I’m fresh off the boat (or plane) from the USA and, after being told by a good friend that reading my first (and only) two blog entries was like seeing the first two Star Wars and left him pining for more, here I am once again.
It’s hard to say exactly what I was expecting from my first time back in ‘Los Junise’ (how everyone here pronounces a combination of 'United' and 'States') after a year in my Honduran backwater. I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard that story of the Peace Corps Volunteer who’s just returned from a small rural village in -insert African country here- and walks into an American supermarket for the first time and just freezes up and panics when she sees twenty different varieties of, say, gluten, casein, & soy free cheddar 'cheese' spread after 27 months of eating local, seasonal, ethnic foods. That is definitely not my situation. My town is a thirty-minute bus ride from Santa Rosa de Copán, home to three supermarkets (albeit ones that are owned by narcos and Walmart, but supermarkets nonetheless) selling unconventional products like nori, couscous and bacon bits. On top of that, every single house I have been to in the aldeas (small villages) of my town has cable television and, more often than not, a bitchin’ stereo system (how else are you gonna blast that Pitbull!?), regardless that many lack latrines and sleep around seven people in a single room. That said, I wasn’t expecting to be completely stupefied upon arrival. Here are some of my observations and thoughts about the homeland:
- We have delicious beer.
- There’s so much diversity! Immediately upon arriving to the Miami airport I saw: African Americans, Latinos, openly gay couples, Asian Americans, you name it! LOVE IT!!
-I had forgotten how thorough and personal the customer service system in restaurants is. Having the server come to your table four times throughout a meal to ask how everything is, make small talk about how the reason she’s running around from table to table is so she won’t have to go to the gym later, recommend to your grandmother precisely which beer from the beer list would best suit her palate, etc. was very different than how it tends to goes down here: sit down at a comedor (which is usually just a room in someone’s home with plastic tables and chairs), wait around 20 minutes until the owner finishes socializing with her sister and realizes you’re there, decide which item of the three available that day you want, wait another 30 minutes for that food (which is probably slightly different than what you actually asked for) to come, go back into the kitchen to pay because the owner has since forgotten that you were there. The gringos are just working for that tip, I guess.
- Cleanliness. I delighted in the mere presence of trashcans and the fact that I didn’t see a single article of trash thrown out of a vehicle window or have to inhale the smoke of any blazing piles of trash!
- I had forgotten how late it gets dark. Here, because of our proximity to the equator, it gets dark at around 6:30 PM all year round.
- Creativity! There are no shortage of interesting, unique, beautiful spaces (be it restaurants, stores, art museums, cafes, bars, whatever) in our cities and equally interesting, unique, and beautiful people occupying them, especially in San Francisco. Kind of blew my mind after being in a town that has little else aside from around 700 pulperías (small stores) that all have identical merchandise.
-Superfluity. Prime example: in San Francisco I saw a billboard for a hotel called Wag that is exclusively for cats and dogs, complete with “open-air, loft-style facilities with fun play areas, swimming pools and peaceful private rooms for snoozing”. No joke. Also, smartphones are blowing up (I’m not hating on them but is it really necessary to have all of those features/apps/I don’t even know what on your phone?). Not that I gave a damn but people were most definitely eyeing my phone (see below) when I would bust it out to call/text someone (yes haters, believe it or not, you can text with my phone). Truth be told, they probably just wanted to play Snake.
- On our way to Lompico/Santa Cruz, Bryan and I stopped by a little place on the 1 that sells organic strawberries and instead of someone behind the counter manning (or womanning, if you will) the cash register, they had an open tray of money where customers leave what they owe, and take change if they need it. Talk about an honor system! On top of that, there was a 10% discount if you roll up on your bike…BUT only if you have your helmet on, of course. None of that (organic produce, that much trust, discounts if you bike, helmets) would ever go down in Honduras. But then again, would it anywhere other than Northern California??
- And, as a final note that most definitely adheres to that ‘save the best for last’ notion, I have the most badass, strong, smart, hilarious, creative and beautiful people in my life. My soul peeps. You know who you are ☺
Over and out, JP