It’s me again! Wow, I cannot believe that it is almost Christmas Day! It is wild because here the weather is 70 degrees and sunny. For Thanksgiving this year, the missionary community hosted a celebration in our home with most of the Finca employees which totaled around 40 people and after attended church in the neighboring community Mojaguay with all of the kids. There we enjoyed hot chocolate and homemade dinner rolls. It was a stunning day to share life and various traditions together, while most importantly, giving thanks to God who has provided us with every good thing.
One of the four tables at our Thanksgiving meal!
In this blog post, I wanted to share a little bit more about the culture here. This task is a bit challenging because often times, I am not sure if a cultural norm is generally Honduran or specifically related to Finca culture. Nonetheless, I am going to try to help you enter into the life in Honduras that I have been experiencing thus far. Buckle up!
Coca Cola. I have never been in a place that was as obsessed with Coca Cola as this. It is not simply that everyone absolutely loves soft drinks. No, it is a fact that nearly everyone here specifically LOVES Coca Cola. It is as accessible as water and comparable in price. Kids on their break from school will walk down to the nearest pulpería (little store) to purchase a 3-liter bottle. THREE LITERS! I don’t think we have bottles that big in the States. If you walk by a home in Mojaguay and decide to stop in for a minute, the parent will send one of their kids to the pulpería to purchase Coke. When we sing “Happy Birthday” for the kids, the song includes a part about drinking Coca-Cola. There are even people who do not drink any water but solely Coke throughout the day. Can you imagine not drinking water in this tropical climate with the humidity?! Coca-Cola is a huge hit in Honduras.
Finger wagging. You know how in movies (or maybe you have experienced this in your own life) when a child asks his or her parent a question, and the parent shakes their finger back and forth and says no? Well, that’s a normal part of life here. If you don’t want to do something, finger wag no. If someone makes a joke, you laugh, and finger wag no. If you are in town, and a taxi drives by you and honks and you do not want a ride, finger wag no. Kids do it, missionaries do it, heck the employees and house parents here do it. Finger wagging is the new and improved “no, no.”
Baleadas. Possibly one of the greatest food experiences I have ever had. Baleadas are absolutely delicious. Imagine a flour tortilla filled with a thin layer of refried beans, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, and avocado. SO GOOD. They are a common meal at the Finca as well as Honduras in general. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack… And they are mm, mm, so yummy. (They are especially tasty
when the kids or tías make them!)
Or if you are this kiddo, you enjoying writing kitchen (chicken) in the sand. She loves to practice her English!
Police and army. As there are many feelings about the role and power of the police and army in the States, the same is true here. Unfortunately, the police personnel are not trusted along with the governmental officials. If there is a problem, people tend to shy away from reporting it to the police because the system is corrupt, and justice is rarely served. Also, military personnel frequently stand outside of stores, gas stations, and on the road in the middle of town with massive firearms. It took some getting used to, but it is still very unsettling to me.
Celebrations. Birthdays, confirmations, baptisms quinceañeras, Lempira Day, goodbyes, and the list goes on. Everything is celebrated. The parties are so profoundly valued that sometimes the kids will not have classes for a various event or holiday (example: Tree Day). Instead, they will clean and prepare for the party that is to come. (Unfortunately, educational opportunities and rigor suffers in this area.) The celebrations are colorful and full of joy. And despite the lack of resources, there will always be a party. Life is celebrated with food, family and friends, music, dancing, and lots of love. I often imagine these types of environments are what heaven will be like someday – one big party to rejoice and praise the goodness of God. It is the best image that I can wrap my tiny human brain around.
My sweet friend Emily, a 2nd year missionary ("oldie") who will be leaving the Finca this January.
Motos. Motorcycles are the cheapest and easiest way to navigate the dirt roads near the Finca, in the city of Trujillo, and beyond. In fact, we have two wachis (security guards) who ride their motos around the Finca campus while they are working (one of the other wachis rides his bicycle), and nearly all other male employees ride their motos to work every day. While it is extremely convenient, they are incredibly dangerous as we know, especially with narrow dirt roads and no real traffic control. Cars are much less prevalent, so it is not unusual to encounter a father driving his three kids who are 11, 7, and 5 years old on his moto to drop them off at school. Multiple times I have seen fathers with kiddos on their motorbikes who are around two years old. While it seems almost too easy to pass judgment for safety purposes, in some circumstances it is the only way that children can attend school.
Ants. Quite possibly the worst part about the Finca. They tell you ALL about the mosquitos (which yes, there are mosquitos), but they do not tell you about the ants. Before moving to Honduras, I had no idea how many types of ants exist. I am sure that we must have every single type here. We have sugar ants that get into all of our food, biting ants that destroy our feet and ankles nearly every time we step foot outside, leaf-cutting ants that make paths throughout the Finca, big red ants that infest our rooms, and little small ants that just randomly show up in nooks and crannies. As I am typing this part of my blog, I caught myself itching an ant bite on my foot… We also have other little critters around the Finca. We have tarantulas, geckos, rats and mice, sand crabs, and creatures that are similar to iguanas called garrobos. We actually have garrobos living inside the roof at the clinic, so it is not uncommon to hear their nails scampering along our metal roof during the day. Most of these animals we have the not-so-grand opportunity to experience creeping and crawling around in our home. However, I am grateful for a community that knows how to laugh and make the most of strange animal situations.
Single mothers. This topic is quite heavy. However, I feel it is an important area that I would like to touch on. In Honduras (I experienced this in Guatemala as well) most families do not have a father figure. Unfortunately, without the commitment of marriage, most fathers tend to flee and leave the rest of family to fend for themselves. I meet single mothers in the clinic every day. It is more common to meet a single mother rather than to encounter a married couple. In Honduras and other Latin American countries, most people begin having children in their teenage years. Fathers tend to leave when the kids are young leaving mothers jobless, penniless, and with a sixth-grade education. Fathers leave for various reasons – a lack of commitment, seeking a better life for their families, and some try moving to the States and never come back. Most mothers have told me that they do not even know why their partner has left. While there are kids around every single corner in Mojaguay, there are only three married couples in the whole pueblo. It is shocking and disheartening. God’s beautiful design of marriage is distorted. The children experience the distortion, and the cycle continues when they are old enough to begin having romantic relationships. I ask you to please pray for these fatherless families with little resources, hope, and joy in their lives that God may satisfy and exceed their every need.
Physical appearance. A child looking at my skin, “How white!” An adolescent approaching me after a difficult day, “Have you been crying? Your face is red.” A kid on the road selling lichas (a yummy fruit similar to grapes) approaches two missionaries, “Are you twins? You look alike except you are kinda chubby, and you are kinda skinny.” A kiddo looking at another missionary during lunch, “You have a ton of pimples on your face.” Appearance is of the utmost importance here. If you have a flaw, it will not only be noticed, but it will be highlighted publicly. In the States, pointing out some of these physical traits is perceived as rude and obnoxious. Here kids will call one another feo or fea (ugly) and not even bat an eye (we all know that it does affect them). And the crazy thing is that it is not just the kids. The Honduran adults will do the same! They talk about people in terms of their weight, skin color, age… It is frustrating and upsetting that appearance is of such a large importance in this culture. However, I suppose if I ever have food on my face or a booger in my nose they will not hesitate to tell me, and it may save me from later embarrassment.
Lip pointing. Now this action has been the strangest, most awkward behavior for us new missionaries to get accustomed to. Imagine this. The Finca boy accompanied by three of us missionaries are walking over to the volleyball field. One of the older boys forgets his sandals at the fútbol field, so Ruthie grabs them and brings them over. When the adolescent sees that she had them, he LIP POINTS to the ground next to the volleyball field to indicate that he would like his shoes placed there. But how? you may ask. Lip pointing is essential making a kissy looking face in the direction of whatever object or person you are referring to. He did not use his finger or words like what we typically do in the States; no, he pointed to the location where he wanted his sandals with his lips… They claim that it takes less effort and that you can do it even carrying items, but I refuse to make kissy faces everywhere I go.
Ruthie & Dr. Julio. Yes, he participates in lip pointing in the clinic as well.
Compartir. Lastly, one of the most beautiful and one of my favorite aspects of the Honduran culture is the way they share. It is simple yet profound. Right outside of the gates of the Finca, we encounter extreme poverty. We see households with two beds for their family of six. We see a little pulpería to buy junk food for cheap. We see children who are covered in dirt from head to toe and carry an odor with them because their single mom of five children is too busy cooking meals to bathe her children. You would think that if people are struggling to get food on their tables that they would be cautious and keep their resources and food to themselves. However, they do just the opposite. Someone drops by unexpectedly, and they are immediately invited over for lunch. A child buys a bag of churros (the kids’ favorite chips), and he will share the whole bag with anyone who is around him without reservation. But beyond the sharing of material goods, life is shared in community – at the Finca, in Mojaguay, at church, in someone’s home. A new baby is born in the pueblo, and people ask about the baby, the mother, the father. They walk into one another’s homes because they know that they are welcomed, wanted, and invited. I have experienced going to someone’s home in Mojaguay simply to ask a question to one of the residents, and immediately she greeted me with a smile, hug, pulled up a seat for me, and offered me lunch. Food is shared. Words are shared. Life is shared.
Isn’t that exactly what God calls us to? An attitude of sharing life with one another. Inviting people into our own chaos and finding God amidst it all. So, today I would like to invite you into the chaos of life at the Finca. I invite you to journey with me through prayer – that the kids may know Christ more and more, that the missionary community will be an instrument for spreading and exemplifying the Good News, and that all adults at the Finca will make decisions that fulfill the mission of accompanying young people to become devout Christians who will enter independent life with renewed hope and purpose.
Thank you all for your encouraging words of love and support. May you experience God’s peace, joy, and immense love for you this Christmas.
All of our missionaries including oldies, middies, and newbies.