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 😦

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Oh what a charmer…

I had a bit of a realisation today. And what brought about this realisation today was a guy in the centro shouting at me, as I was walking to get my bus home – “let me see your titties baby”. I couldn’t believe it, despite the fact that I get things shouted at me literally every single time I walk anywhere in the centro. And I usually walk from the bus to my project, to and from somewhere at lunch and then back to my bus home. So that’s at least 20 times a week I have guys shouting at me,  so I would say I’m pretty used to it by now. However this guy took me completely by surprise. It was just such a disgusting thing to say. And in English. Does he speak English or had he just learnt the most vulgar cat calls he could find?? I think I literally froze where I was stood for a couple of seconds… I didn’t even see him, I just heard him shout at me from my right somewhere. And if it had been in the UK I would have loved to have gone and told him what I thought of him, but of course I can’t do that here, so I had to force myself to carry on while still reeling from being verbally abused in the street by a stranger. I suspect guys reading this will say ‘verbally abused’ is too strong but I don’t think it is. It’s disgusting and it makes me feel victimised and vulnerable in a place like Tegus. But anyway, that isn’t the point I’m making (if it was I would direct you to the website http://www.everydaysexism.com/ which I think is an amazing idea), the reason why this particular incident bothered me was a bit more complicated than that…

As I sat on the bus home afterwards, still recovering from shock, and looking out of the window at the markets of Comayaguela – it became more apparent to me than ever how out of place I am here. I suddenly realised that if I did want to stay and live in somewhere like Honduras (which is definitely tempting for me), then I would always be the outsider. However long I lived here for, however well I learnt Spanish and built up a life here, I would still be made to feel like I was different and didn’t belong. People will always double take me when they see me here (the white skin, the blonde hair and, yes guy from today, the big boobs)  and I will always have insulting things shouted at me when I am just trying to get home. When you live somewhere and want to move there permanently, you want to become part of the community and part of the every day life in that place. But I would never have that to look forward to. If I did live here permanently, and especially if I worked in the centro, I would always be singled out every day. And really, why would I want that? Who would choose to be treated like that? I sincerely hope that one day, somehow, this will change about this part of Honduran culture and men on the street will just let a white girl past…

It has truly annoyed me that this one man has made me feel like this and, to some extent, made me question my potential desire to stay here for a more long term period. But of course, it is not all bad to look a little bit different. I was waiting at the bus stop the other day and got chatting to a woman from Honduras who had been living in the US for 20 years so was visiting her friends for a few weeks. We chatted all the way on the bus and she even paid my bus fair; things like that make me feel really welcomed in Honduras and grateful to the majority of the people here. It’s just a shame that the men, or the majority of them, want to make me feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. I know we have huge issues of xenophobic attitudes in Europe and the US, but really, it is nothing compared to here. Which is quite possibly because there are so few people here from somewhere different so the country just isn’t used to it, but they are sure making it hard to welcome others in. Something to think about Honduras? 

Should I be scared?

As some of you may have noticed, I go through stages where I write quite a few blogs within a few days and then I will go quiet for a couple of weeks… I feel that at times I just have so much to say and not wanting to bore anyone specifically, it is better to vent my thoughts on here (and then hopefully someone might find it interesting and maybe even learn something!). From my last post on the men here, I had some great replies from friends on facebook and I hope they won’t mind if I share them here… 

A fellow ICYE volunteer from the UK who was here last year said: 

“Oh dear, it really is a relentless daily trial! It’s like they don’t have a choice, a weird compulsion. I did meet some brilliant Honduran male friends though, they arent all the same, keep going 🙂 xxx” 

Another friend who is Honduran but has a lot of foreign girl friends: 

“It’s not going to change linda!… I talked to you about this the first day we met… men here literally hunt down foreigners… they even hunt me beacause I dont look honduran… and its difficult to tell who hangs out with you because of WHO YOU ARE or because of WHERE you come from (how blond your hair is, or how white your skin is)… I can tell the difference… because Im honduran, but more because Ive been A LOT around foreign girls… and I know how honduran men act around them… but the saddest part is that it works like that between hondurans as well (they will always ask for your last-name.. and you are worth what your family name is worth…) and the bad news is that you are caught in both situations… (physically) because you are CHELA (white and blond) and (socially) because your last name here in honduras is Jess ENGLAND……it’s so TRUE! I’m not joking… being appreciated for WHO you are and for HOW you think is the thing i miss the MOST about europe!! I’m sorry for my horrible honesty and my horrible english as well… hehehehe” (you’re English is amazing chica!!!)

I also had a good friend (a boy!!) text me and say that it is part of the culture and they are not all like that which I do totally agree with. I have met some guys who are lovely – they just seem to be in the minority. But for example, I have a taxi guy who I always use called Angel. He is an angel. He is always so polite on the phone and (almost) always comes to pick me up when I need a taxi somewhere – even in the storm that happened last week. And he always gets out of the car and opens the door for me! He also likes to laugh at my poor Spanish but I let him off for that. So there are some nice ones I promise! 

So, why should I be scared? Well become I am in Honduras obviously!! I mentioned the Daily Mail article recently about how murderous Honduran cities and to be honest when I read it, I thought nothing of it. You quickly get used to the horror stories here – you can’t listen too much or you would never leave your house. But I guess some people never do leave their house, car or work. I have also, personally, not seen anything to make me feel uneasy. I walk past the newspaper photos every day but they are somewhere else so it’s not real right?? But I feel like I’ve had a bit of a wake up call today. 

Firstly, I have been reading a fellow Brit’s blog who is in Honduras (yes, a brummy in Honduras!! We’re hoping to meet up next week, whoop!) and he worked in Caza Alianza which is probably one of the biggest children’s charities here. Some of the stories from his blog (children from the charity being murdered and him getting robbed) are scary and very sad – you can read it here http://elcatracho1.wordpress.com/ . 

Secondly, I had a few texts from Laura on her way home saying she thinks she drove past the scene of a murder. As well, she saw a young girl who had clearly very recently given birth getting on a yellow bus (the horrible scary ones) with just her baby, mum and a black binliner with her things in. No Dad, no husband to help her. Maybe not so scary, but very sad and a horrible reminder of the extreme poverty here. 

Lastly, a Honduran has just posted a status on Facebook about the fact that there has been 13 murders in San Pedro and Tegucigalpa in the last 24 hours. It is hard not to see that about the place you are living and not feel at least a little uneasy. You can try to read the story in a Honduran newspaper here – http://www.elheraldo.hn/Secciones-Principales/Sucesos/Al-menos-13-muertos-deja-jueves-violento-en-Honduras

I am not saying all of this to scare and worry anyone at home – it does actually sound worse than it is. The UN and the World’s media like to discuss the fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world regularly. But they often fail to mention that the majority of these murders are connected to the gangs and drug issues here. It isn’t usually your average person walking down the street who is in danger. I get taxis home at 9 or 10 o’clock at night and there are still a lot of people walking around the centro, so they can’t be too scared. It often seems unfair that Honduras is often broadcast as the most murderous country in the world but you have to question the statistics of these claims and how reliable they are. One of the first internet searches I did when I arrived here was ‘how many murders does Afghanistan/Iraq have a year?’; it doesn’t make sense that these countries that are war torn and constantly in the news for suicide bombs claiming dozens of lives are supposedly safer than here. As of 2011, Honduras has the most murders at a rate of 82.1 per 100,000 people and El Salvador was second with 66.0 (huge difference but why??). Afghanistan (according to the UNODC) has a murder rate of 2.4 and Iraq 2. But yet, if people were given a choice of Honduras and Afghanistan to visit I know where most would choose. At least for me, these statistics don’t make sense. 

Despite all this, I have fallen hard for this country and I am really enjoying it here. Despite all the scary statistics and horror stories, I have a normal life here and it feels like home now. I go to work, I meet friends and I go on trips at the weekend. Somehow it is easy (too easy) to ignore the problems here and forget where you are. So for many reasons I love it here, but hearing what Laura saw today it makes me want to help so much – more than I am now so hopefully either while I am here or after I can do something to make more of a difference. 

Honduran men

This post might turn into a bit of a rant. 

I love it here, I don’t want however annoyed I may sound in this post to make anyone think I don’t love it here because I do. But seriously, the men here are driving me crazy. I’m not talking about all of them of course and I really don’t mean to offend anyone – if I mention something anyone has done here then please don’t be offended. But all of it added up together makes for a bad impression on Honduras and it’s men. 

First of all, I have daily harassment from men on the street. Strangers. My first week starting at my project was when I first started walking alone (as the first two weeks all of the volunteers went everywhere together) and I would have comments thrown at me constantly… and I mean CONSTANTLY. I would arrive to my project and home feeling beaten down to be honest. When the men at my project are walking with me somewhere and hear a comment (which are a lot more rare as soon as I’m with another guy) they find it funny and make a joke out of it – and sometimes it is funny but when it it so constant it becomes depressing. Especially when I walk past certain a place and you know the same person will say something because he says something every day so you’re just waiting for it and they never fail to see something horrible to you. There is a guy who is always just outside just by my house so I literally have comments from the second I leave home in the morning. And there is nothing I can do about it.

So this is annoying enough. But it’s not just strange men that find it acceptable to act this way towards me, the men at my project also seem to think it’s ok to approach me (even though they all have wives and children). At first it was just a little bit (and one very weird incident) but for some reason recently the men have taken it to the next level. But they are all also my friends so it makes it difficult to know whether it is an issue or not. But lately every time I talk to one of the guys, all the others insist that he is my novio (boyfriend). I have had two of the men ask me to kiss them (one of them doesn’t wait for an answer and I literally have to push him off me) and one of them I thought of as a very good friend before but now I’m getting more and more annoyed with it all. When I point out that they’re married they joke that their wives are dead. To add to the stress of it, they often say things to each other in Spanish and obviously I don’t understand a lot of it and then they all laugh and it doesn’t feel nice. 

Even guys who I socialise with act strangely – I had met one guy twice (both times I was quite tipsy as we were at a bar) and we had messaged a little on facebook. He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak too much Spanish so it is difficult for us to talk properly. The third time I met him he said that it was his birthday soon and he wanted me to stay with him in a hotel after the night out. And that we could start something here and then he would come to Europe after I left to see me. Have Hondurans never heard of wooing a girl, maybe even taking her on a date first before propositioning her?? Clearly not. 

It is very frustrating to feel like the men here don’t see you as someone to be friends with, they see you as an object to get into bed or to look at and say vulgar things to. It is really hard for me as I have really good male friends at home and I miss having that here (although I love my girl friends of course!) but it is sad not to be able to just have a friendship with a guy. The guy at my project who I absolutely adored and loved talking to every day is now becoming a big annoyance as I have to explain to him every day that I’m not going to kiss him because he has a wife and 2 children (he is 23). Sigh. I was really annoyed about it all today and told one of the girls there (she is there volunteering for 2 months so she doesn’t know anyone else that well) she said that when a girl in Honduras talks about drinking beers and going out it gives the impression that she is easy. So no more talking about my social life at work then. 

To cheer me up though it has been a lot of fun emailing my amazing friend Glenn the last couple of days and exchanging some ridiculous banter! You don’t realise how much you miss people until you speak to them and realise how much fun you have together. So thank you Glenn 🙂 

Also today I realised that maybe I am far too predictable. Laura, Brynja and I went to Mall Multiplaza today (as usual) and I went to Wendys (as usual) and without asking the waitress gave me mayo as I always ask for it. Slightly embarrassing. Then when we went to get taxis the guy who organises the radio taxi said where I live without me even having to tell him… I think maybe it’s time to shake it up a bit! 

So that’s all for now… I’m hoping the situation with the guys will get better by itself soon because I do love them all as friends and I really don’t want to have to end up complaining! But when you have to avoid going into empty rooms in case one of your colleagues might pounce on you, you know it’s not good!!