Monday, October 26, 2009

Living in a fish bowl

After getting a great deal on a stove and refrigerator (both for less than $500!) we were able to move into our home early last week. Woohoo! It feels so nice to completely unpacked. And in the process we found our camera cord! Expect many pictures from now on. =) When we arrived back in the area after leaving Copan we found a team from Highland Park Community Church in Casper, Wyoming in Canchias. It truly is amazing how much of a blessing a group of people can be when your lives only cross paths for a few hours. They stopped by our house when we were moving in and gave us a few housewarming gifts and prayed for us and for our safety in the house. A couple of of the guys even leveled our refrigerator for us. It was fun to be able to show people around our home when we've only been in it for a few hours.

Now it's time for your tour! It's really hard to take pictures of rooms, so these aren't stellar photos, but you get the idea.

Our 'pila' - this is where we will wash all of our clothes by hand!!!

Our "closet" - Um, yeah, we need to build some shelves.


Living Room: VERY empty, but when some kids came over they were sliding all around on the tile so maybe we should turn it into a skating rink??



Our dining room: I think it's the only room with any decorations!

We've also met a few of our neighbors. Most of them are under the age of 10. Spending the day with a 10 year old is actually a great way to practice your Spanish. The one we've spent the most time with is Gabriella. Here she is washing our clothes in our pila.

I think she decided that I was taking too much time and using too much soap so she moved me out of the way and took over. After doing all of our laundry she hung out with me in the house (after walking around for a while saying over and over again incredulously "Only 2 people live here???" I found out later that she's one of 13 kids in her family and they live in the tiny house next to ours.) She was fascinated by the computer and I showed her a little bit of Microsoft Word and a Paint program and she played on the computer for quite a while. She came back a few days later and brought her friend Brenda. But SHE was the boss of the computer, wouldn't let Brenda touch it!

Overall, we really enjoy having so many kids around and we like having them over and showing them that we are friendly gringos. Unfortunately, this also presents a few problems. Gabriella and her friends have decided that if the door is unlocked, it's an invitation to come in. So, it's not uncommon for us to be reading on the couch when some little girls file in from the side door ready for some computer time! We know how to ask them to leave in Spanish, but we don't know how to do it nicely, so we usually don't say anything. We're just trying to get better at locking the doors. But a new problem has developed. On Sunday Sean got up and walked out of our room to find Brenda standing with her nose pressed against our living room screen looking in the house. Sean said 'Good morning' and thought she would leave. Nope. I got up and joined him in the kitchen and she just continued to watch us. It was the weirdest feeling. Throughout the day we'd look up to see Brenda's face again. And we have no curtains right now so there's nothing we can do about it! Then this morning it happened again, only we've never seen these kids before. And they didn't just pick one window to watch us from, whatever room I was in, they would all run around the house and watch me from the nearest possible window. And if I would into our bedroom, where we have a blanket hanging up, they would stand at the window behind the couch where Sean was sitting and just stare at the back of his head. It's so so weird!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No mas escuela de idioma

So, I may or may not have spelled and phrased everything correctly but I'm pretty sure the title of this post is "No more language school." I welcome corrections from any bilingual amigos! Today is our last day in Copan and it has been a truly wonderful two weeks. Here are the high points (and one low)!
- The school we attended is fantastic. If anyone would like to have an educational vacation we recommend going to Guacamaya school in Copan. From 8-12 every morning we had class one on one with a teacher who speaks mostly in Spanish. Sean and I were paired perfectly with our teachers. Got along well, felt very comfortable and each teacher was able to teach to our strengths which we really appreciated. Then we had the rest of the day to study. Copan is a sleepy little town with lots of coffeeshops that are perfect for studying. And a fancy drink like a cappacino is roughly a dollar. =) I would say that we learned A LOT of the language these last two weeks, but we learned so many tenses that our heads are spinning with conjugations. As long as people are ok with waiting an entire minute for us to say a sentence and then they respond to us one word at a time then we should do pretty well! Unfortunately, as I mentioned in our last post - people tend to speak in longer full sentences once they realize you don't understand what's being said.
- The family we are staying with has provided us with a home away from home. We have been treated to authentic Honduran food (lots of homemade tortillas and beans!) every day. It's been fun to get to know them and to figure out how best to communicate with each other. The other day we made the mistake of asking about the political situation in Honduras. People here are obviously very passionate about it. And when you're passionate about something you tend to have a lot to say and you say it rapidly. We THINK that she is a supporter of Zelaya and think Michilleti is a liar, but who knows?
- Here is our one low point - The cost of the school also pays for one activity every week. Our first week was a horseback ride through the mountains to a Mayan village. We were so excited. One thing about Honduras is that the minimum standard of care for animals is at a significantly lower level than in the U.S. The horses arrived and the first thing I noticed was that the horses shoes were coming out the top of their hooves. I'm not a horse expert, but I'm pretty sure this isn't normal. We set off on our horses and mine just didn't have much oomph. (Did 'oomph' make sense? It's a word my mom and I always used to describe 'get up and go', but it may be an Owensism.) As we were going up the mountain mine was out of breath and stumbled twice. Like significantly stumbled. I may be larger than the typical Honduran woman but I don't think I should cause a horse to have to work that much harder! I was getting a little nervous that I was going to have to walk back to Copan! We arrived at the village and we instantly surrounded by about 10 kids that were dressed in dirty, holey clothing thrusting dolls and flowers made of corn husks at us saying "veinte, veinte". (20 in Spanish.) They looked incredibly pitiful and followed us wherever we went. It was one of the creepiest things I've seen because these children were speaking so slowly and repetitively that they strongly reminded us of zombies. We figured out that there is a fair trade co-op for women in this village which gives the people an opportunity to gain a bit of profit from the once booming tourism industry in Copan. We watched a woman making the dolls and after a little while there was only one persistent child still trying to sell her doll to us. Thankfully the other kids starting being kids again and playing with each other and laughing. But the minute that we looked like we were considering buying something they surrounded us again. I think somewhere along the lines someone told them that most people coming to their village don't speak Spanish so they need to talk slowly. And the sadder you look the more people would buy. It was awful. I was so overwhelmed by why poverty exists and why these kids have to suffer and why that horse was so badly shoed that I could think of little else. Then our guide, a very kind man, started telling us his views on the political situation. I couldn't even begin to try and understand what he was saying. The one upside to our excursion was the way home. I think my horse knew that his day was nearly over and he FLEW down the mountain. I've never galloped so fast on a horse in my life. It was exhilerating. Unfortunately, Sean's stir-ups were too long so he had no control over himself and had to flop around the whole way down. He didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I!
- Thankfully our activity the next week was much better. We went to the Parque de Aves (Bird Park). This is a sanctuary for rescued Macaws, Toucans, Parrots, etc. They were incredible. Have you ever looked closely at a Toucan's beak? So much color. And the Macaw's feather's don't just change from a row of red feather's to a row of blue. The individual feather's become two toned so that it gives the rows of color a blended look. I was so in awe of God at this park. What is the point of all this detailed beauty? There isn't one. (Well, I'm sure there's something about attracting a mate, etc. but they could've attracted a mate with a row of red, then a row of yellow.) It just reminds me that God cares about the small stuff. That He's an artist. Breathtaking. The tickets to the park are good for 3 days so Sean and I went again the next day. We were the only ones there (the same as the day before) and we wondered if there has been a big decrease in the number of visitors since the presidential 'coop' in June. Well, it being a very small town we happened to meet the (American) owner of this park that evening and had quite a long chat with him. He said that there were zero paying customers at the park on that day. I asked if this is less than normal and he laughed out loud. Before the coup they averaged 90 paying visitors a day. Now they are down to zero. That night we talked to Corrie (the woman we're staying with) about this and she said that at the language school they used to have around 20 students every week. We were 2 of 4 students each week we were there. Then we thought about it a little more and realized that every time we ate at a restaurant, we were the only customers. I end this post with a request for prayer for Honduras. This is an incredibly beautiful but incredibly poor country that relies heavily on tourism. The political upheavel has made people afraid to visit. No tourists means to work which means no food. No tourists means no visitors to the Mayan village to buy the dolls that cost $1 each. Our first week here we helped a team from the US help build a house. 4 men (3 of them over the age of 70) built a house in 3 days. This house was supposed to be built in July, but since this is the first team that hasn't cancelled their trip since the 'coop' the 4 person family has had to live in a 100 square foot room with dirt floors and holes in the bottom of the walls that has allowed the rainwater to create deep ruts in the floor, insects, and animals for 3 months longer. And who knows when the homes will be built that all the other teams were planning on building? Thankfully, this crisis has been incredibly peaceful, but the country is suffering. And of course, the poor are suffering silently and the most. So here are 3 things to pray for:

1. Pray Zelaya (the ousted President) will bow out of this fight gracefully and that the world powers will recognize whoever is elected as President in November to be the true leader of this country.
2. Pray that travelers will feel safe enough to come to Honduras and that tourism will increase once again.
3. Pray that Heart to Honduras teams will be able to follow through with their missions trip plans. Also that donations to the organization would increase. We could potentially build some of these homes without a team if the funds were there. If 3 men over 70 can build a house in 3 days than we could get a lot done as well!

Thank you all for sticking with our super long post all the way til the end! We'd love to hear any little tidbits from the states as well. Love you guys!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Language School Begins

We arrived this evening in Copan Ruinas to start our two weeks of language school and experienced our first slightly scary adventure on the way. We have gotten fairly familiar with some of the roads that we often travel here, but about half of the trip to Copan Ruinas is on roads that we've never travelled on. We have a map of Honduras, but we've discovered that signs aren't used nearly as frequently in Honduras as in the states so we were slightly nervous about getting lost. Soon after turning on the road to Copan we got pulled over by the police at a sort of make shift checkpoint. We've already heard stories of people being pulled over for inconsequential reasons and having to pay a fine in order to leave so we expected this to happen to us at some point, but it would've been nice if we knew just a little bit more Spanish! He took Sean's US license and we both got out of the car as he checked our spare tire well, etc. He kept talking to us and we kept saying 'un piquito espanol'. Didn't seem to make much of a difference. Why is it that when people find out you know a small amount of their language they still speak in complete sentences? Ha! Finally I called the head of the ministry in Honduras and passed the phone to the police officer. Apparently we didn't slow down enough as we approached the cones in the middle of the road (no radar guns to argue over nor any signs letting us know this) and we needed to pay 650 lempiras (roughly $30) now or else they would keep Sean's license! So we paid the man and went on our way. We probably passed about 6 more checkpoints on our trip and Sean slowed down to about 10 mph for each one. I was afraid we'd get pulled over for looking so sketchy! Thankfully we made it the rest of the way with no other ridiculous fines.
Now we're hanging out in our room at our host family's house. The way this school is set up is that we'll have one on one lessons in Spanish for 4 hours a day and then we live with a host family that cooks all of our meals and speaks to us only in Spanish so we have to practice it. Tonight we had an incredibly delicious meal and chatted with our host, Corrie, a bit. What I got out of the conversation was that her husband went to Guatemala to visit a friend that is very very sick with heart problems and took some medicine that is now giving her stomach problems, then a whole bunch of stuff I didn't understand at all. Sean thought it was a family member that is sick with heart problems and is throwing up. Bottom line somebody's sick and he's visting that person. We could definitely use your prayers these next 2 weeks. We've quickly discovered that knowing Spanish is crucial to our time here. We know it's unrealistic to think we will be anywhere near fluent after 2 weeks, but we don't want to squander away our time here. We'll have so much free time to review what we've learned and we have a friendly and inviting family that is willing to have awkward conversations with us. It is in our nature to want to hang out with each other, play cards and read books over hours of studying and awkward interations. So we will often be torn between what we want and what we know is best for us. Please pray that we will choose the latter!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hello after a looooong time

I want to start off with a huge apology. We haven't been stellar so far at updating our blog. So much has happened since the last time we posted and we have much to tell you! But to avoid making you read one gigantic post in one sitting I'm posting a few 'days' of posts all in one day. If you want to only read about what's been happening this week, just read the next post. If you want to know what's been happening since the beginning of August, start two post from this one!
Very sad disclaimer: I cannot find out camera cord anywhere so until I find it or we buy a new one, no pictures. =( Happy reading!

Bienvenudos a Honduras!

That's right, we're in Honduras. (For anyone who is shocked by this news, please read the next post down – it will explain this very quick turn of events.) We have been here for nearly a week and are greatly enjoying it. Our adventure started on September 22nd. We had nearly finished packing our 5 suitcases, 2 carry-ons and 2 backpacks when we received word that our flight out the next morning was cancelled. The ousted Honduran President Zelaya had smuggled himself back into Honduras and was seeking asylum in the Brazilian Embassy. All airports in the country then closed for 2 days, bumping our flight to Saturday. Although, we were saddened by the continued political unrest in this country we were very thankful for a few more last days in the states with no packing left! We got to hike Camelback one last time, saw The Imposter (it was ok), and went to the Citizen Cope concert (such a good show!) Bright and early Saturday morning we dragged a years worth of luggage to the airport and were on our way! (This is one of those places where I would like to insert a picture. Darn missing camera cord.)
We arrived in Canchias (the small village where the School of Discipleship is) around mid afternoon on Sunday, then hit the ground running on Monday! We went with German to San Pedro Sula (big city that we flew into) to buy a vehicle. Now shopping for a vehicle in Honduras is very different than car shopping in the US. In the states you will probably do some research about the type of vehicle to want, spend a day going to various car lots and test driving the vehicles. You then go home and think about this major purchase you are going to make and maybe run the VIN# through car fax to make sure this vehicle hasn't had any major problems. On the other hand, in Honduras, you go to a few car lots (which is a fenced in parking lot with cars parked 3-4 cars deep), ask a few questions – including which part of the vehicle was damaged (since the vast majority of cars in this country were totaled in the US) take it for a little spin, then buy it that day. So that's what we did. Bought ourselves a nice little black KIA Sportage. Drove it back to the village that day (Sean was actually gutsy enough to drive through the CRAZY Honduras traffic!) When we got to San Isidro (where the Heart to Honduras office is) the car wouldn't start. No worries, he just had to tighten the battery terminal and we were on our way again. (What is that you're saying? You think it should be a red flag that the first time we try to start the car after leaving the lot we are having problems? Nah, we'll be fine...) Tuesday morning – wouldn't start again. No matter how much tightening of the terminal happenend – still wouldn't start. Sergio (HTH mechanic) came to Canchias and he and Sean worked on the vehicle with a screwdriver, pliers, crescent wrench and one open ended wrench. Worked on it for quite some time actually. Somehow, those 4 tools weren't quite enough to get it going again. So Sergio and a teacher from the school towed it all the way back to San Pedro through the mountains and dirt roads. We got it back last night and it's started up twice with no problem. We're going to be leaving in about an hour. Hopefully it'll start again!

The rest of August

So the last post was full of praises because we felt like things were looking up in regards to our fundraising. We had gone from having not much of our support raised to nearly half in a few days. Well, a few days after that post we were FULLY FUNDED!!!! It was absolutely incredible to see how fast our support came in and how God took care of all the details. On August 7th I was a little weepy with discouragement and by the 23rd we were full speed ahead, booking our plane tickets and starting to say our goodbyes! Those next four weeks seemed to fly by. And we were constantly amazed at how everything kept falling into place. We sold Sean's truck, we had just enough time that I could get everything ready AND have some quality time with friends, etc. And we are so looking forward to this year!