Bruce and Linda Hanson - Honduras
The past few weeks we have been looking for a house in Tegucigalpa. When we started to see the same houses with different realtors we thought perhaps we had seen all the options available and that it was time to make a decision.
So, in one of our long rest breaks waiting for realtors or owners of various houses en renta to call us back we stopped at a crepe and ice cream shop at the top of one of the many hills of Tegucigalpa. Overlooking the city we discussed with our children how very, very spoiled we are. And, we played a game called Voting the House off the Island. The idea was, that in the style of Survivor we would vote for the houses we hated the most, explain our reasons, and the one that was left would be our home. We were careful to explain that this was a game and that in reality parents get the final say, but it was a fun and interesting way to help us sort out all the houses we had seen and what we liked and didn’t like about them.
The first house to go was The Old Man House, so named because the owner was an elderly man who was trying to rip us off by charging an exorbitant rent for an ugly house. We hated the kitchen, which was in the basement, the rooms needed paint, it was on a busy street (we almost had an accident parking), and there was no yard. Get off the island!, we declared.
The second (Upstairs Downstairs) was a house that had an upstairs and a downstairs apartment. It was in a quiet neighborhood, close to our work, and members of the church would be our neighbors. But, the idea of sharing the same house with downstairs neighbors didn’t appeal to us. Off the island!
When it came time to vote for the third and fourth houses to go we began to reflect on how fortunate we were. We voted off some beautiful brand new townhouses, reasonably priced, close to work, but also close to a major highway and lots of traffic noise. There were few neighbors, it being more of a business district. Next, there was a house with a beautiful view, a yard, and again close to work, but with mirrors everywhere, dark paint, and an ugly small kitchen.
We began to feel a bit uncomfortable. What would the women of the villages we have visited think of our turning up our nose at such a beautiful house? How could we consider ourselves in solidarity with the poor of Honduras when we rejected houses such as these? As we rejected houses with no 220 outlet for the dryer, or no place for air conditioning or too small of a yard for our dog we thought of the families living in the stick houses, with dirt floors, collecting firewood for their wood-burning stoves. Our handbook for Global Ministries admonishes us not to live in houses that demonstrate an inappropriate standard of wealth. Our children learned a new vocabulary word. Is this house too ostentatious, Mom?
So we looked at houses in neighborhoods where North Americans traditionally didn’t live. The children complained that they didn’t like these houses, grouped together as simply Ugly Houses. We didn’t complain out loud, but to ourselves we were thinking that we didn’t either. And, mostly we didn’t feel safe. These houses lacked the fences and electric gates and security systems and community security guards that made us feel safer. Ostentatious won out over lack of security.
Kesia favored The Castle, a house at the top of a large hill, with a view on the new mall being built, and with so many rooms, stairs and bathrooms that we never were sure how many there were. Seth wanted the house in a small-gated community because it had an enclosed paved road inside where he could skateboard day and night. Both were vetoed by parent authority because the rents were too high.
The Red Brick was nice, but on a busy street. Where would Seth skate? The Condo was close to work and within walking distance of where Rachel will teach. It was large, with lots of space, and there was room for Seth to skate inside the garage. But, the traffic there was terrible! Our small town sensibilities recoiled at the thought of traffic noise and honking day and night. Now we knew we were being unreasonable. And, there was only one house to go.
The house was in the country, ten or fifteen minutes from town. It was huge, with a large beautiful yard overlooking a babbling brook with a mountain vista in the background. “Sparkles (the dog) would be really happy here!” declared Kesia. Electric fencing, an alarm system and bar wire met our security standards. There were flowers everywhere, neighbors close by, but not too many and not too close, and the sloping driveway leading into a large garage was declared a skate park by Seth. The quiet was deafening, broken only by the sounds of Seth’s skates. The kitchen was pretty and well lighted, the luxury of hot water heat was already in place, there was plenty of room for us to set up a school (for home school) and there were already cable, phone and internet connections in place. After holding our breath over rent negotiations, we had found our home.
But, some discomfort lingers. We know we need a sanctuary from our work and from the city. We know a cross-cultural experience is a daily challenge and to be effective in ministry we need a break from it. We know the rent was comparable to much less desirable (to us) places in the city. But, still we hear ourselves justifying by saying things like, “We’ll have to invite people out to enjoy this beautiful deck and the view with us, and not keep it all to ourselves.” And so we think about the women in the villages and their families and where they live, and we anticipate with excitement our new work, our new calling and our new home. It is a tightrope, this walking in solidarity, a balancing act that forces us to consider here things we think nothing of in the United States.
Bruce and Linda Hanson are assigned to the Christian Commission on Development (CCD) to serve the Honduran Theological Community (CTH). Bruce is teaching HIV/AIDS education, prevention and care, while Linda is teaching theological courses.