Friday, April 13, 2007

My Face was Raining

Selenia and I have been hanging out a lot lately. She works in the office with me and while Sara and Kevin are away in Tegucigalpa we drive home together and make very small talk. Selenia and I are close to the same level in understanding each other's language, so we have some pretty insightful conversations on the 15 min. drive home.

A few days ago I was trying with a lot of difficulty to tell her a story in which I was crying because I was frustrated. I am not a big crier, generally, but it seems a lot easier to cry about insignificant things here.

The story was going well except that I couldn’t remember the pivotal verb, so I made it up and told her with my very best and confident Spanish that my face was raining. She looked at me and then leaned into the steering wheel and laughed. It was not exactly the reaction I wanted. I thought I was being incredibly clever and inventive. I imagined my expressions working their way into the dialect of the Intibuca region, trickling down into their poetry, literature, and spoken words. Influencing generations of Spanish speakers who would utter my beautiful descriptions and not realize they had originated hundreds of years before from the mouth of a Canadian girl riding down a long dusty road.

At least that’s what I daydreamed about and I thought it was a little more poetic than when I didn’t know the word for rooster and asked Nadia where the man-chicken was.

But this was sadly all a daydream and I realized then and there that I would most likely never influence anyone except into uproarious laughter at my expense.

This brings me to my very first Spanish lesson.

I met Jose Fausto at the office a few weeks ago. He was working as Adam’s translator, a student who stayed and worked in La Esperanza doing research for his PhD. Jose gave me his contact info and told me to get in touch with him if I wanted to practice my Spanish. Based on recent reactions to my grasp of the language, I thought it was high time I sent him an email.

He responded the next day. He used 14 exclamation marks. I thought that this must mean it was going to be a very exciting lesson. We decided to meet in the centre of town and then go get something to eat from there.

I got home from work yesterday and was struggling to pull my bike through the front door, about to leave to meet Jose, when Luis pulled up in our front yard to drop off one of the company trucks.

Luis is one of my favorite people. He drove Curtis and I back to Tegucigalpa so Curtis could catch his flight back to Canada. He waited on the first level of the airport while we said our good-byes on the second level. After Curtis had gone through the security check I made my way back down to the first level to find Luis. I sort of just stood there in a sad stupor...with a rainy face... letting people bump into me. I didn’t find Luis. He found me. He put his hand on my shoulder and led me out the big glass doors.

On the drive home, while I sniffled, he told me how sad he thought it was that Curtis had to leave. Then he told me about his wife and fifteen year old daughter that live in California. That put things into perspective a bit, but the nice thing was he didn’t act like my situation was any less as sad and said that it was ok that I was upset. Then he offered me one of the Dunkin’Donuts that he was bringing back to La Eza for the rest of his family. Dunkin’Donuts are worth their weight in gold in our little town. So I felt golden.

Luis asked me where I was going. I tried to tell him I was meeting someone for Spanish lessons. He told me to have fun at the gym and to grow my muscles, and then he laughed and lifted his arm and made a muscle. Oh god, I really need to get to that lesson.

I was about 5 pedal pushes out of my driveway when the rainy season started early. When it rains here, it doesn’t come on gradually. Someone turns a hose on over your head. I made it to the park in the centre of town completely drenched and saw Jose hunkered against the side of an enclosed gazebo. It turned out that the gazebo wasn’t just a useful place to hide from rain, it also housed 3 ladies who sold baleadas and coffee.

We went inside and Jose ordered me 2 baleadas. I guess I looked a little hungry and road weary. There was a small staircase leading upstairs. Jose suggested we sit up there so I could keep an eye on my bike. Good idea. I like my bike. I started up the stairs and turned back to Jose to thank him again for the food, at the same time I stepped up and hit my head very hard on the beam running along the roof. I swore like a coalminer. The bustling baleada establishment came to a standstill. The people eating on the bottom floor all looked up at us. Jose stared at me. Then he gracefully broke the silence with a smile on his face.

“haha....Marion you are too big”

Thanks Jose.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You say good-bye, I say hello

We are in the height of the dry season here in La Esperanza. Which means the dirt road that takes us to work everyday has turned into a giant dust bowl. The dirt here has a slight orangy tinge which, when mixed with even a small amount of perspiration creates a nice carrot toned film across any exposed skin. I try to console myself that in Canada people pay good money to be made more orange, although most people try to achieve the bronzed look, not the dusty carrot.

I can’t get used to all the dust here no matter what I try. Curtis brought me allergy eye drops from Canada, which was very caring, but still doesn’t stop the constant itchiness.

There are other things here that I’ve had trouble getting used to. For the longest time I would say "Hola" to people as I passed them on the road on my bike going to work. For the first while they would either just look at me a little strangely or laugh and say "Adios". I did not understand why everyone was doing this and actually started to get somewhat offended by it. I am just trying to be friendly. Why won’t they say hello back? Why do they say goodbye? Do they want me to leave, to take my iPod and fancy (for Honduras) bike and ride back to Canada? I just didn’t get it. After thinking about this through several confusing bike rides, I realized that we just have it mixed up in Canada. We say hello when we are passing each other, when it actually makes more sense to say good-bye, since you are leaving.

With this new revelation I set out on my bike today to greet people on the road the Honduran way and try to make up for being such a silly gringa the last few months. There is this one little boy that has always gotten such a huge kick out of my daily screw ups, and for some reason I could never get it right with him. In my defence, he is always the first person I see on the road every morning so he usually catches me off guard. I see him. I forget. I say Hola. He laughs and says Adios. Repeat.

Today I swore to myself that I was going to get it right. I played the scene out in my head. I would see him coming, and wait until just the right moment and then I would wave and say Adios! Like it was nothing, while Shakira provided the background music to this beautiful cross cultural exchange.

I turned around the corner and spotted my little friend. There he was walking up the road towards me, smug as can be. He totally thinks I’m going to screw it up, he’s waiting for it. Well not this time mi pequeno amigo. Not this time. You’re not going to have the stupid gringa story for your friends at school today. Not today. My heart started to beat faster, as I peddled to reach him. Wait for it … wait for it. Act natural.

Just as my mouth opened to speak, a truck carrying 15 Hondurans barrelled around the bend. PHOOF. We were instantly covered in a giant suffocating cloud of Honduran dry season dirt road dust. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I stumbled off my bike and groped for my handle bars to steady myself. I was paralyzed in the ditch. Out of the swirling dust and grit, a small figure approached me.
I sputtered. I coughed. I knew what I had to do. Leaning over my handle bars I gasped and tried.. Ah.. Adhh.. Addd. Achoooo!
Through the blur I could make out his grinning face. " Adios chica en la bici"

In a few moments the dust settled and I was alone on the side of the road. I used the back of my hand to wipe the orange coloured snot and tears off my face. I needed my eye drops.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Nadia and Marion: so alike it's almost weird

This is Nadia Pineda aka. Pinata -- Sara's pig was named after her - this is no small honour

I work with her everyday in the office, she is seen here modeling one of the new tool boxes we purchased together in Tegucigalpa for the workers.
Let me break it all down for you

Nadia: speaks Spanish,English and understands everything in between
Marion:speaks English and a form of Spanish involving a lot of charades and strange sounds

Nadia: supplies the petty cash
Marion: never has any cash

Nadia: classy
Marion: clompy

Nadia: drives like a mad woman through the streets of Tegucigalpa, explaining to me that " Teguc is a crazy city for crazy people" I clench the seat and scream.
Marion: rides her new red bike

Nadia: smart enough to stay on the surface, out of scuba equipment
Marion: way too excited to safely scuba

Nadia: has never been carried,crawled, stumbled, or propped up in anyway during our trips to Roatan
Marion: well... she always made it home

Nadia: Can dance the Punta, a very sexy Latin American dance involving a lot of bum shaking
Marion: has decided that Latin America is not yet ready for her version of the Punta

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bonifacio's Hoodie

Bonifacio is the watchman at the dam. He wears a grey Volcom hoodie. The sleeves are a little long, but overall he wears it well.
That hoodie has come a long way.
It came with Sara, stolen from a now ex-boyfriend.
It was left behind one day, went missing for a few weeks, then appeared on Bonafacio. He has now adopted it.
We drive through the gate into the site in silence. I see the hoodie and think of a 9 hour road trip into B.C. sitting in the back of a black Jetta, staring over the grey hooded shoulder of a forgotten boy.
I see amusement in my cousin's face.
Bonafacio smiles back at us and lifts the gate. He thinks we must be extra happy to go to work today.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

From Indiana to Intibuca

I live in Honduras. I work for my uncle Ron. A few years back he had a crazy idea, to build a hydro electric dam in the poorest most dangerous country in Central America, bringing electricity to the least developed, poorest region of that country.

Let me tell you a bit about my uncle Ron. I spent part of each summer as a kid in the Okanagan Valley living at my uncle and aunt’s house in Penticton. My uncle was always that uncle that was a little too sarcastic to understand when you were a kid and thought watching us fly off the trampoline and run into the house bawling was a hilarious summer afternoon pastime. He definitely wasn't the first one you ran too when you cut the side of your mouth on the Freezie you were eating.

There was this one summer evening, when Sara and I were around 5, Jodie was 7 and Jason and Heather were too little to be of any significance. My uncle had been left to take care of all of us while my auntie and my mom went out to visit some friends. He positioned all three of us around the kitchen table, feet dangling and bug eyed. Then cracked a Kokanee, poured 3 Kool-aids and explained that we were not going to be watching the movie Willow tonight, instead were all going to learn how to play Monopoly, the right way and the best way. I had no idea what Monopoly was. I was afraid of my uncle. I felt betrayed and abandoned by my mother. And I loved watching Willow.

The monopoly board was unfolded on the table. Pieces were chosen, money doled out. Everything ok so far. Throughout the next 3 and a half hours, my uncle explained the game to three little girls with side pony tails, while Jason slept in his lap. My mom has told me that she will never forget the scene that her and my auntie came home to.

It was nearly midnight when they came in the door, and the end-all Monopoly game of the late eighties was still going strong. My cousin Jodie was leaning across the table haggling over real estate prices. Sara was standing on her chair, arms waving, arguing right back on the potential profits she could receive on Pennsylvania Ave., which she could not be expected to trade. I had forgotten all about not getting to watch Willow save Princess Elora Danan, and was totally caught up in counting my huge wad of cash. My uncle was smiling, leaning back in his chair, and watching the little capitalists he had created in a mere few hours time, entirely satisfied with his work.
So you get the picture. Coming to work for him a decade and a half later was going to be an adventure.
The dam is in full swing and the Rio Intibuca is flowing through the turbines.