Monthly Archives: July 2011

Pespire (I’m going to be a guide to Girl Guides)

Hello all

I’m just writing to let you know that I might not be doing any updates for the next couple of weeks. ICYE told me more about my task in Pespire and it sounds, well, intriguing. I’m going to be helping the Girl Guides of Canada. It’s a challenge no one can quite envisage me doing, and I bet no reading this back in the UK has done anything like this before, especially the men. If anything, it’s a welcome break from working with street kids. I might need to revise my orientation skills and how to read a map with a compass, which I learned in Cubs and Scouts all those years ago. The Girl Guides who are coming don’t speak Spanish, nor do they know each other, I have been warned that they will get homesick and have a culture shock (many adults can get a culture shock here), and one year, one of the girls went off with one of the local fellas on the back of motorbike. She did return and was sent back to Canada, I was duly told. Their mission will be to paint a mural in a school. I have done this in the past with the Refugee Council. Some of my former colleagues might remember that I completely sabotaged the Somalia flag that I was painting. I used the wrong shade of blue for starters and it ran like blood over the stars on the flag. If any proud Somalians had seen what I was doing to their flag, I might not be living right now.

I have had to read about the Girl Guide laws and learn a bit about their traditions. My favourite two laws of the original set of rules for the Girl Guides are number 8 and 9:

  • Girl Guides must sing and dance no matter what is happening
  • Girl Guides must be thrifty.

To be strictly honest, I was a little unsure what thrifty meant exactly. Now I’ve read up, it means being economically sound and prosperous. Another thing I particularly enjoyed reading was that the initials of “The World Association  of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts”: WAGGGS. Brilliant, that’s all I can say. I’m sure English readers will appreciate the irony. If you are not English and don’t understand, type WAGS into Google and I’m you’ll probably get a million tabloid stories about Cheryl Cole flying at you.

I must also re-learn to use the left hand to shake hands. That might be a problem, not because I don’t know the difference between my left and right (which I don’t), but mainly because in Honduras I have got used to “the touch”, which is kind of like in playgrounds in schools or gang culture in the UK, and involves two people greeting each other with two soft thumps (not always soft with the street kids, mind) on the knuckles. I can see myself choking on that one.

My itninary looks something like this:

  • One night in the second city San Pedro Sula to collect the girls from the airport;
  • A trip down to Valle de Angeles for two nights;
  • Ten days of singing and dancing and being thrifty and painting and stopping Girl Guides heading off with the locals in Pespire;
  • A couple of days reflection in Lago Yahoa;
  • Back to San Pedro to send back the girls to Canada:
  • Back to Tegus for ICYE and me.

WAGGGS logo

I am going to leave you with a video of a Girl Guides march and the lyrics. I particularly like the line, “We’re not afraid of wasps and hardly afraid of cows.” Maybe they should change the lines to, “We’re not afraid of sancudos but maybe we should take care around the Maras”.

Anyway, enjoy!

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Tough Little Soldiers

Hi all

I wrote this poem today about the kids from Casa Alianza. I hope you like it. It’s called, like the title of this update suggests, Tough Little Soldiers:

Tough Little Soldiers

I look in their eyes,
What do I see?
Experiences they hate remembering,
Looking back at me.
They don’t need to say much,
They don’t even have to try,
I question them on what’s happened,
Sometimes they lie.
I understand why they do this,
It’s a form of self-protection,
To block out the soreness and pain,
And replace it with a happier reflection.
They’re tough little soldiers,
With fullfilling futures to be,
Mechanics, bakers, barbers, maybe cooks,
They’ll take their chances with glee.
But it’s when they go home, I’m afraid,
And they see the prying gangs,
They’re lured in by the fruits,
And torn apart by the fangs.
Part of me wants to move on,
And wave a final hand goodbye,
But I can’t let them down with broken promises,
So I’m going to finish this damn book, even if I die!

Thanks for reading


Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, Amy Winehouse & nice views over Tegucigalpa

Hi all

This is just a quick update. At the weekend, I decided to take some chill out time from Casa Alianza and hustle and bustle of Tegucigalpa and went to a huge ranch called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. I was invited there by a German friend of Rossy (the mother) called Gabriela, who has been running a course here (she worked here many years ago) and is heading back to Germany in a couple of weeks. Her daughter Monica has also come, who is half Honduran. Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (which means Our Little Brothers) is a centre for orphans across many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. I was really impressed by the ranch near Tegucigalpa. It covers I don’t know many hectares of land, but it includes centres for orphaned babies, a centre for street kids, a centre for slightly older orphans, disabled children, abandoned elderly people, a farm, sports centres, a lake, a waterfall, kitchens, a church, an internet cafe, various schools and a hospital. Six hundred kids live on the ranch. They have to work three hours a day and have to help maintain the ranch, which they all seemed to enjoy. They also get to enjoy the green rolling fields around them and are safe from danger. I might volunteer there a couple of days a week, with permission from ICYE and Casa Alianza. Here is some information about it. http://www.friendsoftheorphans.org/s/769/inner.aspx?sid=769&gid=1&pgid=266. Feel free to have a good browse. Monica somehow got me lost there. I wanted to go and see the waterfall. We took a route that ended up with me not seeing anything. I actually had to wade through a river to get back. It was nice having a breath of fresh air and an adventure anyway.

When I returned home, I read on the internet that Amy Winehouse had passed away. I was a little shocked, although I’m not entirely sure why. When you speak to street kids about their brothers, sisters, mothers or fathers who have been shot dead, you become immune to it – it doesn’t seem to affect me as it did in the past. It’s quite sad that I feel that way. That’s definitely one thing I’ve learned about myself since being here. For example, on Saturday night, a young man was shot dead in a bar just around the corner from where I live in Cerro Grande. It was on the TV news briefly but it was just shrugged off and I feel it’s rubbed off on me. Hopefully I’ll come back to my senses.

I was never really a massive Winehouse fan but I will agree she had an amazing voice. I know a few people who read my blog are Amy Winehouse fans so I am going to include a track of hers that I did like; Rehab. I am surprised by how many fans there are in Honduras. Here you go Amy. Rest In Peace.

Even though I wrote what I did about death above, I would like to send my condolences to Marjorie’s (sorry, I don’t know her surname) family. She died aged 91 from a stroke. She is a distant relative who I only met once in my life, but she helped look after my father when he was young. If my family are reading this, please pass on my condolences.

On the Sunday, I went for a short walk outside the confines of zone 4 of Cerro Grande to the tall hill tops looking over Tegucigalpa and the River Choluteca as it runs off into Olancho. We went on a wet day, which was like going to Licky Hills that look over Brum! Apparently it’s usually better on brighter days but I was happy with my pictures. Check them out for yourself.

More like the Scottish Highlands than Central America

 


Costa Rica & Pespire

Hi all

It’s been a few days since I last posted something on my blog. I’ve had a mixed week, some incredible luck and, unfortunately, some bad luck. My morale is a little low due to a few things to do with Casa Alianza. More of that later. First, the good luck!

Last Wednesday, I went to play bingo for the first time in my life. It was at the Hotel Maya in Tegucigalpa, which I hear is the oldest hotel in Honduras but I think that’s a big fat lie. The bingo was to raise money for a diabetics organisation here in Honduras which is run by Rossy’s (the mother) mum, so it was a good cause (this isn’t the start of a gambling addiction, so don’t worry folks). I’d had miserable luck all night. I wasn’t getting anywhere near the numbers needed for the prizes and I was expecting to walk home 100 lemps less (the price of the ticket). I was close to falling asleep. In the last game, I even contemplated on handing over my bingo numbers to my Honduran brother, Diego, but I played on just for the sake of it. One by one my numbers kept popping up. It wasn’t until I was missing two numbers that I envisaged myself winning. Diego at this point was trying to follow two bingo plates and was getting terribly excited, and there were yelps and screams of excitement coming from the two thousand odd people playing in the giant room. Diego shouted out, “Falto solo dos” – “I’m missing only two”, I replied, “Yo uno” (me, one). He pretty much flung his two bingo plates over his shoulder and tried to grab mine. Strangely enough, that day, I had done an interview with a boy who’d been with the Mara 18 gang. He told me the 18 gang had brought him a lot of “mala suerte” (bad luck) in life. Luckily for me, it was the number I needed, and it was the number that the bingo caller read out. At first, I blubbered something in disbelief. Diego than screamed, “DIGA BINGO, VERGAS!!” (Say bingo, you dick!!). The rest is history. I was called up in front of everyone to have my photo taken and there, they planted in my hand, a return ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica, courtesy of Copa Airlines. I have still to arrange the dates, but I’m looking forward to it, obviously!

I am going to town of Pespire for a couple of weeks from the 1st to 14th August. I thought I’d been there last month but I actually went to somewhere called Valle with my mate Hazel. It’s in the south and is extremely hot. I’m helping ICYE with some Canadian volunteers who are coming. I desperately need a break from Casa Alianza, which I will go on to now.

Unfortunately, I am coming to the end of my tether there. I feel desperately disappointed with it. I have said before that when I enter Casa Alianza, I’m just left to do what I want. Some people would see this as a blessing, but me no! I am here to help. There is no programme for volunteers and I don’t see how I’m helping the kids anymore. They seem bored with me and I feel bored there. For the children in the programme, who are actually living there, I don’t feel I have anything more to offer them. I have advised them and tried to motivate them in life, but they seem to want to play football or look for girlfriends or boyfriends. I have lost their respect somewhere along the long and they pay no attention to me. They only see me as a source to sweets, wool or the odd mango. I only brought these in as an incentive. Some days, I have arranged times to help them with their homework and they don’t show up or disappear somewhere else or change the time (three hours later – it’s a Latin country, it should be expected), but they complain when I have to go home and claim I’m not helping them. I have done pretty much all the interviews I need to do for the book, but I have been typing it up in my spare time and I feel it’s very unfair on me and the family I’m living with. I feel anti-social and I haven’t been enjoying myself the way I should be in a different country on the other side of the world. I was told through another person that one of the managers said that I wasn’t allowed to use the computers in Casa Alianza. This turns out to be false (a member of staff spreading bad blood about another, leaving me feeling confused and a bit paranoid). However, the computers always seem to be occupied. Also, when I was set this task, I told many people about the project but it seemed to go through one ear and out the other, and it wasn’t passed on through the team from the managers. Now I question whether it will be published at all, whether I should continue with it and if the last few months have been a waste of my time. When I feel this way, I feel desperately sorry for the kids who have been expecting their stories to be published. The communication has been really poor here. People don’t tell me what’s going on, guide me or oversee me, which is dangerous especially with the type of clients and the backgrounds they are from. Unfortunately the lack of communication is contagious because I don’t feel I can communicate with many members of staff. Because of the lack of supervision, I felt this was the way things were done here, so I assumed that I could go and work on the street as and when I wanted. This turns out not to be the case, and now I am only allowed to go one or two days a week in certain areas and seeing only certain things. I feel far too limited by this and, again, I feel my skills are being wasted. Working on the street is actual humanitarian work, but I am told it’s too dangerous, even though I’ve not yet had problems and neither have the team. It seems if you try to be assertive or explain what you would like to do, they like to put you back in your box. I don’t think volunteers should be treated this way. We are here to help. If I am a hindrance, I shouldn’t have been invited to volunteer there.

I have been in regular contact with ICYE as of late to see if they can help sort things out. I had a meeting with Casa Alianza last Monday and I agreed to see how things planned out over the next few days. Unfortunately I still feel bored and very stressed about it. It might mean changing projects, although that will mean starting all over again and I feel I would let down the kids. It might mean doing another project part-time, so I can continue with the book, which may or may not be published.

So this is the situation. It’s hard at the moment. My confidence is low and I feel two weeks away in Pespire doing something else couldn’t have come at a better time, especially that all expenses are paid. I need to clear my head and see what I’m really learning and giving children who have had horrible experiences. I can’t let them down, but, for sure, things can’t continue the way they are, or I fear my own health will suffer. I feel confused as to what to do, and quite stressed and down. It’s not a nice situation to be in when you’re far away from home. Nonetheless, it’s a challenge. I asked for a challenge and I’ve got one. I didn’t expect it to be a challenge like this!

I would like to thank Ania “Stedders” Brown, Laura Ward and Rudolfo from ICYE for their encouraging words recently, and also the contacts of other projects people have been giving me in Tegucigalpa, like Hazel, Ludim and Rossy.

Ultimately, I feel lucky to have close friends here and at home. Thank you.

If I have any more news I’ll let you know soon.


Karla Lara & Bigos

Hi all

After promoting my cousins band yesterday, I thought I would promote another musical artist today called Karla Lara. She’s a Honduran song writer and poet who does a lot of work for La Resistancía – they protest against the government and the corruption – especially against the coup. She’s also a strong figure in feminist circles (I think). She writes jazz music and acoustic music. I’ve seen her a couple of times now and I’m impressed. It’s very chilled and relaxed and I hope you like it too. The video I’m including has images of Tegucigalpa. The park is La Leona, which I pass quite often and I’ve taken a couple of pictures of it, which you can also see below. I went there once with the street kids, you might remember, and they left me red faced after doing a “knock door run” and leaving me to take the brunt of frustrated neighbours.

Anyway, here is:

I would also like to recommend my friend’s blog. My friend in question is Paul Shaw who I worked with at the Refugee Council. He’s currently travelling Asia. He’s an entertaining writer and I think you might like his work. It’s called Lunatic On Tour. Just by the title you know it’s going to be eventful. http://lunaticontour.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/kerala-the-2-accidents/.

Here are some more pictures of Tegus.

 

 

Tegus, by night

 

I am going to finish by writing a poem about a fine Honduran fast-food eatery establishment by the name of Bigos, which I sometimes pass by for a few hours when I’m enjoying in Tegus’ glorious nightlife. They don’t sell baleadas (which is always a shame) but they sell nice burgers and tacos and cheap beers. I have spent a fair bit of time there on occasions. So here it is, Bigos:

Bigos

I like hanging out in Bigos,
Sometimes you can meet Hondurans wanting to be gringos,
You can talk about God and get drunk on cheap beer,
And eat lots of burgers and enjoy the greasy spoon atmosphere.
You can draw all night and talk about your youth,
Or meet angry ex-army sergeants claiming they know the truth.
On the menu are Jumbos, Surpremes, tacos or just beer,
You sit back and relax and live without fear
Of being robbed or shot or meeting “fresas”*,
‘cos the only people here are just a load of messers.  
More to the point, I just like the name,
And there’s nowhere in the world, quite like the same.
 
* Fresas – Posh people   

 


Miss Ex Honduras 2009 arrested & The Big Figure

Hi all

There has been a terrific story this week that you’d only find in trashy novels or the News of the World (oops, Mr Coulson). It involves a former beauty queen of Honduras, Bélgica Suárez, laundering 33 thousand euros across the Honduras/Nicaragua border. It has filled the newspapers as much as News of the World has back home (quite possibly because sex sells). It is a criminal offence not to declare more than $10000 to authorities here. When I first saw it, I thought it was something to do with drug smuggling. I am going to leave you with a link to the story in English – http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/07/07/2303039/former-miss-honduras-arrested.html – and a picture of her. She currently residing in the prison, which I went to a couple of weeks ago to visit a kid’s parent.

You may remember that I included a post of my cousins band, Fortunate Sons. My cousin is now in a new band in called The Big Figure. Last week they played at Raggley Hall with Jools Holland. I’m very proud of my cousin so I thought I would give me a shout in my blog. Well done Sammy!!!!

Here is a Facebook link to his page which should have a couple of songs. Enjoy!! http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-BIG-Figure/156998421035392


Art by “Danny”

Dear all

It was raining all day today so I sat down with a couple of kids and did some drawing with them. The two pictures below are by a boy I’ll call “Danny”, who I interviewed and he told me he doesn’t think he’ll live beyond the age of 20 because of his past and people seeking revenge. I liked what he drew.

By "Danny"

By "Danny"

I also drew a couple. My mum has always had an artistic hand. I think the genes completely skipped me. Thank God I’m in Honduras and you can’t throw stones at me (then again, there might be Hondurans here reading this?!).

"The Ugly Lady" by Nick Rogers

"The Ugly Man" by Nick Rogers

Suffice to say, the kids were pissing themselves when they saw my artwork. I tried to kid myself into thinking they were jealous, and then I took a second look at my drawings and, yes, I agree with them. In fact, I have no idea why I’ve scribed my name to these insults to art.

Below I’m including a poem, again inspired by the girl called “O”. As I said yesterday, she’s back in Casa Alianza although I’ve not seen her since her return. The Spanish is below, and the English follows.

Dulce Niña
Yo pienso en ti, dulce niña,
Estoy muy preocupado por ti,
Las lágrimas de dolor que corría por sus mejillas
Fueron de un lugar oscuro y que sentía por ti.
 
Sus sonrisas me llenan de alegría,
Y su descaro me hace reír,
Hay un personaje más grande que uno se da cuenta,
Y su ser querido por la gente más de lo que piensa.
 
Por favor, recuerde esta
En sus momentos más oscuros;
Usted tiene mucho que ofrecer al mundo
Y pronto estos tristes días pasará.
 
Pero lo más importante,
Tiene que ser amable con usted mismo,
Manténgase a salvo, pero caminar con orgullo,
Y tratar de disfrutar de la vida, olvidar los recelos.
 
Sweet Child
I think of you, sweet child,
I’m very worried about you,
Those tears of pain that ran down your cheeks
Were from a dark place and I felt for you.
 
Your smiles fill with with joy,
And your cheekiness makes me laugh,
You have a character bigger than you realise,
And people love you more than you think.
 
Please remember this
In your darkest moments:
You have much to offer the world,
And soon these sad days will pass.
 
But what is most important
You have to be kind to yourself,
Stay safe and walk with pride,
And try to enjoy life, forget it’s misgivings.