A Lesson Learned

June 8, 2009 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

A good friend turned to me last week and said “Living in Honduras is all about choosing your battles”.  And boy was she right. After my first 3 weeks in site, I have had a laundry list of occurrences that have either A) threw me into a downward spiral of anger/tears OR B) had me laugh and say such is life. It’s really a crapshoot, but it is amazing to see that it’s the smaller things really bother me.

Ejemplo numero uno. My electra ducha (hot water shower heater) has not worked since I moved in. Well, actually I have had 2 hot showers. Then the system short-circuited. The thing is is that my host dad thinks he can fix anything without any help/prior knowledge of the subject matter (apparently this is a universal concept with men). All 7 apartments upstairs have electra duchas, and all are connected with the same exposed, half-assed wiring. I’m no electrician, but I am pretty sure that when my shower head sparks and the lights dim when I turn on the valve, something is very wrong. This past week, he even went so far as to buy 7 new electra duchas and install them all. But amazingly, my electra ducha still didn’t work. I tried to explain to him, without insulting his manliness, that I thought it was the wiring. He was pretty adamant that it had to so with the ducha. So what does he do? He goes and buys second new one. And alas, it still doesn’t work. And so, I go on taking cold showers every morning. At least it makes me wake up and go running in the morning some I am actually hot when I shower. No big deal.

Ejemplo numero dos. The steps to the second floor of my apartment building are uneven. What I mean is that they are different heights. I trip EVERY damn time going up or down the steps and I curse heaven and hell in voz alta EVERY time. The neighbors must think I am crazy because I curse in English. I am always hoping that they don’t watch enough American TV to know what I am saying. But how hard is it to measure steps? Measure twice, cut once, right? And the thing of it is, they are all different heights. I have measured. It goes something like this “half step, half step, quarter step, one step, one and a half step” and so on. And at night, there are no lights. I know I sound crazy for even typing this and I cannot convey in words how annoying it is. I feel like a lot of Honduras is like this. Nothing is done/built right the first time, so they spend the rest of their time trying to fix it with crappy patch work. I guess I can see a trend. Foreign aid workers coming in for brief periods of time, throwing something together, not teaching them what they did or how to maintain it, then leaving, so the Hondurans have figure out how to fix it. I feel like this is how a lot of development work is. As for my stairs, I don’t think they are going to try to fix them anytime soon.

Ejemplo numero tres. Insects. I have mixed feelings in this category. I have a military sized brigade of tiny sugar ants that like to hang out in my room searching for food. I learned the hard way when I left my food on the floor, only to come back to my bag of granola “moving”. Ants filled to the top. They also had taken interest in my toothbrush and toothpaste. I still use that toothbrush today. Gross, I know. And for some reason, they like my bar of soap. I have to periodically pick off the ants to take a shower. Maybe I’m not threatened because they are so small. I kinda feel bad for the fellas.

However, what makes me loose my mind is the ONE mosquito stuck in my room at night. The mosquitoes here are really tiny, so you’re lucky even to see it, but you can HEAR it. Every morning, I wake up to at least 4 or 5 new bites. My ankles and feet look like I have a bad case of the chicken pox. In addition, I ravenously scratch them at night while I am sleeping, so now I look like bloody mess. And Hondurans LOVE to point out all of your flaws/blemishes. “Que paso con sus piernas? Pobrecita gringa!” or when I get a sunburn “Que quemada! Que feo su piel!” Great for the good ol’ self esteem. Let’s just be glad that know one here has called me gordita yet.

Ejemplo numero cuatro. Lack of details or punctuality in anything. I am desperately trying to get a water system project off the ground for a new community being built for landslide vicitims. The construction has started, but has already hit many bumps in the road with funds and manpower. And then comes the water system. They are all eager for me to start my topo study, but of what, I ask? No water source, no project. And getting through to the alcalde (mayor) is like pulling teeth. But I have been assured by all of the veteran volunteers this is the way of life own here. Lower the expectations a bit and you won’t be disappointed.

Ejemplo numero cinco. Honduran men’s never-ending effort to try to get me to go on dates. Despite the lies of gringo boyfriends, explanations of me trying to be professional in my job, or just the plain fact of cultural differences, it won’t stop. I’ve tried so hard to be an ice queen, but it just doesn’t work. Until, however, you come up with a list. Not just any list. A list of demands that surely NO Honduran will ever meet or want to meet. A fellow volunteer let me in on this secret. The other day, when the conversation was going sour, I whipped out my list of pre-recs for my dream man. In my Spanish (I practiced for this moment) My dream esposo must: be taller than me (many do not fufill this requirement), stay at home to raise the kids, cook, clean, bake, wash clothes, and iron, among many other things. The look I got from the men was priceless. My secretary was laughing hysterically saying I would never find a man like that here. Case in point.

I feel like this list will get longer and more complicated as my time here progresses. But it really has been an important lesson. You just can’t care about everything. You sure can’t change it, so why bitch about it. Whether it’s shotty construction, insects, or a different culture, deal with it. Choose your battles. And when it comes to Honduras, choose wisely because you have to be more selective.


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Some new pics of Santa Rosa! Mountains, water system visits, n’at

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