March for Women’s Rights in Honduras

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Today was one of those days that was a little bit different than usual. Mainly because I went on my first march ever. There are many protests in Honduras, mostly for good causes and mostly peaceful. AYO and other human rights organisations joined together today to march for women’s rights and against the violence they suffer in Honduras. Violence against women is a huge problem in Honduras and the rate of femicides (murder of women) is worryingly high. The Guardian stated last month that a woman is murdered in Honduras every FIFTEEN hours (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/22/honduras-election-could-woman-lead-high-femicides). There are many different factors contributing to this; poverty, the machismo culture etc., but there is very little being done by the government to make things better. International Women’s Day is a big event in Honduras and I remember Laura marching with her project then (and making it into the newspaper!).

Anyway, we marched today up the main comercial street in the centre of Tegucigalpa, where we shouted some things like ‘women need help… but the government does nothing’ before heading to the Congress building to shout there a little bit more. It was a lot of fun to shout and cheer with everyone watching us – everyone looked interested and a lot of men came up to us to find out more. Then outside of the Congress a band of drummers turned up randomly so the atmosphere became even more amazing and we did some dancing too :D  it was really a lot of fun and I’m so glad I got to take part. See if you can spot the gringa (me, the only white girl in the pics):

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My favourite thing about Teguicgalpa, Honduras

The people? The food? The buzz? The atmosphere? No. It’s the hills. For many, including me sometimes, they can be an annoyance. Particularly when the place you need to get to is at the top of a large hill and you have to walk it. I don’t know how many of the banged up taxis of Tegus make it up the hills. It also causes the infrastructure to be quite messy sometimes with roads winding around the hills and the shed-like houses in the poorer areas to look like they are literally hanging off cliffs. It is really hard to show in pictures just how hilly the city is (usually because a hill blocks the view!):

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However the name Tegucigalpa, or “silver hills”, is there for a reason. The hills makes this city unique and wonderful. The views in the day time can be breathtaking and there are so many vantage points to see across the entire city – it really is a fascinating thing to stand on a hill and be able to pinpoint where your house and work is. I have a steep hill I walk down (and up 😦 ) when I come home each evening and when I reach the top of it, before starting the walk down, I always have to take a moment to look at the view. It is really something else – the area opposite my colonia is a poor one and so the view of so many houses sitting almost on top of each other is really something different. 

The weather across the city can be incredible too. We have the most beautiful skies at sunset:

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The hills also provide a very unique weather system – you can be enjoying the sun in one part of the city and see a rainstorm on the other side of it. One of the best things I ever saw was when I was walking with a friend over a hill near his house and straight ahead, on a different hill, was a huge rain cloud and you could see the shimmer of the rain falling really heavily. Yet it was completely dry and warm where we were. The hills also provide a great viewing platform for watching thunderstorms – I was having dinner with my lovely friend Lideny in Skybar a while ago when there was a huge storm in the other side of the city. We could watch every lightening strike and it was fascinating – I have quite a passion for watching lightening now!! 

But my favourite thing of all is Tegucigalpa at night. For me, one of the most beautiful things to see is a city at night and all of the twinkling lights. Tegus is so, so amazing for this. Every corner you turn when you drive through the city after dark provides a new view of different lights and they look so pretty. It always puts a smile on my face to see them, always. Strangely, the view can also make me feel closer to home as I live on a hill in England too and the lights of a town nearby is a very familiar sight to me. So seeing lights here always makes me feel a little closer to home. 

Many travellers moving through Central America make it there mission to avoid Tegucigalpa, even Honduras entirely, but I would say that even staying in Tegucigalpa for one night is worth it to see the city lit up at night. It really is something else. 

Honduras is like Marmite… you either love it or hate it

There are so many things to love and hate here, like all countries I guess. But having been thrown from a country like the UK (after 22 years of leaving it for no more than 6 weeks at a time) to somewhere like Honduras, and more specifically Tegucigalpa, it is easy to take note of the great things and awful things. Here are a few of them…

 

The good stuff:

 1. The people. Yes some of them are crazy and creeps. But the majority of people are absolutely lovely and really appreciate it when you attempt to speak Spanish with them, no matter how bad your effort is. I have given examples before of strangers being kind to me and that is something I have seen quite often here.

2. The weather. Laura won’t agree with me on this one – yes sometimes it is unbearably humid and hot, but I always see it as at least it isn’t freezing winter of the UK. Apparently April is the worst month so hopefully it will actually get a little more bearable soon.

3. The randomness – as mentioned before, often not nice but still it can be eye opening at times.

4. The adventure of it. This may fade as I get out of Tegus more, but our weekend to Lago de Yajoa when we had no idea where we going or staying was a bit scary but exciting to be travelling so randomly and just seeing where the road took us.

5. The food. Delicioso!!! The food is samey here (basically always tortillas, frijjoles, queso, cream and maybe some meat) but as my closest friends and family will know, this suits me fine. I’m pretty fussy so when I find something I like, I’m quite happy to stick to it.

6. Learning… like I’ve said before I learn more here in 2 weeks than I did during my Masters (and it cost less to come here too).

7. How cheap everything is! Bus to work… about 5p. Bottle of soda at lunch… about 8p. Weekend away with friends (accommodation and food included)… less than £35. Nice.

8. The places to visit… I have the Caribbean about 6 hours away (although it’s actually quite awkward to get there)… I’ll be going to the Bay Islands next month. If you don’t know what they are… google it! And be prepared to be jealous 🙂

9. Meeting such a random variety of people. I have met a far bigger mix of people here than I ever have in the UK – I guess you don’t get that many different walks of life wandering around Middlestown. A lot of this variety comes from the link to ICYE but still it is great to meet such varied people who have so much to say. I have also met a lot more gay people here than in the UK, which is also something the other volunteers have noticed (one of whom is gay)… I would like to know why this is though! In a country where homosexual people are often victimised you would think it would be different?! The different social classes here are also stark and so I live and work with people of opposite ways of life so that is also really interesting.

10. Just how different it is here… I was extremely bored of the UK when I left so now it is just amazing to be surrounding by a place so different, but in some ways so similar. But is it fascinating to notice which things are the same and which are different.

 

 The bad stuff:

  • 1. The poverty… it is something that I don’t think I will ever get used to. Every time I see someone begging, with dirty clothes on or sleeping on the street at night it is like a fresh reminder that a lot of people here have nothing. This morning when I was sat at a traffic light on the bus I saw a man sat in a huge pile of rubbish picking away at different bits of food and slowly building up a meal for himself. It made me feel a bit sick but this is what he has to do to survive.

2. The crime. It iss starting to get a little more real for me how dangerous it is here, I’ve said before that it is easy to ignore but it has become more and more noticeable how many deaths actually happen every day. I can’t remember ever seeing the front pages of the newspapers and not seeing dead bodies from the day before (and each newspaper has different murders). I’m beginning to see how Honduras does have the notorious murder rate that the UN proclaims.

3. As I’ve mentioned before, the men here… they drive me crazy! I was walking with a girl from work today and she said ‘slow down, slow down’, I didn’t realise how fast I walk! I explained to her that it’s because I get all the things said from men and after about 5 minutes she saw what I meant and said I was allowed to speed up again…

4. The pollution. It is unbelievable, you can taste it and smell it as you come back into Tegus from somewhere else. The rapidito bus I came on today let out huge amounts of black fumes as we went up the hill to my neighbourhood. No doubt he won’t bother to get a service.

5. Just the dirt, rubbish and smells. You can’t imagine how bad it is until you’ve been here.

6. People having no patience with others – I miss how polite we are in England that if someone is coming through a door the opposite way we will always wait to let the other person past (usually meaning we both awkwardly stand there not wanting to go first!). Here people just barge through as though there is no one else coming through.

However, despite all the bad things (I couldn’t think of 4 more things!), there is something unique about Honduras that makes me enjoy my life here. People describe Tegus as ‘raw’; it is the capital city of Honduras but it is, to be frank, a mess. However, it doesn’t pretend to be anything more and it bears all; the good, the bad and the downright ugly. You get what you see. I think it is this brutal honesty that draws me to it and makes me want to stay. If that makes sense… it’s home 🙂   

The Randomness that is Honduras

Yes, it’s me again… I just have too much to say about this crazy city!! And I don’t think I’ve really told you enough about it yet to communicate how crazy it is…!

One of the things I most love about Tegucigalpa, and will miss the most when I go back to England, is the randomness. I don’t think I ever take a bus or taxi journey or walk anywhere without seeing something a bit weird that you would never see anywhere else. So I thought I would start jotting things down (as my memory is awful) and here are just some of the things I’ve seen the last few days (I think I actually managed to forget to write down most of it, oops!

1. It’s pretty normal here to see people piled into the back of pick up trucks (me and Brynja even had a go at it once as we just had to try it – it was freezing!!), sometimes literally piled on top of each other. But last weekend I actually saw a huge truck, like the one you would usually see on a building site, carrying people. Very strange – can you imagine that happening in the UK??

2. Another regular thing here is the stray dogs, there are hundreds of them. You won’t walk for 10 minutes in most places without seeing a couple… and sometimes they just sleep on the pavement and you freak out that they are dead! But they aren’t. They are so adapted to life here that they know how to avoid traffic and walk around like they know exactly where they are headed. I have only seen dogs on leads here twice. The other day though when I was on a rapidito bus, I saw a group of about 6 or 7 dogs all walking together in the same direction… like they had agreed where they were off to and the way to go! 

3. Something sad that you see surprisingly often here is men with one, or no, legs. There seems to be a surprising amount of men in wheelchairs, or without one, begging on the streets. It is something you occasionally see in London maybe, but here I see about two men like this a week… 

4. It is also very common to see young children selling things on the street, like water, fruits and sweets. They are just so young and should clearly be in school. 

5. One of the nicer things I have seen, well funnier things, was when I was walking through the centro and quite an old man was walking towards me, combing his grey hair! He had one of those little combs you imagine old Italian men to use and was just combing it over and over obsessively! Made me laugh a little..

6. Today on my bus home I also saw a wall literally made of mud and tyres and also a, clearly homeless, man in the middle of a busy triangle junction just spinning around and around. It isn’t funny to see something like that, it is quite sad, but it is really just fascinating so I’m actually kind of looking forward to getting buses to work now for all the crazy things I will see! 

7. Yesterday me and a friend at my project, Sarah, went to the local shop (they are called pulperias and are the ones with bars across them so they look like jail cells) and were met 2 minutes from our project with a Garifuna style dance off. It was right in the middle of the centro so the roads were closed off (apparently with no prior notice) and there was a big circle of Garifuna people (an ethnic group in Honduras that came here as slaves from Africa years ago) in amazing tribal dress and lots of instruments being played. They would take turns to go into the music and basically shake their bum to the music, but a little more impressive than I make it sound. But I honestly do not know how they did all that dancing in all those layers… it was so hot!!! Me and Laura are hoping to go to a Garifuna festival in July so I’m looking forward to seeing more of this dancing, it’s so much fun! 

8. Another weird thing about living here, particularly where my new house is, is the ‘gated communities’. You imagine big walls, big impassable gates and strict security. No… from what I have seen the guards let most people by without any questions and often the barrier into the estate isn’t exactly intimidating anyway. 

9. Something quite funny happened at the weekend also… Me, Laura, Brynja and a guy called Noel from Honduras (he was one of the guys who went to Tela) went to a Chinese restaurant. It was amazing – we sat in a little boat and the food was greasy but delicious. Anyway, we let Noel order the food as he could order in Spanish easiest and then he starts to have a full on conversation with the waiter and we pick up the word ‘lemons’. Turns out his dad sells lemons and Noel had decided to have a go at selling some… it worked! And a few days later when Noel was late to meet us, it turned out he was delivering his lemons. Just random. 

So they are my random things for now… I will try and keep remembering them so I can keep giving you all an idea of the crazy randomness here. 

I also forgot to mention before that my family have a cat, which for the people who know me well will know that this isn’t happy news for me! But actually, as far as cats go, it’s OK. It has a fluffy tail and it stays away from me. I think we’ll just about manage to get on. My host mum also said tonight that if I stay living with them until I leave next year then they will get a dog, haha! That is a good reason to stay right?! 🙂 

When I got home from my project today, my host sister showed me around the colonia (neighborhood) so I could start to get my bearings a bit… or know where the nearest place to buy M&Ms! The views are amazing… it is unbelievable how far you can see. You can see the Christ statue which is a good 40 minute drive from my house. There is also a big ‘shanty town’ on a hill close to where we were so when I get my camera back from Laura I will go and take some pictures as it will finally be safe to do so!! We also went into a huge abandoned house nearby… basically a woman who worked for the ousted ex-President, Zelaya, built the house but when Zelaya was basically thrown out of the country she had to flee too. So ever since then the house has been deserted even though it is worth millions. It is gorgeous and the views are amazing… I will take pictures of this too! 

I’m also really excited about things at my project at the moment… tomorrow I am making a new sign for the computer room which isn’t really a big deal but to me it means that there will be something I’ve made at the project at least for a little bit after I have gone! Also, next Wednesday, Hector who teaches English classes, has asked me to plan and do a lesson! I’m really tempted to do lots of colloquial language and throw in some proper British slang but as they have only just started learning I’m not sure this would be great for them… The director of the project has also asked me to give a presentation on human rights to the people who work in my project. I’m really excited to do it but as it will need to be in Spanish I’m quite nervous too! I will keep you updated on how it goes…

Hope I didn’t waffle on too much, I’m tired and the words just ended up on the page somehow… Buenos Noches!!