I lived for several years in Tegucigalpa, Honduras operating a small non-profit for children. A friend, Kathy, and I often met for a cafecito* at one of the coffee shops in the capitol. We were two Americans who happily shared conversations about our lives in Honduras.
One aspect of our coffee klatches was speculating on the occasional sighting of white people. The presence of white people in the sea of brown faces that passed in front of us was not an everyday occurrence. We would speculate if the rare pale-faced newcomers were missionaries, embassy workers, or even rarer, hapless tourists. After all, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was more known for murders and violence than photo-ops and cultural landmarks. It was not, and is not today, a tourist town.
In order to not embarrass ourselves or startle the unfortunate white souls we spotted, we had a code.
“Do you see those RWPs ordering coffee?” I would say to Kathy.
Or, she would say to me, “Do you see that RWP trying to hail a taxi?”
It just seemed nicer to be overheard saying “RWP” rather than the non-political correct moniker, “white people” or “white person.” Also, it was entirely possible we would see the RWP again, and perhaps, be introduced formally at a church gathering, missionary meeting, or at an embassy social event for other Americans in the capital. I didn’t want to be remembered as the idle coffee shop wag who singled out unsuspecting white people as objects of speculation.
Now, I live near New Orleans, Louisiana. I still see RWPs. But this time, the tag doesn’t stand for Random White People. No, I live among Rich White People. My home is in an affluent pocket of citizenry near Lake Pontchartrain which sits on the opposite side of the lake from New Orleans.
There is a veritable sea of white people in this community. The population here is overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and have a taste for luxury brand of automobiles. When I am out and about town, I speculate on the person or persons who steps of the Lexus SUV or Cadillac Escalade. Are they stepping out to attend hot yoga sessions or pick up sushi for dinner? Remarkably, even their luxury vehicles are usually white.
No matter where I live, I am bound to see RWPs.
*Cafe = Coffee. Central Americans have a tendency to add -cito or -ito to the end of nouns, signifying small.
I haven’t written anything in over a month. Dear readers, what must you think of me? Or wonder where I am? I am home once again, in Louisiana.
I don’t have plans to return to Honduras. Spanish lessons in Honduras gave me a boost in language acquisition. Language skills could help if I eventually decide to move again to a Spanish-speaking country.
One thing I neglected to write about was that I arrived a day after a festival in Siguatepeque, Honduras. Obviously, the citizenry had called a city-wide party in which everyone spent the day with the express purpose of spreading litter. Soda bottles, plastic bags, and all manner of paper were spread across the town. One could scarcely walk the streets without said rubbish sticking to the soles of one’s shoes.
In addition, all dogs, owned or stray, had been invited to make their mark on the streets as well. It must have been a great turn-out, one of historic proportions. I was amazed at the output of the varied canine population. My shoes bear the marks, too, of the dog-in-street celebration.
Seriously, Siguatepeque has a litter problem. And a dog control problem. In stark contrast, the neighboring city of Comayagua was nearly spotless. The historic center of Comayagua had actual garbage bins strategically placed. I didn’t see any food wrappers in the streets although the city was full of poor farmers from the surrounding villages there to sell their wares as well as buy goods in town on the Saturday that I spent in Comayagua. There was not one stray dog to be seen the entire day I spent in Comayagua.
Moral of this story: Visit Comayagua and enjoy a provincial city with colonial buildings. If you should visit Siguatepeque, don’t wear sandals. Wear old shoes to trample the trash underfoot that’s everywhere in the city.
That’s all folks. I will try to write a bit more frequently.
While skimming headlines this morning, I saw that Fodor, the travel guide, has a top 10 list of places to avoid in 2018. Honduras made the list. Since I lived in Honduras for a number of years, and I plan on returning later this month, I thought it was worth my time to read the article.
Honduras has experienced widespread protests and instability over a recent presidential election, but Fodor doesn’t mention those issues. Fodor cites the high murder rate, especially within the homosexual community. If one were to go to Honduras, I assume that looking for dates among the LGBTQ community would be ill advised. Got it. Of course, traveling anywhere for the express purpose of dating/intimacy seems dangerous, or is it just me that feels that way?
Back to Fodor’s list.
It seems reasonable to advise people to stay away from places like Myanmar, where there are incredible amounts of people fleeing the country due to ethnic cleansing. It just makes sense to avoid GOING to a country when 600,000 plus are LEAVING for neighboring Bangladesh. It sounds unstable, right? The travel guide writers didn’t have to overthink that one, I would guess.
Did you know that Missouri is dangerous, too? In the country’s midsection, this state is supposedly a hotbed of civil rights violations gone amuck. They cite an example of two men who were hunted down and shot by Missouri citizens who suspected that the men were Muslim. Then there was a debate in the Missouri legislature concerning rights of the LGBTQ community wherein one legislator argued that homosexuals may or may not be human.
You can find the complete NO LIST for 2018 here. I am still planning on going to Honduras at the end of January. If something would deter my trip, I’ll let you know.
Yesterday, I saw my eye doctor. He told me I can stop using eye drops for glaucoma. The pressure in both eyes are normal I had two surgeries in the fall to relieve the eye pressure as well as correct a blockage in the right eye.
Surgery is such a loaded word. Laser surgery on the eyes is quick and almost pain-free. The entire process takes less than thirty minutes. I had two procedures, one on each eye in separate visits.
This fall, I felt trapped as I needed to schedule surgeries. My eye pressure was sky-high, I had a blockage in one eye, and the beginning of damage to eyesight in the right eye. It wasn’t a good time to stray far from a good eye doctor.
Now I am free to move about the country or even beyond my country. Currently I have no set job. I am tutoring students privately. Mostly foreigners seeking to improve their English, or conversely, English speakers seeking to improve their Spanish.
In January 2018 I will be in one of two places. Will I go to Siguatepeque, Honduras? Or San Jose, Costa Rica? Both offer schools to improve my rudimentary Spanish skills.
Siguatepeque is a charming village in the heart of Honduras, at a comfortable altitude and a comfortable distance from the violence and political unrest of the major cities. The school is not as good as most but I know the people to be good and honest.
The school in San Jose has an old and solid reputation for helping gringos (and gringas) speak the language. The school in Costa Rica needs an answer this week.. They have schedules and rules. And, they want more money than the school in Honduras.
Why do I want to learn more Spanish? I want to start a new mission somewhere. Probably, it will be in Siguatepeque, Honduras, or Managua, Nicaragua. Wherever I go next, I need to be in a place where I have a sense of community. In a word, friends.
Okay. It’s your turn, you dozen or so readers out there. Comments appreciated on where I should go. After all, I am free, free at last. Thank God Almighty.
While I was away for a short trip abroad, the heating and air-conditioning unit was replaced in my home. When I got back, I admired the new shiny contraption that sat alongside the house. “Great,” I thought, I hope the new thermostat works.”
My older system had a thermostat that had two settings: very cold or very hot. It didn’t matter that numbers from 50 – 80 degrees were pictured clearly above the dial. If one wanted air-conditioning, one turned the dial to cool. No matter where the dial was set, it got very cold, very quickly and stayed that way. I spent summers in the house in long pants and long-sleeves. In the winter, one used the heat setting, and my little house became a hot-box. Shorts and t-shirts were in order.
I didn’t want to change out the system. It was a cranky old unit, but I had grown accustomed to its idiosyncrasy.
Now I had to adjust to a smart thermostat that could be programmed for the day, the week or even online. The technician kindly left a small booklet of instructions filled with tiny words one could barely see with readers. After a vain attempt to locate a magnifying glass worthy of reading the minuscule print, I managed to read a few words with my bifocals.
“How smart can this little box on the wall be?” I thought.
It had become unseasonably cold in south Louisiana. I poked a few times at the new unit’s thermostat box. During the night I woke up sweaty and warm. I looked at the thermostat. It was a roaring 75 degrees, not the 62 I thought I had set.
I reset it, aired myself out a bit on the front porch and climbed back into bed. For a few hours all was fine. Then, the smart HVAC system did it again. It was back to roaring hot when I woke up.
As is often the case at this time of year, the days became warm again. Very warm. I changed the mode to cool. I punched in 75. I left the house. When I came home, the house was cold. Really cold. I knew before I entered the house that something was wrong. The windows were frosted. The doorknob was cold to the touch.
Now, the smart thermostat decided I did indeed want the house to feel like 62. I looked around the house for a quilt, a coat, gloves. I turned on the oven and threw open the doors to the house. The house warmed up, eventually.
I have a smart phone that’s smarter than me. It knows where I want to go and tells me so when I get into my car. I have a TV system that knows my viewing habits very well. In fact it can predict what I want to watch better than I can by browsing. Now, I have a smart thermostat that is smarter than me. It decides the climate of the house, not me.
Until I figure out how to use this new contraption, I am keeping all types of clothing out: shorts, t-shirts, sandals as well as sweaters, heavy socks and boots. I am prepared I suppose no matter the temperature outside or inside.
But this heating/cooling thing has got me thinking. Why don’t we live more in harmony with what Mother Nature is doing outside? When I was a young girl, we had one AC window unit in the house, to be used when mother saw fit. Generally she didn’t see fit. Too much electricity she reasoned when the same affect could be obtained in other ways. We cooled off by sitting in the shade of the two oak tress in the backyard. We ate chilled watermelon on a wooden table under the porch. We drank water from the hose. In fact we often were UNDER the hose too. A good dunk under the hose was a sure-fire way to get cool.
Schools were not air-conditioned until I reached the junior high in town. We opened windows, operated fans, and learned as best we could when it was hot out. We didn’t need air-conditioning in the old white Buick, either. As mom sped along, we opened the windows and hung our heads out of the window.
Generally, winters in South Louisiana are mild. However, there were occasionally frosty mornings. In those cases, we bundled up. My dad believed in doing the job personally: he buttoned my overcoat to the very top button, wrapped a scarf around my neck, and provided me with matching hat and gloves.
I waited for the school bus like that, perspiring and red-faced, waddling onto the bus as if I were dressed for a blizzard. I didn’t need a heated bus to get to school. I had layers!
It seems smart to just go with the seasons. I got on well enough without central air and heat as a young girl. Maybe we should toss out the smart phones, wireless thermostats and central heating and cooling units.
Honestly that’s never going to happen. I am just as spoiled as my fellow southerners. I want air conditioning and central heat. I just need to get smart and learn how to use the thermostat in my house.