Trip Start May 12, 2009
24Trip End Sep 29, 2009
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Things have been moving quickly and I have slipped behind on the blog.
Working with Adelante in La Ceiba was great, but La Ceiba itself was not my favorite place to be. Spotted with Pizza Huts, expat┤s, Dunkin┤ Donuts, and luxury motorcycle dealerships, I felt like I was on a business trip. I holed myself up at either the Adelante offices or in my room at the hostel. The mugging threat down by the docks did not make me feel any better about exploring the poorer Garifuna areas of town along the water. I received several catcalls on every block throughout town.
I really am getting tired of the attention I receive as a foreigner walking down the street. It is amazing how much of the world knows English... you find out how many speak English when you hear the one-liners walking down the street. "How are you (pronounced haltingly) / What is your name / Where are you from / Hello honey / You are beautiful / Talk to me mu˝eca..." Here in La Ceiba, I get about three comments per city block. I counted. I am trying to keep my sense of humor about it, so I made it game: guess who will make a comment. I have pretty good accuracy. I can just see which guys are watching and thinking of an English phrase to call out as I walk by.
I have never been called "Hey mami" so many times in my life. "Senora" would do just fine. Yes, I┤m getting a bit exasperated.
It┤s not intimidating or mean-spirited. It┤s just redundant.
Other travelers have commented about the frequent spectator comments in Honduras, too. More here on the north coast than in Tegucigalpa, probably because of that anonymity that urban life brings. Back in Nicaragua there were certainly comments, but not so many on every block! And in Nicaragua when I walked with a guy, the comments dropped to effectively zero. Or just hisses.
For comparison, I heard almost no comments in Costa Rica and Panama. In Panama, a high amount of respect is given to strangers on the street and yelling at anyone unknown is pretty much out of the question. I have heard that the comments in Belize are incredibly direct. I look forward to Guatemala, where I understand people are respectful of strangers (and expect strangers to be respectful, too).
Since then, I have spent a day out on the Cayos Cochinos (Hog Islands), snorkeling and relaxing. There were no hogs around, just hogfish and needlefish. Then, I wrapped things up at Adelante and returned their materials before going to the Copan Ruins and resuming my life as a traveler. Copan Ruinas is a nice town, cool and hilly. I love the steep streets, love climbing something to make my muscles burn. The Copan Ruins were exactly as I expected- not overwhelming or striking, but full of intricate carvings.
I met a sweet couple while I was there. They met while volunteering in Xela, Guatemala. They were volunteering at a community center helping small children with homework- shapes, colors, numbers, Spanish, penmanship. They worked there for two months before traveling around the region for several weeks more. They were clearly enamored with each other, smiling whenever the other entered the room. It was a delight to be around them since they were clearly so happy. However, it was less clear when they would see each other again, when she went home to Jerusalem, Israel and returned to his home in Beruit, Lebanon. They were talking about getting jobs in Poland or Australia next summer, to see each other again. It is encouraging to see two people fall in love, despite the fact that their countries hate each other.
Also on the note of love, I learned about the custom of recommitment ceremonies in Honduras. Every five years or so, a married couple holds a recommitment ceremony. It is often held where the original wedding was held, and the couple wears their Sunday best. The original wedding attendants are there, as long as they are alive. Remember, this isn┤t a highly mobile culture like in the US where people fly across the country for weddings. Peoples┤ roots are in the community, and the whole extended family usually lives in the same village for generations. The wedding attendants are joined by any children that the couple have. Instead of flowers, the women carry bouquets of leaves- banana leaves, ferns, ivy. This custom is dying out, but has been used in the past thirty years in the rural villages of the south and west.
Final note on Honduras- If Costa Rica made me wish I studied biology more and Nicaragua made me wish I read more about architecture, then Honduras inspired me to learn more about economics. Banking issues get heavy coverage in La Prensa, the national newspaper. The recent golpe de estado and consequent drastic decline in economic activity as brought monetary issues to the forefront of everybodys┤ minds. Remember, GDP declined by FIFTY PERCENT in the week following the golpe! (The curfew didn┤t help...) The money section of La Prensa features full-color graphs of statistic I don┤t fully understand, such as the importance of the amount of money loaned to private entities that week by banks.
And to end with optimism, I would like to remind everyone that microfinance works.
It changes lives.
Fundacion Adelante has certainly made a difference in the lives of the clients I talked to and worked with. While doing loan maintenance paperwork, I basically went through columns of numbers and followed a formula to adjust their payments if they were having trouble meeting their obligations. Or, if the numbers refused to add up to 100 or subtract out to 0, according to their purpose, I flagged it with a stick-it note so that field worker could follow up and talk to the client about what was preventing them from meeting their obligations. Often, it is a sick child. Other times, they hear about a bout of malaria, the theft of a cashbox, or a delivery that did not arrive due to a flooded road. But that is where the community aspect of Adelante comes in, the other women in the cooperative who work together to solve their own problems, whatever it is. The community, neighbors, solve their own dilemmas.
And as this internet cafe closes up for the night, I would like to remind everyone that Fundacion Adelante boasts a 99% repayment rate.
What other kind of investment has that kind of security??!!! Clients pay interest as well, which makes Adelante a sustainable organization within Honduras.
Ninety-nine Percent. Think about it.