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Expecting the Unexpected

June 19, 2010

We have done a lot since we last wrote! But three things immediately come to mind:

1) Approximately 80% of the land in the Santa Elena region is dedicated to growing corn– most of that harvest is for consumption, not for sale.

2) A family of 10 with eight children (which is typical here) would eat about 120 corn tortillas per day.

3) In order to make a more livable income, farmers to need to better utilize the land they already have by getting better yields from their sellable crops; land is scarce and corn crops cannot be sacrificed.

We are seeing how much corn is a pillar of life in Honduras. And although we have only taught two English classes so far, we are constantly learning.

Last week we explored La Marcala and the surrounding regions (in the department of La Paz) with Domingo and Oseas. We visited 10 youth CIALs, planted vegetables and made tortillas. The idea with the CIALs was intercultural exchange, that we would explain a little bit of our lives in North America and that the young people would share their stories with u. With certain groups, this worked really well; we all talked about favorite foods, what we do in our free time, going to school and how life in North America differs from life in Honduras.

The first group we met with took us on a hike to the top of a gourgeous waterfall and then shared some heavy-hitting insight into life in Honduras at our meeting that. The CIAL coordinator, Carlos, pointed out that for most young people, working in agriculture is the only option. Youths in more rural, isolated communities have very little access to school; they may or may not have a nearby primary school to go to, and secondary schools are even fewer and farther between. That said, many have to prioritize working in the fields over going to school in order to make money for their families and for themselves. Furthermore, Carlos added, even those who do continue going to school and do well can´t continue to university because there aren´t scholarships available to them. Omar had told me in our first few days here that only about 2% of the population is college-educated, but beyond that, it seems that many Hondurans aren´t getting through primary school. This is a phenomen that is essentially nonexistent in the U.S. and Canada.

Some of the groups, however, were too timid to talk to us. Marianne and I dicussed this with Doña Isadora yesterday, that shyness seems to be a part of the culture here. Even adults are hesitant to talk to new people, she said, and tend to look down at the ground instead of making eye contact. She is seeing this change, however, in the adults and youths in the CIALs; some are becoming more outgoing and confident from working in a group setting.

We also did our first digging! We all really enjoyed working the land and working alongside the CIALs to dig, make plant beds and sow seeds gave us a better idea of just how strenuous agricultural work is. Sometimes they laughed at the way we manuevered the hoes, but after a few hours the plots had been transformed from bare land to cultivated land that would produce radishes, zucchini and scallions. In most cases, the CIALs sell two-thirds of their harvests and reserve the last third to eat at home. FIPAH is working to introduce more vegetables to the typical Honduran diet; instead of just growing corn and beans (and sometimes squash), FIPAH wants CIALs to incorporate more vegetables to eat and to sell.

Towards the end of the week we headed up to the zona alta (the high region) where we stayed with Oseas´ family. They were extremely welcoming, and we got to watch the first few World Cup games there (a new satellite dish had been installed just in time!) His mom and sisters were even patient enough to each us each of the steps of tortilla-making, from breaking the dried kernels off of the cob,  grinding the kernels,  adding water to the masa and rolling out the dough, to forming and cooking the tortillas. The job was unbelievably time-consuming  and instensive; his mom and sisters spend at least four hours a day making tortillas. The women here have to put in an incredible amount of work into feeding their families, even if they aren´t working in the fields.

And finally, for our last night in Santa Elena, a local CIAL (who we had planted with earlier that day) put on a dance performance! They demonstrated the traditional dances of the indigenous Lenca culture; the girls wore wonderfully bright and colorful dresses, and the boys wore white pants and shirts with a sash to match their partners. After they had danced for us, the asked us to put on the dresses and try a few steps ourselves (sorry we can´t upload the photos). Everyone seemed to have fun, and it was a great way to bring the trip to a close.

Not to mention…we got back just in time for Hugo´s birthday! Sunday morning we prepared tamales with Hugo´s wife, Margarita. The cooking started around 9 am, the tamales were steaming by 12:30 pm, and by 4:00 pm we were stuffed with the best I´ve ever tasted. That´s a recipe I´m definitely going to try to recreate at home  (although I won´t attempt to make 105 like we did that day).

And now we´ve been back in Jesús de Otoro for a week so more will be soon…

Vaya pues…cheque!

Leslie (and the crew)

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 19, 2010 6:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Leslie. It’s great to read about your observations!

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