Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ya estuvo

Bye Honduras.

This is my last entry of what I hoped was a neat little glimpse into my life in San Jose. I have now been back in Fairfax since May 1, almost 2 months now, and the finality of my Honduran life still takes awhile to sink in. I still wake up thinking I'm there. I wait for the morning sounds of my little mountain town: the ubiquitous rooster crows, Tigra barking at a bolo or a small child or a tuft of grass, Rosario's turkey, the cows going out to pasture, men stumbling home from the cantina, kids heading to school. I never thought I'd ever miss sounds like that, but in the end the fact that I'll likely never hear those unique sounds again is a little saddening.

I call San Jose once a week, mostly to talk to Rossy my (almost) only friend. Every once in a while I get calls to the house phone, my parents hearing a distant voice yelling "Marina?!?!," realizing it's a Spanish speaker and frantically thrusting the phone at me. I do miss my few friends. It worries me what's happening now-- I just got off the phone with Rossy, the coup d'etat has everyone scared and staying indoors-- and I honestly don't know when I'll be back. But I have to go, that goes without saying.

Honduras and I had a very tumultuous relationship, but I would liken it to an eternal-yet-dysfunctional friendship. I might tell Honduras I hate it, I never want to see it again, it hurt me too much, too many run-ins with bolos, too many times I ended up sick, too many frustrating days when I wondered what I was even doing hanging out with Honduras. And Honduras might shoot back by saying it's glad I'm gone, it gets to party more without me being the buzzkill--more earthquakes, more political unrest. But I'll always remember those moments when Honduras' soft side shone through:

-the day I saw the most gigantic rainbow I'd ever seen in my life
-the day at the med brigade when I saw a baby being born
-the day Sandra came to my house to celebrate her quinceanera
-the day I was asked to be a godmother
-the sweet little dog that followed me everywhere
-the hilarious day that the bridge collapsed
-the impromptu religious pilgrimage I found myself in while walking home
-the day I made the sign with the tourism group
-Dona Elvia's sweet bread
-Dona Julia's puro cafe de palo
-Monopoly evenings
-the trip with Wizbif to Tela's unbelievably beautiful Punta Sal beach
-the day I fainted at the high school and the teachers revived me with smelling salts, then drove me 3 hours to the ER
-going to the caves with Chocho
-the day we finished the World Map Project
-fixing up our beautiful library

I'll just stop here, but there is so much more to remind me how great Honduras and I were together. How can we not be friends??? Honduras is awesome!

So I hope you enjoyed my rambling stories and anecdotes about my time in Peace Corps. I will be spending some time back home in Nova and working downtown-- after the background check I'll be cleared to start work at the PC Placement Office, hopefully beginning August 1st if not sooner. I'll shut this blog down pretty soon, closing up my little footprint in the blogosphere. Thanks for reading, and


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Past activities and looking ahead

Haven't written in a little while so I thought I'd share a few last updates on life here before I finish service and say goodbye to this country that has made me laugh, cry, and hurl (as Wayne and Garth would say) many times over.

I spent alot of the month of February out of my site due to a few trips to Tegucigalpa (where I finally got my chronic allergy problem taken care of, and I can finally say that I am illness-free for the first time since February 2007), and the visit of ELIZABETH which was a great week of visiting the major tourist destinations. We visited the Mayan ruins of Copán, the beaches of Tela (including Punta Sal, which I'd never been to but I'm so glad we saw, it was truly beautiful), and a couple days in little San José. It was great to catch up with my dear Elizabeth and for her to catch a little glimpse of my life here. She was my third and final visitor from home (after Mel C. and Chocho), and it was a little shocking to realize that I was really nearing the end here.

This month of March has been focused mostly on my final two projects: a World Map Project in the school and work with the library. The World Map project was done with the 6th grade class, where we drew and later painted a map of the world in the main entrance of the school. Thanks to fellow volunteer Kate Strass, who gave me her leftover paint and brushes from when she did the same project in her site, I was able to do the project with almost no expenses involved. The kids learned a little bit about geography in the process of painting the map--we did a few exercises that taught them that a continent and a country are in fact not the same thing--and in the end I think they had a good time and the project was a success.

At work drawing the map. This is my old host sister.

We then colored in the countries with markers... this is Africa!

Then came the painting.

It looks like they're having fun right?????


An impromptu inauguration of the map.
Our mapamundi.

"Memory from Marina O'Neill and 6th grade 2009." Yeah!

The municipal library has experienced some major changes in the past month--just in March, we moved to the new municipality building which seriously quadrupled the library's space, AND we received a donation of a computer, laser printer, metal shelves and 500 donated books. All these new books we're currently putting into the inventory, then writing bibliographic cards then classifying them, all by hand. On top of that, now we average about 30 users a day who come in to read or investigate homework assignments, so it's quite alot of work we'll be doing before I leave. In all I'm just really impressed with how far this library has come. When I first got here the library consisted of the librarian and a couple boxes of books in a corner of the mayor's office. Now we have an actual space, tables, chairs, shelves, over 1100 books, and a community that knows the library exists and is starting to use it. It's not a perfectly-executed project, there were lots of bumps in the road and there is still alot of work to do after I leave, but in all it's pretty cool to see.

Some kids came by and helped put together our shelves...they came in their uniforms so I guess they shoul've been in class, but who needs school when you get to put up some shelves?!

Librarian and kids.

Finally, the town welcomed the "Bibliobús," a mobile library which we asked for to come to San José from Tegucigalpa to do activities with the community to promote reading. They were here a total of 3 days in the park, and lots of people came by to take a look at the books. There were even older people in the community who stopped by, which was rare to see (as most people in San José assume that a library is only for kids to do homework assignments). In all it was a really interesting and different activity for the community to experience, and hopefully after I leave the librarian can solicit the bus to visit again, particularly in the surrouding aldeas.

So I've got 34 days from today until I'm on the plane and back to the States. I plan on being back in Fairfax at least for awhile, since looking for work sounds pretty intimidating in any part of the country and I at least feel more confident about looking around the DC area. I will definitely be sad about leaving here, more than anything because of the kids and friends and families I've gotten to know and love while here. At the same time though I feel it is time, which is the best way I can feel really because it means I'm ready for the next step.

I'll write one or two more entries before signing off. Hasta entonces!

photos from feria 2009

I don't really like feria time in San José (which occurs during the week of March 19, Saint Joseph's day) due to the high volume of cantinas that set up shop in the park and the quantity of bolos that result. That said, there were still a few neat sights to see. Here are a few:

Man who drank gasoline from a plastic coke bottle and breathed fire

A band that played fun tunes in the park--a few decided to dance, namely Nelson the town epileptic/crazy guy

Nelson and Cheno another town "crazy guy"-- crazy because he has Down's Syndrome. It's a little sad.

Mugigangas, kids that dress up in masks and layered clothes and dance around provocatively and chase kids around

Little cute flower girls, one of whom was obviously bored and entertained herself by touching her toes

A ringtoss game that was impossible to win

The girl who won third place, second place and first place (in that order) for the queen of the fair beauty contest. The girl who raised the most money won the contest.

Coronation of the little girl queen of the feria. There was also a teen queen of the feria.

And of course what feria would be complete without a torofuego, a wooden bull covered in fireworks that some guy stands underneath and runs around with the fireworks shooting into crowds of screaming people. Dangerous? Ridiculously dangerous?!?! Nooooo, it's all part of the fun of feria! Happy Feria 2009, San José! Thank God it's over!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winding down

I’m starting (well not starting, I started a while back) to think about life after this. I’ll be home on May 1st, Peace Corps has the plane ticket bought, folks comment that “pucha, ya va a ser” (loosely translated into yikes, you’re almost out of here), and little ladies are coming to my house more frequently to look at my stuff and drop big hints on how much they’d love my TV or my mini-fridge as a parting gift (I though a photo or a little keychain was a nice parting gift—you’re seriously asking for a fridge?). It’s crazy to think it’s been two years. I mean, most days in my site I feel like I’ve been here an eternity, the minutes and hours creep by, but then I look back and it’s been two years!!!!! I’d rather not think about plans just yet—I’d much prefer to stick to my Honduran concerns which are much more mundane and less daunting (such as washing my clothes, burning the trash, visiting folks, talking about local current events such as how high the river’s gotten or which kids have run off to the city together). But I do feel it necessary to write a little list of things I’ll miss here. I know sometimes I don’t always sound so optimistic about life here, but there are many things I’ll miss. Such as:

- The sleep I get. Where else will I ever go to bed at 9 and wake up at 7 every day for two years? That’s quality sleep.
- The fact that no matter how much you screw something up, or how many materials you forget to a meeting, it’s not a problem.
- The fact that no matter how late a meeting is running, how poorly planned an event is, how many bus drivers are on strike and are keeping you from getting home, or how crowded a bus may be, everything works out. The meeting eventually will start, the event will run, someone will always come along to give you a ride, and there will always be enough room on the bus for one more.
- Everybody knows my name. And everybody’s glad I came!
- The lip point.
- The fun Honduranisms like “púchica,” “y cómo,” “ni ‘quiera Diós,” “vaya pues,” and my favorite “qué barbaridad.”
- Tigra my adopted dog.
- The silly rumors I hear people say about me. This can also be under things I will NOT miss, but in a way I’ll miss the ridiculous gossip.

And now what I’ll miss, in pictures…

POWER CHICKEN in San Pedro Sula, the best place for huge portions of jerk chicken and ribs and other types of meat. Power Chicken!! Yeah!!

Neighborhood kids who come to play!

My little Honduran Irish lass, and goddaughter

Rosario, my wonderful next-door neighbor and friend.

The hill leading to my neighborhood from the upper part of town, a slope that opens onto this amazing view of rolling hills and green pastures—every time I go down this hill I think to myself “This is Peace Corps.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A few pictures from Chocho´s visit

Chocho´s first time on a plane!! He took this from his first of four flights that day...four flights in four different was quite a first trip :/

Our first day in San Pedro Sula

Me with Zarca in her new house-- Sasha ran away :(

She liked Chocho alot...I don´t think the feeling was mutual though.

His digital camera sometimes scrambles his pictures, hence why his legs are way to the left of his body. This is in Siguatepeque.

More of Siguatepeque...

On the way to the caves in San José

Listening to the vice-mayor/tour guide talk about the caves

Yes this is how you get into the caves, you wriggle on your belly for about 20-30 feet, then stand up in the middle of a den of millions of bats and fun cave formations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Holidays and CHOCHO!!!

I went home for Christmas again this year. There was a part of me that felt I should´ve stayed in Honduras this year to see how the holidays are celebrated here, but an overwhelming part of me just wanted to go home. So I did. I was only there for 8 full days so I only was able to see family, but it was a really nice and low-key trip and, just as nice, a very easy transition back to Honduras afterwards...... well, relatively easy. I managed to lose my wallet and my suitcase on the flight back to San Pedro, and as a result had nothing more than my passport, some Lempiras and a big bag full of Christmas ornaments that a Honduran living in Manassas wanted me to send to his family. Luckily my delightful PCV friend Molly and I were on the same flight, so she took me under her wing and we had a nice lunch w/other PCV Marc. I was then picked up by the incredibly nice family of my Gtown friend Paul Bonilla, who live in a very nice spot in San Pedro and fed me and let me stay in their nice guest room for two nights and drove me to and from the airport when my suitcase finally turned up. If the Bonilla family is reading this (which I doubt but I hope they´re reading this), THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!!!

Then came the most exciting moment of maybe my entire time in Honduras, the moment my boyfriend Miguel/Chocho arrived into the San Pedro airport from a hellacious flight that included connections in Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica, to visit me for 18 glorious days! I was waiting and beside myself with the typical Honduran fatalism thinking, no, ASSUMING that the worst had happened and he would not show up. As I waited, praying to God and Allah and Buddha and Saint Christopher and Vishnu all other heavenly beings and prophets I could think of that he arrive safely, I received a text from Chocho´s little brother asking if he´d arrived yet. As I tried to respond, pushing my feelings of panic and anxiety aside to create a logical response in Spanish, I felt a tap on the shoulder, looked up and ------ it was Chocho!!!!! So it wasn´t the romantic open-armed greeting I´d imagined, but at least he´d gotten to Honduras in one piece.

So far it´s been a very successful visit, we´ve visited the caves in San José, gone to the bustling city of Siguatepeque to do such exciting things as apply for a new debit card at the bank and buy anti-parasite medicine since I of course am sick again :( and we´ve gotten stared at by the entire town as we walk around little gossipy San José while holding hands, which I think judging by the looks we received is something in San José that only prostitutes do. Oh well.

Pictures to come from my new fancy-pants camera. THIS one has more than 2 megapixels. Increíble!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Illness count as of December 08

7 bacterial infections
5 viruses (of which 1 I thought was dengue fever)
3 bouts with Giardia
3 really bad colds
2 instances on a bus where I really thought I would die of nausea
1 case of pinworms
1 case of head lice
1 case of "oxiuros..." still not sure exactly what that is but it was not pleasant
1 pink eye
1 fainting spell (at the high school, embarrassing!)
1 EColi infection
1 chronic allergy to dust and mold and perhaps the country of Honduras

And a partridge in a pear tree!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Kittens!!!! again

I have mentioned that I have kittens. I still have them and they´re still as cute as ever, and unfortunately I will be giving them away in a few weeks to an older couple in the city who will hopefully take care of them better than a San José family (who would likely starve them to death within two weeks, no offense to San José families but it´s true). As an homage to my little kittens who will soon no longer be mine, here are a few shots of Zarca and Sasha

If I were to send out a Christmas card it would be with this picture in front.

I didn´t want the kittens in my room and my bedroom door has no functioning doorknob. Genuis that I am, I thought tying a string between the nonfunctioning doorknob and a pole about 5 feet away. Thought it was a good idea... but alas the kittens just played with the string and it looked ridiculous to have this long string in my living room
Rossy, however, simply took my quickdry towel and wedged it in the door...

Problem solved!!!!! She´s smarter than me!!!!

Kittens caught in half-embrace

Kittens playing/fighting/scratching each other

A favorite pasttime, getting up on their hind legs like two little meerkats to look out the front door.

Lounging on the bed


Last week was the sixth grade graduation/clausura, which I attended and was invited to sit at the principal table as a GUEST OF HONOR, ooh la la! They called me up, I sat next to the mayor, then I gave out a few diplomas to the students of my English class with the highest grades, and THEN had the class all sing “Head shoulders knees and toes” with me (the song I taught them), and in front of the adoring crowd. I think the song was the high point of the entire graduation, as our performance ended with a roaring applause. It was a ROARING applause! I and my friend were also asked to be godmothers to her two cousins. Now, the godmothers and godfathers of sixth-grade graduations in Honduras are not of the Mario Puzo variety. Really the only thing that being a godmother entails is giving the godkid a gift, taking a picture with them at graduation and going back to their house for dinner and cake. The two kids ended up eating their cake at my house since their house was far away from the center of town and it had no electricity, so my house was apparently a more happening place and more apt for cake eating. It was a good time had by all, overall. Here are a few shots of my dear “godsons.”

Happy day!!!!

Me with the kiddies

Rossy with the kiddies

Exon and Marlon with their fancypants framed diplomas

Kids, looking wiped out