Honduras is a place where the new and old worlds collide in such a way that would boggle the mind of the average American.
As soon as I landed there in late July to visit my girlfriend’s parents I was shocked to see men transporting loads of goods using a horse and buggy. My culture shock ignited further when I observed the number of people who stay outside in the sweltering tropical weather hustling various goods including fruit, coffee, water, churros and many other items. My girlfriend had repeatedly told me that this place would be a bit rustic, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
Also, on the flight there, I read a bunch of articles that highlighted horrific homicide and rate in Honduras which probably wasn’t the best idea. (Skip to the last 3 paragraphs to find out why.)
Anyhow, the trip began with my girlfriend’s dad picking us up at the airport which was shockingly no larger than a movie theater. We threw our luggage in his truck and headed to a restaurant named “Las Tejas” where we could score some traditional Honduran eats. The restaurant was in a city known as El Progresso which also features some of corporate America’s best eateries including Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Dunkin Donuts. This is when I caught my first glimpse of the beautiful mountainous regions of Honduras along a large stretch of highway that took us over a series of rivers and bridges.
The land was truly breathtaking. However, the living situation for a lot of its residents was a different story. Many of the homes are either stripped bare and left completely unkempt, or were like military compounds guarded with large gates and barbed wire. No one had an open lawn or front yard where kids could play. It was a scary sight at first, but you get used to it after staying awhile.
Ok. Back to the restaurant. To my delight, the eatery had a large ceramic oven that was outdoors where they would cook all the meat. This is not something you come across at all in my home of New York City, so I was excited about the meal. All the seating was outdoors and there wasn’t any hint of an indoor area with air conditioning present. I sucked up my discomfort and prepared for a trip of adjustment and adventure. The steak and fried plantains and tropical alcoholic punch I ordered were delicious. Aside from stuffing my face, I couldn’t help but notice that the restaurant had a guard who was carrying a gun. I knew at that point Hondurans didn’t mess around when it came security
After filling our bellies, we headed to my girlfriend’s parents house in the working class city of La Lima. Now, don’t think skyscrapers when I use the word city in Honduras. Most of them consist of a small town square with a park and several places to shop for food and other goods that are surrounded by homes. La Lima is one of the safer areas in Honduras that hasn’t been overtaken by gangs and crime. However, my culture shock was further instilled when I caught a glimpse of its empty dilapidated playgrounds and houses. Even most the stores looked run down on the outside.
We arrived at their home which was guarded by a barbed wire, tripwire, and was completely gated in mid-afternoon. Her dad opened the gate as her mom welcomed us to where we would be staying the next 6 days.
I spent much of the first day of the trip hooking up a new wireless router for my girlfriend’s father in order to secure our internet browsing pleasures for the next few days. Her parents noticeably did not run any air conditioning during the day and did not own any kind of unit for the bottom floor. I knew I would have to get used to the heat, dress cool, and stay outside a lot. Thankfully my girlfriend’s father had a balcony with a hammock where I spent a good deal of time.
As the night winded down we started to get ready for bed. Her dad told us that we would need to wake up around 5 a.m. in order to begin our trip to the mountain town of Santa Barbara to go see some land that he owned. Her parents normally went to bed early and woke up at the crack of dawn. Before finally settling in, I decided to shower. However, I was shocked to find out that the top floor bathroom did not have any running water that night. This was due to a lack of water pressure in the town. Her parents keep a large bucket of water handy for when that happens. So I kicked it old school and used the water in the bucket to clean myself by pouring it over my head. The showers there are huge and beautifully tiled so I had plenty of leg room. This was a transition that I didn’t really mind. And since it was so hot there, the cold water hitting my body was refreshing.
After the shower, I settled into bed which was in a nice air-conditioned room next to the balcony. My slumber got off to a pretty good start until I started hearing what sounded like gunshots outside of the house around 4 a.m. I immediately jumped out of bed and walked out to the balcony access the situation. Judging by the sound, I could tell that whatever was causing that noise was close by. The frequency of the shots increased which scared the wits out of me. I sat in the bed scared for my life.
I thought the city was under attack. The shots were followed by sirens. I was for sure convinced that we were in trouble. I finally caved and went into my girlfriend’s parents room where they were all sleeping. My girlfriend woke up her mom to ask her what was going on. Her mom started chuckling a bit as she explained that the military conducts a parade at the very beginning of each month and that what I was hearing were fireworks.
Her reaction brought a bit of relief, however, the sound of roosters cock-a-doodle-doos, kept me up until we left for Santa Barbara. Yes, a lot of Hondurans have chickens…. and machetes. But we’ll get more into that in Part 2.