Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Natural Hot Springs near Celaque (Aguas Termales el Pinal)

So if you want to find these hot springs just download the points in your GPS and follow the route. Or just go past Villa Verde to the last houses before you get to Celaque and ask how to get their. It was less than an hour hike from Villa Verde. On the same trail is the warm springs, aguas tibias, that Fronnie owns, she has developed it a little bit.

View Natural Hot Springs Trail in a larger map


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Funlesol Website

The organization that I (Bert) work with is called Funlesol. They are a local honduran "non-profit" organization that works here in Lempira Honduras. They were started in 2006 in connection with Solidaridad Internacional to try and keep the non-profit project management local and more sustainable. 

They survived and continued to work after the Honduran governmental problems of 2009.  They are the counterpart organization for several international NGO's including Heifer and Dipuacion de Jaen.

The boss of Funlesol is making a 3 week trip to Spain to try and find funding organizations for some of the projects Kalin and I have worked on.  I put together this website (blog) before he leaves so that they have a website, you should find some more information about some of the projects Kalin and I have worked on.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mining For Opals Explosively

Kalin and I took another trip to Erandique Lempira. It is a tiny town 2 hours down a bouncy dirt road from San Juan Lempira. It is one of the few places in world where Opals are mined.
More Information on Erandique and its Opals from a former Peace Corps Volunteer.

 So Kalin and I, ya conocimos las famosas vendidores de Opals, Juan and Sister Riena. She offered to walk with us out to the Tablon Mines. Once There Kalin was able to dig up her own opals (see pictures below).

In addition we were able to witness how the holes are dug; by hand, and with a little help from dynamite:
warning video is explosive:

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Suyutal, in Google Earth, San Sebastian, Lempira, Honduras

So two weeks ago Kalin, Kalin's Counterpart, and I spent 4 days and 3 nights in a village called Suyatal.
It is located  in the municipality of San Sebastian on the other side of the mountain of Celaque from Gracias.  

Kalin has uploaded all of your pictures from this trip here: 

The villages that we go to that do not have potable water are usually hard to get to. If you have Google Earth installed I recommend turning on the terrain function and follow the tour of  this path just to arrive at the Catholic Church where we stayed.  We were able to find a ride around Celaque on paved roads to the town Corquin Copan.  From there is a well maintained dirt road to Belen Guacho Ocotopeque. From there begins the following Google Earth trip:  In Car, In Bestia, (Horseback).  The next day Kalin hiked another 3 miles up the mountain in the direction of the Cordillera de Celaque.

The purpose of the trip was to teach a Kalin's Counterpart, a young Honduran Engineer named Henry, how to do a topographic study for a water system. Currently Kalin is teaching him how to do the Design of the water system from the topographic data.

Overall it was a pretty good village trip, complete with going to sleep by 7:30 pm every night, Fresh homemade tortillas and Coffee every meal, bathing with wet wipes, hiking an average of 10 miles a day, a pretty sweet neck-tie shaped 75 foot waterfall, and two hour and half horseback rides.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Honduran/American Wedding

So the day after the funeral Kalin and I wen to a wedding. It was between the oldest son of the Missionary Family that lives near Gracias and his new Honduran Bride. The wedding was very different from the all Honduran wedding we went to last year. The ceremony was all in Spanish and they announced the entire wedding party as they came down isle. They had a preacher do the message part of the ceremony, they did however do one thing we had never seen that people told us was a Honduran Custom: they tied the couple together with decorated rope (see first photo).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Honduran Funeral

Our neighbors are the owners of the house we live in, they have a son who is about our age. The mother of his grandmother died last week. She was 102 years old. She had been living with the family. This is one of the things about Honduran Culture that I really like: there are no retirement homes or nursing homes here, when a family member becomes old or sick the family takes care of them in their own house.
The funeral is not an event it is a process. First even before she died, when her condition was "grave," the family had visitors and extended family came in to town. Friends and extended family cooked and shopped for the immediate family as they stayed by the bedside of the great-grandmother. When she did pass away at 10:00 on Wednesday night, the family stayed up all night with her. This is the custom in Honduras to always stay awake and stay with the loved one until she/he is buried. When we tried to explain the what we do in the States, their question was "you just leave them alone?"
So the next day was the visitation part of the funeral. All day people come by the house and bring flowers or candles. Large candles were continuously burned until she was carried to funeral part of the funeral. The entire house was full of least 50 different people all day as people would come in and out and give their condolences. The body was placed in the center of the main room with the candles and flowers and people all around. We brought a plant and sat with the family a good while. They were planning on doing the funeral part of the funeral in the evening but a grandson had been trying to fly back from the States and had not arrived yet. So they decided to wait until the next morning. Which meant that the entire family was going to stay up all night to be with their loved one.

So Kalin and I thought we would visit with them and stay up as long as we could. So we spent the night talking with the family about their grandmother, how life was in Gracias 50 years ago, how life was 90 years ago. About the time when they had didn't use the currency of Lempiras that they have now; they used something that sounded like "unnas." We told ghost stories and drank pepsi with rum, and later on as the Grandson from the states arrived pepsi with vodka with the family. Kalin helped serve food and talked with the women of the family. The kids of the family were allowed to stay up as long as they could. Most of them were still awake when we got two sleepy around 1:45 am.

The next day was the funeral. The entire procession began at the house as they carried the casket in the back of a decorated truck from the house about 8 blocks to the main catholic church. The procession walked along with the truck to the church. In the church seemed like more of a mass then a funeral service; as the Great-grandmother was mentioned and talked about but the service was not focused on her, the standard parts of the mass: standard songs, standard readings, the Lord's Supper, all took place which to me put the focus on God. From there the entire procession walked the 10 blocks to the Cemetery. There was no service at grave site just a member or two form the family thanking all of the people for coming and being so supportive and then a spontaneous song about Jesus started by one the older Ladies as the buried her. The graves as you can see from the picture below are usually quite decorative and rarely are very deep. To the left of where she was buried you can see one of many little houses constructed over the grave sites. Her grave however was a modest concrete enclosure.
It did not end there, though the family and us included all went home for nap. That evening and for the next nine evenings they are having memorial services at their house. I think the ninth one will be at the grave site. The memorial services that I saw were all well attended, and similar with candles and flowers.
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Friday, October 1, 2010

September 2010 (in pictures)

Mayor and his wife came over for dinner

We invited the mayor over for dinner one day last month, which was a good idea at first, but we didn't have any money left, however we managed to make some macoroni and cheese and green beans and chicken. Here is a photo from that night.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Human Rights

Kalin and I have now been in Honduras for over year and half now, and of all the places we have worked the most remote has been the two unique villages of Montana Verde.  For this reason I was very surprised to an article about human rights violations involving two of the nicest guys we have worked with: Leonardo and Marcelino Miranda.  Apparently

"Marcelino and Leonardo Miranda were arrested on January 8, 2003, in a military-style midnight attack on their community and were tortured -- severely beaten, burned with cigarettes, forced to carry heavy loads hung by the neck, and partially asphyxiated by repeated submersion underwater -- by many of 28 police and special forces agents involved"

As if that was not enough they were arrested for false charges of assault, murder, etc.

Marcelino spent two years in prison, and his brother was there longer, there are reports of them being beaten in prison. They were released before their 29 year sentence.

I think the first article I linked gives more of background of why the police would target these guys located so far away from the rest of honduran infrastructure.

So we finished the designs for the two water systems for the villages of Planes and Vertientes of Montana Verde in December, but since  Kalin and her counterpart organization have ran into various problems getting funding for the project.  At first the problems were due to the fact that community owned the land ( which I didn't think was that big of a deal).  Other problems have been the mayor that initiated the project did not get reelected, the organization that was originally in charge of the funding seems to be falling apart.

Each water system including Dam, Conduction Line, Tank, and lines to every house will cost roughly $100,000. The 84 houses in Vertientes and 92 in Planes, which is about 500 people who live in each community. So it will take an initial investment of $200 per person to have potable water for the next 20 years. However, in a community, where people don't make money, they barter and in live a communal system, $200 is more than they would make in a lifetime.

It is just strange to read about people we have met and know pretty well in an article about human rights, when you know the people involved, when you have sat and eaten at their table, it makes the problems real. They are not just names; they have families and houses and live peacefully up on a beautiful mountain.

Marcelino is good, generous. guy, he cares and acts for his community.
Marcelino was our main contact for the Montana Verde Project, here he is with Kalin carrying our topographic equipment (45lbs) up the 3 hour hike up hill to the villages.

Here I am with Leonardo we were hiking in the rain the source of water.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Ferria Pictures

Kalin in her "typical" dress
I'm not sure why there was a Sun god in the parade but here is Kalin with her accesories.

Kalin and Lempira

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Kalin La India Bonita

There is a big Fair in Gracias every 20th of July where they commemorate a local native indian hero Lempira who never surrendered to the spanish and was assassinated during treaty talks.  In this fair there were several parades and Kalin was in one of them.
This week was the most culturally busy week in Gracias. There were art shows, poetry reading,  symphony, and a reenactment of the assassination of Lempira in the middle of the municipal park. There were several beauty pageants throughout the week to crown the India Bonita.  

This particular parade Kalin was in with work partners (the technical unit of the 5 municipalities). 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

One year in Site Party

On May 15 we completed one year in Site; so we invited our work partners to our house for a party.
There was Karaoke, food and fun. I threatened one of the guys I work that his karaoke might end up on the internet for the whole world to see.

We also got invited to our neighboors birthday party. He turned 6 years old. It was a very big fiesta.

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Pespire Trip

So a couple of weeks ago we went back to visit our host family when we lived in Pespire Choluteca. We had forgotten just how hot it is there; and it reminded us how lucky we are to live in cool Gracias Lempira.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Corrupción y Pobreza

So I met a guy the other day in a village, and we talking about development in general. And he, without explaining it, refered to Electricity arriving to a Village as "corruption."  Later he explained that the electricity  is not necessarily the problem, but the normally the first thing a family buys after a light is a Television. Though the introduction of  lights also drastically change the social aspect of the village, television does the most damage.  Not only do the constant commercials educate the people that they don't have what they need to be happy. But the programs themselves, like telenovelas, preach several types of mistruths. 

I met another guy who never referred to his town or Honduras in general as being a "poor" place. He would say there are abundant natural resources and that he feels rich to have a familly that loves him and a community that supports him.

2 thoughts that got me thinking.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Amol and Celaque

These are our friends we climbed Celaque with. We didn't go all the way to the top this time.

Our puppy went hiking with us!

This is the village where I worked this week. It's name is Amol, which I'm not sure what it means. When I asked the people here, they said I chinese person gave them the name, trying to say "Amor". Who knows. Conditions were pretty good, while the rest of the country was having record highs, the temperature was kind of chilly every day with a lot of cloud cover. It rained two of the three nights I stayed there. The first night I shared a room with the lady that cooked my food and her granddaughter. She warned me before we fell asleep that she snores. hehe. The next two nights I had a room by myself with a bed that was just a little bit shorter than me. This village was about 4 hours from where I live. Three hours in car and 1 hour in horseback. There are about 20 houses here and there is no electricity, but there are latrines! I finished the topo study for the water system while I was there, so I'll be working on the design this week!

The lady in the top row was Maria, the one that cooked for me. The little window that you see behind the group was the window to my bedroom.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April Work

Kalin is currently in an Aldea (kind of like suburb) of San Sabastian right now working on the
topographic survey for the design of a potable water system. This is her meeting with the community
to assess their needs.
The first time I have been able to use Google Earth to help design a water system was in Palos Blancos an Aldea of El Progresso. Here is one of the houses, they remind me of beach houses because they are all on stilts. Here is the kml file of Palos Blancos.

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Our Cousin Rob Johnson came to visit us during Holy week this year. We made a quick trip to the North Coast where we stayed just a couple of days in small Garifuna Village. This picture is taken from an excursion we went on at a national park penisula where saw howler monkeys.

This is Rob enjoying the freshly caught freshly fried fish.

Just before Rob got there we had a visit from the new Volunteers who will soon be arriving at their sites. Kalin took the opportunity to give a charla to some elementary school students on how to protect your water source and surrounding microshed.

Our one remaining site-mate left in April (we may get new one(s) soon), we had her despedida (going away party) and our local castle. The piñata was yellow dinosuar named Anna.
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