Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How awesome....

Chris says:

....is the internet? I'll say it again, how awesome is the internet?

I can listen to the playoff game of my former high school team on kboe.com. While Osky is behind by 7 points at the half, it sounds like there are some good opportunities in the second half!

Michelle and Nate have been here and left. Overall, a very successful trip I think. We went to Amapala and had an awesome time in the Pacific Coast! Very good pictures coming with pictures of the sunset and Pip having a blast. Monday, Nate and I went to the Rocky Patel cigar factory. Wow, what a trip! I never knew how much effort, time, etc went in to making a cigar! Whether you like cigars or not, the process is awesome to learn about. To make a cool trip even better, we were able to make our own custom blend cigars and choose the label! Pictures to come....

With Michelle and Nate's visit, I definitely felt a little homesick. I'm looking forward to December with friends and family!

Sorry for the short post, its time for the second half...GO INDIANS!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 21...

Chris Says:

GOOD NEWS! A collective sigh of relief could be heard......even on the phone a couple thousand miles away in the meeting I was in today. Everyone in Health IT (I think) got information today about their role in the medical business transition plan. I now know I'm in a position with continued employment at Principal, transitioning to SBD IT at some point in the future. Unfortunately, today was not so good news for many of my friends and co-workers....and that is extremely disappointing and sad to me. For any of them reading this, I sincerely hope you find good opportunities coming your way! I know its easy in my current position to say this but one of my old coaches put it best when he said, "Tough times don't last, tough people do."

In other news today, Nate and Michelle got down here today and so far.....so good. Pupusas have been consumed, naps have been taken, birthday cake has been made and partially eaten, and Nate even went with me to poker tonight! Its good to see family in person.

Time for vacation!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 20...

Chris Says:

Day 20 is here, and on day 21 - I will learn what my fate is (at least currently, at PFG). The senior management folks have setup meetings to inform staff....so tomorrow around 3pm, I'll have some information......and I have a feeling it will be 'OK' news. Not wonderful: 'Chris, we're going to keep you around forever and you'll make $million/year' but not horrible either: 'Chris, sorry - you are a horrible resource and there is no way we're going to spend one more dime on you! GOODBYE, AND HAVE FUN IN HONDURAS!' I think the news will be closer to: 'Chris, we anticipate needing you in your role until 3rd quarter 2012 and after that point in time you will be transitioned to X role.' or 'Chris, we anticipate needing you in your role until 3rd quarter 2012 and after that point in time you're on your own to find another position inside or outside the company'.

I'll let you know what happens....keep your fingers, toes and eyes crossed for me.

Other than PFG - we have some visitors getting in tomorrow. Michelle and Nate are coming down, hooray! I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures and stories of our coming days together.

Also on my brain this afternoon (after looking over our blog postings) is the fact that we've been down here for 4+ months now! Amazing! It does not seem like it has been that long at all....I'm impressed, as I think back, how successful this whole thing has been. It has certainly been a change and a challenge - but one that has been overall, a very good thing. The experiences we've had, people we've met, etc - all awesome stuff, I can't wait to see what new stuff comes our way in the next 4 months.

Stay tuned for the final details for this month of uncertainty!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Night Football

18/10/10

Kristen says...

¿Estan listos para football?

Chris and I are attempting to watch Monday Night Football (it's usually on one of the major networks, in English) but tonight the only place to find it is ESPN2 (ESPN has the baseball playoffs, and ABC/CBS/NBC all have shows like Dancing with the Stars (ICK) on). ESPN2 here is in Spanish, which is ok--while we don't understand everything, we get enough to make it worth watching.

I guess it was the first time we've really sat down to watch Monday Night Football on a Spanish channel, or at least the first time we've really been paying attention, because tonight we noticed something a little different...

Since the late 1980s Hank Williams Jr. has been the "voice" of Monday Night Football (every time it comes on Chris says, "he's been doing this forever!") ...and apparently he's "bilingual" enough to sing the iconic "Are you ready for some football?" as "¿Estan listos para football?"

I couldn't find the song in Spanish, but enjoy it here any day of the week in English! :)

Happy Monday, all! And sorry for the long blog pauses...it's the end of the quarter, parent-teacher conferences are next week, we have family coming to visit on Thursday, and I'm getting ready to go out of town for a week, so time is precious...as always.

Pictures from Amapala coming soon...

KF

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 11

Chris Says:

Things are still uncertain in the month of uncertainty.....not a whole lot of news on the PFG front.

This weekend we headed to Tiger Island for some R & R with friends from Discovery, Pip even came along. It was a blast! The island is famous for its black sand beaches from the volcanic activity. It certainly wasn't the same kind of 'luxury' that the Bay Islands were, but definitely worth the 2 hour car ride along the beautiful Honduran country side. We stayed on the Donkey Beach - Playa del Burro at Hotel Veleros (sailboat). 400 Lps ($20) for a night stay at a very comfortable, air conditioned room. When I say on - I really mean we were on the beach...really, at high tide - the water was 10 feet from the stairs that took us up to our rooms.The hotel was actually a combination hotel/restaurant....and evidently one of the better restaurants on the island. Everything I had on the menu was great...fish and shrimp...yummy!

We hung out at the restaurant and went swimming at playa del burro for the first afternoon/evening. I think I got my first jelly fish stings ever, so mark that down on the experiences list. The stings were more itchy than anything....kind of like a number of mosquito bites right in a row.... Later on,  some of us headed to the 'city' Amapala, while others stayed behind to relax - hammocks are wonderful things.

Sunday we headed over to one of the white sand beaches to catch some sun and more swimming. Unfortunately, the tide was out when we got to the beach (something this 26 year old Iowan doesn't know much about) so it was a little mucky swimming.....I didn't realize how much tides can influence how large or small the beach is. I also didn't realize that the bottom of a gulf can have like more than 3 feet of 'muck', silt or sand....it was like quicksand trying to actually walk out to the ocean - a couple times  I was knee deep in bottom of the ocean 'stuff'.

By 1pm Sunday, we were headed back to Tegus so I could work today and Kristen could relax on her day off (Columbus Day). Good weekend trip. I think the guys will be going back to conquer the mountain/volcano before the end of the year - check it out: http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1403-13-

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos

5/10/10

Kristen says...

One of the fun things about this month is that every date is going to end in 10/10 (if you write it the European/Honduran/everywhere in the world except the US-an way)

Well, I am finally recovered enough to write about our latest monthly visit to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (Our Little Brothers [and Sisters]). NPH is an international organization that takes in "orphaned, abandoned, and other at-risk" boys and girls...but the really cool thing is, it's not the type of orphanage where kids are put up for adoption...once they come to NPH, it is considered their permanent home. Because many of the children had been abused, have physical or mental disabilities, or have gone through other ordeals in their short lives, NPH doesn't put them through the stress of adoption days. Once they come to NPH, they can stay there basically as long as they want.

There are two NPH houses in Honduras. One is literally outside our back door--one of the lines of our address down here is "en frente de Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos." Casa de Los Ángeles provides housing for some of the NPH children with the most severe disabilities, as well as therapy to help them succeed. The other NPH kids in Honduras are at the Rancho Santa Fe, which is a full-service (and almost completely self-sufficient) Ranch about an hour's drive from Teguc. As of last month, there are over 600 children from age 6 months-21+ living on the Ranch, and apparently it is also home to AIDS patients and their families, and the "abuelos," or grandparents, older Hondurans who don't have anywhere else to go, who can live out their days in comfort and surrounded by loving children.

The Rancho gives children hands-on skills that they can use when (or if) they leave NPH as adults. This takes them from being potential "burdens" on society (or living on the streets) to having the ability to make their own way in the world through agriculture. Those who don't want to be farmers "when they grow up" are given the opportunity to move into the city for job training in domestics, as wait staff, or in sales. It is really a neat organization that is changing the lives of thousands of children in 9 Latin American countries. Check out the link above (or here) to learn more about the history, mission, founder, or to donate to this VERY worthy cause.

ANYWAY, obviously we believe in this organization, and Chris and I visit the Rancho once a month, usually on the last Sunday of the month. We ended up going a week late this past month, because of silly Tropical Storm Matthew, which didn't really do much more than dump rain on us. The rain was enough to make some of the roads a lot icky, though, so we had to put the trip off until this past Sunday.

There were six of us that went, two other teachers from the school, one of the teachers' husband, and a friend from that couple's church. The other couple were the ones that invited us along in the first place: apparently the school has been supporting NPH though volunteering for the past few years.

This was our second trip, but really the first time we got to look around the Ranch. Here are a few pictures at the Rancho:


















Left: All the furniture at NPH is made on-site by the students...some of the beds are singles, others are double and triple bunks.
Right: Statues of NPH's founder Fr. William Wasson and some "hermanos"









Left: Two of the "hermanas" with the statues

Right: Chris with some of the "hermanos"













Below: some of the farm animals from the Rancho






















We were even introduced to the "abuelos," which was one of the best parts of my day. I love older people, and these were so sweet. They were thrilled to see the children, and to meet new people. They greeted us so warmly, "Bienvenidos a nuestro rancho." They introduced themselves to us, and I was able to chat a little in my ever-growing Spanish.

After wandering (and being pulled! the kids were so excited to show us their home!) all over the Rancho we went back to our gathering area (and playground) and had lunch...by request, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

Chris and I actually made 50 of them (and another teacher made 50 more), and we served them with carrots and had lemon and orange cupcakes for lunch. Here are some pictures of the sandwich-making extravaganza:
Stage 1: Lots of bread
Stage 2: Peanut Butter!






<-Pip wants peanut butter!


Pip gets peanut butter (but not a sandwich) ->









Stage 3: Jelly
Stage 4: Sandwiches wrapped and in the freezer
Stage 5: Sandwiches packed and ready to go
Stage 6: Sandwiches out and ready for eating!

And did those sandwiches go! We originally gave each child 2 sandwiches, but when we had (a lot!) of extras, we passed out extras...some of the extras were eaten, some were taken home for later, but all were appreciated and enjoyed!

After running all over the Rancho, eating delicious food, and saying goodbye to our "hermanos," we drove back to the city and basically passed out for the rest of the day...the first time we went we took Pip, but this last time we left him home. I am sure he will head back there again sometime soon, but it was nice to have some time with the kids, without the dog.

I will leave you with a few more pictures of the beautiful Rancho...what an inspiring place to grow up!!
































And one of my favorite shots of the day:

Friends

KF


Day 5

Chris Says:

When we started this blog - I wasn't thinking this is the kind of stuff I'd be talking about.....but I guess this is part of living...it doesn't matter if its in a foreign country or not.....

Work is a bit surreal right now. We still have projects going on, etc. but its just plain weird. The need exists to continue to run the business.....but with almost every decision comes the standard question - do we need to do this, or continue to do this with the news of last week? If we continue, for how long? etc, etc. Many times, not enough information is known to say yes, or no definitively so you do what you think is right hoping that in the end, all this stuff you're working on won't just go to waste. It's mind-blowing that all the work the Health division has been doing to make things better....in the end, doesn't mean a whole bunch to Principal....but it will for United HealthCare.

No additional news to share regarding my position or future. But, I continue to work on controlling those things that I can.....and making the best decisions based on the known information.

Off of the work subject - weather in Honduras has changed over the past week or so. It's cooling off - I didn't anticipate this kind of "cool" weather. In the sun it is warm - 70s/80s, but in the shade its closer to 60ish, even lower than that at night I think. Along with this cool down (or maybe because of it), the wind has started to pick up. Gusty conditions similar to early Spring in Iowa when a storm is moving in....

Alright, enough for now...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 2 - Month of Uncertainty



Chris says:

This October will be known as "The Month of Uncertainty".  On Thursday, PFG announced that within 36 months, they would discontinue their medical insurance business. 

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=125598&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1477633&highlight=

So, the past few days have been interesting. The reason we're calling October "The Month of Uncertainty" is because over the next 30 days leadership within PFG will be making decisions about projects, staff, etc as they plan out what this exit from the medical insurance business will actually look like. By November 1st, all employees of the Health Division will have some sort of information regarding their position within the company - at least that was the promise from senior management. I'm curious to see how quickly or slowly the details of all of this will actually be communicated. 

My department in particular is in an interesting position given the fact that we support both the Health and SBD areas within PFG. In other words, for you business folks out there - we have a solid line of reporting to the Health area - but a dotted line to the SBD area. The SBD business will continue (Dental, Vision, etc) and portions of the Health business will be rolled into SBD, like our Wellness area.

Unfortunately, not a whole lot of specific, detailed information is known at this point. From what I understand, likely the only people within PFG who knew about this were the board of directors and senior management....somewhere around 20 people total. All the leadership within the Health IT organization are really in the same position that the rest of the employees are.....trying to figure out what all of this actually means and deal with it appropriately.

I'm not the type of person to be pessimistic. In reality - this isn't a BAD THING in and of itself - the uncertainty about all of this is what is frustrating, etc. Not knowing much more beyond "...at least 30 days notice will be given if your position will be no longer needed...", and that over the next 36 months - Principal will exit the medical insurance business doesn't give many people warm fuzzies about their future within the organization or outside of the organization.

I think Kristen and I are relatively OK about all this, we can't control the decisions that are made by anyone at PFG - for the most part that is out of our hands, and it doesn't do anyone any good to worry about what could happen. I'm focused on controlling the things I can control to be prepared for the worst, but I expect no matter the outcome with regard to my position.....things will be just fine. 

To show how lighthearted we're trying to be about all this - we drew this on our whiteboard that is on our front door:


OCTOBER - MONTH OF UNCERTAINTY.......the countdown begins :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Museums!

1/10/2010

Kristen says...

Well, it's October. USUALLY this is my favorite month, for a multitude of reasons. First, it's my birthday month! Second, it's fall! and Third, it's football!

This October might be different...but I'll let Chris tell you about it when he wants to.

My focus for this posting actually happened last month, in September. The computers teacher at school very kindly offered to take the new teachers (and really any other teachers who wanted to go) to some of the museums in Tegucigalpa.

This was great! news to me for a number of reasons. First of all, I LOVE museums, especially since I worked a few in Des Moines. Secondly, Teguc isn't really what you'd call a "tourist" town...the places to go (for crazy Gringos like us) are slightly limited...it's pretty much Mayoreo or the mall, unless you're in a group. So the chance to get to go tour the museums was quite welcome.

Of course, I had already been to one museum, the MIN (Museo para la Identidad Nacional), for an exhibit opening. The MIN was the first museum we went on the tour:Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me take pictures inside...so you'll just have to see the pretty outside...or come visit me so I can take you there! :)

Inside the MIN we got to tour the exhibit I went to the opening for, and another of photographs of Taiwan, both which were being taken out the next day to make room for a fund-raiser auction that is going on starting later this month. We also got to see the Virtual Copán tour, which was really neat, but in Spanish, so of course I understood very little.

Also, there is a fascinating permanent exhibit that details the history of Honduras from Pangaea (did you know that Honduras actually rose out of the ocean? Because it totally did!) to today. It was all there...pirates, bananas, and past presidents. Again, it was all in Spanish, but we had a FABULOUS guide who was very kind and explained everything we asked about.

After leaving the MIN, we went to a local restaurant for delicious traditional Honduran meals. I say meals because I think we all ate more than one meal's worth of food. I ordered a typical plate with beef (I love the beef down here--perfectly seasoned and always well done!), fried plantains with chismol (think pico de gallo but WAY better!), and rice. If that wasn't enough, even before that food came we all shared 3 types of tamales (the best I've EVER had, by the way...usually I don't really care for tamales) and a corn and honey based desert-type food.

So we were all uncomfortably full when we left to go to a nice hill-side park downtown. Here are a few pictures of Teguc from this beautiful locale:














After this stomach-settling vista, we went to a neat (and free!) museum that ties Spain and Honduras together:
The museum was small, and they were in the middle of changing out exhibits, so we didn't stay long, but I did get a snap of the out-going exhibit and the cool "door art" that I will be re-taking with my high-pixel camera (which is coming later this month!!!)















Starting to get sleepy from the big lunch, we moseyed on to our third and final museum. Ok, well this was actually called an art gallery, but it was museum-y enough for me:
We had a lovely time wandering through this fabulous place, and my favorite thing about it was that we could take pictures!! Even with just the crappy little BB camera, I think I got a few good shots:






























Even the floors and the signs telling you what was in each of the rooms were artistic:



















We had a really great time, and Chris even made a new friend!

Well, I think we're all caught up now...I don't know that there is anything else we have done that I haven't blogged about, except our monthly visit to an orphanage just outside the city...and since we are going again this Sunday...well that will give you something to look forward to. :)

KF