Muse by David Teitsma

My attempt to understand and be understood.

The class was paired off and sent into the countryside for four days to live with farmers who were leaders in their community and helped to teach others more efficient and sustainable crops, and techniques. I was paired with Tim Stapert for this adventure. Bethany and Lillian also were going to the same area (Santa Cruz) so we traveled together.

We headed out on a bus that took us most of the way there. We had to take another bus for the next leg of our journey. Unfortunately the only way to find out the bus schedule or route is asking around, which was difficult as we didn’t really know our destination and only had the name of the person we were staying with. After asking around, we were pretty sure which bus to get on. After asking someone else on the bus were we had to get off, they basically said it was a dirt road on the side of the road. Fortunately they were able to help us otherwise I’m sure we would have missed it. So, we yelled for them to stop and the four of us got off. We walked down the two track and eventually a truck met us going the opposite way. The red truck was a old Toyota Land Cruiser that was older than me. After asking if they knew where we had to go, we found out that the driver was our host’s son. So we hopped in the back and bumped along back to drop off the girls where they were going to stay and then we went back to our house. When we arrived we met everyone and enjoyed huge dinner. In what seems Honduras etiquette, we (the guests) ate first followed by the men, and then the ladies. After dinner we talked with the family and learned about themselves, the area, and their work.

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Our host family was Francisco, Gloria, Danny and Wendy. Their house was far from anyone else, and was without electricity or running water. They didn’t speak much Spanish, however since Tim and I had been studying Spanish for the semester we could speak it fairly well. There were still plenty of awkward pauses when neither person could figure out what was being communicated, especially with farming terminology.

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It was fun to hear of Danny and Wendy’s dream about school and the future. However it seemed like they were in an area where they would inherit their parents life and continue the farm.

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Both me and Tim woke up several times during the night to barking by wild dogs that at one point seemed like they were trying to get through the door. Also, as I fell asleep I noticed a big circle on the ceiling above my bed. I flashed my light at it and saw that it was a huge spider. This was the complete opposite of comforting and relaxing, the two things that you need to fall asleep. Needless to say after several hours I managed to fall asleep. The next day, I also saw two huge spiders each three inches across. Yikes!

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However we woke up early (but not as early as are host at sunrise) to a big Honduras breakfast, and then headed out with Francisco and Danny to one of their fields. Tim and I walked while they rode their horses. Quickly the heat got to me and tired me out. I was very jealous of them riding the horses. We crossed through town and covered a lot of ground, probably at least three miles.

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Eventually we arrived at several farms situated on rolling hills. Several of the fields had been burned, as is practice in Honduras. This is done under the false perception to kill any weeds and get it ready to be seeded. Instead destroys good soil and nutrients, pollutes the area, causing fires that get out of control, destroying other’s property and forests. Francisco’s fields had been burned supposedly by a neighboring farm that got out of control when it was being burnt.

They had a small building where we got supplies and then hiked even further to repair an old fence by stringing barb wire between the posts. They taught us about the farming techniques that they teach other farmers in the area. It was hot and there were a lot of bugs and limited tools. So for most of the time, we stood around watching unfortunately. After several hours we went down to the stream and ate lunch. Francisco and Danny ate quickly taking drinks from the stream. Tim and I took longer while drinking the last sips of our water, afraid to drink out of the dirty stream. (we each almost drank two gallons of water; and sweated 90% of it)

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On the way back Tim and I got to ride their horses part of the way, in our sweat drenched t-shirts. After we got back and rested for a bit, we went out to the area right in front of their house to work. Here we cut down small sized trees and carried them to the fence of one of their fields. There we put the trees in the ground and tied them to the fence. The trees would root and grow creating a natural barrier, and also were a natural insecticide at the same time.

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The family was raising puppies to sell, which were adorable.

Later we took two big barrels in the truck down to the river and parked the truck in the river. Taking buckets and pans we filled up the barrels with the cleanest water we could. This is the water that the family used at the house. Oddly though, this didn’t seem like it was a common practice, so I don’t know if they did this just because we were there?

We then had a huge tradition Honduras meal. I was tired from a busy day, and oppressive heat. We were surprised later when Lillian and Bethany arrived along with their host Jorge. They came to say hello and just visit for a couple hours. We went to bed early, and tired.

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The following morning we woke up early and took a ride to several other farmers that Francisco had been working with. He showed us their crops and new technique. I remember one farm that was on a hillside that had a crop at the bottom then several huge pools built into the hill where this farmer raised thousands of fish to eat and sell. This seemed very out of place for the dry hilly area.

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We saw several fires that were slowly burning the countryside, causing a stinky haze over the valleys. We also visited a coffee bean farmer growing his bushes on the hillside. They were plentiful! I learned a lot about farming. The farmers deserve a lot of credit for being able to grow beautiful crops without machines, and with very sandy dry soil. I would like to see an American farmer try to grow something here, I imagine it would be a disaster. We then headed back to the ‘our’ farm and had lunch. By the house someone (a hired hand?) was cutting and shredding plants similar to cane for the horses. We went and helped by picking up the plants that were cut down and shredding them, while swatting away flies swarming for the cane juice. Next we bagged the shredded cane and carried it up to the horses and animals to eat. The bags were heavy and unyielding. The plants were sharp and cut your hands. The men in the area were definitely stronger and more agile than Tim and I.

Then Francisco let Tim and I take a horse out and explore the area. Eventually Danny surprised us by galloping up to us a little while later bareback on another horse. Ouch! He lead us through some of the sights, guiding us through the area. We then proceeded down a wooded path when Tim’s horse started galloping and mine followed along. Then Tim’s left stirrup and reins came loose, while I was on a galloping horse that was going under thick branch that were almost knocking me off. Eventually we were able to stop and compose ourselves, but Tim and I were both scared. This was it for our day.

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In the above picture you can see the haze from the smoke of burning fields.

The following day we went to Jorge’s farm where Bethany and Lillian were staying. Jorge showed me around his farm, which modeled many different techniques that were amazing to hear and see.  Jorge, Francisco, and Danny were hard workers and it showed.

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Above you can see a branch from another tree that has been grafted into this tree in order to grow a stronger better tree.

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Above proud Jorge stands alongside a trench lined with grasses to avoid washouts caused by the rain.

Then they provided a HUGE lunch for us. I was embarrassed to take a picture of the feast, but I had too!

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We then went with tons of kids (I think they were mostly Jorge’s grandchildren) to the river and swam for a while. The water wasn’t very clean but we still joined in!

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The following day we woke early to a day filled with bus rides back to the city. Along the way the bus picked up other students. It seems like the four of us were the farthest away!

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I am very thankfully to Francisco and his family. They were very generous and accommodating to us. They worked extra so that we could come along and were patient with us as we tried to communicate. Thanks!

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My classmates also had many interesting experiences. Here’s some photos which tell their story.


deceptive cuteness



I have more pictures of my time in Honduras here, and a special set just for this trip.


Anne said...

wow, what a diff. way of life huh! Those puppies were cute.
I could not deal with those spiders. seriously that would freak me out!!!