Simplicity and some other stuff

So I am writing this blog because during my important research the
internet crapped out in Camasca, Intibuca. I was actually planning a nice
little evening at my office, including some die hard research for my upcoming
fantasy football draft, 7:45 Eastern time, but once again my beautiful little
rustic town gave me the big middle finger. I wonder if people who dream about
going back to a simpler time realize that simpler usually just means suckier. Let
us take for example washing and drying machines compared to hand washing each
pair of clothing and hanging it up outside. Washing clothes without modern
necessities is always followed by cursing the heavens every time the rain keeps
you from shedding 2 day old gym shorts, aka replacement undergarments, from
your glorious clean boxers. The process of hand washing and using the good old
natural sun to dry your clothes seems romantic but let me tell you, it is just
suckier.

Another example, I have watched and read numerous people talk about the benefits going back to the good olddays of small scale farming without the huge machines hindering our inherent personal relationship with the soil. I totally agree that large scale farming
in the United States has gone off the deep end; I just watched a documentary
but forget the name which does an adequate job of portraying big business
farming as the evil stepbrother of Adolf Hitler. However, I have never seen a
job more physically and mentally tiring than cultivating beans and corn by hand
on a small scale. I say and my Honduran compadres would agree, Bring on the heavy
machinery and acres upon acres of corn.

I know in one of my 7 blogs over the last year or so I have probably
talked about how I love the simplicity of life in Honduras, which is still
true. However, right now the simplicity of life in Honduras at times just makes
life harder and more importantly, is keeping me from a very important research
session and my perfectly planned day. Okay back to my glorious day. I bought a
small bottle of Something Special in the big metropolis of La Esperanza that is
located 3 .5 hours from Camasca to enjoy during the draft. Something Special is
a cheap in America, expensive in Honduras scotch whiskey. [Oh and if Big
Brother Peace Corps is reading my blog, which they probably are not, due to
budget cuts that have caused the firing of a multitude of staff, I would like
to state that by office I do not refer to my counterparts office but actually a
room in my private house where I may or may not partake in a small drink of
this Something Special.]  More
importantly, I am currently beating down Uncle Joe Breiding in our fantasy
baseball playoffs which gave me a limitless pool of insults to utilize in
response to his inevitable and always funny sarcastic remarks. For example, hey
Uncle Joe I just read that scoring half as many points against an opponent that
lives in Central America with no access to any real sports data or baseball
games in a crucial playoff matchup makes you a certified idiot booo-yah. Semi-nailed
it. Okay my insults are a work in progress, and I was hoping they would improve
after the aforementioned Something Special.
And now these insults and my nice little Thursday afternoon will be for
not, because I live a Romantic simple life. Also an equal cause of my lack of
internet is that my NGO just figured out facebook exists, and use up our memory
limit every day browsing pictures and posts like college freshman girls or
Peace Corps volunteers with good access to internet. Which I guess totally
ruins my blog because in simpler times facebook did not exist and therefore my
Honduran counterparts would not be able to waste our internet on facebook
instead of doing their jobs. And the stupid gringo might be doing his job
instead of browsing the top 10 busts and sleepers in this year´s fantasy draft.
So I am at my office, with nothing of worthwhile to do, including putting off
writing my personal statement for my law school application because it is
online, except give my limited readers an example of the dangers of allowing
any one with fingers and a computer to write a blog. Anyways if you have
actually lasted this long and read my entire blog, probably hoping I would
touch on something interesting, here it is,

I have decided to make Ohio State Law School my number one choice and
early enroll into their program. This means that if I am accepted I will have
to rescind all my applications to other schools and enter into their law
school. I have thought about this decision since before I entered into the
Peace Corps and for some reason had always envisioned myself attending law school
in New York City. However, I think Peace Corps has really allowed me to grow up
and realize the important things in life. I am an Ohioan Breiding/Neumann boy
that will always feel out of place without being close to an amazing family and
friends. I am done missing events and time with my family and being only a 2
hour drive away in Columbus will be ideal. Additionally the inevitable
meltdowns or downright lousy seasons by our sports teams are better experienced
drinking a cold one sitting next to a friend/dad who understands the words shot,
fumble, drive, decision, and blowing being up 3-1 game against the Red Soxs
with Sabathia and Carmona, which I like to call it the choke of the aces, which
resulted in someone receiving a 250 dollar ticket and 1 year license suspension.
Another important factor in my decision to make OSU my number one choice is
that I have been working on my punting as of late and thought I could walk on
to the team. You know law school is pretty expensive and I hear the Ohio State
football program has a special scholarship program that provides college
athletes with free cars, untold amounts of money, and discounted tattoos, I am
envisioning a classy tramp stamp, for memorabilia. But in all seriousness, if
they actually let me into their university I will never root for Ohio State
football and will utilize my privileged tickets to pay for my dad and I´s trips
to the big house, that is a promise. Wow looks like I just nailed my personal
statement.

Oh and more importantly I was semi-able to draft my fantasy football
team due to an internet modem that connected me to the internet, although very slowly thank you very much Blair Wrangham and God for not ruining the connection with his rain.

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Back

I admit that 2 blog updates in fewer than 2 weeks was a bad idea, due to my goal to lower expectations for my pitiful blogging. However, now that the expectations are once again at the desired level I will give all of my loyal, although few, followers an update on life in Honduras. Over the past month or so I have been extremely busy with work interrupted for a few days with extreme amounts of fun in the Caribbean, which has been very helpful taking my mind off of  recent developments in my life. I spent an entire week in a small community of 35 houses partaking in a topographic study of a water system that is 28 years old. The community is hoping to receive funding from my NGO and needed a study and design in order to solicit the money. I would have to say that the experience of doing water studies in a small mountain community is exactly the type of life every person imagines when they think of Peace Corps, dirt huts, nine people to a room, lack of water, and insects galore. Additionally, with the help of my site mate Blair Wrangham, who is finishing her service at the end of this month leaving me as the only gringo on the border of Intibuca, I have been working on a wood burning stove project. We have already finished the construction of 63 stoves and hope to finish the project this upcoming Monday. The only problem is that the word deadline does not really translate that well in extremely small and rural communities that are in the middle of the season of beans and corn planting and harvesting, so Vamos a ver what happens on Monday. On the opposite spectrum I just returned last weekend from a few days living the dream. I went with a couple of my friends from Peace Corps to become certified in scuba diving and enjoy a concert on an abandoned island near the island of Utila. I would have to say that this experience was incredibly interesting, even if the concert was not my type of scene what with all the electronic music and bright lights. I am not sure how much more of cultural shock my brain can take, USA, Caribbean islands, and Camasca, but I will hopefully continue to test it.
Since I do not have the time nor my readers the patience for a 10 page blog, I will focus on detailing my topographic study week and then hopefully continue with another blog next weemontyeardecadek. I arrived to the community of Agua Zarca on the morning of one of the Monday’s during the month of July. I received a jalon (hitch hike ride) from a teacher that works in a community kind of close to Agua Zarca. I then, with another teacher, walked to find another jalon from a teacher that works in school that borders the community of Agua Zarca. From there I encountered some local farmers that I know from a previous water project who helped me carry my topography equipment to the road that leads to Agua Zarca. Luckily some of the water board members from Agua Zarca were waiting for me at the entrance to their community and helped carry my bags and equipment to the house I would call home for the next week. After a refreshing breakfast of cheese, beans, tortillas, and sugar with a pinch of coffee I began my first day of topographic study aka stumbling sweaty up and down mountains, while trying to concentrate on little numbers through unrelenting sun rays all the while barking out commands in Spanish that become less and less cordial as the day progresses. Okay well those thoughts about topo studies usually come out about day two after lunch, the first day is usually filled with thoughts of “Why do I not do more Topo-Studies?”, “I love being outside with this beautiful weather and the mountain views.” “Oh man those beans and tortillas sure tasted mighty good.” “This is the life I signed up for when I joined the Peace Corps, maybe I could live in this community for the rest of my service.”
Haha reading those thoughts truly proves how horrible my memory is because every single Topo-study I have ever done begins with that romantic optimism and ends with quite contrary thoughts. Well anyways day 1 ended without any real problems or funny situations. I returned to the house of Don Virgilio where I would sleep for the next week. I have visited his house numerous times in the last year but every time I am newly amazed by the ferocity and hatred of his dogs. I mean whenever I leave unaccompanied from the house I must make an entry and exit strategy (maybe if Bushy joined the Peace Corps and visited Don Virgilio instead of flaking out on reserve duties he would have seen the advantages of such a thought process) (oh and sorry for that it just slipped out I will try to keep politics out of this blog and double parenthesis) for my own safety, always leaving a long but sturdy stick at the entrance to ward of rabies.
I kept a journal during the topo-study and will utilize a couple key quotes to keep this story on track and grant the reader my thought process at the time. First quote “Who knew that my white ass could ever feel whiter after living one year in Honduras.” As can be seen from the quote, my first night I came to an important realization about extremes, they can always be stretched and redefined. Although Don Virgilio and his extended family, who lived in a medium sized room containing Don Virgilio, his wife, his son, with his wife and 2 kids, his two daughters, his niece, and now the gringo Zacarias, showed me every form of hospitality, including one of the few beds with a mattress, they lacked in the water department. Due to the altitude of his house, water cannot reach his house; instead, Don Virgilio and his family must use the water from a concrete tank located below their house. I think I have already described the physicality of topo-study work in the “unrelenting” sun so I am guessing I will not have to describe in details the amount of sweat and stankiness my body incurs in one day. Let’s just say that I needed a bucket bath.
The concrete tank is located at the bottom of this little mud path which I stumbled to in the darkness of night, dressed solely with a towel, in one hand my trusted dog killer stick and in the other a horrible brown homemade soap substance. The homemade soap resembles for the lack of a better description a rolled up piece of diarrhea with a strange smell of grass, burnt charcoal, and latex?. Anyways I arrive to the tank as a rain storm starts to brew in the distance. As I disrobe a streak of lightning illuminates my surroundings, granting me the knowledge that I am absolutely butt naked about 5 feet from the only road of the community. Furthermore, I realize that when there is no thunder and just the complete blackness the one and only color that shines bright is my extremely white skin. I mean any rational passer-by would either think I just saw the naked gringo that is working in our community or ghosts do truly exist. I hope now that the earlier quote makes a little more sense. Anyways I finished what turned out to be an extremely refreshing bucket/rain shower and stumbled back to the house smelling a little like a summer barbecue in the United States right after someone mowed the lawn. Due to constant rain storms I was only able to take my pedophilic concrete tank bath twice during my stay. I arrived directly to my counterparts office to drop off the equipment on Friday and was asked politely to go home and shower.
“If I ever need to have a conversation in Spanish about this year’s bean and corn production in a small mountain community I am definitely set.” I chose this quote because I think it is important to understand the difficulties and a non-stop feeling of lack of knowledge one experiences while learning a new language. No matter how much vocabulary I learn or how many different conversations I partake in, there are always areas of the world and life that I have yet to learn. I mean I spent an entire week with Honduran farmers in which I learned a multitude of different ways to comment on the general state of bean and corn production this year or a certain individual’s skills in the art of farming. Most water lines pass through the community’s various fields allowing for a continued conversation on everything farming. Before I did this study I had some amount of vocabulary on farming corn and beans but had never had the experience of listening to farmers during the main cultivation period. We talked about everything from how late Drunk Antonio planted his corn placing his crops in risk of failing. Or how last year the extreme rains almost ruined everyone’s crops and hopefully God will allow for a calmer rainy season this year. Also, my helpers compared fields that used fertilizer to non-fertilizer, let me tell you fertilizer does work, or the affect kids going to the United States has on their family’s fields. I now understand the mind set of rural Hondurans who always place the will of God ahead of everything. If you ask someone how they are they say Pues estoy aqui gracias a dios, “Well I am here thanks be to god” or if you ask them about future plans and they always say Si Dios quiere“God willing” and then their plans. No matter how you plan for it, farming is totally reliant on some higher being, no matter what you believe farmers can only pray and hope that this year’s rains will be a little calmer.
“I have finally found my mother’s equal, he is a 4 feet tall Honduran farmer that is missing about 20 teeth, and his name is Don Virgilio!” It has been over month and this quote makes me laugh. My NGO has been instructed by the Peace Corps to preach to every community that I work in to contact the community leaders and state the importance of taking care of me. You know providing food, making sure I do not get tricked into eating something poisonous or extremely hot (F- to the community of Hierba Buena) and basically making sure I survive my time without taking away to many parasites. Don Virgilio took to heart the instructions received from my counterpart and apparently interpreted them to mean that Zacarias should be treated as a mentally handicapped individual. I have written in my journal several examples of Don Virgilio thinking that I am unable to complete simple tasks without his help. As I walked to the bathroom, Don Virgilio informed me that I should use toilet paper if I had to go number two. He told me that I should walk carefully on wet rocks because they are slippery and then went on to hold my hand as I walked down some. And of course he made me repeat my security plans when I left the house in order to return armed to fight of the dogs. I love you mom and this is not meant as an insult because God knows I would have probably not survived to my 20th birthday without you, and without Don Virgilio reminding me about killer dogs, so thanks for always looking out for me.
Last quote before I left the community on Friday to return to civilization, “Wow it only took me 1 week living in the boondocks, covered in impressive insect bites, not having showered for 3 days, and eating a steady regiment of beans, tortillas, and spaghetti to realize that my little house in Camasca is luxurious palace. I am glad to leave but with all the difficulties of this week I will remember that Don Virgilio and the people of Agua Zarca have been overly nice and giving.” I sometimes complain about my hard life in Peace Corps living in the middle of nowhere without the basic luxuries of life that one becomes accustomed to living in the beautiful US of A. But an important lesson is that life can always be better and definitely can always be worse. The key detail is that happiness exists in all the different levels of suckiness. I mean Don Virgilio and his extended family are extremely happy people. They received electricity 5 years ago and now have a tv which receives some Salvadoran channels and keeps everyone memorized thankfully not trying to speak to the gringo in a language he does not understand after 12 hours working in the mountains. I mean they live in what we would describe as pretty poverty stricken environment but still enjoy life and find a way to be incredibly giving hosts. Wow look at me being all preachy and sappy but I guess that is why I tried to chronicle my week long trip. If I would have wrote this 1 month without looking over my journal these thoughts would have seemed forced. I hope you all enjoyed this extremely incoherent and jumbled email, and I plan to continue on the updates of my life next week.

Also a new idea for my blog is my recommendation of a song I have been listening to a lot. Thank you Geoff for the recommendation, the group is JJ Grey and Mofro the song is The Sun is Shining Down and I would recommend listening to it on my roof drinking a beer after a hard days work overlooking the mountains. And if you can not meet me on the roof than I guess the beer will do just fine.

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Cash Money from the United Nations

I know two blogs in under three weeks is a probably a bad idea, what with the dangers of high expectations. My current location, the local restaurant, and activities, obviously writing a blog and watching Nadal vs. Murray at Wimbledon[1], at 11 am on a Friday afternoon displays the benefits of Peace Corps life and not having an actual boss. In reality, I am “working” waiting for calls back from a warehouse in La Esperanza and a man in Jesus de Otoro to finalize the purchase of materials for the more efficient wood burning stoves project. If I had a boss or actual job I imagine I would be sitting in an office waiting for these calls, instead of enjoying another apparent choke job by Andy Murray, after looking dominate in the 1st set. The $6,000 big ones from the United Nations for our 90 stoves project arrived yesterday in the local bank meaning an incredibly busy next couple of weeks.

The experience of running a project with my site mate Blair, another Peace Corps volunteer leaving in September, has been for lack of a better word an experience. Living in a small town three and half hours down a dirt road from the nearest big city (approx. 10,000 habitants) makes going to the bank an extended affair let alone managing a project. For example, for the wooden stove you need a combustion chamber made out of clay. The combustion chamber includes a cylinder, where you place the wood, connected to a clay pot that brings the heat from the burning wood to the stove top. The lady that has experience in constructing these combustion chambers lives in community called San Lucas which is located an hour walk from Camasca. The lady appears to be about 102 years old[2], so even if she could somehow hear a cell phone call, she does not own one nor is there any existence of cell phone signal. The best way to contact this lady is a long walk to her house or sending a message with the milk man that travels to the community every day on horse.

The other day I filled out a Peace Corps Volunteer Survey, which is done worldwide every year, and I laughed at a question, “Did the Peace Corps website, pre-departure information, or web videos prepare you adequately for your future two years of work?” After the question they ask, “What could Peace Corps have done better to prepare you for life in the Peace Corps?”  I just thought the questions were pretty fun because the truthful answer is that there it is not possible to prepare someone to run a project when one of the major portions of the project is done by a woman only accessible by a milk mule. Although, as can be expected in a foreign culture and language, we have experienced numerous setbacks and delays, our project continues to progress “paso a paso, poco a poco” step by step and little by little. Well I have to head back to the mayor’s office and leave the British people to their misery of watching their fellow countryman implode poco a poco.

P.S. For those interested I have taken the fight to the cockroaches. By positively indentifying a cockroach egg cluster a huge victory for Operation “Please Just Leave Me And My Pancake Mix Alone” PJLMAMPMA, I am working on the name, has been accomplished. The last name of the operation “Die you mother%&%$*&% pinchebastards” did not make the cut past my PC censors’ knifes.


[1] I would guess 90 percent of people would spell Wimbledon as you pronounce it Wimbeldon what a mysterious word, it sounds like one of the houses in Harry Potter. By the way thank god for spell check my generation would be lost without it.

[2] Poor British fans Murray just held his serve in the third set, after being broke three straight service games and they cheered like he hit a shot between his legs to win the tournament.

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Re-Bienvenidos a Honduras

So here is my 2nd trimester blog, sadly at the rate that I update my blog this is actually true. I sincerely will try to stay up on my blog but my history must cause everyone to highly doubt this sincere attempt. As you all probably know I am finally back in mi pueblo de Camasca. After 15 hours of travel, gloriously interrupted by a night in a hotel with cable (yes I did thoroughly enjoy Glee dubbed in Spanish, thankfully the songs were only subtitled) and a hot shower, even though I landed into San Pedro Sula with the temperature at 98®. Although I may have complained and dreaded my return to Camasca on the breathtaking bus ride back (both for the beautiful mountain scenery and muddy curvy dirt road) I realized that I truly do enjoy my Peace Corps life especially my small little town where life proceeds slowly and everyone knows your name.

 Hahaha I truthfully just laughed a little before writing this next sentence. And then I opened my door to something resembling a swampy tiled insect farm. My concrete roof had started leaking a little before I left for the States, and rainy season had just started when I stepped on my plane. I am sure all of you intelligent people can infer that the leaking grew progressively worse and wreaked havoc on my apartment for the three weeks I was out of town. Let’s just say that my ongoing fruitless war against the ant population took a large hit in my absence and is now taking a back seat to cockroach inc. which has moved their headquarters to an unknown location in my house. Luckily a new counter-cockroach technology has been discovered allowing for a reduction in the population. Now you all (the 5 people who read my blog) have permission to use this technique as long as you give credit to Zacarias, my name in Honduras. It is simple, leave a plastic bag of flour out entirely shut on top of your mini-fridge. Wait two weeks and the cockroaches will have eaten a hole in the bag, entered into a glorious feast of flour, and depending on your previous cockroach settlement you will have a multitude of dead cockroaches that could not stop themselves from eating till death. A little disclaimer, bake pancakes at your own risk, I will keep you updated on the consequences.

After the initial shock and resulting cleanup of my house, I have settle back into daily life in Honduras. I truly do enjoy my time in Honduras and my experience in Peace Corps no matter what I said while drinking beer and barbecuing in the United States. I have a wood burning stove project that is about to take the next month of my life to finish where I am sure to lose the 7 pounds I gained back while eating blissfulness (yes it’s a word). I will keep you all updated on the progress and hopefully will find a rhythm in blogging. Also I would like to thank all of my friends and families who made coming back to Honduras that much harder. I really appreciate all the effort that was made to make my time at home that amazing. Also, my prayers and wishes are with Ryan Breiding and John Meyers, good luck and please stay safe.            

 

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Un Año en Honduras

First I would like to thank everyone for the Valentine’s day cards and mail in general. I was like a kid in a candy store when my boss brought my mail from Tegucigalpa to La Esperanza to a meeting. Aunt Mary I have been rationing myself to eating only a half of a milky way only eaten after long and grueling days. I ate my final two milky way bars to celebrate Mardi Gras, if heaven has unlimited chocolate I might attend church more regularly. I know I have been failing at keeping up on my blog, but this is actually due to being extremely busy. I usually can tell how busy I am by the amount of times I have worn whatever shirt I am wearing today, and also the manner in which I pick out my socks. For example today I am wearing a shirt that is at least on its fourth go around, and it took me a while to smell through my socks in the dirty clothes drawer  to find a pair that was not totally repulsing. Sorry for the excess of information but sadly this is my life.

Anyways February 23, 2011 signified my year anniversary of arriving to Honduras. Let’s just say that I have had many ups and downs while also spending a lot of time in the middle. I really am not sure I would be able to properly describe my experience in coherent paragraphs, so I think I will make a list of certain things I have done in Honduras, to better display my experience. We will see how it goes.

Days in Honduras: 365+

Number of times that I seriously thought about jumping on a plane back to the states: 1 the day of Kellee’s wedding when I put off taking my antibiotics in order to drink whiskey.

Percentage of meals that I usually eat complemented by beans: 99.9% before moving into my own house, 80% now that I live alone.

Amount of beans that I plan to eat when I return to the United States of America: equal to the amount of times I will eat a chipotle burrito and no more.

Amount of times that I have looked a chicken in the eyes in the morning and less than 6 hours later was eating that very chicken: every Saturday for 7 months approximately 36 times while I was living with my host family plus birthdays of extended family, 20 more equaling 56 in total.

Amount of times that my mouth waters a little bit when I see the cow tied up on Saturday night, which will be my Sunday carne asada: Every Saturday night that I have been in Camasca.

Amount of times I had to ask for a fork to eat my meals at my host family’s house always complemented by a look of pity on my lack of manly hood, every meal for about a month until I gave up and started using tortillas and my fingers. Yes people I was viewed as an extremely polite and clean eater, which can only mean bad news for my manners when I return to the states.

Amount of times I have been invited to birthday parties: probably 50 times while I attended probably about 25.

Amount of birthday parties in which there was a piñata and the gringo was berated until he finally made a fool of himself swinging at air: every single one.

Amount of birthday parties that I was invited to and actually knew the birthday completer’s name: twice both children of my next door neighbor.

Amount of jalons (hitchhike rides) taken in the back of a truck: impossible to say but at least once a day for my entire time in Camasca, 200.

Longest hitchhike ride in the back of a truck, 5 hours from La Esperanza including a 1 hour delay in which we attended the burial of a friend of the driver, both of which I had never met.

Hours spent in buses I am not sure but I would say twice a week I take a 7 hour bus ride between Camasca and La Esperanza, 724 hours plus a monthly trip to somewhere farther away adding 6 hours at least would be 312. In total 1,036 hours.

Miles spent walking to communities, work, water systems, water sources, and searching for the fruit that is in season, impossible to tell but at least a 1 mile to and from work every work day plus a 2 mile walk once a week for work, approximately 700 miles.

Number of TV series watched in completion, 5 (Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, Weeds, Eastbound and Down, and Arrested Development).

Books read, 63 and I have the list to back it up.

Hours spent in a hammock, 1 hour a day, 365 hours in total.

Amount of times that I have sharted (for those that do not know it’s a combination of a bad word for poop and fart)  in my pants: 1 time which is way below the Peace Corp average and happened on a 4 hour bus ride to the doctor’s office where I found out I had a parasite and a bacterial infection

Tonnage of horse and mule manure dropped in front of my house every Sunday on market day I would have to say at least. I should explain for some unknown reason there is a horse tie-off post directly in front of my house which everyone and their mother use to keep their horses while they go to the market. I have a feeling that my future garden in the front of my house will have some crazy steroid flowers.

Number of times that I have swept the dirt road in front of my house before it was criticized by a group of girls that run my neighborhood-0. Now about every Sunday I go outside and sweep dirt off of dirt, sadly it does look a lot better.

I play on the Camasca “pueblo” soccer team in our local league and we are also invited to play in other towns yearly fairs. I absolutely love my soccer team and feel like a reality show could be extremely successful based on their lives. The majority of my team is local construction workers and farmers with this in mind please read the following stats.

Record for most cigarettes smoked and bottles of coca cola drank before one of our games, 6 (4 cigarettes and 2 bottles of coca cola). His name is Miguel he is 30 years old and by far our best defender who is never tired. If he was around when the Tobacco industry was fighting charges that cigarettes are dangerous for your health we might not have warning labels on our cigarette boxes. I will make sure to take a picture before our next league game of our team who always sits on a row of plastic boxes in the shade waiting for our game to start. I would say 90% are smoking cigarettes and the rest are definitely drinking pop.

Number of players that consistently smoke cigarettes at half time, 5. I am 23 years old in decent shape and do not smoke cigarettes and I drink large amounts of water before our games. By half time playing in hot dry weather I feel like I might melt away. So if any health professionals can explain this to me please do.

Amount of money won in fantasy sports, in a year where I have as much sports knowledge as Ben, approximately $200.

Well that is all I can come up with right now, sorry for the lack of blogs I am continually fighting to maintain my new year’s resolution of more blogs. I will have an update on the project of water filters and clean drinking water in schools.

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What am I doing?/What I am doing

So I skimmed over my pitiful excuse for a blog and realized I have barely touched on my work with my NGO and as a Peace Corps volunteer. In order to not bore you with all the details, I will just describe several of my current projects. I returned to Camasca, Intibuca yesterday afternoon after a 3-day business trip (no joke Peace Corps this one actually did involve business) in a small city, population approximately 5,000 Marcala, La Paz. If you have ever drank imported coffee from Honduras it most likely was produced in the mountain coffee farms surrounding Marcala. According to Hondurans, Marcala coffee always wins the best coffee contests in Honduras and Central America, and per capita exports the most coffee to foreign markets from Honduras. However, all data must be viewed with a hometown bias. For example, how credible is a Honduran treating factual my beliefs that Cleveland hands down is the best sports town in the United States, the 95 Indians obsession with weightlifting, not injecting things in their buttocks, explains their outrageous numbers and success,  and Lebron’s dad has not shown up to claim his millions because he is busy running the underworld. Okay sorry for my divergence from the topic at hand, all I really wanted to say was that Marcala is a coffee producing town.

 When I arrived, I met up with two other Peace Corps volunteers, David and Kristi Lee, who coincidentally are some of my closest friends and also involved in the same project. We are all working with an NGO called ADEC (development agencies might actually over-use acronyms more than government agencies like PC) which stands for Water and Development in the Community. Through the Peace Corps communication lines we found out that this NGO was interested in implementing several of their projects in our respective regions. ADEC has a close collaboration with the American Rural Water Association, who does several projects in Honduras along with supporting organizations like ADEC. Their representative in Honduras, that everyone knows as Fred rents a house in Marcala, and was our main contact in meeting the bosses of ADEC. Fred is the ultimate contact in all things water, stateside and honduranside, and has been an invaluable contact. Through his fundraising, contacts, and technical knowledge the project I will touch on further has come to fruition.

The project involves giving simple and immediate solutions to provide clean drinking water to Honduran communities. ADEC works mainly with three technologies, ceramic water filters, a Combined Treatment System, and tablet chlorinators. I have already been involved in projects involving tablet chlorinators, which are utilized in small water tanks to disinfect the drinking water. Picture a pool chlorination tank on a smaller and less technical scale in which a percentage of water passes through a PVC pipe containing chlorine tablets in order to provide clean drinking water straight out of the tap. This technology is provided to communities that already have a current water system but , as in the majority of all water systems in Honduras, do nothing to treat their water.

Kristi  and David Lee in Santa Barbara and myself in Intibuca are working with communities that do not have a water system for which the ceramic water filter and Combined Treatment System are perfect fits. One of the main jobs that I do for my NGO, COCEPRADII( acronyms galore) is topographic studies and designs for new or improved water systems. My main job is to use topographic equipment either a theodolite or abney level to take measurements and then use the data to create a water system design. Although I do enjoy this type of work (usually wondering what part of my four year history major qualified me to design water systems) I am only involved in the start of a project that best case scenario in two years finds funding and in five years construction will have finished. Being the selfish, results now American I truly am, I have been looking for projects with immediate results and benefits.

Luckily the ceramic filters and Combined Treatment System are technologies that immediately grant valuable benefits to a community. In two small remote communities called Volcancillo 24 houses and La Pintal 8 houses, that for whom I had recently done a water study and design, I am going to implement a ceramic filter project. The filters consist of a 5 gallon plastic bucket in which you place a ceramic filter coated with colloidal silver which filters 3 liters of water every hour. The colloidal silver kills the bacteria in the water that is the main cause of stomach and diarrhea issues that lead to income loss through lost days at work, medicine costs, transportation, and worst case scenario death for the vulnerable under 5 age group. Thanks to the support of ADEC and the American Rural Water Association we are able to provide filters to the community that usually cost 350 lempiras for 50. In addition community members must agree to attend 3 workshops given by yours truly on hygiene, health, clean drinking water, and the proper maintenance of the filters. One of the best aspects of the project is my ability to return to the community a multitude of times to ensure the proper usage and sustainability of the filters.

The third technology, called the Combined Treatment System, will be implemented in a local school grades 1-6 in the community of San Juan de Dios. I recently did a mini-water system design for the school through the municipality of Camasca to provide water from a nearby river. The water was originally going to arrive to the elementary school without treatment. The Combined Treatment System uses two plastic 450 gallon tanks to treat water, in the first tank aluminum sulfate is added in order to eliminate turbidity in the water, after 24 hours the water is transferred to the second tank where chlorine is added to provide clean drinking water. The aluminum sulfate is an important aspect because chlorine does not effectively treat turbid water. The 120 students will have access to clean water and any community members that desire to fill bottles or buckets. I am really excited about this technology because it teaches Honduran students at a young age the importance of clean drinking water. There is a huge cultural barrier to the use of chlorine and dangers of dirty drinking water which can be eradicated through education at a young age. This project also includes workshops on clean drinking water, proper maintenance of the system (5th and 6th grade students will be expected to maintain the system), and health.

After the completion of these three projects ADEC and myself hope to extend these technologies into other communities around Camasca. I cannot emphasize enough the work of ADEC and American Rural Water Association, especially their representative Fred who have been involved in similar projects for many years. Without their support these projects would not be possible.

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Back in the Boondocks of Honduras

After 3 planes, 4 buses, 2 taxis, and a long painful walk up a mountain questioning  what was actually inside my luggage, I finally arrived to my house in Camasca, Intibucá, Honduras. I had a great time in the states with friends and family being lazy and enjoying the small luxuries of life. A result of the immense amount of bacon intake (only missed two mornings but made up for it with bacon appetizers for Chistmas), lazy days in Myrtle Beach, hiking, sushi, the beach, long car rides on actually paved roads, and just spending time with the people I love has made my return to Honduras more difficult than I first expected. I never truly experienced homesickness until my first arrival to Honduras when I really did not speak the language, rooster calling all night was abnormal, and a cold bucket bath remained unusual. However, for the next ten months I became accustomed to life in a third world country and actually began to enjoy the simplicities of life.

Fast forward to ten months later, once again arriving to Honduras from the states and a new form of homesickness  crept up into my conscious. I no longer feared a cold bucket bath, 4 hour bus rides on a dirt road, crappy transportation, Spanish, endless amounts of tortillas, beans, and rice, and all the other strange aspects of a foreign culture (okay well I still fear a cold baths). So why did that familiar feeling of homesickenss begin to form in my mind? One of the first and most interesting questions given to me during my vacation in the states was by my dad, “Do you live a hard life in Honduras?” At the time I was unprepared to answer such a question, it actually seemed strange, so I replied no I survive without problems. I mean in comparison to other Hondurans I live a very fulfilling life without the fear of lacking food, work, or a chance to improve my life. It almost seems offensive to me to respond that I live a hard life in Honduras when I compare my daily activities and life with the rural poor that surround me in my village. However, as I return to life in Honduras I have rethought about the question, “Do you live a hard life in Honduras?” I think the answer adequately explains the reason for the return of my feelings of homesickness.

One important lesson that I have learned living in a poor rural community in the mountains of Honduras is that happiness is not a question of materials or things owned. Happiness can be attained with the bare minimums of life, clean drinking water, access to schools, afternoon coffee, adequate food, a nice hammock, and your friends and family. The last part “friends and family” and of course my girlfriend Mallory explain my feelings of homesickness. I have conquered or at least accepted many of the hardships that face a foreigner living in Honduras, and I have even made friends with a lot of people around here. The one key aspect of happiness that will always be missing in Honduras is my family, friends, and girlfriend. No matter how many friends I make in Honduras, or families that adopt me as their own I will still not have the people who throughout my life who have shaped me into the person I am today.

I guess the point of this blog is to state, thank you to everyone, my friends, my family, Mallory, and everyone in my life that has always been there for me. Although bacon is a masterful combination of flavors, Christmas ale will remain in my dreams for months to come, and a hot shower for all its citizens should be the goal of all developing countries, I truly understand that people are the most important part of happiness and I feel truly blessed that I have so many people to miss.

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