Adios…

Well friends, if you didn’t know already, my time here in Honduras is unfortunately being cut short. A couple of weeks ago (the day of my buddy Dave’s wedding) while I was back home in the States, I received an email titled “Please Read Immediately.” With all the recent incidents, mainly a fellow volunteer and friend being shot in the leg, I knew it probably wouldn’t be good news. Our Country Director, Emily, explained that we were going to be put on Administrative Hold. This means that on January 16 I’ll be coming back to the US for a period of at least 30 days while they evaluate the security situation in the country and decide whether to continue the program. If Peace Corps decides to continue in Honduras, it will be much smaller and my site could be excluded from the program. Honestly, the prospects don’t look good and I expect and am preparing for the likelihood that we won’t be returning. I could reapply to another country and program, however, it will take at least three months to get placed (probably much longer) and I would have to start my two years all over again. I love what I do and the experience I’ve had, but I know I could not start this process all over again and be a Peace Corps volunteer for the majority of my twenties. So it’s with great sadness that I’m turning a page and looking to start up my life again in the States.

Right now I’m back in my town, Pespire, trying to enjoy the hot weather and keep myself busy until next Thursday when I leave for Tegucigalpa. There, all of us volunteers will attend a conference where Peace Corps will lay out all of our options. Arriving in town yesterday and walking into my little house, a flood of emotions overwhelmed me. It just feels like my home. I am really going to miss all of the people I’ve befriended in Pespire and other volunteers who have become very good friends. I spent last night talking to my neighbor Gustavo who has really looked out for me. I talked to him about how most of us don’t really want to be leaving and he surprised me by saying he thought that Peace Corps is making the right decision. Today as I talked to people in the town and work partners, they echoed similar sentiments and were all sad to Peace Corps, which has been in the country since 1963 and provided a lot of assistance, leaving the country. Hearing this makes me proud and confirms that not all of our work was pointless in the end. Gustavo has already planned a despidida or going away party this Saturday and I’m sure it’ll be emotional to say goodbye.

So where does this leave me? Well, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that question. This scenario was never in my plans and everything has been fast forwarded by a year. Soon, I plan on applying for jobs in Joplin or Northwest Arkansas and am hoping to find something where I can use my economics and business degree, maybe even some of the Spanish I’ve picked up. However, I’ll be open to going wherever if a good opportunity arises. The prospect of not having work for an extended period of time is pretty frightening. The silver lining in all of this is that I’ll be around my family and friends, which I’m pumped about. It was great to reconnect with people over the break and I’m really looking forward to continuing that. In all of this I’m praying for perspective. I’m really fortunate when it comes down to it. I have the luxury of getting on a plane and leaving. Most Hondurans don’t have the opportunity to escape the violence and poverty. I need and appreciate your thoughts and prayers, but it’s the Hondurans who are really desperate.

There it is. Later, after a little time and distance, I plan on writing about what I’ve learned through this whole experience. I want to thank everyone who has supported me while I’ve been down here. Without your emails, packages, facebook messages, and blog comments; this would have much tougher. See everyone soon!

Thanksgiving and Pig Roast

First let me start off by saying that I’m a terrible photographer. Not only do I take some pretty bad pictures (my finger always seems to be in front of the lense), but  I just don’t take pictures. There are several reasons for this. First, I always feel that when I’m taking pictures I’m missing something. Having to worry about how the picture turns out is something that removes me from fully experiencing or enjoying what I’m doing. Second, here in Honduras I try to blend in as much as a 6’3″  gringo possibly can. Nothing eliminates that quite like standing in the middle of the street taking pictures. I say all of this to explain why  I forgot to bring my camera to document my Thanksgiving and pig roast adventure. However, thanks to the internet contributions of Mark Zuckerberg, I was able to steal some pictures of the two events from volunteers who are top of things. I figured I keep this post light on words and let the pictures do the talking.

Thanksgiving in La Paz

The tall girl in the white dress is not an orphan

Thursday I was fortunate to participate in serving a dinner at an orphanage in what has become an annual tradition Peace Corps tradition in La Paz. Glenn did an amazing job this year , not only with organizing everything but producing amazing Martha Stewart esque pies like these

That's a real photo

Props go out to all the volunteers who spent a lot of time cooking up some delicious food. The turkey was amazing, the sides just as good, and the desserts probably made me a diabetic. My contribution ended in a disaster, so much so I don’t want to talk about here. Let’s just say it was so bad I ended up tossing the container I brought it in, it was that rancid. It was a lot of fun playing with all the kids and, needless to say, they were bouncing off the walls. They devoured the turkey, but were weary of all the side items. I’m sure if I were a Honduran kid and saw something foreign like stuffing or sweet potatoes, I’d be reluctant too.

The nun in charge of the orphanage was amazing. She has to be Mother Teresa reincarnated. The whole time kids were hanging off her, vying for her attention and yet she never tired and always had a smile on her face. She left her convent about  ten years ago to start this orphanage and all of her work is devoted to this children. Definitely a very humbling experience, next time I complain about Honduras I’ll just go ahead and punch myself in the face.

Pudding!!!

Pig Roast 

The next day myself along with Brett, Tiffany, Jessica, and Cruz headed up to chilly climes of Yamaranguila for an epic (oh I mean epic) pig roast. Seriously, every time I’m in Jacob and Lauren’s site a little tear runs down my face as the weather (especially compared to the inferno that is Pespire) is absolutely incredible. This time of year the temperature is in the 60s during the day and down to the low 50s maybe even high 40s at night. So jealous. As soon as we got into town, we headed with Jacob to the butchers shop to pick up the pigs, that’s right, two pigs. One was a 50 pounder and the other one 40. After almost losing our hearing from the elderly butcher shouting at us, we loaded the pigs in a wheelbarrow and brought them back to the house.

Then we started my favorite part of the process which was the cutting of the vertebrae down the middle so that the pigs could be placed flat on the grill. Like a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jacob held a machete and hammered it down the middle while we held down the swine. It got a little bloody, so much so it splattered on the wall a little.

No words

This is my, "Yep, this is really happening" face

After we got ‘em cut and cleaned up some blood, brains, and teeth that fell out; Ryan forsake his Jewish heritage and rubbed down a split hoofed animal. He’ll have to do a mitzvah or something for this

Once we finished with the two little pigs, one named Snowball the other Wilbur, we set to work on finishing the structure used to cook the pig. As the water table is high in that area, Jacob decided to forgo a pit and, like a boss, got some concrete blocks to build an above ground pit to slow roast the pig.

Slater, Tiffany, and I helping build

Getting the fire going the next day

Completed structure

We also built a double side grate that allowed us to flip the pigs during the roasting. Again, Jacob pulled off a marvelous feat of engineering, this should be on Modern Marvels on something

One half of the grate

The Marlboro man ties down the top

After the flip, putting the grate back on

After five hours or so, it was finally ready to be devoured. As we pulled it off everyone gathered around and like vultures started picking off the meat (you know who you are Ryan and Tiffany). Let me say this, I’ve eaten a lot of pork in my life, but nothing compares to the meat that came off this pigs. The tenderloin, pork loin, and cheeks were incredibly juicy and succulent. The ribs and skin were also amazing. I had one of the eye balls which was about how I expected an eyeball to taste, a little chalky. Once we fended off the wolves, Jacob and Brett got down to carving it up and we pulled pork for some sandwiches. I could go on and on describing it, but just take my word for it, it was awesome

Gathering around, licking our chops

Pulling dat pork!

They knew what was up

That's how good it was...

That's how good it was...

It looked a lot better in person...

You can't eat pig without a mustache

So that was the pig roast adventure. Massive thanks go out to Jacob and Lauren who hosted us and did all the dirty work. Also, digital fistpound to Brett for his inspiration and knowledge of  roasting pigs. This upcoming weekend I’m heading to Yuscaran to play some polo on donkeys. I’ll explain later.

Also, less than two weeks from now, December 17, I’ll be in Gringolandia! Again, if any of you loyal blog readers are anywhere in the lower 48 (I’ll even say Alaska), I better see you . I’m counting down the days and can’t wait to see everyone!

Hasta pronto

The times they are a changing…or, have changed

Typing this on a scorching September morning with Celine Dion blasting from an adjoining office. Could life be better?

So remember that post I wrote an eternity ago about my work? How I work with FAO, an organization working on food security, and trek around the campo building chicken coups, planting corn, and giving charlas on cajas rurales? Well, as I have learned in my short time here, just when you think you have everything lined up and perfect, it blows up in your face. As a fellow volunteer Carrie says, “Honduras always wins, it always wins.”

Let me fill you in. I put in two months of diligent work with my counterparts, gaining their trust and confidence. As I talked about in my last post, I worked with a bunch of twenty-year old, college educated guys and gals who were a lot of fun to be around. After FAO shut down the Pespire office (another long story) and moved all the operations to a town 15 minutes away, my counterparts and I pretty much roamed all over the Pespire area. Everyday (10 days working, 4 off) Bayron, my main counterpart, would pick me up and we would either work out in the campo or in the office. It wasn’t an ideal setup as I was at their mercy and schedule when it came to getting a ride. I also was seldom in Pespire, my actual site, during the day. However, after two months, I had built a rapport with Bayron and my other counterpart Marissa and was starting to work with them on different projects. Then, Honduras reared her ugly head and decided to erase two months of work.

One morning as Bayron picked me up, he simply said, “Brayton, me voy a Gracías.” This translates, “Brayton, I’m going to Gracías (permanently) and I think you’re the best Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras (I might have made up the last half of that).  As the week went on, seemingly everyone I worked with and liked were either let go, or transferred. How it works is FAO employs most of their people on six-month contracts.  As this was the end of the project cycle, the contracts were up and because this next project received a massive cut in funding, people had to be let go. Which is fine, they all knew this from the beginning. However, the way the head honchos at FAO went about it will not make it into a human resources textbook. Instead of, oh I don’t know, giving some advanced notice, they let everyone know a day or two before their contract was up that it wasn’t going to be renewed. This obviously caused a lot of unneeded consternation and it was awkward hanging around the office as a volunteer who wasn’t in either camp.  Thus, all that time I had put in was for not and it was back to square one with a different counterpart.  Again, Honduras always wins.

However, there was a silver lining to this whole experience. As awesome as my counterparts at FAO were, I had become a little too dependent on them. This change allowed me to broaden my scope a little and actually be a volunteer to Pespire, not just FAO. In the ensuing weeks I started working with the Mancommunidad (hard to explain, an organization that receives funds from the government to implement different projects more or less). With FAO, they started a store that sells agricultural supplies to farmers who are members of a caja rural at discounted rates. It’s sort of like a Tractor Supply merged with a Sam’s Club only much, much smaller. My role in all of this has been creating spreadsheets to track their sales and inventory, and creating a database with the names of all of their members. That has kept me busy for the past month or so and there’s always something that needs fixed. However, I’m now ready to move and explore some new horizons. One project that I’ll start on shortly is a water system project where I’ll monitor the use of funds and implementation. It’s sort of complicated, but the short story is a former volunteer in the States has lined up the funding and I’ll be the point man, distributing the money and making they actually build a water system. I’m going to be working with a fellow volunteer (nicknamed Rojo for his ginger complexion) so I’m looking forward to that. We still have a lot of paperwork and red tape to fight through so it might be a while. Also, I’m going to be working with another organization in town to promote recycling and hopefully start a permanent recycling effort. So stay tuned.

Totally switching gears here, I have to write about the Cardinals improbable winning of the wildcard.  I’m still on cloud 9 two days later and as Jack Buck would say, “I don’t believe what I just saw!” (or followed on ESPN gamecast). I tried to explain the significance of what happened to the people at my office and they were like, “so your baseball won the championship?” Uhh, not exactly, they just won the last spot to get into an eight-team playoff…but still, it’s awesome! This, combined with my futile effort trying to explain fantasy football, I think, seriously makes them wonder how America is the leader of free world.  Sure, they’ll probably get bulldozed by the Phillies and Pujols will leave in free agency, but I don’t even care anymore. Best finish to a season, ever!

As always, I appreciate my loyal readership and love fan mail, so don’t hesitate to drop an email.

Proud to be an American, even prouder to be a Razorback[1]

Brayton


[1]  Stole that line from Mark Titus

The Neighbor

And we’re back! I’m pretty sure that every Peace Corps blog that I’ve read apologizes for not writing enough so here is my apology.  I kind of have an excuse. I’ve been traveling lately, moderately busy at work, and doing research for my fantasy football team so it’s been a struggle to sit down and write this.  In the next couple of weeks my goal is to crank out some posts to satisfy my large readership.  I decided to devote this post to my neighbor, Gustavo.

Before I start, I need to give some background on my friends situation. When I first arrived to Pespire, my counterpart, FAO, was filled people who were in their 20s, university educated, and some that could even speak some English. It was awesome and something most volunteers don’t get to experience. Not only did I learn a lot and practice my Spanish, it was a great time.  Well due to some wholesale changes in FAO (I’ll elaborate in a subsequent post), most of those people are gone and I don’t work much in the FAO office anymore. All of this is to say I don’t have many people to really hang out with at night or on the weekends.  The main reason for this is that there are not a lot people my age in town.  Due to the fact that there isn’t much employment, young males usually leave for the bigger cities, Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula, or go to the States.[1]  Other reasons include: most people have kids, people shut up their houses at 7:00, I only have one neighbor, and after speaking Spanish all day I usually just want to read or watch “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”  It’s nothing unusual for a majority of volunteers that are in smaller towns. It’s not that I don’t know a lot of people in town or sometimes have dinner with someone’s family. We just don’t hang out.

The person I do hang out with in site is my one and only neighbor, Gustavo. Imagine a left tackle without any lower body. He’s like a huge Humpty Dumpty with a beard and walks with kind of a forward lean. Oh, and he’s completely nuts.  We live in a sort of duplex complex where we share a wall and a chain link fence separates our patios. His kitchen window also overlooks my back patio. This means we’re a little closer than the average American neighbor. The first time I met him, when I moved in, he was incredibly welcoming and invited me to come over and watch some TV if I wanted. Later that night I went over and was immediately thrown off at how he was talking. He spoke in a kind of Spanglish, mainly speaking in Spanish but then substituting nouns for their English equivalent. He’ll also be talking in Spanish and then out of the blue say, “you want?” I then have to figure out what in the world he’s talking about and usually I decline. You wouldn’t think it would be a big deal but my brain can only be in one language mode at a time.  I didn’t know how to respond at first, English or Spanish? Now, I’m used to it and just reply in Spanish. Apparently he studied English in college, but not practicing for 12 years has made him a little rusty. He has a sign outside his house saying he does English translations, which is like me saying I do freelance photography. The other day he told me there were rumors of “stealers” in town. I immediately thought of Troy Polamalu, in a jersey, hanging out at the park. Then I realized he meant people that steal, burglars. This is just one example of many others.

His desire to speak English is only rivaled by his propensity to drink.[2] He doesn’t mess around.  On the weekends (surprisingly he only drinks on the weekends) he’ll finish off at least a case (24 beers), by himself. I say at least as he usually buys some more. The usual Saturday routine is to sit on the couch, drink some beers, and watch Si TV, which is probably one of the most bizarre channels I’ve ever seen. It shows old music videos, usually from the 80’s, but also newer stuff. The bizarre part is the fact that there are no commercials. I don’t how the channel operates or even why it does, but it’s pretty sweet. I go over some Saturday afternoons and we’ll watch some music videos and drink some Barenas.  Now for those not initiated, Barena is the Zima of Honduran beers. It’s about the girliest beer one could drink.  However, I appreciate the hospitality and love singing along to The Clash.

You might ask where is the wife in all this, and that’s a good question.  In a reverse scenario of the usual immigration story, she is in the States working at a hotel, which means the poor guy is a little lonely. Though he misses his wife, he still thought it necessary to show me pictures of his ex-wives, all three of them. He’s only 35, you’d think he would think twice about being married for a fourth time, but apparently this one is working out. I didn’t know what to really say as he’s showing me these pictures. Wow, she’s beautiful? Why didn’t you keep that one?  That’s just one of a long list of faux pas that are uncomfortable as an American, but not that big a deal in Honduras. One night we were eating in a restaurant and he asked the cook, who he knew, if she was pregnant. “No, I guess it’s my shirt that makes me look a little bigger,” she replied as I facepalmed. The funny thing was that she didn’t seem offended by it. I told him to never say that to an American woman. His plan is to move to New York where some relative has a DJ gig lined up for him as soon as he gets a visa. I’m trying to teach him what things he can’t do in the States that are perfectly normal in Honduras. That includes spitting on the floor inside, urinating at any random spot on the street, shooting off fireworks at 5:00 a.m., and showing up two hours late for meetings. Also, when a girl walks by it’s not normal to stare, whistle, honk, or confess your endless love to her. That’s sexual harassment.

As I read back over this it sounds like there are no redeeming characteristics to this guy. However, I love having him as my neighbor and consider him a true friend. Many nights I go over to his house and we have great conversations about Honduras, his family, and life in general. He’s been vital in my community integration and helping me find the best deals when buying stuff for my house.  I’ll be sad to see him go if he actually ends up leaving to go drop beats in New York.

Next week I’ll write about what I’ve been up to lately, again, sorry for the delay. For those that do not know, I’m coming home December 17-January 3 for the trifecta of Dave and Sharon’s wedding, Christmas with the family, and New Years! Apparently all work comes to a halt in December in Honduras, it’s just a month long holiday, so I’ll be glad to escape the boredom.  If anyone will be in the Joplin area during this time, I better see you. It’s not an option.

Till next time….

¡Nos Vemos!


[1] Anytime someone tells me they’re thinking about going to the States (usually illegally), I say, “you realize that there aren’t any jobs in the U.S. either, right?”

[2] There’s also a direct relationship between desire to speak English and amount of beers he’s had.

Mi Casa

So after not writing for way too long, I’m back! A lot of stuff has happened since the last post, but the most significant is moving in to my own house. I originally wanted to make this interactive with my blog community (that’s I’m calling it the COMMUNITY) by taking pictures of several housing options and have you guys vote for the favorite.  I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to work very well as I found exactly two living options here in Pespire and, honestly, I was going to live in the place I wanted no matter what the vote was.  The first option I looked at was this pink house (a common color here) that was only a block from my host-stay house. It had everything I needed: decent living space, a kitchen, bathroom area that wasn’t a latrine (a big deal), and even a backyard.  Also, the landlords were the neighbors of my host family and I already had a relationship with them.  Additionally, the place was 1,000 Lempiras under my rent limit and a former Swiss volunteer lived here before me, so Peace Corps would really love it.  After the tour, I was ready to jump on it, but in the back of my mind I also remembered my host-grandma talking about this place with A/C. The prospect of having air conditioning was just too much not to have a look at the place. So I relayed my wish to the landlords that I wanted to see some other places first to which they replied, “That’s fine, but there is a Cuban looking at the place so we need to know soon.” I realized later that this was probably just a negotiating tactic as I’ve never seen or heard of a Cuban in Pespire. I imagined this cigar toting, Panama hat wearing cubano swooping in and outbidding me. I said I’d let them know in a week. After talking to the host family, they reiterated, “Just wait till you see this place, very safe and nice.” So I finally was able to see it four days later and I realized why they said it was so safe. It was like a prison. I stepped out the back door and in my face was huge, concrete wall with spools of razor wire on the top. I’m sure Alcatraz is safe from invasion too, but that doesn’t mean I want to live there. Also, it didn’t even have A/C, the main selling point. I don’t know how that fact got lost in translation.  There also weren’t any neighbors, which only added to the feeling of isolation. In the end, despite the wishes of the host fam, I chose option one.

 

After purchasing a bed, I moved into a completely empty apartment on July 18. Even though I spent five months with some great home-stay families, moving out and being independent again feels incredible. No longer do I have to wolf down things that I previously thought were inedible or worry about committing a cultural faux pas.  FREEDOM! With that being said, I now face another daunting challenge, cooking for myself. My culinary ability rivals my musical abilities, in that there is no ability. My only knowledge of cooking comes from watching Top Chef and Anthony Bourdain. Unfortunately, knowing that it’s essential to give the proper amount of rest to a lamb chop or the difference between foie gras and coq au vin is pretty useless if you don’t know the basic steps. Further complicating things is the lack of a Supercenter and the possession of only one skillet. The first night I tried to cook my beans, eggs and hot dog more or less at the same time. I realized this was a disaster as soon as I got started and, of course, ended up with a sloshy dinner from hell. More practice has yielded some better results and the purchase of a toaster oven has expanded my options. However, I’m starting to tire of eggs, beans, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I have this bag of rice, but don’t know the best way to cook it. Looking online is futile, as every recipe gets crazy with the amount of stuff they put in it. “No Google, I don’t want a recipe for Thai, pineapple, utterly delectable rice pilaf, just fried rice!” So if anyone has some simple recipes that don’t use many ingredients, please send them to me at braytonrand@gmail.com. I hope to be able to cook some pasta soon, but I need a pot, which has been surprisingly difficult to find. I have to give a shout out to my Parents and Grandparents for helping me be able to purchase some furniture for the new place. I don’t think the Peace Corps has raised the living allowance in twenty 20 years so it was a much needed help. Thanks guys!

Here are some pics of the new pad. It takes forever to upload pictures so I was only able to put three on here.

The Work

So before everyone thinks that I’m just down here on an extended vacation for two years[1] I figured I better talk about the work I am and will be doing. Most people back in the U.S. (and I originally thought this) think that the Peace Corps is place where a bunch of hippies go live in a hut for two years working on teaching English or building improved huts. While the teaching English is still applicable, there have been a lot changes within the organization in the past 50 years.  In Honduras we have six different projects: Business Development (my project and where the brightest volunteers are located), Water and Sanitation (fancy way of saying “we build latrines”), Health (the best female to male ratio for all you prospective male volunteers), Protected Areas Management (never actually seen a PAM volunteer, I heard they come out of the jungle once a year to purchase supplies), Municipal Development (no funny comment for them) and Youth Development (babysitting!)[2].  Throughout training, the business team sat down with each volunteer to figure out where they place each of us, and what kind of work we would like and be best at. Throughout my interviews I stressed that I wanted a structured environment, void of kids, and preferably not with any government connection. The structured thing is a big deal as one of my greatest fears was (and still kind of is) not having anything to work on. Where other people enjoy not having an office and going around finding their own projects, I am definitely of the personality type where I need to work something like a 9 to 5, with stuff to do. So after considering all of that (including that I wanted a medium to large site) they assigned my main counterpart to be an organization named FAO.

In addition to being the name of an evil organization in the show “Dark Wing Duck”, FAO is an acronym for Food and Agriculture Organization and is officially a part of UN. As the name suggests, FAO works in developing countries in the areas of food security and improving agriculture practices. So you might be asking where a business volunteer fit into to all of this? I asked the same thing myself. Well gear up here because it’s about to get real boring as I explain this. Ok, so the work of FAO is all about strengthening farmers, which includes (but is not limited to) teaching improved farming techniques, starting family gardens, and providing fertilizers and other agriculture materials. In order to organize all of the farmers, they have used the Caja Rural model. Caja Rurales are cooperatives where any group of people can organize, pool their money together, and make loans to people within the caja. FAO (thanks to the European Union) loans these cajas fertilizer, seeds, and other materials based on the number of people within the cooperative. Instead of paying back FAO, the members pay only a percentage (usually 50%) that is deposited into the caja. So not only do the members receive discounted materials, but they also reap the benefit of increasing the amount of money in the cooperative, which increases dividends and allows them to make more loans. So it’s really a win-win for the cajas. Let’s just hope Greece doesn’t tank the EU in the mean time. My role in all of this is improving the organization and administration of these cajas as they are, in effect, microfinance organizations that are required to keep accurate books and manage loans. As the education level of many of these farmers is very low, topics like calculating interest, accurately recording shareholders, and even just using a calculator are necessary to teach to many of these cajas. Also, some cajas want to start micro businesses and there is a need for basic business training. In addition to this, there is a Caja Regional, composed of hundreds of smaller cajas, which wants to start a regional store to sell all sorts of items at a discount to members of the cooperative. Kind of like a Honduran Sam’s Club. Here they also need training on running a business. So hopefully I didn’t lose everyone there, I at least know my mom and grandma are still reading, but this is the basic project I’m working on.

Now you might be wondering about what I talked about in my last post, corn planting? chicken coops? Well, in order to integrate with counterpart, I try to learn about and involve myself in everything that they do. That includes stuffing myself in small trucks to traverse crappy roads and learn firsthand how to plant corn better or build chicken coops without having a Lowes you can run to for 2x4s.  The funny thing about all of this is that I’m pretty much useless compared to an experienced Honduran farmer. While they wield their machetes around like extensions of their hand, I try not to get in the way and help out when they need someone tall, or stomp around in mud when they need adobe (which is awesome by the way). It’s a humbling experience let me tell you. However, I’ve learned a lot about basic farming and handiwork and also have gained respect from the farmers as they never seen a gringo being out there willing to help. It’s part of a process, once I gain their confianza (trust, confidence), then I can start giving trainings about how to run their caja. I’m excited, this next week I’ll be starting to give some of my first trainings, charlas, by myself without other FAO people.

So there it is, I also hope to work with the local high school in their business curriculum and I might even teach some English. On a different note, after four months of inconsistent internet access and a Kindle that bit the dust two months ago, I finally have a modem. Not the fastest thing in the world (I feel like I should hear “You’ve got mail!” every I open my email), but it’ll be a lot easier to check in and keep up with you all. In the mean time, stay classy America.

Brayton

 


[1] Peace Corps has a saying, “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.”  One volunteer turned this around and said, “It’s the longest vacation you’ll ever hate.”

[2] Views on other projects are totally subjective and not the official stance of Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

 

My Site

So after a couple of weeks of grueling, selfless, and thankless work for the Honduran people I’ve finally carved out some time to write a blog post. In reality, it’s just really tough to sit down and write these things but I promise I’ll keep them coming. Alright, where do I start? A month ago now (it’s crazy that I’ve been at my site this long) we had the moment that all Peace Corps trainees dream of, the Swear-In Ceremony. Finally, after three months of monotonous language classes, sessions on the dangers of diarrhea, and playing an awesome game with the soccer ball named “Ass” (not a real complicated game if you were wondering), I was going to be an official VOLUNTEER.  After three months, everyone was chomping at the bit to get to their sites and start doing what we came down here for. That being said, for me, training was a great time. It’s kind of like a Peace Corps fantasy camp. Especially during FBT in Yuscaran, getting to hang out every night with a bunch of gringos not having a care in the world is something I’ll never experience again. I made some great friendships, learned a lot, and, all in all, had a great experience.

The Swear-In Ceremony was on Friday May 13 (a really unfortunate date) at the US Embassy. Never having been to an Embassy before, I was expecting some massive, impressive structure with swimming pools, a putting green or two and maybe an in-house movie theater showing the latest American movies. Instead, we show up to a sort of dilapidated neighborhood and all I could see from the bus was a wall with massive spools of razor wire on top. Behind the wall was a building that looked like it had been transported from a suburban office park. As we stood in line waiting to go through security it started to rain so they just let us go right on through, not even bothering to check some sort of identification. I guess since we got Osama they’re kind of taking it easy.[1] Despite the rain, it was a great ceremony. We sang both national anthems, listened to some speeches from our Country Director, the Ambassador himself, and two volunteers; and had some snacks afterwards. What more could you want, right? Seriously though, it was a cool feeling to say the oath and join the ranks of thousands of volunteers that have come before me, especially since this is the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps. It definitely was emotional as we took pictures afterwards. Saying goodbye to PC staff and other volunteers I had gotten to know and develop friendships with was a lot tougher than I expected. A lot of these people I probably will not see but once or maybe never again. It’s a unique experience, 53 people from a different country being thrown into Honduras, all with varying language abilities and backgrounds, trying to integrate into the culture while not being held up on a bus or offend our host families somehow. It acts as a crucible, forging strong bonds in a short amount of time. After the ceremony, a group of us went to the Hotel Intercontinental in Tegucigalpa to celebrate. As we sat outside, eating sushi, talking about all of the great times during training: we all knew this was last time we’ll be enjoying these comforts for a long time.

The next day, my counterpart (the person who I’ll hopefully be working with for two years) and her husband came to pick me up and take me to my site. Add this to the list of really awkward experiences. I wouldn’t want to ride in a car for a couple of hours with a new boss in the States, let alone a person in which the subjects we can talk about range in the low single digits. Thankfully she’s super nice and her husband was there as well. A volunteer who came and talked to us during training said that his counterpart, when he got into the car, said, “the last guy got us an ambulance and a dump truck, let’s see what you can do.” Talk about pressure.  Now, I already knew a little bit about my site and mainly heard two things, “It’s really hot and known for its mangoes.”  Cool, I thought, for two years, I’ll be sweating and stuffing my face with mangoes. The name of my site is “Pespire” which for those non-Spanish speakers out there means “perspire”, or as I like to say “the Big Sweat.” When we finally showed up, I stepped out of the air-conditioned car and was hit with a wave of heat and humidity. Right now it’s reaching the mid 90s every day which might cause some of you to say, “Come on, it gets that hot or hotter back in Missouri.” To which I say, “Yes, but does your house, car, and every building you walk into have air conditioning that tries to approximate the temperature of Northern Canada?” That’s what I thought. The difference is you can’t escape it but once a day when you’re able to take a cold shower. However, I am accommodating. The trick is you just have to be O.K. with sweating pretty much the whole day. Once I accepted the fact that I was going to look like some guy who just stepped out of a sauna at the end of every day, I slowly adapted. Now it’s just a fact of life, like the Cubs losing and Lebron choking in a big playoff series (so happy to hear about that!).

Besides the heat, I really like this town. It has a classic feel of a Spanish colonial town with the Catholic Church on the square and other buildings that have been around for a century. Pespire is about the perfect size in that it feels pretty small but you can find about everything you need in the town. Right now I’m living with a host-family in a house right on the main town square/park. It’s pretty sweet (and also a little dangerous) in that they have a pulperia (kind of like a convenience store) in the house, which means that at any time of day I can buy pop, chips, soap, and even a piñata. In one month I’ll be able to move out of my host-family’s house, which means I need to find a place of my own. I’m currently looking for a place; however, there aren’t classifieds or Craigslist or anything so it’s a little difficult. The really hard thing is going to be when I need to buy furniture. Peace Corps gives us 5,000 Lempiras as a one-time move-in allowance which is enough to buy a bed and a plastic chair or two. So I want to officially start the Brayton Rand Furniture Fund, any monetary donations would go to a great cause in supporting a PCV by providing means for him to sit on something other than the floor.

And with that, I’ll sign off for now. Next post, I’ll talk about the work I’m doing, which, to preview, includes planting corn, building chicken coops, and trying to pay attention in meetings that last three hours and are spoken in rapid Spanish. Please, feel free to email me (braytonrand@gmail.com) and give me an update on your life or just say hey. It might take me four or five days to get internet and read it, but I promise I’ll read it!

 


[1] Funny Story: The night he was killed my host family and I were watching TV and the newscaster comes on and says, “OBAMA Bin Laden está muerto.” Come on , man!

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