Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stories from Honduras #2

Check out another volume of stories written by the students of Glen Urquhart School in Beverly, Massachusetts who visited Rancho Santa Fe at NPH Honduras and learned about the various facilities at the ranch and all the hard work that goes into making this a home for the children who need it most.

by Jack Hay

We walk down the never-ending rows and the dust springs up in our faces, as if to warn us. The plants are still; there is no wind to cool us. The sun beats down, and beads of sweat have already begun to form on my forehead. We walk through the fields of the hortaliza or gardens. An endless desert of rows awaits us as we put down our bags. We have to put the plants in the holes and then cover them up. Anything is easy in a small proportion. Transplanting these plants is no exception, but when you add the element of quantity, that changes everything. We are working for a good cause though, not for money. That seems to make it a bit easier for me. The orphanage is one big ecosystem. Everything makes something else work. That’s the beauty of a place like this. They don’t need outside food. They make it, and the other pro is that it’s fresh.

I begin work. The sun still lurks behind me, but also behind three layers of 50 SPF sunscreen. The plants that we are working with have been cut from the ground in another location, so we have to twist them in the holes so there is enough space. In some places the men have left more than one plant, which complicates things. As you try to hold several plants down and put dirt in the hole, there is a big margin for error.

We were given about 20 rows and we were halfway done. Katya and Cobo move toward the backpacks for a water break, and Sra. Kelley, Jenny, and I soon follow. “Can we eat these oranges?” questions Katya. “I suppose,” replies Sra. Kelley. “As long as you peel them.” The oranges in question look as if they came from a compost pile, but as Cobo and Katya peel them, they begin to look more inviting. Before I can join in, it’s back to work and the hot, blistering sun. We now plant in the rows that have been drowned by water. The holes are filled to the brim. This makes it much harder to fill them in. It makes a mud bath. I start draining the holes in an attempt to make the work more manageable and to save the plants from drowning, but the young men tell me to stop. There are about four of them helping us, the año familiares. They are the kids who will go into high school after their year of service.

We are almost done. There are only three more rows left. As we take a final water break, one of the young men runs down the field and the three others start throwing the hard, concrete-like chunks of soil at him. Luckily for him, they usually miss. We soon finish planting the rows. The sun has risen in the sky, and it will soon be time for lunch. We grab our bags, bid our fellow workers farewell, and take our leave of the fields. As we duck under the barbed wire fence near the road, I think about how muchwork goes into growing this food. The staff in the hortaliza is so dedicated. They work so hard for the orphans.

by Ra Gordon

I actually thought I already knew how to make tortillas before I went to Rancho Santa Fe. In fact, I had recently made them at home before the eighth grade trip to Honduras. Making them at the orphanage was certainly quite different than making them at home.

When we make tortillas at home, we start with something called “masa harina” that you get in little bags at the grocery store. It is a kind of prepared corn flour. We mix it into a batter with water and oil and roll out tortillas with a rolling pin. Then we cook them on a griddle, like pancakes. We usually make a batch of about eight at a time.

At Rancho Santa Fe it was somewhat different, although we did work with corn flour mixed with water, into a paste. There were four of us working together: Señora Cardona, Phoebe and Madison. We each took parts of the paste and would take small amounts of it, make it into the right shape, press it, and put it on the large grill. The tortillas had to be made flatter than I was used to. About six hundred tortillas had to be made, although there were other people working in the kitchen. Halfway through, we ran out of paste. We had to go back to the place where the kernels were ground. The corn kernels were in a big plastic tub and we had to wash them under an outdoor faucet. The tub then had to be carried to a small mill to grind them into flour, although we did not do that part. After that, we continued the repetitive process of making tortillas. We worked for about four hours altogether.

The next time I make tortillas at home with my family, I will remember my experience at Rancho Santa Fe. I will think of the people who make tortillas there every day, starting with the big yellow kernels from corn they grew themselves.

La Granja
by Madison Tremblay

Working on the farm was a very exciting experience. Although I was very sick that day, I still enjoyed collecting eggs, feeding chickens, and playing with the bunnies. The farm was one of my favorite workdays; it’s really cool that the Ranch sustains itself by growing and raising their own food. 

When we first arrived at the farm, we fed the chickens. Then we were able to hold the 2-week-old chicks, and they were adorable. The chicks were so soft and fun to hold, that is, if you could catch them. Next we began the never-ending task of collecting eggs. We each got a grey egg carton that held 30 eggs to fill. Each chicken coop had a different name after a certain country; one was called Honduras and another was called Alemania (Germany). When you first entered the chicken coop, it was like stepping into a room crammed with hundreds of people milling around, except instead of people these were chickens. The edge of the coop was lined with wooden boxes where the eggs were laid. Some boxes had up to 15 eggs while others had none. We went around the perimeter of the coop filling our cartons and clearing boxes. By the time we finished, however, there would be 20 new eggs laid. Those chickens can really pump out the eggs! After, we visited the bunnies, which was a lot of fun. We fed them left over cabbage from the garden and played with them. 

Finally we did one more round of egg collecting and then headed back to San Cristóbal. It was an exhausting day, but it never got boring.

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