On La Esperanza, and what hope we have
I have been staying in a small city called La Esperanza for over a week now, and my first impressions of Honduras have since been altered ever so slightly to accomodate a few previously undiscovered aspects of the people, their culture, and the way they live.
The internet cafes here are actually quite numerous and decent; some have webcams I can use to talk with friends and family a few times a week. There are two large markets here, quite popular, that carry everything from fruit to fake brand name leather belts. The city of La Esperanza is much larger and busier than I would have thought earlier.
However, if I could sum up everything I know about this place in a few words, I would have to say it is the dirtiest place I have ever lived in. I have learned from my stay here that if the country is not covered and filled by dust, it is saturated and impregnated in mud. One could say that, as a general rule of thumb, it rains every day after midday here; to be fair, we did arrive just when the rain season was unleashing its first thunderous roars and soaking rains.
After a long and breathtaking drive through the mountaneous terrain of Honduras, we have come to live with a local family in this small city, and I have to say that the friendliness of the Hondurian people is incredibly sincere. However, I have found, much to my surprise, and quite notably, that the stereotypical image of the obese American is outweighed (no pun intended) by the standard hondurian person. People here are generally enourmous, and feature none of the attractive features north americans have come to expect from “brazilian babes”. Everyone eats the same thing and no healthy food can be found in the supermarkets. Everything they eat is deep-fried, and I have even had deep-fried ‘plantin’ bananas.
The family we are staying with is relatively friendly, but we rarely get anything other than corn flakes (sin leche, in my case) for breakfast. We rarely eat something that is not deep-fried (beans and juice seem to be an exception to the rule, but I am not sure about the beans) and we always eat the same thing. Me and my friend have found a scarce supply of whole wheat bread to complement some peanut butter and jam we have bought in the local supermarket. Whenever we have a bit of extra hunger, they provide us with a taste of our own good country.
Driving to work each morning is quite a pain; Paulo (sp?) comes to pick us up in his old and rusty truck at 7 every day. The drive to work takes around 45 minutes of pothole-dodging (although Paulo does not seem to be very good at that) on a rugged dirty old sinuous road. The volunteers over there have just finished building a kitchen for a local family, and we are now digging down the foundation of a second house for another family whose drunken father drowned in a nearby pond.
Our job usually consists of digging a level foundation for the house and filling trenches with rocks where the walls will eventually stand. This week, we have been mixing different types of dirt to somehow fill what used to be the trenches up to a 50 cm stub of a wall. The tools we use are the traditional pick-axe and shovel, and we mainly work with what material we have onsite — we get sand and rocks from surrounding lands, and previous volunteers have brought water over from a distant cascade.
The weeks are generally uneventful: some days we get down in the city to shop (not much to shop, really, but we try our best) or buy fruits at the market. We are still practicing our Spanish, but are getting slightly better at it each day. The weekends are what really brings this country to life!
Our first weekend trip was to a waterfall near el Lago de Yojoa. We took the 7:30 bus (which departed at 7:15) in the direction to San Pedro de Sula, meaning to drop off midway to el Lago de Yojoa. There, unfortunately, my pair of Diesel shoes were stolen by an older-looking man wearing a sombrero. Fortunately, I have insurance that covers stolen goods up to a certain amount, so I am confident that I will be able to sort the matter out no problemo. The bus driver dropped us off at the lake, which, in the midday sun, was shining in all its splendor. We were to stay at the D&D Bed and Breakfast and Brewery hotel, so we asked around for directions, to no avail. Slightly discouraged, I found it a good idea to purchase a Pepsi at a store nearby. To much of my American suprise, the only store which was advertising Pepsi only sold Coca-Cola. Another of the Hondurian pecularities I have discovered in the last few days.
After a bit of reckoning of our travel guide, we found out that we were dropped off on the wrong side of the lake. We started walking in direction of La Guama, the next small town on our way. After about an hour, it became clear that we would need to hitchhike our way to the other side of the lake, as our skin and water supply was no match against the equatorial sun.
Unseasoned hitchhikers as canadians may be, we managed to get into a caravan heading the same way as us. There, we caught a sursaturated bus to Peña Blanca. Our book directed us towards La Mochita, and again we caught a school bus on our way there. After quite a lot of time, we walked deep into the woods to D&D, a famous American hotel in Honduras. Much to our surprise, however, we found out shortly thereafter that there were no available rooms for us four. The girls apparently responsible for the caretaking did not speak a word of English, and the owner, Robert Dale, was nowhere to be found. After much debating, we were finally presented to a single room with a bed and a toilet. We could not stay here, but we did not know what to do or where to go.
Me and my friend had a LPS 34.50 beer (they did not have any amber ale, so we had to do with a paler brew), which amounted to about CND 2.50$. Let’s just say it was not the best investment I have ever made. Quite amusingly, the lady serving the beer had to whip out a calculator for 40 – 34.50 (not that that had anything to do with our frustration at that point).
We found out, pleasingly, that there was a very nice private hotel just next door that would give us two rooms and two washrooms, with a small lobby, for just LPS 1200.00 total a night. After a bit of negotiations, we brought the price down to LPS 1000.00, which brought us each down by around USD $12.50. It was the first time since we arrived in La Esperanza that we could get a proper shower; with running hot water, it was a dream come true. All of us were happily enjoying the moment, while trying our best to ignore another of our friends, which kept whining over our expenses — come on, at $12 a night… are you for real?!
We went back that evening to Peña Blanca, where we took a bus to the waterfalls. They are apparently located in a relatively touristic site. After some more wishful walking, we got to the site and purchased a well earned burger meal and beer. We got a guide to help us down to the fourty-three-meter-tall waterfalls. We were able to make our way through the rocks and under the crashing streams of water, into hidden caves and back. A few times to move on we had to make an impressive jump down heaps of rocks, one of them fifteen meters high. It was one of the most fabulous adventures we have had in ages.
Getting back to good old La Esperanza the next morning was a breeze, as we were now seasoned explorers in this part of the country. That morning we were treated to all-too-american blueberry pancakes from the D&D restaurant next doors. On our way back, we met with a particularly ill drunkard (these are too frequently found around town, face down in the mud, but we had our moment with this guy). We had a good time ignoring him while he stood at eye level with us, speaking spanish rubbish at what gringos we were. He was begging for water, and had quite a drool on the two girls with us. My friend Dre had a good time teasing the man, who was offering ‘favours’ for water (and that’s an understatement).
As much as we had a sunny and hot time away from the city, as soon as we came back we were faced with the incredible reality that in this town, it always rains. The streets were muddy to the ankles again and we trotted miserably to our homestays. Our eventful weekend was a lesson for all of us, and we soon booked all our accomodations for the next few incoming trips. We plan on going to the Copán ruins, go to the international festival in La Ceiba, and visit the marvelous caribbean beaches at Roatán.