miércoles, 16 de diciembre de 2009

Regular Adventures

It all started in Wisconsin at my Aunt and Uncle’s cottage along the serene shores of Lake Michigan. After breakfast, I would explain to my mom that I was going out to explore, climb trees, throw rocks, build forts, jump in the icy cold water, etc. As you may or may not know, though, I love to find shorter, more interesting ways of relaying information (delicious sandwiches crammed into our pockets and snuck into concerts=sandiddy a la Bret Labadie for example) and usually gave only the brief explanation that I was going to go on an adventure. “What kind of adventure?” she always asked with a smile knowing full well what the answer would be (anybody catch that line from a TWO song?). “You know…a regular adventure.”
When my friends, Morlin and Santos, said they wanted to take me to explore the river last Friday, they should have just asked if I wanted to go on a regular adventure. We took off early in the morning to avoid the midday swelter equipped with slingshots, a machete, and a backpack full of rocks. The machete is like the Honduran spork, it can be used for anything. But that day it was brought along with the specific purpose of cutting off a jícaro branch to make a new slingshot for myself. We followed the curve of the river all the way up into the hills that flank El Tular shooting doves, catching iguanas (later used to make a delicious soup- I’m not sure if the sarcasm of that “delicious” will actually get across in digital form), avoiding beehives, shooting down mangoes from an enormous tree, swimming, and pausing our platoon in silence every other minute to discover that the rustling in the bushes was just a lazy cow and not another chance for a prized catch. I’m no Dennis the Menace, but the other guys are deadly with the ole’ Goliath slayer. I was already feeling a lot better about my site in general. I had made new friends, work was picking up, and most of the stares had turned into smiles and waves. But this ordinary every-day expedition shed a whole new light on how beautiful the community really is once you dig a little. Over the weekend, I had a friend come to visit my site and I got to show someone else my life for the first time. We spent one of the days on the beach with another volunteer that lives nearby and my good friend Graham, a Scottish giant who works for a NGO in Choluteca. Graham is a character and I plan to devote an entire blog entry to our escapades. We found a cave with an outlet to the ocean and decided to swim through the darkness to see what would eat us. Nothing did but there were thousands of bats and it was incredible. If/when you come to visit; we will go see that again. A new comer to El Tular caused a bit of a stir and plenty of people came by that night to greet/stare through the fence at the new stranger in town. It was a blast to show someone else all the cool stuff and it helped give it some perspective in my own mind. On Sunday, we went into Tegucigalpa where I expected to be mugged immediately upon entering the city limits. It actually turned out to be a really amazing couple of days and I learned to love the grittiness and chaos of that enormous mess of a Capital. If/when you come to visit; we will also see some of the gems of Tegucigalpa (mostly great restaurants). Maybe pump some iron a bit before so nobody will want to mess with you (See the Brian Seward workout manual How to be a Buff Hip Dude, it will change your life).
I spent Thanksgiving with 15 other volunteers who also call Southern Honduras their home. The city of San Marcos de Colon was chosen as the gathering point with good reason. As I departed my sun-baked valley and ascended the mountains up into the little town, I felt the air temperature drop by about 15 degrees and I muttered some words that I wouldn’t repeat to my mother in regards to the luck that these volunteers fell into. San Marcos is a beautiful town and the volunteer that lives there has a house to match. The smell of Turkey, gravy, stuffing, and all the other goodies emanating from the kitchen turned the house into the good ole USA and I settled into a day of rubbing my belly. I stuffed my face and it…was….good.
If you are interested in hearing the detailed story of a very fun weekend I had recently, please send me an email saying so and I will personally send it along to you as it is too long and too funny for this very concise and serious blog.
If you are wondering why I almost never post pictures, it is because the internet is painfully slow and I am too impatient. Dont be like me. Be patient while I search out a solution. I promise pictures sometime soon. We are getting closer and closer to Christmas, and I am missing the people close to me more and more. I will not be able to come home and plan to spend Christmas here in El Tular. It should be a very fun and interesting experience but I know already that it will be very hard to wake up on a steamy Christmas morning far from my family and friends. Thank you to all of you for being so dear to me and I can assure you that I am thinking about you at some point on any given day and wishing we could share the holidays.

martes, 1 de diciembre de 2009

Mr. T Day

Winter is over. It vanished without a trace after only 2 weeks and I am now getting used to seeing blurry plastic Santa Clauses through lenses of sweat. I think as one gets closer to the equator time starts acting funny. Superman flies against the spin of the earth in order to stop time, I have a further trip with each rotation than the majority of people reading this, and the seasons here essentially never change. What does that mean besides rambling nonsense? It means my brain can’t attach any of the usual seasonal landmarks to the months and I have no real sense of the passing year. Geez, Turkey Day already passed and it’s about to be Christmas! I have a lot to be thankful this year- my beautiful niece Ella was born, my sister got married, Mark and Annie got married, Ky and Susan got married, I continue to hear from my wonderful friends all over the globe, and I am still living healthily and happily. My life sounds like a 50’s sitcom. I am also very thankful for the Honduran mail service, which despite its eternal bootleggedness, has allowed me to step outside the modern age a bit and communicate with my loved ones the old fashioned way. When I do indeed receive something, I usually make the trip back to the bus buzzing with excitement, arms out to both sides winding down the street making gleefully idiotic airplane noises through my enormous smile. You can imagine I cause quite the ruckus thus drawing the attention of 100% of anyone nearby as opposed to the normal 90-95% when I am walking calmly. Thank you to everyone that has sent me something. I can assure you that it is received with love and I now have enough Swedish Fish to last through the end of the month.
My host dad is named Geronimo but since childhood has gone by the name of Chombo or, to those especially close to him, Chombito. He only has one eye and I’ve never rustled up the gall to ask what happened to the other one. I figure the story is bound to come out one of these days. There is not a speck of color in his shortly cropped hair but he pulls off the silver fox look as well as any. He is part of the cooperative that brought potable water to El Tular in 1998 (after Hurricane Mitch) and it is now his job to ride his bike around town all day turning on and off the valves connected to various parts of the village. The water is pumped from the river, passes through a small processing plant, and is piped into concrete tanks known as “pilas” that sit in the middle of each yard. Water for bathing, cooking, cleaning, and drinking (for anyone who doesn’t have a weak American stomach) comes from the pila. Children and gringos have to buy big jugs of water to drink. Chombito is one of the most inquisitive and curious people I have met thus far in my experience. He has asked me about everything from physics to American foreign policy in the Middle East and I gladly oblige with as much BS as I can muster. The vast majority of people here have never traveled beyond San Lorenzo and have no real news source so Chombito’s curiosity is especially surprising. He spends a lot of nights in front of a short wave radio that must be the source of a lot of his information. I love the idea of him scanning the waves and coming across a new discovery. I take for granted how easily I can learn about anything and everything whenever I want (at home).
Two weekends ago was the El Tular fair which consisted mostly of soccer games, popsicles, and a coronation ceremony that was just as confusing as it would be in the states. The “El Tular Arriba” team, of which I am a (very small) part, hosted 3 other teams for a battle royale with a pretty sizeable cash prize. Game one was against Nacaome and went into penalty kicks to decide the winner. At the sound of the final whistle, fans stormed the field and surrounded the penalty box to torment and heckle the opposing team members taking the shots. We won on a diving save by our goalie and I was swept up in a wave of cheers that very quickly turned into a giant brawl. It was awesome. I didn’t get any pictures but I saw a few cameras so hopefully I can track down some good ones. At night, the town queen was brought in on the back of a flatbed and a makeshift stage was setup for the passing of the crown ceremony. Between the drunkards approaching me to be my best friend, the gurgled microphone, and the already fuzzy logic behind these kinds of ceremonies (have you ever been to a debutante ball?), I didn’t understand at all what was going on. Either way, I was for the first time feeling like a quasi member of the community and loving every second of it. The ceremony ended with a giant sign erupting into the name of the new queen with each letter spelled out in fire. What?! Why have I never had my name spelled out in fire?! Then the dance started. The flimsy concrete structure that served as the venue was packed wall to wall and reeked of cologne and firecracker smoke. The volume of the music could be described by any number of adjectives: deafening, extreme, absurd, you name it. I moved my hips a little bit, caused a lot of laughter, and decided to go out on a high note. The dance, somehow, went on without me and ended long after the damn roosters started crowing to the morning light (more on how much I hate roosters to come). Happy Thanksgiving! I am very sincerely thankful for my wonderful friends and family.

Coming soon…What I actually did over Thanksgiving, Election Day, iguana hunting and more!

Books reading: Just finished David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries which I absolutely loved. Now starting Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins- weird but entertaining