November 8, 2009

Honduras Finale and Pictures

I forgot to mention that in the waterfall with the 100ft+ deep pool (and the ginormous ananconda) as I was walking back to our van this nun and another girl (maybe a nun in training?) were handing out pamphlets at the exit and once I passed them they screamed in unison, "JESUS!" I thought it was hilarious because I am not sure what they were trying to achieve with that.

welcome to no running water, no electricity, no flushing toilets and buck-wild children. :)

Honestly though they are an amazing community. They came in to existence after hurricane mitch devastated the area and they lost it all. This community is made up of people from all over Honduras and SHOCKINGLY funded by El Salvador. Their RIVAL in soccer. Fun fact : we once started a 24hr war between Honduras and El Salvador over....guess....guess... a SOCCER MATCH. Army deployment, civilian militias the whole shebang. Unfreaking believable but TRUE. NOT our proudest moment but go figure.

Anyway this town is a dry town. NO ALCOHOL allowed. NO GAMBLING allowed. NO SPOUSAL/DOMESTIC abuse or you get kicked out and loose your home. They don't have crime and no murders. I felt that this utopia would change the moment their large number of children matured in to teenagers with no schooling to go to (can't afford it), no jobs (shoot the adults had to go MILES away to get a job). The richest man in town had 2 jobs and once a week worked 24hrs straight. HE couldn't send his kid to school because he couldn't afford it.

Let me tell you about the first day in Guaymas
we arrived at 9AM on Monday morning and were introduced to our host family. ALHAMDULILLAH! I got a woman with a set of twins (7 years old) and a baby girl named Rosemarie (beautiful girl, just beautiful mashallah, she was 2). Her husband had recently been caught at the border of Mexico and the USA and was being deported back to Honduras. She was super cool and we bonded. My classmate Paulina was with me and I helped translate between them and we had fun.

Anyway once we dropped of our belongings at the host families we got together in the middle of the town.
Here is where we would eat our lunches. It is actually the center of town and the only store in town. It was hear that my classmates found out about the dry aspect of this town and totally freaked out. At this point they had been buying beer and liquor for pennies and going to local clubs. Now they had nothing. Kids (we nicknamed children of the corn) were following us everywhere pointing and staring.

By noon we had decided that there was no way in hell we were staying in a place that was so hot (remember the record heat wave?) and with NO electricity, no running water, no gasp...FLUSHING TOILETS! and most importantly NO INTERNET!! had the world gone mad? We had figured out how far from the main road we were (A LOT of miles) as well as how much money it would take to get back to El Progresso and from there to the airport (we were short but had confidence we could trade something). IT WAS THAT BAD.

By 2pm our professor and male faculty member had had enough of our complaints and told us that there was this luscious river about 45 minutes away and a couple of towns over where we could take shelter from the oppressive heat. So we marched for 45 minutes and as we went so did the children. They came out of bushes, rocks, trees, houses, ditches I mean EVERYWHERE. We tried to be as quite as possible but when you have nothing going on in a town and we were the main attraction they had us pegged for miles. NO LIE by the time we arrived at the river we had at least 100 kids following us, touching us with sticky fingers or trying to talk to us. If it hadn't been so hot and humid we probably wouldn't have minded but we were collectively annoyed. By this point I wasn't discriminated against for my hijab any more. I had been accepted back in to the folds of the group because I was no longer standing between them and their male friend seen as everyone was sleeping in pairs in different parts of town.

When we arrived at the promised river we found out it was a puddle. A PUDDLE PEOPLE!!! A PUDDLE!! we walked for 45 minutes in the hottest weather any of us had experienced with the hope of relief at the end but nada. It was a puddle and it had hot water. GROSS. We learned from the children that the river is normally huge but because of the drought and heat waves it had diminished.

We walked 45 minutes back to town angrier than we had ever been ready to honestly kill our faculty for giving us false hopes. The one good thing that came out of this was that in the outskirts of a second town we found a place that had PHONES and INTERNET!! they also had AC and we all took turn calling home and crying about our situation.

2nd day
I got up for fajr to go out to do wudu and pray and found a guy near my house. I did wudu as quickly as I could and came running back in to the house. The men were very respectful of me and when I would pass the women they would pull at their shirts and skirts to make them longer. mashaAllah. We ate breakfast and were given our roles and told what classes we would be teaching. Let me tell you about the school. The classrooms were basically tents held up by sticks and stones, the floor was made out of dirt and some chairs had more than one child in it because there wasn't enough to go around. They had no pencils or paper (although we do bring with us nearly a years worth of school supplies).

There were nearly 40 plus kids per teacher and I have NO idea how they even teach. After we taught the children we would sit with the teachers for a couple of hours so that they could practice their English on us. We noticed that the bathrooms were outhouses and the children were responsible for cleaning it. We actually saw them cleaning it up. subhanAllah.

All of us bonded with our host family and we would actually call the host father "dad" and host mother "mom". Paulina and I would speak to our host mother who at the time was only 26 years old. She was a smart and beautiful woman. I asked her about her dreams and her husband. Found out he was coming at the end of the week from Texas. I felt so sad for her because her husbands goals were to come to the USA and make it big so he could afford his sisters treatment and stay here. Her goals were to stay in Guaymas in the modest home she owned and raise her children. She spoke about how much she loved him but honestly no marriage is going to work out with the partners living in different countries potential permanently.

by the 3rd day we all had routines and Paulina and I would grab our lunches and walk like a 1/2 a mile back to our host mom and eat with her. At night we, the host mom and the children would lay outside her porch and stare at the sky talking about life, our dreams, our ambitions etc. During one of these times someone came rushing to our house (SCARY AS HELL when people appear out of darkness) because the sister in law of my host mom was dying. I grabbed my fortess of the Muslim book and ran. I read (quietly) supplications for the lady. Alhamdulillah she survived the night and looked better the next day. However, she was suffering from Cancer and it wasn't being treated so it was a sad story. Her brother (my host moms husband) had left to the USA so he could afford her treatment.

During my stay in Guaymas I would here the roosters crow and I would make duah because I read that
While the roosters crow: the Prophet (saw) said, "When you hear the crowing of the rooster ask Allah from His favors because it saw an angel. And if you hear the braying of a donkey, seek refuge with Allah because it saw a devil."
So I would hear a donkey and I would seek refuge. It was AWESOME! I stopped praying fajr on time because I didn't know you could do tayamum and I didn't think of bringing water in to the small house. The reason I stopped was because every morning when I would come out to do wudhu there was one more man looking at me until there was a small group by the banana groves (a couple of feet from my host family). I didn't feel safe so I would stay inside and pray fajr the moment Paulina, my host mom and kids would be bustling about. I prayed my dhuhr and asr in her house as well so that I wouldn't draw attention. You know what else I didn't know? That I could shorten my prayers. DANG IT! It would have made it so much easier for me. By shortening my prayers I mean that instead of praying the 4 rakats (units) for dhuhr you could pray only 2 and the same goes for asr and isha because I was a traveler. DANG IT! I wished I had known.

My host mom would come with treats for Paulina and I while we looked up at the sky every nigh (we knew it must have cost an arm and a leg for her) so when we left we left a joint gift for her. I loved that time. I was a practicing Muslim with very little sins on my list, I was in good company, I didn't feel weird for wearing the hijab, nor discriminated because I was Muslim. It was awesome.
gotta love those kids!

The bathrooms for REALS! I took a shower in them. eww.Mostly all the houses look like this. Even though they are impoverished they are better off than other communities. The town was designed by doctors and engineers. You see the doctors insisted that people this poor slept on the ground and most of the diseases they were treating were coming from animal bites that live in the dirt. So they raised the foundation of the houses and than added cement floors, although uncomfortable they were sanitary. The health of the community increased immediately and drastically after that. Alhamdulillah.
This is the Catholic church of the town and it is by far the nicest church. We were there for mass one day and I didn't feel out of place oranything. While they were praising Jesus I was making dua to Allah swt. No one invaded my space nor did they tell me I was going to hell. Good people with manners I tell you.
believe it or not this is a shower, washing room and dishwasher. Not only that if you even had one of these it meant you were better off than the rest. My host family didn't have this and instead took showers in the toilet shack. SO DID I! no way was I going to take a shower in public EVER.
me on a horse :)
Who is that riding a horse like a pro? ME. Yeah, before we went to Honduras we had gone to Massachusetts to Heifer International and one of the activities besides ending world hunger was to ride horses bare back so I knew a thing or two.
Quick story, in Massachusetts we decided to explore the (i forgot how many acres but it was a HUGE) farm and got THOROUGHLY lost. In the middle of a snowstorm with snow up to our knees. You see while we went for a stroll the snow kept pouring and covered our tracks. The sun had set, the moon was sorta out and there were shiny eyes staring at us from the woods with the occasional howl. Our phones had no reception, stupid cingular (at the time). It took us almost 6 hours to get back to the farm and by then we had bonded because we had run for our lives and picked each other up when we fell. In this farm we met Big Bertha who told us we are actually near an animal reserve place and the area has large wolves and a large bear population. ah memories.
this is me playing soccer against the kids am the goalie. They kicked our butts BADLY but it was fun. I was called Argentina (again) because I had the colors and I was good (am assuming). You may notice that the soccer net is like a mile behind me :) thats cuz my classmates sucked plus they were tiny kids so we used a smaller court. I think they may have hustled us because although they were small this was the only activity in town so they were pros.
We are playing ultimate Frisbee here with the group but they don't seem to grasp the concept and instead wanted to get back to soccer.
I am the one in the middle with the blue skirt, to the right is the Catholic church and to the left is a new school our school and the organization from El Salvador are sponsoring. By now inshaAllah it has been completed. The men working on it would cat call my classmates and be very polite to me. Until one of the workers (the brother of my host mom) asked my host mom if I could get married. She asked me, I thought it was because I was Muslim. The moment word got out that I was single I was getting marriage proposals everywhere. It was very embarrassing. By the way you see those two roads? They are highways. Don't laugh.
makeshift church. The sunsets were beautiful but the disposable cam didn't do them justice. This picture was actually taken from the sides of the place where we ate lunch. I sat there with an old man discussing religion. I HONESTLY NEVER initiated those conversations. I think I mentioned before in a post that I don't do active dawah (you can read it here). Either way he was telling me what he believed and why he didn't fit in with the rest of the community. He didn't eat pork because he didn't think it was permissible, nor drink alcohol, nor gambling, nor worshiping idols, he believed Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet. So I told him about the beliefs of Islam and he wanted to be Muslim. HERE IS WHERE I SCREWED UP. GOD I want to kick myself. I wrongfully thought that you needed 2 witnesses to take your shahada. I recently told the hubs and he clarified and I felt so stupid looking back. I was a new Muslim and still learning I hope he continued studying about Islam seeing as he was really old. Oh Allah swt please guide him to the truth ameen and please forgive me for my ignorance. ameen.

I now see why they kept saying I resembled the virgin Mary (aalayha salaaam). I am honestly drinking water from a plastic bag and its cold enough to cool me off. Am serious. Almost EVERY house, church or Jesuit hospice place we went had a virgin Mary (as) supposed image with hijab. So it was actually more comfortable wearing the hijab in Honduras than in the USA. They were more tolerant and respectful about it.

On the last day of being in Guaymas my host mom made a special tamales (vegetarian no meat) dish for me and Paulina. We hugged, cried and talked about the future. I lost her info but tomorrow I am going to go back to my alma mater to enroll again and finish my degree (only need 18 credits) and I will make a pit stop in Campus ministry to see if they can get me in contact with her. I want to sponsor her children schooling. Now that I am a mother I am more aware of her sacrifices.

The Resort
To leave us with a good impression of the hardships we went through and so that we would recruit unsuspecting victims aka suckers for the following years trip they took us to a resort and we lounged. I drank virgin pina coladas :) as you can see I am slumped on my chair because we had to hike AGAIN in order to get into the secluded nice area.
this lady was looking for pain meds because her boyfriend/husband had stabbed her on one of the glutes with a rusty scissor the night before. She eventually said she would work for the meds so she was braiding his hair for it, he gave her tylenol. (he was the ONE male student). You may notice he is not wearing a shirt because he donated it to me because my tunic might become see through if I went in to the sea which I did. IT totally helped because my tunic was sticking to me.
The beach was good, we sunbathed (through my hijab, tunic and skirt) it was all good. We sipped drinks (mine was a virgin) AND the main guy driving us (we went to his house) approached me and told me that he was shy talking to me but that he had some questions. He said he had researched Islam on the internet and the main reason was because of the negative press. He wanted a Qur'an and wanted to know how you could become Muslim. This guy wasn't the one telling me I was going to hell, he was very nice and polite man.

Even though Guaymas was the hardest on all of us it actually was our favorite part of the trip by far. SubhanaAllah. I keep them in my duas always. May Allah swt guide us all to the truth and to have the strength and conviction to practice the truth ameen.


EDIT: I forgot to mention that when we were coming back in the Honduras airport this Honduran agent wanted me to strip down before passing the metal detector. I asked why? She couldn't give me an answer. I responded that if they needed to check me they would have to take me to a private area and have a female check me with my professor present. My classmates got outrage and the lady let me go through and I DIDN'T EVEN BEEP. I knew better than to take any metal with me as any beep would have meant me potentially being stripped search for security reasons.

Anyway once we got to Texas my professor (the one that resembles Pigglet) was detained and held for a couple of hours for questioning because 6 months before going to Honduras she and a group of other professors from my college had gone to Cuba and marched to Guantanamo to see the prison for themselves like President Bush had said. Because of that trip Gitmo started having more media focus. They are respected academics so their film started spreading to other Jesuit campuses and even other colleges. They questioned her for hours and did a cavity search on her. She is like 60 years old! meek, soft spoken Christian lady. Anyway after getting nothing out of her she returned to us and we were allowed to continue on our trip. SubhanaAllah.


LK said...

amazing story. I really enjoyed it :)

NtN said...

MashaAllah, that's so awesome! This sounds like a great trip; thank you so much for sharing it!

LovieDrea said...

WOW this whole story was amazing! mashallah mashallah!

Muslimah said...

Mashallah great story, it was an interesting read. Jazakillah for sharing.

.::Tuttie::. said...

@ the comment that I couldn't know who you are. Where have you BEEN? and why have you NOT emailed me? Do you not love me anymore? I know you are in exile and everything but does that include emails too?

AlabasterMuslim said...

If its who i'm thinking of... yeah i'm waiting for my email to!
If i'm totally wrong and they don't know who i am well...forget it.

you have to tell a new story. i love these stories. Mashallah that is so awesome, you went somewhere so far away and you still had people coming up to you to learn about islam!

Rubber said...

wow sis u r really lucky
esp the guy who wudnt drink and stuff
MashAllah to that
these things work in mysterious ways,

Sara said...

SubhanAllah that was just amazing to read about! Thank you so much for sharing sis! =)