Sunday, September 27, 2009

I just don't know...

I just don't know who to believe. After arriving in Teguc, I quickly realized that the news coverage of the Honduras coup was biased and incorrect in many aspects. If you watch the news or read an article in the U.S. regarding the political situation in Honduras, you will no doubt hear of the international superpowers' desire to reinstate Manual (Mel) Zelaya as president. However, in my first week here, in the various school orientation sessions when I had the chance to listen to the opinions of Hondurans, I soon learned that this is not the desire of most. Everyone I spoke to was pleased that Mel was removed from power. They rejoiced that they were no longer in danger of becoming a communist nation and they prayed that the U.S. and the U.N. would recognize this blessing.
Wow, I thought. Why doesn't anyone else know they feel this way?
However, the more I think about it, read about it, and speak to various people about it, the more I wonder if these views I heard initially are the views of only one particular class of people. Apparently Mel is well-liked among the poor, something I wouldn't have known by speaking to the more well-off school employees and families. So, I hesitate to choose sides. I really don't know enough (and I doubt that anyone really knows everything). All I want is for the fighting to end and for kids to be able to get to school safely once more.
Some typical sights around the city... The first is against Mel, the second is against those who ousted him:
(image thanks to

(image thanks to

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Coup, part 2

I thought I'd include a link to a blog that is posting very regular updates about the situation here in Honduras:

The Coup

For those who have been keeping up with the news, you may know about the removal of president Manual Zelaya from his position as president of Honduras this past June. Well, on Monday he snuck back into the country, where he has been hiding out in the Brazilian embassy here in Tegucigalpa, causing all kinds of demonstrations, violence, and excitement.
Monday was our first day back at school after our two-week swine flu vacation. During the schoolday we found out about Zelaya's return. Several parents came to pick up students early. Demonstrations had already begun. That night, as I was in a friends' apartment for a small group meeting, we saw buses just returning to the school at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., after leaving the school at 3:00!
School was canceled Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, due to the national curfew put in place in an attempt to control the marches and demonstrators. The curfew was lifted yesterday afternoon so people could get food and water, but from what I hear the stores and streets were mad houses!
The word is that school may resume tomorrow, but I doubt many kids will come.
Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal that does a good job of laying out the basics of this situation. Please pray for Honduras.

After nearly three months in exile, Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president of Honduras, made a stealth return to Tegucigalpa on Monday, taking sanctuary in the Brazilian embassy. He is now using this diplomatic sanctuary to demand reinstatement and stir up his supporters in the streets. This is a dangerous moment, and if violence breaks out the U.S. will bear no small part of the blame.

Mr. Zelaya was deposed and deported this summer after he agitated street protests to support a rewrite of the Honduran constitution so he could serve a second term. The constitution strictly prohibits a change in the term-limits provision. On multiple occasions he was warned to desist, and on June 28 the Supreme Court ordered his arrest.

Every major Honduran institution supported the move, even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country's human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya's transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn't run again.

This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya's refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won't endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn't.

Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren't calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil's embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. "The fatherland, restitution or death," he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.

On Monday Mr. Zelaya said he owed his return and political survival to "the support of the international community." He's getting support from Nicaragua's Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, the former guerrilla group FMLN in El Salvador, and especially from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. But let's face it: None of that support would mean very much without the diplomatic and sanctions muscle of the U.S.

If the U.S. didn't know about Mr. Zelaya's stealth return, it ought to feel deceived and drop its support. Now that he's back in Honduras, the best solution to avoid violence would be for the U.S. to urge Mr. Zelaya to turn himself over to Honduran authorities for arrest and trial.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to make September disappear...

What a crazy month. With September having barely begun, we received some surprising news on the morning of Monday, September 7th. Due to the widespread swine flu pandemic, and the number of Pinares students out with flu symptoms, the school made the decision to close for two weeks in order to sanitize the school and give students a chance to get better. That Monday, when my principal called me out of class to let me know that we would not have class starting the next day until the 21st, I was shocked! By the end of that same school day, several teachers had already bought plane tickets to go home to the states, and some had planned international chicken bus adventures set to leave the very next day. I contemplated going home, but with rumors spreading that the school would need to take away most of our future long weekends away in order to make up these missed instructional days, I wanted to take advantage of this time to see the country! I also knew my family was wanting to make a trip down, so I jumped on this opportunity. I convinced my dad to fly down and Mallory, my sister, was even able to miss a week of class in order to come with him!

For the first week of the vacation, I hung around Teguc for a few days and caught up on classroom things and took a little trip to a park nearby called El Picacho, where there is a huge Jesus statue and views of the entire city.

On Thursday, a group of us headed to La Ceiba, a beach on the Caribbean. Ben and Joy, a brave teacher-couple who have been here for a year, rented a van and Ben did all the driving.

That was such a treat because it gave us so much freedom to go where we pleased! We stayed one night in a super nice resort on the beach, free to all of us because it was loaned to us by a students' parents who own it. From there, a smaller group of us continued down the beach to a much less touristy and much more rustic beach called Trujillo, where the water was crystal clear right off the beach and there were massive star fish all over! In Trujillo we went on a snorkel trip and visited an old Fort (built by the Spanish, like the one in St. Augustine!)

After two nights in our fun, but very simple hostel-ish hotel in Trujillo, we went back to La Ceiba and spent another night in the resort. On Monday I went white water rafting!! The river is incredibly beautiful and snuggled right into a national forest (more like a jungle). Even better than the rafting was the jumping off huge rocks into the white water, and swimming and hiking along the river.

That afternoon my family flew right into La Ceiba!! After a dinner with the big group of teachers, we split off and headed for our hotel, Villa Helens right on the beach. The next day we went to the most beautiful tropical location I've ever seen in my life, called Cayos Cochinos, a little cluster of tiny islands amid turquoise water and the second largest barrier reef in the world! I've never seen a reef like it. It was most definitely the best snorkeling I've ever done! After snorkeling, the boat took us to a tiny Garifuna (afro-caribe) island where we ate a fried whole-fish lunch.

We intended to stay another day in Ceiba and do a Canopy Tour before taking an afternoon bus to Copan, but after learning that the bus schedules were not what I thought, we had to forgo the canopy tour and leave on a 10:00 bus. It was a long day of travel, with a two-hour layover in between our two, 3-hour bus rides, but we finally made it to Copan. Copan was described to me as an island within Honduras. It has been built up as a touristy spot because of the incredible Mayan ruins nearby, but there is nothing else around it. For me, Copan was such a welcome relief from being in a city or stranded in a beach hotel. It reminded me of the traditional Mexican colonial towns I liked to visit, where everything branches out, grid-like, from the central park. In Copan we made friends with our Tuk-Tuk (moto-taxi) driver and he ended up taking us to all the sights we wanted to hit. We saw the ruins, did a Canopy tour, visited a shade-grown coffee plantation, and went to Macaw Mountain bird park. When it got dark (which happens pretty early) we wandered around the town and shopped and ate and just people-watched.
Our hotel in Copan, Don Udos, was adorable and comfortable and made me want to stay forever. In fact, we did end up extending our stay until Saturday, the day before Mallory and Dad flew out of Teguc, because we liked it so much!

But all good things must come to an end, and we
headed back to Teguc early Saturday morning, where I got to show my family my house and school and a bit of the city. I feel so fortunate that I got this incredibly unexpected vacation and visit and was able to see so much of the country already! Honduras is really an amazing place to visit, and it is quite unfortunate the effect that the political situation is having on tourism. So, come visit me and together we can do our part to get Honduras back on its feet again! :)