Exploring My New World
By this time, I'd been meeting people, and exploring the neighboring villages. Unfortunately, I had yet to see my Honduran counterparts in the Natural Resources Department. They stayed two hours away in Camasca. Occasionally, they road through the area on motorcycle, but mostly they were of no help whatsoever. Once I went to visit, and found them sitting in the office doing nothing. One of them, who made a slight effort was V. He connected me with a group in a town further west called Jiquinlaca, but it never really worked out. I had become almost completely responsible for finding farmers who might want to learn about hillside farming. My Spanish was still rather rough, and the planting season had not started. There was little work to do, except continue meeting people and hoping for the best. Even when farmers suggested they might be interested in working, they would change their minds. It was all quite frustrating.
By this time, I had about ten admirers who seemed very serious, and I was just confused and sick of all of them. They didn't know me, so what could they really go on? Now, a new admirer. M. tried to get my attention. He really liked me, but he was an alcoholic, and I never wanted anything to do with him. As the only American in town, I really stuck out, and attracted a lot of attention from everybody. Many of my little neighbor friends visited every day. X. came every Saturday, and helped me do my laundry, while her mother, V., went to the market. It was a wonderful, if slightly nerve racking time.
There were older students who would come by and visit, because the math and English professor lived off the same courtyard. One particular young man, named B. (bottom right), was a really nice kid. He would come by with friends and visit me. Shortly after we met, I found out that he tried to escape to the US. He got captured in Guatemala, and thrown into jail for four days without food only water. This story made me sad, especially since I never saw him again. When he'd gotten home, he hadn't gone out for a month, and he'd gotten very sick. That's desperation for you.
One night quite early, I was getting ready for bed, because there was no electricity. I heard noise coming from the teacher's room, and his friend was over. This friend was the one who had made a makeshift closet for me, and delivered it with his whole family in towe. The two men were drinking beers and offered me one, which I accepted. This seemed rather wild to them, since women didn't drink. I ended up staying there for about an hour, and we had a wonderful time talking and laughing.
The next day, I had arranged to visit V. and her daughter X. for her tenth birthday. I was planning on taking some pictures as a small birthday present. V. was married to a man ten years her junior. She was about 42. He was there, and so were her three older children. We had a festive time, and I was invited to spend the night. She had a spacious house with a kitchen and one grand room with hammocks and beds for sleeping. The floor was cement, which was quite posh, and all the walls were white-washed. Unfortunately, she had no bathroom or even pit toilet, so we had to go in the great outdoors. This was quite shocking, since her husband had lived in the US for two or three years, and he earned enough money to make this nice house. He didn't participate in the water project, when it came to town; so, they never got a toilet. In the front of the house, she had a chicken coop with four chickens, which laid eggs daily.
One day, I decided to go and visit La Guaruma without V. That wasn't the best idea, because I got lost. I even ended up going across the Rio Negro with a new sweet friend J., who had a three year old who was still nursing. People made fun of this situation, but it seemed to work for her; because the girl was really healthy, and J. hadn't gotten pregnant again. Once we parted ways, I realized that I was completely lost. I stopped for a little while, where I saw a group of vultures sitting on a rock. It reminded me of a sinister movie scene, so I stayed for awhile, but then I felt that I had to get going. Fortunately, I found some people who I had met, standing out in front of their property. They pointed straight up a hill, telling me that was the way to get back to Concepcion. I went up the hill, and finally found the main road. What a day!
Another time, I checked out a town that was down the hill from V's house. It was called Ojo de Agua. The people were all extremely hopeless, and only wanted me to somehow get them up to the United States. One of my admirers lived there. He was particularly scary, because he had a lost look in eyes, and it appeared that he was looking through me. I never went back there, and V. agreed about their hopelessness. It was rather a disturbing experience, but I was glad she supported me in the decision not to return.
In the beginning of November, a sixth grader's mother asked to be the witness for her daughter's graduation. They were walking down the path, when they stopped me. At first, I didn't understand what she was asking, because I didn't even know them. As the mother explained a little, I began to understand what was expected. It sounded fun to be part of the graduation, and bring her a little gift. They were lucky they asked me early, because I soon got other invitations! I attended the graduation as her witness, and I met her family and some teachers. It was a sweet event.
Right after this, our Presidential election took place. Some Peace Corps Volunteers assembled in La Esperanza to listen to the radio, as Bill Clinton won. It was exciting, but not as great as it could have been; since I had requested my ballot three times in different ways, but never received it. I was completely unable to vote in the 1992 presidential election. The registrar finally sent me my voter information for the June primary in 1994, but I was completely uninformed by that time. It was really disappointing, because I've always voted, and tried so hard. The registrar has to do better for American citizens who are working in foreign countries. I wasn't the only who had this problem, so we commiserated together.
At this time, I also befriended a nice woman, named D., who lived in La Esperanza. She was a maid for one of the volunteers, but I enjoyed visiting her more than any American there. She became a great support to me. I always went to visit her, whenever I was in town for the weekend. Sometimes, I even stayed with her family, when I was in La Esperanza.