Saturday, August 10, 2013

Adiós a una Ciudad Nueva

The streets of Copán Ruínas are cobbled with multi-colored stones and lined with multi-colored houses. The colors on every street are what stand out the most to me: pinks and lime greens, yellows and light blues. Roofs are sometimes corrugated steel but, more often, are large, red, almost Mediterranean-style concrete tiles. Many of the houses have gates facing the street that open into small courtyards, and often the windows on the street are open, with a thin curtain waving in the breeze.

The second thing you notice after the colors are the trees and plants. There is vegetation everywhere, tumbling out of windows, climbing in vines up walls, filling courtyards and gardens, bursting into more color with flowers. The trees are tropical – there are all kinds of varieties of palm trees – and they all seem to have fruits on them. Mangos and avocados are recognizable, but many of the fruits are new to me: tiny green ones of all different sizes, large green balls the size of a softball or larger.

Dogs wander about the streets and sometimes in and out of the homes. They bark and howl at each other all night. The other nocturnal pests are the roosters who crow continuously throughout the night (and during the day, too) with their ridiculously pompous squawks that still make me laugh – when I’m not trying to sleep. (To talk about the roosters, I’ve used the word for “yell” or “scream” to describe what they’re doing [gritar], but I’m always corrected to use the verb for “to sing” [cantar] – it’s the rooster’s “song” here, not its “squawk.” I love that.)

It’s not unusual to see a horse trotting by with its rider. Red moto-taxis zip around corners (if they’re empty, they’ll always call out “Taxi? Taxi?” as they pass.) The streets are hilly here, and there are one or two that seem to defy the laws of physics when cars drive on them. They seem to rise up straight in front of you at 45-degree angles, but trucks and motor-cycles and the occasional SUV chug up them without a second thought. Every time I’m at the bottom of one of those hills and see a car about to make the plunge, I marvel at the trust all of us street-walkers place in brakes. The most disconcerting thing is the police trucks that drive around with soldiers in uniform sitting in the truck bed nonchalantly toting their huge guns. The guards outside the bank or that we’ve seen near some of the farms are the same way, long, frightening-looking rifles slung across their backs or held casually in their hands.

The Parque Central, a large, open plaza, is the social center of town where people sit chatting in groups or play games or just stroll through. All throughout the city, but especially here, small children will approach with black plastic bags full of hand-made, brightly patterned corn-husk dolls and hold them up to you with their big brown eyes. The other girls who have been here longer have learned a few of their names, and it makes all the difference to know who these children are and say hello, instead of feeling as though you’re always turning them away. (There’s only so many corn-husk dolls a person can buy!) They come from La Encantada, which, I think, is an indigenous community outside Copán up in the mountains. On the night we went to dinner at the Canadian couple’s farm, we walked a long way down the same path the children use with a brother and sister who sell the dolls. They were sweet kids and said they enjoyed school and making dolls. I can’t imagine what life is like where they live. We walked outside of Copán about a half hour on that path; they said they had much further to go.

The streets that fan out from the Parque are lined with shops, but are also full of street vendors selling jewelry on long tables under white tents, or cooking food to sell, or offering all kinds of strange fruits and vegetables to passerby. Some vendors also go door-to-door with their empanadas or tamalitos or fruits, and both at the school and at the house where I’m staying, they are welcomed in to sell their wares.

I’m soaking up the sights and sounds and feel of this city because today is my last day. It’s amazing how quickly the week has passed and to think that this place, that I’m just starting to appreciate, will be replaced with another new place that I’ll have to begin to grow comfortable in all over again. I’m really going to miss my house family. The youngest daughter is 12 and reminds me so much of my sisters. She wrote me a note and gave me her e-mail address and a hug last night in preparation for me leaving this morning! And I so admire the mother of the house, Orfilia. She is the oldest in her family of nine children and her house is where she takes care of both of her parents and also, as I saw this week, is the meeting point for all of her siblings scattered throughout Honduras and other countries. She has been so kind to me, and the food has been truly amazing. I wish I had time and space to describe it all! Maybe I’ll add another subheading to this blog with the riquisimo foods I come across. I was so surprised by how much I love the food here!

My whole experience this week has felt like a surreal kind of vacation. There was a lot of adjusting to be done and there were of course the mornings of language school and a lot of Spanish practice; but overall, it’s been a nice time. I know everything is about to change and the real work I’m here to do is about to begin. I’m anxious about what’s to come, but also excited to get back to the children and begin the work of building relationships, as much as that scares me.

The good news is we have two weeks of training and orientation ahead of us, which is very comforting. Last night kicked off the orientation with nothing more than a prayer. What a perfect way to start. Everything seems really big and scary, and the prayer was the perfect way to remind me that I’m not doing this alone, and that that is the most important thing to remember.

I’m just gonna stop apologizing for length. If, by the way, you are interested in what the sayings included in the last post meant, check out the new tab at the top of the page for Hondureñismos. It’s full of good sayings and some jokes I’ve heard this week at school and elsewhere and I hope to add to it throughout the year!

Thanks so much for all the prayers and support. Our whole volunteer community (finally all six of us are here and know one another!) I’m sure will continue to need them as we start orientation.

¡Hasta pronto!

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