Monthly Archives: September 2012

Juan Daniel Salgado

Hi all

As in the last post I said that I would, here is a copy of Juan Daniel’s memorial speech, which I read for the Convent House staff. Enjoy.

Juan Daniel Salgado

 I am here today to say a little something in memory of Juan Daniel Salgado, who sadly died on 27th January 2012, along with Brayan Francisco Guerrero and Allan Antonio Cáceres. All three boys, I believe, had lived in Casa Alianza at some point of their short lives.

Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to get know Brayan or Allan. But with Juan Daniel Salgado I did. During my year of volunteering with Casa Alianza, I wrote a book with the experiences of many children and youths here. One of the boys I interviewed was Juan Daniel. With all the interviewees, I built a level of trust and friendship with them. They had told me very personal things about their lives, in order to help me tell the world the realities of deprived youths in this country. While he told me about many of sad things about what he had experienced, people who had let him down and mistakes that he had, I also got to know the great things about Juan Daniel, such as his sense of humour, his cheekiness, his ability to make close friendships, I saw his artwork and watched him play football for the Casa Alianza football team, as well as try to understand him as a young man. I guess over the years of him coming in and out of Casa Alianza, many children and staff here today got to witness his better qualities too, and forged better and closer friendships with him than myself, but they also saw that he had problems.

Daniel did not have the best start to life. He was born in Catacamas in Olancho and was only a couple of months old when his mother left to go to the USA. He then went to live his father and step-mother, who he sadly told me beat him badly on a constant basis. When he was 10 years old, he fled home and went on to the streets. When he was 11 or 12, he came to Tegucigalpa with a friend and found Casa Alianza. Unfortunately, his addiction to drugs and street life deepened throughout his teenaged years. He regretted a lot of his actions during these years, which he told me were a little bit of a haze, and by the time I had interviewed him, he was trying to improve his life, kill his drug habit and adapt to adulthood.

Through getting to know him, I saw him as a self-confident boy, someone with charming personality, and battled on regardless of his problems. He liked to confuse me by saying something very fast in Spanish, and he began teaching me vocabulary from the streets, such as “maziso” and “tombado”. As I said, many people here got to know him well and may have seen him flirt with the girls and play jokes on people. We also got to see that he could be sentimental and he had a natural artistic talent.

Juan Daniel left Casa Alianza in August 2011. After another short period on the streets, he lived in a different project, as well as coming to Casa Alianza to join in in some activities. In December 2011, before I left Honduras, I saw him in the centre and he told me that he was going to be doing some local art projects, which he was extremely excited about. He was smiling and seemed very happy with life.      

The next time I heard about Juan Daniel was when I received a message that he had been killed. I then read more about it online, a Honduran newspaper website, that he was murdered in Colonia La Joya in Tegucigalpa, the killers are not known.

One of the things that he told me in the interview was that he didn’t think he would live past 20 years of age. He was 18 when he died. He had a pre-feeling. He was not wrong.

He is remembered and loved by everybody in Casa Alianza.



Problems with immigration, the book and being robbed – Part Two

Hi all

Unfortunately yesterday I couldn’t finish the second part of this update. The electricity died.

Anyway, as you can see from the title, I was robbed. As anyone can imagine it’s not a wonderful experience, but I survived.

I will start with the day itself, because it wasn’t a totally awful. I went to Casa Alianza to meet people from Convent House (which is Casa Alianza’s parent charity, based in USA and Canada), present the book I’ve written and also write a small memorial for Juan Daniel Salgado, who was murdered earlier this year and I interviewed for the book. I wrote the memorial in English and Spanish and gave a copy to Juan Daniel’s sister. I will actually include a copy of the memorial in the next update. I think it would be good to give you a flavour for the book and a sense of the atmosphere in Casa Alianza. It was nice to give his sister, Jakelin, some closure after suffering an awful, awful last nine months. I know her well. She still lives in Casa Alianza and is a really nice person.

On the way home in the taxi, I have the feel-good adrenaline buzzing around my head, and in a slightly magical way, I felt Danny was looking down upon me and saying thank you. It may seem sickly proud and self-righteous what I am writing now, but I’m just speaking honestly. I felt proud of myself.

I had to stop off at Mall Cascadas to buy some essentials at the supermarket. Dusk was settling and I knew I was risking it a little bit. I then walked back along a short stretch of the Fuerzas Armadas highway to get to my apartment which I knew what I was doing was dodgy and plain foolish. Out of nowhere, I felt a hand grab my arm from behind, I turned to see who it was but then I had my head pushed away so I couldn’t see their faces. I knew actually what was going to happen. They couldn’t have been older than 20 and I felt I could have clonked the two of them quite easily, but because of the frequent use of guns or knives, I felt I better not. The two of them pushed me off the path and forced me to lie down while they went through my pockets and bags. It seems that I was lying on a great fucking ants nest because my stomach and arms were covered in sores after and they’re still itchy as fuck. I found it quite funny that they had problems going through my pockets, which were very deep in the trousers I was wearing. They stunk of alcohol and drugs. Every time I moved my head, they thumped me. Not hard, but it was a warning. They kept muttering things in my ear but I had no clue what they were saying. I chose wisely not to ask or fight it and just waited until it ended. It felt like four hours, but the whole thing must have lasted 4 minutes. They then made off. When they went, I checked through my pockets to see what they had taken. My phone (which they won’t have made much from – it did only the very basics (it still pisses me off even more, because I lost all my contacts)), my wallet (which had my Visa card, an invalid residency card and about 500 lempiras – 17 quid), my camera (which had lots of photos of the kids from Casa Alianza that I’d taken that day), my USB and a bag of food, which included a bag of pasta, a tin of tuna, some tortillas, some pasta sauce, a bag of pop-corn and some air-freshner. They also broke my strawberry yogurt carton (bastards). They must have been shit alcoholics to have to have missed my six-pack of Barena beer though

I got back to the apartment, cancelled my Visa Card, then called Pam via Skype, who then routinely called my phone, they picked up and she called them hijos de puta and she threatened to kill them. At this stage, I didn’t know if I should be scared of Pam or extremely turned on, in a freaky kind of way. She was being a brilliant girlfriend though. That was certain.

I also sent my phone a message. I didn’t threaten anything. I just hope that they sort out their problems, get themselves together, stop mugging innocent people and find peace in their lives. A bit innocent maybe, but there is no point in being angry. You just have to learn from these experiences and pay the odds to get a taxi, even if it’s a short distance. This country is the way it is. I have worked with people from the street. They have told me the things they got up to, to feed habits or whatever. I always felt a bit susceptible from it all, that it will never happen to me. I’m glad I’ve overcome this arrogance.

Today I was back in Casa Alianza to celebrate the anniversary properly. It was good. It reconfirmed that not all street kids are bad.  

One thing was very nice to see. Just before Christmas, I was attacked by a kid called Ariel who was high on Resistol. It wasn’t a bad attack, but it was in Casa Alianza. I saw him today, with weight, with a family, with a smile, and off drugs. It is an amazing transformation. I’m dead proud of him.

Last year I also updated a post about a lad who saw his father murder his mother. He was an angry kid, he had problems with drugs and was quite aggressive. He was now training to be a mechanic, learning English and full of hope. Again, I’m really pleased for him. He’s worked hard to change his life around.

Problems with immigration, the book and being robbed – Part One

Hi all

As you may well guess from the title, it’s been a slightly stressful for me for the last couple of weeks. Maybe I’m tasting the darker delights of Honduras, I don’t know, but I’m passing adelante through it all and I hope these things don’t happen again.

First of all, immigration. My residence was due to expire last Sunday, so last Tuesday, I went to the immigration services in Comayaguela to sort it out and what I would need. I was told to come back the next day with my passport and I could get a tourist visa, which would mean coming and going from Honduras every three months, but it would be strictly illegal for me to work (but apparently this is how many foreigners work in Honduras). This sounded fine, but it turned out that Pam’s cousin, who also works at the immigration office, did it not think it was that simple. So she arranged a meeting with one of the bosses who confirmed that I wouldn’t be able to get a tourist visa, basically, because I had entered the country with residence visa and I couldn’t just change it to a tourist visa (but I found out later that I could do this). To renew the visa, I had to have a reason to stay (job, volunteer project, wife). This was Wednesday, and I had to get this done by Sunday, or face a fine. I could marry Pamela, but how could I invite all my friends and family in the space of 48 hours and then apply for citizien too? Job – not got one. Volunteer project? Thank God Casa Domingo came to my aid. I asked them if they could write me a letter and they did it quickly and brilliantly that evening. I was stressing to Pam, complaining about all sorts and the information that I would need to renew my visa, so she called a friend who is a solicitor to help out. Her friend, Gabriela, raced down to the immigration office to find out that the visa I had entered the country with was not actually valid because ICYE had cancelled it when I left the country. I had no idea, neither did the immigration officer who let me into country at San Pedro Sula Airport on 14th August: he didn’t even look at the computer (no wonder this country has it’s issues). I could have received a fine for everyday I had been in the country since then, which would have bankrupt me. The solicitor argued that it wasn’t my fault. I should have been told. I would want to enter the country legally with a tourist visa. Why would I want enter illegally? I had to reapply for residency anyway, which meant getting all sorts of documents from all areas, as well as getting my Honduran equilivant of a CRB (which took ten minutes to get and cost just 2 quid – better than England, wait six months and pay 50 quid – take note UK). So, Monday this week, it was finally done. I have residence. I am still waiting for the card.

What I didn’t like about all this though, was the amount of mis-information I was given. There seems to be no set route to getting residency or working legally or illegally, or there are a few ways to do it and you can pick whichever way you want and hope you don’t get caught. Either way, it seems immigration here wants you to pay, through blood and sweat and shit loads of unnecessary stress, as well as burning a massive hole in your pocket. That might be through a fine or making you get a solicitor. As Pam says, this is a poor country and some people are willing to take advantage of those who want to do it properly. I think it’s awful karma for people who are wanting to do the right thing, but there you go. I suggest to immigration officials to change their ways, or less people are going to want to come and work here, to help the country progress.

Saying that, I once worked for the Refugee Council. I know first-hand how difficult how asylum laws are, especially for those who really do need to enter a country. Every country has it’s red tape. I’m just experiencing Honduras’. It was an unforeseen inconvienance, and one which hundreds of foreigners have here.  

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working hard to get the book complete before the 28th September deadline, which just meant lots of editting. I somehow got it sent off 4 days before that date. I got it 5 minutes before the solicitor came round to give me the good news about the residence. It feels a massive relief to get it done. It’s been hanging around for too long. It’s been a journey. A long bloody journey. And it’s done. I’m getting withdraw symptoms. Pressing the send button felt wonderful though. (Also in that time, Pam gave me a wonderful work contact to work for an NGO that helps develop other organisations in education and media projects. It was a magic 10 minutes).

Since then though, I have been helping Casa Domingo look for funds in the UK and other English speaking countries by improving the information they send out. One of the things I am doing is including profiles of some of the lads by interviewing them. On Tuesday night, I interviewed two lads who were addicted to drugs. They were both nice, although one had a short attention span and kept wanting to play pool or snooker. It was reminder of the problems deprived youths go through in this country. It feels good to be helping, as well as adding to my CV and experience.

Pensions petition for MPs

Hi all

One of the great things about the internet is the ease of staying in contact with what’s going on back home. BBC worldwide is wonderful, so is Skype and sometimes Facebook (although it can be a bit addictive and a bit voyeur’ish).

One thing that I enjoyed reading is that David Cameron’s popularity is very low at the moment (which does not surprise me). One thing I don’t enjoy seeing is Birmingham’s lowly position in the league (but that doesn’t really surprise me either). What I definitely didn’t like reading was Jeremy Hunt is hell-bent on privitising any public health service we may have. This man has been let off once with the Murdoch affair. How he can be given such an important and trusted role is beyond me, but it seems, but beyond the Tories. That’s Tory ideology for you.

One thing I did pick up on the net is an interesting e-petition. It is a HM petition to change MPs pensions in line with other public sector jobs. So if you’re a public sector worker who has just found out that you will probably have to work to the age of 90 with slashed pensions, you might be interested to sign it. If you’re a politician, you probably don’t like me very much. Well I don’t care. I don’t like you either. Especially if you’re a Tory.

I don’t know what will come of it, but to me it only seems fair. As David Cameron said himself, “We ALL have to make sacrifices” and “We’re in this together.” MPs feel they are a law unto themselves, in terms of expenses scandals, and they will probably find an ancient law that excuses themselves from pension changes anyway, but it’s worth a shot. I am going to include a link below. If you’re not a British citizen, I don’t know if you can sign it. Have a read anyway.

¡Día del niño y un mal dedo!

Hi all

“Children’s Day and a bad toe”. That’s the name of my blog. I cut my toe and I’m limping a bit. Nothing much more to say about that really. I’m not going to include any pictures. I will let you know that Pamela is a great nurse.

On Monday was Día del Niño in Casa Alianza. It was nice to see the kids smacking the hell out of a piñata and doing apple bopping (and onion bobbing, strangely enough, especially when a lad starting eating one raw). I took lots of pics, or rather the kids in Casa Alianza did, and here are just a couple of them. I will try and find photos which do not show the faces or identify the children.

On the 26th September, I will be going into Casa Alianza for the 25th anniversary, and reading some of Danny’s story. Danny was the boy who was murdered in January. I interviewed him last year.

Colds, job interviews, dodgy songs and even dodgier music videos

Hi y’all

I wish you all well. This week has been uneventful due to an awful cold that I have just about recovered from thanks to Sudagripe, Jamaica tea and Halls Soothers. All that remains is an awful cough which I’m unwisely trying to cure by drinking beer and wine (it’s an old wife’s tale of a cure (an old drunk wife maybe)).

Last Tuesday I had a job interview at a bilingual school to work in the library. The school is called DelCampo and it is one of the best (and expensive) schools in Honduras. Some of the top years get an IPAD and work from it. I can’t see that coming at Hall Green Secondary School any time soon, but it’s something for it to aspire to. I don’t think I was successful in the interview. I wasn’t well. Simple as. It was good to get an interview though.

Last night, we celebrated Aurora’s birthday (it was about two weeks ago) in Pam’s house. I still can’t pronounce her name correctly (there’s too many r’s in her name. It’s not my fault) so I call her Ahora (which means “now”) or I shorten it even more to Ya (which also means “now”). This is a country where half the people call me Nick Vapour Rub so nobody can complain. Anyway, at some point in the night, we started looking at some popular Latin songs, some which were catchy, but mostly slightly naca (tacky) and the videos were, well, odd.

The first one isn’t too bad and is quite catchy. I heard it in the market yesterday and watched a young lady, rather large, dancing to it with a tent pole as if she should be in a certain type of bar where girls dance like that. Hazel was with me. She was dancing a little bit too. It’s by 3Ball MTY and the song is called Intentalo (Me Prende). It’s Mexican. I don’t know if it’s made it to the Brummie bars, but I think it might soon (nah, probably not). The lads watching will probably like the pretty lady singing in a sultry way and my young niece Ella Rogers will probably like those silly boys dancing in curly shoes. What are they like!

The second is one of Pamela’s favourite’s. She got all excited listening to it. I think it is from Peru. It is La Tigresa del Oriente and the song is Nuevo Amanecer. It has an older women in a tight leopard saying “Rico Papi” on a boat and three bouncy females and a healthy young man dancing in a way which doesn’t really fit the beat or the rhythm. The editing is interesting. Watch out for the little boy who gets into the background of a shot of a girl dancing and gets shouted off by the angry director. My cousin Sam West should do a duet with her or get the director to help with the music videos. See where it gets you!

The next one is Aurelio Martinez and the song’s called Pompis con Pompis. It’s punta and I think it’s Honduran from the Garifuna communities. It means pretty much “arses with arses” or “buttocks with buttocks”, as you will see from the video.

The next is a slightly more serious song, also from Peru, from a young lady called Wendy Sulca singing a song about beer. I can’t understand too well. Not because my Spanish is poor, but just because her voice is too squeaky. I think it’s about the bad effects of too much beer and the social problems it causes, maybe in her own life. There’s some nice landscape images though.

Last but not least, we cannot forget good old Yasuri Yamileth – Gillette. How could we? She keeps repeating her name in this song. It’s regaeton and you know that I hate that shit with enormous passion. She’s from Panama and is not known for her lyric writing, but she is bad ass and we should respect and fear for that alone. Let’s leave it at that.

Colibritany – Mi Sexy Chambelan

Dear all

If you thought the video in the last update about the Maras was scary, then this will definitely put you off Central America. Strictly speaking, Colibritany is not actually Central America. She is Mexican apparently (thank you Mexico. Thanks a f–king lot). It is about boys, as you will see from the video, and it is the cheesiest thing I have probably ever come cross. Pamela showed me (she says it’s naca (trashy) but she secretly desperately loves it). If you feel the need to translate the lyrics (you’d be a lonely man to do so), then go and do it. I am pointing this on my blog, because I think it is f–king brilliant….. I mean shite. They say the best music in Spanish comes from Latin America. Well, let’s see if you agree. Enjoy!