Referring back to my teaching post last week when I stated that I’d had an interview at the Macris School, I am proud to announce that I was successful. I shall be the English teacher starting from the next term, but I will be observing classes starting as soon as Thursday, which I look very forward to. It means dealing with the lovely so and so’s from Honduran immigration again, but it feels great. It’s one of the best schools in Tegucigalpa and Honduras, and it will involve teaching lots of literature; a huge passion of mine!
Continuing with literature, I have recently downloaded a book set in Roatan by an American named Chas Watkins. The book is called “To Hold The Sun”, which so far seems interesting and humorous. If you liked “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel and “A Load of Bull” by Tim Parfitt, it’s a concoction of both in same ways, a mix of the profound and Spanish pronunciation difficulties, about a guy who does lots of hand-stands and does self-help and motivational talks. I haven’t been to Roatan, but the description is lush. It paints another side of Honduras, which so often gets forgotten about. You can download it here if you’re interested: http://www.amazon.com/To-Hold-The-Sun-ebook/dp/B00CFAH78Q.
Now, to the interview. A friend of mine, David Soto, told me a story about a friend of his who had been in England. I originally wanted to write the story just as a short-story, which I will still do, but I thought, after interviewing him, it would be a fantastic to put on my blog, too. I won’t tell you too much now, only that we met in Dunkin’ Donuts in front of the Presidential Palace, and Don Rony had a lot to say!
Don Rony Alexis Hernandez
Name: Don Rony Alexis Hernandez
From: Victoria, Yoro
Currently lives: Lomas de Guijarro, Tegucigalpa
Profession: Civil Engineer (Hydrologist)
Mr David Soto told me that you have an interesting story about an experience that you had in England.
What did he tell you? Anything bad? (He laughs).
Nothing bad. But I am going to leave it to you to tell me in your own words.
First of all, when did you go to the UK?
It was between 1990 and 1992. I was about 30 years old at the time, your age, more or less. I was working for an organisation called SANAA, which deals with the drinking water supplies, potable systems and sanitation throughout Honduras. Through the British and Honduran governments, they formed a relationship and water programme, to get more technical assistance and people with skills here in Honduras. We had quite a few British people come over. All of them were nice, had a great attitude and good values. It was a wonderful exchange.
Part of the programme included a scholarship for two Hondurans going over to the UK and studying in universities for two years. I went to UCL, and my friend went to University of Birmingham.
Wow, that’s where I am from and where my father has taught for about 40 years.
It’s a small world. I went there for a weekend.
Did you like it?
It’s okay. It’s very industrial.
The process to get on this programme was long and hard for me. You see, people here do not always pick the right person for these types of scholarships or jobs. They choose the person who they know or friends. Politics, basically. SANAA probably wanted someone else to go. I had to go four times to the British Embassy to sort out the immigration documents. They kept missing something out, a form or a document, and I kept having to go back.
Another part of the process was to present our application to a man called Andrew McKenzie, a respected expert in this field. The main problem for me was I couldn’t speak English! We had a test which was harder than the TEFL exams, and I hadn’t much time to prepare for. I got around it one way. I knew two other people I was competing against who could speak English well, so during the exam, I positioned myself in the middle of the two of them, and they sat 30 degrees in front of me. I copied the answers which I didn’t know. As it was multiple choice questions, I guessed the majority were going to be B or C, the middle ones. And guess what? I was right. I got 80%! I couldn’t believe it!
The second part of the process was a written test in Spanish, which I wrote about fifteen pages. The third part was an oral test. It consisted of six questions. The first question was, “What is your profession?” and I had kind of prepared for it. My father had a similar role, so I talked about him, about myself etc. The second question, I had no idea what they were going to ask me, so I interrupted them before they had a chance to ask me, and I asked them, “What am I going to be doing the UK?” And they spent some time answering, and I somehow passed. They seemed impressed. The problem was when I got to England: I was really stuck!
It took me three months to learn English. It was more about how to write a thesis than the useful things you need for everyday life. The accent was so, so different to what I expected. Everyday I would return to my house and I would have a big headache. Anyway, through the lectures, I made a good friend called David Benniston, who lives in Dubai now, who wrote very good notes, so I photocopied them, went home and studied them. The technical words weren’t too difficult. There are many latin words so it was straight-forward. But there were some phrasal verbs or jargon, that was impossible to understand without someone telling me. Drop down for example! Not even many English speakers would not what that is in hydrology!
It was a fantastic learning experience.
Tell me more about what happened to you while you were in the UK.
Well, through a link through the government and the university, I had chance to meet the Queen. I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited! I had called my family, I was showing off to friends, I had a suit and I looked “smokin'”. As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to meet her and the Royal Family, one of the most important and powerful people in the world!
However, about week before I was going to meet her, I was asked by the contact from the university where I was from. Surprised, I replied, “Honduras, obviously.”
He then looked at me, “Which Honduras?”
“Well, Honduras, Honduras.”
“Not British Honduras?”
He then explained that I actually couldn’t go due to a mistake, or more of a technicality: I was from the wrong Honduras! It was actually a meeting for the British Commonwealth countries and they were looking for members of each of the countries.
You can imagine how I felt. I was crestfallen. Distraught. I had to tell my family that I wasn’t going to meet the Queen anymore, because I was from the wrong Honduras! It was hard to take. I was disillusioned and disappointed.
So do you now hold a grudge against the Brits?”
No. Hahaha. Luckily I have a sense of humour. I can laugh it off. It was a near experience. It would have been nice, but the story is funny. These things happen.
On the whole, I really like Britain, and the people. The weather isn’t great, but the people have strong values, and they live by them. It’s more organised, people have a good attitude, to most things, to work, to understanding different cultures. They have rules and people respect them; not like here. They want to make foreigners feel like they are in their own homes, so it makes them want to return, which is great for your tourism. You can trust the Brits. They are more friendly than people think. I can understand why it stays out of European affairs, especially with the EU.
One thing we get a lot with foreigners doing service contracts in Honduras, is that they don’t want to pay the local people for doing the work. I own a civil engineering company and we have hydrology contracts all over Honduras. Many of the projects here are funded by the EU, who contract the work to bogus companies, in Europe or wherever, and they don’t even start the work. The projects are incomplete and the money is swallowed up. We lose out. And local people have to continue with poor water and drainage systems. We lose out to corruption.
I have reported a case to the anti-fraud committees in Europe, and it’s under investigation. I don’t know if they’re going to do much about it, but we’ll wait and see.
I can imagine this upsets you.
Now a positive question about Honduras. What three things do you like most about your country?
The sun, the sea and the people. They are friendly, good-natured, helpful, and they have a special quality.
What three things would you change?
I would eliminate corruption, have a progressive plan to develop the country and eliminate poverty.
What dreams did you have as a child? And how have they changed?
My dream has never really changed. It’s always been to sustain myself, and my family, to have a business, which I have, and my health, which I also have.
And to meet the Queen?
Who knows? Maybe one day!