Monthly Archives: November 2014

Death of Honduran Beauty Queen

Dear readers,

Friday was my birthday, so suffice to say, I had a hangover. I was presented with one of my favourite tipples (Bombay Gin) with plenty of tonic water, which is great for fending off mosquitos by the way. I was also given an amazing Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate birthday cake by Pamela’s colleague who should be given awards for her fantastic cake making.

I like to write good things about Honduras. Positivity can pave new paths forward, and it can be contagious, just as negativity can be ironically. Sometimes, though, a minority of Hondurans (I personally think it is a minority of people, even if machismo is widespread. I believe the majority of Hondurans are by and large good citizens. Not all law abiding, but then not all people in the world are) ruins the Honduran image and deflates the country’s esteem. In the last year, there have been conscious attempts to improve the country’s state of security, which coincides with Juan Orlando’s time as president. Whether this is a big media smokescreen is hard to say, but where I live in Las Colinas, you feel you can walk around with a lower threat of being robbed. Whether this is a false sense of security, I just don’t know. I’m impartial though. I don’t support Juan Orlando. I’m just giving you a small idea of the feeling on the street. It feels safer than three years ago. I’m saying this ignorant of recent stats on indiscriminate deaths and gang-related crime and corruption.

This week, Hondurans have been in mourning. They have been in mourning about Maria Jose Alvarado Muñoz and her sister Sofia Trinidad. The two girls were murdered and it has hit the news like no other murder story since my time in Honduras. The reason for this is that Maria Jose, 19 years old from a small town in Santa Barbara, a province known for producing beautiful looking people, was/is the Honduran Beauty Queen. I don’t think Pamela will mind me saying that she certainly was a stunning looking girl. Maria and her sister were reported in the newspapers to have come from poor backgrounds. Their father died while they were young and their mother scraped by on a meagre living. Like in many Honduran towns, especially macho ranchero towns that are quite poor, there is a narco-trafficker. Their house is bigger, they’re up to their eyeballs with money, and with money comes power, but the type of power that makes them abusive and they wield it over people making them kind of the town’s bully. Not in all towns but in many. Unfortunately the sister was the girlfriend of this particular drug lord, Plutarco Ruiz.

About a week ago, the newspapers reported that the Honduran beauty queen had disappeared. I wondered if it was going to like the case three or four years ago when a former Honduran beauty queen was caught crossing the Honduras/Nicaraguan border with a huge wad of untaxed dosh in different currencies (brilliant material for a novel). It was semi-humorous. This case was not to be. The girls were at Ruiz’s party and according to the press, Ruiz and SOfia had been arguing a lot. On this particular day, it seems she had been dancing with another man. Ruiz did not like this and shot her. The beauty queen then ran to try and save her, but she was shot too. Their slain bodies were then dumped by a river, their faces reportedly unrecognisable. They were found on the day, very sadly, when Maria Jose was supposed to travel to the Miss Universe Pageant in London; some say she was one of the favourites to win.

I don’t want to seem cold, but I am glad that it has sparked a lot of anger amongst Hondurans. Because of the extremely high frequency of deaths and bloody murders reported in the press here (in the tabloids in the UK, it’s scandals and sex that sell the papers; here it’s scandals and spilled blood, along with disrespectful and graphic pictures. Ask yourself which is worse. I’m not saying papers shouldn’t report on it; they should think about how they should report on it though) there is often an apathetic and “ni modo” attitude to these sad stories. I myself don’t read the news much here due to this. All the papers are guilty of it. But you can see why people are so strewn with fear and anxiety, because they see this everyday. They are immune to it and the inaction becomes part of the psyche. But this story isn’t going away. My housemate Mariela argues that this happens every weekend in every town throughout Central America, not just Honduras, and it’s part of the machismo culture. Normal cases of femocides similar to this get reported but are no longer a talking point a day later. It’s acceptance. I very much agree with her. Because it’s a beauty queen, it’s upset many people. Personally, what I find strange is how politicians haven’t taken advantage of it. I don’t mean that in a cold way, but I know for sure that if this happened in the UK, and as much as I dislike this man, David Cameron would have said something about it and there would have been a campaign of some sort. A higher power just needs to scream out loud and use the press to say, “THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE”, just to have discouragement against this behaviour. If Juan Orlando has said anything, it’s been a pathetic whisper, unfortunately. From the top, there’s just not enough done to tackle this mentality and put an end to needless deaths like this. And like corruption, this apathetic attitude trickles through society. This is why I’m pleased to see this time that people are pissed off.

Please Hondurans, whichever side of the political line you are on, do not put out this light. Keep it burning, and force your government to clearly make a change. If it takes the death of a beauty queen to do it, so be it.

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Maria José is on the left; Sophia is on the right

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Tour de Reino Unido – part dieciocho

Dear readers,

Sunday 19th July 2014

We left our luggage at Victoria Station so we could visit our chums in Covent Garden and get recklessly smashed without trying to carry baggage everywhere around the touristy London streets. Pamela enjoyed the different flavours of Spanish echoed around the streets. I was hoping to stop off at Hamleys (before getting recklessly drunk) to show Pam the masses of toys. It worked out that we wouldn’t get enough time and we were both tired. We had the most expensive pancakes/crepes in the world inside Covent Garden (unfortunately not the best). We then took a look around the market which reminded me a little of the useless expensive stuff being sold at that market in Fort Lauderdale, except it was now useless and British, rather than useless and yank. I don’t know what was worse. I try to block the images out of my life.

Then we waited for my friend Alessia Rigal while watching a street act with a man who wore lots of tattoos and liked playing with whips, while sometimes getting children involved. Sounds very dodgy, I know, but we were taken away with the thought of having a few gin and tonics and beer and Pimms for Pam.
I worked with Alessia at the Refugee Council and I house-sitted her former lush appartment near Brindley Place in Birmingham. She got to speak Spanish with Pamela. She has Peru and French blood, although she hails from California, and she’s been a great buddy for the long haul.

We were then joined by Hazel, my Catracha Irish sister, and we brought over Ron Zacapa (which she had been crying for months before about, but with good reason: it’s feckin’ lovely!!) while Nacho and Mari had coffee for her.

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If you want to know more about Hazel, go back a three years ago in my blog and you will find some funny stuff. Nacaome tranny bars and “kid in a China shop” come to mind.

Then my good old buddy Jordan came along, who we’d seen in Brum a week or so before. He delighted us with his firework stories (in his apartment in Moscow, mind) and contracting malaria in Sierra Leone (maybe the latter isn’t so delightful). I knew Jordan and Hazel will hit it off. Brilliant mates, both of them. I’d love to see them next year at the wedding next year.

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I was happy drunk but we were having to leave to catch our coach back home to Brum. We had 40 mins to grab our bags at Victoria Street Station and run to the coach station. We made it, with guidance from a lost Frenchman (you trust anyone when you’re drunk). I was bursting for a wee and had to wait until we were on the motorway before I could go in. Even when I did the door was shut and had to be prised open by a coin (I don’t know how, but it was great drunken logic). My bladder was the size of an elephant and I can’t explain how relieved I was to release. Absolute heaven. A Class A wee. Rememberable. Golden moments (brilliant pun: I don’t care what you say).

We were picked up in Digbeth when we got back to Brum. Through alcohol consumption and physical fatigue, I can safely say we collapsed into a deep sleep that night. The next day we’d have Ella and Leo on the attack.


Tour de Reino Unido – Part diecisiete

Dear readers,

Sunday, 19th July 2014

Our bodies still a bit achy from the walking we did the day before, we were met by my sister in the hotel lobby. We had a nice long chinwag about everything and everyone in Starbucks. Pamela turned her nose up at the coffee that wasn’t Honduran, and Liz treated us to a giant muffin. In the previous 12 months, my sister has gone through a hell of a lot, and it makes me proud to see what a fighter she is. I don’t need to disclose what happened to her exactly. I’ll just say she’s grown because of it, become a stronger person. She’s now cruising Kingston on Thames in a convertible Audi (maybe not with the top down in November mind). Like I said, dead proud of her. Liz and Pam like to link up and bully me, which from knowing them both very well, doesn’t surprise me at all.

We then walked to the train station and passed some kissing lesbians, which shocked Pam. Not with disgust; just a cultural difference. I thought it was funny. Liz too. But laughter soon turned to tears when we had to wave goodbye. The next time we’ll be seeing Liz will be in Honduras, for our wedding.

We got the train to Clapham (I think?) which is where my mum once lived. We then changed to go to Victoria Station. On the way though, we passed Albert Bridge, which features in a Pogues song. I liked the song for many years and I made it a mission of mine two years ago, when I was in London for a Casa Alianza conference, to go and walk across the bridge. I was walking for a long time in the cold January rain, walking from Sloan Castle then along the banks of the Thames looking at the lavish West London homes. I did it, in the pouring rain. But I did it. Drenched. It reminds me of Skype conversations with Pamela at the time. Feels like a long time ago.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TejJDFt6Tkk

The next part of the day I’ll conclude tomorrow. Sorry, I’m shattered, but I’ll leave you with a poem that I wrote for Pamela earlier today.

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Tour de Reino Unido – part dieciséis

Dear readers,

Saturday, 18th July 2014

I know this is Donkey’s years old but I don’t care. I’ve been so busy of late. I celebrated a year at Dowal School last week. Time flies and this is third of a year old but you can surely understand. I’m not very coherent right now because my head is like a firework display right now, rockets of information shooting in 90 directions. Wedding info, Catholic info, work info, business info. All very colourful as you can see.  Stressed? Maybe, but ultimately happy and getting on with it. My language might be getting colourful as well at times during this update, so if you don’t like profanities, fuck off, I mean, turn away. Only joking.

Pamela and I were both feeling shattered that morning. Hungover and aching from the previous day of racing around London. Liz invited us for a bagel breakfast in Kingston, although beforehand Pamela became acquainted with Marks and Spencers, which was amusing. Pamela needed shoes but they didn’t have any in her size. I make frequent cheeky comments about Pamela’s tiny feet, and that she can exchange shoes with my seven year old niece Ella, although she shall be growing out of Pamela soon. Pamela often then shows me her finger and tells me to leave her ticklish “patitas” alone.

After a lush brekkie, we then caught the train to Paddington (I think) with my sister’s partner at the time (he liked sharing his tattoos and his adventures and spoke like John Terry, but more cockney) where we met Hannah and Zahra the Guatemalen. A walk along the Thames to see Big Ben, we wanted to see Buckingham Palace et all but the few hundred thousand protesters against the Gaza bombings stood in our way, not that I’m complaining. It was good to see people take to the streets. I saw a friend from my Refugee Council days, Nasri, which was pretty amazing. Hannah was in her element, telling us she wanted to get a “feel” for the protest; a protest march connoisseur, I must say, but I’m very proud of her strong beliefs. Pamela was also enjoying it, taking her camera “Lola Flash” out for a ride. She also compared it to marches and protests in Honduras, although this one had far more people than those in the land of Catrachos, it must be said. Then again, sometimes the whole of London can feel like a crowd at any given time. A Londoner protests  Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures. I don’t know why not. We then went around back to the Thames and made our way to Trafalgar Square. I used to love the pigeons there as a boy. I found it as exciting as red buses and Hamleys (well, maybe not Hamleys, but it was a brilliant London attraction). Now they have crazy Yodas hovering in the air somehow. I don’t know how but sometimes I don’t want to and remain in the blissful ignorance that it might just be magic.

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We then went to a bar nearby and had a couple of gin and tonics and another lavish taste of my sister’s, Pims, which Pamela caught on to all too easily. I’ve been in this bar various times with different people. I think it’s called the Theatre Bar something like it.

We then took a stroll to Borough Food Market. London looks designed by a drunken madman. From grandiose to royal to grey to Edwardian to hightec to ecological, with daftly brilliant detail. This could all be on one street.  Londoners can’t get too annoyed with gobsmacked bystanders. London looks like a Dell Boy type of geezer from a little way away, but the food is definitely not cheap or dodgy. Expensive but nice. Pamela and I had a pie each and I put on the pounds which took a month or so to shed. We then wanted to go up the Shard but unfortunately our attire was not acceptable for entrance. I didn’t realise we still had dress codes. So off we went for a leisurely walk down Southbank (I got look to at the second hand books and drink alcohol. Two of my greatest pastimes).

With sweat pouring off us, we made our way back to Paddington and caught the train back to Kingston. We had a quick shower and went back to Lizzie’s for a chilli. My first plate landed on the floor. Me being a clumsy git. But one of the interesting parts of the night was with Hanny about the then up and coming Scottish Referendum. Hannah wanted Better Together. I wanted Yes (have your land and freedom, and take the Iron Bru with you. (I’ve said that so many times to my cousins, even I am a bit bored of hearing myself say it)). In my heart of hearts, I could sense it was going to be a no vote. Tory propaganda wouldn’t have allowed a yes. That would have nailed Cameron. It was interesting to hear. I’ve heard many women voted no but men voted yes. I will be including more about the vote in a future update.

What did dawn on me that evening was that I wouldn’t be seeing my sister for some time. Not face to face. In presence. For a year.

It was a great tour. I love London. Not to live in. Just to visit. It’s a great city. I miss it. I must include on of my favourite Pogues songs: London You’re a Lady.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=41aOYa8SLLs


Anniversaries

Dear readers,

First of all, I want to include this image to make you all laugh.

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Last week, Honduras had a few days off to celebrate their own Thanksgiving. I think everywhere, not just Dowal School where I work, desperately needed it. It also coincided with our three year anniversary as a couple, a kind of pre-Halloween special, which has had few horrors, many screams and fantadtic blessings, maybe a few tricks and treats as well. Awful puns I know, but I don’t care. Pamela and I celebrated this Halloween, like we spend most Halloweens, a bit drunk and bedrazzled in fancy dress in Pamela’s grandmother’s house in Colonia Kennedy. The night we met in LP Bar three years ago (which I think now is a beauty salon), I was the joker and she was Cleopatra. The next year, she was a sexy assassin, as was I in the shape of James Bond. Last year she was Pocahontas and I was David Beckham. This year was all Pamela’s idea and what a great idea it was (so simple) in the form of 90’s cult symbol movie, Wayne’s World. She was Wayne and I was Garth. She only had to get the hat, I had to get the blond wig and glasses and slant my jaw a little (but it looked as though I was Garth on crack). The problem was, it was kind of a head fuck for Pamela’s granddad, who didn’t really know or understand what Wayne’s World was. He thought I was dressing up as a woman (something he was very against last year and let it be knowth when Pam’s cousin Santi came as a blond secretary and flirted with all the men all night), and that Pam was dressing up as a man, which she was. He’s quite a conservative and traditional, and despite seeing the picture, he was still convinced that I was mocking gender roles. Pamela especially didn’t help when she kissed me and shouted, “Wayne es gay!” That made him stand up and walk away. Nonetheless, booze flowed, as did the fun games with karaoke machines, and I had a head like a burnt out Cortina the next day. One should never mix drinks. A lesson I keep failing to learn.

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The next day, my parents were celebrating 45 years of marriage. I don’t know what their secret is. They married in London, and from what my mum said, dad was still trying to convince her dad (who didn’t really to see her daughter with anyone) to give him his blessing right up to the night before. In those days, not like us pussies now, they would have the stag do the night before the big day, get trashed, and still make it to the altar the following day; none of this two or three before business, to allow eyebrows to grow back or to get out on bail after being done for incident exposure after being ransacked by his so called mates.

I guess it goes to show what my dad is all about, a man willing to sacrifice for the people he loves, but also to persist in what he wants until he gets it. My mum and dad are world class naggers (Pamela was unfortunately picking up tips – she’s got her nagging eye on me!!), but it’s made them brilliant parents. I’m overdoing the nagging part really, but they are great survivors and look for each other for support everyday. I hate clichés, but they really are two peas in a pod. Maybe that is the secret to marriage. Maybe it is that simple. I can’t wait to see the journey Pamela and I have had in 45 years. If we have three kids like Ben, Liz and myself, I’m crapping myself!!

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