And we’re back! I’m pretty sure that every Peace Corps blog that I’ve read apologizes for not writing enough so here is my apology. I kind of have an excuse. I’ve been traveling lately, moderately busy at work, and doing research for my fantasy football team so it’s been a struggle to sit down and write this. In the next couple of weeks my goal is to crank out some posts to satisfy my large readership. I decided to devote this post to my neighbor, Gustavo.
Before I start, I need to give some background on my friends situation. When I first arrived to Pespire, my counterpart, FAO, was filled people who were in their 20s, university educated, and some that could even speak some English. It was awesome and something most volunteers don’t get to experience. Not only did I learn a lot and practice my Spanish, it was a great time. Well due to some wholesale changes in FAO (I’ll elaborate in a subsequent post), most of those people are gone and I don’t work much in the FAO office anymore. All of this is to say I don’t have many people to really hang out with at night or on the weekends. The main reason for this is that there are not a lot people my age in town. Due to the fact that there isn’t much employment, young males usually leave for the bigger cities, Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula, or go to the States. Other reasons include: most people have kids, people shut up their houses at 7:00, I only have one neighbor, and after speaking Spanish all day I usually just want to read or watch “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” It’s nothing unusual for a majority of volunteers that are in smaller towns. It’s not that I don’t know a lot of people in town or sometimes have dinner with someone’s family. We just don’t hang out.
The person I do hang out with in site is my one and only neighbor, Gustavo. Imagine a left tackle without any lower body. He’s like a huge Humpty Dumpty with a beard and walks with kind of a forward lean. Oh, and he’s completely nuts. We live in a sort of duplex complex where we share a wall and a chain link fence separates our patios. His kitchen window also overlooks my back patio. This means we’re a little closer than the average American neighbor. The first time I met him, when I moved in, he was incredibly welcoming and invited me to come over and watch some TV if I wanted. Later that night I went over and was immediately thrown off at how he was talking. He spoke in a kind of Spanglish, mainly speaking in Spanish but then substituting nouns for their English equivalent. He’ll also be talking in Spanish and then out of the blue say, “you want?” I then have to figure out what in the world he’s talking about and usually I decline. You wouldn’t think it would be a big deal but my brain can only be in one language mode at a time. I didn’t know how to respond at first, English or Spanish? Now, I’m used to it and just reply in Spanish. Apparently he studied English in college, but not practicing for 12 years has made him a little rusty. He has a sign outside his house saying he does English translations, which is like me saying I do freelance photography. The other day he told me there were rumors of “stealers” in town. I immediately thought of Troy Polamalu, in a jersey, hanging out at the park. Then I realized he meant people that steal, burglars. This is just one example of many others.
His desire to speak English is only rivaled by his propensity to drink. He doesn’t mess around. On the weekends (surprisingly he only drinks on the weekends) he’ll finish off at least a case (24 beers), by himself. I say at least as he usually buys some more. The usual Saturday routine is to sit on the couch, drink some beers, and watch Si TV, which is probably one of the most bizarre channels I’ve ever seen. It shows old music videos, usually from the 80’s, but also newer stuff. The bizarre part is the fact that there are no commercials. I don’t how the channel operates or even why it does, but it’s pretty sweet. I go over some Saturday afternoons and we’ll watch some music videos and drink some Barenas. Now for those not initiated, Barena is the Zima of Honduran beers. It’s about the girliest beer one could drink. However, I appreciate the hospitality and love singing along to The Clash.
You might ask where is the wife in all this, and that’s a good question. In a reverse scenario of the usual immigration story, she is in the States working at a hotel, which means the poor guy is a little lonely. Though he misses his wife, he still thought it necessary to show me pictures of his ex-wives, all three of them. He’s only 35, you’d think he would think twice about being married for a fourth time, but apparently this one is working out. I didn’t know what to really say as he’s showing me these pictures. Wow, she’s beautiful? Why didn’t you keep that one? That’s just one of a long list of faux pas that are uncomfortable as an American, but not that big a deal in Honduras. One night we were eating in a restaurant and he asked the cook, who he knew, if she was pregnant. “No, I guess it’s my shirt that makes me look a little bigger,” she replied as I facepalmed. The funny thing was that she didn’t seem offended by it. I told him to never say that to an American woman. His plan is to move to New York where some relative has a DJ gig lined up for him as soon as he gets a visa. I’m trying to teach him what things he can’t do in the States that are perfectly normal in Honduras. That includes spitting on the floor inside, urinating at any random spot on the street, shooting off fireworks at 5:00 a.m., and showing up two hours late for meetings. Also, when a girl walks by it’s not normal to stare, whistle, honk, or confess your endless love to her. That’s sexual harassment.
As I read back over this it sounds like there are no redeeming characteristics to this guy. However, I love having him as my neighbor and consider him a true friend. Many nights I go over to his house and we have great conversations about Honduras, his family, and life in general. He’s been vital in my community integration and helping me find the best deals when buying stuff for my house. I’ll be sad to see him go if he actually ends up leaving to go drop beats in New York.
Next week I’ll write about what I’ve been up to lately, again, sorry for the delay. For those that do not know, I’m coming home December 17-January 3 for the trifecta of Dave and Sharon’s wedding, Christmas with the family, and New Years! Apparently all work comes to a halt in December in Honduras, it’s just a month long holiday, so I’ll be glad to escape the boredom. If anyone will be in the Joplin area during this time, I better see you. It’s not an option.
Till next time….