Google Maps is an Adventure in Honduras

San Pedro Sula     It started innocently enough.  It wasn’t intended, but was clearly meant to be.

I had to drive from San Pedro Sula to Siguatepeque, Honduras.  I woke up early, as always, and the first order of business, as always, was measuring the “architecture of my day,” which in this case meant determining what time I had to leave SPS, and whether I would get to have breakfast before doing so.

I had been warned that there were construction delays on C5, the major highway between SPS and Tegucigalpa.  A colleague had driven there the night before and warned that there were problems.  When I put the name of the restaurant and its only address in Google Maps, my go-to GPS navigation guide around the world, it said 3 hours 13 minutes to Siguatepeque.  I was surprised.  The kilometers listed should have meant barely 2 hours.  The ACORN Honduras delegation was taking the bus, and it was only slated at 2 ½ hours.  Wow, I thought the delays must be huge!  The meeting was scheduled for 10 am.  I would have to leave by not later than 6:45AM.  No problem, but no breakfast.

My handy Aeropress had guaranteed me an early cup, and I grabbed another as I left, and was off.  Weather was good, and despite the craziness of Honduran drivers, I was making good time.  The construction did run off and on for 10 or 20 kilometers, and drivers did try some crazy passing maneuvers on curves and in the face of ongoing cars, but that’s par for this course.  I still seemed to be making good time.  Looking down off and on to check with Google Maps on my progress, it seemed I would make it exactly at 10am to the restaurant, but the number of kilometers shown below the time would have made me think I would be there more than an hour early.  I passed the giant lake in the cone of a long dead, we hope, volcano, in the mountains there.  This is near the halfway mark on the drive to Tegucigalpa.  Strange, but, there might be more delays ahead.

I kept rolling on C5.  All of a sudden, I was getting messages from the Google automatron voice that I needed to make a turn.  I didn’t see any sign to the town or turnoff.  I was still getting the same time estimate.  A couple of kilometers later, Google rerouted, and it had me arriving almost an hour later?!?  Google demanded that I turn right where the last instruction had been left.  I did so.  In no time I was driving on the main street of a small town and now Google showed a roundabout map to Siguatepeque that put me there an hour and forty-five minutes late.  I made a U-turn, and pulled over to reset the map and see where I had missed a turn.  I backtracked having now lost 20 minutes.

I found the turn Google demanded:  Calle de Rio Bonita, the street of the pretty river.  Within 100 meters I was on a dirt road.  Hmm…really?  Mi companera calls these kinds of roads, pig trails.  Yes, I did meet a pig with a wooden collar on my overland odyssey, but Calle de Rio Bonita was nothing but dirt, rocks, and deep, deep ruts for almost two hours in which I meandered over and around amazing, green mountains until arriving through this backdoor to Siguatepegue.  The road was a slander to the reputation of a pig trail!  I knew Google was off within the first 30 minutes, but no matter, the automatron insisted, and going forward became the better alternative than going backwards, or so it seemed at the time.

Meanwhile for two hours, I was on an amazing adventure, partially in the very art of driving with rocks constantly scrapping the bottom of this tiny rental car and the deep ruts that had to be navigated along with seven different water crossings of the Rio Bonita.  But, also because I was pushed back in time to previous centuries where families subsisted on the land alone.  I passed naked and barefoot children.  I passed children working with adults in the fields.  Families carrying firewood on the road, on burros, on their backs, under their arms.  Men leading or riding horses that picked their way among the rocks. Men swinging long machetes, bent to their work.  Fields that had recently emerged from clear cutting for crops of bananas or corn with the burned stumps still standing knee high among the rows of planting.  Pickup trucks with workers and teens standing or sitting check to jowl and riding the roads like a bucking bronco.  I passed signs more than a half-dozen times that indicated I was in or bordering the great Nacional Parque Cerro Azul.  I think I may have crossed the Cerro Azul peak in the clouds which means Blue Hill in Spanish, but I can’t swear to it.

My experience seems a metaphor for our modern lives at the mercy of artificial intelligence, while Google and the gang try to catch up with ground level reality and we, willingly as it seems in my case, surrender our common sense to these overlords speaking through our not so smartphones.  At the same time, there’s something atavistic deep inside that protects us from this slavery, and that’s our embrace of adventure, the wonder of life, and the willingness to live with the consequences.

I finally made it into town.  Within minutes moto drivers were pointing to my back-right tire that I had blown it coming into civilization.  What irony, a flat tire once I hit pavement!  How lucky for me that it happened in a town since the spare was also flat.  I sent a WhatsApp message to my team at the meeting that I was changing a tire on the main street.  Twenty minutes later I was at the meeting catching up on ACORN business.  The tire was past repair, and I had calculated the risk and driven back to SPS without a spare.  Budget charged me $80 despite my arguments.

Frankly, it was worth every penny for the experience, and for the lesson it taught me to doublecheck with a look at a map, before I leap into the next adventure, where I might not live so well and be so lucky.  I also gained a deeper understanding of the fullness of the Honduras where we were building our organization, and that was even more valuable!


Honduras ACORN Leadership Gets Organized

Siguatepeque, Honduras         The process of legally registering ACORN Honduras has been endless, but earlier this year all of the money was paid, all of the rocks moved out of the road that were full of bad lawyers, miscommunications, and false starts.  Leaders from the San Pedro Sula area, Tegucigalpa, and Marcala were all scheduled to meet to begin formally organizing the governance structure of the organization.  A middle ground location was chosen in Siguatepeque at a large restaurant there.

The old saying about not watching democracy made might have applied to this first stab at real governance by the organization.  The election plans agreed beforehand would have split the officers and board members between the San Pedro Sula area leaders and those from Tegucigalpa with Marcala having one seat.  The board registering the organization legally had been ad hoc and elected solely with San Pedro Sula participation and included one name from Tegucigalpa as a placeholder who was not known to the capital city membership or leaders.  A problem arose in the early discussions once the leaders convened.  It was unclear whether or not new leaders could be elected unless some of the named members on the board resigned, including the Tegucigalpa placeholder.  Despite all of the preparation and prior discussions, suddenly these members of the incorporating board were not willing to step down.  The lawyer was called and she worried that an election without their resignations might not be valid.  In classic ACORN fashion a compromise was agreed where the nominated Tegucigalpa leaders would be formally allowed to meet with the board over the next eighteen months – or until there were resignations that needed to be filled.  They would be able to participate fully in representing their members, but they would not be able to vote.

There was extensive discussion about the ACORN principles of membership and local group accountability.  Any board member had to be a dues paying member, and it was unclear if that was true, until the membership records are produced.  Any board member would need to be active in a local group, and that was also unclear.  The discussion itself though helped clarify bedrock ACORN fundamentals, helping the leaders find their footholds for the future.

There was discussion on whether a group worried about title to their land had made progress in La Lima, outside of San Pedro Sula.  There was a long discussion about the problem of Honduran migrants as part of the march through Mexico towards the US where Trump and troops await them.

More immediately the board was required to formally decide on whether to support a campaign in Honduras around the problem of Temporary Protected Status Hondurans being expelled from the US.  How would this affect Honduras and jobs?  What provisions were being made by the Honduran government and what steps were being taken?  How could a campaign impact the US as well?  The board in this first meeting stumbled on the issue of how to make a motion, record the activity in the minutes, and vote.  There’s no Robert’s Rules in ACORN, but there is an order of business by the boards, and ACORN Honduras was stumbling forward into the future.  Another motion needed to put ACORN Honduras on record in support a campaign with the Gildan workers.  In both cases there was no way for help and support to be requested from ACORN affiliates in the US or Canada, if ACORN Honduras was not campaigning and on record making the request.  The board also approved a national recruitment effort for ACORN, introducing the organization on the radio and television stations of allies.

Nothing about the meeting was easy, but typical of ACORN being rooted in its principles for almost fifty years, the organization is also committed to the future.  The leaders all shared phone numbers and established a WhatsApp group to communicate and make decisions together in the future.