Tuesday, March 31, 2009
How do you like living in Honduras?
I have a love/hate relationship with Honduras. Some days I hate it, some days I love it. Sometimes I love it and hate it all in the same day. Actually, it's usually like that. For example:
1. I wake up to the man on the street selling vegetables from his truck. He has a megaphone and speaks like an auctioneer in Spanish. Realllly annoying at 6:30 am. I hate Honduras.
2. I take a shower, and the hot water lasts as long as I want it to. We have an instant hot water heater (I didn't even know they existed!). I love Honduras.
3. I leave the apartment to find that our neighbors left the front gate open again. Do they want us all to be robbed? I hate Honduras.
4. On the way to my store, I soak in the view of the mountains in the distance and the incredibly blue sky. I love Honduras.
5. I get cat-called by taxi drivers as I walk across the street to my store (and it's only like, 50 feet!). I hate Honduras.
6. I open my store. I love the fact that it was so easy to open a business here with not very much money. I love Honduras.
7. I try to call the Worst Cable Company In The History Of Honduras and no one answers. For 6 hours. When they do answer, they hang up on me. When I try again, it's busy for 3 more hours. I hate Honduras.
8. I head to the supermarket. The weather outside is GORGEOUS! I love Honduras.
9. I have to roll up my windows for safety/the smell of exhaust on the way. I hate Honduras.
10. I need to buy canned cherry pie filling at the supermarket. I know they sell it, because I saw it there last week. But, guess what, they're out this week. And fíjese que, they don't know when they'll get more. I hate Honduras.
11. They are also out of skim milk. I hate Honduras.
12. I buy like, 2 lbs of brocolli for about $.50. Fresh veggies are cheap! ;) I love Honduras.
13. Everyone in the supermarket stares at me. I want to scream "what are you looking at?! I KNOW you people have seen gringas before." I hate Honduras.
14. On the way home I soak in the beautiful view of the mountains in the distance and the orange sky as the sun is setting. I love Honduras.
15. I come home to a sparkling clean house. I love my maid. And I love Honduras.
16. I cook dinner for my hubby. We eat together at our dining room table in our apartment. I love Honduras.
17. I finally get time to sit down and read the paper. There were 2,000 kidnappings and 5,000 murders in Tegucigalpa yesterday. (ok, I'm being a little dramatic) And it's all complete with the graphic and disturbing photos. I hate Honduras.
18. We head to Loca Luna for a few drinks and to watch the game with good friends. I love Honduras.
And the next morning, it starts all over again.
Honduras has it's good and bad points. But mostly, I'm enjoying the adventure of it all. :)
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Today I went a few steps off of the beaten path and found myself in a different world. A world where a small bowl of rice is considered the daily meal. And where sniffing glue is the only relief from the hunger. A world where medical and dental care don't exist. A world where the closest source of running water is a few blocks away. A world where hope lies in the acceptance into gangs. A world in the slums. On the river. In downtown Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Quick note: I did not take my camera with me today. Carrying anything valuable makes you a target for crime. So I am relying on pictures from Google to help you visualize my experience. :)
So I took off my jewelry. I left my money and cell phone at home. I put on old jeans and a t-shirt. And a baseball cap (to cover my blonde hair). And I went to the escuelita (small school) at La Isla, Tegucigalpa.
And five hours later, I am still crying. I am still angry, sad, and disgusted. It stirred so many emotions in my heart and rocked my soul so hard that I really don't know how to express it in words.
But I'm going to try.
All of them (about 20 kids) had lice. They were dirty. None of the younger ones had shoes. Their feet were caked with mud. Almost all of them had visibly rotting teeth. The "houses" were one room shacks made of wooden posts and large pieces of scrap metal for walls and tarps for ceilings. No indoor plumbing. No electricity. No running water. There were teenagers stumbling around, high from sniffing glue. There were mange covered skin-and-bone dogs scavenging for food. A woman scrubbing her laundry in the river. A woman cooking something in the open fire in front of her house. No sink. No fridge. No stove. And she took breaks to inhale a mysterious substance from a rag (probably glue or gas). The trash. Oh. my. gosh. The trash and the filth and the stench.
The most memorable part was when a roach ran across the floor and crawled into the pants of a little boy playing on the floor. I jumped up and starting screaming in English that there were roaches on the floor. I realized I hadn't said it in Spanish, so I said it again. They all looked up at me and stared like, "Why is this crazy lady screaming? They're just roaches!" The little boy assured me that there was no roach in his clothes because he didn't feel it. About 10 minutes later he started yelling because there was, in fact, a roach in his shirt. We tore his clothes off and killed the roach. He redressed and went back to playing.
I should tell you that I have seen communities like this from the street. I've seen beggars. And I've seen kids sniffing glue. But it is a totally different experience to see it in their environment. To be on their turf. I've never seen anything like this up close. In fact, I've never seen pictures of this kind of poverty. (The Google pictures are nothing like what I saw today...they are better than where I was. My theory is that people are too scared to carry in cameras...therefore, no pictures!)
At the end of the day, I thought, Is this real?! These people are starving, yet they live mere steps away from the market where people are buying fruits, veggies, and meat for their weekly meals. These people beg for money in the streets, while there are successful business people driving on the road above in cars that cost more than these people could ever dream of making in 10 lifetimes. This is 2009, and they are living without electricity, water, or plumbing in the capital city of Honduras!
How is this?!?
I am feeling so many emotions today that I can't even try to explain why. But keep an eye out...I have a feeling that a lot of the following posts will be covering this topic.
Friday, March 27, 2009
If you are interested in bringing your pet to Honduras, you first must choose an airline. Continental (from what I've read) is the best. They transport pets in air conditioned vehicles on the tarmac. However, Continental does not allow pets as checked baggage. They must be shipped as cargo, which can be very expensive. For Charlie, it was going to cost ~$400. He was flying from Louisville, KY to Houston, TX. Then staying in the airport kennel overnight (that costs an extra $100/night). Then he would leave from Houston to come to Tegucigalpa.
With American Airlines, pets can be checked as baggage. You have to pay a $150 fee for this, and that's all. BUT, their temperature restrictions are very strict because they do NOT transport animals in temperature controlled vehicles on the tarmac. (The planes with both airlines ARE temperature controlled and pressurized.)
NEXT After you have selected an airline, I recommend speaking with your vet's office. Discuss your plans with them, and they might know the requirements and already have all of the forms that you need to have filled out. I wasn't so lucky with my vet. They had never had a patient move overseas, and didn't know what to do.
NEXT To bring a pet to Honduras, you need a Veterinary Health Certificate(VHC). (in Kentucky, this has to be completed by the KY Office of State Veterinarian)
Your vet will fill out the VHC and then you have to send it to the State Vet. They approve it, sign it, and send it back to you. The catch? This form (which is only good for 30 days) has to be dated within the 10 days before your pet flies with the airline. So if you don't live in your state capitol, you have to spend a lot of money overnighting paperwork. ;)
Then, you need to find a vet in Honduras. I recommend Happy Pets in Tegucigalpa. They speak English, and are suuuper nice. :) They have a website, but it isn't very good. If you want the phone number, let me know.
When you find a vet, you can email a copy of the VHC, and the rabies certificate to them. They will take it to some unknown government office, and file for an import permit. My vet does this for around $60-80. Others do it for around $100.
(I should note here that Kentucky said they needed the import permit FIRST before they would fill out the VHC. Honduras wouldn't give me an import permit without the VHC. The KY office just ended up giving it to me without the permit.)
So once you have all of your paperwork, call the airline. If you are using Continental Cargo, you can make the reservation only 3 days before. With American, you can call whenever you'd like to add the note to your reservation that you are flying with a pet.
When your pet arrives in Honduras, the Honduran vet will have to meet you at the airport. They will inspect the pet and sign off on the quarantine paperwork (so your pet WON'T have to be quarantined).
NEXT if you haven't already, you need to buy a carrier. The airlines have strict requirements for these. These are the requirements for American Airlines, but they are just about the same for all of the airlines:-Animals must have room to stand/turn around, sit and lie down in a natural position.
-Kennels must be constructed of wood, metal, plastic, similar material, leak-proof, escape proof and door must fasten securely and need ventilation on 2-sides in addition to the door.
-Kennels must also have a water container with outside access for filling, in case a delay occurs. (think hamster cage water bottle...just bigger!)
-Collapsible Kennels (those which can fold down flat) can not be accepted due to the risk of collapse during transport.
-The customer is required to secure rigid plastic kennels with releasable cable ties (see example at right) attached to all four corners. American Airlines will provide the ties to the customer at no cost.
-The maximum weight of a checked pet and kennel (combined) cannot exceed 100 lbs.
My dog weighs about 18 pounds. I bought this carrier at Walmart: http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10543933. I think it was around $40.
Some websites recommended putting housebreaking pads in the bottom of the carrier to control the mess.
Soooo...that's what I have right now. I'm sure some things will change and I will discover new tips when I actually get to bring Charlie in a couple of weeks. Until then...
Thursday, March 26, 2009
If you are new to my blog, and you don't want to read back to the very beginning (I don't blame you...I wouldn't either!) then you definitely don't know who Charlie is.
Charlie is not my husband's name. Charlie is not my husband's nickname. Charlie is not an imaginary friend. Charlie, in fact, is not a person. He is my dog!
(baaaaaby-dog! *in a really high pitched voice* Are you laughing Brooke?!) ;)
When I first planned on moving to Honduras, I did a lot of research to bring Charlie here with me. It's more difficult to bring a dog here than a person. But I made all of the necessary arrangements. And in the end, he still couldn't come. (Read the whole story here.)
And he is STILL not here with me. I went to Kentucky for my brother's wedding in September of 2008, and I stayed for about a month. When I came back to Honduras the airline said it was too hot to bring him on the plane. So he stayed in Kentucky with his grandparents. :) I went back to Kentucky for my wedding in December, and stayed for 2 months. The plan was to bring him here with me then. But guess what? It was too cold, and the airline wouldn't allow for him to fly.
So now that the weather is perfect...not too cold and not too hot...at any of the destinations, he is going to be able to come to Honduras! Geez, finally!
My parents are moving to Honduras at the end of April. (Visit their website and blog.) Actually, first they're going to Costa Rica for several months, and then moving Honduras. When they leave Kentucky for Costa Rica, they are going to fly Charlie to me. :) And we'll finally be reunited!!! :)
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Quick pronunciation lesson:
Fijate que - say fee-HAH-tay kay
Fíjese que - say FEE-hay-say kay
It comes from the root verb "fijarse" which means to notice. People in Honduras use it all the time. Really, like every sentence. I've taken it to mean "ya know" or "you know what" when used in conversations with friends. But sometimes, it prefaces bad news (especially when coming from a store clerk/employee/etc). Like "fijate que I don't have the money that I owe you." Or "fíjese que I can't come install the sign for your store this week like I promised." Or "fíjese que no, we don't have any 80 lb paper. It'll be another 4 weeks before we get anymore."
My favorite way to use it is to show how serious I am. Like, "fijate que, if you don't start coming to work on time, I'm going to fire you." Or "fíjese que, I am going to sue you if you don't pay me for my stolen cell phone." Or "fíjese que, I'm not ignorant. How much does this pineapple really cost?"
Sometimes to really prove that fíjese que, you don't care what they say!...you have to throw a fíjese que right back. Like this conversation that I had with the man from the upholstery place...
him: "Fíjese que I don't have any gray paint, so I have to go buy some and it'll cause the price of fixing these chairs to increase."
me: "Fíjese que you DO have gray paint because you just painted this chair gray for me, and I know it didn't take a whole can to paint the legs on one chair."
Do YOU use this phrase a lot??? :)
*The difference between fijate que and fíjese que is the formality. Fijate que is less formal than fíjese que.
Jose's parents recently hired a new chauffer.
The first time he drove me, we started our conversation off with the normal things. He asked me where I was from. I told him from the US. (I mean, isn't that obvious?!) He said, "WHAT? I can't believe it! You speak Spanish so well!" I laughed. Because that's just not true. I do NOT sound like I am from Honduras when I speak Spanish. I knew he was just trying to flatter me, and it freaked me out a little. I mean, who was this man? He could be a kidnapper! Or a rapist!
The whole way to the store he kept complaining about the air conditioning. He didn't want it turned on. It's bad for your lungs, he told me. I said, "ummm, pretty sure it's not since I grew up in a house with air conditioning and my lungs are just fine." He kept on complaining anyway, saying that he wasn't acostumbrado, or accustomed, to the air conditioning. I was annoyed.
Eventually I noticed that the doors weren't locked. I asked him to lock the doors. He said, "Why? It's okay to leave them open." So I said, "Well, you obviously aren't acostumbrado to driving a Gringa in the car. It is NOT okay to leave the doors unlocked or the windows down while I am in the car." And you know what he said? "You're right, I'm not used to having a Gringa in the car. I am used to having women in the car...just not any as pretty as you."
So by then I was super uncomfortable. He had crossed the line. He worked for my father-in-law and it was NOT okay for him to be hitting on me. But what do I do, I wondered. If I say something like I am angry, he could drive me away and kidnap me. So I resorted to sending Jose text messages like "The new driver is going to kill me." "I'm pretty sure he's driving me the wrong way. Do you think he's kidnapping me?" and "I think he's going to rape me!" (I'm just a little dramatic, okay?)
It turned out that he wasn't a rapist/killer/kidnapper, and I ended up safely at home at the end of the day. But I asked Jose, "What do I do? How do I keep him from saying those things?" Jose and I decided that we wouldn't tell his father because we didn't want to make the driver angry with me. So, Jose said that I had to figure out a way to establish respect myself. I wasn't sure I was going to do it, but figured I could come up with something.
The next morning, he picked me up from home to bring me to the store. He got on the 2-way radio and said to my father-in-law, "Don Gustavo, I have the muchacha here with me..."
The muchacha?!?! Muchacha means girl in Spanish. But people also use muchacha to refer to their maids. For example, people will say "Excuse my messy house, I don't have a muchacha right now."
I saw my opportunity. I said, "The muchacha? Which muchacha?"
I stayed quiet and ignored him the rest of the way. When we arrived at my store I told him, "Look, the next time, my name is Hannah, not la muchacha. Ok?" He looked scared and apologized. He said he would refer to me as Señorita from now on. I said, "no, I'm not a señorita either. * I am a married woman." And I slammed the door.
As soon as I got into the store I felt horrible about the way I had spoken to him.
The next morning when he came to pick me up he greeted me with "Buenos dias Doña Hannah."** And he was quiet the rest of the way to the store.
Ahh, sweet victory. ;) It's just a little sad that I had to treat him that way to get respect.
* Señorita is used to refer to an unmarried woman/girl. Señora is the term used for married women.
** Doña Hannah is sort of like MRS. Hannah.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
"LOMA LINDA SUR - 2 plantas, 3 habitaciones, c/u con baño, la principal con yacuzzi, walking closet, agua caliente, cisterna, sala comedor, cocina americana, garaje (2), $ 1,000.00. 239-6170/9981-6993."
"Walking closet." Hmmm... I think they mean walk-in closet. :)
Actually, the pronunciation in Spanish of "walk in closet" does sound an awful lot like "walking closet." It's just funny because in English, this would mean a closet that walks. Not something I'm looking for in my next house! :)
And YES, this apartment costs $1000 USD! I'm telling you, it's not cheap to live here like you're all thinking!!!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This conversation brought on another one. The Tooth Fairy. I tried to explain the US Tooth Fairy to Miryam. I didn't know how to say the word "fairy" in Spanish so I told Miryam that a "little woman" came into the house at night to take the teeth. She was confused (and I'm sure a little freaked out). Then The Greatest Online Translator Ever saved the day, and I could explain that it was actually a fairy, not a small woman.
So who comes to take away your baby teeth in Honduras? His name is El Ratón. (That means mouse in Spanish.) When you lose a tooth, you throw it onto the roof for him to retrieve. Why the roof? So your cat won't eat him. :) You know he has carried away your baby tooth when the new tooth grows in. Because that's what he gives you...a new tooth.
So all of this Tooth Fairy talk got me thinking. What do people in the rest of the world do when they lose a tooth? I did some research, and here is what I found:
Japan - If it is a lower baby tooth, throw it up onto the roof; and if it is an upper tooth, throw it underneath house. It is done so that the upper tooth grows healthy downwards, while the lower tooth upwards.
Hungary - In Hungary one custom may have been that the baby tooth was put into a bottle with water, and the tooth melted in about two years time. (Jesus! What kind of water do they have in Hungary?!)
Mongolia - In Mongolia the baby tooth is given to a young dog. In Mongolia, the dog is respected and is considered a guardian angel. The baby tooth is put in the meat fat and it is fed to the young dog. When the guardian angel eats it, it is said, that a strong tooth will grow.
Slovenia - In Slovenia, a mouse replaces the baby tooth under the pillow with a candy during the night.
Do you know of any other Tooth Fairy customs??
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
(photo courtesy of MP Stevens at flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/24638179@N02/2343749561/)A fellow blogging-friend, Don Godo, wrote this description of Tegucigalpa:
"I love Tegucigalpa!! I love the name, the way it rolls off my tongue. I love the mountains, hills, and pine forests that surround the city. I love the climate, warm in the day and comfortable at night. I love the Third World quirkiness and chaos of it all. I love the confusion and disorderly streets which prevent me from easily knowing my way around even after a dozen years of frequent visits. I love the colonial buildings begging for renovation, yet elegant in their decay. I love the size, manageable yet big enough. Most of all, I love my wife who was born in its bosom."
As most of you know, I have a love/hate relationship with Honduras and Tegucigalpa. And I complain about things A LOT. But I wanted to let you know that I am coming to love this city more and more. And I wanted to share Don Godo's words with you, because they reflect how I am beginning to feel about this city better than I can say myself.
Thanks Don Godo! :)
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
(Just a quick side note: I would like to send a shout out to my favorite cable company...the one that sent the thieving technicians!!...for NOT having CW and therefore not showing the current season of GG. Thank goodness for the people that provoke the copywright laws and post the episodes from this season on YouTube! Whoever you are, bless you!) ;)
Anyway, back to the subject: I love GG. I love its overboard drama. And as one writer put it, it's "as pretty as a perfectly prepared martini that some nasty, picture-perfect have-it-all may or may not have drugged." (Mary McNamara from the LA Times gets the credit for that one.)
So you can only imagine my excitement to find out that Honduras has its very own real life Gossip Girl...La Chiky. She even has a blog! http://chismechikilorenz.blogspot.com/ (in Spanish only, sorry!) She even has her own little saying like the CW GG, "Con polvos magicos, La Chismicienta." (English: With magic dust, "Gossip-erella." Ok, it sounds a lot better in Spanish than in English, ha!)
"You know you love me, XOXO, Gossip Girl." ;)
As a person living in a 3rd world country with not-so-great medical facilities, I can only imagine what this family is going through right now. And I beg that if something like this ever happens to me, you all will do the same to take me back to the states. ;)
If you can, PLEASE donate to help med-evac her home. The smallest pond is made up of millions of rain drops. :)
Please pray for her and for her family, and please share the link to her blog with everyone you know. http://helpholligethome.blogspot.com/