Thursday, April 30, 2009

My guide to the supermarkets in Tegucigalpa

1. No smiling allowed. Ever.
2. Feel free to take your time reading labels. But make sure you leave your cart in the middle of the aisle so no one else can pass through. And when they say disculpe, give them a really mean look.
3. Don't "look both ways" before you cross to another aisle. And if someone hits you, or vice versa, give them a death stare.
4. Be prepared to spend at least an hour inside. Why? It takes forever to find what you need (see note below about how things are organized) and then you have to wait in line. Forever.
5. If the supermarket has received a shipment of something that you like, for example cherry pie filling, buy a lot. And by a lot, I mean the whole pallet. Because it might be a whole year before they have it again.
6. Don't bother with a list, because they won't have half of the things on it. And then you'll have to rework your entire weekly menu (while you stand in the middle of an aisle and block other customers, of course) because they didn't have the ingredients that you needed to make the meals for 3 different nights.

How are things organized in the supermarket?
I still haven't completely figured this one out. And the logic changes depending on the store. But here's what I've found so far...

You know how things just logically go together in the supermarket? Like, canned tomatoes should go with the rest of the canned vegetables, right? Well, not here. Take the canned tomatoes, for example. Yesterday I searched up and down the canned veggie aisle. Nothing. In the end I found them next to the tomato sauces.

Baking goods are never all in the same place. Flour is in one aisle, usually with the rice. Sugar is in the same aisle as the coffee. And brown sugar? If they have it, it's usually in some random place. Last time it was with the pancake mix (which is in another aisle) because hey, they are both in boxes, right?

Peanut butter is usually with the nuts, and not with the other spreads/jams. Mayonaise and mustard? Not with the ketchup. Because why? The ketchup goes in what I call the "tomato aisle" with the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Ah, and I should mention that some sauces, like Ragu, are kept in a completely different aisle labeled "import products." Even though most of the products in the grocery are imported.

Usually all of the dairy products are together. Except for in La Colonia where the milk and yogurt is in one aisle, while the butters and creams and some cheeses are across the store. Then other types of cheeses are with the sandwich meat. ?

And eggs? Sometimes they are by the chicken. Because why? Duh, eggs come from chickens. In other stores they are by the bread. Why? No clue. Maybe because they are a fragile item like the bread?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Word of the Day Wednesday

Today you get 2 new words. Why are you so lucky? 1. Because I missed last week, and 2. because I learned 2 cool new words. ;)

Largo/a (say l-AHr-go)

If you've ever taken a basic Spanish class, you know that this adjective is used to describe things that are long. But in Honduras (and maybe other Latin American countries?) this is also an adjective used to describe someone that will take advantage of you the first chance they get. It comes in very handy here, with all the lying maids/assistants/etc. But it's especially useful when describing people like the thieving technicians from the Worst Cable Company In The History of Honduras.

Spanish: Los tecnicos de Claro son largos.
English: The technicians from Claro are (people that will take advantage of you).

I couldn't think of a word like this in English. Does one exist? or am I just suffering from first language attrition?

Mataburro (say mAH-tAH-bOO-rrrrr-OH) *the rrrr means to roll your R's ;)

This is probably one of my favorite Spanish words so far. Not because of what it means, but because of what the literal translation is. I also like to say it because I'm getting better at rolling my R's. ;) A mataburro is a brush guard (the kind you mount on the front of a vehicle).

But if you dissect the word and translate it into English literally, it means "kill-donkey." Hehehe. I can't say it without giggling. I hope that now you love it just as much as I do.

Friday, April 24, 2009

busy busy busy!

It's been over a week since my last post. I'm such a bad blogger. :-/

But the truth is, I'm suuuper busy! Here's a quick recap of everything that's happened in the last week...

1. Charlie is here! He arrived on Wednesday. (Hence the lack of "Word of the Day Wednesday" this week...sorry Ashley! hehe) He's doing great. Look for a post in the next week or so about his adventure here. :)
2. We are moving from our apartment to a townhouse this weekend, and I've been busy picking out paint colors and furniture, supervising the workers, bossing them around, etc, etc... ;)
3. I had to fire my assistant and find/hire a new one. The new one is 100% fluent in English, and is an excellent salesperson. Which is good for business, of course.
4. Our maid decided not to come back after her weekend visiting at home. So now I have to clean the house/wash all of the dishes on my own. *sigh* I know, poor me.
5. Everyone in Tegus decided to come shop in my store this week. ;) I now am working on jobs for weddings, baptisms, baby showers, and more! Which is good, but it's keeping me busy!
6. We found a car for me! (The Birthday Gods were listening, evidently.) So we are in the process of having it checked by a mechanic, talking to the banks, etc.
7. My parents (read about them here) are moving to Costa Rica tomorrow! And in 9 months or so, they will be moving to Honduras! Hooray! Now, if I could just convince my brother,his wife and a few of my closest friends to move here, life would be oh so great.

So you see, that is why I haven't posted anything. After we get settled in the new place, I'll hopefully be able to get back into my routine of posting regularly and stalking all of your blogs. ;)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Word of the Day Wednesday

Excuse me! and I'm sorry!

In English, we use "excuse me" and "I'm sorry" for a variety of situations. Por ejemplo, you bump into someone at the grocery and you say, "Oh, I'm sorry!" Or you need to pass through a group of people and you say, "Excuse me!" Or you do something wrong and you say, "I'm sorry!"

In Spanish, there are a few ways to say this.

1. permiso (say pEHr mEE soh)
2. disculpe (say dEEs cOOl pEH)
3. perdón (say pEHr dOHn)
4. lo siento (say lOH see EHn tOH)

Permiso is used when you need to pass through the aforementioned group of people. Or when the lady at the grocery parked her cart in the middle of aisle and is taking her sweet time reading the labels on every package of beans on the shelf.

Disculpe and perdón and lo siento are all used to apologize. You could use any of these if, when you got tired of waiting for the lady and she ignored your permiso, you bumped her cart to let her know you were serious. It is then that you apologize with disculpe/perdón so she won't know you did it on purpose. ;)

I should add that lo siento is used for more of a heartfelt apology, as in, you were in a really bad mood yesterday and were mean to your hubby. ;) Or when someone tells you that their friend/relative died, lo siento is the only appropriate form of "I'm sorry" to use.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Birthday Gods...

I want am in need of a few small things and, as you know, my birthday is coming up (May 11, to be exact). Here is my list (for now):

-Just a little tiny air conditioner would help me sleep so much better during this hot season in Tegus!
-It would be so great if you could send a shipment of cherry pie filling (or, even better, fresh/frozen cherries!) to any of the supermarkets here so I can have cherry cobbler and vanilla ice cream on my birthday.
-A swimming pool would be a nice relief from the aforementioned heat.
-Oh, and if it's not too much, a car with an automatic transmission so I can finally drive myself around.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Semana Santa in Comayagua

Our trip to Comayagua was definitely worthwhile. If you've never been, it is a MUST see in Honduras. If anything, it's worth the trip just for the smiling, cheerful people that live there. Such a nice change from Tegucigalpa! ;)

We left Tegus around 12:30 pm on Thursday. The trip itself was pretty uneventful. Just lots of roadblocks like the one in the pic below.
There is one stretch of the highway between Tegus and Comayagua that goes for quite a while without any houses. Just pine trees and incredible views of the mountains. In fact, you almost forget you're in Honduras. It helps the homesickness. And with DMB blaring on the stereo, well, it just doesn't get any better than that. ;)
When we arrived in Comayagua, we headed straight for el centro. We figured we could walk around for a while and then find a hotel. The first thing we saw was the cathedral. It houses (according to our tour guide) the oldest working clock in the Americas. (I researched this when I got back home and can't find any reliable sources that back that claim.) It's a 16th century clock located in the bell tower of the church. The gears are on the 2nd floor of the tower. The weights fall through a hole to the first floor. The bells are on the very top floor.
the gears

the weights
view from the top of the cathedral roof
view of the park in el centro from the bell tower
After we toured all of the historical buildings, and the museum, we walked around to try to find a hotel. We wanted a hotel with air conditioning and a pool. The first one we visited, Hotel America, was very nice. But we had walked 6 blocks from where we parked. The woman at the desk said there was a room available, and we told her we would come back with Jose's wallet and the car. We came back 30 minutes later, and she had rented our room. So we went on a hunt for another hotel. In the end, we had to settle for a hotel without a pool. But it was very nice, and only L550 (around $30).
After we checked into the hotel, we went back to el centro to see the events of the evening. The first event was the reenactment of the Last Supper and Jesus' arrest.
While the Last Supper and arrest was being reenacted, the work teams started on their alfombras. These are sawdust carpets laid out in the street where the Good Friday procession walks. They work for more than 10 hours laying out these carpets, and then the next morning the procession walks right over them. There are over 40 carpets, and their purpose is to ease the pain of Jesus as he walks the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross).
first step: a layer of fine sawdust as the base
We walked around for a few hours after that waiting for the next event. It was the Procesion de Prendimiento (sorry, don't know what prendimiento is in English or in Spanish, haha). This was my favorite part of the whole trip. The entire march was carried out in complete silence. The only sound is of chains being dropped on the street. It's very eery and very cool. :)
After this procession, it was pushing midnight. So Jose and I headed back to the hotel. The next morning we woke up at 6 am and made it to el centro by 7. The work teams had made a lot of progress on the alfombras, but still weren't finished.

We waited around for a few hours until the main procession started. When it finally did, Jose and I were a little confused. You can see in the picture below that there is someone dressed up like Jesus carrying a cross. But there are also 3-4 little boys dressed up like Jesus too. And Mary was a 5 year old.

These people are not part of the KKK. Hehe...I thought the same thing. They are actually called Nazarenes, and they are members of the brotherhood of the church. These hoods represent the sinful nature of man (kind of like a dunce cap).

So this is how it goes... Jesus (and the little Jesus' too) lead the procession. Then there are altar boys that carry incense. (And it's A LOT of incense...everyone in the crowd was coughing.) They are followed by the priests and the bishop. Behind them is a choir and a brass band. Then behind them are the Nazarenes carrying an enormous "float."

At every Station of the Cross, the entire parade stops and the bishop speaks and then prays.

These are the Stations of the Cross:
1. Christ condemned to death 2. the cross is laid upon him; 3. His first fall; 4. He meets His Blessed Mother; 5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross; 6. Christ's face is wiped by Veronica; 7. His second fall; 8. He meets the women of Jerusalem 9. His third fall; 10. He is stripped of His garments; 11. His crucifixion; 12. His death on the cross; 13. His body is taken down from the cross; and 14. laid in the tomb.

At each Station, the parade "picks up" a new float. By the end of the parade there are a lot of floats and they reenact the crucifixion.

So you can imagine with all of these stops and songs and prayers, this parade takes forever. It goes for blocks and blocks. And it was hot. And it was sunny. And we were already sunburnt. The parade had already been going on for a couple of hours and it wasn't even close to being finished. So Jose and I made our way through the crowds and headed back to Tegus! Maybe next year we'll be able to see the crucifixion. :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Word of the Day Wednesday

Pila (say pEE-lah)
A pila is a really big sink/basin. Think utility sink. But these sinks are reallly big and made out of concrete. And every house has one.

This is a picture of my pila. The maid uses it to fill up buckets of water. And she uses the wash board on the left to wash the mop and cleaning rags by hand.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Semana Santa

This week is Semana Santa (Holy Week). The entire week is a religious celebration starting on Palm Sunday. This day is spent celebrating Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. Monday-Wednesday are also Holy days, and celebrate events which occurred on the corresponding days between Palm Sunday and the Last Supper. Thursday (Maundy Thursday) commemorates the Last Supper of Christ. Friday (Good Friday) is the day of mourning for Jesus' death. Saturday is spent in silence and prayer in mourning again. Sunday (Easter Sunday) is spent celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

Although this holiday is historically a religious one, most people in Honduras use it as their "spring break" and go on vacations. Most of our friends are flocking to the coast or the islands. Overcrowded beaches, pick-pocketers, and drunk tourists? No thanks. :) Jose and I are heading to Comayagua, a colonial town about 2 hours from Tegucigalpa. I find the religious history and Latin American customs of this holiday fascinating, so we are going to a small town to witness the traditional processions of Semana Santa.

I have never been to Comayagua. And like everything in Honduras, this should be an adventure. ;) Stay tuned for the crazy stories I'm sure I'll have after the trip!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Worst Cable Company In The History Of Honduras

I've mentioned the WCCITHOH a few times now. And up until now I haven't told you the entire story of how I was treated by their employees. I was trying to give them a chance to redeem themselves.

But they didn't. And now I've declared war on them.

So if you don't know already, the name of the WCCITHOH is *drum roll*.................Claro.

Wanna know why they're the Worst Cable Company In The History Of Honduras? Grab a beverage, sit back, and get ready for this loooooong story.....

It all started when I came back from the US in January. We had moved into our apartment and needed cable/internet. We did our research, and found the company with the best rates. Enter Claro.

We called Claro. They were nice. They said they would send someone asap. A few days later, technicians showed up and installed the cable. And, well, you know this story already. They stole my cell phone and racked up a $500 phone bill.

When we called Claro they were very apologetic. "Bring us the bill and the proof that it was our techs, and we'll take care of it," they told my husband. Actually, they said to fax it. So I printed out the bill and the rest of the info, and tried to fax it over. Their fax number was busy. For 4 days. So I tried to call. No one answered. Or it was busy. For 4 more days. So I got angry enough to go to their office and talk to them in person. I had to wait for 15 minutes in the lobby. When the woman finally came to talk to me, I explained everything to her. Again. And she told me, again, that they were going to take care of everything and not to worry and she was sorry for all of the trouble.

I left feeling a little better about things. And a few days later when I decided I needed internet/phone for my store, I called Claro. They are, after all, the cheapest.

I spoke with someone named Ilse. She was very nice and assured me that everything was in the system and someone would come to install it in a few days. But then she called me back and said that there was a problem, and it would be 5 days. Because of the trouble this would cause, I would get one month of free service. Okay, I can deal with that.

Seven days later, still no technicians. Not even a phone call. So I called Ilse at Claro. She apologized and said 3 more days. Five days later, STILL no technicians. I call. No one answers. Or it's busy (all 15 of their phone numbers, literally). For 3 more days!

Most people would give up at this point. But I'm too stubborn.

I then realized that Ilse had sent me an email. It had a signature. With her cell phone number. I called it. She assured me she would take care of everything and call me back THAT AFTERNOON.

Well, guess what? No phone call. So the next day, a Saturday, I called her again. She said she wasn't in the office and couldn't help me. "Well I don't care that you're not in the office Ilse. What did you tell me yesterday, Ilse?" I asked. "I said I would call you yesterday," she whispered. "And did you?" I asked. "No." "So what are you going to do to fix this?" I asked. She promised she would call me back in 10 minutes. And never did.

So on Monday I called Claro. No answer. For 2 days. When someone finally answered, I said I wanted to speak with Ilse. "Can I help you with something?" "No thank you, I'd like to speak with Ilse," I replied. "What can I help you with?" "Nothing, I want to speak with Ilse!" I said. Click. She hung up. SHE HUNG UP.

I was so angry that my blood was boiling. So I went to Claro. At the receptionist's desk I said "I want to speak with someone that speaks English," I said slowly. (This whole time I'd been trying to take care of this while speaking Spanish. I decided I could express my anger much more effectively in English.)

I was trying my best not to yell. "Ummmm....fijese que there is no one." "Do you mean to tell me that out of everyone in this entire building (it's like, a 10 story building) NO ONE SPEAKS ENGLISH?! I want to speak with someone that speaks English right now. I don't care if you have to go get the President of the company."

She picked up the phone and made a few phone calls. TWENTY minutes later two people show up in the lobby. I immediately thought of the dumb blonde jokes and thought, how many stupid Claro employees does it take to fix a problem? Haha.

I told them everything. I told them it was sad that I had to sacrifice customer service for low prices. I told them how angry I was. And they apologized. About everything. And about my cell phone. They guaranteed they would fix the problem. They guaranteed someone would come to install internet the next day. They gave me their cell phone numbers to contact them if I had a problem.

Guess what? No one came to install internet. No one called me about my cell phone. So I called them. They apologized again and said they were working on it.

Two days later, no one had come. Jose called his contact there and, low and behold, technicians arrived at my store to install the internet that afternoon. (HELLOOO why didn't he just do that before?!? Haha.) It took them FIVE hours to do it. And in the end, the phone line still didn't work. I told them I wouldn't sign the work order until the phone was working. They were angry. I spoke on the phone with their supervisor. He was angry. I still didn't sign the work order. They left and said they would come back in the morning to check it. And it should be a big surprise to you that they DIDN'T COME. Or call.

And now, here I am, THREE weeks later. The Claro phone still doesn't work. No one has called me. No one has come to help me. The Claro modem is still here, in the box, waiting for someone to come claim it.

So what am I going to do? I'm going to leave the modem in the box here on my desk until someone calls me. I am not going to pay any bills that I receive from Claro until someone answers the darn phone over there. I'm soooo tired of hearing the busy signal. AND? I'm writing this blog with the hope that it will dissuade you from using them. Bad publicity is the worst. After a few weeks, I'm going to print out the blog post, along with my stats from Google Analytics proving just how many people have read it. Well, that won't prove that I've dissuaded any of you, but, might help my cause. ;)

So, like I said, it's war. ;)

PS - I have since switched services to Cable Color. They are an excellent provider. They are a few dollars more each month, but completely worth it for the customer service alone. And can you believe that they answer the phone when you call! And they come when they say they will! :)

Word of the Day Wednesday

One of my favorite words in Spanish is claro. It means clearly.

And one of my favorite ways to use the word is in the expression claro que si/no. It means of course/of course not.

-Do you want some pineapple?
-Claro que si.

-Did you make that french memo board all by yourself?
-Claro que si.

-Did The Worst Cable Company In The History of Honduras answer when you called?
-Claro que no.

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