Honduran cell phone etiquette is otro pedo (this means ‘something else’, but the literal translation is ‘other fart’... it’s definitely in my top five favorite Spanish phrases). Here, phone calls and text messages are answered under practically any circumstance, childbirth included. In my first few months here I would attend the bimonthly meetings which municipal authority figures are required to hold by a law put in place to encourage transparency and mitigate corruption in local governments. Let’s just say Honduras has some very beautifully written laws, but writing a law and enforcing one are two very, very different things. Anyways, in these meetings, an act is read recapping the previous meeting’s content, then those present discuss current projects being carried out in the town, proposed projects (latrine construction, electrification of a neighborhood, a sanitary landfill, etc.), and requests from poorer people in the community for funds to travel by bus to Santa Rosa and pay for a medical consultation at the hospital. In other words, things that could potentially be important. These meetings tend to last somewhere around four hours and for every single one of the 14,400 seconds of those four hours, someone at the table is dicking around on their phone; I’ve even witnessed people who are sitting directly across from one another sending messages to each other.
At first I recall being astonished and mildly offended when a Honduran would answer their phone and proceed to carry on an entire conversation in the middle of a meeting (albeit slightly hushed, but trust me guy, you’re not fooling anyone), later it just made me laugh, and now I barely notice it at all, just like I barely notice, say, a group of people blow drying meat outside their home (I assume this was to heat the coals, but one can never be certain), a kid on a bike holding on to a horse’s tail and getting towed around town, or a pile of dog shit containing an entire intact chip bag that said dog has eaten and somehow successfully digested. And let’s just say I may have answered a phone call or two myself right smack dab in the middle of a training that I was organizing. That, ladies and gents, is what I like to call true cultural immersion. Let’s just hope that I can shake that newly acquired habit eight months from now because something tells me that may be frowned upon in the middle of a job interview.