Today I was initially going to write about my Christmas shopping, but alas I left my purse at home this afternoon, and although the Swiss are very generous, not even my boss would let me have stuff for free. But that’s okay, because this time last year I was feeling a bit nostalgic and I wrote a poem about Honduras and the book shop I’m working at. Maybe it’s being around books that always makes me miss things, but I’m in that same sort of state at the moment, and I hope you like my poem.
I miss a lot of things.
I miss going to work for that first time last year. I miss the smell of smoke and sweat and cardboard boxes in the hallway. I miss the way my feet hurt every night.
I’m still working there now.
But it’s not the same. It’s not the «I never want to leave this place.» It’s more. It’s less.
My feet still hurt.
I miss seeing Honduras from above. For the first time. I miss the feeling of «It’s going to be okay.» Because it really was, you know?
I miss the song Chim-Chim-Chiminike! All day long. I wanted to listen to it forever. I didn’t want to lose it. That song. It was mine.
I miss the voices. «Hola Gringa!» The way they could carress my name. Every Hello came with a hug. Every hug lasted a lifetime. Like the song.
Everybody hated the song btw.
I miss the dancing. I hate dancing But I was taught to love it. Hands touching hands. Lips touching lips. It was a fairy tale.
But a slutty one.
I miss that side of me. The «It’s going to be okay» side. Because it really was, you know?
«One day I’m going to marry you.» «Okay.» It’s a promise That we’ll never keep. But we mean it Nevertheless.
I miss eating Until I need new pants.
«When are you leaving?» «Never.»
I miss Myself.
Just a little. The me that knew That it was going to be okay.
A week ago the term has finished and I‘m looking back at an incredible year, so I thought I‘d reminisce for a bit!
Would you believe that one year ago I was still in this weird beautiful country called Honduras explaining farts to children? One of my friends has recently uploaded the video they made for me the day I left and I cried just a little (no really, it was a lot). I really can‘t believe I put up with Latin music and Salsa dancing for six months straight without going crazy, whereas now I want to punch my boss in the face for never changing the playlist at work!
Less than a year ago I visited New Zealand again and realised that nobody had forgotten about me (which felt lovely); I saw the Hobbiton movie set for the third time and up to now I still totally want to live there!
And now I‘m in Switzerland, stuffing my face with chocolate. I started university which was scary at first because as usual I was worried that everybody would see me as a complete dork and not want to hang out with me – but actually I immediately found a bunch of people who found me dorky yet endearing and are still willing to spend time with me. Maybe next semester I‘ll dive further into the student way of life; for now I was happy to just do my assignments, eat ice cream for lunch and go home to put on my onesie and read.
I really don‘t think that university is a necessity in life but it definitely works for me. Because, let‘s be honest, I love history. I get seriously excited when somebody mentions Martin Luther and if I could write more essays on power structures I would. And it‘s wonderful to meet others who are linked the same way!
I‘ve started playing the ukulele, I took up a new job in february, I‘m learning Polish; all in all life has changed quite a bit.
My life is going to change even further as I‘m planning on moving out. I am so excited and looking at flats all over – actually, I‘m looking for a flat in one very specific part of town, so not that all over! I‘m sure I‘ll be completely lost for the first few weeks being on my own. I mean – how do you wash your clothes? I‘m probably going to be the crazy lady who hand washes her clothes down by the river! Also, how am I supposed to sleep without my cat? We‘re cushion buddies! He‘ll be crushed when I leave!
We have a tendency to think that we need to have figured everything out by a certain age but that‘s really just holding us back. Maybe sometimes it‘s enough to figure out just what the next step is. And maybe the rest will figure out itself.
So here‘s to a new year, new changes and sappy rainbows!
One of the things I have been most lucky to have in my life are my friends. That sounds like such a cliché to say, but considering how many of my friends live oceans away from me, I can‘t pressure this enough. I‘m astonished, really, that people are still putting up with me. I‘m terrible at replying to messages or letters or remembering Skype dates. I‘m such a confused little person sometimes and I have my heart all over the place; and no matter how many times I tell someone that I love them to pieces via WhatsApp or Facebook, it‘s always a mere excuse for not saying it more often. But their pictures are all on my wall and I look at them every time I‘m writing or doing homework. Some of them I don‘t even talk to anymore, and some of them I talk to every day, and whenever I look up at our smiley faces I remember how infinite I felt, how grand, how little rain or sleet or snow mattered because we were all wrapped up within each other.
Even if your best friend lives a country away, it is possible to feel closer to her than the people you sit next to in math class. Sometimes the people surrounding you are the ones 2,763 miles away. (The Girl in the Little Black Dress)
There‘s so many people who feel so close to me still and I feel like the world deserves to meet them.
There‘s my wonderful Kiwi friend Annie who sends me heaps of letters and cards and sexy firemen calendars. I keep buying her chocolates and end up eating them myself – one of these days, Annie, you‘re going to get a massive letter and a half eaten chocolate bar!
I can‘t thank Charlie enough for the endless SnapChat messages I get on a almost daily basis. I never reply because I suck. But my mood brightens so much when I get Snaps like this one early in the morning!
And all my Hondurans! I could cry everytime I think about them. I‘m in love with all of them because they carry their hearts on their sleeves, because they tried so hard to understand my culture and they took me in as if I were just like them, even when everything about me screamed that I wasn‘t. And even now with life rushing on for all of us, I randomly receive messages from people telling me that they love me still. I miss their hugs and I hate that all I get are hundreds of messages in a group chat, but I also love it because its a fragment of their lives and somewhere in there I have my place too.
I met my cousin/aunt/whatever only a few years ago. Her name is Paulina and she‘s my dad‘s cousin, but she‘s younger than me. She lives in Hamburg and she‘s very pretty and I love her for also being a Harnickell because I thought I was the only girl. We haven‘t spoken in so long but I can‘t wait to see her again. Weekends with her have been the loveliest and they made me love this gorgeous human so much!
There is a girl whose name is also Noemi and who made me a Minion hot-water-bottle cover for my birthday. She likes weird things which is good because I‘m a little weird too. And sometimes she understands and sometimes she doesn‘t but she always makes me smile, even when I don‘t want to!
Tashina listens to my endless dramas about boys and books and Cadbury chocolate and watches Doctor Who with me. She doesn‘t even like Science Fiction. Inga sends me a hand-made photo calendar every Christmas and Bethi let me stay at her house once. Samantha and I have a book club but we never read anything together. Jonathan makes me stay up until the sun rises, and Anna brings me back a plush princess from the Disney shop in London. Claire let me come to her speech but not her parents, and Anna went to the book shop with me afterwards. I have never met Rieke but last year she wrote me a letter and I really want to give her a hug. Jennifer wasn‘t my sister but now she is. Tamara and Magalie once went to have a picknick in an illegal place with me where we could look down on the entire city and felt like kings. Macarena was there too and I miss that little chilean munchkin.
I love that there‘s Lucy and Jacqui and Katrien and Luis and Alice and Kerem among others who never write but who go out with me for Frozen Yoghurt whenever I‘m in the area. And I love that they still look happy on their Facebook pictures and that I once had them smile and laugh like this with me.
The favourite thing about my best friend is how she smells like home.
She is home
Life consists of so many tiny memories and it never matters where we are and if we are still with the same people or not. We are always in motion and friendships come and go but they never leave us completely. Not talking to someone is not the same as not thinking of them. And I can‘t even do all the people justice with this little blog post here. Who cares about it anyway? I just love them so much and I wanted you to know.
Today I just want to share with you this amazing poem a certain Natalie (www.natalieslovelyblog.com) wrote about her exchange year in France. I’m missing Honduras quite a lot right now and reading this makes me feel better. It’s not that christmassy. Well, a bit maybe. I hope you like it!
A hundert and seventy-eight days ago I was sitting in a similar spot at the airport in LA, thinking to myself, „What on earth am I doing here?!“ Honduras was such a foreign concept, and now that it was getting real and close and scary I doubted I would ever get to like it. My mind was set on the stereo type I had of the Latinos, greasy womanizers that valued their nails more than character, unfaithful bastards, never on time, liars… not all of them, obviously, but, like, generally speaking. Why didn‘t I just go to the UK where everyone looked like Harry Potter or David Tennant and spoke with a pretty british accent?
Needless to say that stereo types are rarely what you encounter upon visiting a new country.
I was so sure those six months would trickle by in painful slow motion, and now I am sitting here, a hundert and seventy-eight days later, wondering where all these days have gone! Has it really been so long? I don‘t even know what to feel. It‘s a little bit like breaking up with somebody while you still love them. I think my heart is a little bit broken by it. But I‘m on my way to New Zealand and I know that this is a good thing, because five years ago I felt the same way about leaving from there. Six months ago I would have preferred travelling there rather than to Honduras. And now it‘s just all very confusing because I‘m not so sure where I belong any more. They say that home lies where the heart is. I left my heart in Switzerland, that‘s why in the end I had my doubts about leaving. Then I started working in Chiminike and my heart was sold. All I ever want is to belong and as soon as I do I don‘t want to leave any more, but I belong in so many places, where will I ever stay?
Physically speaking my heart is always in my chest. So, maybe, the trick is to see things not too metaphorically and much more the way they actually are. My heart is where I am, it is keeping me alive and therefore, I will always be able to feel at home. Maybe that‘s the real problem about leaving. I always feel comfortable very fast and I‘m worried the last place might lose the meaning it once had to me. There is a quote that says:
„You get a strange feeling when you‘re about to leave a place. Like you‘ll not only miss the people you love but you‘ll miss the person you are now at this time and place because you‘ll never be this way again.“
So many feelings. I feel sad because I‘m losing a life, I feel blessed to have met those people, I feel a little excited about seeing old friends again, I feel scared and lonely and okay and very much not okay… I want to frame those memories, Roberto in his jammies at the airport at six in the morning, the children that came to the museum, the day we went to Pulhapanzak and the others drew stuff on my face because I was hungover and fast asleep, the parties at Jorge‘s house, all the dancing or, as I like to call it, the sex on the dance floor (!)… Did I hug everybody as much and as often as I could? Soon I‘ll be sitting in front of a camara and wishing I‘d have one last hug left… and another one after that. But that‘s the wonderful thing about having a heart that beats. We can always find love. It doesn‘t mean that what we once loved doesn‘t matter any more or that we don‘t love it any longer; it‘s just that our lives are always and constantly in motion. Life always goes onwards whether we allow it to or not. Clinging on to the past doesn‘t mean we stay there. It simply means we don‘t enjoy the adventures life has to offer.
Well, this blog entry has turned out to be different from what I expected it to be, but that‘s alright. I‘m going to be fine in a day or two, but just for now I think it‘s okay not to be. I‘ve just watched an inspiring video-blog by Carrie Hope Fletcher on that matter that completely supports my point (watch the video here).
Here is what I know: I will always return. No matter how much time passes and where I end up being, I will always go back to the places I love. As long as there‘s people worth returning to, I will always do so.
The reason I sucked at physics was not because I had a bad teacher, it was because he tried too hard explaining me how physics works, how the atoms and molecules interact, instead of just telling me how to use it. It‘s the same with mobile phones or computers – few of us actually know how those things really work, we just know how to use them. I manage effortlessly to walk into solid walls and fall down stairs, so no, I don‘t think I have a grasp on how to use physics!
It‘s the same principle with Honduras (or any other country). We can spend so much time just trying to understand why a place is the way it is, why it is not better or worse, why there‘s corruption or dictatorship… and it can help, but what we need to learn in the first place is how to use it. A country‘s history is what sound wave‘s are for the sound – without the waves we wouldn‘t hear the music and without the history we couldn‘t build a better future. But in order to appreciate the waves‘ work, we have to have heard the music first. So, how do we use Honduras? Based on my experience the first and best thing anyone can do is be amiable. Smile, appreciate not having been robbed, return the hugs (try to enjoy them!)… Honduras is definitely a country where being happy is appreciated.
Then, learn how to dance. Or, if you can‘t dance, at least learn the songs and move your hip, and be sexy.
Another thing, always count your change. Don‘t trust amiable people (but trust them more than grumpy ones, because at least they are nice), they might still try to rob you.
Oh, and don‘t get mad at robbers. I haven‘t been robbed so far, but I would rather give up my phone than my life. Maybe that‘s just me, though.
That‘s how you get by in Honduras. That‘s knowing which buttons to press on your phone, the green one to call, the red one to hang up. But now, there‘s a whole bloody lot of things wrong with that phone. And knowing how to use it won‘t do any more, because as hard as you push those buttons, they won‘t change anything. That‘s the point where we have to start to understand what wire goes where and why. John Green said,
„Grateful to be a little boat full of water still floating.“
(I do think the Greens will save the day!) And that‘s how I see Honduras. A broken place that still somehow manages to keep its pieces together.
Last week I had the chance to visit the peninsula Zacate Grande in the south of the country. I don‘t think anyone can sum up the people‘s problems there as well as Disney‘s „The Emperor‘s New Groove“ does. It takes seventy-five minutes of whole hearted laughter to realise that Kuzco is a) real, b) owns the freaking country and c) did not turn into a llama, and therefore actually built Kuzcotopia and did make the farmers leave their grounds even though they‘ve lived there for generations. And yet, Zacate Grande, too, is a boat, still floating. The grounds are inhabitet by farmers who are more than willing to fight for their rights. It‘s either fighting with a small chance of winning or not fighting with the certainty of starving. The great land owners need the land to build their mansions and tourist resorts, they privatise the beaches and rob the farmers of any chances of existence (you can find out more here). But being there, in spite of seeing the poverty up close, was one of the happiest expierences ever. It is so lovely to see that people are still just people. They took me to the beach and complained about the fact that I didn‘t bring my bathing suit, and wanted to know if I had already found a gorgeous Honduran! Where there‘s girl’s talk, the world will not end.
And of course I have to mention the visit to the orphanage N.P.H. (Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos). It was beautiful and is an example of one of the many things that actually go right in Honduras. The children are granted a good future and a safe childhood. Books are very valued (an institution that doesn‘t value books is not a good institution, simple as that) and the whole area has a warm ambiente to it (and not only because of the hot weather). One of the things I loved the most was the plays we did for them, mainly because I enjoy watching them, too! But in the end, what was beautiful was to see their excited faces when they received a little bag of sweets and couldn‘t wait to open them. That is why children are so beautiful. The way they can‘t hold themselves back, the way they just have to taste those cookies right now, because they might explode if they don‘t… that‘s what gets lost on us when we grow up. Because we learn how to hold back, how to control ourselves. But maybe, life is about not keeping control. Maybe it‘s about going ahead and shamelessly taking what you can‘t resist.
I may not understand physics in any way, and that‘s okay. I mean, I fell up the stairs once, and the bruise taught me that, against my better judgement, this is in fact possible! But what I do understand is this: Whether it‘s a phone or a country, some things you just love even if they are broken. And loving them in their brokenness will make you angry enough to do what you can to fix them.
There are certain things in life that will always find their way to the outside – the truth, love, digested beans… well, the truth is that my digested beans are far too willing to leave my system! Umm… too much information, you say? I should just have put that in my diary, you say? I did, but I told you, some things just need to get out! According to Lonely Planet this phenomenon is called „Traveller‘s Diarrhea“ an can be caused by various factors such as jetlag, stress, bad food, powdered milk (fair enough, Lonely Planet doesn‘t mention this one, but they might as well!) … to put it short: Honduras can be pretty shit (not that shit is ever pretty…!)!
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the food. I love the Honduran cuisine, the beans, the tortillas, the fresh fruits… In fact, I love it so much that I was recently reminded I would soon be a „gordita“ (that‘s how nice they are here)! But I guess it‘s a matter of unrequited love – the food does seem rather eager to leave as quickly as possible!
And then there‘s the stress factor. I have been living in this peculiar country for a month now and yet, there‘s still things that freak me out. Taking the public transport is one of them. The bus I have to take to get from my house to Chiminike is called Rapidito. It is very small and there are three things to consider:
There are no such things as bus stops in Tegucigalpa. I just stand by the side of the street and wave frantically at a bus.
The bus hardly stops. It merely slows down and I jump on.
No such things as bus stops – when I need to get off I shout, pay and jump off.
I‘m Swiss. I‘m used to public transportation that is, well, Swiss! How can this not be stressful for me?
But I‘m really adjusting now. I‘m even going as far as jumping on any Rapidito and hoping it somehow goes in the right direction (I do that whilst wondering why the heck I‘m doing this to myself). Of course I really miss Jesua, my host brother, at times. He left for the UK last week and it was so nice having a personal driver (to be fair, it was nice having him around anyway)!
Tryg, my Icelandic friend, was actually robbed in one of the bigger buses last week. According to him, though, the robbers were –and I‘m quoting– „really nice“! Yeah, I suppose the fact that they gave him back his ID and his credit card kind of makes you forget about the knife they had pulled. But still, it‘s crap (how very fitting!) and „who robs people on Valentine‘s Day?!“
When I told people that the Swiss are very cold compared to the compassionate Hondurans they used to shake their head at me – that was until word got out that the Swiss don‘t actually celebrate Valentine‘s Day! How dare a country doesn‘t acknowledge the day of love! Here they are very generous when it comes to throwing around pink balloons and roses and teddy bears. Of course Chiminike was no exception. The staff room was full of balloons and little notes of love.
And that brings me to my next point, namely the fact that I absolutely love my project. It‘s a blessing to work at Chiminike! I love working with the kids, seeing them trying to understand the world is downright beautiful. There is a genuinity to them that can not be found in grown ups. Last week we had several groups of mentally and physically handicapped children which was a first for me. But it takes no time at all to realize there is no point in fussing over their disabilities. What I figured is that they are no different from everyone else. They like pizza and football and they enjoy being in Chiminike as much as anybody could.
I‘m not sure I‘m helping so much at Chiminike, I get the feeling that Chiminike rather helps me instead!
So, now that everything‘s out (my beans, Tryg‘s money…), there is only one question to answer: why are there no toilet brushes? Why would they produce powdered milk but no toilet brushes? Where is the logic in that?
Honduras is a funny place to live and ever so often I live after the simple rule, don‘t ask, just accept.
My honduran life has transformed into a „world full of colours and magic“ – or as the advert for my project puts it, „un mundo lleno de color y magia“! So yeah, I finished my second week at work and it actually competes with working at the book store. I loved working at the book store to say the least! But Chiminike comes pretty close. It‘s an interactive children‘s museum where I work as a „Guía Educativo“ – an „Educational Guide“. The challenging part for me is of course mainly the language, but apart from that there is so much to learn. There are eight rooms, each one dedicated to a specific topic such as the human body, the environment or Honduran history. Ever explained the digestive system in Spanish? Well, it‘s about as easy as it sounds. And then there‘s the songs and warm-up games they do with the children. I hardly know two in German, but those guys know about thirty!
But this being said, I have great support from the other guides. They try to teach me everything during the breaks, they make conversation with me even though my Spanish is still quite basic and they are generally just as warm and welcoming as can be. What‘s a real success for me is the fact that during my first week I came home exhausted every day. The fact that nobody speaks English and that I had to concentrate hard to follow the conversations really wore me out. But now it‘s getting better; I don‘t have to listen that hard anymore and I feel like a bigger part of the team now.
One of my absolute highlights at the project is how you can step into a real soap bubble – or rather have a soap bubble built around you. The world looks so much nicer from in there!
The only real problem I have with the project is the public transportation. Until the end of next week I still need to go to my language classes in the afternoon, but of course there is no bus. The first time no one picked me up last week I ended up taking a taxi which is an adventure in itself. Not because of the way they drive (which I‘m not even going to talk about!) but because there‘s no adresses like we have them at home. I knew the name of the area I had to go to but because there are no street names it took us a while to find the right place. But what‘s interesting is that the taxi driver then gives you his phone number so you can call him again when you need him. The second time I needed a taxi he knew instantly where I had to go!
Honduras is such a fascinating place. In many ways it is stuck in the past century, especially when it comes to gender roles. Basically, girls are not allowed to date unless they are going to marry the guy, but it is highly approved if a guy has girlfriends. Or something else that really got me thinking was when I went to a bar with my host brother. They wouldn‘t let him in because he‘s not yet twenty-five. I, on the other hand, was instantly admitted due to the fact that I‘m a girl.
And then there‘s the typical girl problem that comes up each month – there are pretty much no tampons to be found on the shelves. The reason for this is that women tend to be afraid of losing their virginity to an O.B.
One of the brighter things is the party culture. I‘m used to parties starting after ten pm – here they start at seven or earlier even. And of course there is dancing. I‘m a terrible dancer, but even if it‘s true the hondurans don‘t buy it. You‘re in Honduras, therefore you will dance and you will like it. It‘s the rules. Basically, saying no doesn‘t really mean no in Honduras. It rather means, ask me again!
So, that‘s my life for you. I‘ve been in a soap bubble (still not over the awesomeness of it), I have my personal taxi driver and I‘ve learnt how to dance (not)! That seems pretty full of colours and magic!