Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who goes there?

Ahh, summer. I've been sweltering so much of late, first in Honduras and then back here in a New York 90F heat wave, that today's gorgeous slightly cooler summer evening is taking my breath away. And have I mentioned that we have access to something hardly anyone in New York has, a yard? That's right. Ahhhh....

All I want to do is read. I'm plowing through Darkness at Noon, even as I grapple with the recently completed Infinite Jest; visit my Literary Supplement for such musings.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the characters of Honduras, as promised. I must say that the Global Village team our leader, Michael, assembled was great. Late in the week we talked with him about the assembling-a-team process and he told us he thinks accepting people with zero travel experience is a recipe for disaster. But it wasn't just travel that made our team interesting. First as has been noted we had the two Canadians, including a super-patriotic golf-and-hockey-loving retiree from Alberta via B.C. and an eastern Canada thirtysomething. I like hanging out with Canadians, especially in other countries with lots of United Statesian expats around. I like how much they talk about being Canadian. Of course, they knew as much or more about Hillary and B.O. than half the people here do anyway. (Hillary was totally a theme of our trip, as I have become halfway convinced that the reason I went to Honduras was to avoid being in the U.S. when B.O. claimed the nomination.) Hence our joke that at the Mayan ruins they were going to sacrifice a Canadian and whatnot.

As for the so-called Americans we had twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, a middle-aged married couple, and a Harley-riding retiree from Seattle who had us all in stitches with the crazy stories of his life. There was a lot of sass on this trip, which made me really happy. There was another woman who is a lawyer who reiterated every day that I'm right to not want to work in a law firm. It was a great mix; we might have seemed to be nothing alike, but we had a lot of common ground.

Then there were the people at the build site. The two that stand out the most are more different than night and day. First we met a man from Indiana who used to do a lot of drugs, get in trouble with the law, go to metal concerts, and beat people up. Then he had an epiphany that God wanted him to move to Honduras and build houses for people so now he lives down there, volunteers full time with Habitat, raises money from his old church on holiday trips back home in the U.S., has a pit bull, listens to a lot of metal in his pickup truck, and beats people up. He was a trip. He's also the one who took us to the Hogar de Amor y Vida, the home/school/orphanage place for kids with HIV/AIDS, and he helps them out, too. A lot. Dude is kind of crazy and amazing. We had a cake for his fortieth birthday while he was there. He's married to a Honduran woman. He has many, many stories.

Next there was Maestro. This was the mason (local) in charge of building the house. Really, we were simply there to help him. Our particular mason was a complete and total renaissance man. One member of our group ended up calling him "Comandante." Besides being a skilled mason, Maestro plays several musical instruments and sings in a trio in the evenings, has been arrested for protesting civil rights violations, knows karate, and so on. He didn't speak much English, but I was never more delighted than when I'd be randomly called to translate as one of the sixtysomething team members, who bonded terrifically with 70-year-old Maestro, reached a point where gesturing and caveman-style communication came to an impasse, because invariably this involved getting to find out another fascinating fact. One time Maestro, whose real name is Jorge, responded to being called "Comandante" by reminding us in English, "My name is George." One of our team members said, "Like George Washington." Maestro said, "George Bush!" and then basically had a giggling fit. It spoke volumes.

But my favorite Maestro moment was after fun Harley retiree team member confessed he'd once had a serious crush on Linda Rondstadt. As we continued laying blocks, I started singing "Blue Bayou" softly to myself. Shortly, I heard whistling; someone was accompanying me by whistling the tune. We looked up to discover that it was Maestro, and he said, "Leen-da Rone-stat!" "Si, si, si," I replied, delighted. It was the last day of our build, the next-to-last-day in Honduras, and the lyrics washed over me...what they meant to me, and what they meant to this amazing 70-year-old man, and what strange fate had brought us ever so briefly together.

"I'm going back someday, come what may, to Blue Bayou
Where the folks are fine, and the world is mine, on Blue Bayou
Where those fishing boats, with their sails afloat --
If I could only see
That familiar sun rise, with sleepy eyes
How happy I'd be."

1 comment:

James MacQuarrie said...

Hey, Linda ...
stumbled over your blog while researching Estancia Dona Maria, which just happens to be the place MY Habitat group is arriving at the end of this month. I'm one of those sacrificial Canadians. Anyway, loved the entries both for their literate flavour and insights.