Peace Corps Diary #4

April 10, 2009

The Unusual Disclaimer:

None of this actually happened – I’m a filthy liar living in his parents’ basement in Bumfuck, Nowhere, and I have nothing better to do then make up stories about imaginary people, places, and things. Any resemblance to real activities, people, or places is simply an amazing coincidence that can only be attributed to a vengeful deity or the ravings of a drug-addled madman. Further, if you are a member of the Peace Corps, especially an administrator, by reading a single letter of this or any other of my communications you forfeit all rights to sue, discipline, hit, cluck disapprovingly at, or otherwise punish me, or any one of my imaginary friends. That is all.

Right then, moving on to the fun stuff. Hello friends, acquaintances, X’s mom and that whole world, Mrs. Petitte’s class, Jesus, and all the kids back home in Santa Barbara and San Diego. Welcome one and all to the latest ramble to escape my head over the past few weeks. It’s a good one, so lets buckle up for safety, right? Arms and legs outside the cart at all times, and please do feed the animals, because I sure don’t, and frankly it’s a miracle they’re still alive at this point. Check your baggage at the door, suspend your belief, and away we go!

Breaking The Rules in Choluteca:

I suppose I ought to start this entry off with the rest of the story of my volunteer visit to Juan in Choluteca. To recap, I’ve just traveled all day to the southern part of Honduras, eaten greasy chicken sandwiches at Wendy’s with the local volunteers, parted ways with my traveling companions, Shaniqua and Rose, and wandered back to Juan’s fortress-like apartment to watch CNN and eat Chinese food.

This brings us to Monday, the first official day of my volunteer visit. I woke up with a tremendous burst of adrenaline brought on by malaria-drug dreams and Juan walking past my bed right as I woke up out of them. I went straight from being shot at by 2 men who were chasing me through my head to having a stranger right in front of my eyes as they opened. Much like a cattle prod to the taint, this got me up and moving in about 2 ½ seconds, and set Juan to laughing. After Frosted Flakes (Zucaritas here) with milk out of a plastic bag for that classy factor, melon, and OJ, we set out on the town to pitch a water system Juan had designed to the local water NGO, Forcuentas. They’re a EU-funded group that has been kicking ass and taking names at funding and building water systems here in southern Honduras, and thanks to them we’ve made leaps and bounds in providing water to the aldeas (suburbs, but more rural) of most of the towns in the area.

After a cab ride for 15L each, (70 cents) and 10 blocks in a rattling, smoking old Datsun, we hit the Forcuentas office, and I get introduced to a whole host of people who I will never meet again, and whose names I forget about the time they hit my ears. I hate, loathe, despise this sort of meeting in any language mostly because every time I assume I’ll never meet people again and forget their names, I meet them a week later and spend a few awkward hours calling everyone by not-their-names, or an agonizing 10 minutes apologizing for not knowing anyone’s name, getting reintroduced, and looking like a douchenozzle. That said, I figured I’d be safe with the front desk staff.

Several minutes of small-talk and background info later, we’re told that the engineer will see us now, and we head upstairs to meet with him. Engineers and Doctors, really all professionals, are treated with deference and respect here on a level that Americans reserve for… actually we don’t respect anyone like Hondurans (Catrachos is what they call themselves) respect their professionals. If you’re in Honduras in any professional capacity, expect to be called “Ingeniero” instead of your name, have things brought to you if you even think about needing them, and to be generally treated very much like someone very special. As a Peace Corps technician, I get none of the same respect, but I happened to be with Juan, an engineer himself, so I leeched his prestige and got to sit down with the engineers and go over the system plans.

After some disputing of costs, adjustments to maps and information, and about 4 hours of conversation, we passed the finalized plans over to the engineer to review, and got a tentative promise to fund and break ground on the system. It was my first legitimate work for the Peace Corps, and it couldn’t have gone better. I was able to communicate well in Spanish, actually help improve the system and plans, and to comprehend what was going on around me and participate in the process. For a dumb gringo with 3 weeks of Honduran living under his belt, this was a really amazing experience. Compared to what a lot of my friends saw, did, and felt on their volunteer visits, I was fantastically lucky to have gone where I did and done actual work. I felt great leaving the office, congratulating Juan and waving Adios to the front desk women. Not even having to respond to “Adios Kevin!” with “Hasta Luego Señoras, muchas gracias para todos!” could bring me down. I really do have to work on remembering names though.

Next stop – Choluteca’s bustling outdoor market. Much like Mercado Zonal Belin in Teguz, it was dirty, noisy, potentially dangerous, full of strange smells, knockoff DVDs, meats of all sorts, little Jenga towers of toothpaste, racks of cellphones and fake Puma watches, and pretty much anything you could think of, save men’s shorts, which is a pity considering that we had come to buy precisely those. As consolation, we went to a little Honduran eatery in a rusted out storage shed, precisely the sort of place you expect to cause you to spew out both ends for a week after. We got baleadas, a sort of Honduran taco/burrito/something entirely not those first two things that taste amazing and are full of spices, meats, vegetables, and more joy then I can really describe here without getting vulgar. Actually, fuck it – to paraphrase Fry from Futurama, they were like sex, except I was having them. Plus, they cost next to nothing and didn’t make me poop or puke blood.

Re-energized, we set out again for soccer/running shorts, and proceeded to hit every major clothing store in this city of 100,000 with absolutely no luck. Aside from cargo shorts or swim trunks, nobody sold shorts, and nothing for under 350 lempira. ($12.50, but still expensive on a daily allowance of 57L!) Struck out, hot from the 100 degree humid ugliness that southern Honduras has the gall to call weather, and thoroughly confused as to where all the little Catrachos in their soccer shorts had bought the damn things, we walked back to Juan’s house to drown our sorrows in more CNN and the fruit I’d bought at MAXI Bodega, the local Walmart-owned clearinghouse. Plus, we had another meeting with a surveyor, who met us at the house. He actually told me my spanish was good as well, so I had to walk through doorways sideways the rest of the day to fit my ego through.

In the late afternoon we walked back to the center of town as the setting sun made the outdoors fractionally more tolerable (1/32nd) and the birds came out to squawk and shit on things. Every tree we walked past was a seething mass of cawing, crapping, attention-whoring little birds, whose only purpose seemed to be to serve as inattentive person traps, providing Juan and I amusement as we walked to dinner. We went to the first “Mexican restaurant” I’ve seen in Honduras, and it was actually really good, if nothing like actual Mexican food. We met up with Jose, the local health volunteer, and Miguel, his aspirante visitor. They told us about having been made to carry 300 pound water filters up and down hills, and we told them about sitting in air-conditioned offices and conducting meetings. After our food came, I asked for salsa, and got a plate of sour cream with jalapeños in it. Non-plussed about that one, and about spicy food here in general, but I’ll figure something out eventually. Over cokes and burritos, Miguel and I learned that all of the volunteers here in the south were planning a group trip to the beach, and that we weren’t going to tell anyone about it, ever.

Thus begins the part where I break a lot of Peace Corps rules, and where I’m glad that this correspondence is strictly confidential, and that any and all Peace Corps personnel, active or not, especially but not limited to Peace Corps administration in Honduras, are expressly forbidden from reading any of it.

Tuesday morning, lets say around 9, Juan and I walked down to the south side of town with our towels, trunks, and a change of clothes to a little corner near the hospital where the trucks stop on their way out of town to pick up hitchhikers. Along with 4 other Peace Corps members whose names I will make up as we go along, we got a ride in the back of a pickup truck headed in roughly our direction. It was exhilarating riding in the bed of a truck watching the only town in view disappear behind you, to see farmland stretch out all around, mountains beyond, under a cloudless gorgeous sky. This was my train of thought 5 minutes later when the rat-fink of a truck driver pulled over to the side of the road, demanded 15 lempira apiece from us to continue taking us South, and then drove off after our refusal, leaving us stranded on the highway. We laughed, took a few pictures, applied sunscreen, and stuck out our thumbs. The winning combination turned out to be myself and one of the girls by the road, while the rest of the group stayed a bit off the road. Once a truck stopped, we dove in the back under the camper shell and set off for parts unknown.

The truck that chose us ended up belonging to a little family that went into Choluteca for groceries, so the bed was packed with bags, sacks of vegetables and staples, and 5 gringos (Roxy got to ride up front, because she was willing to brave possibly creepy Hondurans to not spend any significant length of time with 5 sweaty dudes in a cramped space. In the back we tried not to crush the food and played “Pancakes or Waffles” to pass the time. X taught me the game, it goes like this: The first player asks the second “Pancakes or Waffles” to which the second responds their choice and rationalizes it (“I like pancakes, my mom made them for me all the time as a kid, and there’s that emotional link.”) The option that is chosen stays on, while the other is irrevocably removed from the universe. The second player then asks the third to choose between the option left over from the first question, and something that they value equally. (Pancakes or pillows, for example) and the process repeats until the logical process is destroyed, people are choosing between a sense of touch or salt, and the universe is a really shitty place to live in. It’s a great way to get to know people, or to learn a lot about your friends’ values.

A half hour and one solid proof of the power of coffee to beat other things in Pancakes or Waffles later, we pulled into the drive of our saviors, helped them unload their car, thanked them profusely and walked back to the main road to pedir another jalon. Luck was with us, and the very first truck to pass us stopped and was going our way, so we hopped in and rode through the melon farms of southern Honduras to Cedena, 7km from the beach and our friends. There we met the local volunteer, his host family, and I found out precisely how awful the banana-flavored Marimba soft drink is. It tastes like melted slurpee water mixed with cough syrup, and I only choked down half the bottle because I was dying of thirst and I’d paid 13 lempira for it. After buying a 2L bag of water (seriously the coolest thing, little ½ liter plastic bags of drinking water for 9 cents or so) we finally managed to get a ride south in a truck that had, coincidentally, Miguel and Jose and another volunteer, Erika, in the back. With the 9 of us aboard, the driver set out south to the sea and our long awaited destination.

We hit the beach around 11:30, which after our epic hitchhiking adventure wasn’t all that bad. About twenty-five Peace Corps members had wound up there, some of them having come from many miles away, and all of us off-site without permission, a guaranteed administrative separation (read: you go home now) if we were found out. Bound together by mutual rule-breaking, we swam, tossed around a football, met the other classes of volunteers (H11, H12, up to us in H14) and generally had a blast. From the beach here you can see 3 countries, a few islands, and almost nobody else. The water quality is god-awful, but the beach is great, hot and brown and deserted for miles. We hung out for a few hours before getting hungry and sunburnt and heading down the beach to a fantastic little restaurant for fried fish, dollar beers, and a whole lot of laughing and camaraderie. Bonding, skits on how not to talk to other people about this weekend, stories, jokes, and fantastic food dominated the afternoon.

Leaving around 4, I discovered that I’d lost 100 lempira, or perhaps that I had misplaced it in other clothes. I made a quick search, but the last bus was leaving and I hopped it so as to not be proper fucked. I slept half the bus ride, got nicknamed “croc” for my apparent resemblance to Crocodile Dundee visible only to drunk Erikas, and made plans to attend a party at Jess’ house in a nearby town, because Juan’s girlfriend was in town and I really didn’t want to get in their way. He was a saint to take me in when he had other plans, and I sure wasn’t going to thank him by playing third wheel on their 2-wheeled contraption. (Full disclosure: I enjoy parties and alcohol and traveling and breaking rules, so don’t think for a moment this was all about helping him.) We made Choluteca 35 minutes later, and I ran home to Jon’s for a shower and to pack my bag. Got back to the bus station for the 5:00 ride that Jess promised, and spent an hour and 45 minutes sitting on my thumb, searching my clothes for the lost money, and being the token gringo at the bus station. Luckily I wasn’t solo, as Rudy, one of the guys who had hitchhiked into town to party, was there with me. We swapped stories as we waited, and he’s pretty cool, if a bit awkward from having been isolated at a tiny site far away from everyone for almost 2 years.

As it turns out, of the seven people who had planned to ship out to Jess’ place, only the two of us bothered to show up, and so around 6:45 when our ride blew past and we had to chase it across the bridge to get a ride, there was a lot of laughing about the lack of participation. Me, I wasn’t too shaken up about the lack of fiesta, mainly because I was on the road, riding high on life, nearly broke, breaking rules, and having an absolute blast. As the sun set over our dirty bumpy ride, I looked up and stared the universe in the face. Millions of stars looked back, and for a long while I was too awed to talk, joke, or sing. I just stared up, traced the constellations I knew, made up a few more, and grinned like an idiot at the majesty and wonder of the vast empty uncaring void we live in and try to avoid thinking about all our lives because it makes us feel like the meaningless little slugs on a backwater planet that we actually are. I loved every gritty, skull-rattling, swerving minute of it, and when we finally reached Jess’ I was sad to have to come back to our planet.

At her house, I confirmed that I had most definitely lost my money, which meant that I had precisely what I needed the next day for bus and cabfare, plus 31 lempira, which is enough to by a pair of cokes or a lot of water, and not much else. To avoid thinking about that, I had one of the beers that I’d brought, then a mixed drink with fresh mango, coconut, pineapple, and a whole lot of rum. Took a bucket shower to get the dirt and sweat off, and listened to music and talked with the few others who had made the trek out. As a party it was a bust, but as a get-together and a chance to meet other volunteers, it suited me just fine. Went for Chinese food, ended up getting tacos since the restaurant was closed . Spent 20 of my 31L, but they were delicious. Later, made grilled cheese sandwiches and finished the beers with Rudy while we all got ready for bed. Set the alarm for 4:30am, so we could catch the bus back to town and hopefully a connection back to Sarabanda and home.

Wednesday sucked a fat hairy one. We caught our buses, but I went hungry the whole day, and ended up standing the entire 4 ½ hour ride back from Choluteca to Teguz. The driver of our bus was an idiot who overcompensated for turns, floored the brakes at no provocation and with great relish, and played god-awful reggaeton at full volume over the speakers for the entire ride. Rose and I talked monetary policy and the decline of democracy in America while bracing ourselves against the seats as best we could to counteract the constant jerking lurching brake pumping of our drug-addled thalidomide baby of a driver. 15 minutes shy of Teguz, after 6 straight hours on buses, most of them standing, this dipshit decides to stop for lunch, and we all get to sit and wait while the driver and most of the passengers disembark for the next 45 minutes. I find a seat along with most of the other people who remain onboard, and drift off to sleep.

I find myself poked awake by the bus ayudante, demanding that I stand up and give my seat to some woman. (I think, was half awake) When I say no and close my eyes, he comes back with the bus driver and the two of them tell me to get up. I resume my spot in the aisle, and realize that Rose and I are the only two people who have been asked to move – everyone else who took a seat during the break is still in them. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be any reserved seating, just a general rule of “fuck you gringo” in effect. Groovy. Pulling into Teguz finally, I walk past the driver, smile, and take advantage of the language barrier to tell him to go gargle semen. We catch a taxi across town, and are waiting for a bus to Sarabanda, and who do I run into onboard but X, fresh back from her trip to La Paz to seduce strange men, stuff them between her legs, (acro-yoga, you perverted weirdos) and show off her bikini. She feeds me bread and jam to make me stop whining, tells me wild stories, and by the time we get home I’m feeling passable again. And that, friends and family, is how to break almost all the main Peace Corps rules in one fell swoop, travel Honduras for next to nothing, and make a whole lot of new friends. The purpose of volunteer visits is to learn how other volunteers live and act in their “natural habitat,” and I think I accomplished a whole lot of that – can’t wait to do it again!

A Brief Aside:

I’ve always dreamed of being “that guy” who discovers a grave and life-altering secret about something. A little twist or adaptation that completely flips, overnight, the world’s view of something commonplace, that makes people exclaim, “by God, he’s right! This IS a better way of doing ______” and catapults me to fame, fortune, floozies, freezer pops, and other f-words. Typical self-absorbed fantasy, really. In fact, it’s never much Miguelered to me what the thing I revolutionize is; writing short stories, walking backward, sitting, standing on one leg, chewing, sex (actually, I pick this one) so much as that it changes how people do that thing in a way that makes me chuckle a bit to myself every time I see it while requiring nothing more of me then to one day walk over to the thing I’m about to change forever, look at it a moment, exclaim “oh, if I only just turn it to the left, she explodes in a shower of meaty bits and sheer ecstasy” and hang around waiting to collect my reward.

Still, as I’ve grown older I’ve found that the actual possibility of doing something new, something truly original without a lifetime of effort is complete and total horseshit. To begin with, everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING has been done already. That newest, latest, greatest invention, I don’t care what it is, is just another tweak on something that already existed, or a better sales job on something that another guy made in his garage 10 years or 200 ago. There is no originality, there is no “new,” there is only a constant evolutionary change from what was to what is to what will someday be. This is somewhat comforting, as it definitely takes the burden off of me to figure out some new twist to sex, (Seriously, how the hell can I compete with the sick shit people already do? I’d have to find another hole or something.) but it also points me in a new direction, toward a truth that is neither original nor secret, but which has held true over the years by all those who excel in their respective fields. As plainly as I can write it, here it is:

It is not what you do, or how you do it, but how much of yourself you put into your work that distinguishes it. There is no shortcut to prestige and mastery, simply hard work, love, and perseverance.

He who pours his soul, life, blood, and very self into his work consistently, year after torturous year, laboring in obscurity, working for no reward save to meet his own high standards and expectations will be held as a leader, an artist, a saint, or a poet. One who seeks to find another route to the top in his field is delusional, lazy, or a glutton for punishment and disappointment. Thus, I abandon my lazy quest to get famous without effort, and commit myself to a lifetime of exertion and toil. By no means am I giving up on being bold, new, different, and changing how something I love is done, but I’m not going to delude myself any longer that it will be easy, or that it will be soon.

Talent is not mastery. Talent plus 10,000 times is mastery.” – Japanese Proverb

A Point of Philosophical Contention:

Henry David Thoreau wrote that “under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” I keep this thought close at hand here in Honduras, where poverty is the prison de jour, and where there are many unjustly held. My host family in Sarabanda, la familia Cerrato, is but one group held captive by the cold chains of economics. I am more convinced by the day that these bonds are easily slipped, if only there were those willing to help. If those with resources, with disposable income, with the ability to help actually did, the plight of the poor, hungry, helpless would be bettered by leaps and bounds. However those who can do not; there are too few helping hands, too many crying for too little. We few volunteers cannot hope to make the difference needed – it’s one of the first lessons to be learned here. Despite this, I place immense pride in my decision to come here and try to make a positive difference rather then to head off into the world of business, law “real” work, mortgages, and becoming a part of the merciless economic giant that is crushing the developing world under its heel.

One reason I came to Honduras in the first place was to give what aid I could to those less fortunate then myself. Another was to share their plight, to learn what it is to be truly poor, downtrodden, and subject to the whims of the owners of the world. My life with the Cerrato family served this goal admirably – I lived in near-absolute poverty, in a tiny closet of a room with drafts, cockroaches, a few geckos, glassless windows, a bare lightbulb, and dusty concrete floors. My barely functional bathroom, with its unflushing toilet, bucket shower, cracked and crumbling walls, was a point of pride. The bare dirt of the yard, the flithy dogs, the kids kicking a cracked soccer ball next to the highway because they lacked a field – these all were things that validated my choice, that gave me strength and convinced me of the righteousness of my path. I was living, at least for a short while, in Thoreau’s prison. I was the just man, sacrificing what little I had to join the unjustly held in common bondage. I was happy with my place in life as much because of as in spite of its problems.

Unfortunately for my smug sense of moral righteousness, this all came crashing down in a heap with our recent move from Sarabanda to Pespire. The Peace Corps placement officer, apparently taking pity on my previous living situation, assigned me to live with the richest family in town – la familia Rivera-Castro – hoteliers, businesspeople, teachers, patrons of the arts, public spaces, and the Catholic church. In the space of one 2 ½ hour bus ride I went from abject poverty to real (read: not just relative) wealth. This family has the works: cars, a Spanish-styled mansion, money, reputation, power, servants, and a whole lot of possessions. Also of note: a little monkey I’ve named George, birds, raccoons, (I know, what the fuck?) a giant open-air patio with hammocks and ample sitting room, a plasma TV as big as any I’ve personally seen in the states, an expansive yard with fruit trees, a pool, (sadly drained at the moment) a solid 6 bedrooms, and enough open space to stage a 100 person party and not even badly crowd any particular room. In terms of material wealth, it’s the nicest place I’ve ever lived.

This puts me in a bit of a moral quandary – I really did come here to live as a Honduran (Catracho, as they say) which to me means to live as the average poor farmer or laborer – without many luxuries, in a tiny house, eating bland food, and surviving day to day, hand to mouth. Frankly, I wanted my life to suck. I crave that experience, and instead for the next 7 weeks I’ve been given the opportunity to experience the exact opposite. Note I say opportunity – I doubt that I will ever live this well again, as the career paths I see myself embarking upon put me more in the orbits of the laborers and servants of the world then the owners. For now, as much as it bothers me to set aside my mission to understand poverty and the impoverished, I cannot deny that this is a fantastic way to take a stab at understanding what it is to be rich. And besides; I can hardly deny that I dislike this life – the fresh fruit, meat at most meals, sweets, comfortable bed, real towels, running water, girls working to make my life pleasant, and other perks are hardly things I’m sad to have access to. (Side note: it is SO DAMN WEIRD to have servants in the house. I’m really not comfortable asking people to do things for me, and even less so when they’re doing because they’re paid to!)

I guess I write this mainly to assuage my conscience, but as it will significantly impact the things that I will be writing about, I feel that I must also pass it along to you – I’m living in luxury, surrounded by filthy lucre, the guest of honor of one of the most honored families in town. As X puts it, I’m outside of my comfort zone, for while I haven’t yet reached a lower bound as to where I’m uncomfortable living, I have definitely passed my upper limit – this life scares me, makes me nervous and all-around uncomfortable. I’m out of my element, don’t know how to act, and catch myself watching my words, my steps, how I smile. Hopefully I’ll loosen up eventually. I’ll try my best not to let it spoil me but I plan to enjoy an opportunity I may never get again. So long as I don’t come out of this some sort of asshole (and I’m sure X will tell me long before it becomes a real issue) I can’t see any harm coming from it, except as it serves to impede my philosophical and moral development. Sorry Thoreau, but I guess I’m just not your just man today…

Getting My Runner’s Fix:

One of my great joys here in Honduras is running. In lieu of crack, smack, rock, chronic, hanging out in airport men’s rooms, cutting myself, snorting cat piss, or any of those other things you crazy kids do and I’ve never tried, I’ve been getting my high simply from running as if a bunch of rabid dogs were chasing me. (Even when they aren’t!)

This morning I got up at 4:30am, decided there was no way in hell I was going to get up and run around when there wasn’t any point. At 5:00 I dragged myself forcibly out of bed, complaining and whining the whole way, to the park across the street where I waited in the pre-dawn twilight for my running partners to push, trick, and cajole their unwilling selves to our meeting point. While waiting, I watch the morning stumble of the bolos. (really, incredibly, stupidly drunk individuals, every town has at least a few. Addicts, sometimes homeless, they’re really sad and really creepy at once. We would just call them bums and crazies, but here they get their own special name, just because there are so many of them.)

After we’ve met up, stretched, waited a bit for the no-shows, we set out for a slow warm-up lap of the town, dodging stray dogs, greeting the world as it wakes up, sometimes running aside highways sucking exhaust, other times scrambling up gravel and rocks to run through a cemetery. As we run, we’ll toss out topics (Stories involving vomiting, go!) tell jokes, get to know each other better, struggling to keep up the narrative between breaths, feet pounding a ragged rhythm as we push ourselves up the next big hill. Usually the run goes as long as it has to, with arbitrary turn around points, (that next big tree) weird encounters, (the other day we ran into a bull, then a cow, then another cow, then twenty more – our own mini running of the bulls) finally culminating in a sprint up a hill to end panting and euphoric to the inquiring stares of those around. It’s pointless; the destination unknown, the only purpose to push our endorphins up, to stretch our lungs and muscles, in search of those beautiful minutes or hours of unstoppable bliss that follow. As far as things worth abusing, this is one of the better I’ve found – certainly less harmful then most of the rest.

A Walking Tour of Pespire:

So this section was supposed to be full of pictures of my new town, as we were told that Pespire has ready access to the internet. Instead I’ve given up on that and am going to spend the next few paragraphs ranting incoherently and swearing about my internet connection, or lack thereof. What they didn’t mention to us before we tried it ourselves is that the connection here is slower then mole asses full of molasses, and it takes so long to load a site that I spend a good half of my time “using the internet” reading a book, writing callous and meanspirited rants about how bad the connection is, or checking out the girls using the other computers. (For anyone who cares, which might just be me, the connection averages 0.5-7kb/sec, which makes your old dial-up modem look like a juiced up PCP junkie fleeing from the donut-crumb-spewing near-cardiac-arrest mall cops that represent the internet speed down here as well as my intense hatred of rest-a-cops.) Yes, I’m a little angry.


It was, quite honestly, better not to have internet at all, as I wasn’t tempted by it, Before, when I didn’t walk past unsecured wifi nodes throwing piropos (pickup lines, propositions, see email #3) at all hours of the day, when I couldn’t walk around the corner to a little cafe to sit down and boil at my computer as it takes 10 minutes to load any given page, it didn’t bother me so much. Now that the carrot has been dangled over my head, I keep biting for it, disregarding that it’s actually a lump of moldy bread and shit disguised a carrot which incidentally I don’t like quite so much anyway, not enough to make any sort of real effort for, so maybe I ought to have just said that a large piece of Grandma Scheffers’ lemon cake had been dangled in front of my face and leave it at that. So yes, I keep taking big bites of the moldy shitcake and coming back for more because I want to keep my connection to you all open. Feel special.

Anyhow, I’m working on a couple solutions to my no internet, yes problem. The first involves a long bucket brigade of flash drives being shipped back from here full of pictures, and being returned by as yet unidentified “kind souls” in the states full of movies and pictures and games and whathaveyou. If anyone is interested in going that route, just know that I am too, but that I have no flash drives except one with all of my documents and another with the install files for my entire operating system should my computer have problems. As such, this would require people to just send me flash drives, a 3 week process, and then wait another 3 weeks for me to send them back. With the sketchy mailing system here, there’s a pretty high chance of things getting lost or stolen too. That said, I’m absolutely willing to try if you’re up to possibly lose your flash drive. Just don’t send me anything you don’t want lost, stolen, or missing for months at a time only to turn up in Fresno in a box marked “beware of the leopard.”

Better would be for me to buy a cell data network card for my phone or for my computer. The cell networks beat the land-line internet, as the infrastructure isn’t there, and satellite is well outside my price range. I’ve been looking into it, and they seem to range from $25-45 a month depending on carrier, which is barely in my price range if at all. So for now, unless I can start getting paid to write long winded emails or short stories about nothing, I might be SOL on the internet front. That said, if I can find some sort of suckers err donors to help me out… Well that might work out too. I’ll keep you posted on this one – if I make it into Choluteca or Teguz I should be able to talk to someone at a cellphone store, and maybe get a real price estimate, or even a contract if they’re cheap enough. Until then, expect the drought of pictures and flood of bitching to continue.

How My New Life Mercilessly Beats Apart My Old One:

We’re going to break from the normal format to play high points, then low points, ready set go!

  • People love to dance.

  • It’s one of those towns where you get to know everyone, it has one main street, and I’m in love with the place. It’s fun when kids shout your name as they ride by on bikes. Feeds the ego and all that.

  • River with a bonified swimming hole and jumping rock (watch for the minus in a sec)

  • I have my own private corner of the house.

  • There’s a pool, being filled as I type.

  • The monkey, who I’ve named George, doesn’t actually bite, just pretends to. Also he loves me and has yet to throw poo at me. Looks vaguely human and loves mangoes.

  • There’s a significant drinking subculture. Plenty of places to go and party without being judged or ostracized.

  • They still think gringos are a pretty neat idea here in Pespire, which can’t be said for everywhere else.

  • As X told me, my freckles have begun to merge together into a crude mockery of a tan, and between that and the sunburns I’m less of a pasty bastard.

  • Soccer field on the side of town.

  • WatSan work is awesome. I spend 5 days a week out in the fields, doing actual projects, field surveys, topographic studies. Beats the pants off an office job, even an office job where I could go pantsless.

  • Running is great – the aldeas (suburbs, rural outskirts) are really pretty, so long as you’re up early enough to beat the heat.

  • I get fed like I’ve never eaten before, 3 huge meals a day and all the fresh fruit I can eat. It’s fantastic after the close-to-starvation level I felt like I was at in Sarabanda some days.

  • Someone keeps beating me to doing my laundry. I pretty much do nothing to support myself here already, and down it’s down to “wipe ass” and “continue breathing.”

…and How It Makes Me Wish I Was Elsewhere:

  • Bug bites. Jesus fuck. It’s been better since I got a mosquito net, but still I average 3-4 a night, and this in an area where 3 of the last class of 14 Wat/San trainees got Dengue.

  • It’s 100 degrees and humid most days, and only 95 the rest. It gets down to 80 at night.

  • A dearth of young, pretty, unmarried women. Seems like an all-over-Honduras sort of problem, what with the average marriage age being 23.

  • So much for independence – There’s no way I’m going to learn how to cook, clean, sanitize, or anything else when I’m living with 2 houseworkers and I’m not allowed to touch cleaning implements or the stove.

  • My room is 20 degrees hotter then the house all day every day. I sleep naked without sheets and a fan pointed straight at me and I still wake up 2-3 times a night.

  • Malaria drugs are still fucking me up. I dreamed the other night that I had to fight a bunch of savage little kids, and beat them to death with my bare hands. Worse, I was into it. Woke up shaking and couldn’t sleep the rest of that night. The dreams are goddamn awful, and every night I have some horrible trip involving blood, violence, and horrible death of myself or loved ones. I’d stop taking them except for the automatic separation if anyone finds out, and the fact that Malaria is pretty awful too. We’ll see.

  • The river is dirtier then something very dirty. I’m pretty sure that if I spend much more time in there I’ll get an infection in some orifice. We have to go pretty far upstream to feel comfortable getting in the water, and even then it’s a grim scene. Smells bad, it’s hot, and I’m certain it’s full of things I don’t want to think about.

  • Privacy is a lost art here. I have to pretty much barricade my door to get some time alone, which means I’m sitting in the hottest little room in the house sweating like a rapist trying to study. If I’m in a public area, I’m fair game to be talked to.

  • I still don’t get most of the jokes and most of them are at my expense. My Spanish is pretty much practical knowledge only – I’m just now learning how to swear and to make jokes, but it’s a slow process and it’s frustrating some days.

  • They rearranged our language groups, and now I’m in with a group of people who are mainly a level or two below me. It’s frustrating, because whereas before I was pushed to be as good as my classmates, now I feel like I’m coasting along as we review stuff I did weeks ago.

For now, that’s all the good/bad I can think of putting together, so here we go; back to the rock. (Cue May 16th, Lagwagon)

Baby’s First Field Survey:

Here’s what I do most afternoons here – after lunch we’ll set out in groups of 3-6 with surveying equipment, water, machetes, and a few campesinos (locals) to do topographic studies and/or plot out pipelines. Generally we’re out there 3-4 hours each afternoon, with volunteers to guide us, campesinos to help us, and a specific task, a section to survey, a path to map. I flip my phone upside down so the speakers stick out, put it in my shirt front pocket, and play some tunes as we make our slow way down/up/across/through whatever is in our way. While I love the equipment, my favorite job by far is to be the guy scouting ahead, finding new survey points, hacking trees and bushes and children out of the way with a machete. Given that the machetes the Peace Corps has for us to train on are about as sharp as my leg, it takes a while to cut anything, so you should hear these kids scream. Awful really.

Seriously though, it’s a fantastic job – compared to all of the offices, stores, and whatnot, there’s really no way to beat going out into the hills and doing something that will change the lives of people who don’t have much to look forward to. The tangible difference, where women and children don’t have to walk hours to the river every day to fill heavy buckets and bring them home, is absolutely staggering. I’ve never felt quite so helpful, useful, or appreciated ever, so that’s pretty nice. It’s also great to be the most interesting thing in town, with the men all trying to help, all the kids following, and the women peeking out of their houses to watch the circus roll through town.

Shooting a point works like this: one member of the team moves ahead with either a large stick, a collapsible pole with meters marked out on it, or a reflective prism. They pick a spot as far away as possible from the rest of the team, in the direction we need to go, where the terrain is representative of the area between the team and themselves, and hopefully where we can use PVC, since it’s cheaper. This is our new point, (A). The member with the surveying equipment levels it over the previous point, (B) then shoots a measurement back to a third member at the point we all just left, (C.) This is called the backshot, and it is used to measure differences in the horizontal angle, or cardinal direction, between one shot and the next. After we’ve got that, the member at (B) spins the equipment to face (A) and figures out the distance, change in vertical angle, and makes note of the height of the equipment. Meanwhile the recorder is writing everything down and making note of the terrain, houses nearby, roads, types of pipes, etc, and the rest of the team is repositioning for another shot.

When we get the rhythm down, we move at a scorching pace of a few hundred yards an hour. The terrain is usually not conducive to this type of work, there aren’t any straight shots, and we have to adjust constantly to towns, rocks, ravines, and all manner of problems. Despite all this, I love the work, and I can’t wait to do more of it. I think I’m going to tell all the other volunteers that whenever they want another helper to call me and I’ll find my way to their site. It”ll be like a vacation except I’ll be carrying a few bags and boxes on my long walks through the countryside and working my (admittedly hot) ass off. So really, just like work except I won’t be hating it.

Guaro and Me – A Love Story:

Every part of the world has their local booze, and here in Honduras it’s Guaro, their version of moonshine, except it goes down just fine with Coke, which I’ve never felt was true about moonshine.


My first experience with Guaro was our first Friday night here in town, when one of the host families invited all of the trainees over for dinner. 15 of us eventually made the trip to meet the family and eat Papusas. (fried tortilla, rice, beans, meat, cheese, other fried tortilla, then drench it all in chili sauce and salsa, like a little bomb of love and grease.) Another reason we went was that the chisme (rumors, gossip) said there would be drinking and dancing, and I’m all sorts of into that. On the way to the party, a few of us stopped off at the liquor store to buy beers. I asked casually about Guaro, since we’d heard a few warnings about it, and I wanted to feel out the town’s reactions. The liquor store owner pulled out a few half-pint bottles and said “15 each” which is actually cheaper then a beer, and so I bought 2 and headed back to the house.

There I spiked our drinks and we all guzzled it down. It’s kind of reminiscent of gin, at least the bite is, and the flavor has a hint of black liquorice in a sea of burn. It’s honestly not that bad, nor as alcoholic as promised. Still, after a few bottles of this, some beers, and the food, we started the dance party in earnest. I danced with pretty much everyone to pretty much everything – rumba, meringue, a bit of the punta, which I’m still learning, a really awesome rumba with X, and the line-dance version of the hustle, which I think there is a video of somewhere.

We had a great time, gringos and catrachos both, and that was before the moms broke out the rum! We partied all the way til 9:30, when I said my goodbyes and ran very quickly away from the 15 year old who was dancing on me in a way I’d be comfortable with only if she was you know… not 15 years old. Or not the host’s daughter. Or both. Anyway, it was a blast, and we’ll definitely do it again in the future. I was just overjoyed to find out that are some “bad” Hondurans whose idea of a fun Friday night doesn’t involve sitting around, going to church, or going to bed early.

Futbol is to Catrachos as Heroin is to Dope Fiends:

If futbol was a powder that you could snort, or a liquid you could inject into your eyeballs, it’d cause a whole lot of fuss down here. Luckily for all involved it’s just the biggest sport in the world, which is a statement I’ve always accepted without realizing its true magnitude until I came here and saw just how worked up the people get about their soccer games. If you want an idea, imagine how worked up we get in the US about the Super Bowl, then double it. Then double it again, and triple the resulting number and divide by ten percent. That’s about where Hondurans are for every soccer game by their national team, who incidentally just passed Mexico in our bracket to move up to that crucial third spot, so as to advance to the World Cup and a chance at making every Honduran feel like a rockstar in the off chance that they win.

Still, win or lose, the Honduran national team, our seleccion, are the national superheroes. Every game day the flags, jerseys, and facepaint appear like magic, and the people of the whole country gather around whatever televisions they can find to watch, drink, shout, curse, and share the elation or agony of the team. For a few hours the whole country pushes past the poverty, the daily grind, the mundanity and drudgery of living to share in a common love of a game that needs no translation.

As a soccer fan, this is one of the best places for me to be during the upcoming World Cup, as instead of sharing my love of the game with a half-dozen weird Americans who actually care about a sport that isn’t dull and slow and whose high points involve large sweaty men piling up all over each other, or watching 9 guys sit on their thumbs for a few hours waiting for another to hit a ball, I get to hang out with my entire town in the hotel and watch strategy, drama, and a hundred agonizingly close attempts at that one move, or that one miss, that will decide the entire match. My family owns the hotel in town, and they’ve taken to opening the top floor (a giant salon with a cross-breeze, fans, a bar, and a projector) up to the public for game days, and a large part of the town turns out for games to drink, yell, and share in the emotions of the group. It’s a great way to bond with your community here, and it’s one of the few times that it is socially appropriate to drink alcoholic beverages in this society. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the whole Honduran celebration experience that game, because Trinidad & Tobago slipped a goal in under the keeper’s arm in the last 3 minutes of the game, and tied it 1-1. There’s no shootout, no overtime in the WC qualifiers, so after stoppage time ran out we all kinda wandered home in a daze, disappointed vaguely, feeling robbed.

Still, that night my host dad and I opened a bottle of wine together after the first time, “just one glass to help us sleep.” So we had a glass and talked about wines from California and Chile, costs and types and tastes, and that expanded into talk about booze in general, and we had another glass to wet the whistle. Then he told me about how sorry he was that his whole family was always busy and couldn’t spend time with me, and how awful he felt that I wasn’t getting the whole host family experience, but the family businesses required a lot more work with the economic situation as bad as it is. We had to drink another glass so that I could properly express my gratitude at having been taken in, at how great his family was treating me, at how I couldn’t wait for Semana Santa to start so I could meet the extended family, and how much he shouldn’t worry, because everything was going great here. That took a lot out of us both, so we drank another glass and the topic switched to economics in general, and the mess that is the Honduran economy, and after another glass we switched Honduran and American politics, and then how similar bankers and thieves are a glass after that. We went for another glass after that, but as it turned out we were out of wine, so we talked a bit longer about how much better my Spanish was when I was drunk, and then stumbled off to bed. It was one of those damn huge bastante supergrande big bottles too – 1.5 liters of mid-grade Chilean Cabernet Savignon – and I had to help him down the (3!) stairs to the bedrooms before wandering off to write and laugh to myself.

Sorry, lost my train of thought because Alejandra, the baby, was crying again – she does a lot of that, teething now – and 6 months comes with a pretty wicked set of lungs. I’m talking to her in English and Spanish both, figuring that I might as well set her up for an early bilingual advantage or something. I sang her songs, told her all about Barbie and how she creates a terrible model for young girls because she’s totally fake, helped her roll over back and forth for a bit until she drooled on herself and finally slipped back to sleep. Still, my story about drinking and god-only-knows-what-else is shot to hell, so I guess I’ll carry on with the other soccer game I’ve watched.

The second game we met up at the same house from the dance party I mentioned earlier. It’s pretty much a bar, and so we set up a TV, popped open a round, and set in to watch the game. Actually, there’s a part I’ve left out. Before any of this happened, R and I headed down to the liquor store to have a beer and rest from 4 hours surveying out in the hot sun. We buy one each, and as we’re standing around drinking them in the store (classy, but better then being seen in the streets – chisme is so fast it makes your head spin, and we’d earn “bolo” labels for sure) when two guys sitting at a nearby table call us over to sit and talk with them. We take the other two seats, meet the men, and it turns out they’re pretty good and drunk. Cue 45 minutes of them regaling us with stories, laughing at their own jokes, and buying us more drinks so we can’t leave any time soon. They had some deep-rooted anti-American in them, but they seemed to like us, and one actually invited us over to his house whenever we liked. I’ve yet to stop by, but he seems the type to be totally open to strange gringos stopping by for a beer and a story. After we managed to extract ourselves, we meandered over to the game, and the real party started.

We walked into the bar/house and straight into about 25 chairs set in a circle. All of our friends were there, a lot of the teachers, and a smattering of Hondurans. We were greeted with beers (#4 in an hour… yeesh) and took our seats just in time for the kickoff. Honduras vs Mexico, great game from our end. Got it to 2-0 at the end of the first half, and just knocked Mexico’s socks off. Final score 3-1, with Mexico’s only goal coming off a penalty kick toward the last 20 minutes. Great work by the Honduras team, and the win pushed us just barely into the top 3 in our division, behind Costa Rica and the US in a commanding first place. Lots of beer, celebrations, cheering, and fun. It felt a lot like my old life in Santa Barbara, except this time the drinking wasn’t the game itself. After we were through, we walked home and once again were in our houses by 9pm or so. Holy old person bedtimes, Batman!

Our First Fallen Comrade:

One of the best things about being here in the Peace Corps is that you become incredibly close to those serving with you. It’s unavoidable – you spend 10 hours a day with people and you’re going to get real close, real fast. Here in Pespire are 17 of my close friends, comrades in arms, amigos. We’ve become a tight-knit family, even within the greater group of friends that is the Peace Corps. WatSan… (that’s the cool kid’s way of talking about water and sanitation, which is too long to yell out when you throw you WatSan gang signs) well, WatSan is even closer, even more interwoven. We have a reputation to uphold as the hottest, most useful, best, coolest program out here in Honduras, and we’ve all taken this as a challenge, to the point of pranking the other groups, and it has become our rallying cry. We work harder, we’re closer, we put up with more problems, we help more people, and we’re family.

This brings me to the worst part of building camaraderie with a large number of people with diverse lives and different motives… eventually you’re going to lose someone. Be it to a change of heart, illness, burnout, a lifestyle change, whatever, you’re going to have close friends and allies ripped away from time to time. Worse still, there are those times when the change is both sudden and no fault of the one leaving, as is the case with our good friend and brother Ross.

The most unassuming guy I’ve ever met, Ross introduced himself as a stockbroker, wore his hair clipped short, never took the spotlight unless needed, laughed easily, and generally managed to blend into our group. He was one of the first half-dozen people I met in Washington DC when we first arrived scared, confused, and alone, and he’s one of the signatories on my life insurance policy, Peace Corps power of attorney, and a handful of other documents. I trusted him immediately, even though I thought he was probably some sort of square – dressed up nice, married already, real job, regular life… has to be dull right? I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup in those first days, which really just tells you how well he hid himself behind a veil of normalcy.

It took a couple weeks, but as Ross opened up to the group the layers peeled back to reveal one of the most unexpectedly interesting people I’ve met thus far. First, he’s COVERED in tattoos, but only where you can’t see them on a person dressed normally. His arms, back, chest sport works of art, and he won’t ever brag about them. I had to ask more then a few times to see what he had had done, and they’re so good that I would walk around shirtless even more then I do now just to make people jealous were I him, but he just isn’t the sort. He showed us his driver’s license once, and I stared at a huge terrifying-looking, dreadlock-wearing, monster of a man, so dissimilar from the Ross I thought I knew that I burst out laughing. I think that the two could have been in the same room and nobody would put them together as the same man save Ross’ mother or perhaps his wife.

Speaking of Ross’ wife, it’s about time I stop babbling and tie the loose ends of this tale together. Susan, Ross’ wife, decided in the past few days that she is done with the Peace Corps, that it lacks the thing(s) she is looking for, and she has decided to leave for the United States, effective immediately. Ross, sweet guy that he is, came in this morning to say goodbye, looking shell-shocked, heartbroken, and guilt-stricken. We all said our goodbyes, and that was the last I’ll ever see of him in this life. He’s back to a life of keeping himself hidden, white collar undercover work, bottled up in 9-5 hell and it’ll be all the worse because he’s tasted this life. The story is all the more heartbreaking because Ross has told all of us in WatSan that he has never been happier, never felt more alive, never belonged to any group or any place more then he does here. We had a conversation along those very lines the day before he got the news that Susan had decided to leave. Personally, I’ve never been so glad not to be married, and I’m not the only one who echoed that sentiment. What an awful situation, what a way to lose a friend. Ross, buddy, partner, friend, you will always be a part of Hondu-14, and I hope you don’t let this slow you down or douse your flame. Vaya con Dios, Catracho.

Sabana Grande Gringo Invasion:

This ought to be my last story for this email, as I imagine most of you will be glad to hear, being as we’re on page 11 already and there’s no way I’m stopping any time soon. (Aside, someone please tell me if I ought to cut these shorter. I won’t listen, but it’ll be good to know regardless.) Anyway, this is the story of how we were “those guys” and almost got kicked off a bus in the middle of nowhere, Honduras for being white and obvious. Intrigue, adventure, intoxication, some wild monkey robbery, and possibly some sex, though I’d bet against that last one. With much further ado, here’s the story of our first WatSan & Business reunion.

We bailed out of Pespire around 10:45am, 6 WatSanners out of the 11 who had expressed interest the day before. Caught a bus outside town and rode north into cooler climes. Got a sweet gringo tax on the bus, where we paid an extra 5-9 lempira just because we’re conspicuously not Honduran. Gotta love it. We bajar’d (spanglish; bajar is to get off/down) outside of the town of Sabana Grande at a little restaurant, shop, bar, zoo sort of place around 11:30, and found that we’d beat the business group. Ordered a round of beers, pushed a few tables together, and set in to wait. A beer later, still no business folk, and we found that they couldn’t catch a bus and were jaloning instead. (spanglish again: pedir jalor is to get a free ride, or really to be able to take a go, but yeah. Translating is tricky.) We wandered the zoo, saw some depressing scenes of animals in cages that shouldn’t be, joked about letting the pumas out, got sad, laughed at raccoons as a zoo exhibit, watched the monkeys sleep, and finally business showed up.

Turns out business was really serious about getting down to the business of getting hamboned, as it were, and they’d brought a whole lot of guaro and rum with them. We started party passing the bottles around the table, roughly 12 business, 6 WatSan, and washing the booze down with cokes. A round of beers, a toast to the group, to Ross, to Susan, to Peace Corps, and a large lunch order, and we were off on our mad race to get drunk. I can’t say I won, because that would be unfair to all the business folk, but I got comfortably numb and watched the festivities. There’s a lot of chisme in business, but I feel like it’s not my place to spread that outside of the PCVs, so here’s some anonymous rumors about my friends, because that isn’t sleasy or anything:

  • There’s a really sleasy dude in business who hits on everything that moves, and likes to tell girls that he has 40 condoms, and that some people call him a player but he can’t argue because “I know what the girls want.”

  • Someone got really drunk and hit by a car in the health program, but is doing fine.

  • The entire health group got in trouble for going out to night clubs and making a scene, which I found funny considering the scene we were making when I found this out.

  • There’s a lot of pairing off, sparks flying among the business types, and I can’t wait for the relationship/breakup fireworks.

  • 2 business volunteers found out already that they got the 2 best assignments in the whole program, and now they have to keep that to themselves so as to not cause a rebellion.

  • WatSan’s program kicks the hell out of what the business people are doing. Seriously, what they get to do is so boring that I felt bad for them. Sitting around making mock business plans can’t hold a candle to our construction projects, surveys, and practical, hands-on learning.

At some point while we were sharing all this, the monkeys that had been sleeping and lazy got up and made a show. One would wrap his tail around a vertical pole and run in circles, then once he got fast enough, lift his legs off the ground, lean forward, and sail around by his tail. It looked great, but while we were all watching him, his partner in crime stole a bag of cookies off one of the girls. I thought it was hilarious, though she was a bit peeved. I saw a cheapie watch in their pen as well, so I think they’re regular bandits. Great trick though, the flying tail spin.

Anyway, between the gossip and drinking and wandering around the “zoo” we caused a hell of a scene, I’m sure. A pile of drunk white people, no matter where they are in Honduras, are going to cause people to notice, and this certainly was no exception. We tried to stay away from the restaurant, but there were definitely a whole lot of mean looks thrown our way. Not because we were being rude or loud, because we weren’t, but because guys and girls don’t hang out publicly, people don’t drink hard alcohol except in secret, nobody shows affection to each other or touches members of the opposite sex in public, and to speak English in front of people down here automatically makes them think you’re talking badly about them. (More on that last one later.)

None of this was a surprise to us. We knew we were going to be the center of negative attention, which is why we were at a far-off town, at some cheesy restaurant on the outskirts, in a place where we weren’t likely to do anything that would get back to our sites. At some level you have to have fun, to get together, to let yourself go, because life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is a lot like a permanent job interview – you’re always on the stand, you’re being judged for every move, and people make up their minds about you based on your smallest moves. To run away, be slightly anonymous for a bit, and let down your hair is a VERY welcome change.

After a few hours of good times, a walking version of the tram ride that wasn’t running, some group pictures, back massages, and too much to drink, we had to be going. We’d outstayed our welcome in any case, and so we beat a retreat to the highway, said fond farewells, and caught buses in opposite directions. 4 hours, but it was like we’d been to a different world – no worrying about your reputation, no paranoia that this beer or that English conversation is going to get you labeled as a rude, drunk, ignorant gringo by your entire community. Just some good times with good friends, good food, and some poor imprisoned animals. Still, as Sabana Grande faded into the background, I had no idea the drama about to unfold with us at center stage.

There’s a lot of anti-USA hatred here, especially since we deport approximately 200 Hondurans/day from the states, and treat them none to kindly. A lot of separated families, broken hearts, and starving children get blamed (not without reason) on the states. Plus our economic problems are hitting them a HELL of a lot harder down here then anything you guys can feel up there yet. We’re talking a 50+% drop in business from the US already, and we account for some 75% of their trade. It won’t be pretty down here in a few months, and the crime rate is already skyrocketing. Sadly, this anger gets misdirected toward the white people that the average Honduran actually sees, which is pretty much medical brigades, engineers, us, and people who have come down here to help. It comes at you doubly if you’re speaking English in front of Hondurans, and treble if you’re being rude about it.

Unfortunately, we got the attention of the people on the bus we flagged down on our way home. Six gringos piling into an already past-full bus is bound to raise a few eyebrows, but 6 bubbly, slightly intoxicated gringos speaking English pushing our way into the bus earned us a lot of stern looks, angry comments, and more then one suggestion to throw us off before the next stop. (“They come here, but we get thrown out if we come into their country,” was one comment.) Since it’s Semana Santa, the biggest holiday of the year and the big travel weekend, there was plenty of agreement on that last one, if for no other reason then the extra leg room. Thankfully we struck up a conversation in Spanish with some of the other passengers and cooler heads prevailed, but for a while I was actually worried about mob violence, simply because we were talking another tongue. Not a lot of tolerance for anything English right now, especially since we were leaving a tourist-y location and not actively working at the time. It was a good splash in the face though, to see the difference between how we’re treated as Peace Corps members in our community and as regular old gringos everywhere else.

So that’s pretty much it, aside from the bus preacher, who yelled Corinthians at us as we balled down the highway passing cars on the left and right, swerving and sliding. We jumped off at the restaurant where one of the married couples lives, had some awesome cantelope juice, and walked home in time for dinner. Not a bad day, all things considered, and we’ll definitely do something similar soon. Much love for the business friends, even if they are a bunch of drunks.

Music Recommendations:

I’m listening to these bands a lot down here. They’re mostly not Honduran, but they all sing/play their hearts out and mostly in Spanish. Check them out, I bet you’ll find at least one you like.

  • Manu Chao

  • Brazilian Girls

  • Bacilos

  • Antibalas (Antibalas Orchestra)

  • Gypsy Kings

  • The Kooks

  • Mana (Maná)

  • Melendi

  • Minus the Bear (of course)

  • Los Lobos (used their version of La Bomba for something that I’ll tell you all later)

  • K-CO

  • The Knife

  • Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (Spanish Ska, pretty much)

  • Tito Puentes

  • Cake (perfect music for pretty much everything)

  • Beck

Official Betting Odds That X and I Will Have Sex At Some Point During Service:

Currently sitting at 3:1, so I’d get your bets in early as this is sure to drop sooner then later, especially if guaro comes into play. Sorry marida, had to write it! (Contractual Obligation, check section 4, paragraph 9, clause 3 of the attention whore guidebook: I know you have your copy lying around and probably annotated.)

Regarding My Cell Phone and Calling Me, and Also the Blog:

So here’s something interesting: there’s a website, www.ezetop.com that lets you put money on my phone, which will dramatically increase my odds of calling you and sharing far cooler stories then I’ve written here. (Ask Chad) Moreover, if you do want to talk to me, it’s far cheaper then calling cards, and it’ll allow me to actually call people in the states. You see, it costs me about 4 lempira/minute to talk to you guys, which translates to all of 20 cents a minute – if you put the minimum $15 on my account we’ll get about 250 lempira of talk time, which is pretty huge considering my daily stipend is only 57 lempira. Add in the lower rates late at night and on special days, and we could have a lot of conversations for next to nothing. So yeah, that’s my pitch: go to the website, make an account (just requires your email) make sure you change the “what phone do you want to add $ to” to Honduras, TIGO, and my number is 9576 2348. Hook a brother up, and then shoot me a text (760-807-5188 is my US number, normal text charges only) and I’ll call you up and regale you with tales of adventure, daring-do, and whathaveyou. Or not, if you’re content on missing on my silky smooth voice and words like mana from heaven.

As for the blog – mentalcigarettes.wordpress.com – I just actually tried to access it without my admin login, and found out that the whole thing was sitting behind a username/password wall. (Thanks for the security job Chad, and the heads up Bri.) It should be fixed now – each individual post is passworded, but the password is just 1337, so stop by if you like. Right now it’s just these emails and a few older stories, but if more people then me start visiting it, I’ll put a lot more of my older writing up – there are some gems – but I’m really unmotivated right now, since I know nobody actually visits and I can just read my local copies here.

So that’s it for now. “Only” 16 ½ pages in my word processor, and hopefully it’s as interesting to you all as it was for me to write. Call me, write me, contact me in whatever fashion you desire (I do take carrier pigeons and pony express riders) and I’d love to hear about your lives, follies, adventures, highs, lows, and anything you’re willing to tell me. Miss you all lots, and we’ll be in touch soon. Hasta Pronto!

Advertisements

One Response to “Peace Corps Diary #4”


  1. This is my first time visit at here and i am truly happy to read all at single place.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: