Because We Care spends a week in La Moskitia

 

 

“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.

Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways.  Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action — for the poor and the wealthy alike — a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”

Wow, really, where do I start. My friend Layle said “I’m sure all those rich experiences are shifting around in your mind as you go about your daily routine and when you are ready to sit down and type it’s all going to flow” and I tend to believe her because she is such a spiritual soul.

I have decided to do this by days because mentally, I can’t do the whole thing at once, I saw so much.

This was a once in a lifetime trip (although I do look forward to going back, despite being hungry and dirty for a week). The people I met and the places my eyes saw will forever be in my mind. La Mosquitia (or Miskitia or Moskito, call it what you want) is one of the most beautiful places you can imagine. It’s rolling hills and pine forests or woodland vegetation with every type of bromeliad growing out of the trees, catching your eye as you drive by in a truck or in a boat. The way the mangroves grow is like nothing I’ve ever seen. There were more mango trees that your mind can even imagine and breadfruit and sweet little dark plum colored, avocado shaped berries.

I was with Nidia and her sister Rose Mary. We were hosted by the mayor of Puerto Lempira, Edgardo Saicion and his wife Graciela. They are humble, wonderful people. The municipal driver was named Eric and he was on time every single day to pick us up. He used to live on Roatán. They treated us like royalty. We listened to American Country while riding across the vast barren land.

The Mayor of Roatán municipal (and Nidia’s boss, she is a council woman) Jerry Hynds, owns Island Shipping. He offered us a 40′ container and free shipping to Puerto Lempira. Without his generosity, this mission would have not happened. Also thank you to the Galaxy Wave for donating our tickets to La Ceiba. Many thanks also to the people who donated.

So, are the people we visited living in poverty? They have shelter, food (albeit limited choices) is available and the most basic of needs. They have little to no clothes or shoes, they have no beds, they have no running water, no electricity, no toilet paper, the schools have no books or paper or pencils, crayons and coloring books are unheard of. Do they miss what they know nothing about?

This is the great debate going on in my head. Do the people that I saw in the insanely gorgeous remote areas living the simplest life imaginable really have it so bad? They know nothing about how we live. They have no TV, see no newspapers or magazines or even books. Their knowledge is quite limited and based on routine daily, not life, experiences. Could the majority of these people function in our crazy world? Do they even want to? I think not, however, the children that I saw all had this blank, empty look in their eyes, they were there, but not there. Only when I could surprise them with a photo of themselves, did I get a remnant of a smile. One little girl looked at the photo, then down at her dress that she was wearing, then back to the photo. Her eyes were not believing that she was looking at herself. Can you imagine not knowing what you look like? I think the blank stare is due to lack of experiencing emotion, things are just the same for them every day. Our visit was a big deal.

My trip began at the ferry terminal at 1 PM on Wed the 8th of August for the 2 PM ferry to La Ceiba. I met Nidia and her sister Rose Mary there, we did our check in and went inside and waited for the ferry to leave. I took a small cooler loaded with food because I don’t eat meat, fish, seafood or beans. Yes, I’m a really horrible snoop and was quite nervous about what I would eat for a week.

The ferry was on time, as always, and Nidia’s taxi driver Donald was waiting for us when we arrived. He took us to our hotel, The Emperador in Ceiba. Later on Donald took us to Little Cesar’s Pizza. I was starving by that point. We had him pick us up and take us back to the hotel and we went on the roof and drank a bottle of wine. I mean, why not, we were on an adventure.

Donald was a few minutes late picking us up to take us to the Ceiba airport at 0 Dark 30 AM. Nidia gave him a large portion of her mind that morning for being late, I couldn’t stop laughing.

While paying our departure tax Nidia ran in to her friend, the man we were going to see, the Mayor of Puerto Lempira and his wife. They were on our 90 minute flight to Puerto Lempira. When we landed, I was kind of surprised to find out it was a dirt runway. Pretty smooth but I imagine it turns into a dust bowl during the dry season and a slimy mess during the rains. When we arrived, since we were guests of the mayor, there were men to carry our bags and drive us to the ferry dock. We walked around town for a little bit and visited a school where there was a celebration going on. The vice Mayor told me I could go stand in the middle of the ceremony that was going on and take photos. So, WTH, why not?

Rose Mary really wanted to take this iron home to her daughter. She actually attempted to use one while we were staying at the teachers house in Kaukira. It was pretty funny.

The kids on one side of the bleachers, the other side was packed too. School celebration, Puerto Lempira

So, she (vice mayor) told me to walk out and take a photo. So here is this white girl, the only person standing in the center of the show, taking photos. I felt uncomfortable. Love the cayuco decoration though.

Nidia and the Alcade, Mayor Edgardo. I love this guy. Since I certainly do not speak Moskito, neither does Nidia (they have their own language) and my Spanish is not great, he would tell Nidia what he wanted to tell me in Spanish. Then she would say it in English, a few words at a time, and he would repeat them in English so he could “talk with me.” It was extremely gracious and felt so sincere. This photo is at the muni, they have no running water. Nidia and the mayor are standing at the pump.

Puerto Lempira Municipal building. There is a huge table in the back room and only 1 chair for the whole table. We made sure they got some chairs.

Where all the starving dogs hang out. The dog situation hit me hard. I did not see one food dish or water dish for a dog on my whole trip. I saw grease thrown from a pan on the ground for the dogs to eat. So many pregnant and unfixed dogs, it’s a crying shame.

After our tour through town, {where I bought a Claro chip for 10L and a week of internet for 100L because TIGO didn’t work where we were}, we went down to the dock, we were going on a boat ride.  The dock was really long with several perpendicular docks abutting it. Problem is, the water was shallow. Real shallow and the boats, especially those with larger motors had trouble getting out to the deeper water. We loaded our suitcases on the boat and the Mayor, Nidia, Rose Mary, one woman with a small baby and another woman with 2 young children were on board. This boat had a 200HP motor on it, way too much for the type of boat that it was. The woman with the 2 kids had haphazardly put on the life vest that was given to her, it flopped and blew in the breeze the whole trip. We crossed the lake like a bat out of hell with Speedy Gonzalez, our boat captain. If we were in a race, we won for sure. No other boat would be insane enough to go that fast. It took me a long time to untangle my hair and my butt is still sore.

Once we crossed the lake we took a narrow channel that T’d into another channel. We were in the town of Kaukira. Kaukira is located on a thin spit of land between the Caribbean and the channel of water that runs between the town shores. We parked on a dock and I feebly got out of the boat. Let me state this now, I suck at getting in and out of boats. I have a knee that does not bend, it makes for very clumsy entrances / exits for me. Happy to entertain the troops, it’s all fun and games until someone breaks an ankle or falls out of a stationary boat. I did neither.

Kaukira, I’ve never seen so many mango trees in my life. This is the main street.

Nidia and the Alcade (mayor)

The gas station and yes they have to carry the gas down to the water to put in the boats.

The biggest flamboyant tree I’ve ever seen. The people who own the home where the flamboyant tree is offered us their home but it had rats. Rose Mary is not fond of them and honestly, they are not my BFF’s either. We stayed elsewhere. It had horses and dogs.

We walked through town with the Mayor, stopping here and there while Nidia looked for food. I saw a male cat attempting to force himself on a young kitty girl, she was screeching and having no part of it. Two old men sat on the porch and were oblivious to what was going on. I stomped my foot to break his attention and she ran away and hid under the low steel shelving for water bottles.

Local travel. The road taxis in Kaukira are motorcycles.

The house where we were staying. There was an extra bedroom with a double and a single, perfect for the 3 of us.

This is the police station of Kaukira. There are 2 officers, we met one. The other is on vacation.

I loved this house. Only a few windows had any type of covering.

It’s nothing to have a bull walk down the dirt road. I saw 2 dogs chasing one at one point. We went to a cell phone store and the Mayor bought a baseball cap and we met the profa. She was a teacher at the Kaukira school and she had offered her house to us the first night. The boat took us over to see the place, we unloaded our luggage and the mayor’s brother guarded it while we entered another race with Speedy Gonzalez at the throttle. We went down river to see a health center that needed a new roof. The Dr spoke English so we had a nice chat. 

Through the center of town. At least he was quiet, unlike the one being chased by dogs.

We saw this beautiful lady at her outdoor kitchen. Nidia had noticed that her pots shone, they were so clean. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like this. She got off her porch and went in to pose for us.

Laundry day. I assume they watch the tides before doing their wash in the river, especially because all of the septic goes in the same water. In fact, I saw many people washing their clothes right next to the outhouse.

This is where the lady who owns the house where we stayed, docks her cayuco. Naked children everywhere.

This is the health center roof. It’s almost gone. This is the only health center for many communities. The Doctor there spoke English. We had a long conversation about the lack of government help and their inabilities to always be able to help due to lack of supplies. There are 15000 people living in the Kaukira area, that’s not counting the outlying areas who also depend on Kaukira as being their go to spot for help.

We did a little more touring and then went back to the teachers house to hang out. I made friends with her 4 dogs by feeding them pretzels. The teacher made food for everyone, I had rice and some slaw. The mayor and his brother were still there. They left after a late lunch and were going to pick us up at 7 the next morning. After they left, the teacher was going to take us all in her cayuco across the water so we could walk to the beach. As we were getting ready to go, the Mayor came back because he had to change the time to pick us up so they took us across to the main part of town and the teacher met us there.

The teacher showed us the third grade class room, the roof has a huge hole so they have to all move to the opposite end of the room when it rains. It wouldn’t take much to fix this.

Unbelievable that the government does nothing about this.

It’s a huge hole that has been patched several times.

We walked for about 20 minutes until we came to the ocean.

These are the teachers grandkids, the little boy is named Nelson. They walked to the beach with us. Nidia gave him the slap bracelets and candy and they were going up to the children outside and giving them gifts. Nelson wanted to learn to speak English so Nidia and I were telling him English words for everything and he repeated them. They were both sweet kids. Nelson lives with his grandmother most of the time.

Laundry on the barbed wire, this was the road to the beach.

Breadfruit galore. When they fall from the tree if you are standing in the wrong place, it’s going to hurt.

Simple houses, notice how curved the limbs are holding it up.

Another view

Cool plant growing in the water.

Another home

Most of them were nice and neat.

These were growing in the marsh land. Rose Mary knelt down to pick one and got bitten by ants.

Nidia found some guys with fresh conch, crab legs and lobster. The only cop in town was there trying to buy some too. She argued with them until she got the price she wanted. They were all laughing at her but they gave in because she is one persistent woman.

The beach on the Caribbean. The waves were muddy and the beach was littered as far as I could see with trash.

Boat sitting on the beach

I assume this is a beach front store.

Nidia took this photo of me resting on a boat on the beach. The buildings to the left behind me are where they gather and sort the sea cucumbers and jellyfish that they export. They said the sea cucumbers go to Japan and I read the jellyfish go to China. What I want to know if who catches the jellies and how?

Here is a link about the jellyfish.

Nidia passing out candy and slap bracelets. She’s like the pied piper.

Kids were appearing from every direction.

Just a stack of boats.

Ring Around the Rosie. How long has it been since you have seen this played somewhere? It brings back memories of childhood, when life was much simpler.

Nidia wasn’t quite at the boat when I did my epic “almost fall out of the dang cayuco while trying to sit down.” Rose Mary was hysterical. Once I was seated, I did not move, the last thing I wanted to experience that day was a dip in the channel that is filled with sewage.

Once I was seated I was fine. I still didn’t move. The gasoline is to run the generator so we have power for fans and to charge our phones. Photo by Nidia.

We were anxious to get back to the house and get showers and sit some where other than a boat. The electric was to come on once the generator was started. They turned on the water pump so we could shower. I’m not used to cold showers or dunking a bowl in a big barrel of water to rinse off with. This was a first for me. Regardless, it felt great to get clean. After all showers were done, it was dark and the bugs were really bad outside so we stayed in the house, Nidia and Rose Mary were working on cooking the conch and crab legs they got. Me? I ate granola bars and surfed the internet.

We went to sleep early, we were beat. At around 4 AM (about when the generator shut off) the dogs started barking like crazy and it didn’t stop for a long time. They were running around the outside of the house. We found out later a few horses had gotten in to the fenced yard and the dogs were having a fit and the horses were in a frenzy. I think I went back to sleep for awhile after that. You just never know what to expect next.

So ends our first day in La Mosquitia. Please follow along, we’re just getting started, there will be 2 more blogs about the trip.

I can’t begin to say how glad I am that I went.

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One thought on “Because We Care spends a week in La Moskitia

  1. Rosemarie says:

    I really enjoyed your narrative on your trip….I’m reading a book at the moment that is quiet interesting about the area.
    Did you ever have the privilege of meeting Elizabeth/ Ms. Betty who made trips to the Mosquitia area every chance she could where she doctored everyone in need. She was in her late 70’s when she came to Roatan. A wonderful woman, & friend. We had some fond times together many years ago.
    I look forward to your next chapter….that was one interesting trip.

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