This week I thought I'd give you all a glimpse of a market in a more rural area of Honduras.
Welcome to Marcala!
Marcala is a vibrant little town located about a three hours drive west of Tegucigalpa, nestled inside a neighboring mountain range.
Fun Fact - Honduras has the most mountainous terrain of any Central American country. And, boy, do our carsick kids know it!
There is no shopping mall anywhere near here. The streets of their "downtown" are where the locals in and around the area can find, not only a large Farmer's Market of fresh produce, but clothing, toys, kitchenware, shoes, and trinkets as well.
One of many Shoe Stores. It's interesting to see so many flip flops for sale here. In general, Hondurans that do not live on the coast don't really wear flip flops. Given that the most popular mode of transportation is walking, the women prefer to wear either flats or strappy sandals that wrap around the heel.
Well, it's practically like being at The Gap, isn't it? Except at this denim store, that man standing to the right in the photo was yelling at me to come in, informing me of how great I would look in a pair of these jeans. When I replied with a polite, "No, gracias," he only yelled at me with more enthusiasm. As you can imagine, the tactic resulted in setting me into a half-run/half-walk to get past this guy as fast as I could!
I can't blame him for trying. After all, we looked like foreign tourists. And foreign tourists = lots of dinero.
These boys took advantage of a weekend filled with hot Honduran sun to make some ice cream sales. As with many families here, children work to contribute to the household earnings. If they are not working directly to make their own money, they are assisting the family with their business. However, education is still considered important to most families, and (from what I gather) most of these working kids still go to school.
I hope you had fun taking this little shopping tour of Marcala with me. Stop by again next Friday to make more discoveries at the Farmer's Markets in Tegucigalpa!
O. M. G. G.
(Which, if you don't know, stands for "OhMyGoodnessGracious!")
What a week this has been! After surfing the high that was my Mother's Day post, I had big aspirations for getting all kinds of amazing writing and posting done!
But I was wrong.
Life interfered, throwing in a couple of events with the Embassy and the kids' school, that are not normally present in my week. These additions threw everything off.
Still, I kept writing! I continued posting!
I had evil thoughts of skipping just one little night.
"Who would even notice?" reasoned the devilish voice in my head. "You're too tired, you should go to bed."
This was true, I was tired. So I took a 30 minute nap on the couch, then planted myself in front of the computer.
There was no way I was gonna let a little thing like "sleep" get in my way!
Besides, I was pretty sure there might be a couple of people who would probably notice.
And by "a couple of people," I mostly mean my mom.
Still, this was huge part of the whole reason for this challenge. (I know, every other day I talk about another "point" to this challenge, it is multifaceted, just do your best to keep up!)
Life is always going to get in my way. It's inevitable. Not only is life just a snarky trickster like that, but being military (Go Navy!) we are extra-guaranteed to have multiple wrenches thrown into our gears at any given time. After all, every two to three years we wind up in the midst of another move, where it feels like I am living inside of a snow globe that has just been flipped upside down.
By a toddler.
Who gives it several rough shakes for good measure.
And then almost drops it.
Anywhooo! Getting into the habit of writing means feeling the need, the urgency, to have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) no matter how turbulent my snow globe is.
So what are my goals for Week 3? I plan to work on writing more in the morning. Because these late-night sessions are starting to eat at my brain (turns out sleep is actually pretty important to me) and continue my efforts to write a day or two in advance of posting.
And that's it! But for your viewing pleasure, here's a picture I snapped of a painting in a little Italian restaurant just outside of Tegucigalpa.
It's a replica of a painting by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
And, unlike the ACTUAL Mona Lisa in France, this one was a LOT bigger, and I was NOT stampeded by a busload of Asian tourists in order to see it!
As I skimmed through the monthly Embassy newsletter on my computer, I ran across something I hadn't thought of before.
Living abroad? Planning to eventually return to a U.S. elementary school? Your child will be well prepared in everything except American History!
Of course! Why would Honduras have any interest in teaching my kids U.S. History? How had this not occurred to me already?
Our self-directed course teaches your child the major concepts required by the National and Virginia learning standards. Includes games, historical fiction, non-fiction, art supplies, and an activity book.
Fantastic! Where do I sign up?
I jetted over to a website called After School Plans to take a look at what the program involved. I clicked on the section entitled "American History in a Box for Expats" and saw a list of programs separated by grade level.
American History in a Box, Grades K-1..........$299 plus shipping
Two HUNDRED ninety nine DOLLARS????
Holy Smokes! For that price, my kids can just stay stupid.
What can U.S. History really teach them, anyway?
I barely learned anything during my formative, and look at how great I....turned.....out......um, OK, you might have a point.
Our new plan is to make them watch The History Channel every day (instead of cartoons) and then read to them out of Hubster's collection of historical fiction novels, most of which center around The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, and World Wars I & II (instead of bedtime stories).
Education is very important in this family.
And we have totally got this covered!
The first time my Spanish teacher came over to our new Honduran home, she recognized it right away.
"Oh, yes," she had said, "I was here, maybe, ten years ago. This is such a beautiful house! The walls were much smaller back then...."
Every house of every neighborhood that has two centavos to rub together has surrounded itself with a nine foot wall of solid concrete. Top off with steel garage and front doors, and you've got yourself a standard home in Tegucigalpa.
Don't misunderstand, these are not what I would consider "compounds." Imagine one of the common "new construction" sites that you would see in the States. The plots are long and skinny, with homes that are also long and skinny, two or three stories tall, with postage-stamp sized backyards, and within a few feet of the house next door. The neighborhoods of Teguc are divided up in this similar fashion, probably because of the rocky, mountainous terrain that makes building a ranch-style home next to impossible. So, much like how neighbors share a privacy fence around their backyards, we share walls.
And our walls reach from the back of the property all the way to the sidewalk.
As with many aspects of life here, things didn't used to be this way. Speaking with Hondurans who were born and raised here, they are quick to tell you that, ten years ago, life was better. People were safer. Walls were few.
I am now a Social Sponsor to another U.S. Embassy family that is new to this lost city. After they had settled into their home, I remember candidly explaining to the wife, "At some point, you may feel a bit like you're in a prison. That's totally normal! Living behind walls and bars starts to get to you after a while, but it'll pass."
What does not pass quite so easily is the feeling of division. In a world where the chasm between Haves and Have-Nots is vast, these barricades act as yet another reminder of the separation that exists here.
I'll stay on my side of the wall. All you other people have to stay outside of it.
I have a new appreciation for the freedoms we have in that great, ol' U. S. of A. Children laughing as they run through each other's front yards. Waving to neighbors while loaded down with groceries or buckling kids into carseats. The ability to look out into the street from the first floor of your house.
For now, the walls will stay put. There is no evidence of them coming down anytime soon.
I can only pray that they don't get any bigger.
The Elvis Duran Radio Show told me my day would rank as a 10 (the best you can get) when they scrolled through the horoscopes this morning.
Boy, oh boy, they weren't kidding!
All day long I have received many positive comments and several FaceBook shares of my Mother's Day post from yesterday. And all of that is reflected in the stats on my blog, which is showing a record number of pageviews in one day (at least for me, anyway!)
My day is way more than a 10. It's like a 10 bigillion-zillion!
And it's all thanks to my tremendous friends and family and all of their wonderfully kind words!!
But here's the kicker of having a post that garners me so much positive attention...
What am I supposed to write now???
If you recall, I'm still in the throws of the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (Day 12, actually, not even half-way through!)
Posts like yesterday's are tough for me. It's difficult to put myself in a place of such vulnerability, always worried that what I see as deep or spiritual, others will see as corny or just plain wrong....and then tell me so. Such an incident has never occurred (thank goodness), which is why I think I've become more confident about writing these sorts of meatier posts.
So, OK, I get the post written and put it out there for all the world to see, and get some good feedback from friends and family, and here's what usually happens next....
When I write something that is meaningful to me, I find it difficult to switch gears and knock out some other post that can't be at the same caliber as that last one.
Let's face it, I can't write these types of posts all the time for always. I am just not that deep!
Which is why, normally, I would head for the hills. Like a seller of snake oil, I'd pack up all my things into a beat-up old suitcase and high-tail it outta here before anyone would have a chance to discover that my Elixir of Life was just sugar water and dye.
OK, that's maybe a touch melodramatic (I may not be deep, but I've got imagination!) The point I'm getting at (wait, there was a point?) is that, in the past, a post like yesterday's would have left me struck dumb, probably for a week or more, scared speechless that whatever I posted on this blog next would be such an enormous let-down to anyone who came back to read more.
Which is why I SO needed this challenge! My type of "writer's block" never had to do with a lack of words to put on paper...er, computer screen. The thing that has held me back from being a writer - a REAL writer - was plain, old-fashioned fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of failing after a success. You name it, I've been scared of it.
Part of this challenge was to conquer, once and for all, these silly little fears. Pack them up in that old, beat-up suitcase and throw them in a river.
So, that's it. The "Day-After" post is complete, and I'm still standing! My fears may not be completely dissipated, but I definitely took a big chunk out of 'em.
But just in case, I'd better take a spoonful of that snake oil, you know, for good measure.
“I never think of myself as strong,” she told me over a frosty mug of A&W Rootbeer. “People tell me I’m strong all the time, but, I don’t know. I don’t really believe that.”
I was stunned. Speechless.
How could my mom not see herself as strong? After a lifetime of struggles great and small, how did she not understand that strength for herself?
The more we talked, though, the more I wondered – What exactly does it mean to “be strong?”
I think “strength” is often confused with “stoicism.” The ability to remain unemotional during immensely sad, scary or confusing times.
I see that less as “strength” and more as “compartmentalizing.” Many people, myself included, when faced with a crisis (and especially when other loved ones are involved and looking for guidance) can lock away that part of themselves that is completely freaking out, opening it only after the crisis has passed or they have a quiet moment to themselves.
This, to me, is not strength, but a survival mechanism.
So what is real strength? What is that inherent quality of a person that makes people say “Wow! She is really strong!”
Being an avid fan of NBC’s Today Show, I have seen many Regular Joes and Joans come through, interviewed for surviving cancer, having a special needs child, or living through a terrible tragedy.
Many times, the host will say to that person, “What incredible strength you have!”
And many times, that person will look at them completely dumbfounded.
After all, what was the alternative? To stop fighting? To give up on their child? To curl up into a ball and cry until they just wasted away?
There have been times in the last few years that I, too, have felt just as dumbfounded. People commenting about my supposed “strength” in the face of one adversity or another, when all I felt I had done is put one foot in front of the other and took care of what I considered to be my responsibilities.
I never set out to be “strong.” Never considered myself any “stronger” for having done it.
But that’s the funny thing about “strength.” It’s a muscle you can’t see developing yourself, it only looks like something to everybody else.
I returned home to Honduras, but the question still floated in and out of my consciousness. What is real “strength?”
I landed on an answer this morning. Not in any sort of formal way. Not touched on by anything I had heard or read. All-of-a-sudden, as I was scrambling eggs for breakfast, thinking about my mom and my sister and maybe a Mother’s Day post, I was struck with the definition I needed.
True “strength” goes beyond the ability to stay level-headed in a crisis. It’s the ability to be knee-deep in disaster and still find a way to laugh. To be at the heart of a tragedy and still hold onto the hope that, eventually, it will all be OK. “Strength” is that amazing quality in a person that can be rattled and banged up and bruised and still get out of bed in the morning and do something for somebody else. “Strong” people can be hit with more than anyone should ever have to bear and come out the other side still seeing the beauty in life. The strong do cry. They have breakdowns and deal with depression. But “strength” is the ability to keep that horrible, traumatic thing from causing you to stall out on your own life. The Strong keep moving forward with the hope that joy can live their hearts again.
All of the “strength” that I am credited for can be attributed to the strength my mother demonstrated to my sister and me throughout our lives.
Through her, I learned that change is inevitable, but no matter how much everything changes, there will always be the love of family to support you.
That in life you don’t always get what you want. But you always make do with what you have. And you are grateful for it.
I learned the very valuable lesson early-on that people do not change, no matter how badly you want them to.
And more importantly, to never be afraid to walk away from a person or situation that is hurting you more than helping you.
There will be times when the world is just unfair. Go ahead and cry, don’t deny your feelings. Then let it go and focus on the good parts of your life (and there are always good parts).
Don’t depend on anyone to save you. Figure out a way to save yourself.
And don’t depend on somebody to support you. Make yourself capable so you have the ability to support yourself.
Always find a reason to laugh.
Life will throw you some crazy curve balls, but you will always, ALWAYS survive it.
My mother has two daughters living lives that are just outside of normal, in ways that make other people say, “I just don’t think I could do something like that.”
But we do.
And we have the ability, flexibility, mental clarity, and yes, even some strength to tackle each new day, every new challenge, all the shifts and turns that life throws at us, and come through it all with joy still in our hearts, knowing that tomorrow will be a new day.
Because my mother’s strength showed us how.
Calla Lilies grow easily here in Honduras.
An expensive flower when you can find them in the States, it is just one of several items that I was surprised to find readily and cheaply available in Tegucigalpa.
These are lilies that I found growing wild at a blackberry farm we recently visited.
But these graceful, milk-white blooms, the size of saucers, are available in abundance at roadside stands and downtown markets.
Enjoy these beautiful blooms. And have a very Happy Mother's Day!
The is one of the Mercados here in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It's open on Fridays and Saturdays every week.
The Mercado is made up of numerous produce stands topped with a mosaic of colorful tents.
It is not quite the same as what you think of as a "Farmer's Market" in the states. The people here do not grow this food. They either pick it themselves from the fields, or purchase it through other sources.
The above picture is definitely on my Top 10 of Favorite Honduras Photos that I have snapped while here. This is the family that works this particular stand. They are cutting the greenery off of the tops of the onions before putting them out on display. The people here work hard for the little that they have. But family is everything to them. They share their incomes, their struggles and their burdens and find a way to survive together.
Thanks for joining me at The Mercado. I'll swing by and pick you up next week!
It has been one week since the start of my self-imposed challenge.
Seven Posts in Seven Days.
There were times I honestly did not think I'd make it!
There were a couple of reasons I decided to commit to this challenge.
The first was to post more regularly. I've never had the desire to post every single day, but trying to consistently get two to three posts up a week was not happening either. I figured, the intention wasn't good enough anymore. I had to go for overkill, and then scale it back from there.
The second (and more important reason, at least to me) is that I want to be in the habit of writing every day. Even on the days when I've got seemingly nothing to say. Even on the days I don't feel like it. Even on the days when I think I don't have time, or have more fun things to do, or the couch is calling my name.
But writing every day does NOT mean posting every day. There are already a few things I've learned about myself in these first seven days of my challenge.
I HATE posting every day!!!!
When you post every day, you have less time to actually put into the post. And half the time, there's not even a picture to make all those words more interesting! I really, truly enjoy the process of crafting a post. Granted, I had been taking WAY too much time on my posts before this (another goal of this challenge is to bust out of my perfectionistic tendencies) but with the practice of writing comes better speed and agility.
Writing really is like working a muscle. Practice does make you faster. And better.
And able to bench press 300 pounds.
(That last one might have been a teeny bit exaggerated..... or was it?)
I enjoy writing my overly wordy posts, tweaking my photos so they look juuuust right, and adding in links to relevant material.
Yeah, that sounds a lot like my ultra-perfectionisticism (it's a word!) peeking through again, but I promise it's (mostly) not!
The other realization I am having is that, after spending time on the writing, there is not much left for all those social media things I had talked about in my previous post. (See, right there is where I would put in a link to that "previous post" in case anyone missed it. But I ain't got no time!)
I have been thinking a lot about social media in general and what sort of role it will play for my blog in the future. I'll be making decisions about that more in the weeks to come.
For now, I am going to add a challenge on top of my challenge. In this next week, I'm going to see if I can't get ahead of myself. Instead of knocking out a post and then hitting "publish," I'm going to see if I can manage to work on more than one post at a time so that I am not writing and publishing the same post in the same day. Perhaps that will mean more photos.