Friday, May 30, 2014

A Street Kid with a Dream

Since our departure in 2010, our students have been scattered all over Honduras. So we held little hope of re-connecting with many of them. But God has amazed us with some very creative timing these last few months!

A few weeks ago, we were headed out of town toward El Sembrador when we found ourselves lost in the center of town. It was there that a group of gringos caught our eye. And as we gawked at this odd troop traipsing through the middle of the city, a familiar face popped out from behind them. It was our friend and former student, Arle! He looked up at the exact same moment and raced toward our car, which was stopped in heavy traffic. We had just enough time to exchange phone numbers before the traffic began to move again.

Arle is a leader and you know it from the moment you meet him. But his life has not been easy. Arle was a street kid and spent a great deal of his childhood in an orphanage. He never knew when he might eat again and he never knew the unconditional love of a family. But thanks to a powerful ministry called the Micah Project, Arle found a relationship with the Lord and has had the opportunity to grow into the man he is today. He is a graduate of El Sembrador and is currently attending the university seeking a degree in business management. He has a part-time job and lives at the Timothy House, a Micah Project program that allows young men to have adult responsibilities while still living within the support system of the Micah family.

When we finally met up with Arle for lunch, we found a man brimming with confidence no matter the challenges he faces. Always the joker, his laughter can be contagious and it's hard not to notice his natural charisma. Most importantly, he is seeking to follow Christ in his life. 

Arle told us that his dream is to one day own a franchise of his own. Clearly God has given him a vision and we are so excited and proud for him. Arle is the kind of leader who has the potential to really transform Honduras. Will you pray with us for Arle's dream to become a reality?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Agua! Agua! Agua!

I recently learned that in Honduras it’s a requirement to have a fire extinguisher and a reflective triangle in your vehicle at all times. I can kind of see the point of the reflective triangle, but a fire extinguisher? Really? When am I ever going to use that?! I’ve been driving for 20 years and have never had a use for a fire extinguisher in my vehicle. Most car fires are difficult for the fire department, so what good is a tiny little fire extinguisher really going to do in the case of a real emergency? Anyway, after putting it off for a long time, I finally bought the required items.

The next day, I took my car to get an oil change--the first one since we purchased the car last month. So, I took it to a little mom-and-pop shop that one of my co-workers recommended. Mid-way through the oil change, one of the mechanics came running around in a panic yelling “Agua! Agua! Agua!” We were all looking at him a bit strangely as he started going from container to container looking for one that might have water. Eventually he found a small bucket with water in it and started running back to the vehicle he was working on. At this point, we had figured out that a vehicle is on fire. So I also started glancing around looking for something that will hold water and I headed for a big cistern nearby. But, alas, it was bone dry. This is also the point in which I realized that there is no running water at the shop either.

Thankfully, the car on fire was not mine. It was a van parked next to it. I noticed that it was pretty small fire in the center console of a vehicle and that reminded me of my previous day’s purchase. I opened the back of my car and pulled out my brand new fire extinguisher. I handed it to the manager who used it to put out the fire while I retreated to a safe distance.

When I reluctantly purchased that little fire extinguisher, I could never have imagined how useful it would be the very next afternoon! The funniest part of the adventure was that my mechanic kept mimicking and ridiculing the other mechanic for the rest of the time I was at the shop and kept bursting into laughter over the crazy antics. And they were even generous enough to replace my extinguisher, which I gratefully accepted. I’ll never take that thing for granted again!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nick has a boo-boo!

Thanks to Nick, we had another new experience here in Honduras. We made our first visit to the ER. OK, it wasn't really an emergency per se, but after Nick severely jammed his finger in his PE class we needed to get an x-ray to make sure it wasn't broken.

Actually, it wasn't as traumatic as we had imagined. We did have to wait a long time. But both the doctor and the x-ray technician spoke English fairly well. So our precaution of bringing along the Umbaugh family to translate was sort of a waste for time for them. But we were grateful to have the support and having Jeremy there did help a lot when we discussed our payment options with the office. And thank goodness there was a t.v. in the waiting room showing funny cat videos to entertain the kids...well, at least it entertained Nick.

We decided to pay cash for the services and be reimbursed by our HSA later. We paid for an ER visit, an x-ray, a splint for the finger and an anti-inflammatory medicine. Who cares? You will when you find out the price. The whole episode cost less than $100!

Nick's first boo-boo in Honduras.

We even got a one-of-a-kind souvenir! In Honduras, you get to keep your x-ray film.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Nick and his finger are fine. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One Last Song

Last night we attended a band and orchestra concert at Nick's school. They only have music classes for lower grades and only practice a couple of times a week, so Nick's experience really showed. He was especially proud of his part in the Star Wars theme song.

As we applauded the students at the end, I couldn't help but think that this will probably be the last high school band concert we'll attend and I got a little teary-eyed. But maybe we'll be able to arrange a concert at El Sembrador next year—Nick's One-Man-Band Show!

What an opportunity Nick has been given to come alongside younger musicians at school! I also think he's been an encouragement to the music teachers who administer an under-appreciated and under-funded arts program. Certainly his enthusiasm is contagious! God has given him a wonderful ministry at Los Pinares and we are so grateful he had this opportunity to share his love of music.

The baritone may look a little worse for the wear, but Nick put it to good use!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

2 Days at the Honduran DMV

Driving in Honduras is an adventure to say the least. And we found out this week that getting a driver's license is an equally interesting experience.

How to Get a Driver's License in Honduras

Step 1: Get the Appointment. We went to the bank with our friend and co-worker, Saul, to purchase an appointment at the Honduran equivalent of the DMV. But we quickly learned that the appointment didn't mean much in terms to a date and time and accomplish anything. 

Note: This was payment #1.

Step 2: Invite a Translator. We were nervous about taking the test because we knew we wouldn't understand some of the questions. So we invited one of our Spanish teachers to come along in the hopes that they would allow her to translate if necessary.

Step 3: Gather the Paperwork.
We needed copies of our residency cards, our drivers' licenses, the receipt from the bank and passport photos which I took and printed out on our home printer. We didn't have an official paper stating our blood type, but we hoped they might overlook this.

Step 4: Arrive a day early.
The appointment wasn't important. What's important is taking the mandatory class and written exam before the time on the slip from the bank. So we arrived early the day before our appointment date with our paperwork in hand.

Step 5: Take the physical.
When we arrived, we were directed to one of many trailers housing businesses specializing in providing the necessary examinations. Here, a secretary took our payment and looked over our paperwork. She asked for our blood type. We told her. And since I'm not exactly certain of mine, I hesitated for a split second. She looked at me skeptically, but wrote it down on an official card anyway before sending us into the doctor for the physical. The doctor asked for our names and ages and wrote it on yet another form. And that was the physical.

Note: This was payment #2.

Step 6: Take the eye exam.
To his credit, the doctor was a little more thorough on the eye exam. We were required to read the bottom row on an eye chart while he smirked at our pronunciation of the letters in Spanish.

Step 7: Take the psychological exam.
After his approval, the doctor signed our paperwork and sent us next door to take the psychological exam. I'm not convinced that this exam had anything to do with psychology. It was more like a personality profile. For example, we were asked to identify whether we are more detail-oriented of prefer to focus the big picture and whether we like to arrive early for appointments or are sometimes late. Thankfully, the proctors allowed our teacher to translate for us.

Step 8: Attend the mandatory driver training class.
Next we returned to the offices and found a spot the classroom.

Step 9: Become the teacher's pet.
Prior to the class, the teacher checked over our paperwork and had us sign in. Then we chatted a little with him and he seemed to find us amusing. He allowed our teacher to sit with us and translate his lecture in which he pointed out his favorite gringos to the entire class (as if we weren't obivous enough!) and used us as examples throughout.

Step 10: Pay attention.
Despite having driven for years, we knew it would be important to understand the lecture in order to pass the exam. The first hour or so was a critique of the horrible traffic conditions in Tegucigalpa and the infamous taxis and street vendors that make life for a driving instructor so much more difficult. The remainder of the class focused more on safety like wearing a helmet on a motorcycle or using a crosswalk when walking. There was also a substantial portion of the remarks relating to consequences of improper paperwork and the circumstances under which a driver can be arrested. Very little instruction was given on how to to drive or how to observe the laws. It's worth noting that this is the likely the only driving education given to young people seeking a license for the first time.

There was one interesting fact we learned. Although it is very common to see entire families on a single motorcycle, it is illegal for two men to ride together on a motorcycle. That's because of the rise in violence contributed to men on motorcycles who assault and rob pedestrians and make a quick getaway on motorcycles.

Step 11: Have snack and some coffee.
Midway through the talk, the class took a recess and we took advantage of the coffee house trailer to refresh ourselves. Steve opted to buy a Pepsi out of the trunk of a vendor's car.

Step 12: Go to church.
We were absolutely shocked when the uniformed officer took over for the instructor and pulled out his Bible and began preaching a salvation message to the class. We didn't know what to think. While we fight over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses that are supposed to uphold them, Hondurans are taking the opportunity to share the Gospel daily to any citizen who exercises one of their most basic rights in the country—potentially a million drivers. Amazing!

Step 13: Take the written exam.
Thankfully (and probably because he liked us), our teacher allowed our translator to help with the exam. It was not multiple choice as we expected, but instead required written responses. This made things more difficult as our vocabulary is limited in this particular area. I don't know what we would've done without her help.

Step 14: Wait around.
After the test, we were told to wait outside. We waited for a long time before noticing that our fellow classmates had all drifted away. So we poked into the classroom to ask for our results. Our new friend assured and re-assured us repeatedly not to "worry" about it and instructed us to come back the next day.

Step 15: Come back tomorrow.
When we arrived early the next morning, we were directed a another office by a uniformed guard who remembered us from the day before. We must've made an impression because he was eager to give us direction.

Step 16: Collect exam results and paperwork.
We presented our residency cards to the secretary who retrieved our paperwork which now included the final exam with passing grades!

Step 17: Receive the driver's manual.
That's right. You don't get the manual until after you complete and pass the exam. The secretary sent us to another cubicle where we paid to receive our manuals and provided seemingly irrelevant information to the clerk who typed it onto yet another form using an old typewriter. 

Note: This was payment #3.

Two cultural notes: First, it is important to accurately describe someone. For example, on my typed form I am described as having a round face and a straight nose. I am also "grande" which I have decided refers to my adult stature and not my weight. Second, accuracy is not important on any other part of official paperwork despite the numerous signatures and official-looking stamps. For example, spelling a name incorrectly or writing the wrong date is acceptable even when a written paper from which to copy has been provided.

Step 18: Get the paperwork stamped.
We were then sent to another office where a man behind glass took a glance through our now robust stack of papers before stamping and signing them and sending us on to another waiting area.

Step 19: Get photographed and fingerprinted.
We turned in our papers a final time and were photographed and fingerprinted (once with ink and once electronically).

Step 20: Get your license!
Finally, we came to the end of the process and received our official licenses to drive in Honduras!

Here we are with our new licenses and our still inky fingers.