Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two Short Stories

Ever since I have arrived to Honduras, I feel I have started to view life through different eyes. My beliefs of what used to be important to me or what made me happy have changed significantly just from one year of living in a small rural village. After one year in, I already know that one of the hardest things I am going to have to do is leave Nueva Esperanza, and I’m only half way there! The people here have opened my eyes to so much and given me so much more than I could ever give them, and for that a part of my heart is and always will be here in Honduras. Every volunteer in Peace Corps has a different experience and, as we have heard from our many safety and security updates, all communities treat their volunteer with varying levels of respect. I have talked with other volunteers about how hard it will be for me to leave and many have told me that they could leave tomorrow and never look back. But here in Nueva Esperanza, my experience has been very positive. And two events have happened to me lately that I want to share with you all hoping that it will give you a small glimpse into what it is like for me to live here in my community.

The first event was on Saturday, September 13th, and all started when I sprained my ankle really bad. (So my family and friends don’t start to worry too much, I am a lot better and while my ankle is not completely healed, the fact that you are reading this right now means that I am walking well enough to have made it into town and publish this entry).

I was walking to La Campa and the path down to the center of town is very, very steep with loose gravel and dirt; and in this rainy season is very slippery. I was coming down the hill carefully and to steady myself I put my right foot sideways behind a rock and stepped down with my left foot. Well, the left foot slipped and gave out and I fell landing all my weight down on my right ankle that was stuck behind the rock. My ankle went in and popped and the pain was soooo intense that I couldn’t move for about 10 minutes. But since I was in the middle of a trail without anyone nearby, I had no choice but to walk down to Ellen’s apartment and get some help. So I hobbled down (slipping again on the gravel might I add) and finally got into her place. Luckily, Ellen lives where there is a pharmacy and her landlord is the town nurse, so they got me some ice (which is really hard to come by) and I stayed there for a few hours until they gave me a ride back to my house. The last time I sprained my ankle was during a tennis tournament my senior year and that time I had to get crutches. Well, needless to say I was a little worried cause my ankle was hurting more this time than before, and I knew it would be impossible for me to be on crutches here. If you need a visual, imagine leaving the house and having to cross a deep ditch and then hike on crutches on uneven slopes through slippery clay and mud six inches deep . . . just to get from my house to the main road!

Well, once I got home, my neighbors immediately realized what happened to me as I couldn’t cross the ditch that is in-between my fence and the road. So they came and helped me into my house and then brought me dinner and then lunch the next day so I wouldn’t have to cook. The young girls, Angie and Keimy, were late returning for school in the afternoon because they went out in search for ice which is even harder to find ice in Nueva Esperanza as most people don’t have refrigerators. They came back with two “topoillos” (frozen juice in a bag) and told me the people that do have fridges just put water in the freezer for me for later. At this point my ankle hurt so bad that my whole leg was shaking and another neighbor, Nacho, who is deaf mute came over to see how I was doing. When he saw that I needed ice he left and came back with some bags that he got on the other side of the community, over an hours’ walk in total. But it didn’t stop there. Unfortunately this happened right when I had a ton of work to do. I had to go to Olominas, about a half hour walk away, to talk with some people about getting bricks for the stoves project, I was giving a business and marketing workshop with Ellen to the potters in La Campa that week, and I had to send invitations to all 36 of the women in my group to announce the day we were going to turn in the materials for the stoves. But my friends that have means of transportation came to my rescue. They took me to where I needed to go, waited for me to do my work, and then brought me back home; and the teacher in Olominas took all of my invitations and distributed them to the students to give to the women. And finally, since I couldn’t walk to get into Gracias, my neighbors went and bought me my fruits and vegetables when I ran out.

My neighbor, Nacho, with a new baby horse. The guy that went and got me ice.

The second event happened about 9 days after I sprained my ankle. Three of my PC buddies came out to visit me to see Nueva Esperanza and buy some pottery. During their time here, I was getting a load of 1,200 bricks delivered to my house, bricks for the stoves project and some personal for the next improvement I am going to make on my house (sealing the spaces between the walls and the roof because a lot of insects and bats get in at night). The guy was coming from Santa Rosa de Copan but told me he was coming between 9-10 am and to have at least two people there to help me. Since my friends were all there, I figured we could handle unloading them. Well, by 12:30, we were tired of waiting and I really wanted them to get to see La Campa before they left. So we decided to head out. At the very top of the hill that overlooks Nueva Esperanza, we heard the truck with the bricks arrive and I was so bummed. But I really wanted them to see La Campa so I told the girls to go on and I would go back and unload the bricks. I told the man that I didn’t have helpers because he was 3 ½ hours late and so they left. And when he told me I couldn’t unload the bricks alone, I said there was no other choice. I asked my neighbor Juana who lives close by if she could help for a little bit but I knew she was busy cooking lunch. Other than that, my nearest neighbors were all gone and there was nobody near by.

I took a few loads going back and forth from the truck with the help of little Angie and Keimy and realized that I really couldn’t do this alone. But just as I stopped to think about what to do next, I saw Nacho coming. And then Juana showed up as well with her two daughters to help. And slowly more and more people saw what I was doing and started to come out of nowhere and without me even asking them to help unload. Juan Ruperto, the brother of Irene (the Olominas teacher), came pretty immediately and Juana’s husband, who had come back for lunch from working all day in the fields, showed up later. In total, there were nine of us going back and forth and Juan Ruperto said to me, Asi unidos se cumplen las cosas (“Together, we get things done”). I replied that I was glad I didn’t know what 1,200 bricks looked like or I really would not have been looking forward to unloading them. LOL. With the last hundred or so to go, it started to pour and although we were all tired, we worked faster to get the bricks unloaded before they got wet and heavier.

What 1,200 bricks looks like

And if we thought that was the end of it, we were wrong. The truck, on its way out to the main road, got stuck in the mud. (Yes, the same place where my neighbors always get their car stuck. I seriously think my next project should be to lay cement there because I don’t even know how many cars and trucks have had trouble getting through!) So in the pouring rain, we helped try to get the truck out of the mud. We started with moving the 800 bricks of another order in the front of the bed of the truck to the back when the front tires were stuck. We pushed the truck backwards and forwards, collected rocks from the creek and moved them here and there to make new paths, and even made a dam to stop the water from making the area worse! But no matter what we did, the truck just kept getting stuck. The brick dust that was smeared on my clothes was now turning into yellow mud. We were all drenched and shivering from the cold, not to mention my ankle was starting to hurt again. After about half an hour, our numbers had grown even more as everyone that passed by came to help out; even two of the buses that run from Gracias stopped full of people and the ayudantes (helpers that take your money and help you with your bags) ran out to help push the truck out of the mud after yet another failed attempt to get past. Finally, after getting the truck stuck and unstuck about four different times, it made it to the road, and with handshakes and goodbyes the guy was off. We were left standing there in the rain, dripping mud and sweat, and none of us really sure what to do next. Now that the problem was over, I suddenly got a wave of guilt. All of these people were wet, dirty, and tired because of me. I immediately prepared myself for someone to say something to me about how I should have had helpers ready or that I should have done this or that differently. Instead, one of the guys offered to buy everyone a coke from my neighbor's pulperia, and we stood under her doorway talking about how we were happy the truck didn’t get stuck permanently before going off to do our own things. There were no complaints about being soaked or any expectations of some type of reward for the work. When you live in a small community, that’s just what you do for each other.


Benjamin said...

What's the dengue situation like? Hear any news about Santa Rosa de Copán?

dad said...

Courtney, the people are great in your village. You have really proven yourself and they trust and accept you. You are important to them. Keep up the great work. We miss you. Love Dad

Mom said...

Wow, Court, once again several bad/difficult situations have been turned around by your friends and fellow villagers. What an awesome story and thank you for sharing. I'm glad you're ankle is better! Good luck on getting all those jobs done. Love you much, Mom

pineconeboy said...

Nice blog, Courtney... the pictures really make me miss Honduras!

Trainer Gabe

Becky said...

My name is Becky and I am leaving for my PC service in Honduras in February. I'm so glad I came upon your blog! I am really excited about Honduras and your blog has made me even more excited. I hope my experience is as rewarding and rich as yours (which I am sure it will be).