This is the delayed second installment in my group emails. I was planning on writing and sending it out last Tuesday but that was delayed by me getting sick. But I feel great now (other than the constant unquenchable hungry I have had for the last day).
Since I last wrote many things have happened, including weekend trips with my class. The second weekend here I visited the city of Copan with my class. Here we absorbed more of the culture and visited the Mayan Ruins right outside the city. It was beautiful to see these huge structures, many of which had collapsed or fallen apart, but are now put back together by archeologists and cryptographers. We saw the remnants of the upper-class houses, the amphitheater, statues, pyramid-type graves, and the ball court. The most interesting or unusual part that you probably do not know about is the type of game they would play. Two teams would face each other and would pass the ball (7 pounds) back and forth in the air (like volleyball) with only their hips, head, or feet. The goal was to hit the goal on the sides of the court. At the end of the game, the best player was sacrificed on a special altar. I loved having a chance to sit down and imagine the market that was in the huge plaza several thousands of years ago.
Also, it was interesting to see how similar the religious beliefs and practices are to other indigenous groups throughout the world. The Mayan's worshipped the sun, stars, built elaborate graves, and sacrificed, very similar to what I know of other cultures, specifically the Egyptians. But its sad to see that these cultures knew that there was a higher power (general revelation), but did not know about the one true God.
The next weekend we traveled for the weekend to a sub district of Tegucigalpa, called Nueva Suyapa. When the city was expanded this area was built on top of the city dump. In turn it has turned into a severely economically challenged area. Many of the families struggle with making ends meet. The class was paired off and I stayed with a family who was one of the more affluent families in the area. The dad of this family sends remittances (money) back from Miami, as it was to difficult to get a job here to support his family. It was hard to put the burden of two extra people in the family (Aaron and me) for the weekend, but it was a amazing chance to see the fun this family has. It was nice having a chance to find out about their family and laugh a lot at not being able to communicate. This weekend was informal so, I along with several other classmates (Carrie, Mandy, Anna, and Melissa) ended up helping out teaching an English class at the area school. This wasn't planned but we came across this opportunity inadvertently by talking to one of the teachers in the school. We also spent some time with one of the youthgroups on Saturday night. As we were outside we saw the smoke of a forrest fire over one of the big hills(half a mile away) slowly climb the far side and eventually saw it on the ridge. But we were safe because our side of the hill had no trees to keep the fire moving.
Ok, I'll try to be more succinct. This last weekend we visited two maquilas and a Chiquita banana plantation. To sum this up quickly, we have all been shocked at how well the working conditions and pay are at the maquilas. Maquilas are the factories here that create products for the U.S., (one was producing Hanes bras, and the other was producing Nike and Reebok socks) and typically they are portrayed as sweatshops were employees have horrible pay, working conditions, and abusive bosses. For several different reasons the maquilas are a lot different then portrayed in the U.S.. The general consensus of our class is that they are not the best option; there are some problems with unappeasable bosses, and do not help the Honduran economy at all (both maquilas are exempt form 100% of import and export tax by the Honduran government). But to stay short, the maquilas are not much different from American factories in working conditions and pay so they are not a crucial problem as popularly portrayed.
At the banana plantation, we took more of a tour of the process of cutting the bunch of bananas to packaging. It was very interesting, as I love seeing this kinda stuff. Generally, the working conditions here are fairly good, but there are struggles with the companies not protecting the employees and their families (the employees live on the plantation) from chemicals (mainly pesticides). I was said that I didn't get to eat any of the bananas as they were way to ripe. One really interesting part is that the plant bananas grow on are about 14 feet high. Each 'bush' (not a tree) producing one bunch of bananas (~30 bananas). When each bunch is harvested the bush is cut down and the next bunch starts to grow producing a new bunch and a new 14 feet bush.
Well that brings me up to now in the way of the weekend trips. I hope now to address what more of my life is like here and what I am learning in my class in my next email, as there are no more class vacations for the semester so I won't have to write about those.
Now I will give you a brief synopsis of the smells here (continuing with the senses them). From the very beginning I have noticed how loud of a city this is. Along the roads, you always (I mean always) hear honking of the cabs (to let any and everyone know that they are not occupied). Loud cars with no mufflers or loud stereos. Or conversations that I do understand, or a sudden realization that I am hearing some speak English! To hear the laughter my family because of the obvious language barrier. Also, to hear the rooster at four thirty in the morning or one of our babies crying. Reading this over sounds negative, but it is part of the character of Tegucigalpa that I have grown to love.
Well, I need to go. I will actually post this to my blog (calvin.edu/~dlt2/honduras) this time, as I did not last time. Thanks for the many replies I got to my last email and don't be disappointed if you don't get a reply as I have been really busy, but thanks for the interest. (I actually plan on responding but I don't know if I will actually find time to). Well, I'm excited because today it rained for the first time since I've been here (and as you know I love rain).