Peace Corps-Honduras, Rural Youth Dev. Volunteer

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this journal includes my personal opinion and in no way is sanctioned, commissioned, approved by, nor are intended to be representative of the United States Peace Corps or the United States Government in any way. I am a current Rural Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras! This blog is meant for friends, family or anyone interested in my Peace Corps - Honduras experience.

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Location: San Jose del Potrero, Comayagua, Honduras

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Projects, workshops and friends from the USA

Well...let's start by saying life is amazing. I am constantly an awe about how much I am changing as a person; discovering things about me that I never even knew such as my ability to connect with youth. In my site, most of the people with which I interact are the youth, ages being from 4-20 years of age. All of the kids love me and I am never bored because I am always talking with them about life issues, answering their questions or playing games with them. People in my site constantly ask me you I gain trust from the youth so fast. They say that some of the younger children; 4-9, say that they look to me as an older brother type role model. I really do not how to reply to their question becuase it is something that I have not really thought about.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Antigua, Guatemala for Holy Week with some of my Peace Corps buddies and I was out of my site for about 10 days. When I returned I was greeted by kids shouting my name and asking me if I had gotten lost. Honduras say that you "got lost" when they do not see you after a couple of days. Some of the kids even said they were sad because they thought I had left. This was kind of a humbling experience for me I guess because I have been so busy trying to get projects going that I forgot that just by interacting with youth and a day-to-day basis that I am making an impact on some of them. Parents constantly talk about how much the youth adore me and sometimes I wonder why. One thing common in Honduras is that older adolescents and even parents do not play or interact alot with their children. For alot of them I think it is something different; to have an older buddy. It is kind of funny to because alot of the youth; especially the younger ones, use the Spanish verb conjugation of vos, which is usually only used with family members and people with which one has confianza (trust). Some of the parents will hear the kids talking to me in vos and will tell them they need to use usted with me becuase I am older, but the kids say that I am more of a vos kind of person.

So...about a week ago the Mayor of San Jose del Potrero told me that there would be a Dental Brigade coming from the USA this past week. They arrived this past Sunday to set-up their supplies in order to start their work on Monday. On Sunday I was walking around when some of my little buddies came up to me and told me that the gringos were here. I went to the Mayor's office to meet them and oddly enough they were from WASHINGTON STATE!!! What are the odds of that. Me down here in a small rural town as a Peace Corps Volunteer and six fellow Washingtonians show up. I can say that it was definitely a blast hanging out with my puros paisanos for a week.

What is new in the world of Youth Development Projects?

1) We should be getting our baseball project grant approved by Peace Corps - Washington soon, but may not have the equiptment and uniforms until July.
2) I am deeply into the process of helping my community gestionar donations/grants to build a multipurpose sports court and to improve the already existing soccer field at the local middle school. All we have left to do is the budget and costs of materials...the grant will be through USAID.
3) I am still teaching English to 4th-9th graders and as well teaching the teachers of my community twice a week. I am also teaching computers to 5th and 6th graders and to a small group of teachers.
4) I have started my Life Skills course and hopefully it will be awesome.
***Note: In the Middle School the only times for my classes that they would give me for my classes were at the end of the school day so NOBODY want to be there. So instead I have formed "Clubs" for all that I am doing with the Colegio so that those who want to engage and learn can.
5) I will be starting Coffee Hour at the local Public Library and we will talk about parenting issues.
6) Starting next week I am doing Story Time at the Kindergarten, teaching basic english and simple songs in English and maybe doing arts and crafts.
7) I will be conducting a training in May for interested Hondurans in Odyssey of the Mind in El Porvenir, F.M.
8) I will become one of the four members of TEAM (Teaching English and Methodology), which is responsible for training PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers in case you forgot) in how to teach English. Also later this year I will be training Honduran English teachers throughout the country how to teach English as well as providing them with some materials and training on how to use them.
9) I am in the process of making a bilingual Theatre for Youth manual as well as a manual to conduct Leadership, Teamwork and Conflict Resolution workshops to be used in professional settings and with youth groups.
And eventually I will have my Baseball team and will be doing theatre workshops with the library's youth group. Busy, busy busy.

Life is great, but the next couple of months will be busy. In June I have my first visitors coming to see me from the states and I am so excited to share Honduras with them, my new home.

Washington Honduras???

So about one week ago my Mayor told me that a group of gringos were coming to my site; San Jose del Potrero, Comayagua, to do a dental brigade through Proyecto Aldea Global (Project World Village). When the gringos arrived this past sunday, I went to greet them. I walked into the room and noticed that one of the gringas was wearing a Western shirt. I proceeded to ask them where there were from and they said Washington State. I was left an awe. What are the odds that my state; mis paisanos, are going to find me in a rural honduran community. They were from the Seattle area and although I did not know them beforehand, it was great to spend some quality time with some Washingtonians.

Throughout the week though, they told me that I had become too Honduran for my own good. For example, I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeve black shirt while they work t-shirts and shorts/ was 90 degrees out and I told them that it really was not that hot. There was also a Honduran lady who works in Teguz and she commented that I am 100% English, Spanish and Caliche (Rural Honduran Campesino Spanish). For those of you that do not know, I went to my site at an Advanced-High level in Spanish and I am difinitely now Superior and completely fluent. I was able to translate medical-dental stuff somehow and I did not know I even could.

At the end of the week, they offered me a free jalon to Valle de Angeles, F.M., which is about 20 minuted from Teguz, so I went as I had to go to use the bank and make calls to the US and emails and what not.

Oh did I mention that I will not have internet in my site for about another month or so and supposedly the nearest place to me that has it is 1.5 hours away. Oh well...

7 month summary (past sent emails)

Well, I have been in Honduras for just about a month. It is absolutely amazing and I am learning so muchabout Honduran spanish and culture. For those of youwho have not visited my wepage, I recently talked tothe Peace Corps Country Director regarding policiesfor web pages; it appears that I am nor allowed topost my location at all nor any names. I can howevertalk about them in e-mails: it is for securitypurposes. So...a fellow Youth Development Trainee(PC/H YDT) and myself are jsut about finished with ourproject at the local elementary school; we hope tofinish this coming week as we have to give apresentation to the fifth and sixth grade classes aswell as talk to the teachers regarding what weobserved when the students worked on the World MapProject. This weekend, 14-16 October 2005, I went onmy volunteer visit in which I traveled to the SouthernCoast of Honduras to a site called San Marcos de Colon. It is a very nice and somewhat large citysituated about 15 minutes north of theHonduras/Nicaraguan Border. In fact, we went toNicaragua yesterday to eat lunch; we literally walkedacross the border and did not have to use ourpassports. Also; on friday night, I got to see myfirst ¨charla¨, or talk/lecture, which was aninsightful experience as I will be giving plenty ofthem so I had the opportunity to see how they areexecuted. Training is going alright, but is stillsomewhat boring. After this weekend, we are finallyallowed to travel outside of Santa Lucia (where Icurrently live) without chaperones. We will be inSanta Lucis for two more weeks and then our groupsplits into two, Municipal Development and YouthDevelopment, and we go to Field Based Training. ThePC/H YDT´s will be going to Siguatepeque located inCentral Honduras. There, my fellow PC/H YDT andmyself will be doing individual projects in thecommunity as we are the two advanced Spanish speakersin the group. We do not know what we will be doing,but we do get the option to elect. Most likely, wewill either be teaching life skills and leadership orSTDs/HIV education. Apparently, Youth Development forthe most part should be called Education as we work inthe schools alot. I have spoken with my ProjectManager about what I would like to do like work in anOrphanange or something of that sort. I really do notwant to be a teacher, but I wont mind teaching 1-2days/week. Also, summer break here is mid-Novemberthrough either february or march. Okay, I have to gocatch the bus back to Tegus so I will write more oncesomething happens. Also, I will be buying a cellphone down here shortlyas they are cheap and the cool things is thateverything is prepaid. Also, the perk is that with aHonduran cell phone, I can receive phone calls fromthe U.S. absolutely free without any charge. Awesome.But you would have to call me with a phone card inorder for it to work and you may have to call three orfour times to get through. I will email the numberonce I get a phone. Take care yáll.
So I have been in Honduras for a month and although it seemed to go by slow at first, it has flown by. I am still in CHP Training in Santa Lucia, F.M., Honduras. I will be moving to Siguatepeque, Honduras in one week to complete Field Based Training where we are going to spend time in the local elementary and high schools. For those of you that do not know, I placed into advanced spanish of course and so I really do not have Spanish classes although I kinda do. I have spent the last three weeks working in a local elementary school with one of my fellor YD (youth development) trainees, Alexandra. We completed a project called the World Map this past Wednesday, which consisted of having the fifth and sixth graders draw a world map, dimensions being 8 feet long by 4 feet wide. Most volunteers who have done this project just had an overhead projector, cheaters. Our kids actually handrew the entire map and although there are some parts that are a little off; like Spain being connected to Northern Africa, they did an amazing job. I will be posting pictures thus far within the next couple of weeks if technology permits. Also, I talked with my Country Director regarding my web page so that I knew Peace Corps policies. I cannot post names or my exact locations on the webpage due to security purposes; so, I will be doing a lot more e-mails and will use my web page to post what projects I am doing as a YD PCV (youth development peace corps volunteer) when I become a volunteer. All is well here and I was not affected by Hurricane Wilma. We did; however, recieve strong winds and rains from it, but nothing apocoliptic. Oh yeah, my english spelling is starting to go.

So for those of you that do not know, I was in Hurricane Beta´s direct path; however, It has diminished and is no longer a threat to us. We still have some winds and alot of rain, but the threat is over; it will hopefully be the last hurricane of the season, which is may - october. I am in Siguatepeque for one month now located two hours northwest of Tegucigalpa in the department of Comayagua. It is definetely a bigger city that that of the training center in Santa Lucia as there is two movie theatres here and plenty to do. I am also living with a new host family who I like just as much as the one in Santa Lucia. This is my new Family: Mother (Mayra, appears to be a stay-at-home wife), Dad (Ángel, elementary school teacher), younger brother (Ángel(ito), is ten years old), and two high school students (Javier and Adán). In Siguatepeque it is very common for families to host high school students, kind of like dorms. That both have finals this week and will be returning to their families next week by the Honduras-El Salvador border for their break. ¨Summer Break¨ here is acually at the end of winter from early november through february. The family is very nice and I have talked with my mom alot as she emphasizes that she hates ¨la soledad¨(being in solitude) and that she loves to talk. Internet here is also cheap here, about 70 cents (US Currency) per hour (10 Lempiras). There is not really much new here and all continues to be amazing. It was interesting to learn; however, that yesterday when we were all traveling from the training center to Field Based Training, that we the trainnes were the only Peace Corps people allowed to leave their sites. All of the other Peace Corps Volunteers were either evacuated from the hurricane´s path or were all (throughout the entire country) placed on Steadfast which means that they are not allowed to leave ther sites. Well, I have to head back to Training. I´ll write again later in a week or two so that I may have some more interesting things to say.

NAME: Miguel Roberto Maderos
JOB: Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer
LOCATION: Siguatepeque, Comayagua, Honduras

WEEK 6: 30/10 - 4/11

MONDAY: First day of Field Based Training. Had community meeting and then walked around the city (pretty big) to ask people about Halloween and Day of the Dead traditions as well as to make a community map. We then in the afternoon divided into three groups (five in each group). Note that only Youth Development Trainees are in Siguatepeque, Municipal Development Trainees are in La Esperanza, Comayagua, Honduras. We were assigned groups as field based training is meant to be very hands-on and project oriented. My group will be workind in an aldea (village) called Potrerillos in which we will be working with youth, giving them Charlas (talks) about very topics such as self-esteem, positive communication, sexual education, etc.

TUESDAY: Finally I only have to take four hours of Spanish class as I am one of the two advanced Spanish speakers in the Youth Development group. For what would be the other 20 hours of Spanish classes, we were given the option of doing our own projects. The other trainee will be working with a NGO called Proyecto Deborah, which works revolves around domestic violence. I will be working in a primary school in an aldea; El Socorro, located oiutside of Siguatepeque. The school was founded and opened three years ago by teo missionaries from the USA. There I will be playing with the kids during recess, talking to and counseling them with whatever problems they may have or just support them in any way I can. I will also be giving them charlas about self-esteem, communication, positive choice, leadership, peer support, etc. Two afternoon I will be therre giving Charlas to parents about how to be better parents. Kind of oxymoronin I know as I am not a parent, but I will be discussing adolescence, communication skills and support and self-esteem for the parents as well.

WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY: I am having all 18 hours of Spanish class this week as my mini-project will not commence until monday. These two days I had Spanish class (boring but I guess always good to review) and then we all had to give our very first charla at the biggest high school in Siguatepeque. I gave me on Thursday about the importance of positive communicatio and peer support, which went VERY well. I usually am nervious in talking in front of people, but I think that fear or anxiety has disappeared as I absolutely enjoyed it.

FRIDAY: Today our aldea group went to visit/job shadow a volunteer for the day. The volunteer that I visited teaches teachers and other people to teach English. That is all I did Friday and although it was the most boring day I have had in Honduras; sitting in a wooden desk all day observing, it was alright I guess. I learned; however, that I do not want to teach English. I told my Project Manager that I would be willing to teach English one a week when school is out here; Nov. - Feb. to help students maintain the English that have learned. I told for now that I will not teach English as I am not certified in anyway to which she said was fine.

That is basically the week in review.

I have also learned that have a B.A. or Licenciatura is quite prestigious here as if you get disrespected you can introduce yourseld as Licenciado and people will treat you with respect. And when I tell people that my B.A. was in Spanish with subspecializations in Anthropology, Latin American Studies and Psychology, they basically are in awe. We have been told however to only introduce ourselves as Licenciados to our counterparts when we meet them and to not introduce yourself that way it places a barrier between you and the people you are will be working with.

Note: La diferencia entre Bachillerato y Licenciatura: Bachillerato is the degree that someone graduating from high school earns in Spanish-speaking countries as High schools here have different degrees kind of like community college. Licenciatura is a 4-year college degree.

NAME: Miguel Roberto Maderos
JOB: Youth Development Peace Corps Trainee
LOCATION: Siguatepeque, Comayagua, Honduras

WEEK 6: 7/11 - 11/11

Monday morning I went out to Socorro, a community in which I am doing my mini-project as I am one of two advanced Spanish-speakers. It takes about 30mins. to get there on a tradtional-style school bus. I am working in a elementary school called: Jardín de Gracia, which was founded by two missionaries in order to provide 1-4th grade education free to families who could not afford to send their kids to school. I also talked with the Directora of the school about what I would like to do during my three weeks there. We decided that the first week I would give self-esteem Charlas to 1st - 4th grade, on Wednesday work with the school psychologist and talk with kids one-on-one and visit their homes to talk with their parents; there is a lot of child abuse (primarily physical) that occurs in the community and Honduras. And during my background is working with youth who have been abused, she wanted me to work with her so that I could talk with the younger males. Two of the days I will be giving Charlas about self-esteem and positive parent-child communication to parents with my other advanced trainee. And finally, one day I will be basically taking class by class to play games, for which I will bring some of my gringo friends. Monday afternoon we had a guest speaker from a NGO (Proyecto Deborah) who works with domestic violence victims; this is where the other advanced Spanish-speaker is working. We then went to a local orphanage; or daily daycare, for single, working mothers and played games with them.

Had Spanish classes in the morning and watched a movie called: Voces inocentes and I highly recommend it as it pertains to the civil wars in El Salvador when the U.S. and Salvadorean Army would kidnap boys when they completed 12y so that they could be made into soldiers.
I then went with my group in the afternoon to Potrerillos where we are going our group work. One kid came as most kids have just got out of school and are required by their parents to work and help around the house. We put up signs at the Pulperías, or mini-general stores in hope that more would come. Oh yeah, we also officially Jalóned for our first time. Jaloning is the equivalent of hitchhiking and it free and 99% safe; you just have to look at the people and aske where they are going before you hope-in.

I returned to Potrerillos this morning to give my first Charla to fourth graders. I quickly learned that what I had planned was a little over their heads as it took about 20min. of explaining until they finally grasped the concept, or at least the majority did. I then played games outside with them before they had library time. I then got a ride back to Siguatepeque from one of the founders of the school. In the afternoon, my group returned to Potrerillos to work on our project; this time only six kids came, still better than one I guess.

Thursday morning I slept in a little bit, and did some prep work for my Charlas next week. I then went to Spanish class for which we just talked and had a debate about What is custom and what is machismo? We then got some supplies from the Peace Corps Medical Officer. In the afternoon, we had six Youth Development Volunteers come to talk to us about teaching English. My Project Manager also came and disclosed to me some information about my potential site. She stated that I would have internet, and that I would have two housing options: one being a host-family and the other having my very own house in Honduras. I am probably going for the house.

What a morning! I woke-up with diarreah. I then had to go to the hospital and do a poo-poo in a cup so an analysis could be done. About two hours later, the on-call duty officer called my cell and told me that she was coming to pick me up as we needed to go to the hospital. When I got in the Crusier, she told me I has an AMOEBA INFECTION. What luck, huh? I then has to talk with a doctor and got three different medicines. By noon, I felt 100% fine; however, when I took my meds later that night after English training, I began to feel worse...much worse.

I woke-ip the first time this morning absolutely so cold that I was shaking, I threw on pants over my shorts, put on a sweatshirt, got in my sleeping bag and then under the covers. I was still freezing, but it helped a little. I then had to go to the bathroom and of course: diarreah. I also vomited twice. I felt better after vomittin, however. I then went back to bed until a Pulpería opened so that I could by 7-up for my stomach. I am still convinced that the meds are making me feel like a cow pie as I felt fine before I took my meds. It is now 10:17am and hopefully I will feel good enough to run a few errands and be able to work on my Charlas.

Name: Miguel Roberto Maderos
Location: Siguatepeque and La Esperanza, Honduras

So this e-mail will be pretty long, but I am sure you will all enjoy it. I had my second to list interview with my project manager; Sandra Gómez, and she told us all os our counterparts, hint, I FINALLY KNOW WHAT I WILL BE DOING FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. Site still unknown.

Monday we traveled over to Zapala?, Santa Barbara, to go to Camp ANEDH. Monday evening we went swimming in a river and in the hot springs. We had to walk through a cave to reach the river and hot springs and it is HOTT. We almost got stuck at the river because it heated up so much that it was too hot to walk through; I mean we were in the cave for 5 seconds and were covered in sweat. We then had a bonfire, drank some rum and tang and went to bed. This night I only slept 2 hours.

So I slept only 2 hours because I was in a deep sweat all night. Inside the cabin with 10 guys was 78 degrees. I found out the next day though when even after taking a cold shower, that I was still sweating like no other. I later that day discovered that it was a side effect that my anti-amoeba infection meds were having on me; I had finished one already and the two others triggered a side effect which made me heat up and sweat and kind of felt like my blood was boiling. The Peace Corps Medical Officer told me to stop taking the medication and the next day I felt fine.

Also, we sent the whole morning playing Dinámicas (games frequently used by PCVs to teach or as ice breakers). They get REALLY OLD when you learn so many of them. I can teach you some sometime... We had to do the trustfall and what not, but I did not really participate that much due to my condition.

And on top of all this and feeling like on the verge of death all morning (not really, just hot like no other), I had to give my first Charla to the parents at the school in Socorro where I am doing my mini-project. First of all, we have been told that Hondurans are never punctual as it is not there nature and that usually for parent Charlas only about 15 parents come. 50 parents arrived to my Charla at exactly 2:30pm when it was suppose to start. I got VERY nervous and freaked out as I was not expecting so many parents and my fellow Advanced Spanish person, Alex, went to Siguat to get the supplies for the Charla as we had just returned from camp and smelt like bonfire. The teachers at the school helped me out and talked to the parents about what their kids are learning and to have them sign progress reports until Alex arrived. The Charla went pretty well, but VERY STRESSFULL as my Trainer and Co-trainer decided they would come to watch without telling me. All four of us did the Charla and it went pretty good.

Do not even ask.. I went out to Socorro again to do home visits with the school psychologist. In the afternoon we had a presentation from the Honduran Girls Scouts; we all wanted to hang ourselves. All we did for four hours was act like we were litle girls and do yet more dinámicas. They also did a dinámica in which it was like dunking for apples, but candy instead at the bottom of the bowl. And after we did the dinámica, we discovered that the water was tap...BAD...luckily no diseases or infections were acquired.

Thursday I spent the morning preparing stuff for our Aldea project in Potrerillos and in the afternoon we went and not one kid showed up.. That was thursday.

In the morning I went back to Socorro to give Charlas to third, second and first graders; however, I only have one to the third graders as they decided to close school due to the tropical storm Gamma and the winds and rains. I then went back to Siguat for the rest of the morning. For the afternoon we were suppose to go to Potrerillos again, but we as a group decided not to as nobody would have come. In total on thursday, there were two groups who had nobody come and one of the other wo groups was told that they could not come back as the school would not be in session due to kindgarten graduation. So, on friday we had the option of going to the day care or to the other site. 6 of us went to the day care as it was closed, but we did not tell our Trainer, uh oh. So we got dropped off and once the car drove away we walked into the center, bought a map of honduras and went to a café to talk about our sites.

I went to La Esperanza in Santa Barbara to visit the Municipal Development Trainees. We arrived there at 11am and spent the day with them getting to know their houses and just to chat. It was like a combo-reunion like Full House or Brady Bunch as eerybody hugged everybody as we had not see each other in three weeks and it is always good to see a gringo down here you know. One of the MuniD trainees had a party as his house, which his host mom said that he should to celebrate the end of Field Based Training. So we danced, drank and slept.
COUNTERPARTS ANNOUNCED: I finally know what I will be doing for the next two years!!!!

I had my third interview with my Project Manager on Friday and she told us a little about our sites, not the names, and our Counterparts. She did; however, give us enough hints to the point that we all think we know where our sites will be; we find out in about 1.5 weeks.

So, I have recieved numerous e-mails about what I will be doing so here it goes:

1) Riecken Foundation Libary:
So, I will be working with an organization called the Riecken Foundation, which has the initiative of building libraries throughout Central America. My library had already been constructed. At this library, the first thing I will be doing is teaching computers and internet; i.e., how to use computers, programs and the internet. Most of the people I may be teaching have never seen a computer before. The second this I will be doing there is being more a less a facilitator for the Youth Group whose primary focus is on Theatre. The Youth Group also does other activities, which I will be working with, but my primary one is Theatre and the importance of theatre in conveying messages and other important issues. At the library I will also be in charge of creating/maintaining reading clubs as well as doing story time once a week for little kids. I am also suppose to design a way to link the schools with the library. How fun and that is just one counterpart.

2) Municipality, the Mayor
Not so much a counterpart but someone who told my Project Manager that I will be allowed to use the internet there for free whenever I want and he is willing to work with me and support me in whatever way he can.

3) Centro Básico: Elementary/Middle School
Nothing very specific except my Project Manager and the teachers want me to teach Leadership, Life Skills and Health. I am also suppose to work with the teachers on developing a curriculum for the aforementioned topics as well as lesson plans so that they can teach them as well. My Project Manager said that also requested a Volunteer for other purposes such as working with the Counselor and youth who have been abused.

4) Colegio: High School
I will also be teaching Leadership, Life Skills and Health as well as helping the teachers developing curriculums for them. I will also be in charge of starting a High School Theatre Group.

5) Centro de Salud: Health Center least if I get sick I will be friends with he Nurses and Doctor. I will be working with Nurses and Doctor on HIV/AIDS education, reproductive health and personal hygiene education; i.e., working with them teaching in my site and surrounding aldeas as AIDS is on the rise. Now get this, my Project Manager told me that to get to the aldeas, you can only go on foot, donkey or horseback. THAT IS RIGHT, MY PROJECT MANAGER STRAIGHT OUT TOLD ME THAT ONCE I HAVE A HOSUE, I SHOULD LOOK INTO BUYING A DONKEY OR HORSE. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT???

Apparently, in my community there are a lot of problems with youth; adolescents, leaving to go to the US illegally or at least trying, which is a long trek in itself. My Project Manager told me that if I wanted to, I could try to create a program or project that focuses on youth who are opting to do this; something I am pretty sure that I will pursue.

Well, I finally know and I am satisfied and will be very busy. My first two days after getting sworn-in as a volunteer I have to spend 2-days in Tegucigalpa to do a training on how to teach computers/internet.

As far as housing goes, I have two options: with a host family which is an elderly lady who hosts volunteers (she currenlty has a nurse) or have my very own house in Honduras. I am going on my Site Visit in two weeks for a couple of days to look into housing options and what not so then I will know my housing situation and will have a new, direct address.

Well, this email will not be long, just a basic summary. This past week I completed Field Based Training. They do not celebrate thanksgiving here; however, the other trainees and myself were invited to spend Thanksgiving with people from the US Embassy. Some went to the Ambassador´s house and others went to other houses. I went to the Deputy Cheif´s House, who is the next position down from the Embassador. The house was like a mansion, pool and everything. They brought out the kind of turkey like you see in movies. as soon as all of the food was on the table, the Deputy CHeif told us to dig in and we did not hesitate. We ate so much: ham, turkey, potatoes, cranbery sauce, veggies, stuffing, gravy, bread pumpkin pie, brownies, ice cream, etc. I ate so much that while at his home for 2 more hours I went poop 3 times. Yeah, we talk about poop all the time here as volunteers, so we are desensitived to this type of vconversation. He invited us back to his house anytime we wanted to have a break from the Peace Corps Life.

That is all I am really going to say. And for those of you that have been bothering me about where I am going to be, I AM FINALLY GOING TO FIND OUT MY SITE OF RESIDENCE FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS THIS COMING TUESDAY AND IT IS ABOUT TIME. I have my last Tech interview on monday and my last spanish interview on tuesday. I will try to email yall next week or you could call me (hint hint). Hope all us well and view the pics i sent the link to. We do more than just party and hangout I swear... Take care

So I finally found out my site this last tuesday. So, without further adue, my site will be San José de Potreros, Comayagua, HN (City, Department, Honduras). Attached to this e-mail you will find a word document with a map of Honduras; look for the black arrow and that is where I am located. I am acutally currently in my site for a Site Visit until Sunday when I return for my final 4 days of CHP Training. On Thursday I will be sworn-in as Peace Corps Volunteer. I will write a longer e-mail, sometime this weekend, but who knows??? In my site the Municipality had free internet for me which is pretty fast. The library in which I am working will also obtain internet next friday, which will be free of charge. At this moment, my cell phone DOES NOT work in my site except for one area where I must hike for about 5-10 minutes. So if one is to decide that they want to call me, they should e-mail me first to let me know a time so that I can walk to the reception zone. I am still not sure about my housing yet so we will see. The temperature in my site is pretty warm right know; it is Winter here and the winter here during the day time is between the low and high 70s. Supposedly, the summer can be HOT as in 35ºC at times which is 95ºF (hopefully not humid as it is suppose to be the dry season). I will definetely be buying a industrial-sized fan, which numerous current volunteers told us should be our first purchase. Well...all is well here and there appears not to be much work to do in my community during Nov. - Jan. as school as out so things will be kind of slow I imagine. Take care, write or call me, mail is always good as well and talk to you soon.

So as of yesterday I am a Resident of Honduras. Also as of tonight I will be a Peace Corps Volunteer. I will write more later and take care and stay warm.

So I am know officially a Peace Corps Volunteer. Last night we had our swearing-in ceremony at the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We took the oath and everything. Afterwards we took photos, ate tacos and the best thing of all: the Country Director of Peace Corps - Honduras had an OPEN BAR for all of us. That's right, free drinks and alcohol free of charge. Last night was very fun and very crazy. We drank at the Embassy until about 9pm. Then we went back to the Hotel Honduras Maya; by far the nicest one in Tegus, and had a hotel party. More or less there were about 20 people in the room for about an hour until security asked us to break it up. We then headed out to a bar called BAMBOOS and danced the night away. It was definietely an awesome night and alot of us got pretty crunked. Note that for Youth Development Volunteers, this night may have been the last time for awhile that we can drink as last night we had to sign a contract stating that once we are in our sites, we would refrain from consuming alcohol in order to create a positive environment for you. And for those of you who say I do not have enough pictures with me in them, I will be uploading some as I have pictures of myself with friends, my bosses, etc. Today we are just hanging out in Tegus to take care of some shopping and to say our goodbyes. We are also staying in the same hotel at our own costs as some of us want to enjoy what used to be reality for one more day. There is also a huge outdoor pool that i will utilize tomorrow morning. I hope all is well and I will probably check my email numerous times a day as my site is getting Internet today and it is literraly the only way that Peace Corps can keep in contact with me; as in security threats and other stuff. Take care, write me, and of you want send my Christmas cards and maybe even gifts as I will be spending Christmas bascially alone in my community in the sense that I do not have any friends there yet. Kind of sad but that is what it be. Let my journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer begin...

So a lot of you have been asking and emailing me about why I have not really sent out a mass email lately. The reason for this is that I have been somewhat busy although I have only been a volunteer for about 1 week. For those of you that do not know, I am in San José del Potrero, Comayagua, more or less in Central Honduras. Right now school is out of session, so my work is somewhat limited; school does not commence again until mid-february. For now I am teaching computer classes and typing to youth and adults as well as teaching how to use internet, I am helping out with story time at the library I am working with, and I am going to start teaching basic English as I agreed to do so while school is out of session. Once school starts, I will be working like a mad man as I did in the US. I will be giving charlas about life skills and reproductive health, I will be starting a theatre group at the local high school, I will be teaching teachers how to teach English, I will be working in the kindergarten school with story time and playing games with them as well as arts and crafts, I will be working with the youth group at my library as well as organizing and supporting activities, I will also be working in the Health Center giving Charlas on HIV and Aids and even Family Planning, I will be doing Schoo for parents and how to establish a better relationship with their children and I will be collaborating with the mayor and different mini-projects ever so often. So I guess you can say I am going to be very busy...

I have chosen to be what is known as the Super Volunteer as more or less every volunteer that I have met has been Cuerpo de Paseo, or just here on a vacation instead of doing volunteer work although they do a little. I am here to be a volunteer and help the people of my community to help themselves through sustainable development by empowering them to utilize the skills and knowledge that they already have or those which have yet to been recognized or expressed.

I have been in my community for more or less one week and am starting to get use to being the only white person (literally). It can be lonely at times, but I just have to reming myself why I am here in Honduras doing what I am doing.

These coming months I will be leaving my site and traveling a lot to spend New Years with friends in Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, going to Tegus for a Conference with the Riecken Foundation ( an NGO which constructs librarys and such in Central America) to talk about Zona X, the youth group and what our plans are as volunteers, having RECONNECT in March where I will be able to meet up with all of the Youth Development Volunteers, and in May a workshop about Project Design and Management. Between now and then I will also be traveling a lot to just hangout with friends as there is someone; another volunteer, who lives 45 min from me in Victoria, Yoro and his name happens to be Mike as well and he is a Health Volunteer. So at least I will be able to acquire a holisitic understanding of Honduras. I am also expecting my first visitor in April, how excitiing. Well this is getting very long so I probably should get going.

Honduran Car Accident

So...last night I was in a roll-over truck accident. It was 9pm and I was heading back to my site with some friends from my Site; we were coming back from Victoria, Yoro where they are currently having their annual feria to celebrate their town saint. Three other people and myself were riding in the back of the truck (the bed), which is called jalóning and is the most popular form of transportation. Lets just say that after last ngiht, I WILL NOT jalón again unless it is a matter of life and death. We were sitting in the back of the truck when all of a certain it jerked to the right side of the road, then to the left side and into the ditch, rolled horizontaley twice, spun a couple times and then landed on its wheels perpendicular to the road. On the first flip I was literally thrown from the bed of the truck and then the next thing I knew I was on the ground and then I stood right up looking to see if the other were okay. THANKS BE TO GOD, I suffered no injuries; I defenitely has someone watching out for me last night. My right elbow hurts a little and is a little swolen and I have a little bruise on my upper lip, but otherwise I am VERY LUCKY. I woke-up this morning and underneath my chin hurts (which is from the dust suddenly getting thrown at me. and my back is a little sore. I went to bed at about 230am and then woke up at 7am because I wanted to work on emails and calling the necessary Peace Corps Parties so I will be heading back to bed shortly.

So what happend that caused the accident. Apparently there was a Falto Técnico, which I think in English means a technical error (I understand but not sure how to translate it). The car apparently got stuck in 3rd gear and when he the driver tried to switch it the car started jerking back and forth and then when he applied the breaks they gave out.

This is not a joke in any way shape, or form. I could have died last night, which is still very scary to me, but I walked away just fine.

I will be seeing the Peace Corps Doctor probably tomorrow just to make sure everything is fine as I will already be in Teguz for a conference.

2006 Work Plan as a Peace Corps Volunteer
So...Some of you have been asking what exactly will I be doing this year so here is the list of my activities which I will be doing/have planned:

Classes I will be teaching:
Cómo Planear Mi Vida (A Life skills course which includes HIV/AIDS) (Junior High)
Computer Classes (Elementary and Junior High) also to teachers
English Classes (Elementary and Junior High)

Training teachers (Elementary and Junior High) in how to teach the aforementioned subjects so that they can teach it next year with minimal assistance from myself as I WILL be getting a horse to go work in the aldeas (villages).

Playing dinámicas (games/activities that have a message behind them) and helping out with story time at the local Kindergarten.

Starting a School for Parents on parenting skills and how to better relate to their youth; more like an organized discussion group though.

Starting a Honduran Literature Reading Club for youth and adults.

Odyssey of the Mind Competition

PenPals between youth from differnet Riecken Library´s throughout Honduras.

Leadership workshops

Charlas (talks) about HIV/AIDS

Starting a Baseball Team and training them so that they can participate in next years National Competition.

A workshop on how to used trash to make benches and bags, placemats, paper, etc.

Supporting the Zona X (youth group through the library as well as helping in their theatre production)

Visiting the youth´s homes with the school counselors and offering support.

Individual or small group computer classes in the library.

Also, organizing the first ever Family Day in order to help unite the community and to demonstrate the importance of family. (you, relays, activities, food)

And finally I am also compiling/creating a Bilingual Theatre for Youth manual to be available to other Peace Corps Volunteers as well as compiling a Honduran Literature Manual to be used in the Reading Club.

Oh yeah...there is not High School in my site because of how small; rural, it is.

As far as work activities at this moment, I am giving computer classes to 9 teachers, W - F from 3 - 6pm. I have been spending other time on community integration and planning for my projects once school starts.

This weekend I am heading out of my Site to Camapmento, Olancho to the ENLACE meeting. ENLACE is a Peace Corps Volunteer Group which focuses on incorporating gener into development.

I may also be traveling again in early Feb. should the Sehawks make it to the Superbowl...Pú weird does that sound to say. Peace Corps Volunteers are planning a SuperBowl Party in Santa Rosa de Copán, Copán at the Peace Corps House where we can actually watch the game and commercials in English; will probably see the ruins as well.

Otherwise, nothing is new...I have not perdido las llaves (honduran slang for diarrhea literally translated as to loose ones keys) for about 1 months...I must finally be adjsuting. I am going to talke like the ruralest campesino when I finish Peace Corps..hahaha.

Honduras Update (Feb.)
So...what is life like in Honduras...Absolutely amazing. Honduras is an amazing country with the most outgoing and friendly people I have met. I am enjoying and loving everything about being here. I am getting used to the in my site during the day times it gets up to the high 70s, low 80s with a cooler evening and overnight of 70 degrees. I heard today that a majority of the people in my site shower 3-4 times a day in April and May due to how hot it is. NOW THAT´S HOT. I love Honduras, but there are always times when I think and ponder about how would life be in the USA and being able to see my friends and family and even goog old Bellingham. The hardest thing though is not seeing my family...I did not really know how much I loved them until being so far away for such a long time. I also really miss all my friends in Bellingham as well. And I feel kind of bad; o sea, out of place because a couple of them are having really hard times and/or facing difficult challanges in their lives and I wish I could be there for them more. Sometimes it just seems that email and phone calls is just now enough...But that is the Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer. You learn to adapt.

I am still living with the same host family which is absolutely amazing. It is such a warm and welcoming family that I would live there for the two years if I had a bigger room. I am actually moving into my own place next weekend I hope. It is a differnet house than in the photo. I will be renting a huge bedroom and the kitchen. I also already have a place outside of my room to hang my hammock. Rent for the room and the kitchen will be around 1200 Lempiras which is US Dollars is like 60 dollars a month which may seem cheap to you guys but not to me. The landlady is going to give me a price next week and we will see if it is reasonable or not...I hope it is...

As far as projects go, I have just finished giving my two month computer course to a group of ten teachers. I know have two weeks of nothing as school will be starting and everyone is finishing up their vacation and what not so I figured why dont I take a mini vacation too. Although I spend everday talking with people in my commyunity and helping out in the public library.

I am also in the process of starting a Youth Baseball team in my site. The Youth Development Peace Corps Project got a grant from the National Federation of Baseball to buy equiptment and I was offered some of it. So I will have enough baseball equiptment for supposedly 2 teams. I already have about 9 youth interested (The teams are only for youth between the ages of 8-12) and I will be announcing the team once I start teaching. I have also got my first Coach. In order to have a Baseball team I have to have two coached from my comminuty. In May, the National Federation of Baseball is going to pay for all volunteers who have a new baseball team and for the 2 new communtiy coaches to go to Teguz for 3 days for a training on baseball, which will be free of charge.

So yeah, I am going to be a TEACHER. I am teaching not only in the Kindgergarten, not only in the Elementary school, but also in the middle school (reminder that my site is so small there is no high school). I will let you know later what I am doing exactly as for the moment I do not know. I will continue working with the Library and its youth group as well. For the first Youth Group meeting, we are building (or the youth) are building a bonfire or a campfire in the middle of a river, that is the challlange of Solidarity. This youth group is for you between 11-20 I think. I have decided to not work with the Health Center at all for know because the projects they have proposed are kind of whack, I wont go into detail. And they want me to do HIV and AIDS and Sexual Reproduction eduaction, but in Honduras and Latin America in general, these topics are VERY SENSITIVE and should only be taught by host country nationals or by people who have a lot of confianza or trust with the communiity. Little by litte I am acquring more trust with the people of my community which is a great feeling to have, being accepted into a foregin culture and fmaily.

I friend of mine, Pamela, told me that when I first came here, she did not know what to think because she believed that all gringo were stuck up. After knowing her for about 2 months, she told me that she first through that but that once she met me she could see it in my facial expressions and my eyes that I was not and that I was here to help and empower people in her community, also a good feeling.

Random fact... Not everyone in my site knows who President Bush is¿¿¿??? I ahve been asked to explain who President Bush is and explain about the War in Iraq and all of taht crap...that is how isolated I must be.

Anyways, as usual this is a long email as it is the only English I practice in my site.

This weekend I am going to Teguz to watch the SUPERBOWL with some other Volunteers at Ruby Tuesdays and in English. On Monday I am talking to the new group of trainees which arrived yesterday. I am part of a Peace Corps Volunteer Group called ENLACE, which is the name for the Gender and Development (GAD) initiative. We work on incorporatint gender equity and and women into the development process, but also in the Peace Corps Trainings. So I was already planning on going to Teguz for Superbowl and to do some errands, but now I am going for free as Peace Corps invited me to talk to the trainees so that will be paying all of the viáticos or hotel, food, transportation.

Take care and I hope you all are doing well. Que les vaya tuani.


Hola, my name is Michael Woods (Miguel Maderos in Honduras) and I am a current Rural Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer serving in San Jose del Potrero, Comayagua. My site has about 1500 habitants and is very beautiful, calm and isolated. I finally decided to start a blog so my first post will be my emails thus far; I have been here 7 months, and from there I will post periodically. If you have any questions about Peace Corps feel free to drop them my way.

Paz y salud!!!