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Building another Bathroom! June 2013!!

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Building Bathrooms in Honduras – The Porvenir Construction Project from Jim Beal on Vimeo.

Throughout the world, there are 2.6 billion people who do not have access to any form of proper sanitation. That means no bathroom, no shower, and no way to effectively dispose of their waste and maintain proper hygiene. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to these basic human necessities, we shower in clean bathrooms, flush our toilets, and never think twice about it. This is not the case for many of the families in El Porvenir, Honduras, where many families have no form of a bathroom or shower and the ones that do have crumbling, unsanitary bathrooms that become hot spots for diseases and sickness. The children who live in these poverty stricken situations are the most affected by the environmental contamination that comes with the lack of proper sanitation and facilities. They are constantly at risk for stomach and intestinal diseases, parasites, malnutrition, and many skin diseases that are a result of bathing themselves in contaminated water sources.

Through our work with the children of El Porvenir, we have noticed that many families lack the basic resources necessary to raise their children in a sanitary, healthy environment. Although our primary focus is on working with children in an educational setting, we feel inspired to try to address some of the underlying factors that contribute to health issues, in hopes of improving the lives of our students and their families. We teach the kids about health and hygiene in our programs and these construction projects are a great way for us to reach out even further into the community in order to provide families with the simple necessities that many of us take for granted.

For the El Porvenir Construction Project, we build sustainable structures that require little maintenance so that they will benefit the families for a longer period of time. The majority of our time will be devoted to building out-house style bathrooms for families, including toilets, showers, sinks, and walls. Based on the needs of the families we are working with, we may also build furniture, pilas (large sinks/tubs full of clean water for washing, etc.), or pour concrete floors.

It is important to note that the El Porvenir Construction Project is run entirely by Honduras Child Alliance volunteers and we will be the ones doing the construction, along with the families’ participation. Our organization does not have administrative costs or paid employees, therefore all donations go directly towards the purchase of materials. Every $25 dollars buys the truckload of sand required to make concrete for a floor, every $8 dollars buys a bag of cement mix, every 25 cents buys the PVC fittings to run water lines, and every 5 cents buys a bag of water for the hardworking Honduran children who always find a way to pick up one of our shovels or swing one of our hammers in order to help out in any way that they can.

We understand that it is vitally important for the families who benefit to be involved in the whole process so that they have a sense of ownership over the projects. Our goal is to help families who are working hard to better their lives and we aim to provide them with the resources and means to do so. Members of the EL Porvenir (including members of families who previously received bathrooms) are always willing volunteers to help us with our projects, because the projects help to build a stronger, healthier community. The people of El Porvenir have been able to see the positive impacts that previous projects have had on the community and its families, and we will continually be collaborating with them to build more projects and providing families with the proper means to live healthier lives.

Gracias!!

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The Porvenir Construction Project, Porvenir’s Best Kept Secret….No More

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So if you have been keeping up with the blogs, you might be thinking that this guy is just hitting the beaches and taking in some sun, but don’t you worry now, because I am going to update you on some of the past 2 bathroom projects we have completed.

After finishing the last bathroom, we went back to Oscar Funez to help us find a family. We went to anextremely poor section of the village and started talking to a couple different families to get a feel for their situations. We finally found a family with an older woman whose husband left her years ago, her 2 children, and her 2 grandchildren. The entire family was being supported by the one daughter. They were a bit surprised when we just showed up telling them we wanted to give them a free bathroom, but they were even more surprised when we let them know we would be back bright and early the next day to get things rolling.

Bam. First light the nest day we had shovels in hand and were literally ready to dig in. We may or may not have had a few minor setbacks with the digging that day though. For one, there was a big coconut tree sitting directly on our construction project. After some serious Paul Bunyan action, that thing was gone and the shovels started hitting the ground. Apparently the family had backfilled the ground here a few years back with whatever they could find, so what I thought would be some easy digging turned into some serious swinging with the pickaxe. We had a solid 2 feet of ground filled with rocks and broken cinder blocks. It had to be the worst digging conditions ever. You had to hit one spot with a pickaxe 5 times just to remove one or two shovels worth of dirt. Finally, we broke though the rocky layers and we were ready to dig for China. Not so fast there. Apparently this was the same spot where the previous family who had lived there burned there trash. We had the pleasure of digging through a few feet of layers and layers of trash. It may sound extremely unpleasant, but if you look at it was unveiling a time capsule of years and years of trash it can be quite exciting. What I thought would be a little more than half a day turned into almost 12 hours. This happened to be the same day the weather was in the high 90s, so you can imagine how much fun everyone was having. After the hole was done, I was ready to call it a day and do the foundation the next day. We were lucky enough to have some hard work Hondurans though, and when I was ready to call it quits, I found out they had already mixed all the cement for the foundation. And so we pushed on. As the sun was down, we finally finished leveling out our footer.

The rest of the project went pretty smoothly. Working with blocks is never too much fun for me, but I have gotten a whole lot better doing them. We decided to do this building half block, half wood. I liked blocks a little more than I used to, but it felt great to throw some woodwork back into the mix. The first project was all wood, the second was all block, and the third was going to be a hybrid.

So a little about the family. Elena is the Mom of the family and has been living here for a few years now. Apparently her husband left her many years ago and she was left alone to raise all of her kids, 2 of which still live with her. Her one son, Noe was a great worker and helped us out all the time, but like many Honduran men he just cannot find work. Her other daughter is the only one in the family who has any work and she supports everyone. She has 2 kids, Javier and Jorge who are about 9 and 10 years old. Their dad has not been in the picture since they were very young. The family is very poor, and there house is a shack nailed together with whatever material they could find. The bathroom they had had before we built one, was a small latrine hole with a mud seat sitting over top of it. It was so unsanitary and was always a danger. Without anywhere to shower, they would just pour buckets of water over themselves from an outside faucet to clean themselves. They were definitely in need of some better facilities. This became pretty obvious to me one day when I was returned from lunch. The project was right at the end and mostly everything was done. The toilet was not ready though. I came back to start working, and the door to the bathroom was locked from the inside. I knocked on the door a few times, but got no response. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, as I walked away and had my back to the bathroom, I hear the door fly open. I turned to see one of the small Honduran boys dashing from the bathroom to hide behind the house. Wasn’t too sure what had happened. I grabbed the tools I needed and headed into the bathroom where I soon realized exactly what had happened. As I entered, I was happily greeted by a little turd sitting on top of a plastic bag just hanging out on the floor. You couldn’t wait one more day for me to install the toilet little man? I could definitely say that they were ready for a bathroom and a proper throne to do the business.

Jorge and Javier were such cool little kids. They would hang around every time we were working and would stand by anxiously to do anything they could. They would jump at the opportunity to do anything from holding wood in place to simply holding nails while we nailed stuff together. Every morning when I showed up, they would say, I hope you’re ready to work Jim. It was great. Elena was such a sweet old woman and was so thankful for the work we did. She told me time and time again how hard it was raising her family without a husband to support the family, and how hard it is still working to help raise her grandchildren while their mom works every day. At the beginning of the project, she asked us if we could leave her with 2 bags of cement to build a pole for a power line meter. She needed permission form the municipality to do such a thing, so while we worked on the bathroom, she worked to get her permission. By the end of the project, she had the required paperwork to build a concrete pole for a meter and a tie-in into the city’s power lines. Before this, she had to connect to the neighbor’s power line and her electricity was extremely limited. For a small price, we were able to give her the things she needed to further improve her quality of life.

Getting ready to pour the floor with the boys hanging out. Javier and Jorge

 

We were down a few bikes, so the work commute was a bit more interesting this time around

It’s perfectly normal for 2 grown men to share a bike no? Welcome to Honduras

Sadly, this was Jurgen’s last project wiht me and he left for Germany. Great worker and was definitely missed

Photo with Jurgen and the family for his last day

Anyway, one more bathroom done

 

Final picture with the family

Finishing a bathroom is such a good feeling, and is a great motivator to get started right away on another. As the 3rd project was finishing up, we started with Oscar Funez again about some potential families for another project. A short walk away from project 3 we found a whole row of houses with some abysmal bathrooms. These houses, if you can even call them that, were a bit off the beaten path. We found a house towards the end of the path where there was a family with not bathroom and another with a deteriorating one. They were very good neighbors and are closer than most families, so we decided to go ahead and build and double unit bathroom with 2 toilets and 2 showers for the families.

Commence Project #4…

As always, the first day was fun filled with a whole lot of digging and hauling huge rocks around. It’s a good thing I end the finished projects with a good feeling, because getting the motivation to dig a giant hole isn’t something that comes easy. This was by far our deepest hole yet. The ground we were digging on was elevated above the ground surrounding it because it used to be where train tracks ran. It was another very long day one, but by the end of the day the hole was dug and the footer was done and ready for blocks.

End of Day 1

With the departure of Jurgen, the Porvenir Construction Project’s German workhorse, I was a little worried about getting things done in a reasonable time for this double project. I enlisted the help of 2 of the volunteers who were here at the time, Vladamir and Angel. We had lots of time off to work when we started the project because apparently it was Student Week in the schools. They had the whole week off from regular school so we cancelled a few days of our classes. As if they don’t get enough holidays here and a whole week off during Semana Santa, they get a whole week in June off just for being students! Honduran school system blaarrrrrr!!!. Since this was going to be a much bigger building than normal, I recruited one of the men from an earlier project, Olbin. The man knows how to do cinder blocks, and having him there just made things so much easier on me. He is still out of a job, and fishes every day at the beach to try and make some money to support his family, so it was also a great opportunity to pay him for a few days.

Good old Olbin taking a dip

Day 2 started and it was time to start some blocks. First thing in the morning, Olbin dove into the hole like it was a pool and was knee deep in water putting rocks along the walls of the hole. Again, I had lots of help so everything went smoothly and the 3 rows of blocks were good and done. We came back the next day and pour the cement floor. The day after we tossed 4 more rows of blocks on top of the floor. We decided to do another wood and block hybrid.

A little bit about the families

Family one consists of a married couple, Victor and Elena, their 3 children Maria (17), Oscar (13), and Zayra (1), and their grandmother. Victor is a security guard at a school in Ceiba and works a 24 hour shift every other day. On his “days off”, he works to collect corn, dry it out, break it off the cob, and sell the individual pieces of corn in bags for people to buy and feed to their chickens. He is such a hardworking man. He would get back from his shift at 6am in the morning and he would be working on the bathroom with us 8am. The whole family helps with the corn business they run, too, but the man sure does break his back to work and support everyone. Oscar is not in school this year (Don’t worry, I gave him the importance of education speech), so he was around every day to help me and was pretty much my right hand. Great kid. He would work hard all day and be ready to do whatever need to be done. He said it was a great learning experience for him to see and do many of the things we did during the project so I was pretty happy about that. I love getting help from whoever is capable and willing, but I love it even more when the person helping is benefitted by learning how to do things.

A little more about the corn. The family collects the corn which is planted in a field a little far from the house. They come back carrying these hugs bags full of corn and start piling them up in a hammock. To get the kernels off the cob, they just ferociously beat the pile in the hammock with a stick. The kernels fly everywhere and are caught in a tarp below. So after working for as long as he does, victor comes home and abuses corn.

Trying out my corn beating skills

So the other family consists of a couple, Wilson and Rosa, and their 3 little girls Cindy, Maria, and Jackie. They’re all very young and at this point had no bathroom. Also, Cindy is in the Honduras Children Kinder. Wilson is another extremely hardworking man. He gets to work at 5am, 6 days a week in the pineapple fields where he only makes around $50 a week. Apparently if he misses a day, they will only pay him about 30 for the week. Throughout this project and the rest of my time in Honduras, Wilson went ahead and solidified himself as one of my favorite people ever. Everything he does is always for his family, and he always puts them before himself. To save money on buses, he rides his bike into Ceiba when he needs to go there. It’s about 20 minutes by bus, so it’s not too much of a bike ride. Doesn’t sound too bad right? Well let’s factor in the presence of hundreds of crazy Honduran drivers swerving all over the road and passing people with no regard for anything and trying to ride a beat up old bike that was pieced together with bicycle parts from a few different busted bikes. Wilson makes enough money for his family to just get by. Every week, the majority of his paycheck goes right to the same Pulperia. He is constantly a few hundred lempira in debt to the Pulperia, so every week his money just goes directly to the same place. He said he would have to let his kids og hungry for a few weeks if he wanted ot save up the money he needed to pay off his debt. Until then, he is just locked into constantly buying his food from the same place. So on one of the first days we were working, we found out it was Wilson’s Birthday. We were off to the Golosina to buy lunch for him, something he can never do. We learned a lot more about him while we were out. He said at one point, sometimes he would really like to just buy a beer after a long week of work, but that he would never do it because he thinks he should never be spending money on something like that when the money could go towards his family.

Taking WIlson out to lunch for his Birthday

Wilson, Rosa, and their 3 kids

I found this little gem tucked away in El Porvenir while getting lunch one day

Super Mario 3

Like gasoline fuels a car, pineapple fueled Jim Beal on this project. Wilson, along with every other pineapple field worker in Porvenir, sneak out about 3 pineapples a day after they are done working. At 12:30 every day when his shift was up and back at the house, he was dicing up pineapple for me. I would be in the middle of working, and off in the distance I would hear “Jimmmmyyyyyyyy, Piiiiiñaaaaaaa!!” He would hold the pineapple in his hand as he stood there and he would start cutting off slices of pineapple for me with his machete. Two hours later…”Jimmmyyyyyyyy, más piñaaaa??” When it was quitting time, he would either cut up another pineapple or send me home with one. At this point, I was eating at least one full pineapple every day. The sun would be blaring and I would be sweating and ready to call it quits, but then I would hear it…”Jimmmmyyyyyyy!!!” and I knew salvation was on its way in the form of a small Honduran man wielding a pineapple in one hand and a machete in the other. Before Wilson, I hadn’t met a Honduran who laughed more or was just always in such a good mood like he was. We had the same conversation every day. “More pineapple Jimmy?”, “Stupid question, Wilson.” Not sure why, but all of the families I worked with started calling me Jimmy despite introducing myself as Jim. Throughout this project though, I took on a pretty nasty addiction to pineapple. Not just pineapple though, free pineapple cut from the field just a few hours before. Not sure how I am going to continually get my fix when I am back in the US. Wilson rides his bike to Ceiba. What are the chances he would swing by Springfield with a few pineapples for his old pal?

Wilson cutting up one of the many, MANY pineapples I ate

DSCN3259 from Jim Beal on Vimeo.

DSCN3330 from Jim Beal on Vimeo.

DSCN3331 from Jim Beal on Vimeo.

Water breaks for this project for definitely pretty interesting. On the first day working, Oscar asked if we could take a quick break. He ran and got a machete and cut some coconuts down from the tree and Bam we had some coconut water for a water break.

Fresh coconut water for break time

 

Franklin definitely enjoying some coconut

One of the funnier aspects of most of the projects we work at is the response we get from the women and their relatives and friends. At some point, one of the women will always come out and ask the guys who are working how old you are and if you are married. Within the next hour or two, cousins, sisters, friends, or whoever may be relatively the same age as us will come around all decked out in their finest clothes and make-up. Someone will introduce them to you. “Jim, this is my cousin. She is very pretty.” Then the awkward stare off begins. We kind of just stand there. I’ll say hi and nice to meet you, but then I am ready to get back to work. They will just kind of stand there still waiting for something more from me. They have clearly brought this person over to meet me because I’m single and they’re trying to set me up. After fending off some Honduran women on the prowl with Angel, we were back to work. They started whipping up some baleadas for us though which was pretty nice. I guess I have no problem batting my eyelashes and throwing around some smiles if it means free baleadas for dinner.

The project itself went great. I had lots of help between the volunteers, the family, and Olbin. One Sunday afternoon, I had so much help I didn’t know what to do with everyone. All of the girls here at the time were pretty gung ho about the bathroom building, so armed with a small brigade of women I headed over to start working. I had some of them nailing up boards, some digging the trench for the water line, and others working on the plumbing with me. I have to say, I was a tad bit overwhelmed. I was not used to having so many people, and everyone really wanted to work and not be standing around. We got so much done in just one half day of work because of the sheer man-power (woman-power in this case?) We probably would have finished everything that day if it weren’t for the power drill dying on us while trying to build the doors.

A great Sunday afternoon where we got so much done

Wheelbarrow rides were quite popular

Free wheelbarrow rides!

Loving it

SDC10047 from Jim Beal on Vimeo.

Again, I found myself ladderless after finishing the roof.

Stuck on the roof again with no ladder…time to improvise

Tried to climb the tree but got swarmed by a ton of ants

Knowing Emily was there to catch me made me feel 100 times better

Picture with the family…missing 2 people

 

Another project done, and another 2 very deserving families with new bathrooms and showers. At the time, I thought this was the end of the construction projects for me, and it is why I built a double unit. We had enough money in the budget to build 2 bathrooms if we realllyy stretched the funds. Finding two families next to each other who needed bathrooms and building a double unit was a great solution to the limited money and time I had. Well that all changed when Britani arrived. While talking one night, we start going into the bathroom projects and she said how much she liked the idea of doing them. I explained that sadly, there’s no money left and I only have 2 more weeks in Honduras. Building a bathroom takes at least 6 days, but I can only do work in my free time so fitting it into 6 weeks is kinda crazy. My last 2 weeks went from Jim I think you can probably find some time to relax to Britani is going to pay for another bathroom and you are gonna be putting in double digit hour days. While talking with her, she just straight up said I want to pay for another bathroom…Can we finish one before you leave? Let’s do this.

Up until this point, we had been working pretty quietly in Porvenir, but somehow in the last 2 weeks I was here, everyone seemed to know now this guy is building bathrooms. Before, finding families usually consisted of walking around with Oscar Funez to visit families, talk to them, and then make decisions as a group as to what family we were going to work with. That all changed for this one. Parents of my students were sending notes with them to class explaining how much trouble they’re having and how they need a bathroom. Other people would seek me out on the street and come ask me for a bathroom. Other people kept going to Oscar too, but it was no problem for him because he would just say “Go talk to the Gringo.” So the cat was out of the bag. Word on the street is that someone is building free bathrooms. It made the whole decision making process a whole lot harder. Since Britani was putting up the money for this project, I pretty much told her the decision is hers. We walked around with some of the other volunteers to meet some of the poorest families in Porvenir to evaluate their situations. It was not an easy thing to do, because each family we met with definitely needed help, and we only had the time and money to help one more. We would show up and hear, “God has truly blessed us. You are the answers to our prayers. God Bless You,” everywhere we went. It was really tough to speak with people who were genuinely in need, but realizing you were not going to be able to help them. The decision was narrowed down to 2 families. One family seemed much worse off financially, but the other had a husband with epilepsy who could not work. We went with the poor family, but it was not an easy decision. How do you explain to one family that another is more deserving of a bathroom?

Things were much easier before word about the Porvenir Construction Project got out. It was really hard on me to have so many different people approach me about helping them. I could really feel how sad they were and their desperation for something as simple as a decent toilet. All I could do was say I only have 2 more weeks here and don’t have time for more projects, but that I would be back in the future. Even worse was seeing their reaction. Seeing their living conditions and just understanding their inability to do anything about it is not an easy thing. We could only do so much though. The decision was made and we were ready to go ahead full steam with the last project and the start of a crazy last 2 weeks for me.

Pictures of Project 3 and 4…

Some English Classes and Some Island Getaways

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So I should probably talk a little bit about some of the work I have been doing. My last few blogs have been all about traveling or hanging out, and as much fun as they have been I am doing a whole lot of other things.

So about a month ago, right around the time my Mom had just left, there was a pretty big turnover in volunteers and there was an entirely new group of volunteers except for a few people. In one week, we had 6 different people leaving. Always a tough time when people who are here for a few months leave, but I’ve been here since October so I am getting used to it. The week everyone left meant a week full of goodbye dinners, so a busy one too. I was just getting back on a regular schedule since coming back from Belize and the Jazzy week, so it was definitely tough and I had a few extra lbs to shed.

My new co-teacher was a volunteer named Helen who works full time as a teacher in an International School in South America. She was teaching English Classes with me and it was a great experience working with someone who had the training she did. English classes have been going great by the way. We are getting very good turnouts for each class and the kids that are coming are really progressing fast. We started a new beginner class a while back and the kids who are in the class are learning a lot. Of course we still run into some of the same problems with attendance and low numbers some days, but that’s really something I have just become accustomed to.

Teaching has definitely gotten better and better the more time I am here. As my Spanish continually improves, so does my ability to teach. I’ve gotten pretty good at thinking of fun ways and games to help teach classes. I figure if voluntary classes are boring for the kids, they are not going to want to come. I’ve realized that it is more worth it to teach a little less material and have a little more fun with the material you are teaching. It’s more fun for the kids and definitely more fun for me too.

As always, we get a core group of kids who come pretty much every day. Most of them come for English class and then go right to Reading Club. It’s extremely beneficial for them to have both types of class. It gives them a chance to improve their Spanish and learn some English. This is much better than before when all we offered were English Classes. You can tell the kids really love to come, and the classroom has become a place for them to come and hang out every day. The kids only have school for half a day, so usually they have nothing to do in the afternoon. I like knowing that they will always have a place to go. Whether they are going to learn, have fun, or just looking for something to do, they will benefit greatly from the program. They can improve their ability to read and write in Spanish, they can learn the basics of English, they can stick with the program for a few years and master their English, or they can just come to make friends and hang out with some Gringos. All of the kids who do come are good friends with each other, so I think we help provide a great environment for them to hang out. Some of the kids really benefit from classes while others don’t as much. But regardless of how much they get from the classes, it’s always beneficial for them to be in a learning environment as oppose to spending the afternoon doing nothing. With only 4 hours of classes a day in school, it’s really good for them to have an extra 2 hours where they are using their brains as oppose to throwing rocks at trees and kicking a soccer ball around.

Adult classes have been awesome. As I mentioned before, the better my Spanish gets, the better my teaching. The difference in how well I teach has definitely been with adult classes. I had been teaching classes with Alanna for a few weeks, but since she left I have been by myself. A few months ago, I don’t think I would have been able to do a class by myself very well, but now I definitely can. I still have lots of trouble understanding people when they ask questions and I still need to have my laptop ready to go with a translator, but it’s definitely a huge improvement. My class for the most part has been almost all men, so it has such a funny dynamic. When only the men show up for class, I feel like it’s nothing but laughs the whole time. Let’s just say they are a little more outgoing and there isn’t the same filter on the class that would be there if some women were present. As for their English, they have gotten really good. The one thing that is tough about class is that most of the students work so many hours and so hard that they can’t always come. We were doing 1 night a week for 2 hours, but I have opened up Thursday nights for question and answer sessions, homework help, and extra help.

The other night I decided to make dinner for some of the adult class students. I had owed Jose Luis, the one who gave me some of his freshly killed pig before, a dinner so pulled pork sandwiches it was. In invited his family and 2 other guys from class to come. I set the crock put up in the morning, came home from work and shredded it up, tossed on some BBQ sauce, cut up some cheese, and dinner was served. It was a nice little dinner and a great opportunity for me to practice some Spanish.

I’ve somewhat gotten on a more regular schedule. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I got back on a workout schedule and I am eating pretty well. Haven’t been able to keep up with the p90x diet because it’s expensive and I have been sending most of my money on traveling. Studying for the MCATs has been much tougher lately. I am spending pretty much every morning working on construction projects and going right to teaching classes in the afternoon.

Speaking of construction, things have been going into overdrive. As soon as My Mom had left, I was right back into Project 3 which is now finished. A few days after that was done, we were right onto another project which actually just finished up. So with what free time I have had, I have been putting right into construction projects. My next Blog will talk about both of the projects. I only have 2 weeks left, and a recently arrived volunteered said she wants to completely fund a project, so it’s gonna be a crazy 2 weeks getting this done right before I leave.

There’s some new residents in El Porvenir

Oscar Funez’s new puppy

SO small

Charlie and Amalia’s new chick

 

 

So after a few weeks of working hard, we decided to take a short bus ride over to Tela for the weekend. It’s a quick bus ride and costs like $3 to get to a really awesome beach city. There’s a guy who used to house volunteers in Tela who lets us stay at his really nice place for cheap, so we had a great place to stay too. After working in the sun a few hours that day I was in Tela and ready to relax. After meeting up with Cinthya, we were off to get some dinner and found a place with REAL pizza. It’s not something that I can find around here, and the closest thing in La Ceiba is a Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut back home isn’t the best, so you can imagine how Pizza Hut Honduras edition is. Loaded up with prosciutto, I downed a whole lot of pizza.

Saturday we decided to take a boat out to Punto Sol Park for some hiking, snorkeling, and kicking back on a beach. We met our guide on the beach who was waiting for us with his boat. A short boat ride out to the park and we were off to hike through the jungle a bit.

Such clear water

The jungle we were walking through had a huge population of these blue crabs. As we walked along the path, there were seriously hundreds of them on either side. As we walked through they would quickly creep back into their holes. It was freaky because tons of crabs in all directions would be moving into your holes as you walked by so there was just movement everywhere.

We were surrounded by crabs everywhere during the hike

 

 

We saw some of the blood trees which apparently seep out a red, blood looking liquid when they are cut open. It was a national park, so sadly we could not cut the trees at all to see them bleed. There was not shortage of giant spiders anywhere though

Walking up one of the paths, these huge spiders were everywhere

So we continued to hike through the jungle until we emerged out onto this beautiful beach. It felt like a scene out of Lost. It was this beautiful cove with really cool looking clearish/green water. I’ve never seen anything like it in person.

This beach had a “Lost” feel to it

While we were there, there was a big group of howler monkeys hanging in the canopy of the trees above us. Of course we went back into the trees to get a better look at them. Everyone was point to this one and that one, when suddenly things began to drop all around us. There were monkeys everywhere in the trees above us and they were all starting to eat the almond fruit off the trees. They kept throwing down all kinds of fruit from 40ft above us so we were out of there pretty quickly.

We jumped back onto the boat and the guide took us around to show us different parts of the park. We stopped at a great spot to snorkel and jumped into the water. I’ve never been snorkeling before so I was pretty pumped. The water was crystal clear and there was a great reef where we had stopped. Every time I dove down I saw all kinds of different and colorful fish. There was coral everywhere and everything was so bright and multi-colored. Something really caught my eye though. It was floating through all this and really stood out from everything. I dove down deep and snatch a 100 lempira bill. That’s only about 5$, but it was still the coolest 5 dollars I have ever found.

After snorkeling, we crashed on a beach for the next few hours and just relaxed. We did a little swimming and a little sleeping while the weather was absolutely perfect. Wasn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday, that’s for sure.

After another solid 2 weeks of teaching English, finishing one bathroom project, and starting another one I was ready to finally make my way to one of the Bay Islands. This was something I had been putting off for months, but something I know I had to do before I left. Roatan it was…

After working all morning on a bathroom project, I was on an afternoon bus to Ceiba to meet Cinthya at the mall. We bought some food for the weekend and jumped in a cab to the Roatan ferry. The boat itself was huge and capable of holding a couple hundred people, so right away I figured it would be a whole lot better than the boat I took from Belize which didn’t agree with my spine. I thought the trip was awesome. I had a comfortable seat in an air conditioned cabin and there was even a big TV with a movie playing. There were few others who shared my sentiment though. There was a guy on the boat whose job was to just wheel a trashcan up and down the aisles, give people bags, and collect the bags later after some food had been returned in a more unpleasant fashion. While I kicked baked and relaxed, I noticed people all around me were really not enjoying themselves quite as much as little plastic bags were consistently filled throughout the cabin.

Most cheap places in Roatan don’t take reservations don’t take reservations, so we just showed up in West End hoping for the best. We found an awesome deal at Georphis Tropical Getaway and had a private cabin with hot water and a fridge for $25 a night. Not bad at all. The beach was right in front of our cabin and we were located right in the middle of West End where all the bars and restaurants were. We dropped our bags and were right off to dinner. As always, I felt the need to try the nachos.

Nachos and a Piña Colada

After stopping at a few bars and checking out how things were, we settled at a small stand that was selling tequila shots for $1. Can’t really beat that. Roatan is expensive relative to the rest of Honduras, so finding a drink that cheap was a good find. As we were sitting there hanging out, this one guy kept coming over to us and giving us free drinks. No questions asked right? Man wants to give us free drinks, I can’t find any reason not to take them. He would reach over the bar and grab a pre-mixed drink bottle and just fill our glasses. He finally sat down and started hanging out with us, and it turns out he was the owner of the drink stand and the hotel sitting right behind it. And so Carlos entered our weekend. He called a few of his friends over to our table and before I knew it, I was surrounded by Hondurans, sharing some stories and some laughs. I had some trouble keeping up with the Spanish at first, but a few shots of cheap Mexican tequila apparently does wonders for my Spanish speaking abilities.

After a ridiculously relaxing Saturday with beautiful weather, we stopped at one of the many pizza places on the island for some prosciutto pizza. As I have mentioned before, a good pizza is very hard to come by round these parts, so when you find it you best savor that thing. Roatan had the same kind of feel as Belize, but with more Spanish speakers. Still, many of the restaurants were run by foreigners speaking English, and I even got changed a few times in dollars. Just because I am white doesn’t mean I am a tourist!! I don’t want you American money!

While relaxing back at the cabin expecting a quiet night, we received some unexpected visitors. Carlos and his crew came rolling on by and were just like get on up and let’s go. So back to his place where apparently our money was no good anymore to pay for drinks. Really cheap drinks had suddenly turned into the cheapest of all drinks – free. Just when we were ready to turn in, we were bombarded by Carlos and the gang as they demanded we head out to the discoteca with them. It happened so fast, but before I knew what was going on I was packed into the back of a pickup with 6 other Honduran dudes flying down the roads of Roatan to the discoteca in the next town over. Not sure how I found myself where I was, but I was just going with the moment. I am no stranger to the Honduran discos, so I was ready for the blaring reggaeton music and Mohawks smothered in pounds of hair gel. Carlos and his boys had the hook up there too, because none of us had to pay the 300 lempira ($15) cover. We had the VIP treatment apparently, so again, drinks were free. How did this happen? Free drinks, free entrance, free transport. We talked and hung out with this guy for one night, but apparently we made a pretty good impression. Carlos’ crew definitely consisted of some characters. They were all shapes, sizes, and varying levels of hair gel ranging from bald to full blown Honduran mohawk. My favorite had to be this guy who only introduced himself and referred to himself as “Mr. Big”. Honestly, most of the guys were pretty crazy, so it made for a real interesting night. I spent most of the night just taking it all, enjoying myself, and watching Mr. Big do his thing.

Mr Big…This guy was crazy

Group shot

West End is a part of Roatan where the majority of cheap hotels, bars, and scube diving shops are located. There is not much of a beach there, so if you want to see some crystal clear water and a beautiful beach, you need to take a short ride in a water taxi over to the West Bay. I’ve seen some beautiful beaches in my time here in Honduras, but West Bay was by far the best beach I have been to. The water was perfect; there was white sand, and tons of resorts overlooking the beautiful beach. It had to have been one of the best days I have ever had on a beach. The only thing that was able to pull me away was some serious hunger and a craving for the tacos being sold by a small stand in West End that we passed by time and time again. Another quick water taxi ride back and it was taco time.

West Bay Beach

West Bay Beach

Apparently Carlos’ generosity wanted to extend itself into yet another night. Once again, we were sought out and our presence was requested at his hotel. By the way, his hotel has one of my favorite things ever – a swim up bar. No one had to tell me twice. I was still in my bathing suit from West End and I was right into the pool. I’m not sure how many things are better than sitting in a beach front poolside bar while the sun is going down on an island. Not sure what inspired you Carlos, but thanks for saving me a poop ton of money that weekend.

After another day and night of nothing but relaxation and enjoying the beautiful island weather, I was headed back to Porvenir to start another week with the kids and continue with my bathroom project. Roatan is by far the best place I have visited since I have been here in Honduras. There’s hotels for cheap, drinks for cheap if you look hard enough (or befriend some crazy Hondurans), and gorgeous beaches. When I come back to Honduras, I definitely plan to save up enough money to go back there and get my scuba diving certification. The Bay Islands are the cheapest place in the world to get certified, and I really wanna get my scuba on.

Funny Honduran observation for the week. Openly calling someone fat or calling yourself fat isn’t the most common thing back home. The Spanish word for fat is “gordo” and the Hondurans have no problem slinging it around. In adult class, when practicing how to describe themselves, people will just straight up say “My name is…, I live in…, I have brown hair, and I am fat.” People will always call chubby little kids gorditas or gorditos which is pretty much like saying little fatty. People who are even slightly overweight will strait up say Soy Gordo (I’m fat). Maybe this country needs to tone it down on the baleada consumption, or maybe Tony Horton needs to release a p90x español.

Here’s some pictures. Really didn’t take too many in Roatan

 

 

CARNAVALLLLLL!!!!!

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So I only have 2 weeks left here and I am already way behind on Blogs. I am goig to let the pictures do most of the talking on this one.

La Ceiba Carnaval is apparently a pretty big deal here in Honduras. People come from all over the country to some see it and hang out for the weekend around here. Lucky for us, we are a 20 minute bus ride from Ceiba so we were good and ready for all of the festivities.

Apparently there were things going on pretty much every night of the week, but we decided to wait until Thursday to start seeing some of the sights. We went to Campo de Agaa which is the Honduran equivalent of a county fair, and I must say it did not disappoint. I think going to a county fair in most of the country type areas of the US are pretty entertaining for anyone who lives in the City or Suburbs, so you can only imagine how crazy a Honduran fair would be.

As we arrived we paid a small fee at the entrance and then walked through this huge tent which had all kinds of shops set up in it. Plenty of places to get food, some drinks, and other random things you would expect to see at a fair, but then things got a little bit strange. Entire stalls were set up selling nothing but milk, and others had nothing but cleaning chemicals. Some were just stalls set up to sell paint and all kinds of random things. I usually go to the fair to eat some food, play some games, and maybe hit up a few rides. I might leave with a prize or 2 and a full stomach, but I’m not sure who goes to these things and leaves with milk in bulk and some new paint for the dining room. Just when I thought things were pretty strange, I was hit with a whole new kind of Huh!? There it was, a stall set up for a funeral home. A funeral home?? This was a fair set up for fun and games, but here was this funeral home there trying to sell their services. I don’t know how often people mourning recently deceased loved ones are out and about at a fair, but if they are I am sure they would be happy to purchase the services to properly bury Grandma while they’re there.

After browsing the area for a bit and deciding we didn’t need floor cleaner or paint cans, we hit the food section. As soon as you even look their way, every food stand has someone running up top you trying to grab you to bring you into their little eating area. As with almost every Honduran event I’ve been to, there is no shortage of food stands, but there is a serious lack of variety. There’s really no way to pick which one because they all have the same food. While eating, we all threw a few lempiras onto the table so a traveling Mariachi band would serenade us while we ate. It was quite glorious. I am pretty sure Jurgen enjoyed in the most though.

Mariachi Band playing for us while we eat dinner!

Lilias and Jurgen clearly enjoying every second of the Mariachi band.

After eating we walked into what I can only describe as a giant Imperial Castle. Imperial is one of the 4 main Honduran beers, but I have never seen any advertisements for it anywhere – not like Salva Vida or Barena which are EVERYWHERE especially events like this. There it was though, towering over all of the Fair. Inside, they had a ton of seating and a big stage with live music. They also decided to sell 26 ounce imperials for $1.25 so you can imagine that it was a very popular spot.

What is a fair without rides? We had to do at least one while we were there, so off to the Ferris Wheel. I imagine the Honduras Fair Board of Safety ensures all rides here are up to date with inspection and maintenance, so I had no reservations about riding the thing. It was being run by a giant farming tractor sitting next to it, so I knew for certain things were going to be fine. Eveyrthing about it felt verrry sketchy, but those 26oz Imperials made everyone feel a bit adventurous and we all boarded the ride. After a crazy few minutes of Honduran Ferris Wheel adventure, we were safely back on the ground and ready to call it a night.

Ready to rock the sketchy, sketchy Ferris Wheel being powered by a tractor

Saturday came around and it was time for the big Carnaval Celebration. After working all morning one of the bathroom projects, we were off to Ceiba around mid-day. As I mentioned, I am going to let the pictures do most of the talking here because it is a whole lot to describe. Few things I thought were funny that I want to mention though.

When we showed up, all that was going on was a looong parade of people riding horses. It lasted for so long and was just regular people with regular horses. I guess if you own a nice enough horse you can ride? Oh and all the people riding were drinking beer. So they just spend their day riding on their horse, drinking beer, and waving to parade goers. As one guy passed by, Lewy and I raised our drinks towards him, he proceeded to raise his back, and then he just stopped his horse in its tracks. He was staring at us and kept raiding his drink towards us. So we raised ours back. This happened a few times until he pretty much motioned that we were supposed to get him another beer. Sorry though man, it didn’t happen.

Staring at us waiting for his beer apparently…sorry cowboy

As for the horses, things seemed pretty dangerous at some points. It was HOT and the horses looked exhausted. They were foaming from the mouth like crazy and some of the horses we really getting wild. There were no barriers to limit people from standing in the road, so people were very close to the parade as it passed by. At some point, I was legitimately concerned a horse was going to kick someone or hurt someone standing only a few feet from it. Nothing happened around us luckily, but it was a long parade and I saw a whole lot of pissed off horses so who knows.

Since there are no barriers, the path for the parade gets mighty tight and dangerous for things and people in the parade. As soon as there was a break in the parade, people would just fill into the street. People would just casually walk through the street, hang around, and other people would walk through it trying to sell things. I imagine this is why the parade had little to no continuity. 20 minutes would go by sometimes without anything going by. I imagine it was because the street was completely blocked with people and giant 18 wheelers with floats drove insanely slow as they waited for people to move for a wide enough path. This parade lasted for like 7 hours and I think they had enough stuff to make it like 2 or 3.

Most floats were full of scantily clad people just dancing. They were dressed in tiny outfits and just had a waist high pole to use for support as they danced for 7 hours apparently. Plus there was this guy

Then this guy decided to make his presence known

Oh and This guy

I’m not sure what this man was implying here but I wasn’t feeling it

There were tons of floats that just had nothing but different kinds of soldiers on them. All of them had real guns and rifles to along with their outfits. The guns all had ammo clips in them too, but I am assuming they were empty…hoping.

SO many soldiers with real guns of course. Most had ammo clips which I hoped were empty

There were tons of different kinds of floats that were just really festive and like anything you would see in a parade (with less clothes of course). There was a whole bunch of floats for political leaders and candidates and even more that were just blatant advertisements.

Apparently I am really good at jumping and grabbing things thrown in the air to groups of people. Perhaps catching the garter at my brother’s wedding was no coincidence, because I snagged a ton of beads being thrown from floats. Beads weren’t the only thing being thrown though. I caught Tigo water bottles, bags of water, and even children’s slippers. Some of the stuff being thrown was so random.  I caught enough beads that my neck was loaded up even as I continually gave them away.

This little baby kept grabbing my beads

She looked pretty happy after I gave them to her

Let’s put it this way, there were so little restrictions keeping people from walking into the street, I walked up and gave a hug to our 5 Gallon Water jug friend. Since we can’t drink the local water, I buy a few of these things each week, so I considered him a good friend.

I was pushed into hugging this giant 5 gallon water jug by everyone

He was a good sport about it

After standing for hours we decided to try for a new spot. Jurgen, Lewy, and I headed into this giant Salva Vida structure that was built 2 stories high. The top level had some great views, but was a VIP zone. We went for it and they let us in. We watched the rest of the parade from our little overlook.

After the parade, the street completely filled in and madness ensued. We grabbed some Baleadas and just hung around for a bit. About an hour after the parade ended, another whole part of the parade came riding through. People reluctantly cleared the street again so a couple hundred Jabronis with motorcycles could pass through. Not sure how they ended up an hour behind the parade, but they did.

People were everywhere all day trying to sell things, but this guy with his push cart moving around selling his wares was definitely my favorite

In the middle of all the Carnaval madness, this man thought it a great opportunity to sell himself some bras and women’s underwear

As the parade ended, the music started and it was everywhere. Every 2 blocks there was another stage set up. Again, the most popular stages were not the ones with the best music, but the ones with the most girls and the least amount of clothing. We stayed by the stage right by where we stood all day. It was by far the biggest and they were playing some great music. After hanging around and dancing for a bit, Carnaval was coming to a close for us and we were ready to get home. Carnaval itself was definitely not slowing down though, and it would continue until the sun came up.

It was a long and very hot day, but had to have been one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. I can’t even remember half of the things I saw that just made me scratch my head or just laugh. One of the reasons I wanted to come to Honduras was to experience a different culture, and if doing this wasn’t it I don’t know what that could possibly be.

Go Ahead and Get Jazzy With It

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I never thought it would happen. No matter how many different things I said and how convincing I tried to be, I was still pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen. As disappointed as I was, I accepted the fact that I probably wouldn’t be having any visitors down here in Honduras. Between work and school schedules, high ticket prices, and a wee bit of fear of traveling to the 3rd world, it didn’t seem like a trip was possible for anyone. But that all changed on a Saturday night in April at 11:00pm when ticket prices apparently dropped to insanely low numbers. That’s when it happened. None other than the Matriarch of the Beal family, Joan Beal, had purchased her round trip ticket from Newark, NJ to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Utter disbelief my friends. For weeks, she deflected my pleas for her to come to Honduras when Eve (Volunteer coordinator) would be traveling here because ticket prices had shot up to around 800. Eve also lives in Philadelphia and has been here 42098509 times, so she would have been a perfect traveling buddy for my mom. When my mom received the call late Saturday night that tickets had actually gone down to $220 for a round trip, I just don’t think it was possible for her to say no. And so it did happen…Joan Beal was going to get a little taste of Honduras

Eve being able to travel with my mom couldn’t have been more perfect. They were on all the same flights together, and when they got here, they would both be driving across the country in Eve’s rental car. That put a lot of my mom’s traveling fears to rest. Eve, if you are reading this, I cannot thank you enough! If it weren’t for you, we would have never had this opportunity to spend time together here.

So I had just gotten back from Belize and Lago Yajoa the day before and was ready to continue this whirlwind of craziness with a week of my mom being here. I was so excited and still in a bit of disbelief it was happening. But sure enough, I got the text as soon as she landed in San Pedro, and they were off cruising along the coastal highway. Luckily I cleaned my room real well before I left for Belize, so it was just a bit of tidying up to get ready for my mom to come. Other than seeing me, she really just wanted to see the way I had been living and the things I have been doing, so we were plus one Beal family member for a week at the Beach House.

So eventually, Eve’s car pulled up and I could hear my mom’s voice for the first time in person in months. I was upstairs in Eve’s newly constructed room putting some beds together. Before I could get downstairs, she was upstairs with Eve and I got to give my mom the biggest hug. It felt so awesome to see her and I can’t describe how happy I was. A few tears of happiness on her end pretty much showed that the feeling was mutual. I grabbed all of her bags, brought them inside, and we were right off to get some much needed dinner.

So we went to Maura’s Place, one of the best places to eat along the beach. To save some money and eat a little healthier, I had not been there in quite some time, but I definitely made up for it this week with the Mamadukes. Traveling is not Joan Beal’s specialty as it brings on nothing but stress, so as soon as we sat down I made sure the Coronas were very soon to follow. Right away I started hearing these crazy traveling stories that my Mom and Eve had had. Apparently there was some crazy looking guy on the plane who stood up the whole flight reading a book as he gripped the doorway leading into first class, and he had a crazy headband on with a small box attached to the front. While Eve, the world traveler that she is, was trying to sleep, my Mom was nervously and anxiously fixated on this strange man throughout the duration of the flight. She wasn’t the only one though, because apparently all kinds of people were staring at this guy wondering if something was going to happen. Eventually Eve woke up to see this peculiar scene, so she corroborated my Mom’s story and dinner time turned into crazy story time. Mom was in rare form telling this story it was so funny. She was expressive, loud, and really descriptive about every little detail. Give her a Corona, tons of travel stress, and a crazy man with a box on his head on a plane, and you are in for a good story I guess. It was one of the best dinners I have had here just because she was there and I was getting to spend time with her again. So much fun. Even after a relaxing dinner and some really good laughs, her nerves were still pretty tense. It didn’t help that before bed I said, “Mom, if you hear a little loud noise like this (insert imitation), don’t worry it’s just the geckos that live in my room. They crawl up and down the walls and ceiling.” WHHATTT!?!? Geckos? I said how they were harmless and they don’t bother you, but that didn’t help too much because at the time she thought these were big lizards I was talking about, when really they are these tiny little things. I think previous blogs mentioning scorpion stings and bugs crawling into ears didn’t make her feel much more at ease either. I reassured her of our safety and well-being time and time again, but she still had her doubts and fears about being here in Honduras and coexisting with the many critters who also call my room home. Regardless of that, as soon as her head hit the pillow, she was out like a light.

So the neighbors who live next to our house own a ton of chickens and roosters, so poor Jazzy was woken up at the crack of dawn by several roosters doing their thing. Between having the ability to sleep like a log and mentally blocking out any and all Honduran roosters while sleeping, I have become quite immune to these little guys even though they often crow a few feet directly outside of my window. Sure enough, my Mom had gotten the Honduran wake-up call and she was up the same time as all the men heading to work in the pineapple fields for the day. I was able to sleep through it all, but eventually woke up a bit earlier than usual to get our day started. I was up early and ready to get a quick workout in. I said, “Mom you want to see what I do here and this is a big part of everyday.” So while I worked out, Mom grabbed my yoga mat and did some of her normal morning stretches which I imagined she needed quite a bit to cope with the stress. After delightfully sweaty Insanity workout, I took to the kitchen to whip up some omelets for the weary travelers. Another volunteer, Vlad, had arrived with Eve and my Mom so he got to experience a little bit of the craziness before I did. I threw together some Western omelets for Vlad, Eve, and Mom, and after a hardy breakfast we were off to La Ceiba.

So happy for my Mom to be here! Making her an omelet

I have been here for so long that few things that I see surprise me. It was so refreshing and funny to see my Mom’s reactions to things that have become so routine and regular to me. The fact that cows and horses just wander through the streets unattended and children as young as 5 can be seen casually strolling around with a 2 foot machete are things I see every day, but to her it was so crazy The one thing she couldn’t get over was how there was barbed wire fencing everywhere and kids would be running and playing around them. As we drove along the road into La Ceiba, I was able to point out tons of different things that I thought she would find amusing or just fascinating. At one point, we did pass some of the roadside clowns which I’ve talked about in a previous blog so I was happy about that. She has read and I have told her about so many of the different things down here, but the fact that she was getting to see all of this in person was my favorite part. Simply driving from El Porvenir to La Ceiba is an experience in and of itself.

Roadside clowns always ready to brighten your day…even if they aren’t feeling that bright

So when we are getting pretty close to the center of La Ceiba where we needed to go, traffic, which is normally pretty bad, had come to a complete halt. It was not moving at all so we figured there was an accident or something.  There is only one road into and out of La Ceiba, so if it is shut down you are pretty screwed. Luckily we were close enough that it seemed people were able to turn off on some side streets and traffic slowly moved. So what was the delay? Well, in true Honduran fashion, a large mass of grumbling protestors were on strike and completely blocking the one road into town. I guess that is one way to be seen. If you block the one road that everybody has to use, chances are a whole lot of people are going to see you. I am sure they had all the required paperwork and permits though to protest on the only highway into a major city, so we couldn’t complain. Strikes are such a regular part of life down here. Mom, you wanted to see what life was like here? There’s just a little taste.

First stop in La Ceiba was the mall. Vlad, Mom, and I were going to get some food shopping down there and just hang out for a while because Eve was off signing some papers for real estate she had just sold. First stop was the Tigo store to register my SIM cards for my phone, and then we just kind of walked around and browsed most of the stores. At one point, Mom stopped and said something along the lines of “If you asked me this time last year I would have never thought you’d be in a mall in Honduras, but if you would have said I would also be here, I would never have believed you.” This is quite true. I still couldn’t believe I was shopping in a mall in La Ceiba with my mom. She said it’s so weird because it looks and feels just like a mall back home…except I can’t talk to anyone here and no one speaks my language. Don’t worry though, she did throw out a few well time “Holas” when the time was right. The mall here is so fancy now though, that we have an Apple Store. It’s very exciting

The La Ceiba Mall now has an Apple Store?? It eve has geniuses working inside

Just hanging out in a Honduras Mall getting a coffee like it’s normal for her

For all your USA clothing needs

Off to the Mega Supermarket to buy some food for the week and a dinner for everyone. Again, it felt so normal for me to be browsing the aisles of the same supermarket I have shopped in many times before, but there I was with my mom picking out food. Definitely a great experience because I got the go to guide for how to pick out the best fruits and vegetables. Usually I just take a shot in the dark and grab whichever one I think (having now knowledge of what’s good) looks the best. After buying a ton of food, we went to Ace to pick up some things for a new room that was built for Eve. I seem to have the inability to walk into a hardware store and not buy things, so I picked up a few things I knew I needed for the construction projects. We really put Eve’s rental car to the test buy packing it full of bags and bags of food and even some Adirondack chairs. Pictures in gallery. Papa J, you would be very impressed with our pack job and the tie down for the chairs.

We got home and settled in and all of a sudden my fridge had more food than it has ever had in it. It was quite a change from the normal fridge picture which usually consists of nothing but eggs, chicken, boxed milk, and some veggies. So I am just organizing some things, and before I know it the smell of frying garlic and onions started to fill the air. It happened so fast. I don’t think Mom could control herself anymore, and she was determined to make her son a home cooked meal- the best kind of meal of course. Before I knew it, there were like 3 frying pans sizzling and the salivating commenced. I went up to get Eve to come eat with us, and her reaction to Mom cooking was priceless. She walked into the kitchen, stopped in her tracks, and she was just like, How did you do that? How did you just throw together a dinner so fast like that like it was nothing? To me this was just the norm, but for much less people. After more than 20 years of throwing together meals for 7 kids in record time every night, a meal for 3 people is child’s play. You have to learn to cook fast because there was always a small window of cooking opportunity in the Beal house. At any given time, there was always someone who needed a ride somewhere or something to do. This was no hamburger helper dinner either and a far cry from my typical baked chicken with a can of peas. We had pan fried chicken, a medley of sautéed vegetables, pasta, and some salad. I have no doubt that this was the best meal that emerged from this kitchen since I have been here, and it was done in a fraction of the time it would have taken me. So my first “home” cooked meal in months was in a small kitchen by the beach in El Porvenir, Honduras. It couldn’t have been any better.

No Big Deal, just cooking up a storm to give my son a home cooked meal

The cooking did not stop there though. Joan Beal had been unleashed upon my kitchen, and there was no stopping the woman. After devouring 2 servings of everything, I was ready to sit back and relax for a bit. Not her though, she dove head first into some more cooking and baking. We were having a party for all the English class kids the next day and she was intent on making cookies and brownies. Oh and we were both making dinner for all of the volunteers the following night, so she figured she could get started with cooking the sausages and even baked a batch of brownies. There was no stopping her, so I let Hurricane Jazzy roll through my kitchen and wreak havoc on whatever poor food was set for her destruction.

She cannot be stopped. Cooking brownies and sausages at 930pm

Mom wanted to experience Honduras, and Honduras was ready to provide. We had the pleasure of enjoying one of the infamous power outages that love to make their appearance quite often. I don’t mind them when they come about during the day, but at night is not the most pleasant thing. Fans here are my best friend. I pretty much can’t sleep unless I have a fan blasting air at me, so power outages mean no fans, which means no sleep and a whole lotta sweat. Sometimes the power goes out for like 5 minutes, and other times for days. Poor Mom already had a tough enough time trying to sleep in a country she already hadn’t felt completely comfortable in, so the power outage, complete darkness, and lack of fan was not making things much easier for her. Welcome to Honduras Maj

The power didn’t want to go come back on until lunch time the next day, so there was a whole lot of sweat and not much sleep. I was still hoping to get some construction work done while my mom was here, but since the power was out all morning, we couldn’t do anything. Commence the Day of Cooking…

Armide, who I had been teaching with for 4 months, was leaving soon so we were having a party with all the kids. We were tasked with bringing some cookies, brownies, homemade chips, and salsa. We also had to prepare some food for the group dinner that night, so we hit the cutting boards. It was the first time I got to sit and hang with just my Mom, so it was so great catching up. We were dicing onions and peppers while we talked for a few hours. It was such a relaxing morning. What I thought would take an hour or 2, turned into a 4+ hour ordeal of chopping, deep-frying, and baking. When she offered to bake some cookies and brownies for the party, I was preetttyyy pumped. We ran into a few roadblocks though. With no measuring cups and baking materials completely different than back home, we weren’t exactly getting the desired cookie outcome. Apparently there are a few Honduran baking secrets we weren’t quite aware of, because the cookies kept melting together on the cookie sheet into one giant rectangular cookie. So the snicker doodles were more of a conglomerate of baked cookie batter. She was ready to throw out the cookies, and said there is no way that I can bring these they look terrible. Mom, these kids will devour any sugar filled item you put in front of them, don’t worry, I said, you will see. So we just broke the giant sheet cookie into as many different pieces as we could. Nachos, Salsa, Brownies, and cookies?? in hand, we were off to the party.

We got the full celebrity treatment upon entry. Around 40 kids were all screaming “Hi Jim’s Mom!” was we walked in and a bunch of kids ran up to us and started taking pictures. We dropped all the food off on a table loaded with cake, soda, candy, cookies, and plenty of 3 liter sodas. I loved being able to introduce my Mom to all of the kids and was so happy for her to be able to see so many of them. After the tornado of Honduran children rolled through the food display, we rocked some musical chairs, some soccer, and some cards. The kids also enjoyed a game of how many nachos and salsa can we pack into Jim’s mouth before he turns red in the face. To my mom’s surprise, every last piece of snicker doodle sheet cookie was gone by the end of the party along with every other piece of food we put out. I was not surprised.

Receiving a Celerity Entrance to the party

Armide’s party was over and it was back to the kitchen to prepare for the volunteer dinner. On the menu for the evening was one giant pasta dinner complete with homemade meatballs, sausage, and Grandma DiCarlo’s homemade gravy (tomato sauce for us non-Italians provided by my Brother-in-Law’s grandmom). Luckily, we cut up all of our food earlier, so we threw together a salad and put some Italian bread in the oven to make garlic bread. I decided to get a little fancy and put out some candles and made a nice classical music playlist to accompany our meal. Everyone came over and we enjoyed another fantastic meal courtesy of the Mamadukes. The day of cooking had come to an end, and it was up to the 3rd floor roof deck for some good beers and conversations with everyone. It was a chance for us to give everyone a great meal and a chance for my Mom to meet all of the volunteers and get to know the people I spend most of my time with. After a long day of working hard, it was a great way to unwind and everyone got to see how much fun my Mom is. I heard countless “I love your Mom” or “Your mom is so much fun.” Old news to this guy though.

Big pasta dinner for everyone!

Pasta Dinner for Everyone

Hanging out on the roof deck

After a very busy few days, we were ready to relax, and I was set on walking around El Porvenir to show her all of the different places and introduce her to lots of different people. First stop was the second bathroom project I built. I wanted her to meet the family and see some of my work. They were so friendly with her and gave her many hugs. At one point, I was not sure if one of the women was going to let go of my Mom. I loved the interaction between them because they could not communicate at all, but they just kept talking and talking to her and giving hugs.

Bathroom Project Family, Mom, and some serious hugging

Next stop was the first bathroom project and Grandma’s kids who have been mentioned several times throughout this blog. Mom received the same reception there. Hugs all around from all the kids.

Mom and Grandma’s kids

Then it was off to meet Oscar Funez. He was very happy to meet my Mom, and he got a good laugh from how hot and sweaty we looked from just walking around. It was mid-day at this point, so completely understandable, but Hondurans avoid the sun like it’s the plague at mid-day if they can. Don’t waste your time asking a Honduran to walk somewhere to do something in the afternoon, because it ain’t happening. We walked a good bit and someone was yearning for some Air Conditioning, something that is quite foreign round these parts. I couldn’t provide such a thing, but the next best thing was a beachfront meal with a nice ocean breeze coming through. Another great lunch and another great time to be able to sit and hang with my Mom.

Lunch on the beach at Maura’s Place with some natural Air Conditioning

After another trip into Ceiba to the Honduras “Wal-Mart” (País), we drove around el centro for a bit to just show some more of the city. Dinner was Mom’s first Baleada and Pastalito.

It was Saturday morning, and everyone was headed to Pico Bonito National Park to hit up a waterfall. People jumped into Eve’s car and piled into the back of Charlie’s pickup. The waterfall was beautiful. A bit smaller than Pulhapanzak, but beautiful nonetheless. There was a path to climb higher up the waterfall, so some of us were off to climb up the different levels of waterfalls and rapids. The path was a bit sketchy and definitely a bit dangerous at some points, but everyone did fine.

Another group shot

While we were there, Eve, Amalia, and my Mom headed to a lower spot to swim and just relax in the water. As they entered the water, Amalia mentioned that all the little fish in the water like to swim up to you and take a bite of your dead skin. I imagine that was fun to know going into the water. I, on the other hand, was climbing up small waterfalls and jumping off rocks anywhere the water was deep enough. At one point, we swam underneath the waterfall to sit on the rocks behind it. Was a whole lot harder than I thought it was and it took a whole lot of effort. At one point, I was pretty sure Armide had drowned in the process. She was following close behind me and right after I passed under the roughest part of the water to sit on a rock, I turned back and could barely see her through the water. I saw the outline of her head slowly sink lower and lower until it was completely submerged. For a second I thought I would be teaching English classes alone from here on out, but after palming her head and pulling her through the waterfall, it was all good and we had a tragedy free day.

Another potential tragedy was averted thanks to my dear German friend, Jurgen. After enjoying a relaxing dip in the water, my Mom seemed to have some crazy reaction to something and her arms were breaking it in crazy hives and rashes. I wasn’t by her at the time, so I couldn’t see how bad it was. I was off in the distance climbing and jumping off anything I could find. I’m thinking her arm is a little red and we can just put something on it when we get home. I was quite wrong. Poor Mom was like, “Jim I think we have to go. I am kind of having a reaction here.” Clueless to what was going on, I was like a little kid and saying “Just one more Mom, one more,” as I scaled more rocks to get to a jump off point. Suddenly, I was 8 again asking for Mom’s permission to do something while she patiently/anxiously asked me to leave. I was like that kid at the playground who didn’t want to leave. Had I seen how bad her reaction was, I would have shown a bit more urgency. Alas, Jurgen had some Benedryl in his bag and disaster was averted.

So Happy to have Maj here! Such a great week!

I also made friend with some Turkeys

Untitled from Jim Beal on Vimeo.

For dinner, we invited all of Grandma’s kids and their parents to join us at one of the beach restaurants. The kids are so great, and the parents really work hard so we wanted to do something nice for all of them. For a whopping $50, we were able to get full dinners for 16 people. Not bad at all. Plenty of pictures in the gallery. My favorite thing about the whole dinner was translating things for my Mom. She kept telling Iris, one of the Moms, how much she reminded her of herself having so many kids and all. And how her family reminded her of ours when we were younger because there’s kids of all different shapes and sizes running around. The family is very poor and had never been to eat at a restaurant like this before. They have been a big part of my experience here in Honduras, so being able to take them out for a nice dinner was really special.

Noeh and CLaudio from Jim Beal on Vimeo.

After a great dinner with all of Grandma’s Kids and a few extras

It was Armide’s last night to go out in La Ceiba and it was Donna’s Birthday, so I pretty much had to join everyone to go out for the night. Mom was tired and due in for a good night of sleep. So I left her to rest (how well I am not sure, because she just heard that Eve had a scorpion crawling in her bed). After a piñata was viciously beaten to death by Donna and cake was had by all, we headed to Hibou for the night, and in true Ceiba fashion we ended the night with the greatest baleadas from the greatest baleada lady of all time. Pictures of the Shannanigans to follow in the gallery

The pinata is on the wrong end of some serious Birthday agression

Whole lot going on in this picture

Sunday was pretty much our last day because Eve and my Mom were flying out real early Monday. We headed to Church early, and then had some delicious banana muffins which are baked by one of the local women. While I relaxed for a few hours, Mom was determined the fix a sewing machine that has been sitting in our house. Even thousands of miles away from home and outside of her comfort zone, you just can’t keep that woman away from a sewing machine.

The afternoon was quite glorious, because off in the distance on the beach, since 4am that morning there was a pig spinning on a metal pole over a fire just waiting to be devoured a mere 12 hours later. One of the Ex Pats, Mike, who lives here in Honduras decided to buy a pig a few days before, hang out with it a bit, chat it up, and then let it provide us with a pork filled Sunday afternoon. When we arrived, the pig was already on the table and Amalia was slicing, dicing, and dishing out plates of fresh, fresh deliciousness to everyone. It was such a glorious sight to behold. The weather was beautiful; I had a beer in one hand, and a pork sandwich in the other. There was a perfect breeze coming in from the ocean and we kicked back to watch the Honduran Soccer League championship. The only way to describe this scenario was clearly “Que Rico!” Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you ask me. Unless you are a pig. Then I imagine this would be a most unpleasant way to spend your Sunday. Sorry buddy. You did well though and came through for us all.

A Glorious sight to behold. 50lbs of pig cooked slowly and tenderly

As is tradition, I was up early Monday morning to see off our departing guests and provide them with a great breakfast for the road. Western omelets again for Eve and Mom to send them on their way. It was very sad to see them go, and for the first time since I have been here I was hit with some serious homesickness. The week seemed like it went by so fast, way too fast. We didn’t have much time to relax, but what little time we did have to just hang out really was great. Few things better in the world than getting some quality Mom time.

It was by far one of the best weeks I have had here in Honduras. I have never gone nearly this long without seeing any of my family members, so having my Mom here for a week was truly something special. Living and working here has been such a huge part of my life, and to be able to share that with her is one of the best things I could have asked for. When I go home and tell everyone about the people I have met and the places I have been, I will love knowing that my Mom has met many of these people and seen the way I live down here. I can only describe things so much through this blog, pictures, and stories I can tell. Being here and seeing everything is the only way to do it, and I couldn’t be happier that my Mom had the opportunity to do this.

With her departure, things went back to normal and I was back on my regular schedule. Sadly, meals had resorted back to lots of spaghetti and eating tuna right out of the can. I was lucky enough to have a few Tupperware containers full of Grandma DiCarlo’s sauce and some meatballs though.

And so it happened. I still can’t believe that it really did, but some divine intervention decided to drop ticket prices, and Eve came through huge as a traveling buddy. Despite some fears of traveling (justified thanks to headband box man) and some general concerns (major concerns in her case) about living in the 3rd world, Mom was able to push through it all and provide her son with a week full of great memories and a full belly. But as quickly as she had arrived, she had gone. And so Honduras was short a few Coronas and Benedryls, some Gringo in El Porvenir gained a few pounds, a new form of Snicker Doodle was invented, a kitchen was beaten into submission, and most of all, Honduras got a small dosage of Jazzy…even if just for a few days.

Whole lotta pictures now…

It Ain’t Easy Being Belizey

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Since I am a volunteer here in Honduras and technically don’t have a full time job, I am here only on a tourist Visa which lasts 90 days. That means anyone who is staying here for more than 3 months needs to leave the country every 90 days for a few days and then return to renew their visa. I extended mine 30 days back in April to get me into May, but I could only do that once. Since there is some crazy C4 agreement between Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras that counts 90 days in one country the same as 90 days in any of them, I decided I was gonna hit up Belize.

The easiest and cheapest way to get to Belize is a ferry which leaves for Belize on Mondays and returns on Fridays (terrible schedule right?). So I was up with the sun on Monday to catch the earliest bus to San Pedro Sula. 530 I was waiting at the police post and got a bus right away. 3 hours of napping later and I was at the San Pedro Sula terminal which is HUGE by the way. I wandered around for a bit before asking someone where the buses for Puerto Cortes were. I didn’t have time to dilly dally. I was already taking a huge risk trying to leave from la Ceiba and get to Puerto Cortes for the 11am ferry. At this point it was 9 am and Puerto Cortes is only an hour and a half north of San Pedro so I figured I was in pretty good shape. Someone told me to take the express bus which sounded good to me. I wanted to get there fast and having an express was ideal. The buses available were all microbuses, they aren’t the normal school buses you see everywhere around La Ceiba. They are a bit smaller, but sure do love to pack in the people. They have anywhere from 15-25 seats usually and they always come complete with a crazy driver and an overly persuasive ticket guy.

As soon as I walked outside of the terminal to all the craziness of taxis and buses, every person with any type of vehicle is hassling me into their car or bus. I find the buses for Puerto Cortes and before I can even finish saying Puerto Cortes the ticket guy has grabbed my bags from me and thrown them onto his bus. I asked him if it was the express, and of course he said yes, yes this is the express. I said I need to get to Puerto Cortes very fast in Spanish, for which he responded in English, “very fast homie, no problems.” Ok then, I thought I was pretty set. So we take off and I see big signs pointing to a left turn to get the Puerto Cortes. Let’s do this….wait why are we going straight here in the direction that says El Centro??? Turns out this wasn’t an express, and before we headed off to Puerto Cortes we were going through EL Centro in San Pedro Sula. The name of this particular bus line was the Impala Express, but the express aspect of their name was quite absent from their service. Had the ticket man lied to me or was he simply clever with the use of the word express? So while I sat there stressed about the time, the bus was stopping every minute to pick someone up or let someone off. If there were people standing on the side of the road, the bus driver felt the need to stop and the ticket guy would jump out and convince people to get on. Some people would make any movement towards the bus indicating they were going to get on. He would run up to people, start picking up their bags and prodding them towards his bus. I really didn’t get it at all. Was this man pressuring people onto his bus? If it was the bus they wanted to take wouldn’t they just have gotten on themselves? So this 250+ pound man was constantly hanging halfway out the door of the bus yelling at every person we passed. He would rattle off the names of 10 different places we were passing through in less than 5 seconds. My favorite thing is that people who are waiting on the side of the road will not even make eye contact with these guys most of the time. The bus will slow down a bit as the ticket guy yells something to them, but they won’t even pay him any attention and will continue to stare off at nothing. He was clearly talking directly to them, but it didn’t matter. They wouldn’t even give a courtesy head shake to say no. We finally get out of El Centro and we are off on the highway. Good news I guess, but my good friend the ticket guy wants to stop several times for water in which he has no problem spending a few minutes chatting up the people in the Pulperias. We also stop every couple miles to get a time card stamped so at this point I am getting pretty nervous. One of the stops required the man to go up and down about 3 flights of stairs to stamp the card. The pace he moved at was quite painful. This little bus was going to be the reason I wouldn’t make the ferry to Belize and have to take hours and hours worth of buses through Guatemala to get there. I felt like I was looking at my phone every 2 minutes getting more and more nervous. We finally started seeing signs for Puerto Cortes, but I had no idea where in the city the dock for the ferry was. I asked the driver to drop me off at the closest place, which ended up being less than a minute away from the dock. Luckily I had made it right on time, went through immigration, bought my ticket, and was sailing for Belize. Adios for a few days Honduras!

Belize, here I come

Immigration in Belize was not too bad at all. We stopped at the immigration office which was located in the middle of nowhere at what was seemingly a construction site for a new dock, got off the boat for a minute to stand by our bags, and then were let back onto the boat to go on our way.

The Belizean Immigration “Office”

The boat ride itself was very nice and relaxing. The weather was perfect, I napped a little bit, and we could see small islands dotting the horizon the whole way.

I stepped off the dock in Placencia, Belize and the first thing I did was ask where Lydia’s Guest House was in Spanish of course, only to receive a perfect reply in English. Ah yes, English is primarily spoken here. Something I had forgotten until the moment I stepped off the boat. So I was off. 5 minutes into my time in Belize, a strange rasta man approached me holding what looked to be baby lemurs or some type of small monkey or cat type animal. I really had no idea what he had but he was convinced I wanted it. “Ey Mon I kno you wan deese no?” He was persistent, I will give him that, but what did he think I could possibly do with such an animal? This all happened by this street which had a pretty interesting name.

How does a street in Belize get named this?

I walked through most of the central part of the town so I got a sense of where things were before I settled in at Lydia’s Guest House

Lydia’s Guesthouse

My room for the week

I walked around for a bit more to see the beach and a few other things

More beach with white sand

I walked up and down what once held the Guinness Book World Record for skinniest main street. It felt a whole lot like a sidewalk, but apparently it is officially recognized as a street.

Skinniest main street (sidewalk if you ask me)

My tummy was a rumbling and I was ready to go out for a bit. First stop was the Barefoot Bar and Grill where I spent most of my nights in Placencia. Everyone was speaking English and the menu was full of cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, and nachos. I haven’t had a solid plate of loaded nachos in the longest time so there was no doubt that was what I wanted. I was not disappointed

Unbelievable good nachos

I was by myself here on vacation, so I was thinking I better start talking to people and making friends or else it’s gonna be a lonely few days. The bartenders were all really awesome at the Barefoot and the people who were seemingly the locals of Placencia were all very friendly too. I got to talking to lots of different people and found out some of the better places to go each night of the week. Apparently, this particular night the place to be was DeViner’s Lounge. There had been a couple guys who played live music there every week for the past few months and they were leaving the next day so there was a big party for them apparently.

DeViner’s Lounge it was then. This place has a great location right on the beach, and a lot of lounge like seating as implied by its name. It has a great outside stage, and by the time I got there the music was already going and the Hippies of Placencia Belize were out in full force. Turns out, a large population of the white people living in Placencia are from the Hippie generation and have since retired and are now living here. I was probably the youngest person in the bar, but that really didn’t bother me because everyone was friendly and pretty funny too. There was Grateful Dead memorabilia hanging on the wall and a giant Crystal Buddha. This place held such high status in the Hippie World that Bill Kreutzmann, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, has even visited and jammed out here. I never thought I would find myself in Belize, alone, hanging out with the people I was with but I really had a great time. Apparently there were other bars with some younger crowds, but I wouldn’t have traded my night for anything. Every 15 minutes I was introduced to new people and each one was just as interesting as the next. Apparently my week had been planned out for me, cause they told me where to go each night for a good time. The music was really awesome and a great change of pace from the Honduran Raggaeton I am so used to hearing.

Live music

The combination of the owner and the bartender had to be one of my favorite things about this place. The owner was a 60 something year old British guy who was clearly a bit partied out form his glory days but was still going strong. He spent plenty of time living up the 60s and 70s and spent a lot of time following the Grateful Dead. His bartender/best friend was a small Belizean Rasta guy name Kareem. Definitely one of the more interesting duos I have seen in my time.

The odd couple

The popular drinks in Belize are their national beer, Belikin, and a mixed drink called Rum Punch. Belikin was very good. It comes in stout or regular, but the thing I liked about the 2 different varieties is that they come in the same bottle. The bottle labels the info for both the types of beer, and only the difference in the color of the cap reveals which type it is. I also liked that when I bought a beer, with Belizean dollars of course, I received some American dollars as change. I looked at these strange green bills in my hand wondering what had just been handed to me. 1 American dollar is 2 Belizean dollars, so since the exchange rate is so easy and people visit here often, using American dollars is perfectly acceptable.

Hanging out at Deviners, enjoying a Belikin

There are tons of things to do in Placencia, but it didn’t seem like anything was remotely in my price range. Tours to go snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, or whatever all seemed to start around $100 US. Really wasn’t a problem for me though. I spent most of my days sitting on the beach or napping in a hammock. I was even able to fit a little bit of MCAT studying into my crazy busy schedule.

Not a bad place to do a little light reading

A lot of my days were spent just sitting on the front porch of Lydia’s Guest House and talking with the different travelers from around the world. It was really interesting to hear people’s stories about where they had been and where they are going. It sounds crazy, but some of the people I met are just doing nothing but traveling for a whole year or more. Some of the more enjoyable times I had in Placencia were sitting on the porch with a few Belikins and talking for a few hours.

There were only so many days I was just going to sit around doing nothing though. After talking to Kareem one night, he said we should go to the beach the next day with his snorkel gear and we could go out for a bit. Sounded pretty good to me. There’s a perfect spot on the end of the peninsula for snorkeling so that’s where we headed. I saw tons of different fish and even saw a stingray so it was pretty cool, oh and it was free which was probably the best part.

I had nachos almost every day at the Barefoot, but when I wasn’t I enjoyed a few other things. There was a small little stand which sold some unbelievable shrimp tacos and even a guy who made the first real slice of pizza I have had in months complete with sausage and pepperoni. I also had one of the best cinnamon rolls of my life from a little old lady who runs a bakery there.

Every night I was in Placencia, there was bar with live music which was really great. Whether I was there enjoying it with other people I had met or just relaxing by myself, it was nice to always have someone playing music. One of the nights, I had finally met some more people closer to my age. It was a group of people in Placencia for a wedding and 2 brothers who were traveling together. So we started at the Barefoot and ended up at another place called the Tipsy Tuna. There was a live Garifuna band playing which consisted of 15 Garifunas beating and pounding on anything resembling a drum. One guy had 3 turtle shells hanging from his chest to his knees he was playing while another guy was just hitting some sticks together. The combination of all their instruments had such a cool sound and they had a couple little Garifunas dancing in front of the band playing. The Tipsy Tuna is also right on the beach and has a huge outside area so it was pretty nice. The inside has a bar some tables, and some pool tables, but the best thing about it was that the floor was completely covered in sand. So there I was playing pool, barefoot inside this bar. The people I was with were a lot of fun too. At one point, someone started talking about coconut water. One of the brothers, who may have had a few beers and was trying to impress some of the girls in the wedding party, took it upon himself to provide the group with some coconut water. Before we knew it, the guy was 15ft high hugging a coconut tree and ripping coconuts down to the ground. We started grabbing them and smashing them on anything hard we could find and suddenly the next round of drinks consisted of coconut water fresh from coconuts.

The last night I was there I spent seeing some live music with my friends Chance and Danny who I had met on the first night. Chance’s drink of choice? The Harvey Wallbanger. I never heard of it and the bartender hadn’t either, but sure enough it exists. So there I was sitting with a retired Hippie and a small latino guy while this woman with an unbelievable voice was performing in Placencia, Belize.  Can’t say I saw myself here at this time last year, but this is where I was. After she was done, I headed to the Barefoot where I had spent most of my time for some more live music. It is the place to be on Thursday, and it felt like everyone I met all week was there so it was such a good time. I was not clearly the only one having a good time though…

This guys is just living it up and I love it

She was also loving it

Live music at Barefoot with lil wayne???

I wish I had taken more pictures of some of the crazy people I met while I was here, but sadly I only have a few. I have a few pictures in the gallery which you can check out, but they don’t even begin to show the variety of crazy people I met while I was there. I studied a bit, slept a lot, relaxed a bit, listened to live music a lot, met tons of different people, and ate a whole lot of loaded nacho plates. Wasn’t a bad time at all.

So my 4 night stay in Placencia was over, and it was time to jump back onto the ferry to good old Honduras who would legally allow me to live there again. The ferry ride to Belize was relaxing, but the ride home was pretty much the exact opposite. When I got on the boat, I headed for the front where there was the most space with the hopes of being able to spread out a bit and take a nap. I was accompanied in the front by a bunch of other travelers and it seemed like we all had a pretty decent amount of space. In the back of the boat though, there was a whole lot more people crammed together and didn’t look nearly as comfortable as we were. Did they not want to sit by us? Was there something wrong? It turns out there was something wrong alright, but it wasn’t with us, it was with our seat location on the boat. The ride going back to Honduras is terrible compared to the ride to Belize. The waves are much stronger and you ride against them, so every 3 seconds I was bouncing out of my seat and slamming back down. Some of the waves we rode over were big enough I was completely out of my seat and my legs and butt weren’t touching anything. So much for getting any type of relaxing nap or anything. 2 hours of this pounding on my back and neck really took a toll on my spine which hurt for the next 3 days. So now I understand why all the Hondurans were piled together in the back of the boat though. Our luxuriously spacey seats, mine being the closest to the front, were quite terrible. With the rougher ride, people were getting sick too which just added to the pleasantries of the experience. People were just throwing up right into plastic bags and holding them the rest of the trip. The Honduran shoreline was a welcoming site.

Off the boat and back to the Honduran microbuses! From Puerto Cortes to San Pedro Sula terminal, and from there to Lago Yajoa to meet up with Cinthya who lives in Tegucigalpa. So I figured I should check out some other places in Honduras while I was already halfway across the country. Lago Yajoa is the biggest lake in the country and located a few hours south of San Pedro. There is a beautiful waterfall to see there and the nation’s only microbrewery is around the lake. You pretty much had me at waterfalls and microbrews.

I had an insane bus driver from Puerto Cortes to San Pedro this time around. Traffic had gotten pretty bad at one point but he was determined to keep moving. Up onto the sidewalk our van went and we were cruising past all of the backed up cars. Most of the time we were half on the street half on the sidewalk, but then eventually the whole bus was taking up the whole sidewalk cruising at 30mph. Where was this guy when I needed to get to Puerto Cortes earlier in the week? So a few more hours on a bus and I found myself in La Guama which is close to Lago Yajoa.. As I was getting off my bus, the other bus I needed, which happened to be the last bus of the day was literally pulling away. Bummer. I would have to take a taxi. That’s not a problem though, because those things are everywhere in this country right? Not here apparently, and not today because there was a huge mother’s day celebration somewhere that the entire town goes to. So it started getting dark and I was just hanging out with a few of the policemen at the post I was waiting by. I figured that worst comes to worst I could probably pay them and they would take me to where I needed to go. I was constantly on the phone with Cynthia who was already at D&D trying to get them to phone me a taxi. Suddenly a little red moto taxi came puttering up the road, its bright red paint coat glimmering with the reflection of the street lights. This little guy was my way outta la Guama. Moto taxis are pretty much a scooter with a seat attached to the back, and not the fastest way to get around but this little man sure was a welcoming site. I jumped in and a ride that would have taken a few minutes in a cab ended up being close to a half hour. Whatever works though. I was just happy to be at my next stop on this traveling adventure, the D & D Brewery…

After a long day of traveling and a sore back and neck to prove it, I walked into D&D Brewery (which is also where I was staying) and laid my eyes upon something glorious I had not seen for almost 6 months…beer on tap.

Fresh beer on tap! Where have you been?

D&D had a great selection and variety of beers. I sat down for dinner and the first thing they did was bring me a sampler of all their microbrews: an amber, a stout, a pale ale, a cherry wheat, and a cranberry beer. It had such a great atmosphere and classic rock was playing all night on the sound system. Good food, good beer, and a good night.

After a good night’s sleep, my back and neck felt a bit better and I was ready to check out some of the things to do around Lago Yajoa. I was in a spelunking kind of mood, so it was off to Las Cuevas Taulabés (caves) to see some crystal rock formations and spelunk it up. A moto taxi here and a bus there and we were there. My favorite bus of the whole trip was a standard school bus, but the driver installed a flat screen into the front of it so he could watch these really sweet music videos all day. I was loving it

Awesome TV set up in this guys bus

I want to be this guy

Some of the rock and crystal formations in the cave were awesome and others were crazy looking. When we first got there, we just planned to walk through ourselves and check the place out. There was a nice cement path throughout the entire cave, but it was pretty short, and when I saw the area where the spelunking tours go I knew I had to do it. Apparently you’re not allowed to go by yourself, so we headed out to get a guide and the really sweet standard issue hardhat and flashlight that were required. We were off into the darkness and the bowels of the caves. We only walked about 100ft before there was absolutely no light from the lit up pathway so we were pretty happy to have the flashlights. We just kept going deeper and deeper into the caves, climbing and sliding over all kinds of different rocks and mud. Things were pretty sketchy at some points, but nothing too bad. We just moved a little slow. Our Honduran guide, who was rocking a pair of black dress shoe loafers, was flying up and down the cave like crazy. I guess it was nothing to him and he has done it plenty of times before. It was still funny to see this jabroni running, jumping, and climbing up rocks in the dark in his loafers. We went a couple hundred yards deep into the caves so it was pretty cool.

Straying from the path a little bit

Getting deep into the cave with our sweet spelunking equipment

As I’ve mentioned in blogs before, people are always trying to sell you things while you’re on the bus. They get on at bus stops and walk up and down the aisles. While waiting for buses to get to and from the caves, we were on the side of the main highway that runs in between the two main cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro. As buses pass by, mainly the really big luxury ones, they all pull over for a minute or two to let people try and sell some food or drinks to the passengers. The sellers can’t get on the bus and the windows are high off the ground, but no worries, they have their innovative ways. There are groups of these venders who stand in packs on the side of the road, and when a bus stops, they all sprint over to it and start yelling and yelling about the things they have to sell. When someone wants to buy something they run to their window and use a stick with a basket to push their product up high enough for the person to take it. Some have sticks with multiple bags of different types of juices dangling from the top for people to grab and one lady was even selling huge chunks of fried fish. Ideally the passenger would have the right change; the vender just hopes the bus doesn’t pull away before the transaction is complete. I saw a couple of these poor venders sprinting alongside the sides of buses to get the money for something they just gave to someone. Buses pass by so frequently, so these people are just sprinting back and forth across the street all day, bombarding luxury bus windows with their stuff. It was funny to see them all running here there and everywhere and how quickly they would be in and out before the bus took off.

Running to make sales

Marching in line?

After another night of relaxing music, delicious food, and excellent beer, we were off to the Pulhapanzak waterfall. We walked around for a bit when we got there just to see all the different parts of the park, but then we found a tour guide to take us down into the waterfall. The waterfall itself was really beautiful.

Absolutely beautiful. I think the barbed wire really gives this shot some Honduran flavor

After taking in how beautiful it was from afar, we were ready to experience it a little more up close and personal. Into the waterfall we went. Up to this point, our guide had been pretty boring and seemed like he just wasn’t in a great mood. That changed real quickly as soon as we hit the water. Out of nowhere he just says, “We all need hold hands walking through this next part”, then he turns and starts pulling Cinthya along with me in tow as he is constantly just screaming WHEEEEEWWWWWWW. Walking underneath that much water coming down on you was such a crazy feeling. You could barely keep your eyes open and it felt like you couldn’t breathe. We pushed through the main part of the water and then started climbing into some caves behind the waterfall.

climbing into some cave behind the water

So you may be wondering when I got a waterproof camera to take some of these pictures? Well I didn’t, I just invested in a quality ziplock baggie that somehow kept my camera (already like 8 years old) completely dry. It was a great aquatic camera. We walked around through a couple of the caves and coves behind the waterfall and it had to have been one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. It’s hard to describe what it is like to stand below a waterfall of that size, look up at it, and feel it coming down on you.

Thumbs up

After we finished our waterfall caves tour, the guide took us to a small spot where you could jump from a rock about 6ft into a small pool. Was fun and all, but when he asked me if I wanted to jump into the bottom of the waterfall from a much higher spot he did not have to ask me twice.

Jumping into the bottom of the falls

So much fun

So after jumping, climbing up, and jumping a few more times our tour was up and we were ready to head back. The day was over and the park was getting ready to close, but not before droves of the local boys could sneak in first and go crazy. They all jumped the fence and scaled a small cliff walk way to get around the barbed wire gate and fence blocking the path to get into the waterfall. We were still standing there just hanging out and I looked down over the railing of the deck and they were shimmying sideways along the rock face. Suddenly the waterfall had been invaded and these kids were jumping into the water from every spot they could climb to. They were all diving in head first and doing flips. It was crazy

More and more just kept showing up

Last night of my little Visa run traveling adventure was spent at D&D again, enjoying my last night of good beer. They also had root beer and cream soda fresh on tap that were both amazing. Really was a great place to stay.

My little vacation was over and it was a 5am wake up call to catch the first bus out for the dreaded ride back to La Ceiba. I was lucky enough to get on a bus headed to San Pedro with not seats available. Standing on a bus which you can’t stand up straight in isn’t the best thing in the world, but I was holding out for a seat to open up within a reasonable amount of time. Well I was quite wrong about that. Not only did seats not open up, but they continued to pack more and more people onto this microbus. A bus meant to hold about 25 people suddenly had well over 40 people. Just when I thought we had room for no more, this bus would pull over to pick someone else up and people were literally being pushed and packed in by the ticket guy. We were flying down the road and the ticket guy was completely hanging outside of the bus because there was no room inside. Roads here on the smoothest, so every bump is brutal and you are constantly tense while you grab onto anything you can find to help keep balance. So there were people with window seats who were sitting there comfortably, most of them actually sleeping. Then there were those with aisle seats who constantly had sweaty dudes hovering right over top of them and falling into them every time we hit a bump. And there was me and the people happily standing in the aisle. I was sweating like crazy, really tired form getting up early, and was just packed in this aisle with a bunch of Hondurans dudes like a can of sardines. I was so close to the one guy in front of me, I kept getting whiffs of the pound of hair gel he had in his sweet Mohawk. Everything felt so crazy. People were sleeping, this poor old man was in the aisle just fighting the whole time to keep himself from falling, people are hanging outside of the bus, and the woman next to me in her aisle seat was breastfeeding her baby. As I looked around, I noticed that I may have been the only one who looked reasonably miserable. Was this just their normal Monday commute? This insanity was probably just business as usual to them. I don’t think I have ever missed Septa Public Trans more in my entire life. We finally reached San Pedro and people began to unload. I had a seat for the last 10 minutes of my 2 hour joyride.

At the terminal, I had no intentions of going for a cheap bus and not guaranteeing myself a seat. I went with one of the luxury buses, but I still got a sense they overbooked. While waiting in their terminal, I started doing some math and realized there was way more people waiting here than there are seats on that bus. While everyone waited in their seats, I stood by the front door holding my bags for about 45 minutes so I could be one of the first ones on the bus. So I ended up getting my window seat, popped in my headphones, and passed out before the bus even left the station. Getting back home felt pretty good. I had my fair share of buses and boats for a while and my bed looked ever so inviting.

So I saw and did a whole lot of new things this week, and I loved every second of it. I only wish we were forced to take vacations every 90 days back home

Also, Hondurans will never understand how my name is spelled

Apparently this is how you spell Jim. Now my bag says Jen in permanent marker

Despite spelling my name out, I was still listed as this on my bus ticket