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Friday, December 24, 2010

Celebrate!






Merry Christmas




I wish everyone a safe and happy Holiday season.

This is what 50-something looks like




I went down to breakfast. When the hostess seated me next to the window I asked her to take my picture. I explained it was my birthday. She took a couple, and this is the best one. The buffet had good stuff, including fried plantains (plantanos fritos), fruit and a good selection of sweet breads. I took several of the sweets, figuring that it is my birthday and the diet would start tomorrow. Christmas carols played softly in the background with the lyrics sung in a mixture of sometimes English, sometimes Spanish. It sounds a bit odd at first to hear familiar tunes sung with words I don't understand.




As I was almost finished with everything and got coffee to finish eating the sweet treats I got, I realized that the tune in the background was the Happy Birthday song, sung in Spanish. I looked up and the waiter presented me with this. I took a couple of bites before it occurred to me to take a picture. Sorry. Anyway, I almost teared up as the hostess popped up and wished me a Happy Birthday. I finished this off, then finished off the plate of sweet rolls I had originally gotten. I was stuffed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

They Say It's (My) Birthday!

(I'm) gonna have a good time!  For those of you not into Rock and Roll that's a quote.  Sort of.

Slept in, drinking my first cup of coffee.  I have breakfast included in my room rate so I'll head down for the buffet after a shower.  Yesterday I got in here around 11am.  The drive up in the military shuttle wasn't bad.  We passed by a recently happened wreck, and drove on by even though it was a shuttle full of medics.  I'm pretty sure the guy was already gone.  Traffic was just driving by.  I am still pondering that in my mind.  Got to the airport, and it wasn't the jungle of humanity that it seemed to me when I arrived a couple  of months ago.  That made me feel better.  I walked out to get a cab rather than wait an hour for the hotel shuttle.  A woman who spoke English was just getting out of a cab, so I asked her if I could use her cab.  I told her where I needed to go and she talked to the driver and 70 lemps was the fare, less than I had expected.  I got in, and since I don't speak Spanish well, I just spent my tiime looking at the city.  We started off in the right direction near as I could tell, but nothing looked familiar after a bit.  I've never gone to the hotel from the airport, so I just hoped that the Bible on the console was a good sign.  He started to pull up to a building that sounded like Intercontinental, but was no place near my hotel.  I tried to tell him where I really wanted to go, but he gave me a blank puzzled look.  I pulled out a keyfob I have with the hotel name on it.  He put the flashers on, grabbed his cell phone, and walked across the street to other cab drivers standing around.  He came back, we turned around and in a few minutes I recognized the hotel/mall area.  I gave him 100 lemps ($5) which was almost a 50 % tip, and he was happy.  All's well that ends well, and I saw more of the city.  I also realized just how much I need to memorize landmarks in Tegus.

Lots of napping and internet surfing yesterday.  No swimming yet.  After breakfast maybe.  Guess I needed the naps because even with 2 long naps during the day I slept well last night.  I think the hotel must have Skype blocked because I have internet but can't log into Skype.  So, it lights a fire under me to go get a Tigo stick - cell based internet - to cover for these times when my main internet source doesn't cut it.  You can buy the internet in increments of days, such as a week or even a day at a time.  I need to see if a week's worth of internet is 7 different days, or if it's consecutive.  I will use 3 days here, and would have 4 'in the bank' if it's based on 24hrs per use.  Things like that are different down here.  I also want to get my cell phone down here able to call the States.  There are just times I want to call and not Skype.

I hear that shower calling.  And breakfast.  I'll take my camera over to the mall later and get some pictures for you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vacation

I'm on vacation till next Monday.  My birthday is Thrursday, Christmas is Saturday.  I'm going to a luxury hotel and just chill by the pool.  Actually, chill isn't the right word, I'm going to laze in the warm sun and let handsome Hispanic men cater to my needs for drink, food, etc.  That's the plan I'm playing in my head.  Of course, I need to go pack my carry-on and backpack.  I'm taking computers and hard drives to catch up on some stuff, DVD's with computer certification things to study, DVD's of Spanish lessons. And 3 swim suits.  A simple pull on dress, and some shorts and jeans and tshirts.  Should be enough.  I'll catch my usual 7am cab, have breakfast at the DFAC, but instead of heading to work I'll head to the airport shuttle.  From the airport I'll catch the hotel shuttle.  Once in my room it's swimsuit time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nightly W(h)ine

When I was at Valley of Angels a couple of weeks ago I bought a total of 4 bottles of liquor.  2 of them are bottles of blackberry wine.  I had some motivation in getting the second in that 2 attractive males mentioned they would like to taste it.  I figured that I had little to lose.  Well, they neither one came by for the glass of wine, so I finally opened one of the bottles tonight.  I don't know how you mess up making blackberry wine, but this wine is not very good.  Then again, maybe I just don't like wine anymore.  Everything tastes so dry.  I thought it was just left coast wine, but apparently Honduran wine is also very dry.  sigh.  It is potent, though.  One glass and I'm feeling the effects.  I'm thinking the second bottle will be a gift to someone.  Not sure yet just who.

Faster Internet!




I got my faster internet. It is really nice. So, I was able to upload a few pictures, and I will start taking more pictures, I promise. This first one is just some buildings along the road on the way to work. As I looked at the pictures I took a couple of weeks ago, I decided I want to get better ones.




This is an overpass where the new bypass around town will come back in. I don't hold my breath that it will be completed anytime while I'm here, but it should be nice eventually not to have all of the truck and buss traffic going right past my hotel. You can see part of the hills that surround the valley, and some of the cloud formations that make the view really neat. I want to attempt to get some of the cloud formation pictures, but getting a good angle for a picture is difficult.

Tonight I start packing for my 4 days in Tegus back at the InterContinental. I'm looking forward to laying by the pool. It is difficult to fell like it really is Christmas with it being like summer here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nope

No cable modem in my room yet.  The room next door is now empty.  I hope they don't rent it out until my cable modem/router setup is moved over here.  I had to have Carlos reset the cable modem for me tonight.  I'm thinking that just maybe someone is using it during the day directly connected since Chris changed the password on the wireless before he left.  Whatever.  I was once told that manana doesn't so much mean 'tomorrow' as 'not today'.  When it comes to getting things done I believe it. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Internet

My internet connection is degrading more each day.  When Mom and I Skype we can't have the video on anymore.  On Friday they move the cable modem into my room, so I should have good internet then.  I'm not sure if that is why, but Photobucket won't upload my pictures.  So, unless something happens, the picture situation should be all better by the weekend.  Then again, this is Honduras, so I will actually be really surprised (happy, but surprised) if they actually show up and get it moved on Friday.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Drive to work, part 1




A few weeks ago I was complaining about the loudspeaker from the circus across the street. A few days later they did pack up their tents and move on. Then, a week or so later a different circus showed up and set up in the same exact location. This one doesn't broadcast the recorded carney voice emphatically saying something in Spanish. They are much better neighbors, although during the shows I can still hear something over the loudspeakers. One morning last week I decided to take my camera out while driving to work in the taxi. This is the first picture I took. Yes, those are camels. This is December in Central America, so I'm assuming they are doing some kind of nativity scene. I could be wrong...

Mixed bag week

Last week was a mixed bag of good and bad.  I am stressed by work, and will be until they get me more help.  I went to Valley of the Angels yesterday on a MWR trip, and had fun.  I was sick 2 days of last week.  I got a hammock chair at Valley of the Angels.  Oh, and I have enough pictures to post pictures every day for awhile.  Where is the picture now?  When attempting to upload the pictures early last week (yes, I had good intentions before I got sick) my internet connection wasn't cooperating.  If it does cooperate later today, I'll start posting pictures from my drive in to work as well as my trip yesterday.  And, as a bonus, while I was gone yesterday the carpenter came in and finished my kitchen sink cabinet.  It is really pretty.  I have had a bit of a mess to clean up, but now that the work is done I can start really cleaning and unpacking.

Friday, December 03, 2010

One Down

I just paid off the first of my credit cards.  There are 3 more to go, and they have much more owed on each.  But, it's a first step in the right direction.  Happy Dance!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Flowers




Not long after I got here I mentioned that I had expected to see more flowers than I was seeing. Turns out that they just hadn't bloomed yet. I took some pictures of the flowers I get to see on a daily basis.




I had never seen a poinsettia actually growing as an outside plant before. I really liked this one, and it was the inspiration for me taking my camera in and actually getting pictures.




Views like this are all over the place down here right now. I'm thinking that I may need this reminder as time goes on. Maybe it is this beautiful most of the year, but I'm not placing any major bets on it.




These bushes are all over the place at work. I enjoy taking walks around and just looking at the blooms.

So that is a flip side of living down here. It was pretty hot today for the first time. However, walking to the gate after work the weather is perfect, warm and breezy as the light is just starting to fade and the shadows get deeper on the hills (mountains?) that surround the area. I'll try to get some more pictures as time goes on.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Catching up with Pictures




Here are some pictures from trip a few weeks ago. I lost my camera for a few days, put it someplace 'safe' and forgot where that was. Finally found it today. So, first picture is of a street in the town just north of here.





Second is a pavilion in the park in that town.




Third is me participating in the silliness in the pavilion. Guys set these props up and charge to take your picture. Us Gringos just barged in and started taking pictures since no one seemed to be around. Later a couple of the guys found the photographer and made it up to him with money he should have made for the use of the props.

With talk among the bloggers of computer issues, I am currently pulling a backup image of my main laptop. I'm typing this on my netbook. I like the netbook, but here at the apartment it seems to not do Skype with the same clarity as the Dell. The image just stopped due to a bad sector, so now I do some troubleshooting, and kick myself for not making the backup sooner. At least I won't be off line if that computer breaks.

The following pictures are of my water filter. I was feeling badly when I was first down here about all the trash that drinking bottled water was creating. Drinking the water straight from the tap is not recommended. Finally, when my stuff got here I was able to start using my backpacking water filter, which is a Platypus gravity flow model. I'm thinking about getting an actual water purifyer. First Need water purification system isn't gravity flow, but pump, but takes everything out and also makes the water taste better, which the filter doesn't do. It's $112 at REI, and is on my list of things to get.







The Platypus system uses 2 4L water bags, one for 'dirty' water and one for 'clean' (filtered) water. I don't use the clean bag except to hold the clean end of the tubing. I fill the dirty water bag from the tap and hang it from a hanger in the bathroom and unscrew the top from the clean bag and drop it into a jug sitting on the floor. In a few minutes the water has dropped through the filter to the jug below. I have a separate silt filter to put inline with the main filter, but since I'm filtering tap water I haven't used it yet. this is much better than constantly buying and toting the bottles of water.

Changing topics, I am in the process of sorting my yarn stash and putting it into 2 gallon ziplock bags. These bags are big enough to hold several skeins of yarn, keeping them together and protected. I did not do this before the move. When the truck of my stuff showed up finally that night, after dark, and they opened the doors, all I saw was my yarn and needles all strewn all over the back of the truck. The plastic crates I'd used to store my yarn and knitting/crocheting supplies had been crushed in shipment, and popped open. I was almost hysterical, thinking that all my stuff was equally tossed about and, most likely, lost. So far, only the yarn totes seem to have had that fate. However, I'm remembering some of the other plastic totes that may not have been repacked into cardboard boxes (I really don't remember at this point...) that may have just plain not made it. That rambling paragraph brings me to two requests. First, if any of you see 2 GALLON Zip Lock bags, please pick them up for me and I'll reimburse you for the bags and shipping in a Priority rate envelope to my APO address. Second, for the knitters: I have a lot of partial skeins of yarn, different colors and mostly acrylic. I have no idea what to use these for. If you want them, or have ideas of what I can make and donate, please let me know. At some point I may post pictures of what I want to get rid of.

I think that's it for today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Be sure to listen to Alice's Restaurant sometime today.  A Thanksgiving tradition.  You Tube has it if you don't have it on CD yourself.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Continued

I'm still here in the IC in Teguc.  Yes, that is short for Tegucigalpa.  I looked up the full spelling on a receipt just now, and I still wouldn't bet folding money I got it right.  So, as I said, I'm still in Teguc.  Catching up more from yesterday, the car wash was very much a 'we aren't in Kansas anymore' thing.  They pulled the Jeep over to the area near a stock tank looking thing and had bucket of soapy water, a hose, and what looked like cut off antifreeze bottles with the top open and the handle still there.  They dipped the modified antifreeze containers into the stock tank and tossed water all over the jeep, used the sprayer on the hose that put out soap like a regular car wash sparingly, and hand washed with rags and the buckets of soapy water, then rinsed with the cut off plastic containers of water tossed over it again.  I swear they went over that Jeep 4 or 5 times.  They took out the mats and hand scrubbed them.  Then they drove back under the large covered carport area and hand dried it, wiping down the windows, opening the doors and drying the edges.  We were kinda in a hurry, and when they started wiping it down a second time we said it was fine and got in.  I swear they were still trying to wipe it down as we drove off.  Definitely the best $4 car wash I've ever seen.

I bought a new HP netbook in the PX on Friday.  I am still going to send back my Asus EeePC to be repaired under warranty, but I want a machine to be out on the internet with while use my good laptop to do some scanning and things I'd rather not be on my machine that's on the net.  So, I spent pretty much all of the rest of yesterday setting it up, downloading the AVG Anti-Virus (free), and Firefox, and Skype and getting it all working together.  And uninstalling the crap, err, extra value software they send these out with now.  When I'm downloading software, the primary technical knowledge I need is on how to uncheck all that extra cr... extra value stuff they want to add to it.  No, I don't want your 'security/search/NY Times Reader/Tool Bar.  So far I liked my Asus better than this HP, but I only paid $250 for it.  I walked the mall a bit yesterday, and I went into the HP store there.  I saw basically this netbook for 8,600 limps.  I used my calculator when I got back and divided by 19 (there are roughtly 18 or 19 limps/dollar) and it is over $450.00 here.  Guess I'll be doing the mail order thing if I want much of anything.  I'll go try to find a 'cheap' flat screen monitor later, but I'm thinking that if I really want one I will order it online.

It's time to go take a nice long shower, and use some of these fancy shampoo and soap and such that they gave me here.  I got my complimentary fruit plate and bottled water yesterday.  Oh, I also went down and had the breakfast buffet here and it was nice, but crowded.  Same basic price, $16 and change.  So far I'm happy with this as a get away.

...  Ok, that was at 11.  The internet died at that point, since I'd been there 24 hrs.  I didn't want to pay, so I just turned off the computer.  I had my nice shower, and then went grocery shopping.  I got some things I'm not sure what they are, and some things I had planned on, and some things I didn't get because it was too much to carry all the way back.  I'll try to take a picture of it all tomorrow.  I'm back home now.  It was an... interesting... drive home.  I'm going to put away my things and try to get organized for tomorrow.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Getaway

Today I am in Teguc at the InterContinental Hotel.  This is a trial run to see if it will be one of my get away places.  So far so good.  The drive up was eventful.  Three of us in a Jeep Liberty followed C down the road.  I've mentioned the condition of the road to here before, and that the driving is like being a passenger in a Nascar event.  It turns out the C is used to driving in the Middle East, and drives that way.  This fits well with the drivers here, he beats them at their own game.  Trying to keep up with him was even more exciting.  The guy driving the Jeep I was riding in wasn't about to be left behind.

The occasion for them was the fact that everyone but me is leaving in the next 2 months, and the couple I was riding with are trying to sell the Jeep before they leave.  After dropping off a Dell contractor who was riding with C at the airport so he could fly home, we did a sudden stop at a guy who was working around a car and C asked directions to someplace.  Turns out that C knew the folks wanted to wash the car before showing it to prospective buyers, so he was asking a local where to find a car wash.   When C needs to stop, a parking spot is considered a waste of time and he just scooches over in the general direction of the curb.  As cars leaving the airport squeezed our two trucks there was much waving of hands and comments, and finally a friendly handshake and off C zoomed with us close behind.   Once out of the airport we cut around side streets until C stopped near an alley cutoff and pointed down it.  Looking closely there was a hand lettered sign that said some version of Car Wash.  C parked his truck in the street and got out to investigate while we blocked for him in our truck.  Finally he gestured us down the alley, and we pulled into a back courtyard with cars and local Honduran young guys running around.  After negotiations, it was settled on $4.00 for the wash and we got out.  C retrieved his truck from the street and we watched while a couple of the  guys hand washed the Jeep.

On the road again, we stopped at a place to show the Jeep to a reseller.  I had S take a picture of the engines lined up.  I guess if you buy a car you get your choice of custom sized engines?  There were at least 10 of them neatly lined up on the pavement in the covered area.  Then I asked to be let off at the IC before they went off to do more trading and selling.  C pulled into the Marriott.  We decided he knew i needed a bathroom, but I couldn't understand why he stopped there when the IC was within sight.  Turns out that the Marriott has a really nice breakfast buffet and we got there in time.  So, after frantic driving and fighting traffic (we won...) we sat down at a luxury buffet and ate.  For $15 it was really nice.  I was dropped off after the meal, and the others drove off.

More later.  Oh, I forgot my camera.  If S actually emails me the pictures she takes I'll post them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Commets

Comments on blogs are strange things in a way.  I never had many comments here until I started commenting on others' blogs.  Well, I never had many readers till then, either.  At any rate, I find that I feel a need to explain when I comment on a new blog that I live in Honduras.  Mostly because that colors my comments lately.  I feel a bit self conscious as it seems to be bragging, or holding up that I have one of those unusual lives.  In fact, I'm still a bit aghast that this girl who grew up in the cornfields of Central Indiana is somehow in this odd place.  And on other levels, it doesn't feel all that odd to me anymore.  I kind of bounce around with these emotions while I comment.  I do know that somehow I feel like I can hold my head up a bit higher.  Like I actually have joined the cool kids group.  And, I'm not so sure that feeling is justified just because I managed to snag a job down here that pays enough to pay off my debt that I should have know better than to acquire in the first place.  It's all so confusing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

misc

I had the Typical Breakfast.  I feel good that I am starting to communicate somewhat with the Spanish-only speaking woman who now runs the restaurant.  I got what I ordered.  Not to say it wasn't a bit of a surprise.  The typical breakfast is a small cup of refried beans, 1 egg over easy, fried plantains, 2 small hot dogs (not sausage, hot dogs) a helping of 'cream' that I can't quite figure out, and 2 tortillas.  The cream is somewhat runny, and seems to have a base of sour cream with something else added.  I'll ask C and see if he knows.  I love the plantains, and the beans and tortillas are starting to be a breakfast thing for me.  The hot dogs were different for me for breakfast.  However, I'm now full.  This is what I mean about getting unusual things when ordering here in Honduras.

There were a couple of the military guys having breakfast at the same time.  It was unusual for me to hear English, spoken with no discernible Spanish accent.  We talked for a few minutes.

The circus is still across the street.  I'm wondering if this is their winter home, although since there really isn't a winter here that doesn't make much sense.  No one I've asked seems to know how long they will be here, and seem confused as to why I would ask.  The loudspeaker with the recorded carney hawking the show in Spanish is now only on weekends, and stops at a reasonable hour.  I am getting tired of the recording, and do wish them well as I hope they go someplace else.  No signs of that so far.

The hotel does my laundry for free, I just have to take it down to them.  I started doing hand laundry of the things I wanted not put in the dryer.  I also do my socks, as I don't like them turned into one cuff which stretches that cuff and that is how they do it.  The majority of the things I hand launder dry in a little over a day.  The socks take 3 days as they are heavier.  I'm about to see if my ability to communicate gets far enough to just ask them to not 'fold' my socks.  I'm getting brave.  :)

The beginning Spanish class starts the 22nd.  Now both of my bosses are talking about signing up.  This means a more certain ride home at night.  The class will go until 8pm, and that is late by my standards for taking a cab.  I'm hoping for the best.

As I unpack my stuff I find that most of it is the little things.  I have several dozen buttons in little envelopes that come with slacks and blouses.  I'm taking those out of the little envelopes and putting like size and color together to put in with my sewing (when I find that stuff...).  I also have A LOT of hair thingys, ties and small barrettes and combs and whatnot.  I should never have to purchase those things again.  I hate to get rid of them because I do use them.  I'm also going through my pens and tossing those that don't work anymore.  I have a bunch of pencils, and I almost never use pencils.  Those will go into work, I think.  Or, given to a local at work who works with one of the missions here.  Some things I want to get rid of make no sense to give away here, such as winter gloves and such.  It never gets cold enough here to use gloves.  It's the small stuff that takes time to sort through, and is easy to put off because no one thing takes up much room.  It has added up and was one of the big boxes of things shipped.

One advantage of having lived for a month with less stuff is that I really know I don't need to buy much at all this year.  No clothes, no hair ties, no kitchen stuff.  I'm working my way through the 3 large cosmetic bags of face/skin/hair toiletries, so it should be a while until I need to buy that stuff.  Other than food, not a lot else to buy.  It is an odd feeling when I hear Mom talk about going to yard sales and such.  I can't even think of what I'd want.  This is a good thing for me.  Less stuff to move.

Next step

As usual I've spent a lot of the weekend reading blogs.  I am starting to want to make my space here more of a sanctuary.  I just read a blogger who used that word and explored the meaning for her.  The word resonated with me.  At this point I'm not so much talking about a sanctuary from the violence and chance of robbery here.  I have that pretty much under control, as much as I can while living in a 3rd world country.  I'll explore that issue more later.  I have unpacked enough of my things that I'm wanting to have my apartment be more than just a temporary hotel room.  Looking ahead, my lifestyle for the next few years looks to be mobile, if not country to country then at least city to city.  I want to find year to year contracts in different places.  So the 'temporary hotel room' is the canvas I have to work with.  I never have been the type to put art on the walls. Just ask Turtle Lady, who as my resident artist has hung most of the art for me.  I do enjoy color and texture and 'homey' type environments.  So, my project is to create a homey, colorful, textured, comfortable sanctuary that is minimalist and mobile. 

One of the first issues I need to deal with is food.  During the week it's not too much effort to get food, I just eat on post.  On the weekends I have limited myself to the chicken place next door, the restaurant downstairs, or getting a delivery from Pizza Hut across the street.  All of those are getting old.  Pizza Hut and the chicken place are too processed.  The restaurant downstairs is better, but has the issue of lack of communication.  They try to give me what they think I want, which can have a new and exciting combination show up on my plate.  I'm working on my Spanish...  I am putting together a list of foods to get while in Tegus next weekend.  I need my comfort foods.  Luckily I'm going with C who knows Tegus, and who also knows the types of foods I like having lived in the Middle East and knows where to get those foods down here.  Things like humus, lentils, dates.  This part will get better.  But, I have to hurry to find these places as he leaves in a month.

The rest of the sanctuary will be a work in process as I sift through my things.  The hotel is installing a kitchen style sink for me tomorrow.  This is part of attempting to get hot water to the sink in the bathroom.  They really are trying to give me what I want.  The flip side of that is that I don't want to pull much out until that is finished so I won't have people in the apartment.  Also, I think Friday they must have had a bit of a flood while working on the water lines.  I had everything up off the floor when I left for work (habit from camping, in case of rain), so no damage done,just a really clean floor and a single damp paper.  I already have a pile of things to send back, and a pile of things to get rid of.  Small piles, but a start.  What stuff I have here now doesn't fall under the definition of 'mobile'. 

My thoughts are starting to scatter.  It's time to head down for some breakfast.  Then I think I'll look into ordering some foods online from the backpacking sites.  It's a start.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reposting

I tried to post this last night, but lost internet as I hit send.  I'll try again:

Nope.  Not the trip report.  I have a picture coming that I want to include.  At least that's the current excuse.  Basically, now that I have my things here I spend my time either in my recliner or unpacking, not writing.  Also, some things have happened here that I wanted to think about before I write about them.  The guy who arrived a couple of days behind me at work was attacked and robbed this weekend.  He's injured, although I don't have a good idea of how badly.  He's still here in Honduras, and I've already told all involved at work that if I'm hurt they better be working on getting my a$$ to the States because I don't care how good the care it here, I want to go home if I'm hurt.  I'll know more if he comes back to work in a month or so.  Yes, he's hurt that badly, machete's aren't nice things to be sliced with.  He was doing something I wouldn't have tended to do, which is walk downtown alone.  Now I won't be going downtown at all.  I'll head to Tegus to shop.  This happened at noon on Sunday.  I am not particularly worried about my own safety, as I draw my lines pretty conservatively.  That's why I'm not out doing more sightseeing.  I am being even more careful now.  We've been told that from now until Christmas the bad guys are even more desperate for money, so be more watchful.  No problem.  There won't be any trips with the folks on post for awhile as they are now on lock down.  Warm fuzzy (not) that soldiers aren't allowed out in the town I live in because it's too dangerous.  Situational awareness isn't just a buzz phrase down here, it's an essential skill.  So, if my life seems boring while I'm here, this is why.  I'm a home body anyway, so I'm not feeling inconvenienced in any real way.

I found out about a cheap airline, Spirit Airlines, that flys from Honduras to Ft. Lauderdale, FL for well under $100 each way.  Coupled with a Southwest cheap fare to either Kansas City to see Mom or to Nashville to see friends, I can see flying up for a 4 day weekend every few months.  That helps with the closed in feeling.  Also, weekends at luxury hotels in Tegus help break up the monotony.  All in all I'm still feeling ok about staying here for the year.

Back to today.  I have tomorrow off for Veteran's Day.  Early in the morning several of us are getting our Honduran driver's license.  I'm hoping there isn't a test.  I may not drive while down here, but I'll still feel better having some 'local' ID.  No other plans other than to continue unpacking and sorting.  Friday should be slow at work since the soldiers have it as a holiday to make a 4 day weekend.  I did buy a bottle of Bailey's so I'll have a nice cup of coffee later with the only creamer I use.  I gave away what liquor I had in WA before I left.  This is the start of my new liquor cabinet.  Of course, when I leave here I'll give away whatever I have left at that point, so I'll have to start fresh yet again.  Life's tough when I travel around so much.  :)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

All's right in the world

I'm sitting in my recliner drinking coffee and surfing the net on a Saturday morning.  Life is good.  I have a 'free' (included in the price of rent) breakfast waiting on me downstairs whenever I decide to head down, my stuff in boxes waiting for me to go exploring, and a weekend with no issues pressing for my attention.  Oh, and a day this next week for Veteran's Day to go exploring around town if I so choose.  Life is good.

A quick link from The Last Straw ( http://www.bryantholsenbeck.com/blog/ ):  The link I like is from treehugger.com, a site I used to follow every day a few years ago.  I smile when other bloggers put in a link about something cool they found there.  Treehugger is a neat site about alternative ways to deal with energy and trash and  other issues.  This link is a Buddhist temple made from beer bottles, and it's beautiful:  http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/10/temple-built-from-beer-bottles.php

My buddy Phil has managed to forward our Skype connection to his cell phone, where it comes in to him as a regular phone call.  This is cool in that we used to talk mostly while he drives home from work and now can do so again.  Obviously we don't have the video component since he's driving, and to call an actual phone costs (him) money, although I'm not sure how much.  I am truly appreciative of the technology that allows me to be almost in as much contact with friends up in the US as when I lived up there, even though I'm in Honduras.

Just read a blog on procrastination.  Putting things off until the future.  I look around the (messy) apartment.  I feel my stomach wanting breakfast.  I remember I need to write about the trip last weekend, and some about the unloading of my stuff on Thursday evening.  Guess I should get up, put on shoes and get some breakfast.  It's chilly here.  I went down in jeans, tshirt and bare feet to get some bottled water to make coffee earlier and it was chilly (the floors here are all tile).  I came back up and turned off the air conditioners, that's how chilly it is.  Ok, they are on thermostats and probably hadn't been on all night, but still...  So, I may need to actually put on socks.  Nah, I'll just grab my sandals.  That's my 'it's the weekend' footwear.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Still Here

Just a quick note before Ben calls out the Calvary.  On Sunday night, starting about 10pm, there was a loud pary with DJ in the party room 2 floors above me.  At 11pm I went down and asked how late it would go and got blank looks from the Hotel people.  It went till 3:30am.  On a work night.  Later I was assured that is a once a year thing.  I said 'next time it happens on a work night, put me in a different room'.  Monday and Tuesday after work were spent catching up on sleep.  Wednesday I didn't have internet access, some kind of DNS issue.  Last night my shipment arrived, and I spent the evening  having a nervous breakdown while some very strong guys from the hotel carried all my stuff up 2 flights of stairs.  There is no elevator in this hotel.  The hotel staff does try very hard to take care of me, which is why I'm going to live here.
 
More details, and a post about last weekend's trip, later.  Really.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Way Cool Link

I talk about how I am online reading blogs a lot.  I read a varied list on many subjects.  Sometimes I run across a gem that a blogger has found useful and posts about it.  Today I found another gem.

http://www.khanacademy.org/

Folks who watch TV may have heard of this guy already.  He has an exhaustive list of lectures on math, 10 minutes per lecture, from how to add to way deeper subject matter than I'll ever have time to understand.  Hundreds of video lectures.  Way back near when I started the blogs I came across Heather who was home schooled and tended to just go do things she wanted to learn about.  She built her own cabin on her Mom's land (since sold), rebuilt her van inside and out, went out and got a job as a carpenter, etc.  When she was of the age to head to University, she decided to home school herself in University, too.  I liked that idea, and wrote a post on what my own personal University might look like.  As with many things, I never really followed through with it.  The site above really leaves me no excuse not to go back and fill in the blanks on math.  I can't even imagine where I'd be if I'd had a resource like this in school.  I made a lot of early decisions based on my insecurity with math, such as going to Tech school rather than Engineering or Computer Science.  I've been hindered in what I enjoy doing professionally ever since.

Ok, I'm energized.  I'm going to go study some Spanish first.  I also have a blog post to write about my trip today to the caves. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I got moved

So, here is the new apartment, which isn't really an apartment.





This is the living room/kitchen (when I get my microwave and kitchen table delivered)




From the other end.

It looks empty now, but when all my stuff arrives it will be pretty full. There are two bedrooms off this room, and neither one has a closet.

It feels strange to have more than one room after living in the small single hotel room for a month. As time goes on I adapt and get things more settled.

Big Clarification

Kiva is not a money-making scheme.  It is for a lot of us a way to give money directly to poor people in 3rd world countries to give them a hand up, not a hand out.  There is the possibility, maybe even probability in time, that some of the money won't be repaid.  The idea, for me, was to loan some capital out to help people who could use the $25 (put together into $500-$2000 loans) to add inventory to their shops or buy better equipment or something, and repay it as they can.  Then I would loan that money out again.  I don't get any interest, and figure that I would 'lose' the money as time went on from people who couldn't pay it back.  I saw it more as a charitable contribution that any money making scheme.  That's why I am upset at the interest rates charged the individuals who borrow the money.  I also was giving money with each donation, an extra $3.50 per $25, to help with overhead costs.  I know it takes money to run the organization.  I'm enough of a liberal hippy that I hate the idea of interest.  I REALLY hate the idea of +35% interest being charged to people who are in poor countries.  My money that I'm giving the use of free is making some bank there a lot of these folks hard earned profits into their own profits.  I'll leave the $100.  I'm just not feeling so warm and fuzzy about it, and I'll not add to it right now.  This puts the burden on me to actually make some effort to do research and find a way to help.

I don't talk politics or religion or anything near it much.  However, I do feel that, for me, the way to help that gives the most positive effect is to help those on the bottom rise up from there.  The only charity that I've ever given any direct money that amounts to much is a downtown mission that takes homeless folks in and teaches them life skills as well as giving them '3 hots and a cot' as they say.  I'm sure they get religion tossed at them along with it, which I'm not sure is fair considering it's a kind of captive audience.  But, it was the best game in town for that kind of thing, from what I could tell.  I had hoped that I had found another avenue to give similar help on a more global scale.  Truth is, it was easy to just go there and give and feel good.  I'm not saying that Kiva is a scam.  I need to do more research.  And, that is where I fell down.  I didn't take the responsibility to do my due diligence to make sure they were really doing work that was in alignment with what I want to support with my money.  They may be.  They may not be.  I need to care enough to look closely.

It's not all black and white

I'm killing time today, waiting on the apartment to be ready.  So, since I was on the Kiva site I wandered around some more, and read, and learned, and ended up with more troubling questions than I found answers.  The terms 'interest free loans' and 'field partners' when used with 'microfinance' are warm fuzzy sounding words.  But, looking deeper, the interest free loans are to local loan institutions who charge 36 to 57 PERCENT INTEREST to the local population they make the loans to.  And all this 'you are funding a loan to ____' stuff?  No, you are loaning money to a bank, assuming all the risk yourself, and giving them money to lend to who they choose at whatever interest rate they want.  I am conflicted now.  There are some cases made each direction in comments on the articles that try to say the high interest is necessary for the 'field partners' to be 'self sustaining'.  Ummmm, I'm wanting the individuals to be self-sustaining, not the local bank to make more money because of access to my capital on a no-interest, I assume all risk basis.  I'm going to ponder this more, and do some more reading.  Didn't help that it turns out that the 'field partner' for the Honduras loans is, or was anyway, owned by a company in Boston.  Sigh.  If it looks too good to be true, it just might be.  At this point I'm only in $100.

The apartment is almost ready.  It's clean, and all they need to do is hang some curtains in one window and move in a fridge in order to give me the key.  I gave them the rent money.  It will take about 5 minutes to carry my stuff up the flight of stairs to the room.  I call it an apartment, but it's a hotel suite with one large room that would normally have couches, and 2 bedrooms off that.  No kitchen.  No closets, even.  Until my stuff gets here with my clothes rack my clothes will just be put on the floor.  A nice bathroom with a tiled shower.  Guess I'll head up and see how far along they are.

Waiting

I tried and tried to go ahead and pay for my apartment ahead of time.  They said no.  Today was the day.  Well, they haven't started getting it ready.  They said tomorrow.  I'm going to be gone tomorrow on the MWR trip.  So, as a compromise, at 6 pm I am to move.  We'll see.  I understand Honduran time.  I tried to give them enough notice to still move when I was ready.  No luck.  So, I wait.  I'm trying to decide if I want to run out to post to the PX or into town.  Both involve a cab ride.

I got paid for the first time here.  I made a budget, which consisted of basically adding up my bills.  It feels good to have enough to actually pay bills instead of just figuring out which ones would go on the credit card.  I made my first lump sum payment to my smallest card.  If I'm really lucky, and my budget is right, I may be able to pay it off next month.  It is a lot smaller than the other 3, but it's a start.

In my quest to pay off debt I still feel an obligation to give something to those less fortunate.  I have found Kiva (kiva.org) to be my personal avenue.  They make micro-loans to individuals in poor countries.  The money comes back, and I'll have the option to lend it out again or take it back.  You can make loans in increments of $25.  I have 4 loans out now, and I'm concentrating my loans in Honduras.  Not only is it one of the poorest of the countries, but I have a front seat view of the poverty.  I would like to encourage each of you who can spare $25/mo to go to Kiva.org and set up a portfolio.  It's at least a start.

I took a picture of my stuff piled up ready to be moved.  I was going to take another picture this morning of my new place.  I'll try for that tonight.  My stuff is closer.  An optimistic guess was that it will be here Wednesday.  A pragmatic guess was 2 weeks.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Maintaining

The self improvements are just maintaining, not gaining momentum.  I'm watching what I eat, and taking a walk the past few nights around the post.  Last night was a social for the folks in the company I work for to meet with the owners who were down for a few days.  It was the first time I'd met them.  Nice guys.  First boss I've ever said in the first few minutes of conversation 'what's a girl gotta do around here to get a beer?'   It was appropriate in the setting.  And, I only had one.  However, I didn't work out after work because I didn't want to get sweaty and such before meeting the bosses.  Then today I forgot to take clothes to work to change into.  The gym won't let me work out in street clothes, even if it is only for 4 minutes.  So, both nights I walked around post and then waited for F. to make the sprint up to the gate and catch a cab.

Tomorrow marks my 1 month milestone, and the end of my relocation money paying for my hotel room.  All 3 of the guys (owner and 2 sons) were at the desk at the lobby waiting for me when I came in.  The son who speaks English and I talked business, and I move into my apartment Saturday morning.  My stuff has made it to this country, but now has to make it through customs.  I'm told it will probably be another 2 weeks.  So, I'm borrowing a bed until the hammock stand gets here.

I have signed up to take a tour of some commercial caves with the post outing group on Sunday.  The write-up of the caves is funny, given that I used to be a caver.  Says it goes in for 12K and is still going.  Also says to take flashlights as the lights in the cave only go part way.  Should be fun in a klitzy kinda of way.  It's about 45 minutes away by bus, so I'll see how well I can handle the bus the post uses, and if I want to take any longer trips later.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two's a trend

I did my walk after work again tonight.  Actually, I did 3 walks.  I did the 4 minutes on the elliptical machine, which hurt.  My lower back above my hips hurts most, and that is what I need to strengthen so I must be doing the right thing.  Then I walked back to the office to wait for F. to get off work.  He got a call to go fix a pc so I walked with him to that building, which was a lot longer walk than I realized I was getting into.  Did I mention F. walks fast?  I got to sit for a few minute while he worked, then we started towards the gate, which was the length of that walk plus the normal one.  A nice soldier on one of the motorized carts gave us a ride about half way, then we walked the rest of the way.  I am feeling the exercise, but I'm not totally paralyzed with the pain, so I guess this is a good pace.  Tomorrow night is a work social, so I probably won't go work out.  I'll wait for F. so that we can share a cab to get to it so that I don't have to find a bar (even with a cab) by myself and walk into a strange place alone.

Diet wise I did ok, but not great.  I didn't eat grains at breakfast or lunch, but one of the guys gave me a cookie and I ate it without even thinking that it contained grains and was therefore not on my diet.  Again, I had coke, and a Gatorade which proves that this isn't a calorie cutting diet.  The only vegetable was mashed potatoes with gravy along with my pork chop at lunch.  The other option was a beef stew kind of thing, and I didn't really want that today.  I wanted some chips or pretzels or something in the middle of the afternoon, but couldn't think of a snack that didn't have grain.  Just now thought I should have walked over to the PX and gotten some yogurt, but didn't think of it at the time.  It's going to take the 60 day trial period just to remember to cut out the things with grains that I normally eat without thinking about.

I should study the new Spanish lesson CD that one of the guys gave me.  I'm tired, but I should at least make a start.

Monday, October 25, 2010

One day better

I did ok on my self-improvement plan today.  I walked a bit after lunch.  The only grains I ate were the breading on the Chicken Cordon Bleu that I had for lunch, and I did get mixed vegetables with it.  I even ate the lima beans in the vegetable mix, and normally I really don't like lima beans.  The fact that they even tasted ok shows me I really needed veggies.  I'm sitting here wondering why lima beans and green peas are vegetables and not beans (legumes).  Someone enlighten me.  I did have Coke with it since they were out of chocolate milk.  Cutting out sugar will have to wait.  Then I went to the gym after work.  I made it 4 minutes on the elliptical trainer.  I have to start where I am, and  4 minutes was it.  I went back to the office to wait on F. to get off work at 6, and we walked to the gate in the dark together and then shared a cab.  I had a difficult time keeping up with him because I had bought a gallon of water at the PX and the off center weight of carrying it hurt my back when I tried to walk fast.  He finally took the water from me and then I could walk as fast as he was.  He said that walk is his exercise, and he's lost 10 lbs in the year he's been here.  So, all in all I'll consider today a success in the diet and exercise department.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A start

A start, and an immediate falling down.  Yesterday I started reading a new blog.  One on self-improvement, of course.  One post there made a reasonable case for gluten intolerance being a source of ill health that is many times undocumented.  As a suggestion it said to give up grains for 30-60 days to just see if it makes a difference.  Fair enough.  My birthday will be in 2 months to the day (yesterday),  Christmas Eve 2 months from today.  Easy to track when the trial period ends and to take a reading.  Down here my passion for sweat pastries hasn't found an outlet, something I was moaning to myself about just this week.  In fact, mostly what I'm eating is meat.  Not a lot of vegetables, and not a lot of bread or pasta.  So, at this point it will be easier for me to cut the carbs/grains.  I don't believe in jumping feet first into anything, as that sets me up for failure the first time I slip.  This is a good thing.  This morning I went down and only ordered eggs and bacon.  They had no bacon, only ham.  That was fine.  I specified no pancakes, something I had started ordering fairly often.  So far so good.  As an afterthought, he brought me 2 pieces of toast.  This is special for me, in that it took them awhile to figure out what I wanted with 'toast'.  I am a believer that it is better to go with the flow if it will make someone feel like they screwed up if I say something.  So, I ate the bread.  I'll go with cutting down on grain, and attempt to the best of my ability to not eat grains the rest of the day.  Tomorrow, and all next week, I'll eat at the DFac and will choose personally what goes on my plate.  At that point the responsibility is mine.  I also need to make more of an effort to find vegetable to eat.  In general I think I'm eating more healthy down here than I did up in the US, I just need to tweak it.  Right after I finish the 2L bottle of Pepsi in the fridge...

I find that there are things in my shipment that I am getting a bit impatient to have with me.  My paper shredder is one.  I'm getting a pile of papers that I don't want to just put in the trash without shredding first.  I'm not sure where the nearest shredder is at work, guess I could ask.  In the grand scheme of things it's not that much paper yet, so no one would probably be upset about letting me use a shredder there.  Which brings me to the fact that in many cases I just need to open my eyes.  There are indeed recycling containers in several locations at work.  No need to hang on to my plastic bottles in some miss-guided effort to not add needlessly to the trash here.  Also, while whining on the blog The Last Straw about 'needing' to drink from the horrid plastic bottles (trash-wise, they are horrid), I was reminded that when she (I think it's a she... could be a he) was in Guatemala last year she used a steri-pen to make the water drinkable.  duh.  I have 2 water filters at Mom's that didn't make the cut to go in the suitcase because of room/weight considerations.  So, I asked Mom to find my filters and mail them to me.  I can filter 4L at a time with that filter.  If I get more paranoid I can add micro-pur tablets, or buy a 3rd world filter, they do make them.  I hate it when my problems are due to my own myopic eyes and/or brain that only sees what I lack and not the solutions that are right in front of me.

Some other things I wish were here are my knitting (to give me something to do other than wander the internet at night) and my slow-cooker so I can cook some soups.  In a week or so I'll move up to the apartment and at some time (hopefully soon!) after that my stuff will arrive and I'll be swimming in too much stuff.  Then I'll have to find something else to complain about.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The other side

I'm glad I got the lists and noting of differences in my life out of the way.  I had a bit of a down week, physically.  I slightly pulled the muscle in my back that tells me I'm not taking care of myself.  I slept a lot in the evening, I got back on an even keel.  Now I'm ready to move forward.  I guess I needed the look back at what I left and the time to hold it up to where I am now.  Having done that, it's time to be proactive.

I put two of my smaller suitcases, the carry on and the small checked one (which isn't all that small) on the bed last night and emptied them out totally to see what I have here.  I found yet another couple of pairs of jeans.  What clothes I have here with me should be more than enough to get through this year.  I'm just deleting the sales email from Sierra Trading Post (which is actually a good discount clothing store on line) and REI without even opening them.  I have discovered that I think I brought 3 sweat shirts with me, and don't really need even one.  So they will either be sent back or given away.  I'm making notes on what things are in the process of being shipped here that I want to either get rid of or mail back almost immediately, and a list of things that I may use while I'm here but that won't go back with me.

I'm studying Spanish more on-line.  I can sometimes tell more or less what conversations are about now, but still can't follow well.  I'm almost second nature on the greetings and responses in Spanish.  My Spanish-speaking friends here are schooling me on those each day.  I also have started studying one of the books to start my Microsoft certifications again.  I kind of started that in WA, but the move interrupted it.  Keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.  I do see that certifications will help me leverage this position down here into another OCONUS (Outside CONtinental US) job when this contract is over.  Not sure what I want to do, but should be in a position to take advantage of whatever is available if I can.

A great discovery this week is that the Mexican restaurant on post has SWEET TEA!!!  And it's good!  A taste of home.  They also have good cheap food.  It's an alternative to the DFac.  There is a couple of Honduran restaurants on post as well, and a goal is to try one of them next week.  And so, my focus goes from looking back to looking forward again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not essentials, but close

At least for me, the following items make life much nicer.

1.  Coffee.  I live where coffee is grown, from what I'm told.  So far I have been drinking Maxwell House because that is what they have at the PX, and I haven't gotten groceries anyplace else.  I need coffee as close to when I get out of bed in the morning as possible.  Some mornings here I have had to wait until I'm on post and at the DFac before I've had coffee.  Technically, they have coffee here at the restaurant, but it usually isn't ready before I need to leave for work.  I now have a coffee maker in my room.  It's a cheap plastic one, and I can smell warm plastic while I'm pouring my coffee instead of just nice coffee aroma.  I think about how I'm not in the US where they have standards for things like that.  But, I drink my coffee gratefully.  Maxwell House, plastic smell and all.

2.  A Rag.  No, not that kind.  Just a plain wash rag, not white.  I spill things.  I wash out things (such as my coffee maker) and want to dry it.  It was amazing to me how often I wanted a piece of fabric to wipe over things when I didn't have one.  The hotel gives me one white bath towel.  I didn't want to use it to wipe up coffee spills, and I didn't want to use my bath towel to dry out my coffee cup.  Then I remembered I have my chamois with me - don't know if it's a sham-wow or whatever the cool brand is - and now I'm happy.  I use it and rinse it and use it again.  It's the little things...

3.  Transportation.  I have said I'm going car-less.  That is not technically correct.  I am choosing not to own a car here, and so far I haven't driven a car here.  Did I mention the drivers here are crazy?  However, I still need transportation.  I miss the freedom to just go out and jump into my Jeep and go to a store, or just drive around or go where every I want to safely.  The cabs a good for getting to and from work, and I need to stop using it as an excuse to not hit the gym after work because I can call them an hour later just as well.  I haven't gone shopping in town yet, and I will be mindful that I'll have to lug whatever I buy home in a cab.  I don't need much, but it's the idea.  Like cleanliness, it's doable here, I just have to actually think about it.  There are lots of bicyclists here.  I don't feel safe riding around here because I don't know the culture.  I am impressed with how the bicycles are transportation more than sport to the locals.  The horizontal structural bar is the passenger seat on the bikes here.  I see people who have kids sitting on that bar almost every day.  Today I saw a guy with a woman (girlfriend?  wife?) sitting on it while he dutifully pedaled along.  Looked like he was giving her a ride to work.  It also looked like a lot of work for him.  The people riding in the back of trucks is very common, usually as many as there is room for.  Having a means of transportation here seems to be unusual, and something to be shared with family and friends as necessary.

4.  Communication.  I have whined about this before.  It is tiring not being able to just talk to the vast majority of folks I come into contact with.  A large number of Hondurans here do speak English to some degree.  Probably more of them speak English than the number of Anglo's who speak Spanish in a US city.  I have learned there is a difference between talking and communicating.  I can sometimes communicate well with a person where I share no common language words and other times a person who knows words of English I can not communicate well with at all.  I have at times been kidded up at home about 'talking' with my hands.  Here that is a good thing.  It helps me actually communicate.  I am working on learning Spanish, and that is one reason I came down here.  In the meantime it is frustrating.

I'll probably find more to add to these lists as time goes on.  I know there are things I won't take for granted again once I get back home.

Welcome to Honduras

It's official now.  I spent Monday night mostly in the bathroom.  I'm officially in a 3rd world country.  It seemed to be the DFac food that made me ill, but who knows.  I'm blaming the chocolate milk.  They have all the drink you want at the DFac.  And they have this large stainless steel milk machine with the 3 handles, the middle one giving chocolate milk.  Seemed like a waste not to drink a couple of glasses of it most meals.  Thing is, I haven't drank milk for decades.  I'd switched to soy milk while in the US, mostly because it keeps on the shelf for months if not opened.  I can buy a case and have milk anytime I need it for cooking or making smoothies.  So, suddenly drinking cow's milk again didn't sit well.  Then yesterday I was a zombie from lack of sleep, so when I got home I just turned off the light and went to sleep.  Today I still feel a bit puny, but I think that is from lack of food.  I'm working on getting everything back to an even keel.

I came up with an additional list of things that may not be essential but that make life much easier.  I'll post that in the next few days.  For now I need to catch up with what's gone on in the last 48 hours in blog land.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More Essentials

9.  Internet Access:  Yes, while I'm so far away from home internet access is an essential.  It keeps me in touch with people important to me, and keeps me sane.  I would feel so isolated without it that it might well be more than even faith and a sense of humor could get me through.

10.  Family and Friends:  The real reason for the other 9. 

My Essentials

I mentioned earlier that I was mulling over a post on 10 essentials.  This mulling as prompted by a post I read at http://mnmlist.com/ recently on his 10  essentials.  He starts by saying his mulling was prompted by a list in GQ, and how he thought that the lists there were tributes to luxury consumerism.  You see, mnmlist.com is written by one of the best of the minimalist bloggers, and one of the first, Leo Babauta.  I wrote a post awhile ago blasting all the bloggers out there trying to make a buck by telling us all how to live on their blogs.  Well, this guy actually does it right, IMHO (in my humble opinion).  He unfortunately inspired a lot of insipid imitations.  But I digress.  His 10 items are nicely minimalistic, to the point that he only could think of 8.  He only needs 8 things to make him happy.  Bless His Heart.   (those of you in the South know just how I mean that...)  Generally I like his posts.  However, this one came across to me like fingers on a blackboard.  That he started out pointing a finger at others' lists was setting himself up for the same from me.  His might not have been a tribute to luxury consumerism, but it definitely was a list made while living in a first world country where he has the luxury of taking a LOT for granted.  So, here is my list.  I'll aim for around 10.  My point is to really stop and think about what you are saying and define your terms when making a list like this, especially if you are poking fun at someone else.

1.  Water:  This was one of the things that set me off, his comment how he 'drinks from the tap'.  Good.  I did, too, when I lived in the US.  Bottled water is a bane of trash and a sign of consumerism in a first world country.  I live in Honduras.  I am sternly admonished to only drink 'bottled' water.  This includes not getting ice in drinks at restaurants, something I still do.  I am working towards getting a setup with the refillable 5 gal bottle, but for right now I am using the small plastic bottles of water.  I hate that I'm doing this.  However, I am more afraid to actually drink the local water than I am of causing trash.  Right now I'm in the middle in that I'm hanging onto my bottles since I don't know where the trash here goes.  The fact that I also follow a blog called The Last Straw about someone going a year (living in the US) without using single use plastic doesn't help my conscious.  Clean water is not to be taken for granted.  Hot water is another issue altogether, that I'll cover later.

2.  Food:  He talks about nice fresh from the local stand food.  I wanted to get there when I lived in the US.  No packaging, etc.  Wonderful.  However, that part about being in Honduras again.  the X-Pats here talk about not just getting dysentery from the food but also parasites.  So far I have not been sick at all.  I have been eating almost exclusively at restaurants, first world chains if not at the DFac on post.  Yesterday I did eat some fried banannas from a street vendor that T bought while we were stopped at the road construction.  He didn't like them, so I tried them.  I figured I'd end up sick.  I haven't so far.  They were like salty banana chips I got in the US.  Not a lot of flavor, but ok as an experiment.  At some point I'll get up the courage to go grocery shopping, maybe, and perhaps even make it to an open market.  Funny, I don't remember being so conscious of flys back in the US as I am here.  So, I'll give up on saying that I want nice fresh local market food, and just ask for safe food that won't make me too sick or give me lingering parasites.

3.  Cleanliness:  I was just going to call this Soap, but there are many parts to this that I'll just lump into cleanliness.  Leo doesn't address this at all, which is why I say he is posting from a first world luxury viewpoint.  It's not something we have to think about much in the US.  Here, I wonder about the tap water I use to rinse my toothbrush with and rinse my mouth out with.  I didn't even think about those things until I'd done it a few days and then realized I haven't gotten sick from it.  My shower has hot water from a hot water knob.  That is unusual down here.  Most houses have what is referred to as Suicide Showers.  The water heater is on the end of the shower fixture.  Wired with Electricity.  From what I'm told, you can get a bit of a shock if it's not wired just right if you don't use some kind of shower shoes.  This is one of the non-trivial reasons I am staying here at the hotel.  Then there is laundry.  I haven't seen any laundromats.  Here at the hotel I take my laundry down to them and they deliver it back to me in a few hours, clean and folded, sort of.  It's not the way I fold them, and the things I tend to not dry in the dryer are put in with the rest.  So, I now sort out those things and do them by hand.  Not a huge deal, but I do miss my washer and dryer that was in my apartment back in WA.  The thing is, I have to actually think about keeping me and mine clean, and plan for it.

4.  Clothes:  In Leo's list, 2 of the items were his favorite clothes, a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.  I don't really mean to keep ragging in his list.  However, I do need appropriate clothes.  Not fancy, or even new.  But, my official work requirements are a collared shirt and jeans.  I had quit wearing polo's (collared shirt) in favor of nylon shells, short and mostly long sleeved.  It's warmish here, though not as warm as it will be in a few months.  I pulled out my polo's that I had packed away and not gotten rid of just because I hadn't worn them in a year.  Washington State was cool.  Here is not.  So, my wardrobe is changing.  So far, the packed away things are working just fine, and I'm packing away my heavier things for when I go back up to the US.  Is it worth keeping this stuff and shlepping it all around.  I don't know.  I just know that I'm glad I already had what I needed on hand and didn't have to go shopping in the middle of moving.

5.  Shelter:  Not even mentioned in Leo's list, again from a first world viewpoint it's taken for granted.  Here my requirements are safety first.  The environment is such that shelter from the outside isn't as necessary as up home, but once it gets hot I'm sure the air conditioners will also get a workout.

6:  Safety:  In a third world country there aren't many decisions I'm making on a daily basis that safety isn't a serious consideration.  From how to get to work, to when I go someplace, to what I wear or carry with me, when and where I shop and what I buy.  Safety is the first thing I think about.  That is why my IPhone got left in the US, why I don't wear even as much jewelry as I used to (which wasn't much), why I'm thinking about not carrying my day pack that I've carried for years.  It is why I'm going car-less.  The drivers here are nuts!  However, the only way to get anywhere is to drive just like them.  I leave it to the taxi drivers.

7. Sense of humor:  Without this I would be miserable.  I laughed when upon leaving the airport we ended up on a road that was under construction and all the traffic was just driving in the construction area, picking it's way along.  Major traffic, as this was a major road.  I laughed when I saw cars driving 3 abreast passing on a 2 lane highway on a hill and curve unable to see if there was any on-coming traffic.  I laugh as I bite into street vendor banana chips.  I laugh (weakly) at how I can't communicate.  I just laugh.

8:  Faith:  When my sense of humor gets strained, I reach for faith.  It takes faith to go out of my hotel room each day.  Faith not so much that I'll be protected.  Faith that I'll have the strength to face whatever happens.  And, so far I have.

Gee, I only came up with 8, too.  Sorry this is so long.  Just had to get it off my chest.

Yep, I'm not in Kansas anymore

It is settling in on me that I'm not back in the US anymore.  A chance comment from my Mom the other evening while talking on Skype that she might go to an estate auction the next day had me feeling a twinge of jealousy that she can come and go so freely.  Transportation is an issue for me since I have made the decision to go car-less here.  There is also the safety issue.  Back in Kansas City I AM a local, so no worries.  I went to Tegucigalpa with a couple of the guys (co-workers) yesterday.  It was a familiarization run, the person leaving showing the new guy how to get around the city.  I was in the back seat along for the ride.  It is 80 Km to Tegus, and the road is under construction.  This means long lines waiting at the flagmen who stop traffic every 10 miles or so.  Add in the police check points that I wouldn't have noticed if C. hadn't mentioned to T. to slow down in case they wanted to pull us over (they didn't..)  So, about 2 hours to get to Tegus.  Then the horrid traffic.  Narrow streets, a lane each direction, with the main city traffic all attempting to squeeze along.  The bridge on the main boulevard collapsed awhile ago, and it will be another several months before it is rebuilt.  So, detours though town that aren't marked, with large busses, small taxis and motorbikes, most traffic lights ignored so everyone just noses out and cuts and darts and it's a mess.  Forget any 'old world' charm, it's a pain to get to and from anywhere there.  We finally made it to the mall area, with a stop at the Intercontinental Hotel for a bathroom break.  They have nice ones, which is apparently unusual in Tegus.   The mall is a nice mall, on par with a mid-sized mall in the US.  It has the same stores.  Again, forget any old world charm.  It even has a Sears.  I did get 2 belts because the one I had with me broke.  I don't know when I've ever broken a leather belt.  I think it has something to do with gaining weight...

We had been drafted to go to Price Smart in that same area to get ribs and such for a cookout at work next week for all the folks leaving.  I said jokingly in an earlier blog post or comment or someplace, that 'there aren't any CostCo's here...'  but I was wrong.  Price Smart is literally CostCo.  the only difference was the number of people (wall to wall) and the fact that I couldn't understand a word anyone said.  C. speaks Spanish and so negotiated the details of the checkout lane.  Prices are pretty much the same as US, but it is disconcerting to see things cost 800-30,000 since it price is in lemps, which are 18 to the dollar.  They don't tend to use coins here, so 1 lemp is 1/18th of a dollar.

We did have lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant.  Again, with C to interpret to the waiter I got very good taco's, soft shelled with refried beans and guacamole and grated white cheese, just what I wanted.  The waiter was pretty sure I was nuts since this was a steak place and I wanted no meat.  I tipped well.  I will miss C when he leaves, which is soon.

I am still fine with being down here.  I am more at ease with it than I was even in Washington.  However, I can tell already that I won't feel any romantic pull of travel to another 3rd world country after this.  And I will enjoy my ability to just get into my Jeep and drive, anywhere any time.  I show 346 days left on the countdown counter.  I will make the most of them, but I do understand the happiness of those who are headed home soon.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm still here

Not real talkative.  I have some ideas for posts, one a reaction to a post I read this last weekend.  I have impressions of here to write about.  Mostly I'm settling in and the reality is beginning to dawn that I am in a really different place.  My attempts at Spanish are worse, mostly I don't even try.  It is amazing how much can be communicated about basic needs via gestures and common enough words to get by.  It is amazing how tiring it is to not be able to just talk to most of the people i deal with everyday.  I keep directing friends to my blog for updates rather than long personal emails.  I'm just plain tired of attempting to communicate lately.  Skype is great and the list of friends and family I skype with grows.  But even it is tiring, trying to find something new to talk about.  I need the connection, but at the same time it tires me.  I just don't have energy to put into long distance communication individually, even as I absolutely need the connections more than I ever have.

Maybe tomorrow I'll do the '10 things I need' post.  Some of the priorities in the list have shifted from my experience so far down here in Honduras.  Another feature down here I want to post that is unrelated to most other things I post about is the workers I see every day on the drive to and from work.  It is a straight, mostly flat 2 lane road.  There aren't shoulders like in the US.  The shoulders are for the laboring people to walk or ride bikes on.  Unpaved bike lanes, if you will.  On the Old Fool's blog http://www.oldfool.org/ he really has a thing about 'work bikes'.  Ok, he has a thing about bicycles in general.  But he enjoys posting pictures of real work bikes when he finds them.  It seems that bikes modified to actually haul things are unusual.  Down here the bicycles are pretty much all work bikes.  Not a lot (read, none) of spandex on the many bicycle riders each day.  The primary load I've seen is stacks of wood, sticks and such.  Not sure why wood is such an item since heating is not an issue here.  Maybe cook fires?  One morning I'll try to get a picture for him.  It would make his heart glad, I'm sure.  Today I even saw a donkey cart.  Not a fru-fru painted up cart but a real working wagon with a donkey hooked up to it with some kind of wooden saddle looking thing across his back.  I think I've seen that donkey tied up along side of the road on other days.  It isn't unusual to have livestock such as a horse or donkey or even a cow tied up to a light pole along the road.  Most seem very thin by US standards.  It is different down here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A day late...

Yesterday would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, something you know if you have heard news at all.  Tonight I'm reading blogs, and ended up on YouTube watching videos of John and my favorite of the Beatles, George Harrison.  I fell in love all over again with both of them.  Paul may have been the showman, but I think John was the heart while George was the soul and roots that grounded the group.  I'm young again while watching the videos.  So sad that we lost them so soon.  Any time would have been too soon.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can...

I'm trying to, John.  I'm just 20 years late.

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover...

George, sigh.  One of my favorite love songs.

Where did the time go?

Shadowmoss's Big Adventure

Ok, so it wasn't exactly a big adventure. I called Carlos the taxi driver to come get me Sunday afternoon. He was confused by where I wanted to go. Finally he asked what I needed. I showed him my camera, and he took me to the park. I told him to pick me up at that spot when I called him. My ride home assured, I stepped up and took the first picture:




You may need to click on it to see that it is an open area with a fountain in the middle with benches under the surrounding trees.



I then turned around and took the picture of the dominant feature in the square around the park. It is an old Cathedral (duh) from maybe the 1500's? A guide came up to me immediately as I was obviously a tourist with money. After my 'no hablo Espanol' he switched to good English. I didn't have but about 12 lemps (lempuras) on me, which is less than $1, so I wasn't in a position to pay to go up in the tower. Next time.



I walked to one corner and was trying to take a picture showing the difference between the newer-looking municipal building (the new paint is the reason it looks newer) and the older looking building next to it. Then I noticed the wiring. How would you like to work on those electric lines?





The rest are just my attempt to take 'artsy' photos. Ok, I'm working on it...



Most of the pictures are of the Cathedral since it was the most photogenic. Just inside the door of the church was this mosaic.



I took some closeups of the side panels since I like mosaics. It looks like pieces of stained glass were used. I wonder how they broke them to get the uniform size.



I'm working on spacing the picture around so they can be seen.



I sat on a bench under the trees for awhile. It was quite pleasant. They had music playing, recorded instrumental pop stuff that was what I grew up listening to. The quality of sound was really good, clear but not intrusive.


I didn't have money to buy any of the ice cream that was being sold by wandering vendors. Later I wondered if it would have made me sick. I haven't yet gotten sick from anything here, and last night I drank ice from the restaurant.



A family came by with 3 kids. The father and kids joined me on the bench. I felt my lack of Spanish as I couldn't even be friendly other than kind of smile.



I did feel conspicuous as pretty much the only female who was there alone. One guy seemed to be sort of following me, which is why I suddenly decided to check out the interior of the church.



I wanted to take pictures of the people, but that seemed disrespectful. Also, there was a guy there with stuffed donkeys on rockers with sombreros who seemed to be taking pictures for money. I didn't want to intrude on his business.



I also would have liked to have had a better camera to take shots of the buildings. However, I don't like being as conspicious as I already am. With a larger camera I would really stick out as a female tourist who was alone. Next time I'll have a map and go walking a bit more around the town. Maybe...



Carlos picked me up when I called him, and in the process of taking another passenger home ended up showing me more of the town. I next door to Pollo Campero and got a meal when I got back to the motel. It was good. No one there spoke English, but we managed to communicate with gestures to the menu and such what I wanted. The cash register takes dollars, and I was given my change in lemps, so I now have about $15 worth if I decide to venture out today. The 2 pieces of chicken, roll, fries and medium size Coke were $5.25 in dollars.

This is going to be a slow process. I am ok with that. I hope you are, too.
Apologies to DD for lifting some of his content from his blog http://dizzydick.blogspot.com/ but his video was just too cute. Most posting about my excursion after I get some breakfast...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Special Day? 10-10-10

So far 10/10/10 has been fairly normal, for here.  I'll wander out (my mis-spelling yesterday morning of wonder for wander may have been a Freudian slip) later and perhaps change my mind.  It may be when I finally stop the 'waiting' and start the 'living'.  Who knows.  I've been reading blogs while drinking my first cups of coffee.  So far I've threatened Ben down in Texas with a swarm of blond female programmers who will program him inside out for his blond joke in his morning blog.  Not sure that sounded like a bad thing, though.  I've read a few that are talking about fall chores and self sufficiency.  I used to attempt the path of self-sufficiency.  That is why I still have a house on 3 ac. back in Nashville.  I wanted to garden, have chickens and goats and make my own soap and shut out the world.  I didn't get far because of money issues, and lack of confidence (the real reason...).  I still read those type of blogs, and live vicariously.  I looked around my hotel room, and realized the reality of not having any season related chores.  Partly because down here in Honduras, there isn't any real change in seasons.  Mostly because I don't have a house and land.  I eat literally all my meals out since at this point I don't even have a microwave.  At some point I became more interested in hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail) than in self-sufficiency.  It really is the same idea, but coming from a different angle.  To live for 6 months with what I carry on my back,  buying food to resupply as I go.  Instead of stockpiling everything, I just use less.  That has resonated more with me as time has gone on.  Just need less.  I have been attracted to the idea of minimalism as the natural progression from backpacking.  Get to where all I actually own will fit in a studio apartment or, even better, an RV.  This has been the difficult part for me.  I have so much stuff.  And, that is relative.  I got rid of somewhere close to half my stuff when I moved to Washington State 2 years ago.  I put half of what was left into storage in Nashville, and loaded what was left into a large truck, put my Jeep on a trailer behind and drove it out to my new home.  When I got this job in Honduras there didn't seem to be any way to afford to send my stuff back to Nashville, since it wasn't considered part of my 'relocation', so I am having it shipped down here.  357 cubic feet of stuff.  That represents some minor (relatively) pruning during the time I was in WA.  At the moment I'm living out of my suitcases in a hotel.  I have so much stuff just in 3 suitcases and a backpack that I can't keep track of it all.  Last night I 'lost' my stash of money and credit cards.  I honestly couldn't remember where I put them.  I started unpacking everything, knowing that it all had to still be in my room since I hadn't left the room.  I did find it.  I also became somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of clothing and other things I brought with me.  In the process of talking to Mom on Skype I knocked over a cup of coffee to the floor.  I have no paper towels here, and the only towel they give me is one bath towel, which is white.  I used toilet paper to clean up the spill.  This morning I remembered that I have a chamois with me, brought as part of the 'camping' things that I thought I might need.  It hadn't occurred to me to use it the week I've been here.  It would have been good to use when I hand washed some things, to get the water out more before hanging them to dry.  I have so much stuff I don't know what I have.  And, it's just 2 suitcases, a carry on, and a day pack.  sigh.

So, this is the thought process I start when I read of yard chores (with the associated rakes and hoes and tillers) and cleaning out of garages (sports equipment, yard furniture, etc) and such.  I look around my disheveled hotel room and think 'I don't want the responsibility anymore'.    I'm not sure any of this makes any sense.  It's just where I'm at this morning.  I'm thinking I need some breakfast.  So, I have to put shoes on and walk downstairs.  Am I cheating?  I'm not growing my food, not even buying it at the store.  Did I cheat by leaving the country until the economy gets better and I can afford to come back?  I don't know anymore.  In fact, at this point, I don't know much of anything it seems.