Sunday, 18 April 2010

Our last Day

Our last day here and we were up early to get our final packing done and to say our goodbyes to the children. When we went up to the kitchen to get our breakfast we found the weekend cook on duty was Mirna, who is Jorge's mom. Jorge is the young boy that St Luke's sponsors. It was delightful to meet her and to see the closeness of mom and son. The team had various chances to connect with Jorge throughout the week and he and his mom thank us for the opportunity and the support we give to Jorge through our sponsorship of him.
We took our traditional team picture by the El Hogar logo and said goodbye to our wonderful American friends.

Raul, who had been such a wonderful driver, guide, friend and project manager throughout the week, had to take two trips to the airport to get all of us and our luggage there.

Jane and Tom are staying on for a few more days and there will always be jobs for them to do. They are experienced ones as this is their 8th journey to El Hogar. It is the Reycraft's 9th trip to Honduras.

Eight of the Burlington team spent 16 hours in transit with three legs of the journey to get them home. Now, Luisa has the distinct honour of having her carry-on inspected every leg of the trip, both this year and last! Matt and Erika stopped overnight in Miami again. Steve got on his choice of flights as he was flying standby (He's our Delta Airlines pilot). Susan's plane was 2 hours late and we hope she got her connection back to Memphis.

En route home, we had lots of time to analyze and think about the week, retell the stories and we felt that we had accomplished much of what we had come to do. With a team of 14 who were dedicated, compassionate and hard workers, working every spare minute in the projects, we hopefully made some headway in the long list of tasks that needed to be done there.

We had special time with the children where we interacted with them in play and in teaching.

We left knowing we ourselves had changed from the experience we had there.

In our devotions and sharing we had a new thought each day and today's seemed very appropriate:

Go out in Joy. You are not here in the world for yourself. You have been sent here for others. The world is waiting for you.

There are many projects that could be done at El Hogar because they had been without volunteers for the 6 month period during the political unrest last year. Claudia had reported to us that it had been a very hard year for them because of the political unrest. There were days when the staff couldn't leave the premises due to riots, violence and curfews, however El Hogar was never harmed. The Angels of God protected the children and the property so that she and the staff could continue on with the goals and ministry of the school. Below is Claudia talking to the children at morning opening devotions before classes start for the day.

As the first van load us left for the airport, Erika opened the gates for us to head out (she was in the next trip to the airport) knowing that many of us would be back. We have been blessed and privileged to have been here.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Day Seven!

Hola, it is Alida and Hilary once again reporting live from Honduras. This morning we woke up a little disappointed that today was our last full day in this beautiful country. We started a day with a breakfast of eggs and surprising. The Gringo van departed from Casa Awesome and headed towards the Agricultural School, which is the third school under the ´Projectos El Hogar´ umbrella. The boys who graduate from El Hogar have the option of going to the Agricultural School as well as the technical institute, but this location also accepts boys from local communities. It was another very long and scenic drive. We stumbled out of the van and found ourselves admiring the blue skies and farm life that surrounded us...and the smell that was soon discovered to be coming from underneath Hilary's wellies. Our guide, Johnny, showed us around the farm and showed us the variety of crops being grown as well as the classrooms that the boys further their education in. After seeing the pineapple, banana and coffee plants growing Janice was thrilled to get her very own grapefruit straight off the tree, although it was still a little green and it looked more like a lime than a grapefruit, but she was pleased none the less!

The first year boys hard at work in the field:

Coffee plants! (and our guide Johnny)

Next we saw the animals. Louise does great impressions of them too! There were goats, sheep, chickens, and cows. We were lucky enough to see the newborn calves, one of which was only one day old. They were pretty darn cute and we stopped to pet them on the head. We moved on from the animals and headed back towards the main building for lunch. Once we got there, we were impressed to see the boys waiting in the dining hall for us to get our food first. Everyone thought that was really nice of them to do. Our main course was some pork, vegetables and rice with tortillas...No wonder we didn't see any pigs outside.

When last did you see cows in a banana grove! These city kids are amazed at the sight.

The day old calf didn´t want to get up, so one of the farm hands got her moving:

After lunch, it was back to the famous Gringo van, except this time it smelled a little funky. Maybe that was from Hilary's wellies which she took off in the van, but we aren't sure if the smell came from the bottom of her boots or from the inside. She had to stick her feet out the window to air them out. The drive back to El Hogar was a quiet one and everyone seemed tired from all the fresh air. We arrived back at Casa Awesome, but only for long enough to use the bathroom and then we were back on the road, headed towards the Valley of Angels for a little shopping excursion. The weather didn't hold out for us and we got a lovely shower while walking from shop to shòp, but that didn't stop us from shopping! Everyone found a little trinket of some sort and Matt bought the entire pottery barn for some home decor. The trip back to El Hogar was surely an interesting one. Due to accidents and narrow winding cobblestone steets, our journey home took much longer than expected. We stopped to pick up 5 gallons of ice cream, spoons and cups at the store. Then our journey carried on. There were many more narrow cobblestone streets and a few close calls with buses and cars, but we made it back safely and no one was car sick (but that was also a close call). We owe our safe arrival all to Raul with his precision steering and knack for the Honduran roads.

We were back just in time to attend our good-bye party with the kids, where we sung the Honduran, Canadian and American national anthems and were presented with posters from the kids. The kids were ecstatic about the ice ceam we were serving to everyone, and they were given the choice of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry. Yuuuumy!

The children left to go to bed, and the volunteers went back to Casa Awesome to retire for the night. And it was just in time, because shortly after, the skies opened and the monsoon rain began. On their way over to the computer lab to write this blog, Hilary, Alida and Erika got more soaked than they have ever been. Since they were already wet they decided to splash around in the tropical rain storm as well. Why not?!

Tomorrow we will say our final good-byes, which may be tearful ones, but we will all surely miss the children and people from El Hogar who have touched our hearts. This week has truely been a memorable one and hopefully we will take these memories with us and cherish them for years to come.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Day 6 April 15, 2010

Happy income tax day to Americans. We were up early again, but it seems to get later each day. Had a breakfast of banana and cantaloupe and banana bread. Finally a breakfast Alida could eat all of. We spent another morning reading and doing math with some of the kids.

We then got ready to go to the Institute for more work. We had to stop and get some paint. Rick said hopefully we do not get into an accident as we will be unrecognizable covered in paint. We made good time and got to the Institute about 9:45. Louise, Matthew, Michael, Erika, and Steve dug the trench for the new water line, since of course the wall needs to go where the water line is located. Since Rick created a small fountain with the old water line, the plan was to move the line. Rick was able to convince Raul to buy new piping which would cost about $16 dollars to move the line rather than trying to move the old line and have to dig it out from roots. It would take untold hours to accomplish. When we got back from lunch, a dog had taken up residence in the trench. He finally moved without too much drama.

Jane, Susan, Rick, and finally Tom and Roz worked to move a small mountain of bricks around to where they are planning to build the rest of the wall. They were in a pyramid taller than all of us. I swear they were making brickettes since the pile seamed to be getting bigger. Roz climbed on top of Mount Brick to get some of the bricks down. We were to leave 100 bricks to finish the wall by the Chapel, but we were a long way from the last 100 bricks when we had to finish for the day.

Alida and Hillary were drafted to chisel some of the tile from one of the classrooms. They then went to help with the painting. Hillary got a cheap highlight job when she spilled paint in her hair and all over the floor, wall, ceiling, and possibly the next building! When we were finished we got a soft drink as a reward, and Alida relaxed in the limb of a tree. A young boy at the Institute has a crush on Hillary and Alida and he has written them several notes. Young love!
Janice and Lorraine set up to paint the outside wall by the large hall, but Raul came by and said he wanted them to paint another building so they had to move all of their stuff and set the dropcloth back up. Then Alida and Hillary came by to help (see above). Lorraine managed not to get dirty!.
Tom had stayed at the Institute last night so he could teach the boys and one of the instructors how to use the pipe fitting machine. He will go back tomorrow to finish teaching. Tito, the teacher who knew how to use the machine, was killed in an
attempted robbery several months ago.

When we finally got ready to leave, we gave a lift to one of the workers. We had to squeeze in together with 16 adults in a 15 passenger van. It was a tight fit, but still does not beat our record of 21. Matt called it the Gringo van. Hillary said she would walk lop-sided after sitting between
two seats for the ride back.

We all creaked out of the van and are walking rather stiff. None of us are used to this much manual labor, but we are pleased with all we have accomplished.

We are going out to dinner tonight, nobody but Matt will order beans.

The special guests at our dinner table with us are Raul, (next to Rosalind), our tolerant driver and project manager, also the husband of Claudia, the Director of the El Hogar home. Next to him is Dr Barbra McCune, who has been a medical missionary to Honduras for 6 or 7 years. As of last fall she is married to Rev Rich Kunz, the Executive Director of the El Hogar Projects. We missed him this year as he was traveling and speaking back in the States. On the other side of Steve is Lazaro Jaurez, the Director of the Technical Institute and his wife, Paki. We also missed Claudia on our night out together.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Day 5

Hola, this is Hilary and Alida reporting live from Tegucigalpa, Honduras! Today was a busy day. We started off the day with our usual breakfast of beans... of course, and tortillas and eggs with ham. Yum! We needed our energy for the long day of work ahead. After breakfast, we watched the opening exercises, then paired up with our reading buddies for some one-on-one time. The children seem to really enjoy the special attention and they are making progress... at least Alida's reading buddy didn't try to run away from her today. Everyone else is getting along great though.

After the children went back to class, it was onward to our next job and we brought along four suitcases full of donations to the technical institute. The technical institute is the next step after the boys graduate from El Hogar. They can further their education and choose one of three trades to learn: Welding, Carpentry or Electrical work. They can use these trades later on once they have finished at the institute to go off and work so that they can give back to their community and support themselves. The institute is on a large piece of property about an hour from El Hogar. It used to belong to a doctor until they bought it off of him, and started the school. We were lucky enough to get a private tour and see what the boys are doing in the workshops.

After the tour, we were thrilled to have french fries, rice, beef and tortillas for lunch, accompanied by the most delicious, fresh, natural, berry juice we have ever tasted! Everyone in the group will testify to that.

With our stomachs full, we set out to get our hands dirty... literally. Our job for today was to move a large (very large) pile of rocks from one spot on the property to another, to clear space for further development. This task was made more difficult by the cactus tree that was looming overhead and raining down prickles, which were not enjoyed by any of the group members. But prickles or no prickles, we moved those rocks! While most of us worked on the rock pile, Rick, Tom and Erika were busy digging a trench for a new wall that was going to be built. They were warned that a water pipe may have been about 15 feet away from where they were digging, but on the third strike, an explosion of water erupted from the ground... woops! Tomorrow is going to be a busy day!

Some of the neighbouring boys came over to watch our hard work.

On a detour home to avoid traffic, we all broke in to spontaneous singing. Once we stopped, Louise decided to announce that we were all crazy. The response was simply silence, and then laughter. It was apparent that we were all a little sun drunk from our day of working.

When we arrived back at El Hogar, it started to rain. However, this did not put a damper on our playtime with the children because we relocated to inside the auditorium and brought out all the good ol' games like cards and twister. The boys even revealed their crafty side by making gimp bracelets by the dozen!

Now that the children are tucked in to bed, we find ourselves here, blogging to our friends and family at home. We wish you all the best and hope that you will keep checking our blog!

Buenas Noches! Hasta Mañana!


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Like the Honduran sun, we were up before 6:30 to a breakfast of cornflakes, papaya and canteloupe. By 8:30, paint brushes and rollers were in action (and so were we). Some of the group spent time with more kids for one-on-one reading and math. There were a few mishaps today... After being locked into the volunteer house by Janice, a local bird decided to bless Loraine while she was reading with Mario. He thought it was funny and even apologized. She wasn´t sure if he was apologizing on behalf of the bird, or for laughing. Up in the dormitory, Louise was painting trim
up on the ladder and had a spider fall down her shirt!

After our lunch of pulled beef, rice and a cucumber and carrot salada, everyone took a siesta to rest up for the afternoon. We had a local contractor come in to work on the windows we chipped out and to put a layer of new stucco on the wall we knocked off. Even though he was throwing wet cement onto the wall, he managed to stay cleaner than the rest of us!

While the rest of us were playing with the kids, Doctora Susana was called to action to examine a few of the kids with minor ailments since El Hogar´s regular pediatrician is no longer available. She fixed most of the kids up with hugs and a few advil. Nurse Luisa fixed up a few wounds too.
Since we get so many extra tortillas with all our meals, Hilary introduced us to a new dessert recipe that sends us all to sleep after we crash from our sugar high... Peanut butter and nutella with trail mix on the tortilla. We´ve never had anything better!

The common area in the volunteer house is pretty dim because two of the light bulbs were burned out. On an outing today, Raul and Susan were supposed to get a few bulbs, but forgot. It´s ok, Raul says, we can just walk up the street to the Chinese place to get them. We weren´t sure what bulbs to get, so Rick was going to get the ladder so we could get one down. No need, says Michael as he hops up onto a swivel chair that Matt spun him around on. On his rotation he got two bulbs down. How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb?

Tomorrow we are going out to the Technical Institute to do some work there. We aren´t sure what, but are ready for anything.

Hasta mañana!