All my family came over to Honduras for the wedding. It is sometimes strange speaking to them on Skype. All they get is a rectangular computer screen’s view of my life and world. The tastes, aromas, heat and sounds are alien to them. The experiences of joy and frustration they can sense in an intangible way. But that’s it. They can’t feel it. No matter how I explain it or they read about it. Good and the bad. They can taste the coffee I send them but they don’t get the “When in Rome” warm experience of sipping it in the sun on a pleasant balcony with the Spanish chatter floating from somewhere in the breeze.
Similar, they can hear and read about the violence on the news but, as my sister found particularly restrictive, it’s the loss of basic liberties based on fear and paranoia, preventing you from living everyday life as you would back home. Like going running in the street with you iPhone strapped to your arm or walking home drunk from the pub at night, which is hard to get used to. You just don’t want to risk it. It’s like having an atmosphere of fear which you feel us both rational and irrational at the same time, somewhat hyped in the national and international media, provoking claustrophobia, frustration and trauma. There are safe areas too to run or stroll around at full leisure, such as Villa Olimpica and the many gated communities, but it can be frustrating if you don’t know the lingo or where to find them.
It wasn’t an enormous shock to much of my family and friends. All of them are well-travelled and lived or stayed in countries known for their own security issues.
- My parents came here in 2011 and have travelled through various countries in Africa.
- My brother Ben has travelled around the world, visiting many South East Asian and South American countries.
- My sister Elizabeth had done her overseas medical training in India near the border with Pakistan, as well as worked at a hospital in the northern areas of Birmingham where gang shootings were an everyday occurrence (I always remember my sister telling us how brave the night nurses and trainee doctors in the A & E unit in the face of so much abuse from violent pissheads).
- My cousin Hannah has also travelled in South America, living in Colombia for an unknown duration, as well as living in Sri Lanka and visiting India and South Africa. Not to forget squatting in London and once staying a night in a Paris fire station.
- My other cousin Sam has lived in South Africa, visited Sri Lanka to see his sis, and travelled throughout Europe.
- My Uncle Pat and Aunty Gill have travelled the world a few times, especially when their offspring have started different projects around the globe.
- Jordan Kenny, my best man and great friend, grew up in Manchester. That’s enough preparation for Honduras, one might think. But no, Jordan has gone one step further and lived in Moscow (Russia I hear isn’t the most racially tolerant. Not easy for a mixed-race boy like Jordí) and the Freetown, Sierra Leone.
You might think my stereotypical view of the world is pompously and ignorantly Western. However, in each of the various locations listed above, we would have all taken precautions based on the reputation that lie before them, which kind of prepared them for Honduras where worst case scenarios happen at an alarming rate. I won’t give you any statistics, of which 99.999% are bullshit anyway. What’s the value of the amount of violence or a murder rate, which are inaccurate, manipulated and fiddled with anyway, next to the emotional loss of someone you love through an act of violence? We humans shouldn’t really need a figure to put something in perspective when violence is involved. The act itself should be a big enough deterrent.
They saw my world, who I am now, how I’ve changed and saw with the their own eyes that the majority of Hondurans are loving, kind and compassionate people and that the bulk of countries problems is driven by a small yet powerful elite, but we will come to that in later post. Most importantly, they were happy to see I’d settled, have a loving family and loads of friends.
18th July 2015
Some family members felt I’d taken substantial time thinking about accommodation for their stay in Tegucigalpa. Sorry to say, but that was far from reality. I’d had a list of requests family members but I’d had my eye on Casa Bella for some time, and it ticked all the boxes apart from the one of having a swimming pool. Big hotels with monotonous corridors, unfascinating art and a particular corporate atmosphere aren’t warm enough for a warm family. Besides, they’re over-priced and have too many pillows.
I’d been to Casa Bella on a couple of occasions two years previously when they were holding events for small coffee producers from outside Tegucigalpa. The rich aromas ponged the place out in the best way possible. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s colonial and cosy once you walk in. Wooden, shiny, warm and tasteful, with a cigar room and courtyard with rustic benches sat around a small delightful streaming waterfall, and rooms named after indigenous and ethnic groups in Honduras. The receptionists were great, communicating in one way or the other in a form of Spanglish, ensuring my brother and cousin got vegetarian food, and helped my parents with Spanish (they’d been having classes in the run up, but the speed at which Hondurans spoke, mixed with caliche, and befuddle even speakers from Spain on occasions. It can lower the morale of new learners, as much as native speakers). There was one receptionist who kept getting our dates wrong (a month before the arrival I got an urgent phone call asking where my family were (the email reservation said Julio, not Junio)). I found the exchange funny and the service pretty much perfect.
The Family Rogers and a certain Jordan Kenny arrived late morning via Miami and by the time they came out, it was lunch time and everyone had the munches. Dropping the bags off at the hotel, we raced off with the Familia Cruz Lozano to Valle de Angeles, armed with churros de malanga y tajaditas, which Jordan wolfed down. I always remember Jordan at university with a bag of Walkers crisps in hand or with crumbs from a demolished packet scattered in his jumper and putting people to sleep with his breath, usually with the yellowish Prawn Cocktail. Either that or Skips. The families were of course pleased to meet, and the drive to Valle no doubt left the British side of family gawping at the stunning landscapes of pine tree hills rolling around the road. I’m still that way now.
We stopped at the family favourite restaurant, La Florida, on the edge of Valle which serves up delicious chunks of meat but gives you the sweats for up to a month. Anafres for the vegetarians; my brother has since fallen in love with refried beans. While waiting for food, various beers were chugged and Pamela’s father went through at least half the uses for the word “puta” with Jordan. Jordan replied with some indepth explanations of various British English expletives too. In between them, I translated, and my laughter didn’t help; it just made them more profane.
After the grown men had played on the swings and petted the animals in mini zoo, we then all walked into town where we tried to get cash from the machines. Liz realised later that some fecker had cloned her card and looted some cash from her account. She got it back eventually but enjoyed belting out the word “puta” like a native a lot in the meantime.
We went to a small cafe/handicraft producer named Barro Verde and sipped on their majestic juices. It was obvious the British side of the family needed a refresher in the tropical heat.
Jet lag was catching up with a few, so went back to the hotel. The next week would be a busy one.