An old decrepit wooden building somewhat like a small horse stable occupied the site. Around the first of the year I watched as workmen began tearing down the eyesore to begin the reconstruction. Blue-collar workers in this country do not often have access to the expensive machinery so prevalent on U.S. building projects. But they are hard workers and use effective simple methods to achieve their goals. Over the course of the year I have watched them arrive every day, six days a week, and work in the hot sun and in the rain as the new business began to take shape. They transformed what was once a shabby niche into a modern commercial center selling new clothing, footware, luggage, kitchen and home appliances and much more. And it’s all right across the narrow pre-motor-vehicle road from where I live. The grand opening was this past weekend with blaring music and crowds filling the street. Of course I failed to take any pics of the festivities. But I feel I have a good reason for my absentmindedness. We Honduras Peace Corps folk received a new transfer from Guatemala who extended for another year and she has been shadowing me since Friday as I show her around the city. She will be assigned to Marcala, another beautiful mountain city about an hour-and-a-half from La Paz.
Last Friday morning my three colleagues, two nurses and a social worker and I loaded onto a bus to join 50 La Paz supporters for a trip to the beautiful mountain city of Sigua (Siguatepeque) about an hour-and-a-half away where we became part of a group of hundreds of additional participants who had also traveled there from several communities from the departamentos of La Paz and Comayagua where we joined together for a common cause. Our respective Comites Interinstitutional Ante VIH/SIDA marched into downtown to the central park to hold our rally meant to focus attention on the scourge of HIV/AIDS that is ravaging populations worldwide and that was broadcast on local television to an even wider audience. We are planning intense outreach educational forums to many smaller communities every month and will climax our efforts with a widespread national campaign on December 1st, the worldwide National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Yes, that’s Michael Jackson above who decided to join the entertainment portion of the day.
Designed by a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2006, our city park has become a center of social activity for La Paz. On weekends the local school kids practice traditional dances. After our English class, two of my students and I walked across the street to the park to watch the action. The Parque Central is flanked by the alcaldia (city hall), the church and the Casa de Cultura, the city museum that chronicles the community’s early days from its founding in 1821 with old photographs and artifacts. In November is the city’s annual feria that lasts for the whole month. A carnival sets up on the edge of town and booths of every type crowd the central square. The height of the feria is crowned by a formal cotillion ball with handsome, young military cadets in full-dress uniforms and their beautiful, evening-gowned partners dancing the minuet to the music of a string orchestra. Afterwards fireworks fill the sky directly over the heads of the huge crowd and four faux bulls enter the densely packed throng from different directions with lit firework horns and with lowered heads they rush through delighted revelers scattering folk every which way.
I hate getting up at 5 A.M. But there I went, past the two donkeys munching in the middle of the boulevard as I made my way to the Instituto Lorenzo Cervantes for supervisory visits into the surrounding mountains. Lorenzo, as it’s commonly called, is the local public secondary school and has four Bachillerato programs: Computer Information, Science, Business and Community Health. I work in the Health program with my counterpart Licenciada A, who is both a teacher in the program and a supervising nurse at the hospital and with Dr. B who heads the program and is a physician at the hospital. Over two days we visited the municipios of San Jose, Planes, Tutule, Santa Maria and Marcala where the 3rd year Health students are required to live for three months and work in the Community Health Clinics learning how the clinics function, giving health classes, as well as planning and developing a community health project that will benefit the populace. Next Monday we visit San Juan for our final supervisory visit for August and will return in September and October to see how the students complied with our suggestions to improve their written documentation and planning. I love this job.