Monthly Archives: March 2011

El Camino a Libertad – The Road to Freedom

Dear all

Yes, yes, yes! I am out of granny’s house (also known as the devil’s nest). Her son saw more plight and that my sanity steadily being shattered and took pity. He asked if I would temporarily like to stay in his house with his wife and his sons, whom I get on with really well. I sat down and thought about it (it didn’t need much to be fair). On Tuesday morning, she pulled my final straw and my marbles really did go “Kerplunk”. She came screaming at me like a banshee because I left the bathroom door half-open and I forgot to pull the shower curtain back after I used it. She wouldn’t let me give an explanation and I lost it. It had been coming. The relationship was beyond repair. That’s all I can really say. The family is fine with it. They know what she is like. I am only there for a couple of weeks. I really like it here. There are splendid views over Inaca and Tatumbla and of Uyuca, where I went with one of the sons. I have heard many strange stories about the granny recently. She told a pack of lies about me to ICYE. There was one I quite like, that I forced her to buy me bread and I never washed the plates, when I did it everynight, as well as everyone elses. When I confronted her about it, she said she loved me and smiled. I guess this is what they call bi-polar. I do, despite all the problems, hope that she stays healthy. She can be really sweet when she wants to be. She should have been in the army though. I think she’s passed the enlistment age. How about prison warden?

I will be going to the North this weekend to Tela and La Ceiba with one of the sons, Danny, who I went with to Uyuca. I hope he recovers from his cold first. It’s a nice to have a few days away from Casa Alianza. The poor kids are still stuck inside Casa Alianza due the continuing strikes, which is more like a scene from Saving Private Ryan than an organised demonstration. Also, the weather is getting hotter and more humid in Tegus, which makes the thought of the calm sea air even more appealing. I will update the blog with pictures next week. It will be the first time I will have been to the Caribbean. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time. I seriously can’t wait. Think of Rum Diaries. Think of me.

I went back to Danli last week to see some friends. It’s a shame to say but one of the lads who tagged along happened to be a complete chav. The worst kind too, with a crappy attitude and really sad looking 90s Reebok shell suit. He pushed me out of the way aggressively to dance with a girl, there were no “please” or “thank you’s” or courtesy to women or my friends. I had to deal with people like this in my youth on Broad Street in Brum, and sometimes in Preston. I am really disappointed to see that the chav spirit has come to Honduras. It’s not common mind, and this loutish behaviour isn’t typical of Hondurans (unless they are the Maras). The kids in Casa Alianza have more respect.

I have interviewed more lads at Casa Alianza and writing bits and pieces of the book, whenever I can use a computer at work. I will be interviewing girls who were raped or forced into prostitution soon, with a psychologist present. I wouldn’t feel comfortable without one. I have also been reading the newspapers, which don’t have great moral values. It’s not uncommon to see decapitated bodies and murders on front pages of newspapers, close up and very graphic. Sometimes we see pictures of war and bodies back in England, but the newspapers here hide nothing and they do it everyday, which brings back memories for me of going to the morgue. It causes panic in society. I’m not saying people should not know the problems the country and the tragedies, but some respect for the victim’s families shouldn’t be ignored. News values are different the world over. I feel a bit pompos saying the country should change it’s ways, but this is something I feel strongly about, especially working with kids who have had family members die due to violence, only to  see their loved ones dead for all of Honduras to see. Dealing death, especially a murder, is stressful issue as it is. Why cause more pain? Will it really sell a few more papers? It makes page 3 girls seem more tasteful in comparison. Maybe they should take news values from the red tape in the UK (I never thought I would say that. In fact no, I take that back). For an example, see The Tribunal in Honduras website.

I was shown a second time how to make bracelets out of wool by kids at Casa Alianza. I might as well give up. Below is a photo of what a bracelet should look like, and a bracelet which I made. I am now the “grinchito who can’t make bracelets”, and not for the first time, a laughing stock amongst the kids.

As for “ahorita”, as they like to say in Honduras, I must go as I need to type up a child’s experience of domestic abuse. To end on a not so much of a laughing note.

A bracelet how it should be made

A bracelet how it should be made

A bracelet made by me


Raves by waterfalls, granny is ill, pesky pickpockets and strikes

Dear all

Last weekend was something of a surprise and quite eventful. I went to my first Honduran rave. Anyone who knows me will know that I think rave music is s–t and the monotonous beats cause boredom and the squits in my stomach. Before that though, I had a night in Tegus where I stayed in the lovely house of Andreita Cassis. It was nice to spend the night in the city. Andreita is  also the owner of 12 cats and I have forgotten how many dogs, but her home I think is the female Honduran equivalent of Doctor Dolittle. The dogs were all very small (but very, very loud). I think the funniest moment was when I walked through the door last Friday evening and a landslide of mini dogs came flying down the stairs. Andreitas sister is actually in Essex studying, so I of course felt obliged to inform the family about the frisky and “open-minded” reputations of Essex girls. I hope they see the funny side.

The next day, while on a bus to meet another friend called Arturo, another former volunteer who was in London, I was pickpocketed of my bank card. Luckily my mum sorted it out and I have another bank card. I also had enough money to last me. It just reminded me of the dangers here. As soon as you relax a bit, things go missing. I was also pickpocketed of a bracelet given to me by a child who I interviewed. It has blue and white beads and I really loved it. Unfortunately, the person who saw it wanted it too and took it off my wrist with out me even knowing. I know it was nicked, as opposed to it breaking, because their were grubby finger marks on the whites of my arms where someone had unhitched it. I feel bad and I will have to tell the poor kid who made me it what happened. Gutted.

Anyway, the rave by the waterfall. It was further up north in a place called Pulhapanzak (I can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t even try) near Lago Yahoa, a great lake that looks a bit like a Scottish Loch in the distance. Probably morYahoa (not a Scottish Loch)e so because there is a lot of drizzle in the air and it’s very fertile land, although just a bit more tropical! The I went there with Arturo’s friends (I will be going with them to Utila at the Easter break “Semana Santa” – I can’t wait!). We camped out (I am not a fan of camping). I danced for a bit but I was more mesmerised by the waterfall the disco lights shining on it. Drugs were on sale (I didn’t partake) and the beats of the music sent me to sleep rather early. I went to sleep in the car about 2am’ish and woke about 5am’ish and then went for an explore around the  park. It was glorious. After being in a rave, that could have been anywhere, I felt I was back in Honduras again. The sounds of wildlife, the crashing of the waterfall and my lungs full of oxygen. No bloody garrapatas or mosquitos either, which was a bit of a surprise. I went for a dip in the river and I haven’t felt so refreshed in ages. I needed it. Because my return to Tatumbla has been a bit of a nightmare since.

I came back to an ill grandma. She is breathing through a machine a couple of hours a day and her behaviour is, well, to put it nicely, angry. I feel I am treading on very delicate egg shells at the moment and the thought of leaving is so, so good. She says she has bronchitis. I found out today it is a bad cold. I have asked if she needs anything, like milk or water, but she barks at me no. I was instructed to leave the door open last night until 1opm’ish by her grandson in case her daughter Lilo had to come and see to her. I was bellowed at by granny, with accusations that I always do it (I do not) and that I was trying to get her place robbed (I am not), amongst other things. There was no opportunity to explain, and when I tried to this morning, she  still wouldn’t listen. As I say, it makes leaving feel good. I no longer feel guilty about leaving her alone. She needs her space. I just hope it doesn’t end on a bad note. She still makes me laugh at times.  

This week, teacher strikes have filled the streets. There have been smoke bombs and riots. There was one where I was supposed to catch a bus. Luckily it had cleared by the time I had to go. The Police have, apparently, broken into a University to stop a revolution. Funnily enough, the bus services have been a whole lot better this week. I have no idea why because the bus I catch passes through where there has been trouble (and mum, relax, I get off the bus before the bus goes through this zone). There has been pepper sprays and gas used, and bricks and punches thrown. Death toll, one person from what I have heard, but that has been quashed since. News values here are a bit haywire. Even though there were the student riots in England last year, I don’t think it was as bad as this. Police are searching and detaining people around, without evidence. This is apparently an everyday thing and I am going to see it a whole lot more. Interesting. It has had an effect on the kids at Casa Alianza because they are unable to go to school with the teachers not working. They are getting restless. I can’t blame them either.

I hope all is well back at home. I hope Blues escape the drop. I know Villa fans don’t.

Sorry to here about Mya guys. She’s joined Bonnie.


The Long and Winding Road (out of Tatumbla) and Don’t Look Back in Anger

Hi all

I have finally been given the go ahead that I will be leaving Tatumbla. It will be in one month or so. I was going to be so cocky and do a victory dance in front of granny earlier this week, after we had a blazing row. Unfortunately the ICYE guys said they can’t move me until they return from work in Germany, but I feel better knowing that I am going. I have already been here one month. Another can’t hurt too much. Can it?

I have decided to dedicate the Beatles classic to that winding pine forest road, which once a bus tried to reverse down to jumpstart the battery, and to the granny who has cared so much for me that I have put on a few pounds. As for the granny, I have told her I am leaving but she doesn’t believe me. It’s sadly hilarious. When I know where I am in Tegus, I’ll let you all know. Hopefully it will have internet access with SKYPE, but no promises.

As for Casa Alianza, they have told me that they want me to teach some more too. I have no idea where I will find the time. The interviews are getting more and more interesting, but sad and terrifying at the same time. I interviewed a boy from Moskitia yesterday who watched his family die in a fire in front of him. I like this lad. He speaks a bit of English and really tries. I won’t tell you more than that. You will have to buy the book, and learn Spanish to read it if you haven’t already. I also interviewed a girl who watched two members of her family die at the hands of the Maras. But today was probably the worst: a lad told me how his dad murdered his mum. He, kind of understandably, has behaviour problems but I have always thought he is respectful, polite and quite misunderstood. Knowing his story puts his behaviour in perspective. I’m not saying it’s an excuse. It just makes me understand him more. He was seven when it happened.

I might be on TV at some point this year. I have been asked to prepare an article about a gringo’s experiences with Casa Alianza. I have more or less written and showed a girl at Casa Alianza. She gave me a massive hug after and said she doesn’t want me to leave. There are days when I don’t want to either.

I will finish by adding a video of Oasis playing one of my favourite (and most overplayed) songs: Don’t Look Back in Anger. It is taken from a concert in Argentina where Noel Gallagher got emotional. Having listened to the lad today about how his father kill his mother, it left me a little emotional too. He admitted to me that he thinks about what happened everyday and how it makes him angry and lose his temper when other kids wind him up. He’s quite macho, but sensitive at the same time. I let him listen to Don’t Look Back in Anger on my IPOD. It was the first time he had heard it, and he said the song made him feel relaxed. I suppose it’s only fitting that I dedicate this song to him. Noel Gallagher, if you are reading this, your song put as big a smile on a street kids face in Honduras, as it did when I heard it the first time when I was 15. 

I hope everyone at home is well.


Recovery, turtles and pictures of Uyuca

View from Uyuca

 

Hi all

I am finally on the mend and I have returned to Casa Alianza, which I am relieved about because I began talking to myself and playing Rumi-Cube against myself. I won every time but ultimately I felt like a loser! The few days alone has only solidified my determination to leave Tatumbla. I am waiting for ICYE to find me a new family so I can live and socialise in Tegus. I have told some members of the family that I want to leave and they understand, more so because they know how difficult grandma can be. I also feel as though I’m a massive burden to her and I feel uncomfortable with this. She is nearly 80. She is stuck in her ways and she wants to dictate everything I do. But her military tactics have left me biting my tongue more and more that I feel my taste buds are losing their effect when I eat the magic mangos here. This is fine, but it’s not why I came to Honduras. She listens to American swing, while I want to listen to Latin music and learn more about the culture. She would be a great captain in the army.  Also, she absolutely refuses to speak Spanish with me, and I have asked her nicely so many times that she isn’t helping me practice. She says she forgets, but it’s all pretence. She has a crafty smile when she says it and the mind games come back to play. She has insisted that I am homesick on occasions and this is why she speaks English. I am literally bouncing my head off a brick wall. The socialising is more of a problem. And visiting other places outside Tegus, like the Bay Islands and Copan. The buses go about 5am in the morning, but from Tatumbla, the first bus is 6am. There is a bar here, but it’s full of drunks who chew on straw and sniff Resistol. I get very jealous when I hear of other volunteers going out and enjoying themselves, while I’m sat home in Tatumbla playing Rumi-Cube with Mormon missionaries and a granny on Saturday night! Again, it’s not why I came here. Sometimes I really want a beer after a day at Casa Alianza and it’s something I just can’t do. I also want to go to parties in Tegus but I have to plan a whole weekend around it, and I find it unfair when my project is actually based in Tegus.

Gracias y adios (lo espero)

I should be living there. I have done my best to accumstomise myself, but I have had enough. I will miss the lush green pine forests and the peace, but I want noise. I want Latin beats and the pulsing city life. I wish I had requested a move away sooner because I have become attached to her in a way and it will be hard to leave. She has helped me out while I have been ill this week and I feel a bit guilty about leaving. It’s now down to ICYE.  She is wonderful and has such a strong character. I admire her, as much as I want to leave. She has not been well either, and I feel being there is taking its toll on her. She is fiercely independent, but I have been good company for her. I’m not a care worker though. She left the gas on the stove the other day. One naked flame could have killed me as well as the garrapatas and half of Tatumbla. Then again, even though she is sweet and caring, I wouldn’t put arson past her either!! So hopefully, goodbye to Tatumbla. But thanks for the adventure!  

I have stopped scratching as much. Thank God. My days haven’t been spent watching TV and movies. I have tried to stay productive by reading a book in Spanish about families who have had their children die at the hands of violence. “El Dolor de La Ausencia” – “The Pain of Absence” (lo recomiendo a todo lectores Hondureños que estan leyendo mi blog). It was written by a journalist who worked with Casa Alianza. He wrote testimonials of victims. It has helped me understand the families more, so I have not been sat doing nothing. It has also helped me with ideas for the book I am writing about the experiences of children at Casa Alianza. When I returned to work yesterday, I interviewed one lad of 13 years of age. He is the same lad who gave me a valentines picture a month or so ago. He told me how his father used to beat him up (he has horrific scars on his back) and how is mother couldn’t do anything, and finally deserted the family to live in Mexico. He was strong throughout the interview until the end when he burst into tears, and I nearly went with him too. More so when he said he didn’t want me to return to England. I said there is another ten months yet and he might hate me by the end of it. He also wants to go into banking and live in France. He is very positive about the future. He insists his motto is, “”El pasado es nada.” “The past is nothing.” Even though I didn’t want to say he wasn’t telling the truth, we both know the past haunts him more than he would like to admit. There are about 150 kids at Casa Alianza. They all have a similar story. I’m beginning to forecast just how difficult this task is going to be. But with this young man, I think I have found a friend for life. 

While reading the book, something caught my eye under the seat as I sat in the front garden of granny’s house. It was a turtle. At first I thought it had escaped from next door, as her son kept turtles too.

Cowabunga!

In actual fact, they belonged to grandma. I can’t believe I had never seen them before. The grandma often kept talking about saving food for the turtles but I assumed it was for her grandson’s. She has four in total. They don’t need water, so I have a feeling they might be tortoises, but I might be wrong. If you’re expert on amphibians, maybe you can tell from the pictures. She feeds them mango and melon (lucky buggers) and beetroot (unlucky buggers). I also asked how old they were. “I don’t know. I’ve never asked them,” she replied. And their names, “They’re all girls names. I can’t remember them.” Because she was being sarky, I decided to give her a taste of her own medicine by asking why she hadn’t named them after famous artists, if they could show me some martial art moves or if they say “Cowabunga” a lot. Her face was completely lost. If you are too, see below. It is very nostalgic for my generation. I imagine for parents of children at the time, it must bring back nightmares trying to answer their children’s demands for their toy figures and waiting in queues in Argos!

Turtle power

 

Anyway, from the last post, I promised some photos. They are below in no order whatsoever. They are also on Facebook if you want to see more. I have no idea when I will write next, but hopefully I will be living far away from garrapatas and able to have a nice cold beer after interviewing children with sad stories to tell.

An aggressive ladybird apparently

"Río de paz (y garrapatas)" "River of peace (and mites)"

A wasp nest

Gandalf

Call of the wild

WTF - (yes, I thought so too)

Sunset 2

Sunset 1


Garrapatas and Uyuca

Dear all

I hope everyone is well. I certainly am not. However, I am floating. No need to worry. Let me explain.

I went to Uyuca on Sunday. It is the largest mountain the region of Francisco Morazan. It sits outside grannies house and looks stunning every morning as I wait for my lift to Casa Alianza. It is part of Valla de Zamorano and is a cloud forest. On clear days, you can see the dotted pine trees one by one on the mountain top. It looks as though they are marching up to top and jumping off the other side. They remind me of that old irritating computer game called Lemmings, where you have to create paths for the armies of lemmings across burning coal pits and the like.

I wanted a challenge. On Sunday, I thought this would be the day. I was unable to find a place to stay in Tegucigalpa on the Saturday, so I was left a bit annoyed and a bit cut off from the world as there was a big party. Also, I had to get out of grannies house. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for. Danny Padgett joined me in my expedition. He is more of a computer geek/genius than Indiana Jones. He told me beforehand that he had once tried to climb it but got lost. I thought, “how could you get lost with a big spanking mountain sat in front of you?” The answer to my own question: quite easily! The way up was beautiful. At first, we battled our way through thorns. Somewhere along the way, nature wanted to get revenge on me for swiping my way through the thorny foliage with a giant stick. It did this by ripping a small hole in my favourite blue Adidas trainers. I know it is my fault for wearing them on a hike like this, but it was either those or flip-flops. I was originally going to wear shorts. That would have been suicidal. We got to a small brook, with peaceful trickling waterfalls and wonderful wildlife. Danny was busy trying to take pictures of colourful ladybirds. I was busy trying to look like Gandalf with my big stick. I called it my “peace place”. After that, the journey up was everything but “peaceful”. Danny and me followed paths up steep hills talking about all sorts and eating blackberries along the way. We made our way and climbed valiantly, sometimes slipping on pine leaves, and taking pictures of the views below and tropical plants. It was interesting how the environment changed very quickly and in stages. The first part was pine forest and thorns and slightly chilly. The second was jungle vines, very, very large pine trees, more wildlife and ghostly noises coming from the breeze through the trees. The third was back to thorns, exotic colourful flowers, palm trees, but with all sorts growing of different vegetation growing out from them, and extreme heat. I foolishly didn’t think to put on any insect repellent. I was well aware of the bloody mosquitos and I squatted whole families of them while they tried to suck my delicious “sangre Ingles”. “Muy rico,” they thought. However, it was the “garrapatas”, “ticks” in English, that I should have been squatting. They are a nightmare. They cling on to any part of you they can find and claw themselves on for dear life. I later found out that this was the season for them. The views got greater and Danny and myself got more sweatier as we had the heat to deal with as well. We then received a phone call from Roy, Danny’s dad, advising us to come back as it was 3pm, and the sun begins to set at 5pm (not many street lamps in the forests up there!). We got to a point, basically at the top but not at the point we were aiming for, and the foliage became too much. We had cuts and grazes everywhere and we were scratching our bites like demented animals. The down part was even more dangerous. I know Adidas trainers look retro and cool, but they are not suitable for Uyuca (despite what the label says), and on several occasions I went flying down hills, while ticks jumped on as I slid, a bit like meals on wheels. The vines are also very strong, coiled and thick, and can trip you up easily and send you flying again. 

We got lost. There were no paths going anywhere. We found a stream, the one we stopped off at on the way up, and followed it down the hill, although much higher up and there were lots of slippery ferns, grass and more thorns, as well as a live wasps nest which I nearly walked into when stumbling in fatigue. We were both tired, but we couldn’t help laughing at the thought of maybe meeting Ewoks and Hans Solo from Star Wars. The forest looked just like that of Return of the Jedi. Although looking back, we were hallucinating quite badly. 

It was walking along a fallen tree across a river where I fell and lost a memory card for my camera, which has the bulk of my pictures from Honduras. It is a crying shame, but I felt relieved to survive my fall with nothing broken and in one piece. The best pictures are saved on Facebook anyway, so all is not lost. I’m missing pictures of Santa Lucía, which I went to the day before (in contrast, that was a lovely relaxing day). Oh dear, I will have to go back and do the whole day again! I will write about Santa Lucía when I return. All I can say is that it is one of my favourite small towns on Earth: Morro de Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Carmona near Seville and Vallada in Valencia in Spain. I recommend all them: lush! I have another camera card for now which has the pictures of Uyuca.

On the way down, we came across a strange little creature, which was a cross between a scorpion and a huge ant. It has a curled tail but cannot sting, although it has an odor that Danny smelled. I didn’t get close enough with my camera. I’d had enough bad luck for one day. I didn’t want to get punished by nature again.

To make things worse when I got back, Tatumbla didn’t have any water. No shower. My body was crawling with ticks. Luckily, and very kindly, Lilo gave me her family’s supply of water (they went without a shower the next morning: I feel really guilty). I cleaned myself thoroughly but the mites had already done their damage. I was red from the sun and bites. They are small, red and judging from the size of the bites, their teeth are bigger than their bodies. As stated above, they cling on for dear life. I scrubbed and scrubbed but still couldn’t get them off. I found four more hiding on the backs of my calves this morning. I swore at each and every one of them as I pulled them off and crushed them “like mites”. I didn’t sleep that night and scratched and scratched (the wrong thing to do, I know, but it was just too itchy). I didn’t go to Casa Alianza on Monday. The day was spent in zombie mode. Because there was no water the night before, I was unable to wash my clothes that still might have had mites on them. Granny, for some reason, didn’t want to help me wash them yesterday. She saved it for today. I have thrown my bed clothes in as well. Today gone to the doctors, after another sleepless and itchy night. They filled me with anti-allergic drug and I feel very much at peace right now. The bites go right up my arms but, due to the wonders of medicine, they currently aren’t itching. They have also given me cream and tablets. I am about to pass out again. I am at the ICYE office, and I will be taken home soon. I have been treated to a Burger King meal. It pains me so much to say it but I loved it. Absolutely loved it. No Casa Alianza until Thursday. Doctors orders. Not loving it.

Ironically, on Friday, I was calling to the world to get me out of Tatumbla for the weekend on Facebook. It got me as far as a mountain that looked over the tiny town. I was determined to go on an adventure nonetheless. I went unprepared. I am learning very quickly to respect the wild. Nonetheless, despite my trainers, which are now in heaven, and my camera card, somewhere in a “peace place” stream in Uyuca, I am still pleased to have climbed most of it. 

I have now been told there is a set route on the other side of the mountain which as steps and guides to help you. T Y P I C A L ! ! !

I will add pictures when I have my camera handy.


Mamita Rica, Danlí and nose scrunching

Dear all

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.

Tatumblan life

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.

Hacienda

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.