires with rocks and dirt (for stability) and made a trail of 9 stairs. The stools: we placed a rod into the ground and used the pop bottles as a base and covevered them with concrete and made layers that way. The bottoms of the pop bottles would stick out at the edge, so that the family could paint them as decorations-like flowers, I guess. It was had work but also really interesting to watch it come together. My hands were covered in dirt, then sand, then conrete and my pants were filthy but it feel great to accomplish something. We were told that we could do activities like these two with the youth in our communities as a waste management lesson. We are also going to learn how to make wallets/purses out of chip bags (imagine 25 cent Doritos bags), which is a really popular trend in Honduras right now. I was reading the paper last Sunday and there was a huge article on it and it looked really interesting. Maybe when I'm back in Chicago, you'll see me picking through the trash to find chip bags to make purses!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

where is the love?

Want to send me stuff so I can prove to the others in my class that I'm loved?

I would love:
magazines (kids mags in Spanish to share with my sister, Cosmo, Time, US Weekly, People en espanol (and English!), Rolling Stone, etc.)
M-n-Ms or Snickers-they're here but so expensive (put in a Ziploc bag in case of melting)
Some blank envelopes, not a lot, but I forgot to bring some

But letters and postcards are #1! I miss home! Please write!

Kathryn Fahey
Voluntaria del Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado Postal 3158
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
America Central

Teguc, I hardly knew you...

I am in an interesting situation. I am about 30 min. from Teguc, which for me is the land of "milk and honey". Why? Well they have soy milk, cookie dough, Cheerios, Wheaties, grocery stores, clothing stores, etc. Not that I need any of those things, although I would like to buy a long sleeve shirt for this cool weather, but I feel so separated from modern society right now. Why?

1. We don't have a TV in our house. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but others in my class have mentioned watching CNN, MTV, Desparate Housewives, and about 200 other channels that exist. I just want some news!

2. I have only learned today that Teguc's paper El Heraldo is sold at pulperias here. I can read Spanish alright, but any news is good news for me. I feel so separated from the US!

3. We as trainees are FORBIDDEN from going into Teguc as a group. If our host families invite us, we allowed to go with them, but we cannot go by ourselves until later this month. (Due to it being dangerous/overwhelming for a group of cheles.) Everything is in Teguc. It's so close, yet so far away at the same time.

So I have only experienced Teguc for a short minute, in and out just like that.

Honduran food + phrases

Here's what you've been waiting for-FOOD!

Well, for those of you that know me, you know that I HATE eggs but they are so common here that no matter what, they have been served to me. I have already mentioned to my host mom that I can't eat eggs often, but eggs have already appeared on my plate three times. So I ate them. Lucky for me, they were scrambled and I mixed them with my beans and tortillas so I wouldn't have to taste them too much. Just don't expect me to be an egg eater when I return to the US!

So the staples in the Honduran diet are tortillas, rice, beans, and bananas. I have all of these at some point during the day. Breakfast is usually cereal (hooray!) and coffee or toasted bread with refried beans. Lunch is tortillas, rice, and some kind of meat of veggie. Dinner is plaintains, beans and tortillas. Tortillas here are made by hand and taste much better than the packaged ones I had in Chicago. I know a time will come when I will be sick of beans and tortillas, but that times hasn't arrived.

Honduran specialties:

baleada: a flour tortilla with refried beans and cheese. can be filled with chismol, eggs, or chicken.

chismol: pico de gallo

enchilada: a tostada topped with refried beans, potatoes and cheese

nacatamal: a large tamale filled with beans, veggies, and chicken steamed in banana leaves

platano de desayuno: a fried plantain cut down the middle, filled with refried beans and topped with sour cream

These are the only ones that I've had so far.

cheque leque-cool
vaya pues-okay
macanudo-well (How was your morning? macanudo.)
toda fresa/todo azul-good/cool/straight (response to how are you?)
que pepsi?-what's up? (que tal?)

Cheque leque?

what training is like right now

I have tested into an Intermediate Spanish class. Our classes are broken up into very small groups. There are only 2 other people in my class, which means that I am FORCED to talk. It's a good thing given that I understand Spanish very well because I speak like a 6 year old. This past week we have talked about school, where we're from, what we're wearing, our families (in the U.S. and Santa Lucia), our projects, customs/greetings in Honduras, and past times. Right now, we're reviewing the preterite and imperfect tenses (both past tense), which I have always had problems with, but now I'm feeling better about. It can be frustrating sometimes because we have 4 hours of Spanish everyday and while I can understand, it is impossible for me to form full conversations.

As for technical training, I have had a lot of reading to do. We get tons of manuals and articles to read. As a youth development volunteer (YD), we focus on 3 aspects of YD, working with youth, working with the community, and teacher training. Starting next year in Honduras, all grammar schools will be required to teach English as a subject but many of the current teachers do not know how to teach English, so some PCVs will be assigned to teach English methodolgy to teachers here in Honduras. Otherwise, we are supposed to work in communities with 4-6 different counterparts, such as the Ministry of Education, teachers, or NGOs like Save the Childen or the Reiken foundation. We could help communities set up after school programs, start sports clubs, or hold charlas (small talks) on health, music, exercise, nutrition, HIV prevention, etc. The possibilities right now seem endless. I won't have a clear idea of what I am doing until I get my site assignment in 9 weeks.

In between all of that we get vaccinated. In the past 10 days, I have been vaccinated for measels, rabies, hepatitis A and B, polio, and typhoid. Six. And I have six to go, plus some blood work. I think the vaccines may be making me delirious because I was looking forward to my most recent ones (plus they get me out of Spanish class).

Speaking of health, almost 1/4 of my training class has been to the hospital in Teguc. Most of them have been due to stomach problems and adjusting to the food here. Luckily, I haven't been sick yet. Must be all that Mexican food I ate in Chicago. Let's hope I don't get sick.

As for email, I noticed that some of you have written me. Please be patient with me! The internet cafe is slow and I can't always open up my emails, but I know that you've sent something. So thanks and I will try to write!