Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hola de nuevo!

Our second week has passed in a flash, so we thought we'd pass along some more info. This week was much different than the first. We've started real spanish classess which last about 4 hours a day in the morning. We get breaks every hour, so it's not as bad as it sounds, but it's tiring nevertheless. They have a great set up though. Our classes have only 5 people in them so it's very personal and the emphasis is on talking/conversing. We do very little writing or grammar or anything like traditional spanish class you might have had. They say the Peace Corps has the best language programs in the world, and this is why, it's all about the talking. We've already seen improvements, but it's still what we struggle with most.

The rest is pretty easy. We had lectures this week on getting cell phones, possible diseases we might contract, how to behave if someone is trying to assault you on a bus, you know the must-know stuff. We also started this week in our proyectos or projects. As you all know, Nolan is a water and sanitation engineer, henceforth wat/san and Nicki is a business advisor. We actually met our team leaders this week and got some materials. Nolan has a 500 page book about how to assess, design and construct water systems. Wat/san-ers will basically be working outside a lot to assess topography to see where systems can be implemented and then figure out how to create the system. They also do a lot of training and classes (charlas) on water safety, hygiene, health, recycling, water conservation etc. The business group is a bit more diverse. People can do anything from help a very small business try to keep track of their accounts, or help a business create a business plan, to teaching adults and kids how to use the internet or teaching motivational speaking or cooking. Nicki will probably be doing work with GIS (Geographic info systems) which is what she has been doing the last few years. Apparently people trained in GIS are few and far between so she will probably have some opportunities to work with the wat/san group and a group of current volunteers who are putting together a GIS training tool (she is in very high demand and is now known in the group as "the GIS person"). For those of you who know about or are interested in GIS, it's apparently getting popular to use here in Honduras. Many sites have GPS units and the GIS software but don't know how to use it. There is also not a giant database of geographic info to use like there is in the US. But the information, like boundaries, municipal services, land uses and socio-economic data is in high demand. It's been fun to learn a little more about what we will actually be doing. They try to integrate everything really well so in our spanish classes we are trying to use vocab words from our proyectos and safety training as well.

We've been talking to our madre this week about Hondurans in general. She has some unique opinions. First of all, she works in Tegus but lives all the way out here in the countryside, which she prefers because there is no traffic or noise or pollution. The city is very dangerous and although some nice parts have running treated water, there are still plenty of poor parts where people have nothing. She told us she rides the bus to work each day (takes 1.5 hrs to get into Tegus) and sees people living under bridges and bathing in water downstream from toxic dumping sites. But she maintains that the Hondurans are a very strong people. When someone gets malaria or dengue, the doctors barely pay attention to these people in the hospital, they just get over the sickness. Women give birth in their homes amid animals and without running water, but the children are healthy and happy. No one died in Honduras from the swine flu. The people here persist against all odds.

The big issue of this week was that we didn't have any water! Here, most pueblas (small towns) or aldeas (communities), don't exactly have running water. Some houses do, but most rely on their pila (remember the large concrete storage tank thing). The water is controlled by local water boards that sort of dole it out (we're still not really sure yet about how this works). Each community has someone who "turns on the water" to different houses on different days of the week. Some houses get water once a week, some every day, it just depends on how far out you are and what water is available. We are supposed to get water once a week, on Sundays. On these days, you simply leave the faucet/tap open that goes to your pila and at some miraculous time, water starts to flow and you let it run to fill up the pila. Well on Sunday, our water didn't come. Nor did it come on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Our madre kept trying to call the people in control, but no one was answering. Luckily for us, we live near relatives who had enough so we could just go and get a few bucketfuls for what we needed (small bucket baths, cleaning dishes etc). We finally got our water on Thursday! What a relief. It really makes you appreciate the water you take for granted every day when using your toilet or showering. What if you didn't know when your water would come again?

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