Donna, her son Stephen, and Michael flew back to the States today. It was sad to see them go, but there’s something exciting about it too, you know? Like– here you go on the next leg of your own personal adventure, and it’ll be that much more interesting and informed having just completed the work you’ve been involved in here. (I’ll blog some other time about all the stuff they were up to; now I’m trying to get this post up before the rain cuts off the internet.)
Mimi and I went along to say our goodbyes at the airport (nearly missing our chance to do so when they ended up past security earlier than we’d expected – oops), and to enjoy another sweet treat from Espresso Americano. Yum yum $1.43 mocachino!
From there we headed to Church’s Chicken across the street for lunch with Mimi’s friend Blanca. Brenda and Krystelle joined us, which made it all the better. It’s the company that makes the occasion, you know? The whole thing was a little surreal. There we are in the middle of Tegucigalpa eating fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes with gravy, washing it down with Cokes, while an American football game was being aired on the two flat screen TVs hanging on opposite sides of our sparkling fast food restaurant in the heart of Central America. Or maybe it’s not that strange at all and I’m still just getting used to the fact that other places might actually want the things that other nations, and we ourselves, ridicule ourselves in the States for having (ie. unhealthy fast food restaurants everywhere, super hyped up sports teams full of overpaid players, etc.).
After lunch we walked outside to get a taxi to take Blanca home, and to take Mimi, Krystelle, and me over to Supermercado Yip where I could buy some school supplies for the public school we visited last week in San Lorenzo.
But there were no taxis. In fact- there were no cars of any kind. This is unheard of at that intersection; Church’s is directly across from the entrance to the airport. There’s ALWAYS traffic there, complete with enough diesel fumes to choke a herd of bison.
But today? Dead. And across the street blocking the entrance to the airport? A squad of military riot police with riot shields and batons. In front of them in the intersection proper? More police, dripping sweat in layers of black and bulletproof vests, loaded down with rifles.
A young man standing near us heard us talking about what was going on and he joined us in English. He said his name is Fernando and he lives in Miami but has family here. He said just a few blocks down (he pointed in the direction we needed to go) the teachers had the streets blocked off as part of the strike that has caused kids to miss school all this week, plus weeks- months- already this year at other times. You couldn’t take a taxi that way even if you wanted to, he told us. And he advised against walking that road in lieu of driving it. He said if anyone around us were to even touch one of the soldiers it would be sufficient to turn things violent. I thought of the police station we’d have to pass, no doubt packed with soldiers by this point, and just said “Yup.”
Fernando’s Civic-History-Lesson Time: He said when the people here want to demand their constitutional rights be upheld, the first thing they often do is go to the streets and stop traffic to make their voices heard. In a hub like Tegucigalpa, interference with traffic is a big deal. The whole city grinds to a halt if enough major intersections are cut off. And in the meantime every building within spitting distance of the blockages end up covered in graffiti. He said these gatherings shouldn’t have to happen, that the government should always do for the people what their constitution dictates. (Can’t argue with that.) However, he went on to say, in this case the teacher’s union is interpreting the constitution incorrectly for their own gain and asking for things that aren’t really constitutionally protected or guaranteed. It’s hurting the entire country’s children, he said, and higher pay isn’t a constitutional issue in this case so shouldn’t they stop?
I don’t know enough about the whole thing so what else could I do but nod yes? (And I later learned the blocking of the airport was done in an attempt to keep the president from flying out of the country for a few days. The attempt failed, incidentally.)
So back to Church’s we went to wait out the day’s “revolución” in the air conditioning. Ten minutes later cars were back on the road and we could continue on our way. As we passed the police station I saw that– sure enough!– it was crawling with armored vehicles and heavily armed men in uniform. That’s Friday for you, I guess.
After dropping Blanca off, Mimi, Krystelle and I taxi’d on toward Supermercado Yip, a two level store that sells groceries on the lower level and all manner of household goods and school supplies on the top. Noé recommended I go there for school posters when I told him how long it had taken me to complete my multiplication table poster by hand (4 hours!!). He said I’d love it, and wow was he right.
As soon as we got upstairs I was in absolute heaven. Aisle after aisle of school supplies, and all for cheap cheap cheap. In the end I bought 18 little notebooks (one for each student, plus an extra), 2 small abacuses (abaci?), a 12-pack box of chalkboard chalk, a chalkboard eraser, 3 pairs of scissors, alphabet posters in English and Spanish, a poster of geometric shapes, a clown poster that teaches colors, alphabet flash cards, two kinds of wall tape, an English/Spanish dictionary, a basic Spanish dictionary for kids, a 12-pack of manila folders, and two 24 count boxes of colored pencils. That’s 37 separate items. Grand Total: $30.31!!!!! Best store ever. If I lived here I would shop there all the time. Great great great.
Now to de-pricetag everything in the luxuriously cool 85+ degrees of our bedroom to the hum of two fans on full power. Ahh. This is the life!