Monday, March 05, 2012

If only Copan had a Foo franchise....

Downtown Copan Ruinas, blessedly siren-free
I’ve now been away from B.C. for longer than any period of my life. OK, it’s only been eight weeks, but surely that’s enough time to muse on what I miss and don’t miss about the place.
The last time I was away for (almost) this long – two years ago when we travelled to Vietnam and Thailand for six weeks - the thing I missed the most was not having access to a musical instrument. Fortunately, I brought my accordion with me for this journey, so no worries there.  Overall, I think I’m adjusting nicely to life in a tropical country, something I suspect I’ve been hankering for since I was six and first discovered the glorious feeling of hot sun on my skin while on a family vacation in Penticton.
I do miss some things. But not everything. Let’s start with what I miss:
My family. I’ve never lived further than a few hours from all my immediate family members, and even though I grumbled now and again that I wished it was otherwise, the truth is that I liked it that way.  I think I’ve only missed one Chow family reunion – they’re held every two or three years - since I was 14. But I’ll be missing one this summer, which will also be the first summer in seven years that my partner and I haven’t taken a two-week vacation somewhere in the motor home with our big pack of grandsons. I also miss making music with my youngest daughter Rachelle; I really loved our little gigs at old folks’ homes around Victoria. I hope my kids mean it about coming to visit us in Honduras.
Takeout from Foo Asian Street Food. Man, I love the food at that place. The pad thai, the caramel chicken, the papaya salad. We’re coming home for a week in June, and Foo takeout is definitely on my list of must-haves. So is a big, barely cooked T-bone steak. We’re practically vegetarians in Honduras what with the scarcity of meats in the market.
Sewage pipes capable of handling toilet paper. Down here, you have to put your toilet paper into a garbage bin to avoid plugging the pipes. Yuck. Still, at least they’ve got Western-style toilets that flush and no squats, which I became intimately (and unhappily) familiar with when my mom and I travelled in China last fall.
Healthy, happy dogs.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the sight of the sick, sad creatures that pass as “pets” here in Copan. The cats do OK with neglect – you know how cats are – but the dogs just wander around looking like they’re desperate for a good meal and a hearth to curl up on. Please, somebody, come down here and launch a dog-rescue project.
My bird walks through Panama Flats. There are lots of rural roads around here, but there’s no walk that lets you escape the trucks and noisy moto-taxis that tear past on any skinny, potholed dirt road you’ve managed to find. Plus anyone staring intently into the bushes with gigantic binoculars around her neck looks just plain weird down here.
And what I don’t miss:
The constant whine of sirens. I swear, you can’t go 30 minutes without hearing a siren in Victoria. I have a theory – baseless, I admit – that being exposed to so many sirens leaves a person in a chronic state of alarm. Sure, the odds are 54 times higher that you’ll get murdered in Honduras than in Canada, and nobody in their right mind would want to know how the odds of getting assaulted or robbed down here compare. But at least there are no sirens.
Conversations about new furniture and kitchen renovations. One time in Victoria, we had dinner with two other couples and for an hour and a half, they talked about their new mattresses – how thick they were, how much they cost, the pros and cons of a pillow-top. That painful dinner party was a life-changer. Now I live in a house without a sofa (confession: I’d actually like a sofa) in a country where a good mattress for a lot of people is anything that eases the discomfort of sleeping on the dirt floor of their tin-roof shack in the hills.
B.C. politics.  I wouldn’t want to suggest governance is better in Honduras, but at least it’s more honest about its obsessive self-interest and complete disregard for people who are struggling. It was killing me to live in a province and country with so much potential, so much wealth, yet so complacent that one destructive government after another has felt free to come in and loot the place.
Cold, dreary weather. Many people have told me over the years that I’d miss the change of seasons if I lived in a hot country. I always thought they were dead wrong about that. Maybe I’ll miss the long days of spring/summer in Canada – here, it gets dark shortly after 6 p.m. year-round due to the proximity of the Equator – but I do not miss the greyness, the drizzle, the chill in the air or the thought of “hot” summer days that top out at 22 degrees. I love walking out the door every morning knowing I won’t even need a sweater, let alone a warm jacket and a scarf.
So there you go. Some good, some bad, just as you might expect.  But hey, I’m loving the adventure.

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