Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 1: The initial panic recedes

Scene from my morning walk to work

Admittedly, I didn't understand much of the things said at this morning's devotional, a regular Monday-morning feature at my new workplace, the Comision de Accion Social Menonita. But I can't help but think that Truman Capote and Oscar Wilde would have been pleased to know that they were quoted at a gathering of devout Mennonites in Honduras.
Three groups work out of the CASM office, and each of the 15 employees in the building take a turn at preparing a theme for the Monday devotional. Today's theme was about work, with the group invited to reflect on how they define "work" and who they work for (and no, just saying that you worked for God was not sufficient).
I was a quiet observer this time out, but I liked the idea of a set time for employees to reflect on something bigger than just getting that day's job done. And I did manage to sing along with a few stanzas of a song that sounded very much like "Red River Valley." I got the gist of the session - I'm using that expression a lot these days - including the mentions of Capote and Wilde during a reading of various quotes about work.
The person who prepares the theme for the week is also responsible for bringing in food to share after the devotional. Today it was chepas (spelling, anyone?) - frijoles wrapped in a corn mash and steamed in corn husks. Now that I know there's food every Monday, I won't bother eating breakfast at home next time.
As for my actual work today - well, the boss wasn't in and the other staff members didn't know what to do with me.
But they were cheerful about it, and in the end invited me along to a meeting at Copan city hall of local Mayans, who are very upset that some of the artifacts at the famous Mayan ruins in Copan are about to be shipped off to the University of Pennsylvania. The plan is to replace the artifacts on site with reproductions. You can imagine that the idea of losing precious relics to a U.S. university might trouble the Mayan descendants who live here, a population that CASM works with extensively.
Alas, that meeting fell victim to one of the strange circumstances that just seem to happen in Honduras. It turns out that CASM and one of the other organizations it works with, the Organismo Cristiano de Desarrollo Integral de Honduras, had a falling out with someone at city hall last year over something that, when explained to me in rapid Spanish, was beyond my ability to understand. At any rate, both organizations have now been prohibited from entering city hall. I sense that democracy is a bit of a loose concept in Honduras, among all levels of government.
We sat outside city hall for more than an hour, waiting to talk to the Mayan contingent after the meeting. But we eventually gave up. I'm hoping I'll find out more tomorrow when I arrive for Day 2, and at least know now that it's a very pleasant 15-minute stroll to get to work.
The route along the Copan River took me past several flocks of oropendolas, a flashy crow-sized bird with a distinctive ululating song and an intriguing tendency to sing the song while falling forward on its perch. Throw in a few orioles, great-tailed grackles and flocks of little green parrots, and it's a perfect morning walk for a bird enthusiast like myself.
Better still, I heard today there's a women's-rights project at CASM due in June that sounds like a potential fit for my skill set. It may not go smoothly - that doesn't seem to be the way down here. But hey, no problema.


Debbie said...

I haven't heard them called "chepas" but it sounds like they are a type of tamale. Yum!

Unknown said...

Keep up the dispatches, I'm enjoying the word pictures.