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…

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nature’s force



It has been unbearably hot for days now with temperatures in the 30°C and a most oppressing humidity of around 70%. It constantly feels like a major storm is about to break.
Yesterday afternoon it finally did.

It started as a huge rainstorm that makes you wonder if you have ever seen anything like it, and then all of a sudden it intensified and it started raining twice as hard! Then a vicious wind swept horizontal sheets or rain over rooftops, just before marble sized hail started bombarding doors and windows. By then the electricity had already been cut off (of course). I closed doors and windows because water started pouring in from everywhere in my second floor apartment: through closed windows, underneath doors and from numerous leaks in the roof I didn’t know were there. Windows were shaking, the roof was trembling and I could hear the zinc laminas on my neighbour’s roof banging. Lightning brightened the dark afternoon sky. It was quite scary… I felt I had to do something, so I locked my doors, as if that would keep the storm out. (Very smart, a friend remarked later, in case something would have happened, people wouldn’t have been able to enter my apartment!)

And then… It was over. The whole ordeal didn’t last more than 20 minutes. Of course it took hours to sweep the water out and clean up the layer of sand and grit that fell down from the ceiling. But I guess I was lucky. My next door neighbour’s entire roof was blown off and there were fallen trees and branches everywhere. I even heard that the tarp over the hieroglyphic stairway in the archaeological park was blown away, although no confirmation on that yet. But when I called a friend in the mountains to ask if there was much damage, she said there was none. It had rained hard, yes, but no hurricane winds as we had downtown.

Today people are still busy cleaning up and fixing things. But no matter how well you prepare, nature is always able to blow your socks off. Sometimes quite literally!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Culture Shock


I just came back from a two-week trip to Spain and as usually when travelling, that’s when the cultural differences hit you in the face. Everything that has become normal after living in Honduras for fifteen years becomes exotic again, but also strangely familiar to come back to. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what in my opinion are the biggest cultural differences, and here is my top 3:

1. Toilet paper disposal
In Honduras we don’t flush toilet paper, but throw it in a waste basket, so the pipes won’t get clogged. For some reason the system wasn’t build to support the disposal of toilet paper. This is not a myth nor a joke, as anyone can tell you who has had a bunged up toilet. Thing is, you get used to it. Up to such an extent that once elsewhere, you keep looking for the wastebasket. And just when you get used to the flushing, it’s time to go back and getting used all over again NOT to throw the paper in the toilet.

2. Greetings
If you meet someone new in Honduras in a more or less formal situation, you shake hands. On less formal occasions (or with people from the big cities) you press your right cheek against theirs, while making a kissing sound with your lips. Depending on whether you know and/or like the person, this gesture is completed by fake smile or a brief hug with your right hand on the other person back. But all in all, we’re not very touchy-touchy here.
Now, then in Spain! Your great everybody (but the mailman, I guess) with a kiss on each cheek. And there’s also a lot of Spanish versions of “sweetie”, “my love” “my dear” and “cutie pie” that we’re not used to here in the Honduran country side. Very different indeed, and even a bit intimidating!}

3. The language
If you think that in Honduras and Spain we speak the same language you’re wrong, because we don’t. In Honduras we speak Spanish. In Spain they speak Castellano. And the differences go way beyond vocabulary. La gorra in Honduras is el gorro in Spain. “Coger” means to take, in all its translations, but not “to fuck”, as we tend to interpret it on this side of the pond. There are a lot of words anyway that are very normal in Spain but quite spicy in Latin America. So communication is sometimes slightly difficult, but more often very funny.

I love those small differences between one place and the other. They make every place unique and special, even if they make you feel slightly uncomfortable. The world wouldn’t be the same without them. Although… maybe the world could benefit from a universal system for toilet paper disposal???