Friday, March 23, 2012

February 22nd, 2012- Recalling Honduras

Our first full day of work in Zambrano began with an early (6:30 am) breakfast of dry toast and some cereal as an additional option.  They also had fruit nectar in cans, which were also common in Mexico.  They taste like the actual fruit they come from.  After breakfast, Ed drove us over to the work site in Zambrano.  We will spend the first two days at the future home of the Zambrano public high school.  A few of the rooms already have cement flooring.  Our goal is to put in a floor for one large room (to be divided into three rooms) with cement.  Ed suggested we be careful where we walk.  There were a few places, in the untouched rooms, where people had deficated.  Ed commented that animal poop doesn't bother him, but people crap does a little.  We began by moving sand, gravel, and fill, via wheel barrow across a canal, traversed by three planks of wood, and formed new piles closer to the future cement mixing site.  While we began the work process, Val made sure that we also divided ourselves into half hour shifts of prayer walking around the site.  There is some gang activity in the area, and this is the best way to confront those issues.  I took my walk at around 10:30 in the morning, wandering around praying for the rooms and the surrounding area.  I wanted to really walk around town, but having been warned against that, stayed within a quick walk of the school house.  Theft is a huge problem in Honduras (another missionary would later refer to it as the "national pastime") and so when we went to have lunch at the Schubert's, a few of the men stayed behind.

The Schubert home is behind two metal gates, one opening to the general property and the gardens owned by the Schubert's landlord, and one which provides access to the Schubert's home itself.  It is a simple, but very beautiful home: stone floors, high wooden ceilings, a woven hammock, toilets where you can flush the toilet paper, and the perfect place for picnic, underneath a simple shelter.  The house is also full of pictures, and I enjoyed a careful study of several of them.  Our lunches, consisting of subs, a bag of chips, and gatorade were quite satisfying after a hard mornings work.

The afternoon featured the beginnings of our cement work.  I volunteered to be "water boy," in the hopes that I would have steady work and would not have to deal with extended periods of nothing to do.  My task was to keep a 55 gallon bucket full, which, in turn was used to feed the cement mixer.  I got the water from a "piela," which was a large cement above-ground pool of water.  I was assisted in this work by Marta, a Honduran woman whose home we will be working on later in the week.  Her husband was a man named Celan.  We were told that Celan is basically unemployed, though he works as a day laborer, and when there is a team, he does not seek work, but rather works alongside the team.  He does this out of gratitude for the work the team's, and the Schubert's, do on his house.  We were all very impressed by this, and by Celan's incredible strength.  He was always demanding that his wheelbarrow be filled to the brim.  "Celan is muy puerto," was one of the first Spanish phrases I cobbled together and one that I returned to often.  As we worked, Marta and I talked about our families, particularly our young children.  Celan and Marta's son is about Elinor's age, and is being tutored alongside the Schubert's daughter Cheynece, an excellent opportunity to be sure.

We worked well into the heat of the afternoon.  Arms weakened, energy began to wane, and hands became raw with the repeated lifting of five gallon buckets.  The end of work was greeted with open arms by me.  I spent time picking up around the work site and throwing rocks at coffee can lids with Blake Lewis, Chris' son, and our youngest team member.  We also watched Ed do the troweling and smoothing of the cement, the last task of the day.  It was nearing dark when we returned to Casa Santiago.

We were given time to shower.  While it had been advertised to us that Casa Santiago had hot showers, in reality it seemed that one was hot and the other cold.  Gary Bickel and I where in the bathroom at the same time, and he allowed me to take the hot shower.  What a guy!  After supper, Gary, Allen, and I watched a little TV.  It was all in Spanish, except for a few movies, and somehow seemed superfluous, as big a role as TV plays in my life at home.  Just didn't seem like I needed it there.  Craving another comfort from home, Coca-Cola, I asked our hostess (an English speaker) if she would translate for me to purchase some at a local store.  It seems that Coke is available everywhere, if signage is to be any indicator.  Initially, she agreed to this, but it was ultimately decided that the good stuff could be delivered.  I paid four dollars for three two liters.  Not bad...  The evening ended with a fine supper, devotions and prayer, and then off to bed with little ceremony.  Tomorrow's going to be a tough one, and we all need our beauty sleep...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

February 21st, 2012- Recalling Honduras

We met the team, except for Allen, at Salem UCC Church at about 1:30 in the morning.  The drive there was uneventful, except that, minutes before we departed Rachel locked our keys in the car.  After prayer, we divided the team into two suburbans and began our journey.  We only got as far as Emlenton (about 10 minutes) before the other suburban had oil pressure problems and had to stop.  After a change of vehicles, during which we arranged for Cindy Weimer to get the other set of keys from my mom, we were finally on our way to Pittsburgh International Airport.  We were glad that we had allotted a little extra time.  Most of us slept maybe an hour on the way to the airport.  Made the trip noticeably short.

After dealing with a rather surly lady at check-in we made our way to the terminal in  time to grab a quick breakfast.  Having not flown in sometime, I was excited to be at the airport, to be on an airplane.  Trouble started with a long delay, which turned out to be the airport's fault.  Something about the gas pump not reading the airplane's fuel level correctly.  We lost about 30 minutes, which made me nervous because we only had 45 allotted to make the transfer in Houston.  (I'll have to do something about that travel agent!)  The plane was something of a puddle jumper, only three seats across.  When we finally took off, Rachel was quickly asleep, but I struggle to sleep while sitting up.  I chipped away on the week's Spiritual Formation class assignments.  Through a few short cuts, we managed to regain about 20 minutes to reach our next plane which, as misfortune would have it, was nearly as far as it could be from our landing gate.  Rachel and I ran ahead to hold the plane, but to no avail.  Thankfully, the rest of the team made it with literally moments to spare.  It texted my relief to my Dad and my friend Mark Livengood.

I lost all phone connection once we got decently above the clouds.  I was surprised how long it held on.  The plane to San Pedro Sula was much nicer than its predecessor.  Six seats across.  I had my own row.  There was space for my legs.  There was power for my laptop.  I had a second breakfast and finished a bag of Mom's fabulous chocolate chip cookies in anticipation of the heat of Honduras and unknown food supply.  When we reached Honduras, we all found it quite beautiful from a bird's eye view.

We eventually landed (about noon) and got processed through customs without much drama.  Miraculously, our luggage all arrived safely.  We met Ed and Val, who quickly escorted us out of a very modern looking airport.  We loaded our bags into Ed's truck (which has lasted, I later learned, for ten years) and a van that bore a resemblance to a VW bus, but more angular.  It was hot in San Pedro Sula, but not unbearably so.  We traveled toward Zambrano on a trip that would take the rest of the day to complete.  We stopped at a Wendy's about  two hours in to eat lunch and meet some of Allen Hansen's relatives, who are also missionaries to Honduras.  The Wendy's featured an armed guard and was missing many items from the menu, including soda.  I had a chicken sandwich, which was rather overcooked, and a frosty, which was nearly perfect.  We stopped at a mall in the same complex as well, and had a drinks from a Cafe Americano (I had a blackberry slushy which was yummy.)  I also perused a hat that they wanted, shockingly, $60 for.  Perhaps a front for drug money laundering, Val suggested.

As we traveled, we plied Ed with questions about Honduras and their ministry and enjoyed some beautiful scenery, interspersed with brief brief periods of sleep.  I unfortunately missed most of a breath-taking lake.  We observed, with Ed's insight, some of the corruption of the Honduran government, chiefly in the form of unfinished bridges and some poor roads.  As we traveled on the terrain became drier and more mountainous.  We arrived in Zambrano shortly before dark.  The place where we are staying, Casa De Santiago, is a very well maintained guest house featuring beautiful, colorful, Italianate decor.  After some thought, we settled on married couples separating, men and women in separate dorms.  Before supper, we had orientation in the living room.  While Val was speaking, the power went out and we were sitting in complete darkness.  Val acknowledged the situation briefly and then continued her comments.  A generator restored power after a few minutes.  We had a supper of thin ham slices, refried beans, fried plantains (woody & sweet the taste), fried eggs, and extremely sweet and sugary juices.  Given that we were all rather worn out from a long day of travel, it wasn't long before we headed to bed anticipating our first day's work to begin at about 6:30 in the morning.  It was a sweet rest.

Today, I thank God for a safe arrival in Honduras, that our luggage made it, for good food, gracious hosts, a team that seems to get along, comfortable weather, and a sleep worthy bed.  God is good.