Jimmy Stewart I am not. And I wasn't appointed to a seat in the Senate. But this past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Honduras's capital city to observe their presidential elections. Fortunately, my tale involves much less politcal corruption than the movie, although it is definitely fraught with drama.

During the extended curfew we experienced a couple months back, I read about the opportunity to observe the elections. Elections here are conducted by the Tribunal Supremo Electoral, which is a non-government entity, although I believe the chairpeople are appointed by the president. Normally, members of the OAS (Organization of American States), as well as other interested foreign diplomats, are invited to come and observe the election process from start to finish in order to ensure that all the rules are followed and democracy is upheld. In light of the recent political madness, the invite was extended to any interested parties in the hopes of providing transparency to the process. If I understand/remember correctly, there were over 800 observers from 31 countries this year. The UN cut funding to the TSE, so they had fewer workers and more incoming observers, so the Alianza de Paz y Democracia helped organize volunteers and observers.

They were calling for people to observe in polls throughout the country. Since I live here, I thought it would be fun to help out. I emailed the Alianza to inform them that I lived here in San Pedro Sula and to ask how I could help out. They asked me to fill out an application to be an observer. Shortly after, I received an invitation from the TSE, welcoming me to observe the elections. Then I heard nothing for several weeks. This past Monday, I received an email that essentially said "see you in Teguz this weekend!" oh, ok. I has assumed that I would be doing stuff here in San Pedro since that's where I am, but a trip to the capital sounded exciting. The real issue was that they didn't say when or where they would see me, other than "this weekend" (that spans a couple days) and Teguz (the largest city in Honduras). I shot back an email asking for some details so I could figure out my travel plans.

Friday afternoon around 2:30 I received an email informing me that I could pick up my ID badge and other credentials at the training session 5:00 that evening in Teguz. So now I knew "when" but not "where". Another issue had arisen with this new information, as well: with current road conditions, Teguz is a solid 7 hour drive from SPS. Not even the lack of enforced speed limits in this country would get me there in time. A couple emails and a phone call later, I hit the road for the capital city. Apparently there would be another training session in the morning at the Hotel Maya. I could stay there for a discounted rate and get my credentials in the morning. Good deal.

I checked into my hotel at 11:30pm. The fanciest hotel I have ever been in. The kind of hotel where they carry your bags to your room, even if you try to take it back from them. And even with my "discount" my three night stay was almost as much as a month's rent. But heck, it's kind of like a vacation, I guess. And the conveniece of not having to drive around in an unfamiliar city that doesn't believe in street signs seemed worth it. The woman I had spoken to earlier was unsure if the training was at 8:00 or 9:00 the next morning, so I got downstairs at 7:45am and looked around. No one was there, so I went to look for a spare tire (I know, mom. But it isn't my fault...apparently no one in Honduras has rims for a Mitsubishi Lancer...I tried 5 different places in Teguz. nada) and got back to the hotel a little before 9. It seemed strangely quiet for a hotel that was about to have a training session for hundreds of international volunteers. I asked the guy at the front desk where the training was going to be, and he told me that he had no idea what I was talking about. cool. So I called the woman I had spoken to the night before. No answer. awesome.

Two choices were ahead of me: wait around the hotel for some sort of word, or explore. I opted for the second. Tegucigalpa is a beautiful city, and it was so fun to look around. I drove up to the zoo, which I had heard was the finest in the country. It had very nice parking facilities and a beautiful entrance gate, but that was as far as I could get legally. There was a beautiful park nearby that I got to check out. This park is home to el Cristo de Picacho, a statue of Christ looking over the city. There was also a musem, but it was also closed. Around this time, I received a phone call from my contact at the Alianza. The meeting that morning had been canceled (which I had kind of gathered) but there was a luncheon for the observers at 1pm and she would bring my credentials there.

The luncheon ended up being nowhere close to the hotel, and I didn't feel comfortable doing that much exploring on an empty stomach. So I grabbed a taxi and headed out. On the way, I received a text from the lady at the Alianza. She had to go to the airport to pick someone up, but another woman would have my credentials at the luncheon, and she gave me the woman's cell number. I arrived at the restaurant and asked where I could find this other woman, but no one had heard of her. I tried calling her, but it was a wrong number. drang. So I went in search of food. Food makes me feel better, and this was even bigger plus. Much to my dismay, I discovered that the buffet was not open yet. And I was the only person not in a suit. And probably the only person who had been on a sweaty hike that morning. I wasn't the only person wearing jeans, but the other guy was wearing expensive jeans with fancy boots and a sports jacket. awwwwwwesome.

At this point, I did what any grown woman in this situation would do. I called my daddy. After a quick little pep talk (good job, Dad! it really helped!) I jumped back into the game. It might have been better if I had gone in knowing that I would be the most unimportant person present. But it seems that learning things school-of-hard-knocks style is my lot in life. Everyone there worked for a senator, or represented a prime minister, or they were a prime minister or ambassador. And if they weren't, it was because they were CEOs of companies, or presidents of organizations. Or they were me. All around me were people rubbing elbows and passing out business cards (oh, right. I was also the only person who did not have a business card. Here, let me write out my contact information for you on this cocktail napkin. Yeah, I'm just a science teacher. Well, I've never heard of you, either! Fortunately not too many people I know read your little "Time" magazine or whatever.) And many of these people were confused that a random science teacher, completely unaffiliated with anyone important, would be invited to do something as important as this. Confusing it may have been, but I had a poorly translated letter from the president of the TSE. I had just as much right to be there as anyone.

Fortunately I found some people who didn't mind that I wasn't important. We shared a delightful buffet, and then I finally found the elusive woman who had my credentials. Or at least thought she had my credentials. We headed out to her car, but they were not there. Fortunately, there was a training session that night at the hotel, and she would give them to me there. Oh, not the hotel they told me about...the other hotel. So much for my convenience plan. I was about to go hail a cab when a bus full of pirates unloaded in front of the restaurant. For one whimsical moment, I thought maybe a group of representatives from a pirate nation had come to do their part in upholding democracy. Then I realized how retarded that was and followed them inside to see what they were doing. They were a Garifuna dance troop, come to do the mandatory cheesy/touristy native drum and dance routine for all the visiting big-wigs. I love Garifuna music, and the dancing was pretty interesting. I stayed for a couple songs and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

Saturday night: I drove to the Marriott to pick up my ID and do a little training. It takes me some time to get through the door because I don't have my ID yet. So that was fun. Then I set off to find the lady with my stuff, but she was no where to be found. I gave her a call to discover she had already left, but she gave my stuff to "the guy in the coat". Oh, you mean the guy in Honduras with the coat? The one with a name? No, no name. But the lady up front would know who I meant. Only she didn't, so I was taken to the conference room on the 11th floor. You needed a special key to get on the floor. It was pretty exciting. The woman in the room was not very pleased to see me. I soon discovered it was because she had been told that I had lost my stuff. That misconception was soon set right, and we started to get my stuff together. She had a difficult time finding my paperwork, so we began to input the information for my ID without it. The information was no problem, but it was apparently very inconvenient of me to not carry around spare passport-sized photos of myself in case of just such an emergency. Further searching in the computer got my picture, and we were good to go. ID...check. Shirt...check. Hat...check. Vest...we're out, but you don't need one. OK. See you tomorrow morning at 8 in the lobby.

By the time we finished, the training session was nearly over, so I headed back to my hotel to get some sleep. 12:30am, my phone rings. It is the Alianza. Some people want to go watch the polls get set up, so we are leaving at 6am instead. See you then!!!

A few (very) short hours later, I arrive at the hotel, ready to go. I am the only one there. A few (very) long hours later, the last of the people we are waiting for arrive, and we pull out of the hotel parking lot at 8:30am. During this time, the woman who was supposed to give me my stuff has managed to get me a vest. She made a very big deal about it, and said it was because I looked so depressed that I didn't have one. Not at all why I was depressed. But what's a couple hours of sleep when you have a sweet vest?

We hit up 6 different voting stations in Teguz and the surrounding areas. It was fascinating to get to watch their voting process. If you live in Honduras and have a citizen ID, you are registered to vote. They give you a card that tells you what station and room you have to go to, and you cannot vote anywhere else. A volunteer matches your ID to a book they have with a copy of the ID of every person who can vote in that room. Then they hand you your ballots. The ballots are sheets of paper with the candidates pictures on them so that people who can't read can still vote. The backs of the paper are stamped by the president of the TSE and signed by the person in charge of the particular poll you are at. You take your papers behind the little booth and mark the square of the person you wish to vote for. Then you come back out, give the papers to a person who verifies that it is a legitimate ballot and marked correctly and stamps it. Then you drop it in the ballot box, sign and fingerprint under the copy of your ID in the book, and the last step is getting your pinky finger stained so you don't try to vote again.

The poll locations were like little parties. Music was playing, kids were running around, people were selling food, and everyone came out of the polls showing off their blackened fingers. It was so cool to see people so excited about voting. It was an incredibly different experience from voting in the States. Every place we went, people were so excited to see us (the observers). People shook our hands, thanked us for coming, and were very eager to show us around and answer questions. Many of the locations my particular group went to were in very rough parts of town and areas that had seen a lot of trouble from the Resistance (Zelaya supporters). That was all gone yesterday. There had been concerns of violence at the poll stations, and thus a concern of low voter turn-out. As far as I know, there weren't any major incidents anywhere, and about 62% of Hondurans showed up to vote. That's better than the turn-out from the last US presidential election!!

Polls were supposed to close at 4, but remained open an extra hour due to high voter turn-out. As an international observer, I was allowed to see the call room where poll results were phoned in through the new system Honduras was testing out this year. It's a really neat system, very high-tech, and they are the second nation in Latin America to put it to use. That evening the TSE declared Pepe Lobo, the candidate from the National Party, Honduras's president elect. Zelaya is, of course, causing a fuss and declaring that the vote was not legitimate. Hopefully people won't listen to him.

The list of countries recognizing this election is slowly growing. The Colombian government released a statement today declaring their acceptance of Pepe Lobo as the new Honduran president. Hopefully the US will hold true to their word. The Honduran Congress is meeting this week to decide whether or not Zelaya should be allowed to return until Pepe's inauguration. So far, Honduras has kept their end of the accord. The official US stance is that Zelaya be returned to power. Hopefully we will keep our end of the arrangement, regardless of whether or not we like the outcome. There really is not a legitimate reason to disregard what happened this weekend.

I am so proud of the people of this country. And I am so honored to have been able to see democracy at its finest. Viva Honduras!

Saturday morning I was exploring Honduras's capital city and I stumbled across the zoological gardens. Sadly, the zoo itself was closed. Happily, they still charged me admission. Wait, scratch that. I wasn't really excited to find out that the zoo was closed after I had already paid. Alas. But then I saw this sign:

I had heard of the Cristo del Picacho statue, and I was really excited to have stumbled upon it. The arrow was pointing to a trail, so I parked my car and headed down the trail. As you might expect if you have read your Bible, the path was narrow and difficult. Also, there were not many people on it. The reason there were not many people on it, however, was not because they are all a bunch of slacker sinners. It was because the sign lied to me. This particular path does not lead to Jesus. It leads to a highway. The same statue-less highway I drove up on. awesome.
The hike back to the car was exhausting (Teguz is at a much higher elevation than San Pedro), and I'm probably going to be really sore tomorrow. As I (finally) approached my car to head back to the hotel, the little old man who was guarding the parking lot asked me if I had found Jesus. I told him that I took the trail but failed to find this gigantic, yet somehow strangely elusive statue. He then told me that the reason I didn't see the statue on that trail is because the statue is not even in that direction. I desperately wished I knew enough Spanish to ask why that sign is there if it doesn't point people in the right direction, but I had to be content with asking him for proper directions.

The old man pointed down the road, so I hopped into my car and soon came to another park. It was very beautiful, with many trails going in different directions. I picked a path and began walking. At long last I saw him standing tall above the trees.

It is a beautiful statue overlooking the city. The view was breathtaking. Totally worth the misdirection at the beginning. And my adventure on this literal walk gave some interesting insight to my own spiritual walk. Nothing I particularly care to post, but if you ask me about it I will be happy to share. In the meantime, here are some pictures. The scritpure quoted is I guess the inspiration for the statue. To save you some time looking it up, it says "Then he led them out at far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up to heaven. Luke 24:50-51"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday filled with delicious food and loving family.

Thanksgiving isn't really celebrated down here, but they do have a celebration at the school. So today after 2nd period, the whole school gathered for a mini-mass in the gym, and then we all feasted together. It was pretty awesome. One of my homeroom parents cooked a beautiful turkey for our class, and the PTA provided rice, mashed potatoes, bread, and cake. I was going to make sweet potato casserole but was unable to procure the majority of the ingredients, namely the sweet potatoes themselves. I did, however, find cranberry sauce at the grocery store!!! Our celebration was most excellent, despite the lack of one more carb one our plates...

In the spirit of the day, I wanted to throw out some things that I am thankful for. There are many things that I take for granted, and I have recognized this in the past. But nothing shoves the things you take for granted in your face more than living in a developing country.

I am so thankful for you, my friends and family. Your love and presence in my life is an immeasurable blessing. Each of you has helped to make me the person I am today, and I would not be who I am, where I am, without you. Your encouragement and support through the good times, bad times, and really really crappy times in my life are very much appreciated. And I am so thankful that even though I am not with you, I still have you.

Lately (to be read "since I moved here") I have complained about the internet. It's too slow. It doesn't work when it's raining. It doesn't work when more than one person tries to use it. It doesn't work because it's sunny. blah blah blah, on and on goes my list of complaints. But I am thankful that I do have it, erratic and crappy though it may be. It is better than nothing. And through the magic of the internet, I have able to keep in touch through email, chat, facebook, magicjack, and skype. Thank you, Al Gore.

I am thankful for my job. I make less money now than I did as a waitress in college. But I make money. Enough to pay my bills and still be able to explore this beautiful world God created. And to eat multiple meals everyday. I have indoor plumbing and a refrigerator, a solid roof over my head, and an air conditioning unit. And I have ample opportunity to share these blessings with others. I am truly a wealthy woman.

I am so thankful to be a child of God. That he loves me as I am, but desires so much more for me. That he has given me a role to play in his master plan. That he has given me all of these things, not only to show me how much he loves me, but also to show me how I can be more like him. And that he has patience and grace for me when I screw it up.

Again, I hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Sorry this wasn't very funny. I'm not Matt Chandler, and it is hard for me to inject humor into something like this (as you can tell by some of my weak attempts towards the beginning). Besos y Abrazos. Thanks for listening.
As I mentioned in a previous post, some things are a little different here compared to back in the States. Shocking, I know. One thing that is very different, and a little bit confusing, is the name situation. Not the names themselves, but the quantity of them. For those of you unfamiliar with Hispanic culture/customs, you need to understand that they really like names and have as many of them as possible. And it confuses the mess out of this poor gringa.

Your typical Honduran has four names: first first name, second first name, first last name, second last name. My "Honduran" name would be Kelley Nicole Stephan Bishop, or Kelley Nicole Stephan de Bishop, depending on how formal you wanted to be. So all of my students have four names. That wouldn't be a problem, except they are not consistent in which names they use. It is kind of mood driven, I think.

For example, I have a student who is listed in all school records as Juan Castillo. For the first couple weeks, I thought he was absent because I never got any work from him. But I kept getting work from Juan Rey, who was not listed in anything I got from the school. One day Juan Rey approaches me and asks why his grades aren't available online, and I tell him he isn't on my register so I can't enter his grades. At this point I learn that he is Juan Rey Castillo. oh, ok. Several days later, a teacher comes in and asks me about Moises. I don't have any students named Moises. So we figure he's in another section. Then one of the girls from his class comes in and asks if I have seen Moises. I don't know who Moises is. But apparently I do. Apparently Juan's full name is Juan Moises Rey Castillo. And sometimes he likes to be called Moises but sometimes he likes to be called Juan. His application for the school has his name as Juan Moises Rey Castillo, but his birth certificate is Moises Juan Castillo Rey. I changed the names because I can't use real student information. But I have a similar story for at least one student in each of my classes. It is a lot to keep up with.

I am helping with the elections next week, and recently received an email from a Dra. Lissa Matute Cano. Before I could even get to the "difficult" part of my response (I was writing in my very limited Spanish) I had reached a dilemma: which name do I use? The first last name? The second? Both? Too many choices to even do a coin toss for. Fortunately, two of my students were in the room. So I asked which would be appropriate to use. The response? "psssh, I don't know, Miss. All of these names are confusing. My first last name is one thing, but on all of the school stuff, they use the other. On my passport they put both, but on my drivers license they only put the first one. I don't think it really matters. We are confusing with our names." Straight from the horse's mouth.

Despite all of the confusion that comes from having a thousand names that you can use at will, it is apparently equally confusing to have too few. I was recently interviewed by the student council because I am a new teacher. First question: "ok, Miss, what is your full name?" I responded truthfully. Kelley Nicole Stephan. Instead of being met with a second question, however, I was met with the same question, with emphasis placed on key words. "ok. What is your full name?" I explained that in the United States, it isn't customary to have four names...some people do, but by no means everyone. Blank stares. The girl writing down the responses looked a little flustered. Then one of the boys asked, "well, what's your mother's last name?" I told them her maiden name, and he said, "just write that down. We don't want to confuse people." Gotta love tolerance for cultural differences.

Horchata means many different things to many different people. I believe the drink originated in Spain, where they make it from ground up "tiger nuts" (not sure exactly what those are). It was brought over to Latin America, where there aren't a lot of tigers or tiger nuts. Each country in Latin America has their own variation of horchata, and each country thinks theirs is the best. I have only sampled Honduran horchata but it is really, really good.

Horchata is basically rice milk. Or rather, since I don't know what rice milk actually is, it is what I assume rice milk to be. Here in Honduras horchata is made from rice, cinnamon, and morro seeds. (Morro seeds are, I think, seeds from a calabash. Different sources say different things, and I have not been able to confirm this. However, I can confirm that there is no such thing as a morro plant.) Basically, you soak uncooked rice for a couple hours, toast the morro seeds and some cinnamon sticks, then blend all three together. Add water, strain out the chunks, and add sugar and lime to your taste. If I ever get the opportunity to try other variations of horchata, I will let you know. But for now, a cold glass of this stuff on a hot and humid Honduran afternoon is absolutely fantastic.

If you want to actual recipe, let me know. It's really fast and easy. I can even tell you some things to substitute for the morro seeds if you need to, although supposedly they are easy enough to find in the Latin food section of your local grocery store.

Last year for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I forced an entire class of prekindergarteners to dress and talk like pirates. It was a beautiful thing. This year, since I no longer had a crew of 4-year-olds to do my bidding, I had to figure out another way to celebrate. Fortunately, I am in the middle of pirate territory (pirates of yore, not Somalian pirates). So in honor of TLaPD, I went on a swashbuckling adventure to the nearby town of Omoa.

Omoa is a tiny coastal town about 45 minutes west of San Pedro Sula. It is a fairly sleepy little town, with nothing really of note except a SEA FORTRESS. The Fortaleza San Fernando de Omoa was built by the Spaniards back in the late 1700s to defend Spanish territories in Honduras from pirates and French and British troops. While it did a stellar job staving off the first two, the British were able to capture the fort and occupy it for a short period of time before they abandoned it. I believe they abandoned it within a matter of weeks. Spain snatched it back up and occupied until a coalition of Central American countries declared independence in 1823. Omoa was the last area of Spanish military presence in Central America.

The Federal Republic of Central America was fairly short lived as far as countries go. It soon dissolved into what is now known as the Central American 5- Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador. I am unsure of the exact year, but in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the fort in Omoa became Honduras' most notorious prison. In 1959, the government recognized what an important historical landmark it was and declared it as such. Current efforts are being made to restore it to its original state, although I am not sure what original state they mean. To clarify (so you can be as confused as I am) would think that original state means...the state it was in originally. Walls are being replastered, mold damage is being repaired, rotten wood is being replaced, etc. Thus far things are making sense. There are many areas that still have bullet and cannon damage from when the British captured the fort. It is pretty neat to see how well it has been preserved. According to our guide "those walls aren't going to be changed". However...there is damage on every wall, save one. So...I am not exactly understanding how the original state is going to be achieved if every wall except for one is not going to be restored. I guess I am not an archaeologist or scholar really of any kind, so my opinion isn't really that important. But man, I really am curious.
Here are a couple shots of the fort, and then a model of what the fort/surrounding area looked like before the coastline changed. It is now much further inland than it was originally.

Not many people are aware that the Mayan civilization reached as far south as Honduras. It really is Honduras's fault, because they have these amazing ruins and they don't really do anything to let people know about them. Too bad for Honduran tourism, awesome for people like you and me who can go see these amazing places with no crowds.

Friday morning-ish we headed out from San Pedro Sula. I was driving on the awesome Honduran highway and decided it would be fun to play "The Pot Hole Game". The way you play is: run through pot holes at high speeds. It's a lot of fun. Mom really enjoyed playing. After a few hours we reached the town of La Entrada. As we pulled into town, I won the pot hole game! For those of you still unfamiliar with the rules, that means I got a flat tire. Bent the wheel up pretty good. We didn't have a spare, but I was smart enough to get the flat right down the street from a tire shop. They didn't have any wheels, but they had a sledge hammer, and they were able to pound the rim back into shape, no problem. And it only cost Lps. 25...a little over a dollar. Heck yeah.

We hit the road again and reached Copan Ruinas after a couple hours. The incredibly hilly, cobblestone street town of Copan Ruinas. We hit the slopes in the heavily loaded (4 adults plus luggage) Mitsubishi Lancer, and I think we actually made it up one hill. The rest of them were a little too much for the awesome quality vehicle we had. That one hill was enough to get us to our hotel, though. We stayed at the Casa de Cafe. It was a great place. If you ever find yourself in Copan Ruinas, I recommend this place.

Saturday we hit the town. First stop: The Butterfly Garden. We got there early enough to see some butterflies emerge from their cocoons. Amazing. Then we walked around an enclosed garden with...30 species of butterflies, I think. I don't remember. It was beautiful. In the first picture, there is a butterfly on my mom's knee.

Next stop was Macaw Mountain. Cheesy name, really cool concept. It is a rehabilitation center/bird sanctuary for tropical birds. I am not even going to pretend to know how many species they have, ranging from parrots and toucans to owls and eagles. But they have a lot, and it was absolutely beautiful as well. In addition to being a bird sanctuary, it is also a coffee plantation, so we got to have some delicious coffee right off the plantation. And we got to eat a coffee...fruit...I guess. Whatever the beans come from. The fruit is actually really yummy, too! In these picture, the person who isn't either of my parents is my neighbor/coworker/friend/travel buddy Gabrielle.

That afternoon Mom, Dad, and I headed out for a canopy tour. Yes folks, my mother actually strapped on a little belt, hooked it onto a steel cable, and slid down kilometers of cable thousands of feet about the forest floor. And I think she giggled a little. If I can snag the video from her at Christmas I will post it for you skeptics who think I am lying.
The next morning we hit up the ruins. This is actually a HUGE site, but because it is in doesn't get a lot of attention from tourists or scholars. There is a lot of stuff that they are wanting to do, but they don't have the funds, which is a shame. Some really interesting things about this particular site:
They have the largest hieroglyphic stairwell in Mayan civilization. It is beautiful. Archaeologists believe it was a timeline at one point, almost like a story. But an earthquake knocked the stones out of place about a century ago, and the people just kind of threw the stones back on in random order. Apparently Harvard is slowly working on attempting to order the steps. Considering the staircase contains over 2500 stones and spans 17 is quite a daunting task.

The city is built in layers, as is the case with many archaeological sites. Underneath this temple, there are at least two other temples that have been discovered. The top one is called Rosa Lila because its paint has remained almost perfectly preserved. All of the stone ruins that we see now used to be covered in colorful plaster and paint.

The Mayans are pretty well known for the astronomy/astrology skillz and their ability to use those skills to predict the future. In fact, the movie 2012 that is coming out this week is based on the Mayan prediction that the end of the world is coming in 2012. I never believed any of that crazy mumbo jumbo until I saw this statue of my dad. The similarity was a little unnerving at first, but now that I am over the initial shock I am able to start preparing for the end of the world. Only a couple years left, people. As you can see, the Mayans knew what they were talking about.

Mayan kings had some very interesting names. Like King Smoke Snail. King Smoke Monkey. King Smoke Shell. And King 18 Rabbit. Who says Mayans weren't mighty? 18 Rabbit was one of the most influential rulers of Copan. Or, at least he was the last one. So his name is everywhere, and his image is on everything. Obviously, he couldn't have been that great because the civilization ended with him. But, bless his heart, I'm sure he did the best he could. In homage of his late royal highness, here is a photo of the royal pavilion in the square with my father and (if you look closely, you can make out) Queen 18 Rabbit-ears Wendy.


While my parents were here visiting we ate lunch at a bird reserve in Copan. It was here that we were introduced to pollo con loroco (sin zapatos). And it was amazing. I saw some at the grocery store this week and thought I would share it with you.

Loroco is a type of flowery-vine, I believe. It is not grown commercially...most people have a couple vines in their gardens or yards. Thus it is not always seen at the store here, and it isn't seen fresh in stores in the states (I think you guys can buy it pickled or in brine...probably not as yummy). I believe the flowers are edible, but the buds are what is most commonly eaten. They taste a little like broccoli (the stalks, not the little sprout tops). Maybe a mix between broccoli and brussel sprouts...although I have only had brussel sprouts once, a long time ago, and I didn't really like them. But I love the loroco.
It isn't on a lot of menus when you go out, as you might expect. When my parents and I had it, it was served in a creamy sauce on top of grilled chicken (yum!!!). I have also seen it in pupusas (kind of like tortilla pancakes, if you haven't heard of them). Today I am making them in a sauce with cream and tomatoes. I was originally going to make a tomato-loroco salad, but I don't know if I trust eating them without cooking them first. But I am attempting to pickle some, so I'll let you know how that turns out.
If you are ever traveling through Central America and see something on the menu with loroco, I definitely recommend you give it a shot. Because it will more than likely be absolutely delicious.
Mom called me this week and said that the Dallas Morning News (I think?) had an article stating that Mel Zelaya is returning to power. This is definitely a premature claim, considering there is going to be a vote about it this week. I have a long list of jaded comments I could make, but I'll just leave it at "we'll see what happens." In any event, I'll do my best to catch y'all up on the current goings-on.

We left off last time with Mel covertly re-entering the country and holing up in the Brazilian embassy. The country was essentially on lockdown for several days, but things began to normalize (in most of the country, at least...I hear the capital, Tegucigalpa, has been a pretty crazy place since the end of June) and rumors of talks between Zelaya and Micheletti began to fly. (As a quick side note- a talk between these two has been "in the works" since shortly after Mel was flown out of the country. Micheletti refuses any compromise that includes Mel returning to power, while Mel refuses any compromise not including there has been a bit of a gridlock.) The day the curfew was lifted, the headlines read something along the lines of "Plans to Compromise Being Discussed". But that same headline, or at least one similar, was on the front page everyday for a week before they finally realized that it wasn't really news. It really looked like there was going to be no progress made on that front for a long time. With national elections just around the corner, things were looking pretty bleak. (If you didn't read the other post about this...unless Mel is reinstated, the newly elected leader will not be recognized by other world leaders. That was the threat, at least.)

Finally something changed. People from both parties met with a group of American negociators headed up by Thomas Shannon. The result of this meeting is the Guaymuras Accord, aka the Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord. This basically gives the Honduran Congress (with approval from their Supreme Court) the final say in what happens next. Ironically, this is exactly where the country was at the end of June. Way to go, USA. Thanks for all of your help.

Congress will be voting this week to determine when, if, and how Zelaya should be reinstated. According to Mr. Shannon, Honduras will be backed by the US, regardless of the outcome of the vote. Based on Mel's reaction (during a radio interview, he said that this signifies his return to power and peace to Honduras) and things that I have been reading, it seems that the USA is fairly confident that Mel is going to be returned to presidency. It makes me wonder if the USA will back Honduras no matter what...unless they don't vote the way they are "supposed" to. We will soon find out...Congress will be holding their vote later this week at the earliest. There is no deadline for their decision, so who knows when they will reach their decision.

Honduran elections are coming up at the end of this month, and I have an exciting opportunity for you! :) The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (an independent entity that is in charge of the elections) is asking for international volunteers to witness the upcoming election. They are hoping to show the rest of the world that they truly are a democratic nation. It is over Thanksgiving weekend, so I know that most people won't be able to come down and help. But if you think you know someone who might be interested, please pass this information along!

Volunteers will need to get here no earlier than the (early) morning of Friday, November 27 for training. I am including a link with regulations and a letter from the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, as well as the application if you are interested in coming down. Prayers are good, too. And I guess you don't have to come down for that. :) Thanks!!!