Author Archives: Nicholas Rogers

About Nicholas Rogers

I am an English journalist/copywriter living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and I have been here since 2011. I originally came to work with Casa Alianza, which supports street kids and vulnerable youths. I then stayed on, after meeting Pamela Cruz Lozano, who calls me her adopted Catracho. I work freelance journalism and I have my own translation business. Why did I come here? For the challenge, to open my mind and get out of my comfort zone. I love literature and I've written a book with street kids. I write novels, short stories and poetry, all of which you will find on this blog, as well as a lot of information about Honduras.

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

Dear readers,

This year I am making a conscious effort to read more books by female authors. I felt I’d subconsciously been focusing on too many male authors. I’m not sure why. By chance I found this little read on Kindle by accident about five/six months ago about a subject very close to my heart: immigrant children.

I’ve written about the topic before on my blog having worked with kids at Casa Alianza who’d tried to make it to the US, many of whom would only make it to Mexico, to get caught and sent back. Some would make it to the USA, and I know a few who are still there. I knew about the journey on La Bestia train, coyetes, gangs, police, sex abuse to girls and women, the young ages they’d go and try to change their lives for the better, all for different reasons: escape domestic violence, gangs, poverty or discrimination for being gay. The stories live with me still. I talk to taxi drivers when they wonder where I’m from and feel compelled to tell me their story: the risks of living and working illegally in the black market in the hope of sending money back to their families. It’s harrowing, but admirable.

The title is somewhat ambiguous, and the word essay doesn’t really accurately describe the function or discourse of the book. It’s more of an account of the writer’s experiences of volunteering as an interpreter for unaccompanied minors from Central America seeking legal status in the US. Luiselli is actually a Mexican author, who came to work with a charity specializing in immigration matters after experiencing problems with her own Green Card. As you can imagine, it’s very topical considering the mess about immigrant children being separated from parents and imprisoned in cages, which I touched on in my post Migrant Children Kept in Cages. However, a large bulk of the book is written in 2014/2015 during the Barack Obama administration when the crisis of unaccompanied minors was at boiling point and policies were changed to try and return children as quickly as possible. The forty questions refers to those asked by lawyers and immigration staff when asking why a child why they’d come to the US, the whereabouts of their parents, and fear they face, with interviewers not understanding the full predicament of the child’s situation or the misunderstanding of some of the questions. Luiselli also looks at other issues kids face, such as finding lawyers to take on their cases or getting access to education.

Something else that doesn’t make it much of an essay is the beautiful flowing prose that makes it seem more like a story: it’s too interesting to be an essay. Luiselli, I could tell from the off, is an excellent writer. She really puts you in the mindset of the minor and the issues, informing you with interesting facts with a sometimes emotional narrative. Nontheless, I liked it, especially her story about Manu. I got to know a few dozen Manus in Casa Alianza. I’ve met a couple in Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, too. The attitude and lack of confidence in authority figures, but very warm when they break down their exterior. To find out about Manu, read it yourself.

I liked the book until the last 20%, which is described an a brief eight point postscript, some of which records the hysteria surrounding Donald Trump winning the US elections. It gets a bit dramatic. Of course, you can’t mention immigration to the US without mentioning Trump, yet I think Luiselli’s worries regarding unaccompanied minors, rather than her own worries. I feel after that the book trails off a little, a shame to end the book which was so well-written up to then. It comes across a bit rushed and bloggy, with the lexis not being quite as fluent.

I give it 4/5. It would have had five had it not been for the final flaw. Otherwise, an emotional topic which was informative and excellently written for the majority of the book. I recommend it to anyone wanting a dose of realism into the life of a child immigrant and the trials and tribulations they go through.

I especially recommend it Donald Trump.

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Trump: Ignore him or protest?

Dear readers,

It was a glorious month while the World Cup was taking place. For once England did well, and drama, hype and euphoria were a great escapism for billions all over the world, for one reason or other.

Ironically the World Cup was being held in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, probably the most controversial country in politics right now. “That’s what the western media claims,” says Putin’s propaganda machine. But let’s just deal with one demagogue/authoritarian leader at a time. We’ll close this paragraph by saying it was a great World Cup, everyone seemed to enjoy Russia and nothing shit happened, with a media smokescreen or not.

On a personal level, politics is quite depressing right now, either because of the Brexit mess, Donald Trump with chatting constant diarrhea or Juan Orlando Hernandez finding a tax on just about anything, from transport to national toe nail growth; he wants dosh. Sorry, let me re-phrase that: he wants your dosh, with the your pronoun belonging to Hondurans, rich or poor. What he does with that dosh is anyone’s guess.

Politics at the best of times is a riddle; an unwanted headache puzzle I fear could lead to brain tumours, not helped by an increasingly polarized mainstream media who splurge opinions, whereas the majority of us want to read news and understand what is happening, without it being too contaminated by political bias. Funnily enough, for someone who could be described as more centre-left, I have had to lay off reading the British publication, The Guardian, which seems obsessed with Trump. It’s too intense.

It’s confusing and I feel a growing apathy inside me, although it feels somewhat collective having witnessed hints of it in social media and talking to people. The majority seems tired, burnt out by the smokescreen of news and fake news and nonsense being blown out the mediums. I have read this is a technique used by the powers that be, particularly in Russia, to turn society into a sponge or a doormat, so they can pass laws or control with ease over a nation that’s confused and given up.

Going back to Donald Trump, I feel I obsess about him on my blog. He has caught my imagination in anything except a good way. I can’t get away from him; his immigration policies affecting Hondurans here and in the US, sticking his nose into Brexit affairs, tearing up NATO and trade agreements (as well as environmentally friendly policies), being all BFF with Vladimir Putin and caring not for human rights. Yet when people call Trump stupid, I feel there is a great whiff of naivety or denial pouring from them. No matter how daft his comments or reckless his diplomacy, he has the world by the scruff of the neck.

Sure, I understand why and how people get upset with him. I too am not a fan. The protests of the baby Trump balloon in the UK were spectacular and the songs after the football game against Croatia about Trump being c–t were funny. Although I have to remind myself his words are just a blatant attention or distraction rattle, and he puts plugs in his ears to criticism, then later uses Twitter to let off grievances and hot air. He gets called on his lies and flip-flops on what he says and he doesn’t care an iota; confusing people as a strategy like mentioned above. Truth and lies are just words to be played with. He soaks up the positive and pats himself on the back, while blaming everything and everyone else when things go tits up. But haven’t politicians and corporations been doing that for years? Bush and Blair over Iraq? Yes, though Trump does it all blatantly, while others are more sly.

Something of an devilish genius, he is. This I find very ironic considering he appeals to many conservative Christians who obsess about warding off Satan. He might well be a puppet on a string to even more devious powers, but his Twitter tirades and actions seem more carefully planned than meets the eye. We know he craves this attention, good and bad. He can swat away scandals and protests with what seems like relative ease. Does he feed off it, though? How do you fight someone who lives off the philosophy “All press is good press”? And dare I say it, are anti-Trump protests actually counterproductive?

On the other hand, can we ignore him? Would it be at our own peril? Would it give him a free reign to do what he wants? Is he the next Adolf Hitler? Would apathy lead to regret? Or am I over-exaggerating?

I invite you all to comment, from Trump supporters and critics alike. I understand I come from a subjective anti-Trump stance that a proportion of readers might disagree with, but I still welcome you to discuss.


Potholes and big yellow buses

Dear readers,

At the beginning of the highway between Tegucigalpa to Olancho, on the outskirts of the capital around Cerro Grande, the roads are atrocious. In some parts they are no more than mud and potholes. This road, I must add, is very frequently used especially for business, carrying wood and agricultural produce to and from Olancho. There are also many people from Olancho living in Tegucigalpa, who travel back at weekends.

In some parts around the Fuerzas Armadas, there too are painful craters which kill tyres, wheels, suspensions, chassises and sometimes people, as cars speed down at break-neck velocity.

It’s a surprise, mainly because the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, is hell-bent on improving infrastructure to increase investment and business in the country, as well as the Tegucigalpa mayor, Tito Asfura (known as Papi al Orden, or I prefer Papi Concreto), who seems to lust over making his city a concrete and tarmacked jungle, while making a nice slice of dosh for his own business interests on the side. However, it seems they have forgotten about two of Tegucigalpa’s most important roads (as well as water and sanitation). Yes, I admire the intent of improving the country’s roads, but I think Fuerzas Armadas and the road to Olancho are two bleedin’ good places to start. Then again, their work ten times greater than the former mayor’s attempts to improve the city’s transport; how about an unused tramway system that never saw a tram, yet spent millions in tax-payer’s money? No apologies, no investigation; just a lot of unnecessary digging up trees, waiting in traffic and dust.

Yes. I’m ranting and raving. Not good for Monday morning morale nor my health. I’m actually writing this for an entirely selfish reason. You see, Fuerzas Armadas and the road to Olancho form 99% of my route to work at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos which sits 36 kilometres northeast of Tegucigalpa, near Talanga. I get transported there daily on the work bus, which is a yellow Bluebird American style school bus built I estimate around the 1950s or 60s. And these buses, I can inform you, were built for nice suburban areas throughout the US; not for roads in developing countries. The seats have padding, yet they don’t cope with Tegucigalpa’s pot-holes at all well. They throw you around, especially if you sit at the back of the bus which is as vibrating and thrilling as a dodgy fairground ride. I come home with purple bruises on my buttocks because of this battering, which gets me funny looks from my wife.

Yes, it’s a first-world problem, but the an hour and a half journey (almost three hours daily) is good sleeping, reading or writing time; though the three activities are pretty much impossible on occasions. It has inspired two Limerick poems, however, which aren’t great but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless.

POT-HOLES (I)

Along this pot-holed road,

My patience begins to erode,

My head smacks off window panes,

Exploding my brains with bloodstains,

Now I look like a run-over dead toad.

POTHOLE (II)

I pray that this road gets tarmac,

It’s no better than a beaten track,

And when you’re sat on the bus

You can’t cause a fuss,

And I fear a broken back.


Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig – Review

Dear readers,

About two months ago, I announced how much I was enjoying the book Kiss of the Spider Woman by the Argentine author, Manuel Puig (Click here to read). I’m a slow reader in general, but it took a lot longer than usual mainly due to being distracted by the World Cup.

I mentioned how much I liked the narrative, using a script-like structure and how cleverly Puig narrated the actions through dialogue with enticing conversations bouncing between two complex characters, which I found entralling. While other characters do appear in story, especially with Molina entertaining his cellmate Valentín with stories from movies. It’s cunning how he manoeuvres the plot this way, through just dialogue, which leaves you wondering the character’s thoughts, actions and objectives. It unfolds before you in speech. I loved it. It’s a daring idea which could have been a disaster, but Puig pulls it off brilliantly, and in doing so wrote a unique work of art. Puig, without doubt, was a very skilled writer.

The stream of consciousness is also riveting. They are human, with insecurities, telling of lost loves and ambitions…simple emotions for complex characters, the way they clash and bond and think. With other writers such as Henry Miller or Jack Kerouac, stream of consciousness has failed on me on occasions and I find it a slog to get through, losing connection and interest in the character’s thoughts. The storytelling of the movies is especially exciting, almost mini stort stories amongst the backdrop of larger narratives.

As stated in the previous post, it was written in 1976 which was very daring at the time due to topics based around homosexuality and resistance fighting during la guerra sucia (The Dirty War) in Argentina. The Dirty War took place between 1974 and 1983, when a military junta implemented so-called state terrorism laws under the name Operation Condor, where right-wing death squads hunted and killed anyone connected with socialism or Peron’s left-wing government. 30,000 people disappeared. Students, journalists, writers, artists, activists and left-wing military, among others, were targeted, tortured, raped and killed. Such dictatorships were common in Latin America in that era, and Catholic values were even more stricter and conservative than they are today, especially in terms of homosexuality. The Catholic church also had a strong political power, influencing law and government decision-making. For example, Molina, the main character is gay, but he is imprisoned for being “perverted”. Valentín, his cellmate, on the otherhand, is a left-wing military activist. Some of the plot focuses on how the military use different torture techniques to obtain information from captured activists.

I don’t know much about Puig’s background. He was apparently gay but I’m unsure of his political leanings. I do know the man was from a small town in the Buenos Aires province in Argentina although he lived in exile for large parts of his life, eventually dying in Mexico in 1990 at the age of 57 from a heart attack after various health complaints regarding his gall bladder. Needless to say, Puig, had he not been exiled, would have been shot for writing something like this, especially the sex scene, the long-winded scientific diagnosises for homosexuality and how the dictatorship spied and hunted down activists at the time.

Activists of all types still disappear today throughout Latin America, especially in my country of residence, Honduras. The story feels a little too close to reality in parts of the book. Interestingly, despite how groundbreaking this book is in terms of story-telling in literature, I couldn’t find it being sold in Honduras, meaning I had to download it. It made me wonder whether the Honduran government had prohibited the sale of the book due to some of the homosexual content. After all, it tried to stop Ricky Martin having a concert here in 2011 for similar reasons. I could just be me speculating about the book’s censorship, but it wouldn’t surprise me either. It’s just a shame Hondurans can’t easily get hold of a copy. Although those curious could watch the movie. Made in the 1980s, it stars William Hurt and Raul Julia, and I’ve heard it’s very good. It has also been made into a musical and a play.

The only complaint I have is that diagnosises for being gay can waffle on a little. Then again, it helped break up the pages of dialogue, and it was interesting, though the lexis was quite technical for this type of book.

Despite that, I still give this book 5/5. Puig’s style and flow of story-telling had such an impact on me, along with the balls to tackle subjects which were and still are taboo. It could be one of my top 10 favourite books. I recommend it to everyone.


Croatia 2-1 England review – part three

Dear readers,

No one wants to play in it, the third round play-off. Battle of the losers. Battle of the nearly finalists. I might sound bitter, but I don’t care about third place. I know the players will say otherwise, both for England and Belgium, very much in-line with FIFA, but they won’t want to be playing this. Waiting around three or four days with the reminder that you must play one more game but never be a champion, when they really want to be going on holiday. The Premier League season begins less than a month away and the players need rest. This game is plain cruel.

Talking of cruel, I must now


Croatia 2-1 England review – part two

Dear readers,

One rarely wants to stick the knife in so soon after another has fallen to the floor. Neither does one want to seem pedantically over-critical when a group of young players did all they could and did so well to get where they did. But I’m going to do that anyway. Maybe not pedantically, yet if we remain in a mist of eurphoria and paint the players as heroes after coming away empty-handed apart from happy memories, nothing shall be learned.

However, I also believe it’s good to start with the positives, as there have been a few.

Positives

Mentality – The team is more professional and less egotistical than years gone by. In recent squads, there were many individuals who believed in their own hype, making it very hard for coaches to mold them into a functioning team. Rio Ferdinand recently admitted the Manchester United lads would sit apart from the Chelsea players, fearing at club level the opposition might use something against them. Gareth Southgate seems to have got rid of that, as well as the irritating WAG culture, and worked on gelling the team and improving the psychology of the players, as well as basic manners i.e. no mobile phones at dinner time.

Positivity – Ties into mentality, but there have lots of positivity coming from the England camp, lots players smiling, not moaning about being bored and enjoying the moment. When I’d hear of boredom at a major tournament in the past it would make me want to scream with frustration. Many of us would swap our legs and arms to be a participant at the World Cup, but the moaning reminded you of how pampered their lives are. In this World Cup, we heard of harmony, family and togetherness; something I am sure Southgate and his coaches focused on. I wonder how many faith healers they had? This calm and harmony was played out a lot on the pitch as well. There were moments of discomfort, of course, but on many occasion the team remained calm and weathered the storm. Mind you, this is the minimal you would expect from a “wannabe champion“, but it’s rarely the case with England. Look what happened against Iceland two years ago. Now, there are no excuses or anger; players owned up to mistakes, accepting referees decisions, dusting ourselves off and getting on with it. There’s also no blaming winter breaks or the amount of foreigners in the Premier League. We have a pool of players who look hungry but lost to a better team. We now have a marker of where we are and where we want to be. In next tournament, we need to ditch the “team of youths” tag for a “team of winners” mentality. The only way to do that is by beating teams, and by that I mean beating the best. That remains to be seen.

In terms of their new found fame after this World Cup though, it will be interesting to see how many players keep their feet on the ground and which lose their heads. We know how the British press likes to build people up, then knock them down when they falter. The team seem pretty mature, but fame can do strange things to people with disastrous outcomes. Remember Paul Gascoigne?

Preparation – Taking the tournament game by game. Well, up until the last game, when the players, media and fans underestimated Croatia and got too excited looking at the final. Of course, the players are only human and they know the rewards of what lies ahead if they beat a certain team. Yet there seems to be more focus on the here and now, being positive and working on things that beat the opposition, rather than disrespecting or under- or over-estimating a team. This, I have read in books about Brazilian, German and Italian football, is what former champions have done. It’s basic and should have been learned years ago. We have read in the past when England have lost in penalties that the players hadn’t practiced in the previous days, with pundits and coaches using the excuse of “It’s a lottery”. Yes it’s hard to recreate the pressures of the scene of the long walk up to the penalty spot, and yes there is an element of luck in which way the goalkeeper dives for the ball, but England were using these reasons as not to practice. Southgate, no. Maybe through his own experience, he had the players practice a lot, with a clear plan of his penalty takers and researching where opposing players place penalties, giving England the tools to success over Colombia. Again, basic, but these were things not being done before. The players seem nicer and more grounded, unlike Wayne Rooney who berated fans after they booed the team off the pitch after England played very uninspiringly in a 0-0 draw with Algeria in the group stages of the 2010 World Cup (a game which I will always remember for a pigeon feeling comfortable enough to sit on the crossbar of the goal England were shooting at), despite many fans paying their right arm to be there. This England team seem more grateful for their support now.

New identity – I’m a wee bit sceptical about this point, something that has been bellowed at us over and over again from the FA’s press team. England’s DNA, etc. I do think, however, Southgate has adopted a new style that England can work with and is more pleasing to the eye, based on high-tempo possession football, something similar to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City or Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. We will need a plan B if games aren’t going to plan though, as witnessed against Croatia. Tactical flexibility and being quick to change a faltering system is crucial at this level. Back to the new identity, we saw signs of it in the group stage in Euro 2016. Roy Hodgson, despite being a scapegoat after the Iceland loss, had us playing possession football and dominating teams (apart from against Iceland), while using quite a few of the same players that played at this World Cup. It just lacked the clinical edge, especially against Russia and Slovakia. Southgate has adopted this game-plan, changing the formation to a back three and two high-placed wing-backs, and playing one fast-paced full-back amongst those three centre-backs, being Kyle Walker; a move that raised a few eyebrows at the time but seems to have worked out well. The team play out from defence more effectively and the team strung many good moves together which won many plaudits, including fromthe man who apparently possesses the hand of God, Diego Maradona. They apply pressure when without the ball and attack with speed. They need to be more clinical, especially Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard, as well as provide more service to Harry Kane. England also improved their set pieces, looking dangerous at every corner and free-kick near the box, with a great number of goals coming that way. We have a springboard to something.

Smarter – We know how to draw free-kicks and penalties from teams. In years gone by, we were too honest and naive. Now we have learnt the tricks of the trade to go down easily under challenges, helping to win free-kicks in dangerous areas. There were moments where England players were wrestled to the ground and we received nothing, especially against Tunisia. There were other times when we invited the opposition to make a challenge and hit the ground, especially against Panama and Colombia. Both teams looked nervous when England came forward and would use violence to stop Kane and co. It’s just England took advantage, something thtu I’ll. These little advantages count. It’s been the case for years in Southern Europe and South America. England are just catching up. It’s not flopping like Neymar. It’s being smart. It’s not fair play; but fair play wins you monetary prizes, being smart gets you far in tournament football tournaments

New players – Southgate set a good example by selecting players who have played well regularly for their clubs, rather than remaining a little too loyal to players who have been injured or had bad form and walk straight into the squad. Joe Hart, Jack Wilshire and Adam Lallana are three examples. Most the players earn their place rather than get it through privilege, adding competition and quality throughout the ranks. I personally would of still taken Jack Wilshire instead of Fabian Delph due to his excellent range of passing and being a motor in the team, which include could have done with against Croatia. Then again, I’m not the England manager, nor have I coached them to a World Cup semi-final, let alone coached an actual game. What do I know? Gareth Southgate has been in England set up for some time. He knows the young players coming through, as well as lean on the players that were injured, such as Chamberlain.

The World Cup has made heroes out of a few England players, especially Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier. Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard played good in parts, while Harry Kane started well, should end up Golden Boot winner, despite fading towards the end.

There we go. A lot of positives. The next post, the negatives…or more so, things to work on.


Croatia 2-1 England review – Part one

Dear readers,

So, England’s 2018 World Cup journey has come to an end. Been quite a ride, hasn’t it, for all generations of English fans. After years of failure and disappointment, players not putting in their all, scandals, hype, negativity, being trounched by the big guns and getting humiliated by the so-called minnows, getting knocked out in the first round of tournaments and the rest of it. Have England been a laughing stock? I’m sure those with anti-English sentiments have enjoyed our discomfort in recent years, and then again as England was tactically and technically outplayed by Croatia last night as they were knocked out in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow. But even they must have been somewhat impressed by Gareth Southgate’s gelling of young hungry, talented men. The high tiempo game has won a few admirers along the way, playing with enthusiasm, character and positivity. I’ve had many Hondurans congratulating me as England progressed, as well as a Colombian colleague. And it hasn’t gone amiss that England’s youth teams have been winning their respective levels, too.

Nostalgia. Italia ’90. For those who don’t remember or were born after, this is their tournament. More than quarter of a century ago. I don’t think it’s completely healthy for our competitive spirit being heroic about failed tournaments (you don’t see Germany or Brazil doing the same), but then as a nation we managed to turn Dunkirk into a success story. Yet in recent week the euphoria floating around, felt 8,000 miles away in Honduras, has been a massive relief from recent political and terrorism problems and military conflicts around the globe. Not just in the UK but across the world. The power of sports. And the beautiful irony is the tournament has been held in Russia, one of the most controversial countries in the current political sphere, which Putin is using as a propaganda tool to promote his country. There’s no “Nessun Dorma“, but there’s been plenty of drama on the pitch as the favourites fell one by one, which has given the world cup it’s very own romanticism based around shock.

I can’t say I caught on to the feeling of #ItsComingHome. I never felt it was, in terms of the Jules Rimet trophy, yet the relief its given the country has gone along way to restoring unity in a nation that has been divided since the Brexit vote two years ago. Maybe football did come home in its own way. Funnily enough I told a French friend this, and he replied by saying, “We too need it. Didn’t you see the French elections?” If France does win the World Cup on Sunday, I suppose Jules Rimet really is going home.

The #ItsComingHome slogan, as catchy as it is (as well as the song), is a great assumption that the English own football on some level. Unfortunately we don’t. We’re an improving nation, and it’s nice to believe and be positive, but we do get ahead of ourselves and seemingly patronise countries we feel superior to. Luka Modrić, maybe the world’s best midfielder right now, said as much in the post match interview, saying that they felt motivated by the English pundits and things written by English journalists, eager to prove us wrong. I’m guessing this will never change. It’s an unfortunate part of our culture, an empirical attitude that won’t die.

Saying that, I did start off a small superstition during the World Cup for myself by playing the Fat Les song Vindaloo before an England game. I then forgot to do it play it before the game against Belgium which we lost. Then I made sure I played it for the remaining games, but it seems Croatia jinxed it, if there was anything to it. I showed it to my wife, who was bemused. It’s a strange song. I think its yobbish and rude and arrogant, as well as hilarious and cheeky. I’m putting that song away for a couple of years at least.

What did I want from this tournament? England to play well. And I think I got that in most of the games we played. People are saying England has a bright future in football, but to do that we must look at the things we did wrong as well as right. And in the next piece I’ll be highlighting some of the things the whole England camp needs to improve if it wants to win anything soon.

…says the man who can barely do three keepy-uppies, let alone win anything on the Championship Manager video game. Here I am giving Gareth Southgate coaching tips.

Until the next post.