Skip to main content

New Year's Celebrations

So for as different of a holiday for me as Christmas was, the New Year could not have been more similar to what I know up North. Except that there was the requisite church service on the 31st which seemed to go on forever and in no definable or particular direction, just lots of singing and testifying...which I suppose is as good a way as any to ring in the new year. We were there for nearly 3 hours though, which if spent standing the entire time can grow tortuous after a while. Just as we were finishing singing the same verse for the 14th time in a row and I was beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, the pastor stood up and inquired as to whether anyone might have a testimony to share about how the Lord has been faithful this past year. A fair enough question given the occasion, one though that probably should have been asked a little sooner. In North American churches you might get a few people to get up and offer curt and summary synopses pertaining exactly to the question as asked and rarely will the response last for more than 4 minutes. In Latin American churches opening up the floor like that is like letting open the floodgates and you never know where you might end up after the deluge. As soon as the pastor asked the question I saw 3 of the longest-winded ladies stand up and race to the front of the church all hoping to be the first to grab the microphone; my heart sank. To be honest the final 2 testimonies were fairly succint and to the point and at their conclusions were received with applauses of gratitude and relief for their brevity. It was the first lady though, the most eager in her race for the microphone, that had the congregation so ready to be out the door. There we sat in silent frustration for 45 minutes, completely at the mercy of this person, listening to her prattle on about riding in cars, favorite holiday recipes and current bank statements. When she very forcefully asked for a glass of water 2o minutes into the speech I began to weep silently.
Hour-long life-stories don't happen very often here but when they do I've noticed that the people in the church respond to them with varying degrees of disinterest. Some sit in mock rapt attention but communicate with their neighbors through glances and gestures to pass the time. Others dose off, wake up and dose off again when they see that we're still talking about tamales and favorite beige dresses, while still others clench their fists, grit their teeth and repeatedly check their watches hoping that these subtle cues will let the person up front know that the charade has gone on long enough. But my boys? My boys, like most normal honduran youth in their situation, like to take the opportunity to dress up like James Brown.
I don't usually allow for such tomfoolery at church but given the circumstances and in the vain hope that the person speaking might see the shenanigans going on about her, take the hint and sit down, I let it slide.

Even Konrad got in on the Act

After church we went to Marla's and had a massive midnight meal - that's the 2nd in 2 weeks if you're keeping count. There were fireworks, loud music and general door, we just listened and ate as much as we could stomach without getting sick. And to top it off we had a midnight toast with Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice (Konrad and I substituted Lambrusco for the Welch's; we thought we were being downright naughty but it turns out there isn't much difference). I went to bed ridiculously late and woke up in much the same state as I had lain down in; full, groggy and contented, with no desire to even think about food.

Exhausted from Eating

It was New Year's Day though and the unthinkable had to be done...I had 5 lbs of pork and sauerkraut in the fridge and it wasn't going to cook itself. You see, there are some fellow Mennonite types about 3 hours away in San Pedro Sula. They are also serving with EMM on a YES Team, studying Spanish in San Pedro before heading off to Venezuela where they will be serving for about 6 months. Konrad Swartz, my trusty sidekick, knows these people fairly well and there had been talk of them coming to visit us here in La Ceiba over the New Year holiday. We thought to ourselves, Konrad and me, we thought: we'd sure like some good old fashioned pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes, apple sauce and hot dogs to ring in the 1st of January and we bet that our fellow Mennonites would appreciate a good Pa Dutch meal like that too. So we went out and bought enough food for 7 people plus leftovers and waited giddily for the arrival of our exalted guests. They never showed. Not without warning mind you, they sent us a note letting us know that their Honduran handlers had suddenly changed their plans without consulting them and that they wouldn't be able to visit us over the New Year. We were devastated - Konrad even cried a little. What were going to do with all of this food? We couldn't possibly invite Hondurans as they tend to find pickled cabbage laddled over pork and mashed potatoes something akin to eating out of the trashcan and usually respond with gags, contorted faces and requests to be excused to the nearest toilet. Then I remembered, I have Gringo friends that like sauerkraut and though they might be hippy Calfornians they still might want to get all Pa Dutchy with us. They did and it was wonderful; Konrad and I spent the day cooking and basting and baking and at just the right hour we all sat down, with some Honduran company thrown in for laughs, to a glorious meal replete with brownies and coffee for dessert. The only thing that could have made it more like home would have been to have the Girio family dancing to Motown in the kitchen while they did the dishes...Nelson did our dishes and he does not dance.
Almost as good as my Mother's

The pork was more like ham but I couldn't complain

We also did one of my favorite New Year's traditions, Ear Irrigation!

That's all for this post. Hope you had a lovely New Year's holiday over a steaming plate sauerkraut. Peace!



Popular posts from this blog

Coming to Honduras

The other day in philosophy class I was teaching about existentialism, a philosophy with which I have myriad problems. The universe is absurd, life is meaningless, authenticate yourself with irrational leaps of faith! Hopeless and disconnected from reality if you ask me. Get out of the café Camus, mix with some common folk! Nevertheless, as I was introducing the material I mentioned that the existentialists really probed the questions of Life's meaning and purpose:

"How do I create myself to be unique and significant?" "How do I live an authentic existence?" "How do I give my life meaning and purpose in an otherwise meaningless universe?"
These seem to be questions that are attendant to societies that possess extreme wealth and privilege and an over-abundance of leisure time. I have serious doubts that 15th Century English peasants or even nobles for that matter, spent much time contemplating how they might make their lives unique or leave a significa…

Art Day

I've been forced into an "art-day" by Girlfriend; against my better judgement I've decided to turn to the only medium that I'm remotely skilled at. It's been far too long since I've written anything of worth and as I sit here, pondering my lack of output in the last 4 years, I'm left wondering if I have anything substantial left to offer to "The Conversation". I think I did once, when my integrity and identity were intact and people were genuinely curious about my life here. For reasons too numerous to count though, not the least of which is my own retreat from reflective thought put down on paper, I can't shake the feeling that I've lost the ability to speak and be heard. Girlfriend and I are reading a book about marriage together given to me by my sister; we take turns reading it aloud to the other and as salient points are read we often stop and discuss our thoughts. Thus far it's been a fairly blithe and carefree romp through…

10 Years In Honduras

My good friend Jessiel Rivera reminded me the other day that it was 10 years ago this month that I arrived here in La Ceiba. I remember my arrival here from Costa Rica fairly vividly. I had been getting teary-eyed on the plane from a combination of sleep deprivation, my longing to remain with my friends in beautiful San Jose and some sad indie music on my iPod. It was a hot and terribly humid Sunday afternoon when I landed in the La Ceiba airport and when I stepped off the 10-seater hotbox of an airplane onto the tarmac I was sweaty, bleary-eyed and disheveled. I looked like a typical gringo backpacker except for my mountain of luggage that I had in tow. Two members of the Central Mennonite Church picked me up in their car; how they knew I was the Gringo they were supposed to collect was beyond me but they got it right. I remember them remarking on the number of suitcases I had brought (3) and their heaviness (maximum weight allowance); and the resulting weight of embarrassment I felt…