Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Late Season Canoe Trip

I’ve been working hard lately, so I took some comp time yesterday morning to make one last canoe trip for 2005—I did it solo in weather that was just above the freezing mark. In a month, this river and all others in this region will be iced over. To some, this might not sound appealing, but to me it was a taste of heaven. I saw no one, not even in the park where I took out. I was alone in my boat, watching nature and enjoying the elements. I hope you enjoy my brief remembrance of the trip.
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The tempered-gray sky spits sleet as I slid my canoe into the water below McKeow’s Bridge. It’s barely above freezing. Crawling into the boat, I position myself on my knees, just behind the middle point, and use the paddle to push off. The boat is positioned up river, at an angle, so that the current catches the bow and quickly spins me into the channel, pointing down river. I dig the paddle into the water, with a hook on the end to keep it straight, and take off toward town, eight miles away. A few hundred yards downstream, a great blue heron rises up from the its perch, its large wing-span and long-bent neck looking like left-over traits from some prehistoric age. The bird glides down river, as if a guide. He occasionally stops at a log along the blank, allowing me to nearly catch up, only to take off again in flight as I approach. This occurs over and over again, until finally, a good distance down stream, at a point where the river is wide, he turns and on the far side, flies up river toward his home, staying clear of my canoe. A short while later another heron takes over and leads me further down river.

The sleet picks up and pelts my face. Attempting to read the river, I squint, looking for V’s facing down river. Coming around a bend, the wind suddenly blows against me. The water is deeper and there is no current. I shiver and dig my paddle deeper in order to make headway. Soon, the water is shallower and faster, gurgling over rocks, as it pulls the boat quickly downstream. Another bend and the wind abates, but not for long. As with the herons, the cycle repeats itself over and over.

The trees along the bottomland are bare, hibernating for winter. A few isolated pines and an occasional patch of moss provide the only greenery. On tree branches, I watch the few birds sticking it out in winter: a few flickers, some small songbirds, a cardinal. In the distance I hear the call of a crow. A few squirrels run up and down trees, their summer nest still preciously perched near the top of the trees. At one point, I am surprised looking at a tree recently split during a storm, to see a squirrel pokes it’s head out of a the hollow middle. Seeing me, he ducks back inside, not wanting to give out the location of his new home, I’m sure. In the bare forest, I even spot a few abandoned hornet nests.

I stay warm by working hard, but sitting in the bottom of the boat, my feet freeze. After tiring, I spot an eddy down stream and maneuver the boat so that the current pulls me into the calm waters. I pour a cup of tea from a thermos and sit for a few minutes, enjoying the warmth of the liquid as I make a few notes in my journal. Sitting is too cold, so I push the bow back into the stream and allow it to pull the boat out into the current and continue on downstream. The swampland gives away to higher banks. When I get in sight of the railroad trestle for the long abandoned C, K & S, near the site of the old foundry, the hardwood bottomland gives way to industry. There are still a few factories here in operation. I quickly pass under the trestle and under a couple other bridges, before coming to the landing at Tyden Park. I spot my truck, sitting alone in the parking lot. A few minutes later, I’ve load my canoe and head home in time for lunch.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Is this the "first-dog-elect" of Honduras?

A few weeks ago I posted about the upcoming Honduran elections with a picture of me hold the rather lively dog of one of the candidates (unlike his master, he wasn't real keen on having his picture taken, but he loved to play). This is "Mel's" dog, who lives in the same neighborhood of a friend. I didn't get to meet Mel, but his dog was wandering the streets one morning (probably while his owner was out campaigning). The elections were yesterday and this morning, according to the BBC, Mel is in the lead and has declared victory. However, only a small percentage of the votes have been counted so it may change and who knows, and of course, the Supreme Court hasn't had an opportunity to vote yet... (slap, you're a bad boy, Sage) I don't know much about Mel, but I like his dog!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Christmas Trees, Railroads, Cornbread and an Endorsement

The Christmas tree went up yesterday. I’m back in the railroad business, running a line in which featherbedding is not only allowed, but encouraged! I love lying by the tree, watching the engine navigate the tracks, pulling cars from lines that no longer exist, at least not independently: the Burlington, the Maine Central, Erie Lackawanna, B&O, the Santa Fe, the Western Pacific. Add a fire in the hearth and I can lay there for hours.

My daughter shares in the excitement of Christmas and is willing to forgo most anything in order to haul the boxes out of the attic. After getting the tree and sitting it in the living room, I make her wait while I string lights. She didn’t even ask about using multi-colored light this year. She’s either old enough to understand the magical appeal of miniature white lights, or she’s learned there are some things for which I’m pig-headed and she better not go there. After getting the lights strung, we pause for dinner.

One of the benefits of mooching off of friends for Thanksgiving is that you don’t have to worry about leftovers. Because I was going to be close to home all day, I figured it was the perfect time to make a pot of beans (of the pinto variety). When you use dry beans, they need to cook for a good while. I threw in a ham bone I’d saved and let it boil gently until the beans were tender. I also fixed cornbread (check out my recipe below) and diced up some onions. Dinner consisted of a bowl of pinto beans topped off with diced onions, a chunk of cornbread, washed down with a bottle of Southwick Irish Ale. Sometime I’ll have to post about my favorite restaurant in Bastian, Virginia, right by I-77 and the Appalachian Trail, where you use to be able to get a bowl of pinto beans with onions on top and a slice of cornbread for a buck twenty-five.

After dinner, we put ornaments on the tree. This always brings back memories. Most of my ornaments have either been gifts or have been picked up while traveling or living in various places. My favorite is a hand-carved boot sent to me by some guy down in Florida the year I completed hiking the Appalachian Trail. Then there is the one from the Chateau Lake Louise and numerous other National Parks and lodges, all which have special memories. Of course, having grown up on the Carolina coast, there is a collection of North Carolina lighthouses. I had to pause this year when putting up a collection of Boy Scout ornaments, all which came from National Capital Council, where a friend of mine was Scout Executive. Ron died this past year from a brain tumor. They’ll be no more of those ornaments, but I’m thankful for the memories they bring back. The tree is finished by bedtime; clean-up can wait till tomorrow.

Sage’s Cornbread (remember—ingredients are approximate)

Preheat oven to around 425 degrees F.
Mix together:
1 cup of yellow cornmeal
1 cup of white flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
Dash of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar

Add one beaten egg (make sure it’s black and blue) and a cup of buttermilk (pour yourself a second cup to enjoy while baking). Mix until all the dry ingredients are wet.

Put approximately ¼ cup of Crisco (or use bacon fat if you can spare the cholesterol—it’ll taste heavenly and if you eat of it, you’ll find yourself heavenly bound) into a cast iron frying pan. Melt the fat/shortening. Add the mix into the frying pan and bake somewhere around 20 minutes (or until your toothpick comes out clean).

Now before you Southerners get all upset about me putting sugar in cornbread—as if I’m a Yankee—let me suggest you try it. They may not always be right up here, but sometimes they do have good ideas.

On other news, Lauire, over at Slowly She Turned, gave this endorsement of my blog: “I like smart-ass pie-baking dark beer drinking desert rats.” THANKS! That’s the best compliment I’ve had since my mother called me Sonny. Lauire and friends publish a web-journal titled “Tar Heel Tavern. Check it out!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving day in the upper midwest is wintry. The wind has blown all night, mixed in with occasionally snow and freezing rain. After a rather mild fall, it was 12 degrees Fahrenheit at 7 AM this morning. It’s a good morning to hang around inside, enjoy the fire place, drink dark roasted coffee from Honduras, wonder if we’ll make the drive to friends this afternoon, all while being grateful for the love of a benevolent God.

And while I was doing my best to do nothing, Nevada Jack, my alter-ego, was pounding away at the keyboard… When he heard me report the temperature this morning, in Fahrenheit, a light went off in his little head--hence the previous post (I had to wait till he finished to get to the computer).

Bush's New Surprise: America going metric!

Politically incorrect reporting by Nevada Jack

Rumor has it that several Republican congressmen, at the encouragement of the White House, will introduced legislation early next year calling for America to join the global community and adopt the metric system.

According to insiders, the President’s physician and mental health counselors are driving this unprecedented change. Unidentified sources, close to the President, acknowledge the tension every morning when the President receives his daily weather briefing. "I’d prefer to give him the number of car bombing in Iraq as to tell him the daily temperatures," one anonymous staffer admitted. "As soon as he hears the word Fahrenheit, the man goes ballistic. He forgets all about the weather and starts shouting at his FBI advisors, asking if they’ve gotten anything on Michael Moore yet."

Michael Moore is the producer of the documentary Fahrenheit 911, which raised questions about the competency of the Bush’s presidency.

"The Docs recommended he receive such reports in Celsius," the unidentified staffer reported, "as a way to calm his nerves and lower his blood pressure. It took a few weeks for him to understand how the scale works, but after sweating it out a few days in the heat of summer, in which the President dressed for an cool autumn weather because the temps in the low 40s C, he quickly learned."

"The President was a good sport about this," another staffer noted. "He doesn’t admit he’s wrong, so he’d leave on his sweater even though it was hotter than hell."

Supposedly, according to the same undisclosed source, the President began asking questions about the metric system and how it worked. "Even I can divide by 10s," the President reportedly bragged. "I’d always had trouble with my numbers when dealing with fractions and having do divide by 12."

"Mr. Bush became become a starch proponent of the metric system," according to Mr. Rove. "But don’t blame him if you don’t like us going metric, blame Mr. Moore. If it wasn’t for Fahrenheit 911, we wouldn’t be having this problem." With tears in his eyes, Karl Rove concluded his remarks, " Michael Moore and his fellow Democrats are ruining America."

A quick poll of people on the street showed apathy toward the President’s ideas. "In the olden days, kings could change measuring units based on their size of their shoes or the length of their arms, I suppose the President could change things for his emotional well being," one resigned citizen said.

It should be noted that Mr. Bush isn’t the first Republican President to flirt with the metric system. Chubby Howard Taft considered changing the nation’s system of weights, thinking 159 kilograms sounded better than 350 pounds. Congress in those days had more backbone than today. They were willing to stand up to the President, even one larger than a refrigerator (although few people knew what refrigerators were back then). President Taft's idea died when the Speaker of the House told him: "get real or get a hobby."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Living on the edge of town at the beginning of winter

The leaves are gone; now blanketed under snow. The woods, which up to a couple weeks ago were obscured with orange and red leaves, are barren. Exposed trunks stand at attention, limbs reaching skyward. The gray steely sky seems colder amidst the nakedness. I zip my jacket to my neck and briskly walk along the fence line that separates the pasture from the woods. My dog zigzags back and forth across the field, obviously picking up the scent of deer that feed here. As the shrouded sun drops closer to the southwest horizon, the sky turns pink as if there’s a fire deep in the woods. The pond, with thin ice around the edge, assumes the sky’s color. For a moment I stand in awe, but darkness isn’t far behind. Whistling at the dog, I turn toward home, crossing the dam cutting across the field. Darkness descends quickly and we speed up. The warm light shining through the windows of distant houses look warm and inviting. As I get closer to the neighborhood, the rich aroma of a wood smoke from a neighbor’s fireplace awakens my senses. Before going in, I stop by the woodpile and pick up an armload for the evening, making sure I have a few pieces of split cherry. Thirty minutes later, I sit on the floor in front of a blazing fire sipping on a hot-buttered rum. My dog comes over and plops himself on top of the book I’d planned to read. He lays his head in my lap and I scratch his ears. All is well.


Hot Buttered Rum
(This is my only mixed drink recipe, normally I take my spirits on the rocks, but this is good on a cold winter evening and especially after skiing. Like most of my cooking, the recipe is only an approximation)

Mix: (prepare at the beginning of the season and freeze)
Quart of Ice Cream (invest in some good stuff)
Pound of real butter (not margarine)
Pound of light brown sugar
Soften ice cream and let butter take on room temperature. Mix together and add nutmeg and cinnamon to taste. Place in a sealed freezer container.

To fix a drink: Place two tablespoon or so of the mix into a mug. Add boiling water, then a shot of rum, and top off with whip cream and a stick of cinnamon (serves as the stirring stick). Sit back and relax.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Good News for Dark Beer Drinkers

Politically Incorrect Reporting by Nevada Jack

Researchers at Oregon State University announced yesterday that flavonids, a compound found in hops, can be useful in eliminating "free radicals." This discovery may provide another tool in the fight against cancer. Since hops are primarily used in beer, the share prices for stock in Anheuser-Busch (BUD)shot up 24% by mid-afternoon. But after such stellar gains, the price dropped to a new low by the bell. Traders quickly started dumping BUD when news got around that traditional American lagers like Budweiser contain only a trace of hops. Also driving the stock price down was the claim made by Miller Brewing Company that Anheuser-Busch has changed their formula for Bud Light. Bud Light brewers deny this, but beer connoisseur Billy Bob Smith supported Miller’s claim, suggesting that Bud Light now contains even more swamp water.

Oregon State's findings are good news for microbreweries who make much of the darker beers consumed in America. Since Porters, Stouts and Ales contain more hops, they thereby contain more flavonids. Scientists were cautious about suggestiong darker beers, as they have more hops than their lighter cousins. A professor at the press conference in Corvallis refused to speculate when a reporter asked if his findings mean we should consume more beer. However, it should be noted that following the press conference, all the scientists were seen drinking Oregon’s own, Pete’s Wicked Ale, at a local pub.

The press conference broke out into a riot when scientists announced plans to hire research assistants to help them study the relation of hops and beer to cancer prevention. Thousands of students rushed the podium, hoping to obtain one of the coveted positions. The admission office was suddenly overflowed with applicants from their rival, the University of Oregon, as students positioned themselves to participate in such noteworthy research. By the end of the day, the Corvallis Police Chief called the Governor, requesting the National Guard be mobilized. "This is just what we needed, a scientific excuse for college students to drink more beer," the chief whined.

In related news, President George Bush is now serving dark beer at cabinet meetings, dispelling rumors that his staff only drinks Busch Lite. "This stuff gets rid of free radicals," he told his staff as he popped open bottles and passed them around. "First, let’s drink to Al Franken’s demise." As the meeting continued, new rounds were dedicated to a different radical in the media. Maureen Dowd, Molly Ivins, and Alfred E. Newman each had their turn. By the time the meeting adjourned, no one in the room could find Iraq on the map, nor did they care. Condoleezza Rice, reporting in my speakerphone from the Middle East, expressed her frustration at not being able to join the fun. "They don’t even sell beer here," she complained. The president said he’d look into the situation, reminding everyone that freedom means you can choose between a porter and stout.

Several conservative columnists also joined the campaign to free the nation of radicals. Bill O’Reilly expressed his preference for Guinness, reminding listeners of his Irish roots. Rush Limbaugh, rubbing his belly, laughed that he has been trying to rid the nation of free radicals for years. However, conservative columnist Ann Coulter refused to join the bandwagon. "Nobody really cares what I say," the leggy blond reported. "I’d be all washed up if I grew a beer belly like Rush." Last month, the "Liberal Men’s Room, a chauvinistic collection of male liberal media moguls, honored Ann as the hated conservative columnist they’d most like to love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Honduran Food


World traveler and food connoisseur Suzie, who must be related to author Calvin Trillin (although she don't claim him for their politics don't mix), has been after me to write something about my experiences with food in Honduras. I will attempt to satisfy her palate, but in all fairness think she should reciprocate and give us her secret for staying so slim and in shape as she enjoys the world’s cuisine. How about it Suzie? Suzie is a good friend and was concerned about my own diet, wondering if I subsisted on the peanut butter and crackers we'd purchased for hurricane preparation. I assure you that weren’t the case. However, I suppose eating that much peanut butter could be another reason not needing Imodium AD!

When I travel, I try to eat traditional foods. A few years ago in Korea, I went nearly ten days without a western meal! It was wonderful, but I digress.

First, let me say something about traditional food in Honduras. One of the things that impress me about the folks in the mountain villages is the self-sufficiency of the families who own some land. Their fenced yards include a number of citrus trees (oranges, grapefruit and lemons), a few banana trees (or are they bushes) and some coffee plants. They’ll even do their own drying and roasting of coffee beans. On a piece of mountain ground, they’ll grow corn, beans, and other vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and badasde along with more coffee and maybe pineapple. Almost all villagers have chickens (for eggs) and a few will have hogs. Some have boxed bee hives like we know of in the United States, but most will harvest honey from hives they find in hollow trees. The most unique beehive I saw was a section of a tree that had been cut down (I posted a picture of the hive earlier). This hive was discovered up on the mountain and they’d blocked in the entrance for the bees, and cut the tree down with a machete (I can’t imagine this was done without a battle with a few swarming bees). Then they cut one end of the tree with a saw, at the point the hollow section began. This end was plugged with mud. The log sits above the ground on two Y sticks. When they are ready to harvest the honey, they’ll build a fire at the base to drive out the bees, then dig out the packed dirt on one end and retrieve the honey.

Traditional meals generally include tortillas, fried beans, bananas or papayas, eggs, a starchy vegetable and, for one who likes sharp cheddar, some pretty bad cheese. The tortillas are mostly with ground corn, but sometimes with flour. The bananas or papayas are boiled or friend within honey or some sweetener. The eggs can be fried or scrambled. The starchy vegetable could be badasde (a starchy vegetable that looks like an avocado with ridges and tasted like a cross between a potato and squash) or yucca. In most cities, you can get fried chicken and steaks, although the quality of the meat is not always the best. Power Chicken (that’s their name, instead of pollo grande or something) is a Honduran franchise that’s much better than KFC. In addition to great chicken, they have good baby-back pork ribs, but a bit fatty for my palate.

For those tired of eating the Honduran food, there seems to be Chinese restaurants in most small towns, and you can find Wendy’s and MacDonalds and KFC, among other familiar places in the cities. Outside of the Wendy’s in the San Pedro Sula airport, I never tried any of these. I enjoyed the restaurants in Tegucigalpa (along with Copan) more than San Pedro Sula. The capital and Copan are both nestled in the mountains and cooler that San Pedro. Many of the better eating places there are in the open, under thatched roofs, where you are protected from the sun and rain, but able to enjoy the breeze. However, in Tegucipalpa, you have to deal with auto exhaust and the honking of horns, unless you carefully choose the eating establishment.

One of the two best places I ate at this year was Pupusas Universitarias. Dinner included pinchos, skewered meat and vegetables, and the meat was of a high quality. Unfortunately, I’m told, the best meat is often exported. The second was El Patio, where I had a Honduran steak at the insistence of my host (I’m not a big beef eater). It was very good. This was obviously a trendy place with lots of non-Hondurans in the crowd, as it’s a favorite among embassy personnel and foreign business leaders. There I sampled a rosquiller, a Honduran donut that is soaked in honey and rich enough to make Krispy Kreme a low-calorie option. I’m told that rosquillers are traditionally served at Christmas in Honduran homes. At another place, with an interesting band playing way too loud in the background, we had a traditional Honduran meal of boiled yucca with a tomato sauce and topped with fried pork. My host asked if I’d ever had pork like this before. Yes, I said, down south we call it "fat back" (something po’ folk eat). My grandma use to fix it. I didn’t like it then, nor did I care much for it in Honduras. But the yucca root was filling.

Some of the places along the coast are known for their seafood, but I spent all my time inland. I had fried fish once and it was okay. All in all, I’d take the traditional Honduran meal of beans, tortillas, fruit, eggs, bad cheese, black coffee and plenty of hot sauce. As for their coffee, I love it as long as its brewed or done "cowboy style" (as we’d call it out west). I order mine cafĂ© negro (black coffee). My last cup of coffee in Honduras, at the Expresso Americana in the airport, was disappointing. It was instant. I actually found several places that seemed to be "trendy" serving instant coffee. In a country that produces such rich coffee, instant coffee should be outlawed.

Upcoming will be an article on the health benefits of dark beers. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Howling Wind, Leaves, & More Honduran Pictures

The wind howls out of the southwest. Coming back from church, it felt like I was driving upstream in a river of leaves, as they tumbled down the street. This is a godsend. The city hasn’t yet picked up the leaves yet and I have haven’t finished raking them, and now most of my leaves have been blown away. And since there is a 30 acre pasture behind my backyard, to the south, I don’t have to worry about other leaves blowing in. So unless the wind changes direction and keeps up the intensity it’s currently blowing, I’ll only have to do minor clean up of leaves this week. By the way, the leaves are at least two weeks behind this year!

I’m posting a few more pictures from Honduras. I have one more roll of pictures, but doubt I’ll post them unless there is something really good. The exception is a picture of the Confucius statue (with the "Al Christos" sign behind it). Next week, I’ll have to find something else to muse about… These pictures are from San Jeromino, a neat village that is high in the mountains.

Ringing the church's bell


Mountain farming

I
In the Chicago Bears jacket--the principal of the school in San Jeromino.



Log Bee Hive:





Friends.

Town square (the bus isn't a school bus, it is a public bus that runs from San Jeromino to Jesus de Otoro.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Honduran Politics (going to the dogs?)



Driving the main highway between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, one wonders if Honduras isn’t an overly religious country populated with Christian fundamentalist. After all, Jesus for President signs are seen, painted on rocks, throughout the countryside. When asked about the signs, I’m told that this Jesus isn’t the Son of God or a Puerto Rico baseball player, but a politician for the National Party who ran for President of Honduras several elections ago. He lost. Yet, his signs on rocks still stands along with newer signs for Pepe and Mel and a couple other minor candidates that are running for the office this year. The Honduran election occurs later this November. Pepe and Mel’s signs, I’m sure, will continue to remain visible until they finally weather away. I’m going to have to find out what kind of paint Jesus’ sign painter used and use it on the trim of my house.

If you’re thinking that Pepe and Mel and Jesus are all first names, you’re right. Actually, with Pepe and Mel, they’re nicknames. Their real names are Porfigia Lebo (I think I got that right) and Manuel Zetaya. Can you imagine what the 2004 US elections would have sounded like if the battle had been between Georgie Boy and Johnny, instead of Bush and Kerry?

Honduras allows a president to serve only one term. In Central America, being elected for a second term allows for one to assume dictatorial powers, so the constitution prohibits one from seeking a second term. I was told the constitution always prohibits the President of Congress from running for President, but that doesn’t stop Pepe, the National (or Conservative) candidate. No one could explain this to me, but then I had a hard time explaining our elections, so we came out even.
Most of the Hondurans I know are mostly apathetic about national politics. Those who vote plan to vote for Mel, the Liberal candidate, but mostly they agree that all the national politicians are crooked. As one suggested, the Nationals (Conservatives) are just a bit more crooked than the Liberals. I nodded emphatically, knowing how they feel. The Liberal Party colors are red; the National Party colors are blue. You can tell which party candidates for mayor and congress are by the colors of their posters.

I got a feeling the Nationals will win this year. Pepe is running on a plan to change the
constitution to allow the death penalty (maybe he’ll do this when he changes the constitution to allow himself be president) as a way to fight the gang violence in the cities. Of course, the Liberals too are concern about violence, but they raise legitimate concerns about the use of capital punishment. After all, this is Central America and trials are not always fair, especially when one is a member of the wrong party.

I had a couple of brushes with political fame in Honduras. A friend, the principal of the school in San Jeronimo, is running on the National Party ticket for Mayor. My other brush with Honduran political fame occurred in Tegoose (short way of saying Tegucigalpa). I was staying with a friend who lives down the road from Mel (Mel lives in a very middle class neighborhood for Honduran and certainly for American President standards). One morning, Mel’s dog (a big puppy) was out roaming the street. I had to get a picture of me with the dog, for it may become a collector’s item. If Mel wins, the dog will be the "First Dog" of Honduras. And if this happens, I may take the picture off the blog and try to sell it on Ebay.

By the way, dogs in Honduran cities (who are generally kept for protection) have a much better life than dogs in the countryside where they’re all scavengers. If Hindu’s are right, one has to have very bad karma to come back as a dog in the villages. And I can’t see Mel’s dog being much of a guard dog, however he did have guards with big guns in front of this house and the neighborhood had guards at its entrance.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Honduran Pictures

Here are some pics from my travels...

A good days catch! Not really, I borrowed these fish from a roadside fish seller. Near Lago de Yojoa.

For those tired of tortillas, there's white bread. I don't think the name carries the same meaning in Spanish as English (it's not a Spanish word in my dictionary). It's always nice to have friends who are good sports.

This kid has a toy gun shaped by a machete. I remember my dad cut my brother and I guns out of lumber--but this requires even more imagation.
Below is a woman tending a traditional stove (notice the long wood being fed into the stove.


Above is a guy cleaning up a cemetery for All Saint's Day. He's using only a machete and a hooked stick which lifts the vines so that he can cut them. I tried, helping him clean a bit, but didn't get any pictures.

Below is a picture of town of Jesus de Otoro.


I know there are at least two Auburn folks who occassionally read this blog--just wanted to let you know with the pic to the right that the Crimson Tide fan club is alive and well in Honduras.








The two girls to the left are from an orphanage. Honduras has very tough regulations about out of country adoption.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Coming Home--A Glimpse into life within a Honduran Village

Down the highway, dodging potholes, we pass yet another bicycle struggling up a hill, firewood strapped to the back. The biker cut and split the wood with the machete strapped to the top. Life’s hard here. Turning into the village, the road becomes dirt. Chickens scoot to the side, letting us pass. The roosters puff out their chest, fluffing feathers. It isn’t just a self-assured prestige. They're important to the economy; their nightly dalliance with the hens produce eggs, a staple in the diet of the people, and along with beans the main source of protein. At the corner, a few men lean against the wall of a pulperia, cowboy hats tipped back, watching the day pass. I wave. "Hola," they mumble. A malnourished dog darts across the street, stopping to lick the salt off a discarded wrapper of chips. Time slows down here; even slower than the bus negotiating puddles and around an oxen-pulled cart hauling adobe blocks.

Dark clouds and light drizzle slows life even more. It’s cool in the mountains, but never cold. Smoke rises from the stovepipes, only to lay low, forming a blanket over the town. I imagine women inside, patting out tortillas while tending the stove. The long split pieces of wood are gradually fed into the abode firebox. A pot of beans boil while tortillas bake on the hot metal above the coals. Their evening meal of beans and tortillas will be supplemented with a few eggs, some crumbled cheese, fresh bananas and strong coffee.

We pass the park. Schoolboys play soccer, and a few kids shoot basketball, paying little attention to the dampness. We turn off the main road and pull up to the Hotel Central Otoreno where we get out. We’re back. The first thing I notice is that there is now a railing around the balcony. Last year, a couple of us got some rope and made a railing to reduce the risk of falling off the top floor. We’re assigned rooms and I haul my backpack up to the second floor, dropping it into my room. I look around. There are two beds and a chair in the main room. The TV on the wall is another surprise. It wasn't there last year. The bathroom consists of a toilet, trash can (for toilet paper-the Honduran plumbing system doesn’t handle paper), a cold water only sink and a shower. I’m surprised to see they’ve attached an electric heater showerhead. Upon closer examination, I notice the ground wire has been snipped off and the hot wires are just twisted together and taped, dangling above the shower. Obviously, there are no electrical inspectors in these parts.

I take off my watch. It’s no longer needed. Then I head outside. Walking through the town, I visit familiar sites. The old church by the square is open. A machete, secured in a fancy sheath, lies next to the doorsill as a reminder that this is a sanctuary. I peek in and see the back of a lone man kneeling in prayer under the gaze of a rather dark-skinned Jesus who hangs on the cross. Nothing has changed. I stop in the hardware store and surprise Ricardo. He tells me he’s been practicing and challenges me in chess. Another customer comes in and he must return to work. We’ll meet later. I head down to the park and shoot a few hoops with the kids. I teach them useful techniques with corresponding English words, like "break" "drive," and "pick." Their laugher is contagious. Despite the mud and trash and poverty, I’m still at home.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Home

I’m back home. A week in Central America without a single Imodium AD, I consider that a success, especially since I spent much time in villages where you can never be too sure of the food. There were two wasted days in a hotel in San Pedro Sula (considered the second most violent city in the Americas—behind Bogota), waiting to see where the storm was going to track. We got extra provisions such as peanut butter and crackers (which we left with the Hondurans) just in case we were trapped there by the storm. But it turned South, bad news for Nicaragua, but good for us. The doctors saw lots of patients and I spent time helping out along with exploring and playing with kids. I’ll post pictures later—along with some essays. Since I didn’t carry my laptop, only a journal, I will have to dig through my notes and write up some stories of my adventures in Honduras. For now, I’ll say that the highlight of the trip was going back to visit the village of San Jeromino (in Intibuca, high in the mountains, overlooking the valley of Otoro).