Living in Central America (in my case Honduras and Guatemala) is sometimes hard, mostly fun but never boring. Here some of my musings on life in this colourful part of the world where you can always expect the unexpected. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Saturday, September 22, 2012

English Spoked

A sign I once saw that said "English spoked" came to mind when I found this flyer. Extraordinary beautiful in a mind-boggling sort of way. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012


I love Spanglish.

I’m glad many of my friends are bilingual so slipping from one language into the other, often in mid sentence, is no problem. I admit that picking the first word that comes to mind no matter the language, does tend to make you a bit lazy. At the same time, you also tend to pick the words that best describe what you want to express, so effective it is. I also love the English words that have “contaminated” proper Honduran Spanish (if such thing exists) and that have started living a life of their own. Cheque, for example. No Copaneco can come by without using that word at least once an hour. I guess it comes from the English word check (as in “done”), but here it means something like “okay”, and is often followed by leque. Cheque leque. I’m serious!

Another favourite of mine is wachimón (watchman or guard). Tools and car parts have terrific “spanishized” names (mofles, cloch, rines), not to mention the social media such as Feisbuh, that for some odd reason in Copán is referred to as Ceibo.

I once had a conversation with someone from Guatemala about the influence of English on Spanish spoken in Central America. I told him about the emergency I had one time with the breaker in my house, and that I’d realized I didn’t know the Spanish word for it. It happened to be bréquer. To which my Guatemalan friend said he could do better: in Guatemala it’s called flip-on!

There are so many great examples, but I think some of the best and “purest” completely Spanglish sentences are the following:
Voy shopping.
Qué nice!

Hasta later!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rules of the Wild

Years ago, a friend lent me a book called Rules of the Wild*, by Francesca Marciano. She said I had to read it, that it was so us, so Copán.

Yesterday I cleaned out my closet because the rain had found its way into my bookshelves, and among tons of usable crap I found the copy I once made of the first page of Rules of the Wild. The first sentence struck me as much as it did about ten years ago, and is still so true:

            In a way everything here is always second hand.

The whole page actually is. I never read a better description of what livening as a foreigner in Copán is like, so hereby the first few paragraphs of Rules of the Wild:

In a way everything here is always second hand.
You will inherit a car from someone who has decided to leave the country, which you will then sell to one of your friends. You will move into a new house where you have already been when someone else lived there and had great parties at which you got incredibly drunk, and someone you know will move in when you decide to move out. You will make love to someone who has slept with all your friends.
There will never be anything brand-new in your life.
It’s a big flea market; sometimes we come to sell and sometimes to buy. When you first came here you felt fresh and new, everybody around you was vibrant, full of attention, you couldn’t imagine ever getting used to this place. It felt so foreign and inscrutable. You so much wanted to be part of it, to conquer it, survive it, put your flag up, and you longed for that feeling of estrangement to vanish. You wished you could press a button and feel like you had been here all your life, knew all the roads, the shops, the mechanics, the tricks, the names of each animal and indigenous tree. You hated the idea of being foreign, wanted to blend in like a chameleon, join the group and be accepted for good. Didn’t want to be investigated. Your past had no meaning; you only cared about the future. Obviously, you were mad to think you could get away without paying the price.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t about Copán, but about Nairobi, Kenya. So either way we gringo’s are all the same, or the world is just a very small place. Or maybe it isn’t about a place at all. Which reminds me of a remark made by the same friend who lent me the book:

Copán is a state of mind.

So true.

This one is, of course, for Flavia…

* Rules of the Wild, Francesca Marciano, Vintage, 1999  Great book, buy it!