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Our Last Day In Honduras

Our last day in Honduras was a roller coaster. We woke, dismantled our mosquito nets and bedding, and packed our belongings into two piles: one to donate to the community and the other to secure in a plastic bag until it can be thoroughly washed at home. We had our last breakfast in the community — corn tortillas filled with scrambled eggs, beans, avocado and cheese, and made our way back up the hill to say our final goodbyes. The mood was solemn yet warm. It was the kind of goodbye where you really want to say ‘see you later’ but you really don’t know if and when you’ll ever see these people again. We all managed to hold it together until the first tear fell from the eyes of one of the men in the community… and then it got a little emotional for the whole team, resulting in some red, swollen eyes.

The people in Cedros Abajo are truly special — determined, tight knit, resilient, they watch out for each other, and are ready to break into smiles at opportunity. During breakfast we went around the table, each person summing up our week in one word: eye opening; satisfying; laughter; blast; dirty; roller coaster; rewarding; valued; and togetherness.

Our fearless guide and SOS intern, Emily, kindly offered her thoughts on the week:

For my sixth week in Honduras, I was fortunate enough to be joined by the Quarry team of volunteers. I can’t imagine a better group of people to share the experience of living in Cedros Abajo with. From the moment the team stepped off the plane they were ready to soak up any bits of Honduran culture they could. Some of this was easy to accept: like the delicious food the women of Cedros Abajo cooked for us, and some more difficult: like adjusting to the Honduran concept of “time”. The team was ready for it all, and embraced it with smiles on their faces.

Everyone was motivated to contribute as much as possible to the women’s kiosk, as well as to get to know the community. The result being that by the second day of the trip kids were heading out to visit the job site when they couldn’t have the groups undivided attention to play futbol, frisbee or kickball.

I loved being able to share the Honduran experiences I was familiar with, like pila and pyla, as well as some very new ones, including donkey polo and pushing a van up a mountain “because the hill is steep”. The week left my musclos aching from building and laughing. Judging by the goodbye the community gave the group, I would say everyone in Cedros Abajo will miss our voluntarios as much as I am going to!

After saying our goodbyes, our group left the community for our rest day. We travelled to La Tigra National Park — a cloud forest 2,200m up in the air. The plan was to drive to the top and hike around, the only problem was that our van didn’t quite have the gusto to conquer the steep terrain. We ended up walking up the mountain instead, pushing the van at times, and two hours later we were able to catch our breath and admire the view. Standing on top of a mountain is certainly a fitting way to end such an adventure.

We then drove down the mountain to the small town of Valle de Ángeles. We enjoyed warm showers, collecting souvenirs for loved ones, and devouring glutonous amounts of pizza and pasta washed down with a little Petrón. The beds were comforting, the flush toilets were appreciated, and the lack of nighttime sounds led to comatose states.

Two plane rides, a meal at TGI Fridays, a final group hug, and here we are back at home. Thank you to all of you — for supporting us, for following along with our journey, for covering for us while we were away and for asking us to share our experiences.

Adios amigos. Muchos gracias.

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Dog food, hugs & donkey polo

Today was a blast. It was a day purely designed to be with the community…And it was packed full of activity.

We started off by learning how to make our special frozen treats of the week: the charamusca – delicioso! Then we took a tour of the entire village (all the way abajo) delivering a package of dog food to each house that had a dog…which is basically all of them.

Next was our tortilla making lesson where 95% of us got an A+. Muy bien. We then dropped off the school supplies to the kids and the maestro. They are truly thankful for the generosity of everyone who donated. Thank you all. Laura took the opportunity to teach a Spanish/English class via flashcards. The kids loved it, as did we. As we moved onto our next project (making decorations for our burros), little did we know what was in store…

Burros are donkeys. And the plan was for us to ride said donkeys in a competitive game of donkey polo, while all the villagers watched, and laughed. We all did the best we could… The only real issue was that the donkeys hoofs seemed to be stuck to the ground. We finally got them moving and warmed up when we learned to kick them just right… And Mike had the ‘special touch.’

Cedros Abajo held a fiesta tonight (actually the reggatone is still thumping right now.) There was a dance party, the crowning of a queen, tamales, and then more of a dance party. You should see the moves on some of these young ones!

The people here are genuinely sad to see us go. And chances are there’ll be some tears shed tomorrow as we say our final goodbyes. There has been an endless supply of love and hugs from the kids. The women of the co-op also presented us with Honduras pin tonight. We were moved and are so excited to stay in touch and see all that they do with their newly established business.

Ear plugs in. Voluntarios out.

Buenos noche.

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Check Your Chicken Buddy

Today was the day to leave it all on the battlefield. After a quick breakfast, we returned to the kiosk for our last day at the job site. The task list was endless. Painting aluminum, plastering, gathering water, waterproofing the kiosk, digging a giant hole. We ran it bootcamp style – station work and rotate when the diggers could dig no more.

By the time the sun set, we got the nod of approval from Jorge and it was time to head back to try to de-dirt ourselves as best as possible before dinner. Jorge hosted us at his home in Cedros (up the hill again…we got a ride this time). Lots of laughs reminiscing on our progress over a fish BBQ and cervesas. We’re a family.

Now time for rest so we can give our all in the community tomorrow for their festival. If their opening processional was any indicator of how the day will be tomorrow we’ll have lots to report back on tomorrow night.

Seriously? It’s midnight. Check your chicken buddy.

Buenos noche.

PS. A ninety year-old man watched our house while we were out tonight. He was armed with a machete and a smile.

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Happy Valentine’s Dias

Today was a full on workday. It started with puppy snuggles and ended with a scorpion attack. Here are some quotes from all of the in between…

Jack and Jill went up the the hill
To fetch four pails of water.
Jill fell in for a dirty swim
And Jack fell over with laughter!

Don’t worry about spreading, just dump.

Tristan: Hey Mike, do you know where the scraper is?
Mike: Why? Do you want to break it, too?

We thought the options for toilets would be limited but we have lots: latrine, outhouse, Chila’s latrine or the jungle. We call the latter a ‘jungle boogie.’

There are so many stars we can’t even find the Big Dipper. We never know which way is North, but in Cedros Abajo we always know which way is up.

The way I look right now is un-real.

If I took a Benadryl I would sleep like a scorpion…I meant, I’ll sleep like a rock and not think of scorpions. (We found a scorpion by our beds tonight.)

Why is your hair staying like that? Because I haven’t washed it.

To answer some of your questions from the comments:

  • Young Jamie Fox is a chap named Victor – our new amigo. He’s actually sitting next to us right now. He’s now a champion frisbee player and also likes to meow while hiding near us at night.
  • Mandey — where there’s a will there’s a way. Just give me a docket number and I’ll make it happen. Sabrina.
  • Mark — I don’t know why everyone’s avoiding me. I’m not accident prone at all. From, Carling. And Norm says “yes, brought my Canon 5D”.
  • The painting on the door of the dump truck is definitely Jesus. And he’s saving Saint Peter from drowning.
  • Shum — on becoming hen-like: Well if the hen was before the egg, it was definitely before the dog. Respect mon.
  • The top 3 funniest charades were ‘aroused’, ‘gynecologist’ and ‘pool boy’. Performers will remain anonymous.
  • The ice cream ‘conos’ were vanilla + chocolate. Classic, but you can’t ask for much more when being served from the back of a motto. (Aside, Victor recognized ‘conos’ when proofing our post.)

We love your comments so keep ’em coming!

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The Children of Cedros Abajo

On a scale of one to ten, day three has been an eleven. We went on an early morning hike into Cedros, straight uphill on a 70 degree incline for 3km. For context, Cedros is the bigger town and Cedros Abajo literally means ‘Cedros Down’… we now understand just how far down. We were joined by the local children who took the trek in their stride. In Cedros we visited the bibliotheca, drew pictures and wrote letters to bring back to a 5th grade class in Canada who had sent their beautiful artwork here with Norm.

Interacting more frequently with the children of Cedros Abajo has been an amazing experience. They are so full of energy and excitement for spending time with us. The language barrier has evolved into them teaching us Spanish words and asking us how to say things in English. Singing “Gangnam Style” together reinforces how annoying this song is any culture.

And then came the work. While some of us finished up the walls others tamped, tamped and more tamped. Between tamping was sifting dirt, shoveling dirt and distributing dirt on the floor of the kiosk. Mike and Sabrina showed us some aerobics moves with little foot taps in between tamps. Style is everything. At this point, 8 Eco stoves are complete and the kiosk is functionally built and is about to have a makeover tomorrow with paint.

Our nightly dinner soundtrack consists of crickets, laughing children and the odd dog barking in the distance. Sabrina’s on a mission to pick up as much dog food as she can, which should help to keep the dogs occupied while we’re eating…and more food on the table. Poor tripod.

We also learned that there’s another level to the animal hierarchy in Honduras: the dogs that are afraid of the hens, scare the cows.

Hot water is now a distant memory and clean is a relative term. And if we want to Wet Nap shower instead, it takes approximately eight sheets. We wound down after work with a boisterous game of telestrations. Another campfire. More chats. More shoulder rubs. And now sleep.

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Rock and Roll – Honduras Style

Day three in Honduras, day two of work and we are starting to feel it. Today Lisa and Carling worked in the village building eco stoves with Daniel and Alban while the rest of the group worked at the roadside kiosk.

Work at the kiosk consisted of lifting rocks, carrying rocks, smashing rocks and smoothing rocks. Did we mention the rocks? This was a chance to show what our rocks were made of. No one disappointed. To keep us motivated they served us a new flavor of Chiramusca after lunch. Still the best thing ever.

If you see a crack, you gotta fill it.

We did have extra help for the second half of the day. On top of the assistance of our wonderful SOS intern, Emily, and our fearless leader, Jorge, two of the local children were there to lend a hand — and show off their musculos.

During after work play time, the Honduran version of a Dickie-Dee (aka motorbike with a cooler strapped on to the back) arrived and Laura bought everyone ice creams (‘conos’)! 30 for $10. Before dinner we played a very spirited game of charades — cool tones vs warm tones. Whose tickle trunk was it? I don’t know whose! Norm’s a pretty convincing gynecologist and Tristan was disappointed by how quickly it was over. Your performance allowed my finger to pop.

You gotta know how badass the hens are when the dogs stop scared when the hens walk by.

We refueled with delicious tostadas and Honduran beer. Salva Vida, Imperial, Berena Royal…we’re sampling them all.

That’s it for another dias. Buenos noches!

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Buenos Dias!

Today was our first full day in Cedros Abajo – and it was awesome. When the alarm went off at 6:30am there were a lot of grumbles. Mind you the roosters let us know morning was coming at 4:30am. Some slept like a rock, some didn’t love sleeping on a beach mat on a concrete floor, and some didn’t realize it was possible for someone to snore that loud!

When the workday began the boys were each assigned a foreman, a house and an eco stove. Lots of sifting sand, moving bricks and mixing cement… Basically an 8-hour bootcamp with a lunch break. During lunch, Mike learned that a leaky bottle of Mio water flavoring is the perfect ant bait…also ants eating Mio are protective and bite.

The girls had to hike to the kiosk at the edge of the village and spent the day in the sun plastering the bricks of the kiosk. Mike and Sabrina are now in a sand sifting competition. At the end of the work day we were greeted by the children of the village who walked/raced us home. Caitlin’s brilliant idea to bring along nine Frisbees went over very well with the children here. Most of them picked it up quickly. All in all the nuevo jugar (new game) was a lot of fun!

We all made it out injury free but did learn to leave a 1m perimeter around Carling at all times. We stayed out until the cows came home. There are varying levels of ambition around dairy farming amongst the group… Do you wanna squeeze some teets?

We all now have Spanish versions of our names: Normand, Carlina, Lorena, Cati, Mikael, Treeestan, Elisa and Orbina.

So, how many puppies can someone fit in their suitcase? Let’s find out. Airport scanners won’t flag that as an issue will they? Brian – get ready for more space!

I’d rather be hunted and whipped than scared and bitten (for reference YouTube the Mica snake)

We were spoiled for breakfast, lunch and dinner – the food has been amazing. Although, we are continuing to exercise caution with using hand sanitizer and washing our hands often. We can only lose one key at a time.

We had these amazing things called Charamusca – lychee, coconut, condensed milk and honey, frozen, bagged and sucked. One word: yum.

The questions of the night around the campfire were ‘what’s one place you’ve been to that took your breath away’ and ‘if you won the lottery what would you do’. Before turning in, Caitin said: “Today reaffirmed that I’m traveling with some really amazing people.”

Time for bed. Will report back tomorrow! Qteam…out.

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Quick post – we’re exhaused

Good morning everyone.

Just a very quick post as we are all somewhat exhausted from a very long day of travel. But we have all arrived safe and well at Cedros Abajo Honduras.

After what was to be a quick stop at the mall adjacent the airport and lunch, that turned into a longer than expected shopping frenzy and dinner, we arrived, unpacked and with almost military precision (uhhhmmm) setup mosquito netting, bedding and located the “essential services”.

Up at 6a tomorrow as it is our first full day of work.

Enjoy your day everyone!

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Early Morning Start

Good morning everyone!

This is the first of what we hope will be a series of daily blog posts of our outreach adventure.

The entire crew made it to Pearson International on time and in high spirits. Our Delta hosts sped us through checkin onto U.S. Customs. We were worried for one of our team members who was turned back for lack of supplementary documentation. Luckily, they were resourceful and quickly obtained the needed info and we all made it onboard our flight for the first leg to Atlanta.

Stay tuned, more on the rest of our travel including our arrival in Honduras and Cedros Abajo in tomorrow’s post.

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Preparing for departure..

Wow, that was fast!  Departure day is almost here (February 10th @ 6:00a) and we’re finalizing our packing and planning.  We’ve had fantastic support from our Quarry team mates, family members and community.

Watch this space for our updates from Honduras and sign up for our email updates here as well so you don’t miss any of the fun!

Our trip's official logo!

Our trip’s official logo!

And that’s a wrap

Our last day here has been the perfect way to wrap up the week. We got to the work site early so we could get as much done as we possibly could before wrapping it up. Boss Man Mr Chee and his foreman Edwin (Little Truck) helped us finish off the last couple walls that needed plastering, and we managed to get the second coat of paint around most of the building inside and out. Mike is the siftmaster. Without Mike nothing happens. The Eye of the Tiger was our theme song, motivation, and anthem for the day. The guys stayed late and finished off a few of the windows too. It’s really starting to look like a finished building! What a great sense of accomplishment, teamwork, camaraderie and gratification for all of us.

The afternoon turned to fun and relaxation with a trip to the caves at Blue Creek. Picture a one mile deep cave with a series of waterfalls inside the cave and spilling out the cave mouth. Chilly water but amazing swimming in unbelievable caves. The head lamps were essential – once we were around the first corner without the lamps it was complete darkness… and there was a crazy current! Butterflies are a big deal down here. Over some celebratory drinks we took turns donning a glittery butterfly costume and showing off our favourite construction dance moves…like the sifter and the hammerer. I don’t want to see Dewey break out of a cocoon again.

Insight for all the mothers out there: Hammocks are magical. They act as playpen, crib and overall cry-eliminator.

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Nose to the grindstone

The last full day of work. We fit in a lot and plan to get up extra early tomorrow to finish as much as possible. Thanks to the plaster and cement blocks, very few of us have finger prints left. Our hands are literally worn smooth – if you ignore the blisters and callouses. Our sunburns were contrasted by the bright white spots of white paint that we were covered in today. “Paint doesn’t count as dirt. “I missed you at the buckets today.” Walid almost ended his relationship with a window: “It’s not the window, it’s me.” We finally completed filling in the two windows with concrete blocks. A decision was made that a blackboard and wall for a projector screen would provide more educational content than the windows. It really is just another brick in the wall. Don’t judge us for what we’re finding funny – we’re tired. Cue Di: “The snake had a frog in his throat.” But really, we saw a snake eat a frog today… and wisely chose to notify Laura after the event was over. The whole ordeal was surprisingly quick. Mike just can’t get enough. (Picture jolly arm swing and a bobble head.) Lisa thinks the wall is sexy. A couple of people were trapped in the bathrooms as they plastered in there all day. It may have resulted in “some people” becoming a little delirious. Rum works every time. Tonight we’re gathered around the dinner tables listening to the crickets and Queen, while playing cards. It’s lame if it’s not screw the dealer. Bug spray is our new perfume. We’re on the last rotation of clean clothes. Our definition of clean is now clothing that has only been worn once (or that smells of deodorant rather than sweat). Walid is the DJ – we’ve had some great tunes this week. Mandey: I’m getting bug bites through my sweater. Laura: Yeah, that’s why I’m wearing my armor. New motto after tonight – they’ve been biting me enough, I’m gonna start biting back.

Insight for the day was light – we were just busy.

We’re loving and everyone’s comments posted to the blog and on Twitter. We read them out during our lunch break and during dinner. They really keep us going and feeling connected to our friends and loved ones that we’re all missing back home.

Enjoy today’s pictures!

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Instant gratification

After our amazing day off yesterday, the team was raring to get back to the site to finish off the plastering. Fingers crossed, the rainy season is over, but it is HOT. So why don’t we put on some rubber boots, go into an enclosed space and work hard. These boots were NOT meant for walking. What could possibly go wrong? We made some great progress with the plastering and also started painting — we’re all big fans of the instant gratification that comes with that. At this point we are covered in white freckles, but we’re starting to warm up to the cold showers. “Man I wish I had some Febreeze!” I’m feeling strangely protective over my last few pieces of clean clothing. Lunch each day is getting progressively quieter – we’re tired. Dewey’s busting out some Jimmy Buffet tomorrow to try to revive the crowd. We’ve got to get on our horse and giddy up! “This stick is like the Taj Mahal.” Clean means something totally different than it did 6 days ago. Mandey is snacking again. She keeps venturing into the garden, returning with fruits and herbs and making salsa. Tonight we heard Belize Lisa’s story about the school and the inspiring project we’re working on with her. “I’ve had a couple drop dead, but I’m working on the perfect blend.” (Don’t worry – that was about cows and was very cool!) Our foreman, Edwin, scaled a coconut tree to bring us a lovely bunch of coconuts. Coconut water is both refreshing and filled with electrolytes 🙂 “Stop making out with the coconut!” Little baby spiders are floating around making webs…that’s exciting. What was that sound last night? Dewey’s hoping it’s the howling monkeys, but more likely it was Walid in the bathroom after the hot sauce. I’ve got one good side and I work it hard. The building is starting to look like a school today. Floating, plastering, painting, sifting…oh, and filling in windows that were supposed to be walls. All equal, sunburns, scrapes, blisters, and bruises. As usual, the ladies were the last to finish work…Antonia was the last man standing. Ladies will also be the last to go to bed tonight (again)…and Colin was the first to sleep. Tomorrow we attempt to get the windows installed, although they are currently larger than the holes that they were meant to fit in. More chiseling will be in order. We’ll figure it out.

Insightful comment of the day from Belize Lisa: It’s more afraid of you than you are of it. (Well..except for Laura)

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A day of rest

Today was a super early start but for a very warranted reason. Today was our ‘rest day’. We had originally planned for the rest day on our last day here, but things change and we’ve learned to go with the flow so who are we to complain?! For our day off we headed out on a local bus to the closest town – Punta Gorda. Close = 1 hour. From there we wandered around the markets then chartered a boat out to an island on the keys. The blue of the water was just incredible. Think azure. We swam, snorkeled and snoozed. How often can you say, “I didn’t see any murderer fish”, “watch out for the stingray”, or hear a grown man say, “I have nipple burn”. So many amazing memories in only 4 days. And still 4 more days to go. We saw a shark that was scared of us. We saw a baracuda that snapped his teeth and chased us away. On that note we’d like to confirm that Norm is still alive (photo evidence to follow)… he just happens to be our lead photographer. We were nearly the stars of Gilly’s Island after gambling with the gas – risking being stranded at sea and then sitting quietly in the boat while we chugged along trying to conserve every last drop. When we landed back on shore we had beers with a local celebrity – Emmeth Young. Look him up on YouTube and Like him on Facebook. We all got into the vibe with a little drumming session. Jon Mc laid down the back beat. Walid almost chugged super hot hot sauce when he mistook it for his beer. He then complained of an ant bite. Q: “Where are the ants?”… A: “They’re burrowed in the hole on my foot.” What could possibly go wrong? We’ve been working on our math skills with dividing up the bill. Antonia’s open for business and Jon Kutt’s the only one who hasn’t paid. Oh wait – he’s not on the trip. Since we’re always up for a challenge we took on the plank but in a school bus this time. Sunburn of the day goes to both Colin and Mandey. A tie to keep it even… Avoid competition.

Insightful quotes of the day…
From Asha: “Leave only footprints. Take only photos.”

From Gilly: “When you die you rest enough. Enjoy the journey.”


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Today was an awesome day

Today was an awesome day. It was a tough, long, hard…but so rewarding. We are really seeing the progress. We’ve mastered the scaffolding side-step. “I’ve got serious plywood butt”. Our bodies are getting involuntarily slower. The mattresses are a figment of our imagination – we’re sleeping on boards. Mike said he couldn’t dance for us because his shorts weren’t leather or short enough. We’ve seriously mastered plastering though, even the locals are impressed. The plaster tossing technique still needs some work, but we really found our groove today on the site, except for Melinda…she’s totally useless on the work site. The foremen are finally starting to understand our sense of humor… Which is exciting, but scary! During a Mayan chocolate-making demonstration we learned that a bunny is worth ten cocoa beans… Which is one tenth of the price of a slave – by our math, market price for humans is low. At the end of the demo little John asked if he could lick the Mayan woman’s hands. Awkward laughter ensued. The sun came out for the majority of the day and there was some serious humidity. It’s easier to slingshot when it’s stiffer. The skills of the individuals on the team are starting to be identified. Lisa is a master plasterer. Di is the master of the float and John owns anything that would otherwise require a ladder. Colin has been furnishing the men’s room with hooks and Norm won’t let any man (or woman) be left behind. The team is transfixed with the stars tonight. It’s the first night that the sky has been clear enough to see the stars. Blisters are definitely getting bigger. We’re all questioning our value-add on this trip. Little John obviously has the berry picking but Mike really shone with the concrete flicking today. Laura can shell cocoa beans like no other (other than the cocoa bean farmers). New word of the day: Bifurcate (thanks DDC).

No insightful comment for today. Feel free to leave your insightful comments for us below!

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