And then we go home

On Sunday, I was feeling much better, but still not up to the exertion of visiting the ruins. While the rest went, two of us rested at the hotel. We took a little walk into town to look around and buy a few things.

For lunch we shared an order of pantumaca and one of hummus. Pantumaca, a Spanish dish, is a bowl of tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil purée, served with their fantastic homemade bread. The hummus was also served with bread. Either topping was nice with the bread, and especially both together.

When the others returned, it was time to pack up and head back to San Pedro, checking back in at The Green Frog before another dinner at Chedrani, the tree house restaurant. Maybe not the best choice in retrospect; where we sat was right by the source of the very loud music, and it was hot. Also by now perhaps all of us were short on patience; dinner out in these parts means so much waiting, to order drinks, to get them, to order food, to get it, to get the bill, to pay, to get receipts, and finally to leave. A lingering dinner can be a lovely thing, but perhaps it loses some charm when it’s every day with the same people, with whom it seems we have run out of things to talk about.

On Monday I remained at the hotel to read, knit, rest, while the others returned to the Guamalito market. They also stopped by the church where the roof has been finished and the ladies were back to work making tortillas to sell, and they also visited the diocesan office. Then they stopped here to put their purchases away and pick me up for a run to the mall.

The food court was similar to one of ours, with a mix of local chains as well as Burger King, Popeye’s, and the like. Marilyn and I were both inclined to get ice cream for lunch. At Sarita’s I heard the man next to us ask about the passion fruit with mango, and he helped us out identifying some of the other flavors. Turns out he had worked in the States, in Indiana and Ohio, driving equipment and cars down here. Anyway, I got a waffle cone with the passionfruit / mango and coconut ice cream, and Marilyn got pistachio and coconut. It was a perfect lunch after many heavy large meals.

After meandering around the mall a bit we reconvened and returned for a rather luxurious few hours with nothing official to do. Several of us enjoyed the pool.

In the evening we had invited Bishop Lloyd Allen to dine with us. It was interesting to hear what he had to say about this diocese of Honduras, its history, how things are working out now, and their efforts to become fully self-supporting by 2019, when the Episcopal church will no longer help with any finances. It is encouraging that already the diocese produces some 68% of its budget, compared to 2% in 2001. On the other hand the budget has had to change and make a lot of cuts and require its churches to also become more self-sufficient.

Then there was the food. This was the fanciest place we went to, and it was a marvelously good way to end. A nice white wine, appetizer of scallops au gratin, amazingly good salmon ravioli in tomato basil sauce, and flan. Mmmmm. I think the others were equally pleased with what they got — suckling pig, octopus, ceviches, beef heart skewers, chicken chili, and even sweet and sour chicken.

On the other hand it was well past nine by the time we left.

This morning we pack once more, and then we’ll be home again.

I have liked being here in the country of some of my friends from Santo Tomás. I have been able to converse in Spanish more effectively than I had feared. As all teams do we had our issues with personality differences, patience, time and space, organization and communication, illness and tiredness and emotional strain. And we also showed kindness and mercy to one another, enjoyed each other, and worked together. The people of the church here were a great pleasure, from the littlest toddler to the elders. Our driver Freddy was one of us. Staff at our hotels were uniformly gracious, and many of our servers at restaurants, too.

Now I am ready for home, perhaps to return someday.

Rest

Image of the view from our room.

I have been resting all day here at Casa de Café.

Image of the courtyard; Byron and Loren.

Managed some toast, chamomile tea, and passion fruit / carrot juice for brunch, later some yogurt and another cup of tea. The bread is wonderful, lovely texture and taste, homemade. The yogurt is homemade, too, and also lovely. For dinner, the owner personally made chicken soup for Loren and me, something they don’t have on the regular menu. I had a bit of fish as well. It feels good to have eaten.

Image of menu.

It has been a little lonely as the healthy folks hang out and chat, go shopping, go to the bird park, and I am not often well enough to leave our room. FOMO, you know; fear of missing out, or silly sadness that everyone is capable of having a good time without me.

Image of lower level.

On the other hand this is a beautiful place, both the town and this hotel, and if I have to sit around trying to recuperate this is an excellent place in which to do so. There’s a grassy courtyard our rooms look out onto, with tables and chairs, and hammocks even. Bougainvillea, lemon grass, ginger, bamboo, cacti, and other plants all around. Down the hill a bit the other set of rooms and two nooks each with a table and chairs and umbrella.

Image of lower rooms.

And of course I’m glad folks are having a good time and seeing and doing things. I was also grateful for everyone being solicitous about how I am doing, and to Rhonda and Fr John for staying behind at dinner time to keep Loren and me company, and the hotel staff for being so accommodating.

Image of our porch.

Meanwhile I have gotten some knitting done and have nearly finished Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I rather love dystopian novels.

Image of hammock.

Farewell

Friday we had a half workday.

I recorded the two songs, Cristo Libertador and Quien Es Ese, as well as the English one I had shown Abigail, One Thing, then worked with Luís on cleaning and organizing a bookcase with children’s books and art supplies. He tried to talk to me and I didn’t understand much but he was too shy or embarrassed to have Keller translate for him. He also sang pop songs to me in a high and light voice.

After lunch the folks of the church made sweet speeches of appreciation for our presence, work, and fellowship with them, and presented us with lovely gifts: traditional corn flour cookies, and candy-filled mugs with a print of the church’s Holy Supper painting, the name of the church and the dates, and our names.

Image of the ladies and me.

There were lots of hugs and then back to the Green Frog to shower and change. Back in the van for a roughly three-hour trip to Copán Ruinas. Not much legroom in the van, and my knees and hips were complaining. First thing when we arrived at Casa de Cafe B&B, I did a little yoga in the grassy courtyard; much better.

Just after dinner I was hit with sudden intestinal distress… this morning I am feeling a little better but will likely be stuck in my room recuperating today. One of our other folks is also suffering. It’s a bit lonely to lie here listening to the others chatting over breakfast in the courtyard.

Copán Ruinas is beautiful and charming, with narrow cobbled streets, some dramatically steep. There are beautiful softly worn, wrinkly steep mountains along the way here. And when we stopped at a fruit stand the seller gifted me a bunch of finger bananas.

Tired

I have not slept well the last two nights. Yesterday I benefitted from Rhonda’s electrolyte powder and from Tim’s magnesium pills and fruit. And spent most of the day resting inside the church where it was a bit cooler, feeling light-headed and a little spacey. I felt fine by the afternoon and could sit outside watching some of the work.

Image of a pila.

Image of pouring the mesa for the second new stove.

Image of the new roof taking shape for the tortillería.

Image of Gustavo digging a drain.

At morning devotion Padre Marco and Abigail had asked me to lead a couple of songs, so I found chords and lyrics online to play from. Even songs I play every week at Spanish mass I still need the chords in front of me. We sang Cristo Libertador and Quien Es Ese. As far as I could tell folks sang along just fine, but Padre Marco later said these songs were not familiar to them and would I do them again tomorrow. Maybe I can also record some video they could refer to while learning the songs. Both are in their hymnal, but it is words only.

Abigail has finished her biography for us; Rhonda and I intend to start a GoFundMe for her college expenses, especially because it is likely she will need to rent an apartment.

If you ever need to remove acrylic nails and have no acetone handy, it turns out that 100% DEET will dissolve the glue…

I felt more disconnected yesterday, probably in part from not feeling well, in part from a natural lull in spending time with the same people for a while, in part from language issues. I have been able to speak in Spanish much more effectively than I expected, but it is still a lot of effort and anxiety and so it can be tiring. Sometimes being anxious to connect with people means I make stupid jokes or talk too much or too dramatically.

Later in the afternoon when Carlos and I noticed we were both sitting to rest a bit, he asked for the guitar and taught me some new songs, one of which I especially liked. He allowed me to record them on video, which will help me learn not only the melody but the chords, since the video shows his left hand positions. I’ll need to copy out the words from the hymnal.

Image of Carlos playing guitar.

Things that happened today, in no particular order.

I learned how to use the tortilla press, which is used for corn tortillas, and I got decently fast at it and didn’t have too many tear as I peeled them from the plastic.

I went to the grocery store with Padre Marco, his wife Maricela, their son Keller, and Luz, to buy food for today’s meals and I think tomorrow’s. The store was not terribly different from ours, with a lot of the same brands of cereal and sodas, some different produce and cheeses, etc. And you could change your points into,tickets to put into a big drum from which a winner would be drawn, with a nice red car as the prize.

I sat in the church singing songs in the hymnal that we also sing at Santo Tomás, and some of the kids came to sing with me: Luís, Keller, and Helen (whose dog had three puppies, one black and brown, and two all brown). It was great fun to sing together. Oh, and Justin sat with us for some of the time, too.

I chopped cilantro for the pica for today’s lunch. I spent a good bit of time sitting in the kitchen today, and talking with the women. I think now I know all their names, and have learned a little about them. María Suyapa is the oldest and the director. Another María made yesterday’s donuts, has four children from thirteen to twenty; the oldest lives and works in the States. The youngest, Jorge, came to hang out at the church after school today. Luz’s husband also lives and works in the U.S., and has been away for eleven years. They have three daughters. One is in high school, one makes gift boxes, and one does drawings (design?) for jewelry. Wendy’s husband Gustavo is the senior warden, and has been working hard on the tortillería project.

The little boys played with the iPad again, and so I took no pictures today.

I am a bit run down today. I think I am getting enough sleep, and mostly drinking enough, but probably my electrolytes are off or something. Tim gave me some V-8 and a banana and two oranges.

Pineapple is a thousand times better where it grows than when it has to be imported. Anything is, I suppose.

The new floor is about half done. First they leveled the ground, adding dirt to the rubble, smoothing it, and tamping it down. They dug the dirt from the base of the hill by the side of the road and carried it up in buckets. They had tied a string as a guide for the height of the concrete. This they mixed right on the sidewalk, like making pasta dough. First they used shovels to mix the dry ingredients: sand, rocks, and cement mix. They dug a shallow lake into which they poured a bucket of water. They then took shovelfuls from the sides and tipped the dry mix into the water along the top edges of the lake. When the lake was thus reduced in diameter by about half, they started turning the whole pile over until all was mixed. Then shoveled the mix into buckets which others poured where the floor was going, and Gustavo smoothed it out. Whew.

We were honored to be invited to the priest’s home for dinner. A wonderful time of fellowship over food, and learning more of his story, how he came to faith and to his vocation as priest.

Tuesday

Breakfast was quesadillas in corn tortillas, with beans and avocado, plus the regular juice, watermelon, and papaya.

Our morning devotion included some singing with Deacon Carlos playing Abigail’s guitar.

The ladies didn’t need any help in the kitchen, so Abigail and I sat down to learn some guitar chords. I showed her D, G, A, and Em. Hispanics use Solfege to name the chords, so D is Re, G is Sol, A is La, and Em is Mi menor, or just Mim.

Otherwise, I spent a LOT of time just sitting around. Had some good conversation with Rhonda and Abigail, some with Maricela. Rhonda and I would like to start a GoFundMe or something to raise support for Abigail’s college expenses, especially if she needs to rent an apartment. The diocese was to send the family to Tegucigalpa for his next call, in which case Abigail could live at home, but it is possible they may be asked to stay at San José de la Montaña. Anyway, as much as I enjoy being with the kids or talking with folks, it takes a toll in terms of psychological energy and anxiety.

The kids played on Amy’s tablet quite a bit. They each individually asked my permission, and took turns easily.

I did get to help a bit with the stove, finding the measuring tape when Carlos needed it, bringing another two shovelfuls of concrete over, and holding the pipe in place while he put concrete and a box of firebrick around it.

The church women have made special food for us, the kind of things normally reserved for birthdays and such. Yesterday lunch was fried tilapia with beans and rice and pica, a mix of onions, lime juice, and jalapeños. In the afternoon there’s a coffee break. Yesterday they made homemade donuts, and today pastelitos, fried hand pies filled with chicken and shredded vegetables.

The skeleton of the new roof is taking shape. Padre Marco is welding the steel beams together, sometimes precariously from the very top of the stepladder, secured by the hands of one or two others. Wednesday I think the plan is to pour the new floor. Pour is perhaps misleading. It may be poured one shovelful at a time, or perhaps aided by the wheelbarrow.

After work we stopped at the supermarket. I needed that Lindt 85% cocoa bar. Got some almonds to go with.

At dinner Byron, Marilyn, Freddy, and I were at one end of the table and heard Freddy’s story, of how he came to learn English, and along the way all the things he has learned to do. He worked as a tailor for a time, and if he had a commercial machine and a serger, he could earn a good bit of extra money in the sometimes long stretches between short-term teams. A good sewing machine could cost about $500.

Then we crashed, and then we woke up; another day.

Work begins

Our day began with tostada francesa, French toast, along with a thin slice of ham, watermelon, papaya, and orange juice. And coffee, of course. We only arrived Friday, and yet it feels like we’ve been here longer than that.

Now that we have had a couple of days to settle in, see a bit of the country, and meet some people in the diocese, it is time to get to work.

When we arrive at Iglesia San José de la Montaña, Padre Marcos leads us in a devotion from a small booklet, with his daughter Abigail translating again. It was the story of a woman who, when she started making bread herself, seeing how the yeast works through the dough and how the dough transforms into bread, started to understand more what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the bread of life.” Padre Marcos invited anyone to look at the booklet to share the devotion any day this week, encouraged us to rest anytime in the sanctuary, take time to talk to anyone with Abigail’s help translating, and to feel at home as we are all the family of God. He introduced us to the women who would be cooking for us, three people helping from a government program called Vida Mejor, “Better Life,” and the man in charge of the construction project. After a closing prayer we got started.

Some people helped clear rubble and debris from where the expanded floor would go. Some demolished the old stove. Some started framing the new fence and roof. Some began to build the two new ecological stoves. Our team helped where and when we could, carrying things, holding things, wielding sledgehammer or pick axe, washing windows, reading to and playing with the kids, or getting out of the way.

I asked the cooks if they would like some help in the kitchen, and they let me attempt to make flour tortillas, slapping the dough between my hands. My tortillas were oblong, too thin in the middle, and prone to folding up on the way from one hand to the other, but María S., director of the tortillería, fixed them for me. Luz showed me how to form the tortillas on a circle of plastic on a cutting board instead, and that was much easier. These tortillas became baleadas for the workers’ breakfasts.

Later I helped with the corn tortillas for lunch, shaping the masa, a corn dough, into small balls that María flattened between plastic in a metal press. For a while I sat watching, chatting with Maricela about the lives of pastors’ and teachers’ wives. Among other things, I learned that until recently she and Padre Marcos worked with an AIDS program through the Episcopal church. They administer HIV tests and provide psychological support to those who test positive.

Those working outside saw the neighborhood children walking home from school in their uniforms, white polo shirts and navy pants or pleated skirts for the morning school, gray pants and skirts in the afternoon. None of the students looked older than eight or nine; it is expensive to go to school. They also saw the neighborhood trash pickup. Everyone piles their trash at the corner by the church. Three men load all the bags on the truck, and then unload bag by bag at the dump.

There were a lot of people and not much space, so folks took time to talk with one another here and there. Some of us chatted with Abigail.

Abigail is eighteen and has graduated from a bilingual school. She is registered to start college in Tegucigalpa, where she plans to study medicine. When she was a little girl, her aunt gave her a toy doctor kit that she loved to play with, and she has wanted to be a doctor ever since. She would like to be a pediatrician, possibly specializing in neonatology, or maybe she will be a neurosurgeon. If she becomes a pediatrician, she would love to start a hospital to serve poor children. She’s also interested in serving with Doctors Without Borders. AND she learned how to knit today (some of the other kids gave it a try, too), and has a guitar and wants to learn to play. I asked her to bring it tomorrow…

When she was in tenth grade, Abigail had an opportunity to spend fifteen days in the U.S., living with a host family in D.C., attending St. Andrews Episcopal School in Maryland, and visiting museums and other places. She was born in Paraiso, lived a few years in Puerto Cortés where her brother Keller was born, then the family moved here to San Pedro. Twelve-year-old Keller is interested in architecture and maybe engineering. Kenan is the family’s little dog.