Mrs. Martínez got Married on a Monday

It has been about 10 months since I have posted a new blog entry but I am back to announce that Natán and I got married 3 weeks ago on the dreamy island of Roatan, Honduras!! All I have to say is that we are loving married life and are in the preparation stage of a new ministry opportunity (that we’ll share soon) aaaannnddd are still just oogling over our photos from David Díaz Photography:

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#detailsdeHonduras part 3

This is part of an ongoing photojournalism project. See part 1 and part 2.

(Kristen Bruce Photography and Multimedia)

#detailsdeHonduras

Photo collection from my travels in Honduras and some interesting things I learned about the country in the process. This is an ongoing photojournalism project.

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|| Nature || Honduras has numerous plant varieties (630 out of 6,000 are orchids) and animal species (250 reptiles, 700 birds and 110 mammals — half of them bats. The tropical-to-temperate climate permeates its mountains, plains, jungles, coasts and islands — as well as its cloud forests, which can rise up to above 9,800 feet. http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/centralamerica/honduras/index.htm

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|| Security || Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras. The Honduran government is still in the early stages of substantial reforms to its criminal justice institutions. http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/honduras-travel-warning.html Most houses are surrounded by security walls with locked gates. Businesses and restaurants contract armed guards to stand at the entrances. Many car windows are tinted to 100% for the safety of those inside.

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|| People || The latest population census has shown that, for the first time in Honduran history, more Hondurans now live in cities than in rural areas. This is a reflection of the working conditions outside urban areas are much less than ideal, which should be of concern to governments of a country that does not yet have a strong industrial sector. Honduras is a young country, with just over 50% of the population under 19 years old (only 3% of the population is 65 or over). The population is split approximately evenly between men and women. http://www.thisishonduras.com/People_and_Culture.htm 64.5% of population live at or below poverty line. (World Bank)

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|| Water || In 1998, Honduras was hit by Hurricane Mitch which left 75% of the country without safe drinking water, and the country has not yet recovered from the damage to the infrastructure it has caused. Currently, infrastructure and basic healthcare is lacking and repair works are still ongoing. Today, 1.2 million people in Honduras have no access to improved water sources. Coupled with the lack of infrastructure, the health standards in Honduras are dire. A severe lack of water has led to much hardship amongst the locals, especially in the rural areas. Diarrhea and hepatitis are some of the illnesses which are rampant, especially among the young which can be fatal in some cases. (Wikipedia)

Favorite Photographs

Here are some of my absolute favorite shots from the last couple of years. ❤ See more on my Facebook photography page.

Marcela and Francisco got engaged last year and we had a beautiful shoot in Omoa, Honduras at the Fortaleza de San Fernando. IMG_5546-2 We used this dreamy sunset lighting in an open field right outside Nashville, TN for Eric & Katherine’s engagement shoot last Fall. IMG_3946 Incredible view of a lone house on a hill in Copán, Honduras during our medical trip in 2013. IMG_8671 My all time favorite portrait: a little Tolupan Indian girl in Honduras holds her baby brother right before their bath time. She sits against the outside wall of their hut. They now live in a new home with a laminate roof that will prevent parasites. IMG_9306

That time my camera and I angered a woman carrying a machete (Short-term missions Pt. 2)

I didn’t ask permission. I didn’t have any foundation of friendship with her; I hadn’t even met her before. She didn’t know my story and I didn’t know hers. I was passing her on the trail on my way out of her Honduran village and she was coming home after a tiresome day of work in the fields, machete in hand.

*read Part 1 from Short-term missions series here*

I had spent the afternoon with a couple local pastors getting to know some of her neighbors in the village and hearing their stories. After talking with them a bit, they agreed to let me take photos and video. They got comfortable with my camera and I got “in the zone.” I didn’t really think twice about snapping photos on my way back down the mountain.

The set up was perfect for a photo – she and another lady from the tribe trudging up the hill in their skirts, hauling farming tools, framed by mountains and tropical plants. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

NO! No pictures!” she yelled at me in Spanish after the shutter of my camera had already clicked twice. My eyes went straight to the machete she gripped in her right hand. I put my lens cap on as fast as I could and slung my camera around my back out of view. I had no idea what to say. Do I offer an apology? Introduce myself? Offer to delete the pictures? …and then explain exactly what deleting a picture even meant?aladdin7

My boyfriend, Natán, who was next to me, stepped in as a mediator. He began to explain to her that I was not from here, I didn’t speak Spanish (a lie), and I didn’t understand… she should excuse my mistake. It reminded me of the market scene from Disney’s Aladdin where he saves Jasmine from getting her hand cut off for committing a social faux pas. “She’s a little crazy.”

The lady calmed down and we continued on our separate ways. I still have her photo but I will never post it online out of respect for her. She has most likely never seen a computer in her life, much less ever gotten on the internet, and will never know if I ever used her photo for anything.

In the moment, tensions were a little high and I was embarrassed. I am usually careful about pulling my camera out and I always try to engage in some kind of interaction before taking someone’s photo. But in retrospect, I admire that woman. Good for her for telling the strange foreigner visiting her neighborhood that she did not appreciate being objectified on the other end of the lens. If someone I didn’t know started snapping pics of me one day on my way home from work I would be ticked off too!

One of my favorite bloggers wrote a hilarious (and sadly true) blog post about what it would be like if the tables were turned and we were the ones visited and pitied by the super rich.

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There have been a lot of blogs and articles in Christian missions circles written recently about the negative effects of “poverty tourism” (or slum tourism) – how we should avoid reducing our short-term service trips to an event that the affluent should experience at least once in their life in order to put everything into perspective. Yes, these trips usually do this. We go back home a little more appreciative of our country and comforts and material things. We keep the photos of the poor in their lean-to homes to remind us that we are blessed. But see how the focus is still… US?

What must the family of six living in a one-room mud house be thinking when a van full of foreign missionaries pile out with their cameras and phones snapping away… documenting intimate parts of their everyday lives…

If we approach these beautiful human beings and we first think, “I can’t wait until everyone back home sees this!” before we think “I wonder what this family’s story is…” we are in the wrong. There is certainly a time and place for photography during missions trips but this should be discussed and carefully considered before getting on the plane. Some cultures have superstitions about photography and some have deep fears for safety reasons – it is always best to check before taking a picture.

For someone who loves photography and documenting moments, this is especially hard for me! (as in the above example) In almost every situation I am thinking about what might make good photography. There are times when that is my role and my main objective. If I have been assigned as the photographer or videographer, I do my job… while still wrestling with the awareness to be respectful of those I photograph.

Photographer Jimmy Nelson who has captured beautiful photographs of tribal cultures all over the world warns against patronizing the subjects of one’s photography. He shares that in humanitarian photography we often see “foreign cultures represented as exotic and inferior – curiosities to amuse and bewilder more civilized eyes.”

I think that when our focus is restoring broken relationships (which is the eradication of poverty in it’s truest form) it will come as second nature to protect the dignity of those we serve, and all of our interactions will follow accordingly.

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Short and Sweet: What I’m doing these days, in a nutshell

I’m home. (The USA one)

After a year in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I’m back. But not for good good. I’ve been here for almost three weeks. I’m still re-adjusting. I felt like a foreigner in an Alabama Walmart and I almost had a breakdown in the frozen section of Target. Here in the U.S., we have a lot of choices. And a lot of convenience.

I wake up in the mornings and am just grateful that I can drink clean water from the faucet and that a gecko didn’t jump on my head in the middle of the night. I’m living in luxury.

But I miss it. And I know God has been and is still going to move in big ways in the country of Honduras. And somehow He wants me to play a small part in that! I spent the year teaching English in a bilingual Christian school and it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life – I’m proud I completed it! I learned so much in the process and made some great memories. I lived at the children’s home, Hogar Esperanza, and got close to the kids especially the teen girls. I participated in a some medical trips into the mountains of Copán, Honduras and got to see first-hand the transforming, holistic work of community development that the Church of God is doing in that area. And then I met the Tolupan Indian tribe. <– another entire story for another entire blog post… (stay tuned!) 😉

So, there are several things that I am doing now:

  1. Representing a humanitarian non-profit organization under the Church of God in Honduras called, New Life Honduras, which exists to unite the efforts of social action across the country. Under the non-profit there are many community development projects already in existence and many more that can be initiated once sufficient funds are obtained. My goal is to find resources in the U.S. (willing volunteers, monetary/material donations, etc) needed in order to launch and/or reinforce these projects in Honduras. It is not really that we are asking North American Christians to make sacrifices in order to give to impoverished Hondurans; but as the president of New Life, Brother Orestes, explained… We are simply moving resources from one geographical area of the body of Christ to another. (From an area living in excess and abundance with a high concentration of wealth, mind you.) Doing as mentioned repeatedly in the Old and New Testament, like 1 John 3:17 – “But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help — how can God’s love be in that person?” IMG_8949
  2. Looking for a job! There is nothing glamorous about the reality of post-univeristy debt but that is exactly what I am dealing with these days. I am trusting God that my school loans will be paid off in a timely manner so that I will not be burdened when I move back to Honduras for missions.
  3. Making plans for a training and receiving center for missionaries in Honduras! Stay tuned for the official reveal of Honduras Missions Center… meanwhile have a sneak peek at this gorgeous logo designed by Jay Perez: logo

Here’s where I need your help! I am looking for opportunities to share with church congregations about what God is doing in Honduras and how you can be a part of that. I have two goals: 1. raising awareness and funds for poverty alleviation / community development projects AND 2. speaking with youth and children – God called me to missions when I was 11 years old! It is very important that young, impressionable hearts are exposed to missions at an early age. It is something I am passionate about.

Please get in touch if you would like me to visit and share about my experience in Honduras. Also, I am currently raising funds for personal traveling expenses by selling some of my Honduran landscape photography. <– click the link to check it out!

Quinceañeras, Independence Days & beach trips

The last couple of weeks have been busy and eventful.

I had the honor of photographing Vivi Lopez at her Quinceañera (15th birthday) celebration a couple weekends ago. What a fun night it was! (after a few stressful yet humorous wardrobe mishaps)

Her family is wonderful and I enjoyed meeting other extended family members that night. I was grateful to be a part of the festivities. (including dancing merengue with her grandmother!) 😉

Saturday was Honduras’ Independence Day so as a school, we marched in a patriotic parade on Friday morning. This is a very typical tradition in Latin America to celebrate a country’s Independence – students dress up in traditional outfits or as “Independence Girls/Princesses” or sports players… and many more costumes. We marched a few blocks (in the sweltering tropical sun) and ended up back at the school to participate in an acto civico (where they sing the national anthem & have a little presentation) and to enjoy a small brunch all together with students and parents.

These kids know their stuff! They all sing the anthem, which is about three stanzas longer than the U.S. anthem, and by a certain year in school they are tested on their knowledge of it. They also repeat the pledge and memorize “major and minor symbols” of their nation such as the national bird, tree, etc.

Later that afternoon, we teachers unloaded the textbooks that (finally!) arrived from the U.S. We are using Abeka Book curriculum and the shipment had been delayed… for about two weeks. :/ Afterwards, some of us joked around and had a little zumba exercise class in one of the classrooms then we all headed to Chili’s to celebrate Día del Maestro! (Teacher’s Day) Today, Monday, is actually Teacher’s Day and we had the day off. It’s a good thing too because I needed to catch up on my lesson planning and quiz grading!

On Saturday, the actual Independence Day holiday, I went with some friends to the beach! We are only about an hour away and although the sand is not fluffy and white like our sand back home… it is THE BEACH nevertheless. 🙂 I’m glad that I live so close.

We grilled out (carne asada) and had tortillas with beans. A lot of women and children were passing by selling coconut candy, popsicles, bread, etc so we bought some coconut bread from one lady. It was delicious!

Despite having tried to be cautious with my sun intake, I of course got burned. That way I could at least show my Honduran friends what it really means to be sunburned. Not just turn a couple shades darker… sunburn = red. So I was pretty much a walking tomato the next day at church. It is actually starting to turn to a nice tan shade I think. And it isn’t hurting as bad. 🙂

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 I also wanted to share a few more photos that I’ve taken recently.

Sample of a couples shoot I did back home with some dear out-of-town friends a few months ago. Giannina and Timoteo. The Venezuelan and the Argentine.

Another sweet shot of baby Nohe.