Archive for December, 2010

It’s been awhile.

I’d like to first apologize to my devout readers (all 4 of you) for my absence the past few months. My computer has been out of commission for quite some time, which required me to, 1)  leave my apartment and actually go to my office, 2) try to convince out-of-office coworkers to let me use their virus-laced computers, and 3), figure out Microsoft Xcel commands in Spanish. And so, that is how my work has been completed in the past 6 months. However, it is amazing what you can distract yourself with once you have technology involuntarily removed from your life. Like reading! I have read more books here than I have in my whole life (embarrassing, I know).

But, I couldn’t hide for long, as technology has entered my life again. I have just returned from an invigorating and refreshing trip from the United States of ‘Merica, where I was immediately engulfed by  I-phones, I-pads, Blackberries, Droids, and talking GPSs in cars. However, I was grateful that my laptop fan was replaced for free by a friendly Sony repairman, and so now I write on my own computer in an English operating system.

After my American experience, I was quite surprised to see that some Honduran-isms are also shared in my own country. So in this blog, I would like shed some light on some of the similarities and differences between the two.

 

THINGS I THOUGHT WERE HONDURAN BUT ARE ALSO AMERICAN:

CUTTING IN LINES – Ask a Honduran what it means to wait in a line, and you will you receive a blank stare. Down here, it’s everyone for themselves; men shoving pregnant women aside to get on the bus, tercer edad (senior citizens) getting first dibs to buy bus tickets, and the notorious woman at the supermercado that has one item, and is allowed to cut in front of every customer who is waiting patiently. Obviously, she cannot wait in line because it is a very important purchase: one 3-liter bottle of Pepsi. I usually flush red with violent anger, and say something sarcastic, but sarcasm does not exist in this culture (see below on sarcasm), so she just stares at me and usually tries to touch my hair.

In America, everyone follows lines in military-type fashion and is usually vocal about line-cutters, with the exception of 2 things: Black Friday (some unlucky fellow got trampled inside of Target this year) and NFL football games. I went to a Steelers game while at home and was flabbergasted at the mob pushing to get into Gate A. My brother nearly had a panic attack as the mass of black-and-gold drunken fans moved as one unit, crushing plants, beer cans and trash, and maybe even some Patriots fans in their path.

This leads to my next similarity:

TRASH – (Yes, Patriots fans are trash too, but I am referring to actual garbage) I heard my brother exclaim before entering the stadium “Wow, look at how much trash these f@*%ers threw on the ground, disgusting!” If he hadn’t of said anything, I wouldn’t have even noticed. I am that integrated into Honduran culture, where trash is thrown anywhere and everywhere BUT a trash can or is burned to produce a combination of smells resembling skunk and burnt hair. However, I realize, Honduras lacks environmental education and municipal support for trash collection, but that’s why Peace Corps is here. However, I’d like to point out that there is no Peace Corps in America, because we are educated. I mean really, guys. I also witnessed this while going on one of my Dad’s daily walks around my suburb. He is known to my neighbors as the “trash man”, because he literally picks up trash off the ground on his walks. He even stashes an extra plastic bag in his jacket pocket just in case he encounters more than one trash item. Why, I ask, in white suburbia, where we are all well educated, would there be any trash on the ground at all? I applaud my Dad and his efforts, and encourage people to follow in his actions.

BLOOD-THIRSTY SPORTS FANS AND FRANCHISES – It occurred to me while at this NFL game that American football fans are not unlike Honduran soccer fans (or any soccer fan outside of the US for that matter). Abundant alcohol + sports = fights and riots. I remember when the Red Sox won the World Series a few years ago; I witnessed on the news belligerent fans setting couches on fire, fighting in the streets, and scaling buildings and signs, with one unfortunate fan falling to his death.

Here in Honduras it is much the same, which is why most of the time PCVs are banned from attending soccer matches here. There is a national futbol league, much like ours, which pits cities against cities. Fences are usually torn down at the stadiums and a gun fight is sure to ensue after the game.

Also, I’d like to point out the big business of sports. Entering Heinz stadium would have been hell if I was epileptic. All of the flashy lights, advertisements, music, commercials, and the God-sized Heinz Ketchup bottles that flowed into the huge screen when the Steelers were within scoring distance set me up for a perfect migraine. Yes, I get it. All sports make lots and lots and lots of money for the owners and advertisers and of course the celebrity players.

Honduras mimics the same shenanigans, only on a smaller scale. The players are celebrities here too and appear in cell phone ads and bottled water commercials (remember you can’t drink the water here). The stadiums, however, are lack luster, as the one in Tegucigalpa half-collapsed last month. Or should I mention the slight scandal in which Honduran government officials claimed to “misplace” some of the FIFA money it was given to cover the costs to send the team to the World Cup last year. Needless to say, the government managed to fly the president over for most of the games. I rest my case.

BUG INFESTATIONS – With my on-going war against cockroaches in my kitchen (the ants have since left), the situation had gotten out of control when I surprised a 3-inch cockroach gnawing on a raw onion in my kitchen. The next day, I sprayed industrial Raid into every orifice of my kitchen, waited in the haze of toxic fumes for about 10 minutes, and then smashed them with my sandal when they emerged from the darkness. I counted 25 carcasses, although I know some of them survived and are getting stronger by the day. . .

I had naively thought that only large, grotesque, annoying insects thrive in hot, tropical climates. I was wrong. My poor newly-wed friends were greeted with bedbugs when they arrived home to their apartment after their wedding weekend. What a wedding gift! I, of course, offered my Honduran advice to put the mattress out in the sun (they live in Cleveland), pour bleach on everything, and then put all of your clothes in buckets of boiling water. Fortunately in America there are professional exterminators and steam cleaners.

“JEGGINGS” + BOOTS – I am no fashionista, as you know. My friend actually wants to put me on “What Not to Wear” when I get back to the States. However, I have noticed in my almost 2 years here that Honduran fashion is quite dazzling, in an entertaining sort of way. No matter if you have money or not, you dress to the nines anytime you leave the house. How you present yourself is of the utmost importance here (Americans should take note: ditch the track suits at the airports, please). The shoes must match the belt, the bag, be-dazzled blouse, and eye shadow. Ruffles abound from necklines. Feather headbands look as if a bird has nested in someone’s head. And of course, there are leggings and scrunchy suede boots.

So, to my surprise upon entering America, I saw this same phenomenon: leggings and boots! A parallel universe! Of course, I was then corrected by a GAP employee that they are called “jeggings” (jeans + leggings). I, personally, think the style is hideous. However, I remind you that I may be the next contestant on “What Not to Wear” when I return home.

 

THINGS THAT ARE ONLY AMERICAN THAT DO NOT EXIST IN HONDURAS:

SARCASM –Sarcasm was the only form language I knew back in the states. Here, unfortunately, no one uses it or understands it. I try to explain it, but how do you? Like telling the line-cutting lady that “Of course you can cut in line, you are probably in a HUGE hurry with that bottle of soda. I am sure your 2-year-old is super thirsty!” . . . . Blank stare.

Or staring. Hondurans would win the Olympic gold medal for staring contests. At first I thought it was rude, now I think it is funny. Young, old, male, female, it doesn’t matter. I have had many a staring contest with all of them. And now I have found myself staring too, as if it were socially acceptable. I was staring at people left and right at MIA airport. I have regressed.

EXTRA-SHARP VERMONT CHEDDAR CHEESE – Which explains the extra 5 pounds I am carrying around down here. My co-workers were quick to point it out when I went into the office the other day.

BUS SCHEDULES THAT ARE ON-TIME AND WORK EFFICIENTLY – Yes, the PAT buses are a bit old in Pittsburgh, but at least they are on time, clean, and not recycled,yellow school buses.

NICELY PAVED ROADS AND HIGHWAYS – Honduras makes the DOT look like rockstars.

 

THINGS THAT ARE HONDURAN THAT DO NO EXIST IN AMERICA:

FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES THAT DO NOT TASTE LIKE CARDBOARD – Americans need to start buying local, in-season produce. I will save that rant for later.

TWO HOUR LUNCH BREAKS THAT INCLUDE A NAP – Need I say more?

NOT GOING TO WORK BECAUSE IT IS RAINING – Great idea!

RIDING IN THE BACK OF PICK-UP TRUCK IS PERFECTLY LEGAL – If you can survive down here, you can survive anywhere! So much fun!

FOOD ITEMS IN BAGS – Ketchup, water, refried beans, oil, mayonnaise, all very convenient.

SODA MADE WITH CANE SUGAR IN GLASS BOTTLES – Classic and delicious, without corn syrup.

 

These lists could go on and on. And so, this concludes my compare and contrast essay on Honduras vs the United States.

On a happy note, my SPA grant just was approved, so I will be working very hard the next few months building improved stoves and pilas in one of my favorite communities. So I promise my next blog will solely be work related, and I will try to post it before I leave my service! Peace and Happy Holidays to all!

 

December 4, 2010 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment


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