Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Circus is in Town!

So the Circo America is in town this week. There's an open field right next to the Maxi Dispensa, and all week they have been putting up tents and letting the animals out next to the road to graze. It's made for a couple interesting walks.
So that we wouldn't look like complete dorks, we decided to take a little girl in our hall with us last night to see the show. It was actually pretty entertaining. 
They had all the usual acts- clowns, animals, acrobats, jugglers- plus the Smurfs came out for a little song and dance, which I'm betting was some sort of copyright infringement, but I won't tell if you don't.











They had a really cute act, where some kids from the audience got to participate. The ninos all picked superheros that they wanted to be (The Hulk, Spiderman, Captain America) and the ninas were supposed to cry out what I'm assuming was some version of "Help me, Help me" then choose a superhero to come running across the stage, pick them up and carry them back across to safety. Well, when Captain America heard this, he took off running- bolted right off the stage and over the hurdles surrounding it back to his parents. I guess girls still have cooties for him. So we got a new superhero- Pokemon. Here is a video of what followed.

video


Even though the entire thing was in Spanish, it was really easy to follow. I guess all circuses are pretty much the same. We had a really good time, even if they didn't sell cotton candy, which I thought was a circus requirement. Also, these clowns weren't scary, so that was good.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Colorado Wildfires

It's so scary to be down here while our hometown is burning to the ground. Not knowing how everyone is.

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone. We hope you stay safe.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Something I'm Not Used To

So two days in a row, something very strange has happened.

We took taxis that actually had seat belts in the backseat.

Normally this doesn't sound that weird. But we take taxis all the time, and there are never belts in the backseat. I don't know where they went, but they just aren't there. So this is a novelty. I actually got to wear a seat belt for the first time in months.

Yay! I felt safe!

I know, I'm a dork.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

One Way Honduras Has Changed Us

I would say that this is so embarrassing to admit, but clearly it's not that embarrassing since I'm about to tell you anyway.

Honduras has changed us in many ways. We've had new experiences, most of them good, we have had a lot more time to focus on the things we need to (ie spiritual stuff). All in all, it's been very good.

But, Honduras has created one bad habit in us. We watch a ton of television. After the service and studying, there isn't really anything else to do. So although I hardly watch any TV at home, here we have specific shows that we watch, and our day isn't complete without them. I think from previous posts you may have figured out that I've taken to watching Jeopardy. But it doesn't stop there.

I was sitting outside, working on the computer and enjoying the nice weather we are having, when I hear Zach turn on the TV, and the theme song to a show we like came on. I said, "Well, that's enough enjoying nature for one day," and promptly went inside. I'm so ashamed. 

Does it count that I still have the door open and can see the mountains from the window? No? Yeah, that's what I thought. 

O well, it was dinner time anyway. The first step toward fixing your problem is admitting you have one. So I'm partially there, yay! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Honduran Mentality

So I have a kinda funny story that gives a little insight into the Honduran mentality. Something similar to this has happened to us a couple times now, so I don't think it was just one person being difficult.

We went to eat at a little place called Wings-n-Burgers. They have the most beautifully crafted hot dogs you will ever see, and some amazing burgers. So I order a hot dog, and the lady asks if I want a drink. So I look at the drinks and say I want a Naranja. She tells me NO. Uh, ok. Apparently, you can get the hot dog as a combo, and that particular combo only comes with the cans of soda, not the bottles. So in her mind, I got Coke or Ginger Ale. That's great and all, but can't you just charge me more and give me what I want?
Apparently not.

We went to Applebee's and ordered their lunch special. They were out of everything but the piece of chicken itself. Did they tell us that when we ordered? No. They brought out half the meal, and when we asked for the rest, they said "no hay"- we don't have it. Ok...why did you let me order this then?

And there's just this sense of acceptance. Like "that's just the way it is and there's nothing you can do about it." In the States, that wouldn't go over well at all. People would be screaming bloody murder and demanding free food. Coming from that mentality of "You can always get what you want", I get frustrated sometimes, but in the end, it doesn't really matter, and it usually works out ok.

Zach ordered the hamburger combo, and that came with a big drink, so I still got my Naranja. But, you know, I probably would have survived without it. Now we'll never know.


That's the thing about being here though. You become much more laid back, there's a lot less stress. It's just...easier. Focus changes, things don't matter so much, there's a sense of freedom.

I love it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What you need to know before moving to a foreign country for need great work Part 2


Now that you’re in your desired country, what do you do?

Did you pack lightly like I told you to? Good, you’re off to a great start. Unpack. Set up your new place so it feels homey to you. After all, you will be living here for…well, however long you signed up for. Possibly longer.

Sisters, I sincerely hope you did not pack high heels. Or low heels. Actually, just stick to flat shoes. You will be doing so much walking over rough terrain- even in the cities- that you will die if you don’t have comfy shoes. In fact, our Circuit Overseer’s wife wears a really good pair of nice looking tennis shoes, and she has no problems. It’s a little weird sounding, but it’s a great idea. I’ve started doing that, and O how nice it is not to have massive blisters every day. This is not the place to put fashion first. Be practical.

Remember that camping trip you went on that one time? Where you had to shower at the campground and there was only cold water and no water pressure? Yeah, it’s kinda like that. Get used to it. Most likely you are in a hot country where that cold water is going to be your best friend, and if you are in a cold country, I’m really sorry. You should also buy a water pitcher so when there is only a stream of water you can still rinse off. We use ours constantly.  Also, you should probably buy a bar of shampoo or all-purpose soap while you’re at home, because it’s a lot easier than packing shampoo bottles and you don’t know if you’ll be able to find shampoo where you’re going. (Target sells some fancy shampoo bars online.) Some people really get out in the jungle, it’s good to be prepared.

Learn the bus route. You probably don’t have a car, and some places are too far to walk to. Buses are much cheaper than taxis too. Even if the taxi is only a dollar to go anywhere. It adds up- plus you can get service time on the bus talking to the people around you. If you’re really bored, just hop on a bus and see where it takes you. It’s a good way to learn the city. Or you might get lost. But everyone needs a good story, right?

While you are learning your way around the town, the very, very first phrases you want to learn in the local language are directions to your house. There’s nothing worse than not being able to get home.

If you are not in a first-world country, bring your own toilet paper with you everywhere. Just keep half a roll in your purse. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Just do it. Oh, and have a supply of hand sanitizer too. Zach says it will save your life. Be prepared to sanitize everything, even your bag of water before tearing it open with your teeth. 

Have a local brother or sister give you a tour of the town. They should be able to point out some landmarks and good places to shop, eat, or avoid.

Be prepared to be in a cash society. Most shops will not accept your credit or debit card, so find a reliable ATM and take out money each week or so that will cover you for everything. We use a debit card at the market, but have about $50 a week for incidentals, food and taxi/bus fares and saldo (minutes) for our phones.  This is also where the emergency/backup fund I previously referred to comes in handy. You never know when your ATM card is suddenly going to get rejected while ordering takeout or otherwise spending money.

Speaking of money though, realize that there is an exchange rate and you are probably actually paying more than you think. For example, I think it is so cheap to pay 100 lempiras for a fast food meal, when in reality, that’s 5 bucks, and that adds up. It’s not actually cheaper than the States, much as we like to think it is. Granted, some things (rent, utilities, bags of water) are cheaper. But if it’s something you could get in the States/Canada/Where ever you are from then you are probably paying the same price or more than it would cost in you back home due to import fees. Don’t go overboard on your spending because you think everything is cheaper. It’s not.

Get a local cell phone. Don’t wait. It proved absolutely invaluable in our case. (Refer to previous post “We’re Here!!! of 2/24/2012) Also, while it can be done, it is stupid expensive to text/call home. Get skype or magicjack for that. If you have a cell phone with a SIM card at home, you can probably bring it to your new country and just get a SIM card. In our case, we had to buy phones when we got here, but that’s ok, cause a cheap phone is like $15. And you don’t have to worry about it getting stolen, cause it isn’t painful to replace a cheap phone. Can’t say the same about your brand new iPhone.

And while I’m referring to previous posts, another lesson to take away is don’t give out personal information unless you have to, because you never know where it will end up. They just don’t care as much in certain countries. Today I saw two women at an ATM with a stack of at least 40 ATM cards, I think they were pulling out money for everyone in their office. That just screams Identity Theft. Watch your cards and your ID if you have to give them out.

Be careful with the meats you buy. In general, only buy from the market where things are labeled, or places where you know how the animal was butchered. I don’t want to get too graphic on descriptions for those of you with weak stomachs, so I’ll just say be careful. Many countries are big on eating blood products, and they aren’t always labeled as such. In fact, if you want to go vegetarian or only eat processed chicken, that’s probably not a bad idea. Better to be safe, right?

And the most important tip- meet with the congregation and get out in service with them as soon as possible. After all, that is why you are here. Being around the friends will help with any homesickness you might be experiencing. Plus, it's a good way to get to know the area. If they tell you to learn certain phrases for service, learn them quickly and learn them well. Listen to the advice they give you, and you won't go wrong. 

Hope you enjoyed Part Two of What To Do (hey that rhymes!) I'm pretty sure there might be a Part Three here soon. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What you need to know before moving to a foreign country for need great work


*****DISCLAIMER***** This post is by request, and it's a long one. *****

It's going to be different, nothing you do will fully prepare you for this. That said, still prepare. It will make the transition easier.

First thing to do is PRAY. A lot. You need to get Jehovah's direction and blessing before you make any decisions.

If you don't know where to go, look through the yearly stats in the Yearbook. That will give you a good idea of which countries need help. Also, if you want to serve in a specific language in that country (ie English, Sign, Hindi) check out www.jw.org. Under the LOOKUP tab, you can search for meetings in different countries, to make sure they have what you want. Also, you would be surprised how many random countries have English congregations. You don't have to stay home just because you don't know the native language. But do pick up a Lonely Planet language guide. They are small, but filled with phrases you might actually use. Also, pick up sign language. Its pretty much universal.

Talk to others who have done this before. They will have good, practical advice to give you and will also encourage you with their many wonderful experiences.

Write a letter to the branch of the country you want to visit. They will tell you which congregations actually need help, and will give you the info for a brother or two to contact. Use those friends. They are very valuable for getting information about the country and where to stay. It also helps to find out where the Kingdom Hall is ahead of time. We booked a hotel next to what we thought was a Kingdom Hall for when we first got here. Turns out our hall was completely on the other side of town. Never trust Google to give you the full story. However, the brothers do have lives of their own, and are not your personal assistant. Do your own research too. And let the brothers know when you are coming, and where you will be staying initially, so they can contact you if the need arises.

Visas are not as scary as everyone makes them out to be. In general, countries like tourists because it brings them money. So send off for your visa if you need to. If you don't need a visa for the country you are visiting, just wait until you arrive and they will stamp you into the country without much hesitation. I don't think our customs agent even looked at us.
When it comes to renewing your visa, see what options there are for extensions without having to leave the country. Look this up before you book your tickets. For example, after your first 90 days are up, Honduras will grant you a one time extension of another 90 days for a fee. This way you can maximize the amount of time you can stay, instead of incurring the expense of leaving the country and coming back.
I also hear that there is like a 5 day grace period on getting out of the country without getting in trouble once your visa is expired. Hopefully no one has to find out if that's true or not.

Count the cost before you go. There's nothing worse than going somewhere and finding out you go through money quicker than expected due to exchange rates and eating out and just general unpreparedness.

More than likely, you are going to a congregation or group that needs help. Be prepared to be used. A lot. If you don't like answering or giving talks, here's your chance to get to like it. Step out of your comfort zone. If there's an avenue of service you haven't tried or have a hard time with, try it. You won't regret it.

Just a couple pieces of practical advice shared by a Circuit Overseer's wife given to me before we left.
First, have two blood cards. One in your purse, and one that never leaves your side. You may think “O, I always carry my bag with me.” But you don't. And that's when the accident happens. They won't know your purse is in that car parked right down the street. Your blood card won't do you any good from there.
Second, have an emergency fund stored away somewhere easily accessible but well hidden. This is helpful in case anything goes wrong- from a strike that leaves you unable to get to a bank so you can get money for food, to an emergency bus ride out of the country due to a coup. It's always best to be prepared.

That said, the worst case scenario is not likely to happen. But “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself.” So be prepared, but hope for the best. It'll be just fine. Don't look at all the horrible news reports about your chosen country. Most bad stuff doesn't happen to tourists. Don't get caught up in the bad news. It will only bring you down and scare you. Obviously, you want to be aware and take safety precautions, but don't let yourself become paralyzed with fear either.

Pack lightly. The old adage about packing is true. “Take half the stuff and twice the money.” If you are going to a hot, muggy climate, you probably only need one pair of jeans and a light sweater. If you are going somewhere cold, you don't need multiple swimsuits. Actually, even if you are going near a beach, you don't need multiple swimsuits. If you are going to be moving around a lot, having a ton of stuff will only slow you down and frustrate you. If you are staying in one place the entire trip, having a ton of stuff will mean your suitcase never quite gets empty and you will just feel dumb for packing so much. Most the clothes we brought, we thought were well suited to the climate, we were wrong. And it turns out there are stores everywhere that sell clothes. So pack lightly, and if you need to, buy once you are in country. That way you can make sure you have what you actually need, and look- easy souvenir! 

Unless you are going to a remote part of the country, they probably have a store with basic necessities. You don't need to bring your own tupperware. Yes, we actually did this. The one thing I have found useful from my IKEA trip was the canvas shelves for my closet. Perfect solution for not having much in the way of storage space. However, bring your own sheets.

Don't bring your expensive jewelry. If you're married, consider purchasing a nice but cheap (Walmart) ring to wear. It's good to let them know you are in fact married, without flashing something expensive around. Also, in some countries it is not customary for women to wear jewelry, so research that before you go. You may be a visitor, but you don't have to look like one and draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

Once you are there, pray some more. You will probably have some hard days while you are on your adventure. Jehovah will get you through. I mean, bawling as you go out the door to service hard days. But he will help you make it, and you will adjust just fine.

Don't be afraid to try new foods. Don't eat fruit right from the street vendor stall, but feel free to take it home, wash it thoroughly and give it a shot. Also, look to see if the locals eat at the place you are considering. If they don't, there's probably a reason, and you shouldn't eat there either.

The best thing we have bought since coming down here was a good messenger style bag for service. Get one that’s big enough for a couple sets of magazines, your bible and some books. But don't get one that is overly large, because you will end up stuffing it full and it will be incredibly heavy by your second hour of service. Also, invest in one of those carabiner style clips that attach to water bottles. Hook it onto your bag, and look ma- no hands! That leaves you free to use your hands to hold the important stuff.

A couple helpful reference websites:
www.numbeo.com- gives the approximately cost of living for the area. It's filled in by actual people in the region, so it's pretty accurate.
Www.xe.com – exchange rate. Gotta make sure you can actually afford the country you want to go to.
Check into the weather/climate for the area you are going to. Www.wikipedia.com usually has a somewhat helpful chart for each country, but check a couple different websites to get an accurate idea.
Www.Travel.state.gov is the US Dept of State website. They have a list of countries and general advice about the political climate, crime and health precautions. Also, check the Embassy website of the country you are planning to go to. 
www.craigslist.com- Many countries have Craigslist, or their own version of it. This is helpful for getting ideas of how much rent should be, and figuring out the availability of certain items (like refrigerators) in the area.

The main thing is- this is a new experience. Be open to it. Don't be afraid to try new things, because everything is going to be new. Even the Coke. Don't let yourself get frustrated by the little things, because those aren't the parts of the trip you will remember anyway. Just enjoy yourself and it'll all be just fine. 

Confession

So I have a horrible secret that I'm going to share with all of you. And yes, I may whine a little bit in this post.

I don't like Honduran food.

There, I said it. I'm sorry, but it's true. I love all the different veggies and fruits that we find, but the typical Honduran menu does not appeal to me at all. I was so excited to try new foods, but I find that everything is the same, and sort of tasteless. The food isn't bad, it's just....not exciting.

The tipico Honduran breakfast consists of beans that are similar to refried beans but aren't the same, some kind of chorizo, eggs, thick tortillas and fried plantains. The plantains are good, but the rest of it...meh. For lunch, it's the same thing, but this time wrapped in the tortilla. I do have to say, the tortillas are pretty cool, they are kind of like Indian roti or pita bread. They work really well as a naan substitute when I make curries.
The cheese that seems to be in everything (even packaged hot dogs) tastes kinda rancid, but I know it's not actually bad, because everyone else is eating it. The Chinese food in the mall is actually pretty good and ridiculously cheap, but I think I may have to open my own restaurant if I want Indian food.
Thankfully, smoothie shops are abundant. There are four in the mall alone. We just discovered one that uses kiwi and guanabana, so I think we have a new favorite. Plus they have this cool machine that vacuum seals the lid to the cup and the geek in me loves that.

We eat things here that I wouldn't dream of eating in the States. I don't remember the last time I went to Burger King back home, but here, I go at least once a week. And I live for Dunkin Donuts breakfasts.

I'm not saying that all Honduran food is bad though. Against my better judgement, I ate a piece of fried chicken for breakfast at a stand in the bus depot one morning. It was amazingly delicious.
Also, I love Tang. They have about 20 different varieties, and most of them are really yummy. I especially love the tamarindo.

The stores here actually have a pretty good variety of products, even if you can't do one-stop shopping. Zach picked up some name brand sweet-and-sour sauce the other day, and we haven't had any problem finding soda. So much for cutting back on that habit. I think we've actually gotten worse. But seriously, we can make pretty much anything we would back home, it just might taste a little different. So we really haven't missed anything since we've been here. I did go through a Mountain Dew withdrawal for about two weeks til we found the sweet hookup though. Turns out pretty much anything is available, if you want to pay import prices.

But after four months, I'm really starting to crave some good American food. Like ribs and waffles and Chipotle. And tonight I would kill for some Costco baklava, but I'd settle for ice cream that doesn't taste like cow. We did find Nestle TollHouse brownie and cookie mixes, so that's pretty exciting. We made brownies for the pioneer meeting, and we were told the locals don't know what brownies are. Which got me thinking- how would you describe a brownie? Cause it's not a cake, and it's not fudge. Think about it. Actually don't, I'm probably over-thinking it due to the fact that I have yet to sleep tonight.

Anyway, if anyone wants to overnight a chicken burrito to me, that would rock. Alternatively, go enjoy one and leave me a comment about how yummy it was.





Monday, June 11, 2012

Ziplining- Again!

So we think Zach has a parasite. That's pretty exciting. But Grandma's cure seems to be helping, so thank you Grandma!
Anyway, been a bit under the weather, but it helped us get some much needed rest. Can't wait to get back out in service tomorrow. I miss my group!

Last week I bought a cacao pod from a pulperia. It was a whole 3 lemps! Here's some cool pictures. We popped it open, ate off the white gunk and roasted the seeds in the sun. Next up, finding a grinder and figuring out how to make actual chocolate. So much fun!




Today we went zip lining with the sisters visiting from Virginia. We went to the same place as before, so not many pictures, but we do have a couple videos. We've discovered so many cool things here, I think I want to become a tour guide when we get back.

Here's me with my windswept hair from riding in the back of the truck. I know, super attractive.


This is Jaely (sp?) all ready to go!
Zach and the girls in front of one of the hot springs. 250 degrees! Don't jump in that one!



 This is a nut thing that grows on some of the palm trees here. The guides called it a small coconut but it was kind of like a macadamia nut. It was really yummy.


Here's a video of the longest run on the zip line course. You can see it's not really that scary, and you aren't too high off the ground, but it's really fast.

video

Well, that's all for now. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks to all our readers, new and long-timers. Comments are always appreciated!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Exciting News

So just a couple of quick things.

Today we got a lot of time in service, but it was HOT!!! I went back on a call with a sister, and the householder was really good to talk to. She obviously thinks a lot about spiritual things, you can tell based on her answers to questions. We also did a study with three young girls in Spanish. The oldest is really smart and really into the study. I will probably be taking it over when the other sister goes home. That should be fun, they have already gone to meetings a couple times.

One of the brothers here has a study who has been coming pretty regularly to the meetings. Last Wednesday, he answered for the first time. On Sunday, he answered FOUR times! It was incredible to see. He is making amazing progress.

So, *OFFICIAL NEWS* we have a game plan now. We want to be back here by January to stay full time. There's a few things we have to get worked out, but with Jehovah's blessing, it'll happen. We don't know what we are doing August- December, but we have next year figured out.
Unfortunately, there already seems to be someone who reserved our apartment once we are gone. And they plan to be here for about 6 months or so. So this means we have to go apartment hunting. Yay...and not Yay.

We love our apartment, it's close to everything and everyone, which means we can do a lot of walking. It's in a pretty secure area, we have a clothes washer, plenty of space to spread out (turns out we don't need much of that) the awesome balcony, and of course, clean running water that we can drink out of the tap. I'm really a fan of that last one.

But if this apartment isn't available, what to do? There's the slightly bigger 1 bedroom with a/c right next to us. But about 15 minutes away, and closer to the morning service meetings, are two other places. One is a two bedroom, which would be perfect so we could have company stay with us. (Because you know that's what's been keeping y'all from visiting. When we come back, we expect people here every other week. :) ) The other is a complex with various sizes so we would just see what is available. Any of these places would work, it's just a matter of what's available and where we want to go...or who we want as our neighbors. (Those of you reading this who might become our neighbors- I'm just joking. We love all of you.)


But I really, really like our apartment. Yes I know I'm starting to whine. It just has that feel of your first place when you move out on your own, and it's near and dear to me. Also, it's really safe. And I can drink the water. Cannot emphasize that part enough. No parasites for me!

Ok enough of that. Here's some pictures from service.

This is the view from the patio where we had the service meeting this morning.


This is Zach walking fown the street. You can see a Pulperia in the right-hand corner. That's right, the Pespi and Coke logos are just painted on the side of the buildings.


This is a picture of the rest of the group, under the blue roof, you can see two sisters talking to a man, and right behind them are the other two brothers.


This is a random lot in the middle of the neighborhood. There are two perfectly normal houses on both sides of it, and in this walled in lot, there's a jungle.

Ok, gotta go make dinner and watch Jeopardy!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day at the Beach

Yesterday was absolutely perfect. Well, the part where Zach made me get up at the crack of dawn to walk to the grocery store wasn't perfect, but the rest of it was.

First we took a bus to the beach. It turns out the place is called Helen's because there is a Hotel and Restaurant Helen there. I'm assuming she's the owner. 



It was completely deserted. You couldn't see anyone at all. The water was perfect and warm, unless you went out really far. It was shallow way out there. 
                                                    Then suddenly....COWS!
Travis borrowed a machete from the hotel owner and cut down some coconuts. I think its a requisite of living in Honduras. You must know how to use a machete.
                                                   

                                                  Drinking the coconut water


                                                            The girls relaxing
                                                         The turtle sanctuary


                                         View of the hotel from the middle of the ocean

                Failed attempt at capturing a jumping shot. Looks more like a cell phone signal ad.

Sunset


Nest week we plan to go ziplining again. Maybe this time we can get some videos for y'all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

We've had a great couple of days. We started three studies yesterday, and they all seem really interested. It's fun to study in Spanglish too. One of the studies is with a newly married couple, he speaks English but she doesn't, so we read alternating paragraphs in Spanish and English.

Last night we went to a kindergarten graduation for a girl in our hall. It was the cutest thing ever. All the preschoolers were costumed as animals from The Lion King, with one Tigger thrown in there, and they did a dance up the aisle, then the kindergarteners sang and danced to "I Just Can't Wait To Be King." Man, if I had as much energy as a six year old... They take school very serious here. Even for the pre-graders, they had several diplomas and awards and medals, all very official of course.



Tonight we went to dinner with our neighbors. It was great to hear their experiences. They have been to about 11 international conventions, and over 35 countries. They even went to the first international convention is Russia, back in the 90s. I would love to be able to do as much as they have someday.

Tomorrow we are going to the beach with some friends in the hall. So excited! We are renting a bus to take us about half an hour away, to a place called Helen's. I'm not really sure why it's called that, and it isn't on Google Maps, but I hear there is a great beach, and that's the important thing.

We only have 2.5 months left here, the time has gone by so fast. I wish we could stay longer; I really want to go to the District Convention in El Salvador. But we plan to come back, so there's always Convention next year.

Hope to have pictures and experiences to share soon!