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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Honduran Thanksgiving

This was by far my most non-traditional Thanksgiving yet. The past 2 years I've gotten together with my Presbyterian friends to share in a very traditional feast; unfortunately this year they're on furlough and so this past Thursday I was on my own to think of a way to pass the holiday. As luck would have it a very interesting and wonderful day fell right in my lap.

Those of you who read my November Update will know that as a result of Soplo I've gotten to know quite a few of the older youth in Los Laureles. This past Wednesday I was feeling hot and sweaty and had an hour to kill so I thought to make a quick run to the mountains and jump in the river. Not wanting to go it alone I decided to invite Manuel (one of those older youth that have started coming to church) along for the ride. On the way back I pointed out the waterfall that flows out of the National Park and mentioned how beautiful it is up there, he in turn said he'd like to go sometime and I thus suggested we go the next day (Thanksgiving). I invited Soplo and Duke as well and early the next morning we started on our journey. After the waterfall and the requisite 2 hour hike, we visited one of my favorite swimming holes and then headed back to town to a local restaurant that serves a passable Thanksgiving imitation Dinner and then the rest of the day we rested and played the Wii (graciously provided by Konrad). It was an atypical Thanksgiving in many respects but that common thread of spending meaningful time with the people you love held true...I am thankful.

a long-shot of the waterfall from the road

a close-up

some of laureles' finest
duke, soplo & jeta

stunning

who invited michael jackson

last of the mohicans-ish

by the by, the water is frigid

manuel (jeta), headed for the waterfall

soplo opted to not get wet and observed from afar

duke taking in the sun at our swimming hole

the cangrejal river

soplo & jeta

posing
H.T.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November Honduras Report

This then is my November Report that I send out by email, not to be confused with the sporadic and verbose Newsletter that will be sent out next month. If you're not on my emailing list but would like to be leave a comment or write me at keismatthew@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving from Honduras,
It's been a harried month since last I wrote with nearly all of my time being consumed by the home construction...I will be overjoyed when this project finally ends. In spite of that, a lot has been happening here in the life of the community of Los Laureles and the following then are some of the highlights as they relate to me and my work. Remember that if you'd like to read more about my work here you can visit my blog at www.honduraskeiser.blogspot.com
My New Home
Still isn't done - I was supposed to move in on November 18th and was really looking forward to cooking a truly thankful Thanksgiving Day feast in my new house but we have had some setbacks lo these many weeks, mostly climatic in nature and as a result it looks as though I won't be able to move in to Los Laureles until the 1st week of December. Which is fine, I'm anxious to be there, to be a permanent part of the community but two more weeks isn't going to kill me. Please continue to be in prayer about this move though - pray that good things come of it, that it be a blessing for everyone involved, that I live life there wisely...and that the home be finally finished and livable.
Our High Schoolers
Finished their school year well for the most part this past month. Of the 7 students we had enrolled in private, Christian high school, 6 of them passed for the year and 2 of those 6 passed with high honors. That unfortunate 7th, well...what can I say - he reminds me of me. He just did not take to school or studying and no matter how many extra tutoring sessions we instituted or how many times we hassled him we just couldn't force him to do the work if he didn't want to. He's a nice kid, he's great to be around, he just hates homework and studying. You can pray for Tati then; he's only 13 but he has no desire to continue studying in any capacity which means very shortly he'll have to start looking for work, which at this point means selling bananas or picking metal off the garbage trucks. I'm not sure if he truly grasps what few choices he now has in life but he soon will be hit with it; very often it's that sudden realization of "this is it" and that onset of hoplessness that leads the kids into early alcoholism and drug use. It's been a sad lesson for everyone involved, especially his parents who were really hoping he'd make the most of this opportunity, but it at the same time it's also taught me about choosing candidates wisely.
Lauro
Stacy Nofziger wrote me in response to my October Update and said that while she enjoyed it well enough she really wasn't interested in general facts as much as she wanted personal stories. Well dear Stacy, those tend be lengthy and hard to condense down but this month you're in luck. Recently one kid in Laureles in particular has become an absolute joy to be around - who he is now and who he was a few months ago are like night and day, this transformation has been dramatic and rapid and I'm not sure what to attribute it to but it sure does make me happy. His real name is Bayron Lenin Espinoza Velasquez but everyone just calls him Lauro. He's a diminutive yet spunky 13 year old that has the voice of a life-long smoker and for as long as I've known him he's driven me insane. He has issues you see - he's naturally angry, jealous of others, has a hard time trusting people or believing that their intentions are good and in that he's a middle child he's constantly trying to compete with and overtake his older and more winsome brother, Sergio. Anything I give Sergio, either materially or in time, I have to give at least as much and usually more to Lauro - of course that's impossible and so when I fail, which I always do, he becomes sullen, withdrawn and refuses to speak to me. When he feels that I've slighted him in some way, if he thinks I've been making fun of him, if I don't understand him, he'll go for days, sometimes weeks without speaking to me; he'll follow me around and make sure he's aware of my every movement but he'll ignore anything I say to him until he's decided it's time to speak to me again. One day this past September I arrived in the community and began chatting with an adult there, Lauro passed me by and said hello but I didn't hear him and because I didn't respond to his greeting he refused to talk to me for 3 weeks. He also needs constant reassurment, at least 3 times a week I have to tell Lauro that I love him; I have to physically pull him to me and whisper in his ear that I love him...as Paula Massanari can tell you, this is no small feat for me, I loathe feelings or the expression of them so this thrice weekly exercise in emoting is almost tortuous. He's been this way as long as I can remember, Konrad and I used to get so frustrated with him because he was impossible to please, he was simply never happy yet he insisted on being pegged to our hip. It made no sense, if we angered this little storm cloud so much why did he insist on being such an integral part of our time here? For some inexplicable reason all of that began to change sometime in mid-October; he became remarkably less angry, calmer, easy to please, in short he became a happy, well-adjusted child with a sunny disposition and song in his heart. As he began to shed his angry ways other hidden atributes began to shine through - he's fiercly loyal, a hard worker with the heart of a servant, he has a strict sense of right and wrong and he's incredibly affectionate and demonstrative. He's also become an integral part of the church - he has always attended regularly and without fail but recently he's become somewhat of a mascot for the older youth; they love him and insist that he accompany us when we do things as a youth group. More than that he's begun to participate more fully in the church services; he sings, stands for the prayers and even recites verses in front of the congregation when asked to. I can honestly not say why Lauro has made a change for the better, it was nothing I did so much as a decision he made but I love it, I love being around him, I look forward to seeing him each day. I never thought I'd say that. Pray that he continues down this path and that he meet Jesus along the way.
Soplo & His Crew
Stacy you're in luck because this month has been one of people and their stories. Soplo has been one of the few older youth (17-20) that I've really been able to connect with here in Los Laureles. I met him last February and since then he's become a close friend and confidant, an integral part of the youth group at church and a great help in all that I do. I know most of the older youth in Laureles and they know me, we greet each other, exchange jokes every now and then but until recently it never really went beyond that. In that the younger kids and youth occupy nearly all of my time and since the older youth are almost always working I just have never had the time to really get to know them let alone leave the community with them. That all changed though a few weeks ago and it was because of Soplo. He's been scheming for some time now with Tino from church to set up a soccer match between the youth from church and some of Laureles' finest. A few Sundays ago it finally came to fruition; 8 youthful, innocent Mennonites went up against some of the hardest and toughest youth that Laureles has to offer - Laureles won...which was nice to see but from that sprung something unexpected, friendship. The two groups really took to each other, they joked, they laughed, we all went out for food afterwards and it came about that the Mennonites invited the Laureles kids to church...and the Laureles kids accepted. All that week as I saw them they kept calling out to me, yelling "Saturday, Church!". I honestly didn't expect them to show, they normally spend Saturday nights drinking and dancing and while their intentions may have been good I thought for sure that when it came down to it they'd flake out. Soplo though had other plans, he made sure that all ten of them were ready and waiting when I passed by that Saturday evening. They seemed to really enjoy it but I thought for sure it was one-time event but the week following, this past week actually, they kept up with the "Saturday, Church!"mantra and Saturday evening when I passed by again there they all were ready and waiting. One of them, Blas, even became a Christian when the offer was put forward by the pastor. I'm not sure where this is all going - it's exciting, a little overwhelming really but please be in prayer for this group of kids, they have difficult lives and of all the people in Laureles they have had it the roughest in their short time here. Pray too for Blas as he begins his new life as a follower of Jesus. Pray for me for wisdom.
Prayer Requests
School Scholarships - This coming January we're hoping to enroll between 15-20 students in private, Christian high school. This is an incredible opportunity for them to receive a solid education and move beyond the cycle of abject poverty that everyone else in Los Laureles is trapped in. Unfortunately I need to find $1,000 per student to cover tution, uniform and book costs. Please be praying that funds come in soon so that we're able to assure our students that they'll be able to study next year.
Soccer Club - Last year a very generous person donated nearly $2,000 for the purpose of founding a soccer club for all the children of Los Laureles between the ages of 9 & 14. With that money we were able to purchase soccer cleats and uniforms for 45 youth. This year we'd like to expand our club to include any interested youth between the ages of 9 & 18. This of course will require at least double the funds we received last year. Please pray that someone sees the importance of this venture and that they be moved to donate the funds needed to start this year's program.
A School - We are in the processing of establishing a alternative school here in Los Laureles that would offer an accelerated program, high school equivalency courses and night classes for adults and youth that never completed 6th grade. This requires a lot of work, volunteers and buy-in from the community. Please pray that this gets off the ground.
That's all for this month, have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving. Thanks again for your support and your prayers as I would not be here writing this if it weren't for you.
Peace to you all,
Matt Keiser
"Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty." - Zechariah 4:6


happy lauro

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Varela Birthdays

Continuing on then with the birthdays this past week we had both Carlitos, also known as Chihua, and his little sister Dariana. I love this family, the way the take care of each other, the way they all tend to their mother...they way all 7 of them sleep in one bed. They're incredibly close and their daily interactions and ventures just leave me in stitches. We had a good 2 days celebrating the back-to-back birthdays.
the youngest of the varela crew...still not sure how i feel about him

ok, this isn't related to anything...it's just Kaka half-observing the fiesta. he's been hanging around a lot lately, on the fringes. which is fine, he's a joy to be around, it's just a bit curious.

chihua is now 15. i remember the first time i met him 2 years ago - it seems like yesterday that i invited him and his brother to go to the river with us. he has become such a huge part of my life and door to so many other people within the community. he has enormous influence with the other kids and it's almost always for the good. chihua is such that if i need to sway the opinion of a group of kids i go to him first and allow him to do it - he's like the pied piper of los laureles.

and then there's his simpleton sister, dariana. megan keiser anyone?

having eaten his cake it's now time to escape

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birthday Month

November is by far my month with the most birthdays to celebrate - we have a grand total of 15. Not all have been featured nor have all been fetted yet but the following 4 are the birthdays from last week. Interesting note, in that we're into our 2nd year of celebrating a lot of the kids know which other kids celebrate around the same day that they do - they've formed a special sort of birthday bond. Kids that wouldn't normally give each other the time of day throughout the year get all giggly and giddy with each other and insist on beng present for each other's celebrations. I haven't put my finger on what's it all about exactly but it does make me smile.

ok, mateito didn't celebrate this past week but he certainly has become an addict to all things sweet. here he's pressing his body towards the cake in hopes of reaching it.

his cousin karla turned 13 - please pray for karla, she's a sweet girl but there's a lot of pitfalls out there awaiting her.

it's true, i love chucu.

this is chucu, also known as carlos, and i absolutley love this kid.

cantu not so much, kid of bothers me in every conceivable way...but hey, a birthday negates all of that for a day.

pichol, who saw jesus in the clouds a while back, turned 6.

and mateo still hasn't gotten his cake

Monday, November 15, 2010

Surgery

Ronald took a nasty spill the other day in Laureles. As it wasn't deep enough to warrant stitches and it was already late in the evening a patch-up job was the best I could do. The next day then I came back, shaved his head, cleaned and medicated the wound, bandaged it all up and sent him on his way. He showed up for church yesterday and looked much better.

not my finest work but i made do with what i had

and this is after we got him all shaved and cleaned up

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Tragic Day In Laureles

pichol was taken down by 2 runaway babies and their manservant.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eduar Is 13

one of the originals from way back

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life in Laureles This Past Week...

has been well, normal and interesting all at once. It's cold and rainy and as always that puts a damper on our activities, at the same time though it allows me free time to simply explore, be with the kids, take coffee unmolested...rain is freeing.

this one is growing on me.
i've discovered i don't really care for babies, i know i used to; i used to love holding them, playing with them, watching them. now though, well i just dont like them very much. they're messy, the smell funny, cry all the time and i swear are strong-willed and know better but are using their age as a cover to get away with all sorts of shenanigans. i really could simply do without them. is that bad? anyways, this one here, maybe it's his name (mateo) but i'm starting to like him.

a budding mennonite

flirtateous

the other more sullen memo had his 14th birthday this past week. turns out he's not so sullen once you set a cake in front of him.

and where better to enjoy the cake then in the back of the toyota.

juan carlos, i love this kid - you would too if you knew him.

carlos with me in the back of tino's truck

elder and enil, two of the newest additions to our crew. i like being around them because they remind me of what it's like to be six again; the things they think are important and noteworthy like height, jumping ability, how fast you can run, stuff like that.

thursday and friday it rained so much that water inundated the church and messed up everything inside and out. friday afternoon then church members showed up to clean, i also brought 13 of my finest and hardest working. they left quite the impression with the church folk.

moving bricks laureles style



lauro and leda really putting their backsides into it.

taking a nap

yesterday 7 youth from church challenged 7 youth from laureles to an indoor soccer match. laureles won which made me happy but i enjoyed it that much more because it was the first time that i was able to connect with a large group of older youth (17-22) from laureles. i knew them all and we always greet each other but it was the first time we ever did anything together.
hopefully this leads to something greater.

the youth from church, frustrated at their loss

my friend soplo who comes with me to church. he's the one that really organized everything and is my contact into the world of the older youth of los laureles.

pichete, jeta and wilmer. these are tough kids but they make me laugh.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And Now For The Tragedy In Photo

The following then is a bit of a photographic history of the two intertwined stories that I wrote about on Tuesday. If you haven't yet read Tuesday's post I would encourage you to do so so that you'll better appreciate the photos here. The first set of photos are related to the recycling co-op and the second set to the dumping situation. Enjoy...no that's not right, get righteously angry.

ok this first foto is from last february before the new rule went into effect - notice the ample space and amounts of recyclables (this was a slow day)

working in a sea of plastic

this now is from august after the rule went into effect

not much in the way of work

this is chana, she's the leader of the co-op. this was taken september 30th after the co-op had relocated to the gutter.

because of space the plastics business is all but gone, they work mostly in metals now.

conveniently enough, the co-op buys the metal and the sells some of it to this man on the other side of the road who makes them into grills.

my close friend soplo, still working.
Ok, now we move on to the garbage dump situation.

ok, in the foreground lies the residencial area of laureles. in the middle lies that green space with our soccer field to the left and the behind lies the actual dump. this foto is obsolete as it was taken last december and everything has changed since then.
work began on the green space the first week of september. at first no one except the governing council knew that soon they'd be dumping trash here. we all thought they were just going to level it all out and make the soccer fild they had promised.
if they had left it this way i wouldn't be writing...this would have worked perfectly for a playing field.

a few days later the garbage company set up shop on our doorstep and began dumping trash. here chiro is playing 10 feet away from a new landfill.

notice how close the trash comes to our building....they also use this to feed children, at least they did.

this is after 5 weeks.

quite a change

the idea is to mix trash and dirt and then level it all off

you can see how it begins to grow and how it might cause some problems

in the middle of all this the mayor, congressman and representatives from the world bank showed up to trumpet their plans for the model community

world bank reps

the schoolchildren lined up to greet our distinguished guests

the boys too

thi is the former president and current vice president of the community. he is the brains and the real mover behind the whole operation (the president is a puppet and not terribly bright)

our benevolent mayor

distinguished congressman

the world bank's head man in honduras (an american i believe)

the children also sang the national anthem for the attendees

pichol looks out over the wasteland, notice the lovely black pools of liquid death that periodically wash down into the community

grabbing a snack

a pichol-less shot of the toxin

one nice thing about the dump being so close at hand now is that when we have trash to throw away we just step off the porch and toss it over onto the other side of the road

this now is mid-october...notice how much it has grown and continues unabated

a close-up
for those of you familiar with the area, this is from the stairs

and this is from yesterday. that black swath is uprooted trash that they're mixing in with the dirt

look how high it has grown, where once we had a clear view of the entire building on the other side we can now barely see the roof. and this is just from the side, standing below it is over 50 feet high now.
That's all I have, please pray for us here.