Cultural Challenges and Centipedes

Tomorrow, Laura and I will complete one month at Montaña de Luz.  It has been a very exciting month.  We were asking one another yesterday whether it seemed shorter or longer than a month.  I thought that it had gone by quickly because of the many challenges we are facing; learning the language, culture, and our place and role at Montaña de Luz.  Laura thought that it had gone by slowly because of the many challenges we are facing; learning the language, culture, and our place and role at Montaña de Luz.  I guess the same reality can be internalized emotionally in different ways.  In truth, however, parts have gone by quickly, and other parts more slowly.  This morning we walked to church as has been our custom.  We gave our “saludos” to the “vigilante” (watchman) who opens the gate for us.  As we left and started down the mountain toward the town, Laura said that it seemed like yesterday that we had last told the vigilante we were going to church.  Perhaps we are starting to feel something of a fit with the rhythm of Honduras and Montaña de Luz.


Some things, however, I think I will continue to see as a mystery.  There are kids here everywhere.  You can look up the statistics if you want, but Honduras has one of the youngest populations in the world.  It seems like for every adult (and most of them appear to be in their 20s and 30s), you must see about 20 kids between the ages of six and sixteen.  Admittedly, this government is extremely poor, but you would think that if there was one thing that the government ought to invest in, it would be education.  And yet, the pedagogy here is simplistic; rote memorization.  Kids have workbooks, published and sold in school supply stores, with pages upon pages of phrases like “El papa ama a la mama.”  The child has to copy that phrase hundreds of times into the workbook.  Imagine the problems that teachers have with a child that is either exceptionally bright or has ADD, or both.  This is one of the reasons, along with that of some prejudice, that some of the kids here have been pulled out of the public schools and Montaña de Luz has hired a private teacher.  If that wasn’t bad enough, however, school is constantly being called off.  There must have been about eight days off during the month of October.  Three were feast days that only a few of the people and none of the kids knew what was being celebrated.  Another three days were taken off because Honduras won in soccer the night before.  The other days I wasn’t sure why the kids had them off, and no one could tell me.  Then teachers don’t show up, or they go on strike because they aren’t getting paid.  Laura and I walk with the younger kids to their grammar school every morning.  There are six kids that go.  Last Friday we only had three, because three had been told by their teacher not to come in – three different grades.  We left the three off at the school and we start walking back after they have filed in through the gate.  Two come running up to us from behind before we can get too far because their teacher was sick.  They have no such things as substitutes and they can’t double up the classes; there are already 41 kids in the same class.  So out of six children, one went to school.


Laura and I have a better idea of what our principal role will be here at Montaña de Luz.  The older boys, seven of them, have been living in their own house in the small town of Nueva Esperanza.  They have only been there for the last six months or so.  It has been a difficult transition for them and continues to be.  Laura and I will be working closely with them as well as with their “Tias” – aunts, or in this case the women employees who principally are assisting and supporting them.  The idea is to try to help them with their transitioning to become more independent and responsible for their lives.  One has already turned eighteen, and three more are within a year of that benchmark.  It is a very scary reality for them.  They are teenagers.  They act out.  They test.  They manipulate.  But they are facing unbelievable challenges on a series of different levels.  It is humbling.  I don’t know what Laura and I will do.  I do know that we will do a lot of listening, and hopefully accompany them on their journey.


Things are different here culturally.  Process is more important than results.  I don’t know, sometimes I think that’s because they really have no sure way of arriving at the desired result so they become much more involved with the emotional journey.  Most Americans are not like this.  Tuesday night before going to bed, I got bit on the neck by a centipede.  There are simply called “gusanos” (worms) here, with the more formal title of “cienpies” used less frequently.  They are roughly the same as the ones we have in the States, but there are a lot more here.  After I got bit in the neck, the gringa executive director, who would be returning the following day to the States, gave me some antibiotic cream.  This worked great for about three hours until I woke up with excruciating pain.  I thought I was going to die, but I took some aspirin and was able to get back to sleep.  The following day it still hurt, but it subsided.  As I told the gringos and the Hondurans about my experience, the responses were completely different, but culturally consistent.  The gringos analyzed it, asked me what I did, what remedy worked, etcetera.  Their concern seemed sincere, but was expressed analytically, and according to the need to find a remedy.  The Hondurans that I told, even a doctor who is well known here, all had the same initial reactions.  Their eyes widened and they displayed care and concern in their expression.  Not one of them asked me what I did, not even the doctor, but they all said that they knew this was extremely painful.  Laura and I may try to analyze things, find the remedies and solutions.  Still, the most important thing is probably just to be entirely present to what’s going on, especially when it’s painful.  There is a lot of wisdom in knowing that there isn’t always a solution to every problem.  Sometimes, feeling it is the only thing that can be done.


3 thoughts on “Cultural Challenges and Centipedes

  1. MarkD says:

    I am enjoying reading about your experience as well as your insights to life in Honduras. Thank for sharing.

  2. Kevin Manship says:

    Hey Laura and Paul,

    It sounds like every day is an adventure and also a learning experience. I’m sure the help and guidance that you are providing will have an everlasting impact. Kids seem to remember everything – especially acts of kindness.

    Take care.

  3. Becky MItchell says:

    Wow, a month allready, it seems to me that you guys have really done a lot. I love reading your posts and I’m impressed with how open you seem to the entire experience. Take care

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s