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"A Rural Honduran Day"

Honduran baby asleep in hammock

A Story by a Peace Corps Volunteer

By Joan Heberger - Peace Corps Volunteer: Honduras (2002-2004)

Some people might find life in a small Honduran pueblo monotonous, boring. In a culture in which most people live as their parents and grandparents before them did—except, of course, that they watch more TV—people are slow to accept new ideas and new ways of life. In fact, most Hondurans eat the same meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of their lives—beans and tortillas, again and again and again.

Even though my own schedule is often busy and I find it hard to predict where I will be two hours hence, I find the daily routines and the consistency comforting. I know that every afternoon at 2, I will find my neighbor Doña Hilda in her kitchen, arms submerged to the elbows in a giant steel cooking pot of milk, as she forms her homemade cheese into a ball to squeeze out the liquid. And that every morning at 9:30, I will hear Don Miguel yelling, "PRENNSAAAAA. !Tortilla Caliente!" (Hot Tortillas!), announcing he is on our street to sell the daily newspaper.

La Mañanita (Early Morning)
In most rural areas of Honduras—and of the world, I imagine—the day begins and ends with the sun. Most people are awake and active by 6 a.m., and as early as 4 a.m. for most farmers. At 6, I hear trucks, chickens, dogs, cows, and the familiar jingle of the national morning news on Radio America from several different houses at once. Even though I don't need to get up that early, I have adjusted to the schedule and now really enjoy my early morning time, which I spend alone in my house doing yoga, washing clothes, listening to the many birds in my yard. I am amazed with what I can accomplish before 9 a.m. At about 7, most people drink super-sweet coffee with sweet homemade bread for what they call a pre-breakfast. Today, instead of making breakfast at home, I went to my next-door neighbor's house for a licuado de aguacate, which is a thick, sweet blended drink of milk and avocado.

In the summer, sometimes the town plumbers cut off the water service for different neighborhoods at certain hours, to make sure everyone has water for at least a few hours a day. So in the morning, I also fill up my pila, or water storage tank.

Today at around 9 a.m., I left the house to go to the mayor's office, or alcaldia, to leave some documents for the mayor regarding a water system. I hope that he will take the next steps needed to advance the project while I am on vacation, but I doubt it. No one here seems to feel a sense of urgency, or a need to complete projects as soon as possible. A big difference between life in the United States and life in Honduras is that here, no one is in a hurry. There is a popular saying, "Hay mas tiempo que vida," or "There's more time than life." Compared with our own sayings about time, "Time is money" or "wasting time," I prefer the Honduran point of view!

Most people eat breakfast around 9:30 a.m.—tortillas with beans and eggs, or an empanada (fried tortillas with cheese or squash or ham inside). Between 9 and noon are the most important working hours. I sometimes visit schools or rural communities to give short classes, or go to our local nonprofit's office, or buy vegetables and food. In most homes, there is no extra food, no emergency kit, no signs of planning for more than the next meal. People buy only what they need for that day, partly because they do not have enough money to buy big quantities, and partly because everyone can shop at little corner stores, rather than going in a car to a supermarket.

Lunchtime Is Sacred
Lunch is the most important meal of the day, and everyone is at home with the family between noon and 2 p.m. Stores close and the streets empty. In the afternoon, stores open again and people work, although at a much slower pace than in the morning. My favorite time is between 4 and 7 p.m. when the hard work for the day, whether working in the field or making tortillas, is finished. The air cools and the dusty breeze dies down, and people sit on the sidewalk in front of their houses, chatting with neighbors.

There is no typical day in Corquín, except to say that typically, the days are full of small surprises. Yesterday, I was in a bad mood, trying to take a nap, when a neighbor kid knocked on the door with a framed Mickey Mouse poster for me. In this girl's house, there are no posters or photos on the walls, or even a spare chair. How did she manage to find and give me this poster? And every day is like this ... reminders that the people who have the least give the most.

And every day, I learn more about what my neighbors value by watching how they spend their time. I learn that, for them, conversations and connections with people are far more important than work. That it is important to live and enjoy the moment if you don't know how you will buy food tomorrow. And that there is always time for a chat and a cup of coffee.