Our March 17-23, 2014 Journal
We're off to a great start. Everyone arrived at Bethesda on-time, we distributed the donated items into each of our bags and Renee took the team photo. Traffic heading to Miami wasn't bad for a Monday so we made it to the airport by 1030am. We happily took advantage of the curb-side check-in and Mike took care of our extra baggage charges. Tom met up with the group by 1130 and we breezed through security. We had enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and then SURPRISE, our gate changed. Luckily it was only 5 gates away. Jessica had a chance meeting one of her aunts who works in the airport. We made it into our seats and we were in the air only about 15 minutes late.
Ross met a couple who are volunteers and work with INFA the Honduran child services agency. Rick bent their ear for about 30 minutes on the flight and he hopes they have a chance to visit OLR to see how well the organization operates.
As we saw Honduras appear under the plane we filled out the custom forms and before we knew it we were gathering our bags and clearing customs without any delays. Belkis was waiting for us in the airport and Danilo had the van at the curb as soon as we stepped outside, like clockwork.
We arrived at OLR while many of the girls were still in school. We took our time getting our bags into the apartment, assigned rooms and started to unpack a bit. Mayra gave us an introduction to the home and the we took a brief tour which ended at the girls building were everyone became acquainted and we played until it was dinner time. Almost everyone played a version of kick-ball which the girls won hands down. By 6pm local time (2 hr behind Eastern Time) we sat down to a delicious meal. Tom started us with a prayer giving thanks for our safe arrival and then everyone devoured the food Mariam prepared for us (rice, fish, veggies and bread).
After dinner we returned to the apartment for some planning and then we went down to the concha (playground) for activities with the girls.
We played basketball, listened to music, played with an iPad DJ app, a cardgame of WAR and JINGA. By 9PM it was time for the girls to return to their building and it's safe to say we were exhausted. We organized our luggage, got the supply boxes from storage and turned in for the night by 1030PM. Everyone has plans to rise by 615am so we can get downstairs in time to see the girls off to school. It was a busy day and we are totally immersed in what we were all called to do on this mission trip.
Just a little before sunrise Rick rose out of bed he made coffee and opened the door to let in sounds from the roosters crowing outside. Jessica found a quiet place to do yoga and everyone prepared for our first full day in the home. It was pleasantly overcast and about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday. By 630 the girls were in their uniforms and ready to leave for school. The van was full BEYOND capacity so no one from our group to join the ride to school with the girls. The front gate was busy as all the children arrived to attend school onsite at the Holy Family Bilingual School where we will assist in the classrooms tomorrow.
Everyone was dressed and downstairs by 8AM to enjoy breakfast prepared by Mariam as we discussed our plans and gave thanks for the blessings we have already received from the girls and everyone back at home. By 9AM Danilo was waiting as we boarded the van for a tour and a trip to the market.
We first visited the clinic, the volunteer home, the priests house and then Danilo took us along the river which boarders the slums where over 10,000 people live. Tia Belki's explained how the people struggle to survive in the slums and how many of the girls from the home were born there under extreme conditions of abject poverty an abuse. We could see firsthand children washing clothes pounding them on the rocks in the river where others were dipping buckets to carry back to their homes.
We continued for miles and the scene slowly changed from the slums to the modern city where new building were being constructed. We passed over a bridge then passed the university where several of the girls from the home are attending classes. The size and construction of the houses indicated we were in the affluent part of town which was a stark contrast to what we had just witnessed. We then made our way towards the market. We first went into the artists shop which is full of handmade items, from carvings, woven bags, pottery, tin and beaded works. Classico Spanish music was being played in the shop which Tia Belki's new by heart and quietly sang along with as she remembered her father used to play the same music in her house when she was growing up. We next went to the cigar shop nextdoor and then crossed the street to the large craft market, Guamalito. The market has about 8 large isles of stalls which are bursting with handmade items from around the country. The group wove their way past countless items they wanted to buy. In the back of the market there are 16 stalls where women and young girls were making tortillas by the dozen. The hand shape the dough and cook it over a tin plate being heated by a flame. They can make about 20 per minute which then sell for about 5 cents each. Unfortunately I think our group were the only customers in the market at the time. We all bought items and carried them back to the van. Rick surprised Cordella with a big bouquet of flowers he had bought from a stall outside the market. We then went to the new grocery store. It was modern and rivaled anything we have in florida. The group wondered the isles and bought a variety of snacks, drinks, coffee, tea and vegan snacks for Jessica. We shared our discoveries with one another on the ride back to the home.
We arrived back at the home in time for lunch of grilled chicken, avocado, salsa, tortillas and rice. everyone had a big appetite. After regaining our energy everyone took-off in different directions to hand lights, draw with chalk on the ground, make cards for the girls and shop for work supplies. The day passed very quickly.
By dark we ate dinner, regrouped and then went down the playground where Rick showed video s of the girls which he and Cordella have been taking for the past 10 years. The girls loved seeing themselves when they were younger and almost fell off their chairs laughing at themselves. By 830 it was time to call it a night. We returned to the apartment, shared stories about the day and one-by-one everyone disappeared into their bunks planning to rise early as we head out to assist in the school tomorrow. It was a day full of new sights, new tastes, observations and reflections on our own lives and making new friends.
The day started early as we planned to help in the school. We drew names from a hat to see who would get to go on the field-trip to the natural history museum with the first, second and third grade classes. Ross, Susan and Jessica were the winners. Rick gave clear instructions to take LOTS of photos on the trip. We had breakfast at 7AM, an hour earlier than usual then the rest of the group went upstairs into the school to get our classroom assignments. Unfortunately, plans had already been made to hold special review classes in Spanish for the up coming final exams. As a result Rick was the only one who was able to assist in the 8th grade class for a while and Tom joined in the religious studies class. The rest of the group spread out to tackle different projects.
Cordella made cards for the girls and with the girls, Mike and Tom investigated the faucet situation in the kitchen and the door to the chapel. Greg drew chalk art on the blacktop with the girls. We all rejoined for lunch at noon.
As we shared stories and looked at photos we made plans for the rest of the day. Rick and Tom would go to the hardware store to buy work supplies. Later Rick went out again to get what had been ordered and also to pick-up some more supplies to fix the kitchen faucet.
Meanwhile at the Natural History Museum, Ross, Jessica, and Susan helped out with the kids as they learned about space, the water cycle, fossils, various species, and human evolution. Lunch on the patio in the soft breeze was a perfect time to talk with the kids and share a little about ourselves. Ross entertained the lines of little ones with his epic high fives.
Another early morning for the group today. Breakfast at 7 and off to school at 730. Our team split up throughout the school, visiting classrooms from Kindergarten to 11th grade, helping with subjects like multiplication and division, grammar and pronunciation, music, poetry, the water cycle, and much more. Rick had a group of 9th graders on the edge of their seat as he explained first his line of work, then a little about Florida and our water concerns. The 9th graders demanded more of his "black magic". This is what they've come to call Rick's tangential yet mind blowing diatribes on human nature, our planet, possible life on other planets and the universe. Jessica was able to help teach a first grade music class. These energetic cuties taught Jessica a Spanish song of their own, with choreography of course. Then Jessica taught them the song "You Are My Sunshine". A poetry class of upperclassmen wowed us with their recitation of poems by Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, and Walt Whitman.
The second half of the day was a swimming trip to Diana Frade's house. The girls played cards, played in the pool, and indulged in some TV while lounging in the cozy hammocks in the cool afternoon breeze. The soft silken curtains on the porch moved with the wind, caressing our faces as we sat watching the laughing girls splash in the pool. Some of our team stayed behind to continue their work projects, repairing kneelers in the chapel as well as staining the chapel doors.
Our evening began with dinner as a group again, and then a movie for the girls, projected outside on the playground. Then it was time to get ready for bed. The girls have a very early morning each day to get ready for school. Good night Our Little Roses!
The group rose for an 8 o'clock breakfast. Sweet Miriam in the kitchen brightens our mornings with her smile and her delicious coffee. After breakfast, the group promptly dove into their ongoing work projects. Some of us carried armfuls of donated items to the office. After everything was gathered onto the long stretching conference table, it was quite moving to see the mountains of shoes, clothes, games, school supplies, and first aid ready to be given to the home. The donations were overflowing from the table and still we longed to be able to give more. That's why there's always next year! The group met for lunch and then packed an overnight back for our trip with the girls to the Retreat Center in Pueblo Nuevo. The bus ride into the mountains was beautifully scenic. Sweeping fields, rolling mountains, bright sunshine. When we pulled up to the Retreat Center, the girls burst into clapping and cheering. Everyone quickly found their room and gathered downstairs for the fun to begin. Cordella tagged everyone with name tags on front and on the back which helped the group and the girls equally. We scattered into groups, playing cards, making crafts, playing computer games. A group dinner brought everyone back together before scattering again for more games. We had a birthday celebration for Yorleny and watched movies together.
We awoke this morning with the sounds of the surrounding residents. Barking dogs, crowing roosters, and cackling birds rang in the sunrise at 550 a.m. Some experienced travelers brought their earplugs! The girls talked and laughed as they got ready for our morning. Everyone piled onto the bus and away we went on our journey to Pulapanzak Falls, the largest waterfall in the country. Many twist and turns finally found us at our destination. A local man on his motorbike with an American flag guided us to the falls, a spot difficult to find even by our experienced driver. Once we found the park, we blew up some water toys and scrambled for the water. The water was chilly and refreshing on this very hot day. We filled our bellies with lunch before a large chunk of the group opted for ziplining. The zipline course zigzags across the river and finally sends you straight over the mouth of Pulapanzak, a breathtaking rush of adrenaline. Almost all of the girls joined along with Rick, Mike, Susan, and Jessica. Rick even videoed his flight across the mouth of the waterfall, holding on to his camera instead of his harness! After we all caught our breath from the heart pounding trip over the falls, we made our way back to the bus to make our way back to Our Little Roses for a Chapel Service. The service was in equal parts Spanish and English with many songs sung in Spanish. The text was projected onto a screen which helped los Americanos to sing along. The girls were all dressed in their beautiful dresses with their hair in intricately woven braided patterns. Father Tom delivered a beautiful sermon about the woman at the well, and said that our buckets were filled through our mission work here at OLR. Father Gustavo offered a sermon as well in Spanish and led the group in thanking us for our visit. The exchanging of the peace was accompanied by upbeat music as everyone milled about the room, exchanging hugs and handshakes. The girls breezed from pew to pew, hugging everyone in sight. As the service ended, a crowd gathered just outside the Chapel doors, exchanging hugs and words of thanks. Cordella and Rick shared a long and peaceful embrace with Ismelda, without any need for words, simply sharing the tender moment. Then the birthday celebrations commenced. Rick and Cordella set up the birthday cakes for the girls who had a birthday this month, Yorleny, Tania, Heather, Sherol, and Maria Jose. We sang to them and gave them their gifts. Next began a sort of closing ceremony by the girls. The lower grades sang "Jesus Loves Me" in their best English before presenting each of us hand crafted heart necklaces with words of love and a painted hand print. Rick was presented a certificate of thanks from Our Little Roses. As we continued to give our thanks to the girls, Rick set up for our final activity with the girls, una pelicula! The girls love watching movies projected outside on the big screen. Some settled into their seats, some were engrossed by the thrilling plot of the movie, some meandered through the crowd giving their goodbyes. Ross said that he couldn't sit still because he wanted to get to see each and every one of the girls. He had a group following him around and when he finally had to say goodnight, little Sandy even got mad at him for having to leave!
Everyone is up and we're packing. At 7Am we are going to assemble a swimming swimming pool. Mike is applying a last coat of polyurethane to the doors on the chapel. We hope to get everything done in time. We leave for the airport at 11AM.
915AM, the pool is now assembled and some of the girls are walking around inside of the empty belly of the 5,000 gallon pool helping to flatten out the liner. The doors to the chapel have soaked up their final coat of polyurethane, and the group is packing up their things.
We arrived home safe and we are now working on finishing this journal and uploading our photos. More details shortly....