Monthly Archives: February 2015

El Mayoreo

Dear readers,

It seems that Friday 13th came a week late in Tegucigalpa. Not for me personally, but for many who make a living selling food, and people who like to sit and eat the food, in the Mayoreo market near the stadium. I for one enjoy the pupusas and baleadas, if I get the chance (not often considering I have work Fridays and most Saturday mornings; the days in which the market is in town). I am 99% sure that 100% of Tegucigalpa’s residents have eaten there at least once, a place frequently visited by the former US Ambassador, Lisa Kubiske by all accounts; the arts and farmer’s market for Capitialanos for over 30 years. In a nutshell, it sells some of the best genuine street food in the city.

Since I’ve been living in Honduras, from 2011, I’ve always tried to visit. Like in all markets, it’s a great place to buy fruit and veg, seeing your money go to local people; not to the fat cats who own La Colonia or El Paiz supermarkets. It’s also great to get acquainted with the local lingo (if you want to be thrown in at the deep end). You have to break a little sweat to get there on occasions, especially with the clogged up traffic with quantity of people, and especially on hot days. I don’t mind being ripped off a little. It’s still cheaper than supermarkets. You get a great amount for 100 Lemps. You end up waddling home with huge splitting bags if you’re not careful. It’s fresh, too. The first time I came I was waiting for a bus to go home to Tatumbla after a kind of party weekend in Tegucigalpa. Not on market day, but on match day when Motagua was playing. The area doubles as a car park on said days. Nearby is the bus stop for the needed bus, which goes every two hours or so on Sundays, so I was sat there with the people who charge the punters. I was sat there with a rucksack which screamed, rob me. On the other side of a wall were the notorious Revos, one of the hardcore support groups, who sometimes mix with the Maras. I was crapping myself, needless to say, although nothing much happened.

I took my parents there once, and I ate there a few times with Hazel, while she was living here. I’ve gone by recently to see how much parrots cost, as well as cages. And if I want something junk-like, I can be sure it’ll be sold there. You can let out a guilty giggle at misspelt English words (deriving from a poor education, unfortunately), my favourite being a sick-pack of Coca Cola (if you’re unsure of the mistake, it’s supposed to say six-pack), which I can sure I have mentioned before.

On Friday, approximately midday, an explosion took place, so horrifying, that it is likely to shatter memories like mine for many years. It sadly cost the life of a two year toddler named Briana Reyes, who had 50% of her body scolded, 70 or more people with 2nd and 3rd degree burns, and $50,000 of produce damage. It started with a gas cylinder with a faulty valve. A naked flame set the immediate place alight. Unfortunately supply gas cylinders were stored nearby, which blew the place up. Witnesses have stated people were falling around on fire, while people trying to save others got terrible burns in the inferno. Luckily there’s a fire station extremely close and Hospital Escuela isn’t a million miles away. The fire inspectors stated that the gas cookers looked as though they hadn’t been inspected in years. The authorities, rightly so, are quickly passing through new laws to ensure cooking equipment is safe and new.

image

People here have reacted in caring fashion, donating masses of burn creams to Hospital Escuela. There apparently 40 odd people still in hospital being treated.

image

As I said above, horrific. Everyone feels wary now, in market spaces or anywhere with gas cylinders. As the press have pointed out, these accidents happen more than people think. It’s sad, but we have to count our blessings that more people didn’t perish. RIP Briana Reyes.

The same day saw a different explosion at a chemical plant that does experiments with concoctions that pecures beans. This chemical is apparently toxic (why they use toxic chemicals to pecure foods, especially one that is eaten everyday here in Honduras, is beyond me. Then again, I’m not a scientist. What do I know!), and in an explosion, it pumped a whole load of it into Tegucigalpa’s already contaminated air. A message went around on the social networks saying that Loma Linda and Las Colinas (where I live) are likely to be infected, and to be extra careful eating food or going to restaurants in the area (Nacho and I laughed we’re extra vigilant in that anyway, so nothing new there!). Apparently this chemical burns your insides, although the whiff of the chicken the reeks of fish coming from next door does the same.

Joking aside, this was Friday 13th disguised as 20th. A sad day for Tegucigalpa.

Advertisements

Salsa classes

Dear readers,

Oh yes, oh yes. How happy I am to have my Friday nights free again. I didn’t think I’d see them again. It’s just that, since the turn of year, Pamela and I have been attending salsa classes at Sabor Cubano, a famous salsa bar in Tegucigalpa. It is actually one of my favourite bars in the city. While in my four years here I’ve seen various places come and go for whatever reason, Sabor Cubano has not only survived, but it has kept getting better.

Before I go any further, I insist that you press this link or listen to salsa in the background to give you a funnier experience reading about our shortlived adventure into salsa. http://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL33319542796A5E4B

Pamela heard of a deal and a great idea to start salsa classes. I was skeptical, as I’d had tasters of salsa and I found irritating. However, I thought it deserved a second chance and I liked the idea of dancing at our wedding and on our honeymoon in Cuba (that’s how Pamela persuaded me). The dance looks kind of cool (though tango is still much better). So yes.

The people who organised the classes is from a group called Salsa Honduras, who have won various prizes throughout Latin America. So we started all enthusiastic. The first week was great. Basic steps. The counting in salsa is slightly dyslexic as you don’t count the four. More so, you just remain stationary on that beat. The guy was a little tough, but we learned quickly. The woman, quite a voluptuous lady, very serious, set the women at their paces. It was quite amusing the women, especially with people passing by outside. The men looked silly and unsure of themselves. The women, however, waved their arms in a way as though they were trying to be seductive, but that was all. The stretches at the start also had me in giggles as we all looked, collectively, positively ridiculous. At the end, we both felt we could do this (if we practiced, and if I’m to be honest, we did very little of that). It was a bit militant, which how I felt before about it, but manageable.

The second week was boot camp. Both teachers had little patience and were throwing new steps at us at a rapid rate that had everyone nervous and not feeling too sure of themselves. They introduced a new step called Suzie Cue (which shares the same name as a pool hall for under aged drinkers in Solihull). It involves weaving your legs in and out of each other and looking like a drunk Messi. You end up dizzy. When we joined partners, we were shown a host of moves that, like many things in Latin America, involved the man being macho and taking the lead. The problem was, the men were having problems understanding the move, never mind taking taking the lead. The woman would screech out, “Si el hombre no indica, la mujer no mueves,” meaning if the man doesn’t indicate, the woman should not move (heartless bitch, we need a helping hand lady!). Us poor blokes were just trying to keep to the beat of incredibly fast salsa songs. This woman made us feel terrified and unmanly. A real testicle cruncher, using men’s hearts like a piñata, and eating their souls for breakfast. We then had to focus on what they were saying over loud music and we were all mixing up our left and right. It seemed that, while being very professional and award winning in this facist dance, they had incredibly high expectations for complete novices. We walked away disheartened. Feeling disheartened on Friday night is wrong. Our bodies were aching like hell, too.

The third week, the male teacher changed. He had more patience, but he tested ours just as much. But she, Señorita Dick Chopper, was still there, making Maggie Thatcher look like Ariel the Little Mermaid. There was some revision on what we had done before, but a few new ones too, like cruce, where we flap your feet over in an almost implausible way. We felt a little bit better, but what I didn’t like was that the woman wanted us to do it at the exact timing as herself, and not all the men were ready to go through with it at that moment. Dancing should be liberal. This dance was created at a time when military dictatorships ruled Latin America. Pinochet was involved in a bit of this, I think. I was also getting pissed off with her with the whole man takes the lead thing. I just wanted to do it in my own time, so did others, and she would get screechy if we didn’t. Paying to be bellowed at on Friday night was not my idea of fun.

The fourth week saw an end to the screechy ball crusher, only to be replaced by a lady who didn’t really seem interested in giving instructions, although her patience was going to far into almost not carinf. She just looked and shrugged, saying we were more or less right, which annoyed Pamela. The dance moves made it impossible to enjoy though. It was just too militant and demanding on my concentration for Friday night. Drinking beer and doing something none taxing is how Fridays should be spent; this was army training.

I spent the next few days trying to work out ways of telling Pamela that I wasn’t enjoying the classes, worrying she might end up like the screechy teacher. I embraced myself for an argument, and I began telling her in her car while she was driving, knowing she wouldn’t take her hands off the wheel nor her eyes off the road. Tactics and timing are crucial when you have to tell a latina some news that might make her angry. Instead, she burst out laughing. “Did you think I didn’t know? I’m going to marry you. I know you better than you know yourself.” She confessed that she wasn’t enjoying the classes either and didn’t really want to return.

I now hate salsa. The music is great. The dancing is, as seductive and graceful as it may look, a dance only psychopaths do. It is not free or romantic as it may look. I recommend that no one tries it out if they are mentally weak in any kind of way. This dance can kill you. However, the time spent with Pamela these last Fridays has been more than worth it.

So there, my adventure into salsa.


Letters from America by Alistair Cooke

Dear readers,

At the start of the year, I kind of promised that it would be hard to keep up with regular updates on this blog, and I am proving myself correct. Recently work has been hectic. I’ve also had to do renew my documents for tax purposes, which my lawyer did a great job at dealing with the dreaded Alcadia. The whole building is a hot angry tornado of people in endless queues, jobsworths winding up these people in these queues (it brings back memories of Little Britain and the Computer Says No woman), no air conditioning, no directions. Just an acid, sweaty tension in a swirling energy of hate. The devil goes on holiday there, I’m sure. I hope not to return soon.

Wedding plans. Obviously people who been married or organised one knows the work needed. The man’s job, to be fair, is easier than the woman’s. The woman wants everything she has been dreaming of since she was kneehigh; the man just worries about the bill, what his mates will do to him on his stag do and what the best man will say in the speech. There’s obviously a lot more. In my case, I need to get some particular documents to have the wedding legalised. One of those documents is proof that I am not married. In the UK, we do not have such legalised document. The registerar office doesn’t provide such thing. Going back to the UK is a bit of a no no. Off to the British consul in Tegucigalpa to see if he can write me a letter, as British lawyers can only write something called an avvict (or something of a similar name) which has no legal standing. If the British consul can’t help, it might involve visiting the British embassy in Guatemala City. I don’t mind going at all; the cost and time I do, however.

I have also started salsa lessons. I will write an update in the following days about this. President Juan Orlando has been getting his fingers burnt (along with his dictatorial pride) by congress over military, which I will also write about. Catholic classes have also taken a lot of my time. Baptisms, confirmations and marriage classes await, while I try to remember(or correct myself) the first few lines of the Hail Mary (I get confused with the first part of both stanzas). I’m recovering from a cold too. The cough still lurks. Two weeks of winding people up with grunting coughs. I don’t feel loved for it.

I finished reading a book on Tuesday night which I have been stopping and starting since July 2014. It’s a book that one can only dip in and out and take bits and pieces at a time, as the letters, as Alistair Cooke fans and critics might agree, are heavy information. At this moment, I’m rocking back and forth due to withdrawal symptoms; his letters become addictive. It is an excellent history book of the 20th century in the US, but also an insight into the differences of thought and lifestyle between the yankees and limeys. Although the cultures have bounced off each other over the years, our politics, our education, our customs, still have a gulf of difference, which some people fail to understand here (not all, but many). I often question myself whether being called gringo is more offensive to American or someone who just has the same colour skin. It’s racist, obviously when someone is out to offend, and I often have to remind Hondurans how they would feel being called “dirty Mexican”, which goes down like bag of drowning kittens and me ending up looking like a piñata after a birthday party. Back to the book, Alistair Cooke exemplifies a BBC mentality, doing his best to stay impartial and politically correct, and being fair in criticism to both the US and the UK. There are issues that America still refuses to solve today, such gun control and access to arms; people wielding dangerous weapons because something in their constitution says so. It seems like a fear mongered society in some parts, which the book touches on, but certainly, we learned from Dunblane back in 1996, one gun massacre is enough. An example of one of the great differences in thought between us and them.

Alistair Cooke was born in Salford but moved around various countries in Europe as a correspondent for BBC and the Guardian before landing a plum job as a chief American correspondent in the 1940s, specialising in theatre reviews, in the city that I have always wanted to experience, New York. He stayed there until the day he died in 2004, aged 95, working right up to his death. It seemed he loved doing what he did; reviews and radio announcements. What a life.

I have written about the book before, which shares the title of this blog update. My cousin Hannah bought it for me from a second hand bookshop in a small town in the Cotswolds a year or two ago during a quick trip to England. The name of the town I can’t recall, but I distinctly remember my mother trying to pinch it out of my suitcase (she claims baggage allowance; the truth is she wanted it for herself) before the return journey. I also remember my mother feeling a bit emotional when he died back in 2004. She enjoyed reading his columns and listening to him down the years. I might send her this book.

I recommend all Brits and Yanks to read this. His charming style of writing inspires budding writers (not only journos, but just about any writer who’s aim is to inform) and he’s informative and wise and makes you feel learned. This post is a dedication to him.

image