Friday, July 17, 2009

el fin

720 days after first arriving in Honduras, I find myself packing my life into two bags and heading for home again.

To think of myself 720 days ago. I had no grasp of the Spanish language. I knew next to nothing about this country. I had no idea if La Orquidea was a real school, or some strange cult I got myself into. I certainly had no idea that the Rio Cangrejal existed or that I would spend half of my time in Honduras on its banks.

Leaving kills me a little bit. I know that it is time to go, but I know that I am leaving something for good. My relationship with this place will change dramatically once I am gone; my life moving in a different direction whist jungle life remains pretty much the same. I was born with opportunity and it would be ridiculous not to take advantage of those opportunities. What I am going to do when I get home is not certain. I can't say if I will stay in the US, or travel some more after a time, or hunker down right there in Portland, OR. I will go through a million ideas with fresh excitement each time and only a few plans will actually pan out. I know myself.

Entonces, An adios. Jungle River Lodge, La Ceiba, Banana Republic Guest House, El Naranjo, all provided a home to me. A place to set my things and rest my bones. Andrea. Without you I would have been lost and lonely. Mi hermana de la jungle, for sure. Only we know. Famila Saravia. Took me in like one of their own. Tania, Franklin, Dania, Pedro, Jose Angel. Taught me to look at life from the other side. Love and forgiveness. Darwin. Unconditionally and always. Tocasteme alma.

Part of living abroad is being flexible everyday. I wanted to stay here for a long time.....and it didn't work out. I have to be okay with that and not force something that can't be. Instead, I need to rethink what I want to do. If I want to continue in this path of grassroots development I can.....I just will need to dedicate myself in a different way. I have meet many people here in Honduras that want to do similar things as me. Perhaps in the future we will be able to combine out ideas and efforts and make something happen, for real.

I have fulfilled a couple of childhood dreams by being here on the Rio Cangrejal.
I have lived in the jungle.
I have learned a new and widely spoken language.

I also fulfilled dreams I didn't even know I had until I started living them.
White water rafting
Scuba Diving

I am sad that certain things ended rather than flourished. Asi es la vina.
E.B.M.A. de el naranjo.

Well enough with the goodbyes. I have to get going. Hopefully there will be no roadblocks today and I can get to the airport without any hitches. As soon as I get out of this country it will be smooooth sailing to portland!


Monday, April 20, 2009

i went to the jungle.

I lived in a wooden tree house pearched on top of the riverside. Tucans and motmots would fly overhead hourly. The beautiful, everchanging river passed below. I sat in a hammock overlooking it all whislts the rains passed and we experienced those beautiful days when the river was full and warm and I could swing with the kids all afternoon on the vine swing in the quebrada.

I lived in the center of El extension of one of the largest families in El Naranjo. I'll try and break it down.
Acosta is the family name.
Abrosia Acosta is 107 years old. She has 15 kids.
Each of them have about 8 kids.
Each of those kids have about 4 kids
I don't think any of those kids have kids yet.

That makes about 480 Acostas running around my house.
Okay so it wasn't quite like that, but sometimes felt that way

I really admire this family. They have a totally different set of priorities from myself, but they take in and care for guests. I was so well cared for. I was another mouth to feed and a body in the bed. Beans and rice it was.....sometimes i secretly bought churroz from the pulperia to add a variety to my diet. Sometimes I bought 15 packs of churroz so it wouldn't have to be a secret and we could eat them together. Living in a family like that, you are obligated -- and you want-- to take care of your brother, sister, cousin, second cousin, third cousin, sister in laws cousin AND the strange gringa that is living in your house and washing her clothes so peculiarly in the pila. Honduras is a selfless place. Hondurans take care of one another when it comes down to it.

Two of my dearest honduran friend are Wilmer and Christina. Wilmer sort of loves me and I sort of love him.......Iit is not a romantic love, anyway. It's brotherly. And Christinia is a woman I will respect until the end. She is single handedly raising three children. The youngest with Down Syndrome. She does not give a shit or put up with shit, yet is so full of compassion and love and can't even be in the same room as her without wanting to jump into her arms.

I am not quite una mujer completa....which is okay with me.

I lived with the artisanas Saravia. In a tree house, in the main house, in a hammock, in a tent on the beach, at the top of the waterfall. I climbed through the jungle. I climbed over the rocks, I climbed into caves, I climbed into the crystaline blue waters of the Rio Cangrejal. I refined my bird eye, my bird ear, my bird love.

Donki the jungle dog lost a leg in an accident and now lives in a yard in the city of La Ceiba
The ocelote (jaguar like animal that lived at the lodge through the rainy season) ate one of the Scarlet Macaws.
i miss my pets.

I stopped working at the Banana Republic and Jungle River Lodge. (not because of the pet accidents....because it was time)

I didn't work at all for awhile.

I started working at Omega Tours. The competition.
Julie came to visit.
I got to know the peeps at Omega.
Tangwen, Oh why we didn't meet before.
I learned all about the geography of the south island of New Zealand
I learned all about Argentinean cuisine
I learned that the Black Forest is in Southern Germany
all in one night.
I work with people just like me everyday.
Living a life on the road, dreaming becomes reality. Honoring your life however unconventional. People of the modern world. Educated in a similar manner as I.

I feel like I have crept out from under a mossy cave. I love that jungle, I love that river with everything in my pores. I know that I still have a bit to learn from the place. All the birds yet to know. All the adventures yet to have. To the remote, inner parts of the jungle. To higher waterfalls. Crazier birds and lizards. I know how to watch out for the tamagas negra. I know how to climb the rock faces by using the vines. I know how to make some badass green bananas in the campfire and where to find the camerones to cook on a stick.

And I have time for that. I also have a little time to hang out in Ceiba and figure out some life plans while I take care of a 2 month old baby. Thats this months adventure. The creature of the moment is not a jungle creature but a tiny little baby. Zeke is his name and I will write more about him in the next posting.

I know oregon home is on the horizon. I want to see how I feel about the jungle from my mind's eye. And I want to keep in mind the rest of the world. I know though that I want to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Now I am going to bake some cookies in honor of the holidays. (Earth Day is the 22nd, don't forget to do something kind for your planet).

Cheque Leque.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

There is no doubt these people are very special people. You can't meet one of them and not be drawn by their charisma. This family has been taught to dream and feel life as it happens around them. They have lived on the side of the Rio Cangrejal for near to 20 years.

Jose Angel was drawn to the river one night from the nearby department on Colon. With him was his son, some fishing gear and a couple of his fishing/drinking buddies. They made their way from Colon to the Rio Cangrejal in a rickity old car and when they reached the river they could only drive maybe a mile before they had to get out and walk up the river banks.

5 year old, Darwin sat on the side of the river staring at his father in horror as Jose Angel and his friends jumped into the white water. He was certain they would get swept away into the sea. It was the middle of the night and he was cold, hungry and very uncertain. To his suprise, Jose Angel was not swept downriver and instead emerged from the water with giant crabs and frehswater fish. They built a fire right there on the rocks and feasted. Darwin, with his belly full, fell asleep to the sounds of the river.

I began meeting the Saravia family they first time I went to the jungle. Darwin, the handsome and incredibly charming rafting guide, drew out my idealism and happiness again after a rough year when I thought I truely had no more idealism left. I have yet to meet someone who lives so at the perimeters of what is my traditional and cultural norm. He is moved by inpiration; his family, the weight of the river, the breeze in the trees. He is ever present in the moment, lives with little responsibility and no regrets.

Since meeting Darwin I have come to find the apple does not fall far from the tree. I have spent the past month going up to the river in the days but not to the Jungle River Lodge. Instead I found myself swinging leisurley in one of the hammocks en la casa en la casa de Jose Angel. This family is creating a riverside palace of tree houses and arts and crafts. Ideas are tossed around and fantastical stories are told. Yesterday we had a perfectly reasonable conversation about the exsistance of a blood sucking animal in the jungle, a relation of the vampire of course. With a glint in his eye, Jose Angel said that I should be exspecially careful because they really liked light skinned guapas.

They are enterprising. All hands are occupied as they create wooden sculptures. All of the children of Jose Angel (in order of apperence in this world: Darwin, Nolberto, Pedro, Ana, Dania, Franklin, Tania) have a hand in the business. Darwin and Pedro are currently building a new tree house. Tania and Franklin are the sanders, Pedro carvers, Dania makes bracelets and necklaces with the help of Tania and Ana. Nolberto has helped build the tienda to sell the goods. Jose Angel is the business man, making trips to La Ceiba to aquire materials and marketing the souveniers to tourist shops.

Yesterday, as he was building the foundation of the newest treehouse, Darwin filled me up with his big dreams. Tipico restaurant for passerbyers, souvenirs made by the family, kayak school, spanish school, camping on the banks of the cangrejal, all thw while embracing their river culture and family tradition. Their hospitality and ability to dream big will make them succeed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Muñeca del hostel

I work at a hostel in La Ceiba, Honduras. La Ceiba is the gateway to the Bay Islands - CHEAPEST PLACE TO DIVE IN THE WORLD: One of the most beautiful reefs in tropical waters. Everyday I see aproximatley 20 Scuba enthusiasts. Some are enthusiasts because that is their life, they dive. These are the people that move out to Utila for 5 months and get their dive master and instructor certifications. They are also the people who come to La Ceiba to buy cases of O´dooles beer, somthing you can´t just get on Roatan. They are stuck on the islands indefinatley.

There are also general travelers. I will break them up into two groups.

First there are those who are away from home for a five or more. Secondly, there are those traveling for a shorter period of time.

Within these subgroups you have a multitude of categories people fall into. You have the sojourners, the party girls from Sweden, the blokes from England away for the holidays, the young and retired civil engineer from France, the couple just married traveling the world together, the couple that will be married at the end of their trip, the pair that are not really enjoying the company they keep, the childhood bestfriends fulfilling their dreams of travel, the young woman trying to suck all the beauty out of the world, the drunk, the cracked out italian who thinks that he can get by speaking italian, the smooth talker, the argentine from nebraska..sigh......oh there are so many strange people that pass through.

These people have plenty of stories to tell. Antidotes more than anything. I see a small snippet of their life, the life they are choosing to live, the character they are choosing to be. I know nothing of their pasts; they are totally anonymous to me.

All these people are so different, but I serve the same purpose to each of them. To take their money and offer them a little advice for their next bit of travel. Every single day, only about 8 times, do I give directions to ¨somewhere good and cheap to eat¨(super baleadas, out the door to your left, left at the corner, its on the right down a block). The ferry leaves at 9am and you want to leave from here about 8:15. The ATM machine is three blocks down, HSBC on the left, Banco Atlantida on the right and if you want to get a bottle of water or some beers also you should go to the ATM at the Texaco station. Wireless internet? We have it here.

Its not the fault of these travelers that they are only the zillionth person that has passed through my life in the past 7 months with exactly the same agenda. It cracks me up when people ask for me to book them a taxi to the ferry dock and seem like it is a spactacular request. Of course we´ll have taxis in the morning to the ferry....we´re on it.

This is a lonely little lifestyle of mine, muñeca del hostel. I don´t know these people nor will I ever. I sense its time to divorce myself from the tourist scene for a bit. Ahora me voy en dentro de la jungla. cheque.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

nope, WE

WE are going to build a school. And an NGO. Año nuevo, vida nueva and it is time to make things happen and find people who are ready to make this happen. Who´s ready? Get your game shoes on and meet me on the river!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I am going to build a school.

I have been told repeatedly in my life that I have good luck. That I skate through things. I think this is because I live my life in a manner that I don’t have set expectations and I am usually pleased with the way things turn out….because its just life, right? There is a downfall to this philosophy, or way of life because I often don’t set expectations too far out of reach. I strive for what I know is comfortable and feels right. So when I do something that requires bravery I am scared out of my mind.

I am going to build a school. Just like that. A school that will one day educate 60 students at a time to become community leaders and environmental stewards.

So far all of this work seems simple enough. The land has been donated by Oscar Perez of the Jungle River Lodge. I happened upon a man in La Ceiba that is here with Engineers without Boarders who has designed the plans for the school. I have met with handfuls of people doing development work in Honduras who support the idea and are intrigued. I talk with travelers passing through who often are connected with organizations in various parts of the world who have money to donate to projects similar to this one. I am talking, talking, my tongue out.

And I don’t want this to be all talk. I want action. The project proposal is in its final stages. The bank account exists. The budget is being nailed out. It all has to do with the money. If money can come in as freely as everyone I have talked to has indicated, then we are set. We will be in motion and we can actually build this school. We can actually invite teachers and we can actually bring students to school. We can start producing things on the farm. We can start creating the future leaders of El Naranjo.

I suppose that even though we don’t have a school house or professionally trained bilingual environmental education teachers, we are still imparting important information to the community. We have classes once a week for the students during the vacations for English mostly. Health and environmental stewardship are themes of all the classes….mixed in with lots of games and activities, of course. The people in the community I have developed relationships with at excited about the possibilities that lie ahead and are interested what possibilities could lie ahead for them in the future.

Winter in my family always has been a time of hibernation. When a bear hibernates I am sure he goes into some state of meditation. While I don’t think I have spent the last month in a constant state of hibernation or meditation, like perhaps bears in Montana are currently, this rainy season has been a time of awareness and reflection.

I have become so close to the jungle family that surrounds me. They bother me sometimes, sometimes they hurt my feelings, they pick on me a little bit, and most importantly they love and care about me. And we are all experiencing life together at this moment in time.

I can easily see greatness in people and the possibilities they possess (another fault of mine….seeing possibilities in people rather than appreciating people for who they are right then). I saw some changes in the past month with some of the people closest to me. I saw one person in particular stop and look at himself critically and change what he thought needed to be changed. Since this realization occurred he has taken on responsibilities and seems to be excited for his own future and what he wants to do for himself. It is inspiring to me to see a change like this. It makes me feel a little more confident about building a school. I too can take on unfamiliar responsibility and work a little harder for what is important to me. Gracias compadre.

Tonight I write from the jungle. Candles surround me and the light from the computer screen is burning holes into my eyes. I am listening to salsa music and the river. When the wind blows the candles soften and I am cold. I am totally alone here except the 5 guests, who have all gone to bed, and the watchman. What a peaceful place. I will sleep soundly tonight lulled to sleep by the river, and when I wake up in the morning the first thing I will see is the rainforest. Shoot. I got it. While maybe a little on edge, I am still happy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We did it! The village of El Naranjo came together and cleaned up their community. The work leading up to the clean up day was just as much fun as the actual day. It was neat to build a vibe for something and I am starting to feel more apart of the community.

Angel was a giant help from the day we started the plans. He went into the village with me countless times and passed out garbage bags and spread the word about el Dia de Limpieza. He and Darwin prepared the endless pounds of pollo y carne de rez. And on the actual day of the clean up Angel was the first one there and the last one to leave, manning the grill the whole time. Having his help, and Darwin´s too, made the day successful. They knew all the right things to do to ensure the community´s full participation.

The Marzapan School (owned and operated by Standard Fruit Company....Dole Bananas and Pinapples) in La Ceiba, kindly donated about 8 bags of clothes and shoes to the commuity, which we passed out in exchange for bags of trash.

Over 150 bags of trash were collected and hopefully the people of El Naranjo are enjoying living in a clean community!

I had a much more personal experience last week as well. I went rafting for 7 hours down mostly Class IV and V rapids. For those of you savvy rafters you know that Class V rapids is as big as them come. This was a true test of strength and endurance. I was scared shitless for basically 7 hours. Each time we passed through a rapid my mind was absolutly clear. The only thing I could do was look ahead and paddle with all the strength I posess in my body. Afterwards, as we floated to the next rapid passing through the rainforest my mind was clear and my heart was free and able to process what I am doing here.

I can´t explain the change that occured in me on the river that day. I exposed myself to this place, to this river. I know that I am vunerable but I can´t shrink because of it. I must be strong and go boldy. The river is best, but once again forgiving.