Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Amapala and HIV

Last week, or was it two weeks ago now, the business group took a trip to the south (pacific) coast. The goal was to study different aspects of tourism. We first stopped at a restaurant on the highway that had created a zoo. The zoo had over 250 animals and was free! It was completely funded by the profits of the restaurant and the owners just really liked animals so they didn’t feel the need to charge anyone. They had ostriches and pumas and some crazy monkeys and snakes. The owners also made rosquillas. They are these kind of skinny donut shaped pastries that you usually dip in coffee, and are absolutely disgusting, but people here buy them by the bucketfuls.

From the zoo we headed to Playa Guayaba Dorada. Guayaba is a popular fruit here and dorado means golden. I’d heard from my family that it was a playa fea (ugly or bad), but it seemed to be nice when we got there, except for the bordering forest which was covered in trash that the beach owners just throw in there to get rid of it. I don’t know if I mentioned before but there is very little trash collection here. Most people burn their trash in their backyard, which usually means that the air is smoky and smells like horrible burning plastic. It’s enough to choke you some days. It’s hard to tell which is worse, throwing it into a stream to pollute the water that people drink, or releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere that people breath – a toss up really.

Anyway, back to the beach. We had brought tents to camp. I, being the most experienced cook of the bunch, was in charge of the food. I managed to make some very tasty guacamole and tuna salad using the dullest knives and can opener in my life. We call it cooking Honduran style – nothing ever goes as you expect it too. But nevertheless my guac drew praises. We played some cheesy team building activities, charades, dizzy bats etc and in the process were covered with sand, sweat and ant bites. Did I mention it was about 90 degrees with 90% humidity – stifling. We stayed up late singing songs by the camp fire, a few of the guys here brought guitars and are really good. No one wanted to go to bed because it was so hot. A lot of people ended up just sleeping straight on the beach which was only moderately cooler than the tents. I think the average hours of sleep anyone got was about 2.5. The people on the beach also ended up covered in sand fly bites. It was a rough night.

The following day we packed up and took a boat to some islands off the coast. The heat again was stifling and I couldn’t muster up the courage to swim in the salty water for risk of the sun burning me to a crisp. We visited an uninhabited island first then Isla del Tigre which has the famous town of Amapala. Amapala was for a short time the capital of Honduras when the president moved his house there. Now it is just a popular tourist spot for swimming, fishing, hiking and eating seafood. I have to say I didn’t enjoy myself much. The scenery was beautiful and the food was good (shrimp and curil (mussel) ceviche – just means the seafood is raw mixed with lemon/lime juice which essentially cooks/kills the bacteria), but the weather was ridiculously miserable for me. A volunteer will be placed in Amapala too, so people were already chattering about who it would be. Overall, it was a fun sort of team building trip. It was just overnight so it made the week go by fast. I’d recommend this spot for a visit – it’s the nicest spot on the south coast, if you can stand the heat, which some people can.

So this past week then, both Nolan and I, and well, everyone in every group had to give charlas (basically mini lectures) about HIV/AIDS to high school kids. High schools are called colegios, and include grades 7-12. HIV/AIDS education is a Peace Corps wide initiative, which means everyone in every country gets trained in it because it’s such a world-wide problem. Here in Honduras, there are 28,000 known cases and 44,000 estimated cases. This doesn’t sound like a lot but the actual population of people living in Honduras is just under 7 million. This makes it about .66%, which again is low, but I think is still the highest in Latin America. Homosexuals and people with HIV/AIDS are shunned here. We’ve heard that it’s less violent in terms of crimes against these groups, that instead people simply ignore them or refuse to interact with them, which is probably just as bad. Although before we came a gay rights activist was murdered, so it’s not completely without violence either.

So we had some health volunteers come to teach us how to give the charla one day, we had an afternoon to prepare, and the next morning we gave a four hour lecture about HIV/AIDS, in Spanish of course, in groups of three or four of us. It was a little frightening at first, but turned out to be a good experience. The charla is very cut and dry and canned for us to use. It also had a lot of activities or dinamicas to get the kids engaged. It also involved teaching them to use condoms, by practicing with some platanos. The kids were mostly well behaved, but also disengaged at times. We may never have to give the charla again, or we may do it as often as we like. It’s good information to know and it was great practice speaking Spanish in front of groups which will be a lot of what we have to do the next two years. Nolan and I think it would be fun to give the charla together to groups, you can’t really do it by yourself, it’s too long.

Anyway, this weekend I’m in El Paraiso with Nolan again for one night, the last time we’ll see each other before the end of FBT. We have just two weeks left of FBT, then one week back at our other house north of Teguz, then off to our sites. We find out in 1.5 weeks where we’ll be going! This time has really flown by!

We’ve heard some people say they can’t figure out how to comment. If you are just reading this on the main blog page (the page you first get to when you go to our link), at the bottom of this entry there is a spot that says “posted at this time, 0 comments.” You can click on “0 comments” it’s a link, and that will take you to the comment part. Also, if you click on the title of the blog entry or the date, it will take you to the page for just that blog entry which has a comment box below the post.

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