Whispers of Life in Honduras

In the tiny whispers of time, those instances where we get a glimpse into the obscure window of life, we find reason to live.

 

** As I sit waiting for the bus to come, I watch boys and girls carry pails of corn to the mill on the corner. They return some ten minutes later with a pail of corn meal, the day’s ration for tortillas. They smile at me, and I at them. We exchange our greetings and they continue on, their bare feet carrying them down the dirt road.

 

**They bang on traditional drums and make music with turtle shells and cow jawbones. They blow into conch shells, the drone sound carrying far.

Their feet move. Their hips shake. Their mouths emit songs in native dialect. They are passionate. They are alive. ALIVE .

 

They are the Garifuna.

 

* *The morning sun gives rise over the mountains to the east. A simple farmer and his son walk to the fields to plant corn and beans, their means of survival.

 

They arrive at their land and fix the wooden plow on the two bulls. With a crack of the rope, they’re off. Another day has begun.

           

**A little boy offers me a piece of gum. It seems so natural to him, a boy with no shoes, a ripped, dirty shirt and worn pants.

  

**The flame-orange flowers of the acacia tree shine bright in the light of the setting sun. Locals are emerging on the town park after a day’s work. Boys are playing soccer. They invite me to join them.

  

**It’s National Dengue Day. The community comes together to clean up their town. Students, teachers, local offices and the municipality all participate.

 

They form groups for each neighborhood. They are united. They work together all morning. No one wants to fall victim to the illness.

 

Three hours later, the trash is gone and the houses have been inspected. A community achievement.

 

**Seventy-six year old Dona Mercedes knocks on my door. I open it and find two flowerpots, one with marigolds and the other a fern.

 

“You need them to make your house pretty,” she says with a big, warm smile.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“No. Thank you,” she says walking away, laughing.

 

**Heriberto, the town librarian, has an Arts and Letters degree in Spanish Literature and an advanced degree in Education.

 

He’s a warm, soft-spoken man who wears a Yankees cap as he rides his bike through town. Despite his ability to work elsewhere, he remains in Manto to educate the children, working for a better tomorrow for his community.

 

 

**Word gets around that we are going to paint the basketball court. Soon the boys arrive, then the older teens. Before we know it, we have all the help we need. And help they do. They voluntarily pick up brushes and begin to paint. It is their court, and they want it to look nice.

  

**The electricity is off. I am unable to cook my dinner, as I have only an electric stove. My neighbor, Miriam–a single mother of a cute two-year-old boy–offers me a meal. She cooks on an earthen stove fueled by wood.

 

Happily I accept the invitation, knowing it brings her joy too. The beans, rice and tortillas are delicious.

  

**I am sitting by the road waiting for a ride or the bus, whichever comes first I’ll take. I pass the time reading Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat.

 

A blue, Toyota pick-up passes. Then it slows down. I grab my bag and run.

 

”I’m headed for Manto,” I yell to the driver.

 

“I can take you to Guarizama,” he tells me. It’s about half way between San Francisco de La Paz, where I am, and Manto.

 

“Sounds great,” I say, hopping in the back.

 

***Using a broom made from a type of bushy weed, Dona Alicia sweeps the cement porch in front of her adobe house. I watch her go through this daily routine. Today her shadow casts on the white wall, moving along with familiar ease.

 

** A small boy has been trying to make a basket for the past five minutes.

“A little more,” I tell him as the ball falls short of the hoop.

 

He tries and tries. The ball keeps falling short. Yet, he hasn’t given up.

   

In the tiny instances of time, those places where we get a glimpse into the obscure window of life, we find reason to live.

 

 

(written 1998

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