Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Granada, Nicaragua

Yesterday didn't go smoothly, in fact it was pretty rough.  We were trying to catch a 9 am bus from Liberia to Managua, but the 6 am bus out of Playa Tamarindo to Liberia was an hour late giving us no chance to make the connection.  On the way to Liberia, our bus shook to a stop with maintenance problems.  We had to wait an hour for another bus to pick us up.  We watched the 10:30 deadline to Managua slip past as well.  When we finally reached Liberia, we went to the ticket office only to find out that there were no tickets leaving Liberia until the next day due to Mother's Day traffic in Nicaragua.  We would have to spend the night.  The best part about staying the night was dinner.  We ate at a wood fire pizza joint in a 120 year old colonial building.  I ate an entire delicious pepperoni pizza and drank three ginger ales because of the heat.  We locked down seats on the 9 am morning bus a to Granada, Nicaragua.  Granada is the Antigua of Nicaragua.  It is complete with the colonial churches, volcanoes, and abundant tourism spots.  I got a little bit of dejavu walking around such a similar city.  I am counting down the days until my actual return!

I have some leftover pictures from Costa Rica as well as some new ones from Granada.  We will be doing something fun tomorrow during the day so a post will follow tomorrow.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Surfing with Rodney

I was exhausted and sore getting up this morning for my scheduled surf lesson.  I ran 4.5 miles on the beach early the morning before and was still feeling the effects.  I had only gone surfing once before in San Diego, California with a friend from college.  It did not go so well.  After being put through a washing machine by the waves, I came up with a bloody nose from the board smacking me in the face.  I had no idea there was some sort of surf ethic when it comes to who takes a wave.  I always thought Californians were so relaxed that anyone could ride whatever wave they wanted.  Turned out not to be true as I had a couple pissed off Californians ready to drag me to the beach and give me a beating before my buddy explained I was in fact from Ohio.

We didnt get a chance to meet our surf instructor Rodney before our lesson.  We ate lunch the day before at a place called Gils and Gil recommended we give him a call if we wanted to go out.  Gil is a Puerto Rican New Yorker with a dry charm.  He moved down to Costa Rica about 15 years ago after selling his restaurant in the US.  He enjoys himself and seems to be pretty unappologetic about his relaxed lifestyle.  I called Rodney the night before and told him we wanted to lock him down.  He told me he guaruntees I will have a good time or I dont have to pay him.  Excellent.

Rodney said he would be carrying a blue longboard and he would be hard to miss because he is an awkwardly tall American in his late fourties.  We spotted him right away looking like death in the early morning with a giant mug of coffee.  Rodney gives off a less intelligent, Anthony Bourdain vibe.  His voice and his appearance have been weathered by years and years of coffee, cigarettes, and booze.  He drew a line in the sand and told us to lay down on the sand and pop up as we would if we were on the board in the water.  Marie and I popped up a little wobbly, but Rodney said that was good enough for him.  He directed me to get in the water.  

Rodney only brings one board with him and takes a pair of clients one on one for 15 or 20 minute rotations so they dont get too burnt out.  I didnt understand why he did that until after the first session.  Surfing is the physical equivalent of wrestling.  You dont understand how much energy you are expending until you are pinned on the ground with your leg behind your head unable to breath. 

We had a great first session.  I missed my first wave because I was too far forward on the board and the nose went underwater leaving me to enter the spin cycle.  I caught the second wave all the way to the beach, which was an awesome feeling.  I caught a couple really great waves and it was time to switch and get Marie in the water.  She did great too, but she comes from a long line of surfers in the southwest of France.

The second session didnt go so well.  The waves had picked up substantially and were breaking right on us.  Rodney helped Marie out by controlling the board when a wave would break right on top of her, but for me I was on my own.  The waves which were well above my head would crash on top of me ripping the board from my hands and sending me 10 yards back the wrong direction.  I would have to fight my way back only to get drilled again.  I didnt catch one single wave on the second session.  In fact, I didnt even get on the board because the waves were so big that they would break right on top of us not giving me the chance to take them.

Rodney doesnt charge by the hour like most surf schools.  He says his clients are free to surf all day with him, only most people dont realize the amount of energy they will expend.  I was pretty tired after the first session myself.  We went out a total of four times each and caught some good waves each time, besides the second session.  It is safe to say I will never be at the world surfing championships, but I definitely enjoyed myself and Rodney said we killed it out there, which was followed by not such a suttle hint that he expected a tip.  Regardless of his 10 year old personality in a 50 year old body, I would recommend Rodney to any beginner who is looking to catch a wave on vacation.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Roots and Wings 7

Please check out my newest post on Roots and Wings about why I think Guatemala is the ultimate tourist destination in Central America.


Arrived in Costa Rica yesterday.  Took a morning run on the beach this morning and tomorrow I will be taking a surfing lesson all morning.  Havent taken many pictures, but when I do, I will post them.  Possibly tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Message from the Road: Managua

Both Marie and I had to supervise exams for our homerooms on Monday morning and when we were done we caught a ride to Juticalpa with Ricardo to begin our journey.  The “executive” bus to Tegucigalpa wasn’t leaving until 12:30 so we decided to take the leisurely indirect bus which stops every 5 minutes to pick up new passengers regardless of available space.  The indirect bus is a gutted American school bus custom fitted with reclinable seats and overhead compartments.  We passed the town Talanga in which we were stranded just a few weeks ago trying to find a bus back to Olancho.  It was one of the weirdest places we have seen in Honduras with some of the oddest occupants.  The people would come up to us, stare, and try speaking English in some Spanglish hybrid.  As we passed Marie saw a welcome to Talanga sign, population 25,000.  She said, “I can’t believe 25,000 people live in this place.”
“Yeah”, I responded, “that’s a hell of a lot of pedophiles.”

Instead of the normal 3 hour bus ride, this ride took 5 because of the sheer amount of stops we made.  I’m on vacation though.  I am trying to keep a level head.
We got to Tegucigalpa well into the afternoon and decided to lock in our tickets for the morning trip to Managua.  I hadn’t eaten all day and I wasn’t in a careful mindset.  Trying to step into a cab my foot landed on uneven ground and I sprained my ankle.  It was one of those sprains where the outside of your ankle actually hits the ground because your foot completely gives out.  I let my body go limp so there wasn’t as much weight on that foot and I caught my fall square on my knee leaving a massive hole in my jeans.  It didn’t leave a scrape on my jeans or my knee.  It was a definite impact wound.  My knee split open along with my pants and I was lying on the ground absolutely overcome by pain.  I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to get up.  The sleezeball taxi driver kept saying “levantase” or “get up”.  “Dame un momento”, I said, “Give me a second”.  Finally, I was able to get up with his help to see ripped jeans covered in dirt and blood.  I was so overwhelmed by the pain I just got in the cab and didn’t say another word the rest of the ride.

This was the start to what was on the surface a pretty bad day.  I have been waiting on a package to arrive in Honduras and it has taken forever.  I was keeping tabs on it while in San Francisco and was told that it would arrive just a day after I needed to leave for Costa Rica, which was obviously terrible news.  The package was stalled in Tegucigalpa before it made the grueling journey to Olancho.  I thought since I was going to be in Tegucigalpa that I could just pick it up.  I did some research, called the post office, and gave them a tracking number for the package only to find out that it left Tegucigalpa some 6 days before and had arrived in Olancho already.  Either the package is lost, or the people I was in contact with at the Olancho post office didn’t even look for it.  I will go with the latter for now.

At this point I was in a fluster.  I managed to either lose 300 Lempiras or get it stolen from me.  That was the icing on the cake.  While traveling, especially in a region like Central America, when it rains, it pours.  It is a testament to how much luck and coincidence you rely on to get where you need to go. 

I was invited to Catacamas the other week to guest lecture a college English class at an agricultural university.  The class started at 3 p.m. and is about an hour and a half from San Francisco de la Paz.  Regardless of logistical concerns, I decided it was a great opportunity to get in front of some older students.  The lecture went well.  When I was done I had no idea how I was going to get back.  I took a taxi to the college which is quite a bit outside the city, but taxis rarely patrol that area for pick ups.  I sat outside the college in a fluster waiting to see if a cab would magically appear.  I knew the bus toward my town left from the city at 4:45.  It was 4:30 and I still hadn’t found a way into the city to take the bus.  I had to hitchhike.  After several failed attempts, I found a huge truck with a group of construction workers hanging off the back.  I didn’t just flag the truck down; I stood in the middle of the street and basically forced them to stop.  After hitching a ride to the city center I ran to the bus station and jumped on the bus as it was literally moving.  In order to get to my city, you have to take an additional bus north for 20 minutes.  The exchange needs to be timed exactly.  As I arrived to the second bus, I literally jumped on while it was driving away again.  If one miniscule moment had gone differently, if I had waited for the next truck to stop, and if I hadn’t run to the bus station, I would have put myself in a very bad situation.   My point is that things can go right when traveling in Latin America.  When they go right it is a really amazing feeling.  It feels like a miracle.  When things go wrong and the travel gods don’t bless your journey it does suck and it feels like you have a black cloud over your head; though, it is much easier to write it off as one of the many downfalls of third world travel.  You only need the sentiment that tomorrow is another day, another chance to get it right.

So here I am, writing in Managua.  Managua has been a great city to pass through.  It was devastated by an earthquake in ’72 and hasn’t completely recovered.  There was a much publicized revolution in the ‘70s and ‘80s with substantial U.S. involvement.  It is still a highly politicized city.  FSLN posters still decorate the city saying “Viva la Revolucion.”  The American Embassy in Managua is a beautiful, large building; a testament to their significant involvement in Nicaraguan history.  Tomorrow is another early bus ride, but one that I look forward to.  Tomorrow night, it is likely that I will be writing from one of the most beautiful beaches our world has to offer. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011


The sun dries a mountain of coffee beans on the patio while I am busy at the pila washing the dust from the week’s dirty laundry.  Although it’s not the most comfortable time to do laundry, midday is the most efficient because the power of the one o’clock sun dries clothes faster than all the muscle of a Whirlpool drier.  Washing clothes by hand is difficult without the years of experience that the small, plump village women have on resume.  Sweat drips from my brow, makes a journey to my neck and eventually ends up collecting on my stomach.  After a while it is hard to distinguish what is sweat and what is wet from the splash of sudsy water.  It isn’t hard to keep your mind occupied while doing laundry by hand.  Repetition and heat is the perfect recipe for a daydream.

The daydream starts light with today and moves to the past and depending how far you get it moves to the future.  How could I be so stupid to think elementary students would share my vision for their English language success?  I’m only 23 years old and not far removed from their attitude.  It’s not like I never cheated on a test in 6th grade.  All of a sudden you realize how hard you are gripping your dirty socks, how forceful you rub them on the corrugated concrete, and how much of that soap you really don’t need to wash one sock.

I think about my friends and family at home as if they are inanimate sitting in the same room where I left them.  I hope that they will not have moved when I come back, but it is only wishful thinking.  They live as you have lived moving forward only without your presence.  Sometimes I realize I’m not doing laundry anymore at all.  That I am left idle in thought, sock in hand with a heavy heart.

What will I do in the future?  Where will this experience take me?  I think about money and how I loath that I love it.  I loath that I seek professions that traditionally don’t make a mountain of money, but live a lifestyle that requires it.  There is one thought that consoles me: Do what you love and you will find a way to make money from it, not because money is the end you seek, but because you are good at it and the market will value your expertise.  Done.  Clothes clean.  Time to relax in the sun with my laundry.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Roots and Wings 6

Check out my latest blog on Roots and Wings about third world internet availability and why it is important to connect.


All my biggest fears about my final exams today came to fruition.  Last night, we had a power outage and I was unable to make copies.  I thought I was not going to be able to administer the exam, but the power came on in the morning and we were able to scramble to get copies made in time for class.  Fourth grade's exam went without a hitch.  There was only one student who didn't pass and I was generally impressed with how they handled a pretty difficult 100 question test.  There is no greater feeling than to see a student who was absolutely clueless on the material last week breeze through sections of the test having adequately prepared.

I continue to write about the sixth grade because they are such a dynamic class with many attributes to praise and many to curse.  They are far smarter as a group than the fourth graders and that isn't because of their age.  The 6th grade has some unusually brilliant students.  They have all the raw talent in the world but lack any resemblance of discipline and work ethic.  If they would allow me to teach them without interruption, I am sure they would be highly conversational in English by the time the year is over.  The other problem is that they have lost their cuteness.  Fourth grade can mess up and misbehave all they want because they are adorable.  The 6th graders have a teenager attitude in an awkward prepubescent body.

I really hope I am not accused of being sexist or playing favorites, but the girls in the class are without a doubt the source of the problem.  They are the ones talking, cheating, and being generally disruptive to the flow of class with their attitude.  My original fears were that the sixth grade girls wouldn't be as prepared as the boys.  That turned out to be the least of my worries.  There is a girl in the sixth grade that always has her eyes on other people's papers.  When she didn't have her eyes on her neighbor's paper I was surprised and curious to know why she was intensely staring at her own.  I decided to take a closer look.  I knew the test was thick, but not as thick as it seemed on her desk.  I told her to lift up her exam and a study guide with all the answers was under it.  I immediately ripped up her paper and threw it in the trash.  I was really upset that I had to do that, but that was probably the least of my worries.

After everyone had turned in their exams I found that two exams had the same name on them.  Two girls switched exams when I wasn't looking and one of the students accidentally put her name on both tests.  One of the girls told me that she was thinking about the other girl and that's why she wrote her name.  I asked her if that is why she was able to copy her handwriting perfectly too.  When I was grading the exams I came upon two exams that were from two girls sitting near each other.  In the middle of the exam, the writing changes from black to pink.  One student was using a pink pen and the other a black pen.  Come on girls, at least use the same color.  Through further questioning, I found that it was a premeditated scheme the girls constructed so they wouldn't have to learn all the material.  Disappointing to say the least.  I had to fail 5 out of 13 students for cheating, which is five out of six of the girls.

The reason it is disappointing is because I feel that I am such an easy teacher and with the slightest effort whatsoever, it isn't hard to do well in my class.  You just have to participate.  I don't really value grades in an elementary class because they aren't worth anything.  It isn't as though a college will be looking at their 6th grade transcript.  What is important is the knowledge that they will take to the next steps.  I hate to sound cliche, but they are only cheating themselves.  I feel that it will at some point be necessary for them to know English, whether it is for a job that they desire or for social reasons.  I am sure their future selves are trying to slap them from the future for not having the foresight to just learn the material.  Honestly if they spent half as much time studying as they do scheming to cheat, they would have gotten 100 percent.  

What made me almost laugh was the fact that one of the girls said, "look what you are doing, it is your fault, you are making me fail English."  My fault?  How is it my fault that you cheated on the test?  Four students will be failing the entire semester because of this incident.  It is about time they learn their lesson.  Ugh, I am starting to sound like every single teacher I have ever had.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roots and Wings 5

Check out my recent post on Roots and Wings about problems in my school and where I found reason for optimism in an unlikely place.


I have been playing soccer in the evenings an hour before the sun sets.  I play with two students from the school named Salvador and Juan.  They are two of my favorite students to spend time with.  They are both extremely down to earth and have really great senses of humor.  We have gotten into a routine each day at school of asking each other whether we are going to "el campo" or "the field".  Some days we all agree that we don't want to go, but other days we will talk about how we are going to the stadium to play all day.  We usually agree on meeting outside my house at 4 o'clock.  Sometimes I take a nap from 3 to 4 and I am woken up to banging on my window and Juan and Salvador screaming "Apurase Hombre!" or "Hurry Man!".

I bought a ball last week that was like 10 dollars but the guys absolutely love it.  I let them borrow it when I can't play and they take good care of it.  I usually wake up in a pool of sweat from the afternoon heat, grab my ball, and meet them outside.  I go grab a bottle of water across the street and buy Juan and Salvador a bag of chips at the corner store and we sit on my porch and hang out for about a half hour.  When we finish our snack we take our time walking to the stadium switching between Spanish and English whenever they can find a word that they know.  When we get to the stadium we don't play a game, we usually get in a circle and pass the ball around and continue our conversation.  After no more than 20 or 30 minutes someone says, "Tengo Sed" or "I'm thirsty" and we all agree that we have had enough.  After another long, slow walk home we get to my porch and usually see if Leche wants to hang out for a little bit.  We only actually play soccer about a fifth of the time.  The other four fifths is just chillin. It's a great way to spend an afternoon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Disciplinary Problems

We had an unfortunate incident at the school this week.  One of our students in secondary school, which encompasses both middle school and the first two years of high school, had a little disciplinary problem.  For those that are sensitive, it would be advisable not to read the next line.

One of the guys in secondary school was caught masturbating and throwing sperm in the classroom.  It was extremely disturbing to hear, I am just glad he wasn’t in my class.  Obviously any behavior even close to that can not be tolerated in the classroom and he was suspended until a further punishment could be given.  All of the foreign teachers recommended expulsion without much thought.  The director and owner of the school decided on a 2 week suspension.  If you aren’t going to expel someone from the school for this then what is it that someone would have to do to get expelled?  We mentioned something to the owner of the school hinting that we weren’t satisfied with the punishment.  We ended up being right…

I always had a good relationship with the student in question.  He really isn’t a bad kid; it’s just that he has some family problems and bad influences in his life.  Apparently, he is involved with the narco-traffickers in town.  This seems to be the reason why the punishment didn’t fit the crime.  I think the director of the school was scared that something might happen to her.  The next day during lunch we heard a gunshot not too far away from the school.  It was the student that got suspended.  He was carrying a pistol walking by the school and was shooting it in the air.  He never entered school grounds, but it was enough to scare us a little.  Surprisingly, we didn’t think much of it at the time and classes went on as scheduled.  I was thinking how incredible it is that a person can fire a gun in a public place, especially near a school, without consequence.  Who is going to enforce the rules?  The police in town are nonexistent.  I have never seen a policeman patrolling in public.  I am sure if we had called the police we may not have gotten an answer.

The problem with expelling a kid like him is that it does nothing to help him or the community.  I doubt any other private school in the community would accept him mid school year with his reputation, and public school is like putting him on the street.  I would really like the opportunity to reach him and talk some sense into him, but unfortunately it is too late.  It is likely that he will fall into a worse pattern than before.   

I am recognizing the need for another disciplinary system other than an informal discussion between the principal and the owner of the school.  I am proposing that we create a disciplinary council that will make all further decisions regarding disciplinary action.  The council will be composed of faculty that care to participate and every decision will come to a vote.  As well as serious disciplinary problems, the council will take care of students that repeat small offenses and are sent to the office three times.  When they are put in front of the counsel a mandatory one day suspension is given.  I am going to propose it to the owner and I hope it doesn’t feel like I am trying to take power away from him or the director.  I am just trying to spread the power out a little bit so an unbiased decision can be made.

We are coming up on the one month break and I will be giving final exams on Thursday.  Can’t wait for some adventure…

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Beautiful Disaster

Marie and I were a little late getting out of the door for the 5 am bus to Tegucigalpa.  We left without a travel plan, only the intention to go to a national park called La Tigra, which is about an hour outside of the capital.  It has been raining quite a bit here in the afternoon which makes for cool soggy mornings until the sun heats up enough to burn off the moisture.  This made for a comfortable first leg of the journey since the bus was hardly full and we cracked the window just enough to keep us at a good napping temperature.  The buses that go to Tegucigalpa are custom fit with what looks like airplane seats and overhead compartments to put your bags.  If you close your eyes you can almost imagine being thirty thousand feet in the air.  Just like in an airplane, the bus had a large door on the side for an emergency exit.  The emergency exit has a large handle that opens the door in the event of an evacuation.  When that handle is lifted, it makes a buzzing sound that is annoying enough to make anyone on the bus want to get the hell off.  There was a loose connection on the handle and any time there was a bump in the road the buzzer would go off for a second or two.  The road from Juticalpa to Tegucigalpa is rough at best.  At points, the road isn’t even paved.  In other words, the buzzer was going off like fucking Morris Code for an hour.  After about thirty minutes of shifting my position and plugging my ears I gave up on my nap to look around and see if anyone else was as annoyed as I was.  Everyone was either asleep or calmly looking out the window like nothing was happening.  The emergency exit, where the buzzing noise was coming from, was a couple seats in front of me.  The guy sitting in the emergency exit had the buzzer right in his ear and he didn’t flinch an inch when the buzzer blasted in his face.  I woke Marie up and told her we have to do something about that buzzing noise.  She looked at me like I was crazy. 

I went up to the emergency exit and excused myself as I reached over the guy’s lap to try and assess the situation.  I found if I squeezed the handle in a certain way the buzzer wouldn’t go off at every little bump.  I just needed a way to clamp it.  I looked for a string in my backpack and thought really hard about using my own shoestrings before I found my head lamp which has a band of removable elastic on it.  I wrapped it tight and tied it off so that the handle was where it needed to be.  I sat back down satisfied and said, “Now that is some American ingenuity.”  Marie rolled her eyes and said, “Now that is an American ego.” 

I guess it is a cultural thing, but I know that if I hadn’t done anything to fix the situation that buzzer would have kept going off.  Though, maybe I was the only one who was annoyed because Marie said later, “You know if you hadn’t said anything I probably wouldn’t have noticed the noise at all.”  After the buzzer fiasco I was able to get some much needed sleep before the next leg of our journey.  When I got off the bus, I made sure to grab my elastic band, knowing that as soon as I removed it the buzzing would be back.  I got a good chuckle knowing that they would suffer the buzzer after I left.

We got off the bus at Guaimaco only to realize that we should have waited to get off at Talanga.  We would have to wait for another bus to take us an addition 45 minutes to Talanga.  The second bus was in true Central American fashion.  It was a beat up school bus painted blue with way more passengers than it could handle.  We stood up in the bus for the duration of the trip playing grab-ass with the locals. 

The bus dropped us off in what we thought was Talanga, but later realized was just the road leading to Talanga.  The sun at this point was hot, but we still had enough drinking water to make the thirty minute walk by foot.  The scenery was beautiful as the road opened up to green farmlands that blended all the way to the foot of the mountains.  The mountains in the distance looked so close and we knew that is where the park would be.  Our guide book gave a brief description about getting to the park.  In short it said, “Get to San Juancito.”  The only problem is that no one seemed to know where it was.  Each leg of the journey we were told that we needed to find some other town and that town would lead to San Juancito.  It turned out to be a rather illusive task. 

It was around 9 a.m. when we got to the Talanga city center.  There were buses leaving from the central park, but we had no luck finding a bus to San Juancito.  Finally we found someone that was familiar with the general direction of San Juancito and he pointed to the south of town.  He told us to wait on the bridge for a bus that would take us to Cantarranas where we could catch yet another bus to San Juancito.  On the bridge we asked a couple people when the bus would pass and they said it wasn’t due to pass for another couple hours.  We decided to take a “halon” or hitchhike. 

We stuck out our thumbs and waiting for a pick-up to pass.  We got lucky on the first one as he was going to Cantarranas.  The truck was beat up and had a large sticker with the letters V.I.P on the windshield.  It turned out to live up to its name.  We wound up and through the mountains and coasted quietly back down into valleys without pressing on the gas.  The wind ripped through the bed of the truck and dropped about 10 degrees when we gained altitude.  Our driver picked up several hitchhikers along the way giving us a warm feeling of the responsibility Hondurans feel for their fellow countrymen.  We ended up passing right through Cantarranas and I tapped on the top of the cab to let the driver know we had arrived.  He said several people were going to San Juancito so he would take us there.  We got to the entrance of San Juancito and had a short walk to the city center.

No wonder no one knew where San Juancito was—it is a ghost town.  It looks like Chernobyl.  Vines covered abandoned buildings that looked like they were deteriorating right before our eyes.  The main attraction at the center of town was a piece of artwork called the “Ghost Bus”.  It was just an abandoned bus on blocks that was painted in shades of blue and gray with dull stain-glass-like windows.  The whole thing was creepy.  We finally found evidence of life in a corner store.  We asked how we might be able to get to the entrance of the park.  They said they would call “Willie” and he would take us up.  Willie came in a rickety Datsun pickup that was just barely still running.  Willie quoted us a ridiculous price to take us up the mountain, but we had no choice, he’s the only option.

When Marie and I got to Rosario, which is the small collection of hotels at the entrance, it was like Mary and Joseph walking into Bethlehem—no vacancies.  We talked to the director of the park and he found us a place to stay that he said would be free with the entrance into the park.  The entrance of the park is $1.50 for residents of Honduras and $10 dollars for foreigners.  Unfortunately, we aren’t considered residents and we had to pay the ridiculous entrance fee.  At least we got a free room out of it. 

We started our hike at 11 a.m. with a steep climb to an observation deck.  At the observation deck, we met an Irishman who seemed to be in deep reflection starring out of the observation deck at the amazing view.  At first, I didn’t know what language to speak to say hello, but I saw a Blackberry and a Prince Tennis bag and I figured English would be a good bet.  He frequents the national park to get away from the city and take a long hike.  He works for HSBC and is usually on three year rotations around the world.  After a very pleasant conversation we exchanged email addresses and went our separate ways.  When we were walking I had another thought and asked, “By the way, how did you get here? Did you take the bus?”  He looked down embarrassed and said, “Oh, no, I have a driver.”  How come I didn’t think of getting a driver?

After 1.5 hours hike to see a waterfall that was nearly dry, I was in no mood to sit around all day in a hot cabin with nothing to do.  We found out later that they were in fact going to charge us 30 dollars for the room, which solidified out decision to try and make it back.  It was around 1:30 p.m. when we made the all or nothing decision to try and make it back.  We had so much luck getting here, why not try and let it ride?

I have found that morning travel in Central America is much easier than traveling in midday or late afternoon.  In the morning, if you screw up, there are always other options.  In the afternoon, options are limited and one mistake can ruin your day.  I hadn’t eaten anything the entire day because we had been traveling and the only thing I had available was crackers.  At this point I was beyond hungry and decided that if I had gone this far without food I could probably make it the three hours home.  We had no problem hitchhiking from San Juancito to Talanga.  It was Talanga that gave us some trouble.  We sat by the main road from Tegucigalpa to our home in Olancho for three hours looking for a bus or a ride.  The people willing to pick us up were those that we didn’t feel comfortable riding with—beat up cars, guns, drunk drivers, among other problems.  Finally as the sun was setting and we were losing hope to find our way home, a bus rumbled down the road full of passengers heading for Catacamas, which is the next big town after Juticalpa.  We literally piled on top of each other into the bus.  We kept picking people up until people were actually hanging off the sides.  I snapped a couple pictures inside of the bus until someone said, “We’re all miserable in here and this guy’s taking pictures!”  So, I said, “Oh, do you want one?”  I snapped a picture of the both of us. 

We stood up for at least an hour until we were able to get a seat as a good portion of the passengers had reached their destination.  At this point, not eating had given me the headache of a lifetime and a faint feeling that I may lose consciousness at any moment.  I got tunnel vision for about five minutes until I was able to find a pear juice and a sleeve of crackers.  All of a sudden we slowed down and the bus began to vibrate ferociously.  The driver and his assistant got out and I knew immediately what happened—we got a flat.  It was only at this point that I thought all of our luck had run out.  After a four hour hike and a full day of traveling I didn’t know if I could handle the current situation.  I needed a good distraction.  After the bus jolted to a stop, a girl about 4 years old woke up.  To keep her busy her mom was asking her the numbers and colors in Spanish.  For each number and color I taught her the English translation.  She was shy at first, but she was sharp and was able to pick it up pretty quickly.  I am sure her Mother appreciated the free English lesson and of course the entertainment. 

They couldn’t fix the tire, so they drove the bus anyway, but only about 5 miles an hour.  About thirty minutes later, another bus arrived and took us the rest of the way to Juticalpa.  I arrived sweaty, starving, and exhausting without the energy to hitchhike back to San Francisco.  All I wanted was food, a hot shower, and a comfortable bed.  We went to the gas station and got some delicious pizza and found a midrange hotel to stay at with hot war, a T.V., and a comfy bed. 

After taking the morning bus from Juticalpa to San Francisco I stepped into my house thinking, “Man, I’m glad to be home.”  I couldn’t help but think about how much fun I had though.  Despite the hunger pains, flat tires, and Honduran grab-ass, I really did have a successful weekend.  It really shows you how obscure my definition of success is these days. 

I learned a couple things—things generally work out if you keep a positive attitude.  A positive attitude can keep you safe and well when things aren’t going your way.  I also learned that Hondurans really look out for their own as well as for foreigners.  I couldn’t believe how willing Hondurans are to pick up passengers that never really ask for a ride.  Also, when your luck runs out, there is no shame in folding your cards and getting that hotel room.  There is a fine line between adventure and danger.