For the past couple of months, I have been teaching English to Spanish and Italian employees at the Honduran UN. I enjoy it, I must say, first and foremostly because it gives me great memories of living in Spain, but also just chatting and listening to other Europeans’ experiences in Honduras helps put Honduras madness into perspective, whether it be the Viagra story I posted three days ago, the murder of Berta Cáceres, the insane politics and inequality, the massacres by narcos and street gangs, the horrendous lack of regard for people’s and worker’s rights, the insane driving, and the friendly but undirect ettiquette of people’s behaviour that occasionally boils over into sarcasm and petulant passive aggressiveness (maybe it’s the result of feeling so powerless against the political elite). It can turn a foreigner ga-ga.
Ni modo attitude
I’ve touched on it before, but fuck it; here’s another stab.
If you say that something is not just or right, you are accused of complaining, told it’s the norm and it’s shrugged off with a “Ni modo” reply. For those who know me well, you’ll know I despise the two words with a passion which causes extinct volcanos to errupt. Some people call it a figure of speech, like “C’est la vie” in French, but for me it wreeks of pessimism which has filtered through society, allowing them to use it as an excuse for doing nothing to help your, some one else’s or even their own predicament. It’s especially used by people who like to hear themselves say “no” rather than find a solution to a relatively easy issue. People here have heard the answer “no” rather a lot throughout their lives. They’re accustomed to it, told to struggle on with poor conditions and eat humble pie. “That’s just the way it is,” as the song goes, although the real real-life slogan here is “we like things how they are,” and it’s the slogan of the political elite. When I say I don’t accept no for an answer, I’m told to “suck it up” or “deal with it.” I then end up saying, “If you’re so proud and Catracho, why don’t you show some balls and do something about it – be proactive?” which, obviously, doesn’t put me in the best of light for nay-sayers in this very proud nation. It’s funny how language can corrupt a country’s thinking and attitude. Unfortunately this attitude makes it incredibly hard for the country to progress. I hope the younger generations are reading this and also learn not to accept “Ni modo” to every predicament.
An other amusing aspect of this culture is that many people will break the rules/laws until they find a convenient one to obey. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, they draw the line. For themselves and other people. They remain as stubborn as an ox, completely inflexible. The younger generations less so, which is paradoxical to history because older generations have lived through dictatorships and regimes where if you didn’t obey the law, you were knocked off. Maybe it’s because the many rules and laws do not have much sense and people get fed up with beaucracy (I can’t speak. In the UK we have rolls and rolls of nonsense laws and rules of ettiquette which should be obselete, most them overlap and ensure that we could be breaking some ancient law at any one time. It’s funny how politicians can pull them out a magic sleeve at their own convenience, especially when they’ve buggered up but finding a cunning loop-hole to escape culpability in the eyes of the nation – the expense scandals come to mind), either that or many Hondurans know they’re unlikely to get caught by the authorities/receive a punishment.
It may seem I’m being critical about Honduras, but I find the people fascinating and hilarious (not in a patronising Johnny Foreigner “ha ha, look at them” kind of way, but more in a “ha ha, you sarcastic eejit” – I laugh with them, not at them, in better words); they’re great people to be around (very lovable in fact; I married one). However, being a yes person in a “ni modo” person’s country isn’t always easy. This aspect will always keep me on the outside of the circle, leaving me a little apart. If this makes me appear snobbish, so be it; I reserve my right to be different. It doesn’t stop me from wanting the best for this country. I just don’t want to be associated with its “ni modo” attitude.
Going back to my students, many of whom are well-travelled too, they have said there is no country like Honduras in terms of everyday bizarreness and strangeness, which has inspired them to coin the phrase “Magic Surrealism” as opposed to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Colombian “Magic Realism”. Everything seems a little unreal at the best of times here, but then things happen that are strange for Honduras. One student told me when he tells friends in Spain what’s happening here, they think he’s lying. Nowhere can be that crazy, tío. Friends and family in the UK no longer seem shocked by what I tell them. They simply reply with, “How awful” or “Be careful” – a kind of British way of saying “Ni modo” funnily enough.
Hondurans might claim I’m being over-dramatic, negative and hypocritical, and that if you look closely at your own culture or any culture for that matter, you can find equally bizarre things. Life is crazy. The Gods (or demons) at play, so to speak. A very good point, especially when one comes from Birmingham. I do try to point out the more positive things about this country, but they’re quickly overshadowed by dark incidents captured by the press. Browsing through any newspaper you’ll find the sublime to the ridiculous, along with a lot of political propaganda’ing bullshit, especially when reading the Daily Mail or the British tabloids, which unfortunately still seems to shape many minds in the UK like Fox News does in US. I’ve mentioned before that, whereas sex scandals sells British newspapers, blood and murder sells in Honduras. Not all bad press is quite as black, however. Some of it can make you laugh, such as the Viagra story on Monday.
Tigo Taser Happy
On Tuesday, Magic Surrealism waved its magic wand yet again, when overzealous security guards at one of Tigo’s (the biggest phone service provider in Honduras, maybe in Latin America. It’s also where I have my phone contract, and they try to include add-ons every month. Bastards) San Pedro’s stores electrocuted a customer with a taser gun. Unfortunately for Tigo, some customers captured the event on the very devices they try to flog for masses of dosh. I don’t know what happened to the customer in the end. There are two sides to the story. There are sone claims that the client was hysterical and demanding a free phone. I think he survived, but it’s amazing how fast people create memes and, even more unfortunately for Tigo, how fast they spread through messenger services and social media. Worse for Tigo, it’s happened during a very sexed up publicity campaign from their biggest competitors, Claro, which has stunning scantily clad ladies partying with Claro phones, and had large numbers of male clients queuing up. Some claim that Claro are behind it all. It’s not helped that a year or so ago an elderly lady was punched by a Tigo security guard. I was actually passing by that day too, and for a while I used to joke with Pamela that we should quicken our step a little when passing Tigo to escape the wrath of the security.
Sorry Tigo, but here are just a few of the memes that I just had to share:
The last piece of news was that a former colleague of Berta Cáceres was murdered. It seems by the same people. Last Wednesday a march was passing by my workplace raising awareness of human rights abuses of indigenous people.
Here are a few photos: