Thursday, October 28, 2010

slumber party with credit cards

Kayleigh, Hayley, Igor, and Andri...posing in front of my house at the end of the adventure.

man she got pollen all OVA her face.

Lago Atitlan.

flowers will you make me an honest woman.

kayleigh, posing above the lovliest swimmin' hole ever.

more semuc champey!

oh. my. heaaaaaaaveeennnssssss.

petrified by heighs after a staggering ascent.

here is kayleigh, dwarfed by stone.

doin' handstands on the rio dulce.

en la selva.

gabe, heide, and kayleigh during our many kayaking adventures.

crazy eerie mangrove channels. LOOKIT THE REFLECTIONZ.

27 October 2010
Hey, chochachos! Heaven knows what you people have been doing to entertain your minds during my long blog hiatus, but I can only hope it’s been productive and enlightening. You’ve all probably been brain-storming about your respective Halloween costumes, buyin’ the fabric store out of fake bear fur and googly eyes…time to get SEXY! Am I right, or am I right? As I shall be spending my third consecutive Halloween here in Honduras, where there is no real candy to be found and no one dresses up, I’ll probably spend the night weeping alone in my hammock and sucking down pineapple juice, pausing occasionally to stagger outside and contemplate the spooky, scary moon while Igor tries in vain to wiggle out of the adorable rotten pumpkin costume I will make him out of a garbage bag.

In the past one and a half months, I have leapt over the chasm of uncertainty and fully transitioned from a humble volunteer to just another unemployed twenty-something in need of a haircut. During the first couple weeks in September, I finished up all my projects and then headed to Tegucigalpa for the week, for our “Closing of Service” examinations and final interviews. I turned in many a report to the Peace Corps, who responded by giving my tender areas a cursory prodding (all healthy, yippee) and tossing my residency card into the incinerator. “Peace out, loser,” said Uncle Sam, and suddenly I found myself just another tourist in the donut-hole of Central America. I spent a week moseying around, saying adios to various old host families from training and visiting a few pals. Then I headed back to the Lubey Lubes on October 1 for a surprise attack on Douglas’ third birthday, arriving in style in the back of a dump truck (no buses due to rain) with a cake, piñata and crappy plastic tricycle balanced on my knees. The kids were delighted and much merriment was exchanged. I hung around for a few more days, being a creepy doppelganger on poor Margaret, the new volunteer, and enjoying the novelty of lying in my hammock all morning and not feeling guilty about it. Then I carefully rolled my shorts, undies and t-shirts into little burritos and inserted them into my backpack, tossed my house keys to Nely and the kids, and strolled out of town to go north and meet the one and only Kayleigh Gamble, my partner in crime from the ‘ol college days.

Ah, to be free! No more reporting vacation days and telling the Peace Corps where I am (or rather, explicitly not doing that and hoping they won’t find out), no more cramming two weeks of adventures into five days because I have to get back to site…let me tell you what, people, ain’t nothin’ like traveling around as an unemployed person. (Money concerns not being an issue because when you use a credit card, it’s like the ATM is giving you money for free…hell yes, Science.) Fortunately, Kayleigh is also wallowing happily in the mucky-muck of semi-employment, and was able to obtain three whole weeks from her employer. The dame stepped off the airplane with a saucy little travel pack and a duffle sagging with forty pounds of SNACKS. Freakin’ chex mix…reeses peanut butter cups…trail mix…pretzels….dried fruit…for she is a lady of my own heart. Of course, adventuring around with Kayleigh would have been just as awesome without the duffle ‘o snacks. First of all, she is a smoky burrito of kindness, excellent humor, insatiable spunk for adventure, and silliness, with a mixture of shredded intelligence and wit melted on top. Mmm. Second of all, our names rhyme. This was an issue we addressed when we lived together in The Tit by creating nicknames, which were Turbo (me) and Nitro (her). However, these don’t translate as well in Spanish, or to the international backpacker community (which is made up mostly of 20-year-old Israeli dudes with pierced nipples and bulging muscles, we found), so we soon developed a great comedic timing when people inevitably asked our names. “I’m Hayley,” I would respond, looking to Kayleigh mischievously. “And I’m Kayleigh,” she would say with a sigh, rolling her eyes, both of us obviously so over the fact that we had rhyming names and were traveling together. Man, we had fun.

Snacks in tow, we headed to the Honduran coastal town of Omoa, where, according to Kayleigh, we spent the afternoon riding beach cruisers around in the surrounding villages “just like Korean business men” (in that we were incongruous to the environment and the people, obviously). I love riding bikes. We spent the night at a little backpacker’s hostel called Roli’s Place, which had beautiful green lawns, mossy mango trees and at least four different bunnies hopping around. However, they go on my Screw That Noise List because when the lady discovered that Kayleigh and I had climbed a tree to eat some snacks and contemplate the late afternoon, she screamed at us for like four minutes, some nonsense about “you are not children” and “I can’t believe you would smash an orchid like that.” Alright YES WE SMASHED AN ORCHID AND I AM VERY SORRY, but it was already half dead, and there were like 5,000 other orchids all over the place. And it wasn’t even flowering. We felt ashamed but later just pity, because she thinks climbing trees is an activity restricted only to children and will never know the magic of eye-level epiphytes at sunset. In retaliation, Kayleigh snapped off a piece of the water faucet in the bathroom (she claims it was “accidental,” but I saw right through that little facade). The next day, we scurried away under the lady’s reproachful glare and swung across the border into the little Guatemalan Caribbean town of Puerto Barrios, where we ate some beans and then took a boat up the Rio Dulce. We then alighted at my favorite little lodge, the Finca Tatin, which is a bunch of awesome tree-house bungalows in the dang jungle, right on the edge of the deliciously green river, which flows lazily to the sea. We’d been there not an hour when, low and below, who steps onto the dock but none other than MY FAVORITE PEACE CORPS BUDDY GABE!!! And his lady Heide!!! I almost peed myself with surprise and delight (actually, I might have let a couple drops escape…my bladder control ain’t what it used to be) and we celebrated this most unlikely coincidence by immediately hurling ourselves off the rope swing into the river. The four of us spent the next three days kayaking miles down-river and into eerie mangrove channels, hiking in the jungle, eating copious amounts of delicious food, sweating out toxins in the Mayan sauna, and then replacing the toxins by drinking cold beers in the hammocks. It was delicious.

Our upper arm muscles bulging like the youth of Israel from all that kayakin’, Kaylz and Haylz then bussed it north many hours to the little town of El Remate, which is between Flores and the Mayan ruins of Tikal. We spent the night at an eco-lodge called “Mirador del Duende,” in a little open-air adobe hut, which the Flintstones might have enjoyed had they really wanted to contract scabies and sleep on filthy mattresses that smelled like a homeless grandma. The next day we wasted all kinds of time and hitch-hiked into the ruins by early afternoon, just in time for the crowds to dwindle, but far too late to miss the once-a-year opportunity of “Dia de la Raza” (sort of like cultural history day), in which all the important Mayan chiefs come and do hella important ceremonies with their villages. JAGUARS BE DAMNED. We totally missed all the dancing and everything…but at least we were able to waft some smoke from the smoldering ceremonial fires onto our t-shirts. The families walking around were dressed in beautiful typical Mayan dress, with loom-woven skirts and embroidered shirts. We scrambled all over the ruins, drinking bottled water and taking pictures, just as the Mayan gods would have wanted it. We saw the sunset atop the breathtakingly-high Temple IV, which towers above the jungle canopy and was maybe one of the most beautiful evenings I’ve ever experienced. The ruins are built within the dense jungle, connected by narrow paths and neat signs, and the forest is filled with all kinds of monkeys (we saw howlers and spider) and birds and crazy mammals. In the evening, everyone starts hollering and the noise is majestic. That night, we camped in the grounds just outside the entrance to the park, suffering terrible cold and what was perhaps the Nastiest Mattress In the World (we fools opted not to bring my tent and camping supplies, thus falling to the mercy of the Guatemalan parks service). We spread our raincoats on top and spooned. We awoke at 4:00am, hustled to the entrance and tried to bribe our way into the park two hours early to watch the sun rise from Temple IV, a common activity, but the guards had drank too much Asshole Power Shake that morning and spitefully refused us entry. When we finally were allowed in at 6:00am, when the park opens for realz, we’d missed the real sunrise and I was supremely pissed. Kayleigh calmed me while I spat angry bitter words at the selfish pricks, and we galloped off to the temple to see what was left of Father Sun stretching his melty fingers over the treetops.

Our next stop was what is often toted as “the most beautiful place in Guatemala,” Semuc Champey. I didn’t really know what to expect, other than “a real pretty swimmin’ hole.” Oh my my, oh yes yes, it was. We drove for like seven hours south from Flores, through winding mountains and little villages, roaring past women and children walking along the road, dressed like cotton rainbows and carrying mysterious bundles of woven blankets on their backs by way of forehead strap. We finally arrived in the little town of Lanquin, which I can only imagine used to be a quiet little village until people discovered that tourists would pay money to go swim in their river. Now, it’s blossomed into a rather bustling little town full of hostels and places to eat. Kayleigh and I decided to feed the social monkey on our backs and stay at the “El Retiro Lodge,” which is nestled on a lovely rushing river and has over 100 beds, all filled with dirty backpackers (mostly Israelis). Clutching my dinner tray and staring at the buzzing open-air dining room, scanning the tables for a pair of seats near the cool kids…my god, it was like being back in middle school. Only with beer and less social anxiety…and my armpit glands produce far less sweat now than they did then. We did indeed make some friends, and it was a fun couple of nights, I must say. But the best part was the next day when they toted us all along the windy roads for half an hour to some awesome underground caves, filled with a rushing river which we have to navigate as we scrambled around, waving candles and gasping through waterfalls. After the cave adventure, we hiked a bit into the National Park and…my god. It was like something out of Fern Gully. Nestled in a towering mountain canyon of dangly jungle lies a series of deep limestone pools, all bright turquoise. The water is deliciously cool and so crystal clear you can see it when the fish poop. The water comes roaring down the mountain and grinds its way under a 20 meter natural bridge of rock, then suddenly calms and becomes....the most beautiful spot in Guatemala. We spent the afternoon diving around like awestruck mermaids and buying homemade chocolate from local kids. I’ll never look at the color blue the same way again.

“Enough nature, let’s go buy textiles,” said we, and so it came to pass. Kayleigh and I bussed it to Guatemala City, and then on down to Lago Atitlan, an enormous clear lake in the south-west-ish part of the country, bordered by hells of volcanoes and beautiful little traditional villages (at this point, I might as well just admit that I always felt too embarrassed to aim my camera at unsuspecting village women, so I in fact have nary a picture of their traditional dress, which is shameful and sad. Whatever, though, you guys can just go to Wikipedia.). Kayleigh and I spent the next four nights delighting in the lake, trying to stop each other from buying 90 pounds of woven items and other artisania but ending up just enable one another in such binges (ah, textiles, the crack cocaine of the tasteful lady) and making more new friends. We stayed in the town of Santa Cruz, at this cool little hostel called La Iguana Perdida. The food was INCREDIBLE, the beds were clean and comfy (we stayed in another open-air room, but it was 7 kinds of delightful), and the people were lovely, too. We spent a day hiking for four hours through a literal orgy of wildflowers, and came home with so much pollen on our noses that our day-long binge of my second-favorite drug of choice (next to handmade crap) was obvious to everyone. Flowers I love you flowers! We went to the market one day and attended a cross-dressing bon-fire party one night, as well (not much of a stretch for certain individuals). After several nights on the lake, though, it was time to leave (Kayleigh was close to getting us kicked out for befriending the kitchen ladies and trying to help them chop vegetables, a noted no-no).

We bussed it back up toward the city and parked ourselves in Antigua for the night, where we wandered for close to an hour before we found my most delightful Peace Corps friend’s grandmother’s house, a beautiful old home in the center of town. Despite our tardiness, Ana’s grandma Margarita and her mother, Sonia, who happened to be visiting from the states, greeted us in their time-worn nighties and presented us with bowls of beans, fancy French bread, and fistfuls of Milk Duds and Whoppers. We all giggled in Spanish late into the night before tucking in, lulled to sleep by the indignant commentary of Roberto, the pet parrot. I pretended Margarita was my Guatemalen grandmother and it was delightful. The next day, deliciously well-rested, Kayleigh and I headed to the capital and began the multi-bus adventure down into El Salvador and to the coast, where we crashed onto my most favorite beach just after sunset. I’ve had the good luck to visit Playa El Zonte about three times previous, and it was just as excellent as always…huge waves, black sparkly sand, toasty sandwiches and hunky dudes all over the place. Mmm, surfers. Kayleigh and I spent the next day riding waves and exploring tide pools, and had the great fortune to have arrived on the same night as a local “Gastronomical Fair.” We rode in the back of a truck bed with the rest of the hotel’s staff for half an hour in the warm, salty air under a perfect full moon, spotting owls and enjoying the way pine trees frame the Mama Moon. Then I ate so much awesome food I was farting out my ears and it was amazing. Tamales, soup, empanadas, cake, hot cocoa…my god. Once we got back, I played a late-night game of ping-pong with a goofy, tender-hearted local guy named Javier, which turned into an all-night series of conversations about everything and culminated in a beautiful sunrise. A few hours later, he cheerfully (albeit drowsily) drove Kayleigh and I into the capital, where we caught a series of buses all the way to the Honduran border and he hurried home to have his weekly fish lunch with his grandpa. Then, hip hooray, hot damn and hell yes, Honduras Honduras Honduras! After two weeks of amazing adventures, I couldn’t believe how happy I was to be home once again. We crashed at my Peace Corps friend Jessie’s home, and I bummed around the south for two days while Kayleigh rekindled friendships in several villages where she had volunteered a couple years ago. We met up two days later, bussed into Alubarén, and Kayleigh was given the whirl-wind tour, complete with swimmin’ hole cannon balls and meetin’ the baby possee. (The kids had made a surprise for me—a two-layer mud-cake with rose-petal décor, and the ladies made me another—six sheets embroidered with various sentences and images, including a huge one of Igor and his brother, Kaiser, facing one another, which were all layed out on my bed with a sign on top declaring everyone’s love for me.) My god but it’s good to be home. We spent the night in our final embrace of pretend sisterhood and the next day, our Slumber Party with Credit Cards was officially over, as Kayleigh headed out solo to catch her flight up in San Pedro Sula and I was left with nothing but salty tears, an over-squeezed heart, and way too many tiny woven coin purses.

Dudes and ladies, I would like to reflect further on what it’s like to be in the final stretch of my Honduran life, as I leave in exactly 10 days for the United States of Deliciousness, but it is late and I am sleepy and I must awaken in the bowels of the night to take Igor on the 4am bus to Tegus so the vet can declare him healthy enough for you people. Therefore, please await Part II of the Final Blog in the coming weeks, in which I shall ruminate poetically about what it’s like to leave your second family behind in a cloud of jet exhaust. Until then…nighty night.


Friday, September 10, 2010

i just made some delicious soup everybody

chipilín. mmmmm tasty.

anona is a delicious fruit. it looks like an artichoke but it ain´´s sweet and pulpy and has lots of black seeds.
igor and kaiser love each other very much. that is true.

awesome dusk rainbow i saw the other day...NO BIG DEAL.
two cipotes with igor, up at their school

kiddies in class...poor bastards.

poor little lisbeth, now one appendix less.

1 September 2010

Hey, chochachos! Want to know what is Hella Delicious? MINT TEA PLUS ALLSPICE. It’s like…10,000 hot ‘n slurpy candycanes all up in my mouthhole, dancin’ around to the Jingle-something-rock and then later making you have to go pee. Mmmm. Ain’t that what Christmas is all about? Dancing and then later, peeing? It’s true I have the Season of Sweaters on the brain…though it’s only September, I now have a PLANE TICKET HOME TO AMERICA WHERE THE PIES RUN FREE AND YOUR MOMMA MAKES YOU WAFFLES ON SUNDAYS. And since I am now wriggling with excitement at the thought of trampling the grass of my motherland, all I can think about is wearing long pants, socks, and hells of wool. As a dedicated, card-carrying Sweaty Individual, I do enjoy the hot ‘n balmy more than anything, but after nearly 2.5 years of that I am ready to binge on icy rain and other such delights found in Norcal in the wintertime. Plus In ‘n Out. Everybody get ready to see some binging in that realm as well. Naum naum naum.

Anyways. Mark your agendas, folks and ladies, cause I am gonna drink my first soda-beverage sweetened with corn syrup in two years on November 6 (Hondurans do it with cane sugar). For those of you currently regarding your Hayley Scrapbook with furrowed brows, you’re correct that as I began my service in September of 2008, oughn’t I be done in September 2010? The answer is YEP. And done in September I shall be…the 24th to be precise. However, I got some unfinished business in this here region, mainly involving tending to my illegal alpaca farm up in Guatemala, which I have been unable to see to as a Peace Corps volunteer (damn government passport!) My dear pal and darling Adventure Associate Kayleigh shall be joining me in early October, at which point we’ll get all UP in Guatemala’s face for three weeks, possibly giving a cursory head-nod to Belize, and of course our secret island (the one where the illegal alpaca farm is). Should be las tetas, if you receive my meaning….and I think that you do. After said darling bosom friend departs for the Land of the Free, I shall return to my site (SURPRISE!! Buahaha) and fetch my life partner, Igor, who shall be immediately whisked to the vet for a very official, multi-sealed (arr! arr! clapping of flippers!) Health Certificate that says he is healthy as a dog can be and thus fit for entry into the states (and if he aint, I’m prepared to do the ‘ol pretending-to-sneeze-but-instead-of-snot-i-secretly-throw-ten-dollars-over-the-counter maneuver). Then we’ll return to Alubarén, spend a few last days with my pueblo, celebrate Igor’s 2nd birthday on the 5th, and then, on NOVEMBER SIXTH…hooray and hot damn but if it ain’t ol Hayley, eatin’ our sandwiches and siphoning gas outta our cars! Guys, she’s back!!

If two months ahead of departure seem mildly premature for such giddy yakking, then you can just paint me purple and call me Little Miss Prema-Yak, cause I am delighted to be returning home to my warm, snuggly family and all them Tasty Situations. I still am incredulous that departing a place I have lovingly lived in for two years has yet to incite great wracking sobs, or even muted sniffles disguised as a cold, but I reckon that as the real departure looms closer I shall begin to feel the grief and despair I search for. Until then, I’ma continue to loop the mental reel of the moment in which momma and poppa Kercher fetch me at the San Francisco airport, arms all wide and beckoning, eyes all misty, hands all full of In ‘n Out. Be careful! Do not drop my milkshake.

Work-wise, I am just wrapping everything up in a NEAT LITTLE PACK-AGE (to quote Homer). My English/teaching methodology class, abstinence education and sex-ed class, pregnant women’s club, reading tutoring, dental hygiene classes, hypertension workshops…it’s all over, chochachos. Now all I’ve got left are the obligatory “clausuras” (like a graduation ceremony) that are expected at the termination of any activity. Cake and soda are shared, diplomas are handed out, photos are taken (Hondurans are particularly fond of the inspiring “let’s pose stiffly while you shake my hand with your left and hand me my diploma with your right, staring stonily at the camera”) and everyone races home to beat the rain. Hooray!

The folks here in Alubarén are all now aware that I’m on my way out, and I get asked “Ya se va?” about 40 times a day (“You leaving now?”). Yes. Ya me voy. The next question is inevitably, “Well, what tasty little morsel of gringa wealth are you going to leave me as a memento to our deep and lasting friendship? How bout that hammock? You takin’ that mini-fridge back to the States with ya? Can I have your pants? Give me your pants.” Etc. I have begun to slyly give away random articles of clothing (like my stack of Mysteriously Stained Underpants…mmm, funky) and such, but I’m still dreading the deluge of demands I know awaits me. But I do want to give away all my crap; I don’t need it and you should see the way folks’ faces light up at the presentation of gym shorts or plastic dishware. But as an American, the whole “don’t ask for a present” dogma is so engraved in my mind that even though I am perfectly AWARE that asking for something you fancy is not rude in Honduran culture, I still can’t curb the reflexive desire to give things to those who do NOT ask, and stubbornly deny those who do. Screw YOU, impoverished elderly woman asking for a coffee cup! Get the hell off my porch!

Not everyone is reacting to my pending departure that way, though…my best friends, Nely and the kids (the country jam band) are simply doing the same thing I am, which is making a real effort to SUCK that juice outta every moment we have together…goin’ to the swimmin’ hole or river instead of spending the afternoon in the hammock, cooking dinner together instead of alone (tonight we made “chipilín,” which is a strangely delicious green leafy bush you first boil and then fry in lard and salt…who knew vegetation could be so slurpygood?), and making tenderhearted comments every other day about how much we adore one another (oodles). Especially my little novio, Douglas…my god but do I love that kid.

A quick summary of things that have happened since my last blog, for those of you are more action oriented and less concerned with lame-ass prattling:

· My delightful pal Eddie (of peace corps fame) came to visit for a weekend and we spent three days leaping into swimming holes (obviously), eating as much corn as my neighbors could shove at us, and playing with dolls. And Matchbox cars (thanks again, Leetha!).

· I purchased a shiny, solid-gold kennel crate for my one and only love muffin, Igor. He is in love with the idea of having his own personal fort in which to sleep and fart (the apple doesn’t fall far) and I anticipate no problems in hauling him to America in it, provided he likes hanging out in forts for 12 hours at a time. I plan on drugging him moderately for the voyage, which is how forts should be enjoyed anyway.

· Alubarén celebrated her annual Feria (town fair), which was unremarkable, unless you think shooting off cannon-esque firecrackers for 15 straight minutes every night at 4:00am for 7 days is remarkable. Which I do not. Also, there were the annual ‘catch that greasy pig’ and ‘sexiest 6-year-old in town’ competitions, which were adorable and repugnant, respectively.

· My dear little 9-year-old friend Lisbeth (she lives across the street with Nely, who is her aunt) very nearly died from a burst appendix, and has been in the hospital since August 10th. She is still there, but should be released any day now. Maybe the scariest episode of my life.

· I contracted, suffered through, and recovered from the infamous mosquito-borne Dengue Fever…though I had no fever to speak of and participated in the annual Peace Corps Olympics with nary a hitch. My only symptom? A freaky-ass rash all over my body. Blotchy goodness.

· Igor and his brother Kaiser both spent a week as very sick little dudes, puking out their ears (so to speak) and yelping in pain every time they tried to eat something. I think my neighbor poisoned them with bologna, which she has threatened to do twice in the past (though not specifically with bologna). Too bad she and her tainted meats are no match for the strength of Honduran mutts. If she does it again, though, I will shank her in the goddamn kidneys until the Bad Blood comes and she Dies.

· The wet season continues to shake its damp hide all over Honduras, spraying the country with road-destroying droplets and that distinctive wet-dog smell. People all over the country have been losing homes due to the incessant downpours (people are losing lives, too) and all kinds of roads are washed out. The buses haven’t been able to leave Alubarén for a week now and the sky is sagging from all that heavy weight. Time to get some rainbow suspenders from the Goodwill, sky. The good side, though, is that all this rain makes the butterflies get ALL up in our faces, which makes strolling around outside just a delightful event. Seriously, there are so many bright and stripeity fellas flitting around you’d think it was Butterfly Pride Week. “Flippy-flippy flutter-flutter! What ends with fly and starts with butter! We are citizens of the Meadow and we demand our Constitutional Rights!” Etc. Plus, while the sky has yet to convert them into an elastic support system, we are averaging about 1.9 rainbows per week, which is just downright Special.

· The new volunteer who shall replace me has been appointed by the Peace Corps Crew, and it is none other than the delightful Margaret, an ebullient dame who I met during a trainee event. She’s got sunshine leaking out of her eyeballs and I can’t think of a better match for this town…the kids are gonna adore her. Unfortunately, she IS a blonde bombshell, which only serves to perpetuate the widely-held misconception among Hondurans that all gringas are blonde, blue-eyed and giggly. I will pass down to her my ugliest man-shorts, though, which should help deter some of the more forward young men in this pueblo.

Well, that about does it for today. We shall now begin the Final Countdown (do-do-dooo-do, do-do-dodo-dooooo, etc.) and please expect only one or two more blog-sandwiches before this remarkably-un-sundamaged lady ends the sweatiest, most far-out adventure of her tiny life to-date and heads home to the land of bacon and blueberry farms. Gonna be great.


Hayley and Igor (who is in his fort right now, tuckered out from stone-cold murdering a tarantula for me with his bare (no, not bear, dog) paws. Talk about earning your keep.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Igor in the 2010 Regional Grand Opening of the Most Freaking Expensive Dog Kennel Ever
the awesome swimmin hole 3 hours away from our homes...went there hikin through the woods and crossing raging rivers with nely, the kids, her brothers, and my good buddy eddie
noel with his leaf boat
Igor, guarding the giant bucket of spaghetti and tortillas
lisbeth, alison, and noel making leaf boats
water fallllll!!! don't ever climb under one of those things, though. you might drown.
douglas, nely and me.
alison pretending to be a campesino who has to do her washing in the river (seriously, that was the game)
eddie? eddie!
on the way to the swimmin hole.wooosh there we go
my little buddy douglas, who comes over every day and demands to bathe himself at the pila "yo solito" (all by myself)
the kid won't stop!
this is what i do to naughty little boys. INTO THE CAGE, BABY.
13 August 2010
Hey, chochachos!
Instead of a normal bloggy blog, I have copied-n-pasted the infamous "Close-of-Service" Survey that all us "seniors" have to fill out...please enjoy.

Name: Hayley Kercher

Site: Alubarén, F.M., also known (by me) as The Lubes, or when I’m feeling playful, the Lubey Lubes.

Project: Youth Development

Nicknames: Most people in my site call me Heely (yes, just like those sweet sneakers), but that’s not so much a nickname as it is an adorable mispronunciation.

Biggest Accomplishment: Leading my baseball team in a consecutive series of wretched defeats, thus generously teaching the children the thrill of being good losers. You’re welcome, babies.

Biggest Disappointment: My god. The teachers here. One hundred times, one thousand times. You cradle the future in your pudgy little hands and you do NOTHING.

Biggest Regret: Not doing anything to curb the rampant rape-n-pillage of our madre tierra here, except for discreetly furrowing my eyebrows when people throw soda bottles out the bus window.

Things you will miss most: Little Douglas (my 2-year-old neighbor) yelling from across the street in his tiny voice “YA SE LEVANTO, HEELY?!” when I yank my creaky front-door open every morning. Sitting in their house in the afternoon and drinking coffee and eating corn and its by-products (or mangos if it aint corn season). Having my entire world revolve around a 1.5 mile radius. The love and joy I feel radiating into my soul from the big brown eyes of the kiddies in my town. Taking said kiddies on Adventures in the hills. Jesus. Everything. I love you Honduras.

Things you will miss least: Working with the teachers. And the fierce fiery inferno that is my house. And the tarantulas.

Worst Illness: Once a tórsano (bot-fly) laid an egg in my eyeball and then it turned into a larvae and it was hella gross. Then it got infected and they had to amputate my eye (rather like melon balling) and now I have a glass one. But please don’t ask me about it as I’m sensitive.

Biggest Freak-out: When I was taking a shower in Gabe’s house on top of his pretty green mountain during a thunderstorm and was briefly electrocuted by a rogue bolt of lightening that hit just outside the bathroom and traveled through the hose and into my body. I bellowed several short, hoarse screams (like a muppet, I’m told) and leapt out of the shower, dripping soapy water all over Gabe’s bathroom floor while I pranced around, flapping my hands and panicking in all my pasty naked glory.
Biggest fear during PC: That I would wake up one sweaty morning, smack my mouth, stretch my arms, rub my cute little eyes, and focus in on a giant tarantula, suspended above my face like a mid-air nightmare on my mosquito net.
Most useful thing I brought: Underpants.

Least useful thing I brought: Orthopedic inserts. I never did wear them. Also, a whole fistful of bobby-pins. Why??

Favorite activity I did when bored: Go scrambling around in the hills behind my house with Igor and the kiddies, just stompin around lookin at all kinds of dragonflies and such, cannonballing into swimming holes.
Weirdest thing I did when bored: Sit with my feet touching sole-to-sole in my hammock and pretend that my big toes were giant worms (a la Tremors) and then make them fight to the death. Also, I like to close all the windows in my house and dress like a Cowboy and then do the Butt-Cheek Dance.

Greatest lie I told at my site: What? No, I don’t have to pay any extra to take Igor back to the states with me. Totally free.

Favorite Honduran Inquiry: Once, at the swimming hole, my neighbor timidly implored me to show her my nipple, because she was so curious about what a little gringa nipple might look like.

Best Honduran Gesture: Oh, but there are so many. But if I have to choose just one, I will have to go with my personal favorite, the lip-point. But runner-up for the nose-scrunchy “What?” thing and the belly ruuuuuuuub.

Favorite CD/Song during my service: Oh heavens, I cannot decide such a thing. Let’s just say I listen to hella jangly banjos.

Song I would be content never to hear again: Pretty much any Jesus-Love-Ballad featuring a dude that sounds like a weasel and his trusty A-tonal Casio keyboard, played on a bus.

Favorite books during service: Before Peace Corps, I had no idea who Tom Robbins was. Can you imagine?

Favorite Honduran fashion: The women’s soccer team in my town like to do their daily activities with stylish tops made of plastic garbage bags on under their bien socado polyester shirts, to help them “lost weight.” It’s a thing, seriously.

Best jalon: When my two buddies from home and I were camping on Punta Sal and had wandered 4 hours through the jungle to the other side of the peninsula to find a nice campsite, only to discover the destined beach was all kinds of buggy and actually sort of feo. We were starving and hot and tired and not at all looking forward to hiking another four hours back with all our shit, when all of a sudden, a shnazzy speed boat built for 20 zoomed into the remote cove, picked a group of day-tripping gringo missionaries who had been hiking and suddenly appeared out of nowhere from the trees, and offered us a ride back to the main beach where all the prettiness hangs out. We got to ride in the very front, and since it was a tour group, they stopped a couple times on the way back to the main beach to do awesome things like leap off the stern into secret Ocean Caves and such. Best of all, there were Snacks.

Worst jalon: ain’t no such thing. Jalons are Fun Things.

Best bus ride: I like riding the bus out of my site, at 5:30am, rolling up and down the hills and watchin the stars fade and morning sun do its thang all over the emerging horizon. All homes with tortilla smoke driftin out the roof and little kids herdin their cows with a stick.
Worst bus ride: That exact SAME bus, only entering the mountain from the freeway, all terrible and boiling hot at 2:00pm, dusty as shit and stinky, with all the pleasantries of the morning evaporated by the sun.

Favorite food: I really dig a nice bean and rice soup, all thick and savory and spliced with generous sprinkling of culantro, bien espeso. With like four hot, thick corn tortillas.

Worst thing I smelled: Having a wet dog sleep under my bed, immediately after rolling the hell out of a dead animal of some sort.
Stupidest thing I did in the past 2 years: Once, while hiking up Volcan Maderas in Nicaragua, I drank a mud puddle. I’d forgotten to fill my Nalgene, and was halfway up the mountain before I discovered this. It was like little knives of thirst stabbing me in the tender under-belly that is my throat. Thus, in a swirly moment of dehydrated delirium did I thus fill my belly with an entire liter of chestnut-colored water. Later, Giardia called me and was like “Hey, Haylz, wanna hang?” and I was all “Not really, Giardia, I’m kinda busy at the moment,” and Giardia was all like “Too bad man, I’m already on my way! I hope you got good Netflix!” but I didn’t because that does not exist in Honduras. So then I peed out my butt (POMB) for several days.

Untrue fact told to you as an undeniable truth: jelly beans do not exist here (yes they DO, they’re called Perlas and it is awesome.)

You know you’ve been in Honduras too long when: your Honduran visa expires.

I never thought I would: learn to enjoy hangin out by myself, with myself, for such an extended period of time.

If I had to do it all over again I: would not….NOT do it again. (As in, double negative…as in, would.)

Favorite piropo: I always enjoy it when a dude abruptly leans into my face while walking by me on the street and blows me an obscenely loud smooch followed by an “mmm mi amor.” Lovely.
Favorite Ropa Americana t-shirt: my glow-in-the-dark dinosaur facts t-shirt. Sorry, but it’s just the best there is.

Favorite animal story: The first time the shroud of mystery surrounding bird sex was finally lifted. To this day, when a rooster walks by I slide up and surreptitiously shut and lock my doors, my heart a-poundin’ and palms sweating.. My god.

Best habit acquired: Learning to fork-lift my food from my crotch to my face while curled up in my hammock, plate balanced on my thighs, book in my hand and surprisingly little dinner on my shirt.

Worst habit acquired: Putting things off till tomorrow because that’s what everyone else does. Also, never picking up my dog’s turds.

Things you missed most from the U.S.: Toasty sandwiches with remarkable insides, tasty microbrewy beer, sumptuous cheeses, sushi, and the ability to decide I want any of the above in my mouf and making that happen, all in the same moment. Also, ridin’ around in my bike on nice smooth suburbian streets and such.

Things you missed least from the U.S.: Pesto. Because I ate a whole vat of it every single week.

Honduras Highlights: The time I went to the beach with my neighbors who’d never seen the ocean before. Everyone got sunburned as hell and all kinds of gritty sand up in their cracks and dehydrated as the dickens and it was GLORIOUS. Also, I sure have taken a particular delight in knowing and loving you all, my happy friends. Let’s stay up all night and eat candy!
Best advice for fellow PCVs: Hot damn and hells yes, this is the most glorious job in the world and don’t let the lack of sumptuous cheeses blind you to that fact. Livin’ in quaint little green pueblitos, savin’ the babies from all kinds of typhoid and rolling in the love of neighbors and such COME ON THIS IS THE SHIT AND YOU KNOW IT.

Most likely to (for yourself or for others): eat three bags of Perlitas before I finish fillin it out (me).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

and then we high-fived that manatee



Alison, Noel, and Lisbeth. One little, two little, three little indians...jumping on the bed.

dramatic photo shoot while Igor shows off his new Look.

naum naum naum i love me some corn.

gabe, me, and phil, in our spelunking helmets they gave us to soar around the canopy in.

oh heeeeeeeeyyyyyyy

Jungle River Lodge at Pico Bonito. hells yes.

The river at sunset.

view from the janky little train that took us to Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cuero y Salado (wildlife refuge)

there she is!! best train ever.
here we are in our private swimming pool. the OCEAN. with DOLPHINS. (not shown.)

commence the jigglin!
angry monkey above our tent in Punta Sal.

a blue-assed baboon has infiltrated the sleeping quarters! QUICK SHOOT HIM. SHOOT HIM WITH A DART.

Another angry howler monkey, not pleased to have three smelly gringos bedding down in his lair.
19 July 2010
Hey, chochachos! Apologies to all you folksies, I did not mean to let two months go by without a bloggy blog but HEY LOOKS LIKE THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT HAS HAPPENED. This entry, despite such an unfortunate hiatus, shall not be as delightful nor long as usual, because a) it is extremely late (9:15pm) and b) my keyboard is being just 7 kinds of DICK right now, aka my delete and enter keys no longer work, which is surprisingly crippling (every time I make a typo I have to highlight it and then hit cut…GOD it’s tedious, but the nerd inside me refuses to let them lay). Also, weirdly, every time I hit the P key, the cursor automatically goes back a space, so all my P words require further maintenance. I suppose it’s to be expected, though, considering good ‘ol Laptoppy has been with me for 7 years. All I ask is that she stay somewhat alive until my service here ends and I can finish all my Documents, then I shall retire her to the lush, green fields of The Edge of a Country Road Where I Shall Dump Her, every laptops’ dream. All with wild poppies growin’ up all around her, hella tiny adorable mice makin’ their tiny adorable homes in her rusty battery hutch…someone get Bob Ross on the phone, he’s gonna wanna come paint this one!

In other news, hells of Items have transpired since my last e-missive. Lesse. My abstinence-Ed/sex-ed/female empowerment/life skills/planning for the future/please don’t get pregnant before you graduate workshops (also known as Yo Merezco, or “I Deserve”) have begun, one with the 6th grade boys and one with the girls. I tried to get a male counterpart to help me with the boys (no sixth grade kid I know wants to hear a sweaty gringa yammer on about wet dreams, boners and espermatozoides, whilst making little swimming motions with her hand to demonstrate the movement of a sperm), but the guy who was delighted to work with me was actually lying about his delight, and has yet to show up to a single workshop session (there are 11, and we’re halfway done by now) despite my constant needling. So, I’m doing it alone. And it’s actually fine…the girls are absolute ANGELS—every time we meet it feels like a support group for adolescent girls, which it should be, and the girls just adore it. They actually whine when it’s time to close the sessions up, which are always two hours long…unbelievable. And the boys, while slightly less mature and much more prone to rowdiness, still sit quietly while they are subjected to two hours of me bumbling around, saying the word “penetrar” while thrusting my index finger into my fist far too often.

That’s pretty much the only new development work-wise…reading tutoring with the little guys twice a week is going swimmingly, and it’s enjoyable because the results are tangible and relatively quick…all the kids without legitimate learning disabilities are advancing quite nicely due to the one-on-one attention, and the small handful that aren’t are at least progressing somewhat, even if it is at a snail’s pace. Most of the kids actually LOVE it, and fight over who gets to go next…the Treasure Chest is a very handy tool, indeed. And it’s nice because since I do the program in the library, which is usually closed due to our terrifyingly awful excuse for a librarian, the kids get to come in during recess and read books at the tables, which they normally would not be able to do. Obviously my keeping it open isn’t very sustainable, but then again, not much of what I do actually is. But don’t tell Peace Corps that.

The most exciting, delightful, adventurely, Blasty Blast event in the past two months, however, has not been helping my community. No, I have yet again taken advantage of my deliciously-flexible schedule and departed from Alubarén for a full two weeks to engage in jungly shenanigans with two of my dearest chums from the old college days (picture us wearing Letter jackets and hoisting steins of pissy beer), Gabe and Phil (yes, Gabe, the one in Northwestern’s Premier Drum and Dance Ensemble, Boomshaka…haven’t you heard? And Phil…of Wisconsin fame, the one who likes to fondle a sweater or two and isn’t afraid to crawl into bed with a clarinet when invited). The two arrived in San Pedro Sula one hot and balmy morning, and we thus departed eastly, cavorting wildly across Honduras’ North Coast, stopping to dip our toes in the warm, aqua water of the Caribbean and hurl our poo at howler monkeys (they started it!) along the way. It was AWESOME. First we spent a day or two in Tela, a cool little Caribbean town where another Peace Corps volunteer is fortunate enough to be located, hanging out, buying supplies, and watching one of the Honduras World Cup games on TV whilst stuffing our faces with tacos. Then, packs brimming with green plantains, rice, beans, tortillas, and smores fixin’s, we grabbed a bus to a little Garifuna town called Tornabe, where we spent a delightful night in a wooden cabin on the sand, and fell asleep listening to our stomachs digesting fried fish and the waves gently lapping at the shore. The next day, we got a ride in the back of a truck to a teeny Garifuna village called Miami, which is at the buffer zone of Punta Sal National Park (now actually called Jeannette Kawas National Park), which was our first destination. In Miami we paid entrance to the park, which is a long sexy peninsula covered by dense rainforest and edged in white sand beaches and clear, blue waters. It was incredibly beautiful. After paying our entrance, we paid a fisherman to take us across the bay in his little boat, thus cutting a 5-hour hike in the boiling sun to a delightful 15 minute jet across the water. Once on the peninsula (which really felt like an island), we tipped our hats to the lone ranger, Pedro, and set off in search of the perfect deserted beach to set up camp. After hiking the whole morning, however, we realized none of the other beaches were a good idea (either too rocky, too buggy, or too tiny), and grudgingly headed back to the beach where Pedro lived in a little hut, along with another family who sells over-priced meals to the tour groups that are dropped on the park for a couple of hours nearly every day. Still wanting to maintain our idealistic dream of camping alone on a deserted beach, we tramped about 6 minutes away along a shale-y path to a tiny little beachcito, and pitched the tent among the dried-out mangrove forest. PERFECT, we said. THIS WILL BE THE TITS. Famous last words. Don’t get me wrong, during the DAY it was awesome…hiking around the jungle, with troops of monkeys howling and swinging above our heads, huge butterflies shamelessly flaunting their weightless bodies, giant blue grabs edging around everywhere, snakes hiding on trunks and crazy jungle spiders stretching their webs between enormous mossy trees…it was indescribably gorgeous and wonderful. And of course, near-constant dips in our private little swimming hole, the Caribbean ocean (at one point, we even spotted a pod of dolphins leaping and swimming around, totally havin’ the best dolphin-time ever). But at night, our own personal Hell began. The tent transformed into a tiny little sauna, and the three of us lay sweating in each other’s armpits, too hot to sleep despite being exhausted. Then the tent began filling with chiggers, which are tiny enough to crawl through the tent mesh and perhaps the most infuriating thing in the world—meaning that not only were we sweating to death, we were also clawing the first layer of skin off our bodies. Then, the thunderstorms began, filling our crappy Honduran tent with water and making everything nice and stinky. The heat, however, did not decrease. Add all that, plus scary monkeys hooting above our heads and the vague warnings of hungry jaguars issued to us by Pedro, and I don’t think any of us slept a wink. We spent one more night on the island and then snagged a ride back to Tela with a tour group.

From there, we headed further east to the city of La Ceiba, where we spent a delightful night comparing rashes, eating delicious food, and sleeping under a pile of blankets in our OWN beds with the AC on Arctic-Tundra. It was maybe the best night of my life. Then we took a chicken bus out into the country, to the village of La Union, where we boarded a tiny little “train” left over from the Banana Republic days of Honduras’ exporting heyday and chugged off through the green drippy farmlands, toward the sea, to spend a couple days in the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, which is essentially a giant tributary, where two rivers meet the ocean in a mess of beautiful mangrove madness, filled with manatees, crocodiles, alligators, birds, snakes, turtles, and other critters. We stayed in a cute little bunk house and set out at 5am the next day with out teenage guide Eric, who deftly guided us up the river in his heavy canoe and into the beautiful mangroves. It was a bummer, though, because it was right smack in the middle of Hurricane Alex (well, not smack in the middle, actually, more like, severely to the left of) and it was raining nonstop all day. But no matter! Eric made Phil and Gabe paddle and instructed me to sit in the middle, “like a Queen,” which I most certainly did (though I did help Gabe paddle a couple times, for gender-equality’s sake). We totally saw a manatee and gave him a high-five! (Maybe.) We also may have seen a crocodile, and definitely saw hells of birds.

Then we headed back to Ceiba, spent another night in our delightfully icy hotel and had the most delicious food ever (I recommend Hotel La Italia for lodging and Mango Tango for dining, those of you who are taking notes….and Casa Jaguar for boozing.) The next day, we took a bus into the buffer zone of nearby National Park Pico Bonito, which is one of Honduras’ biggest (though most of it is off-limits). We spent three nights at the fantastically chill and beautiful Jungle River Lodge, balancing our time between leaping off giant boulders into the sweet clear swirling water below, rafting the Class I-V rapids, soaring through the treetops on zip lines, plugging our arteries with tasty German food from up the road (Omega Lodge), swirling around in the cool water under the full moon, reading paperbacks in hammocks, drinking icy Imperials, hiking two hours into the jungle to stand under 60m waterfalls, and chit-chatting with the other backpackers and local folks, while carefully avoiding the hugest Douche in the world, this guy from South Africa who, as previously mentioned, was a Huge Douche. Despite the douche, though, I think this last leg of the trip was our favorite, due to the unbeatable combination of natural beauty and the availability of cold beer. Also, no chiggers. Finally, the boys had to go back to the states amid tears and huggles and I had to go back to the Lubey Lubes, now fully vacationed and thus prepared to continue in my endeavors to develop the youth.

In closing, and in other news simultaneously, the corn harvest is in full swing and I have been eating myself sick with corn in all of its tasty disguises. Also, tomorrow in Indian Day, in which all the kids dress up like they imagine Indians might and parade around town. It’s awesome. Alison, Noel, and Lisbeth weren’t going to participate because Nely has been in Tegus all last week visiting her sister, so I declared I would help and spent the past weekend sewing little burlap skirts and Tarzan shirts, while the kids glued beans and rice into designs and braided hemp headbands which we then glued parrot feathers to. We also spent nearly 48 hours painstakingly sewing green corn husks to aforementioned Tarzan shirts, which, if I do say so myself, look positively bitchin’. Hooray for Dia Del Indio!

Dudes and ladies, I am wiped out and shall now retire to my mosquito-netted bed, thankfully so because due to the nonstop rain we’ve had since May, the mosquitoes are INSANE and you can’t breathe without inhaling 30 of them at once. Anyway. Igor and I send our love and shall report again soon. Until then, I love you guys.
Love, Hayley