April 29, 2007

La Gringa, the teacher

My student "M" learning to crochet

I've been teaching El Jefe's niece "M" to crochet.

El Jefe has been hearing all about what a hard time she is having with a crochet project for school. M's mother doesn't crochet so she can't help. El Jefe's mother took M one weekend and apparently spent most of the weekend just trying to untangle a huge mass of knotted crochet thread. I've heard stories of her work mysteriously unraveling before her eyes with a lot of related crying and hand-wringing going on.

I kept telling him that I could help her. I've been crocheting ever since my grandmother taught me when I was 9 years old. In general, I would make a terrible teacher as I don't have much patience, but I have successfully taught several people, including a couple of children, to crochet without anyone crying or hating me or anything. In fact, I taught one his other nieces to crochet in the U.S.

Apparently her parents finally got desperate enough to bring her to the dreaded La Gringa. It must have been a hopeless situation because they have never even asked me to help with the children's English!

Thank goodness they did! I diagnosed the problem(s) instantly. In the first place, her crochet hook was no good at all. The tip was bent over into an 'L.' There is no way in the world anyone could have crocheted with that hook. The store just sold her a defective hook and no one noticed, including her teacher, that it was the main reason she was having a problem.

Second, she had a double ply synthetic thread of some sort that was so slippery that I couldn't even crochet decently with it. I would never use such a thread − definitely not an appropriate thread for a beginner.

Third, her project was a blouse! A blouse is an awfully big project for a beginner, not to mention that she had NO instructions whatsoever from her teacher except to make a chain that fit tightly above her bosom, connect it and start crocheting until she reached her waist. What the.....? Is that any way to teach something? There are zillions of crochet patterns, including plenty of free ones on the internet.

By the time I heard this, I was starting to get a little angry. This poor girl was doomed to failure from the beginning. The blouse was a terrible idea on every level.

First of all, it would take weeks, if not months, for a beginner to complete using a tiny single crochet stitch with a fine thread. Second, as I tried to tactfully point out, if you crochet a non-stretchy tube to fit tightly above the bosom, it will not fit the other areas of the body. And how on earth could you get it on and take it off?
Third, a "blouse" like this could not be worn with a bra. She's a chubby 14-year-old who would have looked like an underage hooker wearing it. If she ever was able to finish it and was able to somehow put it on, I'm sure her father would have instantly forbid her to wear it which would have made her ashamed of her work.

So, I gave her a new hook, found some different thread, and taught her the basic stitches, while I tried to find out if there was any possible way that she could do a different project than the blouse. She seemed to think that it would be all right with her teacher, so we found a pattern in one of my books. It's still a very ambitious project for a beginner, but hopefully it will be something she can do.

We got off to a slow start as I was checking her work and kept having to rip parts out and start a round over. That's not me being mean, that's just a fact of crocheting − I do it myself all the time when I make a mistake. There are very few errors that you can fix, you just have to rip it out and start again if you want it to look nice. Well, I did cheat a little. I usually re-crocheted the part I ripped out myself so it wouldn't take so long and she wouldn't get discouraged.

Saturday evening we couldn't continue because the power went out. I asked her when her project was due, thinking she would say next month or something. Nope. It's due Monday! Oh, great! We're on round 8 of 25 rows and each round is bigger and more time consuming than the last. Now if she fails crocheting, the family will think that it's all my fault.

Aside: This is one of my projects. The pattern is from a little Spanish-language crochet magazine called Puntorama Ganchillo. The magazine is available in the grocery stores and gas stations. They have some excellent, unusual projects which use diagrams and very little written instructions.

El Jefe just took M home tonight (Sunday) and hung around awhile. He said she seemed much more confident and happy about her project. Her parents are so relieved, too.

Well, so far, so good. Tomorrow we'll find out what the teacher had to say.

April 25, 2007

The $74 banana split

$74 banana split$74 banana split

Even though I've been in Honduras for almost 6 years now, it took me a long time to think in Honduran Lempiras. Every now and then a Lempira price still pops out at me. This sign in particular caught my attention because the prices on one side of the menu have dollar signs in front of them.

Now that will catch your attention: $74 for a banana split.

This Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin Donuts shop opened recently in La Ceiba. It is vastly popular, especially the donuts. The ice cream prices seem very high to me considering the size of the scoops they serve here − very, very small.

I'll convert some of the prices to U.S. dollars and maybe some of you can tell me how that compares with U.S. Baskin-Robbins prices:

  • Brownie Sundae $3.33
  • Banana Split $3.92
  • One scoop cone $1.90
  • Pint $4.50
  • Quart $7.67
  • Gallon $13.50

The prices are definitely much higher than Honduran ice cream prices, but then Honduran helado (ice cream) is not really ice cream, since it rarely contains any cream at all. Like so many things, price is considered more important than quality and there isn't even the option to pay more for a better quality ice cream, at least here in La Ceiba.

The best Honduran brands could only be marketed as ice milk in the U.S., and most would fall into the "mellorine" category since they are made with non-fat powdered milk and thickened with vegetable fat. The number one ingredient on some labels is water.

I'll bet that most Hondurans would be amazed to know that the U.S. even has ice cream consumer protection laws.

We usually make our own ice cream. When we were in the U.S., Ben and Jerry's ice cream was, of course, our favorite. (New York Fudge Chunk! Heath Bar! Chubby Hubby! Cherry Garcia! I still remember them. Yay!) We also liked Starbucks ice cream − wow, that ice cream will give you a real caffeine jolt!

Neither one of those brands are sold in La Ceiba, but it is just as well because when we do buy ice cream, it often has been melted and refrozen and is all icy − not acceptable for an ice cream connoisseur like me.

April 24, 2007

Psst! Give me gas money

We were listening to a radio program the other day while we were painting in the garage. As usual, people were calling to complain about roads not being repaired, politicians not doing their jobs, being cheated by a business, etc.

One call in particular was sad. It was the president of a patronato. A patronato is similar to a homeowners association. Like in the U.S., some such organizations are very strong and have some influence with the politicians. We definitely need more and stronger patronatos but they aren't easy to organize.

In this case, the local government had promised to repair some roads in this colonia (neighborhood). After years of waiting and false promises, a municipal official told the patronato president that they could now do the work but they had no money for gasoline for the equipment. This is typical and true of most government organizations. It's not unusual to have to pick up a city or other government official to take them somewhere to do their job, sometimes even police.

So the president, saying "No hay de otra," (There is no other way), took up a collection from the residents of the colonia for gasoline and turned it over to the city official (I wish I could remember his name).

Ha ha! Now the equipment is in Jutiapa (a town many miles away) and all his neighbors think that the patronato president is a thief.

No good deed goes unpunished in Honduras!

Here are the lengths that one town went to in order to force the government to pave their roads as long promised:

Pretty impressive. Did it work? I don't know. They did get another promise.

April 23, 2007

More creepy crawlies from Frank

beetle, Honduras

Frank is still working for us, painting, yard work, and odd jobs. He delights in bringing me his creepy crawly finds knowing that I like to photograph them to show all of you.

I was able to convince him to put this beetle back into the garden. I told him that the pinchers were to capture other insects, so that is a good thing.

weird bugs on avocado tree, HondurasThese bugs were on the back of some avocado leaves. I've never seen such a weird looking bug. It appears to have four eyes and at least six legs, but actually, inside it was just some kind of worm. Frank said it was something bad, so we killed them.

lizard eggs, HondurasFrank found a nest of lizard eggs in one of my raised vegetable beds and accidentally (he said) broke one. After we took the photos, he put the eggs and the baby lizard back. I doubt that the baby lizard lived.

I know I'm disappointing you, but I don't have time to try to look up the name of this lizard. It's thin, sort of black and white, and appears to run on its hind legs with its head held high, which is a little creepy. I often find this lizard in my vegetable beds and I assume that it is eating bugs.

sorzal, HondurasWe have a canal covered with an iron grate in front of our garage to allow the rainwater to drain off and not fill up our garage. The other day Frank was cleaning the canal out and found a poor bird stuck inside the PVC tube at the end of the canal.

The poor thing was soaking wet and its head was a little bloody from struggling inside the tube. I was so concerned with trying to find someplace we could put the bird where it would be safe from dogs while it recovered that I completely forgot to take a picture.

Sorzal, HondurasHowever, a few days before Frank had found the same type of bird (maybe the same bird?!), unharmed but sopping wet in Chloe's mouth. So here is a substitute photo. Frank and El Jefe took a whole series of photos (complete with ruler!) so I feel I must show at least a few of them.

I couldn't find this in my bird book, but I think the color is "off" because of the slobber bath from Chloe the Rottweiler.

Sorzal, HondurasFrank said this bird is called a Sorzal and that it is the bird that sings so beautifully every afternoon starting about 3 p.m. I think this bird is new to our garden because I'm sure I would have notice its lovely song before now.

I tried to look it up on the internet and one source said Sorzal was the national bird of Honduras. Other sources said that the Red Macaw was our national bird.

April 21, 2007

A little corruption humor

Modelo 2006 (2006 Model)

After yesterday's post about the 9-year-old, we definitely need a little humor here, albeit dark humor.

According to a 2006 study by the
Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción (National Anticorruption Council), 95% of Honduran citizens believe that corruption exists and 63.6% say that there is too much corruption. "The biggest part of the problem is that there is no justice....there is resentment on the part of the population."

Who are the 5% who don't believe there is corruption? Why, the corruptos, of course! Who are the 36.4% who don't think there is too much corruption? The ones who benefit from the corruption in the form of jobs, mordidas (bites/bribes), and special services, of course!

País podrido (Rotten country)

Hi! I'm Honduran, but I'm not corrupt....yet....

In a January article, La Prensa columnist Sergio Zavala wrote that the theories of free market, globalization of economy, and the liberalization of prices which function in societies based on trust don't work in a primitive society like Honduras. "In reality, in Honduras we don't have trust in each other, in our governors, in the state institutions, in the inefficient public services...., and in certain public authorities, which don't offer any legal security not only for national or foreign investors but not even for the Honduran population."

Espere un momentito... (Wait just a moment...)

Jefe (Boss)
Entrance for the corrupt − Entrance for the honest

I guess that you just have to laugh about the things over which you have no control.

April 20, 2007

Nine-year-old child to give birth

Pregnant 9-year-old Honduran girlPregnant 9-year-old Honduran girl
Photo: La Prensa

La Prensa has been running a series of articles about a 9-year-old girl who will be giving birth to her own father's child in a few weeks.

The story came to light when the girl was hospitalized after being beaten by her mother after she insisted that her father had been "touching" her (since she was 6 years old according to the girl).
The girl says that she repeatedly told her mother, who was seldom home because she worked in the field cutting coffee. She also told her 17-year-old sister, who yelled at her father, but he got angry with her and nothing more happened.

The mother is said to have told her daughter to lie to the officials that she was 13 years old and that her father was her step-father. (Twisted thinking that that would make it okay!) When questioned, the mother admitted that she noticed the girl was getting a little fat but thought it was a tumor. During the hearing, the mother grabbed and pushed the child, saying it was her fault that her father would go to prison.

The father, who is now in jail awaiting trial, claims that this was a mutually consensual relationship. Incredible! How does a 9-year-old child consent to having sex with her 56-year-old father?

The fiscalia (district attorney) states that the mother is equally culpable but that there are no laws under which she can be charged. They are asking for a prison sentence of 30 years for the father, but have concerns about the two younger daughters still at home with the mother.

The director of the governmental children and family commission has asked the Congress to reform the law so that mothers or others who permit such acts will be subject to the same penalties as the perpetrator. She said that they see cases like this daily but this one is getting attention only because the girl became pregnant.

The National Congress approved a motion to provide pre- and post-partum medical care, and is analyzing a motion to provide further economic, educational, and psychological support for the girl and her baby. According to La Prensa, many Hondurans and foreigners have also offered support.

Because the young girl is so small, doctors will perform a cesarean. The authorities are deciding whether to return the girl to her mother or place her in a children's center. Another option being considered is to pay someone to care for her and the baby.

The following is a translation of an interview with the girl, who plans to name her baby Cindy Alejandra.

How are you, little princess?
And do you go to school?
No, I don't like it.

Why, my darling?

And what do you like to do?
Cook and wash.

And what food do you know how to make?
I only grind the corn ... make lots of tortillas.

Are you going to have a baby, my darling?

And who is going to care for the baby?
I, I am going to care for her, I'm going to bathe her and change her....

And do you want your daughter to study?
Yes, I want her to be a doctor.

And what are you going to do with the little baby when it is born?
I am going to care for her, I'm going to wash other people's clothes to maintain her and send her to school....

Sweetie, and what do you have for your daughter?

Nothing, the people will give me things, but I don't have clothes or toys.

Is it true that you pray every day to God and the Virgin Mary?
Yes, I ask the Virgin Mary to help me and that neither the baby nor I will suffer more....

April 19, 2007

Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee, La Ceiba, HondurasGreat Kiskadee

This is the most common bird in our garden. The Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus derbianus) is very similar to the Boat-billed Flycatcher and the Social Flycatcher but is easily distinguished by the rufous wings and tails. The reddish brown color unfortunately only shows up in the top picture.

Great Kiskadee, La Ceiba, HondurasThey look like little bandits to me with the black stripe across their eyes and the little black cap. The last photo is a juvenile and doesn't yet have the black cap.

The Great Kiskadee gets its name from the varying sounds that it makes which sound like 'kis-k-dee.'

My book, A guide to birds of Mexico and Northern Central America describes the voice as:
Calls loud, raucous, and screaming, including a loud k-reah! or kih-kerrr, and ki ke-reeh or kis-k-dee, etc. Dawn song (?) a raucous kyah k-yah zzk-zzik kyar, and longer variations, repeated.

Great Kiskadee, La Ceiba, HondurasThey aren't exaggerating about the raucous and repeated! They also make a noise which sounds exactly like it is saying "Christopher!" These birds go nuts screeching loud calls at daybreak and at first we thought we would never be able to sleep in. I guess it is kind of like people who live near train tracks − now we don't even notice it most mornings.

Great Kiskadee, La Ceiba, HondurasThe personality of this bird reminds me of the blue jays that I used to have in my garden in Texas. They don't like other intruders in their territory and often chase the other birds away.

In fact, when we first moved in, they used to throw themselves against the windows repeatedly as if they were trying to chase us away, too. I don't mean that they accidentally flew into the windows as many birds have done. They would stand on the windows sills and attack the window over and over again! It sounded as if someone was trying to break into the house.

Every afternoon, around 3 or 4 p.m., two or three of them congregate on the railing on the upstairs terraza (terrace). That is where most of these pictures were taken. It is hard to get a photo as, generally, the slightest movement from inside the house will scare them away, but these were taken when I was sick in bed in December and I just happened to have the camera on the nightstand.

They nest on our roof and in our rain gutters (not a good thing!), making a covered nest of grass and weeds. These birds can be found in the lower altitudes throughout Mexico, Central America, and the southernmost tip of Texas.

April 17, 2007

Another stinking store in La Ceiba

It was good while it lasted, but it didn't last long. I practically raved about the new (WalMart-owned) Paiz grocery store back in December .... but now Paiz stinks. Literally, it stinks. In some parts of the store, I had to walk around with my hand over my nose and mouth, the smell was that bad.

I wanted to talk to the manager to tell him that the last time I was there, I spent L.4,000 and this time I spent less than L.1,000 because I couldn't bear to spend that much time in the stinkin' store. I didn't, though, because I know they won't care and will just consider me another "demanding gringa." Besides, the manager has a nose, too.

I ended up regretting that I even bought as much as I did, because the bad odor had permeated the vegetables as well. I made a pasta salad and most of the veggies, even though they looked very fresh, had picked up an "off" flavor from the smell of the store.

This is unbelievable, but even the Kleenex has the odor. I can smell it every time I blow my nose. The plastic grocery bags had absorbed the odor as well. We had to throw them out instead of reusing them or the whole house might have stunk.

Hmmm, now that I think about it, I think I'll email WalMart and see what they have to say about it. They might care.


Later.....Hmmph! It seems WalMart does not want to hear from anyone who doesn't live in a U.S. state with a U.S. zip code. This makes me angry. McDonald's website is the same way. So anyway, now for anyone who wants to know, La Gringa lives at 1234 Main St., Anytown, Alaska 10000.

I'll keep you posted as to whether or not I get a response. BTW, I mentioned that I am a stockholder (true), except now they probably won't believe me since I was forced to lie about my address.

April 16, 2007

Post No. 300

Chihuahua puppiesThe cutest puppies in the world

That's all.
Post number 300. In almost exactly nine months.

The end.


Oh, alright! As long as I'm here, I'll tell you about the puppies.

They are still the cutest puppies in the world. They love to play outside and now, finally, Joey has started playing with them, too. At first he acted like he was afraid of them.

We still have all four of them. A few people have looked at them and say the stupidest things.


  • They don't look like chihuahuas. Are they really chihuahuas?
  • How big is their poop?
  • My friend has a chihuahua but his dog's ears stand up. Are they really chihuahuas? (Give them a break! They are still babies. Their ears don't stand up all the time until they are about 3 months old.)
  • Were they all born at the same time? (Three times he asked me this as if he didn't believe me! I guess he doesn't understand how the birds and the bees work with dogs.)
  • Are they really chihuahuas? (This was after seeing the mother and father with the puppies − like maybe we just borrowed some grown chihuahuas for the scam?)
  • I saw a chihuahua once but it had bulging eyes. Are they really chihuahuas?
  • What's the lowest you'll take? ..... Well, no, I don't want to buy one, I just want to know what is the lowest you'll take.

This shows you the nature of Honduras. Everyone assumes that everyone else is trying to cheat them. And, usually they are.

So, does anyone want to buy a real chihuahua?

Remember, dogs are better than kids because they:

  1. Eat less
  2. Don't ask for money all the time
  3. Are easier to train
  4. Normally come when called
  5. Never ask to drive the car
  6. Don't hang out with drug-using friends
  7. Don't smoke or drink
  8. Don't have to buy the latest fashions
  9. Don't want to wear your clothes
  10. Don't need a gazillion dollars for college, and...
  11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children.

Thanks to Patty for that last part. ;-)

April 15, 2007

Cultural differences: To debone or not debone

In Honduran comida tipica (typical food), I mentioned the custom of serving meat on the bone in food that is held in the hand or eaten from a spoon. I've often wondered if this habit is a sort of passive-aggressive behavior among the Honduran women. It's said that many Honduran men expect their women to serve them, to cook for them three times a day and clean for them, even if the man isn't working and the woman is.

In North American culture, anything that is served with a spoon should fit on a spoon or be able to be cut with a spoon. It's that simple. It seems logical. When I cook chicken soup, I cook the whole chicken with the bones because the bones add a lot of flavor. When I'm finished, though, I spend half an hour or more deboning it and cutting the meat into spoon-size pieces.

In Honduras, the chicken is cut up into smaller pieces for the soup but left on the bone. The only way to eat that meat is to pick it up out of the soup and eat it from your hands. The same thing happens with beef on the bone and caracol (conch) which is cut up but left in pieces much too large for the spoon, or even the mouth for that matter.

Every culture has foods that are eaten out of hand on bread, pitas, tortillas, pie crusts, crackers, etc. − sandwiches, burritos, pizza, hors d'oeuvres, empanadas, egg rolls, and a million other things. In the U.S., these types of foods don't include inedible things like bones that you have to fish out. It has always surprised me that Honduran women aren't expected to debone the food for their men before serving it in a tortilla or a bowl of soup.

I'd like to think that they are making a statement: "I've done enough; pick out your own bones!" It may be that they just don't have the time. It takes a long time to make tortillas for 6 or 8 or 10 people, sometimes three times a day, not to mention all the rest of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and caring for the children.

But it is more likely that the custom arose because they just don't want to waste any meat that would cling to the bones.

Although American women get a bad rap, I do go to the trouble to make sure that El Jefe doesn't break a tooth on his burritos or have to fish out chunks of bones from his soup. So there!

April 14, 2007

Honduran comida tipica (typical food)

Honduran white corn tortillasHonduran white corn tortillas

Travelers often expect that Honduran food will be like Mexican food. Some worry that it will be too spicy for their taste − no worries there. In general, Honduran food is not picante (spicy) at all, except that many people douse their food with hot pepper sauce. But that is done at the table, not in the kitchen.

I'm not an expert on 'real' Mexican food, except for living in Texas (Mexican restaurants) and vacationing in Mexico a few times. I have been around this country somewhat but most of my Honduran eating experience has been in La Ceiba. With that stated, I would say that Honduran food is not like Mexican food. This article is about some of the common everyday food of Honduras.

Rice, beans, bananas, scrambled eggs, and tortillas are the staples of the Honduran diet, but they aren't really prepared the way they are in Mexico. Even the tortillas are very different, especially the corn tortillas. White corn masa (corn flour) is used for tortillas.
It isn't even possible to buy yellow corn masa in the stores. The white corn has an interesting, earthy flavor quite different from yellow corn tortillas.

Honduran flour tortillasFlour tortillas are used for baleadas and, less commonly than corn tortillas, as a side with a meal. Flour tortillas are usually much thicker than Tex-Mex style tortillas, depending upon who makes them. As I've mentioned before, tortillas are NEVER served if bananas or plantains are in the meal. It's the law! Although, it is quite common to be served rice and potatoes on the same plate.

In this part of the country, only red beans are used. Only recently have other types of beans become available in the La Ceiba stores. I've read that black beans are also used
in other parts of the country. Beans are usually boiled with a little chopped onion, garlic, green chile, culantro (cilantro), cominos (cumin), and salt until all the vegetables disappear. Guineos (bananas) and platanos (plantains) are usually boiled, but sometimes fried whole or cut into tajadas (slices) or smashed into tostones.
Honduras culture includes foods called enchiladas, tacos, tamales, and burritas and none of them are anything at all like the Mexican foods with the same names. A Honduran enchilada is a very small, round, fried corn tortilla topped with ground meat, a slice of boiled egg, shredded dry cheese, and ketchup, more like a nacho. A Honduran taco is the same as what is called a flauta in Tex-Mex food, a thin rolled corn tortilla filled with meat and fried, resembling a cigar shape.

A Honduran burrita, as opposed to a Mexican burrito, consists of two flat flour tortillas stacked on a plate with a piece of fried or boiled beef or pork (sometimes including the bone!), a little refried beans, a sprinkle of shredded dry cheese, and maybe a slice of avocado placed on top of the two tortillas. The idea is that you pick
up the food with your hands and distribute it to the two tortillas which are then folded in half to eat.
Honduran tamales are usually filled with cut-up chicken pieces which include the bone, a few green peas, carrot bits, and rice or potato pieces. So again, you are putting your hands into the food to pick out the meat and eat it from the bones. Strange habit. Tamales are formed in banana leaves and sometimes appear to be boiled rather than steamed because the excess water often has to be squeezed out before eating them. Corn husks are used for sweet tamalitos.

For those who can afford it, lots of greasy, fried or grilled red meat is a very big part of the diet. Fried chicken and pork chops are very popular, too. Soups are surprisingly popular considering the hot climate. Not many vegetables are used in the soup, or anywhere else, and the meat is usually on the bone or in pieces too large for the spoon so that, again, you have to put your hands in the food to eat the meat from the bone.
Typical Honduran food, for the most part, includes seasonings of comino (cumin), culantro (cilantro), and the ever-present cubitos (bullion cubes). Recado (ground annatto seeds) and "azafran" (actually not saffron, but lesser expensive cúrcuma) are used more for coloring than for flavor.
Honduran food is generally not spicy food although liquid chile is used often and some meals are served with chismol (pronounced without the 's'), a non-spicy version of Mexican pico de gallo, marinated onions, or chimichurri (a mixture of parsley and/or other herbs, garlic, vinegar, and oil).

The corn grown here is white field corn and not very tasty. Sometimes street vendors sell grilled corn; it is like eating balsa wood with a slight corn aroma. The expensive yellow corn in the grocery stores comes from Guatemala on a slow truck (in other words, it usually isn't very fresh).

Except for the imported Guatemalan sweet corn, it seems that yellow corn must be against the law here. That's why we enjoyed growing our own corn − I told El Jefe that once he tasted fresh, tender, sweet corn he would never be satisfied with that balsa wood again. He agreed!

This is by no means a complete list of Honduran food; it is just the more common foods and may not be representative of other parts of Honduras.

Update:  For a very good blog written by a Catracha with lots of Honduran recipes, most of which are in both Spanish and English, see Cocina Hondureña y Mas.

Related articles and restaurant reviews:

Honduran fast foods
How to make tortillas
Tostones (twice fried plantains)
Al Corral (carne asada restaurant)
Arrecife's (seafood restaurant)

April 13, 2007

Around La Ceiba, Honduras

Laundry on a clothes line, HondurasLaundry day

This is just a few ordinary scenes from around La Ceiba, Atlantida, Honduras.

boy carrying laundry, HondurasA boy carrying laundry from the river walks alongside his little sister. She appears to be about 4 years old and is carrying a gallon of water from the river.

horse, La Ceiba, HondurasHorses are often tied up along roads to graze. I often see riders using some sort of wooden saddle. It looks like it would be very uncomfortable for the horse. This horse has some sores along its shoulders that may be from that type of saddle.

I tried to give a horse a carrot once. The owner acted like he thought I was crazy and I guess I was because the horse wouldn't eat it. I thought horses like carrots?

gas station, La Ceiba, HondurasSome of the gas stations are always busy with a lot of people hanging out there. It is against the law to carry people in the back of pickups. Useless law − everyone does it.

The gas stations here still have attendants who pump the gas and take your money. If you are going to use a debit card, you always first have to ask if "¿hay sistema?" (Is the system working?) or you could be in big trouble if you don't have cash. For the self-service pumps, you have to pay in advance.

This particular station couldn't accept debit or credit cards for the first year or so that they were open because they couldn't get a phone line!

El Centro, La Ceiba, HondurasMany of the stores on this street are virtually hidden by the sidewalk vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to shoes and underwear.

The cities always talk about getting rid of the street vendors or moving them to another area. Sometimes they even knock down their wooden huts, but the vendors always come back.

train in La Ceiba, HondurasThis cute little "train" runs between El Centro and the mall on the south side of town. Sometimes I've seen it in other areas so maybe it makes a scenic tour. It looks like fun. Notice it carries a Honduran flag and a U.S. flag.

downtown, La Ceiba, HondurasIt is almost impossible to get a photo in La Ceiba without getting a zillion of these wires running across the picture. They never use the heavier wires, they just keep adding more and more wires.

In many areas, the wires hang dangerously low. Once in San Pedro Sula, a tall truck got tangled in the wires and drove for a block or two, pulling down all the telephone poles as he drove. Oops!

April 12, 2007

Houses in La Ceiba, Honduras

typical Honduran house, La CeibaTypical Honduran house, La Ceiba

These are some photos of houses here in La Ceiba, Atlantida, Honduras. The above house is very typical of most homes on the north coast of Honduras. All except the poorest of homes have a concrete or concrete and iron muro (fence). Middle class homes usually have a largish front porch or a carport used as a front porch. Windows are almost always covered with iron security bars, often decorative. Roofs are usually made of corrugated tin or zinc sheets. Pale tropical colors such as this green, sky blue, yellow, or peach are popular. The deep tropical colors used in Mexico are rarely seen here.

I was taking a closer look at their flower beds in front and I noticed that they are filled with trash that people walking by have dropped there. Jeesh!

Honduran house under construction, La CeibaThis mansion has been under construction for more than a year. It has some nice details. I'm guessing that this house will be painted cream or beige with darker beige details. We'll see! It seems to be a trend that new "mansions" are being painted very subdued colors or white.

Below is another house under construction. I'm not sure what is up with the three concrete covered windows in the center of the second floor − a change in plans, I guess. I'm willing to bet that this owner decided to save money and didn't use an architect.

concrete Honduran house under construction

The big gaping garage seems to always be the focal point of most houses. Most homes do not have garage doors. Garajes (garages or carports as we would call them) are normally tiled with ceramic tile and often serve as an outdoor party area as well.

tin Honduran house

This is a shack alongside the Cangrejal River. Construction materials consist of wood, tin, and cardboard. Note the contrast of the houses on the other side of the river. This house is definitely at risk when the river rises.

Hondurn mansionConstruction has stopped on this mansion for several months now. A brother of the owners was in charge of the construction and rumor has it that he stole the owners' money. You can't trust anyone in Honduras. Seriously, I've heard so many stories like this.

It is a beautiful house but do you see a huge flaw in this design? There is a telephone pole right in the middle of the otherwise imposing entrance. Something like that would drive me absolutely crazy! It is possible to have a pole moved, but of course you have to pay for it.

The bars that look like antennas sticking up from the muro are the guidelines for the electric security fencing.

tin and wood shacks, La Ceiba, Honduras
These are more shacks alongside the Cangrejal. Note the muro (fence) dividing the properties. The rocks, concrete blocks, and wood on the roofs are to keep the tin sheets from blowing off.

Most likely these are invasionistas (invaders) who have built homes on property that they don't own. I don't know that for sure. I'm just guessing because these houses are in a dangerous area when the river floods.

new colonia, La Ceiba, HondurasThis is a new colonia (neighborhood) being developed. Formerly it was an old orange grove. The land was filled in with rocks and gravel and then covered with fill dirt.

The rocks and gravel come from the river. I'm not sure how many more years that can go on before the rivers are irreparably damaged. The fill dirt comes from the small mountains − they actually just dig them away with heavy equipment. By raising the level of the area, now during tropical storms, the major roads on two sides and a nearby colonia flood.

The owners were granted an environmental permit from the city who supposedly analyzed the development for problems such as this. No one seems to be doing anything to improve the drainage. They haven't started building yet, so maybe the city is going to make them correct the situation.

April 10, 2007

Pastel de Nada

A visitor Googled "recipe for pastel de nada" and Google sent her to my blog.

Heh, heh, heh.

In case you don't know Spanish, as this person probably doesn't, someone must have been kidding her. Pastel de nada means cake of nothing.

P.S. While looking for a cake photo, I found the worst birthday cake ever.

Heh, heh, heh.

Scrubbing, caulking, spackling, and painting

termite damageTermite damage

I spent the day scrubbing, caulking, spackling, and painting. El Jefe built some big wooden shelves for the garage a few months ago. He got inspired after making the chicken coop (which still has no roof − long story) and decided that he is a carpenter. Hooray!

The wood was sopping wet (fresh) so we couldn't paint the shelves at the time. I made him get untreated wood because the treated wood also comes wet, dripping with who-knows-what-kind of poisonous chemicals. I can't stand to even be in the same room with treated wood. My head starts pounding, my chest hurts, and I feel like I can't breathe. My fingers go numb when I touch treated wood so I didn't want him sawing and drilling holes in that stuff and breathing the fumes.

messy garageSo, guess what happened in the three or four months that the shelves have been waiting for paint? TERMITES! Keep in mind that our garage walls, floor, and ceiling are concrete. The garage is surrounded by a concrete walkway. There is nothing to attract them except those few pieces of wood in the shelves. Yes, they ate away part of one leg and were working their way up. I'll never hear the end of this.

They took everything off the shelf to try to clear out the termite tunnels and paint the shelves. Man, we have a lot of junk! I said "Why not paint the wall behind the shelf, too, before you put the shelves back and put everything on them." El Jefe loved that idea and Frank was just shivering with excitement at the thought of painting. Everyone who has ever watched someone pick up a paintbrush thinks they are a painter.

messy garageThe problem is that everyone wants to paint but no one wants to do the preparation work, at least not to my (high) standards. They were already stirring the paint and picking out brushes while we still had mud tunnels on the walls. Jeesh!

So I started scrubbing the termite tunnels off the walls. Why didn't I let the maid do it? Maid? What maid? Apparently she only wanted to earn some money for Semana Santa. She was going to take off last Thursday and Friday for the holidays, but she didn't show up last Wednesday either.

Monday she called about 9 a.m. to say that the bus was late. Well, actually she called and hung up before I answered so I would call her back. But then she never came at all. She didn't show up today either.

We heard from a neighbor that she even told her cousin that she liked working here and that we were nice people. What?! I don't get it! I am so disappointed in her. I thought that she was more mature and responsible than the others. I guess not.
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