Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Honduran cell phone etiquette & platypus nipples…

I recently accompanied my friend Iris to the private hospital in Santa Rosa to visit her friend and her brand spankin’ new, two-day old baby. Come to think of it, this baby was probably pretty damn close to being the seven billionth person on the planet. For anyone who is wondering- yes, this is the same hospital where Bryan spent somewhere around a fourth of his Peace Corps experience battling the slew of creatures that were perpetually snacking on the nutrients of his intestines (note to anyone who intends to visit Honduras one day- do not ever eat street cabbage). The new mama, the mama’s mama, Iris and myself spent around an hour talking about a variety of topics including vaginal dilation, afterbirth, how to massage a nipple in order to facilitate breastfeeding for women who ‘don’t have nipples’ (prior to this, I was under the impression that all mammals have nipples… except for maybe platypuses?) and the breastfeeding MO (shout out to Erin!) of each woman, all of which only further reminded me that I have a lot to learn before I’m ready to have any chillens of my own. Throughout this woman’s narration of her delivery, my attentiveness was fading in and out because (1) I’ve never had a baby, so my knowledge of what they were talking about was limited (especially so in Spanish) and (2) the L Word marathon me and my friends took part in the morning/day/night before had left me exhausted and incapable of absorbing any information about babies unless said baby was Bette and Tinas'. I digress. In spite of my yo-yoing consciousness, one particular comment did manage to catch my attention. She told us that as she was there, sprawled across the hospital bed pushing and panting and screaming and sweating and wishing she had gone the cesarean route, she heard a ‘chika chika chika chika’ noise coming from somewhere within the room, and looked up to see the head nurse text messaging. Text messaging. Moments before the baby’s head was about to crown. Infuriated, she yelled, ‘Put down your phone and help me!,’ to which the text messaging fiend of a nurse sassily responded, ‘Nadie aquí le puede ayudar, mamita…¡empuje!’ (No one here can help you sweetie… push!). Right!?!?!? I mean… can you BELIEVE that? The answer of any person who has ever spent any amount of time in Honduras: absofuckinlutely.

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.