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The last two weeks have been filled with half understood conversation and semi awkward moments, which usually occur after I blurt out a well thought out Spanish phrase and someone mistakes my well planned axiom for a true functioning understanding of Spanish.  I have also been trying to digest what it is I will be responsible for, the layout of the town and the social norms.

Gracias is clustered around a town park and a huge Catholic church and many if not all of the buildings maintain their colonial appearance.  The towns lay out is pretty standard of most towns in Honduras, it seems that the Spanish left behind mostly religion and architecture after they were done with the country.  From what I can tell the town is about four or five streets wide and about 15 or 16 streets long.  The primary streets are stone, concrete, river rock or some combination thereof and the secondary streets are dirt.  The town has a supermarket, a restaurant called The Flavor Garage, a place to buy used American shoes and clothes and no fewer than ten cell phone shops.

What I first mistook for coldness I quickly came to learn was shyness.  The other day I was invited into a pulperia (like a mini 7/11 in your parents living room) by the owner to escape the sheets of rain assaulting everyone and everything in Gracias.  The proprietor and me had a conversation about life in Gracias, his burgeoning family and why I was here.  And after the rain stopped I left without purchasing a thing and an open invitation to return and chat, something I am sure would have never happened in America.

My work partners have also been working real hard to make me feel welcome, the other night they invited me to a going away party for the head of the police.  I accepted the invitation without much of a second thought.   The night came and when I was picked up we started to head in a direction that I had never been before.  After bumping down a dark rutted out road for about ten minutes I started to worry and then it came into view, the penitentiary of Gracias, and all those questions I had about where the storylines for horror movies originate from became a little bit more clear.  After we rattled up to the front gate of the penitentiary I unquestioningly followed my coworker out of the tuk-tuk.  While being escorted up to the front of the building I started to think, well this all makes sense I mean the guy is a police officer they probably have a room on the outside for functions like this.  As I learned, this was not the case; they had reserved a very special room for us, the prison exercise yard. After being locked in to the yard, as I have heard it is called, I noticed the menacing stares of some inmates who shared a window with the yard. I questioned my coworker as to what type criminals were housed here and she nonchalantly replied “kidnappers, rapists, murderers, etc.”, oh well good, I was really worried there for a minute. The party turned out to be one for the history books, about 20 people attended and it wasn’t long before one of my deepest desires came true, a DJ showed up with four massive ass speakers so that we could karaoke until the sun came up.  Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you have heard Honduran karaoke under the stars in the center of a prison exercise yard surrounded by inmates that could double for MS16 members in Sin Nombre.

The only other notable exception to normalcy these last couple of weeks was what I assumed were gunshots one night.  After a couple of repeating rounds I noticed that no one was running so I just assumed this was just a routine police exercise.  Since I live within relative proximity of the police station I didn’t think this was a big deal – don’t question this, just know that if you visit Honduras that your norms are no longer that useful.  When I was awoken the next morning at 5 am by an explosion that shook my window and could have destroyed a VW Passat I was more than a little worried.  It seems that regular firearms testing had morphed into large munitions testing.  These began occurring with a regular amount of frequency and eventually reached one occurrence per hour.  Convinced that this was no longer a routine police exercise I spoke with one of my coworkers who informed me that this was an annual thing in Honduras.  Apparently the Catholic Church in Honduaras celebrates Christ’s resurrection with the help of explosions that could have rolled back or destroyed the rock that covered Jesus’ tomb.  The last of the IED’s was detonated this afternoon and just when I began to think I could deal with this one time a year I overheard the guy next to me express his excitement for the holidays and the massive amount of fireworks that were sure to come.