Grace on Pace

Arriving to Honduras

Jennilou and I discovered Pure Water for the World this spring through a Times Argus article about Carolyn Meub and her work in Central American developing countries.  In meeting with Carolyn, our aspirations to become involved with Pure Water for the World were growing stronger.  The idea of social tourism combined with the chance to work with local and international organizations on such a growing issue, became too hard to pass up.  Our final step, in planning our trip to Honduras, was meeting our host’s Robert and Rasa Kent.  Veterans of Peace Corp’s Philippines, Robert & Rasa have joined Pure Water for the World as private consultants, working to develop various projects throughout the region.  Currently, the two have helped to start a filter factory, serving the La Ceiba region with over two hundred water filters.  Their goal is to develop a sustainable business to find areas in need, construct & install filters, and educate recipients pertaining to health issues.  As for Jennilou and I, we will be living and working along side Robert and Rasa eventually allowing them to expand their project, while we manage during their absence.

Wednesday January 3 – Jennilou and I arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, meeting Robert & Rasa Kent at the airport.  After two taxi’s and a long bus ride, we arrived in La Ceiba, our home for the next two month’s on the Northern Coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  Minutes after our arrival we walked to a local restaurant to meet the new country director Maria to make plans about the upcoming weeks.  A couple burritos, a few tacos, and some local beer hit the spot, after a full day on travel.

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Thursday January 4 – After my leftover burrito for breakfast, most of the morning was spent speaking with Carolyn over the phone.  Robert and Rasa worked out the details for our orientation to the region and all of the projects around the country.  In the early afternoon, we met with Enelida, the project coordinator for La Ceiba.   In the afternoon, we had our first experience with the taller (work shop).  We traveled by bus to a small village between the coast and the towering mountainside where the workers were making sheet metal diffusers for the concrete filters.  Despite a few workers, production was virtually halted due to lack of funds.  Miscommunication prevented the workers from receiving their checks and buying paint and other materials for their final steps in producing the filters.  After the hour and half long bus trip to the taller we then hopped back on a bus home to investigate the absent check.   Back in La Ceiba, we met with Dr. Gustavo, the vice president of the La Ceiba Rotary Club, to figure out the confusion.  In short, the checks were available and waiting but miscommunication had not brought the two parties together.  The event turned out to be our first taste of the seemingly simple but somehow difficult workings of international development.  In the evening, we spent a few minutes in the local grocery store stocking up on essentials for the next few days.  Dinner was spent picking the brains of Robert & Rasa about their experience with international work.  Getting to know them through their travels all over the world has brought excitement and ever growing aspirations for our time to come.

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Friday January 5 – Due to an overload of paper work and a backlog in correspondence for Robert and Rasa, Jennilou and I decide to take a weekend trip out to the Bay Islands for a treat.  Her time here is very short before returning back to school, and next week will be very busy with socialization’s and initializations.

In order to get to Roatan, we left the house early in the morning and caught the first ferry out to the Islands.  My experience in Maine on Lobster boats, turned out to be very worthwhile.  I knew it was a bad sign, when the crew began the journey by passing around small plastic bags.  After two hours and three bags for Jennilou, our picturesque voyage across the clear blue Caribbean Sea was complete.  Our next mission was to find a hotel room, using Jennilou’s weakened body and broken Spanish.  Arriving in West End, Roatan via an eight mile, 40 Lempira (2 dollar), taxi ride, we soon settled down in a very nice hotel right on the water.  Filled with testimonial I had read in a guidebook my mother had bought me for Christmas, I rushed out to the reef with my snorkel gear.  For dinner we splurged for some local seafood at an Argentinean grill.

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Saturday January 6 – For our only full day on the island, we decide to explore the beaches and reefs up and down the coast from our hotel.  In the morning, we signed out an ocean kayak and some snorkel gear for Jennilou, before heading out to the reefs.  We tied off the kayak at a floating buoy, and began to explore.  Three buoys, thousands of fish, and one turtle later, we headed back to land.  After returning the kayak, we switched hotels to a more secluded area up the beach (Both were very nice and only $35 a night).  In the afternoon, we caught a ride on a water taxi to a larger beach 3 miles south of us.  The beach was very nice, but the reefs were a little damaged due to their close proximity to the sand.  For dinner we ate at a traditional restaurant, where I was tempted to try the burrito challenge.  At first three burritos in an hour didn’t seem like a deserving feat for a free meal, but after my plate arrived with the first one I decided to eat my words.

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Sunday January 7 – Sad to leave the island, I woke up early and went for long snorkel out in front of our hotel.  We spent the remainder of our morning walking the beach, swimming to cool off once in a while.  Later we grabbed some light breakfast and tropical smoothies, weary of the treacherous sea voyage back to La Ceiba.  The island turned out to be a great time and good opportunity for Jenni and I to practice getting around on our own.  Roatan is a beautiful Caribbean Island, which has been almost untouched by foreign investors.  Developers have strayed away from the Bay Islands due to an unstable Honduran government, but the island is definitely showing signs of change.  Hundreds of hotels and gated mansions seemed to be in construction, or newly built, as we traveled around the island.  It was almost strange to see poverty, in what seemed as if it would be such a sought after place for many vacationers.  In leaving the island it was easy to see, that if we ever did return, it surely would not be the same.  Back in La Ceiba, we joined Robert and Rasa for some home cooked pasta and got ready for a busy week of Spanish lessons and filter installations.

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Jeff Grace

I’d like to hope that when I leave this earth, my family and friends believe something about me giving as fully as I could. To the people I love and to the areas of culture that excited me to build things. Then a lot of dancing, loud music and talking about what an idiot I made of myself during that process.

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