Sunday, October 21, 2012

Adapting to the Honduran Culture

My first week  at CREDIA, el Centro Regional de Documentación e Interpretación Ambiental, has been a very full one. So far, I've helped my boss JD with the revision of a chapter in the informe, or report, that will be sent to the EU to prove that their funds have, in fact, been used to develop beneficial environmental projects.
The office space that I share with my coworkers is gorgeous, surrounded by a lush garden with avocado, mango and mangosteen trees, along with many other tropical plants. We've already taken advantage of the papaya tree in our garden to make smoothies and juices. I love having such easy access to fresh fruit and knowing exactly where they came from. It reminds me of FBC's community shared agriculture (CSA) garden, where we could gather all the ingredients we needed for the meal we were about to prepare. It's too bad they don't have any kale here, as I was starting get used to the idea of having the leafy super-vegetable infiltrate every single dish I would eat.
My time here hasn't all been fun and games. For instance, I can't help feeling frustrated about not being able to wander the streets of La Ceiba (during the day of course) because it's too dangerous for a gringa to do so. Until a couple of days ago when I went to run some errands with coworkers, I had only seen my house, the route to the office which I walk with JD, I or A, and the mall, for which I was also accompanied. It's funny because a couple of years ago I would have been happy to be chaperoned everywhere I went since I didn't like being on my own. Ever since my trip to Europe, I have learned to appreciate traveling solo, along with all the opportunities that come with it. I am still trying to come to terms with my limitations as a white female in a less secure and more machista latino culture.
While I don't like to compare new experiences directly with older ones because it inevitably takes away from the excitement or novelty of the one you are currently living, it's almost impossible not to do so. I do think it's important to recognize it, though.
Until last night, I haven't had any success feeling rested by the time I wake up in the morning, whereas normally I sleep like a tank and you couldn't raise me from my slumber if you tried. I've been tired all week from a lack of restful sleep and it's starting to take a toll on me. I'm not sure if it's the heat, the noises, or a mix of both but I am definitely not used to either.
There are uncanny parallels between my home in San Jose, Costa Rica and my current home in La Ceiba, Honduras. While the chihuahas kept me up in the night in CR, chow chows are barking their heads off until the wee hours of the morning over here. It turns out that our neigbours next door run a kennel and just as they're getting rid of, or rather finding a home for, their last pup, a new litter is on its way. They also have a very whiny and unhappy baby in the mornings. At 7am the children from the local school are screeching with delight as their teacher encourages them to sing louder. The traffic here is constant and someone somewhere is always honking their horn. I know I seem bitter about all these things right now but I'm sure I'll become accustomed to the amplified sounds and appreciate their unique contribution to my experience soon enough.
Another similarity between both homes is the proximity to a gym. I loved having access to the Diamond Gym in San Jose, where I could participate in fun aerobic classes in which the larger lady next to me was doing pirouettes between moves (show-off) while I was stumbling over my feet. We'll see what this Nautilus gym has to offer.
This weekend was just as busy. We had a group of Scouts camp out in the botanical gardens at our work for the first time. While the whole event was a bit scattered and slightly unorganized, it was great to see how excited these kids were just to be there and to learn about nature. We did a night walk and listened to the owls perched high up on tree branches. The fireflies were out in full force, like a flickering constellation in the garden's ebony sky. At the end of our little hike we met a tarantula along the path...just what I needed before going to bed. Good thing I, JD and I live close enough to walk home and go to sleep in our "safe" beds, free of scorpions and other creepy crawlies, but not the mosquitoes or ants. Those nasty things will track me down wherever I go and leave my skin raw and red from feasting on my entire body.
Thankfully, after saying goodbye to the Scouts, we had time this afternoon to go to a beach called Sambo Creek. It was pleasantly quiet and secluded and, although it was overcast, we still enjoyed swimming in the Caribbean Sea. I even soaked up a bit of sun through the clouds.
I hope that, as I continue my stay here, I can be more comfortable getting around on my own while acknowledging which places are not safe to be in, especially as a gringa, or North American tourist. The difference here is that I'm not a tourist but rather a volunteer for a local organisation and, as such, there are certain expectations of me I may not always be so eager to meet. I guess that's just part of working abroad! I'm trying not to let the fact that I've already overheard casual conversations on two different occasions about someone or other being killed deter me from leaving my house. According to the locals there's a lot to discover in this city. I'm looking forward to the day I get to explore some more.
Bring it on, week #2!

1 comment:

  1. The fresh fruit sound scrumptious, the scenery is exotic and memerisic the fact your already into the thick of things is impressive, you should have my blood to deter the evil bugs, Latin culture is all about apperance, the way to travel as a gringa and be safe is appear as poor and sick, so ripped dirty clothes, a nice hood to disguise your pretty face, no fancy women purse hanging from you, and always have a pepper spray at hand. Stay safe and keep sharing your adventure, its obvious you have good company there that is looking after you and that is great.