Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pure and Noble Heart

Around 3:30 pm on a Friday, Sonja, a fellow employee of ASONOG, came and collected me from my office .  Like most events taking place here, I was completely oblivious to the fact that my workmates were going to have a Father´s Day celebration that afternoon.  Information sharing here takes mysterious forms.  You probably won´t receive an email.  The message gets passed on by word of mouth, and when these mouths speak fast, informal Spanish among themselves, I usually don´t get the message. Furthermore, I think that the events aren´t planned any more than 24 hours in advance, ever.  Along this same vein, CUSO-VSO just mandated us to go out and buy an emergency supplies kit*, that includes a battery powered radio.  If there´s ever an emergency where I have to listen to a frantic radio announcer telling us that there´s a countrywide 24 hour ´stay in your house´order**, or impending hurricane, or that the Americans are invading, I´d better also pull a Honduran friend out of that emergency kit who will drag me to where ever I need to go and explain more slowly what I need to do, because garanteed, I won´t understand the instructions.

Upon entering the large conference room I saw a huge, delicious, chocolate cake, layered with flan and strawberries on top.  Wow.  There´s also several hand-made cards, with the initials of all the employees who are fathers on them.  We all gathered around in a big circle, and openned with a prayer. By now, I am used to this workplace procedure of prayer before meetings.  My mouth was watering for that amazing cake.  I expected to cut into it within about 5 minutes, just as soon as the prayer was finished and the cards were handed out.  To my surprise and great dread, the next activity involved everyone in the room who was not a father.  We were mandated to give a personal account of how fathers have been important in our lives and to share something special about this with the entire group of about 30 people.  My eyebrows shot up, my mouth dropped.  This was my nightmare.  I visualized myself making a dash out the door.  As is so often the case, I  also started to imagine this same scenario if it were to happen at the Ministry of Forests and Range in Dawson Creek, my former workplace. There would be cake.  The boss would say, ´It´s Father´s Day tomorrow everyone.  We have cake. Eat it.´ Things are different here.

So, it´s my nightmare presenting itself in my new Honduran reality.  Share something really personal, in your clumsy second language, in front of a big group of people who you barely know.  Awesome.  I am of course, very touched by this show of warmth and outpouring of sentiment, and Hondurans can orate like nobody´s business.  A Canadian might say, ¨I really used to like playing baseball in the front yard with my dad when I was a kid. Next.¨  Hondurans, by constrast, without any previous preparation I might add, say something more along the lines of, ¨Fathers are so special to all of us.  Fathers are the providers, they are mentors for their children, they know that they must provide for their families and this great responsibility can weigh on them heavily.  I know how much I depended on my father when I was a child, just as the children of these fathers in this room now depend on these kind, gifted, responsible men, here today... ¨  They take about 2 to 4 minutes each, saying this heartfelt stuff, infront of all their workmates.  By number 3, I have fully formed tears in my eyes threatening to drip down my face.  I then made the mistake of making eye contact with a motherly figure across the room.  I noticed she noticed.  Then I was done for.  Full on stream of tears, falling down my face, and I´ve still got about 10 more people to get through before it´s my turn.  It was just so touching, to have this kind of thing happen at work.

Kindly, the motherly figure got up, got me a huge wad of paper to blow my nose in, and quietly handed it to me.  Then she stood behind me, with her hands on my shoulders, and the guy beside me started to coo, ¨Tranquila. Tranquila¨ (Calm, calm.).   Finally it´s my turn.  I manage to say in my special kind of Spanish, ¨It´s hard enough for me to speak in Spanish, nevermind when I am crying, so, I´ll send you an email.  But I want to explain, that in Canada, if we have an event like this, the boss  would say ´we have cake, eat it´. So this is very touching for me.¨  They laughed, then we finally got to that delicious cake.

While the cake was being handed around, my boss, who was sitting next to me tells me in all sincerity, ¨You are very sensitive.  You have a pure and noble heart.¨ Then the other guy beside me started to coo again, ¨Tranquila, tranquila.¨ because then I was laughing out loud. If only my Dawson Creek workmates could see me now!  Why haven´t any of my other bosses told me I have a pure and noble heart when I cry in their offices?!  Seriously, this Honduran workplace is where it´s at!

So, that was Father´s Day in Honduras.  2 months early, and pretty amazing.  If I could have spit out what I wanted to say in front of that crowd of brilliant orators,  I think I would have said, ¨I was fortunate enough to be raised by a stepfather who always treated me like his own daughter.  He had hayfever, and did not like horses, but because it was my passion he learned to build fences and barns and to stack hay, and feed them when I went away to school.  I got all the fun aspects of that activity, and he got all the work and expense and flared-up allergies, and he never complained to me about it, ever. Thanks Dad. Thank you so much.¨

* For the curious, the other emergency supplies included: a first aid kit, a battery powered flashlight or lantern, 20L of drinking water, 6 cans of tuna, 6 cans of beans, 2 big packages of crackers, 3 cans of ´palmito´.  I have no idea what palmito is, and neither does Google translator, but I will assume that a big jar of Nutella will make a nice substitute in any case. Conspicuously absent from this list was a pair of ear plugs.

** In 2009 there was a big coup here.  The then president What´s His Name Lopez was ousted one night and flown to Costa Rica against his will, still in his pajamas.  A few months later, he snuck back into the country with the help of the Brazilians.  When he was detected, taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, the entire country was put under a 24 hour ´stay in your house´order by the military for a couple days.  ¡And to think my neighbour and friend Miriam laughed at me when I was stocking up on tuna and Nutella!  How quickly we forget. ¿Can we hire someone to kidnap a pajama-ed Mr. Harper and ship him to Costa Rica?

1 comment:

  1. this is freakin hilarious (yes, I am creeping backward through your blog). I usually get yelled at when I cry! Or, wait, is it that when I get yelled at, I cry.... anyway, people aren't usually nice!