Monday, April 02, 2012

Knock on enough doors and one will open

I’m not one who handles inactivity well, and I find myself looking around for more projects in Copan.
My Cuso placement is a project, of course. But at the moment that one is still taking shape and I don’t yet have enough to do at work.
That will change over time, especially if the funding comes through next month for a public-awareness campaign for young people that the Comision de Accion Social Menonita hopes to do in the runup to the 2013 Honduran national elections.
But in this moment I have time on my hands, and am casting about for constructive ways to rectify that.  It’s much more of a challenge in a new community, especially one so tightly tied to church and family.
That last phrase sounds a bit ridiculous even as I write it, seeing as a community tightly tied to church and family should be exactly the kind of place suited to the work I most like to do. But I am the outsider in this instance – the foreigner without either church or family in Honduras, and with all the baggage that any do-gooder foreigner brings in a country that hasn’t exactly had a history of successful encounters with outside interests.
It’s certainly not a question of who needs help here. As far as I can tell, almost everybody does.  The dogs are starving. The kids don’t have playgrounds, let alone toys, books or anything resembling a “green space” where they might go to blow off a little steam or release the darker energies that can develop in adolescents with absolutely nothing to do. Fun for teenagers in Copan is the local billiard hall.
Their parents need work. The streets need cleaned. Even the local businesses could use help, most having a rather limited sense of how to market themselves or the specialties of Honduras to the busloads of tourists who blast into town for a day or two. (The classic example of that is the Chorti women who make quite beautiful table linens that they sell in a virtually invisible location in the impoverished pueblo of La Pintada, where the only buyers are occasional groups of dusty tourists led up there on horseback.)
Every afternoon I walk past the string of rough little cantinas along my route to work and see the local sex workers dancing with the drunken men who frequent the tiny bars. Sex workers will always have my heart, but I sense it’s too soon for that one.  The intentions of the gringa would likely be  misunderstood at this point. For now I’ll just make a point of saying hello every time I pass by, and we’ll see where that leads.
I’d like to make music with local children, and have put that offer out there to a few Copanecans. We could start with clapping and singing and work up to the kazoos that one of my daughters has offered to ship down here. I sense the kids could use a little more joy in their lives, and making music is such a joyful act.
But people are busy with their own stuff, and I can’t fault the locals I’ve talked to for not getting back to me yet with suggestions on how I can make this happen. I’m generally a self-sufficient type happy to take responsibility for making my own projects happen, but that’s a tall order in a new country and culture with none of the organizational mechanisms I’m used to.
Even trying to organize the purchase of 70 big water bottles for a village that needs them to access treated water has turned out to be a frustrating exercise in waiting for others to open doors for me. It isn’t an option here to just phone up the water-bottle company and say, “Hey, how much?” because there are mysterious channels to go through first and no simple way for my partner and I – in our new carless state – to get the bottles from Point A to Point B even then.
I visited a foster home the other day, Angelitos Felices, and it was every bit the dark, sad place that you might expect of such a place in a developing country. I laid awake last night thinking: Could I start here? There are lots of rumours in town about the place but they don’t appear to have led to much change to this point. Meanwhile, more than 30 children are passing their young lives in conditions that can only be preparing them for a life of poverty and crime as adults.
Today I’m going to show up at the door with a watermelon and just see what happens. Maybe they’ll let me in.

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