The elections came and went…

 

I didn’t end up going to Yoro with my friend for the weekend of the elections… I came downstairs for breakfast on Saturday morning and told my host mum I was going away with my friend and coming back Sundaybut she quickly advised me not to. She insisted it was too dangerous and risky and if I really wanted to go, she wanted me to phone my parents in England too and ask them for permission – but I knew if I mentioned the Word ‘dangerous’ to my mum she would put a stop to my plans straight away too. I am also really close to my host family and I have so much respect to my host parents, they really are the most lovely people, so I decided to stay in Tegus.

 

On Saturday I headed to el centro with Julia and her host sister – she is only 9 years old and it was her first time on a rapidito bus. Julia had a slightly awkward moment when her sister noticed a sticker on the bus saying ‘I love’ before a diagram of a couple doing the dirty. I guess the buses are that child friendly. Anyway, after lunch and doing some errands I headed home to finish something I had been making for my host sisters – I will post a pic soon!

 

So Sunday came and I safely hid away in my house feeling like if I stepped out of my house someone might run at me and be offended I wasn’t wearing the colour of their chosen party. This weekend was actually the first time I had the feeling that I was living in a dangerous country – nothing is ever written about Honduras without the ‘highest murder rate in the world’ being mentioned, but I’ve never felt Honduras was that dangerous. But this weekend, with all the hype, it definitely felt different (it turned out that, as far as I’m aware, nothing particularly violent happened so no worries there). One of my host sisters did take me to vote with her though and it was so interesting! It was mostly the same as how we vote in the UK – you go to the school where you are registered to vote, go to a private booth, fill in your votes and then pop it into a secure box. But there were a few little differences…

 

1.

 

I have only voted once in the UK (as I was 20 for the last elections) so I can’t remember it that well but I’m pretty sure the partition to vote in was a little more secure than a cardboard box…

 

                     

 

 

 

2. I’m also pretty sure that we don’t have faces on our ballot papers (although I could be wrong, I really can’t remember!):

 

 

 

     
This is the ballot for the presidencial candidates but, in Tegus, they were also voting for local candidates  – and there were a lot. 23 for each party to be exact. So the sheet was huge and had faces of every person. My host sister told me that you have to be sure to pick all 23 candidates or the people that count the votes could easily put more ticks against people they are supporting. I know when I voted that I only voted for the prime minister and left the rest blank – but there would never be any chance of someone filling out the rest!
 
3. To stop people possibly trying to vote twice, voters have to sign their name on a register and also have their little finger painted black – so when they go in to vote,someone checks their hands to make sure they don’t already have the black mark. And the ink lasts 2 weeks so there is no way they can wash it off in time to try and vote twice…
ImageIt’s kind of a selfie craze on the day with everyone posting pictures on Facebook of their black finger to show they have voted… maybe it will catch on in the UK one day!
 
It was really interesting to see the little differences between how the UK and Hondurans vote – ICYE nearly didn’t let volunteers come to Honduras this summer due to the elections but I’m so glad I was here for them and got to experience it. It has been really interesting to see and I have found myself getting really caught up in it, more than I do for elections at home! Like England, there was a TV channel that broadcast the whole voting process showing people across the country putting their ballots in the boxes. I was with my host sisters, host dad and Julia watching as the results began to filter through. I can only think to compare the feeling I had in my stomach as the same as getting my degree results – it felt like the whole thing had been going on so long and there was such a big build up, and so we would know the results and that would be it. I was feeling really tense – I can only imagine what Hondurans were feeling. 
 
Around 9pm they announced the first 25% of the results – Juan Orlando was ahead. And he was ahead enough that it was unlikely to change no matter what the other 75% of the voting population decided – he had won. I went to bed at this point as I felt pretty down about it. I have been trying to be neutral through the elections but I have to say, from my point of view at least, Juan Orlando is not the right choice for Honduras right now. He was part of the government that threw out Zelaya and started a period of political instability. He had already broken the law by being head of congress and running for president at the same time. And he is blue – he will help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Therefore, widening the gap between rich and poor – which will inevitably cause more instability and violence; which is exactly what Honduras doesn’t need. I can’t say who would have been better for Honduras but I feel the result of the election will not bring good things for this beautiful country. Juan Orlando insists he will ensure more security by putting a policeman or solider ‘on ever cornor’ – but with it being commonly known police are often corrupt and soliders demonstrating excessive violence, I can’t help but think this isn’t a step in the right direction. 
 

Another issue I have with the elections in Honduras is the margin that the leading party needs to win – in the UK, the leading party needs at least 50% of the vote to win. This can be awkward, especially as in the last elections we had 3 strong parties instead of 2, so we now have a coalition – which hasn’t been all that successful. But at least the winning party, or coalition, has the majority. Honduras’ system requires the winning party to lead by only 1%! So, for example, if there were only two parties running and one got 51% while the other 49% – despite this tiny difference, the party with only 2% would win. Obviously there were a lot more parties than 2 running for presidency, 8 to be exact. In the end (from 70% of the vote) Juan Orlando won with 34% of the vote. So that means that only 34% of the voting population want him as their next leader – a huge 66% don’t want to be lead by him. That makes no sense to me – how can someone effectively run a country when the majority of it’s people don’t agree with their policies. That is just how I see it anyway, I’m sure many people would question how the UK run their elections too… 

In the end, after many people predicted the main losing party would do something drastic, there were some demonstrations by the Libre party the day after the elections, but only a few and they were mostly peaceful. It was safe to go out and live life normally again. So me and Julia headed off to City Mall and went by amarillo bus – the bus that is only 4 lempiras and so has quite poor people on it usually. I noticed that I couldn’t see anyone witha blackend finger, to show they’d voted. I was really surprised by this, as after the build up to the elections, I assumed that a huge number of people would vote. I asked my host family that evening and they told me that, in the end, just under 2 million people voted. The population of Honduras is 8 million, with around 5 million registered to vote (it has a very young population so many are under voting age). They said this was a good turn out and the highest they had had – but to me it seemed low after how passionate everyone seemed about the next leader. But my family told me that, due to the high level of poverty in Honduras many people don’t have the means to get to the voting polls, the education to realise voting can change their country or the knowledge to know who to vote for. I think this is really sad as the people who need help the most are failing to have influence on their country’s politics – it is also likely that, if this people did vote, they would likely not vote for Juan Orlando’s party. They would vote for a party that would do more for those in poverty. 

So those are my views on the elections – I really tried to be impartial during them but it’s difficult not to get swept up in the drama of it all. Today, all anyone can talk about in my project is the elections. The director even told them off for talking to much and not working! But people are so passionate about politics here, which is great – it’s such a shame their new leader is someone only a third of them want. 

 

Honduras elections!

It is only 2 days until the Honduras elections… and you would be pretty clueless to not know it. You can’t go anywhere without seeing about a hundred posters of different candidate’s faces. You can’t go on a bus without hearing a song about a candidate. You can’t sit with a group of Hondurans without the conversation quickly steering to who is going to win. It is drastically different to our approach to politics in the UK – in the UK we argue about who is the worst and often struggle to have much passion for any particular party, whereas in Honduras they support a party with an unrivalled passion and insist their party should win. In the UK it is also a social taboo to ask someone who they are voting for… which leads me to always ask people cautiously who they are supporting, but that is quickly followed by confident cheers for their chosen party and a list of reasons why the other parties are wrong. I was driving somewhere with my host mum the other day and we went past a campaign tent of her party with a big picture of their leader waving in the wind and my host mum honked her horn as we went past and screamed ‘wooohooo’ out of the window as the campaigners whooped back at her. Can you imagine a David Cameron tent surrounded by people cheering? Or Ed Miliband… Nick Clegg maybe? I didn’t think so. It is so different here but it’s a lot more interesting. Even though I’m not supporting a party and I will have left Honduras by the time the new president is in charge, it is hard not to get caught up in it and get apprehensive about who is going to win. 

Yesterday I was out with my project when about 8 of the staff started to have a heated debate about their respective parties – half were supporting Villeda (the Liberal party) and the other half Xiomara (the new Libre party – although they were saying her husband’s name, Mel, as he was the previous president of Honduras who was exiled in the 2009 coup). The conversation got pretty heated with a couple of people walking off in the middle – but as soon as the conversation was over everyone was friends ago. It is crazy to watch. And today everyone in my project went for lunch together and on our walk back to the office we saw the following painted on a wall…

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Obama is in the middle with the faces of all of the presidencial candidates around him – the main 3 are Villeda (on the far left), Xiomara (to the right of Obama with her hubby Mel Zelaya) and Juan Orlando on the far right. The caption below says “Todas/os comen en la misma mesa del senor” – which means “They all eat at the same table as the sir” and below is the date of the elections. Basically, it is saying that it doesn’t matter who wins as all the money Honduras has comes from the US and therefore the president will be fed by Obama, regardless of whoever wins on Sunday. There was a huge crowd gathered around this picture with everyone debating it. Seriously, Honduras is fascinating. 

The atmosphere has also become quite apprehensive as the elections approach – we have been recommended by ICYE to stay indoors on Sunday and, if we do venture out, to make sure we wear nuetral colours not associated with any particular party. A friend told me her payday was today, 2 days early, so that she could buy supplies like food and water, in case something happens and people can’t leave their houses. I am going to the north of Honduras with a friend to visit his family – when I told someone at my project this, she looked so worried and made me promise to send her regular updates that I’m OK on Sunday. Obviously from all of the build up I’ve seen and how passionate people can get about the politics here I know it will be a tense day on Sunday, but to me… it all just seems a bit crazy. Hopefully the actual day will be a lot calmer than some people are predicting. One of my friends even told me that she was sure if Xiomara wins that she won’t last a day and she will be taken out of the country, much like her husband 4 years ago. I will keep you all updated next week…! 

Day out with the AYO tutors

One of my favourite things about my project is that it doesn’t just teach its participants subject matter – they teach skills as well. And part of this is training the older teenagers to be tutors so that they can pass on their knowledge to younger kids in the project. In my first week in AYO, my first market visit was to see two 16 year olds teaching three 14 year olds about the importance of knowing our human rights. I knew zero Spanish at that stage so I didn’t understand a word except for ‘derechos humanos’ but Hector was there and as he speak English he told me a lot of what they were saying. It was amazing – they were so passionate about the education of human rights and why it is particularly important in Honduras. It was so great to see people that age talking so passionately about a subject that gets ignored a lot in the UK – whenever I used to tell people in the UK I was studying human rights they would make a face of surprise, followed by a face of ‘what’s the use of that??’ So it really re-inspired (if that’s a word?!) my passion for human rights and how vital it is in developing countries, like Honduras. 

Anyway, back to the point… as it is coming up to the end of the year, my project took the tutors for a day out to thank them for their hard work. So we piled into an amarillo bus yesterday and headed to a sort of park outside of Tegus to relax, eat and play! The first thing we did when we got there was to go around the tutors and from each market or community, one person would say what they had learnt from being a tutor. One thing I have noticed about Honduran teens is that they have so much more confidence than teens in the UK – they love an opportunity to talk in front of their peers and make everyone listen to them. Hondurans also generally speak with a lot more passion and vigour than we do in the UK so I just love to watch them talk sometimes because their mannerisms are amazing! 

We then went out to a field and did some games – it was hilarious! There were 4 groups, each with an animal name (the Spanish equivalents of cow, rabbit, cat and dog), and thanks to the masculine/feminine forms of nouns there were some debates about the girls in the dog group being ‘perras’ (bitches). Although the masculine/feminine difference can be confusing when learning Spanish, it can be a good way of making a joke! Anyway, we played two games – one included the students holding hands and having to pass a hula hoop along the line without letting go, and the other game was racing each other to get to a piece of cloth first and then the loser trying to tag the winner before they got away – which resulted in a few people flying! It was really, really hilarious to watch and it got quite competitive pretty quickly! I also managed to step in an ant’s nest while watching the games so one of my feet is covered in lovely ant bites today! 😦 

It was then lunchtime and free time – the park had a pool so a lot of people went swimming while others went for walks around the pretty ponds, lakes etc. After lunch, they also put some music on with included some reggaeton and, maybe unwisely, I decided to show off my moves to all the students, as well as a lot of other people enjoying the park. It was hilarious though as all the students started chanting my name and cheering me on – I’m going to miss them so much! They have the name ‘Jessica’ or ‘Yessica’ in Honduras but they don’t use the nickname ‘Jess’ so the students love randomly shouting Jess all the time, and my colleagues in my project call me ‘Jess Jess Ingles’ (English) all the time, I love it 🙂 And in the last hour the staff had a huge debate about politics which was entertaining as always… more on that in my next blog! 

Sadly, it was then time to leave… I really didn’t want to say goodbye to a lot of the students as we aren’t going to some of the markets any more as schools are closing for Christmas. I thought I had my last week at my project the week before I left Honduras and then I could say goodbye to everyone, but it turns out that my project comes back to work the same day as my flight 😦 and it seems too early to be saying goodbye to students as I don’t leave for 6 weeks and I might see them again in the office… but it is really sad to know it will be the last time I ever see some of them 😦 the students that AYO helps are great and I’m so glad to have met them all. 

 

I haven’t talked about Honduran men in a while…

After being inside for a week when I had dengue, I think I kind of forgot how annoying the men can be in Honduras. At least when a friend asked a couple of days after I was better if it was still bad with men shouting at me, I reassured him that it wasn’t as bad anymore and I can ignore it. Oh, how wrong I was! I really just forgot how ridiculous and frustrating it can be and yesterday really made me realice that – I had been in the market in Comayaguela with my project, doing a presentation about violence, which is about a 10 minute walk away from the office. There was only 3 of us to carry all of the equipment back so I carried the computer – kinda heavy! So there I am struggling with a computer, in the Honduras heat, walking up a hill… and you would think the Honduran men would give me a break. But ohhh no, almost every guy I went past stared at me and made a comment. Really, can’t they just leave me alone when I’m struggling?? Here are a few more examples of how ridiculous the pervy men in Honduras are…

  • men slowing down their car to get a good look at you. Especially annoying when it’s a bus and then everyone in the bus gets a good chance to stare… some even hanging out of the windows to say something.
  • men actually making the effort to take their sunglasses off to get a better look at you
  • men physically touching you and grabbing at you as you walk past – this is one of the worst things
  • men, really not subtley, giving their mates nudges as you approach so they can all watch you together and shout things
  • the security guard near my house that I have to walk past every morning shouting things at me the entire time I’m in earshot, every. single. day. Do thy never get bored??
  • men staring for the entire 30 minute journey to work on the bus and then waiting until I get off so they can come up near me and say something in my ear
  • men leaning nearer to me as I walk past so they can say something right in my face
  • men who treat me like a human being in my project but as soon as they see me outside of work they say something derogatory. This is particularly annoying as they trick you into thinking they are ‘one of the nice ones’. But they’re not.
  • men making the loudest kissing noises at you and making you feel like a cat by going ‘tss tss’ really loudly across the street at you… like you’re really going to suddenly run over to them.

So all of that might sound really awful and horrible but you kind of just have to get on with it and try to ignore it. Everyone says that I will miss it when I go home – but I won’t. When I when to the states for 10 days in August I kind of didn’t notice the difference; I’d already forgotten about it. But as soon as I came back the difference was so noticeable and I just wanted to go back to being invisible again. I know this might be really anti-feminist of me to say but I think in the West we can sometimes be quite ignorant of how far we have come in terms of women’s rights. And while there is still more work to be done, we have it pretty good. The lack of respect for women on the streets of Honduras is awful – we are literally just something to gaup and shout at, whether we’re gringas or not.

The daily abuse can really get you down if you let it so you have to find ways to ignore it. It really helps to laugh it off too – sometimes men make really creepy sounds as you go past, but it makes it easy to laugh at them. I also find it helps to make a game out of it – as a man approaches me, I make a bet in my head about whether he’ll say something. Factors to take into account include what clothes he is wearing (although a man in a suit isn’t always as nice as he looks), how creepy his face is, whether he has family with him (although I have had men with their wife and kids still manage to say something to me) etc. This way, if I have predicted a man will say something to me and he does, I actually feel happy about being right! And when I think they will and they don’t, I feel all proud of the guy and want to run after him and say ‘thank you for not being a typical Honduran creep!’.

Honduran men really do need to learn to keep their mouths shut when a woman walks by and I hope, eventually, they will realise that a woman is never going to be impressed with a guy shouting ‘hey mami, I love you gringa, cosita rica, quiero un besito baby’!

Disclaimer: not all Honduran men are like this of course and I don’t want to generalise… but the vast majority I encounter on the streets of Tegus are sadly 😦

I went to Nicaragua and all I got was this lousy Dengue fever…

It has been almost 3 weeks since I last posted – whoops! But as you might have guessed from the title I did go to Nicaragua and I did manage to catch dengue while I was there (at least, I’m guessing it was there). The day after we arrived back I had a fever and cold sweats and in the week that followed I suffered from just about every symptom dengue can throw at you: muscle and joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rash… yeah, not a fun time! Luckily though it was just classic dengue, and quite mild, so I was up and about after a week.

But, back to Nicaragua… we took 4 buses and passed through the capital, Managua, to get to an old colonial town called Granada for the weekend. It was super pretty and reminded me a lot of Antigua in Guatemala – the cobbled streets, old colonial style houses and every street having about 5 cafes each. During the weekend we had a lot of yummy food, a boat tour of the lake and a night of dancing with both foreigners and some locals. And I even got to see Julia perform in a John Lennon bar we found. 

 

So that was Granada – the journey home was a little longer (leaving the hostel at 6.30am, 5 buses and a rude immigration man later, we got to Tegus around 7.30pm, ouch!) but we eventually got home safely. Unfortunately for me, the rest of the week was spent in bed. But the next week I was back on my feet and enjoying crepe sessions with Julia, receiving a lovely parcel full of chocolate and magazines from Laura and decorating the Christmas tree with my host sisters…

This weekend we also had the baby shower for my sister in law, Maresa, as she is giving birth to her first child next month, so exciting! It was a really fun party and, thanks to a game of pass the nappy, I even got to sing some raggaeton in front of everyone! 

My host sisters and mum:

 

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Me and my host mum:

So it’s straight back into life in Honduras and trying to make the most of my last couple of months here – it is really scary to think I have so little time left in my life here in this beautiful country but I am also extremely homesick at the moment (although Laura’s parcel did help a lot, thank you so much!!!). But hopefully I can hold off the pangs for home a little longer so I can enjoy the run up to Xmas! 😀 

Thanks for reading, all my love to everyone at home! x