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?

Monday, January 30, 2006

capitalist swine...one child at a time

The last volunteer applied for a grant and didn't use all of the money which meant it was left to me to use for the community. My PM said, "Chica, you should use it to buy algunos juegos". I ended up buying Monopoly and Sorry. Teaching my host brothers how to play Monopoly was a riot. They were really into the idea of getting all the colors and building hotel empires across the board. To stay true to the home state, I tried my best to buy Illinois Avenue everytime I landed on it (Yes, Michael, I have you to thank for that.) There were definitely times when I had problems with my Spanish, such as, "No, you have to buy 4 houses before you can convert to a hotel" and "Even though you passed go, you do not get $200 when you are being sent to jail" to the common "Please don't put that house in your mouth because it is guaranteed that you will choke on it". But for the most part, it was a really good game and they got to practice math and strategy. (Yeah, I had to add that to justify why I haven't gone out into the community and done actual work.) The best question though was, "Will this game ever end?"...............

In other news, I got some LHR love and received my first package from the girlies back in the U.S. Thank you, Michelle and Val. Your package is awesome. The Pop Rocks were the best. Sharing that candy with my brothers was great. Watching their faces as they put the candy into their mouths was priceless. It's fun sharing American candy with them when they don't have as many options here (or they do, but it is expensive).

The only other news I have right now is that I am getting out of San Ramon for a week! I get a free trip to Teguc (or TGU) to attend a meeting. On the way home, I hope to visit Crystal and Simon and watch the Superbowl with them. Yes, I am a Peace Corps Volunteer and yes, I haven't done much in terms of work, and yes, I am looking very forward to this escape and to be ANONYMOUS!!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

cheque leque ocotepeque

Yesterday my project manager came to visit my site with her new assistant, Ronaldo, who was actually the trainer for youth development before (who's absolutely fabulous). I was so nervous about the visit because I haven't done much in terms of work. But everything turned out fine. We first met with the health center where they seem to have big plans for me and then my PM got on their case about moving to the new center so I could move out of the cell and into my house. Supposedly, they are moving out tomorrow, which I doubt highly and believe that in Honduran time, tomorrow means about 2 weeks from now...let's hope that I'm wrong though. After the health center, my PM wanted to talk to the patronato (like representative) so we went up the mountain to search for him in his acres of farm. It was an adventure because locals kept telling us, you're almost there, just five more minutes, but five more minutes turned out to be a 30 minute hike up a muddy road. She talked to the patronato and he also said that my house would be ready and offered us a jalón back down the mountain.

Of course, he can't drive. He told us that one of the local kids would drive us down. My PM did not support that idea and insisted that Ronaldo drive the car down. Ronaldo drove and it was so slippery from all the mud. My PM was freaking out because she doesn't jalón (and why would she? PC provided her with a sweet Land Rover). It was funny to see her so nervous. When we finally got to the bottom, Ronaldo tells us that he found out the brakes weren't functioning properly, but didn't know that until he started driving. My PM just said, "Kathryn, mire, you're site is bonito, but I don't think I will jalón ever again." (She's big on spanglish.) After that, we looked for some other people, who we couldn't find (thank goodness it's not just me), then left San Ramón to visit my friend Connie in San Marcos, Ocotepeque.

When we got to San Marcos, we met Connie in front of a really good pupusa (chesse and bean filled tortillas) restaurant. Lucky for Connie and me, our PM paid for everything. After lunch, we went to play baseball with her team (San Ramón's arch rivals), which was organized chaos. We were able to play one inning, which took about 45 minutes. I also realized that I can't catch a baseball with a glove (I am going to run my team straight into the ground!). Later, our PM treated us to some ice cream (sooooo good) and dropped me off at Connie's for the night where we watched Family Guy and Sex and the City until 1 am. This morning, they picked me up and brought me back to San Ramón. Watching them leave was really sad. I can't really explain it but I felt like I had just gotten to site for the first time again.

But it was a good visit. My PM was really positive and realized that I have to deal with small town life, which means that sometimes I won't have much work to do.

The thing that made me realize that I'd been in Honduras for quite awhile? Being in a car. It was so strange not stopping along the way to Santa Rosa and getting to the main highway in about 30 minutes. And the roomyness (is this even a word?) of the backseat............it was excellent.

Monday, January 23, 2006

no espeak espanish my love

This dancing queen went to a San Ramon party on Saturday. I was thinking about not going because of how crazy New Year's was but my sister, Rosa, invited me and I really couldn't say no.

We arrived "late" (8 pm) to the party, which was held at my future neighbor's house (assuming the health center ever moves out of my house!), and it was packed. There were a ton of guys waiting outside of the house for more girls to come so that they would have someone to dance with (great) and the majority of those guys were really drunk. We waited outside for awhile and then guess who comes up to me? Ever! "Let's dance." "No." "Why not?" This time I just walked away from him. Hooray! Problem solved! He didn't bother me the rest of the night although I did hear him tell a friend, "No, that bitch doesn't like to dance." (No I just don't want to dance with you lush.)

We were still outside and another guy (a Juanes look-a-like wannabe), Jimmy, comes up to me and asks me to dance. My brother Luis says, "She doesn't speak Spanish". (Earlier in the day Luis and I were playing cards and he was saying something to me and I just told him I didn't speak Spanish as a joke and it has become a running joke between us ever since.)

Jimmy says, "Are you sure you don't speak Spanish? Do you understand anything I'm saying to you right now?" And even though I understood, I just looked at him confused and shrugged my shoulders. It was a fun game for awhile but it blew up in my face when a mess of people got involved later when we eventually entered the party. This one older guy would not leave me alone. He kept repeating the same things over and over again and spoke to me really slowly. It was pretty annoying because I understood everything even though he thought that I didn't. I guess that's what I deserve. It was really strange though acting like someone who didn't understand the language and even stranger to see how other acted around me. They kept talking about me in front of me but thinking that I didn't understand, never censored themselves. It made me think, would I behave the same way in a similar situation?
Anyway, due to the language "barrier", I got to turn down his invitation to dance and that was good. Eventually, Luis found me a non-drunk to dance with who was really nice and didn't bother me about not having a boyfriend.

Highlights/Shockers of the night?
-Rosa coming up to me and saying, "The drunks are gone now. We can dance in peace."
-A 6 year old drunk from guaro (given to him by his father) and everyone thought it was the cutest thing. It just made me sad.
-A girl slapping Ever in the face on the dance floor (justice is served jerkface!)
-the party breaking up at 11 pm because some idiot shot his gun into the ceiling and a bunch of tiles fell onto the floor (which turned out to be a bigger deal to the town than the gun??)
-leaving the party, we saw a passed out drunk on the ground with people surrounding him shining a flashlight in his face, not to try to help him, but to find out who he was so he could be the subject of gossip the next morning (true to San Ramon form, he passed out with bottle in hand)

How fun it is to be a stranger in a strange land.

Friday, January 20, 2006

the c-word

During our first three months, our trainers used the word confianza, trust, so often that it began to lose meaning. It was used so often that it was put on our class t-shirt as an inside joke.
Our trainers always said, "It's important to gain confianza with your commmunity/host family/counterparts/etc". But it doesn't really mean much when they say it to you until you experience it, much like most things in life.

This week has been good to me. My host brothers told me that they have confianza (exact word) with me. So much so that I am now:

1. Allowed to play Nintendo with them. (yes!)
2. Supposed to let them look through all my stuff when they come into my room.
3. Subject to their jokes about my Spanish (but it's all in fun).
4. Victim to their practical jokes. (spiders left in my shoes, a fake tarantula left on my bed that had me scream like a maniac)
5. Locked in my room on a regular basis (the door locks from the outside)

But it's all good. This week has actually flown by and I really felt for the first time that I could learn to love small town life. I taught my brothers how to play Uno, which entertains them for hours...plus they get crazy competitive. They also asked me to teach them some English which made me realize that maybe I can't teach English because the way they pronounced some words was so cute that I couldn't help but laugh. I wasn't laughing at them and I hope that they don't think that. For example,

Nose (Nariz). My brother Brayan pronounced it as "no sé" as in "I don't know" and another brother, Luis, would say "Well, I don't know either", which had me laughing anytime I thought about it later.

Later, they asked me how to say gun, machine gun, molotov cocktail, pistol, and rocket launcher. Where could they have learned those words????

Thank you very much Jean Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone!

Monday, January 16, 2006

I´m useless, but not for long

I´ve inherited a baseball team from the previous volunteer which I was pretty exicted about when I first got to site. I have been in site for about 5 weeks and I have yet to MEET this baseball team. There is a national championship for all the teams the first week of March but I don't know if my team will participate. The reason I haven't met this team is beacause I have yet to meet the director of the high school here who is in charge of their equipment and the playing field.

It's one of my biggest frustrations right now (even bigger than jerky guys) because I have this big project at the high school and the director doesn't live here and hasn't made the attempt to contact me. The previous volunteer helped build a library for the high school but it's not entirely finished. The inside needs to be painted and on one of the walls the school wants a world map painted on it. There are also 5 computers that need to be set up so that the IT teacher can give computer classes. The library is really nice but it can't be used until these last things are done. On the volunteer request form that the director filled out, he asked that I create reading clubs and help teachers use the library in their classes. I am supposed to assign a book to a Spanish class and we're supposed to analyze it and write reports on it.

Now I have spent the last 5 weeks doing very little-just going to the health center to ask about my house mostly-and I could have spent some of that time working in the library or with my baseball team. Or I could have spent the time looking through some of the books to see what stories would be good to use. (Plus I need more time to read in Spanish obviously.)

School begins on Feb. 15th and I'm beginning to get nervous. My project manager is coming on the 25th of this month to see what I've done so far (um, nothing). The thing that is frustrating is that the director wants me to help with all these projects but where is he? What kind of person will he be to work with once he gets here if he's not here now?

And once Feb. 15th hits, I know that I will be working like crazy. It would be nice to know what I'm exactly supposed to be doing.

As for my baseball team in San Ramon (affectionately named the Cubs)...looks like another season out of the playoffs...but what's one more year really? The real Cubs have been waiting much longer. (Sigh. Maybe this will be their year.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

birthday girl

My very pregnant mother woke my dad up at 415am and said, "It's time". My dad, who never likes to be late, rushed her out of bed into his 1974 Ford Mustang. He sped down Clark Street (we lived on Clark and Pensacola at the time), passing 1060 W. Addison, a sign that I will forever be a Cubs fan, on the way to Illinois Masonic Hospital. He gets pulled over by Chicago's finest (it's only been 13 years since the Democratic National Convention, so respect is low for the police, think The Blues Brothers) and the cop says,

"Where do you think you're going? To deliver a baby?"

My dad leans back and the cop sees my mom and me (well, me in "pod form") and guides us to the hospital. Being the procrastinator that I am, I decide to chill in the womb until 1259 pm.

Almost 25 years to date, I am catching a jalon out of site to go to Gracias and the truck gets pulled over by the police. There are three people in the front, including the driver, and I am the only one in the flat bed. Everyone is questioned and bags are searched by 3 policemen with rifles slung lazily over their shoulders. They determine us clean and send us on our way.

If you ever wondered why I am one to challege the rules or find ways around them, perhaps it's because I've been hassled by "the man" before I was even breathing my own oxygen!

More importantly, thanks to everyone who has already sent me birthday emails. It's weird to celebrate a birthday in a foreign country when no one knows it's your birthday!

Saturday, January 07, 2006


My very good friend from Gracias, Emily, has made the decision to ET (early terminate) and it makes me so sad. She is having a party tonight so I have to make this short. All my buses have already left my site so I have to see if I can get a jalon out of here. Wish me luck!

And Em, if you read this, I am going to miss you like crazy!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"ever"-lasting love?

New Year's could have been so much better. I could have:
-Gone to La Ceiba and celebrated with other PCVs on the beach
-Gone to Santa Lucia and celebrated with my original host family
-Gone to Siguatepeque and celebrated with my host family there

But I decided to stay in San Ramon and try to get to know more people. What ended up happening was more problems for me. It started out well with several people from the 24th stopping by earlier in the day asking me if I was going to be at the party and that I had to dance. It was nice to be remembered.

When the party started however, they only played a few merengue songs and then came the slow stuff, which in Honduras means press your body and close as you can to the girl you're dancing with. No thank you. I went in the kitchen and sat there for awhile until the merengue came back on. When it did, I went back out to dance and then Ever, from the 24th, grabs my hand and pulls me to the floor. Fine, fine, I'm not going to make a scene. We dance to two songs and then I start to head towards the kitchen but he won't let go of my hand. I tell him that I'm thirsty and I don't want to dance right now, thanks anyway. He won't let go. I have to pull out of his grasp and I go into the kitchen already upset.

A few minutes pass and then he comes into the kitchen too (he is drunk DRUNK). He pulls up a chair next to me and doesn't shut up.
In drunken Spanish he says, "I know you from somewhere, right?" (Yeah jerkface, we met on the 24th when you wouldn't leave me alone.)
And then, "Let's dance."
"No thanks. I'm tired."
"You're not tired. How could you be tired?"
"I was here before you got here."
"So?" "So I don't want to dance right now."
"Why not?" (Ugh. My short temper was showing right at this point.)
"I just don't want to dance."
"That's not a reason."
"I said no and that's my reason."
"I want to get to know you better. Do you want to know me better?"
"I am tired right now sorry."
"That's not a reason. Let's dance."

Are you annoyed yet? I'm irritated just typing this and having to relive it. This cycle contiunes once more until he gets up, tries to pull me to the dance floor, I say no, and my little brother sits in his seats and saves the day. Ever can't really stand on his own so he just leaves. I go into my room to hide because I don't want to talk to him anymore.

But at 1145, I want to celebrate the New Year with everyone. Slow music is playing again. Lucky for me, Ever is gone. I get asked to dance by someone that lives in the house where I'm at, though I'm not sure of his exact relation to the family. I say yes because I don't want to appear rude and he's nice. He has talked to me a couple times at dinner. When we dance to the first song, everything is fine. The second song though, he begins to ask me why I won't look at him while we're dancing (um, because it's physically impossible with you wrapped around me like a bear hug). Then he says that I'm really pretty. He asks if I have a boyfriend, I say no. He asks me out. I tell him that's sweet but I can't have a boyfriend right now. The circle of questions begins and ends with, "So, do you accept? Will you go out with me?" He puts his head on my shoulder as we dance, because I am taller (and feel like such a guy at that moment).

Hello? NO! I'm not going to date anyone in San Ramon because everyone will know about it. Plus we live in the same house and that's just crazy to me. Of course, now it's awkward because I said no and now he leaves the room everytime I enter it.

And I missed the New Year because I was explaining why I couldn't have a boyfriend. I spent the rest of the party in my room because I wanted to cry but was too angry with guys to cry.

That was my New Year's. It is full of regrets because if I had just left site, none of this would have happened.