Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts Of My Dad

Over the next 2 years, I’ll be writing quite a bit about my life here in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. You’ll be able to read about my adventures, surprises, disappointments and travels (among other things) here in Honduras and the surrounding countries. But this morning, when I opened my eyes, there was one person on my mind. I must have been dreaming about him because his image and the sound of his voice was as though he was in the room with me. It was my Dad.

Most likely the reason for this is that I miss him. I’m no expert on dreams or the interpretation of them so I can’t be sure. I do know that I think about him every day…wondering what he’s making in his workshop, what TV show he’s enjoying and how he is tolerating the hot Texas weather in Fort Worth. My Dad is only 93 but you’d never know it if you saw him! When he has a task to do, don’t even get in his way! And don’t ever ask him to do something for you during dinner because he just might get up from the table and head to his workshop to do it right then and there!

As you might expect, he’s not as active as he used to be, but at 93, he gets around and does things people much younger wouldn’t even attempt. That’s my Dad! He’s always been a man who needed to be busy. I can remember him doing so many things when I was a little girl growing up in Coronado, California. He always provided for us and was a hard worker in so many ways. I can remember when he added on a family room and beautiful multi-level patio to our house. I remember the thrill my brother and I had when he made stilts out of 2x4s for us and we walked all over the neighborhood. I remember the shiny new bikes my brother and I got for Christmas. All of my memories my Dad created for me when I was growing up are wonderful ones. Even the strict discipline…I always knew Dad loved me. And I still know it today.

Who knows…maybe he woke up this morning thinking of me too. I’m so glad he was on my mind when I opened my eyes. Sometimes the best times are remembering…the best times.

Finding Something Special

Tegucigalpa has a certain charm to it. Sometimes you have to look hard for it, but you can usually find something here that will make you smile. Sure, there’s the air pollution that makes it hard to breathe sometimes and forces you to dust and mop the floor much more often than you otherwise would. And the drivers here, good grief, you’ve seen nothing like them!! It’s survival of the bravest! You have to constantly be on the lookout for a car coming at you in your lane! And the motorcycles…no rules for them!

Last night about 15 of us departed from the embassy in 2 motorpool vans to head for a little ray of sunshine in this city of poverty and struggle. We all climbed into the vans and soon found ourselves on very narrow streets, made even narrower by parked cars on one side. At times, I expected to hear scraping as we inched by the cars and sometimes even driving up on the curb. We saw shops that we knew we’d never ever want to go in as well as people standing on the street that we’d never want to meet in a dark alley. We were grateful for the very dark tinting on the windows of our van.

We continued to make our way through these narrow streets for about 20 minutes. Fortunately for me, Sam, one of the marines, was in my van. I asked him if he was prepared to be in this part of the city. He nodded yes. I felt safer.

Finally we arrived at our destination and we were directed to 2 parking spots. Waiting for us were armed guards…and when I say armed, I mean the AK47 variety. We got out of the vans and approached the door of the old building. Once inside, we found seats, noticing that the guards were now posted at the front door and, along with another person taking tickets, scrutinized everyone who entered.

It was a beautiful old building, built in the late 19th century. The ceiling was gorgeous, painted red and gold in an intricate pattern. Three crystal (?) chandeliers hung from the ceiling, providing most of the light in the room. Along both sides were box seats, slightly elevated and above them, another tier of seating. With the lights in the box seats, you almost felt like you were outside on a beautiful evening…lots of white stucco and wooden doorways.

We had arrived for a performance of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Honduras at the Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla. Yes, we were at the Symphony! It was a special program with selections by Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Henry Mancini, Stephen Sondheim, John Williams (Star Wars!) and George Gershwin. For 2 hours we enjoyed wonderful music by a small, yet very talented young group of musicians. Billed as “Un Concierto de Independencia II,” it was a celebration of our Independence Day. How special was that??? A few times during the performance, you could hear car mufflers and smell exhaust from the street outside. Just a subtle reminder that I was at the symphony in Tegucugalpa, not Fort Worth.

So you see, even in a place like Tegucigalpa, Honduras to find something special, all you have to do is look hard. And at about $4.75, I knew I had found something special.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The World Through My Lenses

I've always loved photography. I can remember my grandmother getting us to stand still while she looked down at her little black box camera, moving it left to right, making sure all her grandchildren were in the picture. I always wanted to look in that glass window with her.

As I progressed through life, recording it with a camera became more and more important to me. I was always the one who arrived at an even with a camera in hand, ready to snap pictures. Then came children and an even more urgent need to record their lives with my camera. It worked...I have wonderful pictures of my children. Lots of pictures. I'm in the process now of scanning all those many pictures into my computer and/or on to CDs. Amazing how we progress from loving to look at pictures to wanting them on the computer!

I've had about 6 different digital cameras. My first one was a Fuji, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It took pretty good pictures for 2.0 megapixels! Now that I'm in the Foreign Service and will do quite a bit of traveling, I've decided to move up from a point and shoot to a 'real' SLR digital camera. So, I ordered a Sony Alpha DSLR A300. I can't wait to get it and start learning all about F stops and exposure and all the other things that I never gave a thought about when taking pictures. Hopefully, you'll see some examples of the results of my new camera!

I hope to have some images seen through the lens of my camera, but first seen through the lenses of my eyes!

Lifestyle Changes...Whether I Like It Or Not

As we stroll through life, we sometimes make lifestyle changes, whether we realize we're doing it or not. You may find a different route to work which is shorter to conserve gas. Or you may, without really realizing it, change your morning routine, leaving you an extra few minutes to goof around. With my move to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I have found many changes that were required just because I am now living in a third world country.

For example, due to the poor air condition, caused in part because auto exhaust and industrial pollution trapped because we're surrounded by mountains, things get dirty faster here. Taking 2 showers a day is almost a must. And mopping the ceramic tile floors throughout the house is, without a doubt, a daily routine. If you walk barefooted, as I do, you will notice that the bottoms of your feet become black with what I affectionately call "mysterious appearing black stuff" within moments of removing your shoes. And you don't dare walk around in white sox!

Another change is my loss of freedom to go where I want, when I want. Due to the crime rate here, I just can't run around like I did back in Texas. Of course, it's due in small part to the fact that I don't have a car yet, but that should change soon. I now know my way to and from work and to the store and back. But God help me if I make a wrong turn! On this same subject, I suppose I should add my loss of confidence to the list of lifestyle changes. But, as I venture out (whenever I get my car) and feel my way around, my confidence will return. Everyone tells me it will and I believe them.

Getting my mail on a daily basis has changed. Since the plane crash at Toncontin International Airport, incoming mail has been sporadic due to rerouting all large aircraft to another airport. All my mail comes to the embassy and I think it came in 2 times last week. Or else no one loves me!! Hopefully it will improve once the airport reopens to large aircraft.

There are many more changes, subtle ones to be sure, that I have made since arriving here. But I think I'm incorporating them into my new lifestyle in this third world country. I never disliked coming here but I'm finding more and more reasons why I like it here. Some of these changes will stay with me forever once I move on to my next post in less than 2 years and some, hopefully, will go away.

Change is good.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father and Son

Meet my son, Bobby and his son, Gavin. What a pair they are! Gavin will be 2 years old on June 21 and I wish I could be there for the celebration! His birthday is 4 days before mine and one of these days we'll celebrate them together! Until then, he's in my heart all the time. Hopefully, I'll be there with him and his little twin brothers and his mommy at Christmas!

I love you guys!!!
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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Life In A Third World Country

I've now been Tegucigalpa a little over 2 weeks. Seems much longer than that with all I've experienced. Learning my job is getting better. There's just so much to learn and the person I'm replacing is leaving Friday, June 13th. Yes, for me, that will be an unlucky day!! Next week, it's learn it all or learn how to fake it realllllly well! I'm sure I'll be fine.

I still don't have a car. I'd love to say I don't intend to get one because you honestly take your life in your hands when you drive here. There are few traffic lights in the area I live so it's every man for himself. It's a must that I buy a car but for now, I have a driver, take a taxi or find someone going where I want to go and then plead with them to come take me too! So far, so good.

Yesterday around 3:00 in the afternoon, there was an attemped assassination on a female attorney. She had stopped near her residence and suddenly, 4 men came out of nowhere and opened fire on her. There were 14 shots fired, 6 hitting her. This morning's paper said she was still alive, but barely. I was at work at 3:00, fortunately. The shooting took place in front of the door to my apartment. When my driver brought me home, he had to stop about half a block away because of the yellow crime scene tape. Another embassy employee kindly offered to walk with me to my building and of course, we were stopped. I told the policeman that I lived there and he allowed me to pass. Today, the street looks normal. Such is life (once again) in a third world country. I know things like this happen in the US all the time...but I've never lived this close to the action before. I try to keep things in the proper perspective and tell myself that I AM careful, that I DO watch where I'm going and take all precautions I can. And fortunately, I'm not an attorney.

On a lighter note, I'm headed to Honduras' version of Sam's Club again tomorrow, PriceSmart. It's nice that so many American items are available. As you can see, on my last trip there I found many goodies. Note the Hellman's mayonaise...they love things in squeeze bags!!! Stuff like tomato paste, ketchup, mustard and so many other things come in the squeeze bags with the screw on cap. Of course when you realize that the packaging cost more than the contents, you think twice about buying it! I thought it was cute! The parmesan cheese that I use on so much set me back $7.00 and the chocolates...$9.00. But when you want something, who cares what it costs. It's all offset by the lower cost of other things in life. My haircut, color, blow dry and style was only $25 today and I'm now back to looking 10 years younger than I am!! The best $25 I've spent lately and I now vow to NEVER get assigned to a country where there aren't good hair stylists and manicurists!! God bless them!
That's about it for now. I'm taking my camera with me everywhere in the weekends now so I hope to have more pictures to post here. Maybe I'll find something interesting to shoot at PriceSmart tomorrow!!