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Going Home from Honduras

Christ overlooking Tegucigalpa

Christ overlooking Tegucigalpa

 Although the medical-dental team would gladly see patients until an hour before our return flight, there is much to do with packing up and securing equipment. The folding dental chairs, sterilizer, and generator were stored in the container. Those folding chairs are a luxury as sometimes the local dentists work from a straight back chair—wooden if they are lucky—but more likely one of those plastic stacking chairs sold for just a few dollars at the end of each summer.


We ride in the school bus back to Tegucigalpa mid-day; all of us are sad to think that we will leave the next day but glad to see familiarities of a hotel lounge, shops, and restaurants. Terry and I decide to venture out in the city; the art museum is our first destination. A cab is summoned by the concierge who assures us that he is very safe.


The cab driver speaks excellent English and offers a sight-seeing tour. First we climb the mountain to overlook Tegucigalpa. We stand nearly at the feet of Christ overlooking the city. Flowers are blooming and I wish we could spend an entire afternoon there walking amongst the gardens.


Both of us were impressed with the Art Museum which is housed in an old convent. Two other visitors offered suggestions about other museums to visit. Again I could have gladly spent an afternoon in the patio enjoying the flowers.


The evening meal was in the hotel restaurant with each member roasted—gently—with a special token gift.


Our flight was not until late afternoon and so Terry and I set out again to explore the city with the assistance of our taxi driver from the previous day. We toured several churches including the Basilica where the Cardinal of Honduras was commissioning new priests. Our taxi driver was most solicitous and watched over us carefully, not allowing us to be outside without his careful eye. Interestingly, the Cardinal has his own bodyguards armed with automatic rifles and dressed in camo.


Airports seem to be same everywhere—a lot of waiting and standing and moving luggage here and there. The flight was over-booked and a tropical storm hovered over the airport necessitating arrival flights to be diverted to San Pedro Sula. There was a great cheer when after three hours the diverted flights arrived.


Everyone rushed to get on board but connecting flights for most of the team members had already left by the time we boarded. All I had to do was clear customs, collect my luggage, retrieve my truck from the parking lot and drive home.


Already I am looking forward to next year’s return trip.

 More photos are on smugmug at

Up the mountain on Thursday

At the pharmacy window

At the pharmacy window

Today the team split up as usual into two teams. Our assignments were in two separate communities located on opposite sides of the road halfway to Yuscaran. The bus could not navigate either of these roads. The plan was to take the bus as far as we could go, split into two groups and take 4 wheel drive trucks to our final destinations.


We had some confusion as to which duffle bags of medicine went on which truck, who was supposed to be on which truck, and where the lunches were—but finally we all loaded up and headed out. I was repeatedly offered a ride inside the truck by Paco—who was quite appalled that La Doctora wished to ride in the back of truck. However, my previous experience riding inside the truck meant one’s head frequently hit the inside of the cab as the springs were not all that great-==and most importantly, I could get the best pictures from outside. And I was most determined to get photos.


Our drive took us over an hour. Much of the road was over deep ravines, some of the road was washed out at points, and we were grateful for the motorcycle that preceded us and investigated the turns and bridges. Periodically Don and I would wave at Fred and Clint who were riding in the back of Dr. Lee’s truck who followed us at a respectful distance. His truck had very little power and needed a good run at some of the hills.


The church is a marvel. Two missionary teams built that church—and it is superb. The floor is a lovely laid tile with an inlaid cross; there is a cross behind the altar, grillwork fills the windows, and there is an absolutely spectacular view. The workers were well prepared for us and had the area set up with tables and chairs.


Patients arrived slowly at first but then we had plenty to see.  Clint, the newly minted physician sat with first me and then Bill. Finally we had him see the patient with Ellen, the interpreter, and have Bill oversee his diagnosis and treatment plan. I saw an 8 year old girl wearing a T-shirt saying “It’s all about Me, Me, and Me” Again we completed the medical portion of our visit and I translated the T-shirt for her—“Todos los Mundos es por Mi, Mi y Mi”. The mother laughed and said no, that was usually not true. Another small boy had a T-shirt that proclaimed “ this is the important choice’ I translated that as well—and the little boy looked most surprised as the choices were all about video games.


We did not break for lunch until 2. I was too hot to eat much; Sammie Lee, Carol and Don declined most of their lunch. I passed out the plates of food to the workers and the patients. Don the pharmacist patiently poured out the tamarindo juice for the workers and the patients.  Later we learned that the other team’s lunch had fallen off the back of the truck and that they had then backed over it—creating very squishy sandwiches.


The day passed quickly and suddenly it was nearly 4. The pharmacy finished up their work with the help of Fred—and I had the opportunity to read some of my Bilingual books to the children. The adults were just as interested in the story as the children—and I gave my books at the end to the pastor/lay preacher at the church. He had read several of the books –to himself at lunchtime.


I spoke to him at the end of the day—about how important education is for the children. That is, indeed, my first love, giving children the love of reading. Reading transformed my life and I wish to pass that opportunity on to others. When I see their faces, I see myself as a child===not really knowing that life could be different than what I knew—but reading provided an insight into an entirely different world.


We were all pleased to see Dr. Lee’s truck at the end of the day. I distributed Carol’s stash of lunch items including canned sardines. There was much laughter as I explained that my husband loved canned sardines but I did not—and therefore the sardines were only for a man.


Once again, Paco was most appalled that La Doctora would wish to ride in the back of the truck because a deluge of rain was a good possibility. Since we had dispensed most of our medicine, our duffle bags and coolers fit into the back of just one truck and so we had twelve Hondurans hop into the back of the truck with Don, the pharmacist and myself.



Mountain view

Mountain view

Two of the ladies chatted with me—as much as possible while bouncing and trying to see each other above the heads of eager children. They told me it was a 3 hour walk to Yuscaran, the nearest large city by taking shortcuts down the mountain. We dropped them off at various parts of the road; some of the paths seeming little more than cow-paths up the mountain. Parts of the road appeared more washed out than before and it was clear that a significant rainfall had occurred within the last hour or so. None of us wanted to be on that mountain road in the dark.


When we arrived at the main road, the bus had already left with the other group. Dr. Lee and Paco drove us all back to Zamarano—and wished us a good trip—bien viaje.


Tomorrow we pack up and go to Tegucigalpa to catch our plane for home on Saturday.


As always for me, the last day is the best day.


 more photos are on smugmug at




Rain and the sound of moving furniture woke me this morning around 2. The tile roof was leaking but not in my room. Rivers of water formed in the hallways and the maids were busy with mop buckets and brooms.  The floor of one guest room was completely covered with water with the beds shoved into what must have been the only dry spot.


Breakfast was an omelet and more of that wonderful coffee. We loaded up again with the planned destination of Zarzal and Oropoli. When we got to the turnoff for Zarzal, we were met by Paco. The bus would not be able to negotiate the road after the heavy rain. The medication duffels were transferred to the back of the trucks and we bumped down a rocky road.


Our clinic location was in a community building. The light was not good and the area was very small. Squeezing three doctors, a dentist and the pharmacy in such a small place was a challenge. Triage was set up outside and we saw patients fairly steadily through the morning.


Lunch was a cold cheeseburger, a salad of cucumber and lettuce, and pears. Fred and I took a walk up the hill and discovered a lovely partially built luxury house. We scooted under the barb wire fence and enjoyed the wonderful view. The other team was diverted to Yuscaran because of the flooding of the bridge on the way to Oropoli. They quickly saw all of their patients and returned to assist us.


Our secondary clinic was set up in that partially built house on the top of the house. Everyone laughed and ducked under the barb wire fence and set up their clinic areas despite lack of tables and chairs.


At the end of the day we returned to Zamarano in time for a lovely dinner of chicken and vegetables accompanied by a paper cup of white wine courtesy of Dr. Compton.


photos are on smugmug at

Yuscaran on Tuesday

Bird on the roof

Bird on the roof

Yuscaran is an old city with cobbled narrow streets up and down hills. Our bus driver, Hector, makes his way through this maze of roads and never breaks a sweat although the streets are so narrow we could put our hands out the windows and touch the walls on each side.


The dentists are busy in the building across the street and we set up clinic in a public building. The light is not good; there is very little air circulating, and children race up and down playing soccer with a plastic bottle. It is very noisy and I struggle to hear blood pressures.


Today’s patients seem better fed, indeed some of them need to lose weight. They seem cleaner and many of the ladies are wearing makeup. I was surprised to learn that the perfect place to keep one’s lipstick is snuggled in one’s brassiere next to the roll of lempira. My grandmother always kept a handkerchief tucked under her strap—it wouldn’t do for a lady to be reaching anywhere but close to her collar.


Clint seeing his first patient

Clint seeing his first patient

Most of the patients are wearing American style clothing but there are a few older ladies with the traditional blouse and skirt with fancy apron. The aprons are covered with ruffles and lace, and occasionally some embroidery. These ladies have no teeth and appear worn with stubby hands and swollen knees. Their entire day is spent walking up and down those hills carrying firewood or water or food.


Usually I see family groups with several children or one child and the mother.  Just before lunch I see a ten year old girl with her six year old brother and her mother. The siblings jostle one another for what looks to be the best place at my desk and the mother settles their dispute with a firm word and look. The little girl is wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Take my brother please”. I ask her if she knows what it means, she giggles and says no. I translate it for her—and then her mother laughs and I laugh too. We agree, children are children.


Our afternoon is not busy and so we pack up. Pharmacy must finish the prescriptions we wrote and so I am free to wander around a bit. Bill and Clint watch an impromptu soccer match in the courtyard—played with a small plastic ball and the players wearing dress shoes—probably their only pair. The last patient gets her medications and we load the bus and head to Ojo de Agua to pick up the other team. Pharmacy there was not finished and our pharmacy team members lend a hand. My offer to assist was declined and so I went in search of a flame tree. I am not totally pleased with my photos as if the light is perfect, the trees have the appearance of being literally on fire. But I am not here solely to take photos.


Flame tree blossoms

Flame tree blossoms

The mango trees are laden with fruit in various stages of ripeness. There was a beautiful sunset over the mountains. I try to ask the children what the Spanish word for sunset is in Spanish but it was beyond my limited Spanish. I ask the bilinguals what the word is—and they do not know either. I cheat and look it up in my Franklin dictionary—it is puesta del sol—I think the root is from repuesta which would be repose  or perhaps nap.


We are back to the compound early for a truly wonderful dinner of baked chicken and fresh vegetables.


home from school

home from school

My day began with a breakfast of fried egg, beans, fried plantain, and wonderful coffee. The sky is overcast and threatens rain but I am prepared with a poncho in my backpack.


The medical team splits into two with two physicians, triage, interpreters, pharmacy, and a dentist. Frequently, the location of our makeshift clinics changes—sometimes the village and sometimes the actual location. I’m sure a lot of local politics are involved and I’m glad I am not involved in any of those decisions.


Setting up the clinic is always interesting as we must look at the site and then figure out a way to adapt what is available to meet our needs. No-one ever seems impatient or dismayed but simply sets to. The local church people are very attentive and I cannot drop a pencil without three or four children leaping to retrieve it for me.


The day was hot but it was relatively cool inside. It seemed that there were sicker people this year than in the past. Things we might take for granted—bars of soap—are an incredible luxury for these people. Still, the young girls posed for photos with my hat; children jostled each other (politely) for the opportunity to draw pictures for me, and everyone enjoyed blowing bubbles.


Once again, I am reminded of how fortunate the people in the US are—including me—and how ungrateful for their many blessings.


More photos are at smugmug at:

Arrival in Honduras

dufflesYesterday was a flurry of activity. I always think I will be more organized and less frantic but it seems that time gets away from me—or perhaps I have an exaggerated sense of what I can do. My garden needed some attention and so I pulled up the drying pea vines, picked green beans, watered the tomatoes, and planted okra. The tractor did not start and so I could not mow although the grass was certainly high enough. Mid-day was very hot and I was not unhappy to tackle the task of selecting some bilingual children’s books.


The alarm was set for 3; my bags were packed, my laptop backed up, the bills paid, and I was as ready as I was going to be. A full orange moon slung in a hammock of clouds pointed the way to the airport this morning. But then I had to find a parking spot for my F250. Like airplane seats, parking spots have shrunk.


The airport is a beehive of activity; the porters blow their whistles and point to parking spaces for vehicles arriving with passengers and luggage; people hurry across pulling small suitcases and large ones; families hug and kiss goodbye; a tiny elderly blind woman wearing a bowler hat and long dark skirt was led by her granddaughter into the building. Inside is all about lines—lines to check luggage, lines to check tickets, lines to clear security.  I meet up with my fellow travelers and claim my duffle bag of medications. We stand in the group check-in where people are amazingly good spirited.


The flight was full and the catering truck ran into the back of the airplane so we had to wait for maintenance to affirm the aircraft was safe for flight. I sat next to a native Honduran who worked in Norway; we chatted about both countries at some length, both being quite grateful to have a totally uneventful landing in Tegucigalpa.


Honduras is quite concerned about swine flu as we were met by masked nurses handing out questionnaires about our health. Then we had our photos/temperature taken before we could enter the customs area. The line was very long and it was very hot. Our bus with Hector our driver is waiting for us and all of our luggage is piled in and we head to El Centro Kellogg in Zamarano.


Pan American Highway

Pan American Highway

The drive is quite pleasant, the flame trees are in full bloom, hundreds of mangos droop from incredibly huge trees, and there are few clouds dancing over the tops of the mountains. It is the beginning of the rainy season and everything looks lush. Part of the road has eroded away and we carefully maneuver around using the shoulder on the other side. This is the PanAmerican highway which connects fourteen countries and is the main highway. The mountain will have to be carved away for the new road to be made.


Much planning goes into these trips but still there is more to do upon our arrival. The duffle bags must be sorted into daily bags as we break up into two medical teams and set up our makeshift clinic in distant locations. The dental team has equipment; chairs, generators, compressors stored in a large container here; all of it must be retrieved. The pickup trucks are packed to overflowing and we think we have all in readiness for tomorrow’s work.


Supper arrives on a golf cart in the lobby.


 There is something about a piece of fruit that is picked nearly ripe and eaten within hours. Our supper tonight was a sandwich, potato salad, juice and a mango. The sandwich was quite tasty was made with three slices of bread and still warm shredded chicken combined with some sort of relish. I passed on the potato salad but dug into the mango. It was perfectly ripe, a bit hard to cut through its skin with a plastic knife but I ate every bit of it with juice running down my face and covering my hands. I had to stand outside the lady’s room and wait for someone to come out so I could go in and wash my hands. mango.


We sit and chat; someone has bought some wine and a few others watch a basketball game. I’m tired and head off to my room.


Tomorrow will be a long day.

More photos are at smugmug at:

Going home from Honduras



Going home




Leaving Honduras is always hard. I grow fond of the people even though I do not speak their language fluently; the landscape with the flowers and birds and mountains is incredibly appealing; and although it is not a traditional vacation it is a respite from my usual work.


I leave behind fancy soaps for the maids, give my shoes and pants to one of the workers—his shoes had fallen apart while working in the Bentonite, and pack up everything else in my bags. I’ve gotten some photo editing done but usually each evening I am too tired to do much more than fall into bed.


We caravan in four vehicles to the airport in Tegucigalpa; make our way through the airport, pay our exit fees, clear customs, buy souvenirs—bags of that wonderful coffee, and finally get on the plane. The plane is full of mostly of other mission groups and everyone exchanges cards and emails and promises to keep in touch.


Once on the ground in Houston, we must go through border patrol and then customs. This is always hectic and we lose sight of our fellow travelers as some are moved ahead to accommodate their flight schedules. All we need to do is find our way to the rent-a-car place and drive home.


It has been a week filled with rich experiences and new friends.


I can hardly wait until it is time to return.


A few more photos on smugmug are at:

Blowing the well

emptying mud pit

emptying mud pit

Yesterday we drilled all day but we did not hit water. The rock we bring up is dark black mixed with quartz, a formation not particularly conducive to bearing water. The hole is now about 105 feet deep. It is disappointing to everyone; we had hoped for a really productive well but the best that can be produced from this well is about three gallons an hour.





Today we blew out the well, sank casing and cleaned up the area. The mud is thick and gritty. Our original plan to dump it in the ditch in front of the school was discarded after the pump did not work. Instead it was scooped out by shovel and bucket down the ditch by the soccer field. The owner of the very nice house next door came out and took a look; obviously not pleased and headed down to the center of town—probably to talk to the mayor.


Blowing out a well means cleaning out the mud that is in the hole; it is like a small geyser with everyone getting drips of mud on them. Then a foaming agent is used and everyone is wading ankle deep in mud and bubbles. The mud pits were filled in with dirt while PVC casing was placed in the hole. Gravel was dumped around the casing to hold it in place.


Surprisingly we were done with all of this by a little after noon. And so we headed back to Centro Kellogg to clean up and rest a bit before evening service and supper.


A bilingual service is interesting; some Spanish phrases take longer to say than the English and vice versa.


Tomorrow we go home. It has been a long week and I will be happy to be home again.

More photos are on smugmug at


Praying for water

Assembling the rig

Assembling the rig

Our day began as usual with devotions and breakfast. The coffee here is so wonderful I could linger forever at the breakfast table just drinking coffee and watching the day begin over the mountains.




Everyone was eager to begin the day; the rig was ready to run and we want to find water.


A chill wind blew and I regretted not wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt. Drilling was already in progress when I arrived. My role as log-keeper is not hard but I’m not sure all the notes I write are as helpful mechanically as they could be. I learned how to get samples; this involves squatting down by the mud outflow tract with a strainer basket, letting the mud flow through and then rinsing out the mud in a barrel of semi-clean water. The sample is then placed in a sandwich bag and shown to the head driller.


Sampling the mud outflow with dips of fingers in the stream, smelling it, and rubbing it between the fingers is part of the expertise or ritual of the job. I can’t see much difference in some of the samples but then I suppose there are things that I see in my job that seem subtle to others.


Around noon I was instructed to get my working gloves on; it was my time to run the drill. The drill is a huge auger that rotates with a significant amount of power—something I highly respect as I value my fingers. The lead driller was patient as he shouted into my ear—although it seemed as though he were whispering with earplugs in place and the drill running as well as the mud pump.


It took over two hours to drill ten feet—that is the length of one pipe stem. Changing out the stem was the next project—not easily accomplished as I didn’t quite grasp what I was supposed to do. But Ed was quite patient and we managed to add another stem and I stepped down for lunch.


We quit around three. The stem has to be hauled back up and unscrewed one by one. Tomorrow we begin drilling again and pray that we hit a good source of water.


Again more photos and a few video clips are at smugmug at

Touring El Centro Kellogg campus

dismantled saw mill

dismantled saw mill

Today was another long day.




Since the rig was down and waiting for parts, several of us walked over to the church. Mahogany panels are in the ceiling; stained glass windows represent the different forms of agriculture at the school.


A John Deere tractor is mounted on a pedestal near the laundry but the saw mill I remembered from two years ago was dismantled with only the saw blade and the tracks for moving the logs remaining.


Around noon we headed out to Galpon. The parts arrived and a valiant attempt was made to put the rig back together. After nearly an hour of effort, the part was loaded up and taken to Danli to a machine shop. It didn’t seem to take long for the part to be reconstructed there. Then the part had to be mounted back on the rig. It took much longer than the estimated 45 minutes and so we ended up closing up shop with the rig reassembled but no drilling.



bell tower of church
bell tower of church

More photos are on smugmug are here along with the entire trip photos on