Sunday, July 11, 2010

Maybe We Should've Stayed Home

We should have known that when the bus leaves at 7:00 a.m. for a soccer game on a Saturday, just stay home. Nevertheless, we dragged ourselves to the bus where we waited until every one was ready to leave at 8:00 (Hondurans are not punctual people). Generally speaking, any ride crammed on a bus with 70 or 80 Honduran teen-aged boys is always somewhat of an adventure. Thankfully, this two-hour journey passed in relative calm and we even managed to catch a nap. We drove all the way to Juticalpa where we turned off the paved road and wound our way up into the mountains. This was the best part of our day. Was passed through several villages where the scenes ranged from quaint houses with sprawling porches and pretty gardens to shacks huddled together with yards littered with garbage and chickens pecking at the ground. The people stared up at us as rumbled past their homes occasionally stopping for a small herd of cattle to cross the road in front of us. Sometimes the kids would wave, but mostly they just watched. It was a stark reminder of our little oasis on the El Sembrador farm. We are generally sheltered from the worst of the poverty and desperation that faces most of the people of Honduras.

Finally, we arrived in a little village called Los Llaves or "The Keys" where we pulled up in front of little church surrounded by a high barbed wire fence. We were greeted by a couple of pick-ups filled with young men who led us on foot further through the town to a clearing that had been made into soccer field. There were no chairs or bleachers and as we scouted the area for the best vantage point the first of the rain began to fall...a little drizzle at first followed by a deluge of Biblical proportions that would ebb and flow throughout the rest of the day. The soccer field quickly became a lake of of dirty water surrounded by area of stinky mud. The air was thick with smoke from a nearbye kitchen where a family was boiling down sugar cane to create a molasses. The smell of smoke mixed with the scent of fresh animal dung and wet garbage and set my allergies into a fit.

Nothing...and I mean nothing...can discourage a Honduran from a soccer game. We quickly realized that this was not a single game between El Sembrador and a little village team. Apparently, we were at a soccer tournament which began with a game between two other teams while our boys stood around sizing up their competition. This being rainy season, I had remembered to pack my umbrella in my purse, but it is a compact little thing and offered little protection form the sometimes horizontal rainfall. It didn't take long for PK, CT and some of the boys to scout out the nearby pulperia where they provisioned Pepsi and snacks. The road through the village was a muddy mess, so I stayed behind and pretended to be interested in the game. I watched as ladies began appearing from all corners of the field with large pots and coolers. During a brief respite from the rain, they set up a little stand where they sold sandwiches at first, followed by Honduran nachos when they were ready. PK was feeling particularly brave (or hungry) and opted for one of the sandwiches. I warned him that we would be hard-pressed to find a restroom in this locale and that this would be a risk, but he scarfed down the soggy sandwich anyway.

I had been hoping to get some sun so I had worn a cute, new tank top hoping to brown my Minnesota shoulders a little. Instead, I stood shivering in the rain and wishing I had thought to bring something to sit on. Finally, I gave up and found a relatively clean piece of concrete against a fence to sit on, though I covered it with a plastic bag to keep my pants from being soaked through. After a little while, the rain picked up and I was ready to head for the safety of the dry bus. I asked PK to help me up from the ground. He grabbed my hand, but instead of lifting he pulled and ended up dragging me through the stinky mud much to the amusement of the boys nearby. My entire left side was caked in the wet, filth and I spent the rest of the day sulking while every boys found glee in asking me what had happened.

At some point the first game ended and our boys finally took the field. This is when PK grew too bored and wondered off. I later discovered that he had packed a frisbee in his backpack and had found some of the village boys at the pulperia and had started up a game. Meanwhile, I managed to find a spot on a cooler to sit and watch the game. For those who don't know a typical soccer game is two 45 minute periods with a short intermission between them. This is a really long time to watch a sport you barely understand and have very little interest in. Finally, the whistle blew and cheers went up. El Sembrador won. As I packed up my belongings and prepared for the slippery path back to the bus, Justo explained happily that we had just won our first game. Now it was time for the championship. My heart sank and plopped myself back down on the cooler in frustration.

It was at this point that I decided that I really needed to find a restroom. So, I courageously requested the assistance of one of the Bible School girls. We trudged to a nearby house where she requested use of the bathroom. The lady looked us up and down before responding with a curt "No." We tried our luck at a neighboring house where we met with success. I made my way to the back of the yard where a shack stood. I assumed it was an outhouse, but inside I found electricity and a toilet. Unfortunately, the toilet was splattered with some unknown liquid. Still, I managed to go without touching the seat. I tried to flush, but the toilet didn't work, so I gave up and left silently thankful for the hand sanitizer I had tucked away in my purse. Then I waited as my companion took her turn. I was surprised to hear the flush of the toilet. When she appeared at the door, I asked her how it worked. Apparently, all Hondurans know that the bucket next to the toilet filled with dirty water is meant to pour in the toilet so it will flush. I am now in on that little secret. As we walked toward the front of the house, I quickly averted my eyes from the lady of the house bathing naked with a hose in the front yard.

After a little while, I grew annoyed with the continued downpour and having no cell service. I left in search of PK. I found him pouring Pepsi for his new friends at the pulperia. We took refuge from the growing storm under the porch awning and waited. Finally, the bus driver appeared and we piled on as boys began to trickle back from the field filthy with mud and dripping with sweat and rain. I was in a rotten mood by this time and ready to be home and in clean, dry clothes. When we hit the paved road beside a little cluster of houses and a restaurant, the bus stopped suddenly. Several people got off and began pointing to something underneath the bus. I assumed we had a mechanical problem and I strained my neck to get a better look at what was happening. I looked up in time to see a line of boys taking advantage of this unexpected stop to use the restroom. Now, I have to admit that I have had to stop on the side of some secluded road to use the restroom behind a bush or tree. But I never imagined I'd see a group of 40 young men lined up alongside a major highway with houses on either side spraying in all directions!

Finally, we arrived home exhausted, shivering and soaked through to the bone. Somehow, I managed to get myself sunburned through those storm clouds. I was miserable and we probably would have been better off staying home. But it was a cultural experience to say the least and I am happy to have spent this time with the boys of El Sembrador.

PK and his Frisbee buddies. PK left the frisbee for them as a gift.

One of PK's new friends

The muddy road through the village

The local transportation

A parrot serenaded us in the rain from his perch on the powerline

The crowded stinky, damp bus after the game

One of many homes we passed in the mountains

Aww! They are so cute when they are sleeping.

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