2012 – Back to Honduras – Part 3 – The Work

After the brief visit to San Marcos de Colon, we arrived at this year’s job site mid-morning on Sunday, February 5th to find piles of rock, stacks of concrete block, and several mounds of sand and gravel to be used to construct the new home for Dania, Mario, and their family in El Carazal.

We were greeted by the two youngest children, standing at the door of the house we were going to replace.

Trenches for the foundation of the new home had already been dug, along with post holes for the re-bar supports.  Step one was to build the “footers” of the foundation with a mixture of large rocks and concrete.

In America, if we need something, we go to the local store and buy it.  Not so in Honduras…if you need something, you use what you have, or what is laying nearby on the ground.  For that reason, a local stone mason was hired to assist us this week for the sum of 300 lps each day, the equivalent of $15 US Dollars.  We called him “El Hefe,”  which can be translated as “boss.”

We also had the help of Evan, who is 13 and lives nearby.  Evan has never attended school and works every day to help meet his family’s needs.  Every morning and afternoon, he was seen carrying large bags of produce on his shoulders from the fields to a warehouse down the road.

Ann and Sharon spent the days teaching at school, which ends at 12:00 noon, allowing the older children to work in the fields.  After school, they kept the children at the jobsite occupied learning new things.

After the “footers” were complete, the foundation began to rise from the ground.

We kept waiting all week for the cement truck to show up.  It never did and all of the mortar was hand mixed.  A shovel-ready job!

Need more sand or gravel?   Just ask.  The sand and gravel for this job came from a nearby streambed on property belonging to Margarite – who we met on last year’s electrical project in Jayacayan.

Ronnie Strickland, the “grand-daddy” of our Honduran involvement, stopped by to lend a hand also.  When we leave, Ronnie will make certain the home gets totally completed.  By now, it is obvious we will only be able to complete the necessary block work during our time there.

We had many visitors during the week.  Leonardo, our friend from the Choluteca Rotary Club, was one of them.  It was great to see him again!

We also had some other distinguished guests drop by.  The batteries were dead on my camera so you will have to take my word for it.  Our current Rotary District Governor, Dick Bowers, along with Past District Governors Jimmy Couch and Jim Johnston visited our jobsite and offered much needed encouragement!  Because of their visit this year, we hope to see the return of larger Rotary projects in the future!

We also met Jonathan from Virginia, who has spent two years in Honduras teaching, and will be there another year.  He jumped in and helped us the entire week.

Building a house using concrete block is very hard work.  Thank goodness you have to stop and allow the mortar to dry every now and then!

By Thursday evening, ALL of the interior and exterior concrete block walls are in place!

Although we were not able to physically complete the entire home during our stay, we did leave Dania, Mario, and the family all of the materials they would need to finish their new home, and left enough money to pay Mr. “El Hefe” to assist in finishing the job.

Here are some more scenes from the job site:

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In the next part, we managed to visit with many friends and returned to places we had visited on previous trips.  Again, thanks for reading!

Trey Lewis is VP Sales & Marketing for Ole South Properties Inc, Tennessee’s largest independent home builder,  615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 or email TLewis@olesouth.com.  Specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Clarksville, Gallatin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

2012 – Back to Honduras – Part 2 – Getting there, Getting around.

Humanitarian Aid is a major factor in the Honduran economy, and Middle Tennessee has a great presence there.  Churches, Rotary Clubs, Medical Brigades, and Educators all have an active presence.  Every time we have been, the plane is full of volunteers headed to Honduras.

Almost everyone on the Nashville – Miami flight was headed for a Honduras mission of some kind.  My dentist was on the same flight too!  He was traveling with his church to visit Mission Lazarus, a working ranch that houses many needy children and provides educational, spiritual, and medical support throughout southern Honduras.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

Landing in Tegucigalpa is always an experience, no matter how many times you have been.  It used to be rated the most dangerous airport in the world.  Now it is #2.  The runway was extended.

After exiting the plane, going through immigration is a breeze.

Just outside the terminal building is Frederico at Friendship Car Rental.  Every year, we rent small diesel trucks for our journey at approximately $70/day.

These Nissan and Toyota diesel trucks are really neat!  It is a shame they are not available in the US or I would have one!

Tegucigalpa has everything you would expect to see in a capital city.  Even a Kentucky Fried Chicken, where we usually grab a meal before the ride to Choluteca.  We didn’t this year.  Chuck Payne wasn’t with us!

To reach Choluteca, we follow the Tegucigalpa Highway to the port city San Lorenzo and then take the Pan-American Highway to Choluteca, and onward to San Marcos de Colon, our final destination.

In October 2011, Honduras was devastated by heavy rains and flooding.  CLICK HERE for the story.  Landslides were frequent along the way, adding a lot of extra drive time… and sore spots from the many potholes!

It will be a long time before these highways are restored, and there are many other weak areas that might not withstand another heavy rainy season.  And there are always slide areas that just don’t ever get fixed!

These roads are dangerous enough and fatal accidents are very common.  Here is a memorial built alongside a bluff on the Pan American Highway in memory of the 35 children that died when their bus left the road in 1965.  CLICK HERE for the original article.  This memorial is 100 yards away from the home we built this year.

We arrived at Choluteca to meet Jim Johnston with the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club.  It was there that we learned we would not be staying at the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon, as they were full.  A new place had opened up, El Potrillo, near Jayacayan.  They were expecting us.  I already knew where it was…so off we went.

We arrived at El Potrillo and got checked into our rooms, which were actually brand new cabins!  Although more pricey ($30 per person per night) than the Barcelona ($15), the accomodations were fantastic.  Breakfast was included in the rate as well, and it too was fabulous!

El Potrillo is a new weekend playground for residents of Choluteca to escape the heat.  It’s higher elevation features cooler nights (60’s) and days (low 80’s).  They have just completed (12) 3-bedroom cabins, and have a full restaurant and bar, swimming pool, fishing lake, horseback riding, event arena, and karaoke club.  We just used the cabins and the restaurant.  Every meal we had there was fantastic and the cabins were super nice, complete with rocking chair porches!

On Sunday morning, we ventured into San Marcos de Colon for church.  I didn’t understand all the words, but something was different about this service.  There was a box at the front of the church that appeared to be a casket.  Well, it was.  We were attending a funeral.

We then ventured to the Barcelona Hotel, knowing they would let us use their clean restrooms!  And what a surprise… the downstairs of Barcelona was now a full variety store, a mini-Wal-Mart.  It turns out it was actually owned by Wal Mart too.

Every year, the circle of friends gets bigger.  Many great relationships have formed over the years, and new ones created each year!   Stay tuned for Part 3!

Trey Lewis is VP Sales & Marketing for Ole South Properties Inc, Tennessee’s largest independent home builder,  615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 or email TLewis@olesouth.com.  Specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Clarksville, Gallatin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Nashville New Homes: Shine on Honduras – Part 5 – Our work is done!

We had such a productive week and our time in Honduras was coming to an end.  As soon as the main electrical transmission lines can be installed and activated, the village of Jayacayan will have electricity in their homes.   This would not happen if it were not for the efforts of Past-District Governor Jim Johnston, the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, along with other Rotary Clubs throughout our District 6760 and their members.  We also appreciate the support of our current District Governor, Jim Springer with this project.

Special thanks to the Rock Harbor Yacht Club for their generous donation also.  These funds were used by Keith Clodfelter to purchase basic staples, food, and other necessities for the families of Jayacayan.

The real credit for our successful trips go to Carolina Tercero and Ronnie Strickland.  In 2007, Ronnie received the distinguished “Service Above Self” award from Rotary International.  Read about his dedication here:  http://www.williamsonherald.com/home?id=42745

Carolina has a heart of gold and is always searching for those most in need.  Without her involvement, we would never know some of these areas existed.  Their continued efforts make our week pale in comparison.  Thank you both!

Ronnie Strickland has identified another remote village for a future project, Las Delicias, in the mountains of Honduras near SanFrancisco.  Construction of basic housing appears to the the primary need there, which is something any group can assist with – no matter how big or small.  Ronnie was able to take Tom (Boone) and Zane to visit LasDelicias to witness the need first hand. 

In most of the villages, the children are happy.  This sweet child in LasDelicias is scared.  We are going to work on changing that!  Ronnie is already working to build a new solid home for this family and construction has begun.  Check out Boone’s pictures:  http://www.bgapix.com/Travel/Honduras-for-Paper/15838091_xJ7Gv#1186344808_HXFJG  and you will see many from LasDelicias.

Boone also made the extra effort to put our memories of the week to music.  

If you would like to become involved personally or financially (or both) in future projects in Honduras, please let me, or any of us, know.  We can not change the world, but we can change lives – one at a time.

Saturday morning we said our good-byes to the gracious staff of the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon.  We will stay there again! 

On previous trips, we would always take off from working early one evening and go to the southern coast on Honduras to relax, see the water, and eat fresh seafood at Cedeno, on the Gulf of Fonseca – which leads to the Pacific Ocean.  Every time we were there, I was intrigued by a huge island in the distance, Amapala – and its history.

This year, we worked longer hours to finish our work in order to spend a day on Amapala Island, or Isle de Tigre (Tiger Island) as it is also called.   We arrived at the mainland village of Coyolito, approximately 2.5 hours after leaving Hotel Barcelona, to catch a water taxi to the island.  None of us had ever been there.  We knew nothing about what we wanted to see there, but the boat drivers kept insisting to know where we wanted them to take us on the island.   While pointing to the island, I finally said “Frio Cervasa, Pollo Frita, Pescado, Camerones”  (cold beer, fried chicken, fish, and shrimp).  They laughed and motioned for us to get in the boat.  Life jackets were “optional” by the way.

The boat ride from Coyolito over to Amapala was just what we needed.  The weather was perfect!

Amapala has a rich history.  It was the Pacific Port of Honduras from the early 1800’s before moving to San Lorenzo and was once the capital city of Honduras.  It is surrounded by El Salvador and Nicaraugua with amazing views of the gulf.  I’ve never been to Maui, but many compare similarities with both being once-volcanic areas.  I guess that explains the dark brown sand and black rocks!

Slowly but surely, Amapala is gaining in tourist popularity.  Evidence of 18th century affluency is still present.  There are several resorts popping up around the island.  We too found a great place!  I cannot remember the name, but the food was great – except they did not have fried chicken!

No one needs to be told that is the fish plate. Just don’t ask what kind of fish it was.  No one knew!   Check out the shrimp that was simply incredible – all of it fresh!

A crowd gathered down at the beach and I just had to go see what the commotion was all about:

Did you know that stingray meat is used for scallops in many restaurants?  I didn’t.   This thing was HUGE!

Here are just some of the scenes from our day at Amapala Island:

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Sunday morning we left early for the capital city of Tegucigalpa.  Remember, this is the two lane road that many have mistaken for four lanes!  We did arrive safely, but only after Pastor Ann and Huntly negotiated the purchase of some hammocks at a roadside store.

We turned in the rental trucks to Frederico at Friendship Car Rental, checked in for our flight, and ate a ceremonial Big Mac in the airport.  The flight from Tegucigalpa to Houston left on time and was very smooth.  When arriving in Houston, we had to claim our bags, go through US Customs, and then procede to our connecting flights.

If you ever want to get a laugh from a US Customs Official, hand him one of these instead of your passport:

    Thanks for reading about this year’s adventure!  I hope you found it somewhat enjoyable and will want to participate with us in the future!

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340.  Specializing in new home sales in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Spring Hill, Tennessee

Nashville New Homes: Shine on Honduras – Part 4 – Always something to do!

Over the past years of visiting Honduras, we have met many friends.  Each year, the circle gets larger and it is hard to manage the time to work productively and see our great friends during the same week we are there.  This trip everything fell into place quite nicely!

The District Representive Ulysses Corrales, the Honduran equivalent to Jim Cooper or Marsha Blackburn, joined us for dinner one evening to thank us for our efforts.  Also joining us that evening was our great friend Sergio Salinas, who was President of the Choluteca Rotary the same year I was in Spring Hill.

Representative Corrales was a cool guy.  We told him of a family on the highest hill of Jayacayan, whose house we were planning to wire but found out there were no poles slated to bring power up that hill.  Mr. Corrales promised us he would get the poles and asked us to proceed with the wiring.  Well guess what?  The politician delivered on his promise and poles were delivered before week’s end!   How refreshing!

I had no idea that the new I-pad thingy had a piano feature and travelled all the way to Honduras to find this out:

On Friday night, we had a scheduling conflict!  The village of Jayacayan wanted to celebrate (party) with us.  It was also meeting night for the Choluteca Rotary Club miles away.   Both events had to be attended, so we split up the group and did just that. 

 

It was great seeing our great friend Juan Carlos Cerrato, who visited us in Tennessee along with Sergio back in 2008.  The last time I saw Juan Carlos, we both made a pact.  He would learn more English and I would learn more Spanish.  Juan Carlos did much better than I did!  On top of that, I even forgot to bring my pocket translator and Spanish-English dictionary.   They stayed behind in Nashville.  Like I have said earlier, there is nothing that cannot be communicated with a smile.  Add a cold beer to that also!

After the Rotary Meeting, we dropped by the Osorto family home to see MaMa, Esther, Carolina, and their family.

David Hartley introduced Chuck Payne and myself to this family back on our first Honduras visit in 2006.  The youngest daughter, Carolina, is now 18 and attending the university there.  She is the only daughter that does not have a child.  Below is Carolina taking the “no boy” (or hombre – no) pledge:

After a visit to Wendy’s with the Osorto family, we proceded back to the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon to join the rest of our group.  They had just returned from the Jayacayan village party at Margarite’s home and had a great time singing and dancing.  I have not seen any pictures from the party yet, so will just have to take their word for it.  (Just kidding)

Every day was filled with amazing sites, but this one takes the cake…..  just what part is the rock and what part is the tree?

Below are more scenes from our last official work day in Jayacayan.  At the end of this day, Huntly Gordon graciously gave Douglas, a great helper from the village, a set of tools and workbelt worth over $500.  We gave our helper Evan a screwdriver set, tool belt and pair of pliers.  He will probably lose them.  LOL

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With all of our wiring work completed, it was then time to plan something neat for Saturday…. being a tourist!  Check back for Part 5!

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340.  Specializing in new home sales in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Spring Hill, Tennessee

Nashville New Homes: Shine on Honduras – Part 3 – The People

On my first visit to Honduras, I returned home an emotional wreck.  I had far more questions than answers.  In each of the homes we worked in was a picture of the same Jesus that I believe in.  Although in a different language, these wonderful people said the same prayers and gave thanks for their food as well.

How was it decided for me to be born in the United States?  How was it decided for them to be born in Honduras?  TOUGH QUESTIONS!  I still do not know the answers, but have to believe that every person can make a difference – wherever they are born.  I cannot speak for everyone that has been there, but the people of Honduras have certainly made more of a difference in my life than I have in theirs.

Other Rotarians from Lawrenceburg, Dyersburg, Lewisburg, Madison, AL, and others preceded our trip.  The Madison, AL club specializes in the installation of eco-stoves, which will greatly add to the quality of life of Honduran families.  Can you imagine building a fire in a clay box, with no chimney to exhaust the smoke?  The eco-stove adds a more efficient cooktop to the clay boxes along with a smokestack to the outside.  Simple, yet amazing.  Here is a photo of a typical stove in a honduran kitchen:

Now, take a look at the improved “eco-stove”

Our group, in addition to Ronnie Strickland who was already there, consisted of eight from Middle Tennessee – Pastor Ann Bassett, Jeremy Bisceglia, Les Bosarge, Keith Clodfelter, Huntly Gordon, Trey Lewis, Zane Martin, and Tom Thomson (aka Boone).  Boone is also a professional photographer and his photos will speak more than any written word.

 http://www.bgapix.com/Travel/Honduras/15820914_CYpAK#1186183527_NieMK

Can you imagine having to live your life in total darkness from sundown to sunrise?  Sure there are candles, but the cost of candles would take away from the necessity of food on the table.  We saw a few portable generators, but most are only used once a year for special occasions.  You are probably asking “how they will pay an electric bill?”  We asked the same question.

Honduras is a poor country and only adds infrastructure as it can afford.  The government will take the value of what was infrastructure is provided from outside sources and issue a proportional credit to each resident.  By the time they ever see an electric bill, there is a good chance their increased quality of life and productivity will absorb it.

Electricity was not our only mission.  Pastor Ann Bassett, of Peace Lutheran Church in Spring Hill, held basic English class at the village school.  Ann is fluent in Spanish, having grown up in a missionary family in Panama.  At the end of the week, each student received a certificate for their efforts.

After school, Ann occupied many of the kids while we were in their homes working.

Here are some other scenes of interest from Honduras:

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Well, it looks like there is still enough for another part or two.  Thanks for reading!

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340.  Specializing in new home sales in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Spring Hill, Tennessee

Nashville New Homes: Shine on Honduras – Part 2

One of the highlights of our stay was having breakfast each morning at Hotel Barcelona.  Shown here is Teresa and Nicole, who made certain everything about our stay was enjoyable:

This was our breakfast spread each morning.  The buffet consisted of pancakes with sugar cane syrup, fresh cheese, cantaloupe, watermelon, platanos (I still don’t know what they are, but they are good), bananas, pineapple, scrambled eggs, coffee, and fresh squeezed orange juice.  The food at Barcelona was great and no one ever suffered from “Montezuma’s Revenge.”

After breakfast at 7:00 am each morning, we proceed past the local church to the local market, where we bought bottled water, lunch for the day, and sardines, rice, and beans for the residents of each house we worked in.

At every project, the village provides us with a secure place to store our tools and supplies, which saves a whole lot of time.  Shown below is the “bodega”  (aka warehouse) where we loaded up for work each morning.  This hacienda belongs to Margarite, a very influential, and nice lady in Jayacayan, and has been in her family for 100+ years.  It is currently used as a community gathering spot and is part of her farming operation.

Here, you will see Margarite’s workers planting tomato seeds that will eventually be placed in the soil once they sprout.  A large part of our produce in the US comes from Honduras.

The man above was a produce buyer for Dole, that had just purchased 300,000 lbs of tomatoes for approximately 25 cents per pound.  Sounds like a lot of money, but it really isn’t when it has to feed such a large number of workers and their families.

Although Jayacayan is home to many less-fortunate people, there are also those that are better off.  By offering our services “for hire” to certain families, we were able to subsidize the cost for others.  We did not know of this detail when we met Mr. Martinez at our first stop, below.  He was extremely pissed off that he received pull string lights instead of wall switches.  It is a damn good thing that he didn’t understand English and we didn’t understand Spanish…although I have a feeling we were both saying the same thing!  (After learning that he paid for all of his work and supplies, we did go back and installed the switches and parted as friends forever.)

In Honduras, most of the small villages are located way off of main highways.  The roads to the villages are rough and primitive, and the trails to the homes are even rougher.  And you never know just what you will see.  Take a look:

The end of the road…. which fork do you take?   Neither is wide enough for the truck and our helper is points up the hill.  Turns out it was 1/4 mile walk up that damn hill to the house we needed to work on.  Seemed a lot further than that to me.

The cows have better road manners than many drivers.  Shown below is a corral where we saw a bull getting his underparts cut off.  Not a good day for him.

There is also wool in Honduras.

Rest Rooms are plentiful.  These little Toyota diesels are amazing in adverse conditions.  At $350/week they are a deal.

Each evening on the drive back, we saw some amazing sunsets.

In Part 3, we will take a look at the families we encountered over the week.  These people were so gracious and appreciative.  We were welcomed into their homes as complete strangers and departed as dear friends. 

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340.  Specializing in new home sales in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and Spring Hill, Tennessee

Nashville New Homes: Shine on Honduras – Part 1

Before writing this recap of our recent trip to Honduras, I was reminded of this amusing quote:

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero, philosopher and statesman

Rather than spending time writing a shorter story, this week’s blog will break our trip into parts.  In a previous blog post, the history of how our projects in Honduras started was discussed:    https://nashvillehomesblog.com/2011/01/19/nashville-new-homes-assafartay-is-going-to-honduras/

About this year’s project:  Lawrenceburg Rotary Club coordinated the effort and did an exemplary job of putting everything together.  Between their own funds, acquiring grants from Rotary International, funds from the Honduran government, and contributions from other District 6760 clubs, monies were raised for the installation of utility poles and power lines to the village and to purchase all of the supplies needed to provide electrical service in each home.   Without the organizational and planning efforts of Jim Johnston, this year’s project would not have happened.

It was also great to have the “grandaddy” of our Honduras involvement, Ronnie Strickland, back with us in Jayacayan.  Ronnie has devoted years to improving the lives of Hondurans and has had a great impact on the entire region.  Just mention “Senor Ronnie” anywhere in Honduras and doors will open! 

  

Six of us representing Spring Hill Rotary and two representing Franklin Noon Rotary departed Nashville International at 6:00 am on Sunday, February 6, 2011 for our assigned week in the “Jayacayan” community of Southern Honduras, consisting of approximately 55 homes.  Our part of the project was to finish installing electrical services and wiring in the remainder of the homes, which numbered approximately 25 or so.   We arrived, laden with tools, in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, shortly after noon.

We picked up our baggage, went through customs, and walked over to Friendship Car Rentals, where Frederico had two 4×4 trucks waiting for us.  It was now time to negotiate the traffic of the Tegucigalpa Highway to the PanAmerican Highway on our 4 hour ride to San Marcos de Colon, where we would be staying for the week.

I will never forget my first visit, arriving in Tegucigalpa.  Hondurans never get in a hurry…. until they get behind the wheel of a car.  Two-lane roads are actually 3-lane roads and the double-yellow lines don’t mean a thing.  They should have saved the paint.

We have been very fortunate over the years to have escaped incident on the roads of Honduras.   There is no such thing as defensive driving here.  Below is a common sight along the highway from Tegucigalpa to Choluteca.

Along the route, you see things that make you laugh.  You see things that make you cry.  You see things that are simply amazing.

It has been said that Honduras is where old school buses come to die.  Not true, they come here for a new life and you will see them everywhere!

After following the Tegucigalpa Highway to San Lorenzo, the Pacific Ocean Port of Honduras, we then pick up the Pan American Highway into Choluteca, continuing to our destination of San Marcos de Colon, a quaint village in the mountains shown below:

Watching the Super Bowl was a concern to a few in our group.  Personally, I could have given a rat’s ass this year.  Not knowing one way or the other, I gambled and said our hotel would have it so we could keep moving.   Although the play-by-play was in Spanish and no funny commericals, our Hotel Barcelona did have the Super Bowl playing when we arrived.  Here is home for the next week:

We were very pleased with our new home away from home!  We were initially concerned about what $15 USD, including tax and breakfast, would get us.  The Hotel Barcelona was a highlight of the trip and I would recommend it to anyone!

Thats it for today.  In the next part, you’ll see about life in Jayacayan!