Friday, October 12, 2007
View of Celaque on the way to La Campa
So, a little bit about my site. The name of my site is Nueva Esperanza which means “new hope” in English. It was named Nueva Esperanza after a priest came and had a vision of new hope for the people in the community. Nueva Esperanza is a community that is located in the municipality of La Campa and the department of Lempira (the divisions of the country). There is also a community of La Campa which is about a half hour walk from Nueva Esperanza. In the community of La Campa, there is an internet café, a few hotels, and a few restaurants. There is also one of the oldest churches in Honduras.
Catholic Church in La Campa - one of the oldest in Honduras
Gracias is the nearest town to me, about 45 minutes to an hour on bus, and there I can find almost any basic necessity. (The difference between a community and a town is that a community is much smaller and usually only has one main road while a town has many roads and you can find things like mini supermarkets). Gracias is a pretty touristy town which means there are many hotels, restaurants, and good transportation. But there are also vendors that will jack up their prices if they notice you’re a foreigner. Luckily, because I am short, have dark hair, and a stunning Spanish accent (hehehe), I don’t get too much attention as a tourist. There are a few volunteers there, I think like four but from different projects. You can also catch the road to Celaque National Park in Gracias.
In the department of Lempira, there are many communities that are Lenca, such as La Campa and Nueva Esperanza. One main characteristic of the Lenca is that they are short in height and also make beautiful ceramics by hand, (without that turning wheel that some artists use.)
I was told by Peace Corps that Nueva Esperanza has a population of about 700 people, but everyone here says its more around 300 which I think is more accurate. There are no restaurants, cafés, parks or any public places in general. I think this has posed as the biggest challenge for my integration since there is no place where people go to hang out. I am seriously thinking about going and sitting every day on this big, nice looking rock in the middle of a field and reading my book until people come past that I can talk to. Maybe I will take my Frisbee out to the soccer field and toss it around to myself until people start to show up and we can get a game going. That would be quite the sight though, the crazy Peace Corps volunteer tossing an upside-down plate-shaped object into the air to herself. LOL. (However, the thought of starting an Ultimate Frisbee team or a girls soccer team has definitely crossed my mind.)
Whenever there are community or project meetings, they are held in the school or in the kindergarten. Here in Nueva Esperanza, there is electricity, running water, two soccer fields, and cell phone service which we just got this last year. The houses are very spread out, with some houses built close by but others can be 45 minutes away by foot. I still haven’t gotten the chance to walk around and see where all the houses are.
Also here in Nueva Esperanza, there is a lot of poverty. To tell you the truth though, it actually took me a while to notice. It’s funny because it’s so easy to distinguish destitute conditions when watching the news or tv. But when you are inside these peoples’ houses laughing over a cup of coffee, getting to know the families, and playing with the kids, it doesn’t really seem like things are that bad. I hardly notice the chickens and pigs that are running around the mud floors inside the houses because this is common in every house. And I’m not shocked to see a young girl wearing only an age-worn shirt and torn dirt-stained shorts because the 2-year old boy next door runs around in only a shirt. But how did I not realize there was poverty all around me with such obvious indications? I think that over the last three months while I was slowly adjusting to living in different conditions, this meant getting used to living around and in poverty.
Here in Nueva Esperanza, the water I drink comes from the same water tank that everyone shares. When the electricity goes out, I light the same candles that can be found in any home, and the materials that will make up my house are the same used to build any house here. However, in truth, I need to stay aware of the fact that these people do live in deprivation and in a worst state than I ever will find myself in. While my living conditions are similar to that of these people, I really have so much more. We all have the same access to the same foods, but I can afford to buy enough to feed myself. The doctor is the same distance away in Gracias, but I can afford whatever medicine I need. The bus stops for every person that wants to board, but I can pair the fare. And while Peace Corps gives me just enough money so that I have to be conscious about what I am buying, I can depend on this money every month while some families don’t have such stability.
From left to right, my sisters, Janeysi and Eldy, and my brother, Javier.
Me with my Javi and Eldy