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Time's Almost Up

As I near the end of my placement here in Honduras, I'm finding it’s good to reflect: What have I learned? What have I done in these 5 months? Lists are always a popular blog item, so here, in no particular order, is what came to mind this morning:

  • Visited at least 25 different communities in 7 different ‘departments’ (the word for province or state here)
  • Reviewed and corrected the functioning of the electronic version of a household survey with nearly 40 questions or groups of questions. I helped prepare training on how to administer it and assisted in piloting it.
  • Sat in on many of the 14 focus group meetings we held to discuss topics from community leadership to the creation of family vegetable gardens and organic compost from basic literacy and numeracy programs to the functioning of small savings and loans groups.
  • Learned about such concepts as ‘macro-tunnels,’ green manure cover crops, vermicomposting, intercropping, low- or no-till farming, living barriers in contour farming, small broiler chicken-raising operations, and community credit unions (as well as the Spanish terms used in Honduras for each of these!)
  • Found out that innovations like ‘sand dams’ and ‘zero energy cooling chambers’ exist (which are fascinating and related to the project but incidental to the work here in Honduras.)
  • Watched lots of babies and toddlers not particularly enjoy getting weighed and measured as part of a partner initiative to counter child malnutrition. Also, encouraging sign for that program, I saw myriads of mothers openly breastfeeding their little ones. (Unlike in North America, no controversy over the need to cover up in public here!)
  • Met amazing new friends, colleagues, host families, teachers, partner staff and community members who all made my time here an enlightening and enriching experience!
  • Braved one of Central America’s highest ziplines!
  • Rode a donkey for the first time.
  • Hiked through mud, rain, coffee, corn, plantain and bean fields, and across a stream to reach a farmer who needed to be surveyed about the project.
  • Saw in person a big beautiful school for a marginalized community that I once only knew from photos after sending volunteer teams to help with construction projects as part of my former job.
  • Watched my host mom purchase a fresh cow tongue at the huge downtown farmer’s market.
  • Looked up with delight nearly every night at the beautiful stars that are visible even in this capital city. Electricity = $$$ = minimal lights on in buildings at night = less security, but also = less light pollution & greater energy conservation!
  • Stayed up all night at a women’s prayer vigil on my third full day here
  • Attended a country’s independence day celebrations in the capital city for the first time – the parachuters were definitely the best part, even if it meant sitting on a concrete bench for five hours of parading school bands till the aerial demonstration took place!
  • Visited a lot of different households, from one-room urban shacks, to small rural homes with dogs and barnyard animals wandering in and out, from places with outdoor latrines to finished homes that feel like palaces when they have indoor bathrooms with running water.
  • Saw how and why water has to be preserved in a multitude of creative ways.
  • Experienced food poisoning while on a trip to one of the hottest, driest and most remote communities I visited – ‘fraid I didn’t leave a very good impression there!
  • Marveled so many times at the green mountainous beauty of this gorgeous land and that, in the face of obstacles like water shortages, lack of jobs, corruption, and crime, its people maintain a determined pride in their country and work for a better future.