Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Before I knew what was happening, my year has come and gone here in Honduras (time passes just as quickly here as I’m sure it does back home). I apologize for not keeping my Blog updated, for falling out of touch with some of you, and for never being in touch with others—my only excuse is that the year itself was so full of activity, filled with work and discovery that required more of me than I knew I had to give. It’s been a year filled with many joys and sorrows, many successes and even more failures. The only thing I’m sure of is that it has been an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I am sorry that I haven’t passed on more of the stories/adventures/tales of some of the more memorable exploits of the past year: going to the beautiful tropical island getaway of Roatan for New Year’s with my family (belting out the lyrics of “Build Me Up Buttercup” at 3am, zipping through the canopy past iguana-filled tress, glimpsing an underwater world teeming with color and life) and visiting it’s beaches again when C-Mac, Giff and his ladyfriend came to visit (*material edited for mature content*); accepting the fact that no matter how many times I explain the fact that I’m Japanese (and even after sharing a homemade delicacy of curry with friends from the community) that I people will always refer to me all aspects of Asian culture as ‘chino;’ deciding for some horrible reason with Jose that it would be a great idea to see who could go the longest without shaving (dubbed the “Weird Beard-Off,” the deal was that the leader would have to grow a rat tail… through Divine intervention (visit from Joe’s family and an interview for yours truly), after 6 weeks we peacefully cast off our beards in an effort to return to ‘striking good looks.’ Don’t worry, we have documented evidence of the entire thing); discovering how a doll-sized t-shirt fit perfectly onto our pet cat Scarlth (newly named, deriving originally from ‘Prince Carl’ (just seemed to fit), changed to ‘Scar’ (in honor of Mufasa’s brother in the Lion King after he got into a particularly rowdy fight with another cat) and finally adding an ‘l’ and ‘th’ (which, along with the beginning ‘s’ and ‘r’ are the hardest sounds to make in the English language (don’t worry, we didn’t name him that just to give our neighbors a hard time in pronouncing his name. We really just call him ‘gato’ mostly))), and how when he’s wearing the t-shirt, he looks, moves, and acts absolutely ridiculous; how someone who shall remain nameless locked the keys in our car when we were up in an aldea (hint: it wasn’t Melissa or Mike) and we somehow managed to pry the door open using sheer force, wedge it with chunks of wood to create a gap through which we inserted a crudely shaped chicken-wire hook and ordinary stick to slowly but surely rotate the handle to lower the window enough to the point when we could finally unlock the door (all credit for ingenuity and handiness on this occasion must go to none other than a certain M. Dubiel); the candid shot we took on the ancient Mayan ruins in Copan (me laying in a prone position on an ancient sacrificial table, arms stretched out and screaming towards the sky as Mike swings downward with a large, blunt rock towards my head) which was accidentally observed by a local tour guide, who, rather than get angry, greeted it with one of the most hilarious laughs I’ve ever heard; and of course, most recently, being in a country in the midst of a military coup (I will say this, I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would wake up one morning to a country without a president… or that the US would almost beat Brazil in futbol. I don’t know which is crazier…).

Please, please ask me about these and many of the other stories that I haven’t shared yet (many include pictures and video footage that is sure to make up for even the most mediocre storytelling). Like I said, the year was an amazing experience and something I wouldn’t want to keep from anyone. I haven’t been intentionally secretive, just accidentally lazy.

A big thanks for everyone out there who helped make this year possible, either through making a donation to the Passionists, passing on encouraging words of wisdom during some of my tougher moments, or simply keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. I could never say enough thanks, but your support has meant more than you know (I will most likely be continuing to need this support over the next couple of years of medical school, so any thoughts, prayers, and financial contributions you want to send my way would be very much appreciated (and very well spent)).

As scattered and strange as this year has been at time, it changed something in me, giving me a new perspective and a new outlook on life. With my return to the states fast approaching, all I can say is that I hope the next couple weeks will be as enlightening and rewarding as those that came before them. As much as this experience has meant to me and as grateful as I am to have been here, I can think of no place I’d rather be than back in the states with friends and family. I hope to see you all soon, and will leave you with a quotation I think particularly fitting:

“In a sense, it is the coming back, the return, which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we come back to where we were—only where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become, which, after all, is why left.”
-Bernard from “Northern Exposure”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

De Pollo?

In case you can´t read it clearly, the middle shop is called 'Supremos Chicken´s.' Just think about that for a second.

Sofá Incendiado

I really don’t think this picture needs any explanations (more than our electricity was cut, there were some candles, and it was windy).

Nuestra Piscina y Calabaza de Agua

We don’t really have “running water,” or “showers” in the traditional sense of the word (or in any sense for that matter). We receive water (sometimes) once or twice a week (I’ll be the first to admit that showers aren’t always a daily (or for some roommates, a weekly) requirement). What we do have is a pila (or as I like to think of it: a miniature, concrete, above-ground swimming pool). It get’s filled with water (on those occasions when the water doesn’t randomly not come for two-and-a-half weeks), and then we can disperse it throughout the house using age-old bucket technology. Being (somewhat) health conscious, we sometimes decide to clean our pila out (to remove the leaves/dirt that has blown in and kill any mosquito larvae which might have started to spawn in our water source (it usually doesn’t get that bad since we add mosquito-killing bags to our water every so often).

On one memorable Sunday morning, we converted our water reservoir into it’s true purpose: a miniature, concrete, above-ground swimming pool. The thing about Honduras is that it can get hot, and the thing about our house is that it has a metal roof… (I could draw you a diagram, but I think you get the picture). So basically, with the pila already needing a good washing, we decided to do what any creative and reasonable group of people would do: jump in (and we actually did jump… into about 2 feet of water). While I’ve sense made motions to permanently turn the pila into a picina, I’ve got voted down every time (something about needing water to bathe and clean dishes… rubbish).

On the subject of water, just thought I’d also put up a picture of our “shower.” Laugh all you want, but a trick-or-treating pumpkin head with holes poked in the bottom makes a great shower (water not included).

El Año Viejo

It’s a tradition here to celebrate the New Year by remembering the old year. And by remembering the old year, I mean, of course, taking a bunch of old and tattered clothes, making a scare-crow-like muñeca with them, filling the doll with fireworks and dousing it in gasoline, and setting that “old year” on fire and rejoicing in its destruction like a much hated effigy. While I unfortunately missed this particular tradition (I was up north on Roatan with my family (a little too ritzy for flaming dolls)), I saw footage of it later, and I can assure you that this is one piece of culture which I will definitely try to bring back with me and integrate into the American celebration of the New Year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Festejos Navideño

When the clock struck twelve on “Navidad” (the 24th), I discovered there was another big difference about Christmas here: there are fireworks, lots and lots of fireworks. Fireworks are sold for 2-3 weeks leading up to Christmas at any number of makeshift-stands that were put up in and around the market. Everyone has fireworks (even 4 year-olds). Hopefully we all remember my stance on fireworks here (reminder: they are more unpredictable and explosive than normal fireworks—I hate them (case in point: you all know what “poppers” are, right? Those things you can throw on the ground to make a nice popping sound? You know how you can usually snap one in your fingers without any bodily harm, right? Not here. The “poppers” here actually explode into a ball of flames, and while I’m not an expert in pyrotechnics, I’m pretty sure that snapping one in your hand would blow off all/part of your fingers)). Now, try and imagine what it would be like if every man, woman and child in a densely populated city had a mound of (dangerous) fireworks at their disposal, and further, that the only place they had to light them off were in the streets and on the sidewalks in front of their houses (or throwing them in the air as they were walking down the street), and further, that at the same time that the streets were being filled with fire, another group of people decided it would be a good idea to celebrate by jumping in their cars and racing throughout the city blaring their horns (and regularly running over lit fireworks (it’s a good thing that gas isn’t combustible or anything)). Describing the situation as total chaos doesn’t even begin to do it justice. My world was literally lit up “like the forth of July” (thank you Toby Keith). What amazed (and simultaneously embarrassed) me most was how my tense/frightened/fidgety mood was in stark contrast to the laughing/joyful/calm faces of all the locals. For example: a small child would run out into the middle of the street (avoiding the swerving cars and myriad of other explosions (did I mention that this was a small child… like 5 years-old?)), and light a string of (dangerous) explosives (o yea, the fuse lengths of the fireworks are all of variable timings and lengths, sometimes leaving only a moment for the person to stand up before it does its thing) and suddenly (this happened quite frequently surprisingly), nothing happened. There was no explosion, no bang, no nothing (remember that thing about the variable fuse length? Yea… well sometime that meant that it would take half a second, other times it meant it would take 20 seconds… never really figured out how to tell one for the other, and I don’t think anyone else had either). So naturally, the child would immediately run back out (avoiding cars) and try to pick-up/stamp out the firework (safety first). I was surprised in the fact that I was lucky enough to avoid seeing any injuries or hearing about any the next day. So maybe I’ll start a project advocating for firework safety standards…

About 30-58 minutes after midnight (as long as it takes for the WMDs to run out), then the people really start celebrating. The eating/visiting continues, mixed in with some (alright, a lot of) dancing and closed door celebrations. While we were all too tired (before you judge, remember that we’d been up all day visiting people in the community, and that we also wanted to get up the next day and celebrate Christmas Vol. 2) to join in the festivities, I think I recall the music being blared by neighbors finally settling down at around 4:30.
All things considered (the abundance of food, lack of injuries, etc), it was definitely a Christmas to remember (also, my host brother got a Wii for Christmas, so that’s been nice).


While Christmas trees have always been a staple of the holiday season for me, I found out that this wasn’t the case in Honduras. More important than the tree (which many families now have, don’t worry) is the Nacimiento (nativity scene). Now, I know what you’re thinking: nativity scenes include a manager, a couple figurines (Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Three Kings, Angel, Shepard), some animals (goats, sheep, etc), and hay. My family has one it puts on a small table. No big deal, right? Not exactly. The nativity scenes that families make here take up an entire wall to an entire room. They have the standard birth-of-Jesus section, but also include a representation of nature (various trees, animals of land and sea), a section representing your local city (in this case Talanga, complete with ladies making Tortillas, the central parque, pulperias, etc), and a greater portion representing Honduran culture in general. Some people painstakingly craft their own ceramic buildings/people/animals, some use action figures and toys (I saw one family have the ninja turtle Michelangelo watching over the baby Jesus), but most use a combination of both (i.e. Flounder from Disney’s The Little Mermaid was in a pool of water along with other sea critters next to an ornately made representation of the local church). Every nacimiento I saw had it’s own unique theme, a different view of what was most important around the holiday’s in the artist’s eyes. This was my favorite one, and thankfully was only a half-block away from where we live. Enjoy.