We arrived back in the States on July 29 after some tearful goodbyes. Its pretty easy to coast right back into the life of plenty. I can’t stop eating all of the yummy food…and so many choices! Its nice to have electricity that works everyday, and water too! We miss the boys in our hogar though. I felt like we were abandoning them once again.
I want to thank all of those who read my blog. It was great fun sharing our stories and getting your comments. I won’t be writing about life at Phillips Exeter Academy, since you will all be bored and nauseated rather quickly, but we plan to return to Honduras for more fun.
Okay, so we are the worst parents ever. Over a week ago Lucas fell and hurt is arm again. It bothered him some, but then he’d g out and play soccer or rollerblade. Our friend the doctor examined him and thought we should get an x-ray. He seemed to be getting better, so we didn’t bother. Finally Lucas asked us if he could get an x-ray becasue it was still bothering him…”well, okay” we said unenthusiastically. Guess what? Its broken again in the same place!! Now he is in a cast (luckily no operations this time!) All this while we are going from one party or event to the next as its our last week here. We are so sad to leave the children and so excited to go home too. Tomorrow is our last day on the ranch 😦
We are featured on the NPH official website for the posa project. Check it out! http://www.nph.org/?page=scripts/server/preview.php&lang=en&page=scripts/server/preview.php&path=news/archive/2007/honduras/stevens.php
Yesterday was the ribbon cutting ceremony for Carl’s great project. Thanks to all the donors who made this possible! We dedicated the project to the boy who drowned in the posa last month. It really served to bring some positive feelings back about the posa. The whole ranch was there for the blessing by the Padre and the ribbon cutting ceremony. The father of the boy who drowned even attended. Then the ranch threw a big barbeque taking advantage of the new facilities. No one is allowed to swim yet until all the safety equipment is set, but the kids played games and enjoyed themselves.
Carl cuts the ribbon with Lucas by his side
Translation: Top plaque-“Tourist Central” Dedicated in memory of Zael Cecilio Elvir Cruz, Rest in Peace, June 2007, your family NPH, Papa Don Cecilio Elvir and brothers. Always they will have you in their heart.
Bottom plaque: Enjoy with safety, donated by friends of Exeter New Hampshire, United States
(for those donors who were not actually from Exeter, sorry. We debated what to put but thought that soley “friends from the US” would be too general)
Center covered pavilion for shelter and eating
Kids get the barbeque pit ready for cooking 800 hotdogs while kids play soccer on the new concha in the background.
Kitchen staff serve up lunch in kitchen area.
It’s traditional in the hogars that when a volunteer is leaving, they throw a “despedida” which is some sort of activity or party with the hogar. We really wanted to take our boys to a cloud forest overnight, but it would have been just too expensive, so we opted for a traditional “American” outing. I had to drive a truck and Carl drove the microbus. The transportation coordinator was unsure about letting me (a woman) drive, even though I have been driving since before he was born! Then all the boys in the hogar and the tias couldn’t believe I could drive either (to the women of Honduras-Its time for a revolution!). Anyway, we safely arrived first at Pizza Hut in Tegucigalpa. Many of the boys have never been to a restaurant before, so it was actually quite exciting for them. They couldn’t believe you could drink as much soda as you wanted. The special deal we ordered came with a dessert too. They were in heaven! We fed 24 people garlic bread, lots of pizza, a bottomless soda, and dessert for 100 bucks I’m going to miss these cheap prices.
Next we went to a brand new Mall. Riding the escalator was another new and exciting adventure. One of the boys was afraid to get on, but his companion just shoved him right on. Our destination in the mall was an arcade, and we gave each boy 10 tokens. They weren’t sure what to do with them, and we had to teach them how to put them in the machine. They had a blast but weren’t very skilled at the games, having never played them before.
Our final stop was a grocery store. We gave each boy 20 lempiras (about a dollar) to go in a buy some snack they could bring back to the hogar with them. An American kid would probably buy a candy bar or two. Not these kids, they wanted to get the most bang for the buck, so several of them bought bags of sugar. Others bought loaves of Wonder bread and some tang mix (they like to eat it right out of the envelope). We specifically told them not to shop lift anything, but a few seemed to end up with more than a dollars worth of goods….hmmmm.
It was disappointing that we couldn’t afford the overnight trip to the cloud forest, BUT as Carl said, some of the boys wouldn’t have appreciated it nearly as much.
Gabriel, Kevin and Isaac at Pizza Hut
Earlier this year there was a great deal of fuss over all the litter on the ranch. Littering is a huge problem in Honduras, and it carried over to the ranch as well. Carl did a little research and found that at this place by the dump, this woman will buy all kinds of recyclables. Every 20 bottles is worth 5 cents. Every 3 cans is worth 5 cents, and copper is worth a considerable amount (I forget how much). So, Carl started buying bottles, cans, and copper from the kids. Well, it has turn into an unbelievable enterprise. Boys are at our door CONTINUALLY selling us trash. The ranch has been picked clean of bottles and cans. It’s now one of the cleanest places in Honduras. Kids were also bringing copper by the pound. We were beginning to worry that they were ripping electrical wire out of the hogars. We eventually found out that they were stealing left over copper from one of the workshops. We don’t buy copper anymore. BUT, the cans and bottles never stop. If it wasn’t for such a good purpose, I would have put my foot down long ago, because the traffic at our door, already a big problem, is even worse. We don’t get a moment’s peace. Our porch is a fly infested pile of giant plastic bags of bottles. The worst was when one day some boys arrived with a big bag of returnable soda and beer bottles. After they had emptied the bag of returnables, they proceeded to drink the stagnant, left over soda/beer that had dripped out of the bottles from the bottom of the bag. Boy, they sure do love soda. I almost gagged.
The four brothers and sisters of the family whose members are being murdered one by one are going to me moved from the ranch to a NPH in another country (I’m not saying where). Last week an armed man arrived at our gate looking for the children. Apparently the newspaper published a story about the children and wrote where they are now, EVEN THOUGH the ranch told the newspaper not to. Those poor kids, living in eternal grief and fear.
Riding the buses is Honduras is always an experience. They are usually packed and it is rare that we actually get a seat on the way home from Tegucigalpa. Sometimes there are 20-30 people standing in the aisle. Recently, the police seem to be cracking down on this, presumably for safety reasons. There is always at least one police check point on the way home from Tegucigalpa. At the check points money often changes hands between the police and busdrivers, either bribes or fines. To avoid these fines the bus driver and assistants have now resorted to screaming at everyone who is standing to kneel down in the aisle, so when we pass the police check point, the police won’t see the packed-in people. The ironic part is that the very people the police are trying to protect, the passengers, always readily comply with the bus driver. I guess people feel the alternative would be no bus ride at all, or waiting another hour for the next bus with seats available. Too funny!
It’s only been three weeks since the rancho boy was murdered on the bus in Tegucigalpa. Yesterday, another tragedy happened. The older brother of two of the boys in our hogar jumped in the posa to save a drowning younger boy. He brought the boy to the side and then disappeared underwater, apparently from exhaustion. (One of the problems with the posa is that the water is very murky. Visibility is about 2 inches. In fact we have often talked about how dangerous it is, because unless you see someone go under, you would have no idea.) Some kids who saw the event ran to tell a tio. The tio apparently didn’t believe them. It wasn’t until many hours later when the older boy didn’t show up to a meeting that he was expected at, did they begin the search. By the time they found him at the spot where he disappeared, he was long ago dead. He was seventeen.
No, Nicaragua is not dangerous! In fact, the director here thinks it’s the safest country in Central America. We found it to be cleaner than Honduras, and it seemed to be a bit wealthier..there is much more arable land. The landscape was much different than Honduras..lots of jungle, flat cultivated land, and numerous volcanos popping up everywhere.Some highlights:
We visited “Selva Negro” (Black forest) which is a rainforest reserve/ coffee plantation. On an early morning hike in the rainforest we spotted numerous howler monkeys who made quite a racket, and then a toucan..it was just like the one on the Fruit Loops box! See video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8433A18w4oc Later in the day we rented horses to tour the huge coffee plantation…just a gorgeous place.
Boys on their horses strolling through the coffee plantation
We also visited an active volcano much to Henry’s dismay. He was certain it was going to erupt and kill us all. We were offered gas masks to alleviate the noxious fumes pouring out of the crater. We were too tough to take the ranger up on it. A cross on the edge of the caldera marked where priests used to sacrifice young maidens into the volcano to appease the spirits. See video of maidens being sacrificed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciO1ofTLerE
We spent two nights on the island in Lake Nicaragua where NPH-Nicaragua is located sitting below an active volcano. The other pequeños loved hearing about their compañeros in Honduras. We felt they had a better life in Nicaragua…way more food and less work, BUT it was damn hot!
Island where NPH Nicaragua is located.
Henry and Lucas visit with the pequenos at NPH-Nicargua
There is still evidence of a lot of political strife. When you entered a town you would see numerous Sandanista flags dotting the landscape or PLP flags (the other major party) depending on the town. Ortega was recently elected by only 30% because there were numerous parties being represented. There seems to be uncertainty about the future.
Painting in cultural center, Leon, Nicaragua