Grace on Pace

Tag - Pure Water for the World

El Recreo, Honduras – Higher Ground

El Recreo, Honduras

Sunday February 4 – Determined to accomplish as much as possible in El Recreo, we set out early.  Our plan was to work as hard as possible to finish all of the installations, therefore leaving the rest of the week for a short vacation.  Day after day of long hours were definitely starting to take their toll with all of us had a new incentive to finish.  With little chance for Enelida to spend time with her two girls over the past few weeks, we were blessed with two smiling faced helpers for the day.  It was fantastic to see her children ready to give up part of their weekend to help us with the project.  Upon our arrival to El Recreo, the size of our task became quickly evident through our substantial stockpile of filters.  With sixty-seven homes to furnish in the community, only twenty of them had filters in their homes.  Despite trying to remain positive about our goal, I couldn’t help but notice the easiest houses to get to had filters in place.  We were going to have to earn the last two-thirds of the deliveries.  Loading five filters at a time into the back of the pickup, we drove as close as we could to the homes before muscling them over the treacherous terrain.  Many of the paths were incredible narrow and made for impossible maneuvering of the dolly.  Other homes were tucked away in hard to find hillsides and across small rivers.  Children helped us carry the aggregate, sand, tops, and diffuser plates, while some of the community members joined together to will the filters over any obstacle we came across.  Throughout the day, we tried to use as many of the big filters as possible, conserving the smaller ones for areas we needed to carry the filters to.  By the end of the day, we had delivered twenty filters and were completed exhausted.  Covered from head to toe in dirt, sweat, and who knows what else, I through on a pair of shorts and made my way down to the swimming hole.  After only a few minutes of relaxation, I made my way back into town to meet up with the girls.  I was met with tired but happy faces, as the girls had been successful in their installations.  On the way home, I had a chance to practice some of my Spanish with Enelida’s youngest daughter, Marialena, in the back of the truck.  The day was filled with many physical challenges and it felt good to have accomplished so much; however, my entire body ached, leaving nothing but the bed for me when we got home.

El Recreo, Honduras
El Recreo, Honduras

Monday February 5 – The morning came very early for our crew, and with a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts, we were headed back up the mountain to El Recreo.  I managed to catch some naptime in the back of our truck along the highway, but I was quickly awakened as soon as we made it to the turn off.  With my eyes to the treetops as we slowly made our way up the windy road, I was able to see countless birds in the early morning light. A black-bodied bird about the size of a seagull caught my eye, boasting a red, yellow, orange and green belly.  Arriving at the community and looking at our dwindling number of filters gave us a much-needed boost in energy.  We wasted no time loading up and heading out to the remaining houses.  As we worked our way down the main road, stopping at each home, we could not seem to find anybody who had ordered one.  Time after time, we were turned away for one reason or another.  At first, we didn’t think much of it because not everyone in the community had agreed to buy a filter at our socialization and we wanted to fully respect their right to choose.  However, as the number of remaining houses grew smaller, it was easy to see that we were going to have many filters left over.  This was a very unforeseen problem because we had a list of each household that wanted the filters and had brought just enough to meet that need.  With the last few days spent delivering as fast as we could, much of our time seemed to be standing around waiting for what to do next.  Something had changed their minds about the project and for whatever reason; the community did not have their share of the money or did not feel it was a worthwhile investment.  This was very hard for me to take after all of our hard work.  I guess I just assumed the people would jump at the chance to receive this technology.  As I sat waiting and wondering what exactly to make of the situation, I began realizing this sort of thing was going to keep happening until Pure Water was established in the area.  Despite all of our training and education efforts, it would still be hard for the people to trust that the sand would clean their water.  The technology itself can be very complicated and after a few days of the people observing how we were installing their filters, they had become skeptical on the project itself.  After a quick decision from our group, it was decided to stop all efforts of delivering and work on clearing up any rumors or misconceptions.  Enelida joined forces with Joel, one of the community leaders, going door-to-door asking why the people had changed their minds.  Meanwhile, I joined up with Rasa and Keyla on the installation circuit.  However, we soon finished all of the remaining filters in place and were left waiting to here back from Enelida.  With no pressing task at hand, I decided to go exploring up the river.  Soon, I found a young boy spear fishing and I sat down on the riverbank to watch and learn.  Suddenly, I heard my name being called back behind me on the trail headed toward the river.  Roni and Darwin, my swimming buddies, were leading horses with crates strapped to their back.  Curious on where they were going, I decided to follow them.  In my limited vocabulary, I discovered they were headed into the hills to their family banana plantation.  They ensured me it would only be a twenty minute hike to the field.  Five river crossings and an hour later, we arrived at a beautiful valley set beneath a rain forest backdrop.  The boy’s father and older brother were busily lugging stems of bananas to a fifty-gallon drum to be washed.  Quickly joining in, I worked to cut the individual bananas from their bundle and soak them in the streaming water.  We then filled the crates with one hundred and forty bananas each, before tying them to the backs of the horses.  With each banana bringing fifty-five centavos, the trek would be worth about twenty-eight dollars.  This seems an incredibly small amount of work, considering all the work it takes for a farmer to yield thirty bananas for the entire life of a tree.  After the work was done, the three brothers brought me further up into the hillside to see their farm animals.  They were very excited and proud to show me their eight cows, signifying their wealth and status among their peers.  After a short time resting under a shade tree in the field, we headed back to the plantation.  With the two horses loaded, each of us grabbed a full stem of bananas for ourselves and started our hike back to the village.  I felt like part of a caravan as we arrived into town.  Rob and Rasa could only smile as we entered triumphantly.  On our way home, we all listened to Enelidas interesting findings.  Apparently, many rumors had been circling throughout the community, giving the people second thoughts about investing in the filters for their homes.  She told us citizens were worried the filters would keep on running throughout the night, flooding their homes.  They were also bothered about some of our educational material and the fact that it showed all of the animals being penned up.  They refused the filters because they didn’t want to cage their pigs and chickens.  Some didn’t believe that running water through the sand would do anything at all.  Thankfully, with the help of Joel, Enelida had cleared up any falsities or misconceptions surrounding the project and everyone had agreed to participate again.  With good news to build on, we made plans for another early morning.

El Recreo, Honduras

Tuesday February 6 – With all of the people on our original list back on board, we set out for El Recreo eager to put a sizable dent in the rest of our filter stockpile.  With over twenty-five filters left, it would take at least two more days to finish.  Despite agreeing to give Enelida and Keyla the rest of the week off at the conclusion of the day, they ensured us that they would come back tomorrow if we had any work remaining.  One truck load at a time, we tackled the hillsides and riverbanks, lugging the casings up to the small homes.  Through the help of the community leaders and children, we located the remote families on our list.  Each new home brought another challenge, more difficult than the previous.  One of the most interesting recipients was a small local training center located up the road from the village.  With fishponds, eco-friendly stoves, and numerous agricultural exhibits, the school was designed to teach adults about alternative technology.  FHIA had heard through the community members about our project and wanted to buy two filters to incorporate in their education.  The staff was excited to see it was a Honduran made product and wanted to find out more information about how to become involved.  Our most difficult installation of the day came at the end.  A lady, I had seen crossing the river while visiting the banana plantation, had heard about the filters and come into town to investigate.  Completely exhausted from our day, we agreed to try the journey.  It was hard to turn her down, when she had brought her horse into to town to help with the delivery.  As usual, we had to stand back and let the family work through the problem their selves.  I felt bad for the horse when they hoisted the two-hundred pound casing up onto his back, but it soon become evident there was no way it was going to work.  We decided to use two poles to hoist the filter into the air and carry it ourselves.  The happy horse carried the sand, gravel, and stones instead.  After three river crossings and a quarter mile of hand truck work, we arrived at two homes in a small farming development.  It didn’t take long before we were headed back to grab another!  The girls stayed behind and installed them, so we wouldn’t have to venture back again.  After the second filter, I was ready for a long nap and about ten coconuts.  With Rasa’s help the family took us to a riverbank lined with palm trees.  I decided to try climbing the tree myself in search of the refreshing coconut milk.  Managing to get two coconuts down before giving up and letting the professionals show me how it’s done.  Rob and I waited down stream collecting the fruit as they came floating down.  With two of our hardest homes out of the way, we headed back for La Ceiba determined to finish off the rest tomorrow.

El Recreo, Honduras

Wednesday February 7 – With nine filters remaining in the stockyard, we were excited to return to El Recreo to complete our first village. Luckily, with only the most remote homes left to reach, the remaining filters were of the smaller variety. Again we used the children to direct us up the hillsides to the families. Foot by foot we wobbled the casings up the narrow washed out footpaths. Previously unaware of the homes, it was shocking to see the wide range of living standards in such a small community. Working along the main road had only provided us with one aspect, but the homes we were know serving gave us a driving determination to do anything possible to get the job done. As we ventured farther and farther, the homes had far less and it was necessary for their water to be carried by hand from a source. At one point, we reached a home perched on a steep stream bank and thought that we had reached the pinnacle of difficulty. I could only shrug when we discovered another home farther up the stream with virtually nothing but the river rocks as a path. We had no choice but to strap the casing to some poles and to again hoist the filter into the air. We arrived at a home tucked away deep into old growth rain forest. A thirty-eight year old woman greeted us at the door with her twelve children. There were no smiles though and we soon discovered her youngest daughter Digna was very ill. Eight days of diarrhea had left her emaciated and with almost no energy at all. Enelida, Rasa, and Keyla rushed to get the installation equipment, eager to do their best to get the family clean water as fast as possible. This was our first experience with this type of situation and everyone was doing their best to harness their emotions. So much of our work is based around providing good nutrition through clean water so children can develop properly throughout their growing years. I never expected to see such an extreme situation and wanted nothing more than to make sure we never overlook these areas in our work. Families in these areas come to town infrequently and it would be very easy to miss them when developing a project. Despite the intensive energy and resources spent to service only a few of these homes, the benefit in doing so rivals the shear quantity we were able to help along the main roads. By the end of the day, our seemingly easy task of delivering our nine remaining filters had drained us both physically and emotionally. We were very excited to have finished our first community, but after the day’s events, none of us felt too much in the mood for celebration. Instead, we decided to take a much-needed four days off from anything pertaining to work. Seven-day weeks, filled with long straining days, had taken a toll and all anyone wanted to do was sleep. With my time flying by, I became hesitant on the idea of laying low for our time off. I began talking with Rob and Rasa about their opinion on what I should do on our days off. Rob suggested visiting one of the bordering countries and trying to loop back before work started Monday. As the conversation developed, he pushed me to take a few more days off and travel further to some of the more dramatic sites in Central America. I began reading my Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring Guide and plotting my course. Still a little hesitant about traveling by myself, I decided to just head toward the border and see what happened.

El Recreo, Honduras
El Recreo, Honduras

Thursday February 8 – Eager and a little weary, I set out for the bus station early in the morning. I tried not to think about what I was getting myself into as I bought my ticket for San Pedro Sula. I tried to focus on getting to one place at a time and not to overwhelm myself too much. Mimicking the route Jennilou and I took to Copan; I switched buses in the city, after grabbing some food for the next leg. Using the Lonely Planet Guide my mother gave me for Christmas, I plotted out a route for the next few days. With millions of things running through my head, the trip seemed to fly by as I traveled over the mountains. Upon my arrival to Copan, I exited the bus, working my way through the frantic tourists and eager locals vying for a chance to promote their services. It was liberating to feel somewhat comfortable and to know my way around the town. After a short while, I had found a beautiful lodging at Iguana Azul, an old colonial home turned boarding house. The hostel was a little bit off the beaten path, so I had the entire bunkhouse for myself at a measly four dollars. Shortly after settling in, I returned to searching for a way into Guatemala. After asking a few local bartenders, I found out about a shuttle leaving for Antigua, Guatemala in the morning. I was able to buy a ticket for the remaining seat and thought to myself how much easier it was going to be to get from one place to another. With virtually no luggage and only myself, I would be able to squeeze myself onto any sort of transportation without much planning at all. I decided to kick off my journey with dinner at a nice restaurant in town. The food was very good but the conversation stunk.


Friday February 9 – Without an alarm clock, I rolled out of bed around seven o’clock due to the pestering rooster calls. Eager to make my way into Guatemala, I packed up my backpack and hit the road. After a quick breakfast, I grabbed a few snacks and some water for the long journey over the mountains. With plenty of time to spare I arrived at Via Via, a small backpacker guest house, where some travelers had arranged transportation to Antigua. Much to my surprise, I was quickly faced with an unforeseen dilemma. With all my time alone on the road, I had quickly finished the only book I had brought on the trip. Rasa had lent me Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder and since leaving La Ceiba I had hardly put it down. With no time to search the book exchanges, I was forced to go without until my next stop. Soon, a few people started arriving at the lodge. Much to my surprise, I was the only American making the trip, but everyone was still speaking English. Five friends from Austria were on their last leg of their journey across South and Central America, while other’s seemed to be doing the same. It quickly became evident, that despite traveling by myself, there would be many others following the same path. An hour into our ride, we arrived at the border between Honduras and Guatemala. As the door slid open, a group of men holding huge wads of cash and calculators jockeyed for position. The black market moneychangers were eager to get our American dollars at a good rate and soon the people in my group were bartering between Dollar, Lempira, and Quetzal exchange rates. Due to my ignorance of the current value of the dollar, I opted to keep my cash on hand and wait for the next ATM we came across. The border crossing itself was very memorable, as it marked my first one in this type of atmosphere. We were ushered into a small room where a very official looking man waited behind a very unofficial looking card table. With only a stamp pad and a few pieces of paper, he slowly interviewed everyone. Understanding very little of his questions, I managed to receive the required paper work and exit stamp from Honduras emigration. I then walked on foot across the imaginary line into Guatemala, where I was faced with a similar situation. Another serious of questions regarding my length of stay and reason for coming gave way to another emphatic stamp, before piling back into the bus. The rest of our journey was soon plagued by Friday afternoon traffic. The cramped quarters, obviously not designed for regular sized people, soon became unbearable and many of us opted to walk along side the van. The traffic continued into the night as we crept through continuous construction zones and who knows what else. At one point I almost snapped, after waiting for over an hour, only to see four men busily painting speed bumps yellow with small brushes. There was at least ten people controlling traffic and countless others standing around watching or holding lights. I can’t imagine I would live too long in Pownal, seeming if we hold up traffic for five minutes we would be considered fools. After fourteen hours of solid travel time, we arrived in Antigua. I hurried to find an ATM, worried that all of the banks would be closed. Luckily after my third try, I was able to find a bank that would give me the Quetzals I needed for a room. I quickly oriented myself with the map in my guidebook and set out trying to find a bed for the night. Many of the hostels I found had long been full and I was beginning to give up hope at finding a reasonably priced room. Luckily, I was able to find a dorm room with one bed still open. I tried to be as quiet as possible finding the open bed, but don’t think I made too many friends getting situated. After a quick shower in the bathroom down the hall, I ventured back out into the streets to find a pub to get a bite to eat. Being the weekend, I had no problem ordering up a quick burrito and the local beer, aptly named Gallo or rooster.


Saturday February 10 – I was awoken to some commotion from some of my roommates and slowly sat up in my bed to see what was going on. A girl had finished packing her huge backpack and was working her way through the tight spaces between beds. A young man in the bed next to me was also was stirred by the noise and rolled out of bed as well. Immediately we began talking about our travels and where we were headed. Traveling all the way from Texas only a day before, Mike was using Antigua as a resting place just as myself. Soon to be on his way west toward the mountains. I inquired further into his plans. Apparently, during his recent travels, Mike had discovered a lakeside town in the highlands and only recently traveled back to the States for a short time to visit his parents. His plan was to more or less move to Lago de Atitlan, enroll in Spanish classes and find work to pay for his expenses. Hesitant about asking Mike if I could tag along, I opted to tour the city and try to decide where to go next. I checked out of the hostel and made my way into town to grab a bite to eat. The city was full of tourists from all over the world to experience the past colonial era giant. Set five thousand feet high in a valley of giant semi active volcanoes, Antigua has become one of the most popular towns in Central America. With cobble stone streets, magnificent churches, and numerous shops and cafes, the area town had a very European atmosphere. Unsure exactly where I was going, I decided to buy a bus ticket for Panjachel, the launching city for the lake. I decided to use my remaining time to take a walk around the city and visit the many book exchanges. Unable to find anything particularly interesting, I settled on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, to pass the time on the long journey. However, the bus ride ended up being spectacular, so I didn’t even open the book. Winding mountain passes through coffee plantations and highland rainforest felt more like a tour than a commute. Suddenly, after a swooping turn, we sat perched high up on a mountain roadway overlooking an enormous body of water surrounded by steep volcanic giants. Once an active caldera, the main giant has since filled with water, giving way to three other smaller semi-active volcanoes enclosing it. Slowly making our way down the steep notched mountainsides, gave us a fantastic perspective of the surroundings. After arriving in Panjachel, I made my way down to the docks to arrange passage to San Pedro La Laguna. With a little difficulty, I found a boat that shuttles people back and forth to the surrounding villages. However, the captain simply waits until his boat is completely full before leaving. I happened to be his first customer and we needed fourteen others prior to our trip. Unsure what to do and whether or not he would get his passengers, I decided to tour the town just in case my plan fell through. An hour later, I return to the docks and a few others seemed to be waiting. I cracked open my new book and joined them on the rickety swaying pier. As time went by I grew more and more hesitant about making the trip this late at night. Suddenly, just as I was about to throw in the towel, I noticed Mike making his way down the road. He too joined us on the dock and ensured we would be fine arriving at any hour. I decided to follow his lead and eventually, we had enough passengers to fill the seats. The ride was surprisingly rough, as we pounded the hull of our wooden boat off the wind blown waves. Upon our arrival, Mike led me up to his favorite hotel, where I booked a wonderful room for only five dollars a night. After settling in, Mike gave me a quick tour of the small town. Mostly dirt paths and alleyways through haphazard development, the town had a very laid back environment. Known as one of the cheapest places in all of Central America, it was easy to spring for a celebration beer and steak dinner. Excited about arriving, but completely exhausted, we both decided to make it a short night and head back to the rooms.


Worth Waiting For

Sunday January 28 – Rob and I woke up around 4:00 AM to bring the Fox’s to San Pedro Sula airport.  With plenty of time to spare, we headed for Tegucigalpa to meet our country director Maria.  Our objective was to introduce her to the local staff and help us deal with the challenges in Danli.  At the bus station, a lawyer was accompanying Maria for our trip.  Being a very developed site, issues in Danli are extremely complicated and hard for a foreigner to understand.  As a local Honduran, Maria would be able to delve deep into the matters at hand.  On our way to Danli, we discovered Maria had some very important people on her side.  Eager to make it on her own, Maria had failed to mention her relationship to the President of Honduras.  Without even knowing it, Pure Water had hired the most significant man in the country’s niece.  Rob’s goal to finally meet the president of a country suddenly became one step closer to reality.  A little in awe, we arrived in Danli for meeting with some of the workers.  In short, our reason for traveling all this way was to find out exactly what type of things were happening.  During our recent trip, it was obvious something was going on between the staff and the managers of the project.  Agreeing to meet at one of the workers houses, Rob and I came as a liaison between Maria and the workers.  The meeting was completely in Spanish, stopping only briefly to clarify things with Robert in English.  As always, I reverted to body language and tone, to try and get a sense of what was being discussed.  It was obvious there had been some sort of wrongdoing and the staff was extremely nervous about telling us their side.  As the new country director, Maria will have her work cut out for her trying to meet all of the parties involved and do her best to salvage the current situation.  In addition to labor issues, some of the workers told stories of community members buying three or four filters and then reselling them to other towns for a profit.  This sounds terrible, but it can be a great thing.  The communities of the Danli area have discovered the importance of the project and started to exploit it.  With this being the case, I feel it is safe to say filters will continue to be built in Danli, with or without our presence.  In the closing of our meeting, Maria asked the staff if they were willing to be relocated to another site.  Some of them agreed it was time for a change, leaving Maria with a great opportunity to start up a new project with some incredible gifted and dedicated workers.

With the rodeo due to start at 3:00 PM, we rushed to the fair grounds.  Wendy was waiting for us when we arrived, ushering us quickly to the man in charge.  Making my way past the bulls sent my stomach churning, but soon I was standing before the real head honcho.  Apparently, I didn’t look like I knew what I was doing and the small man soon started questioning my ability.  I told him I had only ridden a few times and didn’t have any equipment with me.  The fact that he even paused before saying no, furthered my positive view on this country.  Well it was worth a try I guess.  Plus, I still have a month left here and any broken bones would surly affect my ability to toss these filters around.  On the way back to La Ceiba, we got to drive through the middle of Tegucigalpa, dropping off the woman at their homes.  The crowded streets were only the start of our exciting journey home because as soon as the sun went down, we noticed one of our headlights was out on the rental car.  With four checkpoints between La Ceiba and Tegucigalpa, two gringos trying to make this trek at night was bound to cause issues.  However, we only got pulled over twice and Rob did a great job posing for me.  I guess all white people look a like (Rasa had his driver’s license).  The best was when Rob called Rasa and pretended he was talking to the ambassador.  “He wants to know your name and badge number,” Rob pretended to convey.  I guess if you can stand someone flashing machine guns in your face, they will eventually let you go.  La Ceiba felt like heaven after our intense day and wild week.  Our crazy schedule was sure to continue though.  Rasa had stayed behind to welcome Dick Thompson, a member of the Londonderry Rotary Club and co-author of our grant here in La Ceiba.


Monday January 29 – With Dick Thompson eager to see the project, we set out to El Recreo for our scheduled socialization with the community.  I enjoyed seeing his excitement as we made our way up the treacherous road.  It took me back to the day we had set out for the community, reminding me of how taken back I was by the scenery.  Glad to see the community was expecting us, we wasted no time setting up our education materials.  Making their way down the dusty footpaths dressed in their best close, the local schoolhouse began to fill with chattering mothers and curious children.  Keyla and Enelida, fresh off their CASWT training, dove right it to the situation employing their extremely interactive style.  When the crowd became restless, the two utilized simple games to help focus them on the material.  Following the two hour lesson, we double checked our list of people receiving filters, making sure everyone had the chance to sign up.  With everything ready for our first delivery, we headed back down the hill to remind the mayor of his promise.  Our surprise visit to Mario, the director of MAMUCA and mayor of Misica, was sure to catch him off guard.  His agreement to provide transportation to the communities in his jurisdiction would now be under direct supervision from Dick Thompson.  Completely unaware of whom Dick actually was, Mario scrambled to make good on his word.  With our filter transportation now scheduled, we made one more stop at the taller.  Much to our delight, the workers had been busy during our absence, painting all of our filters and bagging the aggregate needed for installation.  What a great feeling to have everything going so smoothly, especially with a visitor in town.  To celebrate the day’s events, Dick decided to take all of us out to dinner at a restaurant down on the beach.  I was glad Dick decided to invite the girls along. It meant even more to them that he went out his way to recognize their hard work.  Enelida and Keyla have lived here their entire lives, without ever having a chance to eat out at a restaurant of this scale.  Enelida hardly sat in her chair the entire night, gleaming at menu items and the fact she was being waited on.  Reflecting on the day, made me wonder about how people view us as volunteers.  Everything went very smoothly with Dick standing by our side, but without him, I wonder if we would have had nearly as much success.  In talking with other volunteer’s in country, similar situations have been encountered.  People here have a negative connotation of the word volunteer, reasoning that a person must have been a failure to be working for free.  Robert and Rasa have decided to dodge the term, referring to themselves as consultants.  I guess it is another cultural barrier, just a little more personal than the others.


Tuesday January 30 – With our day set aside for the delivery of filters, we set out early to introduce Dick to the filter construction process.  Our plan was to spend most of the day at the taller letting him build his own media casing.  If by chance the truck never ended up arriving, our day would still be effective in providing Dick with another aspect of the project.  Luckily, Mario came through and after only an hour at the taller, a truck was backing up to our stockpile.  Normally, I would have to wonder exactly why a person would send a dump truck to transport bio-sand filters in the first place, but an even better question developed when no one else seemed to care.  Picture the hardest truck imaginable to load something by hand, and you are left with a ten-wheel dump truck.  First of all, the tale gate had to be propped up by a stick, setting a mousetrap style guillotine for anyone who accidentally bumps it.  Secondly, the truck is about two feet higher than a normal truck, making it impossible to lift the filters up onto it without a ramp.  Thirdly, the volume of the truck is designed to carry its weight vertically, leaving very little of the usable payload for any orientation we could possibly stack our filters.  On a positive note, Rob and I seemed to be the only ones who cared, with everyone else in shock a truck had even arrived.  The next hour of my life, I witnessed some of the most dangerous acts of production in my life.  I am by no means an experienced veteran, but I did work with Zaluzny Excavation Corporation this summer and some the stuff these Hondurans managed, would have put Zaluzny on the phone to OSHA.  With two rotten boards nailed together for a ramp and another used as a post to hold up the tailgate, the workers managed to muscle eighteen filters on board.  A little bark mulch here and a little sand bag there, bam we were ready to go.  I was speechless.  All of the times I have complained about how hard it is to get things done in Honduras and this couldn’t have been easier anywhere else in the world.  Given the same situation in the US, it would have never happened.  Ingenuity, strength, determination, and the will to risk your life got those damn filters on the truck.  Still worried about how exactly we were going to unload the truck when we arrived at El Recreo, we rushed to finish off Dick’s filters.  It was quite a site to see the truck weaving through thick jungle and around sharp mountainside cuts.  People lined the road as our caravan bumped its way to El Recreo.  Drawing a huge crowd upon our arrival, I again felt stupid for questioning the logistics of the situation.  No matter how many people it takes, the task was very simple to comprehend.  Honduras doesn’t need people to build, deliver, load, and unload filters; they need business skills, management aptitude, and higher education standards.  Not quite sure what to make of our success, we made our way back down the hill excited to start our first installations.


Wednesday January 31 – There’s nothing like a dozen Dunkin Donuts to start your day off.  Catching our selves off guard with our extreme progress over the past to days, we used the morning to buy our installation supplies.  Four buckets, two pales, two measuring cups, and a dolly readied us for our installation premier.  After six months of hard work for Robert & Rasa, I could feel their excitement as we neared the village.  So much of a Pure Water volunteer’s job focuses on grueling, frustrating, and intangible tasks, making one day of physical work installing filters, essential for moral.  The process of giving someone something that can change their life in such a way that clean water can, makes all those hard days fad away.  After every bump in the road, “All I want to do is put filters in houses,” Rob would say with a sigh.  Through crooked politics, labor disputes, beat up vehicles, scorpions, and ever more; with this mindset, they had made it happened.  When we arrived, it was great to see the community was as eager to start the project as we were.  To top it off, our dump truck had already come and gone, giving us more than enough work to do.  We split up into two groups.  Enelida, Rob, and I set out delivering filters and collecting payment, while Rasa, Dick, and Keyla followed with installations.  At times it was hard to even get a hand on the filters, as the community members muscled the three hundred pound casings into place.  By the end of the day, we had delivered twenty filters and installed seven, a modest amount for our late start.  Cheerful and tired, we bid farewell.  We celebrated Dick’s last night with a dinner at his hotel.  Dick’s cheerful personality and great sense of humor made it easy to look back on the week’s failures and successes.


Thursday February 1 – I woke up from a dead sleep around eleven o’clock, just in time to bid farewell to Dick.  His trip could not have happened at a better time for us.  His three-day expedition included many the grant aspects, highlighted by the first filter installation in all of Atlantida.  The rest of the day was more or less uneventful, but gave us some time to catch up on a lot of the things we have been pushing aside.  Rob and Rasa worked with Enelida and Keyla on balancing their budgets and how to account for the filter construction, education, and installation.  I spent the afternoon eating baleadas and trying to copy a set of Robert & Rasa keys.  A five minute task in the States, but worthy of an entire afternoon in Honduras, at least for me anyway.  For dinner, we shopped at a grocery store recently purchased by Wal-Mart.  I have mixed feelings about the corporation, but at least the store has back up generators now to keep the food from spoiling.  For dinner, Rasa threw together another wonderful meal.  It seems her time spent in the Philippines has done wonders for what she can prepare with the bare minimum.


Friday February 2 – Eager to continue with our work in El Recreo, we spilt forces, sending Robert, Rasa, and Enelida to Colorado Barra, while Keyla and I went back up to continue installing filters.  Making an effort to conserve time, Rob dropped the two of us off at the bottom of the hill.  Deciding not to wait for the nine o’clock truck shuttle, we started walking up the long dirt road hoping to hitch a ride with passing cars.  After a half an hour of walking we finally heard a vehicle coming.  He agreed to take us as far as he was going and soon we were hiking again.  An hour later, the second vehicle was slowly approaching us.  A truck filled with military personnel, wearing full camouflage and toting machine guns, agreed to take us the rest of the way.  Glad to finally be back in our community, we got right to work installing filters.  This is the most rewarding part of our work.  Going into people homes and meeting their family, knowing that you are helping them receive something as essential as clean water.  No matter what type of hoops we have to jump through it becomes worth it on days like today.  To give an example, every home we go into it becomes harder and harder to leave.  Today alone, I tried about six fruits for the first time as well as many other local Honduran dishes.  Everyone feels obligated to give something in return for his or her filter.  I would feel a little better about reaping all these offerings, if I could send some of these fine foods back to everyone else involved in making these days possible.  Keyla and I were invited to lunch at one of our recipient’s homes.  I talked one of the teenagers in the house into letting me tag along to one of the local swimming holes.  With a new incentive to finish the rest of our day’s quota, we quickly installed the available filters.  After borrowing a pair of shorts from my new friends, we headed down to the sandy riverbanks.  It was great to spend the afternoon lounging around, jumping off cliffs, and spear fishing with a few very comical brothers.  I was sad to see Keyla appear at the riverbank, marking the arrival of Robert & Rasa.  I bid farewell to my amigos, ensuring them I would be back on Sunday to continue working.  On our way home, I was happy to hear everything had gone well at the meeting in Colorado Barra.  According to Robert & Rasa, the village is in dire need of water and seemed very excited about a project.  With a meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, we stopped by to remind MAMUCA.  Not to my surprise, no one would be able to attend the meeting, opening up most of our day.  Rasa whipped up some tilapia for dinner and we had a great discussion on Peace Corps and what it has meant to their life.


Saturday February 3 – I slept as long as I could, determined not to let the extreme heat pry me out of bed.  By ten o’clock the Honduran sun had one the battle and I dragged my sweating body over to my suitcase.  Our “day off” seemed to be doomed from the start.  Despite all efforts to remove ourselves from the meeting scheduled for noon, we gave into the Rotary’s requests.  After grabbing a quick bite at Church’s Chicken (Not sure if this is a US chain), we headed over to Gustavo’s office.  As simply as possible, the meeting had been called to resolve any questions or conflicts pertaining to MAMUCA.  Before my arrival, many of the issues hindering the success of a partnership between Pure Water and MAMUCA seemed to have been fueled by the turn over in management.  We have encountered many hurdles with the organization and wanted to try to resolve them in an open discussion.  Curiously, our list contains the hardest communities to reach and we have taken on MAMUCA’s job managing the taller.  Having the chance to meet the often hard to contact manager, furthered my preconceived impression of him.  Not exactly a master of the Spanish language, I have resorted to tone and body language as an indicator of sincerity.  As we informed him on things he needed to do and drilled him with hard questions, he managed to go the entire four-hour meeting without writing one thing down.  Over and over, he agreed to follow up on things and carry out tasks with the utmost sincerity, but little clues in the way he was acting carried more weight than what he was saying.  Completely fed up, we decided to use the rest of our “day off”, to catch up on e-mails and paper work.  For dinner, Susan, a fellow Pure Water volunteer from Canada, stopped in on her way back home.  Using Robert and Rasa’s house as a resting point, she would continue on her way to the airport the next day.


Getting Dirty

Sunday January 21 – Our trip to Danli started with a very early morning at the bus station.  Weary of the long trip, I had decided to pull an all nighter to ensure I would have no trouble sleeping on the bus.  Before the bus was out of the parking lot, I was well into my first nap of the day.  At about 11:30, I awoke to the grinding of gears and shear fact my body had been thrown out of my seat.  For the next two hours, our bus crossed some terrain that would make smugglers notch look like a cakewalk.  We crept up the inclines and then flew down around the hairpin declines.  A little bus sick and thankful to be alive, we rolled in Tegucigalpa.  The capital city was set in a valley of rolling pine forests and bustling with activity.  Before transferring buses and heading out for Danli, we stopped and ate lunch at Wendy’s.  The next phase of our trip was more of the same terrain.  Steep mountain valleys with cactus plateaus made it seem like we were crossing through a mid western mountain landscape.  Upon our arrival to Danli, we made our way through the small town to the Granada Hotel.  Moments after we entered the door, a Hands For Honduras rotary service group welcomed us.  The group was from Rotary District 7870 and included forty volunteers from southern Vermont and New Hampshire.  Arriving in time to attend their end of the day meeting, we were able to introduce ourselves and take part in the discussion.  The mission is made up of medical, construction, and water volunteers to help in various locations around the area.  Our reason for attending the project was to make sure things went as smoothly as possible.  After the meeting, we were reunited with Dave & Lynn Fox, a couple we had met at Carolyn’s house in Rutland, VT.  The Fox’s are heavily involved in Pure Water For The World and were in charge of coordinating the water portion of the group’s trip.  After three weeks out of the country it was very exiting to meet other American’s.  Soon, I had met many people from central Vermont, including Dr. Bisbee from Stowe.  He had visited the area a few times on similar trips and had decided to bring his family and a few of his staff member’s along this time.  I decided to tag along with them to the local fair near the center of town.  Alex, a local Peace Corps volunteer, also came to guide us through the busy streets.  It seemed we had picked the best time to visit because it was the local municipalities patron saints celebration.  Soon, we were amongst a crowd of people in the Cattle Association’s fair grounds.  A huge rodeo stadium marked the center and many vendors were set up around a stage blasting loud music.  Everyone was very excited and I had fun catching up on local news from the Bisbee family.


Monday January 22 – After a great night’s sleep in our swanky hotel, we grabbed some breakfast at the buffet.  Sitting and eating, I began to realize this was going to be a different week for us in Honduras.  The energy in the room was indescribable as we prepared for the day’s activity.  The tempo of our group was unlike anything I had been used to seeing in the time I had spent away.  “So, this is America,” I thought to myself.  Immediately following breakfast, people scrambled to gather supplies and then rushed to pile into transportation.  But, nothing goes smoothly here and soon we were behind schedule.  In Honduras there is Honduras time and for every task throughout the day there is waiting.  For instance, buses don’t really have a schedule.  They simply wait until they are full.  People rarely make appointments, reservations, or even plans.  Becoming accustomed to the lifestyle, I simply pulled out my book I began reading.  After, no longer than five minutes of down time, people in the group started to become restless.  Again, I had been reminded of my culture and how hard it was for me to adapt to a slower lifestyle.  Soon, we headed out for Las Crusitas to begin our week’s work of installing filters and educating the citizens on various health topics.  The two-hour trip into the community was a beautiful ride through the mountains.  Notched into steep hillsides and through narrow valleys, the road worked its way across eight river fords.  Upon our arrival into Las Crucitas, citizens gathered around our caravan filled with excitement.  Soon, we had broken up into three installation groups and one delivery team.  It was amazing to see the organization of the Danli workers.  The bags of aggregate for the filters were all color coated and stockpiles of buckets, diffusers, piping, and filters were all laid out carefully in the local schoolhouse yard.  Two trucks were loaded with materials and groups of people scattered around the village to begin their day’s work.  I worked my way around the village helping with each phase of the work.  In the morning, I worked with an installation group adding the aggregates to the filters and testing the flows for compliance.  In the afternoon, I provided a much needed helping hand to the delivery team.  Their morning had been spent delivering filters to the houses along the main roads.  When I arrived the crew was debating their decision of joining the water project as they pondered how to reach the other homes.  Houses dotted the hillside with nothing but rocky footpaths for travel.  The team decided to construct a device to allow six people to hoist the filters in the air and then carry them up the hills.  When I arrived, I joined the team and we were able to lug four filters up the hillside and into place before heading back to Danli.  Back at our hotel the rest of the groups were waiting for us to start their end of the day meeting.  People explained what they did and what their favorite part of the day was.  It was great to hear all of the stories from the different aspects of the project.  I especially liked the medical team’s tales of children and families coming from far distances to see them.  For dinner, I decided to join about half the group at a restaurant up the street from our hotel.  During our meal, I had the chance to talk with many of the Rotarians about their lives and how they had become involved with this type of project.  It was amazing to here their stories of achievement and I felt a little overwhelmed sitting among such successful people.  After dinner I met back up with Robert and Rasa in our room and we had a little time to speak about how our day had gone before going to sleep.


Tuesday January 23 – After another enjoyable breakfast buffet, we met outside for the start of our day.  Following last night’s tales, our group had acquired a few new recruits from the other disciplines eager for a new experience.  Our three-car caravan had become completely full and we set out for our two-hour journey across the cactus-lined roads.  Eager for our arrival, children greeted us at the schoolyard with smiling faces and unparalleled excitement.  Our team wasted no time getting to work, tackling the hillsides with small groups of workers and huge mobs of children.  Again, I decided to help with installations in the morning and relieve the delivery crew in the afternoon.  The day seemed to be going very smoothly, but during our lunch break; I couldn’t help but feel a little tension amongst the delivery team.  Apparently, some of the workers were feeling unappreciated and were becoming overwhelmed by the task at hand.  Citizens lined the steep hillsides, starring as the men used every ounce of their energy to hoist the filters.  Understanding so, the men had become tired of being a spectacle and even at times a joke, as they struggled up the hill.  I tried to make matters better by giving some the community member’s things to carry up the hill.  This only made matters worse, because soon they had a donkey packed with supplies strolling gingerly up the paths.  “Are you kidding me,” said Ed, “they have had that damn thing the whole time.”  Tired, frustrated, and humiliated, the businessmen made there way back to the vehicles.  I felt bad for what had happened to them, but wondered what their expectations were.  Did they intend to work with the Honduran’s or did they assume they were supposed to be doing it for them?  Had anyone asked a Honduran the best way to tackle the issue or did they assume they knew the best way to deliver filters in Honduras?  I began to feel increasingly worse about the situation the more I thought about it.  The people on this trip had come excited to participate in a great cause, but I became weary of them leaving, wishing they had never come at all.  The men decided to do as anyone would do in this situation…hire six Hondurans to do it for them.  So, Rasa went around the community rounding up six workers, agreeing to pay them each five dollars for their help.  Not quite sure what to think about their solution, I jumped into the back of the truck and headed back for the hotel.  For dinner, one of the Rotarians from our water team treated us to local Honduran food.  His son had served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda and recently passed the Foreign Service exam.


Wednesday January 24 – Right from the get go, I could tell it was going to be a good day for the water team.  The first two days had been hindered by a few problems, but everyone seemed to be slowly adapting to the lifestyle.  As we rounded the corner outside of Las Crucitas, everyone in the vehicles began peering out the windows wondering what type of excitement we were bound to cause.  Children chased the cars down the dirt path yelling the names of the people they had grown closet to over the past two days.  For the third day in a row, I stuck to my plan of switching tasks throughout the day.  Growing accustomed to the village and the tasks at hand, groups of people worked together with the locals to gather the day’s supplies.  Soon, we had installed five filers, more than the entire first days work.  Children led us from house to house skipping and playing along the way.  Members of our group had brought toys and used them for prizes as they quizzed the mothers on proper filter maintenance.  After lunch, I caught up with the delivery team.  They had decided to break up into two teams and tackle the job together.  I was amazed to here the Hondurans had delivered ten filters before lunchtime, tackling some of the toughest terrain in the entire village.  What had taken six of us to do, two Hondurans managed.  The six men alternated trips up the hillside, semi resting as they switched the items they carried.  After delivering only four filters in their entire first day, our delivery team could do nothing but watch.  Their ploy to laugh as the Hondurans struggled only left them speechless.  Honduras is a tough country to work in, hindered by the lack of good roads and access to proper equipment.  However, many of the things we spend hours to coordinate and organize in the States take minutes here.  Given the same time and resources, there is no doubt in my mind a Honduran can deliver a concrete filter in Honduras better than any foreigner can ever dream of.  Ingenuity, will, strength, and shear numbers are not the problem here.  Our problem has never been getting people to achieve shortsighted tasks.  The reason why we are here is to bring the whole project together, educating them on why it is important to use the filters and how to maintain them.  In America it might be hard to find somebody to deliver the filters with what they have available, but very easy to convey the reasons for clean water and hygiene.  In Honduras they are going to carry the damn filters up the hill just like they did everything in their entire house, probably laughing if anybody else came and tried to do it differently.

Happy our day had gone so well, we decided to go out with the local Pure Water staff to the town fair.  We strolled around the grounds, making our way over to a table set out in front of a food stand.  Wendy, the staff secretary, ordered some strange food and bottles of coke with glasses for everyone.  Pulling a bottle of rum from here purse, it was clear we were in for a long night.  Tipsy and adventurous, Rob couldn’t pass up the local turtle egg vender and soon I had the most disgusting concoction I have ever laid eyes on in front of me.  I decided to go first, gulping down the raw eggs (I guess you will have to see the video).  On the second bottle of rum, I decide to join the dance competition up on stage.  The announcer couldn’t get my name right but it felt good hearing Jack chanted during my routine.  Crazy Legs Magee ended up winning the competition, but they did give us another unneeded bottle of rum.  Not long after our third bottle had been cracked, I had to throw in the towel, giving in to my Honduran companions.  Getting to sleep was not hard; in fact, I started before we even got home.


Thursday January 25 – It felt great to be able to finally have a day off after such a grueling schedule.  The three of us roamed around the hotel reading, e-mailing, sleeping, and eating.  In the afternoon, we decided to visit the taller to pick their brains about some of the problems we were having back in La Ceiba.  Danli has produced over seven thousand filters and is considered the most advanced site in the entire country.  It was astounding to see how methodical their process had become over the years and soon we had answered many of our questions.  Next, we wondered over to the cattle association to visit with Wendy.  Apparently, during all of our fun, I had voiced my desire to take part in the rodeo over the weekend.  Wendy had gone ahead and started to make plans for my bull riding experience and wanted to know if it was all right for them to promote the fact a gringo would be riding a bull with chili pepper up its anus.  I didn’t want them to go that far, but I promised her I would do my best to make it back to Danli by Sunday.  I couldn’t help but feel a little excitement as I strolled around the bullring surrounded by a circle of towering stands.  Back at the hotel, we ate dinner with some of the Rotarians before saying our farewells.


Friday January 26 – Lynn, Dave, Jim, Rob, Rasa, and I met Ernesto in the lobby at 6:00 AM ready for our trip to Tela.  In the first leg of our journey we rode in Ernesto’s van back to Tegucigalpa to rent a car.  From there, we grabbed a quick bit to eat and headed to Siguatepeque to meet up with the other Pure Water volunteers at the CAWST training, Centre for Affordble Water and Sanitation Technology.  CAWST is an organization from Canada who specializes in the type of filter technology we are using for our projects.  They work all over the world instructing their clients on everything from filter construction to health education.  After our long drive over mountain, we were able to make it to the conference in time for the diploma presentation.  Pure Water has projects based all of Honduras and each project manager was able to send their staff to the CAWST seminar.  It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm of the students and how happy they were to be involved with the project.  As Rob shuttled the graduates back to the bus station, I was able to talk with Andrea Roach, a professional engineer and international technical advisor for CAWST.  Apparently, they have over seventy-five clients worldwide using their services and even more employing the technology.  Unable to give out her client list, she could only hint in the direction of other organizations to pursue this type of work in.  After our stop, we piled back into our Mitsubishi Montero and headed for Tela.  Soon after dark we found our way into the hotel district of downtown Tela.  Rob did a great job navigating, only faltering once to face oncoming traffic on a one-way thoroughfare.  Tired from our long car trip, we began searching the hotels for accommodations.  Try after try we came up short in our hunt.  Wondering why the town was so busy, I approached a group of Americans.  Coincidentally, the group happened to be from Vermont and on a Rotary service trip here in Tela!  According to the Williston native, their group was made up of ninety members of the northern Vermont Rotary district and they come every year to build schools and medical buildings.  Soon, I was dragged away from my fellow Vermonters as we continued our quest for shelter.  Finally, a little French bed and breakfast caught our eye and we were able to grab their last four rooms.  For dinner, Dave and Lynn treated us to a local seafood restaurant.


Saturday January 27 – After breakfast, two doctors from the Tela Rotary Club met us at our hotel for an exciting event.  A new grant is currently in the works for Tela and the surrounding area.  To move the process along, two men had agreed to sign the appropriate paper work and then bring us to some of the communities in the area.  Jim Mcginnis, a Rotarian from New Hampshire, had made the trip to investigate the possibility of his club sponsoring the project.  After a few signatures and pictures, our group headed out to our first community.  We arrived in 15 de Septiembre, a small refuge community from Hurricane Mitch named after the Honduran Independence Day.  The citizens had been displaced from their homes and were now squatting on a huge parcel of land.  With more than three hundred homes, the community dwarfed towns we were used to working in.  According to the doctors, it was a community in dire need of clean water.  During the rainy season, the community is constantly flooding and most of the their time is spent serving the people with medical assistance.  At first, I did not agree with the community as a project site due to their financial situation.  However, I quickly changed my mind in debating the issue with the other people in our group.  The people may have money, but it is mainly due to their close proximity to a bustling beach town.  With access to clean water, the people might be able to make the next step towards a better quality of life.  However, with so many homes and many more popping up each day, the site would require almost the entire amount of grant money.

In the afternoon, we decided to visit another community just outside of Tela.  With the project site more or less determined, our trip to Miami Village would be essentially site seeing.  After cramming eight people into our rental car, we began our one-hour ride out to the peninsula community.  Shortly after leaving the village, the roads became sand trails weaving through palm thatched roofs and sand dunes.  Along the way, the doctors informed us about the Gurafuna inhabitants in this part of the country.  During the time of slave trading, many African’s were brought to Honduras to work in an economy dominated by fruit plantations.  Presently, the Garufuna have flocked to the coastline, seeking a Rastafarian type of atmosphere.  As we continued our drive along the sand path, the peninsula began to narrow.  With a lagoon to our left and ocean waves crashing to our right, the landscape left miniscule room for inhabitants.  Arriving in the village of Miami was a spectacular site, characterized by its simplicity and ideal atmosphere.  We strolled around the beaches chatting with locals and gazing out toward the islands.  Our doctors dipped in and out of homes questioning former patients and gaining census for their work.  They told of us stories of old Caribbean pirate hideouts and magnificent coves near by.  Sadly, we soon had to make our may back to the Tela and finish with our business technicalities.  On the way home, it was sad to learn about a multi million-dollar development project in the area we had visited.  Fifteen hundred hotel rooms are slated for construction, leaving the Garufuna no choice but to find new homes.  It’s sad to see such a beautiful place fall to development but it was inevitable do to how much it has to offer.  Back in Tela, we finished up our list bit of business over a bottle of rum (standard practice here).  For dinner, we joined Dave and Lynn at a restaurant over looking the water.  Discussing the week’s events and the future for Pure Water made for a great meal.


Tourism vs. Traveling in Honduras

Sunday January 14 – We all woke up around 6:30 Am, excited about getting back to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cuero y Salado, to meet are boat.  The night before had been spent researching jaguars, howler monkeys, white face monkeys, manatees, crocodiles, turtles, cayman, fishing eagles, hawks, parrots, as well as 196 birds and 35 mammals, all of which we could possible see.  Our enthusiasm was short lived though.  When we arrived at the docking entrance to the small village of El Embarcadero, there were a few people waiting around.  Eventually we could hear a boat off in the distance approaching us slowly.  Finally we thought to ourselves, our boat had arrived.  But this is Honduras and nothing ever seems to ever go as planned.  The young man jumped out of the boat carrying two huge milk containers.  Rasa asked how long it would be until he was back from milking his cows.  About thirty minutes, he assured as he headed up the road.  A short time later a woman had had enough of waiting for the water taxi and she headed out across the enormous swamp.  We were all stunned as we watched her appear and disappear across the swamp, belongings balanced on her head.  Eventually, we could see our man strolling toward us and we piled into the boat.  The boat trip was well worth the wait though, as we ventured along slow flowing rivers filled with thick vegetation and countless birds.  Dropping people off along the riverbanks, we made our way toward the ocean.  Peering around a river bend, I could see the waves crashing against our river highway.  Noticing the manatee warning signs, we began scanning the surface.  “Where are they?” asked Rasa.  “They’re sleeping,” replied our guide.  It was quite a let down traveling all that way and coming up short; however, it was still exciting to see their habitat.  After a quick stop along the riverbank to collect sand, check out the beach, and investigate a Canadian flag, we headed back to the truck.  Our adventure in the marshlands had produced quite a hunger, so we decided to grab some lunch at a restaurant known for its friendly birds.  Not long after our lunch arrived, a parrot and a ma caw were at our feet begging for our banana chips.  Jennilou could hardly focus on eating her lunch, and soon had one of the birds perched on a stick she was holding.  Back at home; I got a much-needed nap, waking up just in time to head out to Pizza Hut.  At dinner, it was exciting to here that Robert and Rasa had discovered El Embarcadero was on our list of communities receiving filters.  I cannot imagine the difficulties ahead if this community personifies the challenge of reaching our project’s areas.


Monday January 15 – After our day off, we were excited to get right to work installing filters.  Our plan was to meet the mayor of Masica at Pozo Sarco, a small farming town.  The community would be small enough to allow us to meet with the community leaders and start installing filters in the same day.  An aggressive set of plans, but according to the mayor, very possible due to the size and location of the town.  As we rolled into the community, it was easy to see that something was wrong with the situation.  Pure Water For The World’s mission is to reach out to the communities below the poverty line, giving them a better chance at improving their quality of life through access to clean water.  The community that we had arranged a meeting with and were currently standing before was by no means below the poverty line in Honduran standards.   Not only did we find out that there were fifty homes, but they already had a water system and were using chlorine.  The whole weekend was spent preparing to install for at most fifteen filters in a small community.  The point was to get some experience for Enelida and Kayla before they headed off to the cost training.  After realizing this was the wrong community for us to install filters in, we had to strategize a new plan.  Enelida tried to explain to the leaders that their community was in no need of filters and we were mislead by the mayor.  This was a very hard point to get across to the community because in order for them to realize why they didn’t need them, they first needed to know how they worked.  This is probably the point when we should have tucked our tails and tried to leave as quietly as possible.  Our next hour turned out to be chaos.  More and more community members gathered to see what the meeting was about and as we started to educate them on why they didn’t need the filters, the more they wanted them.  One man pointed out that the filters would save money on chlorine, and another explained that the filters would help during flooding.  All these comments were hard to stomach and Enelida could do nothing but agree.  The fact was they did need the filters, just not as much as other communities in the area.  Our group had fallen victim to anther one of the mayor’s ploys.  See, the mayor was put in charge of MAMUCA by the Swiss and Canadian funding agencies, probably for the lack of a better person.  Consequently Robert & Rasa have been butting heads with him for some time.  His recommendation to extend our project to this area was in no doubt based on political reasons.  Soon, we had no choice but to backpedal our way out the situation.  We tried to explain to them that we were not ready to do a community of their size and that the mayor had mislead us.  Again, the tides turned for the worse and people started to become extremely upset.  Then suddenly, they started clapping and cheering.  The mayor was standing at the door!  I didn’t get it.  One minute they were extremely mad at the mayor and know they were cheering for him.  Eventually through all of the commotion, I realized that they must have been afraid of him.  Imagine being afraid of a politician.  This was a whole new concept for me and I sat quietly trying to evaluate the situation.  Should I be afraid as well?  Is it dangerous for us to talk about MAMUCA and the mayor in a negative way?  Soon, the major was in front of the crowd lying through his teeth.  He explained to the people that we were an inferior organization and were only responsible for the smaller communities in the mountains.  He told them, we had gotten confused and that he would bring filters to them.  He had crossed the line, but our hands were tied.  How could we afford to argue with him, when he had agreed to help us locate communities and pay for the filters to be delivered?  After the meeting, we tried to make amends by asking him if there was a small community on our list we could start with.  He began crossing off communities, telling us they did not exist, had clean water, or were scheduled for a new systems.  It was easy to see, he was trying to pull filters away from non-voting mountain communities, to create enough filters to do Pozo Sarco.  I could see the frustration in Robert’s face and soon he stood up trying to exit the situation with a smile.  We all shook hands, assuring the major we would do everything we could to find him the extra filters.

As we drove up the road, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking the morning had been complete waste of time.  We had been naïve to accept the list MAMUCA had provided us.  Why would the mayor spend money on remote communities, when they don’t even vote?  We needed to get a new list of communities if we were to accomplish anything.  We decided to try the health department on our way home.  Angry, tired, and frustrated, we walked into the lab.  The lab director sifted through a stake of PetriFilms and pulled the results on our test.  Just as we had expected, the results from El Recreo had come in completely contaminated.  Rasa began questioning him on the other communities on our list and if he could recommend any for project.  He glanced over the list and then scurried out of the room.  He returned with exactly what we were looking for.  He held in his hands a master list of all the communities in the area and what type of water system they were using.  We began comparing our list with his. According to his list, EL Recreo was in the top category out of four.  In short, we had visited two communities recommended by MAMUCA and both were considered rather well off in comparison to the others in the region.  Realizing our frustrations, he recommended that we visit the local branches of the health department in each of the counties.  Thankful for his advice, we offered to send someone from his office to a fully sponsored, weeklong seminar on our project.  He agreed to our invitation and we gratefully shook hands.  Extremely happy to salvage something positive out of the day, we piled into the truck wondering how our five-minute stop had turned into two hours.

I have learned a lot about the difficulties of International Development in my short time here in country, but today it had hit home.  Billions of dollars are sent to developing countries every year by ODA’s, NGO’s, PVO’s, and religious affiliations. So why can’t countries find a way to climb out of poverty?  As I found out today, one of the main obstacles is finding a way to spend this money.  It sounds absurd to have difficulties spending money to help people in a developing country, but it is.  How do you make people account for their actions?  Who do you entrust the money to?  What type of results do we expect to get?  These all seem like obvious questions, with relatively simple answers, but the more I think about them, the harder them seem be.  Surely, I won’t let it rest but for know, I have to, because my head is spinning.


Tuesday January 16 – Following yesterday’s extremely draining day, Robert and Rasa decided to catch up on their backlog of e-mails.  With Jennilou scheduled to leave Saturday, we decided to seize the moment and head to Copan.  Thus at six in the morning, we headed on a bus towards San Pedro Sula.  The trip would take all day, with an afternoon layover in the city.  San Pedro acts as a hub for all the major bus companies in the country.  Consequently, it is very easy to find a bus to the city; however, there is no universal bus station.  Apparently the city built one, but they were charging too much for its use, leaving bus terminals scattered around the city.  Arriving in San Pedro at around 10 AM, we tried to use our moon book, bus schedule, and Honduran tips guide to navigate our way to a bus that would take us to Copan.  Eventually, I had to swallow my pride and Jennilou asked for directions.  Of course, as soon as we arrived, we discovered our schedule was out of date and there wasn’t a bus until three.  We decided to take the chance to explore the busy streets, eat lunch, take some pictures in front the San Pedro Sula Cathedral and buy a copy of Babel to watch on the way to Copan.  When we finally arrived to Copan, we found a small hotel room for six dollars a night, including hot water and cable television.  After a quick shower we headed out to find a restaurant.  During our walk, it was easy to see why Robert & Rasa had recommended the area.  The small colonial town had quaintness about it, almost forcing you to slow your life down.  The cobble stone streets, adobe houses, clay tile roofs, and open air markets combined with the backpacker vibe and a feeling of safety made for one of the best evenings since arriving.  After a three-course gourmet dinner at Twisted Tanya’s, we made our way back to our hotel.


Wednesday January 17 – We woke up early and made our way down to the archeological park.  Getting to the ruins before the tour buses arrived, would give us a chance to see some of the wildlife living around the finely groomed site.  Outside the park we teamed up with a couple from California and two brothers from Virginia to hire a guide.  Inside the park, it was interesting to learn about the history of the city and its importance to the civilization.  Copan’s claim to fame is its hieroglyphic stairway, with similar significance to the Rosetta stone.  One of the last rulers of the city built the stairway explaining the history of its people.  Archeologists have used this artifact to decipher hieroglyphics in the much higher profile ruins of Chichen Itza and Tikal.  Overall the experience left me feeling a little unsatisfied though.  Not unlike other Mayan ruins, much of the site remains a mystery, with only twenty percent of the area excavated.  In addition, many of the countries providing the funding for the excavation, in turn have obtained many of the artifacts for their museums.  Currently Japan is working on uncovering a temple built by the eighth ruler of Copan.  They worked out a deal to pay 12 million US dollars for the rights to work within the park. In exchange a portion of the artifacts are to be sent back to Japanese museums.  I guess this had been happening for hundreds of years but it would be of been nice to see the ruins as close to their original splendor as possible.  After our tour, we grabbed lunch back in town, returning in the late afternoon to explore the rest of the park.  The entire area is fenced off, so it wasn’t long before we were spotting strange animals trapped within the gates.  The tour was interesting but it was just as fun to venture off the beaten paths to hypothesis what each of the giant mounds in front of us might have been one day.  Before dinner we were able to catch a local soccer game from our hotel roof.  We decided to take an early night, after a long day of hiking and a historic information overload.  Plus, for the first time in three weeks, we had cable television including three English movie channels.


Thursday January 18 – Our day started a little later than usual, mostly because I could only here three roosters at the crack of dawn.  After a late breakfast, we took the chance to visit some of the handicraft shops spread around town.  I can’t tell you exactly what we got but the exotic hardwood selection was by far the most impressive at the shops.  Woodworking being one of my hobbies, it was easy to respect the craftsmanship, but hard to see how the artists could be selling them for so cheap.  We caught the afternoon bus out of town and our adventure home began.  It is always a surprise getting on a bus here because it seems every one is a new experience.  This time, we had found ourselves on a chicken bus, for lack of a better term.  Imagine a forty-year-old school bus crossing the Rocky Mountains.  We huffed and puffed our way up the steep inclines and then flew, barley in control, around hairpin turns on the declines.  Every seat was packed with people and new passengers were forced to stand.  When we arrived to our first transfer point, people begin yelling and screaming as we spilled out of the bus.  I remember uttering the words San Pedro, among a furry of confusion.  I clung to Jennilou’s hands and eventually we were basically tossed onto another bus.  This was all fine and dandy, except both of us never had a chance to visit the restroom.  The next three-hour’s could only be explained by pure misery.  Despite several attempts to relieve myself into an empty bottle, I couldn’t manage a drop among the crowded bus.  Honestly, I almost passed out when I finally stood up at our next transfer.  Halleluiah, I thought as I stumbled behind the buses!  I couldn’t help but feel a little lucky to reach the last bus to La Ceiba from San Pedro Sula, with only twenty minutes to spare.  I guess I am learning to expect the worse down here and in this case scheduled the perfect bus commutes.  All and all the strangest part of our day was the ride home from the La Ceiba terminal.  The driver spoke perfect English, but sounded exactly like Kermit The Frog.  How bizarre!


Friday January 19 –During our absence, a series of unfortunate events plagued the advance of our mission to install a filter before our trip to Danli.  Hundreds of e-mails kept Robert and Rasa on house arrest for the first day.  On our second day gone, the two woke up to a flat tire, only to discover the spare was the wrong size.  Thursday, our final day in Copan, Robert & Rasa traveled to Esparta to meet with the mayor and visit the health department.  Again, their efforts essentially failed because the entire health department was on vacation and the mayor happened to be in Tela, probably at the beach.  However, the two were able to salvage the trip, setting up a meeting with the mayor and her advisors.  Therefore, for the second day in a row, our team headed out to Esparta to establish a basis for the communities we were hoping to serve there.  Following an hour drive, we turned onto a picturesque dirt road heading out towards the ocean.  We switched back in forth across an old railroad bed, slowly making our way through valleys of pastureland.  After a second hour of driving, we rolled into a dusty mid-western tombstone like town.  The customary stares came from every direction, as we made our way into the municipal building.  As usual, nobody in the office had any intentions on starting the meeting on time because as soon as we arrived everyone was heading out the door to eat lunch.  It didn’t bother me though because I am always hungry and everyone is happier after they eat.  The meeting went very well and we managed to schedule a unique assembly.  The advisors comprised the idea of inviting one member from each of the communities in their county to an informational session.  This would save traveling to each of the communities separately and help us gather valuable information on their whereabouts, number of citizens, and type of water systems.  In principle, this seems like a great idea, but after so many problems so far, it should be interesting to see how this approach pans out.  After our meeting, we headed back to La Ceiba to buy a bus ticket for Jennilou.  Our last night in Honduras together happened to coincide with our two-year anniversary, so we decided to go out to dinner at my favorite restaurant in town.  Following our meal at Wendy’s, we made sure Jennilou had plenty of snacks for her long day of travel and then hurried home before it got to late to be out at night.


Saturday January 20 – It was sad to see Jennilou off in the morning and even harder to get back to sleep.  The combination of roosters cawing, dogs barking, and worrying about Jennilou made it impossible to get any rest before the start of our day.  Eventually, I salvaged a good hour of slumber, before rising to our days challenge.  Our plan was to inspect, clean, and move the remaining filters at the taller before leaving for Danli.  With fifty-four filters already awaiting paint in the yard, our task was to prepare the remaining forty-six constructed under the first phase of our grant.  Despite being physically demanding, it was very comforting having a tangible goal to achieve.  The three of us got right to work pounding out about nine per hour.  As the sun set, Rob rolled number one hundred out into the yard and lined it up neatly with the others.  Soaked, tired, and pleased we headed back to La Ceiba, stopping once more at the bus station to buy tickets.  For dinner, we cleaned out what was left in the refrigerator and packed for our eight-day trip to Danli.  At dinner, I used the chance to call my parents for the first time on interesting web-based communication network called Skype.


Learning the Ropes

Monday January 8 – It was a busy morning of one on one Spanish lesson with Jackie, our landlord from downstairs.  For three hours I wrote and spoke more Spanish than a semester at URI.  Rasa spent the morning making phone calls to MAMUCA and La Ceiba Rotary Club.  MAMUCA represents the five municipalities in the country and is a major player in our project here in La Ceiba.  They have received grant money from the Swiss and Canadians to install filters in the same area and have agreed to share a workshop with us.  From what I gather, the organization is unorganized, lazy, corrupt, and very powerful.  However, they happen to hold a list of communities that have been pre-approved by Rotary International and written into the grant.  Digging deeper into the problems of obtaining the list, certain ulterior motives of the organization arise.  With banners flying high for their charitable work, the organization has managed to sneak by with lackluster accountability, high turnover in staff, minimal correspondence, long vacations, and stagnant production.  Frustrated with MAMUCA, we went out for lunch to a local buffet restaurant here in La Ceiba.  I couldn’t pass up the cow tongue, but everyone else found the will.  While in town, we picked up some supplies to make templates for painting rotary logos on the water filters.  We also made a quick stop at the local airline to confirm reservations for an American Rotary Club tour group visiting the project.  This will be a busy month for the project, because many donors have made time to visit during the installation process.

I was glad to return to the house after an eventful afternoon, but Rasa soon received a phone call about the truck for our project. We headed over to Dr. Gustavo’s to go over the inspection report the rotary had requested before purchasing the vehicle.  At the meeting, a multitude of people had gathered to witness the long awaited exchange of the check and keys to the truck.  At the meeting, more news of MAMUCA came to us via Fernando, the La Ceiba Rotary president.  According to him, there have been rumors about a frozen bank account and the potential for an audit conducted by the Swiss.  After the meeting, I was elected to drive the new truck back to our house before we headed to dinner with Maria and Enelida.  Let’s just say it was not easy J.  Dinner was a great chance to introduce Enelida to her new boss, Maria, and begin to help transfer responsibility to the Honduran managers.

The day was filled with many good and bad parts of international development.  Access to pure water is a huge problem in Honduras, brought on by a complexity of issues.  I feel naive for thinking it could be solved simply by providing filters to rural communities.  Money, power, and respect will forever be the combatants to the insurance of decent quality of life enjoyed by all.  It becomes more and more apparent the project is not only about providing communities with clean water, but also working to combat the very problems that created the crisis in the first place.


Tuesday January 9 – Today was Jennilou’s turn for her Spanish lesson, and she met Jackie on the patio in the morning.  I worked on my homework from the day before, while Robert & Rasa laid out the templates for painting the filters.  In the early afternoon, we headed out to the filter workshop to check in on production and introduce the new templates for painting.  When we arrived at the taller, workshop, production was completely ceased to more mix-ups with funding.  It was very hard to decipher the confusion, but it seems hard for the builders to grasp the concept of being paid per filter.  Even a seemingly simple task in a developing country can sometimes be extremely hard to get across.  In this case, nobody knows how much money, time, or resources it takes to build filters in Honduras.  Our job is to help them through the process, essentially teaching them how to run a business.  In the most ideal situation, the workers would produce the filters and be paid per filter for their work.  In order for this to happen, the business would need capital to build the first few filters, using their profit to buy more materials.  All of which seems impossible after being here.  Instead, we have opted to pay periodically as they finish each phase of the process.  An unforeseen problem with this approach is turning out to be this payment option.  The check’s we have been giving them contain a certain amount of money for their labor.  In short, it is very hard to get this point across because they know they are being paid for a completed filter, but they have not finished any yet.  Our first check was spent entirely on materials and the workers had no money for food.  Then we tried to explain to them that some of the money was for labor.  So this time, they divided the check up amongst the workers, leaving no money for materials.  According to them, they paid each worker 100 Lempira, About 5 dollars for every day they worked.  This is a fair price for labor, but we are trying to show them that they cannot hire as many people as they want and expect to make much money.  The only way to prove this to them is to pay them per filter and allow them to split their profits.  In conclusion, our efforts have essentially failed this time around, because the workers went ahead and paid themselves per hour for the days they worked.  For us, the dilemma becomes trying to explain to them that the next check will not contain any money for labor, because they have already paid their share of this check.  Confused yet?  With heads spinning with confusion and regret, we decide to move onto our next task and try to find a way to deal with the taller later in the week.

With the filter construction behind us we drove east to the MAMUCA headquarters to decipher our problems with the list of communities we need to deliver filters to.  Bearing in mind, this whole experience was in Spanish I will try to explain what has happened.  According to MAMUCA, they have split the list of communities in half.  However, this whole time we thought we held the master list, because when we called them they told us that the first community on their list was the same as ours.  In reality the community only shares the same name and it is actually in a different municipality.  With this behind us, we began investigating where the communities on our list actually were.  To do this, MAMUCA provided a local citizen to help us.  The entire time he spent laughing, sighing, and groaning at how remote these areas were.  Without a map or directions the list is only words to Robert, Rasa, Jennilou, and I.  Eventually, he helped us pick out a village that needed 74 filters with realistic accessibility.  This was a relief, because the grant entails a quota of 600 installations by May, leaving us with roughly 100 per month.  As for the other villages, we will need to continue brainstorming on ways to reach them efficiently.  The entire experience taught me a lot about the culture of Honduras.  The people here are very face-to-face and it is virtually impossible to get things done by phone.  People here do not put as much emphasis on meetings and schedules, making it perfectly normal for them to drop everything and do the most important thing at that time.

Grateful of the help we received at MAMUCA, we headed back to our house for a quick break before the weekly Rotary meeting here in LA Ceiba.  Rotary La Ceiba is the recipient of the grant allocated to the project we are working on.  Pure Water for the World helps to manage these funds by distributing them and training local Hondurans to eventually take over.  Every week, Robert and Rasa attend a meeting updating the Rotarians on the status of the project.  This is also a time for them to ask for the money they need for different parts of the project.  The experience was semi-formal, giving everyone a chance to voice questions and concerns.


Wednesday January 10 – My second Spanish lesson with our neighbor Jackie started the day for me.  The three-hour lesson’s go by very fast, but are extremely draining.  In normal classes you can daydream, however in this case the one-on-one direction is constantly challenging.  Following my lesson, Robert and Rasa gave Jennilou and I our first task.  Our mission was to obtain the test results from a sand sample they had dropped off a month ago.  The catch was that the laboratory was owned and operated by Dole, the premiere industry in the entire country.  As we entered the compound secured by tall fences and barbwire, I felt a little uneasiness about the situation.  Everyone seemed nervous to see us.  American fruit companies have held a huge amount of power in this part of the world and in Honduras alone, Chiquita and Dole own nearly as much land as the Honduran government.  I am not sure if they thought we were there in an authoritative role, but a very secretive type of feeling surrounded the entire complex.  Jennilou did a great job getting our intentions across and soon we were led into the laboratory to get our results.  In side the lab, dozens of scientists were buzzing around in their state of the art facility.  Labor is very cheap in Honduras, all the way up through the ranks and fruit’s long history has led way to cutting edge research in this part of the world.  Many of the doctors were glad to speak to us in English and share some of their projects with us.  Our simple task had blossomed into an unexpected treat.  However it seems nothing here is without problems.  As it turns out, sand is very hard to test as a stand-alone subject.  To make the process easier, water is added to the particles and then allowed to absorb their characteristics.  Laboratory technicians are then able to use a mass spectrometer to analyze the sample.  However, the results we were after had not been started because the lab was not sure why we had mixed the sand and water together and/or what we wanted to test for.  After a speaking with Robert about the origin of this sample, I learned of a connection between the rotary and Dole.  A lady in the club had told him that she could get a good price on the test for our sand source because she new a doctor at the laboratory.  In short, the type of test we wanted was never transferred to the lab and the water is currently too old to ensure accuracy.  Fortunately, the lab was very happy to help with our project and gave us some whirl-paks and jars to get new samples.

Meanwhile, Robert and Rasa worked on preparing slides for our health education and information sessions with the community leaders.  The slides were then brought to a print shop, where they were transferred onto a large flip chart.  Next, the pair met Enelida at her house for an interview with a possible health coordinator for the project.  The meeting went well, and Kayla will be joining us for our first information session and socialization.  Our final meeting for the day was back at Dr. Gustavo’s office to talk about funding issues with the grant.  For dinner, the four of us decided to treat ourselves to an American meal at none other than Applebee’s neighborhood grill.  After we ate, it was back to work making templates for filter logos.  The four us sat at our make shift dinner table cutting plastic sheets of laminate into stencils for spray painting.  This has grown to be one of my favorite times of the day.  Robert and Rasa have so much top offer in experience and it has been a joy to get to know them.


Thursday January 11 – Our morning started with a trip out to our first community receiving filters.  Robert, Rasa, Jennilou, Enelida, Kayla, and I all piled into the truck and headed up into the mountains on a treacherous road through a river valley.  The drive was amazing, but it was hard to enjoy as we passed through such hardship.  When we finally arrived at the school and children ran to greet us.  Hoping out of the truck, I could tell something was wrong.  As Rob popped the hood, steam bellowed from the engine.  The long trip had taken its toll on out 1997 Toyota Pick-up.  Soon over a hundred people had gathered and excitement flowed through the town as more and more people came to see what was happening.  We found some water and filled the radiator back up and decide we better take it to a garage when we get back to town.  Soon we were able to single out the community leaders and we made our way to the local schoolhouse to introduce the filter project.  The meeting serves as a means to spark interest in such a huge undertaking for the community.  With out the support and interest of the community, the project will quickly fade away and the filters will not be used properly.  Enelida and Kayla lectured for a short time on why we were there and how the project would help them.  The community members then had a chance to ask questions before a vote was taken on whether or not carry through with the job.  After the excitement had died down, we gathered up the patrenadas, community leaders, and dealt with some of the finer details.  First we help declare a contact person to help coordinate the delivery and installation.  We also found a person to help with questions and follow up.  Finally and most importantly, we discussed a fair price for the filters.  Ownership is a huge step in making the effort worthwhile and sustainable.  If the people are willing to pay for the filters then they are more likely to use them properly and consistently.  While Rasa, Jennilou, and Kayla continued with the round table discussion, Robert and I ventured off to find their water source.  We filled two whirl packs in different locations.  By testing their current water contaminants, we will have a better hold on how well the filters will work.  Soon it was time to leave, and we all piled back into the truck.  Luckily the trip was mostly down hill, giving our truck a much-needed break.  On the way to the garage we made a quick stop at the department of health to test the water.  They were very helpful and agreed to perform the tests free of charge.  However, just as it seemed the day seemed to be going well, adversity arrived.  The truck had had enough.  With a hill up ahead, Jennilou took the wheel and the rest of us started pushing.  What a sight it must have been J.  At the top, Rob took the wheel and we watched as he glided down the hill.  At top speed he threw the truck into a gear and turned the key.  Walla!! We were off again to the garage.  At the service station, we found a local mechanic to leave the car with before splitting up.  Robert and Rasa headed out to make all of their meetings and appointments, while Jennilou and I grabbed a bite to eat at Wendy’s.  After lunch we started our second mission navigating our way through town to find the office store.  Jennilou did a great job explaining what we needed and soon we had enough materials to finish making the rest of the templates.  On our way home we found a local barberia where I got a much-needed haircut for only $2.50.


Friday January 12 – I started the day with a short Spanish lesson with Jackie out on our patio.  The six of us hopped back in the truck and went to several hardware stores to pick up supplies.  With paint and a new dolly we hit the road for the taller.  Rob, Rasa, Enelida and Kayla talked with Armando and the other workers about accounting for their expenses.  Jennilou and I got to work on quality control, checking each filter for leaks.   Working hard to conserve water, we displaced the water from every good filter to the next in line.  After we cleaned the filters we checked the piping for clogs.  We then used our new trucko, dolly, to move each filter into the yard.  Armando painted the very first filter that turned out to be an exciting moment.  Still there were many filters that did not pass our inspection that have to be repaired.  After lunch Jennilou and I decided to head back to the taller to try and prepare the filters needed for the community on Monday.  We didn’t quite get the fifteen we wanted but finished an impressive twelve before it started to rain.  Despite finishing our work at the taller our job wasn’t done.  We flagged down a bus heading towards Trujillo and we asked to get dropped off at La Ceiba.  Happy a day in Honduras without a problem we began to doze on our two-hour bus ride home.  Without realizing I even fell asleep I woke up wondering where the hell I was.  After rushing to the front of the bus I tried to convince the bus driver to let us off.  Two minutes after my request Jennilou and I were on the side of the road staring at my GPS.  Good thing for my Dad’s Christmas gift.  A couple hours later we were home and eating mega baleadas, a local Honduran burrito / quesadilla over a one foot in diameter.  Today was a good chance to experience the hard work put forth by the workers at the taller.  The sand filters weigh over three hundred pounds each, making for quite a hard days work.  It was also gratifying to finally have something physical to show for at the end of the day.


Saturday January 13, 2007 – By 9:00 AM, we were out the door and heading to the hardware store to pick up some supplies for our day at the taller.  When we arrived the workers were laboring on sheet metal covers and diffusers for the last few filters on the work shop floor.  The four of us jumped right to work trying to get as many filters out into the yard ready for painting.  Jennilou and Rasa filled filters with water and checked them for leaks, making any blemishes with chalk.  Robert and I used our new dolly to then sort the good from the bad.  The plumbing for the good filters were then checked for clogging by blowing air threw them.  The filters were then rinsed with a few buckets of water and wheeled out into the yard.  The bad filters where moved aside, where Rob showed the workers had to repair them.  Although many of the filters passed the leakage test, many did not.  For the most advanced filter factories managed by Pure Water, the error rate is around seven percent.  In the start-up process for every this rate is always much higher.  To ease this issue, workers start by making larger filters with thicker walls.  In our case, the factory made about half small and half large.  The advantage of the smaller filters, are their weight.  At the end of the workday, we found error rates of around 20 % for the larger filters and 60 % for the smaller.  I felt bad that there were so many leaks, but I think it will be a good learning experience for the crew.  With a bunch a filters in the yard and the crew working hard repairing the rest, the four of us hit the road.  On the way, we decided to pursue a sign pointing toward the ocean with a huge manatee on it.  After 17 km of turkeys, cows, pigs, goats, ducks, and horses we arrived at the end of the road.  Two young boys sat guarding four dug out canoes at the headwaters of an enormous swamp.  Rasa and Robert began asking about the swamp and if the sign was true.  Suddenly off in the distance, I could see a school bus heading our way.  The two boys jumped up and readied the boats.  Before the bus could clamber to a stop, men where jumping out the back with carrying bags filled with supplies.  The men lived on the other side of the huge swamp and had just finished their supply run.  What perfect timing.  Rasa didn’t wait long negotiating with one of the men on a price to take us out in to the vast marshland.  Shortly, he had agreed to meet us at the landing at 8:00 AM for the price of 200 Lempira (10 Dollars).  We shook hands and parted ways…

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.