By Ben Anson
HAVANA TIMES – The heat at mid-afternoon was so intense, that one simply dripped from the forehead while hurrying through the sun-scorched streets of central El Progreso, Honduras.
Despite such an uncomfortable heat, the scene before my friend and I made up for the heavy sweating and constant wiping of brows. Our city is just beginning to pull through this terrible crisis that we have all been faced with worldwide.
An ambience of positivity and determinism appears to prosper. Many, including myself, have suffered economically and at times – even mentally (going crazy at regular intervals) as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown. Work stopped, jobs became postponed, shops and businesses closed. Then came the supermarkets and finally even the pharmacies. One could do nothing apart from stay in one’s house. A daily walk to the pulperia (corner shop) amassed one’s excitement and exercise for the day.
Police and soldiers cruised the streets looking for illegal pedestrians and loiterers.
“Back to your house! Go on!”
Such cries from loud speakers accompanied by frenzied honking were common sounds for weeks on end. My neighbors and I banged music full blast from our respective apartments – reggaeton to 70s hits.
I observed vultures and songbirds from my large windows. The densely forested, green mountains stand in the distance; my neighbor and I discussed them on frequent occasion. We discussed them so much that we haven’t even mentioned nature for over two weeks. Banal conversations became commonplace within the building.
“Have you washed any clothes today?”
“No neighbor, have you?”
“Well… I did socks and pants this morning; I might end up washing some shirts this afternoon…”
“Oh really? I was going to do some shirts later!”
“Come knock on my door later and we’ll wash together”.
Drinking played its part. That being when one couldn’t tolerate any more conversations of this sort nor frankly – the sight of one’s neighbors. Netflix series were recommended and not recommended, phone calls became the killer of hours and half hours… I reached a point of showering six times a day on account of the searing heat. My inspiration to write came and went. Some days were productive, others anything but.
Then without much notice, things started to pick up ever so slightly.
Trucks, lorries and other vehicles began to circulate within the city. Especially along its highway. People were allowed out on certain days. Small corner shops and food stalls began to operate low profile. The police and armed forces relaxed. Individuals appeared jollier. The growing census seems to be that in June things will return slowly back to normal. Pizza Hut, Power Chicken, a few downtown supermarkets and barber shops went back to business.
This afternoon, my neighbor and I took to the center. I had started the day off on a bad note, receiving news that I hadn’t even been considered for an online job I’d applied for. One sometimes makes a major effort, waits for weeks on end – just to receive a flat ‘no’.
However, at around three p.m., after a terribly tedious morning engaged in a seven-hour video call (training for work in a call center – a punishment in itself), I headed out to the third-floor balcony in boxers and shorts – no mas nada – and found a smile on my neighbor’s face.
There he sat on a raggedy, plastic rocking chair, sunlight all upon him, street down below and green mountains in the distance, appearing as the Chicano that he does with his short dark hair and carefully aligned beard, big, black shades on his face and tattooed across the torso, arms and hands, grasping his phone – just beaming up at me.
“I got some good news bro!” He grinned, delivering the line in his deep Hispanic-American accent.
“Really? Tell me?”
“We’re going to go and speak to that lady about getting your work permit”.
Turned out that it was finally happening. The notion of gaining my Honduras work permit appeared possible for the first time ever. Something, that I have been seeking to obtain for years now – to no avail.
The owning of such a permit would mean I’d no longer have to travel in and out of the country every three months on a tourist visa – a costly and inconvenient pursuit. Last time I was forced to go as far as Costa Rica, spending hundreds of dollars for frankly, no good reason at all.
Honduras, is the place I fell in love with, and this simple documentation would grant me legal rights to remain within the nation for a period of one year upon which the permit can be renewed.
Thus, we went in search of the lady; a close friend of my next-door neighbor.
Dressed in collar shirts, dark jeans and sneakers, shades upon us, we took to the boiling streets and found ourselves immediately taken aback by the rather nice atmosphere. Youths on bikes chuckled and cycled by, attractive young women went about in their high heels handing out fliers, elderly folk sold fruits and vegetables from stalls and bright songbirds sang from telegraph poles. The dear sun lit up the multicolored buildings along our wide, American-styled streets. Even the homeless wanderers smiled and waved as one passed them on foot.
On arriving at the local governmental building to meet the lady in question, the three of us (my neighbor, the lady and I) perched on a park bench and enjoyed a nice conversation. Birds fluttered about and sung whilst we enjoyed the shade provided by some park trees.
She explained the process to me, describing what we will have to do and what is needed, as well as answering some questions and concerns of mine. It was a most pleasant chat indeed.
My neighbor’s friend made the whole affair appear very possible indeed. She instructed me that as a first step, I’ll need to obtain a police record from my native country: England. Then, we can commence with the process.
The day may have started with some bad news, yet it finished with good news Even better news – in fact. It served to remind me that one must never lose the faith.
A dome like construction, which serves as an upmarket coffee shop, sits in the park’s center, amidst carefully planted flowers and majestic conifers. On departing from the conversation, bidding the lady goodbye and moving past the closed coffee shop, my neighbor patted me firmly on the left shoulder and spoke:
“I’ve got a good feeling about all this. I feel like this lockdown had taught us all something and now people are going to come out of it – more motivated, more compassionate and more human. Good things are coming to us Ben.”
I’d like to think so.
As I am sure that you all would.