Thursday, July 7, 2011

So Seven Months Later I am......vaya pues

First, let me apologize that this has taken so long.  I realize that I have not updated this blog for seven months. My fault, I have had internet, thus, no excuse. With that in mind I am going to try to summarize my past seven months of life here in Honduras. Where to begin? Last time I updated my blog it was right before my birthday and Christmas. I was in Tegucigalpa to watch my Huskers in the Big 12 Championship game. And for the second year in a row, we lost. I feel like the best way to describe that night would be as a “huge let down.” But I am over it, and have moved on. I swear I am not bitter.
Since then a lot of things have happened in my life. In early January I moved out of my host family’s house and into my own place. I am renting a modest house in the center of town. For 800 LMPs ($40) a month I have a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and outhouse. This transition was more difficult than I expected. For the first time in my life, I am living alone. I grew up in an average to big sized family. There was always someone to talk to or bother. Then at college I had roommates in the dorms and in the “Man House.” In short, I have always been living with great people that I love very much. Even during my first seven months in Honduras I lived with host families. And for the most part, minus one rather upsetting family, I lived with good people that welcomed me with open arms. So needless to say, the transition was more difficult than I anticipated. I remember thinking that I was really excited about moving into my own house. But not shortly after I was thinking that maybe it was not the best idea. But I believe that I made the right decision. Living alone has forced me to leave my house much more often. In reality, I only sleep in my house. The rest of my time is spent at work or visiting with people in the community. Living alone forced to put myself out there and make good relationships. And as a result, my Spanish, and overall happiness has improved.
Work has been going well. For the past six months I have kept very busy. Every weekday morning from 8-12 I am in the primary school teaching literacy classes to children who have different learning disabilities. This program has been more difficult than I anticipated but I really enjoy it. Some of my kids have learned quickly because they only needed a little individual attention. Others have serious learning deficiencies and are still struggling. In January I started with over 20 students. All but five have graduated from the program and reading at appropriate levels. Those five still in class with me have made great strides the past month or so. I feel like they are in the process of turning a corner. I think another two or three months and they will catch up to their class mates.
I have two other classes that take up my afternoons. The first one is a program called “Aflatoun.” This is a great program that I have really grown to like. To be honest, I was not too excited about it in the beginning. The local NGO asked me to help out with it and I reluctantly said yes. But this program is great. It is a yearlong class for students who do not have access to education after primary school. Unfortunately, that is a high number of kids. There is a high school in Reitoca but not in any of the surrounding villages. So a group of 30 or so students from surrounding villages come to Reitoca to attend Aflatoun. The goal of the class is to give the children a social and finicial education. I know that does not sound like much but the class goes really in depth. We explore all kinds of topics; ranging from their dreams, rights, responsibilities, and how to make a budget and start a small business in Honduras. Also, the group of students is made up of teenagers. This is my favorite group to work with. In the beginning they were shy but now we have made good relationships and tend to have a great dialogue in class.
The other classes that I am working on are two classes named “Yo Merezco” and “Yo Tambien   Merezco.” These programs are leadership and sex ed classes for 5th and 6th boys and girls. In Honduras there is a lack of education on this topic. For many different reasons, the youth are not educated on important issues such as how to avoid teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs. But the class is so much more than that. For the girls, we are teaching them about self esteem, self respect, and how to be leaders in a dominantly masculine culture. The title of the program, “Yo Merezco,” literally means “I deserve.” For the boy we are teaching them the importance of respecting women and trying to break down damaging gender roles that exist in Honduras.  We have one class left next week and then we will be done.
I have decided that after Peace Corps I want to go to law school. I am going to be taking the test October 1st in Tegucigalpa. Preparing for law school has already taken up a large chunk of my time. Studying 90 minutes every day for the LSAT plus researching different law schools eats into my day. But it is only going to get worse as the LSAT draws closer and closer. I think I have narrowed down the schools I am going to apply to. I am going with George Washington U, Washington U (in St. Louis), American U, Notre Dame, Mizzou, St. Louis U, and U of Missouri KC. First choice schools are Notre Dame, George Washington, and Wash U. I am already stressed about the LSAT. We’ll see what happens. But the good news is that on October 1st, the Huskers will be kicking of Big 10 play and I will already be in Tegucigalpa. So I should be able to watch the game! 
Regarding my community, I feel like I have become a part of it. I can say with confidence that I have intergraded myself successfully. These people have truly welcomed me and accepted me with open arms. I never have to worry about anything because the people support me so much. It is difficult to describe the relationship people have here. But I think the best way I can describe it is that people take care of each other. People who have nothing have given me a plate of beans of rice because I look too flaco (skinny.) In Spanish there is the word “pueblo.” I love that word because it has more meaning than just a “community” or a “small town.” It means the people and the bond they have that make up the community. So in Spanish I would never describe Reitoca as my site or village. Reitoca is my “pueblo.”  Among Peace Corps community, volunteers who spend almost all of their time in site are called “site rats.” I would say that I have become a bit of a site rat. If I leave for even a weekend people in my community get worried about me. I leave for vacation next week. I am going to be gone for three weeks. They are not very happy with me. But this is a perfect transition to my topic, vacation!!!
This time next week I will be on a plane heading to America. Yes, I did just talk about how much I love my “pueblo” however; I am so excited to come home for vacation. Words cannot describe how excited I am. I have been counting down the days for the past two months and now it is almost here. I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning, only with less patience. Of course I am excited for hot showers, cheeseburgers, air conditioning, and baseball. But that does not even come close to how excited I am to see my family and friends. I have missed everyone so much this past year. It is going to be so good to see all of you. I have learned many things this past year. But perhaps the most importance lesson that I have taken is that independence is overrated. I feel like so often in American culture, especially among Peace Corps volunteers, that becoming a strong independent person is the most important attribute one can achieve. And to be honest, I have learned that this mentality is a load of crap. Being “strong” and “independent” does not bring you happiness. Not relying on others does not make one content. I have learned that there is absolutely nothing wrong with relying on others. What is the point of life if you don’t have great people to share it with? Independence is overrated. Obviously, you need to be able to function on your own. But we put too much stock in independence. I think if people were comfortable with leaning on each other a little more often this world would be a better place.  
Well, that is enough for now. I will see everyone very soon. Miss and love you all!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Finally adjusting, work, and BATS!!

Greetings family and friends,
It is December 4th and I came into Tegucigalpa to run some errands today. However, as much as I would like to say that my reasons for coming here to Teguz are all business, that simply is not true. You see, my Nebraska Huskers are playing in the last Big 12 Championship game ever. Not only is it the last game ever, it is the last game of the Nebraska-Oklahoma Rivalry. And we want it so bad, after last year when the Huskers were robbed when the officials put one second back on the clock to give Texas one more play to kick the game winning field goal. There was just no way that I could miss this game.  So, needless to say, I am pretty excited about this game. But enough about football, lets talk about life in Honduras.
Life in Honduras is going well. My Spanish is definitely taken off as of late. It really is coming to me natural now. Of course, I still do not understand every single word that was said. However, I do not remember the last time I was unable to understand someone or the last time I felt like I could not say what I wanted to say. I worried for so long that I would never reach the level of confidence with my Spanish that I have today. It feels good knowing that I do not have to stress about it anymore.
Work is going well. Right now I have three main projects that I am working on. My biggest project right now is summer school at the primary school. I have about 80 students who to learn English, reading, writing, and math. It is definitely a challenge keeping order in my class room and ensuring that every student gets the attention they need. If only my teachers could see me now. It’s funny and ironic given my apathetic attitude I had towards school growing up. I am sure that out of my high school class I was one of the least likely persons to become an educator in Honduras. To see the other side of the teacher-student dynamic really is weird. Last May I was on the student side. It’s funny, I became the scary and tough teacher very quickly. I sometimes whish some people in my site could see who I was in college so they could know and understand that I am not as serious as they think I am. In college I always took SGA seriously, but I had my friends and rugby to let loose and lighten up. Here, I do not have that, so it is different. But in short, I without a doubt have gained a new perspective and appreciation for all my old teachers.
My other project is a baseball team that I started up. It is a team of boys and girls ranging from 9-13 years old. To my surprise, this has been more difficult that I expected. The problem is that there really is a lack of organized sports for kids in Honduras. It is not like in the States that starting at age 6 you have soccer games, swim meets, etc. As a result, it is more than trying to teach a sport that is practically not existent in Honduras. I am trying to teach the concept of organized sports. This is the point of starting an organized sports team. Yes, you want to teach the game. But more importantly, you want to teach the kids values of dedication, reasonability, and commitment. And we are also trying to teach gender equality as well. All of this rolled into one makes it difficult. Despite the difficulties, I am really enjoying it. It is fun to play catch and to hit the ball around. It is a rewarding feeling when I see my kids playing catch or a pick up game in their free time.
My other project is with the local NGO in my site. We travel to the surrounding villages and give health classes to people there. The topics that we are talking about are pretty simple. But the lack of education in these isolated villages makes our work very important. To be honest, I feel that this is my favorite project even though. We are going to another village this Tuesday and I am really looking forward to it. First reason is because we get to walk for two or three hours looking at the beautiful landscape. I have never been one to get real high and nature but here in Honduras, it is hard not to. And it is in the villages that you find the terrible poverty. Reitoca is very poor, but when you step into these villages it is like walking into a different world that you did not know existed. These visits to the villages make my time down here worth it. I feel this project is the most worthwhile.
So enough about work. Now it is time to hear some funny quirks that come along with living in Honduras. Bats. Not the kind you use to hit a baseball with. The flying kind. Ok, let me back up. So my roof is an adobe roof that does a good job, but at times can get a little leaky. To prevent my stuff, and me, from getting wet my host mom and I put a big blue tarp. The water hits the tarp then runs outside. This is possible because my wall and roof are not connected. There is about a six inch gap between the wall and the ceiling. Therefore, I can see outside from me room. Another important note, the tarp does not cover total my room, just my bed, clothes, and desk. So what I am trying to say is that it is possible for a living and flying creature to live up there, without me knowing, and then fly down into my room. For the past couple nights while I was trying to sleep I was hearing something moving about above the tarp but below my roof. Most people would be alarmed by the sound of something moving in your room at one in the morning. But part of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is learning to simply roll with the weird things that come your way. As a result I did not think any of it.  
But one night turned into two nights. Nights turned into weeks I started to become a little concerned. Curiosity about this creature turned to wonder, wonder turned into scary imaginations, which of course, turned into fear of the unknown. The other night I was on the phone with my buddy Fitz back in the States. And while we were talking I began to hear that thing moving in my room again. Only this time it sounded a lot bigger. I told Fitz that I would call him back and went for my machete. Before you judge my following actions please understand that I still had no idea what was up there. The mystery of this unknown creature had grown into something large, scary, and with razor sharp teeth. I decided that I was not going to take any chances. I began to poke at the tarp with my machete and the dreadful beast from above began to move around and make terrible noises. I walked over to the end of the tarp, close to my shower, and the stood up on my chair to look into the dark tunnel that was the space between the tarp and roof. I held my machete tightly in my sweaty palms and took a baseball stance as if I was Sammy Sosa. And before I could say “Play Ball!” a bat came flying and screeching right towards my face. O I panicked. Without looking I swung as a heard as I could. I got the little guy alright. I cut the poor little bat in half. Do I feel bad, a little. But I sleep well knowing that I am the only thing living in my room.
So that is pretty much a sum of how my life is going in Honduras. Christmas is rapidly approaching. The anticipation in Reitoca is growing. I look forward to seeing what a Honduran Christmas is. From what I understand, it is a huge party. Very different form the States. The central park has a Christmas tree and the park is light up. Not by Christmas lights, just flood lights. But that is a big deal. Every night there are kids running and playing in the park which make a fun atmosphere. I am sure that I will get terribly homesick around Christmas. If I do not update this before Christmas, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and an ever better New Year. Miss you and love you all.     

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Month in Site

Greetings family and friends,

Because I waited so long to get this blog started I am trying to get it caught up without passing over important things. Once I get caught up I doubt that I will update my blog this frequently. (Sorry Mom)

Ok, where were we. Yes, moving on from training and arriving in site. It was Saturday, the 11th of September. I am sure every American thinks about 9/11 every time we arrive at it’s anniversary. Even though I was in Honduras and about to officially embark on my journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer, the fact that the date was 9/11 was still in the back of mind.

The plan was to meet my Honduran counter-part at the road outside of my house at 6:30 a.m. I, as always, waited for the last minute to start packing. So I awoke very, very early and once again, packed up every thing that I owned into three bags. I said goodbye to my host family and ensured them that I would visit them soon. My host Dad, a quiet, hard working man said to me, “No olvide esta casa” (Do not forget this house). He gave me hug and went back to his house. I was surprised by the demonstration of emotion. Not to say he was cold or distant. Anything but in fact. It is just that he has had many Peace Corps trainees stay with him and his family before. And I could not even say anything in Spanish when I arrived. This family welcomed me into their home. What I failed to understand until that moment was that they welcomed me into their hearts. I will miss them and forever be thankful for what they did for me. I look forward to visiting them when I can.

Not before long, my counter- part arrived with his car. We loaded up my things, and before I knew it, I was on my way. My counter-part is a nice, young thirties aged man, who is the director of the high school. I could tell instantly that we were a good match. On the four or five hour drive (we made stops, a lot of stops) we talked about our favorite American presidents and our least favorite presidents. I explained to him some American history and he was more to happy to explain to me parts of the Honduran political system and some of it’s history. I truly am fortunate to have him as a counter-part.

To arrive in Reitoca, you need to drive over/through/around the mountains. To call the road that you have to take in “a road” is generous. The dirt roads very quickly turn into muddy traps during the Rain Season, thus, at times making the roads are impassable. Yes, it is the Rain Season right now and there were times when I was not sure if the car was going to make it. So while that led to some frustration it was for sure counter acted by the sheer beauty of the drive. Moving up and down the mountains is absolutely amazing. For those who plan to visit me, (which you all should) prepare for some of the most breath taking views in the world. You travel along the base of the mountains looking up at these majestic beauties and then you move up the mountains. Before you know it, you are in the clouds looking down. It felt as if I could see the whole world. I have to go to Tegucigalpa this coming week. I will be sure to take photos and post them soon.

Once I arrived into site, my counter-part invited me into his home where I met his wife and children. They were all very welcoming. While at his house, he showed me his library. He has an impressive home library despite the poverty of Reitoca. He was nice enough to lend me a few Honduran history books. He told me to read them because right now he is and American history book. We made plans to take about our respective countries’ histories later. I cannot express how fortunate I feel to have him in my site as a counter-part. After that, it was time to meet the new host family.

I was surprisingly nervous walking into my new host family’s house. I had no idea what to expect and I am not exactly great at small talk, let alone small talk in Spanish. Meeting host families is always a little awkward at first. But my concerns we quickly alleviated when I walked in. My host mom and her mid twenties daughter were there waiting for me. I immediately felt welcomed but at the same time I did not feel like I was being doted on. She took me to my room, and o my, it is awesome. I have my bed, pila, and toilet all in my room. A pila is more or less an above ground well with a faucet above it. About two to three times a week we get fresh water. It is a rush to fill up your pila before the water in the town dries up. I use that water to shower, brush my teeth, and flush the toilet. We also have a pila outside to wash clothes and one in the kitchen to was dishes. But seriously, a pila in my room, I got lucky. You know you have adjusted to the Peace Corps life when you get excited about your own private pila.
I spent that Saturday and Sunday getting to know the new host family and settling into my new community. All and all, things were starting out great. But before I knew it, Monday was here and it was time to get to work. My project is Youth Development so I have three main institutions that I work with. First, the town high school. Second, the town primary school. Third, a NGO called ADACAR (Development of the Areas of Cuaren, Alubrean, and Reitoca). Not sure on the spelling of the other two towns. ADACAR, I think, is funded by ChildFund. This organization focuses on youth education outside the classrooms and assisting the schools in surrounding villages that have less teachers than grades.

So the day was Monday, first work day and I was ready. I wanted to jump into it head first and get my hands dirty. And I forgot probably the biggest difference between the Honduran and American cultures. The pace of your lifestyle. Hondurans are hard working individuals who take great pride in their work. However, the American necessity to always perform at the highest efficiency at all times and desire to be so business orientated is not here in Honduras. As a result, I quickly was disappointed with my first two weeks of work. Instead of jumping into class rooms and teaching I went and observed classes. I met people and spent my days talking to townspeople and teachers. I had to take time to introduce myself to the people of Reitoca. I was frustrated by the lack of structured work. I committed a big error that many PCV’s commit. Enter their site without patience. However, I kept my grumblings to myself and focused my energy into gaining the trust of my community. Looking back on it, it would have been wrong of me to do it my way. I needed to gain their trust before I could have a fruitful and professional relationship. There were moments of boredom, embarrassment on the soccer field, and awkward miscommunications in Spanish. I was taking some much needed lessons in humility.

But after two weeks of meetings, social events, embarrassing soccer games, and tours of schools I was ready. And my counter parts have been great in responding to me. I just finished up my second week of classes at the high school and primary school. We are in six week class about drugs and alcohol abuse prevention. We do not have six weeks left in the school year so the class will be condensed. But the classes are going well. Right now, I have eight classes in all and it is for sure keeping me busy. And tomorrow is the first day of basketball practice. Yes, you read that right. I, Patrick Helling, the worst basketball player in the world, is going to coaching a basketball team. We only have one ball and coach who is terrible at the game. So, vamos a ver (we’ll see). Work has picked up and it is only going to increase with my work at ADACAR starting next week. I have a feeling my bored moments in my hammock are going to become fewer and farer between. I can’t wait!

The climate here is not too hot. Do not get me wrong, it is hot. But it is not unbearable. Right now we are in the end of the rainy season. In fact, I recently survived my first tropical storm. Luckily for me and the people of Reitoca there was no damage here. We simply had six days of straight rain and overcast. I have never been a person who has had changing moods with the weather, but I was happy when the sun came out. I am getting a little worried that the rainy season is over. We have not had rain for three days and I have not seen a cloud in two. For what I know of Honduran weather, this is rare. I hear when the rainy season ends it gets so hot it is miserable. While I am sick of rain, I am not looking forward to six months of strong and terrible heat.

So in short, that is how things have been going here. I have been trying to keep track of things back in the States. From what I understand, I should avoid reading about politics because Obama’s numbers continue to drop and Congressional Democrats are updating their resumes in preparation for November. And yes, I know, the Cubs were terrible this year. It seems I picked a good time to leave. But, the Huskers are on a roll! I have been watching the games on game tracker. Not exactly the best way to watch a game, but it is the best I got. If we end up playing for the national championship I am going to have to find a way to watch it. If that means going home for one day, I might just have to. Ok, gotta run, love and miss you all!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ok, so I am little late starting this up.

Greetings family and friends!!
So, yes, the date is the 6th of October and yes, I arrived in country on the 23rd of June. And this is my first blog entry. A bit of an epic fail on my part. I have really failed to document this experience. So I am starting now!

One of the down sides about waiting three and half months to start a blog is that now, I have no idea where to start. So, I will try to give you all the scores and highlights of my first three months in Honduras. To begin, we got into country on June 23. The first thing that catches your eye when you land in Tegucigalpa is the amazing landscape. Being from St. Louis, mountains is not something I am used to. But let me tell, there are a ton of mountains here in Honduras. And they are beautiful. I have never seen anything like it. It is hard to explain the feeling that I had stepping outside of the airport, breathing real Honduran air for the first time. To those who are reading, I do not know if you have had a moment like this. It felt as if every moment of my life was building up to this moment, I needed to be here, and I had the rest of my life at my finger tips. I was a unique and amazing feeling that I will never forget.

Before I knew it, we were in the swing of training and Spanish class. You see, I thought it would be a good idea to move to Honduras for two years without any competency in Spanish. Needless to say, the language barrier was the most daunting task in front of me. To make an understatement, I was freaking out. I was living with a host family without the ability to talk or express how I felt. For those that know me well understand that taking away my ability to talk is a cruel, cruel thing. As time progressed with training I became more and more worried that I would not be able reach to Spanish level necessary to become an official volunteer. People told me to trust the process, I did not. I had countless nights trying so hard to talk with my host families, studying flash cards, and trying to read in Spanish. Perhaps the stress about Spanish is the reason why I have lost so much weight since I have been here. But, my teachers, bosses, and friends were right. After a lot of hard work, support from my friends, and countless Spanish classes I got to the level I needed to be. Every trainee needed to reach the level of intermediate medium in order to be sworn in. I finished at intermediate high. Graduating from college and high school were moments when I felt proud of myself. Those moments I did not feel bad patting myself on the back. Reaching the level of intermediate high in Spanish in eleven weeks was better. Thank you to my friends and teachers, I could not have done it without you. (Anna Maria, you were the best, thank you so much for everything!)

Obviously, homesickness, culture shock, and the inability to ask where the bathroom is were big obstacles to overcome. However, I have to vent about something that may seem trivial, but I promise, it was not. The food. So as all of you know, I am from the Midwest. Specifically, I like to think of having homes in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. While I love these states and have great memories in all of them; they are not exactly the beacon of cultural diversity in America. Even more so when it comes to a Hispanic influence. Seriously, to us Midwesterners Cinco de Mayo is just another Tuesday and we drink Jose Cuervo because Bud Light Lime sucks. Honestly, I could count on the my hands the number of times I ate beans in my life before I came here. When I went to a Mexican Restaurant in the States I always ordered my plate without beans. I hated beans. And really, tortillas? Do not get me wrong, I made a mean cheese tortilla with my George Forman Grill when I was in college. But certainly not with every meal. And, the tortillas down here are not the same. First dinner in Honduras, I will never forget it. Big plate of beans, rice, tortillas, and this weird thing called queso. Now, I know what you are thinking, “that is cheese.” O no! I am here to set the record straight. Queso is not cheese. It is nasty, tastes sour, and apparently, goes on everything. Not to exaggerate, but I almost vomited my first dinner. I have a friend, who will remain nameless. One night at dinner, this friend of mine put the queso in his/her mouth while his/her host family was watching and when they looked away he/she took the queso out and stuck in his/her pocket (You know who you are!). That is how bad the food was at first.

But I had a theory to overcome the involuntary impulse to gag at the sight of queso and beans. Like Spanish I just had to push through everyday. You see, in college, I put on a few pounds because I had acquired a taste for beer and chicken wings. Therefore, I had to acquire a liking of running my senior year to counter act the beer and chicken wings. And now, I love running, I do it almost every day. So, with that in mind, I tried out a theory that one can grow to like anything, no matter how bad it tastes or how much it hurts. Think about it, who loved running the first time they went for a jog. And who tasted a good glass of scotch the first time and said “wow, that tasted great.” No one. With a determined heart I ate every bean, tortilla, and block of queso that was put in front of me. It was terrible, I complained in my head a lot, and my body hated me for it. But now, I have beans almost every day and I actually like them now. I willingly buy beans and tortillas with a smile on my face. Queso, however, still no. I am still working on that. But I can live with two out of three.

Overall, training was great. I made some amazing friends. How could I not. We were in a foreign country without our friends and family. We were in a different culture with different language, foods, customs, lifestyles, and attitudes. We literally left behind everything that was familiar. The only thing that we could hold onto were each other. I am surprised by the strong and lasting bonds that I have made with the people of H-17. Because of what we went through together we have something together that is so hard to describe. I feel confident we will continue to support each other and strengthen the strong bond that we already have.

After all the beans, homesickness, awkward moments, and struggle, we, as a group, were sworn in together on September 10th, 2010. Every person that came to Houston on June 22nd was sworn in. We did not lose anyone. I like to think that is because of the support and love we gave each other during the eleven weeks of training. That is certainly a day that I do not think I will forget. One reason why is because my colleagues voted that I and another colleague of mine give a speech, in Spanish, at the U.S. Embassy in front the ambassador to the United States, all of our colleagues, Spanish teachers, bosses, and our Honduran counter-parts. All and all, around 150 people would be my guess. Because of my struggles with Spanish, the days leading up to the Swearing-In Ceremony were stressful. But I survived, and I feel that my speech was received well.

But perhaps the moment that I will remember more than anything about that day was actually being sworn in. We stood tall and together. 57 young Americans, in a foreign and strange land, that only wanted to do their part. We all recognized that we were not going to save the world or single handily fix the problems of Honduras. But if we all do the best we can, for Honduras, for America, for peace, and most importantly, for each other, than maybe we could make a difference for the better. I was on the National Mall when Barack Obama became our President. But that day in Tegucigalpa was the most proud I had ever been to be an American. Right after we took the oath a dark and deep thunder sounded off in the distance. It seemed as if the heavens were reminding us of the gravity of our commitment that we just made. It was as if someone was telling us, “you have no idea what you just got yourselves into.” It was eerie but oddly encouraging at the same time. Once again, I felt as if every moment of my life had been building to this and that the rest of my life was at my finger tips. Needless to say, I was ready to get into site and tackle Reitoca head on. But first, we were going to celebrate on last night together, and celebrate we did.

I have been in site now for three and half weeks. And to explain what I have been doing will take more time and it is getting late and I have to teach tomorrow. So, for now, do not worry about me. There have been hard moments. I have had second thoughts. But I want to be here. I am happy here. I love my site, Reitoca. The people here have been so nice and welcoming. I imagine I will post something again soon. Within a week. I hope all is well back at home. I cannot describe how much I love you all and how homesick I am. Until next time. Love you all!!