2012: Back to Honduras – Part 4 – The Long Ending!

One thing that we look forward to each year is interacting with the families we come in contact with each day.  Each morning we visit the local store to purchase our needs for the day, and we always purchase containers of rice, beans, sardines, and snacks for families that need a little break.  This year, our great friend Sid Neuhoff gave our “food fund” a great send-off and because of Sid, many added families were helped.  We look for Sid to visit Honduras with us one year!

This year, we did not come in contact with as many different families as we have in past years.  Our work this year was concentrated on one family in particular.  If you want to find a family in need, you don’t have to look very far.  David Hartley has a special “knack” for finding those that need it the most.

One evening, on the way back from the jobsite, David yells, “STOP RIGHT HERE!”  

After their home was demolished from flooding, the family assembled a structure to keep them out of the elements. One day, they will hopefully have something more substantial.

Inside, David found three children, with the oldest being four years old.  Mom and Dad were still working in the fields.  In this economy, you work whenever work is available.  We left what we had that evening, and stopped by again the next evening with more!

Hopefully we will be able to help this family even more on our next visit.  Their original home was washed away in October 2011, during the severe rains that resulted in catastrophic flooding of southern Honduras.  Many families were affected by flooding and have yet to recover.  If we all help a little bit, we can make a lot of difference.

As stated earlier, each year the circle of friends gets larger and we would like to visit everyone we know as well as our past projects each year, which can’t always happen.  This year, our friends from the Rotary Club of Choluteca joined us for dinner one evening at El Potrillo.  The staff at El Potrillo was excellent, as was the breakfasts and dinners we had there.

The Staff of El Potrillo. This is an excellent place to dine and a great place to stay while in Honduras.

We also enjoyed dinner several evenings with Teresa and her great staff at the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon.  Their fried chicken is known all over southern Honduras!

Staff of the Barcelona Hotel in San Marcos de Colon, Honduras.

Ann and Sharon were able to visit Jayacayan, the site of last year’s project.  Jeremy and I were able to attend the Choluteca Rotary Club meeting Friday evening.  Our Tennessee District Governor, Dick Bowers, was also there as was the others representing Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, who coordinated this year’s effort.  

Meeting of the Choluteca Rotary Club.

By sneaking out of the Rotary meeting early, I was able to catch up with David Hartley and Keith Clodfelter who were having dinner with the Osotro family, that we have known for years.

The Osotro Family. Esther, MaMa, Carolina, Jose, and Michelle.

Each year, we look forward to taking a day off to explore.  Friday started off with a visit to downtown Choluteca and its many streetside vendors.

The streets of Choluteca Honduras

Ever wonder what happened to all of the Datsun B-210’s?  They are now taxi cabs in Choluteca.

At the straw market, you can find just about anything you would want, especially fresh fruit.

After a few hours in Choluteca, we headed to Coyolito, where we would catch a boat over to the island of Amapala, also known as “Isla de Tigre.” 

Supplies delivered to Coyolito for the ride over to Amapala.

We visited this island on last year’s trip and felt the need to see it again.  I have always said Amapala would be a great cruise ship port and I just learned that representatives from NCL, Carnival, and Princess Cruise Lines were on the island exploring that possibility the day before we were there!

We boarded the boat at Coyolito with Romario and who we will call Captain Smiley.  He never stopped smiling the entire day!

Coyolito, where you catch a water taxi to Amapala Island, shown in the distance.

The boat ride to the fishing village and restaurant is about 45 minutes.  I am not sure what the exact charge per person normally is, but we paid $100 US for all eight of us for the boat for the entire day. 

The fishing village and restaurant as seen from the Gulf of Fonseca.

I cannot remember, nor could pronouce the name of the beachside restaurant, but here it is.

Beachside Restaurant on Amapala Island, Honduras

The food was awesome!  Not only cooked to order, but caught to order.  Very possibly the best shrimp I have ever had.

Cleaning the day's catch on Amapala Island. From the boat to the skillet!

Huge portions too!

Fish and Shrimp combo, freshly caught and cooked while you wait.

Early Saturday morning, we left Choluteca for Tegucigalpa, anticipating extra traffic on Saturday morning.  The traffic was even worse than anticipated.  There was still time to enjoy a Big Mac inside the Tegucigalpa airport before our flight to Miami.

Mc Donalds inside Tegucigalpa airport

A long, great day seeing the sunrise in Choluteca, and the sunset in Miami.

It is truly amazing how many of the same places and same scenes can create different, yet wonderful memories year after year.  We will be returning to southern Honduras again next February, and who knows…maybe before.  If you would like to join us, or just participate financially, lending a helping hand in Honduras is a truly rewarding experience.

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 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.

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