Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Made it to My Site...Unbelievable.

Well, Readers, it appears that my training group beat all the odds and swore in as volunteers last week before heading to our respective homes for the next two years. The day of swearing in, I met my counterpart, an energetic and outspoken woman who somewhat intimidated me with her expectations of who I would be and what we would do together. In the afternoon, after hours of orientation information and speeches, we were bused to the American Embassy were we had a ceremony and cake. Afterwards, we went to Valle de Angeles to celebrate at a pupusa restaurant. Pupusas are kind of like quesadillas, except that the tortillas are much thicker and connected on all sides. To make them, you form something like a bird’s nest out of ground corn, and then in the middle, you put cheese, beans, meat, or whatever you want, I’s your pupusa. Once it’s filled, you smooth over the top with the corn meal and cook/fry it. Anyway, we ate those, and at the late hour of 9, we headed to our houses for a final night of packing and goodbyes, and if lucky, sleep.

I finished packing at 10:30 or so, which was fortunate because my neighborhood was the first bus stop, which meant that I had to get up at 3:30 or so, hug my host mom goodbye, and drag my ridiculous amount of luggage out into the road. The bus was late, so we didn’t load up until 4:30, but enough with these petty details. Eventually, we picked up everyone and trundled off to Tegucigalpa to meet with our counterparts and follow them home. After a few hours of waiting in a bus station, my counterpart and I headed off for my site. About five hours of mild motion sickness later, we arrived at the intersection of the main road and the dirt road that leads to my village. We waited another hour or so for a ride to bring us the rest of the way. While we mostly sat on stones by the side of the road, I was briefly evacuated while a herd of cattle, guided by a group of cowboys complete with hats, boots, and pistols rode past us. Eventually, my counterpart’s friend arrived with a truck, and we finished the journey to my new house at about 4 pm.

My family here consists of host parents, two sisters, one sister-in-law, two brothers, a 2 year-old granddaughter, and 3 year-old grandson. The house is comfortable, and I live in a brand new little room in the back with a view of a pasture in a valley. It’s a dairy farm, which is awesome cause I likes my milk and cheese. Also, I kind of have solar power. I have a light in my room, but unfortunately, I’m unable to charge any of my gadgets. So I’m still figuring that out, and in the meantime I’ve used 41% of my computer battery typing this post and downloading photos. Good one. Anyway, I have spent the majority of my time in the house being really awkward and eating, but I did have a good conversation with my family last night, so maybe we’re on the road to less awkwardness. My host mom has gotten over her conviction that I don’t speak Spanish or like Honduran food, so that’s progress. For the first couple of months in our communities, Volunteers are supposed to just get to know the community, do some information gathering, familiarize ourselves with local organizations, and not dive into projects. I’ve visited some neighbors, which has been nice because I feel like I’m doing something, but weird because we’ve mostly just sat on porches, consumed sugar, and not had a lot to say. My counterpart is less intimidating these days. She’s really motivated and I think she’ll be great to work with.

The village is beautiful. There is a ridge behind my house that you can climb to reach a view across the mountains and valleys of La Botija and into Nicaragua. The actual village is very spread out and doesn’t really have a center, so I have yet to get a full understanding of its boundaries. Houses are connected more often by foot paths than by the dirt road that winds through the town on its way to other places. This makes for scenic walks and difficult navigation. Yesterday, I climbed up to a place called Miravalle, or basically an overlook. On a sunny day, it’s apparently possible to see Nicaragua, the Pacific Ocean, and El Salvador, but unfortunately, a cloud was blowing in and the view filled with mist. We visited a friend who lives on another dairy farm at the top of the mountain and drank organic coffee and ate fresh oranges, bananas and fruit from a guanajiquil tree.
While I waited for the bus the other day, my host mother found a bunch of small holes in the ground. She said they were from an animal that comes out and bites the cattle, and I asked if it was like a rat, and she said yes. I decided the holes were probably made by a mole or similar class of rodent, but then my host brother put some pine needles down the hole and twirled them around. He got excited and said you could see its legs, so I crouched down and looked, and then a tarantula the size of my hand lunged out. Also, I’m pretty sure that the spiders in my room in Field-Based Training weren’t tarantulas, even though my family said they were. This one was browner and fatter, and more tarantula-like. We continued to wait for the bus, and my host relatives discovered several more holes and teased out three or four more before the bus arrived.

Yesterday, I climbed to the overlook behind my house again because the sky was clearer. I could see a whole new volcano behind the mountains I had seen before. I stayed for a long time taking photos and being pushed around by the wind, and as I walked home, the sun set behind me.

1 comment:

  1. the spiders could have been wolf spiders, which look really similar to tarantulas, only less "beefy." glad to hear you are enjoying your new home :)