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Monday, April 30, 2012


Since I haven’t written in a while and I have not kept a journal while here in Honduras, I have an urge to record some thoughts and a picture of my daily life so that I can remember in the years to come.  This blog is more for me than for you, but perhaps some of you will still enjoy reading it. 

Although this picture of my day has changed a bit since we first arrived, this is a rough schedule of life for me here at Leadership Center in El Salto, Honduras.  April 2012.  My schedule here is quite different than anyone else who lives here first because I am the only one with two little girls (or any children for that matter (except for Candida, but her kids don’t live here)!), and second because I function as the wife and support role to El Director ;)  This role (as Hailey can contest) requires a careful balance of being the family of four that we are but also caring for our extended family here: our 22 students, all the other volunteers, Candida and her sweet family, a (now very pregnant) dog and 20 some odd chickens (soon to be 30 some odd chickens).  There are cows and horses too, but all we do is “moo” and “neigh” at them, Sicily takes care of that, piece of cake!

Between 5am and 6am rise and shine (thank you Sicily and 5 roosters).  Play with Olivia and Sicily in the house; get everyone dressed in cool outside morning clothes.  Sometimes we give the gardens an early morning watering and fill the water jug in the kitchen by refilling and carrying the 5 gallon jugs from the “drinking water” tank to the kitchen. 
7am Breakfast is usually scrambled eggs, some kind of sautéed vegetable and beans (or if you are me, minus the beans).  Oh did I mention coffee…yes, the most delicious coffee (Joseph you would be proud I am down to 2-3 cups a day ;)…unless I go visiting of course)
More recently I have been taking tabs on who is sick each day and giving meds because we have some nasty bacteria going around.  Oh, and I now force feed water to everyone in my path since we almost lost Gabby to dehydration.  (I am sort of making light of it now, but really there was nothing funny about an emergency trip to the closest hospital 2 hours away with someone who is unconscious and appears to periodically stop breathing.)
Moving on from that though:  breakfast, rehydration drinks, pepto, tums, and a bottle of advil later (note: a trip to the dentist in Siguatepeque is in our near future), everyone is ready to start work.
Sometime around breakfast we take care of the chicks/chickens…feeding them, rotating around the coops/chicken fenced areas so the chicks are safe during the day.  Unfortunately we recently had a mite infestation which required washing all the chickens and smoking the chicken coops several times.  We lost several chicks L  but there are more hens sitting on eggs right now, more chickies should be born in another week or two.  I have learned more about chickens than I ever wanted to know here, and I still really do not understand some things.  How do you know which eggs are fertilized or not?  Do sitting on egg-chickens need to eat or drink, because they don’t seem interested, but 21 days seems like a long time to fast for a chicken!?  How does pounding on a coconut shell set over top of a chick revive a chick? (Really, Alex, I believe you, it worked when you were a little kid in Moskitia)
7:30-9am Garden/compost care and lessons. Each day two of the students help me care for the gardens and I try to teach them all I have learned in the last few months about gardening and compost so that they can continue when I leave and/or replicate such projects when they return to their homes.  Everyone has helped to reconstruct and replant 3 beautiful gardens since Semana Santa (when the cows ate everything and destroyed the fences while we were on break).  The seedlings are popping up all over the place now and we just need to get the trellises finished up and keep weeding and watering.  We are growing cucumbers, peas, yellow squash, zucchini, onions, beats, radishes, and hopefully, watermelon.  The compost has finally been reinforced from the dogs and chickens getting in and everyone is learning how to keep a proper balance of “greens and browns” and mix mix mix.  We are still waiting on more worms to come, but every time someone finds an earth worm they know to put it straight in one of the gardens or the compost (Thank you for your worm contributions Martha, Candida, Olivia and Angela!)  I have to post some pictures of the “new and revived” gardens, everyone has worked so hard to build, plant, and now care for them!
9am snack time for Sicily, Olivia and me.  Fresh fruit is so good when we have it.  Sicily loves water melon, cantaloupe, peaches, pears and apples.  Olivia sticks to the bananas (usually straight from the banana trees up on the coffee farm).  When we don’t have fruit we usually eat peanut butter with something, or should I say pretty much anything (usually left over tortillas or dry oatmeal).

From 9:30 to 11:30 the students have classes.
Lunch is around 12:30 or 1pm
From 1:30 to 3:30 more classes.
I get to teach English class at 1:30 to our newest 10 on Wednesdays and at 9:30 to the second group on Fridays.  On Saturdays after testing I get to meet with all the students to plan lessons to teach at the local elementary school and to encourage them in their community projects.  The girls plan monthly community events such as inviting the community to our campus for health and sexual education classes or for a movie day.
Some days I sneak a run in after putting Sicily down for a nap around 11:30 if Ira is free.
Throughout the day Olivia, Sicily and I play outside a lot: Walking, riding bikes, sitting in the tree fort, swinging on the tire swing or in the hammocks.  Olivia does art projects and works on writing, reading and math using her workbooks that she has.  We blow bubbles, color, dance to silly music, and have lots of water, sand and dirt play time.  When we have inside playtime we often pull each other around in cardboard boxes, wash basins or sleeping bags or Olivia pretends she is going on a trip somewhere and we must help her plan, pack, and go (usually to Hawaii, but sometimes to the Great Wall of China?) by whatever means of travel (boat, air, car, walking) that we are going by that day. 
Sometimes we visit neighbors and bring coloring supplies and puzzles.  Sometimes we walk to Erlinda's to visit and buy beans, milk, quahada (like a soft cheese), or little cracker snacks and to seek advice on any random thing I need advice on at the moment. 
We help make the shopping lists for when Ira is able to head into town and prepare accommodations for new volunteers. 
I burn trash, wash dishes, wash clothes, and constantly pick up things that Sicily throws on the floor so I can sweep out the dust, dirt, sand and less desirable things like mouse droppings, spiders and beetles.  (Sicily is a good beetle spotter these daysJ)
About 3:15ish I like to shower, and Sicily likes to play in the water.  Sometimes there is some warm water as it has been heated by the sun as it runs through the black tubes from the river.  After that, we do a final pick up and sweep, bug spray up and head outside to feed the chickies, water the gardens and put water over the fire for bath time later.  We take care of any random tasks that need to be done and sometimes have time for a walk to “moo” at the cows. 
6pm we have dinner and hang out with everyone for a while, usually in the kitchen.  Spanish music and all kinds of dancing often take place in the kitchen after dinner. 
7ish bath time in the laundry tubs for Olivia and Sicily down at our house to scrub off all the dirt they collected during the day.  Quiet playtime and reading then off to bed for the girls (usually about 8).
After Sis and Liv go to bed we have time to read, recap the day, problem solve if necessary and/or meet with other teachers/volunteers or students.  Sometimes we have bon fires, movie nights or play games, but often the girls study in the evenings.  Tonight the girls put together a talent show for fun and used our makeshift oven (that Ben made from the old small fire stove) to make a cake to celebrate Angela’s Birthday.  They did such a great job putting on skits and choreographing dances…beautiful, smart, and hilarious!  I am so glad we got most of it on video hehe!

Every time volunteers come or go or a new group of students arrives on campus, the dynamic of our tight knit community here changes.  It is interesting, fun, and sometimes overwhelming.  Just after returning from Semana Santa vacations we welcomed 11 new students and two new long-term volunteers, actually a couple who will act sort of as a “Dean of Education” for Leadership Center and try to create a set curriculum for our students and volunteer teachers.  Two weeks later, Ben and Martina, an awesome, energetic, fun-loving couple from England who had been here for 3 months left LC to continue their travels in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  They had become so much part of our family here I am still reeling a bit from their departure a week ago.  Olivia has handled it well though I know she will miss playing freeze dance, monkey chase and weddings with Martina and Ben, not to mention their company in the gardens, in the kitchen (Ben-Candida replicated your Vegetable Curry and it turned out delicious!), and on the yoga mats J  No doubt the students miss your presence, intelligence and creativity in their classrooms as well. 

I have learned so much here but one very important thing I have realized is that the very essence of  virtues like humility, gentleness, patience, kindness, joyfulness, contentment, gratefulness, and so on are only virtues when they are being tested.  To quote from a book a good friend sent me here, The Fitting Room, “Patience is not patience if someone or something is not trying it.  Forgiveness is not forgiveness if there is no offense to pardon.  Humility is not humility if a person never has to bow.”  Traveling into an environment incredibly different from where I come from and living, working, cooking, learning, teaching, breathing with 30 people I have never met before has provided plenty of opportunities for testing “fruits of the spirit.”  Then make Ira and me responsible for the health, safety, education and happiness of those 30 people, still while learning to navigate this new environment and language might I add, and yes, Lord, you have successfully multiplied those opportunities.  So help me God to learn quickly to be proactive, not reactive (thank you Ira’s Leadership class for the wording) and always to be kind, patient and loving in all situations.    I have really come to love all who come through here and all who live here.  Each one as God’s own creation whom He loves and has created for a purpose, with that in mind, how can I not love and believe in each person who is here and is certain to make a difference in this world.  It is difficult not to think of each of the girls here as ours daughters in addition to Olivia and Sicily.  However, I know these girls do have their own families and they will only be at Leadership Center to learn and study for a few years of their life and they will move on with new opportunities and experiences that present themselves.  This thought has consoled my heart a little as we have decided to return to the states, leaving Leadership Center for a while to begin a different phase of our lives.  By no means does this mean we are leaving LC behind us, we will continue helping in various ways just from a different location.  We will stay connected to LC and we will always have a special place in our hearts for each of the girls that have been part of our lives here.  I am so thankful that I have been brought here to Honduras and to have had so many wonderful and different experiences.  Four weeks to go, as I write this my heart is thudding, begging to stay in this time right now but time does not stop for heartache.  Transitions are difficult, necessary and exciting all at the same time.   As I encouraged Ben and Martina just last week, I now remind myself, there are still many more experiences to be had and many more people that our lives will touch along the way.  It reminds me of the “Girl Scout” song Olivia and I randomly started singing the other day, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.  A circle’s round and has no ends, that’s how long I want to be your friend. (Cheesy? I know, but it makes my heart feel a little lighter thinking of this little tune.)

<3  Jesse, Karen, Alex, Johanna, Martha, Yanetzi, Olga, Mayra, Iris, Cecelia, Riccy, Gipsy, Betis Miledi, Areli, Eva, Angela, Kenia, Gabby, Claudia, Mirna, Esperanza, Raquel  <3

Saturday, April 28, 2012

OK, I must apologize for leading you on to believe that I was going to write weekly or even regularly.  But to try and compensate, I will write about several things today and put them in a few different posts.  And from here on out I will try again to be more consistent in writing in the blog.  Don't forget to check the other posts that I put up today!

We recently purchased our tickets to fly back to the US.  I’m still working on getting an official offer for a job, but it sounds like I have one locked up.  We have plans to visit New York for a week and a half before heading back to Oregon.  We have a week before I will (hopefully) start my job to find a place to stay.  We’ll likely start searching for places in NY, but if anyone has some good places to stay let us know!!  We’ll see you in NY on May 26th and Oregon on June 7th!  We are excited to see all of our family and friends and for hot showers any time of day!

This is also a difficult time for us because like I said before we feel like this is home and the students and staff have become like family.  We really feel like we can and are doing a lot for the girls here and will miss being here a lot.  Fortunately, there is nothing from keeping us from coming back.  I hope to make trips every year back to Honduras and check up on all the girls.  I believe I’ve also mentioned that I am now in a position of leadership of The Leadership Center, kind of like a board of directors, so some of my time in Oregon will be devoted to teaching young poor women in Honduras.  I will miss being here, but look forward to the opportunities that God will provide to improve our school here! 

Hope to write again soon!!   

Coming back to campus for a new quarter!!

We returned to campus a couple days before all the students and new volunteers were set to return.  We got a lot of vegetables and other food for campus and prepared the rest of campus for the students and volunteers.  We had to take all the volunteers and students in 3 different car loads.  Two of the volunteers were/are the new Deans of Education – a couple that is tackling the job together.  They have a good background in linguistics and have made positive changes to the school in their first 2 weeks.  They are teaching the newer girls a lot of English and I am impressed with the new students drive to learn.  They are a good group of girls.  In fact, our whole student body is very enjoyable.  We have learned to love them and call them family. 

There is a lot of building going on, on campus, including a platform for a new water tank - for clean drinking water, new classrooms, expansion of the comedor (where we eat), and soon we hope to raise funds for the start of a library.  Actually we currently have a “matching gift” offer, that is if any gifts come in specifically for the library, they will be matched dollar for dollar up to $7500!!  What a great opportunity for you to get involved in providing education to the future leaders of Honduras!! 

Vacation with Grandma and Grandpa

For vacation we were required to leave the country to renew our 90 day visas (which we actually had to extend because we were here for like 92 days!  Before going to Belize for the renewal and down time, we headed to Tela again for the weekend and to wait for the ferry that only leaves Puerto Cortes, Honduras on Mondays.  We stayed at a nice hotel, Playa Bonita, just down the street from the beach.  I think we walked to the beach everyday.  Our girls love playing in the sand and started exploring the ocean some more.  Sicily has basically no fear of water and loved to be carried in the waves and splash around.  Before coming to Tela with my parents, Olivia was pretty terrified of the “salty water” – I think because of the waves.  We started conquering that fear with Auntie in Tela and I think we almost completely conquered it with Grandma and Grandpa Brandt.  Olivia started swimming in the ocean by herself (we were nearby in the water also) with only her “floaties”.  It was quite cool to see her being so brave.  It’s sort of funny to see a 4 year old swimming in the ocean by herself.

After Tela we went to Belize.  We took the ferry there, which is just a big fishing boat basically.  Before you get to your final destination you have to go through customs, which is a really long, boringly hot process.  They leave you on the boat for probably an hour or so.  All year round is hot in Belize, but I’m pretty sure April is the hottest time of the year.  At least it seemed like it.  The sun is nice at the beach or by a pool, but not when you are stuck on a boat with 50 other people.  After that getting to Placencia was a breeze.  When we arrived, our first stop was the smoothie shop…wow, smoothies are so good in Central America.  Not sure if it’s that I hadn’t had one in a while, I was dying of heat, the fresh fruit or the combination of all, but it was good.  I’m glad Sarah had the idea.

Our condo was really great.  We had a pool at the complex that was also right on the beach, so we had the best of both swimming options.  Both were great.  Did I mention the swim up, serve yourself bar at the pool…nice touch.  Olivia had a great time swimming and jumping into the pool with Grandma and Grandpa and doing more swimming and floating in the ocean.  The downtime with family was quite nice as always, but it was nice to get back to campus as well.

1st Update in a while...

Not sure when I last wrote, but it must have been around the time my mom and sister came.  It was nice to have mom and Lish on campus for almost a week and for our girls to play a lot with them.  Olivia looks forward to being close to Auntie again when we move back to Oregon.  After we went on our vacation to Copan (Mayan Ruins) and Tela (warm weather and the beach), we came home re-energized.  Partly because we had the nice vacation and partly because we only had 2 more weeks until Sarah’s parents were to come and Semana Santa (Holy Week).  We finished the quarter strong and all the students did very well on their final exams and quarter grades.  The end of the quarter is always very busy.  There is a lot of cleaning to do, grading the final exams, making the report cards, packing for some time off, etc.  Thankfully Craig and Kathy were there to help take care of the girls and help out around campus.  Then we were off for vacation!