June 14, 2007

Slower pace of life

I would say that most Hondurans enjoy (or I guess you could simply say “live”) a slower pace of life. Something that for Luke and I (while don’t get me wrong, we love our leisure time) is difficult for us to get used to. Our Monday – Fridays in the US were filled with projects, coffee, deadlines, schedules, meetings, lunch dates, errands, planning, did I mention coffee?, etc. There’s just enough time at the end of the day to eat dinner, chat a bit about your day, walk the dog, read a magazine or newspaper for a few minutes and catch John Stewart or The Colbert Report before calling it a night. (Ok, I’m not going to lie…that life I used to lead sounds extremely enticing to me right now although I complained about it when I was living it!). Living life takes longer here and it’s taking us a long time to feel like it’s “normal”.

We don’t have a car (even if we wanted one Peace Corps doesn’t permit it…or a motorcycle for that matter). This is definitely less of a problem here in Honduras that it would be in the States because Honduras has a pretty good public bus transportation system (by pretty good I mean you can get virtually anywhere you want in the country by bus(es), albeit a super long trip on an old yellow school bus imported from the US with standing room only). Here in Danlí we get around by walking or taking a taxi (which costs a set fee of 12 lemps per person – about 60 cents). On an average day in the States I would drive my car to numerous places…to my office, to the preschool where I taught then back to the office, to meet someone for lunch, to run errands (stop at the grocery store for a few things, get gas, grab a coffee, stop by a friend’s, pick up dinner, etc). All this adds up to a complete dependency on my car, sad as it may be. Here in Danlí, and most other mid-size cities in Honduras, there’s no such thing as one-stop shopping – no Super Target, Super Wal-Mart, or mall to be found. The benefit of this is lots of little smaller shops owned by locals. The disadvantage is having to walk around to multiple stores trying to find exactly what you’re looking for. For example, when I buy food to make dinner, first I go to the market to buy fruits and veggies. Then I go to the smaller grocery store to get more “specialty” items like a baguette, olive oil, or spices. Then because of the price difference, I’ll go to the cheaper grocery store to get staples like rice, beans, oil, etc. As far as buying things other than food, one has to shop around. I bought backpacks for Luke and I a few weeks ago for our trip to Amapala. Our big backpacks scream tourists so we wanted some smaller day packs. There are many, many stores in Danlí selling different types of bags and no one is selling them at a fixed price. So if you’re looking for a deal, you walk around and bargain with the vendors until you’re satisfied with the price. The point I’m making is that getting food for dinner or buying something like a backpack can seriously take a whole afternoon.

Many PC volunteers have difficulty returning to the Sates after 2 years here because it takes some time to readjust to the fast pace of life. Everyone in the US seems to be constantly on the move. Hondurans can easily spend an evening sitting on their front stoop or porch with family members and friends chatting and people-watching. No rush to be anywhere at a certain time because most things start at least half an hour late anyway. The concept of “wasting” time waiting for a meeting to start, for the bus, or for something to do simply doesn’t exist (or a least doesn’t exist as much as we’re used to). For me, it’s really hard to sit and wait for everything so I combat the boredom/annoyance by carrying a book with me. But I wonder if by doing so I’m missing something that the Hondurans enjoy…just the simplicity of living in the moment, not always waiting for what’s to come. I´ll work on that.


Footnote: I got the idea for this blog from a blog written by our friends Kate and Sean, another Hondu 10 married couple. (Thanks guys!)

3 comments:

Moose said...

Hi:

The cost of my one mango was .50. Is that really high? We cut it up last night using your method. Worked really good and both Josh and I really liked the fruit!!

I would like to try that slower pace of life for a month or two. I guess it will teach you patience.

MOM

Andrew Clouse said...

Hey, Wahoos,

My name is Andrew Clouse. I found out about your blog from one of your cousins, Mark Gingerich, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. My wife and I are heading to Honduras in September for three years with Mennonite Central Committee. We'll be living in San Pedro Sula, but our job will take us all over the country, and into many other parts of Central America. It's fascinating to see what we're in for.

Thanks again for your thoughts,
Andrew

Erin said...

Annie-

I can imagine that it is hard to adjust to life there, as you are always busy when you are here! I am sure you will adjust, or atleast be able to enjoy it when and while you can, and then when you return to the US, you can implement that relaxed feeling into your busy life! I am sure you will miss it a bit once you get back and get settled. It is always hard for me after a while when we are Mexico for many of the same reasons you mentioned, but I guess you have to take it for what it is worth! Does the city offer more fun things to do to occupy some time? Miss you and am thinking about you!!!
lots of love,
Erin and romancito