Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Boy from Palmerola

The Boy from Palmerola

He hates Honduras.
dripping like boredom
from his neck.
hand on his chin.
on his lap.
pumped with
steel and men.
Always these dragons of ideologies
Always those contra liberal democracies…

Oh, the would-be corruption of
Catracho communism!
Thank Ron!
Thank him for
freely elected presidents who
make a point to
never fulfil false
promises. Who
only use the

(The poor, crawling from shacks
away maquila clouds,
oppression from their eyes and
their leader hurtling by
a spoiled
on a pony from the King.)

Thank Ron, but by George!
The boy from Palmerola
helps the local economy every
-come morn he gets
again for home-
And by George!
what blue eyes
these cipotes have!
The boy from Palmerola
thinks of leaving
bad beer, short stocky girls,
mosquitoes, sweat,
dark mountains and dirt,
He thinks of leaving.
-It´s been 30 odd years-
But there are dragons to slay.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A glimpse of Comayaguela

This is from the Parrish computer. The big center building is Casa Corral, where the Parrish is based and where the priests live. You can't really see most of Comayaguela and the mountains in this picture, but it is a glimpse.

Second letter: Translations from Comayaguela

And here is the second letter. It's weird how blogs go from most recent to least recent. Errg, that's not the way I think!

Hello dear family and friends,
Prepare yourself for a long intense one, or save it for later!
I have been in Comayaguela for about two weeks now, and the time arises to translate some of my experiences into words. If you did not receive my previous email, I am in Honduras for the summer volunteering at a Catholic organization (though I am actually with Mennonite Central Committee). I and another worker will be administering a socio-economic survey to families living in the various zones here. The survey, which we are going to start tomorrow, hopes to gauge the economic need of primary school students who have applied for a scholarship from the Catholic organization.
I am living with the family of my director at work, Leyla. She has two kiddos, a two year old who is named after his father Leonardo (but we call him Leonardito) and a 10 month old, Arryana. I am enjoying getting to know them and learning Spanish with Leonardito!
Last Sunday, baby Arryana had a high fever. Leyla sent for Dona Tina, an old wise woman who some call a witch because of her knowledge of herbal cures and natural remedies. I watched as Dona Tina chewed up a plant called rruda, which is apparently good for drawing out a fever. Taking the baby in her arms, she spit the reddish grounds all over her feverish little body. Thinking that she'd probably want to rinse her mouth after all that chewing, I approached Dona Tina and offered her some of the blackberry juice that Leyla had made for lunch. The problem is, instead of asking if she would like berry juice - "Quiere usted jugo de MORA?", I asked "Quiere usted jugo de MARA?" which means, "Would you like gang juice (or juice made of gang members)?" Everyone, myself included after realizing what I had said, burst into laughter!
So, yes, I am learning. I ask a lot of questions and am quickly wearing out my dictionary. And I am growing fond of the zone where I live, Tres de Mayo, with all its mangy dogs (and the occasional pigs), trash, and crazy taxi drivers!
Comayaguela is a sister city to the capital of Tegucigalpa. The Choluteca River divides the two cities, where the sewage of both flows freely. Comayaguela is known as the poorer side of the river, where more violence occurs. However, most of the violence (to the concerned) is between gangs (maras :) and is not random or directed at gringas like me.

Comayaguela at a distance is beautiful. It is a city pressed into the side of a series of steep hills, possibly better called mountains. Bright blue, green, orange, teal painted houses and shacks lean against the slopes, one seemingly atop the other, stacked wide and high. The neighborhoods stretch up and become less dense with houses and more so with trees as they near Campo Cielo at the peak of the mountain. Campo Cielo, literally translated Sky Country or Heaven Country, is the zone of this city with which I am most fascinated. Two of my new friends, Carlos and Freddy, are young men studying to be priests. They accompanied me and provided commentary during a hike to Campo Cielo so I could see it up close.
Campo Cielo would venture over the other side of the mountain if it could, but for an impossibly high stone wall halting further tresspass. This wall, protruding from the mixture of thick green tropical trees and shacks, was erected by the higher class land owners on the other side who wanted to contain, to separate, and perhaps to hide that which would rather not be seen. Walls can distance problems more effectively than miles. And with such an obsession with symbols as I have, I could not help but think of other walls that attempt to seal off poverty... The times when I have avoided eye contact with the homeless in Chicago. Or in our communities, the walls of busyness that fend off our own spiritual poverty or the neediness of others among us. Nationally, a quite literal wall on our southwest border. On a global scale, the wall of aid we pour into debt-stricken countries instead of searching for the place where the roots of poverty lie. Yet maybe we are afraid to find our own fingerprints in that place.
I pray that God would crumble walls, for the day when Campo Cielo, where the poorest of the poor live, will fully realize its name - Heaven Country!
I think God is teaching me some things about hope. First came the realization that the Spanish word for hope, esperanza, comes from the word esperar, meaning to wait or to expect. Then a verse from the chapter in Isaiah that I was reading struck me. ¨Woe to those who say, ¨Let God hurry, let Him hasten His work so we may see it. Let it approach, let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come, so we may know it.¨¨ Isaiah 5:19 God is teaching me the importance of waiting in Hope despite clear evidence of God´s work.
The other thing I have come to realize is that my 3 months here are really too insufficient to understand much of great theoretical importance. Discussing the causes of poverty and immigration just doesn't seem as important now as it was in the classroom. I'm just trying to live life with people who have been affected by these things. Maybe when I am in higher level classes it will all nicely sift into a bigger theoretical framework. For now, I am learning to point with my lips (as if you were blowing a kiss and with a flick of the chin). I am becoming friends with the other women I work with, talking with them about marriage and their children and cooking. I am learning to make pupusas (a thick corn flour sort of quesadilla). I listen to Carlos talk about the rosary and the Roman mass. I question Leyla about the Virgin Mary and listen to her opinions of the Pentecostals. At night I take bucket showers and indulge in my English books before falling asleep. I love getting your notes when I´m around a computer. I miss you all and think of you often. Let me know how I can be praying for you if you´d like! Thank God for your prayer.

Hola, first letter

I'm going to be posting the email updates I've sent out so far on the blog so other friends who I forgot to add to the list can read them.
Hi family and friends,
My friend Abby and I got into San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Saturday. I'm working with Mennonite Central Committee, or MCC (CCM here) until August. MCC is "loaning" me out starting tomorrow to the Salesian Catholic mission in Comayaguela, the poorer sister city to the capital of Tegucigalpa. I'm sort of the ecumenical guinea pig, so to speak, since they haven't had much past contact with the Salesians. So far, I know that I'll be living with a host family and helping the Salesians do interviews around the city. U.S. companies and organizations donate all sorts of things to the mission, which then distributes them. The surveys will provide demographic and other general information about the people to whom the donations are going. Abby is in a more rural area doing sustainable agriculture work. I got to meet her host abuelita (little grandmother) today when we dropped her off. The inside of the house was like nothing I've seen before – hanging on the walls like portraits were folded-up Fisher-Price style doll houses. I think they were decorations or something! The plants growing in her garden were amazing. Birds of paradise, coconut trees, aguacate (avocado), and delicate white and pink orchids twining up the palms.
San Pedro Sula, where I am now, feels like Memphis climate-wise. I have been having a lot of Indonesia sensory memories since I've been here. The rising squalor of birds and insects at dawn, mixed smells of fried bananas, car exhaust, and street gutters, and the traffic-weaving breathing-room-only buses all pull up memories from when I was little.
San Pedro is a sprawling industrial city, growing with each new maquila bringing in another wave of internal-migrants. Maquilas are factories under foreign contract, often in free zones where they aren't required to pay taxes. Cheap labor assembles imported semi-raw materials into finished products that are then re-exported and sold at high prices in countries like the U.S. So far I've recognized Fruit of the Loom and Wrangler, though I hear Walmart, JC Penney's, and Sears are also here among thousands of others. An article in the Honduran weekly goes into more detail about the effect of the maquilas here if you're interested: http://www.marrder.com/htw/special/maquilas/9.htm
My stay here has been rejuvenating and fun so far. Yesterday I went to the evangelical Mennonite church here, where El Dia de los Madres (Mother's Day) was a really big deal – flowers, cards, dramatizations, Proverbs 31, gifts, and lots of hugs. Besides moms, soccer is the next biggest thing. The same night was a huge championship game for the country between Marathon and Real España, two San Pedro teams. There wasn't person out on the streets for the whole game, everyone and their mom tuned in. Abby and Jeff (another MCC worker) and I watched from a coffee shop TV. Marathon won, which apparently entitled all the young male fans to ride up and down "La Primera Calle" (Main Street) in the back of pickups (pee-kap) trucks until midnight chanting "Mar-a-ton! Mar-a-ton!" Awesome.
We had dinner with 2 of Wheaton's HNGR program alums from 2002 and 2003 - Josh and Maria Eley-McClain. They have a telapia fish farm development project started in Western Honduras through MCC. I really want to visit them before summer's up. We had baleadas, the traditional dish, for the first time. It's a tortilla with a black bean spread and cheese. mmm
My Spanish is going to need some work. Pray for humility. Jeff asked me if I understood everything people were saying to me, because apparently I was acting like I did. Of course, only about half made it to my brain and I was just pretending mostly. I need to be able to admit that I can't understand people sometimes so that there aren't huge future problems with miscommunication. My pride should take a few hits there. For the Mariposans on this list, something rather funny came up today. Marcos, a Honduran MCC staff person here, asked where I was from and I said, "Soy del pueblo de Mariposa." (I'm from the town of Mariposa). I thought people were chuckling to themselves when I said that because the name means butterfly in Spanish. Well, I was told later that "Mariposa" or "Mariposita" is also slang around here for homosexual. Marcos kind of fluttered his arms by his sides, cocked his head, and smiled when I told him the name of my town.
Well, I need to go to bed. Tomorrow I'm catching the bus to Tegucigalpa. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Dios te bendiga.
God bless you, Katerina

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My first poem in spanish

This poem was written following a hard lesson I learned about the plantain. One afternoon in Honduras, I was feeling very hungry. I spied a big banana on the table and decided to eat it. It more than satisfied my appetite. Later, in the throes of stomach pain, I was told I had eaten a whole raw plantain. Plantains are not bananas. And they are only supposed to be eaten cooked...

Lección del Platano
Nadie me enseñó
el lección del platano
Pero aprendí, sí, yo

Jamás lo come crudo.
Jamás lo come todo.
¡Jamás lo come el platano!

Cuando lo comí el platano,
Crudo, todo,
Fue muy pesado
Como lodo
que coge su zapato
después de la primera lluvia.

Cerré mis ventanas
para detener la tormenta
Traté a dormir
Aunque trueno persistió
a mi puerta.
Aun la cancion en
mi mente fue,

Jamás lo come crudo,
Jamás lo come todo,
¡Jamás lo come el platano!

Finalmente, lo venió
como alabanzas
Regocijando de me voca
dentro la oreja del grán tazón.

La tormenta fue terminado,
y he aprendido el lección
del platano.

in english,

Lesson of the Plantain
No one taught me
the lesson of the plantain
But I learned, yes,
I learned.

Never eat it raw.
Never eat it all.
Never eat the plantain!

When I ate the plantain,
Raw, all,
It was quite heavy,
Like mud
that clutches your shoe
after the first rain.

I shut my windows
to keep away the storm
I tried to sleep
though thunder kept thumping
at my door.
Still the song in my head was,

Never eat it raw.
Never eat it all.
Never eat the plantain!

At last, it came
like praises
Rejoicing from my lips
into the ear of the big bowl.

The storm passed, and
I have learned the lesson
of the plantain.

Friday, June 22, 2007

In which I (re)discover technology

I have started a blog. (Isn't that the phrase every blogger must begin with?) In the past I have had trouble broadcasting myself to the world. Maybe I'll write more about my 'struggle' with Facebook later. I worry that I do not know myself and the self I am putting forward online is not true. You see, with a virtual self I can fold over any number of flat paper 'clothing', presenting my self just how I wish to be perceived. In this cyberworld we must realize that we are multi-dimensional people, and the virtual 1-D selves we place in virtual uni-dimensional communities are really quite poor reflections of the complex creation that is us.
So this blog is a test to see if I can handle online 'communities' again as I participate in real ones in the here and now. I will try my best, as in "real" life, to find myself in the context of others and in God. The thoughts I write, then, are not mine, but are intertangled in the web of your influence. Please respond. I hope my words do not fall like concrete. I hope they flow as questions do, receding like waves, and returning back again in constant flux.