Friday, May 04, 2007

Good morning everyone, I pretty much start every blog with, it has been awhile, I’m sorry for the delay and I promise to do better next time so I’ll skip it for now. Things have been good in site. I’ve been teaching grades seven through nine English and ninth grade everything else. I’m working on a fish pond project. I’ve headed out to my friend Don Pedro Rivera’s coffee finca a few times now scouting a location and we started excavation for his pond last week. It is a bit of a hike to get out to his place, actually more than a bit. It takes me an hour and some change to get to the top of his coffee farm, where we are digging his pond. Tilapia ponds are a good way to supplement the diet’s protein intake. Tilapia require little input and initial investment and are easy to maintain. They grow quickly and can be harvested after six months. They are basically vegetarian and live off the algae that grow in non moving water. Once you have the pond excavated you need to fertilize the water with compost, animal manure, commercial fish feed, or almost anything organic. Once the water is properly fertilized you shouldn’t be able to see your hand if you stick your arm in the water up to your elbow, they like it filthy. It sounds pretty gross but fried tilapia are really, really good, especially with fried plantains.

The work is pretty tough. After the hike Don Pedro and I get to work in a muddy, filthy pit filled with huge limestone boulders. We use a pickaxe (piocha) to loosen the rocks and then carry them over to our earthen dam. We use shovels and hoes (palas y asadones) to remove the muck and fling it on the dam. Right now our pond is more or less 4 meters squared and 60 centimeters deep. We are shooting for a depth of a meter, if you go much deeper than that at this altitude the water cools and the tilapia don’t grow. Working with Don Pedro in his finca is always a treat. It is extremely well managed, he has fruit trees, hardwoods, and enormous pines. His finca is full of all kinds of wildlife and beautiful tropical birds and he is eager to point it all out. After working we always head back to his house, covered in muck and completely worn out for a snack or some coffee. Last week his wife gave me a local drink called chilate. It is a hot beverage made from boiled white corn. Chilate is typically drunk with a heaping portion of dulce, unrefined sugar from sugar cane. I really like chilate, it is a little bitter, while everything else here has tons of sugar. The dulce was a little rough; it was like eating an entire bowl of brown sugar. When in Rome I guess.

Yesterday I spent the day out at Elias’ working on his new house. I spent the day hauling buckets of mud and then using it to set huge adobe bricks. The bricks were heavier than I thought they’d be and by the end of the day I needed some serious hammock time but didn’t get any since I had to head to class. It is pretty neat building an entire house out of the earth. Even the roof tiles will be from fired clay from the area. The only wood we’ll need will be for the eaves, window shutters, and doors. Elias has started talking about wanting to go to the States again. My most memorable moment in service has been the conversation I had with Elias several months back. He constantly was asking me about the US and I would respond that yes the US was fine, but living with your family is more important. After months of discussion he finally told me that his family was more important than money and he really does like his life here. Who wouldn’t? He is living a dream here, not just the American dream but the dream of nearly everyone. He has his health and his family, his own house, and land to plant and crops to reap. He has a coffee farm, grows beans and maiz, and has fruits and vegetables in abundance year round. He is his own boss. When he’s tired he stops, when he is rested he works. And the greatest of his possessions is the peace that he lives with. People should envy this peace and the time he spends with his family. But he yearns for more. He wants to pay a coyote five thousand dollars to get across Guatemala and Mexico. He’s ready to embark on a long, difficult, and very dangerous journey by train, car and foot. He is willing to be a slave to a fifty or sixty hour work week at minimum wage and to be a nobody. In Cruz Alta he’s already a prominent member of the community, he’s a member of several committees and cooperatives and his opinion is already respected, even though he’s only 26. He wants a television and a car. He wants to pinch pennies and lose at least thirty percent of them to check cashing business and Western Union.

I guess I’m upset. I am most upset at the fact that he’s leaving two great sons and a fantastic wife to make it on their own. Far too often (and not just here) we are a generation raised without fathers. In the book Fight Club (it is hard for most people to get past the movie, the chiseled abs of Brad Pitt….but it is an excellent book) Chuck Palahniuk talks about how our fathers are our models for god. What does that say about god when our fathers abandon us? Honduras is full of sons raised by their mothers and the little money their fathers send down. They seek validation from women, thinking that status can be gained by sleeping with many, especially outside of marriage. A man who’s faithful to his wife is not a man; he needs a few viejas on the side. Birth control is not often used and the women are frequently not empowered or educated enough to ask the men to use it. And the cycle continues—more fatherless children. The men in Cruz Alta laugh when I tell them I don’t want a girlfiend here. When I tell them I have a fiancé in the states they tell me “but she’s in the states, you don’t have a girlfriend here.” I am truly blessed to have been raised by fantastic parents. I grew up in a complete household. I can’t thank god or my parents enough. I have an ideal role model in my father. Who works hard and seeks time for family, life, and improvement. I have a mother that has always been there for me no matter how great or small the need and is a model for love and understanding. I am blessed.

In three weeks I’ll complete two years living in Honduras and every day I still ask myself why am I here. I’m starting to see that the people in Cruz Alta are better off than most people in the states. They have food on their plates and shelter over their heads. They have more time than most for family and recreation. They may not have cars or designer jeans but if television and NGOs weren’t here to tell them that they’re poor they wouldn’t know it. People like Elias are seeking a standard, a standard that we’ve provided. Electricity came to La Campa (my nearest town) 4 years ago and with it came cable television. Before you got power in your house you had to sign a cable contract. And now I’m starting to see how horrible that really was. The consumer’s dream is everywhere; it is filthy and spreads like disease.

I think I’m slowly figuring out why I’m here. I’m not here for development other than for my own. I’m here to find simplicity, and gratefulness for the things I have. I can teach and I can dig fish ponds until my hands bleed and I can’t stand up, and tomorrow I will go. And in a year or so I may or may not be remembered. For the last two years I’ve lived without electricity in a little cement house, I ate simple foods, and people shared with me what they had. I love my family, my soon to be wife, and my friends. They love me in return no matter how far away I am. I love god and nature, to which I belong. I’ve never had to go without. And for all this I am truly thankful, and this is why I’m here.

I think I’ve had too much coffee and too much sun. I’m all smiles down here. And no matter how hard my parents may have tried not to they raised abit of a closet socialist. Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist, wrote a book right before the millennium called Upside Down. He talked about not being able to guess what’s coming, but at least we have the right to imagine the future we want. He proposed a new list of human rights. Here are a few:

The air shall be cleansed of all poisons except those born of human fears and human passions;

People shall not be driven by cars, or programmed by computers, or bought by supermarkets, or watched by televisions;

The television shall no longer be the most important member of the family and shall be treated like an iron or a washing machine;

People shall work for a living instead of living for work;

In no country shall young men who refuse to go to war go to jail, rather only those who want to make war;

Economists shall not measure living standards by consumption levels or the quality of life by the quantity of things;

Death and money shall lose their magical powers, and neither demise nor fortune shall make a virtuous gentleman of a rat;

Written into law shall be the crime of stupidity, committed by those who live to have or to win, instead of living just to live like the bird that sings without knowing it and the child who plays unaware that he or she is playing;

Perfection shall remain the boring privilege of the gods, while in our bungling, messy world every night shall be lived as if it were the last and very day as if it were the first,

This is what I’m shooting for. Oh man, sorry this got so long, am starting to fade so I’m off to eat some comida tipica. God bless, and I’ll see everyone soon--Joe



Blogger abs said...

Kudos, Joe. I really enjoy reading about your experiences in the PC. Take care.

10:42 AM  

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