Learning to Live with Less

By Ben Anson

“La gente en Europa es tan egoísta”.
“People in Europe are so selfish.”

HAVANA TIMES – So wept an incarcerated Spaniard, imprisoned within a terrifying Bolivian hellhole deep in the nation’s capital city of La Paz. He appeared to me on a YouTube documentary that I sat consuming the other night. The man had paid for his mistakes (drugs trafficking) and swore to the cameraman that if he was ever to return to Spain he’d never live as he used to.

No longer would he desire materialistic things.
No longer would he look down upon street beggars.
No longer would he treat others as inferiors.
No longer would he live his life with what he described as a ‘European mentality’.

After having resided in Honduras, I could not be of stronger accord with the Spaniard.

People in Europe – are generally quite selfish. Selfish, perhaps without realization, for they simply do not know just how hard things truly are in other parts of the World. Latin America for instance.

In Honduras, having a house and a car is when one has made it in one’s life.

In England – my country, one car shan’t suffice. Not for many. The husband has his. The wife has hers. They need changing every few years as well. One mustn’t be seen wearing the same clothes nor driving the same vehicle too often.

Society frowns upon he who doesn’t appear to be ‘doing well’.

He, who is not on a constant ‘upgrade’.

Honduras has blessed me (as hard as it gets at times) to see and live its reality as the Honduran does. I laugh to myself at times, whilst pondering on all the unnecessary shit that my family and I had back in our converted cottage. We weren’t alone, almost everybody lived as we did.

Honduras has taken me through some extreme ups and downs. I’ve slept on floors with rats running across the beams above me. I’ve slept on mattresses and friends’ sofas. I’ve even shared beds with my associates. Countless days, I have had absolutely no money to my name. Not a cent in the world.

Yet a strange, almost unfathomable happiness grows within one’s spirit. You truly worship and are grateful for that plate of rice and beans somebody’s mother whips you up. You greatly strengthen a friendship as you and your friend place your last pesos together; se comen del mismo plato – you eat from the same plate – you both smoke that last smoke down to its butt. The last swig of soda or rum gets shared between you two.

“Vaya comprar dos pollos mano”.
“Go buy two chickens bro.” Says Padilla, pulling out his last hundred Lempiras with a smile. Fried chicken and plantain chips being what gets one through.

It is during such moments that I look back in both amusement and disgust at all the inane shite people possess over in Europe.

I recall Spaniards I knew, who’d sit around their private swimming pools and chat for five or six hours straight, drinking fancy local beers and eating paella as they moaned about how ‘terrible’ the state of Spain was.

I further recall being a ‘loser’ for not dressing in Ralph Lauren and Lacoste whilst growing up. My brother said to me recently: “I haven’t been anywhere else in the World where people are so hung up about what you wear like they are in England.”

The things people have in their houses back there…

Bedside tables. Many Hondurans haven’t one to eat from let alone furniture to stick next to a bed on which a reading lamp and a phone is placed…

Coffee tables.

Rugs to go under the coffee table.

Shoe closets.

Wine cabinets.

A television in each room.

Then there exists the ‘ridiculous’, such as mini bars and home cinemas.

It’s not that I am against anybody sporting such things in their house. Work hard and get what you want. Good for you. The point is, the European (those from western Europe particularly) are so lost in their bubble world of consumption and nonsense – that it appears almost impossible for me to return there.

I frankly could not go back to that lifestyle nor to the conversations of those sorts of people.

“Yeah, we’ve just put our first payment down on the mortgage”.

For a tacky two bedroom in some tedious, little cul de sac? Cool…

“He’s on a forty grand salary mate, you should see the Audi he drives.”

No I shouldn’t, I don’t give a damn if he’s in an Audi or on horseback.

“Nadie te va a recordar por lo que tenías sino por lo que eras.”
“No one is going to remember you what you had – but for who you were.”

People back ‘home’ say to me: “Honduras, bit mad out there, all those cartels…”

Cartels hail predominantly from Mexico and Colombia. In Honduras, there exist street gangs, which are at the beck and call of the Colombian and Mexican organizations. This is simply not a place that is all cocaine and violence. It simply is not.

It is a place which teaches humility, strength and an understanding and appreciation of the little things in life, which one simply will not grasp living in Western Europe.

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Ben Anson

“The moment that I disembark (from a plane), I notice that everything in my body and in my mind readjusts itself for me", so remarked Gabriel Garcia Marquez - when speaking of his relationship with the Caribbean. He felt the strongest physical and mental connection with this part of the world and deemed it as far as ‘grave’ and immensely ‘dangerous’ for him to leave its zone. Only here, did ‘Gabo’ feel ‘right’ in himself. Honduras, does for me - precisely what the Caribbean did for Marquez. A resplendent yet troubled nation, that I have been decidedly unable to part with ever since 2014. I thus seek to capture its essence through the written word.

Ben Anson has 29 posts and counting. See all posts by Ben Anson

2 thoughts on “Learning to Live with Less

  • Thank you for your heartfelt and correct description of contemporary Europe. Western Europe – that is. You need not school me though on the current state of things over there. I am European mate. From England… A nation abounded by immigrants.
    I do think that your argument has been posed for the sake of argument however.
    Describing a Sudanese migrant who has risked his or her life to enter Europe is somewhat ‘out there’. Why not bring up the trafficked eastern european girls that are brought under fall pretences to Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, Scandanavia and the UK? Their dreams of finding stable work (promised to them by pimps mascarading as decent men) are then shattered as they’re hooked on drugs , gang-raped and forced to service men 24/7 by members of the Albanian, Russian, Lithuanian, Serbian and Bulgarian mafias… amongst other crime groups.
    A tragic tale, which is just as random and unrelated to anything I mentioned in comparing the middle class English and Spaniards to people I know and the lifestyle in Honduras.
    Also, no, it is not at all easy for Hondurans to purchase a decent, reliable vehicle. I could write a whole article on that topic.

  • “People in Europe – are generally quite selfish. Selfish, perhaps without realization, for they simply do not know just how hard things truly are in other parts of the World. Latin America for instance.

    In Honduras, having a house and a car is when one has made it in one’s life”

    I don’t entirely agree with your thesis. Today, the face of Europe has changed drastically. There are many, many, recent immigrants from Africa, Syria, Afghanistan, and other strife, war inflicted geographic areas, definitely more stressed than Honduras, who are literally living on the streets of major European cities or surely in ghettos. Life is not as easy as you are suggesting. Perhaps you are referring to established Europeans; however they are becoming the minority in many European cities. Recent immigrants in the millions have very little chance of upper mobility because of outright racism based on the color of their skin, their religion, and/or both. They face day to day struggles trying to fit into the “European life style” you describe; however, because of language barriers they are rejected from the society they wish to participate. They are targeted by police because of their religious beliefs and viewed suspiciously everywhere they go. This rejection and extreme hardship for them is worth the life threatening journey to Europe where they foresee a future for themselves and certainly for their children better than what they left behind.

    Owning a house and/or a car is a far off dream very much like the dreams of Hondurans and will probably be realized by the offspring of the immigrants than the immigrant himself. I am willing to bet a Honduran has a better chance of realizing this ownership dream than a recent black immigrant from Sudan who speaks only his/her native language and has no skills to offer a European country. The immigrant eventually becomes European geographically, but certainly does not live by European standards and can very easily concur with Honduran hardships.

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