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

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