Honduras Journal – Day One

There is no way I could do this for every day, but I’ve always wanted to keep a log of what a day working in the children’s home here in Honduras is like. When a day starts, of course, there is absolutely no way to predict how it will play out, and I’ve finally decided there is no such thing as a truly typical day here. I ended up logging both Friday and Saturday of this past week, and thought I’d share them here on my blog. Today I’m posting Friday, and I’ve scheduled Saturday for tomorrow. Enjoy!

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FRIDAY, April 9, 2010 – Villa Alicia, near Siguatepeque, Honduras

6:30 am – Marissa taps me on the arm to wake me up. I do a poor job of stifling a groan, then start mentally reciting the first ten verses of John chapter one in Spanish, which I’ve been memorizing during the sermons I’m unable to understand, while I try to convince my muscles to function. I can’t give them very long to respond, as I have to be presentable by breakfast time.

7:00 am – The buzzer sounds. I gulp a mug of Coke and two Tylenols and make the 50 yard trek to the dining room as quickly as my aching joints will allow. Sitting down to the table, I discover my worst breakfast nightmare has come true this morning – fried eggs. This is possibly the only breakfast here that I can’t even make a brave show of eating. I fantasize about passing up the main course entirely and going straight for the banana bread and yogurt on the bar, but decide to behave myself and nibble on a piece of toast made from the bread we baked yesterday while I wait for the more grateful breakfasters to finish their eggs. Favi and I exchange a quick grin when “Padre Nuestro” is announced as grace, and I reach for the cheat sheet she wrote for me Wednesday night at church. I wonder briefly if it might have been a better choice for my memory project this month.

7:20 am – The bell announces the end of breakfast, and in a matter of moments, the room springs to life with people clearing tables, carrying their plates, silverware, cups, and serving dishes to the serving bar where the cooks quickly sort the incoming items – dirty dishes lined up by the sink, leftovers into appropriate containers, and ketchup bottles back to the refrigerator. Milk pitchers are emptied into larger containers, water jugs refilled and toted to the cooler, and the dishes are well underway in a matter of minutes. Clean up takes much less time than preparation.

7:30 am – Everyone is assembled for devotions. Today we simply sing “choices” and close in prayer. Two of the men confidently sing the tenor and bass parts in “Search Me, Oh God”, and with the children and ladies adding soprano and alto, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the music. It’s a moment I could live over and over again and never find tiring.

7:50 am – The school children leave in a clamor of “have a good day!” Marissa hands out party invitations to the preschoolers, then we head to the special education room for Jessica’s speech therapy. It’s good to be back to our normal location after yesterday’s fiasco of trying to do class with her while we three sat on a bunk bed. She did MUCH better today!

8:30 am – As we leave the speech room, we find Rhoda looking for help with Dina’s therapy. Dina is a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome and is missing 40% of her brain. At about a year and a half old, she has varying abilities more in the range of a baby from about 4-8 months old. Marissa helps Rhoda run Dina through a series of patterning exercises while Jessica and I go to the office to copy a paper Marissa wanted for speech therapy.

 

8:40 am – I walk out to our room for a minute, then back to the kitchen to start the day’s work. We are really out of sync today, and end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out precisely what it is that we are making for meals over the next few days.

8:45 am – On the way through the kitchen to her morning special education class, Nerlin, who has severe cerebral palsy, has a seizure. When her mom arrives, she decides to let her have a nap rather than go to school today.

 

8:55 am – Another distraction when Alex arrives in Mom Carol’s arms, wearing the outfit Marissa and I bought in town for him. This is definitely a “Kodak Moment” and requires much fussing over him as well.

 

9:15 am – It feels like we are getting nowhere fast today, and now Marissa gets a phone call. After pacing for a while, I decide to set up for the pre-school party, so I make the 50 yard trip down to the room for the treats and bunny napkins, then set up the table, fill the milk pitcher, and double check my camera.

9:25 am – The weather again forgets that rainy season has not yet begun. We have an intense five minute rain, then the sun is back out again.

9:45 am – Finally some progress toward supper! I load up all the patastes and 4 monster-sized carrots from the garage and bring them into the kitchen to soak in bleach water. Meanwhile, the native cooks have already made substantial progress toward today’s lunch – the pupusas I begged them to make me while I was here. I can hardly wait!

10:00 am – Not surprisingly, 6 little people arrive promptly in the kitchen, then arrive a second time when told they must bring clean hands to the party. Keyla, Karina, Kenia, Sarita, Yesenia, and Jose each pick a song to sing, then we have grace. Snacks of “pink milk” (Strawberry Quik) and Ding Dongs are devoured with delight, but our little guest aren’t ready to leave. They want to play a game, so I learn how to play “Doggie, Doggie Where’s Your Bone?” My pitiful imitation of a preschool voice doesn’t fool anyone!

10:35 am – Back to the far too familiar task of prepping veggies for supper. Marissa takes the pataste (bless her heart!), and I attack the carrots with the slicing side of the grater, then I move on to cutting up a seemingly endless container of baby onions. One of the girls misunderstood at planting time and put out a ridiculous amount of seed, so instead of waiting for them to mature into hundreds of pounds of big onions, we are spending hours peeling and cutting onions ranging from regular marbles to shooters in size.

11:00 am – I’m wishing very much for the normal 11:00 nap, which is being forfeited in lieu of sticking around for lunch today. It will be worth it, I know, but when we aren’t doing much and I’m tired, I have to keep reminding myself about why I’m here.

11:15 am – I get an excuse to dessert my onions for a while, waiting on a customer at the window. She wants a flat of eggs, and we have only 20. Marissa abandons the pataste project to clean 10 more eggs from this morning’s gathering in order to fill the flat.

11:35 am – I’m glad to have another customer. This morning has been ridiculously lazy and I’m feeling antsy! However, it seems there is a run on eggs or something. After I bag two liters of milk, he decides he wants his change back in eggs instead of lempira. Marissa cleans 13 more eggs from the bucket.

11:45 am – Rhoda comes into the kitchen, and Marissa dutifully tells her that we’ve snitched 23 of the “easy to clean” eggs. Rhoda has the job of washing, counting, and sorting the cracked and uncracked eggs this week. Rhoda’s brow furrows as she tells us we weren’t supposed to sell ANY eggs this morning, as they are reserved for a large order. Oops!

11:50 am – Conversation in the kitchen meanders to talk of a couple that has just found out they are expecting conjoined twins. The babies are due relatively soon, and this news is quite fresh even to them. The children aren’t expected to survive more than a few hours. What a sad story to hear!

11:55 am – I finally have the onions done! There is just enough time to clean up, load the slop bucket, and put the veggies in the cooler before lunch.

12:00 pm – The buzzer sounds for lunch, and I waste no time finding a place to sit. After grace, I’m grinning from ear to ear as I eventually finish off four very tasty pupusas, piled with shredded cabbage and red sauce. This is definitely a high point in my 4 week stint here!

 

12:23 pm – It’s strange to just drop my dishes off at the bar and leave the kitchen! However, I’m happy to finally be heading to the room. A quick check for email reveals a note from my neighbor back home, but instead of answering it, I respond to a squall outside out window. The battle over the tricycle resolves instantly when I stick my head out the door, and I suspect I know which party was in the wrong by how quickly she takes off upon seeing me. I come back in to find Marissa in bed, so I flop out across my mattress, aiming to read a short chapter in my book before dozing. Instead, I am paged as having a phone call. Mom calls to share some info with me and get an update on the patient (or impatient). I tell her that Marissa has become totally disgusted with being in a cast and is almost to counting the minutes until her Tuesday appointment with el doctor.

1:00 pm – I’m finally one with my pillow, and barely get started on my memory verses before I’m asleep.

2:10 pm – Marissa and I wake up almost simultaneously. She is ready and out the door a lot faster than I can manage, though. I remember I need to pay my credit card this weekend and figure I should do it now while I’m thinking about it. The phone lines are busy, but I figure it’s better to do this on my cell phone. However, when I dial the number, I get a Spanish recording telling me otherwise. Grrr… Both phone lines here are busy, so I’ll have to do it later.

2:25 pm – I return to the kitchen to find Marissa sorting today’s freshly picked and shelled peas. Remembering my missing sock, I dash down to the laundry room and am thrilled to find it. I don’t have enough clothes with me that I can afford to lose anything!

2:35 pm – Back to work now. I dump all the veggies into the pot to see if we have enough for tonight’s supper. Veronica vetoes adding green peppers, because she seriously dislikes them, and since neither of us can go get them from the garden ourselves, she wins. Marissa sends me to get the leftover lunch cabbage, and thinking it’s in the cooler, I go looking. I don’t find the cabbage, but I find the last coconut raisin cookie and relieve it of its lonely existence. When I find the cabbage, it’s sitting on the end of the counter, and there’s but a spoonful left. Our mixed veggies are becoming less mixed by the minute. The school children flood into the kitchen, turning it instantly from a peaceful retreat into something more resembling Grand Central Station at rush hour, as they clear and repack lunchboxes and claim their afternoon snacks.

2:45 pm – I do one of the strangest things I’ve done since I arrived – help Marissa throw two roasters full of very little potatoes into the washing machine – short cycle, no soap…

3:05 pm – I finally get a free phone line and pay my credit card. I’m extremely grateful that the home has a Pennsylvania phone line via satellite and that it’s working today!

3:15 pm – The clamor of children has dissolved into homework and chores, but we suddenly develop a regular trickle of grinning youngsters all bearing the same exciting news: “Ethan’s dating!” He’s a former VS worker who went home earlier this year. Everyone is very excited!

3:30 pm – Andrea wanders through the kitchen and I just can’t help myself. I ask her if she could pretty please just bring our load from the washer into the kitchen, then almost hold my breath in anticipation, wishing very much I could be a fly on the wall. She’s back in a couple minutes laughing at having found it was a load of potatoes. She good naturedly helps me pick that mess of miniature spuds, now spotlessly clean, out of the tub and carry them back to the kitchen. Seeing what we were doing, Gerald asks if we are going to cook them in the dryer.

4:00 pm – The pre-supper dishwashing crew shows up. I’m sorting dozens and dozens of little potatoes by size for the two meals we’ll be using them, so I start a game with the girls, quizzing them on which part of the plant we are eating when we have our various fruits and vegetables. I ran out of foods before they ran out of enjoying the game.

4:30 pm – Yes! I get a brief break waiting on an ice cream customer at the window. We get the news that the guys are pouring concrete and won’t be in for supper, so the tables, which Marissa had been pleased to have set already, need to be redone to accommodate seating the boys with their moms instead of their VS guys.

4:50 pm – Finally done with the potatoes! I’m sure glad I don’t have to eat any of them tonight. Right now I’m thoroughly sick of potatoes!

5:00 pm – I have a milk customer, and before I get the stuff put away, a second one. Where were these people when I was so bored earlier?

5:07 pm – Marissa checks the rice we have reheating for tonight’s supper – leftover arroz con pollo from last Sunday’s fellowship dinner. It doesn’t taste right to her, and it turns into a major project to try to get it satisfactory – not good considering supper is just 23 minutes away. Meanwhile, I measure the peas for Sunday dinner and blanch and freeze the two quarts that remain.

5:20 pm – Marissa is thoroughly sick of doing the cauliflower and broccoli, and is still fussing over the rice, so I take a deep breath and take over the worm hunting project.

5:30 pm – Buzzer sounds for supper. I’m still trying to finish the cauliflower and broccoli, and I realize it HAS to be done before I eat, as it’s tying up the sink. I sing grace with everyone long distance from the kitchen. It’s impossible to feel good about being nearly done with this project, as late this afternoon, a substantially larger bowl of the same, fresh picked from the same garden, arrived on the kitchen counter, meaning tomorrow will bring more of this less than stimulating activity.

5:45 pm – Finally done with the worm hunt, I move everything out of the way and go out for my meal. The rice doesn’t taste right to me, and the veggie blend is missing something, too. I’m busily thanking God again for the wonderful pupusa lunch, as breakfast and supper have left me very wanting. Then I discover there is a lovely blueberry cobbler for dessert. Suddenly everything seems just fine again!

6:00 pm – The bell rings ending supper. Chairs grumble as they slide out, releasing sated diners, and the ballet begins anew in the kitchen as dozens of plates, cups, bowls, and pieces of silverware arrive for the dishwashers. I notice that the latecomers won’t have much cobbler to share, but there’s plenty of other food left for them. Hmmm… By the time we are done with our part of the clean up, the guys who are washing dishes tonight have begun an impromptu sing along over the soap suds, and I almost don’t want to leave.

6:25 pm – We head to our room with Luci, who wants to see Marissa’s crochet project and wrap the yarn she dyed a couple weeks ago at the party we had for the big girls. We have a nice visit, talking about knitting and crocheting.

7:15 pm – Luci leaves, and Marissa turns on the David Copperfield audiobook we’ve been enjoying. I try not to feel too guilty about the email I should be answering, as I  coax my aching muscles to relax, while knitting a few inches up the ankles of my Rushing Rivulet socks.

8:45 pm – Marissa decides it’s time to turn off the book and take a shower. She’s soon celebrating, as she finally managed to dislodge what appears to have been a small abscess in her tonsils, relieving a discomfort of several days’ duration. I knit for just a little bit longer, then decide I should write today’s journal entry, especially since I missed yesterday. I’ll have to have her help me catch up – hopefully soon. It’s surprising how quickly things become a total muddle in my memory!

9:10 pm – Time for my shower. I’m still amazed that something I’ve considered for so long to be an absolute luxury has now become a very quick, in and out, nightly necessity for me. I still manage to get through my Spanish memory verses thrice before I’m done.

9:25 pm – Stretched out in bed, I read for a while as one by one my roommates’ lights go out. Despite my long day, I’m still not nearly as sleepy as I am tired.

10:23 pm – Okay, it’s time for me to try to sleep. I turn off my light and drift between prayers and memory verses until I’m finally in dreamland.

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Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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