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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pining for the Fjords

No, I'm not really dreaming longingly of the Norwegian landscape but my stream of consciousness got a bit carried away...I was going to title this "Wishing for Snow" and then I thought "Pining for Snow" sounded better and then the old Monty Python sketch about "Pining for the Fjords" popped into my head....so you can see how my mind works. All that to say, I really miss the snow and ice. I see weather reports from back home about Arctic temperatures, buckets of snow and sheets of ice and I am insanely jealous. I love Winter weather; I love everything about it, from sledding to shoveling to school delays to cups of Hot Chocolate. I miss being able to wear big overcoats, scarves and hats...not that I don't try to pull it off here from time to time - sometimes I turn the AC up in my apartment, take a cold shower and then bundle up in long pants and my North Face jacket...what, it's fun. I know most of you are probably tired to death of all the cold and are eagerly awaiting warmer weather but I really am envious of you.
So the pining for the snow aside the biggest news as of late is that my work in the garbage dump is really taking off and I'm finding myself bombarded with ideas and plans. I've become close with about 6 youth there, we hang out, drink coke, they accompany on my home visits, we go hiking behind the dump and I'm teaching two of them to read. Starting with the next post I'll begin profiling them so that you can get to know them and pray for them in a more meaningful way. I finally feel as though I've found my work and as I've mentioned before, though it isn't what I thought it would be I know I belong there, I know God wants me there...and that's a good thing 'cuz I want to be there too. Be praying for the continued work there, I have a 6 month plan but really need a committed group of volunteers from the church to put it in place. Thanks.

The cat is Christian's...he says a dog tried to eat it. It's gross I know but I've never seen anything like that.

I took 3 of my kids, Jose, Christian and Anwar to a Soccer game on Sunday afternoon...we had a good time but we all took a little ill from the dinner after the game.

This past Sunday night the National Mennonite Church celebrated the Worldwide Day of Mennonite Fraternity by holding a special evening service with clusters of congregations - our church met with 5 other local Mennonite congregations at the Mennonite Retreat Center in Bufalo...not New York. It was a neat time and it was interesting to see just how many Mennos this area actually has. In our region alone there 15 other congregations. What also struck me was that nearly everyone in the region knows each other - and not just to say hello, they're intimately involved in the lives of members from other congregations...they really feel a connection with each other. I thought that was cool. By the by, the history of the Honduran Mennonite Church, especially in this area, is fascinating. Little by little friends and other are cluing me in the stories of the Church, a lot is told with lament and regret - there's a feeling that their best days are behind them. Nonetheless, I love hearing the stories and I've been hit with the desire to write them down and compile them...we'll see what comes. The National Church also held their annual Youth Retreat 2 weeks ago - it was an awesome time...again at the Retreat Center. I fear though that I'm getting to be old; when I was younger retreats meant that no sleep would be gotten, that we would talk and play Dutch Blitz, Pit and Setback all night long. This time around I found myself wanting to be in bed by 11:00...so much so that the first night I actually hitched a ride with Saco back to my house so I could sleep there. I couldn't help but think that I had turned into my mother. The youth put pressure on me to stay the second night and I did but I was in bed and out by 1:00. I'm getting old.

A few weekends back the Pettingills (my missionary friends from Costa Rica) invited me to the beach. I brought Norman along and the Gringo children that accompanied us turned him into a Mermaid. He looks thrilled.

Well folks that does it for this session. It was long in coming and a little shorter than normal but I seemed at a loss for good fotos and good stories. Blessings to you this week. Peace!

- matt

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Random Happenings

Well, well, well - here we are at the end of another Holiday Season, I trust you enjoyed your time with friends and family and are slowly dragging yourselves back into the workaday world of everyday life. I, unlike most of you I'm sure, am actually looking forward to the return of the routine. I've been running about hither and thither doing all manner of random but necessary activities and basically running myself ragged (I feel like a train-wreck) and so am anxiously awaiting the reopening of the Peace & Justice Offices. There seems an awful lot to recount so I'll avoid talking about the weather or my latest bout without dysentery (just foolin') and move onto happier topics. Christmas and the New Year were interesting affairs - there were certainly a lot of similarities: Carols, Trees, Presents and Food (buckets of it). They way it all panned out was what was really different for me...I, like many Pennsylvanians, am accustomed to to waking up early Christmas Day, rushing downstairs, opening gifts and then heading off to make the rounds at various relatives' homes. For us, the 25th is the Big Day. Latin America by contrast puts most of the emphasis on the night of the 24th. My Christmas Eve was spent in Church until about 8 pm and then it was off to Marla's house with all of her children and extended family - we snacked on tamales and various foods until midnight when we sat down to a massive and I do mean massive meal. At the end we toasted each other with a glass of wine, said a prayer and dug into chocolate cake. We set off fireworks, opened gifts and finally went to bed around 3 am. Christmas Day then was spent sleeping, I woke up at noon completely full, the idea food actually sickened me. Normally people here just laze about all day but this year some people from the church accompanied me to the garbage dump to deliver some food and clothing and spend some time with the people there. New Year's was spent in much the same way; church, Marla's, dinner at midnight, fireworks and sleeping the day away on the 1st. I talked to my Uncle Joe Girio about it later and he explained that when he was a boy his Italian family did it the same way, that for a lot of Catholic cultures the vigil or night before is always more important than the day itself. Interesting.One of the highlights of this Christmas Season was that there were relatively few presents to buy - normally Christmas Eve Day is spent racing around Lycoming Mall and buying presents for everyone under the sun (not that I don't love it though). This year I only bought 2 gifts...and received just as many...which is fine. I actually received some really nice gifts; my Aunt sent me two books one of which I've been wanting to read for almost a year, my mother and grandmother sent me a box full of random things that I hadn't realized I'd been missing until I opened it...things like Apple Butter, Martin's Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips and Home Made Fudge. Perhaps the best gift came from Frazer Mennonite - they sent me a check and told me to use it for a weekend vacation. I knew just where I wanted to go and so the weekend after Christmas Norman and I headed out to Roatan Island to spend the weekend there. It was incredible, we spent our time in West End by far the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. What's more, Norman's Aunt and Uncle pastor a tiny Mennonite Church, we attended the Saturday Evening service and were asked to lead the worship. Norman played guitar and sang and I just sang and clapped along - when we finished they looked at us and inquired as to which one of us would be bringing the sermon. We both declined - but I did stand up and talk for a little bit about the ministry work we're doing here in Ceiba. I won't go into much detail about Roatan but will rather let the pictures speak for themselves. So one of Norman's best friends has a t-shirt that I think is pretty cool, hilarious actually given that he doesn't really understand what it means..."Drop Beats Not Bombs"...so cool that I want it but haven't been able to broach the subject. How does one politely ask someone to disrobe and hand over their clothing? I'm still working on that. As I am wont to do, I occasionally surf around the web in search of witty, genuine humor and last week in one I stumbled upon (http://www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/) It's all meant tongue-in-cheek of course but a lot of the articles ring true especially this one about travel (http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/23/19-travelling/) or this related one (http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2009/01/11/120-taking-a-year-off/) which to some degree describes my feelings...which isn't a good thing. Thanks to my dear friend Sonia Lim I also found this blog which is hilarious and insightful and sometimes depressing: http://stufffchristianslike.blogspot.com/
So more adventures in language barriers: The other night a bunch of youth gathered at the house of our friend Manuel to eat dinner and watch movies - around 10pm nearly everyone left everyone except Norman and myself. Just before leaving he turned to me and said let's stay here and watch another movie. I had nothing doing the next day so I agreed and back upstairs we went to join Manuel, Noreda and Jessa. When the movie was over Noreda turned to me said well, time for bed, you and Norman can sleep in the guest room. I looked at her like she was taking crazy pills and shot a look at Norman but he just said "time for bed". Not that I minded spending the night I was just kind of taken by surprise...the confusion came when Norman asked me if I wanted to stay - I took "stay" to mean a little while more and he meant stay as in "the night".
So remember how some Garifuna boys sold me a turtle that by all accounts managed to escape my completely walled-in yard...well it seems as though his replacement showed up last week. It's definitely not the same turtle, mine was of the Snapping variety and this one resembles a Box. So let me finally talk about work at the garbage dump - Los Laureles, is a community of perhaps 1000 people living around La Ceiba's Municipal Dump. I suppose I don't have to explain that it's a very poor community, most of the homes are built from salvaged material from the dump and what little work they can find is usually related to repairing discarded appliances or collecting plastic bottles. We've been working in the community for about two months now and have gotten to know quite a few families very well. They invite us into their homes, we chat, we pray, we read the Bible together and when there is a need we take it t the church so that they can fill it. We're still in the beginning stages of our work, still building trust in the community but there is a lot of vision in our little group and already there are ideas for a micro-business, tutoring programs, Bible Studies and transportation to church. You can be in prayer for us and more importantly for the families there - it's a very difficult life they lead and they need all the support that they can get. Well that about does it for this round check back in within two weeks and we'll chat about the National Youth Retreat, some visitors from Frazer Mennonite and our ongoing work in Laureles. Blessings to you this week. Peace!
- matt