Monday, July 18, 2011

This morning Fabs and I did a quick tour of the Marriott. The have a large sports bar, coffee shop (supposedly the best coffee in the city), and a restaurant open 6am to 10pm. There is a small souvenir shop and a spa, gym, and pool on the third floor. What’s great about the Marriott is they have a complimentary shuttle to go the mall which runs almost every hour. The Marriott is next door to the presidential palace as well as McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts. Their rooms are pretty standard. Breakfast and wifi are included in the rate.
Before I forget I have to tell you about the electricity!! The outlets are the same here as they are in the US, however, there is something going on with the electric companies!!! While we were at dinner with the attorney’s the power went out twice! The first time it lasted about 10 seconds and the second time about 3 seconds, but it went completely dark!!!! I was a little startled, but the Hondurans kept talking as if nothing was wrong. The next day it happened again FOUR times while I was at the hotel! The power including the lights, TV, and air conditioning shut off for a couple seconds before turning back on. While visiting the Marriott today we were sitting in the coffee shop and the power went out. I finally had to ask what the heck is going on and Fabs says it’s just normal. It happens all the time in hotels, homes, and business. Hospitals and airports have their own generators. She doesn’t know why. She says she hardly even notices anymore. I definitely noticed! I don’t know how people work!! I would be ANGRY if I was at work typing an email and the power kept going out!! Maybe everyone just knows to save whatever they are working on every couple of minutes?
From the Marriott we went to the mall that is across the street from the Intercontinental. It is a GREAT mall!!! There are two stories of stores and a third story where the movie theater is located. Their website is There is also a large grocery store inside the mall. After the mall we checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport. For all of the Gladney adoptive families, I want you to know that Fabiola is an EXCELLENT host\guide\driver\translator!!! Her English is perfect and she is arrives on time! She loves her country and is passionate about adoption. She also seems to be a bit of perfectionist and likes to make sure things are done correctly which is priceless when it comes to helping families finalize their adoption!!! When she dropped us off at the airport she said, “I’m looking forward to seeing the families. I know we are going to have a great time.”
The Toncontin airport is small. When we entered there was a line of people almost to the door. Since there are so few flights everyone must get here at the same time. You have to check in first and then you pay the airport fee. After waiting in line for 27 minutes (there was only ONE agent at the desk checking everyone in) 4 more agents arrived and the process went much quicker. After you get your boarding pass you go to the Banco. DON’T follow the airport signs which direct you to go left towards the escalator!! If you are looking at the check in desk the place to pay the airport fee is located on the right. It is the window underneath the green Banco sign. The airport fee is $37.50 which can be paid in dollars, lempiras, or on a credit card. Next you go back past the check in desk towards the kids’ play area and up the escalator. Turn left at the top of the escalator and follow the signs for “boarding hall.” A man checks your boarding pass to make sure you’ve paid the airport fee and then you proceed to security. The security person took my bag and put in through the machine… I did not remove my laptop or my bag of liquids. He did as me to take off my shoes. That’s it! No one looked at my passport at security. All of the fast food restaurants are located in the main lobby before you go through security. After security there is a small bookstore, souvenir shop, and a food kiosk with drinks and small snacks in addition to the duty free shop. Puerta 4 is located on the right just on the other side of the security check. Puertas 1-3 as well as the stores are to the left after you go through security. You have to go through the duty free store to get to the Puertas 1-3 and the other shops. The airport does have free wifi which I greatly appreciate. The desk agents and vendors all speak English.
Just to confirm my initial assessment of the landings at Toncontin airport, I decided to do it again, but this time in at dusk, in a much smaller airplane that’s having mechanical failures!!!! About 40 minutes into the flight from Teguc to San Jose the pilot made an announcement. I didn’t catch the whole announcement, just that there was an issue and for our safety we were turning around and going back. THANK GOODNESS I didn’t understand. I assumed San Jose was having bad weather. Once we landed the other passengers on the plane told us the pilot’s equipment was malfunctioning and we had to go back. Once we landed about 15 people came out to the plane to check out the issue. 12 minutes later they announced we had refueled, the plane was fixed, and we were taking off again!! WHAT?!?!? In the US we would have sat for 20 minutes waiting for the mechanics to arrive, another 40 minutes for them to discover we would not be able to use the plane, and then we would all get off the plane and wait while they found us a new one. 12 minutes after we landed here we are getting ready to take off again. The good news is that everything went smoothly and we landed in San Jose the same time as the rest of the Gladney team arriving from the US.
I hope this information has helped all future travelers to Tegucigalpa!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 3 in Honduras- tourist day

Today we were on a mission to see the Honduran culture and visit the locations where our adoptive families will stay while they finalize their adoption. We first went to the Valley of Angels, a city about 30 minutes from Tegucigalpa. In the afternoon we visited two bed and breakfasts and 2 hotels. I will give you my personal opinion of each of the locations and what I liked and didn’t like. First, let’s talk about Honduran culture!
Many Hondurans understand English. Even if they aren’t able to speak English, they understand what you are saying. They show many US TV shows and the radio plays tons of American music. Some of the TV shows and channels I saw in the TV Guide are America’s Got Talent, Top Chef, The Defenders, America’s Next top Model, the E! Chanel, Disney Chanel, FOX, CNN, Nickelodeon, vh1, Royal Pains, Big Bang Theory, Rules of Engagement, Bones, Friends, etc. All of these shows are in English. All cartoons are dubbed into Spanish. People are typically well dressed. I have not seen one single Honduran in sweat pants, shorts, or t shirts. Casual attire is jeans, a nice shirt, and flats. Hondurans are welcoming of Americans. There are many groups from the US that come to volunteer in Honduras so they are used to have Americans in the city. Driving in Honduras is an adventure. I think there are 3 stop lights in the city. I’m sure there are more, but in a city of 2 million I had expected more. At intersections cars just seem to know where to go and honk at other cars as a warning that they are passing through. The roads are very narrow. Taxis and buses stop wherever they please so it’s almost an obstacle course navigating through the streets. At the stop lights there are people selling items or performers.
The weather has been great. It’s in the high 70’s during the day and cool at night. Today it rained for the first time in the evening. Hondurans love their pizza! There is Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s, and Dominoes. They also have Popeyes, Chili’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, TGI Friday’s, and Denny’s. The first day we had lunch at a Honduran restaurant called CafĂ© Honore which was excellent! The service was great, atmosphere was fun and friendly, and the food was amazing! The Honduran food has all been wonderful! I’m definitely going to check out the Honduran restaurant in Fort Worth when I get back. What I don’t like about Tegucigalpa is that there no parks or public playgrounds where families can take their children. There is play area in the mall and a children’s museum.

Portal de Angel bed and breakfast – they had 24 rooms and bilingual staff. It was a pretty standard bed and breakfast. There are a couple restaurants one block over as well as a great bakery. The restaurant is open from 6am to 10pm. Wifi and breakfast are included in the cost.

Humuya Inn suites and apartments- they offer a great rate for a month long stay in a suite with a living room, bedroom, and full kitchen. The apartments are large and can accommodate large families. The downside is that they don’t have an elevator or a pool. They are located in a good area, but there is nothing nearby. They have a restaurant open 630am to 9pm, laundry service, massage, and gym. Wifi and breakfast are included in the cost.

Clarion Hotel- Centrally located hotel with a great rate for adoptive parents. Wifi is an added expense, but breakfast is included. They have a spa, pool, gym, and small business center. Across the street is Burger King, Denny’s, Chili’s, and McDonalds which I believe all have free wifi.

Intercontinental Hotel- By far this was my favorite hotel, but it is also the most expensive. They have given us a discount for our adoptive families, but it is still significantly more expensive than the Clarion. There are 3 restaurants located in the hotel in additional to a gym, spa, pool and children’s pool, souvenir shop, and business center. On the executive floor there is a second lobby/lounge area where guests staying on the floor can enjoy coffee and happy hour. The Intercontinental is located directly across the street from the mall. There are many retail stores and restaurants in the mall as well as a grocery store. The downside to the hotel is that their standard rooms can only accommodate 4 people: 2 adults and 2 children under 12 years of age. The junior suites can only accommodate 5 people. Wifi and breakfast are included in the costs. The staff was all extremely friendly and spoke perfect English.

The Marriott is located in the same general area as the Intercontinental and the Clarion. All 3 are located just minutes from IHNFA. We did not go by the Marriott, but according to our tour guide at the Intercontinental the building is better than the Intercontinental, but their food and service don’t compare. The Marriott is located next door to the Presidential Palace. The only downside to the Marriott is that when there are strikes or political demonstrations at the Presidential Palace the road to the Marriott is closed. Families staying at the hotel are still able to come and go, but there is the added inconvenience of explaining the police who have the road blocked off why you need to enter or exit.

I have had a great time in Honduras and would definitely come back again!
Stairs at the Humuya Inn
View of the mall from the IntercontinentalPool at Intercontinental

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 2 in Honduras

The first stop this morning was the US embassy. We did not have an appointment so there was some confusion, but the woman in charge of procesing adoption cases called us back within a few minutes of leaving her a message and met with us right away. She was extremely friendly and informative. She let us know that as soon as they receive the I-600 (immigration application) for adoption cases they process them right away. However, processing the immigration approval means they do their own investigation to confirm the orphan status of the child. She said it takes them 4 weeks to process the paperwork and issue the visa for the child to enter the US. We found out later that before she worked at the orphanage she was the Head of the Adoption Department at IHFNA.
After the embassy we drove up to the top of a nearby mountain to see a humanitarian aid project that another American agency is doing for teenage girls who have been abused. The next stop was to the dump just outside the city. It's in a very dangerous area of the city so I was thankful for
Fabiola's bullet proof truck!! Fabiola told us that it's not a place people visit and you would not be in that area of town unless you had a reason. We drove up the side of the mountain and the entire top of the mountain is covered in trash. There were garbage trucks going up and down and may people going through the garbage. To protect the privacy of the children I am only posting the photos which are slightly blurry, but here is a dump truck and the three small children that were following the truck. The little girl did not have shoes. After driving down the mountain we went
the largest orphanage in Teguc. They currently have 111 children, but that number is constantly changing as children are reunited with their families or placed for adoption. 54 of those 111 are either waiting to be adopted or in the legal process of abandonment so that they can be adopted. The orphanage is a campus with several houses, a dining hall, administrative building, and a playground in the middle of all the houses. In each house there is a houseparent and 6-10 children who are grouped by age and gender. The first house we entered was for children with severe special needs. Next door was the house for the babies. We went into one bedroom that had 5 cribs. 3 babies were there that had not been abandoned, but were at social risk. After we left the fumigators arrived to spray all of the houses so we were unable to see the other houses. This orphanage is like the hub. They are required to take all children referred to them so they had children from just a few months of age up to 14 years. They take care of babies, toddlers, adolescents, pregnant teenages, special needs, and everything in between. The houseparents all receive a stipend from IHNFA. We did get to see the dining room and kitchen where the kids eat. It was in much better shape than the kitchen and dining area at 21, but there they still have a lot of needs.
The ceiling was falling down in many areas and there resources like clothing and diapers are scarce. The good thing about this orphange is they frequently have volunteer groups come and visit so the buildings are nicely painted and they have a big play area for the kids. After we left the orphanage we met with the Secretary General and Director of IHNFA to discuss possible humanitarian aid projects Gladney can help with. After meeting with the IHFNA officials we had dinner with Cesar and Cecilia, the attorneys who process the Gladney family adoption cases. Both Cecilia and Cesar are knowledgable about the adoption process and committed to helping children be united with their forever families. It was a pleasure to meet them both and I can say without a doubt that our families are in great hands!
For more pictures please view my facebook page.

Day 1 in Honduras

Blogspot takes too long to upload pictures. Please view my facebook page for the pictures.
I want to explain in detail my first ever orphanage visit, but I’ll start from the beginning. The day started at 4am in the DFW airport. After using the self-service machine to check in I headed to security. After going through the new security scan and making the Mickey Mouse ears, I had to be pat down and my hands swabbed because there was a shadow on the screen. I know everyone says it, but make sure to give yourself plenty of time to check in and get through security for international flights!!
The hour layover in Miami was more than sufficient to change gates. After 2 hours we began our descent into Tegucigalpa. I was holding onto the arm rests prepared for the worst. We got closer and closer to the ground, made a smooth left hand turn, and gently touched down on the runway. I couldn’t believe it!!! I was ready for sudden drops, sharp turns, and extreme braking and instead had a very pleasant and uneventful landing! I will say that when you make the final left hand turn the plane is much closer to the ground than in normal airports, but if it hadn’t been pointed out to me I would have never noticed.
Immigration was quick and easy. All counters were open so I waited less than 2 minutes in line. After immigration you go through the glass wall and collect your baggage. 20 yards from baggage is the customs agent who takes your customs card and then you exit. It would have been quick and easy, however, I had about 100 little race cars and 40 red t-shirts which I'm taking to Costa Rica. The metal race cars set off the bag x-ray machine and they had to go through my entire suitcase to make sure I wasn't hiding anything. The airport is small so the whole process just takes a few minutes from the time you exit the plane until you are in the parking lot. Fabiola, Gladney’s incountry representative, was waiting to take us to IHNFA.
The IHNFA adoption department is comprised of 2 psychologist, 2 social workers, 2 secretaries, and an attorney who is the Head of the Adoption Department. One of the psychologists spoke perfect English and let us know that she’d be doing the psychological evaluations for the adoptive families. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. They asked Gladney for help which I am in turn going to ask for your help. They told us that they have lots of families waiting for healthy infants which is great. However, there are children 2 years of age and over, sibling groups, and children with special needs that are available for adoption and deserve to have a forever family just as much as the healthy infants. They let us know that if we had families interested in these types of adoption which they refer to as “difficult cases” they would expedite the process. If you or someone you know is interested in adopting a toddler, older child, sibling group, or child of any age with minor to severe special needs, please have them contact me at or by phone at 817-922-6082. As we were leaving the adoption department the secretary called us over and showed us her mousepad… it was a Gladney mousepad she has had for the past three years!
After leaving IHNFA’s adoption department, we went to Orphanage 21 de Octubre or “21.” It’s name October 21st after the neighborhood where it is located. The neighborhood is called October 21 because that is the date it was founded. 21 is a transition orphanage for boys 12-18 years of age. It’s a transition because the boys are only at this orphanage while waiting to be reunited with their family or moved to another facility. The assistant director gave us a tour of the facility. Now that I have toured an orphanage I have to admit that it’s not my favorite place to visit, and yet I feel drawn to go back. Seeing the boys living conditions, how hard the staff works and their passion for their job, and the lack of funding and resources available it literally makes my heart break. Their capacity is 32. They currently have 36 boys living there. She explained to us that it is a violation of the children’s rights and therefore illegal to turn a child away so they have had between 60-70 boys living there at any one time. They receive their funding through the federal government , but there is just not enough. The building is old and completely run down. There is a shower room, but the water lines are broken so the shower room is used for storage or an extra bedroom if needed. The boys “shower” at the end of the hallway using a gallon milk bottle by tipping it into a tub of water. The electrical wiring in the building is completely broken so there are no lights in the hallways or bedrooms. They director told us they try their best to improvise and bring in lamps when they can, but the hallway and some rooms are completely dark at night. In one room we met a boy who was curled up on his bed. The director says from the time he was born he was tied up like an animal. His mother didn’t go outside so he was never around other people. She explained that he has no mental illness diagnosis, but that his issues are cultural. He doesn’t speak because he doesn’t know how. He doesn’t like to be around the other boys because he doesn’t know how. She said they have worked with him since he entered their care and he can now hold a spoon to feed himself and use the bathroom by himself, but he still spends his entire day curled up on his bed. He is 16 years old.
The kitchen has an old gas stove which they said could explode at any time and will eventually, but it’s what they have and it works so they do the best they can. We arrived just before dinner time and were able to see the two cooks preparing the meal of rice, sausage and eggs, and some type of soup. Everyone kept saying, “Praise God that we have the ability to cook good meals for the kids. It didn’t use to be that way.” Behind the kitchen is the wash room where a lady was washing laundry by hand. That tub is also where the boys wash their hands before meals and brush their teeth afterwards. They eat in the multipurpose room. The large room is lined with benches and they bring out folding tables at meal times. In between meals we saw the boys laying the concrete ground and the benches watching a small TV mounted on the wall which was a donation from a local electric company. Apart from the TV there are no other pictures, decorations, or furniture in the room. Outside the multipurpose room is a recreation area. There are soccer goals at either end and a basketball hoop without the hoop. In the food pantry there were eggs, powder milk, cereal, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. The eggs are a monthly donation secured by the Director of IHNFA, Suyapa Nunez. The powdered milk was a one time donation from a local church. The other items were all purchased on their budget and would last about a week and a half. In the back of the pantry was a large plastic bag full of bouncy balls. The director said they had received a donation of the balls which is great and they were very thankful for, but they are trying to feed and care for 36 teenage boys on a small government budget so their needs are much greater. At the end the day my mind is racing with a list of all the things I take for granted like light bulbs, clean water, warm blankets, so much food in my pantry that some of it gets thrown out because it hasn’t been eaten, having a place to call home, and a mom and a dad who love me. The next time you sit down for a family meal please remember these boys and the 49 staff members at orphanage 21.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting ready for my first trip to Honduras

Tomorrow morning is quickly approaching! I've got my suitcases full of humanitarian aid items for the orphanage in Costa Rica and will be meeting Scott Brown, Executive Vice President of Intercountry Adoption, at the DFW airport at 4am!!!!! The first stop is Tegucigalpa, Honduras. There is only one flight from Miami to Teguc each day so we have to take the first available flight to Miami.
Gladney's incountry representative, Fabiola, will be meeting us at the Toncontin airport in Teguc (reportedly the second most dangerous airport in the world) at 11am to start our busy 3 days in Honduras of meetings with officials from the Honduran child welfare department (IHNFA), possible housing options for our adoptive families, public orphanages, the US embassy, etc.

Stay tuned!!!