|George, Shannon, Jayson, Brian, Vance, Chad, Ralph, Bob, Carolyn, Jamie|
This was my first mission trip, Jayson's 3rd. He and Chad had been on several other drilling trips to other Central American countries but this time they both brought their wives along. It worked out great since the 4 of us get along really well and Chad and Jayson tend to get into trouble when left unsupervised.
Keep in mind that this was 2 years ago and although I did keep a journal during the trip, my journals really aren't good for much of anything. I write down bits and pieces of stuff that makes perfect sense at the time but when I go back and read it later I have no idea what I was talking about. You would think that knowing this might prompt me to change the way I journal. Yeah, not so much.
The flight from Houston to San Pedro Sula, Honduras was just under 3 hours long which is not bad at all. I sat between Jayson and some guy who didn't speak English and looked like a Mexican Gida. You would have to know my Gida (Lebanese for grandfather) to understand this and then you would be amused. I thought maybe Mexican Gida was from Honduras and was on his way back home, but after a lot of sign language, my really bad Spanish and his really bad English, I discovered that he was from Jersey City and was going on vacation to Honduras. Okay. It was an honest mistake. After all, I'm sure people from New Jersey get mistaken for Honduran nationals all the time.
I wasn't exactly buying Mexican Gida's vacation story but he was a funny little man and was sticking with his story so I let it go. We were served a little breakfast on the flight and when Mexican Gida saw that I wasn't eating anymore he asked, in broken English mixed with a lot of gesturing, if I was going to eat my cardboard muffin. I said no and offered it to him and he eagerly accepted. I couldn't imagine how hungry I would have to be to eat food off a stranger's tray on an airplane. Jersey City my eye.
Before we landed, I decided to leave a little guerrilla art on the plane. I doodled all over an airsick bag wrote "Have a First Class Hurl - Compliments of Continental Airlines" on it. I put it back in the little seat pocket hoping it would put a smile on the face of the next person who puked in it.
|Honduran child and baby|
|Vance brushing at the drilling site.|
|Loading the party bus!|
|A man on his porch in Sonaguera|
|Sonaguera school room|
The in-country folks were a lot of fun and very helpful. Emilio, who led the drilling teams, was very charismatic and outgoing. I thought he was Garifuna but when I asked he said his family is from the Cayman Islands and he is not black. He started babbling on about Columbus and slaves and about how if he went to Africa he would be eaten. Yadira, who led the hygiene training, just rolled her eyes at Emilio and said he's crazy cuz he's just as black as the Africans are. The whole thing was really pretty hilarious. Nugget was sort of the helper/errand boy and apparently was named for his love of chicken nuggets. He also has 80 brothers and sisters (not an exaggeration, his dad was very...busy) so he's probably just glad his parents remembered to name him at all.
We spent another day drilling at the little school, playing with kids, blowing bubbles, doing crafts, hygiene training and just loving that little community. Over the next few days, 8 out of our 11 team members started taking turns being sick with some pretty serious tummy issues. We're not sure exactly where it came from...maybe the hotel was washing our dishes in their water or maybe it was in the lunches at the drill sit that were made by some women in the Sonaguera. We were all very diligent with the hand sanitizer and a couple of us brought Cipro along so no one stayed down for longer than 24 hours.
The drilling team hit water but also hit solid rock at 30' deep. The recovery rate was not enough to make a viable well so we were forced to pull casing and call it done. It was heartbreaking for the whole team, we so desperately wanted this little school to have fresh water. It was extremely difficult to leave those children no better off than when we got there. I was especially fond of a little boy named Juan Carlos who brought me oranges one day. He was such a cutie and already a schmoozer.
Emilio arranged for us to drill at another school not far from the last one. This school was in a much more affluent area of Sonaguera and had 500 kids! We so did NOT have enough yarn for 500 kids so we'd have to figure something else out. Drilling was slow getting started because of some minor problems with the rig that had to be repaired. This school was much more structured than the last one so we didn't get to spend a lot of time with the kids. Apparently at this school they had to actually attend class. Jamie, Carolyn and I passed the time by seeing who could smack their gum the loudest.
Jamie and I learned the hard way that when someone is speaking to you in a language you don't understand, it's not always a good idea to just smile and nod since you never know what you're agreeing to. Apparently we accidentally agreed to teach English classes to 4th, 5th and 6th graders. We couldn't have been more surprised when the English teacher handed us his notebook and a couple of dry erase markers and led us into a classroom full of children looking to us for cultural enrichment. We were both so totally out of our element and had no clue what to do, but we made it up as we went along and I guess it went okay. The kids seemed to enjoy it and the teacher didn't yell at us.
During our down times, we played with the kids at recess and Juan Carlos even showed up one day on his bicycle. Chad and Jayson found various ways to keep themselves entertained and the kids in trouble. Chad ran around the schoolyard trying to slap a random pig that was rooting through the trash. Then Chad and Jayson saw some kids swinging from palm fronds and they thought that looked like a good idea so they joined them. I don't think it's a coincidence that Jayson ended up with a torn rotator cuff a few months later. La Professora (the principal) yelled at some kids who climbed up on the roof to get a frisbee because Jayson told them to. Oops.
|The little blue church where we peed.|
Our last work day was the well dedication and also happened to be Jamie's birthday. The teachers made a birthday cake for her and fed us what they called "tacos". They were deep fried tortillas filled with chicken and covered with a red sauce and parmesan, which they called white cheese. I'm not sure if they were really as good as I remember, or if anything would have been good after a week of albino turds. The teachers served us in a classroom and covered the serving table with what was probably their best paper tablecloth...it had holly and Christmas candles all over it. How sweet is that?
I really wanted to know how to make their tacos so Yadira translated while one of the teachers gave me the recipe. I was furiously writing down everything Yadira translated for me when I finally realized that she was giving me instructions on how to make tortillas. She went on and on and on about the tortilla making process and I just didn't have the heart to tell her that we can buy those already made. What I really wanted to know was what was in the sauce. It's something called adobo sauce, which apparently they can buy like ketchup and they were completely surprised that I had no idea what they were talking about. Yadira said the sauce is tomatoes, onions, water and cumin. I have a feeling there's more to it than that but I think Yadira was feeling sorry for me because I couldn't buy it already made like they can...sorta like how I was feeling about the tortillas. That's okay, it's not like I'm ever going to actually try to make them. I just wanna know how.
|Jamie on the virtual zip line|
|Two peas in a pod with no common sense|
We had an early flight out the next day and an uneventful trip back to civilization. At the Houston airport we said our goodbyes to the Houston team then grabbed a bite to eat. I actually enjoyed all the beans and rice we were served during the week so I wasn't really craving anything except non-toxic ice and a slightly less deadly showering experience.
It was a great trip and I'm especially glad we got to know and spend some time with Vance. What were the big things I learned on this trip? 1. Never complain about any aspect of my life because I am blessed well beyond what I deserve. 2. Treasure every moment spent with a friend. 3. Never let my candy run loose in the suitcase when traveling overseas.