jueves, 4 de febrero de 2010


Hello everyone. It has been a loooong time since I have written, and I have no excuse. Except that my journey in the Peace Corps is over. I got back late December, and have not had the motivation to blog, since my life has gone from exciting and wonderful to very, very boring. However, I would like to continue blogging, at least for a little while, about my experience and the people I met in Honduras, and what impact they made on me.

My first post-peace corps entry is just about saying goodbye. One time I likened it to death. Because the further away it is, the harder it seems to imagine saying goodbye. But as you get closer and closer to the time, you begin to accept it, little by little. I called my mom one day because I was frustrated by these small bugs that were getting into my room, on my bed and my clothes. I didn't know where they had come from-I had never had a problem like this before. While I was describing it to my mom, she said to me "God has a way of helping people let go of a place when they have to say goodbye. He helps you move on, and become annoyed or frustrated with the things in that place, like those bugs." I couldn't help but think that she was probably right. In some strange way I saw those bugs as a gift from God, helping me along the way as I said goodbye to my home, my friends and loved ones that I had lived with for 2 years.

When the time finally came, I was completely ready and excited to move on to the next segment of my life. I even began to get annoyed by my friends in my town, who all began asking me to leave them all my possessions with them, and more and more excited to see my family.

Each person I met during my 2 years touched me very deeply and changed me in ways I will never be able to fathom completely. I know I will never forget them and my experience, and I will always keep them in my thoughts and prayers.

viernes, 16 de octubre de 2009

Si se puede

¨Si se puede, si se puede, si se puede.....¨ That´s what the Hondurans chant to cheer on their soccer team every time they play a game. ¨Yes we can, yes we can!¨ The Honduran soccer fans are extremely loyal. As they should be, since this year the Honduran soccer team got into the final round of elimination to go to the World Cup, and had a good chance to go this year, something they have not been able to do since 1982.

I started watching the Honduran team more closely this year, and became a true Honduras soccer fan. The team plays really well, and has some excellent players and it is fun to watch them, especially when they play against the best teams of the league, Mexico and the US. These last two games for them were the most important, and would determine whether Honduras or Costa Rica would go to the World Cup this year. If you are not familiar with soccer, the teams that get into the world cup get in based on a point system. The team gets 3 points if they win a game, 1 point if they tie, and 0 if they lose. The top 3 or 4 teams go to the world cup, depending on the size of the league. In this case, the top 3 teams go. Before last Saturday, the US had 16, Mexico 15, Honduras 13 and Costa Rica 12. That Saturday they played against the US in Honduras. People came into Honduras from all over, including the US to cheer on Honduras. They were really excited for Honduras to win. Unfortunately, although Honduras played an excellent game, they lost in their own stadium to the US. An extremely devastating loss for them, but although they lost and Costa Rica won the game they played and were ahead of them in standing by 2 points, Honduran fans still had hope that on Wednesday they would beat El Salvador and the US would beat or tie against Costa Rica, so Honduras could beat Costa Rica and go to the World Cup.

My sister and I, who had come to visit me this week, went to see the Honduras-El Salvador game at a friend´s house in my town. We were a little weary at the beginning, crossing our fingers that Honduras would win, and the US would beat Costa Rica or tie with them (both games were to be played at the very same time). If Honduras won and Costa Rica tied, both countries would have the same amount of points, 16, but Honduras would beat Costa Rica because they had scored more goals.

So the game started, and everyone in the room had knots in their stomachs. When watching the Honduran players walk onto the field we could see the tension in their eyes, and some were almost shaking from nervousness. This was a big game, and they had to win. The game started off shakey. We could tell the Hondurans were nervous, and El Salvador was dominating the field. They had more shots on goal, and had more control over the ball. At half time, the score was 0-0, but what was worse was the US was losing to Costa Rica 2-0. We had all pretty much lost hope by then. At one point I turned to Sarah and said ¨let´s go home.¨ She wanted to too, but we were both embarassed to leave, so we stayed. So the second half started, and we could tell that the El Salvadorians were getting more tired and that Honduras was getting better. About 15 minutes into the second half, Honduras scored. It was bittersweet, because although it was exciting, we knew that Costa Rica was still beating the US 2-0. The game continued, and about 5 minutes later the commentator announced that the US had scored a goal. Yes! There was a chance still! The US could still do it! Although we were anxious about the Honduras game, I think most people were more anxious about the US game. When the 45 minutes of the second half were over, they went into overtime for time lost from injury and penalties during the game. These minutes were excruciatingly painful for the watchers. We just wanted it to end. But at the same time we didn´t, because we wanted the US to score against Costa Rica. Finally, it was over. Honduras had won, but apparantly the US hadn´t. It was over for the Hondurans. The players were obviously upset, and one even got to his knees and started crying on the field. Then all of a sudden, there was commotion in the stands. The cameras were pointed at the fans, and many of them were cheering. Us who were watching the game exclaimed ¨why are they so excited? There´s no reason to be cheering.¨ But they kept cheering louder and louder, and then the commentators started talking really excitedly and fast, although they obviously didn´t really know what was going on either. One of the men from my town watching the game turned on the radio, to see what was going on. Had the US tied? Had they really scored a goal in the last few minutes of the game? Then he turned off the radio, and all I could hear were the commentators shouting ¨They did it! They made it! Since 1982, Honduras is going to the World Cup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!¨ I looked at Sarah and almost started crying from excitement. Everyone in the room was just astounded, they couldn´t speak. But quickly, the men started hopping up and down in excitement. (Sarah´s note: he grasped the radio plastered to one ear..looked me in the eye frozen in disbelief for a moment and then out of this big man came a high pitched woooo wooooohooohooo wooooooo) One ran outside of the house and shot gunshots in the air. Everyone started dancing around the room in excitement. HOORAY!!!! HOORAY FOR HONDURAS, AND HOORAY FOR THE US!!!!!! It was the most incredible moment for all Hondurans. After such a huge disappointment of thinking they had lost everything they fought for this year, they gained it by one goal from the gringos! The guy who had gotten on his knees and started crying from sadness began crying tears of joy and celebrating with his fellow players.

The next day, on the morning news, they were showing people celebrating in cities all over the country. Half the country didn´t sleep that night because they were celebrating in the streets, in their cars, in their homes, and in bars and restaurants all over the country. For the first time in a long time, I think every Honduran all over the world forgot completely about the political situation and just celebrated together.

martes, 8 de septiembre de 2009


I’ve picked up the nasty habit of smoking since I got down here. I’m not really sure why, but while sitting in my hammock, in my small house in the middle of the woods, with no other house or people in sight, a cigarette seems strangely appealing to me.

Once, a fellow volunteer and sworn enemy of the cigarette asked me ¨why do you smoke?¨ in the condescending you-should-give-up-that-nasty-habit-it´ll-kill-you tone. ¨I dunno,¨ I replied. Then, without really thinking, added ¨Sometimes I get lonely.¨ He then started to make fun of me for my comment. ¨Do you need friends, Liz?¨ he asked. ¨Do I need to come visit your tool shed to keep you company?¨ I laughed along with him, although secretly resenting him for being so condescending without really understanding the situation I live in. This particular volunteer has a nicer house than I have in the US, which is in a nice neighborhood in a fairly large town. He also has a TV, cable, a laptop, and will soon have internet in his house as well. Not to mention the fact that he is constantly having visitors in his home, and has easy access to other towns if he ever desires to visit another volunteer. In other words, he has so many distractions surrounding him that he probably doesn’t even get a chance to even think about loneliness.

I, however, have none of those distractions. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, and I am happy to find other ways to occupy my time. However, there are those rare days when I’ve just finished a good book, or when I get home at 6 and think to myself ¨now what do I do till bedtime?¨ that I get hit by it like a strong, unexpected gust of wind: loneliness. Raw and untainted, and I am helpless to escape it. Sometimes all I can do is go to bed to rid myself of the horrible empty feeling. Other times I smoke a cigarette, hoping the soothing feeling it gives me will help it go away. Yet other times, I just sit there in silence and allow myself to be consumed by it, to feel every emotion, negative or positive, that comes with it. Sadness, serenity, peace, contemplation, at times fear. I read once that one of the greatest fears of the human soul is loneliness, and the root of a great amount of depression and crime. That’s why so many of us spend our whole lives trying to escape it through friends, television and internet.

Living a life where these distractions don’t exist, I haven´t had a choice but to confront loneliness face to face. However, the experience has been unexpectedly rewarding. It is in these moments of loneliness that I feel God’s presence more than ever. I am also able to contemplate my life and experiences during these moments with an astounding clarity that I’ve never been able to do before. It has given me an inner strength and awareness of life that I never would have been able to possess otherwise. Despite these few moments of clarity, it is always extremely difficult for me to face this loneliness, and I know I don’t always deal with it well. However, I find comfort in knowing that I am able to deal with it somehow, and experience the rewards that come from it. I would like to see if my friend could live like I do without taking up smoking.

jueves, 20 de agosto de 2009

Site Rat

Here in Honduras, the other volunteers like to call me a ¨site rat.¨ This basically means that I stay in my site all the time, and that I don’t get out much. To the volunteers who live in my same area, I am a mystery. Basically unknown to everyone. When I finally show up to an event, they wonder what has happened to me all this time, and if I have turned into ¨one of them.¨ I’ve noticed that I tend to be quieter around my fellow Americans, and slightly more awkward. I remember the first volunteer gathering I went to, 2 months after I had gotten to site, was sort of a shock for me. Trying to adjust from speaking Spanish all the time to pure English was difficult. At one point, I was trying to describe to a fellow volunteer the classes I teach, and was painfully spitting the words out, as if I was a foreigner to my own language.. ¨Sorry,¨ I exclaimed to him sheepishly, ¨I can’t stop thinking in Spanish.¨ ¨It’s okay,¨ he answered, eyeing me with a curious look, ¨just eat, don’t worry about talking.¨

Now, don’t get me wrong. I see plenty of volunteers, probably about on average 2 times a month, which is actually astoundingly little compared to those who live in big cities and see other volunteers every day. Sometimes I thirst to see fellow patriots, and to speak in English, and to complain about our jobs. Sometimes I just need a break from the small town life and gossipy old ladies. But most of the time I’m just fine. Being here, completely immersing myself in the culture that surrounds me is exactly what I wanted. I eat the same food they eat. I ride the bus with them. I watch telenovelas with the women. I listen to the music here and dance at the parties. I even cook on a fire when the electricity goes out (anyone need a campfire lit?? I’m your girl!) Some would say I have basically become Honduran.

I was getting down on myself the other day for not hanging out with other volunteers more. The main reason I don’t is not because I don’t want to, but actually because I teach classes every Saturday, which counts as the students´ high school education. So I feel awful if I miss one day. And, of course, Saturday is the day people always choose to get together. But then I began thinking about the difference between relationships in Honduras and relationships in the US. When people become friends in the US, especially when they’re younger, it’s usually during a period of their lives when they will shortly move on. Therefore, even with people they barely knew in college, high school, and jobs, they will always be able to keep in contact if not by phone, by facebook or email. And with all the traveling that we gringos like to do, who knows who we cross paths with in the future. Here in the tiny town that I live in, as well as in all of Honduras, that is much, much different. Perhaps the friends we make in our towns are just a pastime for us, but to them, it’s a friendship for a lifetime. People who’s idea of a relationship isn’t just a person to go to a movie with on Saturday nights. Friends are real, true, and forever. And when volunteers come into their lives and quickly leave, without a trace, not even a call or an address, it hurts.

I love the experience I’m having, and almost pity those who aren’t experiencing the Peace Corps the way I am. Although I know that most of them actually pity me. Or look up to me. Or think me a mystery, I’m not quite sure. But I love it here. That’s why it’ll be really hard to come back…..if I ever do (just kidding, mom :)

viernes, 24 de julio de 2009

Chicken soup for the soul

Whenever I used to think of chicken soup, two things would always come to mind. One was the Campbell’s soup commercials where the snowman would come inside from the cold, and the bowl of chicken soup would melt him away into a little boy. The other is that damn book that was a lovely idea at first, but then it got so extreme I think they even came out with one called ¨Chicken soup for the dog’s soul.¨ Dogs don’t even have souls. Shows how much they know.

Last Sunday my whole idea of chicken soup changed entirely. (warning, if you are a vegetarian, you may not want to read further). I got up at the break of dawn, excited for the day that lied ahead. I ate a quick breakfast, bathed, and changed, then headed off towards a friend’s house. Today we were going to run an errand together. A special errand.

I got to the house, early of course, and waited anxiously as she finished making tortillas and breakfast for her family. When we finally left, she told me that to get to the person’s house we were going to, it would be quicker and better to go through the farm instead of on the main road. I agreed, but later regretted the decision, as I stomped through the farm, climbing on top of big rocks and getting scraped by thorns along the way. We finally arrived at the house after stopping at a few others to visit and drink coffee along the way. While we were there drinking yet another cup of coffee, I watched as the woman searched through the herd of young ripe chickens, and picked up the chosen one out of the dozens of others. She then tied his legs together so he wouldn’t get away, and handed it to my friend, who stuffed it into her bag. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy, wondering if he knew his fate that lied ahead. I looked into his eyes, trying to find some hint of fear or sadness. For a moment I thought I saw a tear, but quickly realized it was just the sun glimmering off the white of his eye.

When we arrived back at her house about 2 hours later, we were ready to make the soup. She started the fire and put a large pot of water over it to boil. ¨I want to see how you kill the chicken.¨ I said, wondering if I would regret it later. At that moment, I saw her son walking out towards the back of the house with the chicken in his hands. It was time. She took a kitchen knife in her hand and headed out behind him. He handed her the chicken, and she positioned his feet under one of hers, and grabbed the head with her hands and began to saw it off. It was at this moment when I wondered if I shouldn’t just become vegetarian for the rest of my life. I pondered it while she struggled to get the head off, then as I watched the son take the knife and hack it with one big whack. And I kept pondering it while trying to keep a straight face as I watched the poor chicken die before my eyes. The same chicken she had carried on her back up the hill through the farm. The same chicken she had been petting while chatting with the neighbors and drinking, that’s right, another cup of coffee.

The next step was easier. Plucking it. She stuck him in a pot of boiling water, and to my surprise, the feather just started shedding. She told me in order to learn I had to help her. So hesitantly, I reached my hand in there and started plucking. The more we plucked, the more it looked like something I would buy in a supermarket, and the more assured I became that I could eat meat once again. The only thing was I had to keep dodging his head bobbing from side to side that they hadn’t yet cut off completely. After the plucking came the gutting. As she cut him open at the end, I was surprised to find organs spilling out onto the table. I almost just expected him to be empty, like the turkeys we stuff for Thanksgiving. She picked through the organs, telling me which ones we could leave in there, and which ones we couldn’t. After we finished gutting him, she cut him up into pieces, and he was ready to cook. About an hour later, she spooned out a bowl of hot, fresh chicken soup for me. As I spooned each bite into my mouth, I quickly forgot about the fact that I knew this chicken, and that I had seen him running around happily with his brothers and sisters only this morning. It was delicious. The flavor of fresh chicken is so much richer, fuller than the chicken you buy at the supermarkets. And the meat has an entirely different texture. I would like to see Campbell’s try to imitate this flavor! .

miércoles, 15 de julio de 2009

When I was your age.....

The other day, I was talking on the phone with my older sister. As we started the conversation, she was getting into the car, headed home from work. To my surprise, no more than 5 minutes later she was getting out of the car in front of her apartment building.
¨Are you home already?¨ I exclaimed in astonishment. ¨That was like, less than 5 minutes.¨
¨Yeah, so?¨
¨How long of a walk is it?¨
¨Oh, I don’t know, about 20 or 25 minutes.¨
¨What?? 25 minutes? And you would rather take your car than walk?¨ I began to rattle off a million and four reasons why it’s a much better idea to walk than it is to drive your car, including one example from my experience here in Honduras. ¨Did you know,¨ I said in a huff, ¨that I walk over an hour just to get to the next town to do work, usually up a really big hill, and not to mention an hour walk back under the scorching tropical…¨ I stopped mid-sentence when I realized how ridiculous I was being and simultaneously heard a roar of laughter coming from the other line. I joined in with my sister’s laughter, although somewhat astounded by my reaction. I sounded just like an 85 year-old man exclaiming to his wide-eyed grandkids ¨when I was your age, I walked 5 miles to school in a foot of snow….uphill both ways.¨

I have since then had time to reflect on my reaction, knowing that it had been one from the gut. Strong, but coming from real emotions. For the past two years, I have lived among people who bathe in streams not for fun, but out of necessity, people who ride horses not for show or sport, but because it gets them from one place to another, people who cook over a fire every day not to roast marshmallows, but because that’s their stove, people who don’t even understand the concept of ¨camping,¨ because they live in those conditions basically every day.

These people, however, I have never taken pity on. On the contrary. I in fact admire their strength and work ethic, and wish there were more people in the US like that. Here, I see a life stripped bare of all the conveniences of technology we’re used to today. A life that is pure and simple, just the way God made it. Not necessarily better, but extremely different from the life we lead in the US. A life where dog toe nail clippers exist as well as people who complain about the barista putting whole milk instead of skim milk in their coffee (it’s crazy they even notice the difference). These little reminders just give me a sort of reverse culture shock every time I hear them. Like my sister who drives to work every day when she could easily walk 20 minutes. Perfectly normal, who wouldn’t? But after living a life where a car is a luxury, my automatic reaction is not one of disdain, but of mere shock. And when I finally get back to the states, I will leave that life behind; but never the memories, with which I unfortunately will have no one to share them. I also think I’m starting to understand grandpa’s point…..

miércoles, 8 de julio de 2009

A Honduran crisis

About a week before the alleged ¨elections¨that ex-president Manuel Zelaya was supposed to be making, peace corps sent everyone a text message telling us that we had to stay in our sites the entire weekend just in case something extreme happened. Elections? I asked a fellow volunteer. What elections? I had no idea what everyone was talking about. What fourth urn?

Honestly, although there was apparently a bunch of hype about the cuarta urna (fourth urn), I still don´t know what exactly Mel´s plans were. All I know is that it was illegal, and he basically was doing it so he could stay in power more than 4 years (much like the same thing Chavez did nearly 10 years ago, as well as various other Latin American presidents following his lead). Well, Sunday morning I get a text saying, to my shock and surprise, that there has been a ¨golpe de estado.¨ What´s that? I asked a friend of mine. He said that it´s when the government in power is overthrown, and a new government takes over. A coup??? Can it really be? I didn´t believe Honduras was capable of such a thing. But they were. Although it´s still unknown exactly if it was a coup or not. Basically, what we were told was that the supreme court, congress, and the military acted together to kick Mel out, and put in the president of Congress, Roberto Michelleti (they couldn´t put in the vice president, the next in line, because he is running for presidency during the next term, and if he were president, even for such a short period of time, it´s against the Honduran constitution for him to run).

So since then, it has been interesting here in Honduras. It´s the first time ever that I´ve really talked politics with the people in my town. Normally they don´t seem to care much, but when I talk to them, they all seem to be strong in their beliefs that what Mel did was wrong, and that they want democracy, not a dictatorship. There have been many protestors to reinstate Mel Zalaya, but it seems to me like the majority are for democracy and the new president. Even last week, there were demonstrations all over the country of hundreds of thousands of people peacefully demonstrating that they want peace and democracy, not a dictatorship. I remember hearing that over the radio, and wanting to cry it was so touching to me. Although there are so many countries who are against Honduras and what they did, Hondurans have held strong to their beliefs and won´t back down. And all, on both sides, have demonstrated their beliefs peacefully. I hope and pray for the best for this county, because God knows that they deserve it.