Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Touch of Staying

So, I’m not sure how many of you have heard the news, but somewhat predictably, the progression of my training group has again been stymied by the volatile Honduran political situation. Just days away from our swearing-in date and the following dispersal into our sites, the original president, Zelaya, snuck himself back into the country and has since been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy. This has caused a lot of problems, which range from protests and looting to 24-hour curfews (called toques de queda in Spanish, which literally means "a touch of staying"), and even a short but still 1984-ish cessation of telephone service.

I generally feel quite distanced from the reality of the situation. I find myself relating to the curfews more as snow days than as the major life-disrupting disturbances that they have been for many Hondurans. Various host parents were stuck in Tegucigalpa and forced to walk for hours until they were able to get picked up by relatives who broke the curfew to drive out and get them. There have also been runs on gas stations, grocery stores, and banks, but most of these have been in the larger cities. Where I am, about half an hour from the capital, things have been peaceful to the point of boredom, which, considering the alternative, is great, even though I still find myself whining about it.

We heard the first rumors of Zelaya’s return on Monday morning while we were in class. Then our lunch period was extended, and the trainees with internet spread the news that he was back, was in the Brazilian Embassy, and that his supporters were surrounding the building. Our next session was cancelled, because our guest speaker was supposed to be the Peace Corps Country Director, but as the Peace Corps Office and the Brazilian Embassy are in the same neighborhood, she was unable to extricate herself to meet with us. As the afternoon progressed, we learned of a curfew that would begin at 4 pm. Our session ended early, and we waited for the bus driver to arrive. While we settled into the bus seats, a friend asked me to try calling the United States because her phone was giving her a strange message. I tried, and was notified that the number did not exist. Other people tried their phones, and we found that service both outside and within the country had been suspended. The feeling of being so suddenly cut off was disorienting.

When we arrived in our neighborhood, we tried to watch the news, but all the stations here are very politically affiliated, and it was hard to get much information. At around 5:30, a video montage of Honduran scenery accompanied by jolly marimba music cut across the stations and announced the beginning of a news conference to be given by the interim president Micheletti. The conference was mostly incomprehensible to me, but I did learn that the toque de queda had been extended until 7 the next morning. After the marimba music returned to accompany the segue back into regular programming, I went to a friend’s house to get a better translation of the news and speculate about its implications for our future. Then we went to another house in the neighborhood where other trainees were sitting in a carport celebrating one guy’s birthday. After darkness fell, the power was cut off, and we pulled our chairs into the yard to look at the stars. Before I went to bed, I learned that the curfew had been extended from 7 am to 6 pm. I turned off my alarm clock.

Tuesday was the first of two days without classes. Most of the training staff lives in Tegucigalpa, so even though things are peaceful here, it would have been extremely difficult for them to have made it to the center. I spent the two days doing mild but dismayingly exhausting hikes with a friend, and filling the time with visits to other trainees, dominoes, and attempts at cooking. I made some misshapen but edible tortillas, and then, filled with confidence, helped fry the platanos at my house for dinner. Without even knowing that I was responsible, my six year-old host sister refused to eat them, complaining that they were too hard, and asking who had cooked them. My host grandmother tried to make excuses for me, saying that they just weren’t ripe enough to begin with, but she wasn’t kidding anyone.

On Thursday, we had a shortened day of training, the entirety of which was concentrated on learning the Honduran National Anthem. We left the center at three, and a group of us went directly to Valle de Angeles, a nearby town, to eat pupusas and be away from our houses.

For those of you who are wondering, our swearing-in date has again been postponed. The new date is set for next Wednesday, with the goal of heading out to our sites the following morning. Don’t tell Honduras, though, cause it will probably do something to throw another wrench in our plans.

Tomorrow, classes resume at the normal time, which means that I have to get up at 5. It also means that I have a language placement interview at 7:30, which I’m pretty sure is the worst time ever to have an interview, especially in a different language, so wish me luck, and I’m off to bed.

P.S. I wrote all that on Thursday night, and have a few updates. First of all, I had my interview, and it was a bad time, but I still managed to advance to the level of Intermediate High on the Foreign Service Institute or something scale. Congratulations. Things seem to be settling down a little, or, perhaps more accurately, stewing. We´ll see what the next week brings. We had a 6 pm to 6 am curfew last night, but it was probably because it´s a weekend.

I wish you all well!


  1. Thanks for the update Cara. Good luck cooking those platanos.


  2. Well done on the post. I hope you find a way to make some updates from your electricless site.

    Give a hop-jump across the border in honor of Zelaya! But don't tell PC...

  3. Erin, I have lost my platano cooking priviledges, at least with this host family. The good news is that I'm moving on Thursday, and I'll have another chance to prove myself. Also, my blunder was apparently so memorable that my host sister brought it up again last night. And then the 2 year-old peed on me.

    Nick, you're a bad influence. Also, if by making updates you mean scribbling letters by candle-light, I'll probably find a way. Mentira, mentira, but you might anticipate some shorter entries, which probably comes as a relief more than anything to fatigued readers.

    Thanks for the comments! Cara

  4. KaaaaaaYaaaaa! Happy Touch of Staying! The Bear and I read each and every singlest one these posties and can't wait for the next one, two, three. Bear thinks you're being too hard on yourself - even if your plantanos taste like pooptanos (I said that - she's much too sweet).

    I hope you get elected to be Chief Latrine Tester!