As I begin writing this, it seems impossible to describe Carmen’s home with words. Truly its very existence seems almost impossible to believe. If I had not been there, worked there, and seen it for myself I would doubt that a home could be built, and a family can live in this place.
After twisting and turning on the narrow, bumpy, often steep, unpaved local streets of a small neighborhood in the middle of Tegucigalpa, our van backed into an open spot between two homes. We unloaded and were pointed in the proper direction, “Down”. The hillside simply dropped off into a sheer cliff. This ravine was much too steep to walk down, but not too steep for plants, wild grass and small bushes. My view, standing at the top, went steeply down and the bottom was a lush, thick forest of wild, tropical plants with the large leaves and tangle of vines, maybe 100 yards down from the top edge where I stood. The sound of a rushing stream at the very bottom was loud but invisible. The water obviously fed the lush green everywhere at the bottom of the ravine. Coming up out of the ravine, presumably on the other side of the rushing stream, was a steeper cliff, bare rock too steep for plants to grow. I could see homes perched on the top of the other side of the ravine. My view went straight down this ravine, and it caught my attention. I wondered, “Where are we going? How could there be a house down here?”
It is impossible to walk straight over the edge of the ravine, and quickly I realized a well-worn path hugged the side of the ravine off to the right and dropped down very steep directly behind and beneath the home which was next to our parked van. With only several steps down the path, the back wall of this home was straight up above my right shoulder. The path dropped precipitously, so much so that I checked my traction, making sure each step was planted solidly and I was not going to start sliding. The path dropped, then flattened out a bit and continued down to where I could see two homes perched below, one sort of above the other. But our direction switched back fully, and started down several, precarious steps which were carved into the hillside. Now, because of the switchback, the steep hillside rose up on my left, the ravine fell downward to my right side. And there is Carmen’s place. A carefully constructed, new, concrete landing welcomed us and we arrived at her front door.
I still do not have any idea how a previous generation of Carmen’s family had acquired this property and this home was built on the side of this very steep ravine. But there it was, and the contribution from our Presbytery and our work for the week was a major renovation and remodeling of her home. Welcome to Carmen’s place.