A Random Gringo in Honduras

June 23, 2009

Due to my own stupidity and laziness, I forgot to post this when I wrote it, then procrastinated, then fucked around a bit, and then went off on a crazy set of adventures.  Consequently, I didn’t send it out a month and change ago when I wrote it, but here’s some random thoughts about my life as of mid-May.  There’s a good part about being sick in there too.

Well, I’m not sure how to start this one, as I don’t have the usual grab bag of Peace Corps activities to fall back on, and haven’t (unfortunately) had a grand adventure in the past weeks. I guess my life is different now. I don’t feel it much, save for a generally lower level of activity and lack of mandatory schedule, but it’s generally a lot of the same. Great people, greasy food, small-town life in another tongue. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to keep chronicling this narrative, and I figure I might be able to pull a few interesting stories out of my day-to-day life here, so lets begin, shall we?

The Situation As It Sits Right Now:

For those suffering from short-to-medium-term memory loss (and if this actually applies to you, sorry, I’m being snarky, not mean to your personally) and those new to my writings, here’s where I sit: I’m a 22 year old Peace Corps dropout, living with a very large, very kind family centered here in the small town of Pespire, Honduras. I have $263 dollars to my name, give or take a few Lempiras, a few weeks of clothes, medicine, toiletries, a lot of books, my small laptop, assorted notebooks and my iphone, which costs too much to use as a phone. Aside from that, I also have 3 backpacks, a sleeping bag, a few handy survival tools, a portable mosquito net (on loan) and a little tiny bathing suit that shows off my junk. I also have a coffee mug that I use right now to sit on my desk and make me feel like a writer. There’s a few other things, but that’s about the sum total of my material possessions. Oh yeah, credit card in case the life down here gets too scary and I decide to run away back to the states. Everything I own fits in 2 bags.

What I’m doing with these 2 bags of goodies is still of much debate. I have a few plans, among them working for a local NGO, getting an English-teaching job in a town somewhere, and just holding down a job of any sort and living the bum expatriate life. It’s all a very vague mishmash at the moment, with the common thread of wanting desperately to find my niche as a writer, and maybe getting paid for what I like to do. Really, I’ve set myself 4 goals here: (1) I want to come out of this experience Spanish fluent, which I see as the easiest to accomplish so long as I just keep living, (2) I hope to do something that helps people who really need it, (3) I need to gain a cultural perspective wholly different then my own, and (4) I will write something that people want to read, that teaches, entertains, and persuades. That about sums up my general framework for the next few weeks, months, unknown time limit, and in some way these writings are my way of tracking

The Last Day of Peace Corps Training:

Not my last day, mind you, since I’ve been long kicked out, but the official last day of WatSan Field-Based Training, the program-specific practical training we’d been receiving here in Pespire. I’ve been both waiting for and dreading this day for a while now – in part because it marks the next part of my adventure starting, but also because the situation between myself and my former colleagues has deteriorated pretty dramatically lately and it will be nice not to have to deal with some of them any longer. On the flip side, my few true friends in this faraway life are leaving too, and I’m about to learn just how self-reliant and good at being alone I am when I can’t even keep up with the conversations around me half the time.

For the past week I’ve been spending as much time as I could with my friends here, knowing that once we separate they’ll be stuck in their wide-spread sites of service with a 3 month travel restriction, and I’ll be here or perhaps further away, depending on my wanderings and how the job hunt goes. I spent a lot of evenings sitting around tables, lying in hammocks, and just passing time with my new friends. It wasn’t what I wanted to do – drawn out goodbyes and reminiscing don’t help much when your course has split off completely from the rest of your peers – but at the same time I do want to keep in touch with these people, and cutting ties abruptly tends not to lend itself to continued friendships. Plus, it does beat sitting alone and moping, and I’ve been having to work at not doing that lately.

Mostly, X and I hung out, occasionally with others, sometimes just lying in a hammock, talking and reminiscing. She has a great Peace Corps experience laid out in front of her, having been given her dream site, near mines, in the mountains, in the tiny town of La Labor, population 1500 or so. In one of those weird coincidences, she actually inherited the region from the only person I knew in Peace Corps Honduras before coming down here, a friend of a friend of a I think our moms know each other. He helped me prepare for the Peace Corps, left a month or so before I came down here, and now reappears as a frontier character in X’s unfolding adventures. I wish her the best out there, but man, if envy were currency… Let’s just say I wouldn’t have money problems right now.

That’s the double-edged sword of all this, really. I want to be a good friend, I want to stay close to my Peace Corps friends, but FUCK it’s so god damn hard being happy for everyone else when you’re ripped up inside. I smile as everyone celebrates their upcoming acceptance into our mutual dream, and swallow glass and hostile words. I’ve lost count of the smiles I’ve faked lately, the amount of cheery greetings and happy appearances I’ve had to make. That’s going to be the best part of suddenly being friendless in the middle of a strange land – I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.

Meanwhile, the other half of the Peace Corps group has gone out of their way to make sure that I know I’m not welcome, that I’m not a member of their clique any longer. Actually, this was X’s point to make: the Peace Corps WatSan group is great if you’re on the inside of their group, but hellishly exclusive, trivially mean, and downright hostile if you’re not. I’ve been finding this out first-hand lately, and considering how good of friends these people were to me before I left, it has downright sucked to be here lately. One-sided greetings, hostile glares, and a ridiculous rumor circulating that I got kicked out for bad-mouthing the Peace Corps and talking about my comrades’ indiscretions. While I have put the (fake) names of my friends out here in the ether, I’ve left their rule breaking and antics largely out of my writing because I didn’t want to get anyone else in trouble, or spread the rumors that run like wildfire through the Peace Corps.

That said, a lot of why I’ve been so down lately is that I see and hear of people doing some very over-the-line stuff, public drunkenness, sex in host houses, off-site trips to major cities without telling anyone, someone pooped in a shoe, and a whole lot of people are involved in this sort of stuff. It’s inevitable really – when the rules are restrictive and unjust, people break them, and you’ll find no complaint from me there. However, these same people are treating me as if I’m some sort of leaking hole through which all their secrets are going to seep out into the general population, aka Peace Corps administration. Thus, I’m being pre-judged for my actions, getting talked about behind my back, and generally coming off as a whipping boy for the bad atmosphere that has been blowing through Pespire lately. It sucks, but what was I going to do, aside from wait until everyone clears out?

Actually, let me just stop this line of thought right here and go in another direction. I’d rather not have this turn out as a multi-page whine about how all my “friends” turned out not to be, because that makes for shitty reading, and depressing writing. Instead I’m going to talk about how awesome the start of the

rainy season is here, and maybe if I feel like it I’ll come back to the Peace Corps thing. Suffice it to say that everyone is now gone, I’m living here with my host family and all the natives, and getting along well. The last day X and my few real friends said nice goodbyes, and the rest of the group drove out of my life forever. I watched them all the way out of town, didn’t even feel sad, because I know I’ll see the ones I want to again. I wish them all well, and I hope they get whatever they wanted out of joining the Peace Corps. Even if they ended up being shitty friends, they’re not shitty people. If they were, they wouldn’t be giving their lives over to the Peace Corps for the next 2 years.

Rainy Season is Wicked Cool:

I come from San Diego. We don’t have weather in San Diego. The forecast is within a standard deviation of something like “Sunny, 85 degrees, no clouds” almost every day, we get 2 weeks of rain, and the rest of the year is hot, dry, and beautiful. It’s what makes San Diegans go nuts every time the roads get wet, and why my wardrobe for all of high school was board shorts, flip-flops, and T’s. Even moving to Santa Barbara, you really didn’t ever come in contact with bad weather that often. Sure, it rained more, my freshman year we had 4 months of rainy days and bad weather, (when I worked outside every day) but by and large it’s like a slightly cooler, slightly more rainy San Diego, with beautiful, beautiful, college girls, a lot more binge drinking, and a reputation for promiscuity.

What I’m trying to say here, aside from how I should have gotten laid more in college, is that the weather in Honduras is a fundamentally new thing for me. It’s one thing for the newspaper to read “chance of showers today” but entirely another for the sky to darken every afternoon between 4 and 6 pm, for the lightning to fill the Northern sky and slowly approach, then finally sweep over the city in a torrential downpour 2 hours long. What’s more, this intensifies every day for 2 months, stops for one, then goes for another 2, every single year. Life, the farming systems, water planning, community development, construction, and almost everything else revolves around these highly predictable, showstopping, beautiful waterworks. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and so it fascinates me on a daily basis.

I find myself counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, and because it’s so flat out here, you can usually see the lighting 18 seconds or so away, and count it down on the way into town. For whatever reason, it never seems to occur right overhead, stopping 3-4 seconds North of us, and reappearing 5-6 South. I haven’t figured that one out, actually, so if anyone knows if that is a common phenomenon I’d love to know, because it’s both very odd and sadly disappointing to me. Certainly makes my photography attempts all the more difficult, in any case. Scratch that, we’re in the middle of one hell of an overhead thunderstorm. Can’t stop jumping as the house shakes. Still, there is a certain magic in sitting out on the porch, watching lightning strike over the mountains, seeing the entire world thrown into stark relief, feeling the concussion waves of the thunder, and to have one’s head filled with the clatter of a thousand tiny raindrops on the tin roof. If not for the tiny leak in the roof above my bed, it might be the perfect way to drift off to sleep. Still, lying outside in a hammock as the storm rages gives me a most natural calm, and thus my writing time keeps turning into early-evening naps as the laptop battery dies and Bob Dylan serenades a house full of people who can’t understand what makes him so fun to listen to.

Maybe I’ll have a change of heart after a few weeks or months of this, but at this juncture I certainly do doubt it. After all, the alternative I’ve been living these past months, the heat, sweating nights, lathering myself in gluey sunscreen and showering 2-3 times daily, wasn’t that enjoyable, and it’s such a welcome change to be able to walk around in the afternoons without toweling sweat off of myself. For now, when it isn’t coming down all day, when rain is still a new and welcome change, it’s magical, refreshing, wonderful, “the shit,” if you will. We’ll see how the mosquitoes and constant damp treat me and get back to you. Now if only it would rain today!

Here Are Some Things I’m Jaded On:

Yay Lists! Well, I dunno, I suppose we could do it all paragraph-y instead, if you’re into that. The first thing I realized I’m totally jaded on is insects. (Are insects? Is me Englishing good? I’m leaving it.) This revelation dawned on me at dinner just now, as I was drinking my horchata and noticed a little black floatie in it. It was wiggling, and so I knew I had a drinking buddy tonight. Here’s the thing though – that’s as far as I reacted. The only reason I didn’t drink my little friend is that he somehow found purchase on the side of my cup as I was taking a sip, and crawled to safety. It’s not that I particularly like bugs, but there’s a lot of them down here, and so it’s not uncommon to be beset by little ones, to face cockroaches in my bathroom, to walk accidentally through a cloud of gnats on the way out of the kitchen, to find little crawlies on my bed, to flick moths off my laptop all night. At the dining room table I’ve just taken it for granted that the placemats house a thriving civilization of mites, or what I think are mites.

It might seem disgusting to think about and list all of the little bugs and insects that are eating me and sharing my living spaces down here, but I can assure you that they slip under your radar pretty quickly. I just popped something that was sucking on my neck, and I feel victorious, even though for every one I catch the other hundred chew me up. (My feet are the worst. I’ve got a good 20-25 bites per) Still, once you realize that all you must do is not scratch, it all becomes fairly innocuous. I spend less time thinking about the bugs then I spend thinking about hot showers, and I haven’t thought about that more then fleetingly since Sarabanda, when the water was extra biting cold and came out of a bucket.

Another thing I haven’t been noticing lately is the smell of life down here. Today when I was walking through Barrio Bajo I realized I could smell shit, definitely human, and a godawful amount of it too. I glanced around for a second before realizing I was walking right next to the open sewer, the same open sewer that goes through pretty much the entire town. How long had I been surrounded by feces and garbage and scummy water? At least a half mile. It wasn’t until the wind picked up and I got a huge blast of it in the face that I really even noticed. You just get used to death, decay, decomposing organic matter, animals, unwashed people, the smells of life when it isn’t covered up by soap, deodorant, and ammonia-based cleaning agents.

In some ways, I prefer it to the perfumed, covered-up, freshly washed world I came from. This one is less pretentious, more open, more real, if that makes any sense. Sure, the world stinks sometimes. Yes, there are open rivers of bodily fluids in the streets. Occasionally, I spend a lot of time in very close proximity to people who reek of things gone horribly wrong. Buses come to mind. However, you don’t find people judging quite so much down here, because they know that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, to accept that which you can’t change, to forget that which truly does not matter. I think we in the States, living further from the survival line, (not poverty “I can’t afford the mortgage,” but true “I can’t buy food” life and death) too often dwell on aesthetics, on smelling pleasantly, on acting and being “socially acceptable” because we just don’t have to deal with the same reality as down here. When life is hard, things like feeding your family take precedence over smelling pretty.

I’m completely jaded on the little basket next to the toilets where you put your toilet paper instead of flushing it. It used to bother me, with its stink and pile of other people’s poop. Now it just sits there until it comes time to involve it in my business. So long as you don’t spend too much time examining the contents, it just fades into the back of your mind. Besides, it’s not like I have to touch it, or really interact with the contents in any way. Mind you, the unsanitary nature of these receptacles bugs me, but no more then public restrooms in general.

The coolness of speaking Spanish has sadly left me, and been replaced by nothing. It is now completely natural for me to speak a foreign language all day, I respond automatically with it, it just flows. It’s harder for me to switch over to English, to be honest, though I’ve noticed happily that it is become less of a switching situation and more of a single unified language that I happen to speak one part of to some people, another part to others. When I’m with other English and Spanish bilinguals, we speak both, using dichos (sayings) de los dos, cambiando entre una lengua y la otra con frequencia dependiente en cual palabras necesitamos usar. Sometimes, it’s just easier to say something in Spanish. There’s better words for some concepts, better descriptions, and the same for English. If anything, I want to learn a third language so that I can use all three. I’m thinking German, for when I want to sound authoritative, or maybe Mandarin, since the Chinese are taking over the world and all.

Coolest part – I dream in English and Spanish interchangeably. I’ve had conversations in my head with my mom except she speaks Spanish too, argued and yelled bilingually, and understood it all. What with the malaria drugs giving me crazy fucked up dreams in the first place, this has been the shining spot in what could otherwise be called a blood-spattered, corpse-strewn Psychologist’s wet dream of awful dreams. I haven’t had nightmares in years, and I wouldn’t call these that, it’s more like I’m some sort of sick fuck and all I dream about are pain, suffering, and death. It’s the most common side effect of Cloroquinine, euphemistically referred to as “vivid dreaming.” It’s like calling rape “surprise sex” and almost as fucked up, just not as funny in the right company. Anyway, that went badly off course, and the ship has now sunk. Women and children first, and let’s wrap this up like you ought to in Santa Barbara if you know what’s good for you. (Yay STIs!)

In short, I could have left this whole section out and just written “I am adapting to my new life quite nicely, and new scary things are becoming old commonplace ones” but that would hardly have been as much fun. Plus, at least one person, probably me, would have thought “gee whiz, I wish he had included a bunch of rambling examples of that very simple concept, so as to bore most of us, and pad the length of this document.” Thus, here you are, a steaming platter of them. Buen Provecho.

Things I Pay More Attention To:

Small injuries, cuts, bruises that don’t clear up overnight, blisters, all get a whole lot more attention here then in the states. I’ve grown rather paranoid of infection and disease down here, since between the tropical climate, funky new diseases, and my body’s newness to it all, there is a much greater chance of me catching something I don’t know how to deal with down here. I haven’t gotten anything too bad yet, a rattling cough and sore throat and lungs in the first week being the worst of my illnesses down here, but from experience I imagine the first time I get complacent about the little things I’ll catch something weird and flesh-eating. Weeks later, when I’m back in the States minus a foot, I’ll really wish I’d kept that stubbed toe disinfected! I’m kind of kidding – we’re not in a tropical jungle, more a tropical Southern California, except with the aforementioned rainy season. Still, they have diseases here that we’ve long since wiped out in the US, and a lot more of the diseases we see only rarely, like cholera, or dysentary. (Oregon Trail: Your penis has died of dysentary – it’s less funny when it actually happens)

Add to that the fact that once it starts raining, everyone gets sick, and I’m battening down the hatches, trying to repair my body and get myself ready for the inevitable wave of sickness that is going to roll over this part of the world in the next few months. I only have 10 more weeks of malaria medication, so that’ll be an issue eventually, especially since all the mosquitoes in the world come out to play during the next few months. Plus, the class of Peace Corps volunteers before us, the last WatSan group to be in Pespire, caught 3-4 cases of Dengue Fever during their training. Granted we only have 2 of the 4 Dengue strains down here, but I’d rather not catch any one of them, since the obligatory 10-20 pound weight loss and week of weak, pathetic living really don’t appeal to me. (I don’t have the weight to lose!) Finally, multiply this whole twisted equation by the absence of the Peace Corps support network, ready access to medical technicians, and it sums up to me being very vulnerable to whatever wild and nasty (but not kinky) illness comes rolling into town to meet the citizenry. I’ll just have to rely on my naturally solid immune system, weaned on life in Isla Vista and Santa Barbara, beer pong and the pandemics of a party school. In essence, I’ve already lived in unsanitary squalor, and that might be my saving grace here.

There’s a lot more natural world down here then in the States. Granted, I’m generalizing “the States” to California, and even that down to the parts I’m familiar with, but really there is a much greater connection between humans and nature then I’ve gotten to have before. I’ve never lived before in a place where everyone just accepted the geckos in their rooms, the bugs and insects and small animals living in their house, the birds flying in open windows, the stray cats moving into the kitchen. It’s all just taken for granted, which might come back to my “acceptance is not having any other choice” hypothesis, but I think it’s more that people here haven’t been separated from the natural world long enough to hate it. “Sure,” they all seem to say, “there are bugs everywhere in my house. So what of it?” Not knowing differently makes it seem normal, and really, we don’t have another option.

Even living here with one of the richest families in town, I’m nowhere near free of the insects, animals, dirt, and rain. The roof leaks. My floor is tile with a thin layer of silt blown in under the door by the wind. I can’t stop finding bugs on EVERYTHING now that it’s raining. It’s a common factor of the rich and poor here – nobody can completely separate themselves from the real world. And if you ask me, that’s a good thing. (You didn’t ask me. I rudely shoved my opinion down your throat. I apologi-wait fuck that, I’m writing here, you don’t get to ask!) It ties into the general feel I get off of people as more capable of taking care of themselves, more aware of the world around them, less secluded from each other and from nature. I hope it doesn’t change, but I’ve seen the big cities, and it is. They’re becoming more like us, and in this way, I think that’s a bad thing. A connection to the natural world is important, and I notice it in almost everyone I meet down here.

Drivers are one of those things I’m paying a lot more attention to down here, mainly because I’m terrified of them. Unlike at home, where I had at least of the luxury of being behind the wheel and drove considering every other driver around me to be an idiot, here I have to suffer in the passenger seat or truck bed or bus as the driver, who is usually driving like we’re in some sort of desperate race to explode against the front grill of the big 18-wheelers that come roaring by. There’s this list of unwritten rules of the road, which all the cool kids follow, that pretty much states “drive outside the margins, put yourself in risky situations you ought not, leave no room for errors, and force the other drivers on the road to adapt to you.” Call it the aggressive foil to our “defensive driving” strategy at home. It’s unnerving at best, and fucking terrifying when you’re coming up on a blind curve in the opposite lane with no guardrail, and 4 more cars to pass before there’s an opening. Add in the greater propensity toward drunk or borderline drunk driving, the extension of machismo culture into driving, (aggressive, possessive, and pushy) and the ill state of the roads, and you’ve got a perfect storm for road rash and twisted metal. (Like those movie and video game references? Nerdcore.)

Because of all this, I just can’t bring myself NOT to pay attention to the drivers, mine and others. It’s like the illness thing – if I’m prepared, if I am ready to act and perpetually on my toes, I’ll probably come through it all just fine. When or if I’m not is when I’ll have problems. This makes driving anywhere stressful, because I”m biting my lip to get the driver off his cell phone and make him choose a lane, either lane, but not to keep straddling the center line with those trucks coming up fast… Yeah, drivers suck, but every once in a while you meet an incredible one, who combines the crazy recklessness with an innate understanding how the people around him are thinking, and that’s just a fun ride. Now if only they would keep their seat belts in working order, I might not feel quite so close to death every time we get on the highway.

I still won’t throw my garbage on the ground, but I’m not picking up everyone else’s either. This one bothers me a lot, because while the piles of garbage in every empty or public space irritate the hell out of me, that’s not compared to how mad I get when I watch adults, young kids, everyone just tossing their waste on the ground. It is goddamn ridiculous, they all ought to know better! Most of them do, if you ask them, admit that they know it’s bad for the world to litter, to waste, to make mounds of plastic bags and bottles in the dirt lots. They keep at it all the same, and perhaps one young woman put it best in saying “but there’s so much of the world, what’s it going to hurt if I litter right here?” A lot, judging by the river and empty fields and cemetary.

Still, for all my raging about garbage, I’m not doing anything substantial about it. Throwing away my own trash, picking up the occasional bottle or bag, doesn’t do much except put me personally at a very slight negative garbage output. And really, since all the trash here just gets tossed into an open unlined pit landfill next to the river, I’m just exporting my problems to another location where I don’t have to see it or feel guilty. Story of my life, my gender, the world, if you feel like generalizing. The motivation to jump on this one isn’t there, so I sit and stew about the kids throwing trash out the windows as pigs eat garbage in the fields. It’s one of those problems that is too big for just me to have the slightest hope of solving, and in which the tide is obviously rushing out to sea, and taking my swim trunks with it.

I spend a lot of time looking up at the Sky and daydreaming here. It’s hard not to, what with the mountains stretching out endlessly in the North, West, and East, and the wide open view South. Plus, the clouds whip overhead, contorting and shapeshifting as fast as I can make up new names for what they are the moment before. A fluffy white whale morphs into a hand giving an obscene gesture turns into a stretched out barbell becomes 2 quickly separating islands in a wide-open ocean sky. In the afternoons the clouds get darker, more ominous, lower, heavy with rain. The lightning appears on the Northern horizon around 2-6pm nearly daily, the wind picks up, and I discover if the outside doors have been properly fastened. Staring up, I count the distance between flashes and thunderclaps, then rush outside to run around in the sudden downpour like a 5-year-old. The only 5 year-old, I might add, since the little kids look at me as if I’m some sort of big white idiot, running the streets, wet, cold, and shrieking with laughter.

Funny story – I came back to this part to do some editing, debate between 5-year-old and 5 year old, and the rain outside reached such a torrential pace, blowing sideways and threatening to tip my laptop into the pool, that I was forced to make a mad dash (laptop wrapped in a towel and my pants) the 20 yards to the main house through rain so hard it felt like hail. 15 seconds left me soaked and staring at the locked kitchen door – turns out the housekeeper had left and locked up while I was downstairs. I was bawling with laughter at this point, body-shaking belly laughs, watching the sky crack open. It was the hardest rain I’ve ever been caught up in, especially without pants on.

I ended up climbing in through a window, and spent the next hour closing windows, moving furniture, clothes, and the stereo away from wet areas and open balconies, drying floors and walls, spotting roof leaks, and closing windows. I was feeling pretty damn good about myself until it came time to go into my room, when I realized that 1) I hadn’t closed MY window, and 2) the roof in my room leaks quite badly in 2 new spots. So now my bedsheets are drying on various hammocks, and I’ve left some pots catching water. Nothing got ruined, I’m quite alright with it all, but it’s been a wild afternoon.

Consequentially, I’ve forgotten what, if any, point I was making here, so yeah. Sky is pretty. Me like sky. Try looking up at it sometime – we get so caught up in the mundane unimportant details of day-to-day life that we forget the majesty and beauty of the outside world. It shouldn’t have taken me a trip to Honduras and boot from the Peace Corps to realize this, but it’s a lesson I’m glad to have learned, regardless of cost.

A few of you might have noticed I spend a bit of time using Twitter lately. This might seem strange, given as my problems of the past month have centered around my “culturally inappropriate” and “obscene” comments on Twitter, but so be it. The service is incredibly useful, growing quickly, and I’d have to be an idiot to drop out of a cultural and technological trend when there’s a better chance of me falling into a big pit of money tomorrow then of the Peace Corps changing their collective mind and letting me come back to work for them. My apologies for the overabundance of messages lately, but what with actually having regular internet access and an ever-growing audience, I’ve found that I have plenty to say about nothing.

If you have no idea what Twitter is, you’re hardly alone, but you ought to head over to www.twitter.com and sign up. In a nutshell, Twitter is a way to connect your phone with a group messaging service, allowing you to send messages to groups or individuals all over the world. (free online, standard SMS message charge by phone) It’s a great way to meet new people, talk about useless things, and waste time. (Lance Armstrong uses it! He says fuck!) Actually, that’s selling it tremendously short, because it has become my main way of communicating with my friends back stateside, and I use it to keep up on news, life, and politics back home. If you do end up signing up, be sure and “follow citizen_k” and you’ll see just how much useless and occasionally humorous drivel I can put out on a daily basis. Plus, you might discover that you too can make use of this new medium. If my mom can do it, you certainly can too!

The people on the side of the road, beggars, poor kids, the homeless, bolos, all still get to me as if it were my first day here. I can’t help it – they’re fill me with this longing to reach out, if only to befriend them. I have no money, but that doesn’t stop me from giving it to little kids selling mangoes on the roadside. Oh God, this little boy Daniel… 8 years old, smart as a whip, sells mangoes and other fruit 5 days a week as he wanders around Pespire and the surrounding neighborhoods. Last week Wednesday he approached me as I was waiting for my ride to the aldeas to appear, and asked me to buy something. I declined, having nothing on me, and he kept pressing, so I got him talking about his school, his life, his family.

He’s the oldest of 5 kids, and his parents don’t have the money to afford to feed everyone so he dropped out of school to help out, selling fruit he picks wild or buys from neighbors. He wants to be a scientist, and he honestly strikes me as the sort of kid who would have been able to go that route, but then he says he’ll never be able to go back to school unless his family can afford to send him, and so he’ll just sell fruit until his family has money. It’s so matter of fact, so frank, that I realize this small child has already become more of a realistic adult then I might ever. If he wasn’t so obviously a little kid I’d think he was already grown; so heartbreakingly serious and quietly submissive to his fate. The magic, wild hope of youth has been sucked right out of him, burnt to ashes by hungry nights and broken dreams. After a quarter hour, he asked me one last time to buy something, and I told him next time. We shook hands, I wished him luck, and he wandered off down the road like a miniature version of the tired, haggard, old street sellers I could already see him growing into. Just another little heartbreak in a sad, lonely world.

Two days later Daniel found me again, on my way to X’s to help her pack and hang out. He reminded me that I’d told him I would buy from him next time, and well, here we were again. I laughed and gave him 50 Lempira, the only bill I had on me, and alternately $2.60 or 1% of all the money I have in the world, depending on how you look at it. It was a bad call – I really can’t give away money when I have none of it, but the poor kid… you just have to see him, to realize how fucked up and hopeless his whole life is turning out, and he’s only 8 years old.

It’s the stuff like this that gets me down, because I know there’s a million fuckhead rich bastards that could stand to lose an unnoticeably small bit off the top so kids like Daniel could grow up happy and not worry about eating tomorrow, but it’ll never happen so long as the rich hold all the cards, and the poor are too busy starving and working themselves to death to organize. This is the dark side of global capitalism – the corporate-owned world doesn’t have a place for these people, and so they just sit and slowly die, unable to find work, unable to afford schooling, unable to do anything except eat, shit, fuck, and barely survive. It doesn’t have to be this bad, but unless someone finds away to turn a profit making things better, the trickle of aid and handouts won’t ever be enough to even keep pace with the steady march of poverty, despair, and disease. Fuck liberalism, conservativism, or any of the other -isms, it’s basic goddamn HUMANISM to help these people, and the only reason people don’t help is that they’re far enough away to build an emotional wall and hide behind it. The ghettoization of guilt is the only thing that makes the developed world keep turning.

What’s going to happen the day the screaming masses on the other side breach the wall? We can’t ignore them forever, but until we do, it’s the Daniels of the world that will suffer, while the rich get trillion dollar bailouts and use the world’s money to buy private submarines and islands in Dubai. Fuck, just writing this makes my blood rise – we’re all guilty – every one of us could do more, could save someone. These people are our brothers, our sisters, the same species! We pretend to care, vote Democratic every 2 years, but until we’re giving what we can spare to those who have nothing, we’re just a bunch of hypocrites and liars. We don’t care about poor people, because poor people can’t lobby Congress, run the IMF, or buy stock. They’re small and insignificant, they don’t fit into the Capitalist worldview, and nobody raises his voice when they get stepped on.

It all comes down to this – it’s easier to shut ones’ senses off, pretend nations, races, and distances make “other people” less meaningful, and focus on one’s own life. That doesn’t make it moral, that doesn’t make it right, but it lets people avert their gaze from the problem that will swamp us all if we’re not careful. “I’d like to introduce you to our host: he’s got his, and I’ve got mine – meet the decline.” So concludes NOFX’s “The Decline” perhaps the greatest song ever written on the problems of Western Civilization. Pray you won’t see it or try to help stop it, but in the end we can’t leave 90% of the human race starving in the dark forever. One day they will rise screaming out of the dirt, and all the riot police, drone aircraft, and economic slavery in the world won’t be able to stop that. It’s a numbers game, and we’re on the wrong side, helping buffer the people at the very top so we can be just slightly above the ones at the bottom. I could go on, but fuck it – I’ve ranted enough.

“Traveler’s Diarrhea”

Being as I write for my own enjoyment, I don’t have deadlines to miss or editors yelling at me to put something down on paper already. I’m free to slack off and not write as long as I want, with the only danger being that my readers (you) will eventually lose interest and find some other shiny object to chase after. However, I haven’t written anything substantial in a week, and much like a late-30s childless woman, my internal clock is going nuts to do SOMETHING ANYTHING JUST GET OUT THERE. However, instead of dating divorced alcoholics, I’m really just jonesing to get outside the house, write, and un-insulate myself. I’ve been wrapped up lately, both literally and in my head. For an explanation of why, keep reading. I should warn you, if you don’t like stories about poop and vomit, this part isn’t for you.

The main reason I haven’t been writing or working or doing much of anything, which the Twitter crowd has been getting an earful of all week, is that I’ve been suffering some nasty strain of stomach flu since mid-last week. It started up late Tuesday night, actually I guess at that point it was Wednesday, but I just remember waking up in the middle of the night a little shakily, having to use the bathroom urgently, and firing off something liquid and horrid-smelling. That isn’t terribly unusual down here, so I went back to bed, wondering throughout why I felt so unsteady and nauseous. I pitched back into bed, and went right back to sleep. Nothing unusual so far.

I woke up a few hours later, in the pre-dawn, to repeat the same exercise. This is where I began to suspect trouble. Diarrhea is usually a harbinger of something more fun later, and diarrhea mixed with nausea usually signifies something sinister this way coming. Still, being as I force myself to be positive, I used the morning to get started on some work I needed to do. (translating, organizing, and putting to spreadsheet a few hundred items and prices for a water system project. Less fun then it sounds…) By mid-morning I thought it had passed; I felt better, ate normally, and didn’t have any stomach problems that I could trace. Another mystery semi-illness. I’ve had my share down here, and I prefer to note, but not question them. It’s like tightrope walking or getting oral from a very unattractive partner. Everything is fine, things feel good, just don’t look down. Actually, that doesn’t really apply here at all – I just wanted to write something vulgar – but the general principle of not questioning that which is working applies. And who doesn’t like to laugh about ugly people having sex? I mean the whole thing is ridiculous, nobody looks good doing it, haven’t you seen porn? The whole act is just a joke, start to finish, and somewhere along the evolutionary line humor won out. But I digress…

I felt good until late Wednesday night, good enough to plan a trip to Belize, good enough to finish my work, good enough to take an afternoon walk to the river and see how it hasn’t yet started to turn into the raging hellish torrent I want it to be. Walking home, I felt a bit of stomach pain, but figured it was gas, and besides, it went away soon enough. Ate dinner, surfed the internet, failed at writing cover letters for writing gigs, which incidentally are ridiculously difficult to get if you don’t have any “experience” meaning other writing gigs, to point to. Guess I should have had some work in writing before I started looking for work in writing… Anyway, went to bed feeling normal, and completely unprepared for the fun I was about to have.

Sometime in the middle of the night, at the hour I’m not sure of, I woke up with the usual start reserved for Malaria dreams or someone kicking in my door. I’m going to shit all over myself was the first thing I thought. Barefoot, naked, I made the maddest dash I could while clenching my cheeks and stomach across the house to the bathroom. It’s perhaps 30 feet from my door to the bathroom. I barely made it. Sitting down and starting to shit were one motion. Thankfully I didn’t wear pants, or I’d be a Peace Corps member for sure by now. (PC Diary #2 – You’re not a Peace Corps member until you shit your pants.) As I was sitting there wondering where all of this awful cloying liquid had come from, I felt a wave of nausea and had to lay my forehead down on the nearby sink basin. The world spun, my balance went, and it was all I could do to keep sitting upright. Then I raised my head a little and puked into the sink. Yes, I met that most lofty of sick milestones – shooting disgusting bodily fluids out both ends at the same time. It was a really good moment for me, I assure you. It was so good I decided to keep celebrating for a while, sitting there alone and naked in the corner bathroom.

After the fun and games died down, I plunged the sink, washed it out with antibacterial soap and bleach, and finally got set to go back to bed. 10 steps down the hall I turned around and took another painful, Jesus-inspiring dump. This was the start of a very long night. Roughly every 2 hours I repeated some version of this routine, vomiting, shitting, or both, all night long. It got to the point of routine; I kept my shoes near the door, a towel draped over the chair so I didn’t have to mess with clothing or get caught running naked through the house, and left the cleaning supplies right there in the bathroom. My only saving grace was that I hadn’t yet woken up the rest of the house, and was thus spared the embarrassment of being “that sick gringo.” Luckily for me, that was about to come to an end too.

Come Thursday morning, I was dizzy, dehydrated, and about ready to lay down and die. It took a concerted effort to drag myself out of bed, into the kitchen, and to mix the lemon juice, water, sugar, and salt to make some of the rehydrating drink I was going to need in order to not lie down and really die. It didn’t help matters that I had to stop while I was doing this to go throw up. It was like morning sickness, minus the pregnancy, food cravings, swollen feet, hormonal imbalance, or being female parts. That would I guess make it nausea, dehydration, and a lack of appetite, thinking about it. After forcing a few glasses of the drink down I felt a little better, and so I showered, ate a little, and hit the bathroom again. It was about this point that my host dad asked me if I was feeling well. He told me that he’d heard someone throwing up in the morning, which I admitted to. He gave me a look of solidarity and went to work, telling me to call him if I needed anything. I was determined not to.

The fun part of all this was the warning signs of an impending bowel/stomach heaving problem. There weren’t any. I would be walking across a room and get a foul taste in my mouth and this would signify that I had perhaps half a minute to get to a toilet or I’d be peeing my pants out my butt. It was downright dangerous, and after getting halfway out the front door and being hit by this feeling, I decided that the best order of business was to stay home. This was to be the next 3 days of my life, more or less – blowing chunks, bombing the toilet, cleaning up my mess, and dragging myself back to my room to drink fluids and choke down saltine crackers. Then I would read, stare at the ceiling, and will myself to stop spinning. I’ve rarely felt this awful, and it didn’t help that I could never sleep more then 1-2 hours without another spastic rush across the house. I took a few naps on the toilet, on Friday especially, head resting on the sink. I took medicines I didn’t understand the function of, as the host family offered them. I ate a lot of crackers, and drank a lot of weak salty lemonade. I tweeted a lot about my poop. It wasn’t a life I enjoyed.

Relief was slow coming, but by mid-morning Saturday I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’d slept longer stretches the night before, only having made 2 runs across the house. I wasn’t as dizzy. I didn’t want to collapse from headaches, I felt slightly hungry. Slowly I came back to life, until sitting here Sunday night, 10:30pm, I can safely say I’m well again. Strong enough to have done a few exercises today, gone outside to do some writing, and to get back to work on the job applications and cover letters I’ve neglected for half a week in favor of being pukey. I also think I’ve narrowed my potential causes down to the tap water on the south side of the house (there are 2 water storage tanks, and I was brushing my teeth for a few days with the one I’d never used before) or perhaps the pool water. The pool is partly uncovered, and I’ve been swimming regularly despite the rain. Today when I was looking into the pool, I saw that the entire side that gets rain in it is coated with green algae that wasn’t there even a few days ago. Potential cause? Methinks so.

That’s it – I got sick and did nothing productive for a few days. Did a lot of thinking, read 850 pages, beat 2 games on my iPhone, read 2 entire websites, www.fmylife.com and www.textsfromlastnight.com both of which made me feel like much less of a fuckup by comparison. I know a lot more about Hitler, the German side of WW2, and George H.W. Bush’s personal history that I thought I would ever, and incidentally feel a lot less maliciously hateful toward Adolf Hitler. All in all, I did a lot of learning, a lot of toilet-using, and a lot of lying around. I can’t say it was all bad, but I really hope I don’t have to do it again soon.

Sorry This One Sucked:

Or at least, sorry this one wasn’t so action packed as the others. I knew there would be a lull after Peace Corps, and I’m in it. The rain is cutting into what work I can do, the sickness didn’t help any, and the fact of the matter is, I can only make things sound so much more exciting then they actually were. It’s like having sex with a tiny weiner – you can try really hard, but there’s only so much you’ve got to work with. In this case, I’ve been posting a zero in the adventures, parties, and girls columns for a solid 4-5 innings now… what do you want from me?

On the plus side, I’m heading out to Belize in a few days, backpack, camera, and me, to renew my visa, do some sightseeing, and recharge the batteries. I haven’t had a vacation since the last California road trip I took, and I’m starting to wear down into mopey asshole territory. Hopefully a few days of bus riding, next to no food, hostel living, and cross-national antics will get me back in the spirit of things. Plus, on the way back I’m going to head over to Trujillo, a town on the beautiful North coast, to apply for a job working at a hostel. Not my dream work, but it’s right on the beach, has a can-party atmosphere, and seems like a great place to meet people worth writing about. I’ll find out soon enough – I leave Thursday early, and I’ll probably be back sometime mid-next week. It’s all up in the air, and that’s just the way I like it. I’ll keep you all posted, you know how to reach me, so until next time, lets all agree to do something outside of our comfort zone.

Love you all lots,

-k

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