Hey...long time no talk. I know you´re all anxious to hear what I´ve been up to and why I haven´t written in 2 weeks. Well, things have been crazy busy here as deadlines began to approach. For the last 2 weeks I´ve been working at work and then working at home, trying to get all of our jewelry inventory at the the clinic workshop together and ready for my trip to Roatan (the island) where we sell to high end tourist shops and then I´ll be shipping what we don´t sell here off to the Americas of course. Well, north-Americas I suppose. In preparation for this trip I´ve been traveling all across Honduras gathering last minute materials and that, while enjoyable, has been very stressful. And I´ll tell you why...
I know I´m an American. And I know what people think of most Americans outside of America. Even in that last sentence I´ve shown it. United States-ans (estadounidenses) often don´t recognize Latin Americans as "American." After all, the phase ¨Proud to Be an American¨certainly doesn´t refer to all "Americans"...if if it did, maybe the people who so often sing that song or say that phrase wouldn´t be the same people passing judgement or putting up a wall to keep those other Americans on their respective side of the border. Now, I don´t mean to be oh-so-politically correct...but I had a recent experience that made me realize how much of an "norteamericana" I am, despite my efforts to look beyond the comfort of my life in the States and assimilate, even blend in, with the people and culture here.
Last week, I had to travel to a place called La Arada where a co-op of Lenca women live and make traditional Lenca (Honduran ethnic group) pottery. We order necklace pendants from them that are really nice pottery with different shapes and designs and then we use them in our jewelry line on macrame cords that the patients make at the clinic. Well I went there to pick up the pendants, but since we just started ordering from them and the last order they made was not well done, I had to spend 4 hours at their workshop evaluating each piece for correct shape, size, hole size and shape, design detail, correct burn of the clay, etc. In a nut shell, I was basically this middle-women, in some sort of in-between space, where I had to be firm on what I know of US standards and marketplace and yet respect the work of these women as an art form. Not every design is going to turn out the same. The process to make these clay pendants takes 3 weeks and there are going to be some that stay in the kiln longer and others that dry faster or are closer to the coils. Yet the US marketplace looks for perfection and inventory. Mass production if you will. Not one of a kind, never-gonna-happen again pieces. I felt like my "American" ways were creeping back into me, translating into my work and experience with these women who, let´s face it, need the money. I had to leave 200 pieces behind because they didn´t meet our standards. That´s 2000 lempiras. $100 US dollars. Imagine how many rice and beans that could buy.
Needless to say, I was in a state of emotional angst, mental frustration. On one hand I had to uphold the expectations laid upon me from the business aspect (after all the humanitarian mission that founds the organization and microenterprise can´t survive if we buy things we can´t sell)...and yet on the other hand I knew what I was withholding from those women. As I got back in the car trying to cope with my internal conflict, the reverend asks me what´s wrong. I told him that, well, I just felt very American and didn´t know how to accept or deal with that at the moment. He looked at me and made sure I knew that I was norteamericana...that all those in the Americas are Americans. And how I was feeling wasn´t just reflective of US perspectives or expectations, but that anyone running a business has to have his or her best interest in mind, whether Honduran or United States-an. He´s right I suppose. But I still find myself in this limbo-place...working for people in the States but working with native Hondurans every day...high Type A expectations meeting a passive Type B kind of reality...and a norteamericana no longer in Norteamerica.