Saturday, July 31, 2010

Welcome to August...flat tires and Spanish subtitles

1/8/10 (haha that seems so funny to me, because here it is 82 degrees in August, and I'm using a date format VERY similar to my post on January 7 of this year...)

Kristen says...

Hello, August! And hello to flat tires #2 ... and ... wait for it ... #3! :(

Yep, we woke up this morning, went down to the car to attempt to drive to school (first time ever, it was going to be an adventure) and, CRAP. Two flat tires. Both passenger side tires are completely flat; the one that was flat on Friday, and now the front one as well. Seriously. ARGH!

I'm interested to see what the guys at the garage say tomorrow about what's causing it. (We have a sneaking suspicion that the front tire's demise came from an unfortunate issue that one of us [not saying who] had yesterday while attempting to parallel park at Mayoreo.) I'm a little concerned that the back tire is just shot--we knew when we bought the car that the tires would have to be replaced eventually, but we didn't think it would be this soon. It's possible that the plug from Friday got knocked loose because it was actually thicker than the (not quite) bald tires, but we might also have a new problem...either way, ick.

Luckily the school was already planning to pick me up for the next two days because we start new teacher orientation tomorrow! (Ask me in a week/a month/a quarter if I'm still excited about this. :) So, Chris and Wilmer will have to deal with the tire problem while I'm at school. As long as we have 4 fully-inflated tires on Wednesday when Pip gets here, everything will be ok!
Of course, being without a car today is cramping our style a bit. We've really been doing a lot of be-bopping around the city the last few days. Just yesterday we went to Mayoreo for the 3rd time (more and more successful every time we go), then to the Multiplaza to cancel our Amnet cable service (not because we had any problems with it, but because they didn't have a service that is essential to Chris actually being able to work down here), then to the Amnet HQ, where you actually have to go to cancel your service (I'm particularly proud of this, we didn't know where it was, but were given directions (in Spanish) and a hand-drawn map by the helpful person at the Amnet store in the mall and were able to find it on the first try!!!), and then out for a pizza dinner, then to another mall, El Dorado, to get cash from the ATM. Being "stuck" inside is a little sad, not that I guess we need to go anywhere...I guess it's just knowing that I can't that sucks.

Speaking of the Multiplaza, we went to our first movie in Honduras on Friday night. Going to movies was one of our favorite things in the US, but it is a different experience here. First of all, the price. Chris and I went to Encuentro Explosivo, (which, if you want my opinion, was a pretty good movie, but in my opinion had a crap-tastic ending) and paid a whopping 65 Lempira per ticket (total cost: less than $7...for both tickets). A coke and a bottle of water (albeit a bit smaller than you'd get in the US, but still very adequate) cost another 58 Lemp. Total cost: just about $10.

The theater (or sala, as they call them here) itself was the size of a smaller theater in the US, the screen was average size. The seats...leather, with a bit of give in the back so you're slightly reclining. Nice. They assign you your seats when you buy your tickets, and show you on the screen what seats you're getting so you can pretty much pick where you sit.

While we were waiting in line (a little confusing when there are 4 of them you have no idea which is for your movie), we met another US couple living here, and had the happy coincidence of having seats right next to each other in the theater. As my father-in-law would say, "It's a goucher."

The movie was in English, but with Spanish subtitles. I was a little disappointed, we actually were going to see Despicable Me, a movie I have been looking forward to since the original trailer with the bratty kid popping the pyramid, but it was in Spanish (it's called Mi Villiano Favorito here,) and I'm not sure how much I would actually understand. It was pretty interesting to see the movie poster with names other than Steve Carell and Julie Andrews. Apparently most family-style movies down here are presented in Spanish (meaning all animated movies are re-recorded and movies like The Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Last Airbender are given voice-overs in Spanish). Just one more impetus to learn Spanish...and really, at a cost of $3.50, maybe watching movies in Spanish is a good way to start to understand?

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. Enjoy your first days of August...I hope you can get out and go to a movie, and hopefully you are flat tire-free! :)


Friday, July 30, 2010

Week 1 of Work

Chris says:

I think week 1 working remotely was a success. Not perfect, but on the other hand, not too bad. After the Monday glitches - Cable Color seems to have everything worked out. In fact, yesterday - a guy came over to make sure everything was working exactly as it should - he even gave me additional IP addresses so I can have multiple computers (connected via my switch and not the wireless device) online at the same time. In addition, because I have a dedicated link now, I have a very cool GUI I can log into to see the performance of the link (ok, as a geek, its cool - others may not find it so cool). Just had a successful test for my paging capabilities this afternoon, so that was also very good! I hope week after week, things continue to get better and better. I've got to say, after 3 weeks off (which is the most time I've ever taken off consecutively) - the first week back was a success.

On to a different topic - this is now the longest amount of time I've spent internationally. I think getting back into the swing of things with work has helped me get out of the vacation mindset and into a daily routine - and I'm starting to realize that this will be my life for the next couple of years :)

I knew when we decided to do this there would be pros and cons with me working at home - and I knew one of the biggest things I was going to miss was my daily interaction with my friends (who are also my co-workers) at PFG. A week into it, and it is definitely true. It's really just the little things, stopping by a desk to see if someone is up for lunch, going for breakfast at Baby Boomers or Mr. Filet.....knowing inside jokes, or hanging out at The Royal Mile for a drink after work. I guess my challenge is going to be how to keep up on all the things that happen with those types of regular interactions when you're physically present.

All that said - I'm looking forward to all the challenges....both personally and professionally - now its time for the weekend!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another Day...

Chris Says:

Today, things went very well as far as my actual work tasks/activities go. Internet good, stable, fast. I am not quite done with everything that needs to be done, but I will sign on later tonight (just like I did in the States) and finish up some things. I am frustrated and probably more nervous about the last facet of my job that I feel I truly need to prove out will work internationally, ON-CALL. I am trying to be positive - its my nature (thank you friends and family who influenced me when I was younger). I do tend to get frustrated though when things don't just happen like I hope and expect they will.

Paging (getting notified any time of day by some electronic device) is a necessary part of my current position with Principal Financial Group. Right now, it is proving to be a little tricky in one way or another. The fact is that the paging in and of itself can happen - and will. The frustrating parts are: 1- time and 2 - a lot options to choose from, none of them are a complete slam dunk. A slam dunk would be guaranteed delivery at no (or no additional cost) to PFG or myself. However, each one of the 4 or 5 options available to me have their own unique positives and negatives. In addition, I am supposed to be on-call next week, and I'm disappointed in myself that it won't happen. I have to rely on my awesome team - and I feel like I've already relied upon them for so much already while I've been out of the office working to set things up down here. I dislike - immensely - being an inconvenience to people....or by doing something - making someone else's life more difficult. (By the way, all of my team mates - I hope you're reading this - and you guys...and gal are AWESOME)

As I am sitting here, re-reading this post....I am realizing a couple of things about my current situation:
*Things aren't ever as bad, or as good as they may seem.
*I am a lucky guy,..........When my biggest frustration of the day is what is the best option to get paged when on-call.....I have had (or made) it a GREAT day. It's actually sort of petty (if that's the right word), I now live in one of the poorest countries in the world (or so I've been told). But, I have my health, my family and friends, plenty of food and water, a beautiful place to live in, etc....there are kids 50 feet from our front door living in an orphanage.

I can't say I've gone to meet the kids in the orphanage yet, but I think I'll do that this weekend. Maybe I can help them with something and they can help me with Spanish!

Alright - that's enough for now. I think this blog thing - at least today is helping me to relax and reflect....which is part of why I wanted to have this blog - to reflect about life in Honduras.

I don't want to get all mushy on you readers....but feel free to take a second to comment about what was frustrating for you today....if you think about it for a second and write it down, you may find maybe your world isn't so frustrating. Think about it.


Kristen says...

Ahh, the glorious firsts! Well, some are glorious, and some...not so much. For instance, on our first day in Honduras we had our first pupusas. That was a FANTASTIC first. So was our first trip to Roatán, our first scuba diving experience, and the first time we got to connect with our families on Skype. Oh, yeah, and on Monday, the first time an airline said, "Yes, we can ship your dog to Honduras, no problem." That was a happy-tear inducing first. (He'll be here next Wednesday!!! I will try to get our camera fixed by then so I can put up pictures.)

Some firsts are Chris' first day on the job. Sometimes the Internet worked, sometimes week (BlackBerry providing) will be his first remote "on call" experience...keep your fingers crossed that it works!!

Some not-so-glorious firsts? Well, there was the first time we were frustrated in conversation when we realized whomever we were trying to talk to had NO idea what we were saying. There was the first time we got lost driving in Tegus. And, today, there was the first time that Wilmer had to knock on the door and mime to us that we had a flat tire.

I HATE FLAT TIRES! They happen at the most inopportune times! For instance, there was the time that we were headed home from Des Moines to Oskaloosa for Homecoming and to watch my little brother play and my dad coach. Oh, and I (as a journalism major) was doing a radio story on the game. We made it with just a quarter left to play...
Chris changing the tire on the way to the football (not fútbol) game

Or, there was the time that my sister Rebecca, her husband Jay, Chris, and I drove to Toronto and Niagara Falls. We were tired, we were packed to the gills, and we were stuck in the same day. Then, to add insult to injury, just as traffic began moving for the 2nd time that day, "pssssssssssstttttttttt." Flat tire. Sigh.

Left: The car, fully packed.

Right: The car, unpacked, and the boys changing the tire...see the traffic in the distance? It was backed up for KILOMETERS!

So anyway, this morning we had a flat tire. It was really quite painless, as far as flats go...well, it was painless for us, because Wilmer a) told us about it before we had to go downstairs to go somewhere and be mad about the flat, b) got out the jack and took off the old tire and put on the spare, c) took a taxi and the tire to a tire place and got it fixed, and d) put the tire back on and the spare away, all without us having to do anything about it. All we did was pay for the plug in the tire and his taxi ride. Turns out there was an inch-and-a-half-long nail in the tire...nothing on the 3-inch screw from the Niagara trip, but still, significant.

Whether or not we have to do the work, it is still crappy to have a flat tire. And I labeled this one a first because, seriously, have you ever seen the roads in Tegus? I'm not trying to dis the city but, well, to put it into perspective for you, I was perusing a book about Tegucigalpa in a bookstore the other day, and they had an entire page dedicated to the potholes. People down here steal manhole covers to sell for scrap metal. The streets are not in the best condition here...even worse than Des Moines after a long, salty-snow filled winter. If I had my camera I'd run out and take a picture of the epic pothole just outside the front door of our place...just Google search the words pothole + Tegucigalpa + Honduras and see all the comments people make. It leads me to think, when, not if, will the next flat occur?

Those of you in Honduras? Any suggestions to beat the flat-tire curse?

Anyway...I had another first yesterday...I spent an hour and a half in my classroom! School starts next Monday (for teachers), with the kids coming in a week and half after that. I've heard that one of my teacherly duties down here will to keep up a classroom blog...if that's the case, my personal blogging time might suffer, but I will try to keep ¿Teguci What? as up-to-date as possible...or I may link to my school blog, if any of you care to hear what life is like in an American School in Honduras... :)

For now, I am enjoying my last days school-free. Today has been quite nice, the weather is cool, the Internet has been working steadily, and there is a happy group of school-children cheering each other on (literally, they are doing softball-like clapping and rhythmic cheers) at the soccer field next door. They are so excited about the game, for each other...the walls almost shake when someone scores a goal! It's making me excited for next week, but until then, ahh, summer bliss!

Hope you have some positive firsts in your life...and seriously, I'd love to know how you avoid potholes! :)


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What a difference!

Chris says:

Wow, what a difference a day makes! Work today was great. Internet, VOIP and TV (not that I needed it for work) was completely stable. I even contacted the folks at Cable Color to get signed up for a dedicated link with guaranteed upload and download speeds. I'm hopeful the upload speeds will help improve video conferencing capabilities with PFG. I don't have any great words of wisdom or lessons learned today....stay tuned for more details about the on-going adventure! :)

On a non-work related note, Pip is scheduled to get down here next week. We finally got him scheduled on Delta, gave up on Continental. Thanks Delta!

Monday, July 26, 2010

1st day of working remotely

Chris Says:

.....and oh what a day.....

Many more like this and I don't think I'll be working remotely.

Got up early - 5:30 Tegus time so that I could be working by 6 (7 Iowa time). Successfully logged in by 7 and started on email. I had some 'sporadic network failures' until about 10:30. All in all, Got though all of last week's email and figured out what I needed to do for the rest of the week. A fairly successful morning. However, the afternoon started with badness :( It seems Cable Color (my communications provider for VOIP, Internet and Digital TV) was having significant problems today. To rub salt into the wound, this is the 1st time I've experienced this instability since I've been here - go figure, my first day back to work and I can't get a freakin' stable connection. To make matters worse, this afternoon there was an application problem, and I was needed to help resolve......grrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I called into Cable Color and they indicated they had been having issues for the past few days......I hope they are getting all the kinks worked out because many more like today and I'll be talking to a different provider and/or we won't be spending much more time in Tegus :(

In hindsight, it wasn't horrible - just VERY frustrating. Usually, sporadic network connectivity issues won't be a total catastrophe until I'm on-call.....and if it happens then......that will really not be good :(

Should be getting our Crack Berries tomorrow - I've been told they have international data service (meaning they can be texted from the US - not email...SMS). I'm keeping my fingers crossed the plan actually has that and it won't be an uphill battle to get it.

Alright, that wasn't a nice 5 sentence was more of a ramble for my 1st day - I'll work on getting better tomorrow.

Remote Working Lesson Learned: Today, I learned that I need to have a backup connectivity solution. I'll be working on getting a cellular card in case Cable Color continues to have issues :(

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back from Roatán...without pictures

Kristen says...

Hello blog-fans! Sorry for the hiatus, but we were off and away to Roatán for nice 5-day 4-night all-inclusive restfest. We had a really wonderful time, full of sun, surf, and lots and lots of food!

We stayed at the Henry Morgan Resort, which was on the West Bay, and it was very nice. The staff was nothing but nice and helpful, and spoke enough English that I didn't feel like I had too much trouble. Actually, if anything, it was detrimental to my Spanish-learning, because I didn't have to speak Spanish all week. Most of the people born on the island actually speak English as their first language, and most of the schools teach in English, so I was told by the woman who braided my hair (yes, I had my hair braided the first day I was there...I wish I had a picture of it! It looked good when I was in my swimsuit, but a little weird when I was in "regular" clothes).

We arrived on Monday after taking an early flight from Tegus to La Ceiba (about 45 minutes of beautiful, cloudy, mountainous flight), had a 20 minute layover during which we passed the time with an interesting gentleman from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then we got back on the same plane for the 15-minute flight to Roatán. We had to wait a bit in the airport to get a ride (provided by the resort) and then we went to Henry Morgan. Unfortunately, we got there around 10:30 AM, and we couldn't check in until we spent the next few hours sweating in our street clothes, wandering the resort, seeing the pet parrots, snacking at the snack bar, drinking free drinks, learning to dance (I had video of that!), and did I mention, sweating in our street clothes?

FINALLY our room was ready (emphases because I was hot, not because I thought it was overdue--they actually gave us a different room than we were supposed to have because the room we were given was ready first) and we got to swim in the sea!

It was BEAUTIFUL!!! and very salty. The water was so clear we could see our feet and below. I felt very dumb after about 30 minutes in the bright sun that I hadn't brought my sunglasses, so after a while I went back to the room to rest my eyes, then got my hair braided, then played Bingo, then had dinner, then finally we walked down the beach and I bought some "Oakleys" from a very nice sunglasses seller who I hope made a nice amount of money from my stupidity :) Of course, that wasn't the only stupid thing I did that dinner that night I brought the camera with us (for some reason) and as I was juggling plates full of Henry Morgan food, the camera slipped from my fingers (why, oh why didn't I put the wrist strap on?!) and fell heavily to the floor. Ouch. I took it back to the table and it turned on, but it had an ! next to the SD card, so I opened the side panel and...water...inside the camera :(. Both the SD card (not so much) and the battery (very) were wet. By the end of dinner, the camera was dead. Sniff.

On Tuesday we rented snorkels and went out with a dive tour to see the reef. It was very lovely, with vivid colors, although with less actual animals than I thought I would see. I also had a lot of problems with my mask, it was continually filling up with water and it kind of made me dizzy. After a while the gentlemen who had taken us out asked if we wanted to go see some dolphins that were swimming off shore. We did, of course, and we spent 10+ minutes racing the dolphins with our boat...and the dolphins were winning! (We found out later that these weren't wild dolphins--they were actually owned and kept by another boating operation that brought them out periodically, but they were still cool!)

The rest of Tuesday we basically just snorkeled around the Henry Morgan beach area (we saw more wildlife, like starfish and manta rays) and relaxed. It was nice. We went to bed pretty early that night, because we were tired from all that sun!

We got up early on Wednesday and took the first tutorial class for scuba diving. It consisted of watching a cheesy movie that we thought we were going to have to take a test on, but we didn't end up having to. The sea was really "rough" on Wednesday (it had been like blue glass the other days) so we had to postpone our actual dive until Wednesday afternoon. Once we got out there, though, it was really awesome! I wasn't originally going to go, because I have sinus problems and I had gotten a headache from the snorkeling the day before, but I figured I would regret not going more than the headache I might get, so I decided to just suck it up and dive. And it was GREAT, for me, anyway. I got a different mask that didn't leak, and our guide was really good. My ears popped just fine, and it was very beautiful (although again, less wildlife than I thought there would be). Chris, on the other hand, didn't have as much success...he had a lot of trouble popping his ears, and is still struggling with it right now, poor guy. We decided not to finish the course because Chris wasn't feeling up to it. Maybe we'll try again on our next trip to the coast.

On Wednesday night Chris went to bed early because he didn't feel well, and I went to watch the nightly entertainment, which was some local children doing folk dances. It was really a neat thing to see, and I enjoyed it a lot.

On Thursday we split up for a bit--Chris went ziplining and I went...back to bed. I LOVE to sleep in, and Chris is an early-riser, so I was zoning out on the bed when he got back. He said he enjoyed it, but it went fast. For the rest of the day we just kind of hung out, swam, layed out in the sun, etc. Total relaxation. In the late afternoon we showered and took a water taxi over to West End, where we went shopping, had ice cream, etc. We met some interesting ex-patriots, one originally from Iowa who owns a t-shirt printing shop, and one from the Seattle area who owns a restaurant.

One of the things that surprised me was how many people who looked like they were from the US were living on Roatán, but how few were actually at the resort. Most of our fellow "resorters" were from Spain, Honduras, or Italy (there were quite a few Italians there, one of which we had a lot of fun talking to--he was there for 2 weeks to dive and fish--his job in Italy (we think) was to sell Swarovsky Crystals).

There was one rather large exception to this, however, which was a large group of teenagers from the US. We had run into them off and on all week, and so finally I decided to see what they were all about. We'd seen them with drills, so we thought they might be on a mission-type trip, but we were surprised they were staying at an all-inclusive, so I just went over and asked one of the adults in the group. Turns out they were on a mission trip, to put bunk beds in the homes of some of the people on the island. They were working through Softly International, and the adults in the group felt the students were learning a lot. One of the kids had actually spent that day (his 16th birthday) putting in beds on the island. We spoke with the CEO (he was there with the group) and were very impressed with the company and their mission. I've hyperlinked their website above, if you're interested in learning more.

Anyway, we slept in on Friday morning (like, until 10:00!) then relaxed in the air conditioned room until we had to check out at 12:00. Then we went back to the airport, caught our flights home, and here we are! We spent yesterday relaxing and grocery shopping, and today we haven't even changed out of our PJs yet! This week is the last week before reality starts and I go to school and Chris goes back to work, so let the relaxation continue, for 7 more days!!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Relaxation does not facilitate blog postings...

Kristen says...

Hello blog readers and followers (by the way, if you read us, we'd love to have you follow us--it's fun to see who is interested in our adventure):

Well, we made entire week in Tegucigalpa (well, now it's been a week and 2 days) and so far, so good. We're staying, that's for sure. Overall, we've had a very pleasant and relaxing week + 2. I've read an entire book (Pink Think by Lynn Peril--very interesting read, quite funny, makes you think about how you were brought up, also made me wish I had lived in the 1950s and 60s. I realize that wasn't her point (in fact, I think that's exactly against her point) but I think it would have been interesting to experience), finished the first seasons of Gossip Girl and Greek on DVD, and updated my Facebook a million times.

What we haven't done a lot of is anything worth blogging about. This is not a criticism or a complaint, it is just an observation. Tegucigalpa is not a pedestrian city. You do not walk around here just to walk. In Des Moines, I was out walking quite often (of course, my dog was with me in Des Moines, which was the #1 reason I was out,) but I did walk for exercise/to run errands/just to get out of the house too. When I was in London I walked ALL OVER...I had to walk a mile just to get to classes. Here...I feel like I can't leave my apartment without Chris, and even when we do walk somewhere, it's not for very long or for anything but absolute necessity.

Not that I'm not enjoying hanging out in our gorgeous, huge apartment having no guilt about having nothing better to do than read or catch up on tv shows that start with "G," (and I know I will be missing these days when school starts and I have no free time) but I am ready to get out and actually see the city.

The problem has been one of transportation. While we have some excellent friends here who have generously driven us around and taken us out, I have felt like a giant burden this past week+, and am VERY excited that we are getting our car tomorrow! We will be like freed birds, able to go where we want, when we want, and for no better reason than we want to go. I realize we still have to be cautious (drivers in Tegucigalpa seem a little crazy!), but I am excited to be able to go out, on my own, and do things I want to do...!

Honestly, though, we really haven't done anything worth blogging about since Sunday...we're still here, we're still loving it, and we're both really excited about the car, and about a spur-of-the-moment trip we planned to go to Roatán next week! I think it will be nice to get out of the city for a few days, break the pattern of doing nothing in the apartment by doing nothing on an island, and come back ready for a week of planning before school begins on August 2!

So, sorry there's not a lot to report...friends, readers (whether we know you or not), drop us a line to let us know what's happening in your lives...our comments section is ready for your input! :)


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cultural Experiences

Kristen says...

OK so I know that it's not November 7th, for any of you who think I might be homesick and wishing it was November (I'm not, ye
t) or who think I am un poco loco (I'm not, yet) that I am in Honduras I am trying to do some things Honduran-like, and changing how I write the date is one easy way to do that.

The past two days have given us a wealth of cultural experiences that are both distinctly Honduran, and yet somewhat familiar to this United States citizen. Yesterday, Saturday, we were allowed the chance to tag along with the principal of our elementary school and her mother to a large outdoor market, which I think is called Mayoreo. It was really big—with basically ANYTHING you could think of. We walked around looking, touching, and even tasting. It amazed me how many people were there, with so many different (and similar) things.

We have, of course, gone to the large Farmer's Market in Des Moines, but Mayoreo was both similar and different. At both you can find produce, flowers, and food, but vendors in Des Moines tend to have just one or two things in their stalls, and those things are different from almost anyone elses. At Mayoreo, the different stalls had almost identical produce, set up in almost identical ways. They had a price sheet for what you should pay for things…sometimes you were able to follow it, sometimes not. We bought a lot of good-looking things, like zanahorias (carrots), cebollas (onions), un mango, pequeño nuevo patatas (small new potatoes), azúcre (sugar), flour (I don’t know what flour is in Spanish), some sort of red berries (I think they are wild blackberries), fresas (strawberries), huevos (eggs), chorizo (sausage), quesillo (deliciously salty, stringy cheese that is used in pupusas), vanilla, salt, pepper, mantequilla (creamy creamy butter), y tortillas. They berries were longer and a bit thinner than red raspberries, and closer to the color of black raspberries. We were able to taste-test them at the market…SOUR SOUR SOUR! I bought two bags of them to make into a cobbler to take to today's cultural experience.

More pictures from Mayoreo:
(thanks, Cristiana!!)

The picture at the top is actually at the end: we hired a young boy to carry our stuff around in the green wheelbarrow--he even took it all the way to the car!

Now, you don't know our friend who took these pictures, but they were all staged. I was really much happier and culturally sensitive, although I do always feel a little sad when I see live crabs or lobsters for sale, and the brain, liver, heart, and stomachs next to me on the upper RH picture really did ick me out...

The picture to the left is the funnest because we were looking for a rolling pin, and this was the only one we reminded us of something out of the Flinstones, so I decided that's what Wilma would have wanted to do to Fred, if she'd had the chance. :) The funny part is that we didn't end up buying it, so I didn't actually have a rolling pin to make the berry cobbler to take to our Honduran friends' house today...

So later yesterday I did a very US-type thing (for me) by making cobbler (something I did A LOT with my Grandma when I was younger), but there were some major differences. First of all, I didn't have any Crisco shortening, what I've always used (except when I worked at Living History Farms a few summers ago and had to use lard--ICK!), so I decided to try the recipe with the mantequilla (really runny butter) I bought at Mayoreo. It actually turned out pretty well--it had a little less flavor than usual, and was a more dense dough, but definitely not a failure. I also, as mentioned above, didn't have a rolling pin, so I used waxed paper over a big bottle of hand sanitizer we had to roll out the dough. I figured I was being like a pioneer, making do with what I had...and you know what, the cobbler was just fine.

I know that because today we ate it, along with our Honduran friends who graciously invited us to their home for our second cultural experience of the weekend. Really, it was two experiences in one: the real reason we went (besides to hang out) was to watch the final of the World Cup soccer tournament, in which Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0. I can't say I watched the game with too much interest (remember my soccer tirade a few weeks ago?) but I did try. The conversation was more interesting for me, I will say. Anyway, at halftime we had tapedo, which is an AWESOME soup with beef, sausage, coconut milk, cabbage, plantains, yucca, potatoes, and green bananas. You can add rice to it and dip your tortillas (I totally had a brain fart, I was trying to call them tordesillas, as in the treaty between Spain and Portugal, and I had to ask Chris what they were called--I think I'm tired) in it, or just eat a huge amount of it because it's SO GOOD! For desert (after we let the soup settle in the second half and 30-minute overtime) we had the berry cobbler I wasn't my favorite ever, but it was very good.

More pictures from today:

After desert we left and went to yet another mall (I think I've been to or past 4 now) and went to a very Wal Mart type place, so more of a United Statesian experience than a Honduran one to round out the weekend of culture. I tried new foods, I visted new places, I relived old memories and did old things new ways.

It seems weird to me that school is going to start in just over 3 weeks...I'm very interested to see the differences between teaching here and in the States.

An update on the Pip front: he's not here yet, and we've been very bad puppy parents and haven't been stalker-calling Continental every day like we should have. That changes tomorrow! I got to see him on Skype tonight and I REALLY miss him :( Hopefully he will be here before school starts but...who knows. In the meantime, I have Chris to snuggle with :)


Friday, July 9, 2010

Just a quick note...

Over the past few days, wow - a lot of new experiences, and I love it!

One experience that I have to blog about is the weather.

Back in Iowa, I'm definitely a Fall weather kinda guy. It's a time for (American) Football, sweatshirts, harvest, and just all around goodness. I'm usually pretty warm blooded - and by that I mean (in Iowa) I'm maybe only actually "cold" half a dozen times a year. So, moving to Honduras wasn't just going to be a new experience culturally - I was a little nervous about how I would handle the weather.

A few days into it - and I've got to say, it is quite pleasant. It can definitely get stuffy, but turn a fan on or wait 10 minutes and you'll likely cool down with a breeze - we are in the mountains. I have not yet experienced what I would call "Iowa State Fair hot/humid weather".....if you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to go to the Iowa State Fair in a hot Iowa August. In fact, the fair is 1 of the 1,000 things that you're supposed to do before you die (at least that's what everyone in Iowa says). Ok, off of the Iowa rant.....

One other thing, we are in a "rainforest" - or at least there is rainforest around us, and so far it has rained every day we've been here. Usually, in Iowa - I would be depressed if it had rained 4 days in a row. However, rain (at least the kind we've experienced so far) in Honduras is more like a 15 - 20 minute shower - sometimes even just a mist (reminds me of the vegetable aisle in grocery stores up in the States when the water the vegetables to keep them fresh). These rain showers are both preceded and followed by sunshine.....which is different in my head than what I typically experienced in Iowa. Usually, in Iowa (at least in my head) if it is going to rain, its pretty crappy/rainy weather the whole day. That is to say, maybe its not raining the entire day, but its cloudy and generally less than desirable weather. In Honduras though, I find the rain showers very pleasant (yes, I'm saying that again).

Alright, enough for now. For those of you that are reading - please comment if you want to hear about something specifically. Honestly, there is so much we could talk about, its hard to know what we should blog about...

First Impressions

Kristen says...

Today marks the beginning of my third full day here in Tegucigalpa, and already I have had a chance to come up with some first impressions about Honduras:

1. It is WAY more modern than I expected. This is sad, but the last time I really remember studying Latin America was 4th grade (1993-1994), and the textbooks we used, even then, were vastly outdated, from the 1980s, at least. So in my head I was moving to that place I enjoyed learning about over 15 years ago, which was pictured probably 10 years before that. Never in my wildest imagination did I imagine how very modern this place would be. Fast food, yes (where can't you find McDonald's these days?) but not the plethora or variety. Cars all over, and while they are not quite the brand new models all Americans seem to like to drive, they are not just little clunkers, either. I have been to or been driven past at least 3 shopping malls, with food courts, department stores, and multi-screen movie theaters. As I was trying to ascertain just what things I could get here, my Honduran friend said, "Ask me what you can't get here." And the answer was, not much. Almost anything you want, if you are willing and able to pay for it, is available in Honduras. It is modern.

2. Hondurans love fútbol. Oh wow, do they! I found this out on our first day here...many people were not at work, but were hanging out at the mall in an area set up with chairs and TVs, specifically for the World Cup. It reminded me strongly of the area set up at the Iowa State Fair for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Right next door to where we live there is an area where every night, without fail, people come and play fútbol. I don't know whether it's a league, or pickup, or what, but they are really into it. So too were the school children who came yesterday afternoon (it looked like a PE class?) to the same field. They also played, and were so into it both Chris and I left what we were doing to watch them as they enthusiastically cheered for EVERYONE who kicked the ball or made a goal. Our very first night, around 9:00 PM, we started hearing cheering, vuvuzelas, and whistles...apparently there is a field somewhere near for organized leagues to play...not the Estadio Nacional, which is on the other side of town, but just a local stadium that generates a lot of noise late at night. It's hard to be annoyed when the people are so obviously enjoying themselves.

3. Honduras has very different driving rules. My Honduran friend came up with another great quote about this. I remarked that, in the US, pedestrians have the right of way on the streets. She said, "In Honduras, pedestrians have the right to watch out!" Boy, was she right! Chris and I had our first experience of expanding our circle of comfort in Honduras yesterday. We walked down to a small mall near our apartment, window shopped for a while, and had our first experience of ordering our own food in Honduras (others had ordered for us the past two times we'd eaten out). That was exciting enough, but getting to the mall was the most interesting part. Some of the sidewalks were perfect, just like many in the US, but others were uneven, with cracks, or holes, and sometimes gaping areas where we had to walk on grass, either because there was no sidewalk or because there was a car parked so close to the sidewalk we had to move off it. That is one of the rules I've noticed: if you need to let someone off, you just pull off to the side of the road and stop. There don't seem to be any places you can't park. Also, if there is a space, go for it! Signal or not, it doesn't matter, as long as you don't hit anyone and they don't hit you. Honduran drivers seem to be very good at what they do, just not in the way I am used to. And there's no such thing as jaywalking: if there's a space and you can cross the road, you'd better go, whether or not you are at an intersection. I think I am going to like driving here, once I get used to it!! (Another thing I noticed, but haven't experienced fully--people try to sell you things when you're stopped at a light. If you keep your window up, they don't seem to bother you. I hope our car has air conditioning! :)

4. Spanish is necessary, but English-speakers tend to show up when you least expect them. For example, we were shopping at a fun store called "Stock," and were getting a little overwhelmed because we didn't know what we needed, what was a good price for things, where anything was in the store, and where the people we had come with (who spoke both Spanish and English) were at. Just when our frustration was reaching an apex, this young Latino man (probably no more than 22ish, whom I'd seen multiple times around the store) asked "Can I help you find something?" Just like that, my tension vanished. It's amazing what hearing your own language can do when you are overwhelmed! I talked with him for a bit and realized he couldn't help me find anything, but he had helped me relax a bit. We found our friends, and continued shopping. As we were checking out, an aid worker from Minnesota and her husband from New York asked us if we'd seen any molasses in Honduras? (We hadn't, since we'd only been here 2 days at that point.) Yesterday, we met a German who is living in the orphanage next door--she speaks German, English, Spanish, and a bit of French. And a Honduran man came with our real estate agent last night to translate and make sure everything was ok.

Yet we really do need to learn Spanish, if for no other reason than to be able to communicate with Wilmer, our, well, I don't want to call him a janitor because that seems to belittle all that he really is. Yes, he cleans some things, but he also has put together furniture for us, showed us around, helped program our TV, introduced us to his dog, and taught us some Spanish words. He is AWESOME, and if I learn Spanish for no other reason it will be so that I can tell him how great he is! Putting together a desk and a chair yesterday with him was a learning experience--it was one of those sink or swim times, where we had to use all our Spanish or we would have failed. (We didn't--tenemos una mesito de la laptop y una silla para la oficina.) Plus, I will never understand any of the television shows I'm watching if I don't learn Spanish! :)

5. Expect the unexpected. I need to let go of any other preconceived notions I have about Honduras. So far, I have been far off the mark. It's time to go out and widen our circle some more, to validate my first impressions and to make new ones. We have been here now for 72 hours and I have enjoyed them all, very much. I can't wait for the next 72, and the next, and the next...time to get out there and explore!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We're HERE!!!

Kristen says...

Just wanted to post that before Chris did :)


Update: Aw, epic fail! Even though I posted before he did, his went up first because he started it first. Phoey!

The Adventure Begins!

We made it!

After weeks and months of research, nervousness and planning - we're here! We arrived in Tegucigalpa at approximately 12:10pm Iowa time.

I don't know where to begin for the story of the last 48ish hours - but I'll try...

Evening of 7/5 - Stayed with my Grandma in Des Moines - thanks Grandma. Had a classic dish with my family (oven toasted hot dogs.....long story for another day). Sat around and chatted with mom and dad and then Kristen and I ran an errand. We watched some TV - Kristen was in bed by 10ish - I stayed up until about 10:30 and watched the news with everyone. Gave Grandma a hug and a kiss to say goodbye (until December) and went to bed (no tears but definitely hard to do).

3:15am 7/6 - Wake up - ya.....way too early. Brushed teeth (showered night before), got dressed, etc. Wrote Grandma a note (since she wasn't going to the airport with us) - pretty hard thing, a few tears shed.....

Goal was to be at the airport between 4 and 4:15 - we made it. Lugged in the suitcases....had to switch some things around in the checked baggage as we were over 50lb weight limit with a few and under on some others. 4 bags checked and then it was off for some breakfast at the expensive airport cafe. Some water, coffee and Jaarsma doughnut holes - yummy! That was a good last breakfast in the States for awhile.

Daniel and Amanda showed up (brother and sister-in-law) to see us off which was very nice. Good conversation to take our minds off of everything that was about to happen.

5:45am - We said our goodbyes - or as I like to call them - "see you laters". Goodbye seems so final to me - see you later is a much better way to look at life I think! In any case - we all got kinda weepy, but made it up the escalators by 5:55.......

As we checked through the security counter, they made some announcement over the P.A. - something about our gate. Turns out, Continental wanted to leave early so they were calling for remaining ticketed passengers to make their way over to the departure gate ASAP. What an awesome way to start this.....we're late for our first plane. We rushed through security - no biggie (which I was surprised at given the massive amount of electronic devices I had in my carry on - seriously, my entire business and personal communication system was in my carry on).

6:10am - On the plane very uncomfortable though, pretty stuffy. It was a Continental Express Embraer. Small plane - 3 seats per row, 2 on 1 side, 1 on the other.

6:20am - Take off - on schedule! Worst part about the flight - 2 girls in front of us, probably 8 or 9 continued to pass gas throughout the flight...yuck that was not good. Maybe more on that story later...

8:40am - Arrive in Houston (couple minutes late). We race over to the other gate to make our flight and the boarding gate lady told us we were the 1st of the 11 passengers that had the same itinerary (DSM to IAH, IAH to TGU).

9:05am - Say goodbye (or see you later) to the last US building - Houston Airport.

Flight down to Tegus was great - very easy - lots of legroom.

11:05am (or 12:05am Iowa time) - Arrive in Tegus (few minutes early). Unfortunately no video :( I was a dummy and didn't take the camera out to document the airport. Airport is very nice. Definitely more modern than I was expecting. Got through customs, etc without a hitch. All 4 checked bags arrived safe and sound - nothing broken or missing - YAY!

11:45am (Know that anytime I document now will be 1 hour different from Iowa time because Honduras doesn't observe daylight savings time) - Meet Christiana - and the adventure really begins.....

Our driver starts making his way to our new apartment. Driving here is very interesting. It is definitely not structured. People kinda make their own lanes - you might be driving along and then all of a sudden a motorcyclist appears between you and the car beside you. All types of vehicles here - nothing different or really weird from what we'd see in the States. I would say the biggest difference (other than the driving) with the cars/trucks, etc is that there are not as many BRAND NEW vehicles out on the road. I would say the majority of the models are late 90's, early 2000's.

12:00pm - Arrive at our new apartment, walk up 3 flights of stairs and walk into this gigantic place. Wow - very nice! Definitely even better than I thought it would be. (pictures are currently uploading to Flickr....) 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, nice couches, patio, new appliances, very nice!

1:00pm - Get our first Honduran food (which I think is really Guatemalan) - Pupusas! Yummy - corn tortilla with cheese in the middle - these are awesome!

1:30pmish - Back to the apartment to pick up our new friend - Wilmer. We went over to the mall to get setup with Internet and Cable via Amnet (a local Mediacom type company). After purchasing Internet/Cable, drop Wilmer back at the apartment complex and head out to the grocery store for some of the essentials.

2:30pmish - 1st shopping experience in Honduras. Lots of veggies and fruits to choose from, but we decided we would get just enough to hold us over for a few days until we purchased pots/pans, etc and had our car. Among the essentials: Bread (just like in the States, but smaller loafs), water, butter, sliced ham and turkey, cheese, diet pepsi, and yes, I picked up some Honduran beer and some wine as well!

3:30pm - Stop over at a Tigo store to pickup a cheap cell phone ($20). Tigo has a partnership I think with AT&T in the U.S. From everything I've seen, read, etc - the 2 main cellular providers are Tigo and Claro.

4:30pmish - Arrive back at the apartment, plan out what will be happening tomorrow (meeting with Maria to go out and get additional supplies). Say adios to Christiana and basically collapse on the couches. Wow, what a crazy day!

We start to unpack and take pictures of the new place and our surroundings. Kristen takes a nap - I make myself some dinner at about 6 and I crash on the bed by about 7pm. Kristen's out by about 9.

And, thus ends our first few hours in Tegucigalpa. Quite a day....very excited to see what new experiences we'll have in the coming days, weeks, months :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Not enough time...

For all of you that I have intended to see or contact before leaving and haven't, I'm sorry. Unfortunately, there's really not enough time to say "goodbye" or "see you soon" to everyone that I know or has somehow influenced my life. Doing something like that would have meant starting a year ago or something crazy like that and saying goodbye to everyone.

So for those of you that I haven't seen in awhile - please take this posting as my "goodbye" to you. Or, even better - take this as a, "see you soon". I really do hope that friends and family that we'll be leaving in the States come down to see us. We'll have a pretty giant (3 bdrm) apartment - and you are definitely welcome.

Alright, my brain is fried - I've been burning the candle at both ends for over 2 weeks now and I can really only put together 2 or 3 coherent thoughts at one time these days. So - enough of a posting for now. Next time I write, I think I'll be writing from Honduras - I hope to hear from and see all of you (my friends and family) very soon.

Stay tuned for details about the adventure down....I'm sure it will be dramatic :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things I Will Miss


Kristen says...

Well, we are officially out of our Des Moines apartment and officially moved home to Oskaloosa for the next 4 days. Well, we really came home Monday night, but then I went up Tuesday night to attend a midnight showing of a little movie called "Eclipse" with some friends (I thought the 60-second trailer for Harry Potter 7 [parts 1 and 2] was better than the movie) and came home late last night, and Chris got the rest of the stuff out of the apartment, so it really is official now.

So this whole moving to Honduras thing is really happening! I am excited, and nervous, and ready, and not ready all at once. I have been thinking today about things and I am excited about, and things I will are the things I will miss, in no particular order:

1. Family: ...OK that one really is #1. I spend A LOT of time with my family, and it is big. I am #2 of five kids, and 4 of us are married, plus my sister is expecting the first grandbaby. We are big, loud, and spend a lot of time together. I know I will have Skype, Facebook, and the Internet, but I will still miss being just an hour away from everyone.

2. Friends: We have so many friends, and have been trying to spend even a little time with them all lately. We have invited them all to come visit us...hopefully some of them will take us up on it.

3. Iowa: So that's obvious, and a little to broad: let's break it down:

a. The countryside/barns/corn/haystacks/ruralness. View the following pictures:

Seriously? Who wouldn't miss that?

b. The Iowa State Fair: It's always 10 days in August, it's always hot, it's always expensive. But it's also ALWAYS awesome! If you talk to me from August 12-22, don't be surprised if I'm a little grumpy that I'm not in Iowa!
<- My sister and I at the "Corn Dog Chomp". Corn Dogs are one of the myriad of foods available on a stick at the Fair. -> My sentiments exactly!! :)

c. The East Village in Des Moines: Chris and I lived in the EV the ENTIRE time we've been married, up until now. After Tuesday, we will have lived together 2 places, Des Moines, and Tegucigalpa. Of course it has a soft place in my heart. While I didn't like everything about it (I'm talking to you, icky Locust Tap!), there were many, MANY things I adored: Baby Boomers, Jett and Monkey's, East Village Spa, Westrum Optometry, these were just a few of the many fine establishments I frequented over the past four years. Plus, I got to wake up to this every morning:

d. Des Moines: Different from the EV, because the EV is only one small part of Des Moines. I really didn't think I liked Des Moines all that well, but it really is a great little city...picturesque, as well. With it's river walk, museums, beautiful gold-domed capitol (above--yes, it is really gold), Des Moines is a great place to live. I will really miss it, and the new sculpture garden on the west side of downtown:

Above: Last years' 4th of July celebrations in Des Moines
<- Nomade, the sculpture that started it all 4. Snow, ice, and cold: OK, hear me's not that I'll miss the coldness as much as how pretty snow and ice can be. Plus, sledding is fun!!

<-A frozen leaf during one of our epic Iowa ice-storms -> A snowy statue of Abraham Lincoln and his son at the Capitol

5. Yearly Events: Obviously I already talked about the fair, but that is only part of the fun that I have every year in Iowa!! Winter brings Winterfest at the Amana Colonies, where you can experience the World's Largest Handmade Rocking Chair and participate in ham-tossing, snowball launching, beard, and cross-cut saw competitions. In the spring there is always the Drake Relays, (which, incidentally, I ran at in High School and reported on during College). Summer is the Fair, and fall = FOOTBALL!!!! It is like a never-ending cycle of fun and things to look forward to! (Or things to be sad to miss)



Above: Chris in the ham-putting contest, and getting ready to saw wood with my brother-in-law Nate
Below: High Jump at the Relays, and (#52) Lolo Jones, hometown hero and Olympic athlete...believe it or not, I beat her at the State Track Meet in High School...

6. So many things I can't even think of yet! I know I will miss so much, and yet, I have so much I'm looking forward to....

But that will have to wait for tomorrow. (Well, ok, today, as it's 12:30 AM here!)

I'll leave you with a last, beautiful picture of rural Iowa:

OK, world travelers and blog followers: what else do you think I will miss when I'm gone?

Until later,