[HONDURAS] It was another hot day Wednesday, with a high of 88. It's supposed to be the rainy season here, but they haven't had rain for more than a month, so there are intermittent power outages (the electricity is hydroelectric), and it's dusty.
There are security guards and barbed wire all around us here. We have walkie talkies in the cabin to communicate with the other adults on the premises. There are armed guards at every little roadside fruit stand and store in the mall, too, as well as armed guards on the delivery trucks driving through town. But we are safe. There are guards here at the Micah House 24-7. We're locked in.!
It was a full day of adventures. A great day! We got up and had breakfast at Megan's cabin. Then we met up with the Micah group. We had 22 PEOPLE in one van. (Update: They're raising funds to purchase a van that holds 30!) Thank goodness some of the bodies were little boy bodies. It was quite a sight though, I'm sure. Windows down in a clunky old van with people wedged in sideways and backwards.
We dropped off the boys at the post office downtown for a field trip. Then Megan, Mia and I went down the street to Timothy House, which is home to seven older boys who graduated from Micah House. The area and the facility are very rough, tattered with an edge of danger. We learned that you get in and out of the car quickly in the murder capital of the world. No dilly dallying on the street.
There we met Olvin, who is a former Micah House resident, went to college in the States and now lives at Timothy House working for Micah. He's a big guy with deep thoughts. He explained the systemic problems that plague Honduras. No jobs—they only go to the friends of the wealthy or the government. No revolution, so the government is able to continue its corruption. The major franchises—McDonald's, etc.—are all owned by a major franchise conglomerate, so they control who is hired. All hiring requires a favor, a connection, he said.
The people are complacent as a result of the banana plantation system in place in the early 1900s. When the government changes, the current government workers are kicked out of the important jobs in the major businesses, and favorable people are put into place. Or, if they are of the right political party when the new regime comes in, extra jobs are created for them. It's complex, long-standing, and seemingly impossible to change.
We learned that even the police here are often corrupt. There are five major known drug-dealing operations within 15 blocks of Timothy House, and the police are just two blocks down the street.
From what I understand from Olvin, most of the other countries in Central America have had their revolutions, cleaned up their systems, and begun to make money from tourism. So Honduras is relatively alone in its continued system of major, systemic corruption, he says. It's hard to imagine growing up and raising a family in a place where effort doesn't necessarily equal opportunity.
After our tour, Megan borrowed Jeremy’s car and drove Mia and me up into the hills on the opposite side of Tegucigalpa to Valle de Angeles, a touristy little town. Megan is a rock star driver, by the way. There are few rules here. You use your horn. Traffic signs and signals are suggestions. People on motorbikes, dogs, pedestrians and people hanging on the backs of trucks are constant obstacles. There are the "chicken buses," school buses that the U.S. has decided have too many miles. They serve as public transportation here. They're known to be dangerous—often held up by armed robbers. Or broken down. It's funny to see a sea of yellow buses on the road. We looked for the name of a school district we could recognize.
We shopped for a couple of hours in Valle de Angeles, where we saw other missionaries, lots of trinkets similar to what we saw in Nicaragua, colorful streets lined with flowers. Megan took us to a little restaurant where we had pupusas, little fried pockets filled with cheese, plus chicken or pork or beans. We were the only ones dining in the breezy, quiet little garden behind a fence along the street, with several big Rottweilers lying in the sun, a little girl in a school uniform occasionally passing through, and a man and his wife cooking and serving. A man playing a guitar and harmonica came in to perform for tips. He sang the Beatles, Cat Stevens and the BeeGees—quite well, I might add! Funny to hear those songs here. You can never have enough BeeGees, I think.
We went back into the city and to the airport to get our missing luggage. Everything bureaucratic seems 10 times harder here. We had called and called the number they gave us at the airport, and finally we reached someone. They said to come after 3:30. But no one was there to help us when we arrive at 4:15. After a long time of asking around and being sent upstairs and to security, tracing our steps in circles, we finally got our things. My new suitcase, artfully haggled over during my mission trip to China, was torn apart, bundled into a bag to hold everything in. At least we got our things.
We drove to the upscale part of the city to PriceSmart, which is like Sam's Club, to get things for Micah House. We picked up some vegetables, too, so we could make dinner at the cabin. I was soooo thrilled by the prospect of a salad. I happen to love my greens and eat them every day, so I missed vegetables.
After a long day, we made it back to Micah House just before dark. We had seen every side of the city; along the way Megan explained more about the drugs that people use and sell (shoe glue for the little boys, marijuana and crack for adults). We saw little shacks that looked as if no one could possibly live there...until you see clothes hanging to dry outside.
Megan also talked about the amazing things that the Micah Project is doing. The boys who have graduated are engineers, agricultural specialists, leaders at Micah. We all know that boys in the United States are very at-risk from their teens to their early 20s...imagine what it’s like here, where they are quite certain that there is little hope for them to improve their lot in life unless they were born into the right family. Why think about consequences? What choices do they have?
But in the Micah Project, the 16 boys there are the subjects of intense focus. The boys have schooling...which is not mandatory nor provided in Honduras. Most kids don't go to any school at all. At the Micah House they have regular meals, beds, rules and a strong male example in Michael, the director and founder, who is only my age and who has given his adult life over to leading this place (as well as fundraising, working with the U.S. board, managing staff, dealing with boys who are in and out of rehab, etc.). The boys have games and affection and "brothers" in each other. They have hope—the staff at Timothy House helps the young men look for jobs. They sometimes are able to study in the United States.
The Micah Project might be planting the seeds that will someday, with enough time and enough graduates, grow into change. An educated underclass could maybe do that someday. At a minimum, the Micah Project is giving some really sweet, really funny, really bright boys the chance to be, well, boys.