Friday, December 30, 2011

Bananas and Plantains

On Monday, Kirsten, Caleb and I (Joshua) had the opportunity to go with Angel, a local Honduran boy, up the mountain to get bananas. I did not realize what an experience this would be!

We left around 9:00 in the morning, and an hour and a half later, after a vigorous climb up the steep mountain side, we arrived at the plantation. The man there quickly cut us two big stocks, one for me, and one for Angel. He also gave us several smaller hands for Kirsten and Caleb to carry.

After a brief rest and a snack of finger bananas, it was time to head back. Angel effortlessly lifted the huge stock onto his shoulders and started down the trail. I tried to do the same, but quickly realized I am not a Honduran! The 40 pounds of bananas poked into my back and neck, and no matter how I positioned the stock, the discomfort soon turned to pain.

It was a long trip down the mountain, and once we reached home again, my shoulders were very sore to say the least!

So the next day, when Fernando (a neighbor boy) asked if I wanted to go up the mountain with him to get Plantains, I was not super excited. But he assured me that we’d be taking his horse to carry the load. This sounded great, and Wednesday morning we (Fernando, Zack and I) headed off.

We took turns riding the horses, and let me explain to you that Honduran saddles only consist of two boards at 90 degree angle, and you sit at the peak, with a little rag beneath. Not the most comfortable thing!

When we arrived at Fernando’s family’s plantation two hours later, we cut all the Plantains off their stocks. We then cut banana leaves (for padding inside the bags) and packed the plantains in the bags.

One of the ladies living there, was very kind and gave us some much appreciated food, for by this time we were very hungry.

The view along the way

The trip back down was a lot quicker, and soon we were unloading everything at Fernando’s house.

Now we have Plantains along with our Bananas ripening on our front porch - all for just six hours of strenuous hiking!



We came to Honduras for multiple reasons.  Some of these were:  To “come apart and rest awhile” - away from phones, answering machines, and internet;  To work on unifying our family (adding a teenager - to a family that already has three, really changes family dynamics in ways it’s hard to anticipate);  A third reason was to give focused time for Pam’s and my writing projects; a fourth was to give our children the experience of living in a different culture (and hopefully give them a greater appreciation for the blessings they have); The final reason I’ll mention was to give more opportunities for family service projects (something that too often gets neglected when life is hectic).

We had no real expectations for how we would serve.  We just wanted to be of help wherever we could.  After a few weeks, it became clear that one area where we could be a blessing to the local church was helping with music.  The church members love music (They kept wanting our family to sing for every meeting), and they do a lot of singing - but it is all hymn singing with a DVD accompaniment so loud that it drowns out most of the sour notes.  Their hymnals have only words, so there is no learning or singing parts.  So, we had one of those light bulb moments: Why not start a church choir?!

When we mentioned the idea, there was an enthusiastic response, so we found a hymnal with notes, photocopied a few songs and set times for practice.  It was only after we had gathered for our first practice that I realized what a job we had!  No one knew how to read notes (or even what the notes represented), or count timing, or harmonize.  How do you explain these things with totally inadequate Spanish, and they know virtually no English?  We decided to just plunge in and lead by example.  Our family sang a song in parts, and then divided up.  Kirsten sang with the Sopranos, Pam with the Altos, Jonathan and Zack with the Tenors, and Joshua with the Basses.  I had the unenviable job of leading the group - while Caleb gave moral support.  When we gave the starting notes and had them sing, it was not a pretty sound!  What do you do when the notes you play and the notes they are singing are two or more whole notes off?!  It’s amazing how out of tune an untrained ear can be!

Anyway, God has blessed in spite of our inadequacies.  We have had much practice and repetition.  We just sang our second special music last Sabbath, and it actually sounded quite nice (in my opinion).  We have special prayer before each practice, and pray for the angels to sing through us.  It seems to be working!  I am trying to train a young man here (who has some natural musical talent) to take my place when we leave in a few weeks.  If we can leave them with a new song in their hearts (and on their lips), we will feel like we have left the church better than we found it.


I (Kirsten) took this picture at our practise last night, but unfortunately
several members were absent. I hope to post better photos later.

The Pila

Here in Honduras most people do not have a washing machine, in fact they don’t have anything like it!  On every back porch there is something called a Pila. It is a big cement tank with a waist high table on one end, and a wash board cemented in. It is very simple and I’m sure it’s a great improvement on a tub and wash board, but it is still far from what I would call a good invention!  

Now let me explain the process of simply washing a pair of jeans. First you take a bowl and dip water out of the tank and get them soaked, then you lay them out and take a bar of soap and get one side soapy, than you take a brush and scrub that side until it is clean, than you turn them over and soap the other side and scrub it, now you turn them inside out and do the process all over again. Once they are all soapy and clean, you take the little bowl and pour water over them until there is no more soap suds. At this point you are very tired and you still have to ring them out! Ringing out a pair of jeans can be a challenge in itself; they are very bulky and really test your strength.

Now that you have all that behind you, you hang them up on the line and hope the sun comes out. Now this can be quite a gamble because this is the cloudy, rainy season and not always sunny. Assuming the sun is out, your clothes will be dry in a few hours, but this is not always the case. If the Lord really sees the need to test your patience, the sun will not come out, and your clothes will sour on the line, or the wind will blow them off the line and strew them all over the muddy yard! Trust me; this is almost enough to bring you to tears. Unfortunately, there is nothing to do but pick them up and start over again.

Needless to say, when Mom said she wants me to build a Pila at home, I was not very excited. I think there are far better ways to wash clothes without electricity.

Now, some members of my family seem to really enjoy it and say that it is so peaceful and calming, but I’m sure if you had a chance to try it you would side with me and my opinion. The first time I used it I instantly understood why the young men here get married so young… it’s so they don’t have to do their own laundry!

Oh well, it’s a character building experience that really makes me appreciate a washing machine.


More Pila pitures

Feliz Navidad!

Okay, I know I’m a little late on this, but it’s hard to write about something you haven’t experienced yet.  So now, I can tell you a little bit about Navidad in Honduras.

When we came here, we weren’t sure whether Hondurans really even celebrated Christmas.  Those questions were quickly cleared up when decorations started appearing by the end of October!  (With no Halloween or Thanksgiving to market, retailers are quick to get in the Christmas spirit.)  Yes, they have Christmas trees (fake, of course), lots of tinsel and glitter, lights, Santas (who are fluent in Spanish!), red hats, and American Christmas music (I had to smile when I heard “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” in the “supermarket.”  Dream on….).

The Mission here has chosen not to recognize Navidad, because the cultural emphasis is so pagan.  I never saw a nativity or any other indication that this was a celebration of Christ’s birth (although the children say they saw some).  We were okay with that stand, because we were having a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit anyway (No snow or even cold, no tree or decorations, no carols or “walk through Bethlehem”, far away from family and friends…. You get the picture?).  As I shared in a previous blog, we had already given each other the gift of a beach vacation, so there were not even any surprises in the house!  Oh well, we figured we could at least see how Hondurans celebrated the holiday.

Kirsten and I went to town on the 22nd to do some food shopping and e-mailing.  When I went to the “supermarket”, I almost thought for a minute that I was back in the States.  There were crowds and lines everywhere!  The two main items that people seemed to be purchasing were soda and beer!  I saw numerous pickup trucks with the backs full of beer and other drinks. The other hot item for purchase was fireworks. Clearly this was going to be party time!   We began bracing ourselves for a long weekend with short nights. 

Now, just a word about the firecrackers here:  Yes, they have small ones like we have in the States, but they also have BIG ones that they call “La Bombas”.  To say that they sound like a shotgun blast, is not going far enough.  It’s not a “pop” or a “Bang”, it’s a “KA-BOOOOOM!!!”  The blast shatters the peace of the village and reverberates from one mountain peak to the next.  Let me just say that to have one go off unexpectedly is an unnerving experience!  Back on the farm, our dogs go crazy when the boys shoot off bottle rockets.  Well, maybe the reason these La Bombas aren’t allowed in the States is because all the dogs would be dying of heart attacks!  (Come to think of it, maybe that’s part of the reason why all the dogs here are so skinny and bedraggled - maybe it’s nerves!).  Seriously though, I am surprised there are not more people with missing body parts from these things (we’ve been told that some of them are equivalent to ½ stick of dynamite)!

So, we waited, steeling ourselves for whatever lay ahead.  Some had told us that they actually celebrate Navidad on the 24th, so we weren’t sure when the party was to begin.  Those with La Bombas didn’t even wait till the 24th.  They were going off all hours of the day and night.  There seemed to be no official beginning or ending.  The explosions, Honduran music, and sounds of partying gradually crescendoed through Friday and Friday night, then died back on Sabbath morning (thankfully), and then rose again to a climax Saturday night.  Our children had a peaceful sleep (La Bombas and all).  Pam and I jolted in and out until about 2:30 am when the drunks up the road sang their last song and collapsed.  Sunday, the partying continued for those still conscious.  Since then, La Bombas have become more infrequent, and people are slowly returning to “life” - although we are bracing ourselves for another round this weekend (we’ve heard New Years can get pretty rowdy too). 

Despite our lack of Christmas spirit, the family did work together to create a wonderful Christmas dinner (with many thanks to Grandma, Mema, and Aunt Jennifer!).  We had homemade gluten steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry, green beans, a wonderful salad, and to top it all off, an amazing pumpkin pie!  There was also date roll,  dried apricots, pecans, walnuts, and almonds.  For an hour or two it actually felt (or I should say, “tasted”) like Christmas

Yes, it was definitely a cultural experience, but we’re kind of looking forward to another “tender Tennessee Christmas” next year.  Somehow this revelry doesn’t fit with our picture of a babe lying in a manger in Bethlehem.

We trust that your holidays were more peaceful than ours!


PS  The only “gifts” given were on Friday night (while we were at church) when a thief broke through our window screen and grabbed a pair of Nikon binoculars sitting on the windowsill.  Praise the Lord we seem to have caught him in the act, because he had also taken a couple pairs of shoes and a machete - which were dropped as he fled across the yard.  This was our second experience with petty thievery.  The first time we lost two pair of shoes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Beginnings...

December 18, 2011

New beginnings!  Together Kirsten, John and I have traversed many new and uncharted territories.  She was the first to make us parents…to cut a tooth…walk…talk…Go to school…enter the teen years…finish school…and yes turn 20!  A new beginning!

Twenty! John and I look and one another with wonder.  How can this be?  Our sweet “little woman” shocked everyone when they heard she was 19, imagine 20.  Where have the years gone?

We thank the Lord for His amazing mercies shown to us in Kirsten’s life!

Cultural Experiences

Are all cultural experiences pleasant and worth recounting?  I say No, but my family says yes!  So here we go hang on to your seats because it will be a rough ride!

The trip to Cayos Cachinos would have several legs. 

First, we would travel in the mission truck (I in the front seat and John and the children    in the bed of the truck) from our home in LaZona to the town of Santa Barbara. Second, from Santa Barbara we would take a bus to the City of San Padro Sula. Third, we would take a bus to La Ciba where we would stay with the Adventist family that runs a radio station there. Fourth, a bus to the ocean and fifth, a boat to the Island of Cayos Cadhinos.

I am commissioned to attempt to capture the second leg of our journey which we had been warned could be a bit stressful.  Standing in the dirty, buss yard we looked from one bus to another and wondered which one was in good enough condition to make the 2 hour trip?  Most of them looked like they were at some stage of repair.  The crowd started forming and we were told it would be the red bus which looked quite nice and relatively new.  We held back until the main crowd had gotten on.  There was plenty of room and we quickly secured 7 seats close together.  John was exclaiming how much nicer this bus was than the one he had taken the week before when coming to pick Kirsten and I up from the Airport.  We were all settling in and making ourselves comfortable as the bus pulled out of the yard.  

Five minutes into the trip our Mercedes Benz bus came to a grinding halt as it ascended a hill.  The bus driver was talking on his phone and soon another bus pulled up behind us.  Clearly our luxury liner was not going any farther and we were headed for one of the old dilapidated school buses.  Of course everyone poured into the isles pushing their way out of the bus and into the inferior replacement.  We had several pieces of luggage including some in the under compartments of the bus so we waited our turn.  Finally, we were able to get off the bus, collect our bags and make our way to the replacement bus. 

As I stepped into the bus I could see that there were very few seats but way in the back there were a couple.  Jonathan grabbed the first seat he could find while the rest of us precariously made our way to the back.  Before the door of the bus was closed the bus driver jerked into the traffic and floored it (or so it felt).  We were all still trying to make our way to the back of the bus.  Jerky starts and stops indicated that this was going to be one of those “rough” rides. Meanwhile we were all desperately trying to move towards seats while hanging on for dear life to whatever could keep us upright.  As he got close to the empty seat Caleb made a run for it just as the bus driver floored it.  Caleb fell flat on his back into the seat his feet shooting straight up in the air.  Cries of frustration and pain filled the buss.  By this time everyone in the family had found seats and I flung myself into the seat with Caleb try to comfort him. 

This was only the beginning of one of the wildest rides I have ever been on.  Careening down the curvy mountain roads I was tempted to feel this may be our last ride!  I never imagined this old school bus could go so fast!  I kept asking John “Do you think we should get off this bus?”  “Do you think you should say something to the driver?”  (getting out of the seat seemed equally as life threatening).  What do you do when you are afraid?  I began praying.  “Lord, you know this man is taking our lives into his hands…Father somehow slow him down…let him get stopped by the police…)  We never know how God will answer our prayers but an hour into the drive we realized that my heart was no longer pounding and I was no longer holding Caleb with a vice grip.   At that moment we had to say praise God for cell phones!  The driver had received a call and had greatly slowed his pace.  Safely we made our way into the bus station in San Padro.  We forgetting even to log a complaint.

Praising God for safety!

View out the bus window

As Dad mentioned in his blog, we were all a little shocked when our boat beached and we surveyed our surroundings. True, we knew we weren’t headed to a popular tourist location, but we didn’t realize that we, (and one other individual we later met) would be the only “foreigners” on this island, and for that fact, the whole archipelago of 16 islands.

The Island we stayed on

Coming in to dock

The village consists of around 10 little houses ranging in structure from mud and stick walls with thatch roof, to stuccoed block. We were told there are approximately 50 people on the whole Island, the majority being in this community. Here are some pictures from around the village.

When the weather was pleasant the fishing boats would leave early in the morning, and come back in the late afternoon. There was excitement when a boat returned, and we would run, along with the other village kids, to the shore to await its arrival and examine the catch.

We contracted with one of the village women to cook lunches for us, and enjoyed the traditional island food. (Minus the fish)

Our cook in her "Kitchen"

We found the Islanders very friendly and hospitable, and enjoyed getting to know many of them during our stay.

The children especially won my heart, and my brothers and I spent many happy moments playing with them.


marble "tournament"

Unfortunately there is no Christian presence on the Islands, and most are un-churched. One of the days we visited each house and gave out religious Spanish literature, as well as beautifully done posters of the “Diez Mandemeintos.” Everyone was very excited about these posters, and was soon putting them up on their walls. We prayed to be a blessing and positive influence, but only heaven will tell.

Some more random scenes -

fishing out an Octopus

In Search of the Boa Rosada

Have you ever seen a Boa Rosada?  The answer is probably no, unless you have been to Cayos Cochinos. This pink boa constrictor is a species of snakes that is found only on these islands. 

On Monday afternoon we had decided it was about time to find these boas, and excitedly set off on a grand adventure. 

We started up the jungle trail, in search of the snakes.  After carefully looking along the trail for half an hour, we began to despair of ever seeing one of the beautiful snakes.  But suddenly, “Look!”, shouted Joshua, “I see one!”  Sure enough, up in a tree, there was a small Boa Rosada!  Joshua climbed the tree and knocked the snake down.  Kirsten, being our “snake wrangler,” was the first to pick it up.  Since it was docile, we each took a turn holding it. (Except for Elsee, who decided that looking was enough for her.) 

When we had taken plenty of pictures, and had our fill of holding it, we let it go.  We resumed our hike and kept climbing higher. 

Our plan was to find the lighthouse, then go back home. We finally reached the top where the lighthouse was located, and climbed the 100 tower. The view was splendid!

As we started back down the trail, we came to a fork in the path. Joshua went down one way and soon shouted for us to come. All rushed down, eager to see what he had found. “Not another Boa, is it?” I gasped. There it was, wrapped up in the tree.

It was even bigger then the last one, and Kirsten soon found, as she tried to catch it, that it was not quite as docile as the first one. It opened its mouth very wide, showing it gleaming white “teeth.”

The snake quickly coiled around Kirsten’s hand, squeezing it until it started to turn blue. Deciding enough was enough, Joshua helped Kirsten pry the snake off, and soon it was free again.

As we started back for the village, the thought suddenly struck me, “every snake we’ve seen has been bigger then the one before. Boy, if we see another one, it’s going to be huge!”

Us kids had stopped for a moment to wait for our parents, when Kirsten excitedly pointed to a nearby tree. She had just said she wanted to spot a snake herself, (Joshua had seen all previous ones) and was quite overjoyed at her find. This Boa was definitely the biggest yet; a full 5 feet! We were all very excited!

This time it took 2 people to catch the snake. As Kirsten and Joshua held the hissing, writhing snake, we didn’t dare get close. Jonathan captured the whole thing on video, which we’ve had fun laughing over since.

They finally let it go, and we walked back home. We had seen enough Boa Rosadas for one day!