Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Perth - Gracias 2010/11: Canada World Youth Adventure V

Men in the aldea cutting sugar cane
I've really gotten behind.  3 whole weeks have passed since I last wrote!  Ok, so I realize that 3 weeks isn't THAT much time, but as I learned in India (for example), a whole lot can happen/change/completely flip over in just 3 weeks.First and foremost, I've arrived safely in Honduras!!  Our whole group made it to both the beautiful camp we did our orientation at (close to Lake Yojoa) and Gracias, our host community, intact and unscathed.
So I guess I should give a bit of an update about Juan Carlos and my trip to Montreal for the first ever CWY Learning Forum!  It was a very interesting week for both of us.  When we got on the bus at Carleton Place to head for Montreal it felt so strange to be leaving our host community and to be on a bus full of people that I didn't know.  Not to say that I knew everyone in Perth, but I suppose, living on the farm, seeing the same 3 people everyday for almost 3 months and getting to know intimately, my new Honduran/Canadian family. . .and then leaving them all behind to be out on my own for a week felt very very strange.
When we got to Montreal we checked in to our hotel and set off to find some Indian food (since Juan Carlos had never tried it before).  Since neither of us know Montreal very well, we weren't having much luck. . .BUT!  one of the men we asked for directions was so excited that Juan Carlos also spoke Spanish that he offered to buy us dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant close by!  He was really nice and was from Barcelona.  It was a great introduction to our week in the big city.
The first day of the forum was organized and run by the Ottawa/Kenya exchange (yes I realize it's a city and a country, and I feel weird about that too. I don't know the name of the city in Kenya the youth are exchanging with, but the name of the organization is Kenvo).  The day consisted of 3 workshops centered around youth empowerment and were led by youth from the Ottawa/Kenvo exchange.  It was very well run and led to very interesting discussions and conclusions about youth engagement, youth's relationship to organizations, and resources available to youth.  We had a talent show that night by the youth for the international partners of CWY and CWY employees, including the president of the organization.
The second day was essentially the same workshops, led by youth, but for the international partners.  All of the youth that had been there the first day left (except for 10 of us) and were replaced by 90 presidents, and program managers from all of the international organizations that partner with Canada World Youth.  It was very interesting to see the different opinions that the "adults" had compared to the "youth" and how diminished we felt the youth voice became, in actual numbers and also in seeming importance, especially considering the conference's aim was to promote youth empowerment.
The following days focused on different topics, and knowledge sharing between organizations.  The first day focused on Environment and Health, then Gender Equity and the last day was for coming to some conclusions and ended with a public cocktail party and "youth panel discussion".  I won't go into too many details about the rest of the forum and my opinions, although I'm very open to discussing them further.  However, I felt that the real purpose of the forum was much more to give Canada World Youth a more recognized name, keep international partners happy and actually put faces to names for a lot of people.  CWY has undergone a lot of changes in the past year due to government pressure and threats of funding cuts and so they've had to reform some of their aims.  I think the forum probably had a lot more to do with that than youth empowerment, but it was still a very interesting event to be a part of!
After the learning forum, Juan Carlos, our project supervisor and I got on the train to Toronto and left for Honduras the next day with our group!
We arrived in Honduras, after a stop over in El Salvador (which looks beautiful from the sky!) around 9pm on the 30th.  We stayed overnight in a hotel in San Pedro Sula and then bused to our orientation camp. The camp was in a beautiful forested (jungled?) area in the mountains with waterfalls and lots of greenery.  We were pretty busy having group discussions and official orientation stuff but we also had enough time to go swimming in the waterfalls and go on a few hikes, which was really nice.
Waterfall at orientation
Swimming in the waterfall!
View from the camp

Then on the 6th (?) I think, we headed out on a bus to Gracias!  It was a pretty long bus ride!  When we finally got to Gracias we were all pretty tired but excited to meet our new host families and spend our first night together!
Gaby and my host family are Dilcia and Carlos Mazier with their 3 kids Karla, Nicole and Tato (whose real name Eduardo!).  They are really nice and a great host family for us.  They also have a lot of animals. . .2 dogs, 2 parrots and another bird, 5 rabbits a rooster (who wakes us up every morning at 5:30 -__-) and a Watusa!  Gaby and I now share the same room in the back of the house too and only have access to cold showers. . .which isn't amazing, but it's ok!  Unfortunately I haven't been able to acquire a bike yet so I've been running instead.  There are hot springs and lots of mountains in Gracias so we've been running to the hot springs (about 6km away) and back as a group on the weekends.
Traditional dancing performed by the local children
We decided as a group at the beginning of the Honduras phase to split up some counterpart pairs for work project purposes.  Gaby and I decided that it was more important for us both to be doing work that we were really interested in than to work together, so we ended up splitting up for our work projects.  I¨m now working at Colosuca which is a development organization that works in the five municipalities surrounding Gracias and is working to help the municipalities both achieve the Millenium Development Goals and to encourage tourism in the area.  I´m now working with Luz Dariela who is another participant in the program and it´s pretty cool to get to know someone else a little better and in a different setting, though sometimes I miss Gaby at work
Colosuca building
For now I think I will leave it at that since this update is already getting very long. . .We´ve also had 2 more interesting EADs and I´ve learned a bit about Colosuca and am continuing to learn about politics and it´s relationship to development work. . .which is always very interesting to me but I will leave that until next update!
Street scene: Gracias

Dusk in Gracias
Parque Central

Street scene: Gracias

Castillo in Gracias

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