Monthly Archives: December 2014

Santa Lucía

Dear readers,

First of all, I should wish you a Happy New Year and a great belated Christmas. I’ve spent indulging like the rest of you, as well as creating the website for my business, which will be online in 2015, wedding stuff and house stuff. A nice break from work, but also a time of resolutions and building a bright 2015. Jobs, weddings, moving house, business; it’s going to be a big year.

Yesterday, I spent the morning in one of my favourite towns in the world, let alone Honduras, which is the beautiful Santa Lucía. I have written about it before, although I never grow tired of its ambience and I go back as often as I can. One issue which really frustrates me about Tegucigalpa is that it’s not that easy to leave it for a good day out if you’ve not got your own transport. The bus stations are dotted about Comayaguela, sometimes parked up dodgy side streets where it’s not clever to hang around for long, which is a kind of must with Tegucigalpa’s buses. They have their own schedule i.e. when they feel they have filled the bus substantially enough, then they go. Even though it is about time I bought my own car after three to four years year (next week will be four years since I first came to Honduras, and this week is the four year anniversary of my love affair with this blog), I like catching the buses here and listening to the animated chatter and the unsophisticatedness of it all; it almost reminds me of catching the number 11 back home. That’s an interesting non stopping trip in itself (I was once chased off the bus by a man in a vest feeding his rottweiler kebab meat!). Going back to transport links, it’s never that easy to leave. To get down to Amapala means catching two buses, with maybe a long break in between. Once you arrive, you feel you’ve made such an effort that the thought of returning the same day doesn’t encourage anyone. That goes for anywhere more than two hours away by bus. Comayagua, Esperanza, Danli and Pespire, maybe, are just within. Otherwise you’re stuck with just a handful of touristy places, consisting of La Tigra (well worth it), Valle de Angeles (also great), Ojojona (great for buying cheap crafts), Yuscaran (pleasant but not a fat lot to do but see the various shrines to the dead), Tatumbla (where the whole Honduran adventure started), Cataranas (never been), Picacho (a strange zoo, but with amazing views, nice gardens and lovely statue of Jesus) and Santa Lucía (my favourite). I might be leaving others out. 2014 hasn’t been my best travelling year in Honduras. But I am just saying bus at the moment. If you know of any other bus’able places, do correct me.

I remember when I went to Santa Lucía for the first time. It must have March 2011. I went alone after a friend who said she would take me had to work at the last minute. I felt a bit lonely and pissed off to be honest. Catching the bus on the other side of the road to San Felipe Hospital, I was nervous and paranoid about being robbed. These days, I’m so worryingly chilled about it that it makes me wonder if I’m being a bit too chilled. Off we went. I had an old lady sitting next to me who I kept asking if we were there yet. I almost got off at El Chimbo by mistake. But I made it and strolled un yonder, up to the cross and down to the church, being extremely relaxed. I had a homemade paleta (ice lolly) by a sweet granby who way to generous with the rum with the rum and raisin lolly. I then sat by the lagoon, read a book and got sunburnt, turning me beetroot red. Well, yesterday wasn’t that dissimilar, as I got sunburnt again, half sleeping, half reading Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America (a book that I can only dip into once in a while).

Santa Lucía is different from most towns in Central America, actually, which usually has a plaza outside the town’s cathedral or at least close by. Not the case with Santa Lucía, which has a plaza at the bottom of some steep steps up to the cross on a hill. The church sits pleasantly in a separate corner of the town, in front of an astonishing hilly landscape of pine trees, which let off a ghostly whistle as they gently sway from the constant mountain breezes, and the arse end of Tegus in the distance. There is a shaman like tea cafe that sits to the left of the church and not far is a library named after Guillmero Yuscaran (in English he is known as William Lewis), a North American Honduran painter and writer, who I’ve enjoyed various works and reported on the blog. Apparently he still lives in Santa Lucía by the lake, which is filled with terrapins. I went to the library and did some writing, as well as see a few works of art.

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Unfortunately the tea place and the church was closed. However, it didn’t stop me from enjoying it, just like the first time I went. There is a tranquil buzz. Maybe due it’s proximity with nature, because it is kind of in La Tigra National Park.

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Most tourists combine Valle de Angeles and Santa Lucía in one day, but there is a great contrast to the two towns. I like Valle, which is a great selling hub for Tegucigalpa’s artists and craft makers, as well as many nice eateries, whereas Santa Lucía has maybe less to do, but it is less touristy and more residential giving it a more homely and friendly charm. A nice corner of the world. Correct me. A beautiful corner of the world. I prefer it to Valle de Angeles for the above reasons. I can go alone but not feel alone, feeling content with my anonymity, where I can’t do that in Valle. It makes it one of my favourite getaways in the world. Kind of a secret one. I feel I’m betraying my secret by writing about it to all you riff-raff. Clear off.

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Kind of an anniversary of sorts, with being happy and lonesome in this sweet tranquil haven. Definitely not down abd out in the beautiful Santa Lucía.

Happy New Year folks!


The Quiet Furies (Man and Disorder)

Dear readers,

I’m reading the above book. Barely lighthearted Christmas reading, I know. I’m reading it for inspiration in my own writing. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy finding little snippets of joy that make us understand life a bit better, because life itself is too large and mysterious to write concisely about and get to grips with, that many antedotes can come across as ignorant or missing a fair bit, to throw it all in a nutshell. But when you do find something you agree with, it can make life seem a little less complicated than it really is. Am I confusing you?

I found this paragraph in a book about case studies of people with mental health disorders. I don’t know how famous it is in psychologist circles, but it’s very interesting window at how peoples’ lives can unravel over time or over just one event, big or small. The book is by Elton B. McNeil, who is a US clinical psychologist. I quite like the meaning of psychology, which roughly translates from Latin as “study of the soul”, although a student at the school I work at said it would be better defined as “study of thinking” but I think she was a bit dismayed that I said that sounds a bit like the definition of philosophy. The two often overlap, I added, but I think I’d already rained on her little parade.

Going back to “study of the soul” though, I have been reading a lot about souls in my classes to be Catholic, which I am finding surprisingly enlightening. I always used to think the 10 commandments was a blockade to having “a bit of the good time”, but I now see it as a guide to strengthening one’s moral fabric, rather than the thought of preventing us from committing countless sins (f–k me, I have been quite a sinner in my time), and thinking about our behaviour. I find peace going to mass on Sunday (it’s better than lying in and doing sod all). There are certain things I have trouble agreeing with, which are topics in the mass media such as homosexuality being a sin. I don’t believe it is. Punto. Under the commandment of respecting your parents, there is a part that states about respecting the authority in your country ie. Politicians. I find that very hard to get on board with, especially living in Honduras. They are some of the worst sinners in the country. They will be going to hell. I don’t need to wish it upon them. I just have an overwhelming inclination.

I think it’s helped with anger issues and helped me make improvements in my personal life; made me mature somewhat, take responsibility for decisions that have gone well or badly, but also made me forgive myself. If that’s growth of soul or the mind, I don’t know. I’ll leave for a psychologist and philopher to fight it out. Someone sitting on the fence will just call it personal growth.

I also find it most amusing to hear and observe certain people who claim to be good Catholics and have been all their lives, but they say and do certain things that contradict their very angelic self reflections. Some of those people have cursed me in the past for having agnostic ideas. Interesting times ahead in terms of finger-pointing and damning each other. I just don’t want people to feel bad in what they believe (unless they a racist bigot. I believe in free speech, but surely not for all people!! Power with responsibility, I think). I guess God will judge us all at the end of the day.

To many theologians, these must be basic thoughts from someone learning about religion and the role it plays in our lives. I have found it most interesting learning about Opus Dei, which is where I’m taking the classes. It is often seen in the mass media as the harshest, most serious and most damning part of the Catholic Church. However, I have personally been treated with the upmost respect, with welcome arms and the warmth that isn’t really spoken of. Even Pamela, who is of the Salesiano sector of the church, was wary of me receiving classes with Opus Dei. However, when we went to her local parish to talk about confirmation and having a Catholic wedding, we weren’t very well received. The priest seemed reluctant and rude (I thought he was having a bad day. Pamela just thought he was a bell end. Pamela’s mother had even more colourful nouns for him), which left Pamela in tears. However, through my classes at Espavel and getting to know the people, I was 99.99% sure that they would help us out one way or the other. Not only did Espavel do that, but they are arranging they I recieve Baptism, Confirmation and Communion in the biggest event of the Catholic calender: the Holy Weekend at Easter, by important members of the Clergy in Tegucigalpa, which is a lot more than either Pamela or I expected. I see that as a very warm and welcoming thing to do, which is not what Opus Dei has been famed for.

Anyway, going back to the original reason that I’m doing this update, here is a little paragraph about life that I took from The Quiet Furies.

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As it’s Christmas, I also want to include Silent Night. A beautiful, peaceful song.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9T4WB2zfmps


Cuba

Dear readers,

It’s been an interesting week for Cuba. After all these years, Obama seems to be agreeing to lifting the embargo. The US has also been embroiled in the hacking mess with another communist country, which is quite amusing for me, but strangely sad that US cinemas don’t want to show it. I would personally love to. Though back to Cuba, Raul Castro has met Obama being instructed by his brother Fidel, according to CNN, with help from good old Pope Francis.

I have met a few people who have been to Cuba and my parents are two of them. Thet went to meet their good from Belize who I believe is a former consulate in Havana. His name is Asad and he is a staunch believer in socialism, so I am told. They said how much they loved the place, so different from the rest of Latin America, so educated yet so poor, which is the general consensus of many people who have been and gone to Cuba, still having great difficulty to get hold of basic things like toothpaste. I don’t know how true this is. I hear the music is absolutely brilliant; as well as the rum.

Obviously, if the embargo is lifted, it will mean Cubans can get their hands on everyday things we are used to in the west. But, and I fear this like anyone, that the US will try and interfere with politics there, as they have done right throughout Latin America an import their capitalist model that has unbalanced many countries, their social infrastures etc. and allowed drug wars to kick off (especially in Honduras) ensuring the worst of it stays away from the US. I’m not saying it’s all hunky dory in the US, but for sure the US prefers the worst of the drug warfare stays south of the Rio Grande. This post isn’t a knock on the people of the US, just it’s filthy right wing politics, where they manipulate other countries to suit themselves (the Brits have done the same in the past, I know).

Here is a picture that I saw on Facebook. It kind of sums up the fear for Cuba, if the US get all their way.

Hope you find it interesting.

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Computer head

Dear readers,

I’ve been very busy of late, doing lots of designing for the school newspaper that it’s made my eyes go square (my right contact lense no longer works, seriously). I also forget to eat lunch and it makes me a bit ratty which doesn’t put me in the Christmas spirit (I made two children cry at work today, but they were behaving poorly). It leaves my head a bit disconnected with my body (which is thinning), which gives me a bit of a glazed look, I think, because people look at me, not in the annoying “look at the gringo” kind of way, but in that “what is that man on?” curiosity. Yesterday I almost lost my place in the queue in the bank because I was almost sleeping, which is a bit strange because I had a really good book in my bag (Tales from the South Pacific by James Michener) and I always carry a good book in case of a wait, which can be long in Honduras. Thank God Christmas vacations start on Friday. I need to rest. Sitting in front of a computer at work all day also has its drawbacks in my personal life as, when I finish work, I don’t want to see, let alone touch, another computer. This stops me from working on my website, career searching or writing. I’m writing this on my phone. Kind of in a strange state of mind.

Anyway, I wrote this poem yesterday. Hope you enjoy it. It goes by the same name of this blog post.

Computer Head
I don’t know where I’m stepping.
No sleep makes me feel I’m trippin’
Into lampposts and people and silly things,
Mumbling stuff, the looks it brings.
Computer screens in my dreams,
So many people have it,
Not as daft as it seems,
Stinging are my eyes from all the ridiculously florescent beams.
Anger brewing under a dopey face,
Obsessing how I’m gonna sleep,
Making me a f–king headcase,
With minutes turning to hours to nights with eyes wide open,
Cursing the silence and the constant thinking.
I don’t know who to trust,
A liability I’ve become,
Today I’ve only eaten crumbs,
And I’m wondering why I’ve disjointed thoughts,
This isn’t what my mother taught
About having a healthy lifestyle.
I don’t know what’s in my computer head,
My girlfriend neither, nor the guy beside me,
I know I must go to bed,
But I don’t know if this is all insomnia fed,
Then I’d rather stay up with a laptop, make my eyes more red,
That’s my head, my computer f–king head.


Extremists

Dear readers,

We read and hear of so much horrific news in the papers and on TV. It affects every one of us time to time. Sometimes there is a sense of detachment and we try to ignore it, as our minds can’t cope with the weight it has on us. I’m guilty of it, which is saying something as I am a journalist. It certainly feels strange that, proximity wise, being so far away from what happened in Pakistan in the last 24 hours, that I am so affected by it, as I imagine you are too.

I have simple and rhetoric thoughts on it, some a bit disjointed, but I hope you find it insightful, and feel free to share your own thoughts.

I do not know much about Islam. I’ve never read the Koran, and I have only met two Imams in my life; both of whom were very nice gentlemen. However, I do know that Allah, otherwise known as God, doesn’t approve of killing 141 people in a school, 132 of them children. I am also guessing most Muslims do not approve of the attacks in Pakistan, nor in Sydney, in the last 48 hours, either. The debate of whether one’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter (or defender of God, etc) is a pointless one. How do you defend God or fight for your freedom by killing school kids, or in any case of ending an innocent person’s life?

I do not particularly like Fox News, and I do doubt most information that they claim is true, but when they say that the Taliban are non-negotiable and murderous maniacs, I am now inclined to believe them for the most time in my life and agree that this very much is a fact. They are barbaric. It’s really unfortunate for the faith of Islam to have this group claiming they are Muslim. Even though I know little about Islam, it is of course foolish to think that this group represents the religion and the people who follow it, just like it’s stupid to assume that British people are represented by the National Front, even though the group claim that this is what they do.

When something like this happens, we often have a knee jerk reactions and fight violence with violence. I like to think that there is a route through peace. If there is a peaceful way to fight extremity, let’s find it. I can certainly empathise with the parents of the children who want to avenge their deaths, though. I think we all can.

I wish those who died a peaceful route to Heaven. And those who are guilty, well, only God can decide. The one I believe in certainly isn’t the same as theirs. And I pray for the loved ones of those who died to mourn in peace.


Tour de Reino Unido – part Diecinueve

Dear readers,

Monday 20th July 2014

It’s been a few weeks since I last updated. Christmas time is a busy time for all. I’m ready to collapse in a delicious slumber, a hybination from the drop of in temperature. It’s a very cold 19c here guys. From all the machismo there is here, I feel that Hondurans are complete pussies when it comes to the cold. I feel that I too have turned into a pussy. The cold here is just a strong breeze. Nothing more. It’s funny watching people wrapped up for what looks like a skiing excursion in the tropics. They wear jumpers will snowmen and wooly hats. Waking up and going to work at 6 in subzero conditions with cold wind in your face which gets under your nails; that’s cold. I know that Hondurans are used to the sun et al, but I do feel they over do it. Saying that, so can the English; it’s hardly el antártico!

Anyway, on this day 5 months ago, Pamela and I were playing ball games with my niece and nephew in my parent’s back garden in the English summer. It probably feels a long time ago now. Kind of is. They showed me how to use a tablet. I feel younger generations are leaving behind. I want to bring back the Sega Game Gear. That’s more my speed.

We then had an interesting evening at the MAC (Midlands Art Centre) to watch a movie which was bizarrely set in Central America. Guatemala in fact. It’s called Juala de Oro in Spanish, and the Golden Dream in English. No one famous stars in it, and it tells the story of four youths crossing Mexico to get into the States, three are friends from Guatemala City, the other is of Indian decent and tags along, much to the annoyance of one. It’s about the dangers of the journey, as well as friendship. You can’t of course ignore the political element, which has been in the news a lot of late, about “illegals” (I hate that terminology; to be illegal in a country feels too right wing’ish to me, even though I understand why people in the USA and in most developed countries are not keen to let the undesirables enter their country (narcos and gang members).

I think the movie brings out the dangers of crossing borders very well. However, even though we briefly see the youths’ lives in Guatemala City, we don’t get a full account of their desperation, and about the poverty they live in, which one of the MAC workers talked about as we left the cinema; he didn’t comprehend why people would put themselves in the so much danger. It’s a cliché, but maybe when you’ve got so little to lose, you’ve so much to gain. In Casa Alianza, some children left to find brothers and sisters across the States, as well as escape domestic violence. These aspects is something Fox News and similar channels intentionally choose to ignore. It’s problem that’s not going to go away guys. Dropping a bomb on Mexico, which I heard from a deranged commentator on Fox a few months ago. The topic divides the opinion. Obviously, working with Casa Alianza and Refugee Council has taught me the reasons why so many millions have to and need to up and leave, but I also believe that if first world countries took their nose out of manipulating politics of certain Latin American countries, and instead helped create jobs and opportunities, praying better wages, there might be less of a reason for millions to leave. It’s simplistic what I am saying, but dropping bombs or alienating people doesn’t work.

I touched on this three years ago while working at Casa Alianza and meeting several kids who’d tried to go, only to get caught on the way or in the USA and then be brought back, hearing the stories, the dangers of coyotes and kidnappers. It’s a brutally honest movie which left Pamela in tears and I remincing. Pamela also laughed at the Guatemalan expressions. For those interested on the subject, see Which Way Home and La Bestia, about the infamous train that the kids embark on in the movie.

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I wasn’t surprised that Pamela would be moved by the film, as well as love the MAC. The two left a good stamp in our memory.