Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Today is My Last Day in Olanchito

The last two years have been an unimaginable experience. It is impossible to know ahead of time how a place will change you while at the same time reveal to you the most enduring, stubborn parts of yourself.

Before she left Olanchito on Tuesday, my German apartment-mate of the past three months, Fabiana, helped me make a list of the things that we have learned, and haven’t learned, during our time here in Honduras.

Learned To:
• Wait
• Make tortillas (Fabiana)
• Eat greasy, salty food daily and not worry about it
• Do nothing, and not feel guilty
• Still think logically while working outside in 100-degree heat
• Take 2-3 cold showers a day as the only way to cool down
• Only take cold showers, no matter what the weather
• Sleep soundly despite crowing roosters, barking dogs, screaming neighbors and loud music at all hours of the night
• Scratch mosquito/tick/scabies/sandfly bites until they bleed
• Handwash a week’s worth of laundry in under an hour
• Value the multifunctionality of a good pair of plastic flip-flops
• Survive for weeks without chocolate
• Navigate Olanchito by bicycle and navigate the country by public bus
• Spend time at friends’ houses as the major form of entertainment
• Look forward to a siesta after lunch
• Appreciate a plastic rosary as a valid fashion accessory
• Need to slick my hair back flat against my head in order to feel presentable before going out
• Constantly regañar (speak in a tone of mock horror and disapproval about the actions of) friends to show affection
• Play Honduran card games
• Speak Honduran slang
• Not be bothered by PDA in clubs and VPL everywhere
• Dance (and sing along) to reggaeton
• Party like a Latina! (stay out until dawn and still have energy to do it again for the rest of the week)
• Start the day at 5am (not after the party nights)
• Resign myself to untimely and unexplained power, water, Internet, and cell phone network outages
• Wear skirts and tight clothes and like it
• Assert myself as a professional woman in a machista culture
• Be a jealous girlfriend
• Accept mens’ chivalry
• Not need material gifts as expressions of friendship

Never Learned To:
• Ride double on a single-seated bike
• Make tortillas (Suzanne)
• Like Honduran beer
• Not feel embarrassed about eating carne asada with the etiquette of a dog
• Not be annoyed by the daily running commentary made by men on the street about the passing women (i.e. me)
• Do the Honduran campo yell that carries for a kilometer
• Participate in the multiple-times-daily campo coffee-drinking ritual
• Stick my face directly in a stream to take a drink of water without using my hands
• Fix a car, or do anything else useful, with a machete
• Date a Honduran man

The “learned to” list is longer than the “never learned to” one, so I would have to say I’m satisfied. Even if most of my newfound skills have dubious applicability back home, at least I will look back one day and remember that once I was Honduran.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

...When You´re Having Fun

Tonight I was in the mood to have friends over for dinner. Last week I was busy helping Alfalit host a successful visit from a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. All weekend I was in Ceiba for Carnaval. And last night I spent quality time with Sandrita since she’s home from university on a short vacation. After all that running around, tonight would have been the perfect night to catch up with my four fellow single 20-something volunteer girlfriends here in Olanchito. A night when I would make my specialty, Italian food (well, um, spaghetti and garlic bread), and we would drink a bottle of bad wine (the only kind of wine you can buy in Olanchito) and revel in single-20-something-volunteer-girlness. A “rotic” night, as Christy likes to call them: romantic without the man.

But Christy is sick with the stomach flu. Leah teaches dance classes Tuesday nights. My new German apartment-mate Fabiana is in Belize for the week. And my French friend Elisabeth is in Tegus figuring out her visa. That’s what happens when all your friends are foreigners – they’re usually either sick or traveling.

No matter. I bought a baguette (French culinary tradition has indeed infiltrated this far, even before Elisabeth or former French volunteer Stephanie arrived). I made the spaghetti, er, pasta primavera. I did not buy the wine, since Christy is really the big bad-wine drinker. I’m more the bad-whiskey drinker. But no whiskey tonight, I just made the food and pulled my plastic chair out on my porch to get out of the apartment’s heat and enjoy the twilight. In the blue-greying sky, no clouds moved. Strangely for this time of day, none of my neighbors nor their kids were around. My landlord’s air-conditioner hummed dully. I savored the garlic in the pasta sauce that I had made particularly well. Compliments to the chef, Leah would have told me. In the distance I watched a warning light pulsate redly at the top of a cell phone tower. I heard water dripping out of the spigot of my pila.

There’s nothing like listening to dripping water to make you realize how slowly time is passing.

Officially, my last day as a volunteer is August 12th. I will do a little bit of traveling in the country before I fly back to the States on September 1st.

Will those dates ever come?

Will I ever have time to listen to dripping water once I leave Honduras?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


It takes a bit of effort to get to and to work in the campo. By bus or by truck, on foot or on horseback, the medium of transport may differ, but the method is always the same: Leave Olanchito early in the morning. Spend hours bumping across the mountains over a lot of dirt and rocks (optimistically called a road), through streams and past numerous villages before arriving at the village you’re looking for. Wait around for the person who was supposed to be waiting there for you. Have coffee in a few people’s houses while waiting. Eventually meet up with whomever you were supposed to meet with and discuss work for half the time that it took you to travel there. Then do it all in reverse and don’t expect to get back to the city before dark. My six coworkers at Alfalit, who are dedicated to various types of rural development projects in 30 different aldeas (small towns or villages) surrounding Olanchito, live this routine six days a week, including Saturdays. I generally only do it once every week or two, mainly because I am not allowed to ride on the motorcycles (per PC restrictions) that my coworkers usually use to reach the aldeas and so I have to wait until I can reserve Alfalit’s only truck for my work. It usually works out alright, as I need office time to work on the technical aspects of my water projects anyway. But I admit that the most interesting part of my work here are the visits to the campo. And yesterday’s visit to La Gloria to evaluate a potential water source for a new potable water system was certainly one of my most interesting campo visits.

I left Olanchito at 7 am with Wilfredo and Marcio, two Alfalit agronomists, in the Alfalit pickup truck. We drove for an hour along the northern border of the Aguán valley, past the aldeas of El Chaparral, Nuevo Mendez and Juncal until we arrived at El Coyolar, where the dirt road ends in the town’s soccer field. Saddled horses were waiting for us to continue the journey, but first we had to stop in on the town president and accept breakfast served by his wife. We each downed a few corn tortillas, two spoonfuls of heavy refried beans and a small piece of some type of deep-fried meat with coffee (actually, I declined the latter two) before heading out on horseback. As the smallest member of the party that included two men from El Coyolar to accompany us, I was inevitably assigned the shortest, boniest horse with a swayed neck and burrs and ticks matting its deranged mane. But I mounted gamely and we headed up the mountain in two groups. Marcio and I left on horseback led by Don Felix, the community secretary, while Wilfredo and Juan Angel from El Coyolar took a footpath. Wilfredo is in his mid-40’s and has a potbelly, but nonetheless is tall and strong and walks fast enough to be taken seriously when he says he is more efficient on foot than on horseback, so he and Juan Angel started up the shorter, steeper route that criss-crossed our path every so often. We rode up and up and up, through cornfields cut into the inclined mountainside and equally steep lush pastures where our horses stole bites of grass between steps. We rode down and down and down, crossing clear mountain creeks full up to our horses’ shoulders and passing through the backyards of the houses of the community of El Porvenir, which is also to share the new water system with El Coyolar and La Gloria. We rode up and up again, our horses competently scrambling over slippery rocks in the forested creek beds and arduously picking their way along snaking paths serpentining up the green but deforested mountainsides dotted with crops and cows. After nearly two hours, our horses heaved themselves up to the outskirts of La Gloria, where we tied them in the shade, and took the second cup of coffee of the day at a house with children and dogs running in so many directions so that I couldn’t keep track to count them all. As they drank their coffee, Wilfredo and Marcio and the men with us from El Coyolar joked around with the owner of the house, who for some reason wasn’t working that day. I joined in when I understood their rapid slang, but mostly I entertained the kids by taking their photos with my digital camera.

After almost an hour, we remounted and continued in our two groups until we reached the rest of La Gloria, an even more arduous half hour later. There we tied our horses in a group of trees near houses set so steeply into the mountain that they were nearly on top of each other. We were invited into the house of the president of La Gloria, where his wife served us juice and I tried not to think about where the water to make it had come from. Most mountain communities near Olanchito are lucky to have high quality creeks and streams that people can take advantage of even without a water system per se, but the way in which the water is handled once it is collected and carried to their houses always poses a risk for my inadaptable cranky gringo stomach. In any case, it is rude not to accept food or drink when it is offered, and I was incredibly thirsty from riding mostly in direct sunlight for almost 3 hours, so the juice tasted wonderful.

With the arrival of a second resident of La Gloria, we left the horses and walked en masse for another hour uphill to the water source. At just about noon we arrived at a 30-foot waterfall cascading into a small clear pool that emptied into a rocky creek bed. This was the proposed water source for the tri-community water system. I was impressed. I was feeling a little woozy from the heat and exertion, and at that moment I was grateful for the forgetfulness of my companions that forced us sit at the waterfall for an hour, waiting for someone to bring us the bucket that we had forgotten to take up with us to measure the creek’s flow. In the meantime we did some simple water quality tests using a field kit given to me by the PC, took an altitude measurement with Alfalit’s handheld barometer/GPS combo, discussed property rights in the watershed and brainstormed ideas about how to include the five houses that are part of La Gloria but are on the opposite side of the mountain. Given their almost total lack of formal education (one in four Hondurans is illiterate), I am always impressed that the people in these communities generally have good ideas about how to design their future water systems. But then again, they have lived in the mountains their entire lives, and as children have carried water with their mothers from the local creeks to their houses, so their topographic and hydrographic knowledge is much completer than mine could be after only a day’s or even a week’s visit.

We enjoyed sitting in the light mist of the waterfall for an hour until we finished our measurements, and then we headed back down to La Gloria. I was still feeling a little dizzy (by this time I was thinking that I was dehydrated or suffering from lack of food) and had to walk slowly so as to not make a misstep off the narrow the mountain path. But no one was in a hurry, and in fact our four campesino companions were having such a good time talking to Wilfredo and Marcio that I was the first one to arrive back in the community. While I waited for the others to arrive, I introduced myself to the women in the president’s house and watched two 15-year-old girls trade off pounding rice with a big mortar and pestle to remove its shell. When the whole group had come together again in the house, we were each offered an enormous plate of boiled green bananas, oily rice and boiled chicken in a tasty orange-colored sauce that probably included Coca Cola as an ingredient (as many tasty orange sauces here do). Given my nausea I couldn’t eat very much of it, and I had to apologize to the president’s wife so she wouldn’t think I didn’t like her cooking, but I was consoled to see the leftovers fed to four skinny dogs and a kitten that had been painfully kicked out of the kitchen numerous times by the president’s 8-year-old son while we had been eating.

Tired, still dizzy, and with my mind set on home, sometime after 3 pm we remounted for the trip back to Olanchito. Off we rode, down the mountain to do the whole trip in reverse, but this time with heavy rain clouds settling into the narrow valleys around us. The first big raindrops hit just as we reached the house on the outskirts of La Gloria where we had stopped for our morning coffee, so we tied up the horses once again and took cover under the porch to wait out the storm. The rain came quickly, and I considered that its pounding on the aluminum roof drowned out the possibility of conversation between the six of us travelers and the ten women and children that had also taken temporary refuge with the same neighbor. But Hondurans love to talk and talk loudly, and Wilfredo and the other men kept up a steady stream of jokes and stories for an hour and a half as the rain poured off the roof in thick streams and turned the bare front yard into a huge mud pit, attracting all of the nearby pigs who splashed and rooted about gleefully. Wet dog after wet dog came in from the storm, snuck onto the porch and curled into a tight ball to sleep, until I counted as many dogs as people in our growing crowd. I tried to appreciate the humor in all of it but was quickly getting exhausted and found it hard to initiate or participate in friendly conversation. So I sat on a pile of firewood by myself until I was invited into the kitchen, where five more women and children were sitting around doing just as much nothing as those on the porch. I swung a boy in a hammock and made a meager attempt at being friendly with the women, but I was relieved when Wilfredo came in from the porch and told me that we had better leave even though the rain hadn’t stopped, or we wouldn’t make it back to Olanchito that night.

At just before 5 pm we untied the horses and started herding them down the mountain in front of us in a light rain. It was now too slippery to ride so we all walked, rapidly becoming completely soaked. The horses were tired and hungry, and became more adamant about stealing bites of grass when we weren’t slapping their hindquarters and vocally urging them on. We all slid down the muddy trail together, and I was becoming more and more focused on my apartment in Olanchito and how much I was going to enjoy taking a shower when I got home…but first we had to stop at someone’s house in El Porvenir to hand out friendly collection notices to farmers who had accepted loans for fertilizer from the federal government. Of course we couldn’t just hand out the notices and leave; custom requires that any conversation for business or pleasure must be accompanied by a cup of coffee. So out came the coffee pot again, and the little bags of instant coffee (have no illusions that Honduran coffee is either homemade or good, and I quote my coffee connoisseur friends), and what seemed like another hour passed while I pouted on the front steps as everyone else drank coffee inside. I was now completely fed up with being stared at by children and ignored by men, utterly drained from walking and riding all day and now in the rain, and from trying to be alert in my second language for nearly 12 hours straight. I cursed Hondurans for feeling so comfortable in other people’s houses when all I wanted was to return to my own. I cursed them for being so human as to want to intersperse work with rest throughout the course of a long day. I cursed my North American mindset that doesn’t allow me to change gears every other hour and doesn’t let me rest from work until I have completed it.

When the coffee was drunk we headed off again, this time riding because the terrain wasn’t so steep. But now that my clothes were completely soaked, the saddle sores that had been developing on my inner thighs quickly rubbed raw and I had one more thing to curse: the poorly-made Honduran saddles that are just a few pieces of leather on the horse side, tied with string or rope to a few pieces of plastic on the human side, with lots of uncovered knots. But still, we had another hour of riding to go, so I tried not to sit too woodenly and allow the horse to do its job while not moving my legs too much. We rode up and down the mountain from El Porvenir to El Coyolar, crossing the same full creeks that were now much fuller with rain. I stretched my legs in front of me alongside my horse’s neck as we crossed, but my boots filled with water anyway. I had to giggle out loud at the ridiculousness and intensity of it all, and on the horse in front of me Don Felix turned and smiled back at me.

We arrived in El Coyolar at just about dark, and once again we had to sit in the president’s house and drink coffee, this time with a side dish of boiled yuca, both of which I once more rudely turned down because I don’t like either and was too tired to pretend that I did. I waited as patiently as possible on the porch, my wet clothes chilling me more with every minute, while Marcio and Wilfredo ate inside. All of the neighbors stared at me from their porches, and many sidled over to find out who the three of us were and why we were visiting the community. I was too tired to be polite and ignored or stared down anyone who looked as if they wanted to make conversation, not-so-subtley encouraging them to gossip amongst themselves about us rather than bothering me with the same questions I had been answering all day. I know by now that getting work done in this country is as much about human relationships as it is about technical competence, but I still don’t have the stamina for the politics and don’t try to. I leave that to my Alfalit co-workers, who are experts at it from a lifetime of coffee breaks.

After another half hour we waded through the crowd gathered at the door and said the appropriate goodbyes, thanked the president’s wife for her generous hospitality and got back in the pickup to drive back to Olanchito. The president squeezed into the truck with us to get a ride into town, and I was suddenly grateful it had rained so hard because he didn’t smell like sobaco, the slang word for the armpits-feet-butt smell that unwashed hitchhiking campesinos often overwhelm a truck cabin with. He had probably just taken his first shower in days under his gutter during the storm. During the entire hour-long ride back to Olanchito I desperately wanted to sleep, but couldn’t for being so cold and wet and for all the jolting along the dirt road. For that I had to wait until I got back to my apartment, where I peeled off my clothes, finally took that shower I had been thinking about since noon and dropped into bed.

In Spanish, the word “la gloria” is one way of expressing the concept of heaven and the rewards that await the deserving of us when we pass on. For inquiring minds that want to know, la gloria is only one hour by car, two hours on horseback and one hour on foot up a mountain on the north coast of Honduras. If you can stand all the coffee breaks, you might just get there someday.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Origin of Species

It is so easy here to feel like I have been plunked down on some strange planet inhabited by another species, albeit human-like. This species here looks the same as the species I grew up with, but confusingly interacts completely differently, lives under a very different set of values and and depends on a completely different type of support network to get by. But as different as they may be, they have accepted me and called me their own. Their adoption of me as been so complete that I have come to think that maybe, after all, I am really originally one of them, but was maliciously kidnapped and left by a spaceship on the planet with the other strange species where I had previously thought I was born.

I have developed a whole new set of desires and needs here, like wanting to get married and have kids right NOW and to live in the same place for the rest of my life so I can enjoy a stable community and never travel anywhere ever again so that I stop getting sick and homesick. I feel completely inadequate sometimes for not having any family here and not even being able to enjoy being linked with the extended family of a husband, not having a house to call my own and not having a big enough butt. I have forgotten the so-called benefits of my decades of education and travels and network of friends all over the continent. All I want is to be just like everyone else here, settled down with a family and a local job and a hired trabajadora to hand wash my laundry and cook lunch for me and my husband and kids every day.

I am scared to be returning so soon to the place where all of my new (or repressed and only recently valued as they should be?) needs are going to be misunderstood, ignored or impossible to satisfy. Where according to my new criteria, the boyfriend who has loved me so well for so long, and whom I am still going home to because at one point he embodied my most important values, is suddenly substandard because he has no family nearby to share with me, wants to live in a few more foreign countries before settling down, and doesn´t want kids. Where I will step off the plane and immediately upon arrival feel my life return to an uncontrollable fast-forward that will never again be possible to enjoy.

A thousand thoughts go through my mind every day about how things might be when I get back to the States. Many are bad, like the intimidation of jumping back into the job search after being out of the professional circle for 2 years, and having to start all over again no matter where I choose to set myself down. But I also think about visiting with friends that go far far back, like many of you reading this, and about possibly traveling to New Zealand with the friends I met there 10 years ago to celebrate our 30th birthdays. I think about basking in a mild sun that doesn´t bake me to the bone every time I step outside. I think about moving back out west and being able to hike every weekend. I think about going to yoga classes and swimming in a pool again. I think about how much more normal I will be as a 30-year-old never-married single woman with no home and no children, and how being that average again might allow me to relax back into the values that served me well in an earlier stage of my life. I think about how easy it will be to find healthy, clean food in the grocery store. I worry about how easy it might be to forget my farmer friends here who work 14-hour days to get that food from their farms to the market for export.

And I also wonder: how soon will I be able to return to my new homeland, Honduras?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Small World

Easter week means vacation in Honduras: buy your bus tickets in advance (this is one of the only weeks in which Hondurans plan ahead); starve your sweet tooth in preparation for being bombarded with every fruit imaginable bathed in a taste-erasing boiled sugarcane syrup. This is the hottest time of year and the closest you’ll get to summer vacation in Honduras, so squiggle into your bikini and head to the beach, or just go to the nearest creek with the rest of your neighbors and jump in fully clothed. At some point you’ll probably get forced into attending one of the week’s daily and nightly vigils honoring the religious celebration that gives the week its name, Semana Santa, but soon enough you’ll be back to the front yard, the bar, the bottle, laughing and lounging and dancing with family members in from out of town and old high school buddies home from college.

Beach excluded, this is pretty much how Hondurans celebrate every holiday, so I decided I wouldn’t miss sitting through it again in Olanchito and I skipped town. First I went with my new site mate, Christy, to Comayagua, a colonial city close to the capitol that is known for its extravagant Good Friday procession. We met up with four other volunteers there, Robin, Gabe, John and wife Deb, and camped out in several very nice rooms in the Hotel America, complete with a great view of the entire city from our fourth floor suite. We got exactly what we bargained for when we woke up early Friday morning to see the main streets covered with painstakingly designed colored-sawdust “carpets,” made solely to be trampled shortly thereafter by a sweaty crowd heaving an immense Jesus-on-the-cross. I particularly liked a carpet that was made not of the traditional fluorescent-hued sawdust but rather of natural materials including unroasted coffee beans, pine cones, flowers and (what else) beans and rice. It turns out that Good Friday carpet-making is neither Honduran nor Catholic, but instead is an indigenous Mexican tradition that became popular in Comayagua as recently as the 1950’s (perhaps a Guns, Germs and Steel explanation of delayed cultural dissemination along a north-south continental axis can be applied here). I saw basically the same thing in El Salvador during Semana Santa last year, so it wasn’t as exciting as the first time, but it was still nice to be a part of a celebration and to spend time with other volunteers.

I left Comayagua to spend the rest of the weekend with Robin (coincidentally BMC ’01) in La Esperanza, a town a few hours away that sits at the highest elevation of any major city in Honduras. In two days Robin and I packed in a long walk with PCV Cristal and another gringa teacher friend Susan (who has been in Honduras since 1995), lots of Sex and the City reruns, a movie, and a trip to Robin’s site, Yamalamadingdong (or something similar that I never can remember), where I met her host family and we made mud pies with her two little brothers. We also witnessed the inevitable wind-down of Semana Santa at the market on Easter afternoon, where one drunk vegetable vendor lazily threw his rotten strawberries at another more-drunk vendor passed out on his own vegetable wagon across the street, and where yet another drunk had collapsed in a doorway with his perkily painted ice-cream cart nearly on top of him. Jesus Saves.

Next stop: La Ceiba. By Monday afternoon I had made it back to the north coast via always-sweltering San Pedro Sula, and I dedicated the next two days to the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, the only place that I have found in this country where I can do what I spent 7 years at university and earned two degrees training for: hydrology. It is nothing short of a relief to walk into their office and be recognized as the scientist I am. I also dropped by the majority of the American expatriate establishments I frequent, stopped in on Max and Lynnette, and took advantage of Cuero y Salado president Pepe’s inexhaustible hospitality by staying for the umpteenth time in the guest bedroom at his house in the hills above La Ceiba. I finally decided to head home yesterday afternoon, and luckily caught a ride with Luis, the head of Alfalit (the NGO I work with), back to Olanchito.

Living in Honduras has a way of making the world feel small. In a single week I squinted the blowing dust out of my eyes in blustery Comayagua, curled up on the couch watching movies to escape a chilly night rain in La Esperanza, and spread-eagled with Max and Lynnette in their inflatable pool to beat the relentless heat of La Ceiba. I found other volunteers everywhere I went, and even when alone I managed to run into friends, like my second night in La Ceiba when I walked into an empty gringo bar and the only other person there turned out to be a Honduran acquaintance from Olanchito.

However, I still know that spending time with other volunteers, when traveling doesn’t make me too sick to seek them out, is the only way I can completely relax here. This automatic comfort I feel in the company of other Americans makes me feel like a traitor to the Honduran people who do so much to make me feel welcome in their homeland. From them, I have learned when to gossip and when to converse impersonally. I have learned to talk for much longer periods of time about much more mundane things than I ever did in the States, and in the process have gotten to know Honduras and Hondurans much more intimately than I know some of my own family members. I have been the beneficiary of uncountable lunches and dinners, three birthday parties and an infinity of small gifts. And so I feel ungracious to want to go home as badly as I do now. To feel so tired of getting sick, of being stared at on the street, of my work being entertainment at best but more often counting mostly as charity that only reinforces the existing laziness and corruption. To be so tired of being foreign.

Honduras is small, but I am wishing that the world were even smaller. Then I could be a little closer to home. My Honduran friends could know that home and understand me better. And I could get a little comfort injection now and then to relax me and give me the patience to continue to love Honduras.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Don´t Try This at Home

Just for entertainment, as I was sitting around bored today I decided to list all of the illnesses I can remember having here. For added interest, I have also included in the table below how and where I got each one. Keep in mind that aldeas are small rural villages, usually without electricity or water treatment systems; Olanchito, Choluteca, San Marcos de Colón and Siguatepeque are typical Honduran towns of 40,000 – 100,00 people; La Ceiba is a much wealthier, very Americanized city of 100,000; and Tegucigalpa is the cosmopolitan capital city of 2 million people. Diseases are not necessarily in the order in which I contracted them. (scroll below for table, there´s a bug in the HTML code, sorry!)

IllnessHow contractedWhere
Giardia and roundworms Bus food On the bus between Choluteca and San Marcos de Colón
Allergic reaction that swelled up my entire face and neck and also made me red and itchy Didn’t listen to my friend Dave when he told me not to cut open a raw cashew from a tree we were sitting under. I later found out from my bio-dork friend Joshua that cashews are in the same family as poison ivy.Choluteca
Stomach amoebasCold foodWater system inauguration in an aldea outside Olanchito
Nice seafood restaurant in La Ceiba
Unhygenically prepared raw vegetablesMy favorite taco restaurant in Olanchito
My favorite lunch place in Olanchito
Unhygenically handled browniesThe French bakery in La Ceiba
Stomach amoebas and a viral stomach infection
Unhygenically prepared raw vegetables An aldea near Tegucigalpa where I made a salad with fresh lettuce picked from a friend’s farm and I didn’t chlorinate the water I washed it in enough. My (Honduran) friend didn’t get sick.
Some combination of amoebas, giardia, roundworms and viruses (at least another 2 times aside from those listed above)As of yet undiscovered sources Olanchito
Eye infectionSat in an extremely smoky bar for 5 hours straightOlanchito
Cleaned my contact lenses with dirty waterAldea outside of Tegucigalpa
Female unmentionables (at least 6 times, no STD’s)Antibiotics Inevitable result of the medication I take to treat every bacterial infection I have had
Depression (on and off)Lack of exercise, lack of work, too much work, boyfriends, excessive attention from strange men, excessive solitudeOlanchito
Strep throat (at least 3 times)Lack of sleep, stress, travel, alcohol Olanchito
Cold/flu (at least 3 times)Lack of sleep, stress, travel, alcohol Olanchito, Tegucigalpa, everywhere in between
Cold sores (uncountable number of times)Lack of sleep, stress, travel, alcohol everywhere
Athlete’s foot (3 times)The damp climate Olanchito
Mosquito bites Sat outside for hours in sandals with uncovered ankles A friend’s country house outside Siguatepeque
Tick bites Bushwhacked through the forest along uncleared paths Aldea outside of Tegucigalpa
Scabies Slept in someone else’s (not well-kempt) bed Aldea outside of Olanchito

If you have counted carefully you will at this point question if I have really been sick at least 29 times (that I can remember), which would require me to have been sick more than once a month for my entire two years, and perhaps to have suffered frequently from two or more ailments at once given that each one lasts about a week. The answer to that question is yes. But although I have caught a lot of the classic tropical diseases, at least I can be grateful for not having experienced the worst of them (knock on wood, I still have 4 months left!).