La Paz is a municipalidad of 40 to 50,000 inhabitants and is the administrative seat of the departamento of La Paz. Working at my computer I look out my window and see students daily making their way to class. La Paz has a half dozen or so public escuelas (primary schools) and one public colegio or instituto (secondary school). The students walk by laughing and talking in their universal blue and white uniforms: white blouse and dark-blue skirt for girls and white shirt and dark-blue trousers for the boys. The public school students have three different jornadas (periods), AM, PM, and night so that there are students walking by all day and evening. Then there are three private bilingual schools with their own different colored uniforms, and a private evangelical school, and a private catholic school and colegio with their uniforms. There is also the police academy, an instituto with 500 students and their unique different uniforms, and a normal school that produces primary school teachers who wear uniforms of yellow blouses and dark brown skirts to class. A few kilometers out of town there is an instituto that teaches agricultural skills and animal husbandry to students from all over the country. And in the colonia of Yarumela, a suburb of La Paz, there is the Instituto Polyvalente that teaches construction skills like metalwork, carpentry, plumbing and electricians. A private school for Nursing Assistants also adds to the mix. On weekends people from aldeas in the surrounding mountains, buyers and sellers, crowd into the city’s vast open-air street market where every imaginable item is bought and sold. The market two blocks from my home, I often walk over to rub elbows with these wonderful folks.
When I returned from my trip to the North Coast Sister Edith told me she had started driving the Chevy pickup truck I donated to the Foundation. For the past several months she and I had gone out on sporadic weekly driving lesson trips in a rural part of town. While I was gone her brother and a family friend convinced her she was ready to solo. She is now the proud driver of a 1989 Chevy Silverado Stepsider pickup truck and daily and gaily transports the children to school and to church. I had been driving her and the children around but now my services are no longer necessary. She, however, does not yet have a driver’s license. So next week Sister Edith and I will drive to nearby Comayagua to obtain her license and she thereby becomes legal. How soon they become independent.
KI’BOK is an out-of-the-way treasure where I go have breakfast and excellent coffee in La Ceiba. It is located one block from the house my friend Dr. D has lent me for my two-week stay. KI’BOK is Mayan for aroma. The small, cozy café has good rich coffee, the food is fresh and tasty and most important it is air-conditioned and equipped with an eclectic library. There are books in many languages, surprisingly most in English. Its rule of thumb: bring a book, take a book. There is consequently a constant exchange of reading material. Everything imaginable is found in its stacks, none of the material cataloged. It’s a search and you will be surprised kind of quest. Sunday I travel to La Masica near La Ceiba to visit Yeltsi and plan for her 6th grade graduation the end of November.
This parade will last until one or two pm. It started at 7:30 and I left after four hours when it was still going strong. They don’t do Independence Day fireworks in Honduras: they do parades with all the kids whose parents can afford it participating. The parades started Friday and will continue for 4 days until Monday. Different grade levels march each day; preschool, elementary, secondary, vocational. That is why I postponed my trip to La Ceiba. The entire country: hamlets; aldeas; municipalities; cities; and its roads and highways will be inundated with parades that last hours and block traffic. Tuesday I leave for La Ceiba … parade-free.
This may be one of a pair watching over a nest outside my window. There’s also an iguana lurking in those same trees who would like nothing better than to sample a bit of colorful fare. Nuff ’bout that. Sunday I leave for La Ceiba on the North Coast. Yeltsi, the young lady I help with her school expenses, is graduating 6th grade in November. That will end her escuela studies: Primary school. She graduates into colegio: Secondary school, where she will study for five years and receive her Bachillerato diploma: High School. Yeltsi has always earned good grades since kindergarten above the 90th percentile. My goal is to motivate her to attend university. While in La Ceiba I also plan to visit Roatan Island for a few days. I am familiar with Cayos Cochinos and Utila of the Bay Islands. But I have never been to Roatan. It will be a treat to spend a few days on one of Honduras’s world-famous Caribbean treasures.
Early last Saturday a couple of buddies and I drove into Tegucigalpa’s junkyard world in the Hogar’s ’89 Chevy looking for a rear window glass for the cab; one with small sliding windows for direct personal voice access to the pickup’s usual rear bed full of kids. The trip into the city’s depths proved an unforgettable adventure. We drove through several dangerous areas bumping along streets of dirt and large navigable rocks in residential nooks and crannies in the center of the 1.5 million citizen metropolis looking for and finding junkyards in the midst of a wealthy modern city. So incredible it was: the presence of graffiti, and the influence of Salvatrucha gangs and Mareros visible in many colonias and barrios who charge residents a “war tax” to live in their own neighborhood. A day trip was okay: the bad guys come out at night, we were told. Barricaded steets with pistol-toting watchmen protect more affluent residencial areas because armed gangs control so many of the colonias and barrios. One does not walk in those places after dark. Al fin, en búsqueda todo el día, regresamos a casa con el sol ocultando y con las manos vacías.
Much has been written the past few days about a horde of disease-laden Honduran children fleeing gang violence and abject poverty swarming illegally into the US. To be sure, the gangs and poverty are real. I, however, have lived in Honduras for more than five years; an ex-pat, ex-Peace Corps Volunteer, Registered Nurse and I know that all those children have been vaccinated against every childhood disease the same as a US child, a requirement to enroll in school same as in the US. As far as I know there have been no La Paz children leaving home. The Hogar children tell me they are receiving classes in school addressing the refugee problem. The fire department, police department, and the cadets at the local police academy paraded through the community yesterday, sirens blaring, and gathered at the central park to publicize the problem and the dangers involved. The 99% of folks in Honduras living lives same as citizens in the US continue their daily routines same as always. We are aware of the media circus fueled by racist US citizens via newpapers, radio, television and the internet but the average Honduran has no way to influence US ignorance, stupidity and political machinations of all the countries involved. La Paz, Honduras is a beautiful and peaceful place filled with friendly, wonderful citizens where I have chosen to make my home to escape the omnipresent norteamericano systemic racism that thrives and drives repugnant gringo attitudes.