This is my first post about the UNAH nursing and medical student brigade I am helping to coordinate to Ciriboya. Please donate to the First Garifuna Hospital at Ciriboya to support our trip, and more importantly, the Garífuna community and the radical model for healthcare justice they are creating (any additional funds go directly to the hospital). And THANK YOU to you folks who have already donated.
I left my house early yesterday, having stayed up all night finishing an article I'm writing with Honduran sociologist David Vivar about the history of drug trafficking in Honduras (sent off at 5am). I'd left the rental car in a private parking lot down the road, since my neighbors warned me the battery would get stolen if I left it outside for the night. Thankfully there was light. I had been afraid of walking to the parking lot in the dark, but by 6am, there were already guys on the basketball court at the park. I paid the attendant 30 lempiras and thanked him. He asked me where I was going, and I told him. "Ahhh, Ciriboya," he said. He is originally from the region (neighbors all refer to him as "el negrito" which makes me cringe). "It's raining on the North Coast," he added.
I nervously drove the big SUV, which I had to spend extra money on instead of the pickup I wanted because I don't drive shift (an ongoing source of shame), down and around, by the river, into Comayagüela by mistake and back out of Comayagüela, over past the Hospital Escuela and up to the the stadium at the U, over to the neighborhood where Dr. Valcaser, the Vicerector of the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina in Havana was staying. I tremendously admire Dr. Valcaser, and was extra worried to be responsible for driving him in the heavy rain through Tegucigalpa. I am a very bad driver. But Dr. Valcaser is humble to a fault, jovial and patient; he is also a man who likes to ask for directions. Thanks to that, we arrived safe and sound to the nearby university parking lot.
The students were already packed and waiting. "¡Hola doctora!" my nursing students said in greeting. "Hola Adriana," said the med students. I introduced group A to group B (they had been sitting separately) and they began chatting excitedly.
I have to finish this quickly- I hear we are about to head out. Long story short, it rained in Honduras yesterday. As we went along, the rivers grew higher and more vicious:
drowning the little islands, rising up above tree trunks:
For some reason there were dozens and dozens of cyclists biking up the mountain from the Lago de Yojoa to Siguatepeque, the foreigners all geared out with their fancy bicycles and outfits, the Hondurans chugging along on their regular old bikes and regular clothes and keeping up just fine.
Well before reaching Progreso we'd collectively decided to spend the night in Ceiba; it's far too dangerous to try the road to Ciriboya at night under these conditions. Luckily Dr. Luther's large family is used to the contingencies of hosting brigades, and had found two houses with room for the 30 of us to sleep—2 or 3 to a bed, couches, 1 bathroom for everyone, and no one complained. I was glad to see everyone in high spirits.
In Ceiba there's much more of a cycling culture than in Tegucigalpa- I saw dozens and dozens of people biking around town in full rain gear, which sometimes looked like this:
and more often consisted of various creative configurations of garbage bags—as hats, jackets, boots, capes, etc.
Reports were coming in from my students' friends who live in the region. A bridge was down after Tocoa, a mudslide had blocked the road near Icotea, and the rain didn't stop. We went out and bought baleadas (900 lempiras to feed 30 people) at the railroad tracks. The baleada vendors were miraculously still open during the torrential, and I mean torrential rain.
Now it's 7am and we're waiting for the bus to arrive with the other half of the brigade. They should be here any minute. We won't know if we can cross the river until we come to it (literally), so we're heading out toward Tocoa, where Luther's cousin Odil, the owner of the truly wonderful Rincón Garífuna restaurant, has been waiting for us since yesterday afternoon. Also used to the contingencies of brigades, Odil has been wonderfully understanding each of the five times I've called him in the past day with changes of plans. We don't know if the river after Tocoa will be passable, but we do know that a delicious breakfast awaits us, thanks to the patience and solidarity of the community.