Thursday, July 26, 2007

Preparing for a visiting team

On Saturday a medical and construction team from Grace Anglican Church in Jacksonville Florida arrives to spend a week with us here. This church sent a team last summer, as well, and we are delighted to have them coming back!

The week before a team's arrival is a busy time. Allen went to San Pedro Sula Monday to handle some errands. This trip replaced the trip which was scheduled last week, and which was cancelled because of protests. Our vehicles need a few repairs, before we use them to haul around a group of gringos, so he was looking for some replacement parts, plus we stocked up on paper plates and a few food items we can't purchase locally. He also went to Santa Rosa de Copan Tuesday (this is only a 45 minute drive) to try to find the vehicle parts he was unable to get in San Pedro Sula.

Rachel and I worked up the menus and shopping list for the week of meals. Approximately 40 people will be eating at our house, including the team members, Honduran doctors, translators, our family, and other helpers we seem to pick up along the way. Rachel and I are so excited about using the new chest freezer with a team here! In the past, we have had to make numerous shopping trips throughout the week, because we couldn't store a week of food for a large team. Truthfully, we couldn't even store enough food for our family for a week, before the freezer! With the large freezer, we are hoping to purchase everything we need in advance. We are also able to make up spaghetti sauce, beans, taco meat, cookies, etc this week, and freeze these for use with the team.

Because we will be feeding close to 40 people in our home, three meals a day, we have had to move furniture around in the house, and plan how 'traffic' will move at meal times. It's a good thing we all enjoy the team visits, or our children might not be such willing workers as they have been!

Of course, because we are so busy, I managed to get sick this week, on top of everything else. I started having strange pains just under my lowest ribs, on the left side. These pains went from uncomfortable, to disturbing, to extremely painful, throughout the course of Wednesday. I also started to run a fever with this. I've started myself on a course of antibiotics, and through the wonder of ibuprofen I am mostly back on my feet today. This self-doctoring is difficult when you don't know what causing the distress, though.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Ugly Bug Mystery - SOLVED!

I have to thank two distinct sources, for their help in finding the answer to the name of the mystery bug from yesterday's post.

First, Brown Eyed Girl, one of the homeschooling moms at the private forum attached to the Sonlight Homeschooling Curriculum website, told me about the website You can send the folks at this site an email with your bug question, including a photo if possible, for identification help. Trust me, if you ever want the answer to a question like "How can I identify this bug?" or "Can you make your own poptarts at home?" or "How do you punctuate a sentence which involves three question marks?" you should ask a forum of homeschooling moms!

So, thanks to Brown Eyed Girl's suggestion, I sent my mystery bug photo to the What's That Bug? site today, and I received an answer within a few hours. Our mystery bug is a type of Fulgorid Planthopper, with the latin name Cerogenes auricoma. All of this fancy scientific talk to tell you that it is a type of aphid, so you don't want these in your garden. (Probably none of you had been thinking, "Gee I wish I had one of those in my garden," unless a bunch of 9 year old boys have recently subscribed to this blog.)

Here is a link to the picture and the answer, with my very grateful thanks to the lovely people at What's That Bug? who were so very helpful and efficient.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ugly Mystery Bugs

We see these strange, ugly bugs when we are driving out in the country sometimes. They hang in groups on certain types of trees, and they fly. Sometimes they appear to be dive bombing us, but that might just be our imagination, or too many scary movies!

I'm sorry the picture quality isn't any better - no one wanted to get any closer to these things! We have determined that the orange part is the head end. The black parts are the wings. A lot of the insect is just white furry fluff, giving the overall effect of a much larger bug. The actual body of the insect (from the orange head to the end of the black wings) is about 2 to 3" long. Did I mention that they are ugly?

If there are any well informed entomologist types out there, who can identify these creatures, we'd sure love to hear about it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Light Switches!

When Allen heard that I was going to write about our light switches, he got all technical on me, and wanted me to write about all of the strangeness related to our electricity - like the fact that as soon as we plug in a surge protector (the kind that tells you if your wiring isn't grounded) we get all sorts of bad news. But, I'm not really electricity savvy enough to deal with all of that. I just want to tell you what a nuisance all of our light switches are!

Here are some samples for you.

To go into our master bathroom, you have to walk through a small closet area. Now, I must tell you, having a closet is a luxury which is NOT to be taken for granted in Honduras, and I am NOT taking this wonderful closet for granted. But, the switches for the lights in the closet and in the bathroom are located outside of the door to the closet (in the bedroom). This makes it convenient for you to turn on the light before you enter, but it also makes it convenient for others to turn off the lights while you are indisposed . . . and perhaps you don't want to run out of the bathroom at that moment to turn the lights back on.

The other interesting thing about this same bathroom, is that there is a light switch inside the bathroom, conveniently located next to the door, just where you would want it to be. The only problem is, this light switch doesn't do anything. At all. At least, not so far as we have been able to discern. There is a back gate to our property (which we never use . . . we don't even have the key for it, and the doorbell by this gate doesn't work), and I have a theory that this switch is for the light fixture above this gate. Allen's theory, however, is that this switch is supposed to be a three-way-switch for the bathroom light. But I guess we'll never know . . .

Oh, in this same bathroom, there is a light switch high above the bathroom mirror. Since the mirror is actually the front of a medicine cabinet which sticks out several inches from the wall (another astonishing luxury item, I might add), you can't actually see this switch. (Well, I can't see it. But then, I'm only 5'3". It is possible that tall people might see the switch, as well as all of the dust on the top of the cabinet.) I doubt I would ever have known the switch was there, except that the landlady showed it to me. This switch works the bare bulb which dangles from a line running through a tree in our backyard.

The younger kids have a bathroom off their bedroom, and it has three switches on the wall, just inside the door (on the hinge side of the door, although it would have been perfectly easy to put them on the knob side). One of these (always the third one I try) turns on the ceiling light. The other two are simply there. Perhaps they are decorative, or perhaps there is some feng shui reason to have electrical switches in groups of three, that I don't know about?

Our kitchen has an exterior door, as well as a door into the rest of the house. There is only one switch in the kitchen, and it is beside the exterior door. When you need to enter the kitchen at night from inside the house, you must pass through the dark room to get to the switch. Luckily, with six children and three dogs in the family, it is rare for us to have stray objects strewn about, to trip over. . . sigh - don't I wish!

On the wall inside the front door of our house, we have a set of three switches for the interior lights in the main room. Since there are three ceiling lights (the lights in the room are for a living area, dining area, and unspecific wide hallway type area), this seems like an appropriate number of switches to have. However, each of the three switches turns on and off all three lights at once. At the other end of this long room, there is another set of three switches. These, amazingly, each work a different one of the three overhead lights. But, neither the switches by the front door, or the switches at the far end of the room will override the switches at the other end. If you had originally turned on the lights by the front door, then at bedtime you will walk past the switch at the other end of the house, and go back to the front door to turn the lights off at night. Then you will walk through the dark room to go to bed. (See above paragraph for info regarding kids, dogs, and randomly strewn objects.)

Ahhh, but of course, there is an alternative. While the lights are still on (because the front door switch is turned on), you can flip the switch at the other end of the house (provided no one has previously done this). This will appear to have no effect, but in fact, will result in the lights NOT going off when you turn off the switches by the front door. Then you can have light as you traverse the main room back to the bedroom, for some well deserved rest!

See how simple that was? I don't even know why I bothered to write this down.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Happy Lempira Day!

Today is a holiday in Honduras, celebrating the Honduran hero, Lenca Indian Chief Lempira, who, according to the legends, united different Lenca tribes to fight against the Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500's.(For more about the chief, here is his Wikipedia article.) His name may sound familiar to you, as the Honduran currency is named after him. That's him, on the right side of the one Lempira bill.

On the Honduran island where we used to live, the children in the kindergarten dressed up as Indians, and marched in a 10 minute parade, accompanied by the high school marching band (all percussion). Lempira Day was a sweet little moment, and the parents all came out to watch, but really it was not a big deal.

Here in Gracias Lempira, the capital of the department named for Chief Lempira and the home of the Lenca Indians, however, the day commemorating Lempira is a major event, and a boon to the local economy. Tourists come from all over Honduras to see the parade, and to participate in the other events, including a rodeo, concert, carnival, and a festival in the park, with many booths set up for vendors.

The parade has grown into a celebration of the entire heritage of the people of the department of Lempira; it is more then just a recognition of the accomplishments of Chief Lempira. The parade celebrates the local Lenca Indian heritage, the Indian warriors who fought with Lempira, the agricultural lifestyle of the residents of this mountain area, the conquistadors, the Spanish missionaries, and the current 'cowboy culture.' All of the schools participate, and each school (or each grade within a school) portrays a particular aspect of local history. One section of the parade even recognizes each municipality in the department, by name.

The costumes are homemade, and they vary in sophistication . . . but it really is amazing to see the fabulous creations which can come together using dried corn and beans, leather, feathers, palm fronds, bits of terra cotta, etc.

I love Lempira Day! This whole town is just so much fun!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Glimpse of Our Day

Although Allen had planned to travel to the city of San Pedro Sula today, for shopping and business, we received a warning last night from the US Embassy that there would be protests on the roads between here and there today, so he decided to stay home. Of course, the protests were then cancelled, but by the time we received word that the roads were clear, it was too late in the day to start the trip (it is a three hour drive each way).

Since he was home, Allen worked on emails, and met with the pastors who came by to visit. A lot of pastors come by every day now. Some come to purchase Bibles and other study materials, some to seek help with their construction projects, some to bring us gifts (generally a sack of oranges, or a cardboard box of avocados). We serve innumerable cups of coffee each day, to our many guests!

Because we are still in the midst of unpacking the items we received in our recent container shipment from Maryland, our main room is cluttered with family photos, unshelved books, and decorative items which need to be assigned to specific locations. The kids have enjoyed seeing their baby pictures, and Allen's and my school yearbooks and wedding pictures. It is time, however, to find these things permanent homes, and regain the lost floor space in the living area.

Allen bought some new appliances when we were in MD, and so far we have only set up the new refrigerator. It feels so spacious and looks so new and rust-free. Our old fridge lived on the island of Guanaja for five years, and the salt in the air there didn't do good things to it!

Tomorrow, we plan to set up our new stove (it actually has a thermostat for the temperature control . . . the girls will have to learn how to use that) and new chest freezer. We're excited to be able to purchase food in larger quantities, and not have to visit the stores as frequently. The freezer was an incredibly generous gift from a team which visited here in April.

For fun, Rachel made homemade pop tarts tonight. We enjoy finding recipes to make things that we can't purchase here. Some other things we've learned to make include ricotta cheese, sausage (both breakfast and Italian varieties), bread and butter pickles, French bread, bagels, soft pretzels, and cream-filled donuts. You know - health foods!

It is raining now, but not as hard as it was earlier, when we all had to run outside and bail out the yard. The low spot in the yard collects too much rain during big downpours, and eventually the water flows across our carport in a fast, deep stream. We still have items from the shipment sitting on the carport, so we had to rapidly bail the yard water into the drain (conveniently located higher than the low spot). With a big team effort, we were able to lower the water level before the impending disaster, and we are thankful that the rain has slowed now!