So part of the reason that PPJ has been so slow in beginning its 2008-2009 gang program is because the Dutch have been remiss in sending out the promised funding. The other reason though is that were missing a “Promotor”; that’s what we call the position in Spanish but I can’t quite figure out what that title means in English, I don’t think “Promoter” accurately translates. The Promotor essentially does all the leg work that the Coordinadora (Coordinator) plans and envisions…incidentally as a Voluntario (Volunteer) my job is to assist the Promotor in any possible way. Felix was the Promotor but recently stepped down, leaving an obvious and gaping vacuum in the power structure. How ever could the Coordinadora and the Voluntario be expected to effectively communicate without the vital link that is the Promotor? Thus any amount of work that could have been done apart from the Dutch Dinero came to a halt – what luck. Not that Felix doesn’t continue to be an ever-hovering presence here in the office, he usually stops by twice or thrice a week and whisks me off to court battles, or to visit friends in far-flung barrios…I love it. One day two weeks ago he stopped by and told me that it was time I started meeting the gangsters, he said funding and a new Promotor were right around the corner and that it would be beneficial to start building relationships with them now. So off we went to Barrio El Confite (The Candy Neighborhood…it’s not aptly named) the first person we ran into was my good friend Angel, he seemed a little more relaxed than normal, I asked how he was doing and he answered “Tranquiiiiiloooo”. We chatted for a bit, Felix and Angel exchanged indecipherable remarks and then off we went back to La Ceiba…I was dumbfounded, why had he dragged me out here to stand in the street for 5 minutes and then turn around and go home. It took me a little bit to realize that Angel had been so Tranquilo because he was riddin’ high on the marijuana, Felix confirmed this when he said that “todos andaban drogada”, it wasn’t just Angel but the whole lot of them that were feeling relaxed…Felix in his wisdom thought that meeting me in a drugged up state would not be the best way to for the boys from Confite to commence a relationship with a missionary. So now the Dutch, the Promoter and Marijuana are all banes to my attempts at working…Daddy’s gettin’ upset!
So English classes at the church began last week and my oh my what a ride it’s been already. We meet Wednesdays and Saturdays at the church for an hour & ½ with about 30 people ranging in age from13-65. We started out with the basics, the Alphabet, vowel sounds, diphthongs and nouns around the classroom but pretty soon we were clipping along to possessive pronouns and demonstrative pronouns. I thought to myself, good grief Matty what a fine teacher you are…that was until there was an out and out mutiny. It’s kind of humorous actually and I have to think that what I’m about to relay would never happen in a classroom in the U.S., leastways not with adults. We were just getting into the finer points of possessive pronouns when a older gentleman in the back of the class motioned for my attention, stood up and began to opine (more to his fellow students than to me) that he felt as though we were moving too fast, that perhaps we should go back and relearn the Alphabet (not the most important concept to grasp but he was unsure of exact pronunciations). After him another adult asked to be recognized, she stood up and gave a 5 minute speech essentially expounding the same point that her predecessor had…this went on for 15 minutes with student after student expressing desire to relearn the Alphabet; I’m quite certain that had I permitted it they would have talked about relearning their ABC’s for the rest of class and never actually gotten around to doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they let me know we were moving too fast; I just couldn’t believe it was happening in this fashion, each person felt they needed to have their opinion heard before any action was taken. I think I actually offended people by cutting the speeches short and actually teaching the Alphabet for the 3rd time. I know I’m too be culturally sensitive and take the posture of a learner in a host culture but I’m having a hard time reconciling the need to be heard and the need to actually teach…this may be an interesting exercise in ESL, I’ll keep you posted.
So a funny thing happened on the way to the Mall the other day…yes we have a mall, it’s about the size of a mall you might expect to find in Shamokin, Pa but it’s nonetheless a mall (and it’s air-conditioned). So where was I – ah yes a funny thing happened on the way to Shamokin…I was in need of a new pair of headphones (gots to have my tunes whilst I run) so during my lunch break I hailed a taxi (yes we have taxis too) got in and said “lleveme al Mall por fa”. I had no sooner shut the door and the taxi driver burst into song and I do mean burst...he sang with the gusto of a person trying out for a Broadway show, in other words it was not terribly appealing to the eardrums. They were Praise Songs so I felt bad for having to stifle a laugh but it was all I could do to keep from doubling over, especially when I looked up and noticed that his wife and ‘co-pilot’ was clapping and singing along with him. It was hilarious and awkward all at once…how does one respond to a sing-along in a taxi…I joined in, it seemed like the right thing to do and I think my hosts appreciated it.
So I’ve kind of become, how you say, sappy. I’m not sure what it is but from time to time, every few years or so, I become incredibly nostalgic and sentimental and prone to feelings. I hate it and look forward to the time that I once again am able to be a rock, a hard, impenetrable rock. It’s strange though these days; I’ll just drift off and think about people, events and places that I haven’t thought about for ages. The other day I caught myself reminiscing about middle school and faintly wishing that I could go back and live my 6th grade year over…my 6th grade year! Who in their right mind would want to live in 1993 again? Me apparently. I find most often that it’s music that takes me on these absurd trips down memory lane. I’ve always connected songs with events in my life (I’m not terribly remarkable, who doesn’t really) but for instance when I hear “Wonderwall” by Oasis it’s hard not think about my 8th grade year and listening to the top 5 at 9 on 93.3 or when I hear “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve I’m immediately transported to Nowell Strite’s basement watching Cruel Intentions with 12 of my closest friends during my Senior year of high school. London Beat’s “I’ve Been Thinking About You” (one of my favorite songs) takes me to December, 2004 in an OIP pizza shop during a snowstorm in Newberry, Pa with Zach Ritter and Amy Dowling…I could go all day. So where does “Moon River” take me? Yes, “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Henry Mancini. I’m not sure where it takes me but the other day I felt compelled to buy it on iTunes after hearing it on television and I’ve since listened to it about 20 times – it makes me think of my parents, the Girios, the 60’s (man I really miss those 60’s), simpler times, 95.5 ‘The Music of Your Life’…I think I’m losing my mind my Huckleberry friend.
So I saw Get Smart the other night at the local theatre, excepting that here it’s called Superagente 86…and it was in Spanish – what a hoot. It was strange though, I went with some friends and I ended up feeling bad for them; the jokes, the cultural references, the humor of Steve Carrell, they just don’t translate very well and they were a lot of instances where I was the only one laughing in the entire audience…not that I minded…just thought I’d share.
So to finish this bit randomness up I’ll post some lovely shots of Pico Bonito, that’s the nearby national park. Some newfound friends, Nelson Zelaya and Norman Chinchilla, have been schlepping me all over Ceiba and surrounding vicinity. Last Friday they took me to the national park and we spent the day hiking, swimming in the river and driving through the countryside, it was a fun time and the views were stunning. It’s an incredible thing to be perched atop a mountainside and be able to view the ocean and the surrounding environs. La Ceiba really is a little slice of Heaven in a lot of ways.