A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ahoy-Ahoy!

Hello loyal friends and compatriots, I came today with the singular purpose of writing a stunning and exquisite entry that would move even the most stoic of Puritans to some outward expression of true emotion...however upon sitting down to write this little entry up I was struck with the realization that while this update may delight and bring the random chuckle it certainly won't be one for the record books. But that's ok I suppose. The weather here however has been one for the record books - we have been simply dumped on as of late; days upon days of torrential rains. Banks and businesses have closed briefly and the government declared a "State of Red Alert" which supposedly means that everyone needs to be in their homes and off the streets. Apparently no one heeds these warnings because the whole world is seemingly going about their business as usual only now with wet shoes and pant legs. The funny part though is that I am freezing - I have been going about in long sleeves and a North Face Fleece for the past week...it seems almost ridiculous to imagine that in here in Honduras I could be anything but steamy and sweaty but alas here we are. In other news I just got back from Costa Rica - again. Upon arriving here in May I was informed that I would need to either leave the country every 90 days or secure a residency visa. I began the process but soon found out that it would cost me nearly $1,500 and take almost a year to secure. I calculated it all out and discovered that traveling by bus to Costa Rica for a brief stint every 90 days and staying with Flora Mora and family actually costs a lot less than a visa...and in that I love that little country with all my heart it wasn't a tough decision to make. It's interesting traveling by bus, you meet a lot of random people, observe a lot of strange people and see fantastic landscape and interesting sights that you never would in the cabin of a plane. I left San Pedro Sula at 5:oo am 2 Mondays ago and arrived in Managua, Nicaragua a 5:00 pm - that trip was one of observing backpackers from Ireland (it's surprising how similar they looked to my friends of very Irish descent, especially those from New England) and some Mennonite-like Christians from Nebraska (they looked the part what with the plan dress and quietism but they weren't at all related to me). The next morning we departed Managua and arrived at the Costa Rican border around 11:30 am - I decided that I didn't want to travel 7 more hours all the way to San Jose just yet but instead wanted to visit my friend Jeffrey and his family who are now back living up North in Veracruz. This meant that I had to basically find my own ride over to Upala (a good two hours away). As luck would have it there happened to be a taxi-driver from Upala who was headed that way and offered to give me a lift for a discounted price. It was the longest taxi ride of my life in no small part to the fact that 45 minutes into the trip we entered this little town and were immediately hailed by a man who turned out to be the owner of the taxi and the taxi driver's good friend. He too needed to go to Upala - we got back on our way but about an hour in he invited us to his home to meet his family (he wanted them, all Christians, to meet a real, live American Missionary). So we stopped off at this sprawling wooden structure that looked like a home out of Swiss Family Robinson and there we sat for 30 minutes drinking freshly squeezed orange juice with his wife, daughter and grandsons. We eventually got back on our way (before I left they exhorted me to return and told me that their house was always open to me, I can't imagine that I'll ever trod down that lonely country road in Northern Costa Rica again...but I like the thought). We pulled into Upala in mid-afternoon and there I expected them to leave me but they had other plans - first we went to the pharmacy to fill out a prescription together, then we went to the bank together to deposit some funds, then we happened upon the taxi driver's sister and took her for a spin and then we stopped off at the taxi owner's friend's house to pick up a free cell-phone. After being in Upala-proper for about an hour I finally decided to take my leave and ask that they drop me off at the local bus depot. With tears in their eyes they let me go and there I waited for the next leg of my journey for a bus to Veracruz. If Paris Hilton lived in UpalaThe bus finally rolled up around 4:30 and and hour later, after traveling on a dirt and rock road, I disembarked in Veracruz covered from head to toe in a thick layer of dust. My time with Jeffrey and his mother was glorious, they had no idea I was coming but they quickly made me feel at home. We spent the night catching up, talking and listening to classic latin music. I left the next day for San Jose, I didn't really want to but Flora was expecting me - I pulled into San Jose that night around 9 and when I showed up at Flora's she was waiting for me with a big pot of Arroz con Pollo which was nice 'cuz I was hungry. I spent 2 days in San Jose in which time I managed to visit La Carpio, take coffee with Alejandra, take Antonio and some La Carpio boys to the movies, eat dinner with Alejandra and meet some kids from New England that will be doing a stint of service in La Ceiba starting in a few weeks. All in all while it may have been a whirlwind tour of my favorite haunts and favorite people (I spent 57.5 hours in either a bus or a taxi in total), it felt so good to see them all again and reconnect. Maycol The Biggest Cockroach I've ever seen Lionel & his sonDishing the Dirt...& One of the funniest things I've ever seen... Leading Jesus Loves MeBreakdancing in the rain...& Cafe MundoI got a haircut the other day...it was a disaster. One of the many rules that I have to abide by here in 1954 is that I can't grow my hair long...it's just not acceptable. Which is a shame because I'd been so looking forward to coming to Central America and really letting my hair down - literally. Anyway, from time to time I have to get my haircut and as you all know I am very much a creature of habit - the first time I had to get my haircut my friend Karen took me to a beauty salon owned by family friends thus I've been going back (with Karen en tow) ever since. Well this last time Karen absolutely refused to accompany me, she told me that I was a big boy and didn't need her to hold my hand. So off I went despondent and convinced of certain faliure - I explained to Cristy that I wanted just a little taken off the top but tht she could feel free to-go-to-town on the back - it went alright at first and I thought pretty highly of myself for having explained my desires so thoroughly but I soon noticed that Cristy wasn't letting up and I was slowly being transformed into a Marine. When she finally finished I had shorter hair than I think I've ever had...even when Shay in Costa Rica had to fix my self-inflicted hair disaster. I, as I always do, told her that I loved it and gave her a big old thumbs up and then I ran out of there and in search of the nearest hat. My friends told me later that all barbers and stylists do that - they'll just keep on cutting unless you physically stop them, which explains why so many men in this town walk around with crew-cuts I suppose. Oh, I'm reading my first book in Spanish - The Alchemist...El Alquimista in Spanish...granted it was originally written in Portuguese but that's close enough...Norman gave it to me to begin to open me up to the world of Latin literature. Hmmm...the only other piece of news that I seem to have is that I've gotten my friend Norman hooked on The Shins - he comes over nearly every night and we sit on my porch and talk about life while "New Slang" & "Weird Divide" lilt and sway in the background. He's absolutley fanatical about them, who isn't really, to the point that he knows the lyrics by heart despite his inability to understand them. I'm so proud. Well that does it, I know this was short but when you spend nearly half your week riding in a bus and reading a history of the 1927 Mississippi Flood you're not exactly left with a mountain of material to blog about. Blessings to you this week. Peace!

- Matt

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Floating Away

Good Grief, it's raining so hard here that I can barely hear myself think. After a week's respite the monsoons have returned with a vengeance...and in reality I'm not terribly upset. The rains have brought slightly cooler temperatures (so cool that as I click away here on the Toshiba Satellite 215 I'm bundled up in a lined windbreaker...A WINDBREAKER WITH A LINING, that tells you something). Anyway, I enjoy the rain, it helps me sleep, makes Coffee Hour more enjoyable and just generally breaks up our normal monotonous weather of 'Stifling & Intolerable'. The one problem I've noticed though here is that unlike in San Jose, La Ceiba it seems has never really gotten around to installing a proper Storm Drain system. The hours worth of constant downpour simply collect in the streets and turn them into veritable rivers...which makes my daily runs slightly less enjoyable...and that old adage of 'never drive through standing pools of water' definitely does not seem to apply here, people just plow through the water with nary a thought as to how deep the small lakes may be or what they might actually be driving over top of. I really enjoy it actually, when my friend Nelson drives headlong into big pools I press my face up against the window to watch the water splash up...or to see whom we splash...I feel like a child. SO speaking of driving...I drove the other day...perhaps I should back up. Ok, so my good friend Norman came home last week from University because it has been on strike and has offered no classes for nearly a month...and it doesn't appear as though they'll be resuming their studies anytime too soon. Needless to say I am delighted, not for his misfortune but because I have my BFF back. As it turns out, Norman's birthday was this past week as well so the youth from the church gathered to celebrate at Pizza Hut after church on Sunday. Yes we have Pizza Hut but it doesn't taste quite right and for that I try to avoid it like the plague...anyways, the party was delightful and the cake memorable. Afterwards, the group split up, half wanted to play futbol and the other half wanted to go to the beach. Let me just take a moment and say that while I understand that at some point I am going to have to break down and subject myself to the humiliation that will almost certainly be heaped upon me when my friends here fully realize my complete ineptitude when it come to playing soccer, I most certainly don't want that day to be anytime too soon; oh that this country loved Ultimate Frisbee with the same fervor. That being said I was obviously in the group that wanted to go swimming. We made our rounds to people's homes to collect bathing suits when we suddenly realized that we had no one to drive us from La Ceiba out to the beach. The group consisted of people that were either too young or who didn't have their license...we were on the verge of despair when someone asked me if I had my license. I said yes (I meant my Pa License and they were obviously referring to a Honduras License...don't worry I've since found out that it's perfectly legal) and it was decided that I would borrow a car from one of their parents and off we would go. So trusting was this parent that he gave me the car for the whole day and then told me to drive it back into Ceiba and keep it for the night...I barely know the guy. It was fun though to go tooling around Ceiba in a stick-shift, I haven't driven since December so it felt really good.We had another march the other day...honestly these things are getting to be a bit much, and let me say if I may that it's not as though we ever switch it up with different parade routes or candy tosses or the aggregation of pets and clowns. No dear friends, we always start at 7:00 am sharp at the South end of San Isidro Blvd. and march North to the Park with the same worn placards and banners and the same local high school band pounding out tired songs. I don't get it. So Norman aside I've had some visitors of the Gringo type here in the past two weeks. The first to visit were a husband and wife couple from Ohio. Their names are Virgil & Cathy Troyer (she was a Schrock...I played the Mennonite Game but in that I know only one Troyer and zero Schrocks we got nowhere) and they're serving with MCC in Tegucigalpa to coordinate country-wide programs to assist in disaster relief when such needs arise. They were a lovely couple and immediately I felt a connection with them, they reminded me so much of the Mennonites I knew when I was little...the soft-spoken, humble but very caring and kind Byler/Kolb/Weaver/Lehman types. I wanted to take them home with me (mostly in the hopes that Cathy might spontaneously whip up a hamloaf) but they were just passing through and had to be going. The other visitor I had was Alex Fine - he's originally from the Chicago area but we met in Costa Rica while he was doing a year of outreach there. He's done with his assignment and is now slowly making his way home with two of his friends from the States. He dropped by Ceiba on Monday Night so we got together for Dinner at the Pettingill's (other missionary friends that I met in Costa Rica). It was a grand 'ole time, Erin found a Swiss Importer the other week and so was able to serve us Bratwurst and Sauerkraut...I was in Heaven. We ended the night with a rousing game of Dutch Blitz...a Vonderful Gut Game. Speaking of games the other night Canada played Honduras in the selection for the next World Cup...Honduras won and this place erupted. People packed the streets, waving flags, chanting, cars and buses packed with fans drove up and down the main drag for half the night honking their horns and being generally rowdy. I didn't join in the festivities, I was tired and wanted to get to bed but on my way from the church to my house I had to cross over the main drag and I as I did I happened to notice a school bus go by packed with fanatics none more so than a little old lady from our church, Elba (a normally reserved woman), hanging out the window and making quite a spectacle of herself...I've never wished I had my camera on me like I did just then. Honduras plays Jamaica tonight and if they win their guaranteed a berth in the tournament (the U.S. already has their berth by the shway by having beat Cuba and Guatemala)...if they do win tonight I expect I'll be getting little to no sleep. Here are some shots from Cruz de Leones where I'm working with the youth...I've been working especially close with Marlo, Mudo and Rafael in learning English...we have a long way to go. So who am I listening to these days? The Music Man! That's right ladies and gents I downloaded the original Broadway version with Robert Preston and now do my morning administrative work rocking out to "Shipoopi" and "76 Trombones"...as an aside, in the past I've often thought I could make a good Professor Harold Hill...I still think that. I nail his "Ya Got Trouble" every time - call me Broadway.Well that's all I got...hope you enjoyed. Come back in 2 weeks and I'll have a special treat for you. Blessings to you. Peace!



- Matt