It’s been a long time, right? You probably thought we were on vacation. Well, we were. We went back to the States for a brief trip. We only told a few people because we weren’t going to have a lot of time and we had a lot of ‘have to’ things to do. We went to Georgia to see Laura’s sister and family, then we went to Virginia to see Laura’s daughter Emma in her new digs. That left us with a very little time in the North, only a matter of days. There we had to get a few warmer clothes and other things out of our storage unit. We also had to get a prescription for a Typhoid vaccine. There was very little time left for visiting. We knew that when we left so we told only a few select people we were coming. People we did see, we just showed up at their doors. Boy, were they shocked – look what the cat dragged in. We hoped we would see more people, but it just didn’t happen. I imagine a few of you, particularly some of my own family, might be a little upset that we didn’t see you. I’m sorry. I had hoped too, but it just didn’t work out.
Actually we got back on our anniversary, Tuesday, July 8. I wanted to get off a quick blog post earlier so that those who didn’t know we were on vacation wouldn’t think we were dead. But I just kept putting it off. In retrospect, I think I was probably feeling a little guilty. Certainly that was partly because I hadn’t seen everyone that I wanted to, but mostly it is because being in the States is such an overwhelming experience. I think I might be feeling like the teenager that runs off to do something very special with his closest friends, but doesn’t tell his other friends he is going. The U.S. is just so incredibly wealthy as compared to what we experience here. I was on stimulus overload – the glitz, the glamour, the endless choices of consumer products, the paved roads, the clean bathrooms with toilet paper and running water, and I could just go on and on. After our four hour bus drive from La Esperanza to San Pedro Sula (a thirty degree raise in temperature), we took a taxi from the bus station to the airport. The taxi was beat up. There were no instruments that worked left on the dashboard, a hole where the radio used to be, and you had to reach your arm outside the window to open the door from the outside latch. The vehicle stalled at least two times at every stop. We started up a conversation with the man who was very interested in going back to school to finish his high school education, but he couldn’t give up his job while supporting his family. Laura made the mistake of commenting that the man’s taxi seemed a bit old. The man was incredulous. “This taxi’s not old! It’s a 2000 and in perfect working condition!” Three hours later we were in Atlanta. We did not see a vehicle that looked anything like that the whole time we were in the States.
Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the excesses of the decadent capitalist culture. I must have gained ten pounds back of the thirty I have lost (we don’t have butter here). And we brought back things we just can’t get here. Two huge jars of peanut butter would have cost us about eight times as much here. As I am writing this, I am munching on Stacy’s Multigrain Pita Chips – you couldn’t even describe what that is here. Dark chocolate, little speakers for our computer to watch the DVDs we also got in the States, and various sundries are exquisite pleasures.
I really like these things because I am thoroughly American. But I do feel guilty. Both Laura and I felt guilty in our first English class back at Maestro en Casa. The students wanted to know what we did on vacation. We explained to them where we went and asked if anyone had been to the States. One kid did spend three months in Washington, DC. (He’s the same kid, and only kid, who also had a car.) But of the three months, he spent two in a detention center before being deported. That spawned a discussion on immigration, going wetback, and what’s a visa. After the class, one young girl who is slightly older than the other students shyly approached Laura. In a soft, insecure whisper she asked how she could get a visa. She probably lives on her own and is also probably desperately poor.
Television is something we don’t have down here either (that’s just us, not everybody), but I don’t really miss ad-infinitum reality shows. At one point on our vacation, someone was watching CNN or MSNBC or FOX or something like that. The pundits were debating over the immigration crisis and the kids being dropped at the Mexico / US border. The conservative was saying that the kids were coming to escape poverty and that was not a legitimate reason to grant amnesty. He also said that the narcotraficantes were sending them here to bog down the immigration system so that they could more easily smuggle drugs with less chance of detection. That second argument is just absolutely absurd. The liberal pundit was making the case that families were attempting to rescue their children from the threats of intense violence and, therefore, these children did qualify for amnesty. I found the argument puzzling and frustrating and I didn’t think that either of the two really understood what it means to live in Latin American. Here, poverty is violence, and the victims of violence are almost always poor. If we want to be citizens of the world, we really ought to figure that out. Even if we drive on good roads, eat rich food, choose our television programs from 2000 channels, and decide upon the tastiest snack dip at the grocery store, we really ought to figure that out.