Thursday, January 31, 2008

Food follies

It can be challenging, figuring out the foods we encounter here in Gracias. I remember the time Allen and I saw an unlabeled package of meat in the freezer at the store. It looked like it might be liver, which Allen loves (and I do not love), but we weren't certain. We asked the lady at the counter what it was, but since we didn't know the Spanish word for "liver," we still didn't know what it was after she told us. Continuing to try to help us identify the meat, she told us that it was very delicious. At the same time, our good friend Kelbin, who stocks shelves in the store, was making faces and telling us that it was very horrible. Well, that difference of opinion pretty much sealed the identification for us - it must be liver! (And it was.)

Recently, we received a bag full of these fruits, as a gift.Shaped like pairs, but huge and with a citrus-type skin, these turned out to be an oddly shaped type of grapefruit. We found them to be quite delicious.

Kirstin spotted these locally baked bread products at the store yesterday.At first glance, they appear to be growing a particularly virulent form of mold, but in fact they are simply a type of roll we know as samitas. A samita is a basic roll, but with a small amount of sweet dough stuck onto the top before baking. This was the first time we had seen Samitas with the sweet dough colored. It's a bit unnerving to look at, but this hasn't slowed Sweet-Tooth-David down any, in the eating!

Even after all of these years in Honduras, we still find ourselves stumped fairly regularly by the items we find at the fruit market and the grocery store. It keeps life interesting!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The BucketBoy is Thinking Ahead

I had this conversation today with our 6 year old son, David (aka the BucketBoy). He was telling me that he had come up with names for his future children.

"The first one will be Jonathon," he declared. "Next will come Michaelson, and then Johnny."

"Hmmm, don't you think people might get confused, with Jonathon and Johnny?" I asked.

"No, it'll be alright," was his reply.

"What if you have girls?"

"Oh, then they will be . . . Jasmine, and . . . " he paused, obviously not quite prepared for the possibility of daughters, "and Snowflake."

So now you know. I'll let you all know when the grandchildren start arriving. You heard it here first. ;-D

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Things That Make My Life Harder, part 1

First, let me explain that I am not intending to whine here. But, honestly, many of my daily chores are much harder to do in Honduras, than they are in the states. Many. And they are much harder.

I have to admit, though, that my life was more difficult when we lived on the island of Guanaja than it is here in Gracias. However, since I didn't have a blog back then, you didn't get to hear about my having to pasteurize my own milk, or living without a dryer in the rainy season, or moving all of our worldly goods from one house to another using a wheelbarrow for transportation, or traveling at night on boats with no lights . . . hmmm, suddenly my life here sounds remarkably easy.

But, still, there are tasks which are more difficult than they should be.

Today, I want to introduce you to my laundry. Honestly, just about any mom with six kids is going to find it a big job to keep up with the laundry. But it doesn't help that it currently takes approximately 2 hours for my washing machine to fill with water. That's just for the wash cycle. Another two hours for the rinse cycle. Sigh. The water line to the washer consistently has the lowest water pressure of anywhere in our house and yard.

If I want to wash with hot water (which I do want to do, when I am washing my dish towels) I have to run a hose from the backyard hot water spigot (at my request, my sweet husband installed a spigot at the back of the house, on the line next to the hot water heater) to the washing machine. The hose isn't quite long enough, so I have to stand a few feet from the washer, holding the hose up in the air so that the water arcs gracefully into the machine. Once the machine is full of hot water, I immediately turn off the hot water spigot and return the hose to it's normal location. I'd hate for someone to water the plants with hot water!

The upside to washing with hot water is that the machine fills much faster. I don't think I'd be able to hold that hose up for two hours!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Festival of San Sebastian

For about a week in January, the festival of San Sebastian is held in a park near our house. The San Sebastian church is opened up specially for the occasion (this very old church is not used regularly for services), and there are games, food, music, and vendors.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Well, it could have been a lot worse . . .

If you live in Honduras, you always have to be on your guard against theft. If your car door is unlocked, and you leave your car for just a minute or two, you are likely to find that anything you left in the car is missing when you return. Small expensive items, like cell phones, cameras, etc, can disappear in a moment of inattention. Of course, you also need to prepare for planned, intentional robberies. For these instances, properties have high walls (sometimes with glass shards or razor wire on top), houses have barred windows, cars have loud alarms, large dogs are kept for watch duty, etc.

Today we experienced a loss due to theft. We have a large shipping container on the property where we are doing construction, and we use that for storage. The multiple locks we had on the container were broken, and some items were stolen - mostly bags of cement and a pile of bricks.

We know that the break-in occurred last night, because a neighbor checks the property for us on a regular basis, and he reported in today, saying that everything was fine yesterday afternoon, but he found the damaged locks this morning.

There were other items on the property of greater value than those which were stolen. In particular, the pile of stolen bricks was from a batch which we had bought early on in the construction process, and found to be so weak and badly made that we weren't planning to use them for building. The other items stolen were two thin mattresses, which we have used occasionally when we have had someone spend the night at the property. We've actually not had a watchman sleeping out there for several months. We feel, based on the items stolen, that these were local people who just took advantage of an opportunity, not professionals who would, for instance, take on robbing a house with people at home, with dogs, etc.

We were very glad to find that our losses were not any greater, and of course, we've replaced the locks on the container, and we will be renewing our vigilance in having a watchman stay out on the property occasionally enough to make the place appear somewhat 'inhabited.'

All in all, it could have been a lot worse.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Church Interiors

I find it interesting to see the interiors of the tiny mountain churches where we work. Some of these pictures show churches which are specially decorated for Christmas, but all year round the churches may be lavished with decorations. You can click on each photo for a closer view.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Allen's Day of Rest

On Saturday, very late, Allen returned from a long stay in the states. He was supposed to fly out from Virginia on an early flight Saturday morning, but the flight was two hours behind schedule, which meant that he would miss his connecting flight to Honduras. He managed to get onto different flights, but in the course of all this, he spent many more hours than usual in his travel home.

Sunday was the day he was going to rest up from his trip. In addition to watching some shows from the first season of The Cosby Show, and taking a nap, he:

  • visited with a pastor seeking help with church construction

  • sold several Bibles

  • talked to another pastor seeking help with funding a school

  • gave out a pickup truck load of used clothing

  • arranged to get food to a feeding center

  • distributed a refurbished computer to a pastor

Good thing he took the day off, don't you think?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

While we're on the subject of displaying art work . . .

This past May, I worked on sorting through everything we had stored in the states, and gradually moving it here (or disposing of it). I was excited to see, in the most recent arrival of stuff, my pencil drawings and watercolor paintings from when I took art classes in college.

Most of these have never been framed, because the expense of framing a large drawing or painting is quite high in Maryland. One of the drawings had been framed, but it arrived here without the glass, and the frame was weakened.

I had Russell tighten and strengthen the frame for me. He also checked on the cost to replace the glass here in Gracias. Although the sheet of glass was custom cut to fit the somewhat large (2' x 2.5') picture, the cost of the glass was only 60 Lempiras - about $3! Russell has also found a local carpenter who will make frames for my other pieces inexpensively (the carpenter happens to be Russell's girlfriend's father). So, I believe I will finally be able to display my own drawings and paintings! I'm rather ridiculously excited about this!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm so proud of myself - I bought a painting!

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a man walking down the street, carrying two large paintings, which he had for sale. Of course, he zoned in on me in a second (read: gringa = money). Although I was in a hurry to get to the bank (Rachel was holding a place in line for me, and she likes me to get there before she reaches the front of the line), I stopped for a moment to look at them.

They were nice landscapes, in gentle, realistic colors. I liked one more than the other, and was very tempted to purchase it. But, I was on my way to the bank to get some cash, and since my recent trips to the bank have often not resulted in my actually receiving any cash, I wasn't sure that I would be able to make a purchase. So, I asked the man to come by my house later in the afternoon.

Big surprise here - I came home from the bank with no cash. When the man came to the house, I told him that I would like to buy the one painting, but that I had no money that day. He said that he would come back in ten days, if I thought I would have the money by then. So, I agreed to make that purchase. To my surprise, he left the picture with me, and walked away! I must look mighty trustworthy. Well, that, and he knows where I live.

Happily, when he came back, I did have enough money to pay for the painting.

I really like having this picture in my living room. When we lived in the states, I rarely had any artwork on the walls of my home. There were too many choices of different pieces of art that I could have placed on display - my choice would say so much about my taste. I guess I couldn't take the pressure of the decision. After all, there would always be something a bit nicer, if I just kept looking.

But this painting is one of only two I have ever seen for sale here. One day last year, I saw a man walking down the street selling decoratively framed mirrors. I thought about getting one, but decided not to jump on the purchase. Of course, I've not yet seen any more mirrors like those for sale. That influenced me not to wait around this time, for another painting I liked better. I liked this one, and I bought it.

I hope you like it too. But if you don't, well, I'm not going to worry about it! ;-D

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Touching Mother-Daughter Moment

My 11 year old daughter, Bethany, came to me yesterday, and sweetly said, "When I'm grown up, will you help me raise my children?"

I told her that by the time she is grown, she will probably feel ready to raise her children on her own, and she might not even want my help anymore.

She replied, "Oh, but I think I'll still need your help. You're soooooo good at thinking up punishments!" ;-D

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"¡No, no es Congolón!"

Answering the phone is not a favorite activity for our family (with the exception of one teenage female who is always hoping for a call from a certain someone). It is much harder for us to communicate over the telephone, than face to face. Apparently a lot of our communication in Spanish still requires exaggerated facial expressions, hand motions, body language, and pointing.

It doesn't help our attitude about answering the phone, that an inordinate number of the calls we receive are actually wrong numbers.

It is extremely difficult to get a new phone line installed into a house or business in Honduras, or a number changed. In general, if you are lucky enough to have a phone line in the house, you never mess with it. The house which we are renting belongs to a lawyer, who, when he lived here, ran his practice from the house. Since we took over the same phone number, we receive occasional calls for his family and his law practice, although these are becoming much less frequent, now that we have been in the house over a year.

We also get a lot of simple wrong number calls, but the most frequent of these are calls which are intended for Congolón, a local radio station. Our phone number is only one digit different from theirs. We receive a lot of song requests, with dedications. So far, we have refrained from actually singing anything, in spite of all these requests.

Because answering all of these calls is such a waste of time, we have established a method of defense. We try to answer the phone with the most gringo-sounding "Hello" we can manage. This is enough to convince many callers that they have not reached the number they had intended, and they quickly hang up without speaking.

Trying to get our callers to hang up on us may seem to be an odd goal. You would understand this, however, if you had the opportunity to hold some of the frustrating and pointless telephone conversations we have! Here is an example, translated into English for your convenience:

Sowers Family Member: Hello
Caller, after very long pause: Hello
Sowers Family Member, after another pause: Hello?
Caller(in a demanding voice): Who's speaking?
Sowers Family Member, trained to be polite, even in the face of apparent rudeness: This is _________ (insert name of Sowers Family Member).
Caller, after very long pause: This isn't (radio station) Congolón?
Sowers Family Member: No, I'm sorry, this isn't Congolón. That number is xxx-xxxx.
Caller: click

This type of conversation is frustrating for us, on so many levels. It breaks so many of the gringo rules of phone etiquette. We try to remember that Honduran callers have their own ideas about what constitutes polite conversation, and that they generally aren't being intentionally rude. We also try to keep in mind that many of our callers grew up without phones (cell phones systems opened up much of this part of Honduras to telecommunications for the first time just a few years ago), so they may not even have heard of phone etiquette.

Here's another very common conversation:

Sowers Family Member: Hello
Caller remains silent
Sowers Family Member: Hello?
Caller remains silent, or talks to someone else in the background (sometimes we can hear the word "gringo" being whispered)
Sowers Family Member: Hello?
Caller: Who is this?
Sowers Family Member (feeling less polite than normal): Who is calling?
Caller: Who is speaking?
Sowers Family Member(giving in): This is ______.
Caller: This isn't ______?
Sowers Family Member: No, it isn't.
Caller: Whose house is this?
Sowers Family Member: This is the house of the Sowers, the gringos.
Caller, after a long pause, possibly involving more whispered background conversation: click.

To truly understand our frustration, and the amount of wasted time, imagine holding each of these conversations five or six times every day. We've tried things like answering with the equivalent of "Sowers Residence" and other varients. These attempts are met with confused silence, followed by the same conversations related above.

Yesterday, however, Christopher tried a new tactic. He answered the phone by getting right to the point:

Christopher: No es Congolón. (This isn't Congolón radio station).
Caller: No es Congolón? (This isn't Congolón?)
Christopher: No, no es Congolón. (No, this isn't Congolón.)
Caller: click.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An Important Request for Help - for a missionary friend of ours in Honduras

I received this request for help from a friend of ours, a doctor at a missionary hospital in Balfate Honduras. Although we live far from them now, when we lived on the island of Guanaja we often traveled (by boat, then by plane, and finally by road) to visit the hospital, to receive excellent medical care for our family. Dr Jeff McKinney is an extremely dedicated missionary doctor. We have known him and his family, and his ministry, for about 5 years.

Loma de Luz Hospital, Balfate Honduras

The letter is long, and occasionally technical (with medical information), but I'm posting it in the hope that someone might see this, and be able to help out.

Here is the letter I received:

Dear Ones

I rarely send out emails addressed to a broad audience like this. But we are in a pretty urgent need to get the word out for help with nursing care for Bob Lillard down here at Hosp. Loma de Luz. Many of you already are aware of the situation... although you may have not been updated in the past couple of days. Some of you may not have heard yet. I'll give a brief synopsis of the situation to all as if you had not heard yet.

Bob Lillard is an 81 year old man. (His birthday was 4 days ago). Bob & his wife Zina were church planting missionaries in Italy for 35 years. (They are also my wife Rosanne's parents). Since retiring from Italy, they have been very much involved in the development of the Cornerstone Foundation... serving as some of the first board members, then in the past several years have become more and more involved here at Loma de Luz. They currently are serving here as missionaries back on the field again, 6 months here, 6 months back in the states. Bob was in generally good health until about 3 weeks ago, when he became acutely ill with a non-perforated duodenal ulcer, and acute colonic diverticulitis. His recovery from this was a little rocky with an on again, off again ileus due to his diverticulitis. But by the end of about a weeks hospitalization he was just beginning to turn the corner when on the morning of the 4th of January, he had an unexpected cardiopulmonary arrest on the ward. The etiology of this is not known for certain, but most likely was due to a pulmonary embolus.... perhaps exacerbated by an underlying hypokalemia.

The arrest was witnessed or discovered very quickly, and CPR was begun within probably close to 5 minutes, then a full code begun immediately. By the grace of God, Bob responded to the resus.. By about 15 minutes into the code he regained a functional cardiac rhythm, and shortly thereafter began to breath spontaneously (intubated). He was, as you would expect an immediate unstable critical care patient for the next 3 to 5 days... In a mission hospital on the edge of the jungle. The entire missionary & hospital staff rallied around Bob and we quickly developed an ICU. Bob has gradually recovered to a status where he is still critically ill, but stable... and now becoming closer to an intermediate care level patient. With the dedication, expertise, and hard work of several of the missionary medical and nursing staff... the earnest and effectual prayers of many of you, and again by the grace of God, Bob continues to recover a little bit each day.

Currently Bob is breathing on his own (via a tracheostomy), with pulse Ox in the high 90's on 5 liters via O2 concentrator. He is clearing a right lower lobe pneumonia.... has 3 or 4 broken ribs from the CPR, but no flail segment and seems to be improving pulmonary wise each day. From a cardiac standpoint he is now in a stable sinus rhythm... pressure and pulse normal for age. From a GI standpoint, he is tolerating tube feedings via NG... though he still has a central line, all meds have now been changed over to enteral. I plan to put in a G-tube tomorrow... and hope to shortly after that, get the central line out. Renal function is good.

The primary, on-going issue, of course, is neurological. Due to the arrest/code and ensuing hypoxia, Bob suffered a non-focal (global) ischemic brain injury. He is not vegetative, but "semi-comatose... breathing on his own, with normal cough & gag reflex & response to noxious stimuli. On the seventh day post event... (2 ½ days ago now), Bob began to occasionally open his eyes, occasionally with an apparent fixed / conjugate gaze. In the past couple of days, he has been blinking a lot more, has moved his lower extremities spontaneously, and now his right arm spontaneously. Tonight he opened his eyes , fixed gaze, and seemed to respond to a request to blink.

So, an otherwise relatively healthy 81 year old man, stabilizing rapidly 9 days after a successful code, slowly but steadily improving neurologically... but still basically a total care patient. ... and also a missionary on the field... and also my Father-in law... and also, for the time being will stay put out here at this mission hospital. He is getting excellent care. But he is getting care at a hospital that has not been previously set up to provide this level of care on a protracted basis... particularly from a nursing staffing standpoint.

We are very grateful that the Lord is bringing about this gradual recovery. Believe me, we are praying that it will continue. I know that many, probably all of you have been too. But, short of a Lazarus level miracle, we anticipate many months of nursing care... gradually lessening in intensity, but currently one on one. We plan to utilize our Honduran staff more. We plan to augment our Honduran nursing and "Aide" staff. But in the next month to two months at least... we could really, really benefit from a US nurse coming down to help with the shifts for Bob's care. They do not need to be ICU nurses. Any US trained nurse with medsurg experience would be great. For the next month or two, we could really use an additional 4.2 nurses at any given time.

I'm sorry to be asking for help in this way. I wish things were different and we didn't have this need. But we do... and after the Lord, it is our friends we turn to when we are in need.

Thank you for being there.

God's Blessings,

Dr Jeff McKenney

If you can offer any help, contact me, and I'll help you get in touch with the hospital. Thanks so very much!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Crepuscular Rays

I noticed these pretty rays of light. Kirstin told me the scientific name. Rachel took the picture.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Rare Post about My Thoughts, re: Russell's Traffic Accident

If you've read this blog at all, you know that it is about events. I write here about our everyday life: what we are doing in regard to our ministry, raising our children and just living life in Honduras. Obviously you know we have some very strong beliefs, or we wouldn't be living and working as missionaries. But this blog isn't about that.

I'm making a quick exception today, to just write my thoughts about Russell's recent accident. I've appreciated all of the kind wishes and sympathy we've received in emails and comments, relating to the injustice of the situation. But I want you to know that we aren't feeling as though we are being picked on because we are gringos, even though events could certainly make it appear so.

In reality, the poor in Honduras are regularly treated much worse than we have fared. Although we will have some financial difficulties related to the outcome of the accident, we certainly do not expect these difficulties to be long lasting or life changing. We may not buy steaks or other imported foods again for a good long while, and I might put off some fun purchases of books or movies or household items that I would otherwise have bought.

The injustices done to Hondurans by their own government, for generations and at all levels, dwarfs our situation so much that it is almost embarrassing to mention our loss. Citizens of a country ought to receive the basic services that governments provide, and in Honduras, many (perhaps most) do not. This is obvious in the lack of availability of safe transportation, health care services, schools, clean water and sanitation, police services, protection by the armed forces . . . the list just goes on and on.

The fact that we did not receive what we perceive to be justice, from a government which historically doesn't provide justice to it's own citizens, shouldn't really come as any surprise.

I'm reminded of a story we heard when we lived on the island of Guanaja. Several teenage boys went out fishing in a small boat, and when their engine conked out they were swept out to sea. The weather was rough, and it was too dangerous for the boats from the island to go out searching for the boys. The Honduran coast guard was called, but was either unwilling or unable to send any rescue boats. After some time had passed, someone thought about the fact that one of the boys had one American parent, and so was a US citizen. Within a short time, the US coast guard had arrived on the scene, found the boat, and rescued the one surviving boy. The point of this story is, whatever else you may think about the US government, there is a wall of protection and care around US citizens, all over the world, that is not available to Hondurans.

With this event, we have taken a small step toward entering into the suffering of the poor of Honduras, as we are directed to do by the example of our Master, who experienced injustice, as well. As His disciples, we consider it an honor to do so.

Closing in on 100 Pastor Gifts

We continue working hard on putting together these gifts and sending them out to the pastors. We've almost reached the 100 mark! The living room still looks like a Walmart exploded in there, but we're making progress!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Well, it was not a total surprise to us that the decision of the transit police went against us, in regard to Russell's traffic accident. Although things seemed to be going our way, nothing is certain until the decision comes down, and it didn't come down our way. We will be paying for the repair of our own vehicle, and for a certain amount of the damage on the other vehicle (less than $1000).

According to the transit police, the law in Honduras states that you cannot ever pass another vehicle when they are making a left turn. This seems to make sense, until you factor in the part where the left-turning vehicle was on the right shoulder, almost stopped, and not signaling.

Was the decision against us influenced by the fact that we are gringos, and presumed (correctly, I might add) to be wealthier than your average Honduran? Almost certainly, would be my guess. Was there some bribery on the part of the other driver? We don't have any way to know this, but it is always a possibility in Honduras.

In general, we just need to be relieved that the accident was relatively minor. It is not uncommon in traffic mishaps involving severe injury or loss of life, for the family of the victim to take revenge against the driver of the vehicle, regardless of where the blame lies in the accident. Sometimes, when the driver is a gringo, the gringo feels the need to flee the country after such an incident, in fear for their life.

So, we're happy that in this case, our only loss is monetary.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Traffic Accident Details

Here's the rest of the story.

Last night, Russell was driving on the main road (paved, one lane in each direction with fairly good shoulders). He was alone in our Toyota Tacoma pickup. As he was passing a large, well-lit gas station just outside of town, he saw another pickup truck driving slowly in the same direction as Russell, on the right shoulder of the road. People commonly enter the road without looking, and frequently pull onto the right shoulder when planning to make a left turn. (I know that sounds nuts, but I guess they figure they aren't blocking traffic while waiting for an opening in the oncoming traffic, if they are on the shoulder? I'm not sure. The rules of the road seem to be mostly made up as you go along, around here.) Anyway, it is Russell's regular practice to honk a couple of times before passing in a situation like this, and he did this, as usual.

Russell was coming up to the other vehicle at speed, when suddenly the other pickup made the dreaded left-turn-from-the-right-shoulder maneuver right in front of him! There was no place for Russell to go to avoid the accident. The right front of our pickup hit the left front of the other pickup. With the impact, our truck pushed the other truck so that the two became stuck together, side-by-side.

Fortunately, there were witnesses to the accident, who all agreed that the accident was totally the fault of the other driver. In Honduras, it is not uncommon for the gringo to be blamed for an accident without regard to the facts, because it is assumed that the gringo will be able to come up with the money to pay for repairs and doctor bills.

Getting your rights and an accurate police report here sometimes depends on who you know. Russell immediately called some of our high-influence friends, to stand with him while the police investigated the accident. It was determined that Russell was not to blame for the accident.

During the time that the damaged trucks were still mostly blocking the road, along came a motorcycle, who didn't happen to notice our dark green truck, and ran full speed into the driver's side door! The driver and passenger of the motorcycle were taken to the hospital, but we have heard they are okay. Our previously undamaged driver's side door now needs to be replaced, however. This, of course, is a separate accident, with all new issues!

The truck was able to be driven back to town. Sadly, we had just finished a batch of repairs on this truck, including a new paint job, in preparation for selling it. Now we are set back several months (and we don't know how many dollars) on this.

Tomorrow Russell (along with one of our high-influence friends) will have the opportunity to review the official police report. This is important because there is always the possibility that the accident report will have been changed (due to bribery). The transit police will make a ruling based on the report, and will determine who will pay for damages, and how much will be paid.

I'll let you know how things develop.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


A Bit of This, A Bit of That . . .then BLAMO!

Today, we put together a few Christmas boxes. The house received some needed tidying. The Christmas tree and most of the other decorations were taken down, although we haven't completed the organizing and packing away of the Christmas stuff. Some school work actually got done.

Nothing special happened today, just life.

HAH! I had just finished writing this when the phone rang. It was Russell, calling to tell me he'd had an accident with the truck. Sigh. No one is hurt, and it seems that the accident was the other driver's fault. We'll see how it works out, though. The problem of who pays for what is not nearly as clearly defined in Honduras as it is in the US. Sigh. I'll update when I know more.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Fish Lady

When we lived on Guanaja, we had the opportunity to get to know a lot of 'characters.' The islanders are a lively bunch, and many of them tend to live like the grasshopper in Aesop's fable, playing today without worrying about tomorrow. This is a story of a woman we knew, from our very first year on the island.

At that time, we lived in a one story house, with large glass windows in all of the rooms. There wasn't even a gate on the yard, so people could just wander into our yard, and talk to us through the windows of any room of the house - and they did, all the time. For me, that lack of privacy was perhaps the hardest part of learning to live in Honduras.

The master bedroom was at the front of the house, with a large window facing the street. We slept, of course, with the windows open, as the house would have been like an oven with them shut. Even at night, there was often enough light to look into our windows, and see us in our beds.

One night around midnight, when our household had long since turned out the lights and gone to sleep, there came a knocking on the master bedroom window. It would have been obvious to any casual passerby that the household was asleep for the night. Allen got out of bed and went to talk with our visitor, still groggy from slumber.

At the window was a woman we called "The Fish Lady," because she would go out fishing close to the island in a small dory, and sell the fresh fish around town later that day. Many men did this, but not many women, so she stood out a bit. We had often bought fish from her before, and had on occasion loaned her enough money to buy gas for her boat. She would repay us in fish later in the day. So, she was a nice lady, although we knew she had a reputation for being a partier (which could just mean heavy drinking, or could include cocaine use, since that is readily available on the island).

The Fish Lady explained that she wanted to go out fishing the next morning, and she was asking us to loan her some money for gas. As this was midnight, Allen felt certain that her desire for money was not related to fishing. He hedged, asking her, "Is the gas station open at midnight?"

"Oh no, of course not!" she replied scornfully.

"Well then, why not come back in the morning and ask for the money then?" responded my brilliant (though sleepy) husband.

"Oh no," she cooed, "I wouldn't want to wake you up!"

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Life Interferes with Blogging! (or, 20 more Pastor Gifts completed)

As we spend our days creating Christmas gift boxes, there aren't many other activities happening at our house, so I don't really have anything of interest to write about. I also don't have much time for writing!

Before tomorrow morning, we need to have an additional 16 gifts ready to distribute to families in our special needs program. I've got to get back to work!

Oh, for fun, here is a picture from the first group of pastors to receive gifts:
Don't let the somber faces fool you. The pastors are thrilled to get the gifts, but Hondurans don't generally smile for pictures, unless we especially request it, or do something silly and then catch them off guard.

Friday, January 4, 2008

23 More Gifts for Pastors Completed

We've been working and working. Sorting, organizing, and putting together fabulous gifts for the pastors we work with. Of course, we got off to a slow start, with the shipment arriving so late, but as fast as the supervisors are getting their lists to us, we are putting together the gifts for the pastors on that list, and delivering them.

People in the know are starting to comment that the level of mess in the house is starting to subside, but that is a relative thing. Here is a picture from just two days ago:
Now, believe it or not, that is an organized mess. Each box contains a collection of similar items. There is the box of baseball caps, the box of towels, the box of pencils and pens, the box of soaps, etc, etc, and etc! As the boxes start to run low, we do more organizing of items from the carport into the house. Here is a current picture of the front porch and carport:

For two days this week, our missionary friends, the Wards, came from Santa Rosa de Copan to help make up gift boxes. Today, Ellen, who works in a nearby village with the Peace Corps came to help. We are so blessed to have these additional workers!

Many people send us gift packages, already put together to give to a family or a child, and that simplifies some of our work. But whether we are using a prepared box or organizing from items sent in bulk, we appreciate so much all of the donated items which make it possible for us to give these gifts.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Birthdays in December

I've noticed that people with December birthdays often complain that their special day is overshadowed by the other holidays. Our family has two December birthdays, neither of which made it onto the blog during that month (I'm so ashamed).

To make up for this, I will give each of the birthday kids a spotlight here this week.

BucketBoy/David turned six this year. A member of a recent team bought him the hat. This picture was taken on his birthday:
David is learning to read. He speaks beautiful English (although he always forgets the 'w' sound when he says the word 'with'), and he is increasing his knowledge of Spanish day by day. He is very outgoing, and he loves going to church, going to parties, going out to eat . . . going, going, going. He especially likes it when the situation calls for him to dress up! David also loves hosting teams. I think the teams enjoy him quite a bit, as well.

David is also very gymnastic. Although we don't have anyplace to get him lessons, he shows his amazing flexibility and springiness by going about his life with bounce! He loves to do school with Mommy, and he loves to go to the construction site with Daddy and 'work' for the day.

Here are some things David doesn't like: cleaning his room, going to bed, eating chicken, and staying home when the bigger kids are going out somewhere.

Happy Birthday, David!!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Catching up on Chicken News

I've been remiss. There has been news on the chicken front, and I've been frivolously posting about Christmas shipments and other silly things. So, here are some items of interest from the Chicken Chronicles.

When last we discussed poultry, our family had three hens and one rooster. This would be Gorgeous and Handsome, our original pair, plus Angela and Squeaker. Sadly, both Angela and Squeaker met untimely ends in the jaws of our disobedient and unrepentent canines.

However, since that sad day, we were given another rooster, who was originally named Pincher because when he eats dried corn from your hand, he isn't as gentle as he might be. His name has gradually morphed into the more respectful Mr. Pincher. As you can (barely) see in the photo below, he has some nice "whiskers," which make him look quite distinguished, like an old college professor.

However, the arrival of the very masculine Mr Pincher brought problems into the idyllic existence of Gorgeous and Handsome. Handsome was not willing to welcome another rooster into the roost, and so he was spending all day chasing Mr Pincher around and pecking at him. It wasn't pretty.

Kirstin came up with a brilliant solution. Our neighbors have a very large number of chickens (as well as turkeys) in their yard. Many of these fowl wandered in off the street and stayed, so the neighbors don't even know which chickens are theirs and which are not. Kirstin suggested that perhaps our neighbors would be willing to trade the mature and ready-to-eat Mr. Pincher for a soft and fluffy, too-small-to-eat hen. That would be a good trade for them, and should bring some tranquility back to our coop.

However, our very generous neighbors (who have so many chickens they don't know what to do, and who don't want another rooster in their yard) decided to give us a hen, but not take our rooster. Thus we acquired Nameless. I think the recent loss of life amongst our chickens has caused some family members to be a bit cautious in the naming of new chickens.

Poor little Nameless has had a hard life. She was quite obviously at the bottom of the pecking order in the neighbor's yard, as most of the feathers on her neck have been pecked right off. Because of this she resembles a small vulture. This isn't pretty, either.

With the addition of Nameless to our fowl family, we have achieved some balance. Nameless and Mr. Pincher, together, roost upon the lowest rung of our poultry society. They hang out together, trying to avoid offending Handsome and Gorgeous, who constitute a despotic dual dictatorship.

I have just one other bit of interesting chicken news to report. Yesterday, the same neighbors were preparing to eat one of their chickens, and they invited Russell to help them. Russell learned some new skills, and he is now ready at a moment's notice to turn our chickens into tough stringy meat. I imagine our poultry will all behave themselves just a bit better in the future, don't you think?

Bringing in the New Year with a BANG!

Of course we stayed up until midnight . . . who could sleep with all this noise, anyway? The kids went out to see the burning of the muñeco, which is a scarecrow-like effigy of the old year. Sorry the pictures aren't better - it's dark at midnight, you know.

The muñeco is the tall one with the scarf.
The kids went out around 11:30, so that they could be certain to get a picture of the muñeco before it was lit. Chris said they poured on some sort of accelerant, and the thing went up with a whoosh! It was packed with firecrackers, so it was burning and flashing and noisy!

If you look closely, you can see the "T" shaped brace which had been holding up the figure.

Happy New Year! May God bring you many blessings in 2008!