Friday, January 24, 2014

ask anything // round 3

Q // What's the best food you've eaten so far?
A // Honduran iced tea --  it must have lemon in it here! It's almost an Arnold Palmer; plantains made into fries (in some magical way that Lesley hasn't figured out yet); pineapple juice; and definitely, definitely baleadas! (They are thick flour tortillas with mashed beans, cheese & butter inside, and we take ours with chicken and chismol inside too.) Our friend Miguel, who is a deacon at the church in Danli, and his wife make really amazing baleadas at their own store!

Q // Are you driving yet? How are you adjusting to the fumes of the vehicles?
A // Yes! Jamey has been driving a few days a week since just a couple weeks in. Lesley hasn't given it a try yet -- it's pretty intimidating! Drivers here follow few road rules, pass frequently even on dangerous roads, and use their horns for every kind of road communication. We actually are very pleasantly surprised when we see a turn signal being used. Also, roundabouts are common, with usually six different roads/lanes coming into the roundabout, but no one really knows how to use them! Tricky stuff. And with the fumes of the vehicles (since routine maintenance on vehicles is not done here) are honestly what Honduras smells like to us -- as funny as that sounds! We smelt it all getting right off the plane, and we could've known we were back in Honduras being blindfolded.

Jamey getting driving experience in Honduras.

Q // What is the hardest thing to adjust to?
A // Everything that you try to do is just harder or a much longer process here. Now that's a big statement, but let us explain: after living in a world full of modern conveniences and efficiency, we are amazed at how much time is taken doing things that were menial to us before. There are significantly less conveniences in even daily things like cooking or cleaning -- now we don't even have things as simple as chicken broth, canned tomatoes, or the ability to cook with water from the tap. Every single step must be made from scratch and one meal alone could take hours of preparation. We also only have a one-sided tiny basin of a kitchen sink, where we can barely wash a pot by itself. Things that in the States we would only normally clean once a week, suddenly have to be done every other day and in some cases daily. Think about your normal "spring cleaning" chores, like giving the windows a good wash. If we go too long without doing that here, we wouldn't be able to see through them! It's still hard for us to adjust to things taking much more of our time, and reevaluating what we actually might be able to accomplish in just one day. That's a tough one for us! Even with business related tasks, things tend to take longer to accomplish simply because Hondurans are more relational people and the relationship takes precedence over the task almost always.  Not to say that being more relational is a bad thing, but it is different in the U.S. where efficiency is

Also, we are learning Spanish as quickly as we can manage, but there is still both some language and cultural barriers for us. It's hard for us to adjust to not being completely self-sufficient. It all is not something we'd ever really had to be concerned with so, so much before moving here.

(And something funny that we're still getting used to: it being very difficult to hang anything on cinder block walls.)

Q // Do you get strange looks?
A // Yes, most definitely. But at least at our church, nearby grocery store, and areas we go often, the more people see us, the more they get used to us.

Q // What is the exchange rate to US dollars?
A // Honduran currency is called lempiras. When we first moved here, the exchange rate was roughly 20.5 lempiras to one U.S. dollar. Today, the exchange rate is roughly 20 lempiras to one U.S. dollar. Pictured below is an example of a Honduran bill.

One L100 limpera is almost exactly $5 U.S. Dollars.  

Q // Have you compared the prices of food and other shopping to U.S. prices?
A // The prices of foods vary some even across the U.S., but to give you some comparison, we'll list some of our food prices!

The produce roundup:
Tomatoes (only roma variety is available) are L8.7 ($0.44) per pound. Cucumbers are L4.4 ($0.22) each -- which is good because they are Lesley's favorite! Onions are L16.3 ($0.82) a pound. Apples are L26.9 ($1.35) per pound.

Takeaway: produce is inexpensive in Honduras, which is good. However, many people do not have the means to preserve or save these fresh ingredients for very long, and they go to waste even more quickly in the hot 95 degree weather.

Think about this:
One liter of milk is L26 ($1.30) -- so that's roughly $5.20 a gallon. But a 3 liter of Coca Cola is L32 ($1.60). The cheapest loaf of bread is L33 ($1.65).  Prepackaged flour tortillas are L24.2 ($1.21) for a pack of 5. Vegetable oil is L41.58 ($2.08) for 25 ounces. Lard is L32.2 ($1.61) for 35 ounces.

Takeaway: Soda costs dramatically less (as in for 3 liters of each, it's $2.50 more for milk) than milk, so parents purchase soda (or just plain sugar and water) to try to fill up their childrens bellies. They believe that it is sustaining them, but in reality it only causes them to be both malnourished and have their baby teeth rotting out. Also, in the southern part of Honduras, where we live, most everyone eats corn tortillas (made of only cornmeal and water) because cornmeal costs so much less than flour to make this very important part of Honduran meals. And, as you can imagine, a lot of people cook solely with lard instead of oil because it too is less expensive.

Our favorites from back home:
Ground beef is L52.7 ($2.64) per pound. Butter is L78.7 ($3.94) for a regular pack of 4 sticks (2 cups) of butter. Mozzarella cheese is L70 ($3.51) for 8 ounces. Peanut butter is L79.4 ($3.98) for a 12 oz jar. Canned goods (like a can of mixed veggies) are L26.8 ($1.34).

Takeaway:  With our "normals" & favorites from back home, we're having to either give them up or buy and use them very sparingly. This is hard for us in a lot of ways -- automatically tossing out every recipe we had before that used any amount of cheese, butter, or cream (which you can't find here or is imported so it's expensive) is a lot of recipes gone!! We're also having to figure out how to stretch out any meat that we buy between meals. Now, as the head chef of the family, Lesley feels the burden/loss of most of these changes, but for Jamey is biggest struggle is the peanut butter... he used to go through a jar of peanut butter in a week! Can't do that now.

Q // Where do you go grocery shopping?
A // We've tried a few places, but for cost and because we don't have a car, we've found it best to regularly shop at the grocery store just two doors down from our apartment building. It's called Maxi Despensa, and it's owned by the Walmart Cooperation. It's usually pretty crowded and a basic style store, but once we learned when to go there & some cultural customs, we've become really used to it. But if you were to visit, you would have to be prepared for a few things: (a) just because an item was there a day or even a few hours ago, doesn't mean it will ever be there again in the near future; (b) personal space is not something you're allowed at the supermarket -- it's best to get one of the little baskets that roll (instead of a cart) so you can even maneuver around the store because people will not let you by!

Our grocery store just steps away from our apartment!
Q // Can you receive care packages? What would you like to receive in them? 
A // Yes we can, and thank you for asking! It does take anywhere from two weeks to one month, depending, for a package to arrive here. We always welcome care packages of items we either can't find here (like spices) or that are very expensive here (like deodorant). For specific (and important) mailing instructions or an updated items list, please contact us personally!

Q // What's it feel like right now to be learning a new language?
A // Language learning is such a unique new experience for us! It's a wonderful feeling to be able to use what you are learning immediately; it certainly gives you a lot more incentive to learn it when you know it will be immediately applicable to your everyday life. (And it's way more fun to have our own personal class with an awesome teacher than the way we first tried to learn in it back in high school!). There is also a great, great joy that comes over someone's face when being able to use their native language when speaking with them. Even if they are bilingual friends who know English, we can still tell that words in Spanish still hold more real meaning for them. And we understand that vice versa. We've had time to really experience the words we use first hand over our entire lives. We automatically understand meaning when it is said in our native tongue.

The sometimes frustrating part for us is consistently finding instances where things don't translate or there just isn't a word for what we are describing. We have over a million words in the English language and sometimes that doesn't even feel like enough to fully express ourselves. So we're disappointed when words we use often don't have a Spanish equivalent -- especially for storytellers like us! Sometimes the same ol' simple words just don't cut it. Hopefully our body language helps get the point across when words can't. :)

On the flip side, we now have some words that have been permanently adopted to our vocabulary, even when speaking in English just because we feel like they are the best word in that instance! For example, "limon" is the Spanish word for "lemon" but all of the lemons in Central America are green... and their taste is legitimately a cross between a lemon and a lime. Therefore, we consider no other name to be appropriate for this cross-breed of a fruit! Also, the word for "white person" or "North American" is "gringo". It's become such a heavily used word for us here, and the word implies so much more understanding than just the literal translation, that we'll also probably always keep this word, too!

Q // Do you have bugs or other critters in your house?
A // Yes, we sure do, but thankfully by the grace of God we are being eased into that transition by currently living on the second floor of an apartment building! So, in our second floor apartment, we have hundreds of little ants that we fight with every day (that are behind the cabinets, in the shower, in the sinks, on the counters, coming in from the roof & windows, you name it!); we also have spiders who make so many webs constantly, which draw in these little bitty black bagworms that feed off spiderwebs & fabric fibers and make cocoons all over the walls, corners, and crannies. There have also been scary giant Latin American sized cockroaches living under our stove at times, and bats that live in the roof above all of the apartments. Our neighbors have also had one gecko, but we haven't seen (key word: seen) any in our apartment yet. We've also been prepared that once we move into a single level house in a few months, there are great chances that we'll still have all of those same things, but also many more geckos and maybe even scorpions and more. Oh happy day!

Q // Can you show us some more pictures of kids that you've fallen in love with already?*
A // Of course we can!! Sometimes all the pictures we take are of all of the adorable kiddos. Whoops, probably should start aiming the camera other directions pretty soon. We know there are so many other things you all are itching to get a glimpse at! But for now, please enjoy meeting some of Lesley's little friends:

(1) On the left are the little climbers -- especially the girl on the right, Melisa, who is seriously a monkey. She can climb absolutely anything in 2 seconds flat!
(2) In the middle picture is the always adorable, snaggle-toothed Bryan who was chowing down on a little early morning white guava. 
(3) On the right is Lesley's little permanent shadow from the CDI, Fernando. He's absolutely attached to Lesley, and his favorite thing to do is to play tickle monster chasing games. (Of course Lesley is always the tickle monster because he just wants to be tickled!). He also tried to get away with sitting on Lesley's lap during a church service, but eventually got sent to go be with his mom. :)

*disclaimer: the person who actually submitted that question was Lesley. She just wanted to put some adorable little faces on the blog. But can you really blame her?!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

highlight // Casa Hogar Vida

Yesterday marked our 2 month mark of living in Honduras... time is definitely flying by! Before too much time gets away from us, we wanted to give a highlight with more details about one of the projects that the GCLA church here in Choluteca has, Casa Hogar Vida.

Casa Hogar Vida was started in 2009, and there still continues to be a vision for future construction of this project. In Spanish, Casa Hogar Vida means "House, Home, Life." The main purpose of this project is to help provide homes for people that normally would not be able to afford their own home. Currently, there are a total of 49 houses on a piece of land that the church owns about 10 minutes outside of the city of Choluteca. The church hopes to eventually have over 100 homes on this property. People who live in these homes pay a small monthly amount and eventually will own the home, in which the church will then title over their plot of land to them. They are about to begin the next phase of construction with additional homes in the coming months.  Praise the Lord that over 90% of the people who live in Casa Hogar Vida attend the GCLA church here in Choluteca!!

On the same site, there is also an orphanage (where Lesley currently works) that right now consists of 3 houses. There are currently 6 children living in one of the homes, and the construction of the third house is almost finished. Praise God that they are currently ready to and in the process of bringing new children into the second house. The orphanage is meant for children who are either affected or infected by HIV. The set up of each home consists of one "Tia", or aunt, that gets paid by the church to work in the home. She is responsible for caring for and loving on the kids, including feeding them, helping them with school work, and basically raising them. This orphanage structure is starting to be used widely across the world in new orphanages. Each of the children have monthly sponsors to provide for their basic needs.  It takes $75 a month per kid for everything they need.

Left to right: Jorge, Heidi, and Bryan. 
Right now, Lesley is serving at the orphanage on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Some of the kids go to school in the morning, where as some go in the afternoon, so currently she works with three of the six kids -- Bryan, Jorge, and Heidi. She spends time with them, plays with them, loves on them, and helps teach them English.

On site there is a block factory in which the church employs people to make concrete blocks for church projects, as well as other projects they receive orders from. There is also a couple of ladies who live in the community that work at "Manualidades" on site, where they make and sell handbags and jewelry that the church helps to promote throughout Honduras. Casa Hogar Vida also has a coffee roaster on site where they roast coffee and sell it throughout Honduras to make money to help fund projects as well as provide for the kids in the orphanage. They have also partnered with Revive Coffee in the United States to be able to sell coffee in the States to which some of the profits come directly to GCLA for project funding.  For more on Revive Coffee, check them out at .

Part of the block factory.
Currently at Casa Hogar Vida, I (Jamey) am helping with a water project in which they will be treating the water that goes to the community homes as well as the orphanage. Currently, there is no treatment of water that comes from the well in the community. Part of the project will be to dig a new well on site as the current well is at it's maximum capacity and only provides water to the homes every 3 days. The orphanage receives water 24/7. Living Water International will be joining the team here in Choluteca in late January to help with this project. This project is serving as a "pilot" project for GCLA and their hope is to connect with Living Water International continuously over the coming years for projects in all of GCLA's major churches in Honduras including in Danli. I am VERY excited about this opportunity!! I have also been tasked with designing a treatment system for the "aguas negras" (wastewater) that comes from Casa Hogar, as there is currently no treatment for it at this point.

We hope this gives some more background on Casa Hogar Vida and it's vision, since it's where we both are spending a lot of our time working while we are in Choluteca. We hope to post a video in the future giving you a tour of the project site, so that you can see it first hand!  For more information on Casa Hogar Vida as well as GCLA, go to



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

personal // a year in review... {happy 2014!}

What did you do in 2013 that you had never done before?
well. moving to a developing country is our "easy answer"; but ALSO, Jamey saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time, Lesley traveled internationally by herself, and Jamey rode the Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion multiple times in a row (anyone who has ridden it knows that's an accomplishment!).

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
having a conversation completely in Spanish with no translator AND becoming 100% fully support raised and getting released to assignment!

What are you most happy about completing?
TWO huge moves in one year! The first was moving out of our first married home, and packing up everything that was his, hers, and ours together for the first time. But the craziest part was packing it all up to be left for four years! It's hard to know what you will and won't need between now and then. ;) The second move was mastering the art of packing everything especially crucial into just 5 bags and getting them all to another country. When we got here, we then had to do things like purchase appliances! We had never done that before even in the States!

Goodbye Warrenton, Va and Covington, VA -- HELLO Honduras!
What was your biggest failure?
We learned that Jamey can't even make baked spaghetti unsupervised when the prepared noodles, sauce, and cheese are provided for him... thus proving Jamey's need for his wife's cooking.

What song will always remind you of 2013?
Okay, let's be real. Since both of us are answering this question, there is no way we could only answer with one song. Here's the list: Songs that hit close to where we were with our faith this year: "Oceans" by: Hillsong and "Whom Shall I Fear {God of Angel Armies}" by: Chris Tomlin. The country songs that absolutely remind us of home and represented country music right this year: "We Were Us" by: Keith Urban & Miranda Lambert and "Southern Comfort Zone" by: Brad Paisley. And the fun song that we listened to more than any other song this year and still never got tired of: "Catch My Breath" by: Kelly Clarkson. (And let's just say that that song made Jamey's year.)

*disclaimer: we know that two of these songs debuted at the end of 2012, but they sure had a good run in 2013 too. :)

What was your favorite meal?
Our first time going to our new favorite restaurant in the South, TUPELO HONEY CAFE!!! Lord have mercy!

The best sweet tea, biscuits & blueberry preserves we've ever had, along with a perfect
meal of mac & cheese, asparagus, bbq pork, parmesan corn-on-the-cob and sweet potato fries! 
What was your favorite TV program?
Both of us: Friends (of course) because we've made our way through all ten seasons in the past year because Jamey got the whole set for Christmas 2012 in order to take it to Honduras with us. No gift Lesley has given him has ever paid off more. :)
Jamey's: Last Man Standing (because Jamey's dad got him hooked)
Lesley's: Castle (because Jamey's mom finally succeeded at getting her completely hooked)

What was your favorite film of this year?
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; because it was way better than the first one, because it blew our minds, because it inspired us to finally read all the books, and because we got to see it in theaters in Honduras in English!

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
If saying goodbye hurts, it just means you loved well.... AND always where shoes, even inside, in Central America. (This is something that we are not quite used to yet, but we have finally decided to comply with.)

How had you positively influenced a child this year?
Lesley taught one of her nanny kiddos, Scarlett, to read (yay!) and now is moving on to teaching this sweetie, Bryan, his first words in English because he wants to learn so badly!

Scarlett (left) with her first 50 sight words that she could spell immediately just from memory;
Bryan (right) with his first page of English words that he asked to learn.
What are you most grateful for this past year?
Getting to spend some time at home before leaving the country, and especially the time we got to spend living at Jamey's parents house. Lesley even came to love all of the family pets in her own way and cried to leave them. :)

What restaurant did you eat at most often?
Chickfila .. Jamey would make us wait to eat until he found one of them while traveling for support raising! And the we also had to hunt one down while in Colorado so Jamey could get his sweet tea fix. (Mission accomplished!)

Did you see any art shows or theatrical productions this year?
We finally had time to go see our first play as a married couple that wasn't produced by the local middle school! We saw the stage production of Steel Magnolias at one of the oldest community theatres in the country on our one year anniversary trip. It was awesome! (And Jamey liked it too.)

Did you attend any weddings or major personal events for friends and family in 2013?
Yes! Three weddings this year, and one of us participated in each one of them. First we had Jenna & Brandon's and Alex & Nicole's, that Lesley was so excited and grateful to be the wedding coordinator for! Then Jamey was one of the groomsmen in Matt & Allison's summer wedding. Also, we returned to Blacksburg to see some sweet friends graduate from the a-ma-zing Virginia Tech.

Three wonderful weddings that we LOVED being a part of!!
Did you have any surgeries this year?
Jamey had his wisdom teeth removed! And he tried to convince Lesley the whole way home that she didn't know the right way to drive us back to our apartment in Warrenton. Too funny.

What did you wear often in your closet?
Jamey: His $10 dollar  gray shorts find at TJ Maxx that he never took off again.
Lesley: She finally caved and bought her first pair of Crocs for Honduras. They are even more comfortable than walking barefoot! 

What did you really, really, really get excited about?
Lesley: launching our blog and getting a lot better at learning to do it AND a years worth of recipes recreated successfully -- there were some big triumphs in that category this year!
Jamey: our family beach vacation in July. He talked about it for months before and then when the day came to leave for the beach, we're pretty sure we could not have left early enough in the morning for Jamey's liking.
Both of us: finally making it back to Lane Stadium for a Hokie football game as alumni!

Our family vacation at the beach!
Where did you feel most connected to God this year?Just the feeling of being surrounded by other missionaries and hearing so much from the Lord at Mission Training International.

What was one memorable gift you gave this year and who was it too?
Actually successfully giving Jamey's dad a surprise retirement and 60th birthday party without him knowing about it AND creating his big present of scrapbooks of all of his newspaper clippings from over the years, all right under his nose!!

What was a fun surprise you had this year?
This is so random, but we were moving to Honduras just 5 and a half weeks before Christmas, so we weren't planning on purchasing a Christmas tree because we were going to be putting a new house together and buying so many basic necessities already. However, we were pleasantly surprised that because we bought a love-seat and two stuffed chairs for our living room area, the store here gave us a free 4 foot little Christmas tree and a gift card for a some ornaments for it. We have enjoyed it so much that we just don't want to take it (or our precious Christmas wreath) down!

Looking into 2014... what does it hold for you?
1 // Living Water International will be joining the team in Choluteca and Jamey will be working alongside them
2 // We will be "hosting" the Virginia Tech annual mission trip in March for the first time from Honduras
3 // Finishing our language and cultural studies in Choluteca, and moving to Danli, Honduras in the spring
4 // Attending our first big GCLA conference as missionaries in Honduras (during Easter!)
5 // Our second wedding anniversary! :)