I met Yelsy after I had been assigned to La Masica on Honduras’ North Coast for two years upon completing Peace Corps Trainee training on May 15, 2009. She was in kindergarten, an abandoned child living with her great-grandmother in the tool shed of the elementary school where she was a student. Her abuela (grandma), an illiterate woman who did odd jobs for the owner of the house where I lived temporarily, wanted to pull her out of school. Please don’t, I pleaded, she makes excellent grades. She is a very bright child, I insisted. Yelsy would be graduating from kindergarten and asked me to be her Padrino. Yes, I said. Then I was transferred to La Paz after three months. I promised Yelsy and her grandma that I would help her with her school needs if she stayed in school and continued to make good grades. Yelsy has lived up to her end of the bargain. She is now 15 years old, in 9th grade in high school. All her grades have been above 90%. Next week is Day of the Student in Honduras. I am here in La Ceiba and will pick her up in the morning, along with two chaperones, and drive them to La Paz to meet Sister Edith and the children of the Hogar San Jose. There is a university near La Paz I want her to see. She would be welcome to live at the Children’s Home if she decides to pursue her education. The first chapter of my book, posted above, describes, in brief, my life in La Masica as a Peace Corps Volunteer in those early days.
Thinking, Reading, Studying, Writing. Since setting up my writing routine, my life has been dedicated to a daily production of words based on these four required principles. Every morning after breakfast I sit and join with the page before me for two to three hours. I enter a different consciousness as I select the right word, the right phrase, the right paragraph. Yet everything I write will be rewritten, edited and rewritten again as the thought processes coalesce to aim for an eventual whole. Every writer has their own method for creating something original and new. This is mine that will take me probably until next year. My book, ‘Met the Nun: Lost my Heart’ has the rough first chapter posted on this web page. I am waiting for my daughter to post the rewritten first chapter while I work on the third chapter. The second chapter is in rough awaiting her editing skills.
When I tell friends and family the title of the book I’m writing, they invariably reach the wrong conclusion. The children, I say. For more than eight years the children of the Fundación Señor San José have been my focus. The book I am writing is a biographical memoir elucidating on my experiences helping the growth of the amazing home for at-risk children Sister Edith initiated in 2006, three years before I arrived in Honduras as a Peace Corps Volunteer Trainee. I subsequently decided to remain in Honduras after my two-year tour of duty. I’m still here, and I’m writing. With my equally amazing computer tech daughter Andrea’s help I will be posting, chapter by chapter, as I sweep the cobwebs from my brain, sharing my remembrances. Join me on my web page for an unforgettable journey. A genuine Peace Corps adventure.
I just today regained my internet connection after 10 days without ISP service. I have been skipping from wifi place to wifi place to keep scarce pace with my life, difficult when one has no electricity service as well: the perils of living in a third world country. My grandson 2LT Travis Alan Morgado was killed in action 5 years ago, May 23, 2012, in Afghanistan. I belong to a family of warriors who has served and fought for our country. We are a family of guerreros. Myself, my brothers, uncles, and cousins have served in all the military services: WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Travis was the first to have been killed in action. I, however, take no pride in war and death and killing. Since February 2009 I have devoted my life to a Home for at-risk children in Honduras. After two years of Peace Corps service, I decided to remain and help change our planet by helping the poorest of our fellow travelers pursue a life of peace.
The Hogar has several chickens, guinea hens, two rabbits, two turkeys, a goat, two parakeets and had two pigs that transformed into tamales a few weeks ago. The cows were in my back yard and the pig was one of many at a farm we visited a few weeks ago. Life is an adventure at the Hogar San José.
The temperature last weekend reached 41 degrees C or about 104 degrees F. When one of the children’s extended family invited the Home’s residents to swim in an irrigation canal in the nearby municipality of Flores the decision was unanimous: YES! I didn’t join in the swim but the kids swam until evening and after it finally cooled down we trekked back to La Paz, the children soaked to the skin, happy, tired and hungry.
Santa Lucía is a beautiful mountain community with cobble-stoned streets situated above Tegucigalpa. The cathedral was built in 1572 by the Spanish invaders who enslaved the indigenous folk and mined and stole their silver and gold before being expelled from the country after 300 years of subjugation. My friend Celeste accompanied me there last weekend to visit the host family who provided me room and board when I arrived for training as a Peace Corps Vounteer in February 2009. I have remained in contact with my host family visiting every few months and consider them actual family for their kindness and generosity over the years.
It is rare for a home to be constructed of wood in La Paz, La Paz, Honduras. In years past most homes were constructed of adobe brick. Generations of families still live in long-standing adobe homes. In our modern era most homes are now constructed of cement block or brick. These three homes are in the modest neighborhood across the street from where I live. The sturdy residences will last for additional generations. Compared to the sawdust glueboard homes built in the US one can wonder which is the most advanced home builder. All these residences will have ceramic tile floors throughout including in kitchens and bathrooms. Cheap linoleum, prefab plastic showers, flimsy hollow doors and bacteria-collecting wall to wall carpet do not exist here. Honduras is in a modernization phase that will soon connect the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean with a modern four-lane highway twisting safely through beautiful wooded mountains from seashore to seashore. Our new international airport will be the wonder of Central America. Eat your heart out world.
On the Caribbean littoral, a narrow coastal plain with rich fertile soil, grow vast banana plantations, along with thousands of acres of pineapple, palm oil and coconut trees that flourish along with a wide variety of food crops. Inland, immediately adjacent to communities dependent on this verdant wealth rises a steep tropical mountain chain covered with thick forest and jungle growth. It is the home of jaguars, a threatened species. This unfortunate beautiful creature was killed near the river resort weeks before where my goddaughter’s quinceaniera was held last October. It had taken a liking to domestic food sources. After my Honda Hybrid’s 6-month maintenance service I spent the week visiting friends and just relaxing in paradise. The shell I bought for my lady friend in La Paz with whom I will spend the Semana Santa Easter holiday.
Last month the bulldozers started moving earth and reshaping the landscape at the Palmerola site selected for the country’s new international airport. A site where both the Honduran Air Force trains its flight cadets and the US military maintains a presence. Visible from the front porch of my new home at night the Comayagua Valley floor reflects a long string of city and highway lights flanking the present airplane landing runway, a beautiful view indeed. Once the new airport is operational I will be able to board international flights 20 minutes from where I live. Quite nice indeed.