Sunday, April 12, 2009

Post #2, checking in from Field Based Training

Hello everyone,
So I guess a blog post every month is not really what I had planned for, but its surprisingly hard to sit down and crank these guys out, not to mention our (very) limited internet access so far.
When last I wrote we were training in a small mountainside town called Zarabanda; we’ve now split up into our separate project groups in three different towns or cities and won’t be reuniting with our Health or Water/Sanitation friends until the beginning of May. Luckily the Wat/Saners are only about an hour and a half away from us, and we were able to have lunch with some of them this past Saturday, which was really great. It had only been two weeks since the last time we saw them but it felt like a reunion with old friends. (As a side note, we’ve only been here six or seven weeks but the depth of some of the relationships we’ve made don’t reflect the time we’ve been here)
The business group is training in a town of about four or five thousand people called Ojojona; it’s about an hour and a half South-East of Tegucigalpa and is well known for its artisans and clay working. They’ve recently been putting a big emphasis on tourism, including a new central park/plaza which was finished about two months ago. Sundays tend to bring a lot of people from the big cities that’re looking to get some fresh air and relax in a nice small town.
This week was Semana Santa (holy week) which means that all of the schools were on vacation and no one worked after Tuesday; friends in Tegucigalpa said it was a ghost town as most of the city was in beaches at the North Coast. There were a lot of religious ceremonies this week, including a procession of “alfombras” which translates to ‘rugs’. Townspeople wake up extremely early in the morning and make large religious images on the streets in front of their houses out of colored mulch and sand. The alfombras lead from one church up the hill to another church in the center of town, and the priest leads a procession on Sunday morning through the alfombras. It’s pretty neat looking; hopefully I’ll be able to show some of the pictures on here.
The trainees had classes on Monday and Tuesday, then a cultural day on Wednesday with our host families, and we’ve been off ever since. We’ve been playing a lot of soccer, volleyball, and cribbage on the weekends or even after class during the week.
Training is going well in general, but I think we’re all starting to get antsy about getting to our sites and getting some work going; we came to work, not sit in classes all day! Next week we do our sessions on tourism, including a trip to an island off the south coast of Honduras called Amapala. On Monday night we’ll be setting up a bonfire on the beach, cooking s’mores and hot dogs and sleeping on the beach before visiting some businesses on the island on Tuesday.
We had our second technical interviews with Jorge and Jesus (the business group bosses) last week. During the technical interviews the trainee and Jorge and Jesus talk about potential site placements and projects the trainee would like to work on after swearing-in. Some of the sites are tiny (a thousand people in town) and some of them get quite a bit larger (100,000 plus). The projects that we’re aware of include tourism, working with Cajas Rurales (essentially micro-financing projects), working with women’s groups, IT projects, a media marketing project (we have one member of the group who has a film and production background, so the assumption is that this project is his), teaching youth, and Business Incubator projects. We have one more technical interview before site assignments, which are given on Monday the 4th of May. We’re getting pretty close to finding out our assignments, which everyone is pretty anxious about. I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going based on what Jesus and Jorge have told me, but I’ll wait until something is official before spilling the beans (I will say that I’m going to a large and apparently very cool city).
Some side notes that I don’t feel like writing paragraphs about:
• I wish I had brought my DVD’s; there’s not a lot to do here in the evenings
• I wish I had brought a computer game or something similar (for the same reason)
• I think the thing I miss most from the US so far (other than all of you of course) is washing machines. Washing clothes by hand is time consuming and miserable. Let’s get some kind of award to the man who invented washing machines.
• Sticking with the clothes-washing theme, I don’t think any of my clothes are going to survive these two years. One of my grey workout shirts (which I’ve worn only twice) is already about 30% larger than it was when I got here. Tech wick shirts were definitely the way to go; they breathe great, don’t expand, and feel nice. I’ll definitely be picking some more of those up the next time I’m in the US.
• We lost our first two trainees last week, a married couple named Ross and Susan. Everyone is pretty down, and we all wish the best for them. Here's hoping casualties are limited in the future