“Cincuenta guineos por veinticinco lempiras!”
Everything is sold door to door. Tortillas, ice, green bananas, cheese, a Ceiba woman can do all her grocery shopping from her front door. This morning I am sat once again on the patio watching the rain reclaim the city that was once her worshiping forest. The loudspeakers from well worn pickup trucks have passed twice now since I sat down. The green bananas (guineos) were the last to leave and the truck was filled to bursting with stiff, milky fruit tight in their leather-tough green skin. I was sure he must be confused – fifty guineos for twenty-five lempiras? That’s just over a dollar for the fruit of several trees!
It has rained all night and shows no sign of letting up. Today I was to go to the islands and to my Uncle and hundreds of unmet cousins. But the catamaran that would take me over is likely parked in safe harbour right now. There is bad weather between us and Cayman and the islands in between are getting a good taste of it. Only the most seasoned islander would take to the ocean today.
But it is just as well. Coffee is on the stove and semitas are coming with it. I am rested and comfortable on the adirondack two-seater on the porch.
Nena is still asleep, her baby Monkey up close to her for warmth. I slept in another bed under a heavy blanket with the image of a galloping stallion. I had teased little Fiore that he would likely wake me up galloping in my sleep in my broken spanish the night before. Still shy, or perhaps not understanding my torn up attempt, she smiled and nodded. The breeze was cool with rain and I snuggled deep under the covers.
My orchids would love this place. In fact, the orchidia brasavola is the national flower of Honduras! There must be magic in the mountains for an orchid hunter here! All around the garden and in the trees in the surrounding hills raindrops fall like diamonds and hang languid to the leaves until sliding slowly to the leaf below. Each drop makes its way slowly to the stream that runs through the property to the left below the garden. It is an aching beauty, an untamable wildness pretending to be domesticated, and an intoxicating simplicity.
Under my blanket I dreamed of love and believed it possible. There is so much more space in ones being when messy clumps of the material life are stripped away. Bills are gone, corporate struggles forgotten, conflict does not exist and all that is left are the basics of being. The eating, the drinking, the laughing, the loving, the remembering of a childhood and reliving the things that made it great.
I realized today just how Honduran I have been all my life. My family has always congregated on broken chairs and hammocks under the tamarind and mahogany trees sharing stories and laughter, jokes and pepsis, catamales and fried fish. Much of what I always believed to be Caymanian is in fact Honduran. The two are similar, don’t get me wrong, but there is a rawness and a boiling intensity to the Honduran that is missing in the other parts of my blood.
My hostess is an amazing woman. Known as Nena to her community, she is a Chona – a follower of Visitacion Padilla, a feminist famous for the way she changed Honduras. In her early 50s or late 40s (I wouldn’t dare guess which on this blog), my Nena is completing her qualification process to be an Abogada here in La Ceiba, a lawyer licensed to practice in a year’s time. Bo, her son, is studying the foundation courses that will take him into medical school. The little bridge that crosses the stream before we get to her house is called the Puentecito Nena. There was a bridge before that washed away in a hurricane many years ago and she worked hard to get it rebuilt, lobbying local government, supervising the workmen and feeding them daily. She is a woman of great passion, rosy cheeks and a huge laugh that fills her home and tickles everything in her orbit into laughter as well. No one would believe the things she has survived.
Two children join her and Bo in her home, her neice and nephew. Christian is in the early stages of his fight to manhood, a spicy boy of 13 with the makings of a man of power. Fiore is tiny, doll-like, with flawless skin and beautiful brown eyes shining from an angellic face that bellies any suggestion of the mischief she can make. She will be a knockout in no time.
The story of the Honduran home is evident everywhere you look outside these walls but Nena is an exception. Not for her family the division of roles along sexual lines. Life has taught her that she is capable of successes well beyond the imaginations of others. Her family is a well oiled machine, her children capable and efficient, and her home powered by respect. In other families the girl will run the home but the boy will need a wife to run his.
But love is possible here. To my surprise today I see far less wrong with the lean of our culture, here in its natural element. I see it as neither a lean toward man nor toward woman but toward an era that has passed by in my home and in Nena’s home but is the present tense with distinct heartbeat in most homes in this rainy land.