Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How I Know the Capital of Honduras is Tegucigalpa

One of my memorable miseries of elementary school was that in sixth grade I drew Honduras as the country I would have to write about in a 30-page report on a Latin nation.  I'm sure Honduras is a nice place to visit, what with its jungles and wildlife and seacoasts and all, but in the mid-60s there wasn't a dang bit of information available about this obscure non-essential nation--outside of a couple of paragraphs in World Book Encyclopedia, of course.

How in the heck did I get stuck with Honduras, when others drew Brazil, Mexico, Cuba and other strategic, prominent places with tons of information free for the taking?
When it came time for oral reports or other such elementary school agonies, teachers always called on the top of the alphabet first, and my last name beginning with B meant that painfully shy and deeply introvert me was often the first person to present.  First person was always graded harder because first person was the example that everyone else would follow and must set a high standard.  First person was the proverbial human sacrifice.  By the time the XYZ students gave their presentations, the teacher was profoundly sick of it all and am pretty sure they always got As.

Occasionally the teacher mixed things around, such as on the day we students strode to the blackboard, covered with the teacher's list of Latin nations, to circle the country each would write about in our 30-page report.  On that day Mr. Ressler decided it wasn't fair to always call on Suzanne first for every activity, so why don't we give her a break by starting at the end of the alphabet this time.  That's how I got to be the last in line to pick a country--the only one left un-circled, in fact.  Unfair doesn't begin to describe this arbitrary switcheroo.

 Tegucigalpa either means "hills of silver" or "place of residence of the noble" or "in the homes of the sharp stones"

My parents rarely got involved in my homework assignments except when Mom dropped me for an afternoon at the library to work on a research project.  It was so demoralizing to have the 60s version of the internet at my fingertips, yet discover only that Honduras's capital was a non-pronounceble Tegucigalpa and  was a prominent exporter of bananas, and also grew coffee and sugar cane.  How to get 30 pages out of that?, I complained to Mom.

She offered to help, and couldn't uncover more than I had.  And bless her heart, she took me to a travel agency hoping against all odds that they might have a brochure or even a photo of Honduras for me to use.  Nada.  Zip.  Americans hardly vacationed out of the country then, let alone put obscure Honduras on their bucket list, if there even were bucket lists then.

My solution was threefold: write REALLY BIG on my 30 pages,  create a detailed index that would up the page count, and draw lots of pictures of bananas.  Huge pictures of bananas on every page.  And maps--I included several of those.  You shoulda seen my writing.  I was able to stretch words across the lined notebook paper like I could stretch strands of silly putty across a room.  I'm sure the teacher wasn't fooled but he gave me a good grade.  Perhaps he secretly sympathized.  Maybe he even planned the whole switcheroo thing, knowing that if anyone could take the challenge of whatever obscure country was left for last, I could.

Wish I had access to stunning photos like these in 1966!


  1. Tough assignment! Reminds me of the time I gave a report at a Cub Scout pack meeting on French Guiana, I think it was. Don't ask me how I ended up with that, because I don't remember. But I also enjoyed drawing maps of states and countries when I was a kid.

  2. I have similar memories of the Cockatoo bird in 1st grade, Nevada in 4th grade, and Manitoba (seriously) in 6th grade.