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Laura Vietti
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Hi All,

June flew buy! I have some good photos for you all but I forgot the connecting cable to my external harddrive so I couldnt post them today. What I do have is my project proposal that Im going to paste here. Ive been trying to figure out if this opal poject is a good idea, if it will work, and find people to work with. The next step is to go to peace corps. and give them this project proposal, of which they will say yes go ahead or no, find another project. Im a little worried they will say no to this becasue its so far away from my site and because theres been a few problems with peace corps and the opals in the past. But hopefully, as you will read, the idea is too good to miss and they will let me do it. So here it is.

Project Plan
Laura Vietti, PAM Hondu-9


Introduction

This is a revised version of my original Project Plan and I feel I first need to explain how I came upon the project and provide justification for why I want to do a project so far away from my designated site.
I’m a geologist and am highly interested/ passionate about rocks. I had heard from tourists that there are opal mines in Honduras, and naturally I wanted to visit them, but I didn’t have any more information. Several months later I was at a Pace Corps. gathering and I mentioned Honduran opal to another volunteer and they told me that the mines are actually located near another PCV´s site. I quickly identified that it was Erandique, Lempira, the site of Ryan. I made plans with her for a visit and went to Erandique a few weeks later.
In Erandique I purchased some opal, but more importantly I talked to the locals about what they are doing with it. The general consensus was that they are selling it in its natural form in Erandique.
My site is adjacent to a very popular tourist destination of Copán Ruinas and I knew there would be a market for Honduran opal and asked one of the miners if he would like help developing contacts in Copán Ruinas to sell the opal, of which he enthusiastically said yes.
The next step I made in pursuing the opal project was to make sure there was an interest in Copán as well to sell opal. I spent several days talking to both tourists and store owners about the opal, opal products,. and potential prices.
I learned that tourists have a slight interest in buying raw (uncut unpolished) opal, but would much rather buy (at a higher price too) opal products such as figurines or jewelry. However, I found very few artisans who knew how to work with the opal, but are interested in learning. This led me to the conclusion that there is a group of interested, trainable people who want to learn how to work with the opal in Copán Ruinas and in Erandique.
Thus, I propose this project of developing products and a market of Honduran opal in Erandique, Lempira and Copán Ruinas, Copán. My site is currently Santa Rita, Copán and I never was intended to work in the actual towns, but because I am very close to the already volunteer saturated Copán Ruinas, I will be close to one of the proposed project areas. I intend to spend much time in Erandique as well, but I can stay at the other volunteer’s house.

Part A: Project Background- Site Perspective

Site Profile:
Erandique, Lempira is a large pueblo located an hour south of the main road between Gracias and La Esperanza. The town is large and spread out, with roughly 3000 people (vague guess). There are three main parks, each with a large church. Erandique is removed from most modern towns, although it has both electricity and water, and as a result it isn’t very influenced by the more rapid paced moving North Americanized Culture. Erandique has several pulpurias, a few general stores, a hotel, one comedor, and one internet provider. There also exists a coffee cooperative. Erandique´s main source of income seems to come from small farming as well as brick production.
The environment of the Erandique region is a dry tropical pine forest with a very mild climate. The area is mountainous and the main rock type is volcanic ash derived. As a result of the ash, roads are extremely difficult to manage during the wet season, soils are quickly washed away, and more importantly there is the presence of opals in the rock.
Opal is a form of silicate rock with a very similar chemical formula to quartz. Opal differs from quartz because the silica atoms and molecules are arranged in a very different manner, and water molecules are locked with in the molecules. Precious opal (meaning it displays color like the rainbow) forms when the molecules align in a distinct set pattern and when light reflects off the molecular arrangement it is diffracted into separate colors based on their wavelengths (very similar to how light is separated into specific color bands after is passes through a prism.) Thus, each color the opal displays is dependant on how the opals molecules are arranged.
There are many types of opal in the world, most derive from volcanic hydrothermal fluids, and the mines near Erandique produce two types. The first type is a white clear colored, highly colorful opal. This opal occurs as tiny nodules or as white veins criss-crossing the host volcanic basalt. White opal, however, is more common in the world, The Australian Opal mines being the most famous.
The second type of opal found in Erandique´s mine is much rarer and in fact can only be found in Honduras. This opal is black matrix opal and is formed when there is no space for the opalescent volcanic hydrothermal fluids to go so it is forced to reside in the tiny rock pores with in the black volcanic basalt. As a result, the black matrix opal appears as a black rock that sparkles with all colors. Black matrix opal can be found in other parts of the world, but Honduras is the only location where the opal has so intensely saturated the original basalt that individual opal grains cannot be distinguished.
There are several opal mines near Erandique, and in fact the entire Opalaca mountain range is littered with opal localities, but the main opal mine under Erandique´s jurisdiction is called the Tablon mine internationally, or locally known as the Gualguire. The Gualguire mine is owned by the Erandique municipality and all residents have the right to work in the mines.
There was a previous volunteer in Erandique who was working on a similar project that I propose. He advised the town of Erandique not to sell the mine to a mining company in the USA. Erandique followed his advise and didn´t sell, keeping the mine locally owned. The mine company in the USA felt it was the PCV´s fault for being refused the purchase of the mine and in turn sued Peace Corps. Peace Corps. decided to administratively separate the volunteer to avoid a large lawsuit (this information is not fact, but what volunteers and community members have told me.)
Currently there is no company working with the opal mines, or in the process of negotiations (according to the municipality.) The locals are left with very little instruction on how to mine, market, and create products using the opal.
There are no protected areas with in the region, but the opals are a non-renewable natural resource that should be cared for and used efficiently. The area is extremely poor (one of the poorest in Honduras) and any revenue to subsidize their farming will help their quality of life. Also, training on better mining, non-destructive environmental practices would be highly beneficial when the mining process is still technically undeveloped like it is now, to prevent problems later on.
Aside for Erandique, I plan to work in Copán Ruinas, specifically in the development of artisan products. Copán Ruinas is a major tourist destination and thousands of tourists come to visit the town and Mayan Ruins a year. Copán Ruinas has a large number of souvenir shops frequently visited by the tourists, including a jewelry store. The majority of souvenirs are not Honduran produced and come from Guatemala. There is a need for Honduran derived products. After an intensive study of the shops and artisans I have identified several people who are familiar with Honduran opal, but don’t know how to get it, or how to work with it, but are very interested in both.

Problem Analyses/Causes
The main problem I have identified is the missed opportunity and inutilization of the Honduran opal, and lack of marketing knowledge. The people of Erandique know what opal looks like, and they know that some people will pay money for it, but they mine it with out very much knowledge of how rare and special the stone is. Currently, only a very few percentage (about 10 people) of the Erandique population work in the mines. This is in part due to that mining opal is very labor intensive, tedious work. The miners then sell the opal from their house to the occasional tourist who travels the long distance to Erandique (7 hours on 4 different busses), and they sell the opal in its natural uncut/ unpolished form, usually in glass jars filled with water (water increases the light diffraction making opals show more color reflections.)
The current price of the opals sold in this manor is 20-50 lempira a piece (generally 5 cm cubed) or for 100 lempira a bottle. I’ve looked on the internet and found that the Honduran opal should be sold for $10-500 a carat for the black matrix opal or $10-1500 a carat for the white. There is also a store in Tegucigalpa that sells small cut and polished black matrix opal for $30-40 and $80 for a small figurine. As one can see, buying opal for $2 can quickly generate a profit of $40, all on one small stone. The necessary steps though to achieve this profit are to 1) cut and polish the stone to a desirable product, and 2) then to find a place and market where people are willing to pay these prices ( Copán Ruinas, San Pedro Sula, Roatan, and Tegucigalpa.) The people of Erandique don’t know how to do either, and this is the problem.
Another problem is that by nature, mining is a destructive process to the environment. The current mining processes involve pounding a deep small hole into the ground and dynamiting the hole with the goal of removing rocks covering the deeper laying opal.
Luckily, this process is done on a small scale and not too much damage has been done. I estimate 2km square area has been affected but over time and with more destructive mining techniques, more damage will occur. There is very little knowledge among the miners about how destructive mining is to the environment, and no reforming is practiced, this is a problem

Problem Statement
Precious Honduran opal is being mined on a small-scale near Erandique. Lempira, and has the potential to generate a good source of income for local artisans and miners, greatly needed to improve their quality of life. The locals, however, have no knowledge of how to create desirable opal products, or of how and where to sell the opals; here in lies the problem because without this knowledge they cannot generate a profit from the opal. Mining by nature is environmentally destructive, and the Erandique miners are unaware of its affects and how to mine in an environmentally friendly manner.

Efforts to Address the Problem
The locals of Erandique are generally not trying to create opal products (such as cut or polished stones for jewelry, jewelry, or figurines,) and are only selling their opal in its natural form in glass bottles from their home. Occasionally someone will travel to the market in San Pedro Sula and Copán Ruinas to sell the opals, but for a very low price. There have also been individual cases where a local has tried to cut opal and polish it, but the result is often still very crudely done, wastes precious opal, and still sold for a very cheap price.
The locals have not developed any type of plan to work with the opals and generally just wait for tourists to buy it and have jewelers in the USA make products.
I plan to address this problem by first creating a way for people using local resources from the tool store to cut and polish opal in a professional fashion. The next step would be to teach the locals how to create opal products and possibly how to sell the opals.
I also plan to work with a group in Copán Ruinas to do the same thing, as well as identify good contacts and store owners who are interested in selling opal in their stores to the tourists.
Some tourists have expressed interest in visiting Erandique to look for opal, I feel that developing a full out ecotourism project in Erandique is too progressive for the current stage of development of the opals and Erandique. I would like to in turn work with a local of Erandique to create a pamphlet or brochure describing how to get to Erandique, contacts of hotels and restaurants, products, and people to visit to buy the opal. This will hopefully make the long trip to Erandique more effortless and more tourists will go, bringing more revenue to Erandique.
In regards to better mining practices, nothing is currently being done, nor are their any plans. I would like to give charlas demonstrating the negative affects of mining on the environment, as well as help develop solutions to better ecologically friendly mining techniques. One final hope is to bring in an engineer to asses the mine to help effecientize the mining and create more opal yield.


Part B: Peace Corps Participation

Project Purpose
Santa Rita is my official site, but was only meant to be a ´central base´ while I worked on the aldeas in the surrounding area. I feel World Vision and other organizations have saturated the area and I am not needed.
However, in Erandique Peace Corps. is needed because there is little or no NGO presence or support in the area, and they need help in development. Some general results I expect from helping the community is a general better utilization of the community’s precious, one of kind resource opal. And, to make the maximum amount of money with it, but at the same time keeping it sustainable and environmentally friendly. I also expect to see more awareness in the mining practices and less destructive techniques.

Goals and Objectives
My goals and objectives are to work with the locals and miners of Erandique to develop and teach them ways to professionally cut and polish opal, create opal jewelry, and create other opal products like figurines. I also intend to help them develop and help sell their opals to an interested market.
I also plan to teach a group of artisans and jewelers in Copán Ruinas, a highly tourist visited destination, how to buy Erandique opal, make opal products, and identify stores willing to buy opal from these groups for a fair price.
Lastly, I would like for more tourists to travel to Erandique to spread revenue to non opal businesses (hotels, pulpurias, comedores), and my objective with the help of a local to create a pamphlet/brochure/map with directions, contracts, and advise on how to travel to Erandique.
In regards to the mine, my objective is to increase environmental awareness and help develop more sustainable ecologically-friendly mining techniques.

Major Volunteer Tasks
- Develop lapidary technology using readily available material in Honduras
o Rock Tumbler
o Grinding Wheel
- Look for funding sources
o Peace Corps
o Organizations developing Honduran handicrafts
o Funding from United States
- Training of myself
o Edwin; how to cut and polish opal
o Augustine: how to create stone carvings
o Gato; how to create jewelry
- Workshops training people in Erandique
o Advertising workshop in Erandique
o A series of workshops
 Develop Interest and show the people whats involved, ask them to start aquiring materials
 How to make the Lapidary equiptment
 How to cut and polish opal using lapidary equiptment
 How to create jewelry and figurines with opal
 Marketing and Selling Opal
- Similar workshops in Copán Ruinas, and potentially Gracias, Lempira
- Develop a tourist pamphlet with
o Direction and instructions of how to get to Erandique
o List of Hotels and places to eat in Erandique
o List of opal products found in Erandique
o Contacts of people who sell opal products
- Give Charla on affects of mining and the environment
- Bring in a mining engineer
o Develop better and more eco-friendly mining techniques
o Help increase mining yield


Its pretty ambitious I know, and if I even do half the stuff I want to I think it would be a really good project. Next time Im in copan with my memory thing ill post all my pics and hopefully i will be able to give you all a verdict on my project. If they say no to it, I dont know what I will do, and theres even a chance i might come home. But I wont think about that for now.

I still fail on keeping this thing up to date, and so much has happened I don't even know where to start. I think what I'm going to do is just put the pics up and explain what they are and you should get the gist of what's been happening. In a sentence, the two bigs things that happened is Jen (good friend from college) came to see me in Honduras, and I went home!! Then the rest of my time has been trying to reajust to honduras. So here goes:


This first pic is of my and Jen on our way up to Volcano Pacaya, I opted to take the "taxi" as they were calling the horses, and jen walked. The walk/ taxi ride up was steep and at a really high pace. It was nice though because almost the entire way up we were going through a cloud forest with the myst surrouding us, which you can see in the photograph. The horse didn't have a name, but my guides name was Lago.


This was one of my first views of live active running lava in my life it was amazing. Let me begin with the story before going on too much further. Jen told me she was coming down and I was trying to think of what we should do, of which I immediately thought of the beach. But after asking her and hinting that there's an active volcano near by, she decided that would be better than the beach. So it became like our geology pilgrimage for probably the only two blonde geologists in central american to go see an active volcano. The picture you see here is after we had walked on the lava field for a good 20+ minutes and then all of a sudden we could see the hillside glowing. You can also see a buch of people who came before us up closer to the lava.

This is a picture of what we were walking over almost the entire time to reach the lava. It was hot glowing rock, but solid enough to not move and form a cool crust that we could walk over, although, like this one, we could periodically see deep down there. No tripping aloud on the volcano!

Here's our first up close moving lavaflow, it not the flowing riving type, but it was still moving considerably. The interesting part about lava flows that I never even considered before is how loud they are! Everytime a chunk of lava became cool it would solidify like brittle glass and break off so it sounded like glass constantly being tumbled down the mountain.

This is a picture of the flows up the hill, there was one actual "river"of lava and thats what you can see. It was pretty high up there though. There's also a crater at the top of the volcano but apparently it was spewing lava like crazy (you know the type you see on the discovery channel spew) and we couldn't go up there.

Pilgrimage/ Mission accomplished! I promise I'm not that short, I'm just lower on the rock.

And Here's one final pic of the lava at night. We went up the mountain around 4 in the afternoon and didn't get back to Antigua Guatemala until 10:00, so walking down the volcano was all done in the dark and with headlamps.

This is a pic of one of our views walking down. The entire experience was sureal because we had the glowing lava behind us, clouds below us, we were walking in mist, and there was some nice lightning and thunder at the same time. It was amazing. If I could do it again, I would have paid for the option to camp up on the volcano, we just didn't have enought time to watch the lava, and from the camping spot you could see the lava coming out of the crater on top, it would have been a wonderful opporunity to sit there with your beer in hand, watching the volcano erupt, and with the amazing settings around us.

After Antigua. Guatemala and the volcano we went back to Copan for a relaxing day of non traveling. For this we went up to the natural springs about 45 minutes away from Copan Ruinas. We braught a .7 liter of rum and a big bottle of coke, sat in the river where the springs joined it, and had a wonderful relaxing time. The best part is that we were the only people up there, besides the occasional campasino (farmer) who came there to take a bath.

This is a picture of the river . There were natural hot tubs, if you will, in the river made by boulders. Then with the jungle surrounding us and the birds, it was a little piece of paradise.

On our last day in Copan, we were invited out to see our archeologists mayan dig site and we went. It was a few miles down the road from the main dig site and it was an actual excavation. It was wonderful because I've never seen and archeological excavation of this kind before and Molly and Dylon, the Harvard grad students who invited us out, gave us a grand tour. This photo shows some of the workers excavating and sifting. One neat thing about all the excavators is that the majority of them have over 30 years of experience and Molly and Dylon told me they are an amazing team to work with because they know what they are doing and what to look for. The site they were at is thought to be another noble compound, with a very surprising amount of sculpture (usually only reserved for the kings).

Left to Right, Gorge- an archeologist who studied in the states, but is one of the only archeologists who grew up in the copan area, Molly- Harvard Grad who has done alot of work on the Copan acropolis, and Dylon- another Harvard Grad, both he and molly are working under Bill Fash, THE archeologist of Copan. I'm really happy to have Molly and Dylon in Copan because I can talk science with them. They are just as passionate about their work as I am with rocks, so it makes for some great converstations.

I actually have no pictures of going back home, probably because I was soooo busy. Something funny is that one of my biggest goals or plans for going back was to sit on our big blue coutches and just watch endless hours of mind-numbing TV, and it never happened! Not that I'm too sad it didn't happen, it was just one of those things that I never got around to doing. I thermop I got to see my long lost brother, family, friends, relatives. I'm learning how to shape and polish opals, I went rock hunting, hung out with the dinosaur center crowd, helped out with a school geology field trip, went to the hotsprings, watched the new Pirates of the Carrabean, and of course, made it to the good ol Thermop Bars with Mikki and the crew!

My time back home was so much fun, it was actually too much fun. Instead of satisfying all those USA cravings I've had for the past year, it just reminded me of what I miss and love about being home. Hense, coming back was not my favorite. I'm still in withdrawl, but little by litle I'm getting back into the swing of thigns here. One thing that I'm glad I didn't miss out on and I came back just in time for, was to see the rain come in Santa Rita. We hadn't had a real rain in probably 3 or 4 months, so when they come, they come in forse. They usually show up in the afternoon with a big Thunderstorm front and then it just lightly rains the rest of the night. But one of the most fantastic things about it all is the thunderstorms.
This next pic is one that I took at about 8:00 at night. You can see we still have power, but I put it here as a reference to show just how dark it is. Then look at the next few pics to see just how intense the lighting is.

Needless to say it was bright!



This last and final pic is of all the dead bugs I had to sweep up the next day. Because of the rains, a whole bunch of larva were waiting just for this time to hatch out, and the next day the sky was filled with buggy flying things. Which was cool, until they got into my house. I awoke by a huuuge flying ant crawling on my face, and only to find 20 some more of them flying around in my house. The good news about them is that they were dying anyways so it wasn't like they could do anything bad, but it was still a pain in the but. So this is all the bugs I swept up.

Besides trying to adjust to honduras, I've been working alot on teaching myself how to work with opals, although I'll have some formal training soon. I'll put more pics up when I have them! Oh ya, and yesterday was my birthday. I went to Copan Ruinas to spend the night. It started out a little slow, but I ended up having one of the best birthdays of my life. Alot of my friends were there, I had good beer, good pizza, we got to make brownies! A whole bunch of hippies came in and played the drums, it was good!

This time it was only a few weeks since my last post. I'm trying to be better and I think its working! So after the coffee competition and spending easter inCopan Ruinas, I went to the hot springs near copan. They are about an hours drive away and we had a freind that drove us up there. I don't have any pictures of the actual springs because I was worried about loosing my camara. But here's some pictures of the way up. This first pic is of me, jen, ramon, and danny on our way up to the hotsprings. We were riding in the traditional honduran style, in the back of a truck!



Here's another picture of me and my frind Jenifer. She's originally from North Carolina, but showed up in Copan about the same time I did. She's been alot of fun and now partly owns a travel place to help people book tours and stuff. She's the one who helped make all of my families Christmas plans.

After that I went on an overnight trip to El Salvador, my first time in a different country since I started in Peace Corps. I went to visit and El Salvadoran peace corps volunteer whose project to do hazards mapping of the area, and I wanted to talk to him about how to create hazards maps, especially mudslide maps. It was alot of fun, and I wished I could have stayed over there for more than 20 hours. The picture below shows the walls in a town called La Palma, and a german guy/ hippy went there during the 60's and started some type of art revolution, especially in the style you see. What's really neat is that almost the entire town is painted or has some paintings on their wall in this style but stylized to each different artist.


This is a picture of York, he's the one who talked with me about the hazards mapping. I went up to his site for a few hours and then we came into a bigger town and met up with another volunteer and stayed the night at her house.
I'm having some difficulty writing about the next picture. But in short, I went to explore a cave about a 20 minute drive from my site.
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Me and my favorite petzl headlamp! And yes, that is bat shit on my shirt.
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This is one of the nicer travertine formations in the cave. This cave went really deep, someone said around 5 miles, but we didn't go in that far. This cave is carved through a limestone, but in also went through some conglomerate formations which is really neat, because we would be walking along and came across really big pebbles erroding out of the wall. Plus that's pretty rare for cave formations.

Here's the group inside the cave. Sorry it's fuzzy but thats how it goes. I think we only went in a 1km or two. The cave had a few scary parts, but for the majority it was pretty flat and easy going. The worst parts were sliding an all of the bat shit, and some large drop offs.

At the very start there was a scary part that involved hanging on the side of the cave with a 12+ something foot drop off and that was pretty scary and made my legs shake the rest of the way through the cave, then there were spots where everyone else traversed through the cave like you see, and I opted to swim it instead. This usually worked out excpet for that I forgot I had my cellphone on me and ended up breaking it.

The last big adventure that I just got back from yesterday was another trip to Erindique, where the opals are. Erindique is about 7 hours away from my site and involves taking 4 different buses. Below is a nice picture of the town. Another peace corps girl lives down there so I stay with her. I really like Erindique, its bigger than my site, but not as many people. It's just a really chill town. I think if I ever had to live in Honduras, I would choose Erindique to live.

Here's another picture of Erindique. The town has three large plazas and the mandatory (not really) associated churches.

This is a picture of the opal mines. The mines are about a 30 minute walk from town. Basically the mines are owned by the town and anybody from Erindique can work in them. What's crazy is that there's only about 8 guys who actually do. To mine the opal they first dig a hole in the ground an dynamite it to make it bigger, then chip away at the correct layer. There's isn't always opal at the bottom though, and it's pretty rare to come by. For example, nobody has found opal for the past month!

Here's me at the bottom of one of the mine pits. I don't think they found any of the basalt with fire in it, but if they did it would look like the rock that i'm holding here.

This is a picture of Erindique from a little bit below the mine. You can see the pine in the area. Sometimes its hard to tell the difference between there and Wyoming.

After I went to the mines, I went to the house of the main guy who sells the opal. His name is Juan and he lives with his sister Reina. Together they sell the opals to tourists who come to their house. In this pic I'm looking through a whole bunch of opal rocks trying to pic the best ones so that someone in Copan and carve mini sculptures and necklace pendants out of it. This has pretty much become my peace corps. project. Today I went and talked to Ana, the woman who owns a fair trade store in Copan Ruinas who is going to sell the opals, and a jewler who's going to make jewlery out of it. So far things look like they are going to work out and alot of people are going to make some money, especially the opal miners!


That's about all for now. I'm really excited because Jenifer, my friend from college is going to come to Honduras in less than a week! And then after that I'm off to the states. But before I leave I really want to get this opal project going so I've been extremely busy. Expect more on this later, and for those of you in thermop, you'll actually get to see some of these opals!

p.s sorry for the great amount of misspelled words, i don't have spell check and my spelling is horrible, but i do recognize that there's alot of problems here.

p.p.s Also sorry for the large amounts of cleavage I've shown in these pics. I'm going to start wearing a little more conservative clothing, its just that it's been so HOT here.

Hi Everyone!

So I know its been a little over a month since the last one, I'll try and be better about writing these! There's definitely no lack of stuff to write about, but sometimes I do have a lack of pictures.
I left off last time talking about learning how to put in irrigation systems, so here's few pics from that. The first one is of me and the crew learning about how to put them in in the desk top sense. We learned the physics about it all, what types of systems there are, when we should use what...yada, yada, yada. So we had a day of this, then a day in the actual field putting one it.

Here's a pic of the second day of the course, putting in an actual system in a town called El Transito. It was pretty simple, and I was impressed how fast we could put one in.

My official job during the entire thing was to be in charge of putting in the droppers. It was very technical, cut hole in pip, stick dropper in pipe, move down a foot, repeat steps. But it made me feel useful! Whats funny is that I saw my dad do this for years and never really knew what he was doing, but now that I learned about them myself i can help out now....maybe

After learning about them, I helped put in another system in a town called Nueva Armenia. What was funny about the hole deal is that it was raining like crazy while we were putting it in, so I kept on asking, 'why do they need the system' but apprently it gets pretty dry in the next upcoming months.

This sytem was a little more complicated and it involved three valves and two types of droppers because there wasn't alot of pressure. One thing that was interesting is that the farmers were always a little wary at first when they saw me because to them women are not supposed to be in the field. They usually ignore me at first, but by the end of the day that at least except that I know something more than womanly duties (little do they know i know nothing about cooking and cleaning :-) ) But I always hope that at least I'm helping change their opinion of women an ounce of an iota. (don't ask what units those are)

Here's one more pic of the system and the people from World Vision and the campasinos they built it fore. But here's the first test and it worked!


The next thing I did in late febuaray and early march was go down to Tegucigalpa and then off to my friend Annie's site to look for some pretty honduran rocks for one of my projects. Don't have any pics of that.

Then I turned right around and left site again for two more weeks. The first part of the trip I went to a town called Erindique, about 7 hours away from where I live now, to look for some Honduran Opals. The Honduran opals are AMAZING because they are a black matrix opal, so it looks like opalized sandstone, and its only found in Honduras. Here's an example of one.


I'm trying to start a project for Peace Corps to help sell the opal in Copan Ruinas, the really touristy town. The people right now are waiting for tourists to go to their houses in Erindique to buy the opals, but I'm talking with store owners in Copan to see if they want to sell the opal. Everyone I've talked to who has seen the opals I braught up Love them and there's almost too much interest. But I'm really excited because I think this will actually work and I can say this is definitley a project that I have done on my own. Here's another opal

I'll explain more about this project and stuff later, but so far things look really good and I'll post more pics of the mines and stuff later.

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After the opals I went straight to Tegucigalpa to meet up with another peace corps girl to go to national park called Montana de Yoro to help out with a reptile herp study. I stayed up in the could forest for a little over a week and had a blast, but the jungle beat me up a bit, it wasn't easy. When I get pics I'll write more about this.

Then I came back to town and hung out for a while, and the next thing I did was help out with a really big regional coffee competition. One of the organizations I work with is putting on this competition of over 200 coffee producers in the area to find the best coffee. The last week of March was the finals of the competition and it was a really big deal! They braught in judges from Colombian, Japan, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Here's me helping out at the check in.

Here's a pic of the gallery outside the competition where people convened and there were some vendors.

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Happy Valentine's Day all! Since I have no one in particular to say this to, you all are my valentine. Just humor me, it'll make me feel better :-)The last few weeks I've been getting back into the swing of things with working. It all started with Reconnect at the end of January, this is where my group from training got together and shared experiences plus learned a little more. It was good to see everyone, and it went by way to fast. But is was really good at motivating me again. I don't have any pictures of the actual reconnect, but I did take pics of the trip afterwards to the only Honduran lake.
The first part of Febuary I took a mini-class with my counterpart at the World Vision office to learn how to put in irrigation systems. Nothing too complex but it did involve the logistics of calculating how much pressure we have from the source and crazy stuff like that. I should have some pictures of that coming up pretty soon. The other big news that I have to say is that I found a kindof lap simming pool in my town! Who would have thought that in little ol Santa Rita Honduras there's a decent or at least passable lab swimming pool. I think its only half the size of a regular pool, but it's not kidney shaped and i kinda breath hard after doing a set. Plus its in this beautiful little valley with jungle surrounding it, so evertime i'm done with a set, i can look up and admire the gungle. Plus my tan is getting pretty good. I'll include some pictures of this in a while as well. So that's all for now. I'm off to go check out a coffee competition in a bit, so now I'll just explain the pics.

This first one is of me getting a hitchhike from La Entrada to the Peace Corps house in Santa Rosa. I don't like hitchhiking alone, but when I'm with my frind Jamo, i feel safe enough to do it. Getting rides in the backs of trucks, or camiones, as this one is called is awesome, except when its raining. Its too bad its illegal in the states.


After reconnect a buch of us went to the lake of Yahoa to have fun and celebrate a birthday. These next few pics are of the boat ride out. Here's the group of us, more people came later that day, so this isn't all of us.


This is the jungle around the lake. Its supposed to be one of the best reserves in Honduras with lots of rare birds. It was pretty


Here's a pic of the girls. It's Laticia, Laura C., Molly, and me.


There's ALOT of fishing on the lake, probably to an unhealthy level. The major catches are bass, and tilapia, a freshwater favorite down here.



And one final fun pic of me, molly, and jo. All these guys were in my Protected Areas Management training group so we've got a bit of history behind us


These last two pics are from the Family Vacation and I had to include them. This one is of me at the Bird Park in Copan Ruinas. This is one of my favorite places to go in Honduras because is so peaceful, in the jungle, and lots of neat birds to look at.


And this one is from Roatan. We heard about this iguana farm and thought it would be interesting to check out, so we did and discovered a driveway a womans house filled with hundreds of iguanas. She told us there were some 2000 or something iguanas there. I thought it was funny because everyone knows about a crazy old cat woman, but in this case it was a crazy old iguana woman, :-) I shouldn't laugh too much cause this is probably what I'll end up being.


p.s sorry for all the misspelled words, i blame second grade, an internet time limit, and my brain crowded with spanish words.

It's almost the end of January and this month flew by! Not exactly cause I was the busiest of people, but because I had tons of fun. After everyone left for christmas I didn't see a bunch of them, and the last two weeks people have been trickeling back to Copan, so of couse we all have to get together. The next few pics are some of the people I hang out with, and really the only pics I have of this month.
In Copan Ruinas there's lots of people who travel, show up here and like it so much they stick around for a while. This guy, named Ken, is one of them. I actually met him 4 months ago, but liked it so much he came back to hang out for a while. Really nice guy who I think is somewhere off in Peru as we speak.


Let me explain the bread. My stomach doesn't always do well with great quantities of hard alcohol, but if I eat bread all night I don't get a hangover. So this is me and my stomach saving bread. The girl I'm with is Missy. She just showed up and is the girlfriend of Dan, see below. She came here to hang out with her hubby so he wouldn't have all the fun.


This is Dan. Dan is the owner of Sapo Rojo, a bar here is Copan that I pretty much spend alot of my time in when I'm doing the bar thing. He's from around Sacramento California and deided to come down to Central America and own a bar. He found Sapo Rojo on the internet, came down and liked it, then baught it. He actually came to work on the bar about two weeks before I showed up to site, so its kinda nice to have someone to share experiences with because we're going through it kinda at the same time. Only difference is he didn't get 3 months of training.


One of the things I also did was a Canopy Tour above Copan Ruinas. Canopy tours are when they hook you up to a harness and zip-line and you glide through the forest. The reason I got to go, was because new owner took over the tour and they wanted to promote it to the locals so we could get people to go. So for one day they let everyone come for free to see what it was all about. I'm not in this pic, but kinda shows what we looked like. You're seeing Dan, Missy, Jamo (other peace corps volunteer), and Sid. Mom and Dad- you might recognize him from the hotel here in copan.


This is a pic of the actual Zip line. I think its Dan who's in the middle, but this individual cable was a kilometer long and by far the most fun! There isn't too much of an actual canopy here, give the area a few years, but we were able to swing from hill top to hill top. What happens is they hook you up from your harness to the line and you hang on the the cable with one hand leaning back and your legs extended out front and crossed for balance. Then to break you just lean back and use the glove's special leather to brake. It was pretty scary the first time because I had no trust in the glove to stop me, but it worked!


Here's one more pic of a cable during the tours. THis was the last one, there were 14 in all, and this cable braught us down to the river to fly over it. Beautiful once again.


So thats all the pics I have for now. My goal is to get through Jan and Feb, mostly because they're during a lull of the year, and I'm sure things will pick up after I get through them. Next week will be busy because I have reconnect, a time to meet up with all the peace corps from my group and talk about what we've been doing. Alot of them I havne't seen since swearing in about 5 months ago, so this should be fun. Thanks for reading and I'll write soon again.

It's almost the end of January and this month flew by! Not exactly cause I was the busiest of people, but because I had tons of fun. After everyone left for christmas I didn't see a bunch of them, and the last two weeks people have been trickeling back to Copan, so of couse we all have to get together. The next few pics are some of the people I hang out with, and really the only pics I have of this month.
In Copan Ruinas there's lots of people who travel, show up here and like it so much they stick around for a while. This guy, named Ken, is one of them. I actually met him 4 months ago, but liked it so much he came back to hang out for a while. Really nice guy who I think is somewhere off in Peru as we speak.


Let me explain the bread. My stomach doesn't always do well with great quantities of hard alcohol, but if I eat bread all night I don't get a hangover. So this is me and my stomach saving bread. The girl I'm with is Missy. She just showed up and is the girlfriend of Dan, see below. She came here to hang out with her hubby so he wouldn't have all the fun.


This is Dan. Dan is the owner of Sapo Rojo, a bar here is Copan that I pretty much spend alot of my time in when I'm doing the bar thing. He's from around Sacramento California and deided to come down to Central America and own a bar. He found Sapo Rojo on the internet, came down and liked it, then baught it. He actually came to work on the bar about two weeks before I showed up to site, so its kinda nice to have someone to share experiences with because we're going through it kinda at the same time. Only difference is he didn't get 3 months of training.


One of the things I also did was a Canopy Tour above Copan Ruinas. Canopy tours are when they hook you up to a harness and zip-line and you glide through the forest. The reason I got to go, was because new owner took over the tour and they wanted to promote it to the locals so we could get people to go. So for one day they let everyone come for free to see what it was all about. I'm not in this pic, but kinda shows what we looked like. You're seeing Dan, Missy, Jamo (other peace corps volunteer), and Sid. Mom and Dad- you might recognize him from the hotel here in copan.


This is a pic of the actual Zip line. I think its Dan who's in the middle, but this individual cable was a kilometer long and by far the most fun! There isn't too much of an actual canopy here, give the area a few years, but we were able to swing from hill top to hill top. What happens is they hook you up from your harness to the line and you hang on the the cable with one hand leaning back and your legs extended out front and crossed for balance. Then to break you just lean back and use the glove's special leather to brake. It was pretty scary the first time because I had no trust in the glove to stop me, but it worked!


Here's one more pic of a cable during the tours. THis was the last one, there were 14 in all, and this cable braught us down to the river to fly over it. Beautiful once again.


So thats all the pics I have for now. My goal is to get through Jan and Feb, mostly because they're during a lull of the year, and I'm sure things will pick up after I get through them. Next week will be busy because I have reconnect, a time to meet up with all the peace corps from my group and talk about what we've been doing. Alot of them I havne't seen since swearing in about 5 months ago, so this should be fun. Thanks for reading and I'll write soon again.

Hi All!
Hope everyone had a great Christmas and a Happy New Years. Tonight is newyears, but I figure by the time people read this it'll be afterwards. December has flown by. Mostly because I spent all my time waiting for my parents to come, and then 2 weeks with them. I'm still in withdrawl right now since they left two days ago! We had a great time, a little fustrating at times, but the days we weren't traveling it was wonderful. And the days we were traveleing, well it was an adventure, and thats a nice way of putting it! So I'm just going to describe some of the vacation through pics. Although these are only the pics that I took and mom has a whole bunch more, so this in no way represents all of the trip.

The night before I went to San Pedro Sula to pick up the family, there was a really cute preschool christmas presentation in town. This pic is of me with my two favorite empleadas 'maids or helpers' from the house I live in. I'm not quite sure of their names but they are awesome. P.S. the girl on the left is beatiful, just a bad pictur of her here.


Here's a pic of the actual christmas presentation. There were about 20 to 30 preschool to second grade kids that my host aunt teaches at a bilingual preschool. What was amazing about the presentation is that these kids sung about 10 songs from memory and half were in english! I couldn't believe it. This was the 1st christmas thing ever and it went really well!


The first part of our trip was at the bay island of Roatan. It was great taking the fery over, but hell getting off because it took us an hour to get our bags, which we had plenty of! So we stayed on the prettiest beach of the island and here's just one of the sunsets we saw.


Everyday we went out of a snorkel excursion and here's some pics of some of the stuff we saw. I took lots of pics, but these are some of my favorites. So this one is of a fish and the reef. My camera is waterproof so thats how I took all these, and I think it did really well condsidering!


Here's mom and dad snorkeling away, no fish in this pic, but still really cool with the big deep blue ocean and them.


Here's my brother also on the beach. Since he swims everyday he wasn't too excitied about more water, but I think he was happy to be away from school were he could just relax.


I braught a tiny two dollar (i'm proud of this part) christmas tree with me and we had it out almost every night. So here it is on our deck. You can also see the amazing view we had from our house. We stayed at a little house right on the beach front, and after hours of looking at other properties on the island, where we stayed was definitley the best.


After an 'exciting' trip back to the HOnduran main land, we went to a national park called piko bonito. There we stayed at a really nice jungle lodge and went on a rafting trip. This is the only pic of all of us and its when we hiked up a little way to a water fall. The rafting trip was great and we all fell out of the boat at least once. I think I'm definitley going to have to try rafting again.


Here's more snorkel pics. This is me up close. The only one I have of me snorkeleing, of course a self photo......


And here's one last final pic of the snorkeling group. We finally got my dad to go snorkeling which was awesome. I think he really liked it and it sure beats sitting and watching us do it.


After Piko Bonito we went to La Ceiba, back to San Pedro Sula to drop my brother off at the airport, and then to my site and Copan Ruinas. Some times were intensly frustrating, other times were great! Copan was really fun because I actually knew my way around and there wasn't too much stress. \
The whole thing was too short and sad to see them all go. But I think if they had stayed anylonger I would have gotten used to them being here, and it would have made their departure even harder then it was. So here I am not quite sure whats going to happen all this year. A year ago i don't think I quite grasped the fact that I would be here for the turn of 2007, but here I am. Parents helped me out with alot of good ideas to work on down here so I'll have plenty to do.

K, Thats it for now, HAPPY NEW YEARS!

Hi All, this letter is about 1 and a half weeks old because everytime i tried to load it the computer or internet would screw up and i lost everything so I would have to start over so hopefully this time it'll get to you all finally.

So I've done two pretty exciting things since I last wrote, the first being Thanksgiving in Honduras. I think all of the volunteers get a little, or very homesick during this time of the year so to make up for not being with family we all get together and celebrate thanksgiving. I was really impressed with what we were able to do. I think there are usually about three different Peace Corps Thanksgiving dinners in all of Honduras for the different regions, but they are completely organized by the volunteers. The one that I went to was in Santa Rosa de Copan, about a two hour bus ride from Santa Rita. I traveled with my site my Jamie, and we stayed a night before the actual day. The house in Santa Rosa is a Peace Corps house with something like 12 beds in total for people to sleep over on their way to far out middle of nowhere sites. I think there were a total of 35-40 volunteers who showed up, and the place was packed. But that was a very good thing because it was cold! I didn't know Honduras could get this cold. Its apparently supposed to be normal to be cold right now because this is also Honduras's cold season, but the crazy part is that there's no hint that its going to be cold, simply put, a cold front moves in and all of a sudden you can see your breath and have to wear all the clothes you own. But because I was soooo cold, and I'm guessing it was only in the 40's, I guess its good that I'm not in Wyoming where the 20's are warm right now.
The actual Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful. It was a cross between pot-luck and just showing up. We had two beautiful turkeys, pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes, green beans (I made that), other types of casseroles, home made eggnog, bread, chocolate chip cookies, and lots of other stuff. And the good thing is that we had plenty of food.
Also keeping in tradition, we had Turkey day- Football in the T.V. as well. So it was a really good day. There was stuff always happening which I was so thankful for because it kept me from thinking too much about not being home.
Then the second thing I did was go to a workshop on how to make coffee drinks. Yes, that means learning how to make espressos, cappuccinos, iced drinks, and specialty drinks. It was three days in San Pedro Sula and I went with ETEA, one of the organizations I work with. It was really fun, but also really frustrating. I say frustrating because imagine 25 hyper Hondurans hovering around only three espresso machines. Hondurans also don't have quite the same idea of waiting in lines, so it was complete mayhem. At one point I had to leave because I was so frustrated after being cut in front of for the umpteenth time! But I still managed to use the machines somehow. At the end we each had to demonstrate that we could make an espresso, cappuccino, and a specialty drink. Mine certainly weren't the pretties, but I think my specialty drink was the best of them all, of course I'm a little biased…… I made a simple cappuccino with amaretto and raspberry flavoring, but I didn't use very much so it was a really nice balance of all the flavors. Some of the people though used so much flavoring my mouth would pucker up from being too sweet, and you couldn't taste the coffee at all.
So that’s about it. Thins are really starting to come to wrap up as Christmas gets closer (pun not intended but funny), which means there's more going on, but also that I really can't start too many projects until after the season. I'm on the final count down till my family gets here on the 17th of December. I can't wait, and I'm trying to stay as busy as possible so the time will go faster.

So this first pic one of our yummy turkeys, They turned out really well considering our resources. The people are Lauren and Justin. They are seasoned volunteers in Copan.


Me and other girls from my original training group. They are Becky (PAM), Me, Shannon- Municipal Development, and Kathy- also PAM. The puppy is Cathy's but Shannon also has a new puppy. They were adorable.

Here's a pic of my Copan Ruinas, Santa Rita Group. There's 6 volunteers who all live within 15 mintues of eachother and here are two of them. They guy is Jamie or Jamo, he's my site mate in Santa Rita, although I think he's going to change houses to Copan Ruinas. His project is Business and makes web pages for lots of people. The girl is Quincy. She's been here the longest and is Municipal D

And here's a pic of the actual Thanksgiving Spread. It was awesome, and probably better than some of the Turkey days I've had before, mostly with the addition of Mahed Potatoes (inside joke with family) and there was no lack of food! Plus we had something like 7 pies.

Next are some pictures of the Coffee Workshop in San Pedro. Here's my first Espresso I've ever made. It was pretty difficult fighting over the machines but I was proud. The deal about the perfect espresso is that it should be dark, take 26 seconds to pour- not easy by the way- and have a certaina abount of foam on the top. I did ok, but I'm proud no matter.

This last pic is one of me, Lisa, and Salome. We did a quick coffee judging section where we taste tested three different types of coffee. The pic is of us showing which coffee was good and bad.

So thats all for now. I've done a few other things since then, but I'll write about them later. I have less than a week till my parents get here and I'm traveling all over the country before then so I'm going to be extrememly busy and have lots of fun! But I wouldn't have it any other way. If I don't write before Christmas- MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, I'll be enjoying mine on the beach!

I know I know, its been about a month since I lasted posted this thing, But I promise I had a reason! A few weeks ago my computer plain out wouldn't turn on.....I can definitely tell you I slightly freaked in my mind. I use my computer almost every day for one thing or another, and thinking that I wouldn't have one anymore really scared me. Then I saw a fain flicker on the black box on the power cord, an my computer beeped, but then as soon as the light went out, my computer was out. So by then I figured out that it was just the power cord and NOT my computer! So the good news is that a few weeks later the family of my good friend Dan was coming down, so my mom sent the cord to his family, and just a few days ago they arrived in Honduras and I am now finally able to use my computer! Horray!
So what hav I been doing....not too much, but still keeping busy. I finally went to the Copan ruins which I will describe with some pics. Alot of my works kinda been put on hold right now without my computer, but it's given me a great break to study up on Spanish and the Mayan culture. Yes...how is my spanish....always getting better. The sucky thing is that when you live in one spot and always talk to the same people, you really can't notice anything getting better because even though i might be able to communicate one more thought more each day to them, i don't notice it, but after a month I think things really are different, but like I said: I just can't tell. K, so here's some pics

This first pic is of the Copan myan ruins right out side of my town. They are awesome, and I can't beleive I live so close to them! I could literally walk to them everyday if I wanted. The thing I'm standing next to is called a Stela, or somthing like that, but the Myan kings carved them usually in honor of themselves and included some type of story to go with it as well as a date. So they can date oll of these. I think there's about 22 of these in all at the ruins here.

I went to the ruins with a bunch of peace corps kids who came down to Copan Ruinas for halloween. Here we all are standing on top of a pyramid. This pyramid is one of the smallest there, to give you an idea, but it was easily climbable. I'm the one in red shorts kinda standing to the right.

What you are looking at here is a stela and an alter. They usually occur in pairs like that. But whats really gruesome about this one, and why i had to include it, it that the indentation you see in the alter is for putting either a human head or heart, usually the winners of the religious ball game they played, and then there are two rivulests spirling down for the blood. It was just too gross and graphic, so I had to put it up here.

This is a map I did for World Vision, the NGO that I work for. It shows western Honduras, and all of the places that world vision has agricultural programs, and then what type of agricultural program. It was pretty simple, but I was so excited to actually work with something I was good at.

This last picture are of my food friends Sarah, another peace corps girl in a town not too far from mine, and Tomoko, a volunteer in the peace corps equivalent of Japan. They are giving a small presentation on why its important to wash your hands to a group of kids. I wasn't really involved in this one, but went along to take pictures. It was really awesome and the kids loved it, especially the part when Sarah played a song, which you can see the words on the pink paper behind. Hopefully I can work with them on other ones they are going to give!

Thats all I have now. I'm not too sure what my Thanksgiving plans will be, but the idea is to make them as exciting as possible so I won't have to think about not celebrating it with my family! Take care and adios!

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