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Our Latest Stop: Honduras
After a year in China, we decided to return to the other side of the world and you can now find us in Honduras.We are teaching at an international school in San Pedro Sula (SPS). In spite of the bad reputation the city has, we have been blessed to have a good place to live and work. The biggest downside is the hot weather year round in SPS; you actually go to the coast to the beach to cool down! There are a variety of places to visit, plus we are close enough to drive to Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Back to our "roots", Semana Santa found us back in Quito, Ecuador, up on a volcano in the thin air.
We have been able to find local projects to work with here, as well as several with our students. You can check out our
and be a part of spreading the spirit of generosity with a pig! We'll share some of the places we've seen and then a little bit about what we have been doing so far this year.
Lago Yajoa is the largest lake in Honduras and is an excellent weekend getaway, only about an hour from San Pedro Sula. We were able to visit several national parks and really enjoyed our time there.We would recommend
as a good place to stay with great food and lots of information about what to see in the area.
The Keel-billed Toucan is one of the largest toucans and always seems to make it difficult to see him.
A perfect pair of pretty parrots!
This trogan moved a little to quickly to get a good shot!
We headed down the river and out onto the lake on our birdwatching and sightseeing tour.
Definitely bring a hat and shades as the sun gets hot quick!
The birds don't seem to mind though and we even saw some bats! At the end, several of the guys and Steve took a dip in the waterfall.
Even though he is out in the day, it is a type of Night Heron.
The Oropendula is common in several Central American countries. It has several calls and is best known for the call that sounds like water drops pinging.
The Aracari Toucan always reminds me of a cartoon because of its unique features and beak.
Pale-bellied Hermit Hummingbird
This bug has found himself quite the lunch meal!
This Tiger Heron is working on his tan!
A great shot of an Osprey
If you look carefully you can see this Green Heron with his blue fish.
You never realize how big Kingfishers are until you get a close up shot of one.
The lake at dusk was busy and beautiful place as the ducks and other water birds flew in and out.
One of the projects we have worked with here in Honduras is an orphanage called el Refugio. It is out in the countryside and is only maintained by two sponsors at the moment. The Honduran government does not give much, if any, support to orphanages so they rely on outside support. Steve has been able to install fans and repair some faulty electrical wiring which was a huge help in the hot weather. We did some painting and worked with the kids at Christmas time to do some crafts and we taught them how to make cookies as well, something they really enjoyed. Here in Honduras, because of the extreme poverty, many kids, especially boys, are put out at about 12 years of age to fend for themselves on the streets
The kids are all between 5-12 years old.
This is the outside of the dormitories of the kids. There are about 40 kids that are helped at this location.
Here in Honduras, 71% of the population lives in poverty with 1.3 million actually living as squatters on unoccupied land. However, when the government or the owner decides to make a move, anyone living on the land has to move as the land is bulldozed and anything left demolished. In reality, you don't have much when you are living in makeshift houses and pirating electricity and water, so anything you do have is valuable and you don't want to lose it. Behind our neighborhood, some property was recently reclaimed and the people set up camp in the Y in the road between the fences erected by the owners.
Down at the coast in La Ceiba, you can see both the good and the bad of Honduras. There is a huge trash problem because of all the rivers that flow down from Guatemala, as well as Honduras. The lack of proper education and treatment facilities combine to make it a very trashy country in many places, which is a shame because they don't seem to realize that if they don't preserve what they have, it will be gone. There are several organizations that are working to protect the reefs and work on this situation, but it has a long way to go. Off the coast of Honduras are The Bay Islands of Utila and Roatan, which are havens for scuba divers.
Down the coast in Sambo Creek, there are mangroves similar to those we found in Guatemala. You can see the locals actually carving the boats out of wood. There is also a lot of cacao (the plants that produce chocolate) in this area which is a good economic resource, but not easy to grow and cultivate.
Another place to go when you need a break is up in the mountains, in the Lempira region near Gracias. This area was a lot like the small towns we have found in Colombia and there were lots of interesting things to see. One store in "downtown" Gracias had hundreds of jars of pickled items, everything from okra to peaches to pineapple. It was fun just to look in the jars and to try to guess what it was inside.
The Honduran countryside
You really need a 4x4 to traverse the back country roads. The roads reminded me of driving up in the stone quarry above our family home in Norwich, New York, and I continue to be amazed that these roads are the main roads to get from town to town. Several beautiful churches were out in the middle of what most would call way out in the country. The Gracias area is known for
a simple design that looks like terra cotta and is used daily for cooking in many local homes.
We are constantly thanking God for the opportunities and blessings He gives us to be able to work and travel around the world, seeing so much that He has created for us to enjoy. We pray that we can reflect His love to those around us. I was able to return to Colombia with a group of students and it was great to see my students and former colleagues from two years ago. Colombia has been having some economic ups and downs so it was a shame to see many teachers leaving because of the devaluation of the peso. Colombia is one place that is on our list of our favorite places and in the running for a retirement place. We will see what God puts on our hearts and in our path as the years unfold.
San Cristobal Fort sits above Gracias, Lempira, Honduras
The view from the path on the way up to Pichinca Volcano in Eucador
Many of the local lizards like to hang out around our house here in San Pedro Sula.
Wild horse on the hills of Pichincha in Ecuador
We are trying to really focus on letting God in control and living in the present instead of wondering where we will go next. I find myself just putting in the time sometimes, waiting until the next phase, and I don't want to be like that. I want to be open to what is happening now and what I can be doing so I really have to put aside my daily stresses and worries and not let that overwhelm me. I have a tendency to try and plan everything out but I have found when I just let the day unfold as God plans, it always works out much better than I could have wanted.
We were very blessed to be able to return to Mindo while we were in Ecuador because we had never really gotten a chance when we lived there to do any bird watching. Unfortunately when we arrived, I realized that I had left my battery charger and extra batteries back in Quito, two hours away. I had been so excited to be able to get some good pictures that I was ready to leave and come back later in the week, which could have been done, but would require us to try and rearrange our schedule. I had taken everything out of my camera bag just in case but nothing was in there so we arranged with the hostel to change our reservation and were ready to head back to Quito. When I put my camera back in my bag, there was an extra battery laying right there. I know it wasn't in my bag so whether God had other plans for our week or just loves me that much, but that is the only explanation for the miracle. I think we always look for big miracles and forget that God is there for us in the little things as well.
My favorite hummingbird that visited us in Mindo.
At this season of Easter, I am reminded of miracles and sacrifices and can see so much need around us for hope. While we were in Quito, we worked with the Dunamis Foundation, who has a program to help young girls who have escaped or been rescued from being sold or trafficked sexually. Three of the girls under 16 were already pregnant and there were 11 in total that I was able to teach some sewing skills, in hopes that they would be able to create items they could sell to support themselves.
Steve worked with a mission group out of Arizona that came to put in the plumbing and water into the house.
There is a house structure on the land that needs to be finished inside but the acreage is a beautiful tranquil place to start your life again.
This is the property that the foundation has been able to buy, with plans to build dormitories and workshops to offer the girls a safe stable environment to change their lives.
The foundation has different groups of girls for between 2-4 months to try and provide support and guidance for them. The government has a halfway house the girls live in but it does not provide them anything other than a bed. They have to find a way to get food and any needed toiletries. The foundation tries to fill in the gaps and is working to build a permanent location where the girls can live, learn, and grow in one location, and actually give them hope.
Patterns in nature can often be very interesting.
We went to a car show here in SPS and the coolest car they had was one used by FDR when he visited.
The car was all bulletproof and had a portal in the front and back windshields for a shotgun, if needed.
We are open in the future to returning to Quito to work and be a part of this program if it is in God's plan. There is a time for everything and everything in its time so we stay open. We also were able to visit with our mission partners in Guayllabama who we have helped support since 2002. The Tulcanaza family continues to work with three mission churches they have planted as well as a Bible Institute to train locals to be a part of change in Ecuador.
This is the Potoo bird, known for its haunting call, which we didn't hear, but also for its ability to be camouflaged in the trees.
This is a closer view of the picture to the left so you can see how hard it was to see this bird in nature! Luckily our guide knew where they tended to roost and found this one after about 15 minutes.
I don't think you can ever see too many toucans! This is the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan.
We actually saw four of these toucans in the same tree just because we looked over through an opening in the the trees.
Sometimes things seem to be too cluttered and busy and complicated in our lives, and we have to step back and see where we really need to be and where we can be most effective. I want to do the best I can with the resources and tools God has given me because that is how I can reflect His love to those around me. The greatest lesson I can share with my students and those I meet throughout my life is the wonderful joy of knowing a God who loves me unconditionally and wants to partner with me in the good and bad times in my life.
The female Quetzal has the short tail and we were really blessed to see one.
It is funny that the Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala but we have only seen them in Costa Rica and Ecuador.
There are few places more tranquil and full of the spirit of peace and serenity than up in the hills on a volcano, inactive of course! The lack of oxygen above 13,000 feet forces you to stop and rest and just "be" until you catch your breath. I am sure it is all part of God's plan to give us a chance to be contemplative and just forget about any concerns or worries we think we have at the moment. You can definitely feel the presence of God and hear His voice calling on you to put your trust and life in His hands, knowing there is no better place to be.
So we leave you with us on the path up to the summit of Pichincha, living life on our journey as we work and travel, hopefully touching the lives of the people we meet in a positive way. Remember, we always have an extra room for anyone who has the time and desire to come for a visit, or to be a part of change where we are. Wherever you are, be a part of change because there are people everywhere who need a kind word, an extra hand, or the support you can offer.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 19 (New Living Translation)
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