Tuesday, June 07, 2005

More....

The three missions of the peace corps are more or less paraphrased thusly:

To improve the living standards of people in undeveloped third world countries, especially those struggling for survival, by providing skilled and educated help for their development;

To increase understanding of the United States and its citizens by people around the world;

To increase understanding of the rest of the world and its cultures in the United States through cultural exchange.

So as a Good Volunteer, I´m going to try and do my part to fulfill goal three by posting some things about Honduras.... culture and whatnot.

Honduras is a really conservative country. Many people in the states, especially those that live in areas with a large hispanic population, might already have an idea of this. Latin America in general is pretty catholic, and while Honduras is actually less so (evangelical christianity is pretty big here) it is still very conservative and paternalistic overall. Gender roles are a whole lot more defined than in the states. Women stay home and cook or raise kids (¨ama de casa¨is considered a career here) and men go out and work. It has been hard for me to get my family to let me do my dishes (or invade their kitchen at all actually). Hopefully with some more adjustment they might even let me cook a little bit. Vilma also has a habit of cleaning my room on the sly while I´m at the center studying. Her standard of cleanliness is pretty darn high; I personally think I´m doing a good job keeping the place in order heh. Could be worse though, some of my compatriots have complained of filthy rooms and roaches.

Practically everything they know about America here comes from television, so suffice to say they have an even more wapred view of our culture than I suspect we have of theirs. Guys from the USA are rich, irresponsible, do nothing but party, etc. And they think the women are ALL total sluts. Sorry to use that word, but it´s the only one that adequately describes the mindset. They see rap videos on TV, clothes commercials, etc with scantily clad white females shaking their butts, and to their culture it´s not hard to see why they draw this conclusion. Also, I hear that porn is sort of common here and it´s all from America... so that doesn´t help in the least.

They have a pretty strong family structure. People sometimes live with their parents long after getting a job, but if they get married and have children of their own they usually move out. However most of the time they live within walking distance of their parents still.

The educational system SUCKS. I´ve been helping my house brother Frank with his homework, and it´s pretty obvious the teachers at his bilingual school are concentrating on memorization and absolutely nothing else. Frank´s a bright kid but he has no problem solving skills at all. Or those that he does have, he does not even know to use. They have a pretty strong emphasis on teaching English here now, which I think is good, but they really aren´t preparing their kids to compete with the rest of the world in business or science or anything really.

The country on the whole is kind of dirty. I dunno why this is, but people have trouble with the concept of putting garbage where it belongs. They just throw it everywhere. Nobody fixes their animals, so there´s lots of ugly, bony, mutts running around that either don´t belong to anyone or aren´t cared for properly. Cats seem to be in much shorter supply. I guess people figure that a dog can at least guard their house (theoretically).

The commerce is really cool. There is a corner store literally on every corner.... they call them pulperias and a family will just run it on the side of their house, selling churros (bags of potato chips or cheetos or whatever), soap, rice, and other basics. Supermarkets are rare and extremely small by our standards. But there is a very large outdoor market near my house where people sell lots of produce, and some clothes and goods. It´s pretty cool to walk around it and check out all the farmers and small-time artisans hawking their goods. When people go to buy stuff, they just walk out of their house and go get it, and visit with the many other people in the street playing, talking, shopping, etc. It is one of my favorite things about the country and culture, as opposed to the extreme lack of interaction in the states. We get in the car, drive to the supermarket, buy stuff, exchange a few pleasantries with the cashier, and drive home.... all the time often not seeing anyone we know or talking with anyone besides the cashier.

What else? Honduras is one of the poorest countries in central and south america. It´s not very rich in natural resources to begin with, and those it has have been exploited and sucked dry by corporations from the United States that just bring the money back home. This is still completely true today. I think the average yearly earnings is something on the order of $500 and a pretty large portion of the people farm for subsistence. Crime is pretty bad, especially in the cities, where gangs have been prevalent in the last few years. The government is known to be notoriously corrupt; it is now and has been for a long time. Still, somehow their road system and public utilities actually aren´t too bad.

Going to leave off for now; I probably won´t have much more generic information after this but I thought some of you, especially those in BLE and pdX, might find it interesting. Take it easy everyone, and post comments if there is anything relating to Honduras that you are particularly curious about or interested in.

Gabe

8 Comments:

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Dave/SugarBear said...

My grandparents got their start running a small market just like you describe, but in Chile after then emigrated from Croatia. My grandmother always spoke fondly of the time that they spent doing that. They finally saved enough money that they could afford to move to the US.

This isn't a very chipper comment/question... but do they have a problem with the kidnapping of Americans for ransom there? We're seeing that more often in other S. and Central American countries with emplolyees, missionaries, and aide workers. Have you been warned to stay in groups or anything like that?

No worries if they do hold you ransom... I think that Kit has received several thousand in donations from pdX members so we could bail you out ;)

How big is the village that you live in population-wise?

Soccer or baseball?...or both?

Thanks for doing what you do man! Sounds like you're doing a good job of representing the USA and helping your fellow man!!

 
At 8:25 PM, Blogger Pap Finn said...

Gabe,

Are they feeding you corn tortillas or flour? Hand-made or boughten? Thin or thick?

What kinda beans?

Pap

 
At 9:53 PM, Blogger Lady No Shame said...

Oh Gabriel Roy...I miss you mucho (that means much!) Thanks for all the interesting stuff so far, keep it coming, it makes it feel as if I'm there with you...minus the diarrea!
Yo Sista

 
At 12:04 AM, Blogger Tyler Wilbourne said...

Interesting to note that the basic opinion of the United States culture in many other countries, especially Central and South America, comes from T.V. Maybe that's a reason for the seemingly unspoken negative opinion, not that it isn't deserved... ha.

Anyways, good idea with the blog here, and I'll definitely be checking back up on this.

-Tyler Wilbourne

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Gabe,

Sounds like your having a blast,
It must be so fun to be able to travel and see parts of a different country.
What else do you do on the job? So far I know your trained in composting?
I hope you have fin and be safe!!

The Minnesota Bogdan’s

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Dad - My house mom´s feeding me tortillas every night. She either buys the dough or the flour, but she cooks them fresh at every meal. They´re kinda small, like 6¨ diameter, thick, and made from white corn. Mmmmm.

Dave - afaik there aren´t really problems with kidnapping. There is a lot of violent crime, but it´s related to specific situations that Volunteers are not part of.... gangs and drug activity. They play baseball a little bit here, but soccer a lot more... and basketball is gaining popularity. Most kids play it but their courts are just horrible. The city I´m in right now, my training city, is pretty sizeable.... bout 70k people. It´s easily in the top 10 in the country, maybe top 5. Honduras has the lowest pop. density in central america. When I finish training at the end of August and go to my site, I will be in a small village or an Aldea (really small village) of maybe 1500 people max, down to like 200-500 people.

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Oh, I didn´t see one of your preguntas pap... they´re pinto beans pretty much 100% of the time. Sort of plain. I eat fried platanos basically every day, rice + meat for lunch, and dinner is almost always served with some mantequilla (like sour cream but less sour) and this really salty, hard, mozarella-like cheese.

mmmmm. Platanos. They sure are tasty here.

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger Dave/SugarBear said...

Excellent! Your answers really help paint a picture for me. Thanks man and take care of yourself... Beuna suerte!

 

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