Monthly Archives: April 2011

Mangos & Ronrones

Dear all

I am writing after no updates in two weeks, so first and foremost, I must apologise. For those who have been following my blog, you might remember that I said that I was going to Utila in my last post. I am typing up about my experiences in Utila, which were great (although it’s permanently cemented my hatred of regaeton music, but I’ll save that to my next update). I have been back in

Utila

Utila

Tegus three days and I’ve been very busy with Casa Alianza, which I am very pleased about. I’ve had a couple of hard interviews with kids who were selling drugs (on patches where the Maras worked) and had guns shoved in their mouths. How they are still alive is a little short of a miracle. I will also be interviewing some girls next week who have been victims of human-traffic and forced into prostitution.

I am now the owner of a netbook, so I will be able to keep in better touch with loved ones via Skype. I am also most likely to move next week to Tegucigalpa, to an area called Cerro Grande, which I have been told is dangerous by some and not by others. I will have a meeting with the family next week but nothing is set in stone just yet.

Andy, Xenia, Chris

Since I’ve been back, the Padgett household has been under attack of small flying beatles called ronrones. They don’t sting but they prickle you when they land on you, and they must be partially blind because the stupid things keep flying into my face. When they land on the window at night it’s like a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. There are literally hundreds of them and I have no idea where they come from. They get under the door and are attracted by light. I keep finding them on my pillow before I go to bed and end up smacking them against the wall. It’s horrible and mean, I know, but they are like

the machines in the Terminator movies. They come back with reinforcements and it seems nothing much can stop them. Again, they don’t sting, but they don’t seem to do much else either. They have no purpose for being (like regaeton music). They are just there and they want to annoy you. Chris and Andy Padgett have been flinging pillows around the room to kill them, which is great fun to watch. I have suggested they buy an iguana and feed it ronrones but I thinkthe lads have more fun jumping around. It has been raining and thu-

a f--king ronron

ndering the last two nights and there seems to be less. It has also coincided with a period when my bodily functions have been quite relaxed and I’ve been letting off a lot of wind. So would anyone when frijoles (red kidney beans) are served up regularly, although admittedly I have been mixing up my diet with fresh avocados, guavas, fried eggs, tacos, mantequilla, chocolate, pasta with salsa and granola: a few funny whiffs are inevitable. So if my gas emissions are acting as an insect repellent, so be it: I’m glad they have some use.

Talking of food and farts, one of my favourite fruits have inspired yet another poem. If you have guessed already from the title of this update, I am of course talking about the amazing mango. There are many different kinds, at least 10

Mangos

in Honduras alone (maybe more). I saw one as big as a water melon the other day, but my favourites are the medium-sized red ones and the small yellow and green ones. There are also very small green sour ones, but I’m not that keen on those. With the small green and yellow ones, I often treat myself to a bag of 10, which cost no more than 33p, which makes them even sweeter. The scent and texture and the juices make me weak at the knees and I sometimes almost cry in happiness when I rip my teeth into the fibres like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I have never tasted mangos like these before. So without further ado, here it is:

Mangos
 
Mangos here give me the squits,
It’s a serious addiction I can’t quit,
Cigarettes and alcohol, betting and drugs,
They’re boring lures and the weakness of mugs.
But when I see a mango I must rip it from its skin,
I’m obliged to suck at the fluorescent fibres in wonderful shameless sin,
I have to dig in my teeth and pull at the rich flesh,
And I don’t care when it gets in my teeth and hangs like wired mesh.
There I sit with its yellow dye all over my face,
I feel as if I’m in Babylon, within my favourite place.
I will suck on the stone and swill it in my gob,
Then find a very public place for me to proudly flob.
The juices and flesh will then go down to my tummy,
And it’llsoon make my poo a little yucky and runny.
My hands will be sticky and stained with yellow,
But my addiction will be fulfilled and I’ll be feeling mellow.
 

I apologise for any vulgar images I have given you in the above poem, but I think you now understand the full extent of my addiction. It’s healthier than crack at the end of the day, and cheaper too! But I am incredibly passionate about the mangos. Until you’ve tried them here, you just wouldn’t understand. Excuse my pomp.

Talking of pomp, I wrote this poem on Prince William and Princess Kate’s big shindig wedding. How was it? Any good? I heard it’s been rammed down everyone’s throats. But I do wish them the best. I’m not a huge fan of the Royal Family but for some reason, I do like Prince William and I think he’ll be a great king (not that he’ll have to do much). I have decided to dedicate the next song to them. It is actually the theme-tune to the Royal Family television series, Half The World Away, and bodes well with the homesickness I’ve had of late. Again, another song from Oasis. But I love it and I’m not going to make any apologies for that.

I will update you about my Utila trip in the next few days. Until then, take care.


Nearly a robbery and another poem

Hi all

Well, well, well. What a close shave I had today! On the way home today on a bus, I was sitting there minding my own business. I knew there was a woman in her mid-40s behind me, when a man came and sat next to her. I have no idea why I was aware of him behind me because there was nothing out of the normal about him, other than he was in his late 20s and wore a blue shirt and looked a bit sweaty (then again, everyone else was; it’s been a hot day). All of a sudden, I heard him say in a low gruff voice, “Tu dinero y celular o te mataria”, along with a few expletives, which more or less translates as, “Your money and your phone or I’ll kill you!” Normally in Birmingham, when there’s a mugging on the bus, everyone watches but do nothing. No, no, no. Not in Honduras. The woman started shrieking. At this point I thought she had already been stabbed because it was a horrible high-pitched squeal, like a human version of those attack “rape” alarms. I turned around and, sure enough, he was holding a knife, but looking very puzzled and very scared. The bus conductor then grabbed him, while everyone else hissing at him and shouting “ladron” (thief), and he was thrown out of a moving bus, unfortunately for him in front of a police car. The bus then stopped and the conductor, the driver and the woman got out to tell the policemen the story, while everyone else testified by continuing to chant “ladron” out the window. The woman almost got arrested herself for thumping the thief very hard across the face, while he still had the knife.

I look back now and laugh. At the time I was cacking myself. A guy who was sitting near and also saw it all, advised me never to sit in the window seat, because thieves prey on people, trap them in their seat, hold a gun or a pistol to their stomach, take what they please and run. It could have easily been me who got mugged today, and I probably have wouldn’t have raised my voice like a rape alarm. In a way, you can only think how bad the thief was. There’s a gringo without a clue what to do and who might have a few more touristy valuables in his rucksack, but he chose a big woman to rob who, may I add, looked quite handy in a fight. His bad day was topped off being thrown out of a bus in front of policemen. He looked very sorry for himself as the police but the handcuffs on him, and very, very embarrassed.

The incident has made me paranoid. It was only this morning that the boys were talking in the car on the way to work and uni, that their friend was robbed in Burger King where there were security guards. In a way, I am quite pleased for the scare. It is very easy to forget that this is a dangerous city, and that you can be mugged or attacked at any time and any place. It’s put me on high alert. Today I can only consider myself as lucky. If it had been a good thief, I might have been writing a different update all together tonight.

Anyway, I thought I wasn’t going to do another update before going to Utila, but I had to tell you about todays events. Today, with the humid heat or with the excitement of the Easter holidays, the kids have been going extra wild and doing their best to get under my skin. They are doing it quite well as well. One kid kept trying to bite me while I was on the phone, and another kid, who keeps poking and provoking me by asking, “Can I listen to your IPOD/Can I use your mobile phone/Can you buy me a Coca-Cola?” when he knows the answer is going to be ‘no’. The kid has problems with his behaviour and I have interviewed him for the book I am writing, which has been going very slowly as of late by the way. Today, he inspired a poem. It is below.

El Cipote
There is a boy who likes to molest
With persistent questions and begging that I detest
He has problems understanding the word ‘no’,
And has very little respect to show,
After weeks and months in the street,
Doing anything to make ends meet,
I have to bite my tongue ’til it bleeds,
From my frustration his enthusiasm breeds,
Poke, poke, poke, with the questions he’s asked before,
The prodding irritates and grates and it’s impossible to ignore.
The shrinks can’t work him out because his mind’s a faulty Rubix cube caught in a web of pain,
And I can see him being murdered for annoying the wrong person for a silly game.
Firm words and threats of punishment have never worked for him,
Locking him up isn’t fair because he’s not really committed a sin,
Therapies, drugs and chats leave him feeling bored,
While all the other kids want to see him floored.
But after a few odd weeks of being around this boy,
It might be me needing a padded room, being a psychologists toy,
So when I see him, I hide and don’t come out,
And I shiver in the corner, when I hear those bloody questions he shouts.

Just to let you all know that, somehow, Piers Morgan has made it on to Honduran TV. It’s more of an American channel than Honduran. Along with coming here to help street kids and learn about a different culture, I came here to escape that div. How can someone so void of a personality have so many opportunities in life? There are kids at Casa Alianza who deserve so much through working on their behaviour (apart from the boy in the poem), trying to better themselves, with very little support in the way of money and strikes at their school, but few opportunities come their way. There are many inaccuracies in life. This is just one of them. My last message on this matter is this: Piers Morgan, piss off.

I am going on holiday and I need to finish on a holiday tune. It’s David Gray and Babylon. I don’t know why it’s a holiday tune, but the word Babylon makes me think of untouched beauty, and I’m going somewhere with the second biggest barrier reef in the world.

Enjoy your break!

Utila: where I'm going


Weak Become Heroes

Dear all

As promised, a second poem about my experiences at Casa Alianza recently. To all The Streets fans, you might recognise the title of the poem “Weak Become Heroes” from an early tune of his. It’s not about taking drugs, as such. The day I wrote the poem, I actually found a greasy spoon cafe in Tegus, which is kind of weird because the video of “Weak Become Heroes” starts in a cafe just like it. The coffee was as milky as it is in England, and sadly, no bacon sarnies 0n the menu, and no tabloids were left on the tables; just the crappy newspapers with graphic pictures of murders on the front pages. The title Weak Become Heroes fits in with the poem, as you will now see.

Weak Become Heroes

Listening to David Gray in a Honduran supermarket cafe,

Sipping an americano after scoffing tacos and downing a beer,

How random can life be, and how does one end up here?

Is this what it takes for a homesick Brit to shed a tear?

Listening to kids talking of murdering friends to keep themselves alive,

Or talk in graphic detail about how they watched their dad kill their mum,

About heroin addictions, being sexually exploited, being too frightened to say no,

And I’m sat here, a sad gringo, looking drunk and feeling numb.

They’ve wiped away their tears and making the most of what they have,

While I sit here wondering why we Westerners moan all the time,

Faulty IPhones and broken down buses are funny at the end of the day,

While millions live on a dollar a day, and feel forced to a life of crime.

These kids the strongest people in the world,

Survivors with histories that should be in books,

Carrying the weight of their memories,

While continuing to fend off gangs and crooks.

Here is the video, Weak Become Heroes. If you don’t like swearing or drugs, you might not like this.

I went back to Santa Lucia today and got extremely sunburned. But I took some more pictures which I lost in my other camera card when I went up to Uyuca, and I’ll update these on the blog next time. I’m a little unsure when that will be because I’m going to Utila for the Easter holidays and I am going to be busy in the next few days (mainly lathering myself with after sun). To end on a positive note, I have found a place in Tegus that sells Cadburys chocolate. I bought a few bars, as you might expect. I also bought loads of mangos and avocados from the market, and I’m not going to promise that I won’t eat them all at the same time.

I am missing the Easter Eggs, but I wish everyone a happy holiday. If you’re not on holiday, get a new job!


Questions Beyond The Grave

Dear all

This is a little different from my usual updates. I’m going to be including a couple of poems about the kids at Casa Alianza in the next couple of updates. This one has partly been influenced by the book I’ve been reading recently, “La Dolor de Ausencia”, about families who have kids murdered which I told you about a couple of weeks ago (or at least I think I did). It’s also influenced by the morgue I went to a month or so ago, and seeing all the dead street kids unidentified, and also by a man who randomly started talking to me this morning while I was having a coffee. It’s about the forgotten dead street kids, if you hadn’t already guessed.

Questions Beyond The Grave

 

If they fall from grace with God,

Where the f–k do they go?

To a random morgue or dumped on wasteland?

And how will their parents know?

 

The Maras* kill them for a laugh,

The government doesn’t really care,

It’s accepted as everyday life,

And people see it in the papers and just stare.

 

Why don’t they have their justice?

Is it because they had no human rights?

Is it okay their lives were wasted?

And why do they get the blame for the gun fights?

 

So many rhetoric questions,

And the answers are filled with sadness,

But when their murderers walk away with no castigo**,

It turns the sadness, into madness.

 

*Maras – gangs

**Castigo – punishment

 

Some Pogues fans might recognise the words in the first line. That’s right; I nicked them! I hope Shane MacGowan doesn’t mind, or sues me!

 

Other than that, nothing much more has happened, apart from that a colleague fell off his motorbike (but he survived with a big bruise), I’ve been fighting for bed space with a cat called Bilbo (frigging Hobbits have followed me from Hall Green) and I have been sleep-talking in perfect Spanish (I apparently informed Andy Padgett that there is a Scottish drink made of blood. Maybe I meant Iron Bru).

Also, I talked to a kid who used to run with the Maras. When he was 12 years old, he told me that he killed two friends who stole drugs. It was a case of kill them or be killed, with a gun to his head. He is 15 now. I’ve never met anyone who’s been put in this situation before. Have you? The interview I’ll save for the book.

I’ll leave you with a tune from Ocean Colour Scene – who hail from my hometown Birmingham. The song kind of ties in with the poem.

Enjoy


Pupusa-poisioning, pine-forest burning and fly-tipping

Hey all

I hope everyone is well at home. In the past few days I have been nursing an upset stomach having eaten pupusas last Friday. Pupusas are small tortillas stuffed with either cheese or meat, which you can see in the photo below. I had, what seemed to be, pork fat. The family seem to think so. I won’t be going to that place again! I have been told they are usually ‘muy rico’, but

Pupusas

I’m pleased to say it’s not changed my views on the Honduran cuisine. In fact, it inspired me to write another poem. It’s called “Todo Esta Aqui”, which means “everything is here”.

Todo Está Aqui

Mangos for the mañana,

Tamales and guavas for lunch,

Beleadas and pupusas in-between,

And tacos whenever you want.

“Todo Está Aquí”,

So the Honduran tourist board says,

So when you try tripe, pigeon or pigs ear soup,

Remember there’s many sides to a story.

On Tuesday I went to Parque Leona, which is a sweet little park perched on a hill that looks over Tegus, with the street kids. Unfortunately I did not have my camera handy. I will go back and take a few pictures and put them online some time. On the way up the hill, I managed to get through eight bags of water. That’s right: bags of water.

example of a bag of water (which I stole from the internet). The "Evian" of Honduras is "Agua Azul"

Like my “bags of coke are really cheap here” pun in the first couple of weeks in Honduras, you can buy 1/2 litre bags of water for 2 lempiras (7p). It’s clean and sold everywhere, from pulperias (corner shops) to kids on buses. I feel even more smug when I think of you “crazy europeans” being ripped off by Evian and Buxton Valley paying nearly a quid for a bottle of water. Then again, you get clean water from the tap in England, so I’ll shut up there. The heat has been turned up in the last few days, very similar to when I was in Sevilla in Spain when all of a sudden the temperatures went from mid 20s to 50s. It’s not quite the 50s here, but it’s going to get hotter. I must rephrase my comments about drinking 8 bags of water. This is an out-and-out lie. I bought 8 bags of water. The kids stole 6 and I shared the other 2 with kids with puppy dog eyes. They seemed to enjoy watching me struggle through the heat. When we were going back down the hill, I was supervising from the back making sure there were no stragglers, a couple of girls did a knock door run on a house, as soon as I was walking by. I got a bollocking from an old lady (not the same grandma, but I’m sure they were possessed by the same demon spirit) and the girls hid around the corner wetting themselves (probably with the water I bought them!).

Having these bags of water does create one problem: litter. Litter, for me, is as much as an endemic as the other problems the country has. They fly-tip everywhere. I don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush (there are Hondurans reading this who I know don’t fly-tip), but I have never seen so much dumping of litter in my life. I am from Birmingham and studied in Preston, not the cleanest places on earth, but the people do make more of an effort to clean the place than the people here. People just chuck things out of car and bus windows. I remember on my first day in Honduras when someone chucked a glass bottle out of a bus window and it smashed against our car. There is no regard for damage it causes. There are people to clean the streets but there is only so much they can do. It gets even harder when the fly-tipping is outside the city. There are beautiful stretches of road through Valla de Zamorano but then you see small dumps of litter by the sides and it tarnishes the journey. Not much, but just a little. You see street kids rummaging through it, small dump yards with sharp materials thrown away where they can cut themselves. I have recently seen a lot of empty water bags lying around and it annoys me. Basic common sense. Put it in your bag. Wait until you get home. Capitialanos can’t complain about their city being dirty if they litter-bugger all the time. Pollution is a problem in Tatumbla and Inaca as well. I know some other developing countries have similar problems. I’m unsure if it is an “educational” thing or a “cultural” thing, but I just think it’s a “laziness” thing. Roy Padgett, the father of the family I live with now, believes it’s because there’s n0 “castigo” for fly-tipping, so if people feel they can get away with it, they will! He might be right. Some kids at Casa Alianza certainly got a castigo when I went barmy at Parque Leona after they threw the water bags they nicked from me on some flowers. They looked at me as though I was mad. Maybe I was, a sweaty, red-faced gringo shouting about a water bag.

I have just stopped to think about what I have just written, and I don’t know when I turned into a moaning fart. However, I’m not going to stop there.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this in earlier blogs, and this is more of a environmental problem than the litter buggering: it’s the burning of the beautiful pine-forests. People burn them down, whether it’s for creating space for crops or homes but it destroys animal habitats and amazing landscapes, and God only knows how big a hole it’s burning in the ozone layer. In summer the fires can burn out of control, especially if people start the fires out in the sticks and there’s no one to put them out. It’s terrible to say but there is a minor plus point, and that is the beautiful aroma the fires make around the town. It reminds me of wood and coal fires in villages around the Clent Hills back home, an almost cozy feeling. Other than that, it’s criminal, but people do it. Like litter!

Burnt woodland


A Way to Start the Day

Dear all

Unfortunately I won’t be going to the north this weekend. Danny isn’t quite well enough and I don’t really fancy going to a party city like La Ceiba alone. I’m disappointed but hopefully the next weekend we can do it. I need a beach break. Tegus is getting more and more humid and stuffy. Imagine England in August, but hotter and more intense.

Today I finished writing a story about a lad who tried to immigrate to USA. After I finished, I had a few more questions to follow-up with. He somehow managed to miss out from the first interview that he survived in desert conditions without food or water or shoes, after he was robbed at knife point by Maras, for three days. He’s tried to enter the USA five times alone. He’s only 15. Honestly, the story should be a movie. There are hundreds of stories like this. I could have killed him after sitting in front of a computer for three hours trying to write a news story, testing my Spanish to the brink, and he has a whole much bigger and scary past to tell. I can only imagine I’ll be having more interviews like this. My tongue is going to have to become durable as I’m going to be chewing it a whole lot more. Or can someone post me a stress ball? My day didn’t get much better when a kid who used to run with the Maras told me he wanted to shoot me in the head after I wouldn’t let him listen to my IPOD. He is known for robbing things from Casa Alianza and throwing them over the wall for his mates to sell in the markets.  It was nice to speak to my folks and wish my dad a happy birthday after work anyway.

After writing in my last post about the graphic pictures of the newspapers here in Honduras, my point was proved and underlined ten times after I walked past a stand and saw the below image. I know by posting it own my blog it’s kind of defeating the purpose of what I am saying that these images don’t need to be shown, but this is what Hondurans wake up to on a daily basis. If you have children reading this, you might want them to turn away now.

It did, however, inspire me to write a rough little poem which might not be the best, but I have strong feelings on the subject.

A Way to Start the Day

Tortured girls and decapitated bodies,

A way to start the day,

Reading the front page while sipping an espresso,

I have very few words to say.

There is no thought for the families,

And no respect for the dead,

Photographers sadistic in their snapping,

But do they sleep soundly in their beds?

Is this the way newspapers sell?

And do people really want to see

Friends and loved ones with a bullet in the head?

Or do they want left to be?

It makes Page 3 Girls seem quite sweet,

A sexy girl baring her breasts,

Mystic Meg predicting your day,

And Gordan Ramsay telling the world he’s the best.

I don’t know who’s these values are

But I think it’s rather sick,

The rich making money out of someone else’s pain,

While the editors have their kick.

Yes these things should be reported,

And there are problems in this land,

But there’s nothing right about printing graphic pictures of the dead,

And if I were in charge, it’d be banned.

 

There you go. I’m finished for the day. Until next time.