As Kat mentioned in her post, this past weekend the annual fiesta de San Pedro took place in Huanchaco. In addition to the dancing and festivities of Saturday evening, there was an impressive parade on Sunday as part of the celebration. The main point of the parade is the symbolic march of San Pedro de Huanchaco from the church to the beach, where he floats out to sea in a giant caballito de totora. I was able to march along with San Pedro (who was being carried atop his float) for most of the way along the road from the church to the beach. After reaching the beach, we went to the pier to make sure we could get a good view of San Pedro’s ocean voyage. We waited for about half an hour, as San Pedro was carefully lowered into the caballito and those aboard prepared for the send off. Finally, San Pedro was sent to sea, accompanied by several local Peruvians, including Miss Huanchaco and a nun. The group sailed to the edge of the pier, then turned around and came back to shore. It was great.
This past Wednesday, three fellow students and I went to the municipality of Menecucho to speak to the mayor about some ideas we had regarding the trash and recycling system. We proposed starting a middle valley recycing system that would require the cooporation of 5 towns that collectively have a population of 4,500 people. If the middle valley worked together then it would be possible to take those recycable materials to Trujillo and sell them. (There is a minimum weight required to sell recycables) We were thinking that with the money that could be earned from recycling, that money could in turn be used to hire someone to pick up their trash. (The people currently burn their trash) However, el señor said that although he thought that it was a good idea, he is currently in the process of starting a different kind of trash pick up system that would be implemented next year. Instead of using money from recycables, he wants people to pay a one or two sol tax every month which would be enough for someone to come by for a weekly pick up. However, I see serious flaws in his plan because of how it is financed. I´m not sure how he will force people to pay the tax and it doesn´t address the issue of recycling. When we asked him about the recycling aspect of his plan, he simply said that there were people that work in the landfills picking out recycable materials. (These people wear no protective equipment of any kind when working) The outcome of the meeting was not what we had hoped for and it was disheartening to hear that the mayor wanted to proceed with his plan. I truly believe that our plan is more innovative and in the best interests of the people and environment. Now we must try to see what we can do in the last week that we´re here.
Maybe we´ll turn the middle valley against him…………..
This last weekend Huanchaco celebrated the patron saint of the town fishermen, San Pedro de Huanchaco. And quite the fiesta it was. On Saturday night people gathered in the plaza by the pier and kicked off the weekend with live music by local bands. The group leaders reminded the gathered crowd about all the glories of Huanchaco and how great of a place it is. I even was lucky enough to get a dance in with a local Peruvian with an impressive hairstyle and even more impressive dance moves.
Later that night, still by the pier, there was a fireworks show. They had constructed a tower out of reeds with different fireworks attached to it, and they lit each of the rings of fireworks with their cigarretts. When they were lit, the fireworks would spin off of the main tower and then explode in the sky over the crowd. Some of the fireworks were like pinwheels that spun on the side of the tower when lit. Hands down, it was the best fireworks show I´ve seen.
Today is our last in Otoro for this trip, but there is much more to do here. Only three percent of the people in the surrounding communities completed a single year of high school and less than half a percentage point ever stepped foot in a university, according to numbers compiled from FIPAH interviews.
From what we have seen in our English classes, this does not happen from lack of desire. We have met students who walk three hours each way, up and down mountains to get to seventh grade classes. They have hung on to our every word, and when we leave they will go back to listening to their English CD and using their English books. But once they finish 9th grade here, they usually run out of options. Campanario 2, a gorgeous community with a road that is uncrossable when it rains, is 16 km from the nearest high school. As a result, only two people of 93 interviewed by FIPAH have gone to high school and none to a university.
FIPAH and Educatodo are working to increase opportunities for rural youth in Honduras. A better educated generation of Campesinos could do wonders for communities which scrape by without electricity and at times with only one bed for families of 8. The desire exists, but someone needs to give the kids a chance.
Reflecting on my trip so far and realizing how quickly it seems to be coming to an end, I realized that one thing has remained uniquely constant: my continuously growing respect for the many Honduran women I’ve met and befriended here in Jesus de Otoro and the surrounding communities. At 9:20 pm I find myself a wilting gringa after a night of a little less sleep than usual and a full day of Cambio Climatico Linea Base interviews. This however never seems to be the case with the women here, who posess an inner strength and work ethic unlike any I’ve ever seen. Countless times I’ve been amazed how tirelessly these Hondurenas work, and the past weekend spent constructing the greenhouse in Ojo de Agua was no exception. After a day of working on the greenhouse in Ojo de Agua followed by a lively “culture night” with the community, I could have slept in until almost noon. However I was awoken by the sound of beans and tortillas cooking in the kitchen and the happy morning greetings of Dona Isi’s large family at about 6:00 am. I lay in my sleeping bag thinking about how even this morning was a late start for Dona Isi, who usually has to wake up at 4am, prepare breakfast for her family, and make the hour and a half journey (mostly walking on a steep mountain path) to the FIPAH office in Otoro. Many of the women here wake up first in the morning to begin cooking (which is a much more substantial task when literally all of the food is prepare from scratch), take care of most of the house affairs, wait until everyone else is fed before eating, and are most often the last to go to sleep. As I hopelessly try to keep up with these women I can only hope that some of their quiet strength will rub off, and after 5 weeks here I am only beginning to understand what it means to be a Hondureña.
There is always something random that is delaying our progress on the project. This week we are working on getting a contract signed by the final landowner whose land we need to dig through. Katherine (of MOCHE) spent a good deal of time negotiating with him about what he wanted as reimbursement for the dug up areas, and he told her that he simply wanted a stone stairwell up into the mountains from his property…and also a water slide. Kat managed to talk him out of the slide…but it looks like we will still be building this massive stone stairway up into nothingness. Fantastic. Of course, the women of Ciudad love to gossip, and they told us that this man doesn´t actually own the property. His wife (a gringa) does, but they are separated and she is living in Lima. Drama, drama, drama.
On Monday I managed to find a task that didn´t involve intense manual labor: stabilizing the plaster wall of the Plaza de Armas with glue so that we can paint a mural on it. After having participated in the carrying of hundreds of buckets of gravel and sand last Friday, Melissa, Esther and I jumped at the chance to do something that involved our hands rather than our growing arm muscles. Since the wall is in la Ciudad and the rest of our group was digging trenches 3 km away at the water source, we had to walk back to their location to catch the bus. Normally, 3 km is not a long walk…but we managed to get ourselves a little off the beaten path and ended up climbing unnecessarily high into the mountains (completely my fault…I was hoping to avoid walking along the cliffs since I still have scrapes and bruises from last time), sliding down a quebrada (this time it was intentional), jumping over countless streams and irrigation ditches, and traipsing through fields of lettuce and strawberries. In those 3 km, there are mountainous ridges, jungles of bamboo, muddy swamps, human settlements of varying sizes, avocado groves, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, and of course the neverending fields of sugarcane. During one long stretch of our travels through the mountain ridges, we walked through an area where the earth was scattered with shards of pottery…almost as many as there are rocks. There were dozens of large pits dug into the ground–evidence of grave robbers looking for valuable archaeological finds. About ninety minutes later we arrived at the spring box where the rest of the group was based. After our exhausting adventure, we were rewarded with a quick nap on a pile of gravel…the same gravel we had carried last week.
Yesterday we were digging and I noticed a small white scorpion crawling slowly towards Melissa, so I calmly said “Hey Melissa…there’s a scorpion behind you.” Apparently my tone was too conversational because she failed to react…at which point the urgency of the situation registered in my head and I loudly exclaimed, “MELISSA! SCORPION!” One of the townspeople promptly chopped off its tail with a shovel, and all was well once again in the land of the trenches.
Today we beagn laying pipes. We are quickly progressing towards completion, and that has given us the freedom to work on some of our side projects. Esther, Jen (of MOCHE), Melissa and I painted the entire wall of the plaza with a white primer, and next week we will begin working on the mural.
So not only is the nourish group working to provide a sufficient water system, but we also get to learn all about the history of the lands we are working on. When surveying and digging the pipe line, we came across several areas of archaeological significance. We get to see first hand newly discovered remains of ceramics scattered throughout the mountains near Ciudad de Dios. We have also been very careful to avoid these areas during construction. It is rather saddening though to see some areas torn up from looters. Although we continue to find more and more remains, so much of the artwork and pottery has been lost due to the looters.
In addition to ceramics, we also found two burials right in the middle of town. The kids in Ciudad were so intrigued by our discovery, it was refreshing to see some excitement and fun amidst the endless digging.
Last Saturday, our group had the chance to visit a well known archaeological site not far from where we are staying. Brian gave us a personal tour of Huaca de la Luna. This site is presumed to have held sacrificial rituals performed by the early Moche civilization in 300-600 AD. Our brains are gathering so much new information!!
During my time at UNC I have encountered many students who care or at elast seem to care about those sterotypically collegiate buzz words : global health, sustainability, poverty, etc. I, though not involved during the academic year with groups like Nourish and other groups that address social and political issues, share many of the concerns that these passionate students espouse, but have always been wary of overly intense individuals who wave rhetorical banners during discussions and are unwilling to compromise their ideologies during a conversation. Some believe this to be a lack of caring, or a lack of commitment to my ideas. In fact, my external reservations regarding political and economic ideas stems from my deep desire to actually achieve a tangible goal through compromise and practical application.
During manual work on the water line today, I got into a very interesting conversation with a student from the Duke Engage group, regarding the reason for this trip : international development. For quite a while, we entertained different possible reasons for why the sort of work we were doing is necessary, and if it was in fact necessary at all, or if the entire framework for our well-intentioned work was in fact failing to address essential elements of the community´s relationship to its local and national government. The best part of the whole conversation was that we differed in our fundamental priorities. He was a proponent of the market system, and I have deeply entrenched misgivings regarding capitalism that come from a belief in equality over efficiency.
Unlike most conversations of this sort that I have experienced at UNC, this one was devoid of ideological mess. I was able to express myself without being afraid to sound too `left´ and I did not pidgeon-hole any od his ideas as ´conservative´. In other words, the polarization that so frequently occurs in covnersations of this sort on college campuses (at least in the public arenas) was absent from this discussion.
As a result, I was able weave certain notions together that a polarized mind would not allow to be woven together. So frequently, the current economic system is blamed for the strife of whole populations in poor rural nations such as my own (I am Peruvian). I will be the last person to say that this idea is erroneous. But finger pointing is about as productive as sitting in a rocking chair. By incorporating some of my conversatoin partner´s perspectives into my previous schema, I arrived at previously unreached (by me) conclusions. Capitalism is the only system that most of the world is willing to embrace, and we must work through it, not around it, to achieve the empowerment of marginalized communities that we so justifiedly seek. Intellectual compromise never felt so satisfying.
Musings about development work´s concrete potential for working through avenues not currently address may come in the next post.
tragedy has struck
in the land of the monkeys
it was all my fault
this haiku relates to yesterday´s events, when i punctured a water pipe that was located in front of a random monkey cage. andres (the local engineer) assured me that it would be fine and that it was not a problem. these words were comforting, but i still felt quite embarassed.
despite the minor setback, we still remain optimistic that the water project will be completed before our departure on the 14 of july
It’s pretty amazing to me how a process so simple allows so many people to have full-time access to water in their homes. We dig trenches (connected to the water source), lay the pipes, and then cover them up. Pretty basic stuff. As a part of the pipe-laying team this is what I’ve mostly been up to for the past few days in Ciudad: 1) lay sand in trench, 2) glue together pipes, cutting and gluing in t-lines at intersections as necessary, 3)add more sand on top of pipe, 4) add a layer of sifted dirt on top of the sand on top of the pipe, 5) add more dirt to completely cover up the trench. So there’s really not much to it…which makes it hard to believe that when all of it is finished water will flow to Ciudad for all to use. Hopefully we will be able to see it in action by the time we leave!