The world game (Part one)

19 Jun

“¡¡Un país, una pasión y cinco estrellas en mi corazón!!”

~ From the Selección Nacional de Honduras Facebook page

Hondurans take their fútbol seriously. Very seriously. As you might be aware, we’re in the midst of World Cup qualifying matches at the moment and things are getting pretty tense.

Last night, Honduras lost against Los Estados Unidos. Their next game won’t be until September, when they will face Mexico.

My football knowledge is pretty shaky, but my understanding is they’ll need to win or at least tie the rest of their matches keep their World Cup hopes alive.

The first World Cup qualifier game I watched here (on the big screen) was Honduras v Mexico. I had only just arrived in the country so felt a little torn about who to cheer for.

My host-mum solved my dilemma by gifting me a Selección Nacional de Honduras t-shirt.

Honduras t-shirt

The end result was a 2-2 draw, reflecting my divided loyalties nicely.

Next we played and lost against Panama followed by a loss to Costa Rica. And last week it was do or die against Jamaica.

This game was to be played in el Estadio Nacional here in Tegus. A friend invited me to watch the match with him and I quickly agreed to go.

The expression on my host-mum’s face when I casually mentioned I was going to see the match live was priceless.

Unbeknownst to me the stadium doesn’t have the best reputation. In fact, it’s considered quite insecure and on occasions downright dangerous.

Our housekeeper told me yesterday that if it had been up to her she would have forbidden me to go!

My host-mum’s concerns spooked me a little but my friend assured me there’d be a large police presence (which to me wasn’t necessarily reassuring) and advised me we had tickets in one of the safer areas.

Honduras isn’t necessarily the best country to implement a YOLO attitude to life, but with tickets already purchased and my curiosity piqued (just how bad could it be?) I decided I’d probably regret not going more than going.

Probably…

Hopefully…

(To be continued…)

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¡Buen provecho!

12 Jun

“You can get through life with bad manners, but it’s easier with good manners.”

~ Lillian GishTela coconut prawns

One of the more endearing Honduran customs is to wish anyone and everyone you see eating, ¡buen provecho!

Buen provecho doesn’t really have a literal translation that makes sense—it’s the Spanish equivalent of saying ‘enjoy your meal’ or ‘bon apppétit’.

And by anyone and everyone, I literally mean anyone and everyone.

Joining friends or family at the table to share a meal? ¡Buen provecho!

Walking past other diners in a restaurant to get to your seat? ¡Buen provecho!

Ducking into the office kitchen to get a cup of water where colleagues are eating lunch? ¡Buen provecho!

Sitting at a table in the mall food court close to other shoppers munching on fast food? ¡Buen provecho!

Wandering past someone who looks like they might be contemplating eating a meal? ¡Buen provecho!

Ok, so that last one’s not true, but you get the idea.

It’s taken me a little while to get used to, and to remember to say it to people I see eating.

My first couple of weeks here I was always barging into the lunch room at work without acknowledging those eating. Hopefully my foreignness gave me a get-out-of-jail-free card and people didn’t think I was too rude.

Once I return home I’ll have to train myself not to say it to any strangers I see eating. Although maybe instead of getting odd looks, I’ll be able to get it to catch on?

It is a nice, friendly custom after all. And one that’s more understandable than belly flashing.   🙂

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the standard reply back to buen provecho is either gracias (thank you) or gracias, igual (thanks, you too) if the person who has wished you a good meal also happens to be eating.

One year later…

11 Jun

“There are far, far better things ahead, than anything we leave behind.”

~ C.S. Lewis.

My last relationship ended a year ago today. I woke up on the 11th of June 2012 expecting it to be just like any other day.

Instead I found myself having a brief, unanticipated conversation with my boyfriend. The end result being a couple of nearly intelligible phone calls to my family asking them to help me move out of my now ex-boyfriend’s apartment.

Later I would joke that if we had been playing Survivor it would have been the best blindside in the history of game. I had no inkling I was about to be voted off the island.

After three and a half years of being a “we”, when you suddenly become a “me” you find yourself facing a future unknown but one full of new and previously unthought-of possibilities.

Rather than wallow indefinitely in the misery every break-up invariably brings, I allowed myself a brief window of time be sad and then wholeheartedly threw myself into the process of moving on.

It was during this period I decided now was the time to turn my dreams of ‘one day’ of doing volunteer work overseas into concrete plans.

As I’ve written previously, with no partner, no kids, no pets, no lease, no mortgage, and all my worldly possessions neatly packed in boxes, there was never a better time to seize the day.

And so, one year later, I find myself in Honduras.

I was hoping for another once-in-a-lifetime experience and Honduras certainly hasn’t disappointed.

I’ve …explored ancient Mayan ruins …written press releases for UNICEF …toured a volcanic island in a mototaxi …nearly sparked an diplomatic incident while playing paintballvisited families living in extreme poverty …traveled to another country for the love of seafood soup …been bogged in an airboat …celebrated my birthday Mexicatracho style …suffered through the ‘Honduran hurl’ …marveled at rugs made of sawdust …experienced a wild and crazy electrical storm …stomped around a coffee plantation in the rainand spent many, many hours lazing in my favourite hammock.

I’ve also had plenty of time to think and reflect. I’ve come to realize I’m happy both with and by myself. I may be alone, but I’m certainly not lonely. Becoming single wasn’t my choice, but I’ve owned it.

I’m not sure what’s over the horizon for me, but all I can say is, “bring it on!”

I’m ready.

Better latte than never

10 Jun

“No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.”

~ Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

Ah coffee. How I love thee so.

I firmly believe the second best way to be woken up in the morning is by the aroma of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Even better if it’s the aroma of a coffee someone else has made for you.

I’m getting ridiculously spoilt here, as each morning our lovely housekeeper has my breakfast and accompanying coffee ready and waiting for me on the kitchen table.

My first coffee of the day is black, and then my second is normally a latte of dubious quality from the UN building’s Espresso Americano kiosk.

I’ve whinged about the poor quality of cappuccinos etc. here in Honduras before. Honduran coffee itself, on the whole, is excellent. If you drink your coffee black, you’ll be as happy as a pig in mud.

It’s the latte and flat white drinkers of the world who will struggle to find a good brew here. So I guess what I’m trying to say is: yuppies beware—your orange-mocha-frappuccino may not be up to your usual standard.

I have to admit that despite all the publicity about fair trade and rainforest alliance coffee these days, I don’t often pause to think about where my coffee has come from.

Baby coffee plants

The other weekend I got the chance to get up close and personal to a cup of coffee’s origins. We travelled to Güinope—pronounced win-nop-eh—the original home town of my host family.

My host-uncle has a coffee plantation up in the hills behind the town. It was an overcast and drizzly day, but at least that meant it was nice and cool as we wandered around the farm.

Visiting the coffee plantsI was surprised to learn coffee plants need shade, so are always planted with another crop, such as banana trees to give them cover from the sun. I had imagined the hills would be rather bare with only low rows coffee plants, but the shade crop made it look more like a neat jungle, planted by an OCD Tarzan.

Coffee plantationThe harvesting season is well and truly over but we were able to see the different stages of growth, from white flower buds, to unripe green berries, and we also found a few red ripe berries that had been missed in the harvest.

The entire harvest is done manually, which is a labour and time-intensive process. My uncle’s plantation measures about 25 manzanas. The Spanish measurements confuse me a little, but according to Wikipedia one manzana is 100 varas by 100 varas, which is the equivalent of almost 7000 square metres.

So, if my maths doesn’t fail me, this would make the farm a total of 175,000 square metres. It takes about three to four months to harvest the entire plantation by hand.

Once the berries are harvested, the flesh is removed and the seeds are laid out in large concrete patios to dry. When the seeds are dry, the coffee is ready to be roasted, after which it’s ground and then ready to be brewed.

When we returned back to my uncle’s house we enjoyed a cup of strong, black coffee with an accompanying slice of orange cake and rosquillas. It was delicious.

Plus it was quite the novelty knowing I was drinking coffee derived from some plants I’d personally visited.

Coffee plant

Flower power

31 May

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.”

~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Whenever I see a pretty flower here I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a photo.

I’m no botanist, so I have no idea if these flowers are native to Honduras or imports, but I thought I’d share them with you all the same.

It’s a nice bright way to start the day. Happy Friday!

Decal declarations

29 May

“There’s a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker.”

~ Charles M. Schulz

According to the CIA World Factbook, Honduras is 97% Catholic and 3% Protestant. I think this is most evident when watching traffic.

Day to day, I have noticed a lot of conversations are peppered with the phrases ‘God willing’ and ‘thank the Lord’, however it’s when driving around that Honduras’ Catholicism really stands out.

Religious stickers and decals abound. I haven’t done a proper count but at a very conservative estimate I would think at least one in three cars has this rosary sticker on the back window:

Rosary

And the taxis and buses take it to a whole other level. Huge decals plastered on their rear windows or big white lettering across their windscreen tint strips proudly declare their faith.

  • Dios es amor
    (God is love)
  • Jesús te ama
    (Jesus loves you)
  • Jesús me ama
    (Jesus loves me)
  • Jesús es mi pastor
    (Jesus is my shepherd)
  • God is Lord
    (This one was in English)
  • Yo manejo, Dios me guía
    (I drive, God guides me)
  • Cristo vive
    (Christ lives)

And my personal favourite:

  • Propiedad de Jesús Cristo
    (Property of Jesus Christ)

I’m guessing this last one is meant to discourage thieves. Although if 97% of the country is Catholic and the other 3% is Protestant, the thieves are probably religious too, so I’m not sure if it’s much of a deterrent.

Every afternoon I wait outside the UN building, keeping an eye out for my ‘Dios es amor taxi coming down the street. Occasionally my other driver picks me up, although he just has the ubiquitous ‘Taxi’ marked on his tint strip.

It’s really silly, but I often find myself humming the opening lines to The Fray’s ‘You found me’ while I’m standing there.

I found God, on the corner of 1st and Amistad…

Although in my song, it’s the corner of Avenida República de Panamá and 2 Avenida, which doesn’t fit the tune so well.

I need a smaller violin

27 May

“Like everybody else, when I don’t know what else to do, I seem to go in for catching colds.”

~ George Jean Nathan

Today I was hoping to tell entertaining tales of good times had by the campfire this weekend, however Mother Nature (and her germs) had other ideas.

I woke on Friday with a bit of a sore throat and by lunchtime I’d also developed a mild headache. When I overheard two colleagues talking about being sick and how it had all started with a sore throat, all I could think was, “Excellent, this is going to be a great weekend.”

That afternoon I arrived home and told my host-mum I was worried I was cultivating a cold. Sure enough on Saturday morning I woke up horribly congested and feeling absolutely miserable. I spent all day in bed.

Worst of all, I missed out on the camping trip. Something I’d really been looking forward to. And with modern technology, you can now watch a live feed of Facebook status updates and Instagram photos of all the fun you’re not having.

I know it’s probably hard for you to feel too sorry for me, I am overseas having the time of my life after all, but being sick away from home is no fun. It’s the one time I actually feel a little homesick. I start daydreaming about my own bed, my snuggly doona and my comfy blue triangle pillow.

It’s 27 degrees today, so the fact I’m longing for my doona gives you an indication of just how unwell I am!

Sunday passed by in dozy blur, and I’ve had today off work too. I’m starting to feel a little perkier this afternoon, so I think I’ll try and make it into the office tomorrow.

My host-mum is a doctor, so it’s comforting to know that if my little lurgy turned into something more serious, I’ve got help immediately to hand. She’s been very sweet by checking in on me regularly and bringing me home food.

So I guess I can’t feel too sorry for myself. It’s only a cold and I am being well looked after.

But sympathy is always welcome, so feel free to leave a sympathetic, ‘there, there’ comment to help cheer up this impatient patient.

The photos in my mind

24 May

“A picture is a poem without words.”

~ Horace

There’s been many a time I’ve found myself wistfully longing to use my camera here in Honduras. I’ve come across many interesting and fascinating sights, even in poor old ‘dreary’ Tegus. 

However it’s often not safe for me to take out a camera, and it’s never wise to use your cel phone in public, even if it’s only to snap a quick photo. Mobile phones are thief-magnets and being robbed is not on my ‘to do’ list.

CameraIn any case, I’m rarely out on the streets. Most of the sights I see are from inside my host-mum’s car or during the taxi ride to and from work. There have been countless perfect photo opportunities that have flashed past me in a blur.

One of the few times I’ve actually been on foot in Tegus was when I visited a marginalised barrio with TECHO. Despite being in one of the poorest areas in town I actually felt quite safe.

I had my camera with me, but it felt wrong to be strolling around taking photos. We weren’t there to play tourist, we were there to help. So once again I kept my camera in my bag.

I wish the photos in my mind would always remain as clear as they are now. A picture paints a thousand words after all. It seems a shame they will slowly fade with time, but I guess it can’t be helped.

UNICEF Honduras recently published a photo book, Retratos de Vida: Niños, niñas, adolescentes y mujeres de Tegucigalpa (Life Portraits: Children, adolescents and women of Tegucigalpa). It contains images of Tegus that are both beautiful and saddening.

The book’s aim is to raise awareness of the living conditions that stop these women and children from living a violence-free life. It’s well worth a look.

It also includes many sights similar to what I’ve personally seen, but haven’t been able to document photographically myself.

Diary of a food addict (Part two)

23 May

“It looks to me to be obvious that the whole world cannot eat an American diet.”

~ Jerry Brown

If you missed Part one of the diary, you can check it out here, before continuing with our journey of gluttony and excess.

Wednesday

Feeling like we need a reward for our healthy omelette breakfast the day before, we order waffles with bacon and sausage smothered in maple syrup at Everything POP Dining. Nice start girls.

While exploring the Animal Kingdom we eat our obligatory MMICS, followed by a mix of garlic & chilli and teriyaki boneless chicken wings as a mid-morning snack.

Walking past the delicious smells emanating from Flame Tree Barbecue on Discovery Island makes us crave some ribs so we stop there for lunch. A half order of BBQ-rubbed ribs and a fruit plate seems like an excellent combination because the good in the fruit cancels out the bad in the ribs, right?

I then finally get to enjoy a savoury pretzel when we return to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon. Dreams really do come true!

Our father-dearest had kindly given us some money so Sarah and I could go out and enjoy a swanky sister reunion dinner together.

We decide on Fulton’s Crab House, mainly because of the novelty factor of dining on board an authentic turn-of-the-20th-century riverboat replica. It’s docked on the wharf at Downtown Disney’s Pleasure Island.

We start off with a yummy entrée of portobello mushroom fries and a not-so-yummy entrée of calamari.

For our mains (confusingly called entrées in the US) we choose the Louis Fulton’s Ultimate Crab Experience for two. This includes Alaska King crab, Alaska snow crab, and Pacific Northwest dungeness crab. It’s massive!

Ultimate Crab Experience

Our waitress kindly offers to help us break down the crab, although this makes us feel like 2-year-olds being hand-fed our dinner. A delicious and ridiculously over-sized dinner.

We really didn’t need the appetisers. The crab platter on its own was way too much food. Poor Sarah isn’t as much of a glutton as I am so about halfway through she really starts to struggle.

As full as we are, at the end of the meal I avow we can’t leave Florida, home of the Key Lime Pie, without trying it. We half-heartedly nibble at our shared dessert, before we admit defeat and head back to the resort.

Thursday

The waffles were so good yesterday we decide to have a similar breakfast, this time enjoying chocolate chip pancakes with bacon and sausage smothered in maple syrup. Shameful.

At Hollywood Studios Sarah tells me 9.30am is too early for our mandatory MMICS, so I reluctantly agree and we wait until later in the morning to enjoy our favourite snack.

We have a late lunch booked at Mama Melrose’s as part of a Fantasmic dining package, so we decide to take a break. Poor Sarah has been completely wiped out by the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, so she really needs to sit somewhere quiet and try to recuperate.

We grab a coffee and a Mickey gingerbread man at the Writer’s Stop, a small café in the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios.

When it’s time to head to lunch Sarsy still isn’t feeling good, so barely touches her mozzarella and tomato entrée or her whole-wheat vegetable fettuccini main.

I happily scarf down my mixed greens salad and my grilled pork chop, but our waiter notices Sarah isn’t eating and checks on us several times.

Our attentive waiter brings us the bills and tells us he won’t be charging us for Sarah’s meal. We are touched by his kindness so make sure we leave a large tip.

Fortunately, a long nap back at the hotel helps Sarah recover enough to attend Fantasmic in the evening.

Once back at the resort we duck into Everything POP Dining and have a late dinner of vegetable lasagne (Sarah) and an apple and cream cheese bagel (me).

Friday

We travel to Downtown Disney for breakfast, but discover the only restaurant open at 8.30am is the Earl of Sandwich. Not to worry, Sarah enjoys a bacon and egg roll while I munch on a BLT.

For our mid-morning snack I’m delighted to introduce Sarah to churros filled with dulce de leche.

We’re excited to score a table at the ever popular Rainforest Café for an early lunch. My excitement is lessoned however when I learn we have to sit next to elephant statues that trumpet loudly every 10 minutes.

I have a ‘rainforest’ burger and fries while Sarah samples the coconut shrimp, blackened tilapia and scallops that come with the ‘Taste of the Islands’ platter.

We return to Pop Century after lunch, where we check out and catch Disney’s Magical Express bus to the airport.  Sarah and I share a mediocre  Starbucks coffee before saying our farewells.

* * * * *

So there you have it folks, The (Unhealthy) Feast to End All Feasts. I’m considering these two posts ‘how to’ guides.

How not to eat healthily at World Disney World.

You’re welcome. 🙂

In a belated effort at damage control, from now until I leave Honduras, this is what my lunches will look like:

Vegerama

Diary of a food addict (Part one)

22 May

“Gluttony and idleness are two of life’s great joys, but they are not honourable.”

~ Julie Burchill

Forgive me readers, *burp* for I have sinned and snacked and scarfed and *hiccup* supped  and slurped my way through Walt Disney World.

Despite deciding in advance I would eat well and look for healthy options, my sister’s and my week at Disney could be described as The (Unhealthy) Feast to End All Feasts.

Sunday

I arrive in Orlando and decide “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” is good advice, so order a medium cheeseburger meal from McDonalds.

The medium fries and coke are the same size as a large back home. And apparently one cheeseburger is not enough. The meal comes with two!

I foresee this as an inauspicious start to the trip. Our dinner of hot dogs and fries at the Magic Kingdom turns this little inkling into a strong hunch.

Monday

We elect to skip breakfast at the hotel so we can get an early start at Epcot. The Mission: Space ride then messes with our heads so badly it’s quite a while before either of us feels capable of eating anything. (Awful, awful ride.)

We eat a simple lunch of chicken or pork with veges at the Sunshine Seasons Food Court. Once we’re back out in the sunshine I tell Sarah I’d heard great things about the Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich, so we hunt one down.

The Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich (MMICS) is so damn good we promise we’ll eat one every day for the rest of our trip.

I then declare I feel like a pretzel, but by the time we find a pretzel stand they only have sugar and cinnamon pretzels left. Figuring a sweet pretzel is better than no pretzel, down the hatch it goes.

When we return to Epcot after an afternoon nap we need a frozen chocolate-covered banana to help us cool down. That Florida afternoon sun is hot, so it’s definitely a need, not a want. 😛

Shortly after I cannot resist the lure of a bratwurst and beer at the German pavilion. Everyone loves bratwurst and beer!

We’re now pretty full, but as we wander through the park we pass a stall selling something we’ve never heard of before: funnel cakes.

To our slight disappointment, it turns out that funnel cakes are just kinda large squiggly donut-pancake hybrid things. Although that doesn’t stop me from polishing mine off.

Monday was not a good day for healthy eating.

Tuesday

We choose the healthiest breakfast option we can find at the Pop Century food court: omelette and a “biscuit” (savoury scone).

Our tour of the magic kingdom includes lunch at the Columbia Harbour House, where we both choose salads to share. Go team healthy eating!

After lunch we have our compulsory MMICS, later followed by a ‘dole’ pineapple ice-cream float to help us cool down. These are our only poor choices of the day, so it’s definitely an improvement on Monday’s horror hoovering of junk food.

Dinner time sees us heading to Downtown Disney where we snag ourselves a table at Wolfgang Puck Express and enjoy pizza and salad with a small glass of vino. Not a bad way to end the day.

* * * * *

The Feast continues tomorrow. Take a Pepto-Bismol, and stay tuned.