Friday, 12 August 2016

Mexicans, drugs and what the Hondurans have to say on them...

Sat teaching English to some youths the other day we entered into a discussion on Central America which quickly went from slow, broken English to fast and furious Honduran style Spanish. The Hondurans have always (from those I've met) told me that Central Americans should band together and unite - as they were historically in the former Central American Republic of the 19th century. Mexico however, is always left out of the equation. They don't include Mexicans with themselves, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Costa Ricans or Panamanians... I asked 'why?' during our chat.

'No llevamos bien a veces con Mexicanos' explained one of the students. 'We don't get on very well with Mexicans sometimes' he said. Probing further, the boys explained to me that Mexicans apparently look down on Hondurans and behave as if they're superior when engaging with them. The accent too that Mexicans have (which I personally love) was ridiculed as well. What is interesting is that I have heard the same things said about Mexicans by friends I made in Spain from El Salvador. North Americans - or rather most that I've met - have nothing good to say about Mexicans either. We probably all know that already anyway - look at Donald Trump's progress. Personally, I feel much injustice. I cannot begin to fathom why there is so much dislike towards them amongst Latinos and outside cultures such as North Americans. Surely an accent isn't a reason...

Another time when sat in one of my favourite beach bars here in El Porvenir, that time with an entirely different group of local young people, we had a similar yet different conversation. The subject (a very common theme being as for the last few decades it's been such a current affair) was 'Los Narcos' or the drugs trade in Latin America. The teenage boys and University-aged girl covered how in Honduras the drugs grown and produced for exportation in countries like Bolivia and Peru - simply pass through their country. This being as they are on route to the USA, the end destination of all trafficked narcotics from Latin America. A decided proportion every year does also make its way around the world - much of the Cocaine hitting Europe with Spanish/Latino, Italian and Eastern European criminal organizations polluting the continent with the white filth. The youths confirmed what I have heard and read countless times - that it is the Mexican and Colombian Cartels who run the show within Latin America. This has been the way since the late 1980's. Central American street gangs are simply hired or 'used' to move the drugs from South America and up into the hands of their Mexican employers. These being the people who don't mess around. Not that the Central American gangbangers are a pushover - quite the contrary. I believe though going back to Mexicans having such a presence in organized crime, that this is another reason as to why they are not held in a great regard due to the 'Narco Cultura' that exists there (Mexico). The truth of the matter is that this is a Latin American problem - affecting most of the nations within South and Central America including The Caribbean. If only the nations could all come together and develop an affective, united strategy to eliminate the drugs situation. Easier said than done quite obviously, as this isn't just about tackling drugs but also the poverty, lack of opportunity and industry, corruption etc...Se pagan en Dollares...' said a friend of mine. 'They pay in Dollars...'




 
Photo: Mara Salvatrucha gangbangers. A street gang born in the ghettos of Los Angeles, this now huge Hispanic street gang runs the drugs, prostitution and all other vices in Central American nations like Honduras. The name means 'Salvadoran Army Ants' in El Salvador slang.
 
 

 
Photo: Mexican Mafia inmates in some US Penitentiary. The controllers and large scale organizers of the drugs trafficking into the States - alongside their heavy South American counterparts from Colombia.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Interesting points from a taxi driver

I had to take a taxi into La Ceiba recently, which turned into an interesting trip on account of the taxi driver. Coming out of the town El Porvenir we passed up many people I know - this giving off the impression to the driver I think that I was Honduran. He started to speak to me in a very local 'dialect' which unfortunately soon lost me - his usage of the word 'va' (to go) for example being quite sporadic as is common in people's speech here. It truly makes no sense to me and serves as a good example as to why I sometimes struggle to understand Spanish here - the word 'va' is used a lot to end sentences yet also changes something said into a question when delivered in a certain tone. When he asked me where I was from - I replied 'Inglaterra'. After pulling a face of interest he continued with something like 'desde muy lejos entonces va'. What peculiar Spanish I thought, this translating into English as 'from very far away then - go'... As if the word choice (the random usage of 'go' to end a sentence) wasn't confusing enough, it becomes all the more tricky to comprehend the first time round when delivered in the thick, fast and heavily abbreviated Caribbean accent - sounding phonetically like - 'de'de muy le'o endonce' ba'. The outsider's 'back to base word' (an American expression I've heard here and rather like) should always be 'como?' or 'come again?'

I found though, that as we got into it I could understand what he was saying better. Shades on, moustached and very dark skinned - the Taxista couldn't have appeared any more stereotypically Central American. He began the conversation by asking what England is like - if the work there is plentiful, if we make a lot of money and what it's like compared to Honduras. I gave him my personal opinion and told him that there's much employment (particularly amongst the young generation), the country is cold (in all senses of the word), frankly boring and lacks any real culture. In comparison to Honduras in terms of natural beauty and the people - one can't compare the two. Honduras is blessed with immense beauty and Hondurans are (on the whole) a charming people. However in conclusion, I stated that the two places are so vastly different it's almost impossible to compare anything, we were talking about two different worlds. What made the conversation so intriguing though, is that he sounded about as 'patriotic' of his country as I do of mine. Home is where the heart is anyway.

Driving past the pineapple fields, which employ the vast majority of men in the area, he started telling me of the injustices existing for the Honduran worker. 'Los muchachos, tienen que trabajar muchisimas horas por casi nada sabes...Los Jefes pagan como un hijo de puta mon!' His plain description of how 'guys have to work many, many hours for close to nothing and that the bosses pay like a son of a bitch' couldn't have spelt it out much better. I have seen these men from teenage years to old age, those who work in construction, fruit harvesting, road works etc...I have seen them out at all hours in the fierce heat breaking their backs for absolutely nothing. Their poor physical conditions showing this. He continued explaining that only a few options exist for a Honduran - he spoke more for men than women. As I understood, the options are that you can drive a taxi, work in construction, work in the fields, fish...or maybe try your luck up north - The United States of America. He himself had also tried the latter but explained that he was eventually deported . That taxi driver was the second person I've met so far who has told me they were deported after working illegally in the States.

After discussing the many negatives of going north to the US as well as all the terrible things North Americans have committed in Latin America...we arrived at a police checkpoint. I asked him (on our being let through) what he thought of the Honduran police. 'Todos son coruptos mano' or 'they are all corrupt bro'. I left it at that. We soon moved onto other things, he agreed that his country is remarkably beautiful and that Hondurans are a good people however his contempt for the political and economical situation was made clear. I could see that things were probably hard for him - having to drive around all day searching what must seem like an endless barrage of streets, lanes and highways for passengers before then driving them where they want which probably entails taking some crap off the inevitable idiot here and there stepping in his vehicle. After a whole day of this, he probably then gives most of his money earned to some boss who sits behind a desk - doing nothing. That's what I saw as he sat there driving and telling me what was what in Honduras and how hard if not impossible it is to 'get ahead'...















Wednesday, 27 July 2016

New shoes for deprived children in El Porvenir

Last Friday at the HCA, we had the great joy of being able to hold yet another 'shoe giving day' alongside the NGO 'Soles 4 Souls'.
https://soles4souls.org/
Tiffany Johnson, leader of the partner organization, arrived at the El Porvenir Firestation on Friday morning with a team of five volunteers. HCA international volunteers (from the countries USA, UK, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Austria, Finland and Honduras) were already at the scene playing with scores of excited children alongside the local firemen.
The two organizations proceeded to line up the many children and measure their feet before carefully allocating them brand new shoes of the correct sizes. All volunteers were heavily involved throughout the day covering a wide range of tasks from measuring shoe sizes to photographing the event. Two locations were worked - starting at the Firestation in the morning and then moving to Barrio de El Mitch in the afternoon. The latter being regarded as El Porvenir's most deprived neighborhood. A truly wonderful day it was, bringing both volunteers and the community perfectly together. Most imortantly, hundreds of in need children - now have new shoes. No more coming to our classes barefoot!








 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

In El Porvenir

The sea lies peacefully out front. It sits there calmly, wave after wave rolling gently over the expanse of tropical, light blue or at times grey water - itself populated by an outstanding abundance of creatures from the Barracuda to the Pelicans. Local fisherman every now and again impressively haul in the former. They take to the Caribbean coastline of Atl├íntida department, northern Honduras, in their dugout canoes - all products of the surrounding jungles. Many stout, ancient trees such as the Mahogany can be found deep inside these tropical forests which so engulf the landscape within this zone of the country. They (Mahogany) are not used for the canoes though as the days of Mahogany felling went out with Piracy. The latter does still occur at times yet not in the same fashion as the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This being an intriguing chapter of Honduran or rather Caribbean history.

 
Photo: An excellent example of the Honduran hardwoods found in the forests here


There on the beaches commune the fishermen as they smoke La Juana, talk shit and drink beers (Salva Vida - the Honduras national cerveza) whilst then more often than not ending up in squabbles amongst each other. As I write this from the beach house I can hear one calling another 'hijo de puta' or a 'son of a bitch'. These poverty stricken fishermen sit under the shade near our house in a pitiful state.

Local mothers take their children to La Playa for a swim. This being a perfect opportunity for them to get themselves and the children out of the house and away from the merciless heat that so pursues us all in the town. Women here however, do not sport bikinis as they are considered quite taboo. A stark contrast to other Latin American countries such as Brazil or Colombia. Honduran society is more conservative in general - thus making women cover up on the beaches. A lady seen in this kind of outfit within a public zone is seen in the same light as her going simply naked.
 
 
Photo: Posing on the beach, Honduran national team shirt (football) with cabanas
and mountains/jungle in the background
 

Beach huts, palm-thatched and wooden poled constructions known in Spanish as 'Cabanas' are to be seen plotted along the beaches. These are the beach side bars and restaurants cum nightclubs frequented solely by locals or perhaps every once and again by the token gringo or middle-class Hondurans who come from La Ceiba at weekends. At the end of the beach there is a large river running from the sea mouth at its end and then all the way from there up into the mountains. The mountains stand high and mighty in the not so far distance, they appear as the giant lush, green defenders of El Porvenir. They are nature's guardians who so protect the town and its people down below with the huge shielding effect they seem to hold on the landscape. The mountains appear gigantic as one looks up on them from the beach zone, densely forested with the odd waterfall cascading spectacularly from high up in those forested hills. They are remarkable visible, especially so when it rains and the mountains appear a strong shade of dark blue.
 


Photo: My favourite place. The river looking towards the mountains behind
 


The La Ceiba bus storms into town, its driver blasting the horn excessively in his attempt to alert the townsfolk of his llegada or arrival. People pack into these chicken buses, a bright and colourful ethnic mix of Indios, Negros, Mestizos and Blancos filling the tightly cramped seats. Music fills the air as one passes mountains, rivers, plantation fields and bustling cities. Musica Latina or Jamaican/Caribbean tracks pump from the driver's speakers at his side. He is one of a three man team formed of a fare collector, the driver and then his assistant. The assistant always appears to sit and enjoy a good laugh. The fare collector is arguably the busiest as he helps passengers on and off the bus, collects the fare prices (you just pay the sum - there are no tickets given) and then hands out the change. He chucks copious amounts of change between his hands as he wobbles between the seats. La Ceiba is where I always go on the bus, this city is the region's capital and is further known as the 'party capital' of Honduras.

The streets of El Porvenir are flat. This is the most obvious and important note that one could make about them. There are simply no hills in the town - being strikingly different to the places I saw in Lempira department, western Honduras during my first time in this extraordinary country. Atl├íntida and Lempira are two very different places with actually very little in common. Strays dogs wander the streets as carefree as the little children. Sometimes the dogs appear in better shape than the children. A clear result of the poverty here. The poverty however doesn't impact the happiness of the children, they are constantly at the ready to come running up and give you a hug or ask for a piggyback to whether they're headed. Their glowing smiles come always with an 'Hola senor gringo!'
 
 
Photo: The flat streets of El Porvenir


The tut-tut cabs wobble around precariously through the quiet streets of El Porvenir,
occasionally overtaken by a bus or a city taxi. These small, red, three-wheeled vehicles are definitely something that will characterize the tourist's time in Honduras. The houses here are all extremely different. You can encounter a large villa style building next to a shack. The dirt poor live by side by side the wealthy. Those who make money stay in the same neighbourhood it would appear - 'a look what I've achieved' attitude existing amongst some.



 
Photo: A typical shack found in the poorer sections of the town












Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Confusing attitudes towards black people

Whilst being here for over a month now, I have at times heard some rather appalling or frankly strange remarks about black people or persons - here in El Porvenir. To begin with, one must look at the history to understand the present. The history of black people on Honduras being an intriguing chapter of Latin America's journey. Here in the north coast zone of Honduras - blacks hardly got off to a good start.

At first, they came as nothing more than slave labour - 'imported' by the British from nearby colonies (late 19th to early 20th centuries) such as Jamaica and 'British Honduras' (now Belize) to work on either fruit plantations or in logging camps. Mahogany was the prized hardwood, the territory of modern day Belize was in fact founded by Scottish pirates who created 'logging colonies' - an extremely profitable venture and undoubtedly safer than Piracy. The Spanish had of course left a handful of Negros on the Honduran coast yet they were outnumbered by the English or rather Creole speaking blacks.





Honduran workers, many of them being migrants from inland regions such as Olancho, were employed on the plantations. Whilst the British became less of a force and their presence dwindled in the region of the Central American Caribbean, the North Americans stepped in. Notably with their fruit companies. Notorious organizations such the United Fruit Company based out of New Orleans started making a name for themselves. There is a good book I read on the subject entitled 'Banana Cultures' by John Soluri, published by the University of Texas press. North Americans preferred employing the English speaking blacks to work their plantations - they were also given more positions of authority on certain sites. This deeply aggravated the native Hondurans, a grudge was subsequently born amongst the populace of the north coast towards Los Negros. Blacks were seen to be cheating Hondurans out of work - made worse by their being a people from Africa who didn't belong. Racist and intolerant attitudes surely have their roots at this point in time. It would appear quite strongly, that even to this day, mind-sets in El Porvenir haven't progressed...
 
 



'Te gusta las negritas?' I have been asked a few times. It's always hit me here as an entirely inappropriate and indeed unexpected question - 'do you like the black girls?' On being asked by some teenagers I replied after consideration (choosing honesty of course) 'pues claro - si son bonitas' or 'well of course - if they're pretty'. This was met with uproar, the three Honduran girls making ranging comments from the 'best' (least offensive) being 'ay no Ben - las negras no!' to the absolute worst 'se parecen como monos'. The latter comment being completely intolerable in any language - 'they look like monkeys'. Schoolchildren too, will frequently bully black classmates. If a black child does anything to irritate a Honduran, then the typical response amongst them is to shout 'negro!' or 'negra!' at the said black child. We always have to step in as the volunteers and scold those who choose to use the child's race as a reason to bully them. That being said, it's not as if we all come from angelic countries where no one has ever insulted a black person - USA and UK please stand up. We do though have the utmost responsibility to teach that racism is unacceptable amongst those we come into contact with.

 
Photo: 'Pues claro - si son bonitas'. A previous Miss Honduras
 

Whilst certain Hondurans display unkindness towards blacks here, they then behave most strangely and contradict their racist attitudes frequently. Hondurans who are quite clearly not black skinned, call themselves and each other 'negro y negra' - for some reason. 'Que tal negra?' I've heard young men say to girls in an almost flirtatious manner. 'Todo suave papi negro' or 'all suave black daddy' - I have heard as an amusing response. A Honduran lady, a mother of a friend says to me every time I see her 'que negro andas' - roughly translating to 'how black you're looking' on account of my progressive tanning. No offence is meant by it, it's like when I was told by the local fire chief that him and his colleagues were going to teach me a style of Spanish (they have a laugh at my Castellano style Spanish from Spain which I've acquired) which they called 'la pura negra'. What they meant by that was I going to speak a kind of 'black person's Spanish' like them...none of them are black though. The conflicting comments leave an outsider like myself  quite perplexed in trying to understand the situation here. Whilst at times locals say things beyond unacceptable about black people they then come across as carrying some kind of affection towards their darker brother and sisters. According to that same mother I mentioned, she told me that in a year's time 'te vas a ser negro como nosotros'. I am apparently going to be black like them. The thing is they have as much 'changing' to do as me on that one...


































Monday, 4 July 2016

A repulsive state of affairs

Whilst strolling through some quiet back lanes the other day alongside a local girl, the two of us came across a friend of hers. The girls greeted each other as we passed ourselves with some textbook Spanish exchanged - 'Hola, como estas?' - 'bien y usted?' On passing the other girl up, my companion soon told me about her friend. The tale not being something I was expecting to hear.

'Ella tiene tres hijos ya - pero con quinze anos Ben' she told me softly. I was utterly shocked. I believe I asked her to repeat herself. On confirmation that the girl was indeed a 15 year-old-mother of three I took a few seconds and threw out another question. I asked when she had the first child. The answer being at 11 years of age.

My head tends to swim on hearing such things, questions filing my mind like 'what kind of animal impregnates an 11 year-old?' to 'how on earth does the girl cope?' etc... I have been thinking about the girl, about how her life has been robbed from her - that at 15 years of age she has not just one but three children to care for. Motherhood being a responsibility for life. The grandest of responsibilities for a woman surely. Three children from 11 to 15 years is something just deplorable.

What of that girl's dreams or desires - what of her innocence at 11 years - what of her as a person? How could someone (I refuse to call the father a man) violate the life of a little girl as has been done so abhorrently with this young lady? I saw the same girl later that night on my being invited to Church. There she was with two of her children, a tiny boy and a tiny girl. 

Eco tourism short

I came across these photos and thought they might look good on the blog - being that they perfectly exhibit the natural beauty of Honduras. These were taken whilst we hiked the Pico Bonito national park. A truly captivating series of waterfalls were encountered during our trek, these such places (as one can see in the photos) are sources of economic value - bringing in many a visitor from afar. As each and every Honduran licence plate says 'cuidamos los bosques' or 'we look after/care for the forests'.

  











Link for those further interested in Pico Bonito: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico_Bonito_National_Park


Saturday, 2 July 2016

A disturbing story

In a class I gave last week, I learned something terrible about a female student of mine. Whilst teaching 'La Familia' in English I asked some students to tell me about their own. 'How many brothers and sisters do you have?' etc...Student's answers were following normal lines until we reached a certain girl.

The girl informed me of how many she had (a lot) but soon added that she'd lost one. This being a brother. I never know what to say apart from 'I'm very sorry' when I hear people say such saddening things yet if I thought that part was difficult to reply to - I had no idea what was coming next. I didn't press her of course as to how the brother died - she offered it straight up in clear Spanish. 'Lo mataron' or 'they killed him'. Being in Honduras, where murders are a tragic normality - I assumed immediately that it would be something to do with criminality. I wasn't thinking the brother would have been a criminal per say yet I thought he may have met his end of the hands of gangbangers perhaps - as many innocent people do here.

To combat the queer silence that unfolded I decided to ask 'ellos eran criminales? Los asesinos?'. She replied that they were not criminals - those who killed her brother. The reason came out at this point. The girl explained that her brother was gay. He met a violent death on account of being a maricon...a faggot. Homosexual intolerance or rather homophobia are indeed something quite rampant within Latin America. I understood beforehand that this very religious part of the world sees homosexuality as a threat to the family amongst other things yet I'd no idea of how some 'deal' with gays - murdering them by way of machete or lynching - as my student graphically detailed. I actually think, if I understood her fast-paced Caribbean Spanish correctly - that her brother was killed in such a fashion. 

The class picked up again after that. I'm sure we all thought that she'd told us the story very matter-of-factly as indeed many people do when they've lost someone in such circumstances. To conclude on this disturbing tale, I'm actually not so sure of what to say. Whilst I myself am not homosexual and have found myself a few times quite uncomfortable discussing attraction for the same sex - I would never seek to hurt physically or emotionally someone of that persuasion. Their choices, their life is how I see it as long as it isn't rammed in my face. To murder someone and indeed in such a brutal way, solely for their being gay - is beyond my comprehension. Just another 'throw-away' tale I've been told whilst here in El Porvenir...









Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Los Cayos Cochinos

The world holds within it a swathe of marvellous places, zones within our planet that make the human being pause and take a look at his or her life, making them realize furthermore that life itself is indeed and undoubtedly worth living. The reason being simple - how it could it (life being worth living) not be when we are blessed with such a beautiful place in which to reside. Cayos Cochinos is without any doubt...one such place. I am truly glad that we decided to make the trip there last weekend, glad for myself especially as I was more inclined to pass it up.

The name Cayos Cochinos means the 'dirty cays'. The Spanish named it so during the age of discovery in the Americas - as British pirates used these 13 small islands as a hideout and operating base. The Spanish were at a loath to cross into this beautiful yet then perilous zone - a place they could meet their deaths from English, Welsh or Scottish privateers. They are now a protected reserve (treaties having been signed by countries such as Spain and Italy) supporting all kinds of astonishing biodiversity - both marine and land. From Iguanas to Nurse sharks - the cays offer stunning wildlife. To get there we took a thrilling boat ride from a small town (a Garifuna community) called Sambo Creek. Getting out towards the islands the waters appear extremely high and deep - 'Honduras' intriguingly meaning 'deep waters' in Spanish, Columbus naming the country so after periling with his fleet through the great sea depths off the north coast.

The Garifuna people reside on the islands - making an income from very sustainable and exhilarating tourism trips- such as ours. From paying a tax on the main island to enter the cays at a military guarded tourism information base to then snorkelling with exotic marine life, trekking through jungles on the lookout for Boa snakes and finally landing in a Garifuna community to spend the night - the trip was simply extraordinary.

The Garifuna village we stayed in was a fascinating little place although from my previous time in a Garifuna village in Tela (a nearby coastal town) I felt that the coastal Garifuna were friendlier than the island people. They live in a mix of traditional wooden/wattle and daubed earth walled buildings to adobe or wooden planked constructions. The gorgeous views of the Caribbean surrounding them on all sides - these once British owned slaves make their livings from fishing mostly if not tourism ventures. The beaches are utter marvels - all the more so as the sun sets over the crystal clear turquoise water. These are travel brochure destinations.

Who are La Garifuna?

More often than not referred to as 'Garifuna', they are truly called 'Garinagu' whilst the culture and language themselves are 'Garifuna'. The epic story of the Garinagu begun during the early 1600's on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The Landing by Benjamin Nicholas
In 1635, two Spanish ships carrying Nigerian slaves sank directly off the coast of St. Vincent. The surviving slaves swam ashore and found shelter within Carib Indian settlements. Over the next century and a half, these two peoples intermixed and eventually fused into a single culture - the Black Caribs or Garinagu.
By 1773, the Black Carib formed the dominant population of St. Vincent. European politics however began to exert their influence throughout the Caribbean. A series of wars between the French and British on St. Vincent culminated in a final battle on June 10th, 1796, the French and their Carib allies where ultimately forced to surrender and leave the island. This henceforth started a journey for the exiled Caribs - now in search of a home.
It was then the British who simply marooned Caribs on the island of Roatan, Honduras. Shortly after, the entire marooned population migrated to the mainland of Honduras and allied with the Spanish in the fortress town of Trujillo. However, a brief civil war in 1832 found the Caribs on the wrong side and once again many were forced to flee to neighboring British Honduras - now Belize.






 













Friday, 24 June 2016

Al hospital!




A few days back we went on a drive to the nearest main hospital based out of the city La Ceiba. Our mission was to secure placements for incoming medical students who wish to gain credit with their universities by volunteering in hospitals (within developing nations I gather). The team was comprised of my boss Eve Horowitz - USA, project manager Jenna - Finland, medical student Amanda - USA, and myself.

On arrival at the hospital we were greeted by a complete pendejo of a military guardsman who didn't speak Spanish it appeared despite being Honduran. Eve stumbled out nervously but in a flawless sentence 'tenemos una reunion' - 'we have a meeting'. She was made to repeat herself at least five times and then Jenna and I had a go at getting the moron to understand. He just claimed not to get it and barked 'no te entiendo - va va' - 'I don't understand you - just go'.

Anyway, Eve then began to tell me of how things work at this particular hospital. Some mind-blowing things I heard - such as pregnant women having to bring their own sheets as well as people having to pay for everything during their stay from food to medicines. Of course if you've no family to help you or no money - as a good friend Sherman told us (he came along as a translator) - 'that poor guy better pray...'

We ended up waiting in administracion for three tedious hours as the director was occupied. We had come to speak with her. Fed up with the wait three of us went to get ice-creams to then have them taken off us at the first lick as the director was finally ready to see us! We got in there to find a serious looking conversation taking place between Eve, Amanda, Sherman and a stern looking female directora. After some great explaining of the programme and clever negotiation thanks to the aforementioned people - the hospital granted us permission to send the med students!

A truly great success and something that will undoubtedly help those in serious need. We posed for a photo at the entrance afterwards - it was awkward to be honest as people don't tend to take happy photos at a hospital...however we have something to celebrate at the HCA!


 







Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A la playa vamo'!

 

To change the feel a bit, considering this blog has had some rather heavier pieces as of late - I shall write an account of our Sunday at the beach. Our NGO director Eve Horowitz decided to take us all to a place just outside of the city La Ceiba (near Sambo Creek - a more Belizean sounding name) which is a kind of hotel/restaurant by the beach - Canadian owned.



The ride there was quite something, we all climbed in the back of her pickup truck and rode 'rough' -  Central American style. This being something like 10 people with an inch of space per person. It had been too long since doing this during my first time in Honduras so I enjoyed the experience thoroughly - despite the fact it gets terribly uncomfortable. The place itself was a truly beautiful spot with some gorgeous tropical scenery having us pass the afternoon swimming, sun-bathing (only the girls), photo-taking and sipping on ice-cold refreshments in the bar.



I didn't come to Honduras for a gringo style vacation - I've no wish to mingle amongst the whites frankly - yet I do concede these outings are of course relaxing and very enjoyable. The shoreline of Honduras is the most splendid and utterly beautiful I've seen of any country. We rode back to El Porvenir the same way - evading police stops by not sitting on the rim of truck. Everyone had to pile on top of each other in the hatch. Nothing like the smell of sweaty, salt-stained - sun cream wearing North Americans and Europeans...



 
Bottom photo: 'Paradise found' - absolutely. I noticed the small sign whilst strolling along the beach, it simply demanded a photo being entirely suitable in its capturing of the day's essence. Paraiso encontrado...

Monday, 20 June 2016

Los Pescadores. The Fishermen.

 
Where we live, in the volunteer beach house, the setting is of an exotic beauty and without any doubt - charmingly Caribbean. I wake up every morning and feel privileged to be blessed with such a 'day-dreamer's' location in which to reside. The beach lies out front, tropical fauna shading our large house from the downbeat of the searing sun. In the shade, where the stray dogs lie and the mosquitos swarm - our local fishermen commune.

These men are all true characters to begin with. They've a local reputation as being likeable rogues or swarthy sorts. There is indeed a fine line existing between them all. The men gather in groups of five to fifteen at a time underneath the trees just beyond our porch. They do little all day but sit, smoke La Juana and get drunk. Sometimes they've broken into fights or displayed uncouth behaviour towards young women. The fact is however, that despite their at times less than appealing behaviour - these men have all struggled. I can see this written on their faces. Weather-beaten, shabbily dressed and generally un-kempt - they appear a pitiful sight. All products of the regions poor economic situation the fishermen are simply locked in a conflict with the consequences of poverty and lack of opportunities. Their sitting around and doing nothing is something common of those finding themselves in an existence such as theirs. The fishermen wake up early and hit the waters in their carved out canoes. At times we've seen them land impressive catches - notably a large Barracuda as of recent. When not engaged in landing fish however, the men become lethargic and sit around abusing substances.  

An always friendly group though, smiling and saluting us - their political rants and conversations can also be extremely interesting. These tend to take place early in the morning so only early-rising Spanish speakers like myself get to hear them. Some are quite educated as well I believe. I recall one such fishermen explaining at the top of his voice one morning (they speak in a very fast-paced slang ridden vernacular as well making them difficult to understand at times) what a 'gringo' really is. I have noticed that Hondurans don't use the word properly. A 'gringo' or 'gringa' is a white-skinned person from the USA (can include Canada as well) - and that's that. The word has its origins in Spain and stems from Greek. In keeping with its traditional usage within Latin America - Europeans like myself are not to be considered gringos. 

Getting back to their presence here, I feel that the fishermen are indeed rowdy yet misunderstood. They may turn heads when greeting each other with lines such as 'hola maricas!' (hello faggots!) or sitting around binge drinking yet one can see the desperation in these men's' faces. One even came up to me - half drunk and asked 'puedes regalame tu camisa...como un amigo?'. A middle-aged man was asking me for the clothes of my back. 'Can you give me your shirt...like a friend?'

 



Photo: The fishermen gathering below our porch - a favourite haunt.








Saturday, 11 June 2016

A hard time at home

During a few classes we've been giving over the past week a few of us have noticed that some children (boys mostly) bear signs of very possible 'physical' activity at home. One such child, a ten-year-old boy who attends our English and computing classes came along with a noticeable black mark around his right eye socket. A U.S volunteer noticed it at first whilst I had a kick-about with the chico. I then took note and found myself telling a Honduran volunteer the next day.

The boy (who we shall call 'Jose') lashed out at another child during the next day's class - as he has a quick temper and also knows a 'tasty' word or two in his native tongue. Both serving as signs of his home life - at that age. The other boy was fairly hurt by Jose. Turning over to me, a Honduran volunteer said 'pelea mucho este'. That roughly translating to 'this boy fights a lot'. I then said to him that we were concerned with him and his home life - I pointed to Jose's facial marks. The Honduran volunteer stepped over boldly asked Jose what was up with his face. He looked away and timidly responded that it was the 'dog'...

Another sight I noticed was when we found ourselves playing Frisbee on a field one day last week. A female volunteer went to snatch the Frisbee jokingly from a little boy. As she did the child threw his little arms over him as if to cover himself. He did it in the fashion as when you know someone's going to hit you. An obvious sign of being hit frequently - his reaction was instant.

Our project manager informed us all towards the end of the week that we can expect most children here in El Porvenir have a 'hard time' at home. This being just the tragic part and parcel of growing up in a deprived place. No different to poor and underprivileged families in the UK for instance, this is just the way it is - very sadly. All we can do as outsiders is to provide the children with a safe, fun and engaging place to be - when present in our classes. This being what the HCA so strive to accomplish...

 
 


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Pregnancies at an attrocious age

 


I had an interesting yet saddening conversation yesterday evening with a local girl who attends our adult/youth English classes. Making conversation she asked me if I had siblings, where my parents live etc...before moving onto (switching into Spanish too) 'tienes hijos usted?' I was surprised she asked me if I had children (considering she knew my age - twenty) however I knew that here in Honduras that wouldn't be at all abnormal for them. That being, a twenty-year-old who's already a father. In fact, within some areas it's probably considered almost 'abnormal' if not...

I told her that within Europe people tend to have children later on. She stated the contrary saying that within the area many girls - as young as eleven - are mothers. I asked her what she thought about that with her response being 'bueno, eso lo que hay' - meaning 'it is how it is'. It's a crying shame I feel that so many young Honduran girls I've met are already mothers. Truly, the majority of girls from fifteen to twenty all have at least one child.

The girl doesn't have any children herself and told me she wants to wait until past twenty five or so, once she's actually in a position to support a child. Before the eye-opening chat came to an end she recounted me a story of how a friend of hers (a pregnant eleven-year-old) actually died giving birth. Something of a national crisis one might argue, surely some kind of education programme needs putting in place or something similar to combat such an alarming young rate of pregnancies...



Sunday, 5 June 2016

Poverty in El Porvenir

I must say, that during the past week as I ventured for my first time into certain barrios or neighbourhoods of the large (and extremely flat) town of El Porvenir, I was indeed rather taken by the obvious state of poverty.

Walking through these zones - all just off the long main road running through the town, one notices the many different styles of dwellings in which people live. From palm-thatched and split-cane walled huts to dilapidating, wooden planked and adobe constructions - there are no fit looking buildings for inhabitation.

The children who live within these places come running out to greet you, their little clothes torn, barefoot - some appear just in pants. They've cuts and bruises on their young yet already haggard faces  yet they beam great smiles and laugh at every possible opportunity. Some of the parents hide in the confines of the houses however others will also come out to say hello to the passing gringos...

Photos below: