Monday, October 27, 2008


Ricardo has been volunteering in the Habitat office for several months. He is a lawyer in Tampa, and duty was calling him home. He also is Maureen’s house mate, along with Lauren another volunteer at Habitat, and 2 other Americans who are English teachers. Yes, it is a full house…..Jose and Patricia’s full house. They are a Tico couple who started renting out rooms in their large house just this year.
Since Ricardo’s flight was early Saturday morning, he invited all of us for “the last supper” We had a lovely night at SASH, A Lebanese restaurant 5 minutes from our house. With the low mosaic tiled tables and the sheer walls of flowing fabric, the atmosphere was exotic; the sampler platters that Ricardo ordered for the table was a wonderful break from my daily Tico fare. Falaphel, grilled veges, Tabuleh, hummus…..ahhh keep it coming! I also indulged in a couple glasses of a delicious Chilean red wine…..something I don’t do too often here. (I have really become more of a beer drinker, which was a change from my old ways of wine with dinner everynight) AND since Jose and Patricia don’t speak English, we had to speak Spanish. (a situation that I love)
Ricardo has started a blog called the ROIG REPORT, so we can easily keep up with him.
Saturday was a pretty boring day, walk to market for pupusas, coffee & internet at a café, followed by gelato, jewelry and to bed early. Maureen and I planned to meet to go running at 630am….yes, on a Sunday?! I didn’t want Sunday to be a repeat of Saturday so after running we decided we would take a bus to the little town of Sarchi, the country's most famous artisan town. To get to Sarchi is an easy 1 hour bus ride. On the way we stopped in the little town of Grecia for a coffee. Grecia is noted for its unique church that is made entirely of pre-fabricated steel plates and painted red.
According to legend, the
Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes was donated by some foreign country, and sent to GREECE as a gift, but was wrongly shipped to Grecia. Hmmmmmm The traditional oxcart, or carreta, is the country's most famous type of craft. You will see this design EVERYWHERE in Sarchi.Now it is admired for its decorative qualities, but the oxcart played a very important part in the cultural history of Costa Rica. In the middle of the 19th century, when coffee was first being cultivated in the surrounding countryside, oxcarts provided the only method in which to transport the hand picked beans over the mountains and to the coast. They actually served as a status symbol.
Of course, a MUST SEE in Sarchi is the biggest oxcart ever!
I really had to resist buying a little trinket size oxcart. They were darn cute and there was a turquoise one, but Im trying to stick to my “only buy souvenirs that are useful” rule. So instead I bought a beautiful little painting buy a local artist.
The other thing Costa Rica is known for is their woodworking. People flock to Sarchi to buy furniture and custom made wood pieces. I started developing an idea in my head a few months ago when I saw this jewelry case in a little boutique in Montezuma.

AH-HA! The perfect momento, Jewelry cases handcrafted in Costa Rica. I have it all designed in my head. Imagine along the side of the case. Carved peacock feathers!!! Oh my, how beautiful...I can see it now! Here is the whole case.

Unfortunatley the artesans are not really working on Sundays, so I spoke to the store owner and she said I can either send my design via email, or come back to design it with the artist himself. I just skyped with my friend TJ, who is an unbelievable artist, and I tried to describe how I would like it to look so he could sketch something for me to show the woodworking artist. I will go meet him in person, but it will be nice to have the idea on paper.

I felt pretty sastisfied with our trip. mission accomplished! I wanted to #1 get out of San Jose, #2 get the ball rolling on my jewelry cases, #3 eat something delish. Which we did at "Puerta del Sol"
I love all the colors of Sarchi! I will be going there again before christmas.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fun in Copan Ruinas Honduras!

What a cool weekend! I don’t know how much more we could have done in 2 days!! Our conference ended on Friday and since we were in such a cool spot, everyone wanted to explore. All but 4 of us from the Habitat conference left for San Pedro Sula where they flew out Sunday. I wasn't done yet.......even though I said I wasnt going to buy knick knacks anymore....I couldnt resist the maracas.My co-worker Andres and I wanted to check out the Mayan ruins, and I had done some research on Copan before the conference and discovered that there is a BIRD PARK. Yes, Macaw Mountain Bird Park had to be visited. Saturday morning the hotel shuttle took our group to the Ruins and I wanted to be dropped at the bird park. I convince Andres to go with me, and all though he isn’t a huge bird fan (like me) he enjoyed it. He is an avid photographer and took some beautiful shots of the parrots. My camera also captured some nice shots I thought. Like this little birdie.
This is my favorite one of me.... the bird all her glory! I was in heaven!This next pic is just to show you why I am asking Ernesto for a camera like Andres' for xmas. He took this pic with his Canon EOS (pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee mi neto???) Just look at the difference in colors. Now that is magazine quality. Imagine what it will do for my jewelry shots. Yes, it is a business investment. ok, back to my camera....
That night me, Andres, Aranzazu from Mexico and Esteban from Chile were planning to go to some Aguas Termales (hot springs) to relax, but since it had been raining for the past 5 days straight, the roads were a mess, and the place didnt have electricity. Instead we headed into town for some street food!!! For $1 we ate baleadas that were being prepared fresh by this lady right here. Baleadas are a flour tortilla-ish thing that is filled with beans, natilla, which is like a sour cream and cheese...and of course I added hot sauce too....sooooo delicioso! We pulled up a platic stool under the umbrella table on the street and order some shish kabobs too. Now thats what Im talkin' about!
The next morning we arrived early at the Ruinas, and I was so excited to see........MORE BIRDIES!! There were a bunch of red macaws (lapas) at the entrance of the park!
Our guide was wonderful! We ended up spending over 3 hours exploring and taking pics. Plus he was speaking spanish, so it was a good lesson for me. Here he is with his feather pointer explaining some hierogyliphics.Up closer.............................Copan seemed to be a very complex city. It is the site of a major Mayan kingdom. It was so cool to listen to our guide telling us how the city was set up. Here Andres and I are on one of the 2 pyramids. (called the Acropolis) Here they are from above.There was a residential area too. Copan, considered by many, one of the most spectacular city's of the ancient Mayas civilization. It flourished during the 7th century. That is a LONG time ago! Copán seemed to have had an unusually prosperous class of minor nobility, scribes, and artisans, some of whom had homes of cut stone built for themselves, some of which have carved hierogyliphics texts. It even had a large court for playing some kind of mesoamerica ball game. This is one of the many statues on the immense lawn....I wish I could tell you the story.Notice the hierogyliphics, at the bottom...I thought the "window" had a great view.As we walked around, I couldn't help but think of the two movies 300 and Apocalypto. A bit erie! Then we entered the tunnels..Archeologists have dug 4km of tunnels under the acropolis (the 2 pyramids) to view earlier stages of Copan civilization. There was even a bathroom. Our guide said it is the only one of its kind to be discovered. It was a really interesting tour. I have been to some mayan ruins in Mexico, last year as a matter of fact. Tulum....but I didnt get a guide. Well worth it!
Especially since our guide was the one who told us about our next adventure....Horseback riding.

It was lunch time though and we were hungry. Earlier I had seen Pupusaria Mary and pupusas are now one of my favorite things to eat! (I always get them at the market I go to on Saturday mornings...but they are really from El Salvador) We ate about 7 of them and then went to buy our bus tickets for the next day to the airport. I only mention this because I thought it was so funny that the ticket office was basically in someones living room. HA! Here Andres is at the "ticket counter"
At 230p sharp, we met our horse guide at the entrance of the ruins to "saddle up" for our trip to the indigenous village of Chor’ti. Habitat had arranged for everyone at the conference to visit Chorti Saturday morning as a field trip, but since it had rained non-stop all week, the roads were to muddy for cars to pass. Habitat Honduras hopes to provide 1,728 housing improvements on indigenous Chor’ti homes, 192 new houses for families whose homes in their current state cannot be improved, and training for 3,840 individuals in Chor’ti communities on health control. Thats why we got excited when the guide told us we could take horses there. We stopped to take a photo above the Rio Copan.
Despite living near a major tourist attraction which celebrates their ancestors, the majority of Chor’ti families today live in extreme poverty (less than US$1/day/person)
When we wrode in on our horses the kids came running towards us from everywhere. They wanted to sell us the handmade dolls out of dyed cornhusks. I had seen them in Copan and the tourist shops, but wasn't interested. Something about the kids and their little faces...holding the dolls over their heads saying "compra uno cada uno" (buy one from each of us.) In this picture we are discussing how many we should buy......Andres' face says it all....
They were $1 each and Andres and I couldn't resist, we bought 12 dolls. One from each kid. The homes here are built a mixture of bamboo, mud and timber with thatched roofs and dirt floors.
Here you can see the texture close up.
and another....
Chor’ti is lucky enough to have some tourists coming to the village and they actually have a cute little restaurant (it was Sunday so it wasn't open) and there is also a small artist studio that was funded by another NGO (not sure who) So this a source of income for the community. We met a woman who makes beautiful woven textiles in this studio.
We bought several pieces and felt good about it, again because its helping out this community, but also to have met the woman who actually made it was special. Andres is here playing with her kids outside the newer/nicest building in the village. He was asking them to write on his arm, and they were excited to do so...
This is little Levin, one of her sons.
and this little girl, I forget her name, but she was so pretty and sweet.
This picture, Andres took of me and the kids. You can tell its his camera, its such a great shot!
After about and hour, we got back on the horses and started the trek down.
Early the next morning our bus to San Pedro Sula was at 7am. Normally a 3 hour bus ride, so we would have arrived with time to kill for our flight that was departing at 5pm. About 20 minutes into the ride, we came to a hault.......ooooh for about 3 hours!! There was a mud slide and cars (let alone huge buses) were not able to pass. Everyone was out of their cars watching. A huge truck was stuck in the mud, its wheels buried. Finally though, a big tractor/bulldozer thing came and pulled the truck out and rearranged the mud so that we could pass. We still arrived to the airport 3.5 hours early. It was a long day, but a very smooth trip....thank god I was with someone who didn't "flip out" .......a little delay is nothing to get upset about, right?

To view the whole photo album of my trip, click here:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Habitat Volunteer Conference in Copan

Habitat was hosting their annual Volunteer Mobilization Conference in Honduras this year. I traveled with the other girls in my office. That night we stayed in San Pedro Sula, the city that we flew into. Unfortunately if there were any nice areas I didn’t really get to see them. There was, however, this beautiful church outside my hotel balcony. This trip started at 420am last Saturday from San Jose and here I am after being in Honduras one week… It has been a long one and I am a bit tired, but I have really enjoyed this trip. This Habitat conference brought together coordinators from about 10 different countries who run the “Global Village” programs for their countries. Global Village is what I did with Delta last year in India….a group of people volunteering (from another country) volunteering to build houses for a week. These coordinators receive teams that come to Latin America from the US and Europe and Canada. It really was so wonderful meeting everyone, and I really felt a pull to this type of job. They all love what they do, and it shows. It was very inspiring and this was just one of times where I realized that I did the right thing by coming to volunteer. I really love Habitat for Humanity and the difference they/we are making in the world. Here we all are one day at lunch. (I am about half-way down on the right)Besides inspiring content at the conference, the location was perfect. Here is the view from the hotel patio where we ate breakfast every morning. Absolutely gorgeous!The town of Copán Ruinas is a beautiful little pueblo with cobblestone streets, ancient culture and lush nature nestled in the mountains of western Honduras. (just 7 miles from the Guatemalan border) The streets are so pretty at night with soft lighting. No florescent lights like in the big city.Here is a better pic. It really captures everything. The cobblestone streets, the colonial buildings, the locals sitting on the corner with their cowboys hats. EVERYONE had cowboys hats, I thought it was so cool!
You also see a common mode of transportation here .....the little red tuk-tuks. (also called a rickshaw in asia) They are really fun and very cheap. I just love the name tuk-tuk. tuk-tuk. I would always say it with excitement (imagine that)......Yes! Let's take a TUK TUK!! The conference was at the Posada Real Hotel just 5 minutes from the center of the pueblo. We used the tuk-tuks to get into town. So fun!

A lot more to explore around Copan, and the weekend is just for that! No more itinerary!! Details to come ........

Monday, October 06, 2008

Día Mundial del Hábitat 2008

It was a fun day in the office today. To recognize World Habitat Day (Dia Mundial del Habitat) Diana and I thought of a fun activity. We brought plain white t-shirts and decorated them with paints and markers. I told her that my family had done that on a family vacation and we thought it was a lot of fun.
There was a lot of laughing...and admiringeachothers work, everyone had a unique idea. Here, Lauren, Valeria and I model our finished shirts
Herme, Stephanie, Diana and Judith show theirs off too Marco had a different idea...he used a gluestick and cut out pics of poverty housing and wrote "GOT HOME?" get it?? "Got Milk?" It was a cool idea....until all the pics peel off...... I had a great idea to cut a HOUSE out of the back of the shirt....but I dont like how it turned out, I made it too big and its hard to tell its a house..and my bra stuck looked so much better in my head. oh well, I pinned it up on my cube.....I love the front!
There was an event downtown on Sautrday to celebrate WHD with Malpais, a very popular Costa Rican rock-ish band. We all went to support Habitat Costa Rica (different office than mine) and to enjoy the band. It got pretty crowded. I felt left out because everyone was singing along and I had never heard one of their songs. I have time to learn.
Maureen Flora Me and Diana....Nester was there too....but you know how he likes to wander off.


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