Published: May 19th 2008April 18th 2008
The blood was sure running through our veins when we took off for our next adventure, gripping the handles with both hands on the sides of our seats. Little did I know that that was the only thing that was going to be running, or going at all remotely fast for that matter.
The pace of life here is definately on a whole different level. Little did I know. The police officers in the airport weren´t wearing uniforms, only in street clothes. They had big guns. Maybe they were just civilians. Wasn't expecting that either.
So far, we have stayed with Ely´s aunt and uncle in San Pedro, her grandparents in a small town in the mountains, her aunt and uncle further in the mountains, and her aunt and uncle in Diezysiete, a small town near Tela. You guessed it, she has more than a handful of family here. I usually just call everyone as they are related to Ely, like aunt, uncle, cousin, etc. There are just too many names to remember. Also, as a sign of respect, sometimes people call their elders aunt or uncle, and sometimes kids call their friends 'cousins,' further complicating the confusion. ely's
Me and Edgardito
Ely's little cousin
note *just to clarify, kids don't randomly call their friends cousin. Just that there are usually so many cousins that they end up being friends, and if you call someone aunt or uncle, they're usually your anut or uncle, or greataunt or greatuncle. There are so many of them it may seem random to aaron*
Ely´s grandpa has a pretty interesting story. For 3 weeks in Juncal, he took me on as his gringo pupil. They don´t call us foreigners here, only gringos, which means yankee. Ely asked her grandpa, 'what do you call a black person in the US?' ´Black,´ he said, in a obvious sort of tone.
OK, here's his story.
1. He came from El Salvador a long time ago. He claims that he didn´t put on a pair of shoes until he was 30. After that, he taught himself to read. It really puts things in perspective when he says, ´El Salvador is really poor,´ as if Honduras is well off itself.
2. His age varies by the day. Ely´s uncle says he is 76, but he has told me before that he is 75, 76, 78, and yes, 80. Ely pointed
out that on his license, it says that he is 74. Heresay.
3. He likes to flex his biceps and yell, ´strength.´ But most of all, he likes people to touch them, for approval of course. He also likes everyone to touch his belly after eating. ´the tank,´ he calls it. He seems to think that a full belly is also strongly correlated to strength. Who wouldn't think that?
4. He likes me to watch how fast he can eat, and how fast he can drink. ´Tell your family,´ he says. ´Tell them how I eat and drink, tell them all. We eat and live well here.´
5. In the afternoon, we usually meet in the champa, a brilliant invention worth noting. It is basically just a little cabana in the backyard. The roof is made of palm tree leaves, everything else from wood. Basically just a place of shade, with 2 big comfy hamacks rigged up. What do you do here? Absolutely as little as possible if you can. So, we would usually meet in the afternoon for a daily talk in the champa. He would tell me about his land, the trees here, what kind
of animals they have, illegal immigration to the US, all sorts of stuff really. He is one of the few people who talks slow and simple with me, so naturally, I enjoy his company.
6. Best of all, when he came to Honduras years ago, he joined the circus for some time. Ely´s uncle told me that he loves to tell stories about it, but whenever he brings it up, grandma walks away and curses at him, saying, ´lies, its all lies.´ Sure enough, it happened. I asked him about it and a smile came across his face, as if he had been waiting for me to ask what he did when he came to Honduras. Sure enough, grandma got up and left. So...in the circus, grandpa had 2 acts. 1, he was a dancer. He wore really tall shoes and prounced around. His second act, best of all, was that he was a goat tamer! Tigers are too dangerous but goats, goats work. His best trick, getting the goat to stand on 4 different coke bottles. Maaaaaahooooncho was his stagename. This explains so much, I thought. He was a clown then and is a clown now. I told
him that I think sometimes he forgets that he isn´t in the circus anymore.
7. After being in the circus for some time, he decided to get his real life act together. He started a dairy farm, buying cows, and buying land. So...this side of her family owns quite a bit of land and dairy cattle. One of the few Honduran success stories. From first glance, you wouldn´t know it. Everyone still washes clothes and dishes by hand, the old school way. They also grind there own corn and meats, manual style.
8. He knows everyone. When we go for a drive, he has to stop and talk to everyone who is walking or driving along. It takes a long time to get places with him, though I didn´t exaclty believe that he knew everyone, like he said. But, he suprised me. We went to Olanchito, the capitol of the state in which they live, for the carnival. After the carnival, we went to his friend's house, the governer of the state. My Spanish is far from fluent, but I am pretty sure grandpa greeted the governer with the salutation, ´asshole.´ (jokingly, of course). On the ride home,
I asked him if the governer works and knows the president. He said yes, he works with him most days of the week in the capitol of the country. ´I know the president too,´ he said. ´Been to his house. Pretty, has lots of windows.´ So grandpa knows the president. He also has a framed picture hanging in the house himself with the previous president. Maybe he does know everyone here.
More about Honduras. Forgive the lists, they just work better for me.
1. The conversation about weather is even more boring here. It goes like this.
´Man, its hot, Aaron.´ ´Yes, its hot.´
Thats it. They don´t exactly have a diverse weather pattern. Only heat. Don´t even have a weather channel. Hot every day and night.
2. In Honduras, you don´t buy acres of land, you buy apples. Kind of funny to hear people talk about how many apples they have.
3. I got up at 3 AM with Ely's uncle to milk cows. Where they live, they have no electricity, so it is pitch dark, no surrounding city lights to cloud the perfect black sky. We had to walk up and over
a few hills by flashlight to get to the pasture where the cows were. The darkest and clearest sky I have ever seen, definately beats out Valtentine, Nebraska's claim.
4. I've stepped in cow poop and it didn't even make me uncomfortable. Got it on my hands too. Maybe I have been at the farm too long.
5. Deep in the mountains where her uncle lives, a chicken would come in to my bed every afternoon to lay her daily egg. I would come in my room to find a little present waiting for me by the pillow.
6. At her uncle and aunts house in the mountains, they absolutely cannot fill a trashcan with trash. Everything they have comes from and returns to the land. They have pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens, cows. Corn grows in the hill next to their house, eggs come free with the chickens. Beans and bananas grow in the field. It is a pretty cool way to live, The Man be damned. Pretty embarassing to see the trash fill up by the day, only with my wasteful processed goodies.
7. We taught English at the rural school in the moutains that
The goat tamer taught himself how to read in his twenties.
Ely's cousins go to, and where her aunt teaches at. There are 30 students in 6 different grades. It is a pretty difficult situation. Best of all, everyone has to walk there because there are no roads. 40 minute walk. Others walk more than an hour both ways. From the house, we had to cross a river 6 times, go up and down mountains, through the forest, all while the wretched sun and horrid humidity torture you constantly. We needed to take a change of clothes. Aaron sweat through his polo in about 5 minutes like a champ. The kids were really fun though. We would do sort of 'repeat after me' exercises, where one of us would say something, and the kids would repeat it. They really got into it with Aaron, screaming their responses.
8. I killed a pig for a birthday party with a stick. Very barberic. Then, Ely's uncle insisted that I help with the cleaning process, so I skinned part of it, and yes, chopped off its head. Then, we drank the blood and danced around a fire. No for that part I am kidding. The other parts, I'm not.
9. The food.
Well, everything is really tasty, buttery goodness. The folks down here aren't exactly health conscience. Everything is cooked with corn oil, margarine, or lard...vegetable lard, but lard nonetheless. Cheese is served as a side, not as a condiment. I am officially a beaner here. Refried beans 2 to 3 times a day. To cook the beef for spagetti, they add a stick of butter. After the spagetti is cooked, they mix in sour cream and another stick of butter! Fruits aren't eaten often. If they are consumed, they are popular in juices, mixed with loads of sugar. Coffee is more sugar than coffee. In the mountains, when we were milking cows in the morning, one of Ely's cousins brought us coffee. He filled up the cup half way. Then they put the cup next to the cows teet to mix in some milk. In the US, we buy special machines to produce that frothy light milk, don't we? Not here, no sir, we do things natural here!
Sodas are drank throughout the day, Diet isn't popular. We told her family that we didn't really drink pop, and they gave us this sort of glazed over confused look, like I
(Aaron) just told them I was pregnant.
So...I am learning more and more every day about Ely. The lesson for the past month- now I understand the underbelly of her sweet tooth. Deeply rooted in her native culture.
We're embracing this aspect of the culture fully. Ely is going to have to roll me home. I feel the beans sticking to my ribs, though I can't see my ribs in the mirror any more. Oh well...maybe its just the mirror.
Basically, we just sit around all day chatting, waiting for the next meal to pop up. No obligations, jobs, chores, , 401k's, immediate plans, the list goes on. Depending on your perspective, a pretty great way to live.
I don't know if the heat is to blame or what, but the people here define the phrase of 'takin it easy.' Ely is much better at it than I, understandably. Though it is difficult for me, traveling to countries like this and observing ways of life completely different than my own really helps me to gain perspective about my home, and also clarifies more and more what is important to me. So... I got that going for
Aaron's b'day party
about ready to smash my face in the cake, a Honduran tradition.
me. More to come on the way!
There are more photos below