Let’s hope that the next elections bring something better for Honduras

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I recently had a big chat with my host sister about the political situation in Honduras – it’s bad. Corruption is shockingly rife and there seems to be no signs of it being improved. The next presidential elections are coming up in November (I will still be here then so slightly nervous…) and the country is covered in posters of the different candidates – although Juan Orlando seems to have an overwhelming majority of the posters. So I thought I would do a post about the elections as it is going to be a huge event in Honduras, and anything could happen, and also as I will be here to see it, it will be important part of my experience here.

So as many of you reading probably won’t know but Honduras had a coup d’état in 2009 – this basically means that the military (controlled by the Congress, not the ruling political party) stormed into the then President’s house in the middle of the night and put him on a plane to Costa Rica. The congress (and it seems like most of the President’s party) weren’t happy with Zelaya (the President at the time) refusing to cancel a referendum about presidential term limits – he was trying to gain more time in charge of the country. Zelaya was also trying to move Honduras more towards the left, with the help of Hugo Chavez, and this worried a large proportion of Hondurans. The Congress deemed Zelaya’s referendum illegal but Zelaya pressed on with it – so instead of resolving the issue with a more legal solution, they exiled him from the country. This led to political instability for months and Honduras becoming politically isolated until a new President was elected.

So what is the situation now? The current President – Porfirio Lobo – has been in power since 2009, however his term has been surrounded in accusations of corruption and violence committed by the state (through corrupt police mostly). There were previously just two main parties in the election but there are now three – and get this, the new third party is headed by the wife of the previous President, Zelaya.  As Honduran presidents are only allowed to rule for one term, Zelaya cannot go for Presidency again so basically he wife is running but it will actually be him running the country – their party, newly formed after the coup, is called the Liberty and Refoundation Party, or Libre for short. The currently ruling party, the National Party, has elected Juan Orlando Hernandez as their next leader and the other party, the Liberal Party, will be headed by Mauricio Villeda. The thing with elections in Honduras is you are not choosing between which of them has the best policies – you are choosing which one you think is least corrupt and who will steal money but might still give something good back to the country. Because they are all corrupt – everyone knows it and it is just the way it is. Can you imagine voting for a Prime Minister and KNOWING he (or she) is going to steal your taxes? When my host sister was telling me this, I just couldn’t get my head around it – the fact that every person in Honduras knows that all their candidates for presidency are corrupt but they have no control to change this. Instead they just have to choose the person they think will actually help the country move forward, while they are stealing – but there is a lot of argument over this. Even within my family, my host mum supports a different party to the rest of my family. I asked my host sister who she thought would win and she said no one knows; it could be anyone. I also can’t tell you the amount of times I have seen Juan Orlando’s face plastered on walls and billboards around Honduras – apparently all paid for with stolen money.

So it will be interesting to see what will happen in November and what the reaction will be – it will most likely be quite a dangerous time (well, more dangerous than usual) – ICYE even thought about not accepting volunteers for the summer in case. But they have so it can’t be that bad, right?! Although it could be a more unstable time, I am excited to be here for such an important time for Honduras – although I don’t think the situation here will get much better soon, a step in the right direction can only help. I just have no idea where that step needs to go.

While me and my host sister were talking about all this she got a phone call from her friend – her cousin had been killed the day before. He was a taxi driver and they don’t know if he had been involved with anything bad but it is widely known that maras (drug gangs) initiate new members by telling them they have to murder someone to prove their dedication so he may have just been wrong time, wrong place. It is just so crazy here that you can be sat at home and then have a friend call you up and tell you a member of their family has been murdered – and that be a relatively normal thing to happen. Let’s hope that one day Honduras can find a way to change…

 

Also, one of my very good friends from my year at the University of Leicester emailed me today to say…

So, I’ve been reading your blog and I have to say this to you, I’m so impressed. I think your parents should be really proud of what they’ve produced, seriously. Your compassion, empathy and love is just amazing and I know you’re cringing now but just had to tell you.

 I absolutely love this girl – she has no idea how much I admire her. She has had so much happen in her life already which could have knocked her down but she is one of the strongest people I know and she always talks so much sense and has an amazing outlook on the world! Love you beautiful!!!

Thank you again everyone who has read my blog so far – I know I have been useless lately, I will post about my adventures in La Ceiba and Utila soon!

x

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What exactly are they teaching in Religious Education classes in the UK?

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My blog is mainly focused on my volunteering experiences in Honduras but after a couple of events recently in the UK I really felt a need to post about these events- and also vent my frustration. So, I got back 2 days ago from 7 days on a paradise Island and within the days I have been back in Honduras I have seen on the news stories about a girl hitting a cyclist with her car and boasting about it, and tragically today a solider being attacked in the middle of the day in London. It quickly emerged after the attack on the solider that the two perpetrators are extremists and were exclaiming ‘Allah Akbar’ as they apparently hacked the solider to death. And of course Facebook was filled with people saying ‘I hate fucking Muslims’, ‘shoot all the Muslims’ etc.

 

These views are just so shockingly out of line and it makes my blood boil. I just can’t believe that people from a country like the UK, where education is supposed to be among the best in the world, are even capable of actually believing such rubbish. The news has recently been full of the court cases of Stuart Hazell (who pleaded guilty to murdering 12 year old Tia Sharpe) and Mark Bridger (who denies killing 5 year old April Jones but the evidence looks pretty solid against him). But you don’t see people crying out about how all white men should be kicked out of the country in case they might be murdering pedophiles. There have been two recent court cases over sex gangs raping young girls – one was a group of Asian men, one was a group of white men – which do you think got a lot more media attention? And even in the case of religion, it is no secret that the Catholic church has repeatedly been discovered to commit and cover up the abuse of young boys – but you don’t have people demanding that every single Catholic must a pedophile and kicked out of the country. Because that is clearly a ridiculous generalisation. Do these people commenting on Facebook, Twitter, the Daily Mail and wherever else really honestly believe that every single Muslim person would love to kill others? Really?! No – extremists are called extremists for a reason. Islam, like all other religions is against any violence – but extremists twist what they believe in order to justify terrorists actions. After the Boston marathon attack, I read an article by a women saying she was praying that the attackers wouldn’t turn out to be Muslims because she was sick of her Muslim friends being vilified for acts that shocked and upset them as well.

 

It makes me so angry to see all of these comments and views – especially now that they are so publicly expressed and this can do nothing but spread these ignorant views. But then I realised it is not really these people’s fault that they are so ignorant to the fact that not all Muslims are extremists and want to blow people up. I realised that is the fault of the education system in the UK. We have Religious Education (R.E) classes through all of secondary school, or at least when I was at school – that is five years of teaching about religion. And yet too many people leave school with the narrow minded view that one act of violence by two people represents an entire religion. Surely 5 years of teaching about religion should be able to help students distinguish between the extremists and the ‘regular’ Muslims who just have a faith like Christians, Buddhists, Jews etc. Something really needs to be done to teach people this distinction before innocent Muslims are victimised and parties like UKIP and BNP get too much control. It will be a huge effort to change the mindsets of so many people, especially as views such as this are passed down from generation to generation, but it is something that desperately needs doing.

 

And as for the girl who boasted about committing a hit and run – where are her morals?! I honestly do not know what is happening in the UK anymore… we have so much to be thankful for and yet people are oblivious to how much we have. I saw some graffiti on my way to work yesterday – ‘we have rights’ and ‘education – it’s not a privilege, it’s a right’. People in Honduras struggle to gain proper education and are passionate about gaining it; we have the education in the UK, we’re just not using it right. Seeing pictures of the attack today, it looked like a front page from one of the Honduran newspapers. The UK needs to confront these social issues now, before the situation gets much worse. 

My thoughts are with the solider who lost his life today and his poor family, and also all those who had to witness such a cruel attack. 

An emotional week and Mother’s Day celebrations

It has been a pretty emotional week to be honest. First homesickness struck and then there was our first airport goodbye. Brynja, who you will be able to tell from this blog has become a regular in my life here in Honduras, flew out yesterday. It was an emotional goodbye; I managed to hold back the tears when she was there but as soon as the walked through the gate and we couldn’t see her the tears came! It was especially hard for Brynja as she has only been in Honduras for 3 months but has gotten very close to myself and Laura, and a lovely guy called Noel. So there were sad faces all round. We had a meal the night before which most of the volunteers and a few others came too and with the departure of Brynja looming, we realised that we all need to make a lot more effort to spend time together. I think it has been really hard for me to see Brynja leave as I am staying the longest of everyone and all I can think of, and people like to keep mentioning, is that I will have a lot more goodbyes to deal with. My host sister leaves to Arizona on the 1st of June to study, Loui (one of the Danish volunteers) leaves a week after to travel, Michelle (the volunteer from Switzerland) will be leaving in July and then Laura will leave me in August after our trip to South America. That is a lot of people I have become very close to over the past 4 months and I will be quite alone after they have all gone. Hopefully though when the new volunteers arrive I will make some new friends… and maybe be a little bit stronger for the time that it comes to say goodbye to them too! I love travelling but goodbyes are definitely the worst bit. I wasn’t very emotional when I left the UK, mainly because it seemed too surreal that I was leaving, but I’m glad now that it wasn’t too emotional or I don’t think I could have handled it! I am not looking forward to saying goodbye to Honduras…
 
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I have just been generally emotional as well for who knows what reason – I watched the film Click last night and the scene where Adam Sandler finds out his dog had died (which is the same breed as my dogs!), I just burst into tears!! I like a good cry to films but it usually takes a proper emotional build up like the Titantic or Moulin Rouge… not a dog dieing in a film about a remote control. Who knows! So I think my trip away is coming at just the right time tomorrow and hopefully while I am lazing on the beach topping up my tan, I can take some time to reflect on my time here so far and sort my emotional issues of the moment out. But as my mum knows very well, I tend to build things up and then it all comes out at once. So maybe I’m only just dealing with missing everyone as I haven’t really felt it so far but I will be ok soon enough 🙂 Having a break in the Bay Islands and my birthday (which Laura has promised to spoil me for!! 😀 ) is exactly what I need at the moment…
 
Today has been a great day though. Well actually at first it was a little strange (when is it not in Honduras?!), firstly I got on the bus to work and an old lady was sat on the seat opposite and in front of mine. Despite not being sat near me I could just sense her turning around to look at me constantly and it was getting quite annoying after a while. The woman then suddenly asked me to pay her bus fare – I was completely shocked. Did she assume because I’m white I can afford to pay for everyones buses? Or because I’m white I’m really generous? I have no idea but before I had time to recover from my shock and confusion, the man next to her had paid for her. But she continued to keep looking around at me the whole journey. Very odd. I then went to the supermercado to buy the pasta that I’d been asked to bring for my project. While I was queuing to pay a man in front of me kept turning around and looking at me – I just thought ‘please, not again!’. He then asked if I spoke English and when I said yes he began asking me all about why I’m in Honduras and telling me how he went to Switzerland. And while it was friendly, it was just a bit strange. He even waited while I paid so that he could walk me to my project. Once there he insisted on giving me his number and email. So I seem to be making lots of new friends today – maybe they are my replacements for when everyone leaves?!
 
Anyway, after that it was a great day! It is Mother’s Day in Honduras this Sunday and my project had a big celebration for it; they take the day very seriously here and especially in my project as they help so many single mothers. So we all brought food in and had a big lunch together with the mum’s having the main table. We also played games, gave awards to the mums and some presentations. I even did a presentation on women’s rights (in Spanish!) which I was secretly hoping they would forget about but they didn’t – but I had a slide at the end thanking all the women in the project for looking after me while I’m so far from my own mum, so that was nice 🙂 And last, but definitely not least, 4 of the guys preformed to a Honduran song about men fighting over one women – it was of course Kelvin dressed up as the women. He asked to wear my brand new, beautiful shoes as well!! Apparently, as well as being the tallest of all my project, I am also the only girl with huge feet so of course it had to be my shoes. It was hilarious though and everyone was in stitches. It It is things like this that make me really love my project – they really take the time to celebrate days such as these and make people feel special. Everyone is really close and they all look out for each other.
 
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After my project, I went with Hector to meet a fellow Brit called Nick. He is currently doing interviews with people from Honduras for his blog to represent the country more and get different views of life here. I suggested Hector because he is always coming out with these really insightful thoughts and he likes to discuss the situation here – he compared Tegus to Gotham City last week. I can see where he is coming from! Tonight Loui is staying at my house and meeting my host family – all was going well until we got takeaway and Loui found an ant in her food. Que rico! Hopefully a good film will help us to recover the traumatic discovery… Myself and Laura are heading off to Utila tomorrow so my next post will be after our adventures in there and La Ceiba… I will update in a couple of weeks 🙂 Hasta Luego!!!

First signs of missing home

Possibly due to my birthday fast approaching now, I have had my first bout of homesickness! I was actually starting to think I wasn’t going to feel any homesickness as I’ve been here for 4 months and not felt any strong pangs for home. However, I am seriously big on birthdays. Obsessed some might say. And it seems as though the idea of not spending it with my family and closest friends is having an affect on me. My parents, sister and best friend, Lozzy pop, have always been so great at making a big fuss of me as I turn into a little kid and I’m slightly dreading not having that attention! I’m clearly still a child despite turning 23 soon… However, along with the apprehension of having my first birthday away from home, I have been missing other little things from home… I miss my bedroom. I miss being able to buy books and magazines (in English). I miss nights out. I miss UK clothes shops. I miss going out for fish and chips with my dad. I miss turning my music on full volume and singing along in my car. I miss cuddling my dogs. I miss waiting for Lauren outside her house and getting excited to see her. I miss steak and ale pie. I miss baths. I miss being crazy with my sister. I miss being able to phone my mum and get her support whenever I need it. I miss watching films with George.

 That is another thing I have had to get used to in Honduras – the first time I have been single in 8 years! I somehow went from long relationship to long relationship since I was 14 and so along with living in a completely different country, I am suddenly getting my head around not being in a relationship. There have been moments when I have really missed certains things about my last relationship but doing something like Honduras and leaving home for a year I think, for me at least, it has been easier not having that extra attachment to home. And luckily I have managed to stay on good terms with all the exes – especially George who is now one of my best friends. I am looking forward to opening my birthday card from him… I have been so patient not to open it!!! 

 Another reminder of home came a few days ago – in the form of a huge thunderstorm during the night. It is amazing how you don’t realise how much you miss something until you see, hear or smell something to remind you. I didn’t realise how much I missed the sound of rain in the night when you know you are tucked up safely in bed. Well at least the storm started off like that anyway… we actually saw the first hints of it as Azariah, my host sister, was driving us home after a night at the cinema. We kept seeing flashes of light in the sky but as there weren’t any signs of thunder we weren’t sure what they were. It quickly started raining when we got home though. I had read in someone else’s blog before I came here that when it rains here, it isn’t just a little, one off downpour like in the UK and they were very right. It rains so hard for hours, it has only happened twice so far since I’ve been here but both times it has been a ridiculous amount of rain. The last time my room was flooded – I lived on a hill and my bedroom was three floors up. And this time a huge storm accompanied the rain; it was so loud I actually jumped a few times. It was as though it was right outside my bedroom and, as the storm cut the power for a while, the lightening literally lit up the whole house. I’m sure in England it always seems far away and it’s fun to count the seconds between the lightening and the thunder but here it seems as though every thunder crack and lightening bolt is right above your head. Below is a picture of the storm in a local newspaper – pretty amazing actually. The signs of the storm were evident the next day though with stories of houses flooding, mud and stones across roads and a lot of traffic. My host brother had reassured me a few days before that it always rains on the 3rd of May in Honduras without fail, well the storm started late in the night of the 2nd, but it definitely carried on into the early hours of the 3rd so the myth carries on… 

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While I was writing this another storm began and the rain is falling hard as the thunder shakes the house again. The rainy season starts in May and goes through to November so I guess I’ll be getting used to this! Now for a film with my host parents… 

I’m just a little bit too British for that…

As you would expect there are many things about Honduras that are very different from home and some of these things are difficult to get used to… the food, the way of life, the culture etc. But one of the things that I think, due to my Britishness, I will never be able to pick up is… the dancing. Music is a huge part of the culture in Honduras with so many influences from its people and its surrounding countries. They have salsa, merengue, reggaeton and punta to name a few. And from these musical influences comes the dancing.  One of the most popular types of music in Honduras, and my favourite, is reggaeton. Here is a Urban Dictionary definition for it: 

Reggaeton is the most popular music in Latin America, as well as a huge youth-based cultural phenomenon. It is not a form of Spanish Reggae, but instead an evolution of the modern Jamaican popular music, called dancehall. Upon listening to both dancehall and reggaeton songs, the similarity becomes obvious. Reggaeton also can draw influences from Merengue, Bachata, Salsa, Vallenato, and House, and combine these forms of music in a new and unique way. It is this mix of different styles found throughout latin america that continues to drive the music forward and keep it from becoming overly repetetive. 

Reggaeton is based upon the “Dem-Bow” beat. Though many westerners may critique the music for hoving the same beat in every song, the fact is, this is the same as any form of latin music. Every salsa song has the same rhythm, as does every cumbia, every merengue, etc… Any music intended specifically for dancing, as reggaeton is, will always have the same beat to make it easier and more fun to dance to. 

Also, though many reggaeton songs have explicit lyrics, this is only one form of the genre, called “Perreo,” which is usually accompanied by a form of grinding which goes by the same name. However, there are other forms of reggaeton: “Bachateo” and “Romantico” are two of the most common, both typically based around love. Reggaeton can be danced fast, slow, in pairs, or even single. 

As this short definition hinted at the lyrics tend to be quite explicit and sometimes even sexist. Music videos follow this by showing men in suits with lots of money surrounded by girls in barely any clothes dancing and shaking their bums. Me and Loui were in a cafe yesterday and there was a reggaeton music video on which I swear could have been a porn film!! Someone mentioned that reggaeton music is even banned in Cuba as it is so sexually charged but I’m not sure if this is true… 

Anyway, as these ‘sexy’ styles of music are played in bars and clubs, the dance style follows and the dancefloor becomes a sea of people grinding against each other. People often say that the style of dancing was introduced because (due to the no sex before marriage tradition) people couldn’t have sex so they introduced a dance that was as close to doing it as possible. Obviously in the UK we like to go out and party, have a dance and maybe even find someone to dance with. But myself and Laura have discovered that we are just far too British to grind up against some random guy and move our hips like the Hondurans do – we’re just too reserved and self conscious! I do have a lovely dance partner though (who happens to be gay) and I give the hip shaking my best with him but most of the time I’m just too shy to go for it! It is fun to watch though and our Honduran friends have the most amazing dance moves! But being as British as possible me and Laura really get moving when the classic British songs come on like Flo Rida telling us to get low!!! I even managed to look so British last night that a guy came up to me and asked me in english if I wanted to dance… I’m clearly just so white. 

Here are some of my favourite songs I’ve discovered in Honduras so far – if you want an even better idea of how the Hondurans dance just type ‘reggaeton dancing’ into youtube. Enjoy! 

It is officially May and less than 265 days to go…

So it is officially May…

 I realised that I have been in Honduras for over 100 days now!! Wow where did that time go?! I remember when I arrived and May seemed so long away and it is here already! Here are a few of my favourite pictures so far…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I really can’t tell you all how quickly it feels like this time has gone and as I am staying here more or less for 365 days it means I am almost a third of the way through my time here. A year seems like such a long time but if a third has already gone then it doesn’t seem so long suddenly… All I can say is that I’m so happy to be here.
 
May also means that I get a whole year older this month. Damn. I guess 23 isn’t so bad. And to cheer myself up from the idea of being 23 and not actually working yet (although I guess volunteering is a good replacement to that!), myself and Laura will be going on a little trip. This is where we will be going…
 
 
 So I know I’m in Honduras to volunteer and everything… but getting old is a reason to run away and enjoy myself for a few days right?? Plus I have to experience the culture of Honduras and the paradise of the North Coast and its Bay Islands are just part of that 🙂 We will also get the chance to go to the Carnival in La Ceiba (similar to Brazil’s but smaller). But this means I will be away the week before my birthday and on my actual birthday so no blog posts, skyping or much facebooking! How will I survive?? I will hopefully be able to catch up with everyone the weekend after my birthday though. We are getting the bus and ferry up to Utila on the 11th so if we are quiet from them, you will know why…
 
Today is also a national holiday for Honduras as it is May Day and instead of waiting until the first Monday of the month to have a day off, we have it slap bang in the middle of the week! It has been nice to relax and catch up with everything though and hopefully skype some people tonight. So happy May Day everyone!! 🙂