We´re still Americans

Happy late Thanksgiving to all of you US citizens.  What a great holiday we have that the rest of the world is missing out on!  The family time and the food, ah!

Yep it was a normal day down here, no Thanksgiving in Honduras.  We took the morning off to sleep in and make a great typical Thanksgiving meal together.  It was a bit of a challange with no oven and took a LOT of planning to get all the ingredients from multiple grociery stores in multiple cities.  But, we did it!  And it was GREAT!

We made a pumpkin dessert and shared in with the entire staff in the afternoon.  We also had a ¨cultural moment¨ during English class that afternoon as well to teach about the holiday.

Story of a family

For those of you who do not know, the first time we came to Honduras was in July of 2010 to help build a home for a widow or orphan.  Well, it ended up being a family of orphans, Bexy 17 (and her 2 children Lizy and Darian), Ada 14, Julia 12, and Eduardo 15.  Their father had died several years back in a car accident and then in 2008 their mother was brutally murdered in front of them with a machete due to not being able to pay a debt she owed.  A guy offered to take them in after the death of their mother who ended up fathering Bexy´s 2 children and then taking off.  During our visit in 2010 we had the blessing of sharing the hope Christ with Ada and Julia and they became believers.  It was hard to tell if the decision would stick or if they would have any support to be discipled.  In 2010 we did not meet Eduardo, he had fled from the family after the death of his mother and was pursuing the ¨life¨ of dance clubs, parties, etc. in the city. 

Julia, Ada, Lizy, Bexy, and Darian

When we returned in March of 2011 we discovered that they were indeed heavily involved learning, teaching, and serving in the local church.  They were sharing favorite scriptures with us!  During the March visit we also met Eduardo and came to find he also had become part of the local church and was spending a significant amount of time with the pastor.  He had returned from the city and has been living at home since early 2011.  Bexy had left with her youngest to take a job in a big city an hour away.  Three teenage orphans lived on their own taking care of their niece.
Eduardo, Ada, Julia, and Lizy up front
Since March Bexy remains with her job in the city with both of her children now, Julia went to live with an aunt about 45 min. away, and Ada and Eduardo have remained as the main house caretakers.
A lot of our time has been spent with our sister Ada and brother Eduardo since we moved here in Sept. they are now 16 and 17 and living on their own trying to make ends meet.  Eduardo completed his 6th grade education a few years back and is working whenever work is available helping out a mechanic to support them.  Ada is just now at age 16 completing her 6th grade education.  She graduates this Dec. 10th and we will walk with her as her god parents at her graduation. 
Side note on education in Honduras and many Central American countries.  Education here is limited to say the least and only free until 6th grade, after that you must pay just like it was college.  Most people here only have a 6th grade education and sometimes that is uncommon.

She just had a birthday on Nov. 22nd and we made a cake to take and celebrate with her. 
Ada´s 16th Birthday

She also has a lot of desire to start a garden in the small yard she has, she has started many plants on her own and with Kaleb and a Canadian friend´s help she is on her way to developing the whole yard!

The family´s home and property

Today was an exciting day, Ada and Eduardo were baptized.   They explained to us that they have received Christ and want to follow in this step of faith and obedience.  No one was making them do it, it was their free will.  What a happy day to see their lives dedicated to following Christ in a culture where it definitely cost them to do so.


Praying during communion immediately after being baptized

We´ll continue to give updates on this family throughout the year as they are a huge part of our life down here.  They are brothers and sisters to us.


Go Baby Go!

Most Hondurans don't drive, but those that do, they don't play games. When you get on the road here, you're acknowledging that you're on the road to WIN. I'm not sure what the goal is, or where we're all going so fast, but unless your vehicle is loaded down with 3 times its maximum weight capacity (also plenty common), you'll need to be absolutely flogging your chosen steed. This applies to any road, in any condition, in any weather, in any vehicle, on any day. What's that, you've only got an anemic 3-wheeled mototaxi? DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT. Oh, I see, your truck's almost is 35 years old and the last oil change was in 1992. IT'S BASICALLY A FIGHTER JET.

Although all the roads here are clogged with pedestrians, they understand the game and magically part accordingly. Granted, not all drivers here are completely suicidal all the time, but the 50% that are push the rest of us to drive like we're on the final lap of the Indy 500. Two lane roads immediately transform into three lane roads as drivers pass into oncoming traffic, on the inside of turns, and in the middle of town.

These road rules are not expressly Honduran, as anyone who's spent 5+ minutes in a developing country can tell you. But to help express our particular experience, I'd like to recount a recent trip "down the road" with a notorious local driver, let's call him Pal. On this particular trip, I learned two interesting facts.
  1. The words "turbo diesel" translate here as "rocket sled."
  2. Brand new rental trucks are probably good for about 1 month of "normal use" in Honduras before they need replaced. There seems be no requirement to return them in the state they were received. 
As we pulled out of the garage (launch pad?), a particularly unfortunate teenager hopped in the bed of the truck; I said a quick prayer for his eternal soul. Pal moved quickly through our pueblo on its dirt roads as its people dodged for the side. The edge of town was there, now gone, and we moved into the mountains. Having driven this road several times, I waited for us to slow down as the roads deteriorated. Pal was having absolutely none of that. As the ruts deepened and holes became craters, Pal accelerated like the devil himself had started chasing us. Villages ripped past, and I waited patiently for something important in the suspension to explode. But, the moment never came. Emboldened by his lack of obligation to the poor rented machine, Pal slowed to sublight speed only to whip the tail around the switchbacks. 1/4 mile drag track or rutted mountain trail, all roads were the same to Pal.

We arrived at our destination in literally one-third of the time it takes me driving aggressively to get there. I hesitantly checked the bed, expecting our young friend to be either missing or tenderized beyond recognition. But, miraculously, he scampered out of the bed, looking a bit like a squirrel in bad need of Prozac. He headed for the hills, anxious to leave his experience behind.

In this country, there is now a man that will raise his children, and his children will never understand why daddy won't ever let them ride the truck taxis. But I know.


A Taste of the US

So we finally made it to the “big” supermarket in San Pedro Sula.  We’ve been to this big city about a dozen times since we arrived, but never alone with time to shop.  So we finally got the chance!  It was basically your typical US grocery store, not a super Wal-Mart but your normal Kroger/Etc.  We found nice bagged lettuce, Swiss miss hot chocolate, Lipton tea, canned pumpkin, chocolate chips, salad dressings, Fritos/Cheetos/snacks, Kaleb’s Mt. Dew and snickers, M&Ms, candy, etc.  Most things were about the same as the US prices if not a little more, which is a shame and the reason we won’t shop there every week, but it’s great to know it’s an option!  Kaleb is very easy to please, and I’m thankful but I do know he is missing his Mt. Dew and Snickers every now and then.  

                     Kaleb enjoys his first Mt. Dew in 2 months with good friend Luis Lopez!

Some things we may try to bring with us from the states or ask people to bring when they come because it’s just crazy expensive here since it’s imported.  We’re looking forward to borrowing someone’s oven to bake some chocolate chip cookies and maybe even a pumpkin roll toward Thanksgiving.  Looks like with the help of this store I’ll be able to make a great Thanksgiving Dinner for the 2 of us, since no one else here celebrates it.  It’s nice to have the option on baking someone a birthday cake or have a few snacks stored up for the last 3 PSU games that we try to watch online.  We won’t even go into the mess on PSU’s campus right now – I yi yi.  Anyway, even though it’s not NEAR as convenient as it is in the States, we do have some foods within and 1 and ½ hour drive of us.  This super market is also on the same drag as a string of familiar restaurants, so after shopping we stopped in for a Subway Sub!  Haven’t smelled the store (PS smells the same and stays on your clothing, just like the States) or eaten there in a while.  Shout out you all of you fellow Subway workers – you could move to Honduras and do the same thing!  If we lived in the city our lives could look a lot similar to the States in regards to living accommodations, food, and convenience.  But, you couldn’t pay us enough to live in such a dangerous city with all of its gang and drug related violence. Plus, that’s not where the poor of Honduras are.


On the road again... still.

Overall, we've been very blessed. We couldn't even begin to recount what goes crazy every day, but first we'll share a little from today. We went to another community, Caliche (roughly translated Bumblesmack). The road to Caliche is what the Hondurans call "ugly," it's what I call "not a road." We took a Toyota LandCruiser 70, God's gift to awful roads, the things are tanks.  After 30 minutes on paved/nice gravel roads, we turned up the mountain for the next 1 1/2 hours on the trail. Did I mention that we were in the bed of the truck with a Honduran travel buddy?


You know a vehicle means business when it has a snorkle from the factory.

So, up we went through streams, over rocks, through ruts, on the sides of mountains, over huge rocks, past cattle, iguanas, and boys on horses. Occasionally we would nail a big something and we'd hear laughter from the cab. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was...not. Luis did his best to be smooth, but most of the time, nothing short of a bulldozer could make the road forgiveable. We finally made a descent into the community, only to meet with the leaders and turn around and do it all over again two hours later. Incredible.

Well, after another very full day, we´re still without a home. We did return to Las Lomitas for an overnight visit last week though. The long and short of Las Lomitas is that it is very rural, but has a lot looking up for it right now. There are other organizations getting involved at this point: a microenterprise has started, water is on its way to the community, a petition to the government has a promise of electricity in the coming year, a housing improvment (much needed) project is underway and pledged for the next few years, land ownership is high with prices rising, the coffee business is very profitable now in this area, and the local church is growing. This experience left us feeling very encouraged, but like we may not be the best fit since the opportunity is already so high.

The other community that we had high hopes for is also taking a down turn, but for a very different reason. Honduras has a real problem with squatters (people who take over the land by moving in with purpose to own the land). Here, the law and a para-government organization very much protect certain squatters. When a group thinks that a piece of land is being underutilized, they can move on (occasionally armed) and begin the process to obtain the title from the government. Even if the land-owners tell them to leave the next day, the squatters are protected and a long legal process entails.

Unfortunately, Puerto Escondido is such a community. Many of them have probably done this process several times, and despite appearances, may be quite wealthy via abuse of this system. Although they´re the lawful landowners now, we feel it would be unjust to step in and support development on land that has been obtained in this manner. It is unfortunate, because there are a lot of kids living there, caught in the crossfire of their parents greed. We'll do what we can to connect the community with help, but will not be involving ourselves there. Please pray for them and the corruption that is so rampant in this country. Everyday, we hear more and more about how people's lives here are affected by corruption here. They really need some light.


This weekend, we were able to experience something very unique in the world. We hiked into the clouds.

Less than 30 minutes away from here, there is a national park called Cerro Azul Meambar. The park is a large mountain crowned by a cloud forest. The whole hike was pretty spectacular but incredibly demanding. The trailhead is at 700m in altitude and the trail summits at 1250m (4100ft), which means you gain almost 2000 feet in elevation in the first section of the trail. Fortunately, the temperature was pleasant, unfortunately, the rain was not.

For those that just want to see pictures, the slideshow is here.

The trail begins in fairly dense rain forest, and it rained accordingly. Some of the trees were massive and  supported by buttress roots. Every tree contained tons of other plants, each one was a self-contained jungle. Throughout this first section of the hike, the vines were huge, and the trees immense and tall. The trail was steep and muddy, and we saw the occasional orchid blooming in a tree. The weather moved from dry, to rain, to jungle downpour within the first hour, but somehow, it made it somewhat more legitimate to see everything slicked down and wet. Stacey was 110% sure that dozens of snakes would assault her from the trees and vines, but shockingly, none came down.

 Pictured: Protective gear for aerial attack snakes and all that may be perceived as such.

Toward the end of the ascent, the rain began to slow and the temperature began to cool down. Ferns began to prevail and mosses covered even more than before. Everything became foggier and foggier, a flock of yellow-tailed birds flew through. The trees became smaller and somewhat stunted. Eventually the rain stopped and the trail plateaued. We'd arrived in the cloud forest.

The view before you cross into the clouds.

Cloud forests are unique in the world because they receive relatively little rain, but remain constantly moist due to the cloud cover. The majority of the moisture they receive is from condensation on the plants that then drips down constantly. Everything is consistently wet and the plants respond accordingly. Almost  every square inch of everything organic and inorganic is covered in green: mosses, club mosses, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads, with the occasional aroid mixed in. It's somewhat quiet, and you can never see more than 100 feet ahead due to the cloud cover. One of the most awe-inspiring things was the constant sound of the waterfall that followed you in the whiteness - the rain falling on the giant trees below.

We eventually descended and passed an exceptionally beautiful waterfall, spooked up some a terrifyingly close covey of largish birds (sounded like grouse coming up), and watched several toucans call to each other. Five hours after we began, we arrived back at the base and had a great dinner in the Panacam lodge there.

If you want to see more photos, check out the slideshow on the Pictures page above.