Sunday, July 27, 2008

Plumbing in Honduras

Yesterday, the landlord came to my house to supervise some repairs/corrections to the house I am living in. He’s a very nice man and coincidentally, he is the owner of the frame store where I have taken some things to be framed. I just love it when you find out there’s a ‘connection’ and he was very happy that I was already doing business with him.

As we walked around the house discussing the things that needed attention, one of the places was the maid’s quarters. This is a small bedroom and bathroom out beyond the courtyard. There was no dispenser mounted on the wall for the toilet paper. As I was pointing that out to him, I noticed something that made me go “huh?” As you can see by the photograph, it probably made you go “huh?” too. When I asked him what that electrical outlet right next to the shower head was for (“¿Que es eso?”) he gave me this explanation. In Honduras, it is not customary to plumb the maid’s quarters with hot water. So, to compensate for this, they put an electrical outlet so they can plug in a small heater. I was in too much shock to ask if this heater stood outside the tub enclosure or was wall mounted. He must have noticed the look on my face because he quickly said he would be happy to plumb it for hot water if I wanted. I told him I only had Gloria 2 days a week but if I ever found the need to have a live-in maid, I would definitely want her to have hot water.

For anyone out there who has ever had a maid or nanny or any other kind of live-in domestic help, I’m sure you would agree that the service they provide is wonderful. The respect I have for Gloria and how she makes my life so much easier wouldn’t allow me to make her bathe with cold water. Here in Honduras, the pay for maids is so inexpensive that there is no way you can’t have someone in your home. Besides keeping your home clean, they are there for scheduled repairs, as well as accepting the bottled water delivery. So now, everything is done on Tuesdays. Gloria is at my house all day on Tuesdays and on Saturdays she stays until she is finished what she thinks needs to be done. She goes shopping with me and she cooks. My refrigerator is always full of food and it’s wonderful. She has, in a short span of 2 weeks, spoiled me! The least I could do for her is to make sure she has hot water if she needed it. I value her services too much.

In my bathroom, I also have an electrical cord running along the top of the tile in my shower. I looked at it and it appears to be the line for my security system, which runs from outside the window, along the top of the tile and into my walk in closet, where the alarm box is. I doubt this would pass code inspection in Fort Worth where I’m from. But…as the old saying goes, when in Honduras, you just do whatever you need to do to get the job done!! It's like the project around the corner from the embassy. They started to dig a small hole in the road to make a repair. The small hole became larger and larger and any day now we expect the street to be closed. in a Third World Developing country! Ya gotta love it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just A Few Observations

I’ve made some subtle observations about my new life here in Tegucigalpa. Some are really subtle and others are, well, not so subtle. Here are a few.

I live in a beautiful house. It’s a 2 story home, 4 bedrooms/baths, formal areas and a huge kitchen. However, there is no heat or air conditioning. That tells me that the climate is very mild here and I like that. Homes here are constructed of concrete…no drywall. All have tile floors. They tend to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

There are these little clumps of growth that seem to cling to power lines and branches of the tree. They remind me of mistletoe. Back in Texas, I had 2 maple trees in my front yard and every year, I had to cut out the mistletoe or it could kill the tree. No one seems to be bothered about the growths here. They look like a mess of sticks forming a ball. I’m told that birds who sit on the wires and branches deposit the seeds of these little plants there and they just cling and grow…something in the air plant family, I guess. Sometimes the wires are just covered with these little things. It’s quite a sight.

When I lived in Texas, I could go to the store and easily spend $150. Here, for some reason, I have to really look hard for things to buy. Then I get home and wonder why I don't have anything to eat.

Tomorrow repairmen will descend on my house to make numerous repairs. Nothing major, just lots of little things. I wish they could bring some concrete nails so I could hang some pictures. Not sure if I could swing the hammer hard enough to penetrate the concrete wall but I’d give it my best shot. I like things on my walls and these walls are definitely way too bland for my liking. See how boring my office looks??

Not too much money is spent on road repairs here in Honduras. You never know when you’ll come up to a huge hole in the street. And people steal man hold covers so if you hit one, you really know it! I haven’t found out why they are stolen so much.

Street vendors and beggars are all over the place. Guys wander between the cars stopped at red lights with a flame stick and a bottle. You guessed it, he takes a swig of whatever flammable solution is in the bottle and spews flames! His partner wanders with him with a bucket, looking for tips from people who think that’s amazing and a good show to watch while waiting for the light to turn green. There are also people who push a person in a wheel chairs who has no legs, also begging. The toughest is the kids, many who can’t be more than 5 years old, walking between the cars in the street banging on your window, looking in to see what you might have. They don’t stop when you say NO…you have to wave your finger back and forth and I guess that’s the universal signal for “Get the hell away from my car!” Some run up and immediately start cleaning your windoes with their little window washer/squeegee thing and then get mad when you don’t pay them. I’ve told the trick is that when you see them approach, turn on your windshield wipers and wash your own windows. Such is the entertainment at the red light. At night, you do not…repeat, do NOT stop for red lights. We have been told to slow down, look both ways and then just go. We’re told not to be out after dark so sitting at a red light at 10:00 PM isn’t something you want to do. However, in most intersections, people pay little attention to the lights anyway. Every man for himself! I must add that most of the time the lights aren’t working so, you watch the car next to you and go when he does. Safety in numbers!

That’s about it for now. In spite of everything, I really like it here. And once I really can get to the stores by myself without getting lost, I’ll like it much better!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

July 4th. The 4th of July. Independence Day. For me, no matter how you say it, it brings up feelings of pride. It also brings back memories of growing up in Coronado, California. There would always be a great parade and fantastic fireworks that night in the bay. Well, as a child, they were fantastic to me.

Today was my first Independence Day as a member of the Foreign Service. Living in Honduras, I didn’t know what to expect. I did know it would be a grand event. I’m with the embassy here in Tegucigalpa and this celebration was to be held at the Ambassador’s residence. Employees of the embassy were asked to help out and I was more than happy to volunteer. My friend Sally and I were asked to greet every guest and give them an official program and a lapel pin. There were over 1000 guests, including the President of Honduras, representatives of other embassies in the city and reporters and photographers from all TV stations and print publications. Ambassador Ford gave a wonderful speech and received a wonderful appreciative applause.

The band played the National Anthem and one our own sang the song to perfection. Throughout the afternoon, they played American songs and my friend and I played “Name That Tune.” There was only one song that stumped us! We had a great time.

There were ribs, beans, BBQ chicken, hamburgers, a salad bar and a beautiful cake. It was truly an event I’ll remember for a long time to come.
The picture above (I'm the one on the right) was taken by the pool and we all wanted a picture of the floating bouquet. The only thing missing from this celebration was fireworks. I guess I'll have to wait another year to see my first fireworks in a foreign country celebrating my country's independence. I think it will be worth the wait!