According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to go belly up tomorrow (for those reading in Europe or anywhere which is more than two hours ahead of Honduras Mean Time, tomorrow is today). With the crisis, wars, capitalism, all destroying the world, you might say that the Mayans might be somewhat right. However, I’ve looked out the window and I’ve not seen anything that suggests the world is going to end on 21st December.
Tomorrow, or in the next few days, is the last day of Menin in Casa Alianza. He has been in the hot seat for just over 25 years, but now he is standing down and looking to do something else after all these years. He is a hero in Honduras. He has opened doors to thousands of children, given them opportunities to succeed in life when everyone had let them down. He has opened the Querbines home for sexually exploited girls, he raises awareness of the plight of street kids and constantly fights for their rights. He always manages to say a nice thing about something or someone. He sees the beauty of things, which I find hard to do. His memory is amazing too, for remembering names of people, of crap football teams of English volunteers! He gave me the chance to write the book, so big kids from the other side of the world have also had great opportunities, thanks to the great Asturian. I hope to stay in close contact with him. He is someone I respect, a lot, and I know many people feel the same.
I met the new man for the hot seat, Guadalupe, who seems like a nice guy and I wish him all the best in his new role. In a country where the none of the candidates up for preliminary elections a month ago even mentioned about how they’re going to help young people in the street or stop the increasing amount going on to the street (it should an objective) or even note about extrajudicial killings that are left unsolved or even touched by police, I think Guadalupe knows what he’s up against.
I went in yesterday for the Christmas dinner and said hi to the kids. It never ceases to amaze me when the kids keep ploughing on through life, despite their problems. They have an armour of steel and they just “get on with it”, but with a flair and smile. They still pull jokes on me and say all sorts of crude things, but they balance it out with adult conversations and introduce new ways of thinking. They give me a hug and shake my hand every time I enter. They ask about Pam and how my job is going. It’s brilliant. When you’re in the street, as I found out, you do feel wary about street youths, about if they have bad intentions or not. But these kids put my faith back into society. I believe they can change their lives around. On the most part. They do.
One thing did touch me quite a bit yesterday. While I was volunteering there last year, I can’t remember which month, a young girl was brought to Casa Alianza by her mother from a very dangerous neighbourhood called Los Pinos. I remember the girl very well. She was small, had a couple of scars in her face, triguena, dark-skinned and big bright eyes (I have just described about a million kids in Honduras, but there you go), but still very pretty, especially when she smiled. She was 12 or 13, I think. She was very shy and was scared of the screaming and rough and tumble of some of the kids. To be fair, it can shock many who are unprepared for it. She was brought by her mother because Mara gangs were preying on her, to make her work as a prostitute for them, to exploit her. She was very shaken up, but she started following me around and, for the few days she was there, brightened up. I would make jokes, make her play games, get her to do drawing and make a few friends. One day, she just said she was leaving, no reason, and gave me a very harm hug and a huge gracias. After that, I didn’t think I would see her again. I remember feeling a bit sad.
But yesterday I did. I didn’t recognise her at first. She was a lot taller now and had quite a bit of make up on. She flashed a huge and gave me another huge hug. We barely spoke because there was so much noise and she was being hurried along by friends. The appreciation was still there and I felt worthy, that But it was a special moment. No tiene precio, as Pam often says.
Another lad who was in Casa Alianza, quite popular and chatty, and was a brilliant footballer, is now living in the town of the first town I lived in, Tatumbla. It was great to see him. His parents died of cancer and he was living in some dangerous places in San Pedro Sula. Now he is in the safe haven of Tatumbla, in the shadows of the huge mountain where I got garapatas and mites! He doesn’t know the crazy grandmother, but the crazy grandmother has now moved in Linaca and lives her son and grandsons. But it was good to see the lad doing well.
As for the book, it is being looked at and edited by Casa Alianza UK. Hopefully it will be published this year, and we can publicise it in a human rights bash taking place in, no other, than Birmingham. I love my home city. The city keeps calling me back. No matter how many people slag it out or make fun of the accents, it has an original quality, a realness to it, that not many other cities I have been to have. So it will be nice to go back for that at some point next year.
That’s if we’re still here. Bloody Mayans!
For a little fair well song to Menin, I suppose I have to end with a clichéd “Gypsy Kings” song. I don’t know if Menin even likes them, but I will include a song which always reminds me of my own time in his native Spain, Baila Me. And if he doesn’t like it, lo siento. Voy a incluir los mejores goles de Sporting Gijon tambien.
Tenga suerte Abuelo Menin!