Twenty-first Station: Lessons Learned in Honduras

Living intensely within a community, as we have at Arc in Honduras, naturally initiates a reflective process as one prepares to depart.

Although Silva and I dedicated time daily to contemplate our roles in the house and the everyday challenges we faced, it is only now, as we prepare to leave, that we can clearly see what we contributed to the community, what we received in return, and what we’ve learned during our time here.

I would like to share some observations that seemed interesting and different from what we’re used to in Slovenia.

Formality in Addressing Each Other

One distinct practice here is the formal mode of address, or “vikanje.”

In Slovenia, we are familiar with this respectful form of communication, something that many languages and cultures do not recognize. For example, in English-speaking countries, the formal ‘You’ for addressing a single person does not exist.

In our culture, the use of formal address is diminishing over generations. While our grandparents, or even our parents, used to formally address their parents, today we converse more casually.

Iz leve proti desni: don Raul, Carina (odgovorna za hišo), Hector, David in spredaj Johny.

In Honduras, formal address is a very strict form of communication, not only between children and parents but also among young friends, and often even between spouses and partners.

As we were accustomed to informally addressing peers or those younger than us in other South American countries (we always use formal address for older individuals unless agreed otherwise), we were quickly advised that informal addressing in Honduras is considered disrespectful.

Young assistants have told us that it is common for even brothers and sisters to formally address each other.

We quickly had to switch to a ‘formal address mode’ and reacquaint ourselves with it. We imagine it will be similar in Mexico, which will probably benefit us. If we return to Slovenia and continue to use formal address with our friends, at least they’ll understand why. 🙂

Interestingly, despite such respectful modes of addressing each other, there is a considerable amount of verbal abuse within families.

After dinner. Mina always washes the dishes, the others rinse and wipe.

Clearly, there are many reasons why there are so many broken families in Honduras: alcohol, drugs, emotional and financial addictions, machismo, feminism, and broken family values. Sometimes, we try to imagine how these people fight without breaking the formal addressing rule.

The Boundaries Set by Economy

Something that often saddens us in Latin American countries is classism, particularly pronounced in Honduras.

By classism, I mean the division of society based on economic status. The more prevalent it is in society, the sharper the lines drawn between the upper class, middle class, and lower class.

Although few people from the upper economic class are present, they are nonetheless present. These individuals are wealthy and live as the wealthy do worldwide—in beautiful and safe locations with all the comforts money can buy, from excellent healthcare to high-quality education (often in the United States) and frequent travel outside Honduras.

With Carolina, the president of the Honduran Arc community.

Most Hondurans cannot afford such luxuries. In one of my first articles, I wrote that nearly 60% of Hondurans live in poverty, with 30% in extreme poverty, meaning millions lack food, shelter, and healthcare.

Classism in Honduras significantly affects interpersonal relationships, creating class segregation where unwritten rules dictate that class boundaries are not crossed. People from the upper class, for example, do not marry those from the lower class, and even friendships between them are rare.

Life Through Dance and Music

Living in Arc’s house has revealed many Honduran habits that have touched us or seemed interesting.

Music is one of them. This nation lives with music. In our house, the day begins and ends with the TV turned on and music videos playing loudly—perhaps too loudly for European ears.

The first thing an assistant must do in the morning before waking everyone is to turn on the TV and set the music, which plays all day, mainly the same videos and pop songs.

Throughout the day, music from neighboring houses joins in, mixing, overlapping, and competing in volume.

Even communication among people is quite loud, and I’m still not sure if they know how to speak quietly—even at night when people around are sleeping.

Darwin and Mina

I will not forget how one evening, around ten, a neighbor decided to put a speaker (‘parlante’) on the balcony and blare a sermon from a fervent pastor until one in the morning.

On buses or in common areas, people often do not use headphones. They listen to YouTube videos on their phones at the highest possible volume, and it seems to bother no one around. Well, everyone else does the same, more or less engrossed in their own player.

Boys and girls have also shown us how important dance is in the life of a Honduran. ‘Punta’ is typical in this part of Central America: fast drum rhythms and vocals, which dancers, especially women, follow with equally fast hip movements.

Despite their limitations, Hector and Mina are very good at this dance, while Johny, David, and others are more focused on the scantily clad and seductive girls.

If a Bread Falls on the Floor…

Another thing we found interesting is that during meals, our boys and girls often drop food from their plates to the table. It’s quite normal, given their physical limitations. But if they want to return the food from the table to their plate or put it in their mouths, assistants warn them that this is not done and is not appropriate.

We always found this odd. Once, we even translated the saying, ‘If bread falls on the floor…’ you know. But we felt they found it too strange, so we didn’t repeat it.

People Carry the World Within Themselves

Habits deeply rooted in culture are hard to change, and we are well aware that we must respect foreign cultures, even if they seem unusual or inappropriate to us.

The diversity shown to us by God is a reason for learning and enrichment. We write things down, reflect on them, and often compare the cultures of different nations.

With Don Raul

Arc community in Honduras is the twenty-first community in which we have lived and worked since we started traveling the world. We have plenty of material for reflection, discussions, and comparisons.

Over the years, our impressions and insights have created a rich tapestry within us, with all the differences, beauty, cruelty, contradictions, harmony, chaos, and order that our world carries.

In reality, however, all this is a reflection of what each of us carries inside. Even if one does not travel and learn about it in an ‘external way,’ it is there.

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