Chelly's Honduras Page
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Chelly's Honduras Page
Chelly's Honduras Page
Chelly and Prithika have been on site at El Carbón for about a month. She said that Hurricane Mitch damaged most of the infrastructure in the area to some extent. She and Prithika have been working with the villagers to restore the trail to the famous waterfall, La Cascada, which would allow ecotourism to resume and begin generating badly-needed income for the town.
Their hut was also damaged by the hurricane, so they've been "remudding" the walls, with some timely assistance from their neighbors. This has been a good season for mice and scorpions, so they're they're now in the market for a cat.
We've posted her first pictures from El Carbón in the Photo Album and also her first letter. I think you'll agree that the El Carbón area has magnificent prospects for eco-tourism (e.g., see the "La Mosquitia" link, below.)
If you'd like to write Chelly, she has a new address, below.
Please consider a donation to the Red Cross International Disaster Fund.
September 25th, 1998
I'm having the best time so far. We had that one day of staging in Miami and then left the next morning for Honduras. Our plane ride lasted about 2 hours. I had a window seat, unfortunately right over the wing, but I got to see the northern Honduras coast as we flew over. As we got further inland, all I could do was stare out of the window in amazement. We barely cleared some mountains and swooped down over Tegucigalpa on the other side. I felt like I was in the movies. We kept descending lower and lower until we could basically wave out the windows at people on the ground. Next, our pilots' stunt flying skills became apparent as he dropped the left wing perpendicular to the ground and we made a 180 degree turn. I swear the wing couldn't have been more than 20 feet from the ground when we did this. I wasn't the only one with white knuckles. We finished the turn just as we landed and the fist thing I saw was a soccer game
We had no trouble going through customs and nobody looked at our bags (except the 10 yr. old boys outside) There was one boy in front of the airport that would not leave me (out of 40 of us) alone. He asked for my money as I tipped the baggage handler and he was promptly shooed away kicking and screaming. Then he came back and asked for my water. We got on an old school bus and went to the headquarters, which is really nice. All of the staff is great, esp. the director. We will be trained in Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia is beautiful!) At headquarters we were given MMR and Polio vaccines. I only needed the Polio. The associate PC director of Natural Resources went around and found all the Resource Naturales (NR) trainees and talked to all of us. He already knew a lot about me. All the forestry volunteers are now NR volunteers. There are 8 of us. Six with liberal arts type degrees which are given the title of "community forestry extension" and one other girl and me with biology degrees were given title of "forest management specialists". There is really no difference between the two titles.
There are also some current PCVs at the headquarters who were eager to give out information. One girl told me that gunfire at night in Olancho is very common. Those family feuds are still alive and kicking. She said not to worry, though, because all the gunfire is mostly at the cantinas and is solely to resolve vendettas because it it the only form of justice in those parts. I have also seen some amazing pictures of Olancho that appeared in a recent "Outside" magazine. After we all got our shots we got on a bus again (did I mention the rifle carrying guards (vigilantes) standing at the gate?). The bus took us through some interesting parts of town where I saw roosters and kids running in their underwear. Not the rooster of course! We barely made it up and over another mountain.
We had our retreat at an inn. The "retreat" was jam packed full of paperwork and stuff we needed to know. Last night I got my family assignment. I have been the most nervous about this (mostly because I can't speak very freely yet). After lunch today we left the inn and took the rickety bus to Santa Lucia. We had to drive back through Tegucigalpa to get there so upon arriving in Santa Lucia we felt like we had gone through L.A. to the Hollywood Hills. (i.e. it is very nice here) I think I'm living with one of the more privileged families. They have a shower and it is in the bathroom.
After a couple hours at the training center, we went to a party that our host moms were throwing for us and got our first chance to meet them. My host mother is 34 years of age. Her husband is a programmer (computers) and she is a secretary. I have a sister who is 16, a brother who is 15 and a little brother who is 4. They are all very nice even though I can't hold a good conversation with them. At the host mothers' party they gave us dinner and had some high school students do some dances. Each aspirant (trainee) stood up with their mother and she introduced herself and the trainee. Then a bunch of men, some wearing cowboy hats got up and sang accompanied by guitars and an accordion. They were really good.
I walked home with my host mom. She showed me my room which is her 16 year old daughter's room. Her daughter is staying in another room for now. The house is really big. I have posters of Leonardo DiCaprio on my walls and also a Latin American band named "Mercucio" which I've never heard of. The room is very nice. I also have 3 square meals a day and my laundry is done once a week. I have to wash my own underwear, though. Tomorrow, my group is supposed to go on a hike, but I have been bitten by something on my ankle and it has swollen up. My host mom said I should see the nurse before I go. However, I took something for it and it already seems to be helping. Note on Internet cafes -- people only tend to check their email once a month tops. They're not cheap.
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PCV Chelly Richards
Voluntario del Cuerpo de Paz
San Esteban Olancho
January 11, 1999
Prithika and I have been here for 3 days and it seems so much has happened. The bus ride here started out great. We were making good time until about 4 hours away from our site, when we had to get out and carry all our stuff past a traffic jam of semis, through a big mud pit with a big truck lying on its side, past another traffic jam, to another bus.
We had so much stuff compared to everyone else. I took as much as I could carry and left Prithika with the rest. When I finally got to the second bus I tried to explain to the bus people that we needed help. Luckily, I ran into a man who spoke perfect English. He said he lived in Nashville and was in the US military. He sent people to grab the rest of our bags and made sure they got on the bus.
When the bus left us and all our stuff on the side of the road in El Carbón, kids came out of the woodwork. They followed us, carrying various pieces of our luggage back to our house, where the woman who had been watching it was cleaning it up for us. Lots of people came to visit us, but we were so hungry and tired that we had to close the doors, scrounge together some non-perishables that Kate and Kevin (our Peace Corps predecessors) left in the house, and go to sleep. Oh, yeah, we bathed at the place where tubing is temporarily bringing water to the community basin and carried water back on our heads. I walked under a branch that was too low and knocked the bucket off my head. All our neighbors got a big laugh.
Melissa , the closest PC volunteer to us - 15 minutes by bus - sent some boys with a note asking if we wanted her to show us around San Esteban (the closest large town, about a 45-minute bus ride). We met her on the bus the next morning. There we met Ben, another PCV, ate breakfast, and went around town buying stuff we needed, like food, water, and candles.
When we got back to El Carbon, we were met by some people who said that they were just about to have a community meeting and they invited us. It turns out that the Spanish have donated a lot of money for training and materials so that the Pech (the local Indian tribe whose members make up most of El Carbon) can rebuild with cement 240 new houses and a community center. They've started on the community center already and will start on the houses in mid-February. The project will last 2 years. They gave us a chance to introduce ourselves and seemed really happy we were there.
Everyone still talks about Kevin and Kate, asking us if they've already flown home, when they're coming back, and when they'll be sending packages with pictures and letters. I only hope we make as big an impression on the lives of these people as they did.
Yesterday, we went through everything K & K left for us and got it all organized. With the books they left for us, plus the ones the two of us brought, we've got a nice little library going. When I finish the book I'm reading now, Ulysses (Joyce's) is my next endeavor. Armed with my dictionary, I can read anything! Send me more books! (Next time Iím at the PC office in Tegucigalpa, Iím going to look into signing up for the GRE.)
After we finished fixing up the house, we went for our baths and carried water back on our heads -- Prithika dropped hers this time. While we were preparing dinner, I heard a weird noise outside. I opened the door and water was coming out of the faucet to the basin outside for the first time since the Hurricane (Mitch, in early November, killed an estimated 6,000 people in Honduras and destroyed most of the country's infrastructure). We were really excited.
Tomorrow we're going to visit Melissa at her site - Joco Mico. She's going to Tegus at the end of the week for her 1-year physical (PCV's ordinarily do a 2-year tour). I'm going to give her this letter to mail, since to mail letters in San Esteban, you have to use stamps you bought in some major city. On Wednesday, we're going to visit some people in town and the go to the feria (fair). Thursday, Ö guess we'll just read. Friday weíre going to San Esteban to eat dinner with some PCVs we havenít met yet and maybe one from our group. So thatís our first week.
Weíve been cooking gourmet meals every night. K & K left some good spices and Prithika brought some Indian spices, so just about everything tastes great. We discovered that we can make some great tortillas and have eaten them for the past couple of days. We drink a lot of coffee and a lot of tea. While youíre at it, please send us some recipes. Even if we canít find all the ingredients, we do really well when we improvise. Tell everybody Iíll be writing them in the next few weeks.
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Story Source: Personal Web Site
This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Honduras; PCVs in the Field - Honduras
By Chelly Richards on Saturday, November 16, 2002 - 10:32 pm: Edit Post|
Sorry! My page has been taken down. If you'd like to know more about my Peace Corps service, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks! --- Chelly