Friday, August 23, 2013

Come walk with me

The ever-changing field near the river.

 I have a 15-minute walk to work every morning. Today's was particularly interesting, what with me stepping out the door and immediately getting into a discussion with a neighbour about the swollen vulva of the wandering young dog sleeping on our patio, which he told me meant she was in heat and thus in need of one of the mystery injections they give dogs down here to stop pregnancy. But every day's walk is interesting in its own way.
    I make a point to say good morning to everyone I pass, having come to see that gringos are in general not nearly friendly enough for this extroverted and amiable culture. Shop owners getting ready for the day, women out sweeping the street outside their houses, cantina workers, street drunks - all of us exchange greetings, and at times get into spirited conversations about one thing or another.
    I walk the dirt road below our house, a favourite haunt of the handful of local men who drink themselves into oblivion at least a couple times a week. They're always in one of two states: Cheerily intoxicated or stone-cold passed out on the ground, looking for all the world like they're dead. One time I stood over a fellow for a long time trying to verify that he was breathing, but he was.
    The dirt road gives way to Cantina Row at the edge of town, where the sex workers pass their time in teeny-tiny bars dancing and flirting with drunk men. There appears to be some irregularly enforced rule about the cantinas not being allowed to open until 4 p.m., and today I noticed that one of the women has opened a small pulperia - a corner store - in her little house next to the bar where she works, perhaps to generate some daytime revenue.
Egel, the dog that walks to work with me a lot
    The highway between Copan Ruinas and the Guatemala border takes a strange swing right through this area, so there's one part of my walk where I'm often fighting for road space with semi-trucks trying to make a near-impossible 90-degree turn. If I'm walking with the neighbour dog that often accompanies me, I know he'll inevitably detour into one of the tire shops along that part of the road, where he will perform a ritual with the big husky-cross tied up there that involves the two of them standing side-by-side and looking like they're going to fight, although they never do. Giant semi trucks carrying vast flats of  Coca-Cola products are always unloading at a warehouse in this area; whoever else might be struggling in Honduras, Coca-Cola is not one of them.
    Then it's on to another dirt road, this one past the Hedman Alas bus station and the newly opened hotel that never looks very busy. The previous owner was murdered and the place was closed down when we arrived, but it's back in business under new ownership and trying its best in difficult times. Just past the hotel there's a field that has an ever-changing array of vegetables growing in it - beans for a couple months, then chili peppers, then corn. Today the workers were assembling little tents over the newly tilled field that producers use here to keep away bugs, so I'm guessing that tomatoes will be the next crop.
    The people I run into the most in this stretch of the walk are Maya Chorti, who are distinct among Hondurans for their brightly coloured homemade clothes, their slim builds, and their reserve. Sometimes I really have to work at it to catch somebody's eye for a greeting. I sense they don't have much time for gringos, especially those who aren't buying their corn-husk dolls. Some will have walked for two hours or more by the time we pass on the bridge across the Copan River, as they're all making their way on foot from some hillside village to town to sell their various wares: chickens; eggs; tortillas; local fruits.
    Every day I pass at least one stooped old man with a load of firewood on his back. It looks like the hardest work imaginable, and it always seems to be the oldest, most infirm looking men who end up doing it. I guess there's no other work for them, and certainly no comfortable retirement pensions.
Oh, the things you see when you look
   The final hill to my office takes me past some of the richer homes of the area, including one surrounded by a rock wall so high and huge that last year a team of 20 men worked on it every day for almost 10 months. We grew familiar with each other after 10 months of daily "Buenas dias," and now we say hello when I see them at other work sites around town.
  And then I arrive, to my desk in what was probably a garage at some point, where the big door is wide open and it's practically like I'm working outside. Today I hear the sound of saws; one of the wealthy people down below must be getting a new or improved house. Later this afternoon, I expect I'll hear the music and drums of a school band practising in some distant field, as Independence Day is coming up in less than a month and there will be many, many marching bands in the streets.
    Come Monday, I'll do it all over again, and it will be the same but different. If life is in the details, I am living.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful prose...thank you.

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