I can´t believe it´s only been a few days since my last blog and I have so much to say already… as time goes on though I´m sure everything here will start to become normal and I might be strugling for things to write.
I´m seeing so much every day – some things that shock me and make me want to run home… and some things that make me want to learn as much about Honduras and Tegucigalpa as I can.
So after my last post I had my first full day in Honduras – it was pretty boring!! All of my host family either works or studies so I was in the house most of the day and whereas in another city I would have happily wandered around and kept myself entertained, that is definitely something I can´t do here. But I took it as probably one of my last quiet days to read a book and stalk facebook as I´m sure i´m going to be too busy to do all of that soon… I also had cheese toasties and homemade brownies that evening so definitely ended on a high note 😀
The next day was the start of the ICYE orientation camp – all of the volunteers who have just arrived, been in Honduras a while and about to leave were there (us two English girls, two Danish girls, two Swiss girls, a guy from Austria, a girl and guy from Sweden, a girl from Taiwan and a girl from Japan), and also four Hondurans about to go to Germany, Austria and New Zealand. Most of the weekend was just information about culture shock, stereotypes etc so I won´t bore you!! But I definitely realised I packed for the wrong weather… we all arrived in little shirts and our bikinis packed and were definitely disappointed! The camp was up in the mountains so we had a few warm moments but mostly it was cold – especially at night!! I would just love another day in England to pack a whole different suitcase – missing my jumpers and jeans so much!! Despite the bad weather I still managed to get sunburnt after 20 minutes in the sun…! Meeting everyone at the camp really made me realise how lazy we are in the UK with language – everyone except me and Laura knew at least two languages so I´ve got so much motivation to learn Spanish right now!! 🙂
The place we stayed was lovely – little four bed villa type things each with a hammock outside 🙂 and the hightlight of the weekend was definitely the cage with about 5 parrots in that loved saying ´hola hola!´ over and over again… even at 6 in the morning you had to laugh! On the last night we had a big bonfire and toasted marshmallows which was so lovely 🙂 I´ll be back there for my final evaluation camp in 6 months time – looking forward to giving advice to the next volunteers already! The biggest problem with the camp for me was the food… one lunch I swear they gave us pig feet!! And the best day was sausages and plantain (fried bananas), I did try everything but I wasn´t too impressed..!
After the camp, on the way back to Tegus, I was dropped off at my host family´s relative´s house – as they hadn´t been able to meet over Christmas they were having a big party that day instead and doing secret santa. It was a bit confusing watching it all in Spanish but so sweet when some people got emotional – I just want to know what they´re saying! At the end of the presents, my host mum said they were also welcoming me to the family and gave me a present. It was so thoughtful, I had to try really hard not to cry in front of about 30 strangers!! They had noticed I have a bit of a love for things with owls on so they got me an owl bag – so sweet!! They did a pinata as well which was really fun and it´s really nice seeing what families here are about. When we got home, I watched the Iron Lady with my host sisters and had a lovely homemade strawberry smoothie 🙂
The next two weeks we are just doing activities with ICYE and learning about Honduras etc and also getting Spanish lessons. Today we went to the UN office for Honduras and had a presentation on the UN´s goals and how Honduras compares with it. It was really interesting and I couldn´t help but ask a lot of questions! I´m really finding the situation here fasinating and I´ll talk more about it later on…
We then walked 10 minutes to a little shopping centre (the most I´ve walked since I got here!!) and saw a strike – there wasn´t many people and they were playing music so a lot happier than the strikes we see back home! To get back to the office we took a taxi – its quite complicated to explain but Tegus has 3 different types of taxis and 3 types of buses and it´s all very complicated! The kind of taxi we got is 13 Lemperia each (less than 80p) and it will take you anywhere within its restricted zone but the taxi has to be full for it to leave – so often you´ll be riding along with complete strangers! Luckily there was four of us so it was nice and easy 🙂
So for the afternoon we had our introduction to Spanish – it is insanely complicated and doesn´t make sense to any of us but I loved the lesson! The teacher is great and we had a laugh with the Lonely Planet text book… and even though I know its going to take me a while to get my head around all of it, I will be really proud of myself when I can have a conversation with someone in this language! I know a lot of people say English is a hard language to learn but when you have to work our whether to use the masculine, feminine, formal or informal use of a word, English looks very easy!!
So that´s what I´ve been up to the last few days but I´ve also noticed a few things that I think are really interesting (or scary!):
1. pretty much ALL of the cars here, even ones at home that a first time drivier would have, have blacked out windows. And not just a little blacked out – completely unable to see through, even the windshield. It´s very strange to not be able to see anyone else but kind of reassuring to know they can´t see you either!
2. Following what I said about the divide between rich and poor – Hondurans I´ve spoken to do think that they have an upper class, higher middle class, lower middle class etc. But also say that the middle class is disappearing quickly…
3. My feelings on the crime here have been very up and down – I´ve heard a lot of horror stories but none of the current volunteers have had anything happen to them despite getting the bus to work. One of the Honduran volunteers said that she would not walk 50m outside of the mall even in the day time but walking around today, I just didn´t get a big sense that someone was waiting ready to pounce on my bag! Don´t worry though I´m not about to go waving around my money – I only ever carry about 10 dollars now and my very old phone – and my camera only if we´re in a big group. I´m also going to have to get used to carrying a few dollars around in my shoe or bra…!
4. There are lots of dogs wandering the streets and eating rubbish near my house – it´s hard to see but they seem to know what they´re doing with avoiding cars etc. A big surprise though was when we were driving back through the countryside to Tegus yesterday and seeing a stray horse picking its way through the rubbish! Very odd…
5. Honduras does have an amazing way of cashing cheques though that I can´t believe we don´t have! It´s like a drive-thru bank – they drive up to this little pod and put their cheque in a container and it goes up to the people in the bank, they check it and replace it with cash and it comes back to the pod! So it takes about 5 minutes to cash a cheque compared to 5 days… amazing!!
6. I was speaking to someone today who told me they know people who have body guards and bullet proof glass in their cars as they own a large company in the country… very surreal…
7. Finally, the biggest thing to get used to here is the difference to the UK in terms of healthcare, schooling etc. From the UN talk today, we found out that only 30% of highschool aged children actually go to school! For the families who can´t afford private school, children go to the public schools – the teachers there who are meant to teach 250 days of the year rarely come in for 100 days a year. It costs $5 to see a doctor ($30 to see a good one) – which really may not sound a lot but here it really is. I can´t explain enough how much that is to some families here – a lot of people live on less than a $1 a day so a trip to the doctors is simply unaffordable. My first meal here was a tortilla and it was 17 lempiras which is about 50p. I saw coke today advertised for 15 lempira so even less! That seems amazing but It´s just crazy to realise that a family can afford a tortilla and a bottle of coke for the entire day… I´ve also realised that a big difference from home is that however much people complain in the UK, you can go to university if you really want to however expensive it is. And if you really work hard enough and make the effort, you can change your life for the better despite whaever family you´re born into. Here though good education is strictly limited to those with money – poor families just simply don´t understand that if they keep their children in schools they can earn more in the future. What family you are born into completely determines your future here… and it’s just your bad luck if you are born into the wrong one. People are also limited to follow the jobs that they really want to do – in the UK you can do pretty much anything you want if you work hard but some careers here are just unattainable (and often limited to those with LOTS of money and connections).
Over the past week I have definitely had moments where I just can´t understand the way things are done and its hard to see and hear a lot that you do in a city like Tegucigalpa. But driving home tonight and looking at all the city lights I feel like I am really enjoying it here and I can´t wait to learn a lot more over the next few months.