Monthly Archives: September 2010

Of Sharks and Hurricanes

I bobbed in the warm, blue-green Caribbean last Wednesday, the gentle swells lifting me, urging me toward sandy shore on a beautiful sunny late afternoon, the orange sun dipping behind palm trees.  Suddenly a good-sized fish jumped part-way out of the water in front of my three companions and me, startling everyone.  A second time it jumped; part-way out.  On the fish’s third dash into air right in front of me I saw that a small shark had hold of the tail in process of devouring its frantic twisting victim.  “A shark!” I yelled, eliciting an immediate response from my colleagues, one of whom swam and flopped and ran out of the water.  “It’s only a baby.”  The reply: “Yeah, but he has a mama.”  I had gone to La Ceiba on the North Coast for a few days to consult with former colleagues at the Hospital Regional Atlantida CAI clinic, the clinic that deals with HIV/AIDS patients.  We in La Paz opened our own CAI clinic two months ago and I was seeking advice on getting ours off the ground.  While there I also connected with colleagues in La Masica whom I promised to visit Friday morning.  Thursday was hot and tropical sweaty as usual and my meetings that day were very productive.  Friday morning as I was getting ready to board a bus for La Masica 45 minutes away, my Country Director called me on my cell.  You have to leave the North Coast ASAP, she said.  Hurricane Matthew is due to make landfall tonight in La Ceiba.  With much regret I left the gritty seaside city about 9:30 a.m. after I called my companions and explained the situation.  As our bus drove through Tela and passed San Pedro Sula the torrential rains began and we started our climb over the mountains.  I arrived home about 5 in the evening.  That night as I watched the television weather newscaster showing footage from La Ceiba of the same roiling, stormy Caribbean in which I had been happily swimming two days before I thought of that toothy, well-fed little shark.

Dia de Independencia en La Paz


The pride in their national honor was evident and glowed in the faces of the huge crowd gathered in the Parque Central.  The above 13 pics are a meager representation of the 72 photos I took to commemorate the day.  I hope the pictures capture the infectious joy in the numerous bustling children dressed in their finest and marching in so many groups as the well-organized desfile performed and passed before the reviewing stand of local dignitaries and then continued through the town as it wound its way to the other city park several blocks away, the parade route lined with cheering citizens.  The young men and women of the National Police Academy training facility in La Paz are an impressive sight.  The celebratory spirit will be carried forth into the night.  Myself?  I have been invited to the orphanage this evening by Sister Edith to sup on nacatamales with the children.

Dia de Los Ninos


The Day of the Children is celebrated every September 10th over the entire country.  The holiday also coincides with Honduran Independence Day on the 15th so it made for a very long and festive weekend this year.  This Saturday a Distancia Bachillerato de Ciencias y Letras colegio program brought their students to the Hogar to ply the kids with a pinata, candy, dancing and food.  The pictures also document the progress we have made at the Hogar San Jose as we continue to pursue the elusive personeria juridica that confers legal status on the Fundacion Senor San Jose.  The President’s daughter was supposed to come visit the Hogar Saturday to provide her considerable political support and perhaps expedite the filing process but she never showed.  Nonetheless we partied as if she were here. 

Concepcion de Soluteca


Coffee grows best in high, cool climates, like the mountaintop aldea of Concepcion de Soluteca a couple of thousand meters above La Paz where I live.  My Public Health team and I traveled there on a supervision visit and to deliver medical supplies, including a brand-new autoclave for sterilizing surgical instruments.  The clinic building, however, is in sad need of repair.  The pic of the almacen (warehouse) in La Paz seemingly loaded with supplies has to service 60 aldeas and 17 municipios in the departamento, many with no reliable transport to their sites.  The 3,000 plus folk who inhabit Concepcion de Soluteca live on a complex of mountain peaks packed to the gills with coffee fincas.  The community has no paved roads and is reached by a long, gravel and rock, gut-busting roadway.  It does have electricity, a kintergarten, primary school, and secondary school besides the health center manned by an auxiliary nurse, somewhat like an LVN.  Indeed, when we left she was treating a machete wound that would need multiple stitches.  The coffee bushes visible in the top left pics are planted around and under banana trees that provide the shade they need.  As a result the farmers harvest two crops.  Notice the paucity of native trees and the cleared forest.  Tomorrow we travel to an even more isolated aldea called Naranjo.