Thursday, September 23, 2010

Favorite questions

I get questions from time to time when people are visiting. I like questions. Questions are good...for me to learn, for me to educate (a scary thought) and for me to remember what it was like my first time here. So, here in no particular order, are the top ten:

1. Do those horses (or cattle, or pigs, or other farm animal) have owners?

For some reason the perfectly natural Honduran sight of farm animals wandering in the ditches eating really flumoxes some visitors. They may be skinny, they may look like they are out there facing the world by themselves...but yes, those animals have owners.

And sometimes, like in this picture, they just want to be friends.

2. The people here that have money...what do they do?

This question comes up when we drive through a nice neighborhood. It amuses me, because I have never heard someone driving through a nice neighborhood in the US ask the same question. Of course...when I drive through those neighborhoods in the US now...I ask the question, but to myself since I know trying to answer that is difficult unless you know the people.

Generally...they do what you think they do: They own businesses, they are specialist doctors, busy lawyers, politicians, the occasional drug money launderer, bankers, embassy staff or foreign investors, and occasionally the odd missionary or other foreign national that lives here for whatever reason. And...there are some people who have lower paying jobs, but have a relative in the US that is making the payments on that nice house (banks here offer ways for those there to make payments on those houses here.)

3. Why are all your vehicles diesel? Why do you say diesel is better than gasoline?

1st question...because as in most of the world, diesel fuel is cheaper than gasoline by about $.50 per gallon.

2nd question...diesel vehicles with similar sized engines typically get 30% better fuel economy, the cars have more torque which is great for stop-go traffic or climbing mountains, the engines are more reliable, require less maintenance, and last a lot longer (200-300k miles is common)

4. Why do you say people here don't like shorts?

As you can see from this picture...shorts are on par with guns in terms of entering public offices here.

The long story short, no pun intended, is: shorts on girls are considered slutty, and shorts on guys look like gangbangers.

This is not the case 100% of the time you see someone in shorts, but the stereotype is there nonetheless. I remember Valerie when seven months pregnant with Cecilia wanting to walk around the block to get some exercise, she knew better but went in shorts. She got cat calls the entire time. In any big city, you just do not see people in shorts much outside a football game, no matter how hot it is. Show up in the countryside with shorts...even more rare.

5. What sports do people like here?

You mean sport, singular. There are other sports, sure, but the only one that really matters, the only one that people really football.

This is just part of the scene at the airport when the coach of the national team departed for Columbia after leading us to the World Cup for the first time since 1982. Songs were sung, tears were shed, the guy was made a Honduran citizen before is serious business...the one thing all Hondurans rally around together.

People may know what a basketball is...but have no clue how to play...they may know about some sport called American football...but know even less, but only football can give you people spouting statistics from the last 50 years, and not only watching the Honduran league...but the European teams, other Latin American teams, and any other football related event on the TV. Some spouses complain they lose their husband during his favorite sport there is always a soccer game on, seemingly 24/7, and definitely year round.

6. Why is the driving so crazy here?

Like beauty, driving craziness is in the eye of the beholder. I personally love driving here. Sure, there are things that are still frustrating (traffic, people who don't want to respect the rest of us waiting in line, etc.) but those things are generally frustrating wherever you go. There are more accidents here per capita than the US...but in general I feel as safe driving here as I do there. On the plus side...minor infractions or speeding is not met with stiff fines or police that are ordered to go out and meet quotas, etc.

What seems crazy to those living in the rigid rules of the US seems normal for the most part to us here...where there are rules, and when people break those rules it is noticed. And as crazy as it might seem to some of us...those living in India, parts of Africa, etc....driving here would seem rather droll and boring.

7. Why are people poor?

Such a valid question...such a logical one...and such a question that is like asking "why do people die?" People study this issue for lifetimes and come to little conclusions. I feel like we could talk about it for hours and still have things left to discuss. And...I feel inadequate to have a good handle on it, the topic seems so huge to simplify it to an answer as we drive along the highway. Despite all simple, and most assuredly lacking, answer would be: lack of quality education and corruption in the every area of the government preventing opportunities for employment to grow.

8. What is a typical day for you when groups are not here?

A typical atypical. Trying to write it all down would be difficult. Banking, meetings, fixing things, running errands, writing emails, planning for future groups, construction, the list goes on and on, and that does not even bring up all the weird and unusual one time things that come up.

9. What is school like here? There are kids everywhere and they all have a uniform on, what is up with that?

Public school is the reality for the vast majority of Honduran children. This means not very many actual school days each year, and classes are only half day. That explains half of why you see children all over the place in uniforms...the other half is that almost all of them walk to school. So, from 6AM to after 9PM, what with night classes for those who did not get through school during the normal age see uniforms everywhere. And everywhere because every school, whether private or public, requires you to wear a uniform.

10. Why does every house, every property, have a fence or wall around it?

Well, crime is big here, and it is a fact of life in Honduras that if you live in a city and want to be safe, and have your property need a wall. The general idea is that the gangs, petty thieves, etc. are out there...and you are trying to make your house less open to what they want to do...that they would give up, or go on down the road. want a wall higher than your neighbors, with sharper serpentine wire, and hopefully one that hides what is behind the wall from sight. Of course, there are still people that put extra money into their walls to look extra fancy, shiny, painted, etc. proving that some people will go to great lengths to put in plain sight what they are supposedly trying to hide. I haven't figured that one out yet.

There are more than 10 top questions to be sure...can you think of one I missed? Maybe an part deux would be appropriate with enough suggestions and reminders.

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