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.
It‘s officially autumn! Yaaay! I know it‘s been officially autumn for over a month now, but only now the weather has realised it, too. I love getting all wrapped up in the morning when I leave for uni. I love drinking hot tea and curling up under a blanket to read or watch Doctor Who (I know there‘s other TV shows, but why bother?!). I love the cold air and the sunshine and the red leaves that cover the bycicle track and the icy blue of the river.
When I was in Honduras there were many things that I loved about the country, like the fact that there‘s actual rain forests, but autumn is something that I wouldn‘t want to miss out on. It‘s just so wonderful how everything changes.
Of course just like every other blogger right now I have my personal so called autumn favourites. But I would like to differ just a bit here, because my autumn favourites this year are not limited to autumn. Let‘s call them favourite autumn memories!
I think number one would be hanging out with my niece. She‘s fifteen months now and I get to babysit her more and more now that she‘s gotten used to me again. I‘ve actually stolen a pacifier from my sister to keep at my house. So everytime little Anastasia comes over, I‘m ready! I don‘t really want to blab on about the miracle of life, but having a baby around is really fun. It‘s such a tiny person and everytime I see her she‘s a little bit closer to the lady she‘s some day going to be! I‘m just so bedazzled! On saturday I took her for a walk through the woods – she fell asleep straight away, but everything smelled of autumn and the trees were all red and orange and I had this little human with me that gets the silliest giggles out of me.
Number two, I‘d have to say hanging out at the Brasserie. It‘s a small café in Bern where I used to go to a lot last autumn when we performed the play about Sophie Scholl that I‘d written. It‘s definitely one of my favourite places. I went there recently with friends to play card games. I remember that it rained and that I kind of worried about my bike getting all wet but that at the same time I kind of didn‘t care. I really missed the Brasserie in Honduras, because of all the happy memories I have of it. Walking in there just means that everything is okay.
Oh, and did I mention that there‘s a demon haunting the bathroom? Yuuup! Sitting right behind you, ready to attack. Or that‘s what it feels like, anyway!
And finally, number three – it‘s birthday season! My mum turned young this October (the perks of having a baby while you‘re still at uni!) and she usually hosts a huge party. I think I have a really cool mum, one that is very annoying at times, but one that also doesn‘t judge me for getting home drunk, having silly boyfriends or failing exams. In return I don‘t judge her for having more pictures of our dog on her phone than she does of her children. No, seriously, she‘s the bestest mum!
Also, a lot of my friends celebrate their birthdays. I made a piñata for the first time in my life (I sooo wanted one in Honduras, but there just wasn‘t enough time… reason to go back!) – guys, only do this for people you really love, because it‘s so much work! And, oh, it was also my stepmum‘s birthday, but she‘s still waiting for her present and hug. She deserves one, because she makes my dad really happy and I don‘t want her out of my life any more. She‘s not going to read this, I don‘t think. Unless I send it to her. HI ELVIRA!!! Ooh, she‘ll love this!
I‘m so happy to have my patchwork family and my warm Babuschka socks and the ability to play Tichu and that my dog rolls onto her back when I come downstairs and that James Blunt keeps reminding me how beautiful I am and that there‘s tea and that I have friends in Honduras and New Zealand who haven‘t forgotten about me and friends here who put up with me. I‘m happy I manage to put up with me!
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.
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!
Almost a week since I first laid eyes on this beautiful country that is Honduras. And believe me, the journey here wasn‘t exactly a joy ride. First of all, it took me over thirty hours which is longer than it took me to get to New Zealand – and New Zealand is the end of the world from my perspective! But more importantly I was excruciatingly nervous throughout the entire trip, constantly bugged by „What ifs“: What if I really hate this city? What if nobody likes me? What if no one picks me up from the airport? But then another thought occured as I was sitting in the last plane that took me from San Salvador to Tegucigalpa: What if I‘m a Hobbit? There is one scene in the movie where Bilbo says, „I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my arm chair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home.“ And I realised that I like the comfort of home. I like to belong somewhere, to be settled. And it‘s actually quite okay to miss all that I‘ve left behind, even if it‘s as simple as an arm chair. But Hobbits are strong, little creatures. They go out there and discover things and have adventures and save the world, and then they go back home with their trunks full of gold and they smoke pipes for the rest of their days and are just fine. And that‘s what I‘m going to be, just fine.
I didn‘t think I would like Tegucigalpa before coming here. It seemed dirty and chaotic and hideous. And I haven‘t actually been to the city yet, so I can‘t say that I do. But I saw it from above, and just like that, all my fears of not liking it were gone. I liked the hills and the dust and the winding streets… I just liked this complicated pattern I saw.
What I have certainly come to love is the people. They are nothing if not open hearted and welcoming. It takes them minutes to consider you a friend, they smile a lot and they love their country. It‘s beautiful to just listen to them talking about Honduras. Even the security guards in front of the buildings with their heavy shot guns smile friendly when you pass them and it really gets you thinking. Because what I have seen is by far not as shocking as what I haven‘t seen. And I haven‘t seen much poverty. I know it‘s there, though, the shot guns are perfect proof. It just seems wrong to have been able to move around this country for almost a week and not having seen any of the problems Honduras is facing.
I live in a beautiful, massive house (really, this is a castle!) with a wonderful family, they have their own business, several cars and even a maid, and they are lovely, lovely, lovely people – but there‘s this huge poverty from which I‘ve been hidden so far and it really bothers me, because they just exist side by side, and while it‘s possible to hide all the bad that is happening from the rich people, the poor will always see what they are missing, because riches are always bright and shiny.
Other than that I‘m feeling grand, though. I met a few other volunteers on the weekend, I‘ve tasted the local food –frijoles (beans) are acceptable for every meal and breakfast ist basically lunch– and I‘ve experienced the Honduran party spirit –dancing and drinking cerveza (beer)… but mostly dancing! So, with that in mind, I‘m looking forward to six enthralling months. I‘m starting work next week, until then I get Spanish lessons and learn what bus to take and how to find my way around the city without getting mugged or stabbed.
Unlike Bilbo (who gets almost-stabbed an awful lot), I did bring some books with me (ten to be precise, though I only really count six), and much to my advantage I don‘t have to fight a dragon. Seriously, what can possibly go wrong!