Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Absence makes the eyes grow sharper

Eight fairly chaotic days on Vancouver Island, and now I'm back in Honduras reflecting on how it feels to be taking holidays in the opposite direction.
They say you can never go home again. I don't know who "they" are or what sparked them to say such things, but it does seem that the things you remember fondly about a place don't hold up well when you go back for a second look.
I did take much pleasure from seeing my family and a few close friends while on the Island. It's top of my list to figure out ways to see them more often, whether by luring them south or doing more of those meet-you-in-the-middle holidays that my cousin in Darwin is so good at making happen with her family. And of course, receiving an honourary doctorate of laws from the University of Victoria was an amazing experience.
But the food and the chocolate and the nature walks I'd been fantasizing about weren't nearly so enticing as I'd remembered. The meals were too rich for my system. The chocolate was tasty, but I really only needed a couple of bites to set things right. I felt like I spent way too much time in cars, houses and restaurants, and missed the hours of outdoor time that comes with the tropical (and carless) life.
The pace was brutal after five months of the mellow life here in Copan. The B.C. government is still doing stupid, stupid things that set my teeth on edge. Victoria is still a little too precious, and I hated being cold all the time. By the time we got on the plane early Monday, I was ready to go "home."
Getting away from the place where you come from is a clarifying experience. I've realized, for instance, that while I treasure time with my family, I've also inherited a healthy dose of my father's anti-social genes. I wondered if I'd be lonely with just my partner for a friend here in Honduras. I'm not.
Others look at Honduras from afar and presume visitors like me would feel a newly heightened sense of gratitude for what we have as Canadians. But what I really see now is how much we've got to lose. Honduras is poor and its systems are almost universally corrupt or broken, but there's a certain honesty here about such things that's missing in Canada, where we're still in denial.
I don't mean to trivialize the differences,  mind you. I doubt Victorians will ever have garbage strewn everywhere, giant holes in the road that never get fixed, and millions of one-room shacks made of mud and corrugated tin - common sights in Honduras. The B.C. education system is taxed but still functional, and nobody is selling teachers' licences or creating fictional jobs so they can get paid twice.
You can still go to a public hospital and get good medical care, and can safely presume that most of the drivers you encounter on your various travels are both licensed and insured. The average Canadian is not going to return home from a holiday - as we just did -  to discover that their phone and Internet provider has vanished and there's absolutely no one to take that problem up with.
But Victoria still has hundreds of people living in the streets, and millions of Canadians - more each year - are living in poverty. Our governments' tendency to sneak in higher wages and sweeter contracts for a favoured few while denying more and more services to people in real need  - well, what other word is there for that except corruption? Honduras does have an excessive number of laws and policies that sound good on paper but are ignored in real life, and  is a signatory on any number of international agreements that it makes little effort to live up to. But that's all true in Canada, too.
And while much is made about the staggeringly high rates of violent crime here in Honduras, the first crime we experienced this year was when we arrived back on the Island to find our storage locker in the "24/7 secure" facility in Saanich that we pay more than $100 a month for had been broken into. While we would have expected to be on our own in dealing with a problem like that in Honduras, it turned out we were on our own in Canada as well.
Lessons learned? The things you remember fondly are perhaps sweeter when kept as memories. The line between a developing country and a developed one is finer than you might think. Corruption comes in varying strengths, but it's still corruption. The risk of being a victim of crime is much higher in Honduras, but that's not to say it won't happen to you right there in your quaint little Canadian town.
I'll always have a heart for Canada. But we're not nearly as worlds apart from Honduras as we ought to be given the depth of our wealth, education and knowledge. Get out of town for a while and I think you'll see what I mean.
Postscript June 21: Woke up this morning and thought gee, I hope I don't sound ungrateful for all the things Canada has done for me. I owe my education, health, career and good salary to Canada, and I wouldn't even be here in Honduras were it not for a Canadian organization, Cuso International. If I didn't care about Canada, I wouldn't worry about it nearly so much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post Jody.