Tag Archives: Honduras

Orange Street Light Glow

Dear readers,

This poem is the result of a sleepless night and an overactive imagination. I was going to call it A Lonely Night in Tegus. Let me know what you think.

Orange Street Light Glow

Orange street light glow,

Bugs flicker fast and clocks tick by slow.

A radio spittles ranchero songs

Sliding guards into a slumber

When an anonymous Sedan glides by slyly.

Under the cold stare of the stars,

A shadow stalks and a street dog scampers,

When BANG! shots thud and screams are snuffled-out,

Blood drains to nowhere from another specimen lying still,

On a lonely night in tearless Tegus,

Where everything happens but nothing’s on show,

Especially under the orange street light glow.

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Tropical Aromas

Dear readers,

Honduras is going through its rainy season. I love this moment of the year. Funny, being from England. One would have thought I’ve seen enough rain for one lifetime. But this morning, on the bus to work, I had a wonderful reminder of the joys of living in a tropical climate: the flora. The rains had soaked the lands and the flowers and plants were bellowing out with aromas.

As you can expect, it’s alien and surreal to eyes from Northern Europe. Colourful and sultry leaves and petals, natural artefacts you only see in green houses in botanical gardens, and the nectars that tickle your nasel hairs and whet your appetite; that’s if you haven’t fainted already from the blasts of artificial humidity.

I want my garden to smell like this. A choir of aromas, singing in the rain. I’m often walking past gardens nicking palm nuts or using discarded mango seeds to plant things. I know people who often snap off flowers and try to use the pollens. I might start that. Sorry neighbours.

As always, it has inspired a poem. Enjoy. Make comments if you wish.

Tropical Aromas

There’s nothing quite like sweet aromas after a tropical storm;

The pines, the pollens, the sultry perfumes the plants form.

A million piece silent orchestra with the fauna in the gallery,

Noses swallow delicious scents while not adding a single calorie.

The sweetness sways in the airs before the fierce heat comes,

Like gasses of fresh juices as luscious as the ripest exotic plums.

Water droplets wet your hair while your head drifts against a pane;

You feel a million miles from home and your native freezing rain.

The electricity has gone and you don’t care when it returns;

Not bothering if your computer crashes or if your phone burns.

You’re in your own haven and wish this moment lives on,

Future worries are a laugh and past pains are bygone.

The wind is in your sails and you’ve no clue where your bus drives,

Fruits of nature resurrect your body and you’ve never felt this alive.

You have life in your lungs and happiness in the cloud’s gloom,

And rolling hills of green smother you while tropical flowers bloom.


Nostalgia

Dear readers,

It’s funny how as we get older, all memories feel like yesterday, merged into a jumbled and disordered box. Filed under happy or sad, wonderful or horrific, but rarely in chronological order as they played out. More often they come galloping through little clues. And this weekend I’ve had a few of them, randomly. Seeing a student I taught in the first couple of my seven or so years in Honduras, chatting to old friends from university online, catching up with my uncle and aunty in Skype, seeing a movie which reminded me of the neighbourhood I grew up in Birmingham and my old cat Huey, listening to the song Today by The Smashing Pumpkins which I used to put on repeat on holiday vacations to Cornwall, reading an interview in the Guardian with Irvine Welsh talking about Trainspotting impacting a generation (one of my favourite books might I add) or making a bowl of custard, reminding me of desserts after roast dinners on Sunday with the family.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth.

Why it’s come flooding back is anyone’s guess. Symbols of nostalgia. I’m content more than anything, but I believe I find it hard to put the memories in order is because life goes by so quickly. It’s true what they tell you, kids. It’s not deep or profound what I’m saying; it’s very obvious, in fact. But I feel my conscious is trying to tell me something; whether it’s to not to let life slip away, realise things I’ve learned through memories, good and bad, or get back in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in a while.

Midlife crisis? Maybe. But it’s a mellowed conflict, trying to understand my experiences and why the memories flood back over one weekend.

It’s hard to conclude, as my nostalgia is disjointed and my learning from such memories are random at best. However, I’m sharing a quote from a writer I’ve written about before on my blog, Albert Camus, to try and sum up and soothe my concoction of emotions boiling in my conscious, and gain a better understanding of deciphering nostalgic events and what I take from it.

Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.


Coffee Highs

Dear readers,

Honduran coffee, might I add, often doesn’t do half measures; when you swallow it down, it explodes your senses. It’s smooth but it smashes you, like a beautifully formented vodka from Russia. But instead of getting hammered, you fly.

So, carrying on from yesterday’s coffee high experience, here is another poem about the jittery sensations coffee gives us. Written in a bog standard Espresso Americano coffee shop in the centre of Tegucigalpa, although I haste to add the coffee quality is still miles ahead of Starbucks, albeit being a smaller portion, yet still not as good as the more specialized coffee shops throughout the country especially towards the West.

The poem might be based on reality. Then again, it might not. You decide.

Coffee Highs

Coffee highs,

Neurons fly,

Limbs jolt,

Logic thought bolts,

Heart thumps,

Adrenaline pumps,

Stand up too fast,

Blood pressure blasts,

Trip over a chair,

Coffee shop stares,

Stains on my shirt,

And a lady’s skirt,

Cup smashes to the floor,

Heading for the door,

If looks could kill,

Staring at the spill,

“It wasn’t me,

“Coffee high, you see,

“Bye,” I say,

And I run.


Ojojona, Honduran History, Espressos

Dear readers,

I spent much of the Sunday in a small town south of Tegucigalpa called Ojojona.

It’s a pleasant little place, humble, hot, with a slice of Honduran history mixed in. Spanish miners populated the town during the 16th century while searching for gold and silver in the nearby mountains. Its white-washed Spanish colonial-styled architecture and road layouts are reminiscent of towns I visited in Andalusia while living in Seville, especially Carmona, which still stands out as one of my favourite corners of the globe.

There is also a chunk of Lencan history; not just the town itself but in the nearby villages throughout the municipality. Ojojona itself means “aguas verdosas”, roughly translating as “greenish waters”. I have seen signs of a swimming spot close to the town. I’ve never found it, so I can’t confirm if the waters are green. Nonetheless, the Spanish colonists throughout the ages might well have done their best to eradicate the Lencan race and culture for something more Catholic, as they did in many towns throughout the region. The Lencan culture is still prevalent today, however, especially in Western Honduras, a fascinating part of Honduran heritage. It includes the chief Lempira whose name and face appear on the Honduran currency; very much the William Wallace of Honduras who fought bravely to defend his people from foreign invaders. As cruel irony would have it, though, Lempira ended in a similar fashion to Wallace, too.

The town is also famous for being the place that Francisco Morazan was caught. Who’s Francisco Morazan? you say. If I’m not mistaken, he tried to bind the Central American countries together in the early 19th century, to form a union or state. The Costa Ricans got all Brexit on us though, not liking the idea one bit, and shot him. Apparently Morazan died in El Salvador.

There is also business about the former President Mel Zelaya and reason the town has two churches sitting very close to each other. I don’t know the full gossip. Suffice to say, it’s all very political.

That’s your Honduran history lesson over with, but you can see how Ojojona plays a role in Honduras’s rich heritage. It is also famous for being the set for the movie Amor y Frijoles, which I’ve yet to see, although I hear it’s very good. The town is quaint, picturesque, with a tranquil moat/canal circling its way through the town with a gentle stream, a lively crafts industry which produces and sells.goods in the town. It has turned Ojojona into a tourism hub, pulling punters away from Valle de Angeles which, in my opinion, has lost a bit of magic and sells a fair amount of tack; feel free to disagree.

Back to Francisco Morazan, I ended up having an espresso in the late afternoon after having a late lunch and I needed perking up. However, the perking up has resulted in me writing this blog article. I actually had the espresso in the building where Morazan was captured. The cafe is also a mini museum, plant nursery and rabbit breeder; random niches, I agree, but it is lovely to sit there with the early evening breezes to cool you while getting high on espresso. It’s not known for espressos, in particular. There are a few corn-based beverages such as pinol and atol. Appropriate and common sense really, with corn being a locally grown crop. I was hooked on coffee though. Coffee, coffee, coffee.

Talking of espressos, I wrote a poem about them. It’s keeping me up as I write. It’s free verse. I hope you enjoy.

The Espresso

BANG; it hits you.

That shot of anxiety.

Galloping, throttling through veins,

Racing down tracks to the mechanics of your heart,

Leaving its clogs and bolts over-heating with like an un-manned locamotive.

Your blood cells rage and the adrenaline screams,

While pulsing serotonin blows open the doors to your mind, leaving your senses shaking

While every word snaps and every limb jolts.

You’re ready for everything but prepared for nothing

Once the bean beats through you, shaking you into a euphoria.

You know you won’t sleep, with every hour feeling like a decade throughout the night.

You sipped, and slipped, a slosh of mayhem.

Those beans, once green picked by worn hands in high melancholic hills

In the pounding humidity sucking every drop of energy from blooded finger-tips and sweated brows.

A genetic thread bounced down generations, carrying thoughts of humility, fed by beans and tortilla.

Polverised and crushed and slung with a swill of hot water in a tiny cup before you, sugar spashed in with your gluttony.

That bitter toxin that exploded your senses.

You ordered it, you loved it, you suffered it.

The espresso.


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.


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.