Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Update

Hey all... nothing major to report, but I figured that if I get time online I might as well keep you all updated.
As of today, there are protests in the streets of the main cities but as far as I know they have been peaceful and no one has died. There is a military presence everywhere in the major cities but so far the villages and surrounding towns still have the same, calm and pretty, but boring, atmosphere. There has been a country wide curfew been put into effect though. 9pm to 6am throughout the entire country, and 6pm to 6am in the cities... which puts a real downer on any activity in the city because the sun sets here at 6pm everyday regardless of season. Oh, its Winter here right now...which is really just rainy season. They have 2 seasons here wet and dry but they do follow the calendar in terms of global seasons.
Anywho, we are not allowed to leave our locations (as a precaution in case anything busts out quickly) so we have all been pretty bored lately. But its for our own safety and I get that. Totally bummed that our trips and vacations have been cancelled though. I don't like the idea of just sitting here for the next 5 weeks.
As for the political side of life... from what I gather its all over the news all over the world so you guys will probably know more than I will because we only can get our info from outside sources. There is a media ban in effect here and we are being fed tonnes of pro micheleti propaganda. I heard this morning that some of the neighbouring countries and allies of president Zelaya have gone to the US to see if Obama will get involved and be a mediator in all this as I suppose he represents everything that a democratic leader should be. He apparently refused to get involved saying that he could not back up an illegal coup d´├ętas nor could he justify what Zelaya wanted to do by wanting to have control over the constitution. So it sounds like, for once in US history, they are keeping their nose out of other peoples business.
Zelaya has a lot of supporters right now and the majority of the country is pissed at how this was all handled. Majority of the country supports Zelaya as they voted him in in the first place. Here´s where things could get hairy. Zelaya has been sequestered in Costa Rica and he made an address to Honduras today saying that he wants to come back Thursday morning. I didn´t catch his motivation, but people assume he wants to fight for his right to be president and face his government. The new and current government have said that they will by no means allow Zelaya back into the country nor any of his closest advisors and such. Venezuela has said that if Zelaya is not put back into power and restored to his full capacity as president, they will "take action". Of course they won´t define action, but most people believe it will be in the form of embargoes and sanctions and not military. Which is good in terms of us not getting shot at and stuff, but it will make life here way more miserable for the people. This country is poor enough without having economic sanctions put onto them by the one country they do a lot of exporting and importing with and to. Venezuela has the support of Nicaragua and the Castros as well as El Salvador I believe. So Thursday is the day of show and tell.
Like I said, no one really believes that this will turn violent in terms of country vs country. The major threat of violence comes from inside, the citizens of Honduras rioting and thus causing internal conflict. However, since this whole shit show started last week no one has shot a gun yet, so chances are it won´t escalate. Which means that we won´t be in danger, we won´t be sent home and we will finish our remaining 30+ days here. It also means that there is a good chance none of us will be allowed to travel outside of our home villages though until all this is completely settled. If this is the case I know a couple of us are really not interested in staying. But this is just speculation and opinion. We are quite bored here doing nothing and most of us came here wanting to travel and learn about the country and the customs not sit at home. I suppose we are learning a lot about the political system, but I´ll be super pissed if I don't get to see the beaches or the Mayan ruins because the political leaders are measuring the size of their dicks and seeing how far they can piss.... crude I know, sorry Dad... but its how I feel and all you who know me, know I speak my mind....
Hugs n stuff.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Drama Follows Me...

So I think I'm gonna write a book some day about the drama in my life. LOL.
So while the county was going into peril, my host parents decided to get into a car crash with a bus. Now again, my crappy Spanish didn´t allow me to understand all of the details, but from what I gather, they were on their way back from the capital city when either a bus hit them, or a bus hit someone else and that person hit them. Either way, everyone was taken to hospital and now everyone is fine. All I know is, they went to the hospital and Elva (mom) was released that night with cuts and bruises, but Bayunardo (dad) was kept for observation for possible head and neck trauma. He was released from hospital yesterday and now they are dealing with the police and trying to find a way back home because their car is done. Poor poor people. So I was left on my own for the weekend which was nice, apart from the torrential rainstorm that punched a hole into the living room ceiling. At least it wasn't in my bedroom , but still.... and the rainstorm brought the mosquitos into the house... that was fun... and the storm or the crazy government cut our power. All in all, shit weekend. But hey.... I was also supposed to be getting a weeks vacation time to tour the country but now apparently there is an inspector coming to the clinic so I might not get to go. Sigh.... Ah well...

Its been really interesting watching how things are done here with this whole Coup thing. For saying this is a democratic country, it´s quite un democratic. First of all, they cut any news feed that the current government doesn't want people to see. On Friday there was a media ban in effect in Honduras while everything was happening. Afterwards all we were allowed to see was the new president being sworn in and everyone looking all happy. The news about what was happening to Zelaya was only being told through other countries´media (like Nicaragua and others) and within the hour of them being broadcasted, the channel was disconnected. Today's paper only talks about the new president and nothing about what happened or why. I was also told by my host brother that all the freedoms we are all used to will be, if they haven't been already, taken away. This includes freedom of speech, right to assemble and freedom of the press. I was told that if and when I can go back into the capital city that by no means should I talk about what I think about this situation in public, nor should I be involved in a group of more than 3 in the city streets. Scary stuff. But that´s the way it goes. I'm not gonna be stupid by any means. This is serious shit and people can be shot for less. They have been. Not to worry anyone, its just so crazy how things you hear about on tv or see in movies actually do happen.
I have a few other stories to tell about corruption and other difficult things I have seen and experienced in front of me but Ill get to those at another time.. I hope.

Coup de Etas

Hey everyone. I think that is how you spell that. I don´t know if any of you have heard what has been happening here, but there is a severe and potentially dangerous situation come about in the last 4 days. I don´t know all the details but I´ll tell you what I know and what I have been told and what I think.

On Thursday night, June 25th, the president of Honduras Mel Zelaya fired the Minister of Defense (I don´t know why exactly). There was a major upheaval over this and Friday June 26th, at about 1 am, he was kidnapped and taken hostage in Costa Rica. There was a coup by his own government that night and a new president was put into power Saturday morning. As far as I know, this is why this happened.
Honduras is set to have their presidential election in November for the new term president to begin Jan 2010. The political system here works the same as in the States except for the complete corruption here is not even hidden. Every 4 years they have a new election and the president can only have 2 terms. So, apparently President Zelaya tried to pass a bill that said he was allowed to change the Honduran constitution without having to seek a referendum or permission from the Cabinet. He was going to put this idea to a democratic vote which was supposed to happen this past Sunday. Pretty much, if the bill was passed, he would instantly become a dictator if he wanted. He could essentially do whatever the hell he wanted, he could dismantle the government and no one could stop him without a war. If that is what he wanted to do. So you would think that the bill wouldn´t go through cuz that's just a plain stupid idea. Here's where the corruption comes in...he bought the vote. I don't know how exactly because I don't understand the voting system here but its definitely not democratic by our definition of the word. I believe that there are representatives of each department of the country and they ask the people what they want and then cast their vote for their department. So if the majority of the reps are bought off, anything can be passed. And no one tries to hide it. SO....
to avoid the inevitable passing of the corrupt bill allowing the president potential absolute power, his own Supreme Court had him removed from office. Now I don't know why they couldn't do it politically but I assume that impeachments and trials and all that jazz would take forever (remember Clinton?) and the vote was to be put Sunday. So I suppose removing him from the country means that another president has to be instated in order for the country to have a leader. I assume its the same if Obama were to be kidnapped, the VP Joe Biden would take over. Here I don't know how it works, but they put a new guy, last name Micheleti, in right away and the vote was stopped. SO now we have a big big big problem. Pretty much because what the Supreme Court did was not only illegal, but paramount to treason. They kidnapped their president and forced a coup. The country has been, or soon will be, split to choose sides, and agreements made with other countries will be in jeopardy. I´ll try and explain this as simply as I can cuz its complicated as hell, (try to understand it in Spanish!! God my head hurts).
Ok so Zelaya has some sort of deal going with Venezuela (no idea what) and apparently this coup has really buggered things up for them so their president is talking about sending his military into Honduras to try to help Zelaya come back into power if he wants to. This means civil and international war. Of course Honduras has allies to in Nicaragua and other surrounding countries, but as far as I understand, no one else wants to get involved and its all talk. Right now, there is military presence in all major cities and the new government has periodically shut off the country´s electricity. The threat of riots and looting is high and there is a threat of danger so everyone has essentially been grounded from travelling. There is also a chance that the government could instill a ban on gasoline and any other means of energy so no one can mobilize themselves and chances are, if things escalate, there will be a country wide curfew. Pretty much, at any time, there could be a civil war. Since the police here are military, the military are pretty preoccupied dealing with potential crises which means a lack of security in the main cities. Thus creating a chance of riots, looting and pillaging and mass murder. Yay me.
So now before my father panics (and yes I have explained all this to him) I am safe. We are all safe. We have been told by our coordinators that we are not to leave our host families and communities until things calm down for fear of being caught in a riot or stuck without a way home. Puts a huge damper on our travel plans (we couldn't go to Tela and I might not get my weeks vacation), plus we are all incredibly bored.
So to sum up a long story, we are all fine. Safe and sound and as of now we are not going to be sent home. We will only do that if things escalate. But holy crap does drama follow me.
Take care of you and I´ll be ok I´m sure. These ICYE people know their shit.

Hugs n stuff.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How It Works

ceSo I have finally figured out how the whole clinic thing works. It´s only taken me 7 weeks of learning Spanish to understand everything.
Honduras is broken into departments the same way Canada has provinces. Each department has communities like our cities, and within each community is another suburb like Ross Glen in Medicine Hat, or Wildwood in Calgary or Glen Lake in KW. I can´t remember what department I live in, but I live in the village of El Guante in the community of Cedros in the suburb of Arriba (which means "up" in Spanish). Each community, in my case Cedros, has medical clinics (well most of them, not all) which are sponsored by some American NGOs. In our case, a lot of the help and finance is brought to us by Feed The Children and some other church based groups. I really should learn all the names of everything, but whatever...
So, every house in each village has a number, the same way we do on our address. The family that lives in that house gets the same file number as their house number. The head of the family gets #1 and the rest of his family get the sequential #s. So in my case in Alberta, my house number is 61 so Dad would be 61-1 and I would be 61-2. As long as your family lives with you or you are a dependant of the family, you share the number. If you have your own house, you get your own number. Hope that made sense. Its 34C here with 85% humidity and no AC so my brain is a bit fried. Anyway, as long as you are a member of a family and you live in Cedros, you get access to the clinic. Last year the policy was changed, but it used to be that each person paid 100lps (Lempiras) per year and you can see the doctor as many times as you like. The problem was that some people were abusing the system and came to see the doctor every time they sneezed while others only saw the doctor once or twice a year and weren´t really getting their money´s worth. So now, every visit costs 15Lps (which is like 93cents Canadian) and they get all their prescriptions for free, all except for Depo Provera bc shot which is 5Lps or 34 cents or the pill which is 15Lps or 93 cents. God, how we would love for bc to be that cheap in Canada. All procedures are free, stitches and births and tests and all that. Anything that cant be dealt with in the clinic gets done in the hospital in Tegucigalpa. I believe that is free as well.
We have a dentist here and a pharmacist and I was wrong about the nurses and support staff. I thought that the nurses didn´t have formal training or education but they do. The cool thing is, if someone thinks they would like to be a nurse or a doctor, they can come work in a clinic and learn stuff for a month to 6 weeks (paid) to decide if they want to pursue schooling. What a fantastic idea. It would have saved me lots of time and money on wasted school if I could have tried on some jobs first.
I think I mentioned before that vaccinations are mandatory here for all children. They are free as well. If the clinic or the health section of the government find out that the child is not vaccinated, the parents can be fined and/or jailed and the child removed and vaccinated anyway.
So might as well just get them vaccinated since its free.
If you are not a part of the community, you can still come to the clinic, it will just cost you 75lps. So for instance, if you are visiting family and get sick, you can come to the clinic but it will cost you. As opposed to in Canada where health care is provincial but also federal in that I can see my Ontario doctor with my Alberta Health care card.
So that´s basically how it works. I have many stories of things I have seen and experienced here, some that have freaked me out. But I will save those for another time
Hugs n stuff.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Did You Know?

Some interesting facts and trivia about my host country..
Did you know that...

* Honduras has a population of about 7 million, 800 000+ living in the capital city which is
smaller in size than Calgary.
* Honduras can physically fit into Canada 89 times
* National tree is the pine if you can believe that. Honduras is one of the only countries in the
world that can grow all types of trees. There are pine, deciduous, palm and fruit trees
everywhere. They can grow in the same yard in the same soil. Hmmmm... there are probably
more trees than the ones I have mentioned, but I am not the tree expert, so feel free to look it
up if you are¨:o)
* The national animal of Honduras is the white tailed deer. You would think with all the monkeys
and other interesting tropical animals out here they would pick a more eclectic animal, but no...
I don´t think I have seen one yet. More likely to see one in Canada. But I believe that the
white tailed deer has special significance to Honduras´history (like with the hunters back in the
day).
* The national bird of Honduras is the Red McCaw. That seems appropriate. Very pretty tropical
looking bird.
* The national flower is the Orchid and there are many many of those around. They smell
awesome!!
* There are 4 ethnic groups, or tribes if you will, still alive and thriving today here in Honduras. Before the Spanish came and conquered Honduras back in the 1500s they lived separately in the country and as far as I have learned, they lived peacefully segregated.

Misquitos:
-live in the East coast of Honduras, in the Moskita jungle. We know this area as Mosquito coast and the area was made famous in the movie of the same name starring Harrison Ford, however the movie was filmed in Belize and not Honduras. The area is only accessible by air or by sea and is mostly ignored by the government. The local fishing villages have become havens for drug traffickers.
-Interestingly enough, the area is named for its inhabitants, not because it has a mosquito infestation. Although, being that it is a jungle, I am sure it probably has its fair share of mosquitoes.
- they speak their own language of Misquito and Spanish
- they had their own King until they were conquered by the Spanish
- today they live as the rest of us, in cities and houses but they do maintain their culture and their language. Some choose to live the traditional way (exactly what that means, I´m not sure but I am hoping to learn)

Garifunas:
-these people were African slaves brought to Honduras in 1797 after being banished from the Caribbean by the English, French and Spanish.
-they live in the North of Honduras and still maintain a bit of their culture today.
-they speak mostly Spanish and some native African tongues. There is still quite a considerable Creole,Caribbean-esque lifestyle there.
-one of Honduras´national dance is the Punta. The word Punta literally means "tips" as in dancing on the tips of your toes. I very much would like to learn the dances. They resemble a combination of and belly dancing with the speed of the Hawaiian hula . Quite the workout and the music is awesome!!!

Chorties:
- I don´t know that much about these people except that the Spanish pretty much wiped them out when they came and conquered Honduras.
-Similarly to how the Europeans came and forced assimilation upon the North American aboriginals, the Spanish forced the Chorties into slavery and assimilation and took over their lands. :o(
- the language and culture is all but lost except for the few remaining descendants who like to teach others about their history

Lencas:
- I have to admit I like this culture the most so far. Probably because I know more about them than any of the others.
- they have managed to maintain their culture and still thrive today. They are famous for their handmade pottery with inked patterns on the dishes of various symbols and storytelling. The ink is all natural and handcrafted as well. The patterns are similar in nature to some African patterns which gives some intel as to the Lencas´s background.
- the women wear brightly coloured bandanas to signify their culture.
- one of the more interesting aspects of the Lencas history is the story of Lempira. He was a young Lenca man who was tired of the Spanish coming in and taking over the country. So he became a warrior and with a large number of people, he fought against the Spanish army with spears and machetes against the Spanish guns and swords. He was the Honduran William Wallace if you will. He managed to hold his own against Spain and was invited to peace talks by the King of Spain. That night Lempira was tricked and assassinated. In honour of this man´s bravery and courage and love of his country, the Honduran currency bears his name, the Lempira (which currently sits at about 16.6 Lps per Canadian dollar). His picture is on the 1L bill which can be seen on my power point presentation on here under Honduras Info.

*the oldest working clock in the Americas is located in a cathedral in Comayagua (coh-my-ahg-wa) which was the original capital city of Honduras but now shares that distinction with Tegucigalpa.
* now for the important stuff... booze. They have 4 domestic beers here and they have some microbreweries as well. They do make their own wines here as well although I haven't had the chance to try them. Domestic beer costs roughly $1.50 can, and imports (like Corona and MGD) $ 2.00. Liquor here is quite a bit cheaper too. I found a 750 of Bacardi white for $14 and a shot at the bar (highball) will run you $2.50. Sorry Andrea, but no Captain Morgan´s Spiced here... such a backwards people...lol.

So as you can see, I haven't just been sitting on the beach drinking Cuba Libres (that´s this weekend in Tela), I have actually been learning stuff. I am going to be travelling quite a bit in July and will get to learn much more. I´m excited. Hope you have enjoyed Did You Know, Honduras

Hugs

Monday, June 15, 2009

Time and Transit

¨The richness of the human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome¨.
Can´t remember who said that or where I saw it, but I like it all the same. It was probably on my Starbucks cup...lol. No they don´t have Starbucks here, but they have their own version called Espresso Americana and it´s pretty much the same.

It´s been so interesting learning how to live in a new culture. It´s been really aggravating at times and really fun and fantastic at others. For example, time means not a hell of a lot here. If you are told to be somewhere at 9, chances are the person you are meeting won´t be there till 930 or later, and it won´t matter. I went to a wedding that was supposed to start at 7 and didnt start till 8:25. The people at work come when they want to (some time around 8) and leave when there aren´t any more patients, or when they just don´t want to take any more on... really bizarre that one! The relaxed ideals of time I really enjoy although it is totally frustrating coming from such a time obsessed culture. If you want to catch the bus at 9 you should be there at 845 in case the 815 bus is late, or else you will have to wait till 915 or later for the 9 o´clock bus. However, there is a chance that it will be on time, in which case you will miss it and have to wait for the 10 o´clock bus which may or may not come at all...depends on how they feel that day. I would love to be able to live that lifestyle back home, but it will never happen.

Speaking of the transit system, it´s really interesting here. Their city buses are the same as their coach buses (ie-greyhound) which are all used schoolbuses from the US. Once the US decide they don´t want them anymore they get sold here to individuals (there is no set transit system, it´s all individually owned, but licenses are issued and general rules followed). So whether you are just going to the mall or heading for a 12 hour trip through the country, you will be in a used school bus. They have their routes/ destinations printed on the front of each bus and because they are individually owned and operated, they are decked out to the owners preference. They all have stereo systems in them and have music blaring- and I mean blaring. Some have paint jobs inside, some have curtains, it´s really interesting... some have really really terrible seats with springs sticking out and holes everywhere. Its a craps shoot when you choose to catch a bus. The price depends on where you are going and even then you can barter. For me to catch the bus from my village to the capital city 55kms away would cost me 30Lps (Lempira) which is roughly $ 1.87 The trip takes about 2 hours since the roads are so bad, most vehicles can´t go more than 40kms/hr. It´s really really bad here. The roads aren´t really paved and you could lose small children in the potholes. The drivers are insane but that might be an entire post in itself.
There aren´t really any assigned bus stops. They drive the same routes and if you want to get on, you wave to them and they just stop. Mostly you figure out where most people congregate to catch the bus and go there. Once you get to where you want to be dropped off, you either make your way to the front and tell the driver, or you can bang on the window to signal him to stop. So weird.
The one thing I do like about the buses here, other than they are so cheap, is that people come onto the buses and sell stuff. Anything!! Mostly food and homemade baked goods, but some people bring on souvenirs, some junk, medicines... you name it. Some come on just to pass out flyers and business cards. I think this is kind of ingenious myself. You can get lunch on the bus if the right people come on. They ride the bus for free for a few kms then get off and get on the next bus. Some come on with coolers filled with homemade food, most come on with baskets of baked goods (sooo good). It´s cheap and a really neat idea. I doubt the idea would fly in Canada only because I don´t think people would trust the food as it is all homemade and not individually wrapped... just made up and packaged and you get it fresh. I haven´t had a problem yet. It´s nice on a 5 hour ride to have someone bring you water and a cookie.

Finally...a computer

Wow it´s taken forever to find some good time with a computer! So much to say I don´t know where to start. I have been keeping notes along the way so I have things to relay here. Figured that would be better than trying to trust my memory. I´m getting old, so I don´t remember much anymore. I found more gray hair too!! Grrr...

So overall, I am doing well... I have managed to stay healthy, which apparently is really difficult here since my host mom got a bout of pneumonia, the doctor (and my friend, Max) picked up a stomach parasite and the girls I came here with have all been sick or got an infection or something. So knock on wood I will stay healthy. The worst I have endured so far is an attack by the killer ticks!! There were a couple in my bed last night apparently cuz I woke up this morning with 3 massive bites on my legs that are both incredibly itchy and hot to the touch. They are huge welts and if the swelling doesn´t go down by tomorrow, Max is going to put me on antibiotics. Now anyone who knows me well knows how much I dislike chemical drugs so I am not overly pleased with this idea, but I suppose it´s better than itching and burning...

I will be posting all the major things I have been up to in individual posts since it´s just easier and makes all this shorter. Overall, I have been having a blast. I have jumped off a waterfall, gone sightseeing, been to a Honduran wedding, worked tones at the clinic, spent a fortune, saw 4 movies and went without electricity and hot water for 53 hours. Not too bad for a relatively short amount of time. My Spanish is pretty solid and I am very very proud of my progress. So when I get back, I am hoping those of you that can speak Spanish will help me keep it up. I guess it gives me a good excuse to go to Mexico!! Practicing Spanish!! Once their pigs are healthy again... haha.

Hope all is well where you are. I hear there was snow back home at the beginning of June... HAHAHAHAHAHA.... sorry... no Im not, that´s funny...

Hugs n stuff