June 10, 2008

La linea está mala

The following article is a guest blog from "Gringamadrina". She told me a little about her relationship with Honduras:

I made my first trip to Honduras in 1988 as a patron of Save The Children, and that journey was a life changing event for my husband and me. As a social worker, I had seen plenty of poverty and hardship in the United States, but nothing had ever prepared me for the brutal and stark conditions of rural Honduran poverty.

From there, things just mushroomed. As of now, we have several "godchildren" (ahijados) whom we support so that they can study. All together, we have three in university, one in high school, and two more about to enter high school. We also have several other families who we help in lesser ways. I've been incredibly lucky to forge enduring friendships with a group of Honduran teachers, a number of medical people, and many, many people in the communities. It really makes me count my blessings to see the challenges that these folks have to overcome every day just to live their lives.

In addition to trips to see "our kids", I've twice gone down as an interpreter for Water 1st, an amazing organization that works with rural communities in Honduras and elsewhere to help them realize their dream of having safe water in their lives. Water 1st's projects are sustainable, grass-roots projects because they are conceived and built by the community with help from outside resources.

Here is Gringamadrina's article:

The guest blog from Leslie, former La Esperanza Peace Corps volunteer, had me smiling. Change has surely come to even the most remote corners of Honduras with the advent of the cell phone.

Map La Esperanza, Intibucá, HondurasWhen I first visited La Esperanza and the surrounding communities of Intibucá back in 1988, the only way to make a phone call was a visit to the Hondutel office. Hondutel had an absolute monopoly on phone service everywhere and, if my experiences were typical, a switchboard operator's job could be very lucrative.

I'd drag myself into the office at the end of a long, exhausting day and plunk down the phone number of my beloved back in the States. With a big smile and my best Spanish, I'd ask the operator to make the call. "La linea está mala" (the line is bad) was the invariable answer.

After a few sad trips back to the little hotel where I always stayed, I learned that the miraculous solution to the bad line problem lay in folding some lempiras into the piece of paper with the phone number! Then, it was all over but waiting for your turn in one of the three wooden phone cabinets.

The man sitting in front of the old-fashioned switchboard (I never saw a woman working there back then) would painstakingly read the number to a person in the Central Office (Tegus?) and, when the number was finally reached, he would shout out the number of the phone cabinet you were to enter. Conversations were always difficult as the quality of the connection was miserable and echoey. Plus, of course, the Hondurans seemed to think that they had to talk loud enough for the person on the other end of the line to hear them without the actual use of the phone!

Even so, there were times when no amount of money could solve the very real problem of an poorly maintained, overburdened system and the wait could stretch into days. Then, when the American voice answered on the other end, it was the sweetest connection in the world!

Thank you so much, Gringamadrina, for being a guest blogger here at the Blogicito.

If you would like to submit a guest blog article, it will be greatly appreciated by me and my two bum fingers. Send it to me at my email address in the "About me" section at the top of the page. Photos are welcomed, too.

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