Saturday, August 28, 2010

As Honduran as Apple Pie

28/8/10
Kristen says...

Well, today was a very, very fun day! (FYI: I am writing this VERY late at night, under the influence of delicious food, so if it doesn't make sense...I'll fix it later :)

It started off this morning when I had a very nice lie-in. Usually I don't get to do that, even on Saturdays, because Chris gets up very early and I always feel bad if he is up and I am not. Today, however, I didn't feel bad at all because I told him I was going to do it, and he was just working anyway, so it wasn't like we would have been hanging out, anyway.

Around noon-ish I gathered my courage and went to Mayoreo by myself. Armed with only 400 Lemps and a list, I spent a very pleasant hour wandering around the market. I got everything on the list, and only 2 things that weren't, and they would have been if I had thought of them before I left!

When I got back, Chris was done working, so we decided to take a short road trip to Valle de Angeles, which is a quaint little town 23 km away. It was a nice, picturesque little drive.

One of the things that has surprised us here are the types of trees...when I was imagining living in a rain forest, I kind of was thinking of mangroves or other broad-leaf-type trees. But, there are quite a few conifer (pine) trees here too. Here are a few pictures from the drive and the town:










We had a great time wandering around, and both made a purchase (me, a wooden bead necklace, Chris a really nice leather belt.)





















Around the time I was devouring this...

















our friend Carlos called. We had made plans earlier in the week to get together and make pupusas. He had seen my pictures of my earlier attempt on Facebook, and was, let's say, a little disappointed that I hadn't invited him over to taste them. So tonight he, his daughters, and his girlfriend came over so we could make pupusas. Boy, am I glad! :)

If you remember my last attempt, I used a very simple recipe that called for just 3 ingredients, Maseca corn flour, water, and quesillo. Well, my guests took one look at that recipe and laughed. A short phone call was made and the recipe was remedied. Not only did we need the Maseca, water, and quesillo, there was also a special ingredient: cubos de pollo, or as we call it in the states (and probably France), chicken bouillon. It's amazing how one small ingredient can make all the difference!

Oh yeah, and know-how. Carlos' girlfriend was a pupusa pro!

First of all, she put the flour out on the counter in a pile, then made a well, and slowly added the water and the bouillon cubes until it was a nice consistency. Not too dry or too wet. After that she took globs of dough, perhaps the size of a walnut when it's just fallen from the tree (when it still has that big stinky skin on it that stains your hands), and then made a well inside them, which was filled with quesillo, frijoles, or chicharrón, or a mixture of any/all. (Chris is demonstrating the technique below:
After that, then, you use a special circley-hand movement (it's impossible to explain here) to flatten the pupusa. It takes a lot of practice, but if you start out slow, it gets easier as you go along. (Here I am, practicing my skills).
The pupusas at various stages:
One big difference between this time and last time was the cebollas...as in, this time we had them. We also had cabbage and carrots, which I didn't eat and so don't have a picture. However, the pupusas + the cebollas = YUM!!
Well, very randomly during all this (I think it was when I mentioned that the recipe reminded me slightly of the recipe for pie dough,) it came to light that none of our guests had ever had pie before. As I am known as something of a baker-ess where I come from (I have won a few apple pie contests in my day) I decided to mix in a little American cuisine with our Honduran (ok, they're really from El Salvador) pupusas.All-in-all, it was a great night of food, fun, friendship, and spilled beer (all over the kitchen floor. It was 10:30 before we got to eat anything because we had to clean up 4 broken bottles after their plastic casing split...what a mess!)Well, I'd better get going because tomorrow (well, I guess it's today now, as it is 12:42 AM!) we have another full day. We are going to travel to a farm 40 minutes away and visit with some orphans our school has "adopted". Pip gets to go along on this trip, so I hope it's lots of fun! (I'll let you know!)

KF

Friday, August 20, 2010

Estoy Lleno

Chris says:

I am FULL! Criollos may be my new favorite eating establishment in Tegucigalpa! Although, I've got to admit - we haven't been to a lot yet.....

Very good, and I think a little expensive as Honduran restaurants go - but it was worth it for the experience. We started out with homemade chips and beans/quesillo mix on a terra cotta warming plate (I forgot to take pictures) - but it was very cool. They put charcoals inside what looks to be a handmade 'vessel'. On top of the charcoals is a little plate of beans with quesillo on top. It was great, beans and cheese warm and yummy! I also had some cerveza! Barena (a local brew) and then Corona with lime, very good too! The main dish for Kristen consisted of bean soup, with quesillo and some corn tortillas. Inside the soup were various sliced vegetables like onion, green pepper, etc. I had a 'carne tipico' or typical meat plate which consisted of beans and rice (possibly the best I've ever had), wonderful steak - very well seasoned, an egg (or 2) which seemed to be scambled - but didn't resemble the scrambled eggs I'm used to - and last but not least some fried plantans with butter on top! I'm sorry to say I couldn't finish the whole thing! But, it was absolutely delicious!

Aside from the great meal - Pip stayed in his kennel without too much barking! He whined and wimpered a little when we put him in there but all and all - a lot better than it was 2 days ago.

What a great start to the weekend!

Any locals reading the blog....where should we eat next?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A night out in Teguc...kind of

17/8/10
Kristen says...

Well tonight was interesting! We have been staying in (a lot!) lately, because Pip has been...let's say resisting spending time in his kennel. This is a new experience for us: he really seemed to like the kennel in Iowa, but I think the 6 hours of airplane time killed his desire for small, enclosed spaces.

This is, of course, frustrating because we have never left him alone without putting him in his kennel, and now he freaks out any time we leave him alone, inside the kennel or not.

This problem came to the forefront tonight when one of the other teachers invited us to go to the Honduran Museum of National Identity for the opening of a new photography exhibit called Estas Honduras. (The images below are of the entrance hall of the Museum and the artist, Jorge F. Travieso.)














Chris was going to come with me...actually, he and I were both out the door and on the way to the car, but we paused to listen to the melodious sound of our crazily barking, whining, and crying dog. The way our building sits, it faces another of equal height, and loud noises from one side carry and bounce off the other, then reverberate all up and down the area in-between. It was AWFUL! Of course, we couldn't leave with him going crazy like that (we do want our neighbors to like us), so Chris decided to stay home.

This was quite disappointing, because I was really looking forward to Chris and I actually being able to leave the house at the same time. It's not that I'm not happy Pip is here (I'm ecstatic!) but seriously. Besides school and 2 weekend shopping trips on my own, and besides Chris' haircut and a downtown jaunt this past Saturday, and the one, brief hour-long trip to pick up our BBs (when Chris left Pip with Wilmer), we haven't been able to get out much, and only that once both of us left at once. Sigh.

Anyway, I did get to go to the museum, even though Chris did not. The exhibit was photos from many different places in Honduras, and included sections of photos of carvings at Copan, different religious and cultural festivals from around the country, and some of the people he has come across. Most of the people pictures portrayed them doing something, like playing an instrument, weaving, or celebrating holidays. (Actually, 3 of my favorites are available at the 2nd link above. I'd copy them over here but I don't want to get into plagiarism issues. Just click on the link and you can see them and read about the exhibit.)

After we walked though the galleries, we were treated to some delicious traditional Honduran food, including frijoles, corn tamales with crema, a chicken-potato-baby corn-green bean-delicious dish, a Honduran dish made with corn meal, potatoes, montequilla, and queso (it was spicy, not what I expected, but still pretty good) and delicious fried corn chips.

The captions to the pictures were, of course, in Spanish, but I was pleased with how much I felt I understood. I was able to pick out a lot of words that I wouldn't have been able to before I moved down here. I haven't been doing as well as I should with my Rosetta Stone (like, I've done it once this month, for 2 hours) but I've found an excellent source of Spanish practice in the lady who cleans my room at school.

I am currently blessed with a wonderful schedule at school that allows me multiple periods "off" for planning and whatnot. During one of these "free" periods Santos comes in and cleans the desks, sweeps the floor, mops it, and talks with me in Spanish. She wants to learn English, and I want to learn Spanish, so we both teach each other new words, and really communicate much more easily than I thought we would. It was fun today to teach her that "rock" and "stone" are "la misma" and the English words "big," "small," "open," "closed," "locked." I knew most of these words in Spanish, but turnabout is fair play. I'm really looking forward to how much I learn from her this year and next!

FYI, for anyone who's interested, here is me at my classroom:

I am really quite fond of my room...maps galore! :)














Anyway, it's getting rather late and I need to be up bright and early. I do want to say, though, that the more time I spend in Honduras, the more people I talk to, the more images and Honduran items I see (like this exhibit) really make me excited to travel and see this country.

A month from Monday (Sept 15th) is Honduras' Independence Day, and we have a 5-day weekend to celebrate. I'm wondering if anyone out there has a suggestion of where we can go (preferably that allows dogs) so that we can truly experience the holiday?

Sorry for the somewhat disjointed ramble. It's the beginning of the school year, and my brain always goes a million different directions at this time.

Please send us your suggestions! :) and thanks for reading.
KF

Oldies.........93.3 KIOA......in Teguc?

Chris says:

I'm sitting here listening to our digital tv that is actually on the digital radio - its on a station called, "Upbeat Oldies". Strange how music can remind you of home - the station plays oldies just like KIOA used to. I say used to because maybe for about the past year, KIOA started introducing a lot more 1970s (& 80s?) music into their playlist - and I was not impressed at all. This digital station however, is playing good stuff from the 60s like Chicago (Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?), The Beatles (Honey Don't), Sam Cooke (Twisin' The Night Away), and Steam (Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye). Listening to this music is taking me back to memories of my childhood when 3 out of 4 weekends my family would go up to Des Moines to visit my grandparents. KIOA was the standard radio station anytime I was in the car as a child (especially on the way to Des Moines). Strange as it may seem, I remember complaining sometimes to my parents about always listening to "The Oldies" - I got bored, got annoyed, etc. But, soon enough the ride was over and I got to see my grandparents - and all was well with the world! I now find myself in an unfamiliar (although slowly but surely becoming familiar) place, listening to music I grew up with and not wanting to turn the channel away - its a little bit of an Iowa memory down here in Honduras. So, thanks Mom and Dad for always listening to KIOA when I was younger, I didn't realize at the time how it would be useful later....listening to the music reminds me of good times growing up driving to Des Moines to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Enjoying the experience!

Chris says:

I really am enjoying everything about living and working in Honduras! Even the challenges that we've faced have been 'enjoyable'. To me, those frustrations and challenges are what make this a fun experience, and something that we'll be influenced by for the rest of our lives. If everything about living abroad was easy - everyone would do it. I'll say it again, its the challenge that makes this fun!

Working: 
Today was another great day of work, making progress - and seeing that progress being made towards a goal is energizing. Working remotely continues to be a little surreal because contrary to some of my expectations, I still feel fairly connected to my friends and co-workers at PFG. Its definitely not the same as being in the office - but the challenge is to figure out how to communicate effectively in this different paradigm. While I can't physically be in the same space communicating in Des Moines, Iowa - I can find ways to get similar results using the different communication tools I DO have. The use of instant messaging, voice and video capabilities and a voice over IP phone in addition to a big, dedicated internet connection here at home means that so far, I've continued to be able to remain 'in touch' with important things at work.

Living:
Everyday is an adventure, everyday I feel a little more confident (a little) in my Spanish speaking capabilities. Everyday, I catch onto a couple words or phrases to use. Pip continues to get used to living here...we've been slowly getting him back into the habit of going into his kennel. After the flight - I don't think he was too happy with us or his kennel and the first time we tried to leave him in his kennel he barked and howled like it was torture. We ended up not leaving him alone - but I'm hopeful we'll soon be able to without issue. If that can happen, this weekend we'll go exploring more. There is a town to the east of us - Valle de Angeles that is supposed to be awesome! I can't wait to get more culture and continue getting used to what it means to live abroad :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First week of school, check!

15/8/10
Kristen says...

Happy fin de semana! Well, ok, so the weekend is almost over, but I hope it has been a happy one for you.

I meant to post earlier this week, but I forgot how tiring the first day(s) of school can be!

Overall, this week of school went quite well. My classes are small (all are less than 12 but one), and the students are very courteous and pleasant. This particular teaching assignment is different from my last in many ways, but one that was immediately apparent is how nice it was last year to know the students before the first day of school.

I struggle (a lot!) with names. Introduce yourself to me, I'll say "nice to meet you," shake your hand...and forget your name within a few seconds. It's not that I don't care...in fact, I'll try to repeat your name to myself in the hopes that the next time we see each other, I will be able to greet you by name. Unfortunately, that very rarely happens.

Last year at Saydel I had the advantage of having been a substitute teacher for my 10th grade students since they were in 7th grade, so I had a very easy time memorizing the few names I didn't know going in. Down here...I knew 1.

But, I am happy to say, that after 3 days (and tri-fold name plates, thanks for the idea Mrs. Butler!!) I know the names of all of my 6th graders, a good portion of my 7th graders, most of my 8th graders, and at least half of my seniors (I've only seen them twice, so I think I need a bit more time to get them 100%). Now, if I saw them out of the context of school I'm not sure how well I'd do, but in the classroom, I feel pretty good.

I'm also excited about how the students received some of the ideas of projects we are going to do this year. The seniors, especially, were really open to my curriculum ideas. That made me quite happy.

We did have some sad news that marred this first week of school. My paternal grandpa passed away on Thursday, and I got the call just before my 2nd class of the day. I worked really hard to not let it get to me for the rest of the day, and I think I managed pretty well. The fact that I really want to be home with my family right now, added to the fact that Thursday was also the day that the Iowa State Fair started, it's been a tough week...but my successes at school and the overall warmth and enthusiasm I've received from my students and fellow teachers down here made the week an overall success, despite the sadness.


The two things I am missing most this week, in order of their importance...

1. Grandpa

2. Fair












With that, I guess I'd probably better get back to planning.

A teacher's work is never done...until summer break, that is! :)

KF

Friday, August 13, 2010

Long time no........post

Chris Says:

No postings by me this week - I've been slacking! Busy week with work and after work in Honduras...

Monday:
*Finally get Blackberries, hoooray!

Tuesday:
*Unfortunately figure out I can't make U.S. calls on Blackberry - :( But problem can be solved....just have to go to Tigo and have them enable it.

Wednesday:
*1st haircut in Honduras - successful! (see picture below) Only cost 100 Lps ($5.00)
*Also got some good Cuban Rum and Honduran coffee liquor!


Thursday:
*Relax at home

Friday:
*Posting to the blog!
*No idea what the plan is tonight....looking at the apartment, we need to clean it up....

Special Note: Not only is it scorching in our homestate of Iowa - but there is major flooding as well! And, last but not least - the Iowa State Fair started the other day. All of you Iowans need to have some corn dogs and root beer for me!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

#1 BEST reason why the dishes are still dirty...

10/8/10
Kristen says...

Now, to clarify, these aren't the pupusa dishes from Saturday. These are the dishes from tonight's dinner, (delicious homemade nachos) and from I think Chris' lunch today, and maybe his lunch yesterday.

You see, I have been a bit busy lately (no, this isn't my reason, this is the backstory), and so I've been a bit of slacker and not done the dishes every night like I like to.

I'm busy because tomorrow is the first day of school with kids, so I have been planning, and stewing, and stressing, and thinking, and pretty much anything else but cleaning and doing dishes. (Sorry Chris). It's hitting me that this is my second-first day of school, but the first time going in knowing pretty much none of my students (I know just one by sight, and I don't have her until the last period of the day.) Thus, it is 9:43 and I'm too jazzed to go to bed...so I decided to release the stress a bit and wash the mound of dishes piled by the sink.

I sorted the dishes (silverware, plates and bowls, cleaner other, and the most dirty) and started to fill the sink. Immediately I noticed that the water pressure was not as good as usual (I've really been impressed with the water pressure here), and it didn't get hot as quickly as usual (also I have been impressed with how quickly the water gets hot--in fact, in the shower, it's a daily battle to get my showering completed without getting scorched). I filled the sink about a quarter of the way full, started to was the silverware, and noticed the pressure steadily shrinking. Within a minute or two, the water was completely gone.

Chris was Skyping with his mom so I went in and broke the news, and started to wonder...why did our water go away? It's the middle of the rainy season, so I didn't think it was a lack of water issue (in fact, we've had rain both of the last two days). I decided (friendly Iowan that I am) to run across the way (18-foot walls on either side, don't worry) and ask our neighbors if they had water...I knocked on 3 different doors before I got anyone to answer, but the people on the other side definitely did "tiene agua." Argh.

I started to freak out that maybe we hadn't paid our water bill, so maybe the water was off for that reason...and then I started to think, oh crap, school starts tomorrow, and I'm going to end up going to school without a shower, washing my hair, anything. Plus, none of the other new teachers have transportation, so not only do I want to be early for my first day, I'm also driving halfway across the city to pick them up (which is fine, I don't mind, I will just be leaving a bit earlier than usual)...but add no shower stress to picking up other people stress, plus first day of a new school stress...I'm pretty sure Chris wouldn't want to deal with that in the morning!

Anyway, I decided to go find Wilmer and ask him. I thought maybe he would be in his apartment, but he was outside talking to the 2 night guards down the road. He came over and looked at the water tank for the other building...full.

Then he came over to our water tank. When he rapped on it, it reminded me of Dorothy knocking on the Tin Man's chest in The Wizard of Oz...empty. Relief! We did pay our bill! I felt much better...until I remembered that if it stayed empty, I still wouldn't get my AM shower.

Wilmer went back out and called in one of the night guards. He was a very nice man, with a beautifully decorated leather sheath around a gigantor machete. So I had Wilmer with his gun, and this other gentleman with his machete. I felt very safe. While Wilmer and another guy looked at the water tank, the security guy and I made small talk (in Spanish)! I told him I was a teacher, and that tomorrow was my first day of school. He asked me if I was a tourist, and it didn't make much sense to him that no, I actually live here. Wilmer helped me explain.

Anyway, Wilmer made a few calls, and told me the water would be back on in veinte minutos (20 min), and this blog posting must have taken me that long, because he just called up on the intercom and the water is back on...phew! Crisis averted!

So that's the fantastic reason why my dishes are still dirty...and they're going to stay that way, because I'm going to bed. I have to be peppy and fun tomorrow, I'm a middle school teacher!

I'll let you know how it goes...

KF

Saturday, August 7, 2010

En la cocina

7/8/20 (August)
Kristen says...

I went back to Mayoreo today to introduce two of the other new teachers to the market. Wow, it's amazing how much more confident I feel after just one month! Instead of staring around, overwhelmed (and a little scared), relying on Cristiana or some other kind, English-speaking soul to tell me what's what, now I was the one being relied on. True, Cristiana was there (thank you!) but I picked up the newbies, I drove to the market, I parked, I steered people around, I bought things without asking Cristiana about the price (before I bought it), and, after Cristiana left, I got my friends out, intact, and with everything we wanted! Woot!

I bought a wide assortment of the "essentials" today: lentils, quesillo, potatoes, zanahorias, chorizo, bananas, tortillas, eggs, garlic, etc, and some things that were...not.Too touristy?

I love my hat and Honduras bag! (The other side is the Honduran flag!!! :) My favorite thing about it is that I bargained! In Spanish!!! :) (True, I only got the price down 15 Lemp, or less than $1.00, but still, I call that a win!) The hat he wouldn't budge on, but I'm ok with that. We've bought from him before, and he does AWESOME things with weaved grass. All total, I spent less than $15, so I am a happy girl.

Of course, after you go to the market and buy all that deliciousness, you have to do something with it...so I decided to try to make my favorite Honduran food, pupusas!

I followed a very simple, and (I think) traditional recipe:
2 c. Maseca (finely ground corn) flour
Water
Quesillo
Basically you mix the flour and water (another recipe gave the proportion of 1 c. water to 2 c. flour...I didn't see that until after I'd mixed so I kept adding water to make the dough wetter), then take a glob in your hands, flatten it a bit, put the quesillo on it, squish it back into a ball, flatten it again, and cook it over medium heat (in some veggie oil) until it is browned a bit outside.

Because I didn't initially add enough water, the first one was really thick and really dry--it actually fell apart when we tried to turn it over. The recipe called for dough the size of two golf balls, which made a big, thick pupusa, much thicker than the ones at restaurants are. Also, I don't think I put in enough quesillo, because only the center had it, and there wasn't much.
Before I made the second pupusa I added more water, and tried to make it less thick. Again, I think the 2 golf ball thing was too much, and it was still too dry. I added more quesillo this time, but the outside rim was still dry and boring.
The third pupusa was the best. It was still too big, but I added A LOT of quesillo and made it thinner...maybe a cm at its thickest, while I think the first one was well over 1 1/2 cm. The thick outer rim was still a little bland, but ok.
So, how was my first pupusa-making experience? Survey says...not terrible. I made a palatable corny and queso-filled dinner that tasted fine, although nothing like Paseo across the street.

Thoughts for next time:
  1. More water. The dough was just too dry. I'm going to try the 2 c./1 c. ratio first off next time. Chris also suggested maybe adding a bit of oil with the water?
  2. Less dough (smaller pupusas)! The 2-golf ball thing was too much. The pupusas were too thick, too corny, too bland.
  3. Spice? I might try adding garlic salt to part of the dough, just for fun.
  4. Revueltas! Basically mashed red beans and quesillo mixed together. The quesillo was delicious (fresh from the market this AM!) but goes so well with red beans. (I guess I'd better find a recipe for that, too!)
  5. Is cooking them in a vegetable oil slicked frying pan the best way? Would a griddle be better?
All-in-all, I am happy with my first attempt. It definitely makes me glad I went to the market today--that really inspired me to try my hand at my own pupusas. I'm sure next time they will be even better!
Pupusas make me smile! :)

FYI: If you're interested in keeping up with what 6th, 7th and 8th graders learn in their Social Studies class, you can head on over to my classroom blog. If you're not interested, I won't be offended. :) Just make sure you keep reading this blog...and follow us as well! Or, leave us a comment. We love to know who is reading about our Honduran adventure! :)

KF




La gata.....does not mean a female cat

Chris Says:

The adventure continues....

Wilmer and I have figured out a very good way to communicate while I continue to learn Spanish, and he continues to learn a little bit of English. He gets a paper and pen/pencil and writes down while I read and when I don't understand, will use Google Translate. Unfortunately, I think Google maybe doesn't do the best job with word meaning and context.

Wilmer came up today and started talking about our tires and a cat? He wrote down 'la gata' and said we needed to get a new one. Eventually, through a few minutes of discussion and a little bit of miming I figured out that 'la gata' is a car jack.

Alright Spanish speaking family and other readers who know more about Spanish than I do. Is 'la gata' the term you would have used to describe a car jack, or is this more of a local terminology? Am I correct in thinking using the term and what its meaning is - is dependent on the context?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Patience is definitely a virtue

Chris Says:

I think I'm experiencing some cultural differences (or maybe its just the people we've interacted with) when it comes to speed of service. I don't know if that's even the right way to describe it - but here is an example:

Before sharing the story - this is NOT a "put down" or in any way a slam on the great people of Honduras - and certainly not on Cristiana (I think she's more frustrated than I am). This is simply a reflection about what I've experienced.

Day 1 (July 6th) - after arriving in Tegus, seeing the apartment, and going to get some groceries - we head over to a Tigo station by El Dorado (strip mall on Blvd Morazan pretty close to our place). We purchase a cheap cell phone just to get us by and have a communication mechanism until we get Blackberries later on. The whole process took about 20 minutes - very quick, I was impressed!

Day 7 - Ask Cristiana about getting Blackberries with an international data plan (at least for me so I could have it for work at PFG). She say's she has a guy that the school works with, etc and will get us more information soon. Later, I figure out that I actually don't HAVE to have this.

A few days later she gets us some info and I think we decided we would wait until all of us got back from vacation to go get everything figured out. (Cristiana and her family took a vacation the same week we did).

7/26 - back from vacation, first day of work for me and we start asking about getting the Blackberries again. Cristiana calls our contact but can't reach him. Asks that he give her a call back, etc.

7/28 - Cristiana was still waiting on a call back from her contact, we discussed how important it was for my work. She does more calling around and....by 7/29 or 30 she finds out that we can get the Blackberry from anyone...but at about 4 or 5 times the cost - at that point, I had folks from my team covering my on-call for me, so didn't have to worry about getting the BB immediately. We decided we could wait a couple more days - Cristiana had made contact with another person from Tigo and they would work with us the week of 8/2 since the first guy wasn't being reliable.

8/2 - From my memory, I think Cristiana gets confirmation from the new lady that she would have the blackberries by end of day Friday at the latest - more likely Wednesday.

8/4 - Wednesday comes and goes and we set an appointment up to get everything configured Friday, 8/6 at 3pm.

8/6, 2:30 - I head over to the Tigo station (1 of the million that are on Blvd. Morazan), to make sure that I can meet Kristen and Cristiana in plenty of time. Arrive at the station about 5 minutes later....decide to look around the strip mall for awhile since I hadn't been at this particular commercial establishment before. 3pm comes and goes, no sign of Kristen or Cristiana.....getting concerned that I might be at the wrong Tigo station. But, I'm sure I'm at the right one....walk up and down the blvd. to make sure I don't see another Tigo station somewhere. Nope, I'm at the right one. Of course, I don't have a cell phone so there is no way to contact Kristen or for her to contact me. To make matters a little more frustrating, the pay phones about every 2 blocks aren't able to call to cell phones in Honduras for some reason. About 3:45 I decide to head back to the apartment. Worst case scenario, Kristen got the phone and configured it for herself.....and being the tech guru that I am...I figure I can probably get things configured for my account if need be.

4:10 - Get home. Kristen says they never went to the Tigo place cause whoever was supposed to call Cristiana never did.

All in all, this is still not the end of the world for me - just a little frustrating. Cristiana is definitely not happy....like I said, I think she's more frustrated than I - and she has to get her class stuff ready on top of all the work she is doing for us and the other international teachers that have arrived.....she is definitely a ROCK STAR!

So, I think the biggest difference I've noticed is that in the States - I didn't ever have this much trouble getting a company to call me back, etc. If you want to spend money in the States....the company is happy to take it from you and most times...tries to do everything they can to get you to spend money. In Honduras though, I've noticed a difference.....especially in our interaction with Tigo.

One other thing I've noticed, outside of our interaction with Tigo is that if you're waiting at a counter and someone behind the counter is looking up something for you or doing something for you - and someone else gets their attention - the customer service rep (or whoever) may completely stop doing what they were doing for you and work on the other customer's needs. Some stores have figured out how to avoid this and many places actually have the 'ted ticket system' where you pull a number from the number dispenser thingy and they call out numbers for whoever is next up.....that way, they take care of you and aren't distracted by other customer's needs.

On a very positive note - I found a sweet liquor store. Has lots of wine and an AWESOME rum selection. All very cheap! The most impressive part was that there were only a few bottles of Bacardi, almost everything else was something that I couldn't get in the States. They even had Appleton....which is a less expensive version of the Appleton Estates you can get in the States. I'm definitely excited about all the different Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke) I can make down here. So for all of you in Honduras or Central America - what's the best kind of local (or Central American) rum? I want to drink something I can't get in the States - please comment!

So, patience is a virue....and if you've read all of this, thanks for being patient and reading my blog post!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finally...

Chris Says:

Everyone is here! Picked up Pip this morning/afternoon from the airport. All I can say is - what a trip (it seems to me like we could say that whenever we leave the apartment these days.....).

Easy/Positive things:
*I tracked Pip's flight via the Internet. And, not just departure arrival times - they had a map showing GPS location of the airplane throughout the flight. (better than people tracking)
*Flight from Atlanta to Tegus left early and arrived early.
*Wilmer and I arrived at the airport in plenty of time, it was probably 20 minutes or so before the flight actually landed.
*Everyone was very helpful throughout the entire process...

Difficult/Frustrating things:
*My Spanish is lacking - but I was getting by...
*Wilmer and I walked back and forth numerous times from the terminal to the cargo area - I don't think there is any wise person that knows how everything should work - we talked to lots of people and each time, got a new clue for how we could actually pick Pip up.

The rest of the story:
*Finally, we went to the security station to pick up a badge for Wilmer. It was basically saying he had a reason for being back in the arrival area where folks internationally go to claim their bags and get through customs. The security person was saying she would only allow one of us a badge and Wilmer and I decided that because his Spanish is better - that was the best choice.
*Wilmer goes back to the customs area where we actually were at about 4 weeks ago - 15 minutes or so later, he comes back saying that we needed veteranary papers with vacination stuff, etc on it - I told him the papers should be on top of the kennel - but he was saying they weren't (grrrrrrr......).
*I get a little frustrated, call Christiana and work to get ahold of Kristen.
*Eventually, I get a hold of Christiana - she said she was gonna call her Vet.
*Wilmer and I both decide to go back to the customs area - turns out - the security guy with the wand let me through. I think in this situation - it was good to be from the States (and be bigger than the guy with the wand too). He took a look at me, checked to make sure I didn't have any weapons, asked to see my passport and let me pass.
*I see Pip in his kennel, just laying down in the back of it - I say, "Hi Pip!" and he kind of does a double-take, like he didn't believe it was me :) it was actually quite funny.
*The papers were not on top of the kennel, but we went into the 'doggy customs' area and the papers are sitting on top of a desk.
*Official guy (vet type person) comes over and Wilmer and I start talking to him. He re-iterates that they need a vet certificate for shots, etc. I say that the form we have is all that is needed.....we kinda go back and forth and then Wilmer says something about 500 Lempiras (currency here). Vet guy looks up with a twinkle in his eye and a smile and says, "Si". My first experience bribing :)
*Christiana calls back and I let her know we don't need to worry about the vet.
*I hand over 500 Lempira ($25) and things start to roll along quite smoothly. He starts filling out paperwork, I sign a few of them and Wilmer and I head outta there.

****SUCCESS****

About Pip:
*He was really thirsty in the airport!
*We start to walk back to the car, find some green space and he relieves himself - #1 and #2.....I think he'd been holding everything for awhile.
*Happy as ever to be in the back of the car :)
*Very tired and in the apartment definitely in a little bit of 'doggy culture shock'. Lots of new stuff to smell and hear, etc. He keeps looking at me like, "Ok, so when are we going home?".

thanks family for all the help taking care of Pip while we were out of the States.....

The adventure continues.....

PIP IS HERE!!!!!

4/8/10
Kristen says...

I think the caps and multitude of exclamation points tells you how I feel about this :)
He is a little tired, was very thirsty, and kind of smelly, but he is here and I am HAPPY!! :)

KF

Monday, August 2, 2010

New friends and more car trouble...

8/2/10
Kristen says...

Well, I joined Chris in the working world today, with my first "full" day at the school. I say "full" in quotes because I wasn't really at the school for very long...the driver was supposed to come pick me up at 7:25...and arrived at 7:05 (and, oh, by the way, I set my alarm to go off at 6:30 PM instead of 6:30 AM so I'd only been up for about 15 minutes when he got here)...oops. Needless to say I had to ask them to wait a few minutes so I could finish getting ready.

Chris was REALLY awesome and supportive today...he didn't make me feel rushed and he even packed my bag and filled my water bottle for me. What a great guy! :)

After the driver picked me up we drove to two other parts of the city to pick up the other 3 new teachers. I won't give any personal details or names here, because I don't want to talk about them unless they want me to, but after spending the day together, I have to say the incoming teacher class this year is AWESOME! I think we are all going to get along great. We all are bringing different strengths and interests to the school, but we have a lot of things in common, as well. Hopefully I will post more about our new friends in the future.

After a quick meeting/chat about the philosophy and curriculum at the school and a tour (I'd already been there, but it was fun to experience it with the new teachers and to see them in their rooms) we left to go out to lunch. We went to a good gourmet sandwich restaurant just down Blvd. Los Proceres, the best part of which (besides the conversation) was the appetizer...samosas!!! (More on that in a bit.)

Speaking of the conversation, I was introduced to a new (sport? activity? I don't know what to call it) called Hash today, which apparently includes walking or running after a "rabbit" that leaves clues for you, includes whistles and nicknames, and, once you finish, you participate in drinking games? I may be wrong about some of those details but it sounded pretty good until the whole drinking game thing...maybe I can do the walking and Chris can do the drinking? Anyway, here is a website I found about it...Hash House Harriers

After lunch we went to Las Cascadas, a mall with a huge Wal Mart subsidiary...now, neither Chris nor I are fans of Wal Mart in the States. (We're more Target people, to tell you the truth, mostly because Wal Mart is SOOOO SLOW! You cannot get in and out in less than 10 minutes. It's impossible.) Apparently this annoying feature carried over to their subsidiary stores in Latin America...it was crazy-slow! At one point (with, I kid you not, a 10-person line) the cashier started counting 500 Lempira bills and bundling them...because she couldn't have done that at another time?!

One of the teachers in our group (3 of the 4 of us, by the way, had just arrived in Honduras yesterday, one from the US and two from the UAE via Poland and Canada, so obviously they were all tired) wanted to buy a laundry basket (of course), but happened to pick up one without a price tag on it. Our lovely cashier put on her "help me" light, it took FOREVER to get someone over, and that someone proceeded to head back to "basketland" as Cristiana called it, without the original basket. And then, because she hadn't taken the basket with her, she came back with another, completely different and much more expensive basket, so then she had to go back... Anyway, it took forever, but it gave us time to bond! :)

After the trip to not-quite Wally World, the driver came and took us all home. Because I live closest to the school, I got dropped off last, and Christopher was already done with work and working on his daily blog post. We decided to attempt to drive over to school (having been foiled at that on Sunday by flat tires #2 and #3 [they were caused by nails, again!, FYI]), and proceeded out.

It all started so well...I was driving, Chris was navigating, and we were on the right road. Then, I noticed it...the dreaded bright orange check engine light. Sigh. Of course, we were cruising (read: 40 kilometers/hr) on the Anillo Periferico at that point, so we couldn't just like, pull off and call someone like we would in the states, so we basically took the next exit, pulled a u-turn, and got back on the Anillo going back the other way. (Coincidentally, I got off at the exact exit and made the exact u-turn I will be making every morning when I go to school...another goucher, J!)

We made it home, and Chris popped the hood. The good thing was that there was no steam or smoke pouring out of the engine. The bad thing was that when we pulled out the oil dipstick, the only thing there was some gummy black gunk. Oook. Wilmer, ever-helpful and smiling, popped his head around the hood and started looking at the engine. Turns out our coolant was almost completely empty, and our oil, although not as bad as first glance, was definitely lower than it should be. So, Chris and Wilmer took off in a taxi to buy oil and antifreeze, and I went back up to the apartment to read gossip blogs on the Internet. Lesson of the day: ALWAYS check engine fluid levels BEFORE you buy a car, not after driving it for two weeks. (BTW, the check engine light is now off).

After the car drama I started to have computer drama. I was Skyping with my mom, then one brother and another, and during the third call I kept losing connection. This wasn't the biggest problem...my computer fan started going REALLY fast, something I've been noticing a lot lately, and at one point I got a really nasty message in 4 languages telling me (not asking, telling) that I "had to restart my Mac immediately." Ick. So, of course, I did...but it was still really hot. I've also noticed some problems with the video...at times it goes green and pink lines. Now, I hate the color pink under normal circumstances, but when it is messing up my computer screen, it's really bad. Hopefully this problem rights itself or my computer-techie husband can work his magic and fix it. Otherwise, we might have to head to the new Mac store at the Multiplaza and invest in something new... :-S

Now on to happier subjects. I mentioned the samosas earlier...which brings me to my question. Those of you who live in Tegucigalpa or Honduras: do you know of any Indian restaurants in the city? (Or even outside the city?) Indian food has been some of Chris' and my favorite food since 2007 when we thought we might be moving to Singapore (I cried for 3 days when I heard we weren't going), and the samosas today, while good, only fueled my desire for a good old pea and potato-based curry dish.

So, can you help us out? I might even take you out for Indian food if you can point me in the direction of a restaurant down here...

KF

PS: Pip will be here in 2 days!!! 48 hours from right now I will have my baby back! :)

Gaining Momentum...

Chris Says:

Pronunciation: \mō-ˈmen-təm, mə-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural mo·men·ta \-ˈmen-tə\ or momentums
Etymology: New Latin, from Latin, movement
Date: 1610
1 : a property of a moving body that the body has by virtue of its mass and motion and that is equal to the product of the body's mass and velocity; broadly : a property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to rest when under the action of a constant force or moment
2 : strength or force gained by motion or through the development of events : impetus

Success breeds success! Things are beginning to roll along quite smoothly at work. I'm making use of many of the Getting Things Done (GTD) techniques that I implemented while actually working in the office, and I am finding that the techniques are helping me to a greater extent when working remotely. I think for my work style, getting into a daily, weekly, and monthly habit will be paramount. Fortunately for me, this is part of what the Getting Things Done methodology/process is all about.

Its interesting to me how I started getting into the whole GTD thing. I was actually at a BarCamp a few years ago. I was attending this particular forum as a way to get a little bit more involved in a developer community than I had been since undergrad. I don't remember how long the actual event lasted - but everything was kind of a waste....except for the 15 minutes or so that I was listening to this guy talk about 'GTD'. He was discussing how much of a (and I quote) "freak and nerd" he was about GTD. He kept talking about writing down whatever was in his head and then not worrying about it the rest of the day, week, whatever. I don't know why - but this guy talking with such passion made me very curious. When I got home, I Googled "GTD" because that's the only thing I could remember about what this guy was saying. Anyway to make a long story (hopefully) a little bit shorter - I started researching more and bought the book, "Getting Things Done".

Most everything contained in the book itself is pretty common sense. However, the author gives you a method to put these common sense things into a methodology the you can 'do' time after time after time. He also gives you some tools for dealing with the massive amounts of emails I was really having trouble with at the time I was researching GTD. In addition to GTD, one of the things I ran into was 43folders.com by Merlin Mann. BTW, I think that name is awesome - Merlin Mann. Merlin has a great video (and I guess now, website) called Inbox Zero. For those of you having issues at all with wasting away in the crazy land of email....you NEED to watch this video. Actually, watching anything made by Merlin Mann can be pretty cool - he's a neat guy with a very no-nonsense attitude. (Did I say I like his name? Its fun writing it and saying it "Merlin Mann"....seriously, think about having a first name: Merlin........I think I might need to officially change my name - but Merlin Fink doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Merlin Mann.) OK, sorry about the side track there.

All I can say is GTD and 43folders.com have really helped me organize my life in a little bit more coherent manner. I was able to get through college on my own without trying to organize my life too much - but once getting into the corporate world....I just had too many things to keep track of....my mind couldn't handle it all. And, if you'll read the book, "Getting Things Done" - you'll find David Allen makes a very good point....don't use your brain to store stuff and lists of things to do and when to have them done. Use your brain to actually do work, to critically think, to daydream and use your imagination!

All of that said - I feel like 'Big Mo' is on my side these days....things are going very nicely.

Alright all you readers (hopefully there are more than 12 of you), any folks work at home and have tips of the trade for me? Anyone have something that really changed their work or personal life and made them more productive?