Thursday, October 15, 2009

Honduras is going to the WORLD CUP!!

This week is the first quarter final exams week at school and while I haven't had to teach at all, I've been swamped with test writing and grading. I thought I would take a break and go watch the Honduras-El Salvador game in the central park last night. This cute little restaurant next to the church projects it on a screen outside and folks can hang out and enjoy the fresh air instead of watching it at a bar.

Well, things were sort of uneventful until the second half when Honduras scored a goal against El Salvador... Woohooo!! I will say that even though El Salvador was our rival in the match, I'm still in love with one of their players, Alexander Escobar (he's the one on the left). There's just something about that hair... Anyway just winning against El Salvador didn't guarantee Honduras a place in the World Cup. Costa Rica would have to lose against the US or at least tie, and then Honduras would be in. Basically after we scored that goal, it wasn't up to us anymore--we had done all we could. So as Honduras's kickass goalie kept doing what he does best, the rest of us were trying to tune into snippets from the US-Costa Rica game, conveniently being played at the exact same time (I'm proud to say that some of my friends were in the stands of that game as it was being played in DC!!) Soon, the score was Costa Rica 2, US 1 (up from 0!). We kept praying that a) El Salvador wouldn't score a goal and b) that the US would tie it up. By literally a miracle from God, the US sunk another goal with, what... 2 minutes remaining?? 2 seconds? Something like that. Immediately the streets bursted with shouts of joy... "Empataron!! Empataron!! Vamos al Mundial!!" (They tied! We're going to the World Cup!!).
High on the energy, but knowing that it was getting late and we had to get up a 5am for school the next day, we caught a cab home. I changed into my PJs and watched the afterglow on TV with my roommates. Just as I was about to get into bed, I heard the silly, campy little music that comes across all the radio and TV stations right before the President or the Government is about to make a nation-wide announcement. (I recognized it because it was pretty much on 5 times a day during the curfew/political crisis a few weeks ago). The President came on and declared the next day a NATIONAL HOLIDAY in celebration of Honduras getting into the World Cup. Why is that a big deal? Because the last time Honduras went was in 1982. That's the year I was born, people!!
So being freed of our commitments for the next day, we changed back into our Seleccion jerseys and hit the streets. There were pickup trucks full of kids and fans and flags screaming and literally rejoicing (such a cheesy word but so appropriate here!). Because the US was the one that really decided our fate, everyone on the street was like "Gracias a los Gringos!!!" and was receiving us like champions (wow, I think that might be the ONLY time that happens, especially since we were trying to keep our heads down on Saturday during the US-Honduras game!). We just loved waving and cheering to all the passing cars and groups of fans. Fireworks were being set off in the streets of Comayagua, and even bigger ones were being set off in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. It was euphoric.
Again, just to emphasize how important soccer is in Honduras, "wars" have been fought over it
and here is an article from last week talking about the importance of soccer to the national psychii especially in politically troubled times.
I will have to say, this is pretty much the first time I have ever even remotely cared about sports in my entire life. It's hard not to get caught up in the spirit of things here. Viva Honduras!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tela--The North Coast part 2

Also part of my Independence Day vacation, some friends and I went up to the beach town of Tela. It's considerably smaller and sleepier than La Ceiba, but that makes it less dirty and more charming :) There is a nice little beachfront paseo (concrete "boardwalk") and several really cute little restaurants. Tela, like Ceiba, is a nice jumping off point for touring national parks and tiny Garifuna villages, which I'll talk about in my next post :)

In Tela, we simply enjoyed the palm trees, the sunshine, and the tasty comida costeña (coastal cuisine). Besides lots of wonderful fresh fish and seafood, we especially enjoyed a little Italian place right on the beach that was quite authentic, as it was run by a retired Italian couple. We pretty much wanted to eat there every night because it was so good, but decided against in for the sake of trying everything the town had to offer. Too bad, because I ended up wasting a day being sick on whatever I had at the other restaurant!!
A garifuna woman selling fresh agua de coco (also called "agua de pipa") Hack with a machete, stick a straw in it, and call it a nice snack :) While Garifuna men mostly earn a living fishing, the women sell coconut products (such as yummy pan de coco and empanadas de coco) and offer to do hair braiding.
Enjoying a tropical sunset :)

Museo de la Mariposas--La Ceiba

This is the first of several catch-up posts from my trip to the North Coast of Honduras over the Independence holidays about a month ago. We had 4 days off and we enjoyed them by getting out of town to explore the beaches and the coastal cities. La Ceiba is one of the larger cities on the North Coast and is known as la Novia de Honduras--Honduras's girlfriend or sweetheart, since it is loved by the Honduran people. They probably love it because people here like to PARTY!! While La Ceiba is not particularly known for its beaches, it does have a series of really nice nightclubs and bars that are all right on the beach--or have their own sea walls. You can lean over the railing of the outdoor decks and watch the waves roll in. I enjoyed the bars at the beach in the Dominican Republic more because they actually had nice swaths of beach to lounge on, but even just being close to the water is enough to make your night.

My favorite part of being in La Ceiba was going to El Museo de las Mariposas (The Butterfly Museum). A true DC girl spoiled by the Smithsonian Institute, I sniff out the museums anywhere I go, and I was excited to find something on natural history as well. The museum is run by an American ex-pat from Ohio who taught school for many years here in Honduras. He gives talks to school groups, and there are rumors of the 10th grade parents wanting to organize a trip to Ceiba... I might just get my students in there yet!

The museum wasn't just butterflies, and I learned quite a lot about central american and worldwide insects. One fascinating yet dangerous thing I learned about was the "kissing bug," in the assassin bug family that transmits a parasite responsible for Chagas disease.

Getting up close and personal with a live Hercules beetle :) Don't worry, they don't bite. He was happily sucking on a piece of papaya before we met.

There was also an insect unlike any I had ever seen before--the "peanut head bug." The elongated, lumpy part of its head is actually hollow, so essentially a predator could take a bite out of the insect's head with all its vital organs still intact.

I was also pleased to purchase lots of educational materials for the school there. I think it's important that the kids at our school learn more about what's available in their own country. Since it's a bilingual school, many of our textbooks are from North America and talk about things for which Hondurans don't have much context (one of my students asked me about fall and snow the other day). I thought it was GREAT that the butterfly museum had big color posters of different insects that were native to Honduras, and I bought a bunch of them. I also got a CD of birdcalls of Honduras and a CD-ROM of orchids of Honduras. It seems that folks are very familiar with the national symbols of Honduras (white-tailed deer, orchid, etc) but they don't seem to know much beyond that, so I think we will have fun learning about all this country has to offer together.

Feria Turistica de Comayagua

Today in the central plaza of Comayagua, the first annual "Tourism Fair" took place. It wasn't huge, but it was fun to see different expos, many from hotels in the area, and several artesans from around the country. I spoke with one man from Santa Rosa de Copán who had never been to Comayagua before, so he got his own tourist experience as he sold souveniers from his town. We also were treated to some traditional dances from Honduras (I've seen several of these at school so far, and we still have the school-wide "folk festival" coming up in November!). Enjoy the photos of the plaza and the artesanía!

Ladies and gents in their traditional folk-dance costumes

Beautifully colored basketry :)

Marimba-shaped souveniers, commemorating traditional Honduran instruments :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I was super excited when my Spanish teacher here (yes, I do take Spanish classes as a benefit of my employment) assigned me an essay on "Mammals of Honduras"... let that one sink in and think about how much of a dork I am :) Anyway, in my searching I ran across a list of books (in English) about Honduras, and some of the titles are fascinating.

I had already heard of, and intend to read, Don't Be Afraid, Gringo about land rights struggles in Honduras and a female leader in the movement. I also hope to read Bananeras, about women banana workers and their efforts at labor organization. One title that particularly stuck out for me was "Questioning Empowerment" about development projects designed by women and the different manifestations of power. What can I say, women are cool! There are some great titles if you scroll down and if anyone who is following this reads any, please let me know!!

One thing I will say here is that there is really a DEARTH of books here in Honduras... "librerías" here are more school supply stores than book stores. The English speaking teachers are swapping the precious few paperbacks left in the teacher houses by our predecessors. We are thinking of starting a book club to read books about Honduran culture and discuss it. You don't realize how much of a reading culture we have in the states until you're taken out of it--look at the success of Barnes & Noble and Borders! Apparently there is a bookstore or two in Tegucigalpa but in our town there is one tiny little kiosk in the mall that has only a few titles (at least they have the Popol Vuh!)

One thing I saw in Mexico last summer that I really liked was the fact that on Sundays, a day where most families would get together and bike down the closed-off streets of Guadalajara, they had book promotions. There were little booths along the bike routes where families were hanging out that said "Mexico: A country of readers!" and gave away free NEW paperback books, many on Mexican history. I thought it was a wonderful initiative and would love to see it spread to a place like Honduras!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pics from Independence Day, as promised

Costa Rica's Pabellón Nacional

The French teacher shows off her Catracha pride!

National symbols and leaders of Honduras

The final tableau from the civic assembly

The El Salvador display


Ask and ye shall receive!
After my previous entry's rantings about how there is no locally produced shampoo, I happened across an artesanía fair in the town's central park. Lo and behold, there were not one but TWO booths selling aloe vera shampoo, conditioner, and other personal products. The one on the left cost only 60 lempiras ($3)! The one on the right is larger and certified organic, and cost 70 lempiras. Both were made by local women's cooperatives! Jackpot!!! I even got to try a dessert made from aloe vera chunks that was actually quite good (tasted like a cross between lychees and those squishy grapes in canned fruit salad).
Assuming it works for my hair, I'll be buying more of these and supporting the local economy :)