Sunday, February 21, 2010
When I last had left Honduras, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. My mind was compounded by change in a way that I had never felt before. I needed to be there and I needed to be there at that moment...
In a desperate attempt to return to Honduras, I came across an ad on a teacher website, and the words "Albert Einstein International School" came popping right in front of me. They needed English speaking teachers in the industrial capital of Honduras, San Pedro Sula. The qualifications were easy to handle (English speaker, college degree), so I contacted them and within a week I was back in Honduras as the high school teacher of the Albert Einstein International School. I had a purpose, and Kerouac's purpose led him to Mill City, outside of San Francisco.
Kerouac's journey led him to Mill City, outside of San Francisco, where he was to meet with his friend, Remi Bonceaur. He described it as, "...a collection of shacks, in a valley, housing-project shacks built for navy Yard workers during the war; it was in a canyon, and a deep one, treed profusely on all slopes. It was, so they say, the only place in America where whites and Negroes lived together voluntarily; and that was so, and so wild and joyous a place I've never seen since." The way in which Kerouac describes this place almost seems magical. It is a place that he has never seen before, and a place that has never existed before that moment when he lands. The way in which the homes are characterized seems like a "collection of shacks" almost seems like their is a distinct quality in the area that deserves to be preserved and remembered for eternity. Furthermore, the fact that it is the one place in the nation where integration exists, just makes it even more magical. San Pedro Sula was my Mill City. Although there weren't many racial problems in this time, there are many other social injustices that makes this place special to me. Some place I never thought existed.
I was greeted by my Dean, Carlos, my neighbor, Natasha, my principal and her sister. As I headed for the city, I could only imagine what kind of work I would have to do. I had never been a teacher before, and I hate kids, so this seemed like a really BAD idea, but it was the easiest and fastest way to get "home" to my man. My trip to Honduras began with following this one person, like Kerouac's trip began, but as I began my own journey, I was able to acquire this sense of self that I had lot a long time ago. Let's get back to the experience, though.
Traveling through the main highway of Honduras gave a sense of unity to the place. "Colonias" were scattered throughout the exterior with the "busitos" driving along and getting robbed. One of the highlights of the travel was the water park "Zizima." Coming out of the airport, one can feel their hair frizzing up and your chest beginning to sweat. One of the awesomely disgusting things in Honduras is the constant sweat. One can be getting out of the shower, and automatically sweat will drip out of your body, causing you to want to shower again. But it was bathtaking traveling through the greenery of the many fields. One thing Honduras is beautiful for is for it's scenery, for the most part.
As we drove into the city, it was wonderful to see the way the United States had influenced Honduras. In typical fashion, we had our Mc Donalds, Wendy's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and even Tony Romas at the state-of-the-art "City Mall." I was home again, but without the vanity of celebrity. Yet in my moments where I felt like I was "home," I felt that it was this different home; a home in another dimension that looks the same, but the people are not, and the principles are not, and the world is not the same!
Passing the train tracks, my principal advised us not to go past the tracks for safety reasons. I remember instinctively the many times I was beyond the train tracks. While living in El Porvenir, Carlos and I would take the beat up school bus into the city to spend the day trying to find some cheeba and trying to find something to do. I realized at that moment how overtly cautious everyone was due to the crime rate, and how ridiculously incautious we were. Personally, I never got robbed and I felt quite safe in the city.
The journey led me to see the "Parque Central," where you have a combination of students, drunks, crackheads, protesters, advertisers, lottery salesman, Cinnabon, policemen, police vehicles with incarceration cells, prostitutes, little people, gays, bible freaks, state officials, and moms who breastfeed, among other fascinating people. It was quite the show, especially how confined the area is. Imagine a typical park with your swings, baseball field, basketball field, and if fancy, indoor area for more sports. In comparison, this park was about the size of half a city block with most of the floor being cement. There was a bridge, which was nice, but the river was a sewage pipe, for those interesting in watching the lovely water through the nonstop rainy season.
As we approached our school, it was surrounded by a big black gate with wired fencing to keep the hoodlums and robbers out. San Pedro Sula has a high rate of crime, and things happen everyday. Coming from the San Fernando Valley, this was definitely something I was not accustomed to, but I dealt with and I forgot. We will soon find out why there are wired fencing EVERYWHERE.
As we went inside of the school, where I was also living because the teacher dorms were located behind the school, I was told of the different areas. The classrooms were in the second and third floors. The main floor was the area of recess, lunch, and CHAOS! As we continued walking, I was told that I would start teaching the next day. I had no idea what I was teaching, no did I know how many students I had, nor did I know anything about anyone. My life at Albert Einstein had begun.
Kerouac encounters a similar situation where chooses to get a job as a special policeman. In our situations, we both have the obligation to uphold the law of the "land," and where our"badge," me as a school teacher and him as a policeman, with honor, but the circumstances surrounding our tenure can only be summed up with a new subject: Hell.