Monday, April 16, 2012

February 24th, 2012- Recalling Honduras

Our third full day in Honduras began later than its predecessors.  I feel comfortable in saying we all welcomed the extra moments of rest which followed two days of hard work.  Breakfast was at 8 am, and consisted of a flour tortilla with eggs, cheese, and re-fried beans inside.  Admittedly, I'm not an advocate of re-fried beans, but I thought the combination was pretty tasty.

Our work also shifted for day three.  We would not be doing construction, but would be spending the day with the children of Casa De Luz's Zambrano branch.  We would be doing some activities together, such as a music time and craft/snack supervision, but the team would also be breaking into small groups and leading the kids in different activities, two groups were involved in English exercises and one was focused on play.  Rachel Bickel and I worked together, teaching the kids English terms for numbers (1-10), colors, and shapes.  The children who benefit from this daycare program are younger than those in the English program I was involved with briefly yesterday.  The first group proved to be the smaller of the two, but Rachel and I had a good time helping them learn English through flashcards.  Once again, I admired the sharpness of some of the children.  They also helped us with our Spanish.  As the children left, they each got a hug from every team member.  So few of these children get much positive affection, particularly from men, but I hope they felt loved.  I know that we did.

We walked the short distance to the Schubert's house for lunch (would you believe subs, chips, and Gatorade?) with the welcome addition of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Mmmm...mmmm good!  The afternoon class was twice the size (35 or so) of the morning group, but they were still fairly cooperative.  Sometimes we barely got through our material in the time allotted, other times we would finish up with several minutes to spare.  That's when things got complicated, because I didn't know how to communicate much beyond what was on the flash cards and asking, "How do you say... in English? en Espanol?  I commented to Val (who is fluent) that I had never used as much Spanish as I did that day.  I wonder if I made sense to the kids?  We managed the extra time as best we could.  After the kids were gone we spent about an hour giving Casa de Luz a good cleaning.  While the mopping was being completed, several of us chatted outside.  I got to know I nice older couple from North Carolina who decided that rather than making repeated short-term trips they would just move to Honduras.  Now they make short-term trips to their family in the States!

Our work for the day completed, and what satisfying work it was, we walked back to the Schubert's to relax for a bit.  The Schubert's have a wonderfully large blue and white hammock.  It could have been a napper's paradise, but it was hard to enjoy it for too long because Blake Lewis (somehow never far away) would quickly come harass you.  The Schubert's also have a big brown dog called Duke who was great fun to play with.  That evening, we had pizza (some homemade and some from Free the Oppressed's restaurant), fabulous Coca-Cola, and more of those delicious cookies.  In truth, I could have eat all of them, and in my passive aggressive way, I tried to.  I learned some Honduran geography by studying a wall map and plying Ed with questions.  Up til then, I'd had no idea that by landing in San Pedro Sula, we basically drove halfway across the country to get to Zambrano.  Also of note, if you travel East from Zambrano you will eventually reach a province called Gracia De Dios, or Grace of God, which has virtually no roads.  The main way to travel is via river.  In some way, pre-colonial Honduras is preserved there.  We chattered around the table, shared stories, laughed, and generally had a good time.  Having given up my seat at the table, I spent some time flipping through magazines in the living room.  National Geographic is full of pictures of a beautiful world I would like to see more of.  A Doctor friend of the Schubert's was also visiting that day, and she was reading a Tolkien book.  I chatted to her a bit about that.  Amazingly she was just starting the Children of Hurin, and had completed it by Sunday.  Wish I could read like that.  Our evening at the Schubert's ended in the outdoor gazebo, with a small fire to keep us warm.  We traveled home, had devotions, and then off to bed.  Back to work tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

February 23rd, 2012- Recalling Honduras

Our second work day also began with an early breakfast at 6:30 am.  Shortly after 7:00 am Ed picked us up for another day of work at the future Zambrano Public High School.  I resumed my task as water boy, though without the same level of strength and freshness that I had possessed the day before.  The water levels of the piela were also lower, meaning more effort to draw each bucket.  After a few hours labor Val took Marlene, Alan, and I to Casa De Luz to help her with ESL classes, something that I have particular interest in.

Casa De Luz, we learned, was built by a group from Spain as an educational center.  Funding dried up, and for a long time the building was abandoned.  When Casa De Luz took over, Val had the building painted a fun, bright green with beams the color blue.  It's a simple construction, about the size of two trailers and subdivided into three sections.   Val expressed some concern that we might have small crowds, because she had told her classes their would be American visitors.  Some Hondurans, I gather, are pretty shy about showing off their English skills.  We spent the morning reviewing flash cards concerning shapes and colors with the three or four girls who came.  They spoke somewhat broken English, and I attempted to utilize my ridiculous command of Spanish, but we got by.  The girls, who ranged in age from pre-teens through mid-twenties, showed great intelligence and sharpness and demonstrated a flourishing knowledge of the odd conventions of the English language.  Shortly before lunchtime, Val returned us to the work site.  I had planned to return to Casa de Luz for two more rounds of English classes in the afternoon, but Ed said my water carrying services were needed at the High School and so that would be the focus of the rest of the work day.  Oh boy.

After another leisurely lunch (subs, chips, and gatorade again) at the Schubert house, the hard work of keeping the water barrel satisfied began.  I recalled the afternoon for a Spiritual Formation class assignment in this way:

One of our projects has been to pour a cement floor in a large room for the new high school in the mountain community of Zambrano (to date the students have been meeting in a crowded local home).  This project took us two days to complete, and I volunteered for the job of “water-boy,” carrying large buckets of water about 100 feet to a 55 gallon barrel, which was used to keep the concrete mixer fed.  It was hard, hot, painful, endless work, because the water level was constantly being depleted.  The first day I was able to keep up pretty well, but the second day it was just a little hotter, and I was significantly more worn down and my feet, hands, and back were throbbing.  I was struggling.  Adding to my trouble was Emilio, a Honduran man who worked alongside us all day, and was the head of the school’s parent association.  Emilio was periodically stealing my buckets of water away, those buckets which I so desperately needed to keep up with my work.  He was taking them to aid in another part of the project, which I knew, but that didn’t keep me from getting annoyed with him, nor prevent me from feeling intensely sorry for myself and my “thankless” suffering.  I don’t know if Emilio read my mind on one of these occasions, but as he carried a bucket away he turned and said “Muchas gracias,” or “thank you very much” in the Spanish language.  For a moment, I felt a tangible weight off my shoulders.  My burdens became lighter, and my self-absorption less consuming.  This week, I’ve been putting effort into thanking God for all the wonders that He does, but through Emilio I’m learning that one way we thank God is by thanking His those who walk alongside us.

Another saving grace was that the city water came on over lunch time and refilled the piela, thus making for lighter lifting.  Otherwise things got steadily more difficult as the afternoon progressed.  My hands got so raw that at the end of the day, I was putting half-filled buckets in a wheel barrow just to avoid having to carry the buckets the short distance to the barrel.  It is amazing how much small changes of width, like the thin plastic grip that had survived on one of the buckets, or the handles of a wheelbarrow could affect my tolerance of the task.  I was relieved when the work day came to its merciful conclusion.  While this was only the second work day it proved to be, in my view, the second hardest physically of the whole trip.

After dinner, our team gathered for devotions.  I shared then what has become a lasting impression about the two days of cement work at the Zambrano Public High School.  It became my conviction that the work of laying down cement floors at a High School was very important Christ-exalting work, striking a blow against a long entrenched evil.  To give a little background: hundreds of years ago, Honduras had been colonized by the Spanish who, unfortunately, and to their shame, treated the people as slaves.  Though the nation has been independent for quite some time, many Hondurans still regard themselves with a slavish mentality.  Generation after generation Hondurans, though physically free, have spent their lives merely trying to survive their poverty, working as day-laborers with little hope for anything beyond the day's refried beans and tortillas.  Talents and gifts go utilized.  The ruling families have done little to relieve this situation.  Even sadder, their own government has contributed precious little to help their brethren.  Even though the school we worked on in Zambrano is a public school it had not received a dime, not a centavo, of assistance from their own elected leaders.  It seemed to me that in some small way, we struck a blow against an entrenched evil of institutionalized ignorance by laying down a floor for a school.  Perhaps some day soon, children will sit in those classrooms and their minds will be stretched in such a way that they will be able to loose the chains of of the bondage of generational poverty.  That's my prayer anyway.