Monday, February 22, 2010

Copan Zip lines

Recently, I went to Copan (very close to the border with Guatemala and site of a set of Mayan ruins). It was a lovely town -- cleaner than most and more pastoral. The school was well kept and had new playground equipment. there were a variety of houses... it even looked like there was a middle class. We found some lovely restaurants, cute cafes, quaint shops. There was a festival on the Saturday night of our visit. Our hotel was on the town square and our balcony faced the square. We heard marichi music all night long!

One of the cool activities is to go zip lining. They drive you to the top of the mountain and you go on 15 lines down to the bottom. Some of the lines were VERY long... all were over the trees, some over valleys, one over the Copan river. The boys (they couldn't have been more than 20) who ran the tour were very experienced and took the pictures/video I'm attaching. They have a lot of experience with this. They went down the lines backward and hands free... they were like monkeys! I tried to take the guide out on one platform... oops! I just didn't get that you pull down to slow down and I came in pretty close to full speed.

It was a fun morning!

This weekend, we went to the orphanage again. We brought peanut
butter and jelly sandwiches, milk, and popcorn. (We made 230+ pbj sandwiches, popped 50 bags of popcorn and took 10 1/2 gallons of milk.) The food was gone in about 45 minutes. I served sanwiches... so I was covered in pb and j! After feeding the kids, we had about an hour to play.
My parent's church, St George's Episcopal Church, sent a bunch of things for the kids. So, I put together a bag of toys to bring with us on our visits. The bag had matchbox cars (most went into pockets, but you can see this boy loved his ambulance!), a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, an ipod with speakers. I got to jump rope for a long time with a set of girls. Others listened to music. (The older girls think there should be a dance contest next visit... but we need to bring prizes. They think good prizes would be make up, perfume, or milk. They don't normally have milk so they have to have bean burritos or eggs for breakfast... and they'd prefer cereal with milk. They laughed when I explained that in my house it was the treat to get a hot breakfast!)
One of the girls turns 18 soon and will be leaving the orphanage. She plans to go to Tegucigalpa (capital of Honduras) to study to be a billingual secretary. Now, when I see her, I'll only speak English because she needs to practice.
We plan to have an Easter celebration with the kids in about a month. We'll have a longer visit and we'll organize games. I think we'er going to to 3-legged races, sack races, etc. We're considering playing some sports, but we're likely to avoid soccer as we'd get beaten very badly! :)
One of these pictures is of one of my co-workers with her favorite little girl. The third picture is of one of the older girls from the orphanage with a baby. She had him posed in a funny way... he looked very serious in his sleep!
It was a fun visit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Travelig to Copan

President's day is Monday, and following Army tradition, we have a 4-day weekend. I requested and was granted a pass and am participating in a Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) trip to Copan, Honduras. Copan is the site of the largest set of Mayan ruins in Honduras. It's VERY close to the border with Guatemala and is in the mountains. I'm not sure how far it is if you can fly, but the main highways really go in and out of major cities. So, the chartered bus went from Comayagua to San Pedro Sula to Copan. It took about 9 hours. We did stop for lunch at a cafeteria along the way. I think it's pretty typical for here (at least I've been to similar kinds of places in Comayagua and LaPaz (the towns surrounding Soto Cano Air Base). You buy a plate of food from the buffet. They always have rice and tortillas (corn at this place). They generally have 4-5 kinds of meats, 4-5 choices of vegetable and 4-5 salads. I'm not sure if it's a flat price or depends on how much of each thing you pick... my lunch was fried rice, fried chicken, steamed vegetables, beet salad, a second vegetable and tortillas (too much food to finish). it cost 80 lempira (about $4).

We stopped as well to go to the bathroom. The thing about the bathrooms here is that they don't always have water in the chamber... sometimes, you get to get a bucket of water to fill the chamber so you can flush. That's not a big deal, but it's not a favorite part for me! Thank goodness charmin makes the little rolls for your pockets and that I got a big shipment of hand sanitizer this week! (By the way, if you're in the market for hand sanitizer, I highly recommend Bath and Bodyworks... they've got great smell/feel in their hand sanitizer.)

The trip was through the mountains. I was impressed with how pretty it was when we were away from the city. There were farms along the mountainsides. Lots of farm animals. (It's pretty common to see a cow or horse tied to something on the side of the road with a leash that's short enough to keep them out of the road.) A lot of the trip reminded me of northern Arizona. When we got closer to Copan, it got greener and more tropical looking.

Tomorrow, I'll go see the ruins and we have reservations at a nice restuarant. Sunday, I think we're going to go the Copan river where we can do the zip lines and swim. I plan to take photos (and write more).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trip #1 to Orphanage (7 Feb)

Today, I went to the orphange sponsored by my office. The office goes down every other Sunday. We bring food and then we play with the kids. Today, the guys also installed fire alarms in the rooms. (the house is all wood but they didn't have any fire alarms.)

I got to play with the little boys (pictured at the bottom) and talked with girls. I also served pizza. there are about 120 kids in the orphanage. The older boys work a ways away on a farm. We bought 30 pizzas from Domino's (yes they have Domino's here). We also brought cookies and milk (8 gallons) and juice. Could have made healthier choices, but the kids enjoyed it. Actually, the kids circled through the line as many times as possible and stashed the pizza. some even had zip lock backs to put the pizza into...
These are my pictures.

Kids eating pizza... guy in the orange shirt is the oldest boy and he kind of guides the other boys.

These kids were hanging out after eating.

This girl really enjoyed her pizza!

I played with this boy a lot.

This girl was really cute. She reminded me of Emily.

This is Wendy. she held my hand and gave me hugs/kisses as I was leaving. She just wanted affection. I liked her dress.

These boys were the ones that I played with most. We spent a lot of time playing with my camera. Aren't they cute!

Here we are playing with the camera.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Flying to Duyure, Honduras

Getting to Duyure, Honduras is pretty hard. It's a remote, isolated village. The last part of the trip is dirt, mountain roads. We took a black hawk helicopter.

We flew over the mountains, villages, fields, and plantations. The people we flew over came out to see the fly over. The animals tended to scatter.

The villagers really loved seeing the helicopter up close and personal. These boys also enjoyed posing for pictures. While the medical team was looking at the facilities, the flight crew got to play soccer (at the end of this field) with these boys and other children in the village.

This little girl also wanted to see the helicopter.

It was really cool to go over the mountains and villages. I took some pictures and video of the journey. They didn't come out great, but it's the best I have.

This video is from flying over the Honduran countryside.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Craft fair

Today (and yesterday) there was a craft fair on base. There were a bunch of vendors. The Hondurans make beautiful wood products: bowls, boxes, etc. There were lots of wood products for sale. Also, pots and paintings and sculpture and jewlrey. It was fun to see the various vendors and their products. I got a couple of things. My best prize was a painting of Comayagua (the nearest town). It's framed and I actually like it very much. It cost $24, but I only had $20. It was 7 PM on the last day of the fair. The lady asked if I had at least $3 more... I said I only had 1 lempira (1 dollar=18 lempira). She laughed because that's like one penny. She wanted the sale, so I got the painting. I hung it in my hootch. I'll have to take new pictures of my hootch soon.

My hootch maid has been decorating. I now have curtains, silk flowers in a vase, plants in pots, pictures on the wall (several from her), art work from my girls, pictures of my girls... it feels like a house not a camping site. I'm so very lucky to have Maria Elena!

I didn't barter much at the craft fair. it was just hard to justify negotating down the prices when my most expensive purchase was $20. I know it's part of the culture off base (and I'll barter I hope in the future), but on base it felt weird to try to talk the vendors down. First, I know they give a part of the money to AAFES to be on base. Second, the prices seem very low. Third, I know the people here are very poor and I want to be able to give money back to the community...

Anyway, it was neat to see a market. I'll go to Valley of Angels (I hope) one Saturday to go shopping... I'm hoping to go to the waterfalls this weekend... we'll see if my work schedule permits the trip. (i work mornings and nights on the weekends.)

More later!