Switching gears.

Hi All, we’re back in Tegus to regroup for a day – head out on the road again  morning early.  This past couple weeks we’ve been wandering the north/Caribbean coast of Honduras, visiting hospitals and public health clinics, Garifuna communities, other NGOs and people living with HIV.  It’s been fascinating, exhausting and informative.

Fascinating:  Beautiful white sand beaches where mostly Hondurans vacation and not Americans.  The cruise ships call this stop “Banana Coast” probably to not scare people who google “Honduras” and find out it’s the most violent country in the world outside war zones.

Exhausting:  we drove TWELVE hours from Trujillo to Tegucigalpa.  TWELVE. I’m tempted to sit on a pencil to retain the crack between my buttocks!

Informative:  The northern communities have an incredibly positive view of MSF – starting 40 years ago with Hurricane Fifi, Hurricane Mitch, maternity programs, HIV programs before they were widely available, and the list goes on.  Rarely did we have to introduce ourselves.

The northern area is lush grazing land for cattle – mostly milk production as evidenced by horses carrying big metal containers on either side of the saddle, going to market?  The vast banana palm farms give way to the “African palms” – native forests (I can imagine what this used to look like when covered with native mahogany and other native trees) now cut down for huge scale production of palm oil … It’s not the “slash and burn” of small subsistence farmers as we were taught in school.  This is industrial scale destruction for economic gain of huge corporations.  Sad really.  We still see butterflies, and all sorts of different birds, so maybe not all is lost yet.

The roads are dotted with fruit stands – coconuts, watermelons, mango, all sorts of fruits – cheap and plentiful.  Fish is only a hook toss away.  Yet in this lush landscape, where food is abundant, people still complain of “lack of economic opportunities” as the reason for migrating to the US.  We don’t hear “violence” as a reason in the north.  Yet, it costs about $6000 – 7000 to pay a coyote to take them all the way to their US destination, and that’s after riding the train La Bestia all through Mexico.  Most have family members in the US who send for them, and few unaccompanied minors other than those who are going to reunite with their parents.

I don’t understand this – everyone talks of how poor Honduras is as a country.  How so much is lacking.  Yet, I look around and see morbidly obese people everywhere (not just Americans!), new cars, tall buildings, food aplenty … I can’t say this country is as badly off as many I’ve been in.  Yet the statistics say otherwise.  There are lots of foreign companies working here, NGOs, foreign governments donating money for construction and programs … So where is the disconnect?  Corruption?  Is it any worse than anywhere else in Central/South America or indeed, worldwide?
If I can figure it out, I’ll let you know :)
We were able to have a little down time – the beaches along the coast are spectacular.  Chockablock full over Holy Week/Spring Break, but otherwise solitary.  Trucks are overloaded with sacks of plastic bottles to be recycled (into what?).  A first time greeting, even with a person you don’t know is with a kiss on the cheek and handshake.  Radio music is 80s – Queen, Christopher Cross, Air Supply.  The alternative is the one and only CD in the car which is an oldie of Jose Miguel wailing love songs in Spanish that, after the 50th play, I DEMANDED be removed!  Then turned on my iPod and listened to the entire podcast of Serial.  Saved my sanity!
Hugs to all – I leave you with the beach at Trujillo (“Banana Coast”) and a Garifuna woman making and selling pan de coco (bread made with coconut oil that is absolutely delicious).