Saturday, March 29, 2014

So long, Copan Ruinas, and thanks

We’ve been counting down the lasts for a while now. 
The last four-hour bus trip home from San Pedro Sula a week ago. Last trip to the pool with the kids from Angelitos, the care home/orphanage we’ve been helping out, on Sunday. Last concept note for Cuso International. Last trip up the hill for a $1.25 haircut yesterday. Last boiling up of three pounds of chicken menudo for the dogs. (The slogan should be ‘now with more chicken feet.’)
It’s not much fun. Partly, it’s just stressful trying to pack up life in Copan Ruinas after more than two years, cram our stuff into two backpacks and big suitcase and head off to who-knows-what in Canada. (Lugging along an accordion and a dog.)
And partly there is a sense of unfinished business. 
My partner Jody and I have been Cuso International volunteers here, placed with local development agencies and tasked with ‘building capacity’ in communications. I’ve spent a lot of time on interesting projects for the Cuso Honduran office as well.
It is a great experience. We’re living in Honduras, experiencing life in an entirely different culture, discovering the challenges of life in a poor, unequal and largely dysfunctional country. It’s year-round summer, and life is lived - loudly - on the street. Or it might as well be, as every house in our neighbourhood is built right to the street and windows are always open. I can pretty much sing along with one neighbours music choices by now. 
And it’s not like visiting. 
We know the neighbours and the people in the market stalls. We’ve been through the afternoon rains, and the April heat, and had a chance to see how people live in a poor country. We ride the buses and cope with the power failures and, as we’re paid stipends equivalent to Hondurans doing similar work, pay attention to what things cost. I’ve been touched by how genuinely sad some people are to learn we are leaving.
Which, I suppose, is one reason I have a sense of unfinished business. It takes time to become more than a visitor, and to be an effective contributor in the important work Cuso International and its partners are doing. After two years, I’m much more useful and understand much more. And as a result I wonder how much more could be done with more time.
And any time of leaving is, for me, a time of regrets. I was walking White Dog, who is going to Canada, and Crazy Pup, who is not, today and noticed a path heading up into the hills east of town that I hadn’t seen before. There are a lot of paths not walked.
I’ll be glad to tick off some of the lasts. Sometime before Monday morning at 7 a.m. we will have the last power failure, and the last resulting loss of Internet service. And at some point, I will utter a last frustrated complaint about the creeping pace of web access when it does work.
And I’ll read the last story in a Honduran newspaper that leaves me baffled at how things could be so messed up. (The current contender is a La Prensa piece yesterday on a public school in La Moskitia that offers its 610 students one diploma program, in technology and computer skills. The area has no reliable electricity and almost no opportunities in computer work. And in any case, the school hasn’t had any actual working computers for students since it opened seven years ago. Miraculously, hopeful students keep showing up.)
Leavings always seem to come in a rush of farewells and hurried preparations, with too little time to think much about all that’s left behind. I’m writing this perched one of two plastic chairs that are our remaining furniture, with clothes spilling out of the half-packed bags on the floor. We’ve got a couple of steaks to fry up for dinner, two plates and two knives and forks. 
Maybe the rush is a good thing. There will be time to figure out what all this lasts mean when we’re settled, for a while, in Canada.