Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Claro Came Today

It is Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Honduras.  Yeah, I know, it is Holy Week wherever people are celebrating Easter or Passover.  Holy Week in Central America is somewhat different than most of us Norteamericanos are used to observing.  Here, it is almost a national holiday.  Almost nothing gets done during Holy Week, except going to the beach and partying.  Many people get the week off.

This morning, when I got up it was raining cats and dogs, so, first I just lazed around in the bed.  I got up for coffee that my loving Macho Man made for me. I thought I would make the bed later.   I decided just to put a housecoat over my night gown and not get dressed until later.  No need to get gussied up, right?  After all, it is Holy Week and there is a monsoon going on outside.  Nobody in there right mind is out in this. Then I got busy checking email. 

I was playing yet another game of Spider Solitaire, when MM came dashing through the door to my little room and said, "Claro is here!"  Right behind him are three strange men, who have just now walked through my bedroom, into my GTH room, and caught me at my computer with my nightgown on, my hair uncombed, and no makeup, and my bra thrown across the cedar chest, where I left it last night.  MM did throw the covers over the bed and put the pillow shams in place

We have been waiting almost four months for Claro to show up and install the satellite dish.  MM has called them every day to find out when they were coming and every day he has been told a different story, but consistently they have said:
(1)  We have no way to contact the installers.
(2)  We cannot give you the telephone number to our home office.
(3)  The installers will just show up when they show up. 
(4)  Maybe next week.

Why today?  Latin Americans have some strange misconceptions about American women, and most are not very flattering, so I try very hard to avoid embarrassing Macho Man.   I keep the house straight.  I don't wear shorts in public, except at the pool or the beach.  I don't drink from a can  or bottle in public.  I try to be pleasant to everyone.  I don't laugh too loud, or talk too loud. 

Boy, did I blow it today!!!

BTW, the installers forgot the bracket for the satellite dish, so I still don't have TV.  They will be back tomorrow, sometime, maybe.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Road Trip to Novillo

Yesterday Macho Man took me on a road trip.  This one had a purpose.  I have an Internet friend, Jennifer, whom I wanted to meet in person and become "real"  friends.  I  knew Jennifer and her family have milk cows and I wanted some fresh milk to make cheese with, so that was another reason for going. 

Jennifer agreed to let us take some of her valuable time, and believe me, her time is very valuable.  You see, not only does she live on a farm in rural Honduras, Jennifer has eight children of her own, and two that belong to her husband from another marriage. 

To say that Jennifer and her family live out from town is an understatement to say the least.  The directions are something to the effect of  'turn at the intersection between the pink house and the pulpuria, go about 10 minutes, go down the hill and cross the bridge and then cross over the little ford.......We found her though, without any problem.

What a great family!!  Did I mention that eight of the ten children were at home?  Did I mention that the six youngest ones are stair-steps from about age seven down to about one year?

What a great Mom!  The two oldest children are teenagers.  They are polite, with great manners.  They helped with the younger children, and carried on intelligent conversations.  I phrase it this way, because so many teens today can't say three words, without saying "like, you know", or really murdering the English language in some way.

The six younger children were all friendly, outgoing, and very loving.  They are extremely well behaved for their ages, and again, those beautiful manners.

Jennifer and I got along as if we had known each other for ages.  She is a very kind, outgoing, generous young woman.  Nana, you did a great job of raising her.  And, Nana, I got to rock Lara almost to sleep.  Be jealous!

When we started to leave I had about 8 liters of milk.  Jennifer had asked if I wanted some green bananas, and I said sure.  I didn't realize she meant a whole stalk of bananas.  Plus, she threw in a big bunch of chatas, a kind of banana that you cook with.  When I asked her how much for the milk, she told me to put my money away.

Friends are always a blessing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two Sides of Honduras

This is Honduras, or at least the Honduras that the developers, real estate investors, and tourist guides want you to see.  It is beautiful.  I love it. It is the only thing you will see if you only go to the resorts or to the gated, gringo compounds.
                                                 
                                                     
                                                        

Honduras is a country of marked differences, from the tropic heat of the North Coast to the moderate and sometimes cold Western Mountains. We have sunsets that are some of the most beautiful in the world...Sorry Key West, but it is true.  We have some  of the best diving you will ever do off the Bay Islands and Los Cayos Cochinos, better even than the Caymans in my opinion. 

                    You can live in a metropolitan area, and have almost all the amenities you find in the US.  You can live in one of the old colonial towns which are very picturesque, and show the influence of Spain.  You can even live among
ancient Mayan ruins dating to 900 B.C.



This is where I live.  This is considered upper middle class housing-upscale housing.   We have what is listed as a third bedroom and bath.  It is actually the maid's quarters. 



                            


This is my Sister-in- law's house.  This is middle class housing.
She lives here with a daughter, and sometimes another daughter and a grandchild.








This is subsidized housing.  These little houses are two and three bedroom with electricity, water and plumbing.  They cost $10 - $15K USD.  The Honduran Government backs the loan.  It must be paid off in ten years.  This is how many Hondurans are able to buy their own home.




This is my neighbor's house up the mountain.  Can't find him?  I made it easy for you.  It is that little brown blob right in the middle of the picture.  This house is probably somewhere around 10' x 12' and has a thatched roof.  It is made of mud packed into interlaced tree branches, bamboo, or whatever can be used for lathing.  It is a casa de tierra, a house of earth. There is no running water and no electricity, no plumbing.  The kitchen is outside, and probably only consists of a fuego, which is like a BBQ pit covered with  piece of sheet metal and it is wood-fired; and a pila, which is a concrete sink with two sides.  One side holds the clean water, and the other is dirty.  The clean water is carried from a nearby creek in buckets.  You never allow anything dirty to contaminate the clean water.  If there is a pila, the lady of the house uses it to wash dishes, clothes, and children.  If there is no pila, she goes to the creek and beats the clothes on the rocks to get them clean.

Then there is this.  A small village of this.   Many small villages of this.  Again, no water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing.  No outhouse, just a latrine.  These are probably squatters, because Honduran law allows squatters to take land that has not been used for any purpose over a number of years.  The  casa de tierra is actually the better deal, because it does keep out the rain and some of the heat and cold.  There are actually families living here,  The Honduran government says a family is three adults and two children.  Most families are much larger.  This is the reason the Castro/Chavez Socialism/Communism model can easily take hold of a country, by promising to take land from the rich and give it to the people living in places like this.  The countries who profess to be democratic, especially those in the Western Hemisphere, need to take action, or the wolf will be at the door.

Honduras is a country of approximately 8,000,000 people.  The median age is 20.3, but most of the population is well below that. According to the CIA World Fact Book about 36% are un-or underemployed,  nearly 60% of the population lives in poverty. and of those employed, only 20% are employed in industry.  The rest are almost evenly split between agriculture and services.  We have a very young population ready to come into the job market, and virtually no jobs.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ho.html

The minimum wage, after is was raised 61% last year, is L5,500 ($290.70) per month.  Many people work for less because they have to, some because one whole area of the country was exempt from the raise.  The canasta basica, the basic grocery cart,  contains contains 30 items.  As of 2008 it costs L4,309 ($324 USD), and it has gone up since the increase in the minimum wage, and the recent political turmoil.

So, what can be done to change this?  I believe the answer is in education.  The school system here is deplorable.  Children are not taught to think logically and strategically.  Last year, the children only went to school 100 days, due to a teacher's strike.  The teachers strike for just about any reason, and the only ones to suffer are the children.

As expatriates, we cannot change the system.  What Macho Man and I have decided to do is mentor a child.  This child is a family member.  We will see that he gets an education.  We will probably do some home schooling.  He wants to learn English, so he can talk to me, but that may be because I buy him chocolates.  ;-D  We will try to make sure he learns to make his own decisions, not based on propaganda, but on facts he can document for himself.

I am blessed.  I am very rich compared to most Hondurans.  I have potable water, electricity most of the time, enough to eat, and a roof over my head.  If I am not my brother's keeper, I am at least his helper.  I keep remembering, "Even as you do for the least of these my brethren."  I don't believe it is optional.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Clearing Up Some Misconceptions.

I had another article planned for today, but it will have to wait for another day.  This one is brought on by some comments I have received recently.

1.  Sleeping under a mosquito net in Honduras is a necessity, not a sexy, romantic decoration.  It especially not romantic at 3: AM, when you have to fight your way out to go to the bathroom. 

2.  We did not move to Honduras to avoid paying taxes.  The IRS insists that we pay taxes no matter where we live or where we earn our money.  My Social Security is taxed, even though I paid taxes on the money before it went to Social Security.

3.   We did not lose our rights as US citizens when we moved to Honduras, not even the right to pay our taxes.  We are allowed to vote in any Federal election, either by absentee ballot from our former State, or by absentee or personal ballot at the American Embassy in Tegucigalpa.  Florida allows us to vote in State elections by absentee ballot.  Not all States allow this.

4.   I have no problem being a Democrat and a Catholic at the same time.  I guess this was referring to the abortion issue.  I do not condone abortion.  It would never have been a choice for me.  On the other hand, I do not think I have a right to force my beliefs on others.  I also do not believe we can legislate morals. 

5.  Here comes a sticky one.  I do not believe in socialized medicine, but I do believe in a national insurance program.  I believe that health care is a basic right, not a privilege for those who can afford it.  I don't believe anyone should die because they have no insurance.  Before you start throwing rocks at me, go to http://www.factcheck.com/ and see how many lies have been told about the bill before Congress, on both sides of the aisle.

6.  Here comes another sticky one:  I do not believe in being soft on illegal aliens, but I do believe we need to make legal entry to the U.S. affordable.  My husband came to the U.S. legally.  It took us almost a year to get his green card, and three years to get his citizenship.   It was very expensive.  We were lucky because we both had good jobs and were able to pay.  It cost us another $10,000 to the State Department to bring my Honduran children to the States.   That was 1989.  Today, it costs more that $20,000 for a family of four, very hard to come by when you are working for about $200.00 USD per month and the basic foods for a family of five cost approximately $330.00 USD.  That's a subject for a later blog.

This year we went in the opposite direction and I now have my Honduran green card, only it is blue; and cost a lot less. 

7.  I am not a bleeding heart liberal.  I am actually pretty conservative.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why We don't Kill Our Teenagers

I have been blessed with exceptional children.  That being said, there have been times I would have gladly pushed any one of them down a flight of stairs and told God they fell.

The oldest son is Daniel.  Daniel is my American child, born to me and my first husband.  Definitely one of the good things that marriage produced.  He is a long distance truck driver, based out of Omaha, NE.  His wife and family live in Miami.  He is father of three, grandfather of five.  He started early ;-D.  This post is not about Dan.

My daughter is Elisa.  She has been mine since I married her father almost 25 years ago.  Elisa came to the US when she was not quite 14, did not know a word of English, and had been abruptly informed that she was moving to Miami to live with her Papi and his new wife.  She graduated high school with honors, went to college and obtained her master's in child psych and special education.  Elisa now teaches special needs children in the Broward County School System, getting them ready for mainstreaming into the system.    She is the mother of one of the Grandbrats.  She is an American citizen.  This post is not about Elisa.

Then, there is Alex.  Ah, yes, Alex.  Alex is Macho Man's son from his first marriage, and he has also been mine for more than half his life.  He is a Gunnery Sergeant in the USMC.  He has done his time in Iraq.  He is the father of  another Grandbrat.  He is an American citizen by choice.    This post is about Alex.

Alex was 15 when he came to live with us.  In Honduras that meant he was a man.   Of course, to me, the Gringa, also referred to as 'that woman', he was an adolescent child.  You can imagine the conflicts this brought about.  The first years he was here, he would tell anybody that asked that he hated the US; he hated Miami; he hated the food; he hated the schools, but most of all, he hated me.  Alex was my gang wannabe.

Alex and I fought over his long hair.  We fought over his pants hanging down so low they were in danger of falling off, and being so baggy the entire family could have fit in them.  We fought about what time a teenage boy should be in for the night.  We fought about his choices for friends.  You get the picture.

Thank goodness, as we both grew older, we came to really love and respect each other.

Last night we were talking to Alex and he said the most incredible things to me.   He said he wants me to know I am his real mother.   He said that he really regretted that when we were still in the States he had not called us more often.  He said, "Now that you are in Honduras, this country feels so empty!".

I am so glad I did not push him down those stairs!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Today is a Wonderful Day

Today is a wonderful day in Trujillo.  When I look outside the sun is shining, and even as high up as we are, you can see how clear the bay is.  The wind is blowing at about 5-10 kph and is cool.  In fact, it is cool enough to need socks on my feet,  which is really cool for me.

I found two of the mosquito nets.  They were the ones for the single beds, but I have one spread out over our bed, and it will work for now.  No new mosquito bites for the last couple of days, so my irritability level is down tremendously.  Macho Man is happy about that.

Our tickets to the States are bought and paid for, and yes, they are both round trip.  We will be in Florida for 10 days.  My son-in-law is receiving an award from the Hollywood (Florida) Police Department for being Officer of the Year, so that's a good thing.  We will be getting our taxes done, not so good a thing.  We will also be seeing one of the Grandbrats, so that is a wonderful thing. 

The other Grandbrat is having her quinceñera in California, a good thing.  Unfortunately, we can't attend, so that is a sad thing, but we will be thinking about her that night.  For those of you who are not familiar with quinceñeras, that is an elaborate party which is a combination of a 15th birthday party, a debutant party and a right of passage.  It is very important in the Latin culture, and I am so sorry we cannot attend this one.  It is when a young Latina is recognized as no longer being a child, but a young lady.  Good for you, Grandbrat!  You deserve a beautiful day.

Monday, March 1, 2010

IN MEMORIUM


Sarah Josephine Griffin Chapman
31 July 1918 - 28 February 2010

My Aunt Josephine died yesterday morning.  She was 91 years old.   This was not unexpected, nor was it a bad thing.  I admired my Aunt Josephine.  There were times we were at odds, but I never stopped admiring her courage and her tenacity.

Aunt Josephine was an amazing, strong woman who lived an extraordinary life on her own terms.  She even managed to die on her own terms, in her own home, in her own bed, with people she loved and who loved her around, some of whom only she could see.

Josephine was born outside Americus, Georgia, a small farming town in Southwest Georgia.  After graduating from school in Americus, she went to nursing school at the University of Alabama, Birmingham and joined the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.
She served during World War II in North Africa and in Italy.  She was assigned to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba in the mid 1940's.  While there she had an unfortunate accident which ultimately cost her her left leg below the knee.  

Josephine was the first amputee ever called back to active duty by the Navy.  She was recalled to serve at the rehabilitation hospital in Oakland, California during and after the Korean War, to teach young servicemen to walk with artificial limbs.  I was told that when  a patient said "I can't.", she would pull up her skirt, show her artificial limb, and say, "Yes, you can.  If I can, so can you." 

And she could.  She could bowl, she could dance, and she could ride a bicycle,  One of my earliest memories of Aunt Josephine must have been when I was about six.  Santa brought me my first bicycle, and
Aunt Josephine decided to show me how to ride it.  She could pedal the bike forward, but she had not yet mastered backpedalling, and as a result, had not mastered the art of braking.  Her artificial foot slipped off the pedal, going through the spokes on the front wheel, and she hit a tree.  Didn't stop her, not for a second.  Back onto the bike, and that day we both learned to ride it.

After her second time retiring from the Navy, Aunt Josephine and her husband, Kenneth J. Chapman, moved to Atlanta.  Josephine worked as a civilian nurse at St Joseph's Hospital when it was still located  in downtown Atlanta.  Uncle Ken died in 1993, and she lived alone, and later, with a caretaker until her own death. 

As I said,  an amazing, strong woman who lived an extraordinary life on her own terms.

Rest in Peace Aunt Josephine.  I will miss knowing you are here, and that you loved me.

An afterthought:  My Great-Grandmother Sallie died when she was 85; my Grandmother, Ruth Pennington, died when she was 87; my Mother, Kathleen, was 87; my Aunt Josephine was 91.  Do you suppose Macho Man really knew what he was saying, when he said, "Until death do us part."?  When I am 87, we will have been married 44 years,  half my life, more than half his.