Monday, June 25, 2007

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:
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 EspaƱa, 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

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