Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dear Charlie,

I miss you very much! I heard that you are having a lot of fun while you stay with uncle Drew, aunt Sara, and cousin Max in Kentucky.

The cargo office at Continental Airlines says that you should be able to come in mid-August when the high travel season is over, and I can't wait! I've already been to the supermarket to make sure that they have your favorite food, and I checked the pet store to make sure they have all of the medicine you might need if you get sick (don't worry, a lot of people get sick from the food the first time they come to Honduras!).

And guess what else? Your abuela (grandmother) Marlene and abuelo (grandfather) Gustavo have three dogs for you to play with when you get here! There is a guard dog, and her name is Osa. She is a good guard dog. She barks at all of the people walking by on the street that she doesn't know, so she keeps us safe! She might sound mean, but she is very sweet and playful with the people she knows. I think you are going to have fun with her the most. The other two dogs are still puppies. Sneaker is a poodle, and Muneca is a chow. They are both very playful, and since they are puppies, they chew on everything! I think you will enjoy chewing things up with them. :)

I've already told them all about you, and they can't wait to meet you! The only thing we are all worried about is that you are going to be very confused about where to go potty! There is no grass here! In Tegucigalpa, people don't have yards. They build their houses to fill the whole lot, and then whatever is left, they cover with concrete for a driveway. The other dogs go to the bathroom on the driveway, and then we just clean it up. Since you are trained to potty in the grass at home, you are going to be confused. But don't worry! The other dogs said they would teach you. :)

Charlie-puppy-dog, I can't wait for you to get here! I hope you are being good for Sara and Drew, and that you and Max are staying out of trouble. :) I love you!!!!!!

PS - The Miskito Indians (an indigenous group of people that live in the area of Honduras on the map below) have a story to explain why dogs are man's best friend. Ask your aunt Sara to read it to you, because if you ask your uncle Drew he will say "No, that's stupid." :)

Long ago men and women lived apart. The men lived together and were separated from the women by a great river. In the river, there was a fierce alligator who ate anyone who tried to cross it.

However, one man was determined to cross the river. He looked at the situation from all angles and decided that the only way he could cross the river was to get the alligator to take him. So he went down to wait for the reptile.

Soon enough the alligator came. "It is forbidden to cross the river," it said.

"I know," said the man. "I was thinking that, in fact, the only one who can cross the river is you. You are so strong. You could probably cross the river with me on your back and be back so quickly that no one would notice it."

"Well perhaps," said the alligator who was a little vain about his strength.

"But then again, maybe you can't do it. Maybe it is too much for you."

All this time the alligator was thinking. He could take the man part way across, toss him in the water and eat him. "No, no, I can take you. Just get on my back and I will show you."

The man rode on the alligator's back almost to the other side. Then he jumped in the water and swam to the beach. When he got to the beach on the women's island, he said, "While I am here I might as well stay until tomorrow. Come back and get me tomorrow."

The man spent the night with the women, but all the time he was worried about the alligator. He knew the alligator would be upset. When he got to the shore, it was worse than he expected. Many other animals were there to see the alligator's vengeance on the man who had tricked him.
But when the alligator was about half-way across, a dog started barking. "Come closer. I can't see you clearly. I want to see you when you take vengeance on this man." So the alligator came closer to shore. But the dog barked again. "I still can't see you clearly. Come closer." The alligator came in so close, the man was able to jump off his back and run to freedom.

Ever since that day, men and dogs have been best friends.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tegucigalpa, Honduras

(FYI - You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge)

Since the majority of you have never traveled to Honduras, I thought I should give you an idea of what my new city is like. I think most of you will be shocked at how developed it is's not dirt roads and huts like you might be thinking!

Tegucigalpa is the capital city of Honduras, is 290 square miles, at approximately 3200 ft in elevation, and is populated by over 1.25 million people. Tegucigalpa sets on a lot of hills, and is surrounded by a ring of mountains that causes pollution to be trapped in the city.

Most of Honduras has a tropical climate, but Tegus has less humidity and lower temperatures than most other cities because of the higher altitude. Temperatures average from 60's to low 80's most of the year, with December-January being the coldest, and March-April being the hottest. It rains unevenly throughout the year, but during hurricane season (June-Nov) it can rain up to 36 inches a day.

Honduras is made up of barrios and colonias (neighborhoods). The colonias are throughout the center of the city and are occupied by middle- and upper-classes. The barrios are mostly shanty towns surrounding the outskirts of the city, and reflect some of the poorest living conditions in Honduras.

example of a barrio

The wealthiest and most elite live in the colonias of Lomas del Guijarro, El Hatillo, Loma Linda, Miramontes, Palmira, and El Molino. A lot of these colonias also house the best schools, hotels, and all of the embassies. We live in Colonia Ruben Dario, which is, when compared to these colonias, more of a middle class neighborhood.

View of the building Jose's dad is currently building (it's next door to our house)

Barbed wire surrounding our house (every house/building in Honduras has this!)

View of our colonia from the roof of the new building

Something else important to note about the city is the way the streets are organized. Unlike most capital cities in Latin America, the streets are not set up in a system of squares (where one block forms an actual square....just like most cities in the US). They could not be built the correct way when the city was founded because of the hills. Therefore, the streets curve every which way, making it incredibly confusing. To make matters worse, there are no street signs. I bought a city map, thinking it would come in handy if I ever got lost, and there are no street names on it! So basically, the streets don't really have names, and houses/buildings have no numbers.

Stuck in traffic....notice the absence of painted lines on the street

We have almost all of the same fast food restaurants (McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway, Baskin Robbins, KFC, Burger King, Campero, Church's Chicken, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars). The McDonald's and KFC here are HUGE...I've never seen such nice ones!

See all those power lines? I'm pretty sure this is why we lose power so often...there has to be a better way to string all those lines. :)

There are 3 malls in this city: Multiplaza, Las Cascadas, and Metromall. Multiplaza (the closest mall to our house) has a movie theater. You can see each movie either dubbed in Spanish, or just with Spanish subtitles. It only cost 60 lempiras for each movie (about $3 USD)!!! We usually get the same ones here that you do in the US...but I'm still waiting for Mamma Mia to come out here. :(

In Multiplaza there are also some very nice stores, like Lacoste, Nine West, and Benetton. The only department stores there are ones that I've never heard of, like Lady Lee.

So far, my favorite thing is the supermarkets. (I have no idea why!) There are big ones like La Colonia (kind of like Kroger) and then Price Smart (like Sam's Club).

my bank - HSBC

If you want to know more about the city, click here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the first day...not so great

I arrived at training yesterday morning at 11 am. The trainer was, as expected from any Honduran, running late. While we waited, the academy coordinator approached me and asked me if I was available as soon as this morning. I said yes, and she told me I would be teaching a level 8 (they are decent in conversational Spanish already) private class this morning at 7 am.

We waited around for 30 minutes for the trainer, and when he arrived, he took us (Jose and I) into a classroom. He spoke very fast, chain smoked, and told us the following:
-Always stand. If you sit down, the energy level goes down with you.
-Never speak in any language other than the one you are teaching.
-80% of the class should be spoken by the students, and only 20% the teacher.
-50% of the class should be explaining grammar, and 50% should be activities.

He handed us a packet (illegally photocopied pages from one of the few text books that the academy owns), and told me to stand up and teach. That was it as far as training.

After only 45 minutes of this unorganized training yesterday morning, I went to teach my first class at 7 AM this morning. It was a private class for the management level employees of a security company called Wackenhut. Before I left for work this morning, I asked Jose if I really needed to be on time (knowing that most Hondurans are never on time for anything). He said that I should since it was the first class. I arrived at Wackenhut at 6:55 am.

When I got there and explained to the guard in my broken Spanish that I was there for English class, he told me he didn't know what I was talking about and they didn't open till 8 am. I waited around until 7:15 when an employee arrived for the class. (Don't worry mom, I was waiting inside with the guard). We went into the board room and made small talk while we waited for everyone else.

His English is decent, but he has difficulty pronouncing a lot of sounds from English. A couple of mispronunciations were so funny I had to write them down to share with you. We were talking about his childhood in Honduras, and he kept saying "When I was a john boy." I was so confused, and surprised that he knew this term "john boy" which I take to mean as a country boy or something similar. After almost 10 minutes of him using this term, I finally realized he was trying to say "young boy" and was mispronouncing young. Another time he was talking about the crime in Tegus, and he said "people tell me that on the bus the deaf, with a gun, and rob them" in his broken English. I thought he was trying to tell me that disabled people were targets for crime, like the deaf and blind. After several minutes, I realized he was mispronouncing the words "thief" and "theft" as deaf. It took a long time to explain the difference between thief and theft, and even after that, he could not pronounce the "th" correctly. Surprisingly, I wasn't frustrated with him at all. It was actually very entertaining. :)

After making small talk for an hour, we gave up on the others and I left. So my first class, my first day on the job, no one showed! Pretty easy. :) Maybe the Friday class will be better.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Consegui un trabajo (I got a job!)

I got a job today! It was easier than I thought...but that's only because one of Jose's good friends used to work there. The people didn't even want to see my resume, they just told me to come back tomorrow for training!

It is called the Academia Europea (European Academy...see their website here: and it is one of the most elite of the language schools in Tegucigalpa. And since I'm a gringa (from the US) and a native English speaker, I will make more than the Hondurans working there. I will negotiate my salary tomorrow, but I think I will probably be able to make $80 HNL an hour (that's a little over $4 USD an hour). Also, they will be able to provide free Spanish lessons if I want them. :)

It almost seems too good to be true, that I found a job that easily. I guess we'll find out tomorrow how good it is when I go to training!! :)

Estoy aqui!

I made it! Sorry I have been neglecting my blog...but I was taking a "vacation."

I'll try to sum up the last week in one blog, and I'll try my best to make it as short as possible. :)

Both of my flights (Nashville to Miami, and Miami to San Pedro Sula (SPS)) were fine. On the flight to SPS I sat next to an archeology student from Boston traveling to Copan to dig at a site of ruins for a month. She told me that she was supposed to have been on an early morning flight, and after it was delayed because of weather, she hadn't been able to reach anyone from Copan. No one knew that she had missed her flight, and when we arrived, there was no one there to pick her up.

Jose let her use his cell phone, and her professors in Copan told her to take a taxi to a hotel, and then travel by bus the next morning to Copan. SPS is one of the most dangerous cities in Honduras...and I was shocked that her professors had recommended taking a taxi by herself at night. I volunteered Jose and I to ride in the taxi with her, while Jose's friends followed us in his car. When we got to the hotel her prof's had recommended, there were no available rooms. We all piled into Jose's car (all 6 of us, plus 5 large suitcases) and drove to our hotel. She got the last room available, and was very grateful for our hospitality. She left us a note the next morning thanking us, and offering a free tour of the Mayan ruins in Copan.
Jose, his two friends, and I traveled back to Tegucigalpa the next morning. It was a surprisingly good drive...better than most of the roads I have traveled on in Central America. We got to stop at a road side vendor for some fresh pineapple (I looooove pineapple!).

So we arrived in Tegucigalpa last Wednesday. I spent most of the week unpacking, organizing, and cleaning. Jose's mom has horrible taste (shh don't tell her I said that) and so I brought all of my own bedding, etc. I think I did a pretty good job of transforming it into my own room...but there's only so much I can do. I should have taken before/after pictures, ha!

Now that I'm finally unpacked and settled, and I've finally visited/greeted all of Jose's friends and's time to get down to business. :) This week I am going to find a job. Some of Jose's friends have worked at the European Academy before, and say that I can make decent money there teaching English. As a norteamericana (North American), I can probably make 75 lempiras an hour ($1 USD = $18.8969 HNL) or $3.96 USD an hour. It's a lot different from the US, right? :) And that's a GOOD job...I hate to think how the uneducated people of Honduras make a living.
Comments, questions? Let me know you're reading, please!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

what is meant to be will always find a way

Getting Charlie to Honduras has just gotten more difficult. I called Continental airlines yesterday to make the reservation for Charlie (you can only make a live animal reservation as far as 3 days in advance), and they informed me that this was high season and they could not accomodate him. I was furious! I have been speaking with the cargo office for weeks now planning Charlie's trip, and they were all aware of his departure and arrival cities, and failed to mention anything about a high season. And it's not like I just spoke to one person...multiple people discussed flight schedules and times, and none of them said anything about him not being able to fly. They told me that because it's a peak travel season, and because of weight restrictions, there isn't any room for him....on any flights until August. :( After hysterically crying and yelling at the poor supervisor in the cargo office, he told me to call on Monday to speak with a manager. I'm going to try it out...but if he can't help, Charlie will have to stay in BG until August or September.

After spending my entire Saturday very depressed about the possibility of not having Charlie on my initial trip, I went to church this morning for the first time in too long. I feel like God sent me there for a reason...the sermon was about prayer and trusting God. And one particular scripture that the pastor mentioned was, I think, directed right towards me: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." - Philippians 4:6-8.

Planning this trip has been very stressful, and adjusting to my new home is going to be even harder. All of this is made worse because I suffer from anxiety disorder. Although it is controlled by medication, I am very worried about my emotional state for the first few months while I'm in Honduras. I felt that taking Charlie with me would help me through my adjustments since he comforts me. After hearing from the airline yesterday that he might not be able to go, and then hearing the sermon this morning, I feel like maybe God is telling me to put my faith in Him instead of relying on a dog for comfort. Who knows, I may be reading into it too much, like most women do; but I also believe that everything happens for a reason. :)

I'll post an update about Charlie as soon as I hear something tomorrow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Countdown....5 days

It's almost time! I can't believe that I'm moving to Honduras in 5 days!

For the most part, things are going smoothly. I have a fabulous replacement at work, and I am confident that she is going to do great...even better than me! ;) It's a little easier to walk away from work knowing that my "baby" is going to be well taken care of!

The only problem that I've had so far with moving is with Charlie. It's harder to get a dog into Honduras than it is me! And no one seems to know anything about the requirements for import...not even the Honduran consulate. I finally figured out the paperwork issue. Next, my problem is with the airlines. Charlie cannot fly with American because it's too hot at our arrival destination. So he will be flying with Continental (everything with them is temperature controlled so it doesn't matter what the temperature is)...and Continental Cargo doesn't depart from Nashville. So I have to drive Charlie to Louisville on Monday morning, and he will fly to Houston by himself. He has to stay overnight in Houston, and then he will fly from there to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Tuesday. I will arrive in Honduras on Tuesday also, so at least we'll arrive on the same day!

I'm starting to learn (even though Jose has told me a million times) that things are going to be VERY different in Honduras. It's a hard pill to swallow. Even though I've been very aware of the cultural differences there, I'm just now completely understanding how difficult it is going to be for me to adjust. Yesterday, I called the USDA KY office several times and was able to demand that they rush my paperwork for Charlie. I can't do that in Honduras! I won't be able to be my very forward, pushy self...that won't get me anywhere in Honduras like it does here. I am going to a dangerous country, and a very dangerous city. My fair skinned, blond haired self is going to be a target for crime, and I'm starting to get scared! Last night I called my mom crying because I'm starting to become very aware of the obstacles I'm about to face. I'm also already homesick...and I haven't even left yet!!!

Everyone, please pray for me. Please pray that I will stay calm and collected, and have the strength to handle these difficult challenges. And pray that Charlie doesn't hate me for making him fly on an airplane. :)