The young men stand reluctantly in a circle as I begin my first workshop. I smell the classroom air and think of airplane, duty-free, perfume catalogs. They lists ingredients: orange peel, cinnamon, vanilla, sassafras, jasmine, distilled and mixed in different proportions for centuries. Most of the older men in Northern Honduras don’t care for this scent chemistry. They smell of dusty sweat, rough machete iron, a thin layer of fertilizer and a tinge of freshly-cut weeds. In contrast, the young men around the circle smell of sharp soaps, crips hair gels and strong colognes.
When I arrived, the school was in a mild state of chaos. There were no books and since Monday the volunteer teachers are unable or unwilling to formally start classes. Students still come but have little or nothing to do. I ignored this fact and serendipitously for everyone, scheduled my workshop for Tuesday.
We started off in a circle with a name-game which led to the lamp workshop. The frames were made of recycled 2L bottles of pop, the body tissue paper, all lit from underneath with a small candle.
I was amazed at my student’s enthusiasm, possibly grateful that they were doing something constructive with their time. As students in other grades noticed my presence they were curious and joined in. But in the midst of explaining complex instructions and adjusting my Colombian adjectives to Honduran standards, some students and the class volunteer teacher simply left, leaving me alone with about 30 rambunctious 14-16 year olds.
In the end some lamps were started then abandonned, some were finished with love and some in haste, and most were brought to hang in a provisionary community hall, called “La Coneja Dorada” (The golden Bunny – story soon to come) for a meeting about water conservation, management and reforestation. However, none of the lamps were lit. I fear they could catch on fire, setting “La Coneja” ablaze; the smell of melting plastic staining my reputation forever.