Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Monday, May 30, 2011

TV in Honduras


Whatever place I’ve visited in the world with access to TV, the complaint is always that there’s nothing on. It seems that the more channels there are, the less there’s to watch. (How lucky I was then to grow up with only two channels… In black & white, too! And I’m not even that old…)
In Copán Ruinas we have about 84 channels (that differs by the day) and depending on what you’re into, there’s a lot to enjoy. If you like Telenovelas, you’ll be in heaven here. If you want you soul saved by one of many evangelical pastor (whispering, screaming, preaching or screeching), you’re in the right place too. For news, not too good… There’re a couple of Honduran news channels, the difference between them that some are ultra-right, others are ultra-left. Sometimes it’s hard to believe they’re actually covering the same event. Last Saturday for example: On Globo TV, Manuel Zelaya’s return into Honduras was turned into a Mel video clip. On the conservative channels, Mel’s victory for democracy had to compete with reruns of old soap series.
I rather watch CNN. Not my favourite news channel in the world, but Anderson Cooper is (much) better than nothing. Unfortunately, the American CNN has disappeared of the cable for a while now, and we’re stuck with “CNN en Español” which is more of a hobby club than a news sender. But a thousand, no a million times better than the local news!!! It has been a while since we had a local channel in Copán Ruinas itself, so now we have to do with Cabañas TV, based in a neighbouring municipality. The news consists of anchorman Salazár sharing the latest news (or gossip), sometimes accompanied with unedited footage, preferably with a lot of gory details. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to see the Chamber of Commerce’s announcement of the activities in/on 2012 but first, unannounced, there was a “conference by a famous Guatemalan doctor” who explained for half an hour and unfortunately with a very graphic power point presentation how he treats haemorrhoids. Hurray.
No, than that very first “news channel” we had in Copán, years ago, offered by Publicidad Flores. With his face a little bit too close-up, Flores would announce that today there’d be both national and international news. Zoom out. Flores sitting behind a desk.
“We will start with national news.”
And then he would start reading the headlines of the newspaper. Brilliant television!

TV or not TV, that’s the question...


You'd think that living in a developing country I'd be deprived of watching the latest on TV. Well, I'm not. At least, not as far as I know. I already realised years ago that I could (and would) see movies months before their release in Holland. I remember recommending my girl friends back in the Low Lands this fabulous series about four gals, sex and a city, years before Sex & the City actually hit the screen in Holland. I didn’t even have a TV at the time. My friend and I used to watch the show in a bar, our then favourite hang-out. Oh those good old times, watching TV without sound but with closed captioning. It wasn’t until one day me and my friend (who later married the owner of that bar, go figure) were kicked out for some reason, so we went looking for solace elsewhere. We found it at another bar with an ancient television set behind the bar. It was so old, the case was actually made of wood and it didn’t support closed captioning. But that didn't matter, because we were excited to watch the show, first time ever, WITH sound! What a disappointment though, to hear the show was dubbed in dubious Mexican and we had to do with screechy voice-overs, not even closely resembling the sound of Sarah Jessica Parker & Co.
The problem was solved when I got my own TV (won in a lottery, but that's a whole different story). Since then I've had the pleasure of having multiple movie channels while paying only a pittance. At first we didn't even have Honduran TV, just some channels from neighbouring Guatemala. Later the series came. There was Universal, HBO, FOX, AXN and many more I can't remember. But unfortunately, never for long. Just whenever I'd be hooked on Nip Tuck, Weeds, Big Love, House MD, Rome etc., a notice would appear on the screen that the show would go on as soon as the bill would be paid. Except that I already had paid my bill, but the local cable company apparently had not. And instead of paying, they’d just put another channel on. Annoying, but still, the serendipity of not knowing what to expect is kind of fun.
Right now we have about eight American channels, including MTV, and I'm both thrilled and appalled with what they have to offer. Crazy stuff as Jershy shore, Parental Control, Paris’ BBF (Barf Barf Forever), You've Been Pranked, Jackass... But there’s also Rescue me, Brothers & Sisters, L&O, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Glee, The Big Bang Theory, Friends....
Until about two months ago, I had never seen American Idol and can’t say that’s a big loss in my life. But once I got to differentiate between Casey, Paul, Haley, Scotty and James, I kind of became curious about who would win. Not that I cared, but still. So on May 25th I decided to give myself the night off, get some beers, settle on the couch and watch the American Idol finale, along with millions of others. But here’s were living in a developing country comes in, because YOU CAN NEVER PLAN ANYHING IN THIS COUNTRY!!!
It was raining hard that night and usually that means a short black-out or two (Or three. Or one really long one). Miraculously, the power never failed us that night. The cable signal however, did. Because of some atmospheric disturbance (which means rain) I got to watch a blue screen all night long. It wasn’t until the final minutes of the show (Scotty had already won) when the signal came back on. But not to worry, the next day the show would be repeated! And since I didn’t have anything urgent to do that following day, why not watch the American Idol Finale? Yet again, no luck. The power went off at 5.30pm and didn’t come back on till 9.30am the next morning. By that time, the beers in my fridge were already warm.
In the end, I can’t complain about what TV has to offer here. I’ve seen it all. Once, at least.

Monday, May 23, 2011

13.0.0.0.0

This is a painting I recently finished (46 x 122cm, acrylics on canvas) based on the only known inscription of 13.0.0.0.0 (on Monument 6, Tortuguero, Mexico), the end of the long count Maya calendar, a date of much speculation (December 21 or 23, the end of the world!!!). Although I admit I choose this specific inscription because of the 2012 hype (and my wish to sell this work and being able to pay the rent!), more than anything I’m just intrigued by Maya glyphs. Not just their meaning, but especially their design, their aesthetic value. These glyphs here were carved in stone and are badly eroded by the weather, but once translated to the canvass in their original crisp shapes and then coloured in a bright palette, they get a whole different dimension. Maya goes Keith Haring!