Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hondurans Are NOT Lazy

I still hear North Americans complain about Hondurans; about how lazy and  how unmotivated they are; and even how larcenous they are.  That has not been our experience, and those of you who read The View know this, because I have written many times how hard our helpers work

In the last ten days Joche has dug  a compost hole, laid  out a garden on each side of the portico; made  a walkway from the portico steps to the steps down to the lower level of the yard; made another walkway down to the level of the compost hole; leveled out the area around the compost hole so I don't break my neck;  and plastered the ceiling  and the walls in one of the bedrooms and the bathroom down stairs.  All this without the advantage of sophisticated machinery.

The walkways and the garden plots were dug out with a digging bar ( a big, long crowbar) and a shovel.  The ground here is very rocky because this is a mountain.  The really big rocks have to be broken up with a sledge hammer.

He mixes the cement for the plaster himself.  He has to sift the sand before the cement gets mixed to get out anything that doesn't belong, as well as remove  the small rocks that come with the sand.  The cement and the aggregate are mixed on the ground by hand and then carried to the work.  But before Joche can plaster, he must also knock small holes in the concrete blocks so the plaster  will stick to the surface.  I can assure you the wall will be perfectly smooth when I star the paint.  He finishing the ceilings with a little rougher look, just to add some texture.

Joche laying out and digging the walkway,  Note the rocks he is digging out as he goes,  The edges of the walkway are almost perfectly even and the depth is exact.

The finished walkway.  The stones have been beaten down until it is level, as Joche is well aware my balance is not what it should be.  To the left of the walkway you can see one of the garden plots that Joche leveled out and lined with rocks.  He took some of the sod from here and planted it around the bananas.  We didn't tell him to do that, but we appreciate it.

The path and handrail down to the compost hole.  The clay area around the hole is where Joche leveled the ground.  I plan to plant something there in the future,

The aggregate is thrown through this screen.  Only the fine sand can go through the screen attached to the frame.  The fine sand is mixed with the cement to make the plaster.

The sand and cement are mixed here before Joche takes it inside to use.  You can see that quite a bit of cement has been mixed in this place.

After he brings the cement in, he mixes in just the right amount of water to make a wet mixture.  That is then thrown up against the wall and smoothed out. The mix has to be just the right consistency, thrown on the wall at just the right angle, and with just the right velocity, or it won't stick.

The finished product.  This will be ready to paint in a couple of days, but we won't paint until after the floor is in.  That's next.

The bottom step made from river rocks and cement.  This helps me get up the steps with thinking I am going to lose my balance.

Joche makes L225 (about $12 USD) per day and a small bonus at the end of the week.   This is less than we used to pay, but he understands and he still comes to work when we have something for him to do, and he still does more than we ask.

This week Joche's 17 year old brother, Cristino,  has been working with Macho Man. Cristino has lined the entire perimeter of the property with rocks about 1-1/2 feet high.  The rocks were not just thrown in place, they were selected, one-by-one for the best fit.  These are heavy, granite rocks, and he has moved them by himself, with a wheelbarrow.   It helps when laying them  that the rocks are usually flat on at least one  We have about an acre of land, so this was not easy.  Yesterday Cristino dug out the holes for the foundation for the slab to hold the cistern, and today he is helping put the foundation.  Another hard job that employs moving rocks.  These young men probably dream about rocks, 'cause that is one thing we have plenty of.  ('scuse me Mr. Bragg, I know better, but the proper way to say it sounds so stuffy.)

This is the boundary marker Cristino put all the way around the property.  It comes up to the level of the first round of barbed wire.  This keeps the neighbors' chickens out of the yard; at least most of the time it does. This little wall is very stable due to the way the rocks are fitted together.

Above, Cristino is picking the rocks to form the base of the foundation for the cistern.  The pile of rocks above was about 4' high before he started moving rocks around the property.  Now it is one layer thick.

The concrete blocks are to level out the slope of the hill.  This will be filled with cement and re-leveled.  The cistern will hold 750 gallons of water,  The cistern weighs about 200 pounds, and when it is filled it will weigh approximately 6,500 pounds.  In the event city water is cut off and there is no rain, that will last us 2-1/2 to 3 weeks if we are very careful.  Since we get 144 inches rain a year, the cistern is not likely to run dry, and we will be using city water for back up.  We will only use the water from the cistern for showers, etc., because we use bottled water for consumption.

Cristino is making L 150 (about  $8 USD)  per day.  

Our guys are NOT Lazy.  They are very motivated.  And they have never taken anything from this property that was not theirs to take.

We are blessed.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Generosity of Southern Women

I recently posted a wish list for supplies so that the expat community  here in Trujillo could establish an Emergency Response Team.  I was overwhelmed by the response I got from the Order of Confederate Rose, Florida Society.  

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My ladies sent almost one hundred pounds of supplies which are almost non-existent in our area of Trujillo.  Things which most of you take for granted.  Things like pints of alcohol; triple antibiotic ointment; witch hazel; sterile gauze; tape, and band-aids.  Then there were the things unheard of here, like burn dressings, Adaptic (non-stick) bandages; blood pressure cuffs, and the likes.  

There were the practical things, like duct tape and magic markers; tongue blades, Popsicle sticks, hand sanitizers, tourniquets, and cotton balls; skin prep and betadine; and oh, so many other wonderful things.  The only things not there were the things I didn't think to ask for.

We were able to outfit 3 boxes of supplies with another box for backup/replacement.  This will enable us to stock three strategically placed depots, so that even if the major roads are impassable, supplies will be available.  We can cover about a 20 mile stretch of road, an area of 30+ thousand people.  

The Roses have won a spot in all our hearts, but especially in mine.  They have given voice to what I have known all my life.  There is no heart more loving and giving than that of a Southern woman.

We are Blessed

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A New Banana Bread

One thing we do have in abundance in Honduras is bananas, and we have lots and lots of bananas.  After all, Honduras is the original Banana Republic.  The best information I can find says Honduras produces 1M metric tonnes, or a little more than 1.12 M American short tons. That's 2,204,622,622 lbs.  2.2Trillion pounds. That does not include what is produced in most yards in the country, including mine.

Now we have had our Social Studies class for the day. Shall we continue?

Today I woke up with a need to do something nice for the Macho Man, and there is nothing he likes better than banana bread.   I have to admit, I also had some bananas I needed to use, so it was an easy decision. I have become a little bored with my usual recipe for banana bread, so I decided to make it up as I went. 

It was, as the Macho Man says, a culinary adventure, but it turned out really well. The end results were rich, but not too sweet, with a nice color, moist, and tender. Best of all, because I'm lazy, there was very little clean-up, and we are on water rationing. So, here it is:

4 very ripe bananas*
2 eggs
1/3 C molasses
1/2 C peanut butter - I use chunky
1 C unbleached flour
1 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan, line with wax paper, and grease and flour waxed paper.

Put bananas, eggs, molasses, and peanut butter to food processor and process until smooth.  Add flours, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla and process until well-mixed and smooth.  

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake on middle rack of oven until a tooth pick stuck in the middle come out clean, about 1 hour.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.  

Voila, your own banana bread, no preservatives, no unwanted additives, extra protein from the peanut butter and eggs.  Omega 3's from the peanut butter.  No added salt.  No trans-fat.

Oh yes, there is one secret ingredient.  It's called love, and no one can add that to your recipe but you.  Your family will recognize it at once.

*  Most Americans I know do not know what a ripe banana really looks or tastes like.  A truly ripe banana, the one with the best flavor, is one that is heavily freckled, almost completely brown, and soft.

We are blessed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

ADDENDUM: What Do Expats Do Besides Lie in a Hammock

Last week I blogged on the Emergency Response Team the expats in Trujillo are forming.   Keep in mind that there is no Fire Rescue here in our area.  There was enough interest  in a list of needed supplies that I made a list and decided to post it here and on Facebook. 
Everything on the list is easily available in the US and Canada, and almost non-existent here.  Most of it is available at CVS, Walgreen's, Walmart and Target. Store brands are good.


Absorbent dressings, small, medium, large
Ace bandages, 2", 3", 4"
Alcohol Large bottle
     1. Alcohol in amounts of over 2-4 oz not available
Alcohol pads
Band-aids, all sizes
BP cuff
Burn ointment
Cervical collars, all sizes
Cotton balls, large
Cotton swabs
Duct Tape
     1. To secure victim to backboard
     2. To secure dressings in torrential rain
Eyepads, gauze
Fluorescent rechargeable lantern
     1. Replacement batteries not available
Hand sanitizer
Magic Markers
Pen lights
Rescue blanket, Mylar
Road flares
Rubber tourniquets
Sanitary Napkins, the old type with tails
     1. Excellent pressure dressing; does not require tape
Splints, padded if possible.
Sports tape, all sizes
Sterile gauze dressings, any size
     1. Larger amounts at lower price in Medical supply houses
Sterile gloves, all sizes, Non Latex
     1. Store brand @ pharmacy good and cheaper
Tampons, small, unscented
     1. Splint for broken nose; pressure dressing for broken teeth
Tape, all sizes, non-allergenic if possible
Tongue blades/Popsicle sticks 

     1.  Splints for fingers and small children
Trauma scissors
     1. Uniform shops
Triple antibiotic salve
     1. Cell phone service not available in remote areas
Water-proof bags/backpacks
     1. Most disasters happen during rainy season, i.e mudslides,
         collapsed buildings, flooded rivers and streams

As an after thought, if you have access to medical facilities or medical training facilities, check and see if they are replacing their CPR and/or IV teaching aids/manikins.  We will gladly take the used ones.

We are not paramedics, we are just a group who want to give back to our community.  We do have nurses, doctors, dive masters and volunteers with the medical brigades in our group, and lots of people willing to learn basic First Aid.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What Do Expats Do Beside Lie in a Hammock?

People ask what it is we expats do, besides lie in a hammock drinking rum punch from a coconut shell dressed up with a little umbrella.   Well,  my group  in Trujillo is  organizing a totally volunteer Emergency Response Team to mobilize in case of natural or man-made disasters. We have an amazing group of medical professionals, paramedical people, and volunteers.    We have an understanding with two local doctors, who will help when needed and who will act as liaison between the patient and the various hospitals and specialists who might be needed.  We are not connected to the government in any way. 

We are doing this, in part, in self-defense. You see, there is no Fire Rescue here, and calling the police is most often an exercise in futility. 

We are  in the organization phase, but we are already putting together a list of supplies we need; we have set up a telephone tree; and one of our members is in the process of setting up a basic first aid class, a basic CPR class, and IV maintenance class.  The first aid and CPR classes are self-explanatory. The IV class is so if someone needs to be transported to another city we can send someone in the ambulance who knows how to protect the IV.  Remember, there are no paramedics in Trujillo.

So, why am I telling you this?  Well, we are not the rich expats who live in gated communities with armed guards all around.  We are more the middle-class type, or the beach bum type, with not a lot of money, but a lot of talent that can be used.   We are making our own backboards and splints.  We are learning ways to improvise supplies to which me might not have access. We are considering whether or not we can purchase at least one first responder kit (we need three).  We need other basic supplies, like ambu bags, trauma scissors, bandages and other supplies that are difficult to find here in Honduras, but are discarded everyday in ERs everywhere.

To that end, dear readers, I am asking that those of you who have contacts within the medical field or in the business of medical supply, please ask around or ask if there is anything usable you can donate.  If so, let me know, and I will make the arrangements for shipping.   On your next visit to CVS, Walgreen's,  or Walmart, if you see something on sale, like the store brand of NeoSporin, burn gel, absorbent bandages,  sanitary pads, tampons, disposable diapers, etc.,  buy a package or two, and  help us get started.

Other things we do:  We volunteer with medical and dental brigades; we teach in the local private schools; we teach English; we mentor children.  And, some of us also find time to lie in a hammock with a cold drink and a good book, and soak up God's beauty.

We are blessed.



Saturday, January 7, 2012

We Need Jose

Dear friends, family and other followers of the view, we really need Jose to continue working.  The week before Christmas Macho Man had to tell Joche to take the time between Christmas and New Years to find another job, because we probably would not be able to pay him after the First.

Joche reminded MM that the first time he asked for a job, MM turned him down.  The second time he came and asked for a job, MM said yes, but told him it would only be for 3-4 months.  It has been a little over 2 years.  He didn't fuss or say anything but, "Maestro, you gave me a job for 2 years." The unemployment rate in Honduras is between 30-40%  

Well, we found a little extra money for this week and next, but that's about it.  I just realized I will be getting a small adjustment to my Social Security benefit, and we won't be paying rent at the condo.  The electric bill should go down a little, because the wiring here is up to code.  but the fact remains, there isn't enough to keep him on full time.  About the best we can do is 2 weeks a month.

Two weeks a month is not enough  We need Joche.  Macho Man isn't as young as he use to be, and he needs help with the heavy lifting, the woodworking, the concrete work, and yesterday, the mopping of floors at the condo.  Joche is here from can to can't.  Sometimes I even wish he didn't come quite so early.

Joche needs us.  He has a wife and a very young toddler to support.  The salary we have paid him has allowed him to provide at least the basics for his family.  As previously written, he has been an avid learner, a true apprentice, and he will take the knowledge with him from now own.  His help is invaluable.

The problem is, how to pay him.  I have faith the money will be there as long as we need it.  On the other hand, I believe in prayer, and I believe the more people who pray the more effective the prayers.  So, all you  Prayer Warriors, please pray that we can be creative enough to see a way  to provide the means to continue as we have been.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Casa de Sueños - Quick Update

A friend reminded me yesterday that I had not posted anything about the house since October, and he was right, October 22nd to be exact.  It's not that there was nothing to post.  Things were just going so slow that you could not really see the day-to-day progress.

Then everything seemed to just happen all at once.  It had been MY goal to move in before Christmas Eve.  Note the emphasis on the word MY.  Macho Man didn't want to pin moving to a definite date, but I decided I wanted to have Christmas in my own house.  So, I just started packing things up and getting ready to go.

Well, I was ready, MM said he was ready, but the house, not so much.  We moved in with the kitchen sink set up on concrete blocks, but we do have hot water. The windows have no glass in them, just screens and security bars.  So what's new?  We haven't had actual windows in over two years.  We have two functioning bathrooms, as far as toilets go,  and the shower and tub are working in the master bath, but no bathroom sinks in place.  Okay, so I am using the kitchen sink to wash my face and brush my teeth. 

There are no kitchen cabinets  or bathroom vanities, but that's not new either.  The baths in the condo have a mirror over the sink, but no vanity; and the kitchen has no cabinets or counter space, just one shelf over the stove and one over the sink.  Here I have a big pantry.and for the present a full sheet of plywood set up on two sawhorses. doubles as counter space and kitchen island.

I have plenty of room to work in, so I did.  We had our first Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) at  Casa de Sueños, and not one person complained about the kitchen not being finished.  We just ate and had a good time.  Nobody fussed because there are no doors in the master bathroom, just a shower curtain over the opening.  Nobody went into the bedroom when someone else was in there.  

We did have a Christmas tree, the first in two years, and Christmas decorations.  Two of the nieces helped me decorate, and they did a great job. I almost hate to take it down after the 6th. Christmas trees in Latin countries stay up until after Three Kings Day, or Epiphany.  New Year's Eve the family here in Trujillo came up and spent a little while.  The balcony is a great place to congregate.  It is big enough for all  ages to find a place and enjoy each other while still being together.  Ditto for my birthday yesterday.  The only thing missing was the family from Tocoa.

Now it is time to get back to business.  Right now my living room and bedroom look like the storeroom at Goodwill or the Salvation Army Store.  We have boxes everywhere, and the answer to  "Where is _________?" is still, "In a box somewhere.".  The good news is, by tomorrow afternoon everything will be out of the condo and into the house.  Then Friday we will spend the day cleaning the condo so we can return the keys.

So, family and friends, we are in the new house, and it is ours.  It might still be a work in progress, but it is our work in progress.  Best of all, it took us two years to get here, but there is no mortgage, IT IS OURS!.

Oh. where are the pictures?  In the camera.  Where is the camera?  All together now....The camera is in a box, somewhere.  When I find it there will be a new profile picture.  It will be the view from our balcony.

We are truly blessed.