Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gallery and Museum Tour September 18, 2010

Warren, the returning art teacher who now teaches elementary art grades 2-5, planned a gallery tour for teachers. So Saturday morning at 9:00am all eight of us gathered at school. He had arranged for us to use the school van and driver, Marvin. The group included, Vincent (who teaches grade 6 and 7 art and middle school English) from Texas, Magda from Canada, Christina from USA, Kristen and husband Mike from Iowa, Anna, from Indianapolis, a young volunteer working in an inner city project here, and myself.

We settled in and Marvin took off hitting every crater-like pot hole on the way to the city center. We passed Central Park where a sculpture of a globe marks “0”, the point from which all distances are measured from Tegucigalpa. All Spanish towns are laid out the same way, a grid with a central plaza/park in the middle, bounded by church and important government buildings.

Our first stop, The Museum of National Identity. It is a new museum opened only four years ago. It is housed in the old hospital and retains all of the original flooring, pegged wooden floors inside and black and white tiles tessellated in a variety of geometric patterns that can make one a bit dizzy if one looks down too often while walking. The two court yards have been covered with glass roofs. There is a small theater built in one of the court yards, it is designed to resemble a Mayan temple and has a large curved screen. The “show” was about Copan the Mayan temple complex in western Honduras. It was a “virtual reality” tour and was very well done. The narration was in Spanish of course but the images were excellent.

We passed through photography exhibits from Tiawan and an excellent collection of black and white photos of rural Honduras. On the second floor were exhibits focused on Honduras from the formation of the land and “prehistoric” human inhabitants through every aspect of the country’s development to its current political history. There were few artifacts but many large well done displays, samples of documents, mining artifacts etc. Again, of course, all in Spanish but we had an excellent English speaking guide. I was grateful for the wooden benches placed here and there.

From this museum we headed for the restaurant Warren had selected for our lunch. On the way we stopped at a park atop a high hill that had an excellent panoramic view of the city. Warren pointed out places of interest, the “high” cathedral (for the rich and powerful) and the “low” cathedral (for the people who were lower – poor – the difference was very obvious), the stadium, presidential residence etc. All of my pictures of the city have multiple power lines running horizontally across the foreground. It is very difficult to take a picture of the city without the ubiquitous power lines. I am fascinated by the way little “balls” of Spanish moss cling to them.

The way to the park was a steep and twisting narrow road. We were behind a bus which had to stop and make a three point turn at every hairpin curve. The public transportation buses are all big long bright yellow school buses – Blue Bird Buses straight from Mitchell Indiana. Well maybe not straight but originating there. School buses are either vans like ours or look like tour buses. It still feels odd to pass a stopped yellow school bus.

Our restaurant had inside and outside seating. We went for the outside under a flowering tree. The menu was authentic Honduran food. There was no menu so our waiter explained the dishes available to Warren and he translated. Calling his mother more than once to ask for help in explaining what certain dishes were made of. I opted for a soup that included potato, plantain, red pepper, onion, beef, sausage and cilantro in coconut milk broth. Warren ordered several traditional dishes that we passed and taste tested around the table. We lingered over robust Honduran grown coffee and reluctantly left for the afternoon agenda. Our feast cost 140 Lempira each, including tip about $7.00.

We stopped at the Spanish Center. A cultural center sponsored by the Spanish government. It is housed in a very contemporary building with curves and angles, located near the five star hotel area. The center consists of a small court yard with a water wall and small tables and chairs where you could enjoy a free coffee from their Nescafe machine – just like the one in my bank in Ghana. There is a reading room with free internet access, three galleries and a small children’s library. The galleries were in transition, old exhibit down but new one not up yet. But the facility itself was interesting and we picked up their calendar of events for future reference.

From there we headed back to city center and the National Gallery of Art. This collection is housed in the building that was the first University in Honduras, great colonial architecture. There we found more extensive exhibits of Mayan artifacts and paintings as well as religious artifacts from the mission churches around Honduras. They have been collected and housed in this gallery because too many of these paintings and icons were being stolen from these small churches. The second floor exhibit was a collection of contemporary works by local artists. The exhibit was very interesting and thought provoking as intended. I found the building itself even more interesting and the courtyard very pleasant. Just as we were leaving there was a loud crack of thunder and a few drops of water but nothing more. Just enough to get people moving faster along the streets.

Our drive back to school was just as interesting as the galleries and museums. We drove through the “big” shopping district. Stalls and booths line the streets. We moved slowly in our van looking out both sides to catch glimpses of “real” Honduran life. This is the market where Marvin came to buy the guacoles for an art project last year. We snapped pictures through the windows as Warren repeatedly warned us not to come there without a local person and never bring your camera or use your cell phone. All kinds of incidents occur in these crowded areas. Stalls selling every color and shape of piñata, mountains of tennis shoes, fruits, vegetables, sundries, even prescription drugs being sold from a cart.

As we passed through the streets headed for school we took in the real life exhibits at the sides of the road: tutti, frutti and oreo & cream, an elderly man sitting on a bench wearing an NYPD baseball cap and a T shirt saying “I Make Stuff UP” and a woman struggling off a yellow bus with a large Sponge Bob piñata.

We arrived at school with our eyes and minds full at 5:15 pm. A full day! I finally feel I have seen the city. We thanked Warren for a special day and said good-bye and went our separate ways. Just as Debbie pulled out of the school gates the rain came showering down, perfect timing. I took 97 pictures. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to look at all of them?

Return to Tegucigalpa

First times are great. Everything is new to the eye and there is the small thrill of the unknown. The second time around the eye is looking for the familiar and there is a warm feeling of returning to a home away from home. My trip went smoothly thanks to those electric carts that move slow folks long airport distances. Once I was through immigration and customs and stepped out into the meeting/greeting area, I scanned the crowd and easily spotted Reynaldo wearing a bright red shirt and a bright and broad smile. “Welcome back Miss”. He took my bags from the porter, I passed on the tip and we were off through the crowd to find the van.

Debbie was at school so I entered an empty apartment. Debbie had done her magic. The place was gleaming and fresh star gazer lilies filled the apartment with their sweet scent. The view from the balcony had not changed. I could see the red tiled roofs of the school across the valley and the statue of Jesus atop the mountain at the other end of the panorama. Below me the flame tree was in full blossom but there were no parrots yet. They will come later.

So, I am sitting at the beginning of the roller coaster ride that will start on the first day of school and have its ups and downs gaining speed and height until the “peak” of May. When there will be the rush down to the first of June.