November 15, 2006

Littlewoodenman, another ex-pat Honduran blog

Update: Matthew has deleted all of his Honduran blog so you can't read these articles anymore. So never mind!

I just got caught up on Matthew's blog. I stupidly thought he hadn't been posting because no articles were showing up on my Bloglines, until I realized that I hadn't set up his blog feed. Jeesh!

Anyway, littlewoodenman has some great insights into Honduran life from the perspective of two Canadians in a smaller (than La Ceiba) Honduran town.

Most recently Matthew gave a short lesson on cussing in Spanish. When trying to show off your Spanish-cursing abilities, be warned, however, that the meaning of some words vary considerably from country to country.

For example, the word 'pendejo' is a perfectly acceptable word in some South American countries, meaning kid or silly or foolish in an affectionate way. In Honduras (and Mexico, I believe), however, it is extremely insulting, meaning a**hole, stupid, or fool. I hear that word a lot, mostly from employer to employee, and no, I never ever use this word.

In Honduras, insulting someone's intelligence (even when they are being very, very stupid) is unforgivable. Better to insult their mother than their intelligence, even if they have only a third grade education.

I notice wide eyes and shocked expressions even when I say things like, "That (meaning what
*I* just did) was so stupid" or "I made a stupid mistake." It's a cultural difference, I guess. I think most North Americans and Brits can laugh at themselves and admit when they have made a mistake or done something stupid. That doesn't seem true for most Hondurans.

In "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," Matthew writes about how strange it feels to see Christmas trees and icicle lights and polar bears with Santa hats here in the tropics.

I started to comment on his blog about some of the Honduran traditions of which I'm aware, but then decided I had so much to say that I should write an article, which I will do soon. Sorry, Matthew, for stealing your idea! But that's the way of the blogosphere, isn't it? We all have to add our two centavos to the conversation.

"Armed and (Not) Dangerous" talks of his shock of seeing the open proliferation of weapons, ranging from pistols to AK-47's and how he has become accustomed to it. I'd have to say that was one of the biggest cultural shocks for me, too, even though I came from Texas, which has the (mis) reputation of being so heavily armed. You 'ain't seen nothin' until you come to Honduras.

Matthew tells what it feels like to be a minority in Juticalpa in Minority Report. Can you imagine if North Americans pointed and yelled at every foreigner like small town Hondurans do! Political correctness is not a part of Honduran life, where everyone, including other Hondurans, is described by the color of their skin, "the black one, the brown one, the white one, the pale one, the mixed one, etc." or their age or weight, "the old one, the young one, the fat one, the skinny one." Hondurans are able to detect the slightest difference in skin tones that I honestly cannot recognize. Some Hondurans have an almost Oriental look and they are invariably nicknamed "El Chino."

His blogging partner Angel wrote of some of her perceptions a few months ago in Time Flies When There's Little to Spare which included this:
For people with access to education, there seems to be little different from the way Canadians think. However, those without access to education and more traditional lifestyles have very different attitudes toward life than Canadians do. Since the future is so uncertain economically, health wise and politically Hondurans focus on enjoyment of the moment without concern or planning for the future. However, this leads to poor work ethics, little initiative to work extra hard for extra pay off or even to have pride in the work being done. The local saying goes that Hondurans are lazy and would rather have an egg to eat today than a chicken to provide eggs for many days to come. Unfortunately, 80% of Hondurans live below the poverty line and most of Olancho is rural so, education could not be more necessary.
This reminded me of something our architect told us about the construction workers: "Ellos están trabajando para el sandwich," meaning people only care about working for what they need to eat today.

I guess many of the poor are so beaten down that they can't even think about saving for a better life tomorrow or working hard to get a raise, a better job, or more customers. In fact, I've had two maids quit the day after I gave them an unexpected raise. I told them that I was happy with their work. I guess they couldn't take the pressure. I'll never figure it out.

My all-time favorite is a hilarious post by Angel called Honesty and Self-Images<. (Jill, you must read this one.) I'm not as convinced as Angel that there is no maliciousness intended.

In some ways, their blog validates mine because it almost seems like we are leading parallel lives, except, of course, that they are doing something useful and I'm not.

Oh, too bad you can no longer read their whole blog. It was a great insight into life in Juticalpa, Honduras.
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