Every time I travel to a new place, there are little differences that quickly become normal, a part of everyday life. I’ve been here less than 24 hours, and here are a few things that stood out.
• Nepal isn’t the only place with rolling blackouts. I’ve had no power (no wi-fi, phone either) for my first day here. It’s scheduled to come back on later.
• Yellow school buses are everywhere, even in this little village of El Porvenir. They are used as regular buses. I’ve learned that of the two circling the village roads, the one that honks will bring me to La Ceiba – the nearest city and ATM. The other one doesn’t honk and goes somewhere else.
• Tuk-tuks are here as well and very cheap. Riding one to class today brought me back to India. It even had a “made in India” sign on the dashboard. The only difference was that this driver played music; the speakers are located right behind the passengers’ ears.
• Kids are kids. I’ve been to one class and so many of the kids already remind me of ones I know. There’s the boy who steals other people’s snacks, the ones who are afraid to speak up in class, the ones who are eager to help, the ones who quit when things don’t go their way and the ones who want to climb on you. Then there’s Luis*, who rubbed my belly and asked if I was going to have a baby.
• Toilet paper does not get flushed. This is common in South and Central America. At least I have a place to sit, unlike in Kyrgyzstan!
• The lady next door will fry fish for me, across the street is another lady who will do my laundry, down the dirt road is a woman who will make lunch whenever I want it, there’s another house for tortillas, and the list goes on. If I were visiting here, I would be going to the restaurants on the beach, but living here means I know the best homes to go to for whatever I need.
• It’s hot. India hot. I knew it would be, but I’m still adjusting to it. Today, while playing goalie (the team was desperate), I stood in the thin shadow of the goal post for some relief. I even walked away from the goal to the nearest patch of shade whenever I had the chance. The other, much younger, volunteers were running around in the hot sun with the kids.
• It gets dark by 6:30. After one day I’m looking forward to it. The sun has become my enemy. There are afternoon downpours and breezes that I also eagerly anticipate.
• It’s not advisable to walk anywhere alone after dark. Luckily, I have everything I need where I’m staying. A beautiful garden, patio, hammocks, outdoor kitchen, privacy, and two dogs to play with.
• It’s cheaper to buy water in a plastic bag (13¢) than a bottle (40¢). Orange juice also comes in a plastic bag with a straw and is so cold and refreshing. This reminds me of Bolivia where they sold soda, water and other drinks in plastic bags with straws. It takes some getting used to.
• The locals swim with their clothes on. It’s true. I saw it with my own eyes. I don’t know why this is so.
• You stop a taxi, tuk-tuk or bus by pointing to the ground, not raising your hand in the air. Any shady spot in the village is a bus stop.
• When approached by a gang of street dogs (as I was last night) just bend over and pretend to pick up a rock and they’ll back away. It worked flawlessly, though they continued to bark loudly until I was well past them.
• This morning (day 2) during class I looked down and noticed giant beads of sweat covering my arms. I could feel the drops of sweat dripping off my chest also. I can’t imagine what my face looked like. Everyone else looked completely dry. I’m going to start bringing a towel to class.
Here are a few more scenes from my first two days in El Porvenir.