Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Pyramid Structure (aka la programa familiar) – Part Two

Hola todos

Sorry for the abrupt end to the last update. Tiredness and a cold ran victorious, the latter of which has pretty much laid me to waste today as well. Lots of runny snot, coughing, tissues, tea and lazing around and complaining to my girlfriend about man flu.

I was hoping to interview someone today and put the transcribed chat on my blog. I won’t tell you much more until I have done it. It’s a little project I want to do on the blog, just giving you an idea of ordinary lives here in Honduras, whether they are rich, poor, middle class, golpista, resistencia, apolitical, a road sweeper, a banker, a craftsman etc. I spend a lot of time talking about random things on the blog, which is sometimes nice to empty my head and voice my opinion, but it would be nice to give the blog a bit more direction. Hopefully you will see this in the next few weeks.

Back to the pyramid structure.

As I said yesterday, I already had great suspicions of the job interview, but I’m not in the financial position to be turning my nose up at jobs. I’ve had misfortune with a couple of jobs so far, but thinking too much about it only brings wasted moments when I could be doing something productive.

I went along to the interview at a hotel I know quite well. The name of it isn’t important. It’s only a few minutes away, but even so, when the taxi drive sees a chele in a suit, he’s going to bulk up the price, and he did. When I got there, as expected, there was a queue of people giving their names, 50 lemps, their ID and their phone number to a young pretty woman. When I handed my ID over, she looked at it a bit funny, read out loud that I was British, and then absent-mindedly asked me, “What part of the United States are you from?” I reminded, like I always do to this question, “The British part, near Europe!” She raised her eyebrow, and I could tell that she was thinking the same think I was, “What the hell is he doing here?” She then looked at my name and couldn’t make it out too well on the paper, as the woman at immigration who handed me the temporary ID kind of scribbled it on half-arsed. I read my name out for the woman anyway, the English and Spanish way, and then she finally decided that because she could read nor pronounce my name, that it was no longer to be Rogers, but actually Roque. So, by force, I’m becoming more engrained and stamped into Latin American culture, meaning my identity is changing and it’s out of my controlThey will no longer accept or understand my English and slightly Castilian Spanish accent when I speak Spanish either. I must now mumble and say words in caliche Spanish to make it impossible for foreigners to understand. Here are a few examples of the different vocabulary, taken from good old Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honduran_Spanish

  • Bolulo – bread roll
  • Trucha or pulpería – corner shop
  • Relajo – mess
  • Jura – police patrol
  • Pisto -money
  • Birria – beer
  • Maje – dude
  • Cipote(a) – kid (male, when it ends with “e”; and female, when it ends with “a”)
  • Guirro(a) – kid (male, when it ends with “o”; and female, when it ends with “a”)
  • Juco(a) – Dirty kid (male, when it ends with “o”; and female, when it ends with “a”)

Going back to my enforced name change, what is also quite amusing, as a “maje” on Facebook pointed out, is that if you mash my new Spanish surname with one of Pamela’s surname’s, you get something that resembles the former Manchester City and Blackburn Paraguayan superstar striker’s name, Roque Santa Cruz. Maybe we should get this man to one day be El Padre at our wedding.

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The woman took my 50 lemps, and then asked me who I spoke to on the telephone a couple of days before. I said it was a man. She then looked at me funny, again, and then said I would be with Lobo, which was herself. Lobo, by the way, means wolf in Spanish.

I was then showed into an already full conference room of people. I sat down and joined in watching a presentation about a physical disabled man, with no hands, go about his work at home using just his chin and his toes. I must admit, it was only this part of the presentation that actually impressed me. The rest I really had to bite my tongue so I didn’t yelp “bollocks”, screamed from the heart.

The part began by reminding most of the people there that Honduras was poor, that they needed money, that unemployment levels were sky-high and that they would probably work until they were 80 years old. We all knew the problems Honduras faces, and I dare say, many of the people in the room lived in certain states of poverty that I would never comprehend. From looking around the room, I could see a look of slight look of panic and desperation on their faces, they felt tense and the man talking to them was, not as much as rude, but quite forceful and selective with his words. Nearly everyone did their best to dress in smart attire, such as smart trousers and shirt, but some were wearing beaten up trainers too, and I couldn’t work out if this was because of problems of affording smarter shoes or if this was generally accepted in group interviews such as this. I state through it all feeling patronised and wanting to ask someone, “What the fuck is this job?” But this part of the presentation I felt was distinctly cruel, and it was over 30 minutes relaying the same message, “You’re poor. You need money.” I felt the lad beside feel especially stressed, sighing and talking to himself about being skint. I saw him write something on a pad of paper on his lap and he could barely write well, mixing capital letters and small letters and getting basic spellings wrong. I remembered the advert, that this was an open invitation for an interview for everyone, which in practice is good, but it was also a reminder that many people, especially the poor members of society, receive a poor level of state education (that’s if they receive an education at all). Having lived in Las Colinas, not going to Casa Alianza for a few months and only occasionally leaving the apartment, it’s easy to fall into the bubble trap; you forget where you are. You read the newspapers, but they focus on the blood and murders like the English tabloids focus on scandal, tits and arses. All this social panic talk was transparent, not just to me, but a couple of other people too; raise their desperation levels and they will buy into anything!

They then presented the company behind it: Herbal Life. If you are not familiar with it in the UK, when Beckham played for LA Galaxy, it was the main sponsor on his shirt. They are a big LA-based corporate company that sell herbal tablets to promote healthy living. They gave us the life-story, the dream, the sob story, the American dream gobshite, with pretend staff smiling and cheering and celebrating everything about Herbal f–king Life (and you know they’ve brought in actors to pretend their happy, because the people who actually work there are probably poisoned from swallowing the crap they sell). It was about as tasteless, criminal and irritating as Piers Morgan (his own American dream seems to be going tits up from what I’ve heard). While watching all this, they handed out some drinks, made from Herbal Life products, that tasted like grainy, warm ice-tea and I wanted to vomit it out. in front of them, right there, and then sue them for making me ill. It seemed that, if you want people to sell a product, at least make the people have confidence in the product you want them to sell. If you want to be healthy, boys and girls, eat a f–king orange, eat real food, have a balanced diet. That’s part one of the rant over.

The next thing was the sales pitch. The pyramid structure, which before I had come to Honduras, knew nothing about. In Youtube, I have seen a few videos and now want to put a good yard stick between me and them. In this structure, they get people to buy into the scheme, which costs $114 and the Herbal Life product they have to sell, at a huge, huge expense to many of the people which were there. They then have to sell the same product, or idea of the product, to get a return on their investment, so you literally pay them to be employed! The money you earn obviously then depends on the amount of sales you make, and the gets trickled down from the top, so the people at the bottom get little return on their investment when they are making few sales. They don’t tell you how to make the sales; they just get you to buy into the scheme. Those who are desperate to sell often try to recruit friends and family, so you end up getting people struggling to survive pushing it on to their loved ones, and it spreads like poison ivy.

I’ll be quite honest, how much this has to do with Herbal Life, I don’t know. It could just be crooks selling the image of the company. I don’t know if Herbal Life would risk their integrity and push this type of dodgy scheme on a poor country. It doesn’t make sense to me. But, it explain why the job advert was so ambiguous, not clearly detailing the job role, nor did they have Herbal Life’s name in the job advert. All in all, the whole thing has made me very wary of the scheme. I don’t really understand how it works or if a big company like that would become embroiled in stuff like this. Some big American companies do have very few morals or very little care for society in poorer countries like Honduras; take the company HB Fuller that sells Resistol glue. They know that it goes up kids noses, and they know there are chemicals they can add to the glue which act like a nasal deterrent. But they just don’t care. I don’t know if it’s the same case for Herbal Life, but the presentation which sold the “American dream” was tasteless.

After they stopped the presentation, they called people into groups, and almost immediately the Lobo wolf woman, who saw me being “that strange British, kind of American dude” in a suit and tie, thinking that I would most definitely have the capital to buy into the scheme, came running up to me with a very false smile ready to brown nose me until I was in excruciating pain. Unfortunately for her, I quickly interrupted her and said, “No es para mi. Me voy.” If you don’t speak Spanish, I think you can make out what that means. Within one minute, I was in a taxi going back to my apartment, wondering what the fuck I had just seen: one of the nastiest types of pyramid in the world.                       

 

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The Pyramid Structure (aka la programa familiar) – Part One

Hola todos

I have been a bit muted in the last couple of weeks, mainly as I have been on the hunt for jobs. I have caught up with the two English volunteers who are with ICYE, who seem really nice, and kind of remind me of myself a couple of years ago, seeing Honduras in all it’s magic for the first time, and getting used to the unique way that this country functions. Laura Martin, the volunteer from Coventry, is still with a lad called Marco Duron, who is one of the first Catrachos I ever met when I had a pre-departure training event with ICYE back home, not far from sunny Southend. All weekend was spent slightly intoxicated, learning about Honduras, doing ice-breaking activities and talking about worse case scenarios. I haven’t seen Marco in over a year, and I believe it’s his birthday on Monday, so if he’s reading, have a good one.

Pyramids. That’s right. It’s the title of this update. We of course associate pyramid structures with Egypt, or boring pyramid diagrams in boring text books to explain boring theories of whatever boring concept it applies to. In Central America, the Mayans also built pyramid (and you can see them in Copan Ruinas), and they’re interesting. However, since I have been looking for work, I have come across a new type of pyramid structure forming, which aren’t at all as impressive as the wonderful ancient pyramids that are specified above. In fact, it looks a bit of a scam.

Maybe it’s a common thing in this world-wide, ever lasting financial crisis, but I have come across a couple of these pyramids now, which are as dodgy as each other. Some might think that it’s a sign where my destiny lies, but luckily I don’t believe in any destiny semantics bollocks and I’m just going to go with the opinion that these pyramids come looking for YOU, if YOU’RE broke, or if YOU have no job. They smell weakness, the high unemployment rates, the desperation, the poverty, and they swoop for it, like when a predator smells blood. This is probably not making any sense to you, but I will now tell my little story and all this pyramid and hunting rubbish will be revealed to you.

A couple of days ago, my wonderful girlfriend sent me a job advert. I must admit, it was a bit of an ambiguous job advertisement and smelled fishy, but I need work, it was advertised in a national newspaper, so I thought I’d give it a try.

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You can see what I mean by ambiguous. It doesn’t take a linguistic genius to know what “COMPANIA AMERICANA” means in English. It then goes on to say, quite obviously, that they “require personnel with or without experience, secondary education complete,” then information about the wages, a flexible timetable etc. By offering $1, 000 a month, that’s the reel. By Honduran standards, it’s very good, especially for people with just a secondary education with no experience. The lack of information obviously leads you to ask more questions. So there I was, calling the two numbers to find out who this company was and what the job entailed. No one picks up. I then get a call back from a man saying that I had an interview, without actually handing over any information about myself, and he would be sending the details of the interview in a text message, and to come with 50 lemps, which is just under £2. When I asked about the job, he told me all would be revealed on Friday (at the interview).

I didn’t know what to expect but I couldn’t turn anything down, no matter how much it smelled of dodge. After my last experience of working for an American company here, I felt like telling them where to get off. The interview was to take place in a hotel conference room in a hotel that I know well, so at least it wasn’t in Barrio Soto (a known dangerous neighbourhood). I asked my housemate Wilmer, and he said it was quite normal, and it will probably consist of group interviews. My other housemate was similar to me, skeptical of a job advertisement that doesn’t mention the job title or the company. But I decided to go ahead with it.

And the story of the mysterious pyramids will continue tomorrow. It is late at night and I feel ill with a cold. However, to keep you on this pyramid idea, I am going to include a wonderfully short documentary about Mayan Temples. Nice pyramids. Interesting pyramids. Enjoy!


Mas X Menos and Music

Hi all

Mas X Menos. It is now one of my favourite shops and a source to some vital products that I need for my survival in Tegucigalpa.

i) Cadbury’s chocolate

ii) Guinness

A couple of years ago, I could find Cadbury’s at various Kielsa pharmacies around the city. But I have been scouring these chemists and found they have been taken away. Maybe it’s to do with the fact the company is bought by Kraft, because I have been seeing Hershey bars (also made by Kraft), which is basically dog shit compared to Cadbury’s. No offence to Hershey fans, or those who make the chocolate, but you don’t even come close. Come to Brum and we will go back to basics and show you how it’s done.

The only bad thing about this supermarket is that it is a bit expensive. It has connections to the American Embassy apparently and sells loads of imported goods (apart from f–king hair wax. I have plodge a load of greasy cream to style my hair, which gives my head more grease than fish and chip wrappers. It literally burns my scalp. It’s worse in these last few days with the heat, and the cream melts down my face. I hope you can excuse this vain moment, but if anyone knows where to buy hair wax/clay in Tegucigalpa, please me know). I have known of the supermarket’s existence for the last couple of years but for some reason, I had never been, even though many people told me to go when I have been asking around or putting requests on facebook, for lashings and lashings of Irish beer and Brummie chocolate. What makes it worse, I had many opportunities to go there, especially when my old friend Hazel lived practically opposite the supermarket and told me to go many-a-time to buy Guinness. I am so aggressively angry with myself for not listening to people, biting myself on the arm while looking at myself in the mirror, a real car crash of a man, a destruction of a once strong specimen, having to deal with the regret of the wasted time I have had to spend without these crucial products. Thank God Guinness and chocolate helps cure mental illnesses (apparently).

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I can’t remember if I have done this already, but I would like to include a link to a blog by an English girl, also in Tegucigalpa, who also came to the land of Catrachos with ICYE, whose name is Jessica Marshall. I have read parts of her blog and she does remind me of myself a couple of years ago when everything was fresh and new, coming to terms with Honduras’ randomness and bizarre ways of functioning, trying to get to grips with these wonderful people, but also enjoying the wonderful surprises, some good, some bad, and the beautiful parts of this country. She is a Wakefield lass, although one of the other volunteers here at the moment is from Coventry, just down the road from Brum. I look forward to catching up with them. Here is a link:  http://jessicamarshall190590.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/lago-de-yajoa/.

I am also going to include another piece of writing that my friend Hazel sent me on facebook. It’s quite nice, original and interesting in a way, from the USA with little to do with Honduras, but still good fun. It’s called “The Onion”: http://www.theonion.com/articles/search-for-self-called-off-after-38-years,1794/.

Well now I have my Guinness and Cadbury’s fix sorted, I feel the world is filled with the sound of music, so I feel I should feel share with you music composed, play and mixed by family members back home, with an array of different genres.

 

The Big Figure

I have included this duo on my blog before, with Sam West, my cousin, and his old school friend, Calum McCann. I look forward to hearing their new album, which I can’t remember if it has been released yet or not, but they are going on tour soon, and they have a fair few groups supporting them. Please find links here, where you can find out where they are playing etc (to those back in the UK):

 

JazzCo

I introduced you to them a couple of weeks back on my blog, and they are making a reappearance in this update, as they are at Glad Cafe in the Pollockshaws area of Glasgow on the 21st April between 7-9pm. Patrick West, my Uncle and also father to Sam West, plays the sax in this six piece jazz combo and is the charmer in the white shirt in the video below. In the Glad Cafe, you can hear them playing a mix of standards and originals in the style of Swing, Bebop, Layin and Funk.

 

Suburban Sound Syndicate

Going back five years, more or less, my brother, sister and I found out an interesting part of family that we never knew we had through my father. Soon after we met this extended family, which was, and still is, an exciting time for us. Part of this family is Chester Jones, who when I met him had a radio show (http://nsbradio.co.uk/content/). He recently posted some of his mixes of Punk, Hip Hop and Ska, 7″ records that he has been mixing for the last eight records. I am going to post various links to the music. Have a good listen.


Farmbox

Dear boys and girls

My cousin Hannah has been hard work setting up a social enterprise to overcome food insecurity in urban slums. Her and her team came 3rd in the London Regional final and now want to win the online competition to go the U S of A to compete for a $1 million start up fund and present it in front of President Clinton and Obama. The project is called Farmbox.

It only takes a couple of minutes to vote. There is a lovely video for you to watch, which goes into depth about the project.

The link is  https://www.facebook.com/hultglobalcasechallenge/app

Just to let you all know, there was a tremor here today. I thought it was just the vibration of a large, weighed down lorry going passed outside, or my own excess wind from eating too much re-fried beans! But there you go! My housemate Martin heard a woman scream. I heard nothing. That’s my second horrifying earthquake experience since I’ve been in Honduras.


Good Causes 2

Dear all

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an update on good causes by friends who doing different activities to raise money for, well, good causes. There were a couple I didn’t get a chance to include in the last update. I am doing this, however, almost as an act of karma, after so many people helped me raise money to come to Honduras a couple of years ago. I will start with Kayleigh McGinn.

Kayleigh McGinn

I have known her for a couple of years and is my cousin’s former partner. She hails from Glasgow and we always had a good laugh, putting a friendly arm around me at my brother’s wedding after I misplaced his wedding ring (I was the best man), and I will always remember receiving a can of Tennants for Christmas from her, after a year away in Honduras. Very straight to point and a fan of the odd swear word, she’s going to be doing the challenge of a lifetime. Like my friend Joe, she is going to be climbing Kilimanjaro at some point this year, although I’m not too sure when. She is raising money for Concern Worldwide. It is a huge challenge for anyone, but I am really pleased she is doing it. The sense of accomplishment will open more and more doors for her. I must admit, I don’t know too much about the charity, but here is a snippet about them:

Concern Worldwide works with the world’s poorest people to transform their lives.

We are an international humanitarian organisation dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries.

We work in partnership with the very poorest people in these countries, directly enabling them to improve their lives, as well as using our knowledge and experience to influence decisions made at a local, national and international level that can significantly reduce extreme poverty.” 

Taken from https://www.concern.net/

Please visit her Justgiving site, which is: http://www.justgiving.com/Kayleigh-McGinn

 

Kris McGee

Kris has featured in my blog before. In fact, I am sure I can go back and find pictures of her. Yes, I think I am going to include one now!

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If you have followed my blog long enough, just under two years ago, I went to help paint a school in the small town of Pespire in Southern Honduras with the Canadian Girl Guides, of which Kris was a Guide leader. Above is a photo of her as she was about to leave the beautiful little town, and she is with her lovely host family, Los Nietos. I haven’t been able to stay in touch with the people of the town as much as I would have liked. I loved my week or so there, and it gave me a brief, educative insight of rural town life in Honduras (other than my time in Tatumbla). It made me reflect a lot seeing this nice side of this country, away from the insecurity and crime of the cities. Below is a picture of the gang, outside of the school they painted. They were great fun. I hope they look back at their Pespire adventure with as much fondness as myself.

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Back in Canada, Kris is a school teacher in Kitchener. She is a larger than life personality, very funny, and a good sparring partner to make fun of. She puts much of her time into the Guide movement, taking people away on trips to random parts of the world and being life and soul of the party. I remember how she motivated the troops of scorching days, sacrificed massive amounts of her own energy, money and belongings to make sure other people enjoyed themselves and took as much as they could away from the experience. I enjoyed our many funny conversations during those two weeks together. A good friend, and I promise that one day, when I have money, I will fly up to visit her up there where polar bears roam and kill children, and where orcas float around murder defenseless baby seals. All slightly exaggerated, but I promise to go and somehow sabotage Roger Federer’s game (to give Murray a chance winning at least a set).

Kris has decided to do another great cause in her life by doing a run. I don’t know how far, I don’t know where, nor do I know when, but she is doing it to raise money for United Ways Centraides, a charity which is trying to tackle poverty in Canada. I’ll be quite honest, I do not know too much about the charity like above, but I thought I would include another snippet.

Our mission is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action. We call this our community impact mission.

Community Impact

Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

All United Way Centraides are working together for real change to happen. We do this by:

  • Influencing public attitudes, systems and policies
  • Focusing on underlying causes of social issues
  • Strengthening the network of services and the capacity of non-profits and the community
  • Engaging and mobilizing the community’s financial resources, influence, time, knowledge and action”

To see more, visit http://www.unitedway.ca/. Also, to donate money to Kris, you can visit: https://raceroster.com/pledge/?e=245&u=17547

Please spare whatever you can.

I will be including a couple more good causes soon.

Now to include something completely different that I saw on Facebook, a short video protesting the deportation of Latin American migrants in the USA.

http://www.upworthy.com/you-dont-need-to-speak-a-foreign-language-to-understand-how-insane-this-is?c=bl3