Differences between Honduras and Home

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Coming from England to Honduras, there has obviously been a lot of things I’ve needed to get used to – seeing extreme poverty, not being able to speak the language and, of course, driving on the other side of the road. But there are lots more things that make my home country and my current country so vastly different, but in much more subtle ways. I haven’t mentioned much of it before because they are just such ordinary things here now, that even I sometimes forget that it is weird to me. Here is a few of them…

1. I was telling a story to someone from home at the weekend and mentioned that my friend was drunk. And driving. And my friend from home immediately questioned why somebody would be drink driving, and why would I go in a car with them?? I mentioned it without remembering how unacceptable and odd it is at home… but it is sooo normal here. There is no such thing as a designated driver. I’ve been in cars when the drunk driver is swerving all over the road, or even driving on the wrong side of the road up a highway. But it’s just so standard here that I don’t think twice about it now! I know, not good! Seatbelts are also something Hondurans don’t believe in… unless there is police ahead, at which point everyone suddenly gets strapped in.

2. It is also normal to go to Burger King, or Wendy’s, or anywhere really and see none of the kitchen staff wearing gloves. Sometimes you might see a couple of hairnets, but never gloves. When you eat at someone’s house they will happily plate up your food using their hands. I was in a butcher type place yesterday and watched as two guys prepared some sort of meat with their bare, unwashed hands. Nice.

3. Similarly, there is no concern for mopping up spills, moving things out of the way of exits etc., you’ve just got to keep your wits about you and try not to hurt yourself. I actually prefer this to the ridiculous health and safety culture of the UK where people can sue for anything.

4. There is a lot less sensitivity over certain topics, such as a person’s weight. In England, we try our hardest not to make jokes about people being either fat or skinny if there is someone in the room who could be offended. But in Honduras, someone will happily bring up how fat you are and how much weight you’ve put on lately… usually while you’re eating your delicious, unhealthy lunch. This definitely takes some getting used to and you just have to remember that in Honduras ‘gordita’ is an affectionate term 😉

5. Dating is a nightmare… a boy and a girl, whether they are just friends or not, are definitely not allowed to be alone in a house together, let alone a bedroom! A definite no-go in Honduras, no matter what age you are… if you’re not married, you’re not to be trusted alone with the opposite sex.

6. I may be wrong about this due to the obvious language barrier… but from what I’ve experienced, I would say that people in Honduras are quite a bit less interested in foreign affairs than people in the UK. Maybe we just have too little going on at home, but we are pretty obsessed with what is going on in Europe, the US etc. Whereas here, I’ve never heard anyone mention much about anything going on abroad. When the Boston bombing happened, I mentioned it to someone at my project and it just wasn’t much interest for them. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, Honduras has enough of its own problems to care who the new president of France is or China’s new panda breeding programme.

 

7. Paying for bills and stuff… I just don’t know how it works. In the UK we get all our house bills, phone bills, car documents etc. by post… but they don’t really have a postal system here at all. So how do they do it?? I have no idea… I went with Hector once to pay his electricity bill and he had a tiny, little paper receipt which he gave to the bank, with his money. I have no idea where he got the receipt from though.

 

As well as the differences, there are some similarities that you maybe wouldn’t expect…

1. Before I came to Honduras, I was slightly nervous at the idea of being in a new family. Having been at university and, you know, being a teenager a few years ago… I loved coming home, but spent most of my time in my room, talking to my friends and watching TV. I expected to be in a family who went to church together, ate every meal together and were never alone in their rooms. Well family life is a whole lot more similar to the UK than I expected… nothing better than coming home and getting into bed to watch some Inbetweeners 🙂

2. Going to church was another thing I definitely expected from my family life here, and something I was actually excited for! But I have lived with two families here and neither went to church, at least not regularly… aside from my lovely Azariah of course who spends all sunday, every sunday at her church. So that is definitely something I wasn’t expecting. Overall, Hondurans do go to church much, much more than we do in England… but from what I have seen it is less common than I expected.

3. Also from my expectation of the family life here and the Church going culture, I expected sex before marriage to be a very rare, taboo thing. In some ways it is… Hondurans won’t admit it happens, but it definitely does. My Honduran friends here talk about sex just as much as my friends at home… and yet Europeans still have a reputation for being easy.

4. On from this also is the drinking and going out culture. I mentioned to someone from home about going out and she couldn’t believe it and asked how when it is so dangerous. But, due to the culture of drink driving, you literally drive from bar to bar. And in many bars, the majority of the music is English so it’s just like being at home… especially when you get absolutely out of it guys stumbling around trying to dance.

5. Western culture is also a part of the life here, especially in the big towns and cities. The first thing Laura and I saw as we flew into Tegus was a big line of fast food places and a big mall. I honestly at first thought it must just be because it was next to the airport and they were trying to attract the gringos flying in… but even in more rural areas you can’t go far without seeing a Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Denny’s etc.

So what have I learnt? In some ways, Honduras is completely different from the UK. But in other ways, I can find ways to feel like I’m at home. I’m not sure if I would prefer for it to be more different, or similar to home but either way I find myself loving it here more and more. I go up and down a lot over how I would feel to live here more permanently, at the moment it is tempting me…

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England vs. Honduras

So this is a post about the general day to day life that I experience in Tegucigalpa, it is usually too dangerous to take pictures of things so I’ve got most of these pictures from the internet. I looked for a while for a picture of the streets of the centre, where I work, but I couldn’t find any… most likely because it’s too dangerous to flash a camera about there! A funny little story too… I was waiting in the women’s toilets at Wendy’s the other day and out of one of the cubicles comes a little girl no more than 5 and see’s me and straight away says ‘hola gringa’. Not in a mean way or anything, this is just what Latin Americans call anyone who is white. Technically it is only for people from the US but I guess it’s hard to tell the difference here. Laura is convinced it is an offensive term but I take it as like us calling Honduran’s ‘latinos’. Maybe it just depends on the way it’s used… Anyway, here are a few differences between good old England and my new home, Honduras: 

 

1. The capital city: London vs. Tegucigalpa

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2. The roads: nice, shiny motorways vs. huge cracks and potholes

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3. Car accidents: Obviously car accidents aren’t much different but I drove past a 4 car crash yesterday two times, with about 2 hours in between, and there were no police or ambulances to be seen. In England we usually have someone there within minutes… 

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4. Police: Friendly bobbies vs. intimidating (and often pervy) Honduran police 

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5. Army/Military: In a war vs. on the streets

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6. Cars: Normal sized, modest cars vs. huge, oversized cars 

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7. Taxis: Famous black cabs vs. barely working taxis (they’re fun though!) 

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8. Buses: Nice, safe buses vs. dangerous old yellow school buses or speeding rapiditos 

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9. Weather: dreading rain and cold in England vs. hot and humid in Tegus 

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11. Newspapers: Celebrity obsessed vs. daily murders and deaths 

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12. Home security: CCTV (or usually just locked doors) vs. barbed wire and broken glass on the walls around all houses

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13. Local corner shop: A small shop with everything you could want vs. a ‘pulperia’ with bars to talk through and not much stuff

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14. Food: The good, old classics (my mum was mean and told me she was having Shepards pie the other day and now I can’t stop thinking about it…) vs. plato tipico consisting of frijoles, mantequilla, eggs, platano, tortillas and maybe some meat

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15. Fish and chips: Greasy vs. eyes staring at you 

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17. Money: One poin coin = 28 Lempira… in notes! (And yes, that is my own amazingly tanned hand in the picture!)

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18. And finally… the people: Crazy but lovely Brits vs. friendly and generous Hondurans

 

 

Of course some of these takes on things are quite generalised – like the tourism police that we met in the first weeks were very friendly (and not pervy) and there are lots more delicious examples of British food. But I hope you’ve enjoyed this little comparison of my old home and my current home! 

Changes

Since last week quite a big change has happened for me here in Honduras… I have moved to a different host family. I decided to move for various reasons that I won’t go into here but I decided I wanted something else from my host family experience and so I took the plunge to change after 3 months here.

I moved in with my new family on Monday and I love them! They are so friendly and welcoming, I have a host mum, dad, sister and brother… their other daughter is currently volunteering in Germany with ICYE. The family owns a food chain in Honduras (delicious!) so on Monday they took me to see their factory which was really cool and we went for a lovely meal at a proper Honduran restaurant. We had my favourite thing which is called ‘alagre’, which is cheese and frijjoles over heat so they melt with nachos. Mmm!! My new host parents don’t speak English which I think will be really good for me… I feel like my learning is slowing down a lot at the moment! My host dad said my Spanish is good though which was lovely to hear. My host sister is amazing as well, she’s hyper and talks a lot and loves films and chocolate…so I think we’re going to get on really well! Although we’ve already realised we need to stop talking so much in the night and go to bed earlier as we tend to lose track of time…

The family live in a very different area to where I was before… I lived just a 10 minute walk from my project but when I told people where I was moving to, everyone responded by telling me how far it is! It isn’t too bad though and there is a bus that goes straight to el centro where I work. I have to be on it at 7 in the morning though due to all the traffic to get to my project by 8 but it’s been ok so far… yesterday my family brought me and came in to see my project and meet everyone which was so lovely! My family have also given me a nice, new phone… it’s kinda swanky haha and I love it! Basically there are only two phone companies in Honduras and to drive up the competition, it is cheap to phone someone on the same network but expensive to talk to someone on the other one. And as my family all have Tigo and I have Claro, they have given me a Tigo phone to contact them on! My experience living with them has been amazing already and I’m doing lots of new things… like peeling melons at 6 in the morning yesterday! I love it though 🙂

So apart from that, a group of us had a bit of a dinner party at a house (thank you for hosting us Daniel if you’re reading this) in honour of a different Daniel who is leaving next Tuesday… very sad! Daniel is from Sweden and has been here for about 8 months (his Spanish is amazing) and he says he is ready to leave and get home now. It’s feeling quite strange to say goodbye as he is the first volunteer to leave since I’ve been here and I can’t imagine how he is feeling as it is such a long time until I go home. We are having another meal tomorrow to properly say goodbye, it will be quite sad I think!

Other news, the guys at work have calmed down now… they did something not very nice the other day and I got very angry so I think they finally have the message now!! And I’ve started talking about my ‘novio’, which I don’t think they believe, but it seems to be working!!

I was in my project the other day and the director asked me to help her 4 year old daughter practise her English pronunciation which I was more than happy to do… she was soooo cute!!! And we were making our way down the list of sentences, which were really basic, saying things like ‘the dog went to bed’ and ‘the sky is blue’… when we got to the last sentence I read out for her ‘God was right to punish Adam and Eve’ which took me back a bit! I then noticed from the school name at the top that the school was Catholic… but it still seemed strange to have all of these simple sentences and then suddenly such a strong statement about God. I guess it’s normal here but it surpised me a little and shows how central the belief in God is to a lot of the children’s school learning.

I also have a lot of people asking me if I miss England… and I have to say no. Of course I miss my family, friends… and dogs!! But I don’t miss England and when they ask me why (and I have to respond in limited Spanish), I say that people in England have a lot… they have money, cars, their own house etc. but they’re not happy and they don’t appreciate it. Whereas people here don’t have much, some don’t have anything, but they are happy. So I prefer it here. And all of the hoopla over Margaret Thatcher’s death has just reinforced that… I was so embarrased to see pictures of people having parties and writing disgusting phrases on banners because someone has died. Yes, a lot of people don’t agree with the things she did so fine don’t be sad that she has passed away, but have some respect. Unlike many developing countries, we have the privilage to have democracy and vote in the leader we choose… and we chose her 3 times. Political rant over 🙂

I have been trying to update the blog for the last few days but everything has been crazy lately… and with the meal tomorrow night and trips the next two weekends I’m not sure when I will write again but I will try to soon!

I hear it is finally getting warmer in the UK… don’t go getting burnt guys 😉 Here, it is 30 degrees as usual…