Last week was a funny old week. I met the Prime Minister of security of Honduras (I was told by the Granny that the next time I see him I should throw a shoe at him with poo on it), I was put in charge of about 100 ill-disciplined children (not easy), I saw a girl almost massacre her boyfriend because he kissed his girlfriend’s friend, I have been told by Casa Alianza to expand the internet project into a book of the children’s experiences, I have been learning distasteful compliments to call women in the street, I have been to the border with Nicaragua near Danlí, and BLUES WON THE CARLING CUP! I also want to bring to your attention of the nose scrunching that goes on here.
In the last post, I spoke about meeting the Prime Minister. I only wrote about it briefly. I was a bit miffed to be honest because I was given no prior warning about meeting him. I had organised tutorials with some of the kids, only for it to be blown to pieces. I was told later that this was due to security and they had to keep it a secret from the kids, especially with some of them having connections with the Maras. The kids sang and played games with him and asked him questions which he answered like a typical politician (by answering his own questions and not the ones put forward by kids; very well rehearsed). After he went, there was a brilliant dance off between the kids (which I found hilarious, and some of the girls taught me how to dance to merengue and reggaeton (which the kids found hilarious). It was interesting to say the least.
The day after, the Casa Alianza staff had a staff meeting and left me in charge of 100 maniacs. They tore me apart. I was a bit annoyed (no hazard awareness sheets filled out here!), and some of the kids did their best to frustrate. A couple of kids came to my aid at times and bullied the trouble makers to shut up. Discipline is not one of my traits and it is what the kids really need at times. I prefer to let the kids express themselves a little more freely. Too much though, and they go loopy. It’s a fine line, like with kids all over the world. After the meeting, the staff said thank you and sorry for leaving me alone. Again, I was given no prior warning about this, which is a common theme here. But they said they were impressed that I held the place together.
One of the bosses has also said he wants me to expand the project about putting the kids stories and hopes and dreams on-line, and making it into a book of 160 pages instead. I am, of course, very excited. It is a passion of mine. I’m still waiting for the go-ahead on this, but I have been collating a couple of stories from kids. It is staggering how many have tried to go to the USA alone and at such a young age. It is especially interesting for me, considering I worked with refugees in my last job, and now working with economic migrants in this one. They go to escape poverty. Poverty that I have only seen glimpses of but I will never really fully understand or experience. Some of the kids have nothing, so why not try? They usually get caught by Mexican police near the numerous border crossings between Mexico and USA. They are sent to Aguas Caliente near the Honduras and Guatemala border. I have asked them whether it really is risking their life to cross the border, across desert land, with the possibility of being shot or exploited by traffickers, and possibly still get caught anyway and sent back from the USA. Their usual reply is, “our lives are at stake everyday here anyway”. One lad told me, quite profoundly, “Americans promote globalisation. They promote their culture everywhere. We have their billboards, their cars and their malls here. They want to share their economy here. Why can’t we share it there?” Quite right! Some kids, when I start talking to them, don’t want to continue. This is quite hard, but understandable. Some kids have lost their parents and seen them die. It can be very sad, obviously.
Some of the kids are very strong mentality. Some of them are very weak and can’t accept discipline. One girl in particular tried to stab me with a pencil when I wouldn’t let her into a room. I was told that she wasn’t allowed, rather than me laying down the law. She waited three hours after the incident to stab me. She is very angry. I have yet to find out what happened to her. A couple of girls have also taken an interest in me and sometimes it is quite difficult, especially when they try to hug and then kiss and I have to push them away. Some of the young lads get openly jealous too. One lad spat at me one morning and threatened me not to go near a girl he likes by showing me a cut throat sign with his hand. I sat down with him to explain that I was not interested in his fancy and lie about having a girlfriend who I loved very much. He’s still not convinced. I can’t remember if I put this in my last post, but the kids play this game that’s called “mi camino” (my road or “destiny”). It involves pinching my bicep and digging me soon after. They seem to think this is hilarious. I sometimes come back home feeling as if I’ve had my jabs all over again. I hate it. I’m tempted to punch one of the kids in the face soon. There was also a girl who beat up her boyfriend. There were knees in the groin, clumps of hair, fingers broken and black eyes. It was grave. Four guys and myself jumped in to stop her killing him. Quite literally. I have never seen such force. I asked him if he was okay the next day, and he sheepishlessly smiled and said, “Yes. I shouldn’t have kissed her friend.” A lesson learnt. Very painfully. This has made me want to stay single. If hugging a female companion means getting a kick in the shins, I would rather do without thanks.
The grandma’s grandsons, Andreas and Christian in particular, have been teaching me some of wonderful Latin cat-calls for women. One of them is Mamita Rica, which translates as “Rich Momma” or “Delicious Momma”. There is also “Chichí” and “La Terna”. They are unfortunately sexist terms, but they are very funny when they are belted out loud from car windows. They are certainly said with more style than, “Alwoight sweetheart”. I haven’t started doing it myself and I haven’t seen a man manage to lure a woman into the car with these interesting terms of affection. They are absolutely hilarious to hear though. Back in Tatumbla, the granny has been coming up with some more points of view of life that are funny, but a bit out-dated and slightly disturbing. The first is that she refuses to believe that Elton John is gay.Of all people. She was playing instrumentals from famous songs on her stereo. It’s like the music in the waiting rooms of doctors surgeries. ‘Sacrifice’ just happened to come on and one of the missionaries said: “He’s gay!” The shock on her face was a picture. She is in complete denile about it, mainly because she’s very homophobic.
You can’t expect anything less from an ex-Catholic-converted-Mormon (she came into my room the other night with a picture of a Mormon temple. She gave it me as a present. She asked me again if I fancied talking to the missionaries. No was my answer). The other was a slightly disturbing view of Germans. Modern day Germans too. She thinks the whole country is fascist. Honestly. We tried to convince her that it wasn’t. She wasn’t having it. I think my time will be coming to an end there soon. My patience is being worn down now. It’s a shame. Sometimes she’s great. Sometimes she’s just plain mad. I really like Tatumbla. The countryside around is beautiful and it’s so nice to stroll around aimlessly to escape the mayhem of Tegus.
It’s so different. So far out my comfort zone it’s unbelievable. But I think the granny wants her life back. And I want mine.
To get away from granny and Casa Alianza and Tegucigalpa, I like to drift off to other places close by. The weekend just gone, I decided to go and see my friend Ami who lives in Danlí. It is close to the border with Nicaragua and the road that passes all the way to the small city, famous for cigars and coffee, has some of the most impressive views I have ever seen. I have become accustomed to hitching lifts on the back of “pilas” (open back trucks). I have since been told not to do this for the risk of being kidnapped, but this time, a nice family stopped for me without me actually waving my arm. The road passes through Valla de Zamorano, a valley of lush pine forests and agricultural land. Because of the rain here, it has some of the most fertile land in the country here. It felt refreshing and clean to breathe in fresh oxygen, if not a bit nervy with the driving. The driver was eating corn on the cob all the way there while overtaking at high speeds on mountain roads. Crashes happen here. The driver was no Lewis Hamilton! Seeing the villages wizz pass and the smells and scents and small farms with chickens scattering across the road, it was another reminder that I was in a different world, and one that is more primitive but I really like all the same. When I say primitive, I don’t mean to sound patronising. But being brought up in a city like Brum, then seeing the countryside like this, you can’t help but feel that life from an outsider is very simple (although I am sure they have their own worries and social politics here too).
Once I got to Danlí,
"Welcome to Danlí"
I saw exactly what was written in the tourist guides, “a cowboy town!” There were men in cowboy hats and horse saddles being sold everywhere. I will come back in September to Danlí when there is the corn festival: famous for the tamal and atol. Carlos, a chirpy farmer and uncle of the family Ami is staying with, took us to a friend’s coffee factory where they come straight from the plants. They are washed, then roasted, and then sent to all different parts of Central America, sometimes by truck, sometimes by bicycle. There are mountains of cocoa plants everywhere. Most the population of Danlí and the neighbouring city El Paraíso work for coffee companies too.
Fertile lands near Danlí
Carlos then took us to the border with Nicaragua, a place called Los Manos (“the hands”). There was not much there about from a metal chain separating the countries and lots of lorries from all over Central America. The landscapes were, again, incredible. Carlos then invited himself into a private hacienda, which once belonged to an English businessman called McPatten. It is now a cattle farm. One young calf, which will soon end up on someone’s plate, tried to lick my camera, as seen below.
Cow thinking about licking my camera
Cow licking my camera
The trees were planted as they would be in a stately home in England, and it definitely had a British feel to it. Since, Hondurans had bought the place and put some Latin spice into the area. It was very picturesque, as you can see below.
The next morning, I tried desperately to scramble through the channels to see if they were showing the Carling Cup Final. ESPN in Honduras seemed to think GENK v STANDARD LIEGE was more important. I had to swear out loud. The last time Birmingham won something important was 1963. They had to wait until I was on the other side of the world to do this. To top things off, I was a little hung over. I found out the result the next day. Belated, but sweet nonetheless. I couldn’t sleep on Sunday night thinking of the result. I prepared myself for the worst. You tend to do that as a Blues fan. In most parts of my life, I am optimistic and positive. When it comes to football, I was a soggy sponge of negativity. I guess it’s also from supporting England too.
WELL DONE BLUES!
YOU DESERVED IT (SO THE BBC AND SKY SPORTS GAME REVIEW STATES!)
Last but not least: nose crunching. Hondurans have this wonderful way of scrunching their nose when they don’t understand something, or pouting in the direction of someone in order to speak about them (kind of). It is a silent language which I am kind of picking up on. I brought it to attention of a couple of peeps but they completely deny it. I personally love it.
I will write again next week, hopefully. Take care, everyone! Next time, I will talk about mangos. Lovely mangos.