We are now living in our own apartment here in Santa Rosa. Since the first week in July, we have been living with various host families in the DR and here in Honduras- five different ones. Although everyone has been exceedingly gracious and welcoming, it is quite a relief to finally have our own place. We no longer have those conflicts with the kids about sharing the bathroom, we can come and go when we want without having to disturb the whole family or make someone get up and unlock the door, and we have our own kitchen and living room. Hondurans seem remarkably willing to have visitors on little notice and also seem to genuinely enjoy sharing their homes with friends, relatives and us. But we still feel the need for more private space, a clear cultural difference, and really like having our own place now.
We now live in an apartment not far from where we have been and convenient to the central area. It is one of three units connected by a breezeway, with virtually no setback area from the adjacent building. This means that we get no direct light into the apartment and have trouble telling what the weather is without going outside, but we are secure. The building has thick cement walls with a metal roof. We have not had a hard rain since we have moved in so we still don´t know how loud it will be in a storm, but the good thing is the space. The kitchen is plenty large enough and opens into a sala, living room area. We also have two bedrooms, one of which is now being used for yoga and meditation. Except for the lack of natural light, it all seems very comfortable and is within our Peace Corps budget.
The apartment came completely unfurnished, as is typical, and so we have spent a good bit of time acquiring the things of daily life. We now have a bed, closet space that we have made by hanging rods from the exposed metal beams on the ceiling, a small stove which we bought and a refrigerator and dish set that we got at a discount from a missionary couple that was leaving the area for Mexico. We also now have a tv, a couch that we got from another volunteer and several of the ubiquitous molded plastic chairs. We are still looking for a table and some sort of chest of drawers and we seem to be adding small kitchen items on a regular basis. Peace Corps gives us a settling in allowance, which is not quite enough for city living, but covers most of these expenses. This process has been an enjoyable exercise, but it also seems highly inefficient, given that every volunteer basically starts from scratch, unless there happens to be someone else leaving just when you arrive. That did not happen for us. This is reminiscent of college days, but without the aid of Good Will or any other used furniture places. Those things don´t exist here.
One luxury that we do have now is an "electro ducha" for the bath. All the places that we have been until our most recent home have not had any hot water. The "electro ducha" is a a device about the size of a pineapple that attaches at the shower head and heats the water as it comes through. We had a problem with the heating element of the first one that we tried, but that is fixed now and the system works remarkably well. On the warmer setting it can get too hot. It is wonderful not to have to take a cold shower every morning. The lack of hot water heaters probably saves an enormous amount of energy nationwide, not keeping all of those tanks of water hot all of the time. We are still adjusting to the fact, however, that there is no hot water in the sinks. They use a soap paste that is designed for cold water use. It is not quite the same as hot water for heavy grease, but seems to be enough for sanitation.
There is also no heating in any of the houses or offices here. So far,it has been an unusually warm and dry season and we have had only one cold front. That has been nice for us thus far, but farmers are suffering and water resources are down. When it does get cool, it feels cold. Temperatures in the low 60´s or high 50´s don´t sound cold, but with no heat in the house, everything is that temperature all the time and we felt cold when it did cool off. Mostly, however, the weather has been very comfortable and we have been fine.