It kind of feels strange. It is a pretty much a year ago to this day that I left the Refugee Council. Now I am on the verge of saying goodbye after an eventful year at Casa Alianza. I said from the start that it would be a challenge. I was correct. I feel really sad to say goodbye to the kids and some of the staff. I will be back in Honduras next year. I would like to come in on Saturdays to see how the kids are doing, but when I return it will be all about publishing the book and finding a job. How much time I realistically work with them is, well, hard to say. I am currently looking at the English speaking newspapers in Honduras. It would kind of be a dream come true to work for them, living a Hunter S Thompson/Graham Greene/Ernest Hemingway-ish lifestyle in Latin America, although I’m unsure how much Pam would like that! It would fit the bill though, or working with street kids in a different capacity. I have really enjoyed their company. They’re “muy buena honda” as they say, “todo masiso”, “todo tombado, “todo cheque!” However, I feel ready to go back home. I haven’t packed a single thing yet but I feel ready to say goodbye to the kids. They keep asking when I’m going to return, and I keep saying next year, “cuando?” they say, “Pronto, lo espero” (soon, I hope) I respond. I have had a couple of nice days with the kids. They’re making me gifts and getting excited about Christmas, pretty much bouncing off walls with huge in takes of sugar. It’s nice to see them. I have always said that I am impressed with their character, they’re will to survive, they’re courage to get on with their lives no matter what state they are in. That remains the same. Some kids invited Pamela and myself to a Christmas event, with dancing, music and plays, at the Museum of Honduran Identity. One kid, who is a brilliant little joker, by the name of Juan Carlos, said he was very proud that I was there, which in turn made me very proud. Unfortunately I didn’t look where I was going and put my foot in a pot hole full of sewage water, leaving me with a really smelly leg. We were greeted by him and three other kids on stilts, which you can see below. Pam also went into Casa Alianza beforehand and was called Mami by the kids, which was touching. I, on the other hand, call Pamela “Mamita Rica”: and she calls me naco – (tacky).
I have made friends with many of the staff. Carolina Hernandez, Recindo, Hector, MariTonia, Ramon, Will, Nelly, Jorge the artist, Jorge the psychologist, Stefani, the street team, the cook staff and many more. There are still some staff who don’t understand what volunteering is about and how to treat volunteers. On the whole, the experience has been very positive and it should still be positive when I get the book finally finished (I’m going to do it back in England). Today I went with the team to Bosques de Zambrano, which is like a resort with swimming pools and activities in the pine forest hills on the way to Comayagua. They had secret santa (which they didn’t give me a name to exchange with a week or so ago, and a couple of members of staff blamed me for not participating even though I had no idea it was going to take place!!), lots of food, I sang “Every Breath You Take” by Police (not the Puff Daddy version. Also, I managed to hit the high notes which got me a round of applause, maybe out of sympathy, maybe because it didn’t blow out the windows) and there was lots of dancing. There was a big mix up about when the event was finishing. Some thought it was 3:30pm, others thought it was 5pm. I got on the bus at 4pm with two other members of staff and then the bus went, leaving 27 people behind. It is a very, very long walk home, or a very expensive taxi ride. It was nice, either way.
I took Pamela back to Casa Alianza on the Saturday to see the kids. Unfortunately the kid who threw a chair at me the other day sneaked back in. The day before he apologised to me and was in high spirits. Unfortunately, this time, he was going around whacking tables and threatening people. He shook my hand, then slammed the table with a broken pole, splintered like a dagger. Not nice. Soon after, kids jumped on him and managed to get him out. He is a very troubled soul. Pamela was scared, but she was more so sad. He didn’t have anyone to help him. It humbles you, especially when it is a week just before Christmas. He will be a long-term reminder just how difficult and volitile the kids can be. However, the beauty of the kids came across when they reassured Pam that she would be fine. It’s terrifying when you’re not used to it.
I went to a meal last night at a friend’s house. We listened to some cool marachi and bachata songs and danced a little, we watched Olimpia win the Honduran cup (booooo) and smack the shit out of a piñata!! Her name is Doris. I was there in great company. David, Marlon, Luz, Silvia, three people I didn’t know, Doris’ husband and kids, and last but not least, Hazel. Hazel has been like a sister to me here. I have mentioned her a few times in my blog and she is a star, a really brilliant mate. I really hope she is here next year when I return. We’ve had great memories of getting drunk and saying daft things and observing Honduran life. She has also let me stay countless times in her flat when I needed somewhere to stay in central Tegus. She, and Marlon, were always there to help me out and it’s not forgotten. You always need someone from a similar culture when you live in a distinctly different culture to your own. It helps with homesickness more than anything, as well as someone who understands your sense of humour and who you can vent your frustrations to about the culture and they won’t be offended or taken aback. Saying that, very few things have frustrated me about the culture. They are late, but I expected that. Politics have pissed me off. Sometimes Casa Alianza has too. But on the whole, it is the culture and the people that I have fallen in love deeply with, and as my London mate Leila Bow, who was in Honduras earlier this year, called me “Catringo” – part gringo, part Catracho.
Hazel and me were good mates from the moment we met in Subor Cubano, sometime in May. I was living in Tatumbla at the time. A couple of weeks earlier I was in Utila and was let down by two French girls who were volunteers with ICYE. They had decided to find and read my personal diary and then they were mad at me and didn’t speak to me. I had written personal comments about them in heated moments when they were being typically annoyingly French, but I guess it serves them right for reading and violating someone else’s property. They said they didn’t know it was a diary, which is a load of gobshite (excuse my French) as it stated it very clearly on the cover, that I think pretty translates much into any language with the unwritten rule that no one else should read it without permission. My holiday wasn’t a complete disaster, but it could have been a whole lot better if it weren’t for the two of them and their gobshite behaviour. Anyway, it’s no time for bitterness. It’s nearly Christmas. The point is, Hazel lifted my esteem by a mountain and helped make the last six months brilliant. She is a mate I will never forget and, like I said before, I really hope she’s still raving around in Honduras on my return. She’s introduced me to some great people too. So here is a picture that sums her up well, and the best Christmas song ever (apart from the Mi Burrito de Belen song, which I played the other day!) – Fairytale of New York. It’s a bit cliche but I don’t feckin’ care. I went to see the Pogues about this time last year. Kind of bodes well. Hazel: you’re a sound craíc! Thanks for everything.
I also want to say thank you to the Padgett family who took great care of me in Tatumbla. I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye properly. That goes to other friends here too. See you in 2012.
I don’t know if I will get a chance to update you all before I go back to the sub-zero temperatures in England. It’s dropped to a freezing 17c here in Tegus. God help me when I land on 22nd at Heathrow. I look forward to sharing a few pints with you on my return. It kind of makes sense to leave it at that for 2011. It is my 120th post. An average of ten posts per month. God knows how many words. I have enjoyed every moment of writing it. I will continue it in 2012.
I want to wish you all Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo. If you don’t understand that, you really are estupido!