Search

The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

Tag

San Pedro Sula

Christmas in Honduras

I’m having a wonderful time sharing Christmas with the girls at Our Little Roses home for girls. Here are some of my observations about Christmas here (as opposed to Europe/USA).

1. Christmas is celebrated on midnight of the 24th, not on the 25th

2. People set off so many homemade fireworks you might think it’s World War III

3. Santa comes at midnight to give presents

 

ImageSpecial Christmas church service.

Image

More photos to follow!

 

Advertisements

Monday Sexism

Today I had an interesting experience. I spoke with a man for 40 minutes, interpreting/helping a female coworker who is a highly qualified light/photography engineer. The man we were speaking to argued with us for 40 minutes about how what we wanted was wrong, but then immediately “understood” when our male coworker weighed in to explain. This leads me to come to the following conclusion:

“Women’s voices are high pitched, like dog whistles, and only some dogs can hear them.”

Joking aside, I’m pretty proud of myself for the way I handled it today. The last time I was in a similar situation, I let someone waste so much of my time that I finally said to the guy: “I’m going to be very direct. I wasn’t born yesterday. Please stop lying to me or I can’t help you”. I wish I was one of those people who could just smile and nod, but I’m not. Not yet. I wonder if I would still be me if I was that kind of person.

I suppose one has to choose their battles wisely, or else they will spend their whole life fighting. If someone is lying to me, my first instinct is to call them out, but in the world or work, that doesn’t usually result in cooperation, especially when dealing with male egos.

I’ve informed my male coworkers who aren’t cave dwellers that from now on, I want them to speak to this third party. I can’t change him and his ingrained opinions, nor the fact that he refuses to listen to smart women who have different ideas from him. Life would be much easier if I were a man (e.g.not having so much ridiculous and time consuming pressure on my appearance, traveling on my own, people taking me more seriously and allowing me to be a leader instead of cutting me down), but I’m not, and that’s that. I’m only here a few more weeks, I don’t care about this guy, and if he wants to discount what I have to say out of hand because I am a woman then he can talk to my male coworkers, they can say the same thing, and he might be less emasculated by that. But I need to bite my tongue from saying “You’re not listening because we are women”, because unlike Madrid, few people are direct here, least of all women to men. (After all the difficulties that I overcame in Madrid, who ever thought I would miss that city?)

Needless to say, it made me miss my partner terribly. He speaks to me like an equal in all things, he’s not scared to tell me that he disagrees with me, nor is he scared to admit when I am right. He never suggests that my map reading abilities may be sub par, even though we often “discover new destinations” when I am copilot in the car. He’s man enough to cook, and sing, and laugh and be silly.

Then I think about the girls at the home. They live here, they live in this culture. They are highly intelligent, beautiful young women, on their way to university. Will they internalise this crap, sitting in some office doing someone’s paperwork, thinking more about their hair, nails, and makeup, than they do about who they are and what they really want from life?

 

 

Thanksgiving in Honduras

Thanksgiving

The kids all came to school today in their Sunday best to celebrate Thanksgiving. There was food (chicken and rice) and then they all got to go home early, at 11am (school here starts at 7am).

Today I am thankful for:

>my students, for their undying enthusiasm

>the girls at the home, for their unconditional love

>how helpful the teachers are at the school

>all of the artists that I have met here (poets, photographers, documentary directors)

>the incredible strong women who run this home (the founder, the management, and the Tías, who take care of the girls every single day, giving them love and guidance)

 

It’s a miracle that I am here. I never would have imagined to come here, never would have thought of this by myself, and yet everything has fallen into place. I feel like I’m some way in between a volunteer and an intern here, and I am absolutely loving.

Some days are hard. People talking when I am talking to a large group is like nails down a chalkboard for me, so I’m here to learn to overcome that, and many other things.

Every day is a miracle.

2013-11-27 10.12.08

Election Day in Honduras

“Ay, que susto!” says a woman walking away from the polling station, as a sad looking baby horse nudges her from behind. The owner must have allowed it to wander off, with all the hubbub around the election here.

2013-11-24 12.02.23

We could hear the voices and music from early in the morning, and now that we were outside the walls of the compound, I could see that in front of the polling station there were awnings set up by supporters of the different candidates.

2013-11-24 12.03.51

Eyeing the two heavily armed policemen at the gates, I questioned whether I should be hanging out outside on the street at all. The girls from the home had taken their identity cards out on their arrival at the gate of the polling station, and I had assumed that I just wouldn’t be allowed in.

2013-11-24 12.05.23

I stood on the pavement, leaning against a wall, drinking in my illicitly won freedom. Apart from attracting a few curious glances, the families rolled by me, on their way to the school which was being used to place their vote. One police officer eyed me in a friendly way, almost smiling. I felt conspicuous as the only woman on the street on her own.

After 10 minutes, the girls came out, Paola admonishing me for having my cell phone out. “They’ll take it from you” she said, meaning the locals hanging around on the street. I was given the phone as a gift, and wouldn’t have been too upset if someone had decided to take it from me, but I didn’t say anything. She was obviously uncomfortable here and she knew more about this place than I ever would.

2013-11-24 12.47.52

The director of the film had asked me to try to film a few interviews, and get the girls to say something on camera, but they were all reticent about saying anything, never mind being filmed while saying it. Luckily, Heather (a graduate from the home system who is now studying engineering, pictured below) was there, and started assertively filming them, asking them questions over lunch about what they thought about the election.

2013-11-24 12.48.14

  2013-11-24 12.26.11   2013-11-24 12.55.49

The Importance of this Honduran Election

I woke up this morning to find a warning from the embassy for expats living in Honduras. Sunday is the election, and this year it’s even more of a big deal than usual. Here’s why.

June 2009: President Manuel Zelaya removed in a military coup.

November 2013: Iris Xiomara Castro de Zelaya (his wife) runs for president.

People who pro for Zelaya/Xiomara say:

He (Zelaya) was democratically elected, and tried to make things better for ordinary working people by raising minimum wage, as promised in his manifesto. He was removed by the elite of the country because he was a threat to them and their wealth.  He tried to change the constitution so that the Honduran president could run for a second term (like in the US), which would not have affected him, but future elected leaders.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/22/honduras-elections-leftist-party-libre

People against Zelaya/Xiomara say:

The coup was a good thing for Honduras. They (Zelaya/Xiomara) want to move towards communism, and take money from Chavez. A vote for them is a vote towards a red state and would have disastrous consequences.

Whether the election is fair or not, the Honduran government are preparing for violence if Xiomara is not elected. All bars are closed this weekend, so people have few places to meet to plan strategic violence against the government forces, and all schools and business are closed tomorrow, with the message being “stay in your homes tomorrow”.

Usually, I watch politics (whether on the TV or being discussed informally in bars etc) as a silent observer. For me,all politicians are opportunistic liars and fat cats who, if not directly stealing from the people, are profiting from a position of power that they were most likely born into. I’ve observed how young people, with little money, tend to go left, while older people, with more money, seem to go right. This seems to be the natural life cycle of political belief.

It might sound radical, but I’m not sure if I even believe in democracy. Even as a small child, it was obvious to me how ridiculous television propaganda was, as if people can/should be influenced to vote for a leader in the same way that they are influenced to buy a certain kind of soap. Then with the advent of the Afghanistan/Iraq wars, I became entirely disillusioned with the whole process. Millions of people protested against Britain’s involvement in that war, yet “we” still followed the US army into that disaster.

Our own society’s metanarrative paints the picture for us. “Look at us” it says. “Look how amazing we are, and all the freedoms we have. We have a say in government, women are allowed to get educated, everyone has a right to a fair trial”, but it’s all a myth. Ordinary people are so removed from power, that having a vote is merely a symbol of “freedom” to placate the masses, and the rich buy their freedom more often than you can say “Animal Farm”.

3 Weeks in Honduras. What have I learned?

1. Traffic lights and stop signs are not actually essential for road usage. All those years of playing Tetris pay off when you are slowly easing a car through a crossroads where everyone seems to be going at once, very slowly…

2. Lots of people still use horses as a mode of transport for heavy goods.

3. Insects see me as an all-you-can-eat buffet (no change there then)

4. The password to getting absolutely anyone to do anything in this organisation is to say: “Dona Diana said…”

5. To say “how’s it hanging?” you say “Que pedo?” (lit. “What fart?)

6. Every meal comes with rice and beans. And some come with rice and frijoles, just for variation.

7. Most things I say in Spain Spanish are either rude or unintelligible here.

8. Hot weather makes me really tired and cranky, like a grumpy baby that needs a nap (also not news).

9. Ambassadors are dick heads. We bent over backwards to accommodate the US Ambassador, changing the date of the concert to the only night she could come, and now she has pulled out of coming to the show, saying that she CAN come to “have pictures taken with the girls”. (Good publicity for free? Yeah sure. Why don’t you just take the food out of their mouths and the clothes off their backs, you upper class, over paid, trumped up… POLITICIAN. That was one of Shakespeare’s favourite insults. Y.O.U. S.T.I.N.K.)

10. Although the girls here are happy, wonderful, bubbly children, adolescents, and young women, scratch the surface and you will get a sense of the vast pool of sadness here. Born to parents who were murdered, or who abandoned them as they were unable to take care of them for whatever reason, they are given a lot of opportunities. They receive an excellent education in as positive and safe an environment as circumstances allow, yet read any of their poems and you get a sense of the deep pain caused by the socioeconomic fabric here being pulled apart by violence and instability. I get the sense that the girls see the home as both a blessing and a curse.

Cabin Fever vs Safety Concerns

Image

If you come to San Pedro Sula, you can go anywhere you want as long as you go:

>in an official taxi with a trusted driver

>to places that have armed guards

The places that have armed guards are described as “middle class”, but that strata of society is so small that they are few and far between. Supermarkets, or any kind of shop in a building, will have at least one visible armed guard in front, and a large van filled with heavily armed men. When I pass them, I am probably in the safest place I could be, yet the sight of their huge guns makes my stomach lurch.

If you like going for walks and dropping into random coffee shops, then… don’t. A lot of local people don’t travel far after dark, as a precaution to avoid problems on the roads from gang members. A wrong turn can lead you into dangerous territory, where gangs shoot at any car that they don’t recognise; although it is said that this area is “OK”, and that you would probably “only get mugged here, and nothing else would happen”.

The past week, I’ve started to experience “cabin fever”. Seeing the same people every day, trying to make conversation, chatting to my coworkers about work… The “honeymoon period” is wearing off and I stare at the gate with longing, thinking about how nice it might be to walk around the block to the shop, or gazing out the window of a taxi, watching the regular people hanging out at the blue collar bars that look like little shacks lining the road. I don’t feel like a “real person” here yet. I feel like a monkey in a golden cage.

Even though Honduras is statistically terribly unsafe, I don’t feel that unsafe when I’m pottering around the supermarket or eating in a restaurant. In Madrid, I never really accepted the way that people ranted and raved constantly, or complete strangers stared you in the eye for far too long and had no qualms about entering your personal space. So far, I find Honduran body language and way of speaking more inline with my ingrained idea of “good manners”. No one has laughed at my Spanish, tried to belittle me, ridiculed or mocked my accent, or told me that I am “x” because of who I am or where I come from. That makes a refreshing change.

Pepsi Party

Big businesses can use a portion of their profits to do events, creating a tax break for themselves. Here’s one that I went to in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

DSCF3693

DSCF3686

There was music (above) and dancing (below).

DSCF3700

We all had fun, eating hot dogs and drinking soda.DSCF3684 DSCF3685

There were slides for the kids to play on.

DSCF3691

As well as giving each child a bag made out of recycled material, they also gave out Toms shoes too.

DSCF3701 DSCF3706

DSCF3715

As we walked to the bus, we had to step carefully over some rubble. We all enjoyed the day out, with music and dancing and soda, but I couldn’t help wondering if this event helps anyone here in a real, meaningful way. Honduras is a place with such deep problems.

Then again, if we want these children to be successful, then they need these every day life experiences (like festivals and events) to grow up as well rounded individuals. It takes more than simple food, clothing, and schooling to make an adult.

Money in Honduras

The currency in Honduras is called Lempiras.

4000 Lempiras =$50

1000 Lempiras =$12.50

100L= $1.25

With these kinds of numbers, the money can be pretty confusing, as you can imagine.

DSCF3655DSCF3654DSCF3653DSCF3652

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑