Friday, November 30, 2007

More About Cable Bridges PLUS a Thank You to Our Friends in Virginia

Since I posted pictures the other day about the cable bridges in our area, I thought I'd take some time now and write about our big bridge building project.

There are a number of areas in the department of Lempira which are only accessible by crossing fords. During the rainy season, the rivers swell, and these areas can be completely cut off from the rest of the world. We have been asked to participate in a project which will build cable bridges into some of these areas.

Now, a major part of a construction job of this size is acquiring the materials. We have been blessed with some generous and extremely ingenious friends in the Northern Virginia area, who have found for us a source of used cable, for bridge building. Here is the story:

The Potomac River creates the border between Maryland and Virginia. For a long stretch of the river, there are no bridges. In years past there were many ferries operating along the banks of the Potomac, but there is now only one remaining in this area: White's Ferry.

For safety reasons, the ferry is attached to a cable. Also for safety reasons, the owners of the ferry are required to replace the cable every six months. When a new cable is brought into use, the abandoned cable is left to sit on the bottom of the river. Occasionally, salvage yards have collected these barely used cables, and sold them. The cable is in good condition, as it has only been gently used for a short period of time, and it is free to whomever will go to the effort to remove it.

Now our very good friends in Northern Virginia gather a work crew at intervals during the year, to pull the cable out of the water for us (see it lying alongside the road in the picture to the right). It is difficult work to pull the cable out of the water, roll it onto spools, and deliver it to the warehouse, for shipping to Honduras in a container shipment.

Are these fabulous friends and ministry partners, or what?

There is a growing collection of spools of cable here in Gracias, awaiting the start of these bridge construction projects. We are so excited to be able to assist the people in the remote areas of the department in this way. Imagine if you couldn't get out of your neighborhood in times of illness or emergency, and you will understand what a blessing these bridges will be to the people in these remote areas.

Thanks so much, to all the folks in Northern Virginia who have helped with this project!

Stylish BucketBoy

The family went out to dinner last night, and David wanted to dress up. He loves wearing dressy clothes; he even asked for a tie for Christmas.

He was so sad last night when he realized that he didn't have any dress shoes to wear - to the point where he wasn't sure he even wanted to go out to eat (which is a rare treat for our family). So, this morning, Russell took him out to buy a pair of shoes.

Here is our Bucket Boy, modeling his stylish new shoes. Doesn't he look sharp? That's his "modeling face" on the left. You know how fashion models generally look like they have a stomach ache or a bad attitude. The picture on the right better depicts his pleasure in the new shoes!

Here's a link to the explanation for why we call him BucketBoy, in case you've missed this.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mountain Bridges

When we first moved to the mountains, we thought the cable bridges were so cool! We would stop and take pictures of the kids crossing the walking bridges. Now they seem just another part of mountain life . . . although driving across some of them still gets our hearts racing! In the photos with a vehicle crossing a bridge, that is our vehicle, with Allen driving!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Venturing to La Frontera

Next week we are hosting a team from the Christian Motorcyclist's Association. They are a medical team, and have requested to minister in an area where few teams go. The department of Lempira, with it's remote mountain villages, offers many rarely visited locations.

In consultation with our good friend Dr Julio, who oversees the work of government medical brigades into this department, and who therefore is knowledgeable about where medical groups have recently worked, the city of Candelaria was chosen as the base for the upcoming team's medical clinics.

Candelaria is in a general area known as "La Frontera," which refers to the border between Honduras and El Salvador. The exact location of this part of the border has been in legal dispute as recently as the early 1990's.

Last week, Russell and Dr Julio traveled out to La Frontera to make some advance plans for locations for the team to work, and for their food and lodging. Here are some pictures of the lodging facilities, which I think are pretty nice, considering the remote location.

Bunk room

Bathroom sinks

Cooking facilities

The drive from the airport to Gracias is 3 1/2 - 4 hours, depending upon weather and road conditions. This part of the trip is on paved roads. From Gracias to Candelaria, the roads are not paved. This part of the trip should take about 4 hours, to drive about 65 road miles. The actual distance between Gracias and Candelaria is much less, of course, but the roads have to wind all over the place to get up and down the mountains.

Our family is looking forward to a week of adventure with this team!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Deflating the Chicken

Okay, before we even head down this road, please be warned that this post may contain more information than you want to know about Kirstin performing a surgical procedure on a chicken, on our dining room table. Read at your own discretion.

A few days ago, Kirstin discovered that our youngest chicken had what felt like a large air pocket on her belly, close to her right leg. We watched the situation, hoping that this would just go away. The little chicken was eating, drinking, and moving about normally, so we didn't feel that emergency intervention would be necessary.

However, since a few days have now gone by with no change, Dr Kirstin was ready to take some action - she just didn't know what would be appropriate and beneficial. So, as we do with our human patients, we went to the internet for information.

Lo and behold, we found a discussion forum for chicken owners (it really is true: you can find ANYTHING on the internet). Someone had posted a question about a similar problem, and so we learned that chickens (as well as other birds) have air sacs under their skin in certain locations. Occasionally these sacs can be accidentally punctured, and air can be released from the sacs and get trapped under the skin.

The remedy? Puncture the unwanted pocket of air. Supposedly (hopefully) the internal air sac heals itself, and once the pocket of air which has left the air sacs and collected under the skin is released, the chicken will be fine.

So, this afternoon Kirstin operated on Squeaker the chicken. She punctured the swollen area, and sure enough, air came out. She had to work to get all of the air out, as there seem to have been internal 'bubbles' of air, which had to be deflated individually.

(Notice surgical assistant David, on alert to hand over the antibiotic cream at the appropriate moment.)

Immediately following her surgery, Squeaker returned to the chicken coop and went back to regular chicken activity.

So, we have now added to our family repertoire the essential skill of chicken deflation. This activity also had educational benefits, as we now know a few new facts about avian anatomy!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas Decorating

Rachel is the home decorator around here. She generally comes up with the best ideas for furniture arrangements, and she manages to put together a room that looks like it was designed, instead of looking like it is made up of the miscellaneous stuff we happen to have (which, of course, is closer to the truth).

We have several storage boxes full of Christmas items, including the tree and it's ornaments, of course, as well as various bells, ribbons, fabrics, etc, which could be decorations in the hands of someone with a flair for this. We are fortunate to have Rachel's abilities to liven up our holidays.

Here are some of her creations:

The dining room light is wrapped with gold garland and hung with glass balls.

This is one of my favorites. Rachel took apart some woven placemats we never use (we didn't have enough for the entire family) to make this 'ribbon,' and she hung tiny glass balls on it.

Tiny gold bells are strung on gold cord to decorate the everyday fruit basket.

Rachel was working on decorating this basket - she had the pearls on, and had a napkin serving as a liner - when the cat decided that this was his basket. His unspoken ownership of the basket was already apparent to all, so Rachel attached his name to the handle.

Isn't Rachel doing a great job with this? More examples of her work will follow in a future post!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We're a blogging family, now

My children often contribute the photos which I use in this blog. Frequently they attend ministry events while I stay home. Sometimes I send them out to get photos for me, of specific things around town.

Recently Kirstin was unpacking a box in her room. This was one of the boxes which I allowed the children to pack before we left the states. At that time, we thought we would be in Honduras for two or three years. Each child was allowed to pack one box with personal items that they wanted to store until they returned to the US. Earlier this year, after almost seven years in Honduras, we cleared out all of the items we had stored in Grandma's house, choosing to get rid of some items, and shipping others south.

So, in this box Kirstin was unpacking, she found a craft made out of some sort of modeling clay, which one of the children had stored. The item has been in humid Honduras for a few months, and has now acquired an interesting patina . . . of mold!

Instead of throwing out this lovely item, Rachel decided to take a photo. She thought I might want to use it on the blog. Ummm, okay. Here is a photo of a child's clay sculpture of a dog's head, growing mold. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving at our house today

Thanksgiving Dinner went great, but sadly our photos didn't do so well! Most were blurry, and the others had bad color, probably due to the light coming in through the windows. Our minds weren't really on taking pictures at this point anyway, as we were ready to dig in! This picture came out the best of the bunch, so this is the one you get to see. We were just starting to serve up, and you can see Russell handling the manly duty of carving the bird.

With several young female guests, we had a lot of help with the dinner preparations, and everything came together fairly smoothly. It was an unusual meal, as everyone other than me was 25 years old or younger, but it was lively and fun!

We had a few minor disasters during our preparations. Yesterday we did most of the baking. First thing in the morning, the water spigot at the hot water heater started to leak, and Russell had to turn off the water to make repairs. So, we were washing dishes out at the pila (an outside concrete sink). This was less than convenient.

Later, we had a small flood in the kitchen (somehow a plastic tube, which runs from the plumbing under the sink to the other side of the kitchen, to be used with an automatic ice maker, got turned on. Since we don't have an ice maker, it was just putting water onto the floor for a while, before anyone noticed. Since the end of the tube was inside of a cabinet, everything from there had to be removed and dried.

Today, as we went to put the thermometer into the turkey, we discovered that it had been broken while sitting in the utensil drawer. Then, after the turkey had cooked for a couple of hours, someone accidentally turned off the oven, thinking they were only turning off a timer. Fortunately I discovered this after about half an hour, and we didn't experience too much delay as a result.

Perhaps the most unique part of this event was that Russell invited his Honduran girlfriend. This was very nice, as we haven't had much of a chance to get to know her. It was also difficult, since this was such a specifically gringo meal. I know these foods aren't especially liked by Hondurans, so we felt bad about that. Iris is also quite shy, so although we tried to bridge the language and culture barriers, with the addition of shyness it was difficult. Hopefully she will grow more comfortable around our large and boisterous family as she gets more familiar with us.

Russell has handled this relationship in an especially mature manner, asking for her parents permission as well as ours, before starting to court Iris. We're proud of him, and we want to do everything we can to forge a friendly relationship with her, in case this blossoms into something permanent. I can hardly believe I have reached this stage of the game, where I am thinking about in-law relationships and such.

So, we ate traditional foods, watched It's a Wonderful Life, enjoyed the company of friends, and thanked God for our blessings. At the end of the day, we were treated to an especially colorful sunset.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Really Getting Into the Spirit of Christmas

Some around here are taking this thought more literally than others . . .

Do you really want to hear about my banking woes?

This is such a downer, and I'm really not sure it's interesting enough to type out. So, that's your warning. Read this only if you like to know all about the little things which eat up the hours of my week.

I wrote on Tuesday about how excited I was to be signing up for internet access to my bank account. On Wednesday, I went to the bank, to check and see if funds had been deposited (the very thing I hope to be able to do online, in the future).

I was at the bank for three hours. During that time, I asked about the form for online banking, and was told that the bank didn't have any copies of that form, but would have them the next day. I also was told that the funds had not yet arrived in the account. I withdrew all but about $10 from our account, so we would have a bit of cash at the house.

When I got home, Russell informed me that he needed to renew the registrations on both our vehicles, immediately. Somehow this had slipped through the cracks, and was already overdue (there isn't any notice which comes in the mail to remind you when this is due). Paying for these two registrations used up all of the cash I brought home from the bank, plus the little bit of cash we still had in the house from before. Sigh.

So, Thursday (which, of course, isn't a holiday in Honduras) I returned to the bank. My stay was only two hours on Thursday. During this time, I was able to:

1. discover that the funds had arrived in our account
2. be informed that the funds would not be available for withdrawal until Tuesday
3. find out that the employee who told me the forms would be available was out of the office, and no one else knew anything about them.
4. get a cash advance on my credit card, so we would have some cash for immediate needs

Sooooo, that means at least one more bank visit early next week. Actually there will be an additional bank visit. Since we won't have the cash we need to get the Christmas shipment through customs before Russell leaves to take care of that in Puerto Cortes, I will have to remove funds from our bank on Tuesday, and then deposit them in an account in another bank, so that our associate can withdraw the funds from his bank account in Puerto Cortes, and use them to pay for the shipment.

That's my whine for today. I wouldn't mind the trips to the bank so much, if it didn't involve physically standing for several hours. I take a book, and have a good bit of time for reading, or I practice my Spanish with the people in line with me. But after standing for two, or three, or occasionally more hours, I am pretty much exhausted!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An Early Christmas Present - For Me!!!!!!

I am so excited I can hardly think to type! My fear is that my readers may not understand my enthusiasm, so I will back up and give you the explanation for my joy.

We have a checking account in Florida, where we receive our personal and ministry funds. But if we write a check in Honduras on a US bank account, it takes several weeks for the money to be deposited in our local bank. So, we utilize a check cashing service in San Pedro Sula. We write a check and deliver it to that city. Within a week, if everything works out right, the funds are deposited into our account here.

One problem with this system is that the only way to find out if the money has arrived in our account has been to go to the bank and ask the teller for the account balance. The line to see a teller at the bank is regularly out the door and down the street about a half a block. I have stood in that line, many times, for hours.

A few weeks ago, we were awaiting deposited funds. Our supply of cash-on-hand was growing short, and we had some major upcoming expenses, including the week of Bible Training School. We really needed to get that money. Unbeknownst to me, there had been a problem with the deposit, and I went to the bank three times before finally calling the check cashing service to find out the cause of the delay. In one week, this added up to about seven hours in line at the bank!

I have just received this piece of news - such stunningly good news that I am considering it an early Christmas gift to me . . . and one of the best gifts I have ever received:

Our local bank is now offering on-line banking! I will be able to find out if the deposit has arrived from the comfort of my own computer desk!

I'm headed out tomorrow to sign up for this service. Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Halls, and the Decking Thereof

The holiday spirit is hitting hard in the Sowers household! Rachel has worked her decorating magic on the living room, and today we set up and ornamented the tree, while listening to carols, drinking hot chocolate, and eating sugar cookies in the shapes of angels, stars, and camels!

Here are some shots of the actual decking. I'll post some more when all of the clutter of storage boxes and such has been cleared away.

Those of you who know my family may be wondering who the extra people are. Two of the teachers from a bilingual school in town came over to help us decorate the tree.

See the table with the Nativity scene on it, next to the tree? That's an example of Rachel's creativity. That "table" is actually four boxes of Spanish Bibles. We have no other place to store those boxes, so Rachel covered them with fabric and made them part of the decor. She's a pretty smart and resourceful cookie, don't you think?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

And Then There Were Four . . . Chickens!

Kirstin, holding Squeaker and Angela, just before tucking them in for the night.
We did receive another gift chicken, but not from the source we'd expected. A little girl Bethany befriended at the Bible Training School gave her a very young hen. It's name is Squeaker, because it is so young, it still sort of "cheeps" instead of "clucks."

The first two chickens, Gorgeous and Handsome, have now bonded, and they won't let the other two into the chicken coop (which, by the way, is really a dog house). So far, the other two chickens are coming into the house each night, to sleep in a cardboard box in Boo's bathroom. It's actually not a big problem, as apparently handling the chickens like this every day will make them easier to deal with in the future.

If we don't put them in the boxes, they roost in the trees in the backyard. That would be okay, except that they would come down into the yard at dawn, and we don't trust the dogs not to bother them. We also don't want to get up at dawn to bring in the dogs!

The current animal count is 2 dogs, 1 cat, 4 chickens, 1 parrot, and 1 bull.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Kirstin Gets Her Honduras Driver's License

A few months ago, just after turning 18, Russell went to get his driver's license. Russell speaks fluent Spanish, and is very well known and liked around town, because of his outgoing personality and his soccer skills. He went into the police station, was told to pay 900 lempiras to the person at the desk (around $45), had his photo taken, and received his license. The entire process took about half an hour.

Yesterday Kirstin went to get her license. Because Kirstin's Spanish isn't fluent, Russell went with her, to help out. For Kirstin, the cost was 1200 Lempiras, and they had to go to the bank, stand in line for the teller, pay the fee, and come back with a receipt. She was told that she would have to study a booklet of driving laws, and take a test on this, in Spanish. However, somehow the fact that our good friend, the mayor, was in the office at the same time seemed to make this requirement go away.

Kirstin was given a short driving test, which Russell wasn't given. She had to show competence in a few basic skills, like stopping and starting her manual transmission vehicle on hills. (I was given a Honduras driver's license a couple of years ago without a driving test . . . good thing, too, as I couldn't have passed that particular skill test.)

She was also sent to another office, to get a "constancia," which is a document declaring that her vision is good enough for driving. When she and Russell went into the constancia office, they were asked, "Do you need a vision test, or just the constancia?" Uncertain, they told her they had been sent to get a constancia. So, she filled out the form, saying that Kirstin had 20/20 vision, without actually testing Kirstin's eyes!

Upon their return to the license office with the constancia, Kirstin was told to purchase the booklet of driving laws, which she did. After she'd had the obligatory unflattering photo taken, she was presented with her new Honduran license.

For Kirstin, the process of getting her driver's license took about four hours. Not too bad, for Honduras.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Gifts for Gracias Christmas Project - The Gifts Are Traveling South!

Today, in Poolesville Maryland, a 40' shipping container is being loaded for our ministry. It will contain construction supplies and equipment, as well as the donations for the Gifts for Gracias Project.

Also today, in Florida, a van is traveling to Tampa, to deliver the gifts which were collected in that location to the dock. The cargo ship with these items should be leaving sometime next week, to carry these gifts to Honduras.

So, in a couple of weeks time, we are expecting all of the donations for the Gifts for Gracias project to be arriving here in Gracias. We are still working our way through the distribution of the boxes of food from Kids Against Hunger, but we hope to have made enough space on our carport before these two shipments arrive!

Both of these shipments are departing much later than we'd originally planned. This is good, because if they'd arrived sooner we'd have had no place to put them! But, it is also difficult, as we will be hard pressed to have the distribution of the gifts done by Christmas. In fact, we generally do not finish by Christmas day, but the recipients don't seem to mind in the least. Hondurans have a very patient attitude!

We have two teams coming during the month of December, as well as the Christmas Gift distribution and completion of the food distribution. Although our holidays will be non-commercialized, they will certainly be bustling with activity!

We are so very grateful to everyone who has participated in this Christmas blessing for the pastors of Lempira!

Pastor Training School - Final Session for 2007

Today the pastors are heading out of town, as we conclude the final session of Bible training classes for this year. Over the next few months, most of the pastors in this part of Honduras will be working very hard on the coffee harvest. Since they make most of their income for the year during the harvest, the decision was made to take our break from classes at this time.

Sales of Bibles and Bible study materials were brisk at the close of the session.

Because of the generosity of our donors, pastors were able to get boxes of inexpensive paperback Bibles, to distribute to their congregations.

The Bible Training School has been a fabulous success. We held eight sessions in 2007, starting with the one in March. Attendance has hovered at around eighty students each month. Many pastors who previously had no study materials now have study Bibles, concordances, dictionaries, commentaries and teaching materials for Sunday School.

We are so grateful to God for his many provisions in this endeavor!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gringo Holidays in Honduras

American Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us. Our family has tried to maintain some of our North American traditions, including the Thanksgiving feast, while living here in Honduras. Some years this has been quite a challenge.

Two years ago, when we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Gracias, it had been just over a month since we had moved here from Guanaja. We had tried to use up most of our stored food before moving, and I hadn't had time to find the special foods which mean Thanksgiving to our family in this new area of the country. That year, in addition to having chicken instead of turkey (we've only had turkey in Honduras one year, when my parents managed to send one down with a shipment on a cargo boat), we made from scratch our stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, pies, pumpkin bread, and applesauce. I did find canned cranberry sauce that year.

Other years, including this year, I have hoarded some foods, and even been able to purchase some others, in order to have them available on Thanksgiving.

This year, the most exciting thing of all: we have a TURKEY! Oh, and it's a BUTTERBALL! Can you get more traditional than that, for a suburban girl like me? This turkey was purchased at a store in nearby Santa Rosa de Copan, which specializes in foods and household products which are difficult to find in the local food stores. No, it wasn't cheap, but it will be a very special treat for our family and our guests.

Here is a tasteful array of all of the foods we have hoarded this year, for possible inclusion in our Thanksgiving Dinner. Some of these foods were purchased in the store where we bought the turkey, others came from shopping trips to the big city of San Pedro Sula (about a 3-4 hour drive from here), and others were sent in shipments from grandparents earlier in the year, and hoarded until this special occasion.

Rachel (who, at 16, is without a doubt the main cook of our family) has already mentioned that she may choose to make some of these items from scratch, rather than use the prepared versions. Certainly the mashed potatoes will be the hard work kind (we have a recipe which uses crema, a Honduran dairy product which is like sour cream, in the potatoes, and it is yummy).

We have several packets of turkey gravy mix, which we will likely use to stretch the pan gravy I always make from the drippings. I actually think I've gotten pretty good at this.

We're thrilled to have canned pumpkin, to make our family's beloved pumpkin bread, and we even have real cream cheese (I forgot to put that in the picture) to use on it. We also have enough pumpkin to make a pie or two.

Rachel cooks fruit pies regularly, so it's nothing for her to add an apple and a cherry pie to the list of goodies!

We'll have guests for Thanksgiving, but only gringos this year. We've had Honduran guests for Thanksgiving before, but, because it isn't their tradition and many of the foods are strange to them, they don't appreciate the special foods and the extra effort as much as gringo guests do! This year, we have some young people who teach at a bilingual school in Gracias coming for the meal, as well as a Peace Corps volunteer who lives nearby, in the city of La Campa.

You may have noticed, on the wall behind the food in the photo, there are a few paper snowflakes. This is a Christmas decorating tradition for our family. Making paper snowflakes is a wonderful craft for us, as the supplies are always on hand (scissors and copier paper), and even my youngest children can produce a nice snowflake, with a little assistance. Some years we have covered all of the living room walls in snowflakes. Our current house has one large room which serves as living room, family room, dining room, library, and office. We'll see if we are up to the challenge of getting this whole room covered with snowflakes. Fortunately, a lot of wall space is already covered with our many bookshelves!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bomberos de Gracias

Rachel, my girl-on-the-street reporter, went shopping at the market this morning, and found that it had been evacuated and locked up. The bomberos (firemen) were apparently putting out a fire in the market.

We don't know anything more about the situation, but we thought you might enjoy seeing a picture or two of the beautiful tanker truck our city uses!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Horses for Pastor Mateo

I have previously mentioned the program which distributes motorcycles to rural pastors. Many of the pastors in our area serve several small churches, and they travel between the villages where these churches are located, preaching on different nights of the week. It is not unusual for one pastor to have four or five churches.

Pastor Mateo is one such pastor, and we have discussed getting a motorcycle for him in the past. His situation is complicated, however, by the fact that he has had a large part of one foot amputated. This makes it difficult for him to handle a motorcycle. After going over many options, including three wheeled motorcycles, eventually it was agreed that the best option for Pastor Mateo would be for him to get several horses.

The Christian Motorcyclists Association funds the program which purchases motorcycles for the pastors. We don't have specific funding for horses, but we decided to go ahead and use money from our general fund, to help Pastor Mateo.

This week, Russell and Pastor Mateo purchased these two horses. Now Pastor Mateo will be better able to pastor his six churches and do the agricultural work which supports his family.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Guanaja Flashbacks

Several times recently, when we have exchanged stories with new friends, they have mentioned the fact that our life here in Lempira seems tame compared with our 5 years on the island of Guanaja.

So, for fun, I thought I'd start a new category of posts: Guanaja Flashbacks. On a very strict schedule - determined by when I feel like it - I may (or may not) post some stories from our time on Guanaja.

For no particular reason, I was thinking today about the awesome beauty of the island. I love living here in the mountains of Lempira, but I have to admit that I believe Guanaja is the most stunningly beautiful place I will ever live. You'd think being surrounded by such indescribable scenery would bring out the poetic in a person. You might imagine that exotic and romantic names would be given to these intensely beautiful locales. But, you wouldn't actually find that to be true on Guanaja.

A map of Guanaja reads like . . . well, like a map. Most place names are the simplest and most obvious descriptive titles. For instance, there are several bights on the island (a bight is similar to a bay). There is the bight with a lot of mangroves . . . Mangrove Bight. There is the bight with some flat grassy land nearby . . . Savannah Bight. There is the bight on the northeast end of the island . . . Northeast Bight. There is also a bay with a sandy bottom . . . Sandy Bay.

We lived in Savannah Bight. Sometimes we would walk to the east end of the island, where you can visit the tiny village of East End. On the far end of the island, much too far to walk, you can also visit West End.

My personal favorite place name, though, is the name of the piece of flat land located between Savannah Bight and Mangrove Bight, which is used for ranching. Guanaja is a very small, very tall island, with little flat land, so this is a very unusual and valuable property. It is appropriately named . . . Big Flat.

Near Big Flat there is a large hill, with many marble-like rock protrusions. This hill has an ancient and spooky history. Island lore claimed it was a haunted place, and more recently archaeologists have declared that it was a site where Mayans conducted human sacrifices. Given this evocative history, you might expect more in the name than . . . Marble Hill.

Along the reef which surrounds most of the island, there are truly tiny islands, called cays. These are generally just an acre of so of land, owned by one individual. These jewel-like islands are dreamy tropical locations, gorgeous and isolated; white sand, turquoise blue sea, coral, and palm trees. Unbelievable. If any place on the island would inspire poetry, these cays would be the place. With few exceptions these are abruptly named for their owners. Mandy's Cay. Graham's Cay. Jones Cay. Etc. Several of the exceptions are Northeast Cay and Southwest Cay. Sigh.

This naming tendency is even historic. When Christopher Columbus visited Guanaja in 1502, he noted the abundance of tall pine trees growing on the mountains, and he name the island: Island of the Pines.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More Pictures from Feeding Centers

We just received another batch of photos from a feeding center. These came from Pastor Dionisio Pineda, in Campuca Lempira. Enjoy!

Food preparation - notice the homemade stove!

The children pick up their bowls of food.

Reports are coming in from all over Lempira: "This is really good food!"

Our thanks to everyone who helped with this project, and especially to Kids Against Hunger! God has really blessed the people of Lempira through these efforts.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's Sooooo Cold!

This is the beginning of our third year in the mountains, so you'd think we'd have gotten used to the climate. Perhaps our internal thermostats were ruined by five years in the relentless heat and humidity on the island of Guanaja - because we are feeling really COLD.

We've pulled out the comforters and quilts, sweaters, sweats, socks and even knitted caps - after all, it's like 65 degrees right now! Yesterday, our family went swimming/soaking at the hot water springs just outside of town. This is actually more pleasant during cold weather, as the heat of the water is a bit too much when the air is also hot. Of course, getting out of the hot water takes a bit of nerve!

Truthfully, we love the cool weather. We figure, if it gets cold, you can always put on more clothes. When it gets hot, there are only so many we can take off!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Daylight Savings Time

Honduras doesn't participate in Daylight Savings Time, usually. In the years we have lived here (almost seven years now) we have only switched the clocks once. That was last year, 2006.

By order of the president, generally known by the nickname 'Mel,' we had a couple of months of adjusted time. Of course, we didn't hear anything about it in advance. This was at least partly our own fault, as we don't get cable, don't listen to the local radio much, and don't get a newspaper. Plus, in 2006, we were new in town, and didn't know many people. However, a lot of other people were surprised, as well. We found out about it by showing up for church at the wrong time.

What was interesting here in Gracias, was that many people refused to switch their clocks. Most of the non-participants were the very poor people living outside the city. I don't know their reason for not switching to the new time, but it wasn't ignorance of the situation. For several months, every time a soccer game or church service was scheduled, the time had to be announced with reference to whether it had been set according to 'old-time,' or 'Mel-time.'

Some of the businesses in town decided to split the difference. Instead of maintaining old-time, or instituting Mel-time, they changed their opening and closing times to fall exactly between the two. It was pretty confusing around here for a while!

I think we were all relieved when the time came to switch the clocks back again!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Should I Watch What I Ask For?

Two days ago, we received our first egg from our lovely chicken, Gorgeous. We did not get an egg yesterday, and that one lone egg is still sitting in the kitchen, waiting for someone audacious enough to use such a special egg.

Yesterday, I mentioned to the kids that one chicken, producing less than one egg per day, was not really enough for our family. It was a JOKE. Our chickens live in a coop, and I'm not sure it is big enough for any more than the two chickens we already had living in it (did you notice the use of the past tense in that sentence: had, not have?).

This morning, I received a visitor - Maria Vicenta, one of the ladies who receives food through the Special Needs Program. She was so grateful for all we have done for her family, and especially for the wonderful food from Kids Against Hunger . . . that she brought us a chicken.
No, I'm not kidding, we have received another chicken as a gift. And I'm pretty sure she is going to bring us yet one more chicken tomorrow.

Of course, it is a beautiful little chicken, and has received the lovely name of Angela. I doubt that Angela is ever destined for the cooking pot.

Maria Vicenta's family is in the Special Needs Program because she has a son, Jose, who is mentally impaired, and cannot walk or talk. Her husband is a farmer, and they have five other children. According to our records, their home does not have electricity or indoor plumbing, and they have a dirt floor. I am pretty sure the reason she wants to give me a second chicken is that I gave her one of our empty five gallon laundry soap buckets today, as a gift. She will use that to carry water to her house, from the river. She had offered to buy it from me, and I felt that, since she had just brought me a gift of a chicken, I should give it to her. I guess now she feels indebted to me?

So, now we have three chickens, and soon we may have another. We are enjoying them a lot, they aren't much work, and they reward us with eggs. Plus, I know it is nice for the people we help, to be able to give us something in return.
Look at Handsome, standing so tall and proud. Doesn't he look like he knows he has a harem now, instead of just one bossy wife?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Walking Tour of Gracias Lempira, part 1

Things are kind of quiet around here right now, so I thought I'd just show you around town a bit. First, let me explain that the name of the city is really Gracias, and it is the capital of the department of Lempira. Because there are other, more well known places in the country with similar names (Department of Gracias a Dios, and Puerto Lempira), usually people use both names to designate our city. Although it is the capital of a department, it is not a big important city. I've heard other gringos call Gracias "the town that time forgot." We kind of like that about this city.

Things may be changing around here, though. Currently, Gracias is at the end of the paved road system. From here, you either go back, or you quickly move onto roads which are best accessed using 4 wheel drive vehicles. But, the government is in the process of paving a road between Gracias and La Esperanza. When this road is completed, it will be the best way to travel from western Honduras to the capital city, Tegucigalpa. Once we have more through traffic, I fear we will lose a lot of our small town atmosphere here.

Gracias is being touted as a tourist destination, with Spanish Colonial flavor. Recent municipal improvements to the city have been planned with this in mind. As a result, the newly paved streets are paved with cobblestones. These are mighty bumpy, but in general they are better than the dirt streets. Here are a few examples - watch your step!

Behind the metal barricade, a school is undergoing renovations.

Every year, around Christmastime, it is traditional for people to paint the exteriors of their homes and businesses. This year, many people seem to be getting an early start on this. One bewildering development (to us Gringos) is the current trend toward painting buildings in swirly orange patterns.

On the north coast of Honduras, the paint colors tend toward pastels. Here, earth tones have seemed to be predominant . . . until this recent takeover of swirly orange. Perhaps the hardware store had an overstock sale on orange paint?