Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things still calm...resolution nowhere in sight

Hey everyone. The update here from Honduras is that all is pretty calm. The end to this situation seems far off but we will wait and see. There are a few energized folks but for the most part the same feeling around the country. The other central American Nations have got together and decided they are going to stop shipping resources into Honduras until President Zelaya is back in. I am not sure if this will stick or how long it will last but seems a minor thing for now.

I had an interesting encounter today when I walked into the grocery store. A man in the juice isle encountered me. He told me he was the distributor for potatoes and that there were none in the store because they are not being shipped from Venezuela anymore. He preceded to tell me he was happy about this and that he was a “Chavista” (supporter of Hugo Chaves). He said it as if he really wanted me to know. I nodded only for a gesture of understanding and moved on. I am sure he said it only because I was gringo. It’s an example of the sentiment around the country, and although it is peaceful, there are still strong views out there.

Peace Corps is keeping us very informed. Here is an exerpt from an email from our country director today…

“I have spoken to a fair number of you and the vast majority describes the situation in your communities as calm and quiet. A few of you have described roadblocks in the areas nearby your communities. The best place for you to be is in your communities. At this time, I have no plans to consolidate or evacuate Volunteers.
As you have likely seen on the TV, the area around the Casa Presidencial has seen protesters supporting President Zelaya. On Sunday, (6/28) approximately 1,500 people showed up. On Monday (6/29) in the morning, about 5,000 people in support of President Zelaya protested at the Casa Presidencial. They set up barricades that blocked the Casa Presidencial and the Marriott Hotel. They were disbursed by the military and police using tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannon. By Monday afternoon, the protesters numbered about 800. There are reports are that the military and police fired in the air. One person has been reported killed after being run over by a military vehicle. A second person has been reported to have been killed by a gunshot, though it is not clear who fired the shot. About 15-30 people have been reported to be injured. This Tuesday (6/30) morning, the area around the Casa Presidencial has been cleared of protesters and the military/police has secured the area.

This Tuesday (6/30) morning, there are reports of supporters of President Zelaya at the Congress in downtown Tegucigalpa. There are reports of supporters of President Micheletti in the central park in downtown Tegucigalpa. At this time, neither of the groups is large, nor have they confronted each other”
So that’s the gist of the situation. Zelaya spoke to the UN today and is said to travel back here to Honduras on Thursday. I am not sure what will happen then but it should be a day of Peaceful Dialogue.

Peace Corps has lifted the “standfast” order and we are allowed to leave our sites but with more strict provisions. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

So there we are. I will probably return to work tomorrow and gauge the situation. But as you can imagine the focus will be on this situation for some time. I am not worried or scarred anything drastic will happen. I just hope this will get resolved soon and things will go back to their normal ways. Although, in a situation like this, that is a lot easier said than done.

…Until next time

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Military Coup in Honduras...New President

Greetings from Honduras once again. I am sure most of you know by now about the crisis here in Honduras. The president has been taken out of power by the military and Honduras has brought a new president to power. It’s being called a coup d’etat by the military but a peaceful one. The situation here is calm but many are concerned about how the country will now move forward. What I can tell you is that I am okay. Peace Corps Honduras is now on an alert level of standfast and shelter-in-place. This means that we aren’t aloud to leave our sites and have to stay in our residencies until further notice. These are all precautionary measures. After talking to volunteers all over the country the situation is calm. We are not sure what will happen in the coming days but it will most likely be peaceful and take time for the government to figure out.

This all started when President Mel Zelaya wanted to have a “caurta urna” vote. This vote would permit the government to change the constitution, specifically stretch out term limits for presidents much like Chaves did in Venezuela. However Zelaya stated it was for the people and he would not be president again. Those statements are questionable. Today was supposed to be the day there was an encuesta, or survey, to see if the people wanted to make this cautra urna as part of the elections in November. Why there is a survey to see if a vote can even take place is beyond me. In short, today was the day to vote to see if there should be a vote.

However, the coup happened and the encuesta will not take place. The military, congress, and judicial branch were all against the cuarta urna and the Supreme Court even ruled it illegal. President Zelaya was pushing through it though as he said this is what the people want. Over the past week he gradually pinning himself against his own government but there were people on his side. According to the government, he was going against the constitution but President Zelaya said he was in fact doing what the constitution said he could do.

Now many countries are around the world are denouncing the coup by the military and the US government is stating its against democracy. President Zelaya was motivated a lot by legacy along with his buddies in Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia. We will see what comes in the following week.

To understand how something like this happens you have to understand the culture, the politics, and the way things work down here. It’s complicated and still a bit confusing to me. What I will say is that this situation was not a huge surprise. Hopefully Honduras will figure this out them selves…but we will see what happens. I am glad Obama said no other countries should interfere with the current situation.

Alright, so all in all I am fine, safe, and comfortable. I will update here if there are any huge changes.

…until next time

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers Day...and yeah, it's wet here

Happy Fathers day. I am no father (I don’t think…just kidding…hopefully) but I want to say Happy Father’s Day to great man, my father, and two other great men, my two grandfathers. Thanks for your continuing support and guidance. Here’s to you.

And sorry for taking a long time for this blog, as usual the weeks have passed quickly under my nose. So here I sit on a Sunday in Honduras. The rain is pouring down hard as it has been every afternoon/night this week. The only problem today is that my washed clothes are hanging outside to dry. Ah well, I guess they will just get a second rinse…a little more freshness. On Friday it was raining harder than I have ever seen in my life…it was like movie rain. The streets turned into rivers. A group of us decided to go out to pizza and I decided that even though I didn’t have an umbrella or rain jacket I would take on the two blocks of down pour. This equals a terrible idea. By the time I made it to the restaurant I might as well have jumped in a pool. Needless to say it was a wet dinner.

All in all I am warming up to Santa Rosa here. It’s been over a month in site and it has flown by. Initially I was a bit overwhelmed. Projects got thrown at me right away and dealing with change was tough. As time goes I begin to figure it out. I am meeting more people and feeling more at home. The work continues to pull at me as I try to figure out what types of projects will be the best for this big community. Since my main counterpart, and well, office, is so big and developed, I haven’t begun to explore any personal work with the people directly. Right now I am developing a new website for this NGO, doing graphic design work for the promotions office, and attempting to develop a weekly TV show. I am not sure when the TV show will take off but the others are up and running. Not exactly what one thinks about when doing Peace Corps right? I didn’t think so either. Funny thing is I didn’t know I was neither a web designer nor a graphic designer. I am teaching myself quickly and it is fun actually. While the work is fun I am going to continue to explore more grass roots and needs based work in the town.

The culture I am beginning to soak up too and making friends is an important part. Soccer brings everyone together in Latin America and it did for our office during the USA vs Honduras soccer game. A lot of us got together and watched it at a co-workers house. It was the Hondurans, the German volunteers here in town, and us Peace Corps Volunteers together in one place for the event. It was the whole gathering against us, the North Americans. In Latin America calling yourself an “American” is no bueno. Here they see themselves as Americans too as they live in Central America and others in South America. They remind me that the word America is a Latin American name after someone in Columbus’ exploration party who claims both continents are indeed one big America. They do have a strong point…but I digress. Anyway, so USA was victorious and we gloated a little, but the Hondurans were gracious in defeat, and we all decided we would continue late into the night celebrating.

The adventures continue here in Honduras and I love them. I have visited many sites on day trips to explore more of Honduras and the west. I had to take another trip to Tegucigalpa and took my first bus ride from my site to the Peace Corps office. The 8 ½ hour bus ride is not so bad and I get to see the beautiful countryside.

I also have my quiet moments where I sit and ponder about my time here thus far and of course my friends and family in the states whom I miss very much. This is a very tough part. Everyday I wish I could see them and have some good times together. But life here is an eye opener and speaks a lot about the country we are from, our quality of life and its role in the global community. Life just isn’t the same in other parts of the world and everyday we need to remember how fortunate we are to be from the country we are…and be proud of that. We need to remember that we are a global community and whatever we can do to get others going with us, to work as if we are all a team and not in competition, will only make us all stronger. This is why I chose to do Peace Corps, and I will do my best to make what small change I can, to give those who have so much less than us, the opportunity to take a step ahead. I try to remember this in my work, and try to put it to action.

Whoo yeehaaa…alright got a little serious there and this blog is getting long and I have got to go. Again Happy Fathers Day to all fathers and miss you all in the states. I have a video here too but just want to note that I might be writing more and doing videos less; every couple of blogs. Maybe I should just take more pictures. We will see how it goes though.

…Until next time

Monday, June 1, 2009

It isn't always easy...

Hello everyone,

How are ya? I am doing okay. Received some not so great news this week. A great friend of the family passed away this week. Nick Isom was a stand up guy who battled cancer for a very long time. His family is very close to ours so much that his brother married my cousin Jenny. Rob, you and your family are in my thoughts. I am very sorry I can’t be there for you man. For those of you who didn’t know Nick you would have liked him…just a great guy. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

And then the earthquake hit too. I am just fine and the next day it was as if not much had happened. People were asking a lot if I was okay and I am. Thanks for your concern.

Honestly the days have been tough here in Santa Rosa. I was overwhelmed by the city and now have some pretty serious work to get done. I work at an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) named ADELSAR that provides services to stimulate development in Santa Rosa and the outlying small villages. My job is to help with the promotion and spreading the word about the organization. The problem is people don’t really understand that my Spanish is less than stellar, that my role as a Peace Corps volunteer is to be a resource for the whole community and not just ADELSAR, and that all this is very new to me. Needless to say it’s been a tough transition. It’s been a rocky week and a half. I have trouble sleeping and my motivation rocks back and forth. I miss my family and friends greatly.

But hey, this is what its all about. I didn’t expect things to be easy here. The hardest part really isn’t the work, its adapting to the culture and way of life which is a big challenge. It will only get better with time and I have some other great volunteers here in town helping me out too.

On to other things…

I also arranged my room here in beautiful Santa Rosa de Copan. Its amazing what 20 bricks and 3 sheets of plywood will do to a room. Add a chair and some other organizational tactics and I have a standard Peace Corps room. Accessories will be added later. My fan is blowing because I am sweating in here like that pilot from Airplane. Haven’t seen the movie Airplane? Do yourself a favor and check it out. Leslie Neilson is at his finest and there are classic others. But I digress…

Santa Rosa doesn’t get too hot (for Honduras, not too hot is 80-85 degrees). However it’s rainy season and that means it gets pretty humid. Everyday around 5:00pm the strong clouds roll in, a thunderstorm hits, and the rain starts coming down. I sweat everyday, which is probably the reason I have lost 12 pounds...and I don’t need to lose weight.

So now I will end this blog with a quintessential Peace Corps story. The night I write this blog I went to hop in the shower. Before I step into my haven of cleanliness, I remember I need to do push ups. Why? I have no clue. So I return to my room and realize there are many what I call ant flies (I think they are termites) near my window. The window is broken (it had been for a while) and they are entering rapidly. I kill them and my host brother runs into tape a plastic bag to the window to close it off. I continue to kill the damn bugs. After a sweaty drawn out process the situation is under control. I walk out of the house to check out the other side of the window and its fine. I walk back in and there is a gecko right where the bugs were. It takes me 10 minutes to catch and another 5 for my host brother to stop laughing at me. I do my push ups and get into the shower. Sometimes its just the little things that get to me.

Its been a weird week. There are obstacles here and there and the standard difficulties that come with being in a new country with a new way of living. But such is the journey and such is life. It’s only making me stronger and more aware of my purpose here.

I want to end by again saying please keep the Isom family in your thoughts. And prayers. Rest In Peace Nick Isom…you will be missed.

Until next time…