Monthly Archives: January 2011

Motorcycle crashes, Chapine hand-insults and Casa Alianza

Dear all

After moaning about being a bit bored/homesick in my last post on Tuesday, I haven’t really stopped since then. On Tuesday night, I went out with a couple of grandsons of the grandma in Prosales (in an earlier post, I called it Rosales: my error) for a couple of coffees and a bit to eat. God saw me bored and put me in touch with some fine people, by the names of Dani and Roy, who are both my age and brothers of the two ‘chistes’ at Ari’s birthday last week, who I found funny. I had one of the famous beleadas, which is a tortilla with everything wrapped in it, from banana, to scrambled egg, to cheese, to chorizo, to coconut paste, to lettuce, to…. I can go on all day (please see this youtube link for more details ). We went to a chain which is called Coco-Baleada and I was feeling greedy so as you can imagine, I gauged myself like filthy machacho. There is an art to eating these things as well, as I found out. No knife and fork needed. You peel the tin-foil down like a banana and rip into it like an animal. I loved it. It made strange sounds in my stomach for a few days, but I’m sure I’ll be having more. I also had a drink called ‘nancie’. It was nice, but I can’t translate what fruit it is in English. When the guys tried a translation of their IPhones, it just came up with vulgar terms of gay people, which the macho Hondurans found hilarious (by the way, if you are gay and you are reading this: they’re not very open-minded here. Gay people have been known to be battered to death, and completely rejected by their families – as I’ve been finding out at Casa Alianza). On the way back that night, I saw something quite shocking. A motorbike ran a red light at a big junction we were stationed at and a big fat red Chrysler went right into him. The motorcyclist was flung a few feet up in the air and he landed, as you can imagine, with a thump. And in true Honduran spirit, he wasn’t hearing a helmet. Roy, who was driving, saw my expression, shrugged it off and said I will see a lot of that here. He also said that the cyclist shouldn’t have run a red light and he went about driving around the incident as though it were a pot-hole. Roy is quite a sensitive guy as well. As far as I could tell, the man got up after. We didn’t wait to see what the driver of the car had to say to him.

When I got back to Tatumbla, the Chapine (nickname for the people of Guatemala) missionary taught me again the way to say ‘piss off’ and, even more charmingly, ‘your mom’:

  • For ‘piss off’, it involves pulling your right hand from your pocket in a ball, bring it to your mouth, kiss it and make a ‘fluffpphhh’ sound, and flap out your hand in a flash. This is all in a very quick action.
  • To say ‘your mom’, you squat a little, and literally just fling out your hand vertically from your side and put on a menacing face. Either hand will do.

This was shown to me, may I repeat, by a Chapine mormon missionary. It just goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover.

The next day was my first day at Casa Alianza. To all Spanish readers, it is on Cervantes street, which brings home memories of going to Alacalá de Hernares near Madrid. It is in the main Centre area but closer to Comayagüela (the very poor sister city to Tegus – Comayagüela is proving a bit of tongue twister for me as well, and the dear old granny is doing my head in by taking the piss out of me about it, so I have resorted to calling it Coma-abuela, which means Coma Grandma, ironically). When I went to Casa Alianza few weeks ago, I found the place a bit daunting. Now I’m more accustomed to the rough and tumble of the city, it’s actually quite charming and safer than other parts (to an extent). After signing several safe-guard documents, I got to meet the children and have dinner with them. They let off an enormous cheer when they were told that I was going to teach them English and poetry. I had a tour around and the building is splendid. It used to be a college and the main living area is an old courtyard with a disused fountain in it. There’s a tranquil air to the place, which is what the kids really need after the hardships they’ve had. I was shown the dormitories. The boys live in the main building, the girls live close by. Honestly, to have them mixed would be like rabbits in the Worcestershire meadows at spring time. They are not allowed to have sexual relations of course, but one proud ‘cipote’ claimed he had five girlfriends and I didn’t trust his cheeky grin either. He laughed like Barbara Windsor too. The kids were chirpy and happy to talk to me. Not many volunteers that start can speak Spanish, so they were a little surprised I could chat with them. I was pleased I could understand most of what they were saying. Many of the kids have been relocated from other cities, like San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba, as well as from the countryside. Casa Alianza acts, almost, as a children’s social services to the whole of Honduras! It probably has a better success rate than Birmingham City Council too. Some of the kids are just born and rejected on to the streets (no insult intended, but picture Stig of the Dump) and come to Casa Alianza, some have come because of domestic abuse and they have escaped, some have been brought in by their parents because they can’t cope, others have been found when their parents have passed away, and others have been, like stated, rejected because they are gay. More than you would think too. Between races here, there is not much discrimination. But between social classes and sexuality, it’s pretty bad. Some of the kids talked quite candidly about their experiences, and I was surprised that they trusted me so quickly. I learned a new street word for something that is cool: “¡que sobado!” My mother didn’t like my four-leaf clover tattoo when she first saw it. The kids thought it was “¡que sobado!” After lunch, I sat with the kids in the computer room and faced a brace of questions which I found quite endearing, such as “what time is it in England?” “What are your family doing right now?” “Which football team do you support?” “How good are you at football?” “What’s England like?” I then sat with a small but chatty young man (obviously I can’t name him or show you a photo yet, but he was tanned, bright-eyed, missed a few teeth and had a fantastic smile). He was then determined to go through the entire computer programme ‘Encarta’, show me the pictures that represent England and ask “¿conoces?” (do you been there?) after each one. I was worn out. Anyway, the day had cheered me up after feeling ill and lonely. That afternoon, I was also cheered up from hearing Blues are going to Wembley. Thanks so much for waiting until I was half way round the world to do it!! Buggers! Does it mean Blues will be in Europe next season?

I must admit, the next morning I found living in Tatumbla really frustrating. I was asked to come in for 7:30, which meant I had to catch the earliest bus at 6:00 to ensure I beat the traffic and got there on time. Luckily I got there in good time and decided to go for a coffee. I was shocked to see that nearly the coffee houses in the central area was still closed at 7:00. I sat there thinking to myself, how does one end up at 7am in a funny little donut shop in Tegucigalpa eating a rank coconut biscuit for breakfast? Follow my lead, I thought. I do have a theory about this bloody city. If they did open the coffee houses earlier, businessmen would be tempted to start work earlier and make more money for their country. This is why the country is in so much poverty: because of the bloody coffee houses opening times. I am, of course, talking bollocks!

When I got in, I met Mellvin and Evlin, who work on the streets and tell street kids about Casa Alianza to see if they want to come. Mellvin is former street kid and drug addict himself from Comayagüela. He has a squat belly and quite hairy, as well as lairy, in his 40s, with a cool beard and a mad look in his eye. Needless to say, I get on with him well. He’s been with Casa Alianza a long time and understands the kids well. Evlin is in her 40s too, really sweet, and she’s a bit more serious than Mellvin. As they went about their work, Mellvin was the enterter, and Evlin explained what they were doing. First we went into San Isdiro market. It was like a labyrinth you’d expect in a developing country. A maze of small corridors and people walking round aimlessly. Many of these aimless people were kids who had either come to Casa Alianza but didn’t want to stay or didn’t want to go at all. They carried with them Coca-Cola bottles. I thought it was just Coca-Cola in them or had water or juice decanted into them. Evlin soon after showed me that it wasn’t a beverage at all, but shoe glue (I have forgotten the actual name of it – Rapasol or something), a solvent to keep them high. It’s a murky red and my legs almost went under after one sniff. These kids have their noses in it all day, everyday. If not their noses, their tongues, because they have lost their sense of smell. Since then, I have noticed many homeless people using it. Men take advantage of the kids by giving the solvent in baby food tubs in exchange for what favours that I wish I didn’t know. When we got to a clearing, where we saw kids rummaging through “la basura” (the rubbish), Mellvin pulled out his guitar and sang songs, and kids came running from nowhere to see him. They all knew him. I couldn’t understand what songs were about but the kids sang along happily, and I think the words were largely optimistic. It was one of those moments where I wish I could play the guitar and belt out Oasis classics. Not to be. Two kids in particular caught my attention. One kid approached and his eyes were so sunk back into his head, I didn’t know what kind of vision he had, but he was paranoid, smacking his head very hard, then bursting into songs a second later. His hair had lice running through it and he kept trying to hug us. It was really sad to pull him away. We were also near a big drop and he kept tottering back and forth. Evlin pretty much saved his life when she saw him falling back. I was told he was 16 years old. I was surprised because he very small, but also because he had the face of a 30 year old. I was also surprised that he’d lasted 16 years. The other lad who caught my attention was a lad on crutches. He was quite friendly and chatty and told me about his alcoholic parents and how he’d been chucked out by them. Because of his drug addiction, it had gone too far for Casa Alianza to do anything and he was over 18, so if Casa Alianza wanted to do something, they couldn’t. There were no services he could access. He showed me a scar on his shin from where he’d been shot for robbing.        

After, we went for a proper breakfast in the market that consisted of pork, rice and onion in banana leaves. It was 15 lempiras and delicious. That’s about 60p, if that. Proper street food. My stomach is still in-tact too. The market sold everything. Turkeys and chickens were running around at my feet. I will return, with other people (not a place for a lone gringo), to buy clothes, as there were some wonderful “Ray Bens” sunglasses! I was then tapped on the shoulder by a young man, who also had the dreaded solvent, and who Evlin and Mellvin both knew. He roared hysterically at me with a huge smile on his face. He tried to intimidate me by saying, “Soy de Irak. Soy terrorista!” This, as you can see, is quite transferable into English. I could only imagine what some of my former colleagues at the Refugee Council would have thought of this young man’s views. We then went to catch the bus, but beforehand, Mellvin and Evlin went through the market picking up orange peels and apple cores because the kids will pick them off the floor and eat them. We caught the bus to Los Pinos, which is a dangerous neighbourhood that my bus passes through everyday to and from Tatumbla. I have also been warned never to go through the neighbourhood alone. While on the bus, we passed a protest march about something or other, and then I was interrogated by Mellvin. This time about prices in Britain. Random questions as well. Apples. Potatoes. Cakes. Cars. Pears. Sand. Cement. Soft drugs. Hard drugs. Transport. Baby food. It always ended with: “Sí, Inglaterra es mas caro que aquí”, “yes, England is more expensive than here. Honestly, it was like the day before with the little boy. It wore me out. He then wanted to know if I knew UB40, which came on during our bus ride on the radio. It did bring a smile to my face, listening to “Kingston Town”, a song written by a group just down the road from where I’m from. They’re very famous here. It was a welcome change after listening to Reggaeton or Shakira’s new song, Loca Con Mi Tigre everywhere we go. Then again, I won’t lie, the video is great!

We got to Los Pinos and walked along a dusty main road in the scorching heat. As you can imagine from the name Los Pinos, the neighbourhood was actually once a pine tree forest. The “barrio” now stretches up precarious cliffs, and houses are made out of whatever the inhabitants can find. It is a proper shanty town you see in Hollywood. Obviously, the reality is worse. Another Mellvin questionnaire commenced: “Is there a desert in England?” No. “Is it cold in England?” Yes. “Is there a jungle in England?” Yes, the Black Country. I think I lost him on that! It took my mind off the poverty anyway. We came across a group of seven or eight children between the ages of seven to fourteen with large machetes who cutting down plants and small trees for wood, and collecting plastic from skips in return for money. Mellvin approached them with ease. We then sat down on cardboard and made bracelets with them, that they could sell on in the markets. They’re Spanish was really hard to understand but I could see they were sharp and smart. Mellvin was trying to persuade them to come to Casa Alianza but they were adamant that they didn’t want to. It turned out that violent Las Maras gangs had already spoken to them and brain-washed them that Casa Alianza was connected with the Police, and going to Casa Alianza was an uncool and “unwise” move to make. When kids that age cannot trust anyone but these murderous individuals who exploit them and use them for drug runs, there’s nothing else to feel but sadness and anger. The low-values towards life and the selfishness of certain people. I, in turn, can assure you that Casa Alianza is not connected to the Police, unless a child is in deep trouble and needs help. But not even the Police will go near these neighbourhoods to help kids. It’s a no go zone for the boys in blue. We could only go home with a feeling of helplessness. It was disheartening.

I would like to write more, but it’s warm outside, I’m hungry and my arse has gone numb on this chair. Also, this internet cafe is eating at my money. Yesterday was also interesting. I will update a bit more on what happened the next time. A bit more optimistic, but it did see me coming face to face with a Las Maras gang member, who was out to intimidate. I am fine though. And I can promise everyone that this won’t be the main part of the volunteering. Candida, the lovely lady I report to, is just showing me the different projects at Casa Alianza. I will be based mostly in the safe surroundings of the Centre, unless I choose to do more outside work. So mum, don’t worry!! I won’t go out alone.

To people who donated a lot of money to be here, I would like to thank you. I am having an education here like no other. I am learning everyday, and enjoying it. There will be hard days, like Thursday, and happy days, like Wednesday. It’s part of the parcel.

But again. Thank you.


Cafè Paradiso and drunk men doing handstands in the street

Dear all

Not so much to speak of in the last few days. Because of the cold bug, I’ve not been able to go out as much and I’ve felt really cut off being in Tatumbla. It is a little lonely. I still need to give it a chance but I would fancy a move to the city, despite all the adventures I’ve had coming and going on the buses. When the last bus is 6pm, it does get a little frustrating.

Talking of buses, I had yet another strange incident on Saturday. When waiting for the 3:00 bus, trust me to come across a rambling Jewish family selling cookies. The man of family saw my blue eyes and assumed I could speak English. He went on to tell me he HATED Germany, again underlining that he was a Jew, and what they did to the Jewish people in WW2. I said that it was actually the Nazi’s and I was unsure that German people thought the Holocaust had a positive past image for their country, and most thought it was a horrible thing to have happened. Out the blue, he completely changed his opinion and agreed with me, and we agreed that they had a great football team and Ozil completely outplayed Barry in that disastorous game in the World Cup. Then he disturbingly offered me his 12 and 14 year old daughters for sex. Suffice to say, I looked at the man in disgust and got on the bus. It again goes to show what poverty does to people.  I’m sure I’ll continually be shocked.

It was young Ari’s birthday on Saturday, I got him some chocolates and we played Spanish Scrabble and an alphabet game which I was too slow at, and then his cousins came round who like ‘chistes’ (jokes). They have an amazing house in the next village. Two of the lads are my age and seem very friendly and talk about girls, football and literature and music. All good. That cheered me up a little from my cold.

It has been extremely hot the last couple of days. Tomorrow, finally I will start the project. There were a few hold ups due to security, now it’s been cleared up.

Today, I have sent a few postcards to various addresses (they should arrive in the next three years – maybe), and had another coffee in Cafe Paradiso (the place I went to in the first week and nearly got bitten by a dirty dog). Outside, in typical Honduran fashion, I nearly walked into a homeless man doing a handstand in the street.

I hope to go to Utila at Easter. I need a beach. I need a swim. This heat is getting to me.

I have also been taught how to say “piss off” in Guatemalan using a strange hand signal, by Mormon missionary! I will try to explain more in the next update, along with information about Casa Alianza.

Tutti-Futti, more man-eating Tatumblans and my new found love: GUAVAS!

A Tatumblan Road

Hi all

I thought I would keep the last update short and sweet. I will have to be short with this one as I’m in an internet cafe and my cash is being scoffed!

I finished the last update by calling my Spanish teacher a pain in the arse. My thoughts on this person hasn’t changed. The reason this person is a pain in the arse was because she was making a mockery of my Spanish in front of everyone and picking on me in quite  deliberate way, mainly because my Spanish was beyond the level she was teaching (to Spanish speakers: I know the difference between el and la and Ser and Estar, thank you very much). I told her nicely that I thought the classes were too easy and, because there was only one level (absolute beginner), I said it would be better if I studied by myself. She was not fond of the idea and so Marisa (who can also speak Spanish) sat there bored in classes with our minds in yonder. Because she was being irritating, I decided that I was going to be my most irritating back and began asking her complicated questions which I knew she wouldn’t be able to answer about Spanish grammar with a big smug grin on my face, which she returned with icy stares. There was bit of a power war going on but, as I like to be petty, I like to say won. In truth, we were both a bit pathetic. I then asked ICYE if I could start the project early and they said they would look into it. As it happens, I have been ill with a cold anyway and been improving my vocabulary by reading the Little Mermaid (in Spanish!!), so I’ve not been in Tegus. Instead I have had to suffer by listening to the grandma ask me at least 500 times a day if I am hungry. I have a big bruise on my forehead where I have been banging my head against a wall! ‘No’ translates into Spanish too! Anyway, to finish off about the teacher, apparently there are three more days to go but I will probably not go in and get over-fed instead. On the plus side, at the University where we had the classes, there were nice view across Tegus from the East side of the city. See below:

On the Monday though, I do believe I saw one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. In Miraflores, near the ICYE office, I saw five big muchachos (who were tattoo’ed and looked like gangsters) cruise by in a burnt out Cortina singing along to Tutti-Futti at full blast. This is a country for people who love complete randomness!

On Wednesday, on the way home on the bus, I was again a victim of prowling Tatumblan teenagers. This time she was 18 and wore lots of pink make up. She was very sweet to be fair, but all I asked her was when the next bus was due. What I got was another interrogation about my love life. Learning from my past experience about not lying, I decided to tell the truth and say I was single. This was an equally stupid thing to do, as she almost jumped me. Honestly, I am not boasting about this. It’s scary. Her friend kept pushing her on too, and I kept cursing her under my breath, and I ended up reluctantly getting a massage on my back (it wasn’t comfortable either). If I’d said no, I felt her big friend would have beaten me up, and in this macho culture, I didn’t want to be known in Tatumbla as the gringo who loses fights to 18 year old girls. She then invited me to go to her house and learn how to dance reggaeton. I said I preferred to read. Then my mobile number. I said I didn’t have one. After a while, her flirting died down and we had a normal conversation about foods from our respected countries. Yes we have Dunkin Donuts. No we don’t have Pollolandia. She wanted to know if we have ‘sipote’, which is a big brown fruit that feels like a kiwi on the outside but looks like an avocado on the inside and is very rich in taste. The word ‘sipote’  sounds very much like ‘cipote’, which is a child in Honduran Spanish. I decided to have a play on words and say, “No we don’t eat ‘cipotes’ in England.” Luckily, this bit of dark English sense of humour paid off and the whole bus was in raptures.

The next day, a was struck down with a cold, but it wasn’t bad enough for me to leave the house and explore more about Tatumbla. On my way round, I saw a toilet with “Jesus te ama” written on it. It’s either a toilet or a kitchen, I’ve no idea. Maybe a Catracho can tell me. Religion plays a role in EVERY part of your life here. Seriously, when you’re on the lav and you have Jesus on a cross staring back at you, it’s not always that comfortable. But sometimes, to get away from the granny stuffing food down my gullet, it’s the only place I have left to hide! Also on my travels, I fancied the sweet beverage of coke (Mormons don’t drink coke and I can’t drink it in the house). It was quite a luxury. When I went into the pulperia (which are like small corner shops that sell everything) and asked for Pepsi,

Pepsi in a bag

the nice plump assistant said: “¿En bolsa?” which means “in a bag?” I didn’t know if I heard him right so as curiosity carried me along, I said: “Sí”. And that’s exactly what I got: a bottle of Pepsi decanted into small polyethylene bag with a straw in it! 10 lempiras (about 40p)! What a bargain for a bag of coke! Du’dum!

Friday was a very special day. It will be remembered as the day I believe I met the love of my life. It comes in the shape of a guava. In actual fact, it is a guava. I can’t remember ever having one before (apart from in those acidic Rincon drinks that make your teeth rot back in the UK), but I love them. They are so sweet and fleshy. When I leave this internet cafe, I am going to buy about 20 and scoff myself. I better not, as it’s young Ari’s birthday.     

Here are a couple of pictures looking over Tatumbla:

Downtown Tatumbla


For male friends who have been asking what the Honduran women are like. All I can say is that I have been very impressed so far (a part from when I catch the buses). I told a beautiful Honduran girl in a bar the other night that I was crap at dancing to Reggaeton music, to which she replied: ‘You must feel the music’. I certainly enjoy watching Honduran girls feel the music. There’s a lot of movement in the hips involved.

And can people please keep me up to date with English football! I hear Blues were smashed 5-0 by those dirty red Mancs. What the smuck is going on?

Also, I hope Ella has learned that 999 is for emergencies only, but if she does she a dragon flying Crowle, that might count as an emergency. If not, try the RSPCA! 

Hope everyone is well at the good ol’ RC!

Valla de Angeles, dangerous dogs and strange named cocktails

Hi guys

I will try to keep this update short and sweet, giving a short description of each day.

On Saturday 8th, I went to Valla de Angeles which is a beautiful old mining town outside Tegus which has many arts and crafts stalls. The police station is yellow (I’m not sure how scary this is to the Las Maras gangs) and the streets ‘feel’  like Central America, with beautiful Murals on the walls and delicate airy cafés around the town. It was nice to go round with my camera and feel at ease, without the fear of being robbed. I bought a nice canvas painting, which I fell in love with. However, the town was not cheap, and in general, Tegus is more expensive than I thought, so budgeting is going to have to take place soon. The cabins we stayed in were lush. They had a hammock outside and I loved sitting down and reading a book in peace of mind, while updating my journals in the calm sun. I got to meet more volunteers, however, and I have made good friends with a Parisian girl who can’t speak much Spanish or English, but she’s funny, and a girl from Mali. They have a very relaxed Laissez-Faire attitude to walking around Tegus. It’s nice and sophisticated, but I keep thinking if I hang out with them too much, we’re going to be taken to the cleaners by a couple of big muchachos! The training was good. The exclaimed to us all we’re going to face challenges here. But when you overcome them, the experience will be even sweeter. They also said don’t let any females who are friends into your living quarters.  Hondurans think that when two men or women, who are just friends, are in the same room, that you automatically have sex. I have to be careful with this. Relations between the sexes can be very forward and very reserved at the same time. I was in Tegus staying with a friend and the family told ICYE that we were having sex. This was not true, and ICYE know this too. It’s a bit strange. There’s so much to do in Honduras, it’s quite scary. Loads to fit in! One thing I didn’t like about the place we stayed in was that they kept about 10 parrots in a small aviary no bigger than closet. I decided to give them loads of my expensive pistachio nuts. Anyway, I enjoyed my weekend in Valla de Angeles and I will return here to get away.

I returned on Monday and on the Tuesday, I got to visit Tegus Centro. I had already gone there with the family but this time we had a tour with armed guards. They told us a story about a tree in the cathedral that if a woman shakes the tree, she will have has many children as the leaves fall from it. Let’s just hope my love-to-be doesn’t shake that tree on a windy day! We went to a strange telecom museum, which I didn’t learn a thing about because I was so hungry. But the guy who gave the tour was from Tatumbla and told me he recognised me. “El Mundo Es Un Pañuelo”. “It’s a small world”. I then had a meal of Yuca plants. I had tried Yuca a couple of days before but it was fried with garlic and was really nice. This meal wasn’t and it was stodgy and hard. It tasted more like a big chestnut than anything. Then we had a crepe and a coffee. All good!  We went to the Museum of Honduran Identity, which I liked a lot. I learned more about the history about Honduras. I know this might sound bad, but the country has been let down so many times, whether it be from the Spanish, English pirates and Americans (an American bought but the land that is now Copan for $15 only, knowing he was going to exploit it. It’s now beautiful however), but most of all, the country itself keeps letting itself down and it doesn’t learn. Anyway, the guide pissed himself for 10 minutes when he mentioned the name of the Spaniard who killed Lempira (a chief Indian who fought the Spanish), and I responded by calling the Spaniard “¡Que cabron!” We then went to a small cafe called Cafe Paradiso, which was also a bookshop. My favourite cafe so far. It was really airy, pictures of famous writers on the walls, lots of plants, and very bohemian. Yes. Just my thing. That was until I wanted to take a picture from upstairs down at where we were sitting, only to realise I had walked into someone’s house and was confronted by an angry landlord and a big white dog that could only be described as dangerous and Honduran. After the other volunteers had died from laughter and I had regained my nerves, we left and went back to our abodes.

The Wednesday started with a sex education lesson at the ICYE office, which gave us information about the state of AIDS and HIV here in Honduras. We were also shown how to put a condom on a wooden penis. It then came to group practice and if there are any pictures surfacing on Facebook of this apparatus, it should not be taken out of context! In the afternoon, we had a treat at a Garífuna centre where we learned about the history of the communities in Honduras (they were originally unwanted refugees from Jamaica and Africa), as well as seeing the dances. I would like to show you videos though it’s not possible – bloody wordpress isn’t being fair. Unfortunately that evening, I had my first bout of homesickness. Either that or Honduran Spanish had given me a migraine.

On Thursday we went to the UN offices in Honduras. I had been looking forward to this all week, to get to know Honduras more and about NGOS´s here. It was in a nice part of town full of expensive hotels. The building itself was a little dull. But once we were in, we had possibly one of the most interesting but hilarious presentations I have ever had. First of all, for those reading who went to UCLAN with me, you might remember a lad called Joe Fernandez. Well, the gentleman looked just like ol’ Joe, which had already distracted me a little. Then he explained his job, and he said it was really boring as he dealt with stats all day (I have sympathy!). But then he said to us all, “The presentation is gonna be really boring. I don’t think you’ll like it.” In my CELTA training (to become an English teacher of ESOL) and presentation training at the Refugee Council, it was a golden rule that you never put down your own presentation or class or people will get bored. I personally couldn’t stop laughing. He then told us that the UN had set 8 Development Goals for Honduras. But because he found his own presentation so boring, he only told us six, and that the last two didn’t matter “because they were about the environment”. If there are any environmentalists reading this, please calm yourself down because “Honduran Joe” was actually a nice enough guy. It just seemed that he wanted to get home early and beat the traffic (a big environmental issue in Honduras may I add!). The social goals were shocking though. At the moment, the UN stats show that nearly 60% of Hondurans earn less than a $1 a day. That puts it in perspective  about where I am! I told “Honduran Joe”  that I was earning just over a grand in English sterling in my last job. He said I could had quite easily led a Playboy lifestyle on that amount of money in Honduras. Having looked at the prices in supermarkets and restaurants in Tegus, I’m not convinced by this (it’s only a little bit cheaper). This does underline, however, if 60% of Hondurans are earning less than $1 a day, how hard their lives are here if they have to pay through the roof at supermarkets. I should bear in mind that I am staying with a family in the rich 40% of the country, as are their friends and the other volunteers and so we go to places that are a bit more expensive (they say street food is dangerous for gringos). To get used to the food, we’ve been eating at shopping malls a bit (I’ve stopped this now – I need to start scrimping). Because this food is quite fatty too, you can see a lot of obese people around. I, myself, feel I’m bulking up a bit. Either that or granny has a secret plan to kill me via cholesterol (in truth, I’m beginning to really like her now. Not her lectures at 6:30 in the morning, but her genuine care for people). The food in general is quite greasy, lots of chicken restaurants (my personal favourite, by name only, is Pollolandia!), and many Beladas (my spelling and pronunciation is awful). One thing that is cheap are drinks. Cocktails. On that Thursday night, it  was Marissa’s (a Swiss volunteer) 21st birthday. I didn’t have enough time to return home and change so I had to stay at someone’s house and smell a bit the next day. A group of volunteers who have come to Honduras or Hondurans who are about to depart to Europe met in a Mexican restaurant called Chili’s. It was a meat feast. Best of all, cocktails were about 1.20 in English sterling and the quantities are generous. Because I am staying with a Mormon family and my alcohol intake is limited, I got drunk rather quickly. I think the best part of the restaurant was when all the staff of the restaurant gathered to sing, with drums, bells, whistles and very wide smiles, “Feliz Cumpleaños” in four different languages and loud enough for everyone in the next two bars to hear. It was made even more hilarious that poor old Marissa does not like being centre of attention. After the restaurant we went to a few bars in an area called Rosales (I think). These bars could have been anywhere in the world and I didn’t feel I was in Honduras anymore. There was one bar which had the cocktails painted on the wall with many “interesting” names for cocktails, such as ‘Adios Motherf–ker’ and ‘Blowjob’. Suffice to say, I didn’t say ‘Adios Motherf–ker’ to the big barman, neither did I ask him for a ‘Blowjob’. Because I felt a bit under-dressed and drunk, I stuck to the trustworthy ‘Salva Vida’ beer which was 1 quid a bottle. This might sound cheap, but for some reason, I expected it to be cheaper. The rest of the night was spent looking at lovely muchachas dancing to reggaeton and listening to salsa music. The rest was American dance music. As I said, it could have been anywhere. That night, I slept in a house which had a whole in the roof over the kitchen area.

The next day we went to the Green Cross. I don’t think the Red Cross exists in Honduras. Because I was knackered from the night before, my concentration slipped a bit during the first aid training. I was also in yonder because this time the presenter looked like Carlos Tevez. It’s strange: priorities in life. The presentation the day before by ‘Honduran Joe’, who didn’t seem to care less about the Development Goals for his own country, I enjoyed so much more and took a lot away. This presentation however, which could save someones life, I found boring. I really should sort myself out! I had to cut short the presentation anyway, and get the last bus home. For any Brits who complain about travelling in big cities back home, try sitting in two hours of Friday traffic in Tegus in a bus that stinks of dank piss and sweat to travel 15 miles! Lovely!

I had a lie in on Saturday morning (15th Jan, I think). Eight in the morning is a lie in here, thanks to the bloody chickens. Grandma woke me up to tell me someone had given her a present. When we talk of offal in England, I don’t know whether pigs ears count. They were delivered to her warts and all, attached with ear drums! She tried to soften the skin by burning it over the stove (the smell of burning pig hair is not nice) and then she scraped it off while I was trying to eat breakfast. Please do look at the below picture with any Pepper Pig fans (she’s either dead, deaf and gone all Van Gogh on us).

Poor Old Pepper Pig

The BBQ was part hosted by a Honduran woman who had studied English at Sutton Coldfield back in Brum in the 60s. She had loved her experience and I have been invited to stay some time at their lush house in Tegus. The hacienda was equally lush. There were horses, amazing views over valleys, beautiful paintings around the house and the meat on the BBQ was fit for a king. I was very well treated and made more contacts in Tegus to go out. Unfortunately, at the start of the evening, Marissa was riding a horse and she fell off and hurt her back and shoulder. The free booze flowed for a bit but I was quite tired to I helped Marisa back to her home. It was a lovely evening.

The next day, Sunday, is probably the first time I have actually been scared about my security in Honduras. I had to catch the irregular buses back to Tatumbla. I have to catch it outside the National Stadium in a deserted market, which is quite a dodgy area by Hondurans standards to be walking around alone in. I was at first shown a bus by a drunken man, but because of the death silence around the place (only a few big muchachos around weighing up how many lempiras I’m worth) and the fact he was drunk and looked dodgy himself, I decided to ignore his advice and sit in a petrol station with a security guard called Carlos. The petrol station is the normal place to get the bus. Suddenly the bus did take off and I missed it (goes to show, you must always trust homeless drunk guys in life). I then sat with a mother and two sons who were parking attendants for the game of football (FC Montagua – they are the second team of Tegus). Fans, Las Maras, were filling the area quickly and I was getting their attention. The family sat casually as fireworks went off around them. The conversation I had with the two sons was quite profound. We talked about lesbians on bicycles, bus schedules, more about ladies, and of course, football. Another bus pulled in at 3:00, so I ran over so I wouldn’t miss this one. Unfortunately the bus driver said he wasn’t leaving until 4:00. Two and a half hours to wait for a bus while football fans danced around. I got on the bus and sat with mum’s and kids like a coward. I had a good read and got sunburned.

Well, I thought this was going to be short but like always, I have got a little carried away. I hope so far this is a good insight into life in Honduras. I am due to start my placement earlier due to the fact that the Spanish classes are for absolute beginners and the teacher is a pain in the arse! Long story. Maybe in my next update. But hopefully I will be telling you about Casa Alianza very soon.

Primera dos días todavía. Hay mas!

I apologise for the short and random update last week. As I said, I have to share the computer equally amongst other volunteers. When I start my placement and I’m a bit more settled, I will be able to write more.

The update I did last week was when I was about to meet the family for the first time. I knew it was going to be living in a small town outside Tegucigalpa with a Mormon family and I was quite curious (nervous) as to what to expect. Well, to break down stereotypes, the father does not have many wives, they do smile, they do laugh, they do live their lives in a normal way like everybody else here. They don’t drink coffee or alcohol, although they do like chocolate and they enjoyed the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Mini Eggs I brought for them. They are cheque, which means cool in Español Hondureño)! I’m actually living next door to the family, with the grandmother, who’s name is Blanca but she likes me to call her abuela (grandma). She makes me mountains of food because she says I’m not fat enough, but she tries to make me eat when I have no appetite and she doesn’t understand the term ‘no gracias’! Her food is nice and she’s introducing me to Latin American cookery, as well as Italian (she’s makes pasta a lot). She also peels oranges in the most fierce way; not someone you want to get on the wrong side of, when though she’s 80 this year (I think she might frighten a few of the Las Maras gangs in the tough neighbourhoods of Tegus). At first I thought she was completely bonkers. She wouldn’t leave me a lone for one moment. She would try to talk to me while I was on the loo and then kept opening my window at 6:30 in the morning to let the fresh air in. She has a habit of contradicting herself. The other night, I was washing my plate as she asked, then two seconds later, she suddenly screetched at me not to, which I found a bit of a headf—k to be honest. She has great sarcasm though, and I find it hard to tell if she’s joking or not. I guess it’s a taste of my own medicine. Another thing that turns my head is her ability to speak English. She has lived and travelled in different parts of the USA and uses lots of American terminology. Then she’ll suddenly revert to a kind of countryside Hondureño Spanish, without warning, and then want to talk about her children, the Mormon church, the Catholic Church, a Belgium priest at the project I’m going to be at (who she asks everyday if I have met him, and I keep having to remind her I will when I start), and then she accuses me of talking to much after she’s been talking at me for four hours without letting me reply. I do feel sorry for her though. The other day, I found out she only knew I was going to be staying with her for the year. To have to fix the house within a day is a bit much and I feel I have been thrusted into her life and there’s not much she can do about it. I have begun to warm to her though, but not her hygiene habits (another story)!

I actually sleep in the walkway into the kitchen and the bed has a few layers to deal with the cold nights. As I said in the last update, I live in the mountains and there’s no central heating or air conditioning, and the shower is freezing (so for the folks who say I spend too long in the shower, this, I promise, is no longer the case), which I’ve actually begun to like now. Hot water is a luxury. It’s like going back into the wild, a little bit. The house is over a hundred years old, it survived Hurricane Mitch in 1997-98 (I can’t quite remember), it has lovely high yellow walls, the floor is made of clay, and for those who live in the West Midlands, the kitchen resembles something of the houses in the Black Country Museum, but with a charming Latin American touch. I like it! She likes American 50s music and she often has Louis Armstrong. It’s so refreshing to have What a Wonderful World echo through the house, if not a little surreal, with the sound chickens outside. One thing I do dislike is the bloody chicken that wakes me up every morning at 5am on cue! It’s going to find itself in KFC meal soon. I was told the next day (on the Thursday) that it was actually a type of turkey that was making this horrific screeching. It’s gonna be a turkey twizzler then, I don’t care! STOP WAKING ME UP! I asked for an adrenaline, a wake up call to life: My gosh, have I got one!

She has two Mormon missionaries come to the house every night to eat with her. Up to earlier this week, they were both American. They live very tough lives and sacrifice a lot for their belief. I couldn’t do it myself (and I’m not going to either). They’re only 20 or 21 and they get placed all over the world. They have to live in each others shoes, be in bed by 9:30 and only allowed to contact family once a month, as well as being chased out of rough Tegucigalpa neighbourhoods everyday as they try to go about their jobs preaching. And there’s me moaning that I’m not allowed to have a beer in the house! As I said, one has left now and he has been replaced by a Guatemalan lad. The two Americans helped me settle in a lot, and they did talk me through a few things about how to cope with the crazy granny. The one that left is from Colorado and he liked sports. The one that stayed is from California and likes the movies, and their personalities were quite different, so I couldn’t help giggling to myself when they kept winding each other up (after spending all day together) but they tried to wear a sane smile for the God’s word. I really, really wouldn’t be able to do it! I’m patient by nature, but my acid tongue would soon get the better of me. When the guy from Colorado left though, the grandmother cried and I felt sad to see him go as well. They can be taken away from a parish at any time.

The family are lovely. The teenagers, Ari junior and Raquel, are both mature and quite sweet. I don’t have to have think of conversations or bring myself down to a level with them. They attend a bilingual school and speak English with an American accent, so when they call me gringo, I fire it right back at them! I’ve never seen them bicker or argue, which is incredible for teenagers. They’ve been very supportive to me, the whole family that is, and they look after each other well. Families are very important to Hondurans, whatever they’re race or religion, and they do a lot together. I know this is not too dissimilar in our own families but it’s still endearing to witness.

I must say, my first experience of Honduran roads with the family was an eye-opener. Because I’m writing about experiences from over a week ago, this happened on 5th January. We were driving past a big yellow Canadian bus (which I still love) when someone flung a glass bottle at the family car. While my face had gone a little white with fear, the family got on with it like everyday life. This was while going through  dangerous neighbourhood though, by the name of Nuevo Oriental, which I now see as the norm. All the cars have blanked out windows and it seems like practice that when going through bad ‘barrios’, the windows go up and doors are locked! So many robberies are done that way. Unfortunately it’s quite symbolic too, as these neighbourhoods have unsurprisingly high poverty, and a way for rich families to deal with it is by winding up their blanked out windows and locking their doors to ignore it. It won’t go away. The blanked out windows ARE for security. That’s for sure. I was in a taxi today which didn’t and there were huge cracks across the windscreen. I assure you most the cars here wouldn’t pass their MOT. I do like the way small pick up trucks carry about eight men in the back round tight bends at stupid speeds – very groucho cowboy. There are a whole different set of rules for the road here, like in many countries. The horn is used as much as the brake for a start, and the green light is used to start a race. Traffic jams, and I promise you, is far worse than Europe and there are no lanes on the road. All this, mixed with the machismo culture, and my conclusion to Honduran roads is quite simple; it’s a bloody deathtrap. Then again, it might be safer than being a gringo pedestrian!

The first couple of days, Lilian (she calls herself Lilo, as does the rest of the world), look me into Tegucigalpa so I could get my bearings of the city and a mobile phone. We went to giant malls (very American with car trains going around it) and it could have been anywhere, and only marginally cheaper than the UK. It’s a bit strange having these centres when the country has such poverty, but that’s not new to me having been to Brazil, but it’s still a strange thought. Because of the chaos in Tegucigalpa, I don’t think I will ever really get my bearings. There are random bus stops and bus drivers seem to invent their own routes, and the taxi collectivos which are like small buses and have set routes, which also change depending which direction a pretty lady in the car wants it to go. Anyway, on my first full day, I was taken to a Honduran supermarket, which is like all supermarkets round the world, intriguing. I bought a sorte, which is a fruit but like a bitter avocado. I also massively overspent on a pack of pistachios which cost 120 lempiras (about 6 pounds) and a notebook (4 pounds) and I worked out with the same amount I could have gone to the coast for the weekend! I just misread the prices, but it was too much amusement to Lilo and Raquel, who now call me gringy muchacho (muchacho = hombre in Honduran Spanish). Going back to Lilo, a converted Mormon (she was Catholic before), speaks very fast. I have great problems understanding her and I go to bed with a migraine sometimes. She is lovely. She takes great care of me. She has a typical Honduran sense of humour which revolves around taking the piss and being sarcastic. I fit in very well, although it’s not all different from the British humour and it can be quite dark. I quite like it. The problem is, my ears are still adjusting to Honduran Spanish, then I am then expected to understand the sarcasm, which is, again, a bit of headf—k. The people are nice though, and they say buenas dias and buenas tardes to everyone. I am in a village, but it seems to be the same in Tegus as well. I like it!

On the Friday (6th), Lilo brought it on herself to take me with her son to Casa Alianza, which is the project I will be working in with the street kids. There were ‘las maras’ gangs lurking outside, but I have been told they leave the tourists and Casa Alianza workers alone. It is in a lively but slightly dodgy part of town, but if I wear the Casa Alianza t-shirt, I should be okay as the project is well known and well respected. Lilo took me as she was concerned for my safety. When we got inside, I spoke to the manager and she told me I will be working with illegal and stateless immigrants from Nicaragua, because of my past work at the Refugee Council (so thanks again to the guys at the ol’ RC) and I am quite excited. I also plan to do a poetry project with the kids to voice their experiences (if I’m allowed), and maybe send some stuff translated to publishers in Britain. It might make a bit of money, it might not. I have to give it a shot! The kids here like Reggaeton, which I personally hate, but it might kick off some artistic pulses for them, and I imagine many of the kids need it. Many of the girls blew kisses at me (which Lilo is still taking the piss out of me about) and the lads spoke a street Spanish that made my head spin. The kids were tough, but they were keen to know me and ask questions, which I like about Hondurans. They’re very curious to know more about you and be friendly. It will be a hard project though. As stated, many people know about the charity all over the city and it’s very well respected. It’s daunting, but I’m looking forward to it. I start in a week or so.  

My ears are slowly pricking up to Honduran Spanish now. They use ‘vos’ and ‘ustedes’ a lot more than their European ancestors, which is what I’m used to. To English people who can speak Spanish, you might be able to comprehend the problems I’ve faced. I tend to use ‘tu’, which is fine, but very informal to Hondurans. They understand that I’ve learned Spanish in Spain, and I am often referred to as Gallego, which is an insult to Spanish people (there are many jokes about Spanish people, very similar to those that the British used to make about the Irish). So I’m unsure if I’m called Gajego because of my Spanish or because they think I’m stupid. I also embarrassingly found out that ‘pija’ in Honduras is not the same as ‘pija’ in Spain. ‘Pija’ in Spain means a woman who is a little stuck up and posh. ‘Pija’ in Honduras is a vulgar expression for a part of the male anatomy. I made the mistake in front of the Mormon family. They laughed about it. Luckily. In fact, like ‘de puta madre’ means something good (but translates as something vulgar) in Spanish, ‘la mera pija’ is much the same thing. The Instituto de Cervantes in Spain, which is the formal body of the Spanish language, apparently stated that because of the amount of random Honduran slang, it actually as has the largest amount of vocabulary of all the Spanish countries. This is according in Hondurans. I do believe it so far though. They speak fast here, but I believe it’s faster (and harder) in Andalucia.        

Back to Casa Alianza, it’s in downtown. No Ipods, no phones, no maps. If I do get mugged, I have been told I should be able to go into the nearby market to get all my stuff back. I have also been told that I can get cheap Ray Bans glasses and cool pump trainers, although I should only go there with other people. Where I live in Tatumbla, there are a couple of workers at Casa Alianza, so I can get rides them, which was a concern, as buses are dangerous. However, do not believe Honduras is behind with everything in this world. On buses in Brum, you can buy marijuana by the gram and you have to roll it yourself. In Tegus, you can buy it in tablet form. Don’t ask me how, but I think it’s time we lazy Brits follow suit! One thing that is a bit unnerving is the amount of guns around. The Police and security wave them around casually, so much that a Policeman was going past on a motorbike and the butt of his rifle whacked a man out cold, accidently! I know this happens in many countries around the world. If you’re not used to it, it’s just a little weird. I’m getting used to it now though. As I stated before about the chaos of Tegucigalpa, the telephone cables are a great example of this. The disorganization of them all is an art form. Apparently this is a bit lame in comparison to others aroundThey remind me of the tangled wires in my own head when listening to Spanish all day!

After Casa Alianza, we went to Plaza Morazan (Morazan is a famous Honduran who lead the Hondurans against the Spanish, as is the famous Lenca, Lempira, the name of the currency). We saw the Garifuna communities dance. I really like the music and style of living. They are the African communities. Their beliefs and philosophies are very similar Buddhist ideas. I accidently walked into someone in Plaza Morazan and jumped. Lilo then called me the gringy muchacho that jumps a lot. As does most of Tatumbla. We also went into the cathedral and I saw a sign that pretty much sums up the Honduran sense of humour: “No es una casa para hablar con la cellular. Eso es una casa para hablar con dios”, which roughly translates as: “This is not a house for speaking to your mobile. This is a house for speaking to God.”

Earlier that day I climbed up a hill in Tatumbla and looked over the valley to take photos of the lush green hills. There were huge birds hovering over. I couldn’t tell what they were so when I got back to the house, I asked Lilo. She said “vultures”. She then followed it up by saying in a serious tone: “Death is a part of everyday life here,” which I found quite profound and sad. She then burst out laughing and said, “The gringy muchacho is scared,” and then back to serious tone, “It is true though”. I couldn’t laugh at that myself. Thirty minutes later I was seeing street kids on the side of the road. As I said, I’m still getting used to the poverty.

I would like to raise my middle finger to Starbucks and laugh. It has not been able to survive in Honduras but they can’t compete with the low prices of local coffee shops. It’s only 50p for beautiful flavoured coffee and it blows the crap you drink in England out of the water. Yes I’m being obnoxious and arrogant, but I’m allowed to be on this coffee high!  

I will repeat, I am a week behind in my blog. I have since gone to Valla de Angeles, a beautiful little mining town (which I will want to return to), nearly been bitten by a big white dog in a coffee shop, and I have met more people and made new friends. I have been told to make more friends, and when the project starts, I will meet more people with whom I can stay with overnight or over weekends in Tegus. I can feel a bit cut off here. I need to give it a chance. I have to wait and see. To finish off, I’m attaching the song ‘Postcards’ by Faithless. I know it’s not Salsa or Reggaeton or Garifuna, but it reminds me of you all back home. It’s also beautiful poetry. Enjoy! Faithless – Postcards

Primera Semana

Dear all,

To those who have been following my blog, I apologise for not updating anything in the past week. I’ve not had frequent access to the internet and I’ve been very busy being shown around Tegucigalpa, the disorganised metropolis! I am actually staying in a small town called Tatumbla, which is 25km east of the city, and it has green rolling hills, friendly inhabitants, there are a couple of churches (Catholic and Mormon), two pubs, a pool hall, a library, a lot of wildlife, rich families, poor families, and a few buses coming and going to Tegus (Tegucigalpa – “Silver Hills” in the old dialect which I can’t remember the name of right now). The last bus is at 7pm or something, so frequenting the city for a beer in the evening is not easy. It can get very cold in village too, as it’s in the mountains and there’s no central heating. I have been told I must make friends in the city, or pay the excess in taxi charges (which would probably be a gringo price anyway). To those I have been in contact with via email and facebook, you know I am well. I will try to update you all a bit more when I start the placement, which is about two weeks time. The only real time I get to use the internet is when I’m at the ICYE office. I wrote five A4 pages, just for the first two days, so I’m a bit behind! I have to share the computer with five other volunteers and staff. It’s also a bit anti-social and quite slow. But I will try to update with pictures soon. It’s been a busy first week! All good, mostly!

Houston, Texas

 Hell yeah. I love America. It’s all true what they say. Big portions. Big cars. Big waist lines. Big busts. Big shops. Oversize is everything. Loads of customer service. Massive roads. Hershi bars. After all these years of taking the piss out of Americans, all I can say was that it was pure envy. Seriously, the dollar notes are like Monopoly money. It was pure indulgence, and I was called a “charming soul” by two lovely hosts in a lovely steakhouse restaurant for saying “cheers” too much. One of the girls said, “Oh my, I didn’t know how to respond!”

The Lone State

I’ll backtrack a mo! I met Charlotte Raftery and Emma Kneebone, who have also come to volunteer in Honduras, at Heathrow. It was with Continental Airlines we flew, not American Airways like I thought, so any defaming comments in my last post can be diverted to Continental. Not that I had much to complain about except for the price of beer ($6) and the fact we had dinner at 10:30 in the morning (which is also when I had the beer). Despite this, it was great. I watched three films on the way over, which I can’t remember the names of two. The one I can remember was Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which was great. One had Will Farrell in, he was a cop, and I almost wet myself with laughter and disturbed people around who were trying to sleep. The other had Leo di Capriro (I think I’ve spelt his name wrong) and I got bored. Not that it interests you anyway. The flight was ten hours and I came off the plane seriously jet lagged and numb-arsed. But I enjoyed my first and only night in the USA.

A taxi driver from Vietnam picked us up at the airport and he was brilliant. He told us about his stay in USA and that he originally came to California. He  said Houston was bad and we should have gone to California. We told him we were here for one night only. He said, “Good!” and laughed. He couldn’t find the hotel at first, which was called the Knights Inn and I can promise you was not fit for a soldier, so he turned off the meter for us and then phoned the hotel with his own mobile. I cannot see many taxi drivers in Brum doing that. The hotel, as you can guess from many explanation above, wasn’t the greatest. The place stunk and it kind of reminded me of dodgy motels you see in films. Nonetheless, the staff seemed nice but they looked a bit disappointed when we said we wouldn’t eat at the restaurant next door to the hotel. We did, however, go to a steakhouse called Flemings which was somewhere in a mall in Houston. The guy who drove us was called Pepe. He was from El Salvador and he loved “soccer” and Michael Owen and Chicorito who plays for Man United. He also had a cool cowboy hat. We had a lovely long chat and told us of beaches to go to in El Salvador very close to the border with Honduras. He ended it, however, but controversially saying there were too many Muslims in England. We were all a bit shocked. Luckily we were getting out the taxi at that point.

 As I stated above, the portions were huge. I felt dizzy with rare red meat. The slab was as thick as a Christmas cake. Loved it. The cream spinach. Amazing. I make a nice Spanish spinach and chickpeas dish but this knocked my recipe into the heavens. Indulgence. A man called Michael served us and he was very friendly and I was very taken with his customer service skills. He even ordered us a taxi home and we felt obliged to pay him a ridiculous tip. Top bloke! The two female hosts on the door were equally charming and thought my English accent was “so cute”. I put on my best Hugh Grant accent for ten minutes and tried my best not to swear (or piss myself laughing). It rained last night but the temperature was really nice and warm. Humid, but it’s better than sub-zero conditions you guys are sitting in (HA HA). Everything smelled sterilised and clean, which was strange. You notice these things coming from Birmingham. But it was nice to start the adventure by treating ourselves to such luxuries. Why the hell doesn’t Barnes and Noble sell Graham Greene books though? Jerks.

Charlotte and Emma calculated we had three hours sleep in forty-eight hours. So we went back to our respected hotel rooms and soundly slept. Well, I stayed up and watched scary American TV for a while, then I went to sleep, safe in the knowledge that, even though I enjoyed my one night in the USA, I was going on to somewhere which would be more suited to myself.

Anyway, we got through customs fine this morning. I am in Honduras, safe and well in the ICYE office and I will be meeting the family in a bit. I will tell you more in an update later. I feel I need to be socializing and meeting people. I love the Honduran buses, I will tell you that right now, and to make you all green with envy, it’s hot and it’s not in England. So there!