Sunday, January 8, 2012

Closing Thoughts about Honduras

Tomorrow is my last full day in Honduras! I am flying home on Tuesday, and even though I want to peel back my fingernails as punishment for typing the following cliché phrase, I can't believe the past 3 weeks have gone by so fast!

Other than studying abroad in Ecuador, this is the longest period of time I've been outside of the US. I feel like my experiences in other countries are not incredibly typical, as my much more touristic and shorter travels have been to European countries, while the more substantial foreign travelling I've done is to Latin America. Coincidentally, I think I feel a lot more comfortable traveling in Latin America (speaking Spanish helps), but I really do think I prefer spending time abroad in Latin America than in Europe.

Speaking of my love of Latin America... I am applying to work here in Honduras. While in la Unión, we met some Americans, one of whom who is a teacher for Vida Abundante and recruits Americans to teach in Vida Abundante bilingual schools. I really do like Honduras, and I think that working in one of Vida Abundante's schools (which serve mostly kids on scholarship) would be really cool. Living here is certainly not easy, but these are the things I enjoy. So... maybe?

Anyway, here are a few observations I've made in the past 3 weeks:

-Taxi drivers seldom know where you are going. I don't think this is a problem of language barrier, because I am fairly confident in my Spanish abilities and I acknowledge the times when I am flailing. But you always have to check with the driver that he knows where you are talking about before you get in, but even sometimes you'll get in and he'll immediately call someone and start asking questions. Other times, I have given very clear directions to drivers. I know that driving is not easy in Tegus, but isn't it embarrassing to get directions from a gringa?

-On the other hand, I kind of love haggling with taxi drivers because I think it really is a matter of pretending that you know what you're talking about. All taxi drivers quote prices that are too high, so haggling gets you to a "fair" price. Here I feel like a really good Spanish speaker because half of sounding fluent is getting the inflection. When the driver quotes one price, you immediately must quote something significantly lower, but in a whiny voice and say "Por faVOR." or make a comment about the shortness of the ride or the lack of traffic, also in a whiny voice. I am really good at haggling with taxi drivers because I'm good at convincing them that I know what I am doing, so I often get prices that are a lot lower than what I was expecting.

-Tegus... not a tourist destination. I know I said this before, but it's really not. Other than Unite For Sight Volunteers, I think my American count over the past 3 weeks is up to 16. Seriously, I have seen 16 other Americans since being here. Additionally, the "sights" in Tegus are scant, and museums are often closed. How do they make enough money to stay open?? After going to el Museo de la Identidad Nacional THREE TIMES and finding it closed due to one reason or another, I finally went back with Jessalyn today and apparently the fourth time is the charm. It was open. There were 5 other people in the museum, but it was fully staffed. We were only there for the last hour and a half, and the museum people told us 20 minutes before closing that it was shutting down. Okay... whatever.
por fin!

-Honduran food is freaking delicious. The staples are meat, beans, eggs, and tortillas. Avocado, plantains, cheese, and rice also feature prominently in the Honduran diet. These things (minus the meat part... and real eggs... ) are all basically what I eat all the time in the US. Basically I am destined to live in Latin America, right? Honduras also has some of my favorite things like horchata, baleadas, and pupusas. It's simple stuff, but the combinations are always really good, and seasoning is really good too. Yum yum yum, I'm so glad Portland has Tu Casa but I need to work on finding some good Central American restaurants in Philadelphia. Or learning to cook it myself.

-One of the more striking things about Honduras is how much need for development there is. Ecuador is, I think, classified as a "developing economy." It is not the worst off, although a high percentage of the country (especially the indigenous population) lives in poverty. However, Honduras is the poorest country in Central America. About 53% of the population in Honduras is rural, and 75% of the rural population lives below the poverty line. Although I saw some poverty in Ecuador, it is almost immediately clear that Honduras has a lot more to deal with. Honduras is #121 out of 187 in the UN's 2011 Human Development Index. That doesn't mean that there aren't rich people in Honduras--there are. I've seen some pretty radical extremes here, but fortunately it seems as though there are a lot of Hondurans really invested in service and charity and making sure that development continues.

-A lot of people assume that Americans don't speak Spanish or don't speak it very well. I cannot imagine coming to Latin America and not knowing Spanish. It just would not be easy. (Unless you were doing some sort of package tourism thing...) But it baffles me because that must of course mean that there are Americans who come here and can't speak Spanish and just flounder. It's hard enough to communicate and I can speak Spanish!

-If I am not assumed to be American, I am assumed to be German. I have cracked up a few Hondurans when they ask if I am German and then respond by saying that I am not tall enough to be German. They think that is hilarious. It is also true.

-Hondurans don't really joke. If they say something kind of mean but are laughing about it... They mean it. Sarcasm does not exist here.

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