Sunday, June 5, 2011

Random and Interesting Tales from La Esperanza

World Map - Nolan and I started our World Map project finally last week. The World Map is a Peace Corps wide initiative where PCV’s help a community group, i.e. a library, school, whatever, draw and paint a huge world map (usually about 7 by 14 feet) on an available wall or floor. In addition to being a great project to get students engaged and active in artistic endeavors, it also helps teach geography and world awareness and is luckily pretty permanent. I’m a huge geography fan so I’ve been dying to do this project since I heard about it. We were able to get some money donated from a class of students at Nolan’s mom’s school (Thanks Pam!) to buy the materials which finally arrived after two months thanks to either the Honduran mail service or the Peace Corps mail sorters. It turns out $50 is all it takes to create the map from start to finish. So we started last Saturday with the base coat of blue for the oceans and I was a little skeptical that the 8th grade classes we’re working with at Maestro en Casa (same place we teach chemistry and math) would know what they were doing. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

The “kids” the first day ended up being two guys in their early 20’s and a woman who was at least 30, possibly older (it’s really hard to tell here). They jumped right in and looked like pro painters with excellent technique, except one thing. We’re using oil-based paint because we’re painting outside which you often thin with mineral spirits a little (usually to make it go into a spray painter easier), but people here seem to think it’s best to use equal parts paint and thinner! We made the mistake of letting the kids mix the paint themselves and we ended up with a water-like liquid that was dripping down the wall faster than they could roll it. We thought this was a problem, but no one else really did. Not to mention it was windy that day so the wind was blowing specs of the water-paint all over the ground, wall, door and kids! We got the first coat on okay, but decided we’re taking over the mixing for the next coat. (The second coat with much less thinner went on much better) Whether it’s for cost-effectiveness or just lack of understanding of paint viscosity, we realized that this technique of over-thinning is ubiquitous here, such as in our own house where the paint washes off with a wet rag! They probably were able to use just one gallon of paint to do our whole house!

Day 1: Rolling the first coat

Day 1: You can see the paint getting all over the ground

Our makeshift rain cover

Day 2: Second coat, we devised a better floor covering

Piropos – Piropos are a pretty common thing here, guys yelling “I love you, baby” and the like. I mostly find it pretty hilarious and try not to laugh outright in people’s faces when they say things to me. But I’ve had some really funny not-quite-piropo occurrences too. A few months ago, Nolan and I were walking in the market and some guy yelled at us “What’s up with Wikileaks?!” This was funny for two reasons 1) Does this guy really know anything about Wikileaks? and 2) Why would you yell that at someone randomly? A conversation starter? I also get a lot of people yelling at me random English – not even inappropriate things, just a ‘how are you?” or “where are you going?” but always from men, as if they think it’s a piropo or something. But a few weeks ago I actually had a woman in the market yell at me “HOW ARE YOU!?” which in their accent is like “howr jew?” I was shocked that a woman had done it for one, secondly, do people really think that is an appropriate way to communicate? Sometimes I just don’t get it.

Cookies - I enjoy cooking and often bake things for the women at work. I made some peanut butter cookies a few weeks ago and took them in. I asked my counterpart the next day what she thought. They were so good, she said, it was like they were made in a factory! Quite a compliment, tastes just like they were churned out by underpaid impoverished maquiladora workers using nothing but processed ingredients and preservatives, yum! I guess that’s a compliment here since things made in people’s home ovens are pretty sub-par. My cookies were so amazing that one member women’s group of our organization has now requested that I teach them new recipes for their bakery so this coming Tuesday I’m doing a half day cooking demonstration of peanut butter cookies, zucchini bread and Devil’s food cake. I guess their rock hard corn based coffee dunkers are just not drawing too many new customers these days.

Religion - The women’s cooperative I primarily work with UMMIL (now on Facebook, check it out!) has monthly meetings, a general assembly they call it, to talk about important issues etc. It’s become a trend in the past few months that our president invites a few women from this religious sisterhood to come share testimonies of their discovery of Jesus in their lives as the opening to our meeting. Now, proselytizing is a pretty common act here. Aside from random people who strike up a conversation then try to convert you (this happened to me once, a guy sitting next to me on the bus conveniently), we also have people who come aboard our cross country buses to speak the word to you when you have no place to hide, bus preachers. It’s like your Sunday gospel brought straight to you. I guess you could say you get used to being bombarded with this stuff. I don’t object to faith or religion or people sharing their beliefs. I actually think it’s pretty great that people can use it to turn their life around. The woman this week at our women’s group meeting shared how she had been a drug dealer and gone to prison for 8 years before she found Jesus – more power to her for having the strength to clean her life up and share her story. The part of the whole thing that made me a little uncomfortable was when she invited everyone else to pray with her then proceed to come around and touch everyone (including me), not inappropriately, just on the shoulder and head. I have no problem listening, but please don’t touch me.

Nighttime Noises – So in addition to the cats and birds we have chasing each other on our tin roof making all kinds of scratching sounds, we have three other famous nighttime serenades. The first is what I like to call our barking chain, you know like from 101 Dalmations where Pongo puts out the message about his missing puppies. First one dog starts, then all the others in a 10 block radius chime in, howling, yelping and barking for up to 10 minutes at least once nightly. Our neighbors two houses down have geese who join in with some squawking and we get an occasional cat meow that sounds to me like a dying child. It’s like living in a zoo sometimes. Then we have the trucks and motos. Our street is something of a major thoroughfare here in town (hah!) so we get all kinds of rackety delivery trucks, pickups and buses at all hours of the night traversing past our bedroom window. We have some motorcyclists who like to speed around risking their lives on these potholed roads who I swear have never heard of a muffler. Then recently we started getting someone (I’m pretty sure it’s the same person every day) who needs to run their truck down a hill to get it to start and what do we have but a perfect hill. So it’s a squeaking truck that we hear coming down the hill like a bicycle that all the sudden throws itself into gear and slams on the gas to speed away – astonishingly noisy. And last but not least our newest visitor, a bolo (drunk) who has taken to sleeping under our balcony on the sidewalk and last night was snoring so loudly that first I thought it was Nolan next to me, which I quickly discovered it wasn’t. I was appalled at this bolo’s decibel level and couldn’t get to sleep for the life of me. Such is our nighttime serenade.

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