Monday, March 24, 2008

Honduras through a Lense

Young boy


Roof top and the sky


Cross at the top of the hill during the fair

Yegua (female horse)

Outside my door

Otherwise known as ´´Marlboro man´´

Feria San Matias

The San Matias Fair

So here in Honduras, most towns have a yearly fair celebrating the saint that guards the area. The belief is that there are specific saints in charge of certain regions. During Field-based training in Morocelí, the saint that was celebrated was “El Señor De Las Aguas de Morocelí”. The story goes that years ago, “El Señor” appeared to the people of Morocelí at the river where they bathe and blessed the water. When the people then took the water home and drank it, they realized it had healing powers and cured the sick. So, the people continue to keep their faith in their Saint and celebrate him at the same time every year during the fair. Here in La Campa, our fair is in February and we celebrate San Matias, or Saint Mathias.

In the last half of February, the first signs that the fair is coming is when fussball (“futbolito”) tables and other games start to appear. (Vendors trying to make some early fair money). The big weekend though is February 22-24 which I am going to write about now.

The booths at the fair from up top

It’s a weekend of utter chaos! There were thousands (and I mean THOUSANDS!) of people here selling, buying, exploring, gambling, praying, dancing, and experiencing an event that was a lot crazier than I could have ever imagined. There may not have been ferris wheels or even as many people at the county fairs in the states, but the number of people per square meter of this little town was definitely about five times more.

When moving on the narrow paths between the booths, there is no sense of personal space and on the last day, you seriously couldn’t move it was so packed. At one point, I was trying to get out of the mob headed down a narrow row of booths and almost started panicking because I was having trouble breathing from the hot air and bad body odors floating around. But we were packed so tight that I had absolutely no control of where I was going. I just had to endure and go with the flow.

Some tourists I met buying alfareria

The fair in La Campa is one of the most famous and biggest in the west of Honduras. People come from all over the department of Lempira to make offerings to San Matias because they either owe him for a prayer that was answered or to ask him for a miracle. I asked the mayor about this and he told me that if, for example, your son is sick, you can pray to San Matias and tell him that if he cures your child, you will give an offering to him during the fair. Or, you can come during the fair and ask him for anything that you need. So, everyday of the fair, there was a line wrapping around the courtyard of the church of people waiting to get inside to see the statue of San Matias. There were two lines: one line for the women and one line for the men. The separate lines were to keep order and also to protect the women because sometimes the men will push the women out of the way to cut in line.

Inside the church

Inside the church, San Matias on the left

Thousands of people had come to give their offerings. . . obviously San Matias is doing a good job taking care of his people! There were other religious events such as processions of the virgin Mary and various masses in which I didn’t participate.

Agapito with large guitar to play for a procession

Praying to the virgin

The virgin arrives

However, I did partake in some of the other cultural events that come during the fair such as the “Carrera de Cinta” (tape races) and a “Pelenque” (cock fight). (As far as the cock fight, the one I saw will be my first and last that I ever want to see again. It’s very brutal, and I hope it stays illegal in the states forever. That’s all I have to say on that.)

The “Carrera de Cinta”, however, is an enjoyable tradition. Men on their horses sprint under a line of rings (smaller than a keychain ring) taped to a rope and try to poke a stick through the tiny hole (smaller than a keychain ring). When they get their stick through the hole, it rips the ring off and each ring is attached to a flag that has a number. This number corresponds to a certain girl who then goes and pins a handkerchief to the shirt of the man who ripped the flag down. (I was number 17.) Whoever has the most hankerchiefs at the end wins.

Ellen´s boyfriend ended u winning with 12 handkerchiefs

At first, I thought that the fair would be something fun for my family to experience when they come visit me. And since we haven’t planned a date when they’re gonna come down here, I figured February, in time for the fair, would be perfect. That is, until I realized what thousands of people in one place can do to a small community. First, I couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours every night because of the neverending noise of fireworks, firecrackers, a band (that was playing until 5 in the morning! I seriously was about to run outside in my pajamas and throw rocks at the horn players), and large crowds. Also, because people come from such remote places, they can’t just pack up at the end of the day and go home. So they all just sleep out in the grass! Imagine a town of about 300 in the “urban center” just multiplied its population about 100 times and all of those people are sleeping on the road, in the grass, under their booths, by the river . . . everywhere!

Bed under a booth

Buses came full of people from all over

Woman making tortillas for her food booth

Well, the sight might be something worth seeing, but my other sensory organs like my nose (the smell of thousands of people that don’t have access to a proper latrine) and ears (thousands of people shouting, fireworks, firecrackers, and bands all night) told me that there are definitely other activites that I would enjoy more while my parents are here.

Conserva de coco (a really good treat made from coconut and sugar)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Photos from February

Little Diana grinding corn

Mucho maiz!

Cueva Taistado

My friend David in the Cave Taistado

A parrot at Villa de Ada (a touristy place in Gracias)

Lago de Yojoa, the only lake in Honduras (this is actually a picture from the end of January)

The national (and endangered) animal of Honduras, the white-tailed deer

Ellen and me

It was Ellen´s birthday on the 15th! We went to Villa de Ada, swimming in the river, and then had a bonfire and showed the kids what s´mores are.

Tilapia with tajaditas at Villa de Ada

We went swimming in the river
Finally, the irrigation project is over in Nueva Esperanza! These are photos of the inauguration. An eleven year project, two years of laying tubes from 12 km away on the mountain all the way to the community. Men would leave at 3 am to walk to the mountain and begin laying tubes.

Me with the Mendez family at the inauguration of the irrigation project

Selling alfareria at the inaurugation

Kids performing traditional dance for the inauguration

The performers

Me with the beautiful dancers

Making carne ensalsado for like 300 people

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Quick Update

So, here’s a quick update about what has happened since the last time I wrote, which I know has been a while. Sorry! I split it up by good news and not so good news (cause really there’s nothing that’s really bad) so you can decide what you want to read first.

Good News:

1) I am working closely with a woman named Midaevis Lopez who works for PRONADEL (Promoción Nacional del Desarrollo Lenca, or National Promotion of Lencan Development) the NGO that is going to fund my improved stoves project. So far, we are just working out the kinks in the project before sending the grant proposal to Tegucigalpa. Midaevis told me that at this point it should take about a month, depending on how fast Tegucigalpa decides to support us. It’s nice to finally have someone helping me with this project that has done this type of work before. The stress level is definitely a lot lower since Midaevis and I started working together.
2) I have a house! I finally have found housing in Nueva Esperanza. The only thing about this house is that it is not completely built yet. It still is missing floor, finishing on the walls, a bathroom, a pila, water, electricity, doors, and windows. That sounds like a lot . . . because it is I guess, but hopefully it will be done by mid-March. I told the woman I’m going to rent from to tell me when they are going to begin construction because I want to go help do whatever it takes to keep the process moving along.

My house!

3) My friends from the University of Puget Sound are coming to visit! Sam and Chanel are coming March 29th and staying until April 6. I can’t wait to see them, but I also hope that my house is done by then so that we have a place to stay!
4) My former host mom’s baby was finally born on February 6th! We all have been waiting for this baby boy for months. Idania, my host mom, had to have a Caesarian but out came a healthy 8 pound baby GIRL!! I guess the doctor was wrong about the gender and so to all of our surprise, there is a new baby sister. They still have not picked out a name yet and luckily a lot of the clothes they bought for the baby boy are unisex colors like green and yellow.

The newest member of the Lopez Mejia family. Although unnamed so far.

5) I made tortillas and my friend, Genara, couldn’t distinguish mine from the others that were made by the Honduran women. Woohoo!
6) My computer is fixed and in my hands! It was actually fixed almost two months ago but I could only just get it from Tegucigalpa in the end of February.
7) I bought a guitar and am slowly teaching myself how to play.

Not So Good News:

1) I have scabies . . . again (for the fourth time!), but really at this point I’m so used to them that it’s not that big of a deal. I just put my cream on and wash my clothes in hot water. Truthfully, the worst part about it is that I’m not used to washing my clothes in hot water and so I accidentally have mixed colored clothes with my white clothes twice and have stained my white clothes red the first time and blue the second time.
2) My friend, Martin, here from Nueva Esperanza lost his grandmother on Thursday, February 28th to a sudden heart attack. Martin is always smiling and in a good mood so it was hard to see him sad.
3) I have acquired a bad cough which either is left over from the last time I was sick or from all the dust that is in the air since it’s so dry here. (The dust is inches thick on the road. In some parts, I feel like I’m walking through snow. I wear my sunglasses everyday not to protect my eyes from the sun but from the cloud of dust that engulfs me when the cars go whizzing by.)
4) Well, I got my computer from Tegucigalpa. But I accidentally left my cell phone there. So for a few weeks at least I will be without that.