Thursday, June 16, 2016

Driving me crazy

There are aspects of life here in Honduras that could drive me crazy – if I let them. But, before recounting a few recent frustrations, I need to share an inspiring experience.

Tuesday night, after a day in Santa Rosa, I headed to Delicias, Concepción, a village on the side of a mountain to meet with the youth base community.

I arrived a bit early and had some time to talk with one of the young men in the group who is also a catechist. I asked him what group of children he worked with.

He and two others work with the smallest – from five to eight years old. A lot of their time is teaching the children basics – how to make the sign of the Cross, basic prayers, the commandments, and so on. I reminded him that it would be good to spend time talking about the life of Jesus.

He mentioned that there were forty-one in the class. There are three teachers, but that’s a handful.

Then he mentioned that the children have gone several times to visit a woman who is sick. The kids love it as does the woman. What a model of service the catechists are giving the children.

Slowly other young people arrived – mostly men! We spent the meeting discussing friendship, a theme I had developed with the leaders at their meeting earlier this month and which they wanted me to share with their groups. I’ll be repeating this workshop with at least two other groups in the next two weeks.

At the end of the meeting they had a few announcements. One of the leaders discussed when they would help a member of the community plant his fields. He had recently been in an auto accident and was unable to work as well as he had. So four of the guys will be going out next Monday to help him with his fields.

This reminded me of what I often heard from students from rural areas in Iowa. When someone was injured, sick, or incapacitated, the neighbors would often help with the planting or the harvest.
What an example of solidarity!

I returned to Plan Grande just in time to avoid driving in the driving rains that fell for several hours that night. But when I arrived all was in darkness. The electric was off until about 2:30 the next day.

Driving rains that flood my upstairs terrace and hours without electricity are not uncommon – and really don’t drive me crazy.

But what threatens my mental health are the many occasions where things are done without any real sense of how much they inconvenience people or affect nature.

First example: A month ago a section of the streets in Dulce Nombre was paved. The road was closed and people had a long detour to get through in order to reach the many communities which are beyond Dulce Nombre.

That was bad enough but then another section was paved. Instead of paving first one half and then the other the whole short section was paved. But this ended up blocking passage to the roads that connect to about forty villages as well as the town of San Agustín. To get around this cars and busses had to go through narrow, often one lane, dirt roads amidst coffee fields.

Second example: Two years ago a major flood at an intersection of roads leading to the same villages ended up causing a number of people to move. Also a small evangelical church was flooded. As I saw it, the flood was caused by a lack of planning and a disregard of environmental conditions. A road was widened with some drainage ditches; but a large coffee owned had cut down trees and planted coffee near there. The lack of trees and vegetation to retain the soil resulted in filling the ditches as well as a small bridge under the road.

The bridge was never really rebuilt; it was really just a few concrete tubes under the road, which often were clogged by the dirt, rocks, and sand.

Well, now someone is building by the area and, of course, the drainage ditches are filled and the water is trying to find its own course. And so the evangelical church was again flooded.

Third example: My Honduran driver’s license expires on Friday and I went to renew it. You need three medical notes (eyes, general health, and psychological health). I had a note from my eye doctor and got the two other notes in about five minutes (paying 220 lempiras – about ten dollars). Then I went. Sorry, I was told. You have to come back tomorrow.  The office doesn’t have the material to make the licenses. I’ll see if they have the material tomorrow.

This is not uncommon. I have friends who have had to go to Tegucigalpa several times to get their residency cards. Their residency is approved but they have to get the cards. But sometimes the system is down; sometimes there is no plastic to laminate the cards or some other material is missing.

Such is life here.

But what really does drive me crazy is the way that the poor are treated. As I waited to get some papers photocopied I had to listen to a rant against campesinos which was filled with contempt. I almost wanted to go elsewhere.

This is in contrast to the owner of a small company that roasts coffee as well as doing tasting and cupping. The owner took several hours one morning to explain the work to a group of small farmers. He and his employees treated the men with utmost respect.

What really drives me crazy – mad – is the continuing poverty and the way that some government officials use aid as a way to influence votes. The people are tools, mere instruments, of their political ambitions. I also have seen this with some aid groups. How many teeth are we going to extract today; how many patients are we going to see.

In contrast, a few months ago a small US medical aid group, AMIGA, came to two of the rural clinics in the municipality of Concepción. I ended up helping with some translation. What I saw was a real personal touch and a real concern for the well-being of the people. I noted this with one woman who had serious breathing problems as well as with a man who was experiencing profound grief after the brutal killing of one of his sons. These people were treated with respect. And they group did not forget the people. A few months later they sent someone with vitamins for the pregnant women whom they had seen. God willing, they may continue to be coming to our area.

Even worse is the continuing repression of people who fight for human rights. Berta Cáceres was killed for her work with the indigenous; many are threatened. Journalists are threatened and a station has been banned. 

And so frustrations abound, but there are signs of goodness. May the latter increase.

I finished this entry on Wednesday afternoon but couldn’t post it since the internet wasn’t working. Then the electricity went off again and hadn’t returned by Thursday morning. Another cold shower. But dawn was gorgeous.

I went to Santa Rosa de Copán. I got my license after about an hour and a half. I also got my new glasses – now to get used to them.

I’m sending this from Café de las Velas in Santa Rosa where I’m having lunch before returning to Plan Grande.

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