This is my first selfie. My neck isn’t really that fat. I spoke with my friend’s cousin who works in the Honduras Immigration Department and she tells me my permanent residency status will be approved this week. We’ll see if I’m still smiling next week. Nonetheless I remain busy with the following projects: I. I have been transporting the children to an ophthalmology clinic in Comayagua a few at a time to establish a base in the kids’ individual medical records. Half a dozen have required glasses. II. My efforts at establishing an archaeological presence at the El Chircal pyramids continue with history classes at a local bilingual school. III. Learning that the country’s Honda dealership will not service my hybrid Honda I must travel to El Salvador for basic maintenance. IV. Next month I will be traveling to the Caribbean coast to visit my goddaughter who started colegio this year. V. Writing my memoir continues at a slow pace but I remain motivated.
Twenty of the 43 children enrolled in a local preschool program in La Paz were invited to splash in the Hogar San José’s wading pool today by Sister Edith for Semana Santa. I was unable to get pics of them in the pool because I went home and took a brief nap and returned after the chidren had eaten lunch, had tired of the pool and wanted to return home. Oh, well. Happy Easter everyone!
I learned yesterday that there was something very wrong with my application for permanent Honduran residency. A compañero of mine, whose nephew is in charge of the passport section at the Tegucigalpa Immigration Department, and I went there to inquire about a legal procedure submitted by my attorney that in May will be three years without resolution. Your file is “asleep” my friend’s nephew said after making a phone call, due to an absent local police clearance. But it was submitted with the initial request, I said. They expire after six months I was told. It appears my file has been “asleep”, along with my initiating attorney, for much longer than a year. The day was spent resubmitting a police clearance request and consulting with new attorneys for a submission of new reactivating documents to the proper governmental agency: the Dirección General de Migración Y Extranjería next Monday upon receipt of the local police clearance. We’ll see what happens next week.
I met the vigilante of the El Chircal ruinas at his home in Miravalle, an aldea situated on the zona arqueológica grounds proper a couple of miles off the main highway into La Paz. The village was founded in 1977 and is now a patronato of the Municipalidad de La Paz, the capital city of the Departamento of La Paz. Miravalle has a population of approximately 700 people and is situated on top of a complex of ancient monticulos, mounds under which lie buried unknown archaeological treasures that date back 6,000 years. The bottom left picture shows the backside of El Cerrito de David, the tallest monticulo at 25 meters high. The schematic drawing at bottom right details archaeological data and structures at the site located by a university team of US archaeologists in the 1980s. The aldea of Miravalle would be located on the upper left hand corner. And in fact the village men were hired to excavate the terrain for the academics. My meetings with the gentleman vigilante are just beginning. He is a fountain of memories and provided me with much information to study.
Six years ago today I arrived in Honduras; one of fifty Peace Corps Trainees leaving Washington DC at three in the morning I looked out the airplane window as its tires jounced onto the tarmac and taxied the short distance to Toncontín Airport, Tegucigalpa. My first thought was that the capital city looked much like México, land of my forefathers. Little did I know that my life would be changed forever. An adventure indeed. Besides helping with the development of the Fundación Señor San José, a home for at-risk children, I have integrated my daily life in tune with the desires and priorities of the citizens of La Paz, the community into which I have settled after completing my Peace Corps service. As I smooth out the edges of my remaining time on this planet my goal has remained constant. Assisting to help better the lives of children with few resources, my journey has led me to tackle the recognition and development of an archaeological treasure trove that has existed ten kilometers from where I live for 6,000 years. I will do that with lectures and field trips involving all the children of La Paz who have little idea of the ancient heritage lying literally at their feet.
I began my research into the El Chircal Zona Arqueológica located near the colonia of Yarumela, La Paz yesterday by meeting with the Director of the Museum Regional Centro IHAH in Comayagua as well as the Inspector de Sitios Arqueológicos. They were interested in the idea of site development and provided me with copies of the annual publication of YAXKIN circa 2001 and 2002 that document past excavations at various sites in Honduras by academics from UC Berkeley, Cornell University, Harvard, UCLA and others that have produced indigenous chronologies dating from 4,000 BCE. I will study the works of science in the days ahead as I begin contacting local authorities. It appears there has been conflict between officials of Miravalle, a caserío at the site of the pyramids, the colonia of Yarumela that also claims the pyramids, and the departmental administrative capital of La Paz: Politicians.
The children of the Hogar San José attend school in three different jornadas or time periods. The three youngest, kindergarten and first grade (not pictured), are in the morning period. And the six boys (not pictured), aged 6 to 9 are also in the morning period. In the afternoon period four young ladies are in colegio, seventh to 12th grades. There are also nine young ladies in the afternoon escuela period, fourth to sixth grade. And in the evening colegio period because of their age are the two eldest. All the children are required to attend classes and they are eager to go to school and study. They are so happy as they get ready every morning their homework completed the day before. I am so proud of them.
Summer vacation is over. The new year classes begin next week. The children have been busy getting their blue and white uniforms ready for the first day, washing and ironing, laughing and gossiping. They look so cool all dressed up and will be heading to class to reunite with old friends and classmates and teachers. The largest group are all in primary school, 1st grade through 6th except for the four-year-old little movie star in dark glasses who begins preschool. The three oldest are in secondary school: 7th grade through high school. One in her sophomore year is still in her mountain aldea, Guajiquiro, and is due in this weekend, and there will also be two new additions this year. A 12-year-old and a 14-year-old for a total of six in colegio. These two new students we’ll meet later are also of modest means who would have little chance at an education if not for the Hogar San José.
Whenever there’s a presidential election like there was last November in Honduras the entire governmental civil service changes. My visa was extended for only 30 days Tuesday with an order for my attorney by the new administration to submit to the immigration department a statement of why my request for permanent residency has taken more than two years. What a joke seeing as how the inefficient government bureaucracy are the reason my request has been delayed for two and a half years. My attorney will have to provide in the next thirty days a valid justification with a current file as to why my legal request has not been approved by that same inefficient bureaucracy. Catch-22, anyone? Meanwhile I will continue doing what I have been doing for the past six years. Welcome to Honduras! Happy New Year!!
There I was, straddling the border between El Salvador and Honduras. The first clue that a storm was brewing occurred when I entered El Salvador on 4 January 2015. The Salvadoran immigration official told me I had to leave El Salvador by 7 January. Which was the date my Honduran visa expired. It was supposed to have been a week-long vacation at a turtle sanctuary on the Pacific coast with a 90-day renewal of my visa on my return to Honduras. I had a hotel booked at http://latortugaverde.com/ Instead it became a bureaucratic nightmare. “If you don’t leave El Salvador by 7 January you will be fined $150,” the official told me. After three days in a San Miguel hotel I returned to Honduras and was met at the border by a Honduran immigration official who questioned my multiple passport visa renewal entries as I have pursued my Honduran permanent residency over the past two and a half years with the assistance of an attorney. “I have lived in Honduras for 6 years,” I told the official. “What am I supposed to do? Stay here at the border?” He called his boss and gave me a 15-day extension of my visa. Monday I have to go to the immigration office in Tegus to explain my status in the country for the past six years with a valid passport and valid visa stamps working as a volunteer at the Hogar San Jose. Welcome to Honduras!