Monday, April 18, 2011

Porch Sitting

It is a community of porches here.  Everyone has plastic chairs set out and most afternoons are spent on the porch gossiping with the family.  Each person that passes the porch gets an “Adios” or a “Que la vaya bien”—“Have a good one”.  If you stop to say a few words, they’re going to bring out a chair and you might be there for hours.  Maybe that’s why a lot of times they say “Adios” instead of “Hola” in passing.  Maybe Adios means, “Don’t even think about it.  I’m not staying.”  When we first got here, that is something that seemed strange to us, saying goodbye before you have a chance to say hello.  Everyone gets a greeting though.  If you don’t greet someone it is taken as an insult.  Just the other day, I didn’t see a colleague of mine on the street in passing and she asked me at work if I was mad at her because I didn’t say hello.  “Not mad”, I said, “It’s just that I didn’t see you.”

When I was growing up, there seemed to be much more of a community than there is now.  No one really needed to lock their doors at night.  Families did things for fun together.  Kids turned the TV off to hang out with their friends outside.  Sometimes I think we sacrifice sentimentality for efficiency.  It’s too hard to get everyone together for dinner most nights, so let’s just abandon that idea all together.  Why deal with the heat and the bugs outside when I can watch TV indoors.  I can tell you that when I am having a bad day, it really lifts my spirit to walk down the street and get a greeting from about every door I pass.  It reminds me of my neighbors growing up, Paul and Don.  Paul and Don would always be porch sitting and bantering back and forth, sometimes as if they hated each other.  Paul always called me Patty, which would have normally bothered me, but for some reason it didn't.  When I was riding my bike or walking past his house he would always greet me with a "Hey Patty."  When he died a couple years ago, I thought, "Well, Paul was old.  That makes sense."  It wasn't until tonight that I realized how terrible it was that he's not around anymore and how I should have seen him again.  He would have liked that.    

The incessant greetings do come with downfalls—but they are always good downfalls.  Sometimes when you actually have to be somewhere it just isn’t reasonable to make a stop at each house.  We went to the river a couple days ago and on the way we visited a quaint farming neighborhood.  Mario knows a lot of people in the neighborhood and they would scream his name from the porch giving us the obligation to go say hello.  Each time we got to the porch we would start talking and one of the family members would hurry inside and get out some chairs before we could leave.  I really wanted to go swimming, so each stop I thought, “Oh great.  Here come the fucking chairs”.  Now I know why everyone in Honduras is late.

I decided to save some money instead of taking a trip for Semana Santa.  I thought it was going to be much more boring staying here than it actually is.  Not having to work has given me the chance to connect with the town and practice my Spanish.  With just one Gringo left in town, it is pretty difficult to speak English.  I had a great night tonight just sitting on a neighbor’s porch talking.  It was an “Aha!” moment in Spanish where everything clicks and you surprise yourself.  I am starting to be able to speak without thinking.  When I do try to think about what I want to say in Spanish and it finally clicks I get a fuzzy feeling in my head telling me, “yup, you got it.  Go ahead and say it.” 

As well as helping my Spanish, this week has given me an opportunity to catch up on some reading.  As the weather turns warmer in the United States, we are beginning to enter reading season.  Grab an iced tea and find a shady spot on the porch to enjoy a good book.  Here is a synopsis of one of my favorite books I have read here so far.  Going to go for a hike tomorrow somewhere I haven’t been.  Hope to have some pictures for you.  Please stay tuned…

“Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins

This is a tantalizing tail of the inner workings of international economics and the way the United States positions itself politically and militarily to promote its interests abroad.   John Perkins tells his James Bond-like tale of manipulating presidents and other important international figures to undertake development projects through his consulting firm, which eventually leads their countries to corruption and financial ruin.  John started his career as a Peace Corp volunteer in Ecuador.  After his two year stint, he was recruited by a family friend to join the National Security Agency, only to be advised to join a private international business consulting firm because they do the same thing and get paid better.  His training was that of some sort of international government agent, although he was never officially considered under the employment of the U.S. Government.

The first part of the book reads like a first person adventure story.  The second half is almost like an apology letter for the bad things he’s done.  Definitely makes you think about the dangerous mix of business and politics.  It is a treat for any conspiracy theorist.

C.S. 100 Dollar Challenge--With 100 U.S. Dollars you could buy 47 liters of peach jam.  Here, you can have all the jam you want, but it's the peanut butter that will put a hole in your pocket.   

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