Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vamos a La Esperanza!

That’s right, our new site for the next two years will be the town of La Esperanza, which means ‘hope’ (how poetic, right?) I’m sure you all know exactly where that is….just kidding! It’s about 4 hours outside of Teguz to the west by bus in the department of Intibucá. We’ll try to post a new map, or you can just Google it probably. Being a married couple, as we’ve mentioned before, requires a little more coordination on the part of our project directors because they have to find work for both of us in the same site. The good part about this for us is that they often find our sites sooner because there are fewer options, and if you’re lucky, they start giving you subtle hints in your site interviews. We pretty much knew from midway through FBT that it would likely be a choice between Siguatepeque and La Esperanza based on the type of site we had requested. While Nicki was really hoping for Sigua because it’s much larger (80,000) and near an amazing lake, we discovered about a week before that it was almost 99% certain we would be in La Esperanza. Although a little disappointed at first, the more we read about La Esperanza, the more we think we will love it.

Here’s what we know so far. First, it’s a little smaller than what we wanted, about 20,000 people, but still a good size for Honduras and large enough to have all everything we need (about as large as El Paraíso was). It is the COLDEST city in Honduras!! This was perhaps the biggest issue, especially for Nicki who, as we all know has issues with the heat. We made it clear that the weather was very important to us and luckily our project directors listened! It can get down to freezing in December and the average temp from Oct to Dec is 50 degrees! It actually has a semblance of different seasons. Could you even imagine that places like that exist in Honduras? Well they do! It’s up in the mountains, the highest city in Honduras, which is why it can get so cold. The only potential issue is that people don’t have heat here so we may have to invest in a space heater. The secondary benefit of this weather is the food. The area around La Esperanza can grow more northern-type crops such as strawberries (fresa), apples (manzana), pears (pera), and potatoes. In addition, it’s a regional hub and thoroughfare for the transportation of food from the west to east, so a lot of fresh food passes through there. La Esperanza is also supposed to have the best fresh produce market in all of Honduras! It has a potato festival and a wine and mushroom festival. They make a special type of potato wine apparently. There are three supermarkets which will probably have all the necessities we need and we are only about an hour from Siguatepeque after all if we need anything else. Sigua supposedly has a store that sells cheddar cheese. Overall, we’ve heard it’s somewhat of a foodie paradise, which is more than perfect for us! We can’t wait to try growing things ourselves and cooking a lot! La Esperanza is also in the area of the country that has a large Lenca population (known as the Lenca Trail), one of the indigenous groups here, so it will be great to experience some of their more native culture as well. They make some really superb and unique pottery. Sadly, Intibucá is one of the poorest departments in Honduras. But that also means there will be a lot of work for us.
In terms of our work, we also know a lot more. Nicki will be primarily working with two caja rurales, which are like small savings and loan institutions that do microfinance work in order to help women start and develop small businesses. She’ll be helping with everything from organizational structure and management to teaching accounting and business planning. It will probably involve some regular travel into the more rural areas, which is where caja rurales normally operate. She also has another project which is helping a cooperative of potato farmers investigate options for processing their lower quality potatoes into potato products to sell. Additionally, La Esperanza used to have a land management/planning office that is set to reopen in the next 6 to 8 months, and if and when it does open, there may be opportunities for her to give technical assistance in GIS. Urban planning doesn’t really exist here in the same way that it does in the U.S. so that will be interesting.

Nolan will be working with the municipalidad (local govt/municipality) of Intibucá, which is the other half of La Esperanza basically. (Think St. Paul/Minneapolis). Intibucá is the poorer, less developed half of the city. They are just starting their own engineering office, and since they are poorer, need more help getting water projects going in the aldeas (surrounding small communities that are part of the municipalidad). He will be going out and doing surveys of the topography (maybe once a month or so) and then designing systems in Excel to be constructed. He also has some secondary projects too, a lot of education on water issues related to health and recycling etc. His job is still a lot more concrete and certain. These are basically our primary jobs, and we are encouraged to do all kinds of other work, teaching English, computers, recycling, working with schools, coaching sports etc, so we will hopefully be busy.

We have a much more ideal set up for our new living arrangements for the next two months. We are living with a host family again, but we have to pay them ‘rent’ from the housing allowance we are given. We also then have access to their kitchen so we have the option of cooking for ourselves or paying them from our living allowance to cook for us. We imagine it will be a mix of both. We actually have somewhat of a separate apartment connected to the main house by a yard/patio, so we have our own room, living room, bathroom, and small kitchen, which will be amazing. We’re still planning on looking for our own place after our two mandatory months with the host family are up.

The rainy season officially started here May 1 and goes until December. It’s cooled down a little and is supposed to rain every day, although it hasn’t seemed that rainy to us. Nicki was sick with a bacterial infection last weekend that sent her to the hospital, but those things are common for newcomers whose estomagos aren’t adjusted to Honduran bacteria. She’s recovered though. Nolan is healthy as a horse, as usual.

So FBT is officially over and we’re back in our original site, Zarabanda, for a week with our original host family. We have a week of language interviews and meetings to get all the admin stuff done before swearing in on Friday the 15th. It’s bittersweet. We were so ready to be done with FBT and cannot wait to be in our new site in just one week! At the same time, we had to say goodbye to our host families that we’ve gotten quite attached to and everyone else is splitting up and a lot of our good friends that we’ve made ended up on the complete opposite side of the country in the department of Olancho. It was crazy yesterday to meet back up with everyone from the other projects that we haven’t seen in months. It was a little awkward because you feel like you have less in common, but otherwise it was just nice to chat with other people and hear about their experiences. We are mostly so happy to be back together again, although in reality, the last 7 weeks went by extremely fast. We’ve been here for nearly 3 months, in some ways it seems like forever, in some ways it seems like it’s been a week. Oh, also, we did superlatives in each of our groups this past week. Nicki won ‘Most Likely to Get Pregnant’ (espero que no) and ‘Most Likely to Catch Dengue.’ Nolan won ‘Most Creamy’ (which means upper class or someone who likes comforts/luxury like AC).

Due to problems with the post office in La Esperanza, our address will be the same. The only difference will be that we will be PCV instead of PCT. Just let us know when you send something as we will have to make a trip to Tegus to pick it up.


  1. Congrats on the news of where you'll be! Sounds like you'll finally get some semblance of a life back together ; ) It's been a real treat to follow your travels and experiences! Stay safe..looking forward to hearing of more adventures!

    Deb Ochs

  2. I am so happy to hear about your assignments and your new city of residence. It is especially comforting to know that you two are back together! I am also happy that you both will be back in the kitchen cooking your amazing recipes! Hopefully this will keep Nicki out of hospital in the future....Take care of each other, Love you both Pat Sitko (Alias Mom/Mother-In Law)