A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Monday, June 2, 2008

Honduras Happenings

Hello there again and welcome back to lovely & luscious, La Ceiba, Louisiana…sorry I got a little carried away with the alliteration…hot & heavy Honduras…anyway, as I sit here dripping sweat onto my keyboard I can’t but help wonder as to what God had in mind when he thought to send me off to this pizza-oven of a country. I’ve always been one to mind the heat; as a child my idea of playing outside involved sitting under a tree or wallowing in a shallow creek, whichever managed to avoid the sun better. As a rule, if the mercury begins to approach anything over 70 you can be sure to find me sweating profusely and frantically seeking out the comfort of a box-fan…or, if the budget allows, an industrial strength air-conditioner (growing up, rarely did the budget allow for such extravagancies). I’ve surmised on not a few occasions that perhaps I’m a menopausal woman trapped in a young man’s body (at weddings, funerals and other gatherings it’s usually women in their 50’s and myself plastered in front of an air-conditioning unit and feverishly fanning ourselves with paper plates…I feel your pain ladies). So all of that to say, it may be a while, like 2 ½ years, before I acclimatize. This place is just stinkin’ hot, I’ve never felt heat as oppressive as this; some days are better than others to be sure but more often than not I’ll step out of my cold shower and immediately start sweating, it’s that kind of all-permeable, inescapable heat. But it’s home…I am warming up to this place (pardon the pun); it took a little while to get used to my surroundings, the different foods, the funny accent, the different way to say ‘you’ (they use vos and tu instead of usted) but little by little this place is becoming a part of me, even in spite of the 200 degree temperatures.
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So it turns out that I may be living in a real life version of ‘Quaker School’. Those of you from outside of Central Pennsylvania may not be terribly familiar with this quintessential example of thrifty Pennsylvanians and their homely attempts at inexpensive fun. Thus I suppose I’ll have to enlighten you as to the folkways of the Susquehanna Valley prior to drawing a real-life comparison to it (a lot of work for a little chuckle). ‘Quaker School’ is a “game” that I was taught growing up by my mother’s side of the family (by far the thriftier, more German and homelier side of the family). On warm summer evenings we would sit on my Grandma’s front porch (sweating profusely because we were too thrifty to even use fans) and situate ourselves in more or less a circle. The cousins, aunts, uncles and random passersby would recite the following verse and attempt to go the longest without violating the rules. The verse and the rules are as follows:
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“Quaker School has now begun, no more laughing, no more fun.
No more showing big white teeth, no more chewing chewing-gum.
Quaker School has now begun.”
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The obvious point of the game was to basically remain completely silent longer than anyone else; if an opponent did talk, or smile, or giggle, etc. you had to inform them of their infraction in utter silence lest you be tossed out of the game as well (a very peaceful pastime). I rarely won…usually because at some point I passed out from heat-exhaustion and unwittingly bared my teeth. For anyone that knows the Fessler-Morris side of my family I’m sure you can imagine us having hours of fun with this game, and we did...we still do. The idea behind the game was of course the fact that the Quakers have meeting in complete silence, only breaking it to utter a word from God or offer other insights. For we Brethren-Methodist-Mennonite types, who love to sing and socialize…and gossip, this always struck us as a tad boring and restrictive and so we ‘Plain Church’ people of the Susquehanna Valley did what any self-righteous, penny-pinching group suspicious of worldly entertainment would do. We made a game up about our strange, silent neighbors and passed it down from generation to generation all the while completely oblivious to the fact that the Quakers of Central Pa had essentially been extinct for 50 years. I’m quite sure that the Fessler-Morris descendants will be playing this game for another 50 years…we’re just that boring. So what do politically-incorrect table games and Honduras have in common? Not much now that I think about it…where was I going with this…ah yes restrictions. I’m finding here that simple things that I’ve always assumed to be my personal choice are off-limits or at the very least frowned upon. For example, the Mennonites here never dance, not even a little jitterbug when a favorite song comes on the radio; I’ve been advised against growing my hair long, I’m expected to stay away from community carnivals, I cannot run shirtless and as a rule I should shy away from wearing shorts (bring on the sweat). I have to be honest, I don’t entirely understand the rules or the reasoning behind them, I think some are more cultural than theological and some are down-right silly but like any good Mennonite, I will submit to the wisdom of the congregation…“Mennonite School has now begun”.
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I’ve decided to explain my time with a pictorial history of the past 4 weeks – captions and explanations to be included. To give some context though, I moved out of Marla Fernandez’s house 2 weeks ago and into my own little apartment (this was the original intent, I loved living with Marla but the plan was always to move). I also bought myself a bicycle which I haven’t had since I was 15; I now pedal everywhere, it’s a lot of fun. For the past 4 weeks I've been spending the majority of my time at the Proyecto Paz y Justicia offices doing random jobs around the office (designing brochures, building a website, translation and creating a facebook group)...it's not been the most illustrious of work but it has kept me busy. Within the next week or two I should begin working with the gang program though....I'm excited.

The first weekend I was here Marla took me on a trip to Comayagua to visit with her children for Mother's Day - it was a nice time except for the car-ride (5 hours) during which time Marla's semi-senile mother, Fela, counted out loud each car that passed us by...I felt like I was riding in the car with my sister Megan.


The first week of work was spent supporting a strike in the central park by the local District Attorneys whose job it is to report government corruption to Congress. The D.A.'s nation-wide are tired of the corruption and government inaction so they called a hunger-strike for 37 days. We, the Mennonite Church were there to support the strikers and to help ensure that the local police didn't attempt to harm them when no one was looking.


We asked local citizens (and apparently foreigners) to sign a petition of protest.


The protest turned into a bit of a party, the Garifunas showed up with their drums and entertained us with their playing and dancing.

Well, I've run out of time...sorry for cutting it short but there's a lot to show and not enough time today, I'll finish up the display tomorrow. Blessings to you. Peace!

- Matt

3 comments:

Sonia said...

YAY!!! You updated :)
Dude, that photo of us dancing (salsa? merengue? cumbia?) is hilarious. Us with our hippie long hair. Bah! I say. So here is the question of the day...WILL YOU BE IN COSTA RICA IN JULY????

dígame una respuesta YA.

CA RN to Honduras Missionary said...

Gee..you're making our up-coming transition something to look forward to! I knew the heat was going to be my biggest downfall...sigh...I guess it's time to start to prepare. Although, I wonder how one actually does prepare for that - ahh..I know...go sit in a sauna for the day, every day...hmm...not very inviting. See you soon!

Anonymous said...

My mom still loves your newsletters and if she didn't have dinosaur dial-up I'd suggest your blog to her too - she'd love to learn more about how things are going, especially through the lens of your writing style (which she frequently points out is the funniest ever). My actual point in commenting was to say that the comparison to a menopausal woman was Hilarious!!
Thanks for the updates,
MB from NW PA