Sorry for the delay Mark and George ;)

Sorry for my delay lately with keeping up to date with the blogs – as some of you many know there was an unfortunate incident with my laptop (yes i stepped on it) so i’m still waiting to get that fixed and it is imposible to type a long blog on my ipod!!

 

So since my last entry I have had two more weekends here in Tegucigalpa. Last weekend I went to a Christening with my host family and was Honduran style late – a good half an hour into the ceremony! It was really nice to see though and the meet up afterwards had some really good food and wine! And I spoke to one of the extended family members and it reinforced the fact that people who live outside of Europe has visited a lot more places in Europe than I have!! My mission when I get back home is to go on a big Europe tour (hopefully with Becca?!!) and see Germany, Switzerland, Croatia etc. But I’ll concentrate on Latin America for now. After the family event, I went to meet the other volunteers at the mall for another expensive meal at TGI Fridays – we have since discovered that Applebees is just as nice and a lot cheaper so I think that will be the new favourite from now on! After food we went to a birthday party at a very nice house – the birthday girl was one of the girls we met at the ICYE orientation camp and she’s lovely! I met some friend´s of Michelle´s (the Swiss volunteer) too and they taught me how to dance Honduran style. My thighs were hurting so bad the next day – definitely something I need to get used to but I love it!!

Then work was another blur of giving out more school bags but it was fun as always. I also now have a Monday tradition with one of the volunteers who has been here for 4 months already and we go to the crepe place for lunch, sooo yummy!! I absolutely love the people at my project but there has been a couple of interesting things happen – firstly, since I got there I have had some attention from the guys that I work with. Which can be slightly annoying but it made me even more annoyed when I found out that they were actually all married! It turns out in Honduras (and maybe other Latin American countries) people no longer wear wedding rings – they used to but it just isn’t done anymore. So a guy could be chatting you up and everything’s going well… and you have no idea that he is actually married. It´s crazy!! Also, the reaction to the mention of gay people is quite disturbing – it´s not really anger or anything but they just find the idea of gay people and me spending time with gay people is really funny. So coming from a quite liberal (sometimes!) country it is really hard to not say something… Oh and someone at work told me about how easy Americans and Europeans are which is quite annoying, especially as the pregnancy rate here is no better than the UK. But our attitudes to casual sex etc. are in the media A LOT more than here, where it is all hidden so it´s not dealt with, so it is easy to see how that reputation gets around…

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been in houses and at work when random power cuts have happened – there’s no apparent reason for them and you have no idea how long they’re going to last for. It could be minutes or days!! The ones I’ve seen so far though haven’t been too long and a novelty at the moment – but I can imagine that when it happens when I’m in the middle of writing something like my blog it will be massively annoying!! Also, I cheekily asked my friend at work last week how much he gets paid (I’ve been really curious to know and he mentioned that he doesn’t get paid a lot so I couldn’t help myself! He didn’t mind though) and it is completely shocking. I’ve been worrying about getting a job after volunteering and needing to earn at least a certain amount but it seems like I’d be lucky to get much compared to the people at my project. Afterwards I told him about how much trains, buses etc are in England… so lets just say I worked out that for me to get a train from Wakefield to London is about half of what he earns in an entire year. It’s just mind blowing and very frustrating!!!

So the week went really fast (as it has been doing a lot since I’ve been here!) and then it was the weekend and it was a great one!! A new volunteer arrived a few weeks ago from Iceland but she is living outside of Tegus so myself and Laura met her for the first time. The three of us went to El Picacho which is a park with a Christ statue … kind of similar to Brazil’s but not as impressive I don’t think. The park is so beautiful though, its like a completely different world to the city even though it is so close and it was so relaxing just wandering around and looking at the amazing views of Tegus. I will put pictures on facebook soon… but there is a strange haze which I think might be the severe pollution!! After that we went to Laura’s house to relax a bit and eat pizza before going to her host brother’s cousin’s leaving party. The party was at his dad’s office which is actually a very nice, big house converted into an office. The party was on the rooftop with amazing views of the city, it was pretty cool! It was great meeting more people too and I spoke in Spanish for most of the night which was really fun – and we even played ring of fire, who knew they had that in Central America?? Haha… and then we FINALLY left at 6 in the morning, before driving around trying to find chips for an hour. We eventually got into bed at 7 when it was already light… definitely worth it though! And me, Laura and Brynja have made lots of plans for the next month as Brynja is only here until May so we have to make the most of the next couple of months!! I can’t believe we’ve been here 6 weeks already, a quarter of my time in Honduras!! It’s going so quickly and all of the weeks seem to be merging into one so we really need to make the most of our time from now on because it’ll be time to fly home before we know it!!

 I’ve been having a lot of fun the past few weeks and going to parties with people who can afford holidays, smart phones etc. so I feel like I sometimes forget the extreme poverty here. I can see why those you can turn a blind eye to the bad things here do often ignore it – I was walking through the centre the other day and saw a woman with her disabled son who must have been about 18 sat on the street selling something (as a lot of people do here). Her son, who in the UK would definitely be in a care home or similar, was just laid on the floor with a makeshift shelter to stop him getting burnt. It’s just so sad to see things like that and knocks you right back down to Earth and why this country needs so much more help than it gets. I was walking with a guy to work today and he had headphones on so I asked what music he was listening to but he said it was the news – “always bad. This country is sinking and we are sinking with it”. When anyone says something like this I just feel so useless and helpless to do anything to make a real difference… It really seems as though Honduras is going further and further downwards rather than making progress and it’s scary to think what will happen in the future. I have my fingers crossed though…

 

Thank you again for reading!

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Little things (or maybe huge things) about Honduras

This week has been quite repetitive (giving out school bags to parents at the project and only seeing the other volunteers a couple of times) so I won’t give a long account of the week… instead I’m just going to list some of the very different (some good, some bad) things about Honduras that I’ve noticed lately…

1. How kind people are here! When I got the bus from Fernando’s BBQ the other weekend and Leonardo dropped me at the ´bus stop’ (or just where people decide to wait) he asked a woman waiting there if the bus was going to the centro. She didn’t speak a word of English but she told me it was the right bus when it arrived and when she got off before me she told the drive to make sure I got off ok in the centre – so nice! And on the very dodgy yellow buses we have seen men getting up to let old ladies and pregnant women sit down. It just really nice to see a little bit of humanity like that, especially when things like that are forgotten in the UK sometimes!! 

2. The people at my project are also a huge example of how friendly the people here are – even though there is still a huge language barrier, I never feel like an outside or I’m not able to communicate. Even when the guy who always translates for me when I can’t say something isn’t there, they all try really hard to find a way to communicate with me. One of the girls has invited me to visit her house when I know more Spanish as well which is so nice! And there is a guy who just makes me laugh all the time – Mark Newbery he is definitely my Honduran version of you!! 

3. Every now and then a gringo will turn up at the office – a guy who is there quite often is a Canadian doctor who works with the project and this week two Americans had a look around. You can literally see them spot me and get all happy at seeing another gringo! The two Americans spoke very basic Spanish so it was really strange for me to have a big conversation with them in English with everyone else watching and not having a clue what we were saying! In a way it makes me feel like I can see why they think we’re so lazy with languages but they have all been commenting on how well my Spanish is coming along and giving me tips etc. so I love them even more 🙂 

4. It is strange enough seeing white people in my project but a couple of times now I have spotted a very obvious gringo tourist wandering around the centro. Last week I saw a group of four tourists and without even realising it, I was thinking ‘what are you doing here?? Go home!!’ which was very strange!! I can see why people visit places like Copan and the Bay Islands but from what I’ve seen so far I just don’t really know why people come here for holidays! And I saw a gringo with a big, expensive professional camera around his neck taking lots of pictures a couple of days ago. Just asking to be robbed – but he did have a nice, big bodyguard with him! 

5. A big difference at my work here is how relaxed they are – the office hours are 8 till 4 (sometimes half 4) and we have an hour for lunch. On my second day though we literally sat around chatting until HALF PAST NINE!! Can you imagine that happening in the UK?? Part of me feels that it’s really nice to not have that pressure of working every second but part of me wanted to scream that they could be getting so much more done! But that’s the Honduran way…

6. There is also a HUGE lack of health and safety here – the project have a lot of big floor fans that they move around a lot and balance on boxes and chairs, and just leaving the wires around. We had a huge amount of boxes with all the school equipment in and if they needed to get to one at the back of the huge pile they would literally climb on to the 5 box hige pile and go get it! If drinks are split, its just left to dry. If someone were to fall and hur tthemselves, you know there wouldn’t be a chance of sueing anyone and getting any kind of compensation. But I think it’s great – I hate that culture in the UK, that everyone is owed something by the government or a company if some accident happens. They just get on with it here despite sooo many hazards everywhere! 

7. When I was admin last week and putting names from files into a spreadsheet, I noticed how often a child’s name had to be corrected from how the parent had spelt it. These families work on the markets and a huge number don’t know how to read or write – so with letters in the Spanish language being pronounced different to how they look, parents often don’t know how to spell their own children’s names. For example, one child was clearly meant to be called ‘Jeffery’ put his official name was spelt ‘Yeffery’. 

8. Something that does annoy me at the project though is when the parents have been coming to collect the school bags and have to queue outside – the steps and road outside the project are covered in rubbish!! To me it just seems completely disrespectful that the charity is helping them and they just leave mess for them to clear up at the end of the day – but it’s just another thing that it’s just how it is. 

9. A lot of the people coming to collect the school bags were really quite old ladies – a guy at my project told that it is because their parents will have left them and the grandparents are left to take care of the child (or often children). There was also a lot of pregnant women collecting the bags – so they can’t afford to provide for the children they already have, but yet they are about to have another mouth to feed. It’s very sad…

10. On a more positive note, yesterday three of the people from the project got dressed all smart and went off somewhere. Hector told me that it is a meeting with a government body who get funds when a drug dealer or other criminal is caught and have their illegal money taken from them. All the money is put into a big fund that charities can apply for – so it’s really cool that some of the bad stuff here eventually makes its way to helping the good causes. 

11. The longer I’m here, the more I realise how huge the divide is between the two different social classes here (or the main ones away – rich and poor). They pretty much have zero contact with each other – everyone from the ‘rich’ part of society I’ve spoken to have told me that they would never get a bus or taxi anywhere, let alone walk anywhere. And obviously they work in different places so it’s like there are two opposite sets of people living alongside one another with no contact. But I can’t say that I would be any different as I’m sure if I had been born here and grown up with all the horror stories etc. I would be exactly the same. So I’m really glad I’ve been able to come here and experience the other part of the country and even show myself that people can still be amazing, lovely people however little money they have… and they don’t all want to rob you! 

12. The walk to my project is getting slightly better – there is a quicker way to walk which ICYE warned me off until I felt safer as it is quieter but I’ve started going that way and it is fine. It can be very unnerving when you have even the military and police (with their guns!!) staring and saying things to you… makes you wonder who is actually protecting you sometimes! 

13. A really gruesome part of my walk to work though is a wall that I had noticed groups of men stood around in the mornings but I never really noticed enough to see what was so interesting. A few days ago there weren’t so many people so I got a clear view of the ‘entertainment’. The newspapers here have the grim stories of murders on their front pages and seem to compete over who can show the most gruesome photos of the dead bodies. I have now seen all kinds of murder scenes that I have never, ever had to face before and it really is a huge shock to the system. The fact that people stand and look at these huge photos just makes it worse as well. It also made it worse as so far, touch wood, I haven’t experienced any crime or anything yet and haven’t seen anything to reflect the crime rates I see in the news so it was kind of a sudden reminder that I am living in such a dangerous country and just because I don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not going on… 

14. As some of you may have realised I have become a bit of a geek since I came here as I just find a lot of things so interesting and want to read more about it (when the Pope announced he was standing down, I read loads about it and had a debate with Laura about the next possible Pope!!). This week I have read a lot about the story on Christopher Dorner – the ex-policemen who killed 4 people to get revenge on the LAPD and it struck me how Western-centred the analyses of it were. I read one article (i think maybe from the Guardian) about why policemen turn bad and use their power to turn against the people they are meant to be saving – it suggested that it is a rare occurence and gave about 3 or 4 examples of policemen in the US and UK who have shot a couple of people each. No mention of the police and military corruption in developing countries whatsoever. In Honduras, police corruption is a huge problem – police murders and their subsequent impunity is a regular occurence but yet it is never even mentioned in the Western hemisphere. Not even in an article about the issue of policemen turned bad. It’s so frustrating that the issues here are so badly ignored… 

 

Although a lot of things that I learn about here (and by reading newspapers and blogs from home!) are really annoying and often upsetting, there is a positive side to it. I’m really beginning to develop an interest in the lack of awareness surrounding countries like Honduras and also the lack of education about issues such as human rights, violence and sexual abuse. One of the main reasons I wanted to volunteer abroad was to get a better idea of what exactly I wanted to do within international devleopment and I think by the end of this year I will have become very passionate about these issues and hopefully able to find a related job and do what I can to improve the situation… 

Thanks again for everyone who has read this and my other posts – I’ve had a lot of facebook messages and emails from people saying how interesting they are finding it which means so much!! Even both my grandmothers have had the blogs printed out for them to read and have both said how much they enjoy hearing about my adventures which means more than I can tell them – especially without them having internet! If anyone has any questions or comments, please ask away 🙂 

Have a great weekend everyone! x

This is going to be a long read…

Hola!!

It’s been over a week since I last posted so I have lots to update you all on…

So last weekend (which seems like yesterday for some reason!) 5 of us had a little day out at a National Park! To get there, three of us volunteers – myself, Laura and Michelle – had to meet in de centro, which is fine for me as it is a ten minute walk! We agreed to meet in the church as they are about one of the safest places here, we hope! So me and Laura manage to get there and then start receiving texts from Michelle just saying ‘im lost’ and ‘i dont know where i am’ which was very scary!! She turned out to be in one of the most dangerous areas near here but luckily she found a bus to jump on but she was very shaken up when she found us! So we were already running half an hour late by this point and went straight to get a taxi to meet the other people we were going with. This did not work – we ended up going half an hour in the wrong direction and had to ask people in very broken spanish where we were. There was a lot of confusion but we eventually got in a taxi to the right place and didnt over pay too much…

So we first up with our travel companions for the day – Fernando who went to Denmark with ICYE and Leonardo who is going to be going to New Zealand with ICYE, oh and also Leonardo’s jeep that we were going to go driving up mountains in – it was definitely a bumpy ride especially as it only had 4 seats. Anyway, we eventually arrived at the National Park – La Tigra – and it is beautiful!! It’s a completely different world to Tegus – we went for a lovely walk there, at one point climbing up a river! And even stopped at Leonardo’s friend’s house in the middle of it for some homemade juice. The girl we met there has to trek through the park for 30 mins every day and then get an hour bus to university! It was great seeing such a lovely place and it was interesting that the price to enter doubled for ‘foreigners’ which at first was a bit off putting but then you realise, why shouldn’t they make a place like this affordable to locals and more dear to people who can afford it when the money is going to the presevation of the park! After that we went to Tegucigalpa’s zoo – which I won’t say too much about but it was NOT nice. Tiny cages, horrible smells and depressed looking animals. I did get to have a snake around my neck though which was definitely something different…

Afterwards we went to Fernando’s for our first Honduran BBQ – it was delicious! Steak, frijjoles and a yummy salad 🙂 I then got a bus home (for the first time on my own) and it was fine! A lovely woman made sure that I got to the centre ok even though she spoke no English and just helps you to realise there are some really, really lovely people here!! 

The next day I went on a family trip to San Lorenzo, a beach town on the Pacific coast, and it was HOT. 40 degrees and everybody was still wearing jeans… I managed to get sun burn in ten minutes despite having sun cream on!! For lunch we went to a lovely fish restaurant on the beach and ate in a little private hut thing over the water – and parents I ate a whole fish, it had a head and everything!! (but i obviously didnt eat that bit… ) On the way back we stopped at lots of little stalls to buy Honduran sweets and fruits but it was hard to see the housing the people selling that stuff live in….

So then Monday was the first day of my project and i LOVE it!!! Only one person speaks English there but he has said he will speak to me in Spanish as much as possible to help me learn which is really good 🙂 The first thing we did was go to Comayaguela – which I think I mentioned before as being pretty dangerous, especially the markets. But my project’s whole purpose is to work with people who work in the markets but I found it fine with Hector 🙂 The project does amazing work – they teach the older kids to teach the younger ones about human rights, violence etc. and seeing them have a debate about that stuff  – even though I couldn’t understand most of it – and being so passionate was really amazing to see and the kids I met were so lovely and sweet! Walking through the markets though, I saw a lot of children who clearly should have been at school and it’s just crazy that they’re allowed to be working instead of learning at even 6 or 7 years old…

The next day I heped with admin (where I noticed that a lot of parents clearly don’t know how to write and even spell their own children’ name wrong) and was also asked to help the people who do the human rights stuff. I think they’re really excited about my Masters and they asked me to do a list of topics to teach the children, teens and parents. It really good to do something helpful using my interest in human rights so hopefully I can get more involved with that once I know Spanish better…

The rest of the week, everyone in the charity worked together to put together the school bags for the children going to school next week. They help 2000 children (wow!!!) so it was a proper mission but still a lot of fun! There was also a birthday today so we had a lovely, big cake to finish off the week with! The people are amazingly lovely as well – they realised quickly my lack of spanish but still try and talk to me all day and its really helping me to learn. I have some really good days and some bad days with the Spanish but today was a good day – one of the guys offered to walk me home but he doesnt know a word of English so I was a little worried about walking the whole way in silence. But we actually managed to talk the whole way – yay i know some stuff! So that really made me feel good 🙂 

The only problem I’m having at the moment is the men – I’m used to men being a little pervy at home but here its completely different and CONSTANT!! I only have about a 15 minute walk to work but the whole way there and back I have men constantly staring and saying things to me. They even cross the street so they can come and whisper stuff in my ear and someone even touched my arm the other day, which doesnt sound a big deal but it is so unnerving when you know how bad the crime is here and you’re suspecting everyone anyway! It’s fine as soon as someone else is with me so I might ask the guy who walked me home today if he minds walking with me every day as its not too far from his home – otherwise I’m going to have to look into getting a taxi every day. I really dont want to do this though as my walk to and from walk is about the only time i get outside to enjoy the erm, ‘fresh’ air!! But feeling constantly violated while I’m walking along is quickly getting me down every day…! 

But other than that I am completely in love with my project and the people there so I’m super happy and excited for the next 5 months – just cant believe its almost a month since i left home! Going out for a meal with my host sister tonight so thanks for reading, sorry if it was a little long – I had loads more to say but didn’t want to go on for too long! I will post with the rest soon 🙂 

Have a good weekend everybody! 

PS. Dad and Holly if you’re reading this, get in touch!!!! It’s been a month and I’ve only heard from you once 😉 Love you all x