Saturday, October 29, 2011

Copan Ruinas

One of the coolest spots to see in Honduras (there isn't a massive list, so don't worry) is Copan, the Mayan Ruins. It is about a four hour bus ride from us. So we decided to take advantage of a 3-day weekend and travel to Copan.

But before we left we had gotten word that Copan was closed for the weekend. Apparently every year indigeonous Mayans get mad that the Honduran government is not giving them enough money. So they protest and actually steal pieces of the ruins. They hold them for ransom for a week and when they come to an agreement they give the pieces back and Copan is opened again. Well as we drove into Copan on Friday, this was the scene as we were driving past the ruines. Tones of people!!!

So many Mayans protesting!!
Setting up tarps so they could sleep there. They are hard core!
Lucky for us, they opened the ruins back up. Just in time for us :)

Honduran Man waiting on the side of the road

Another sweet Honduran Man 

Enjoying a drink on night one. Cheers

The next day, on our way to the ruins. 

One of the Mayan temples. This one was for fertility and cosmology. 

Sarah, Kristin and I standing in front of one of the Mayan temples that was more hidden due to overgrowth of  trees and plants. 

Ruins of the higher class Mayans of Copan.

Entrance to go down to the tunnels dug by archeologists.

A tree on top of one of the ruins

Joel, Sarah, Kristin, Ryan, Katie and I on top of one of the temples.

Another Mayan Ruin conquered! 

The Hieroglyphic staircase, which has over 1,250 hieroglyphs. It is phenomenal to look at. 

The ball court, where Mayans played a form of soccer/basketball. If you were the star player, you were killed as a sacrifice and went straight to heaven. 

A few of the Stelae's, which are structures meant for ceremonial purposes. 

Taking in the different pieces of ruines that are in the museum.

After a long day, who can resist traditional German beer? Yes I officially have gotten traditional German beer by Tomas, the German brewer in Copan and the foam got stuck to my nose!! I dove right in!

Eating street food with Jenna. The best tamales I have ever had!

Dancing in the streets of Copan with Jenna. 

The rainy streets of Copan.

We had another successful trip in Honduras!! 

Que Vaya Bien!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Feliz Cumpleanos

If you asked me a year ago, what I would be doing for my 28th birthday, I wouldn't have put myself in Honduras. A year ago I had just picked up from California, moved to Colorado and was looking forward to starting grad school in January. I was working for an amazing family nannying their two beautiful girls and a few months later would fall in love with my best friend. I started grad school with the hopes that I would make connections and get a teaching job. Unfortunately, teaching jobs are scarce in most states.

I was left without the possibilites of teaching in Colorado. I was at a fork in the road: continue on the path I was on, nannying and going to grad school. Basically living a life that wasn't fulfilling my passion. Or take a leap of faith and try teaching abroad. 

So here I am a year later. My life is filled with great new friends, adorable students and a Central American town unlike any other.

This is how I spent my 28th birthday. :)

My students have been begging to meet Esperanza and hang out with me on the weekend. So I thought it would be fun to meet them in the Central Park, bring Esperanza and a few goodies the day before my birthday. I should have known they would exceed my expectations. 

As Jenna, Kristin, Sarah and I walk into the park, I look around for my students...

Out of no where I see about 8 little bodies at a dead sprint, heading straight for me. I looked at Jenna and Kristin and we just started laughing. They were so cute running across the park, all yelling my name. 

They were so excited to see me and meet Esperanza. I thought they were going to fall over with excitement, all yelling at once. It was a small Honduran mob, trying to give me hugs and give me their presents. I had specifically told them, 'I don't want presents. I just would love to see your smiling face at the park.' But of course none of them listened and brought presents. I guess I should not be surprised that they weren't listening. hahahaha

We spent the next 3 hours hanging out, playing games and eating cookies. It was so special to me because I felt so loved. Not only by my students, but by my roommates Kristin, Sarah, and Jenna for partaking in my first Honduran birthday. 

A few of my girls :)

Silly kiddos got me presents. 

I was asking them if I looked fancy with my new feather head band??

My roommates and I with a mix of my students, Sarah's 5th graders and Kristin's 2nd graders. (Notice the kid in the upper right corner. That is Carlos, he is one of my students. This sums up how he is, doesn't matter where he is, he is ALL over the place, ALL of the time. But I love him). 

Playing Landa (tag in Spanish). Shocker they are chasing me. 

Two of my favorite kiddos. Lisbeth and Ricardo. They are both a little camera shy, but have big personalities. 

Carlos imitating Lempira, the Lenca chief who died in battle against the Spanish. He became a national hero and the currency was names after him. Carlos, in my eyes, is doing a great job imitating the statue. 

A few of the 5th and 8th graders. The 3 boys are my favorite in Sarah's 5th grade class. 

But the fun wouldn't stop there. 

Later that night, Kristin and I were making dinner, when I heard my name being yelled very loud outside. So I went out on to our balcony and outside our house was our friend from school, Anna Maria. Shebrought a cake and 6 of her Honduran friends to celebrate my birthday and my roommate Kristin's (whose was the week before). We ate cake and sat around and chatted with the girls (all in Spanish, Anna and her friends don't speak English). They were telling me how lucky I am that they don't know me very well because if they did they would have thrown water, eggs and flour on me for my birthday. Definitely glad I missed out on that Honduran tradition!! 

I topped the night off with beers with my 3 sweetest friends. 

A birthday beer with Jenna, Sarah and Kristin. 

And without surprise, my birthday celebration lasts longer than a day. I was treated to a pancake breakfast with all my roommates on Sunday :)

Esperanza was highly involved in the making of my birthday pancakes.

All 8 roommates eating pancakes with me. 

I had an amazing birthday. It was filled with love, laughter and friendship. I couldn't have asked for anything more. 

Feliz Cumpleanos!! 10/09/2011!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Robbery at Casa Amarilla

So living in a small town has its positives and negatives.

One is very apparent. Most everyone knows who we we and where we live. There are only about 30 Americans living in the town of Gracias and 10 of us live on the same street. Needless to say we are watched whether we like it or not. 

A few days before we left for our Independence day vacation, we had spoken to our neighbor, Norma, who was watching Esperanza for the weekend. Norma had kindly warned us that we should not leave valuables in our house for our long weekend away because people know that we will most likely be traveling. She told to us about a similar situation last year that the Minerva teachers had their house broken into on the same weekend and we just needed to be aware. 

The morning we left for Lake Yojoa, I put my computer under my pillow, stashed my money in a pocket of a pair of pants and put my phone in my makeup bag. It didn't even cross my mind that 24 hours from that moment someone would be going through my room looking for stuff. 

The next day our neighbor Norma came over around 6 a.m. to feed Esperanza and found the entire upstairs part of the house open. All doors and 2 windows were wide open. She immediately called Julie, an American teacher that has been here for 3 years, to tell her what happened. From there our landlord, owner of our school and Julie's friend came over to find out what was and was not taken from the house. They found my computer under my pillow and my phone still in my makeup bag. I decided not to tell them where my money was because I didn't want them rifling through my clothes in an attempt to find my money. If the robber wasn't smart enough to look under my pillow, I highly doubt he was smart enough to rummage through all of my pants pockets to find money.

So we spent our vacation not worrying about it since nothing major had been taken. 

When we got back, we discovered that my roommate, Kristin's blackberry phone, camera and 300 lempiras($15) were missing. 

Unfortunately for us people don't utilize common sense around here. When we got back from our trip, we found 2 out of the 4 bedroom doors locked. The problem with this strategy is that none of us have keys to unlock the bedroom doors. So as you can imagine we have come home to our house that has been robbed and to add salt to the wound 2 of the girls can't even get into their bedrooms. I was lucky that they didn't lock my bedroom, but they left my phone and a few of my plugs laying on my bed. So if the robber had come back, he would have been treated to a brand new Droid phone. 

So at this point my roommates have to break into their own rooms. Two screens and a broken door handle later, my roommates were finally able to get into their rooms. We were all finally able to assess our rooms and it was clear to us that the robber seemed to only go through our underwear and folded clothes drawers. Bringing us to the conclusion, he was just looking for money. 

My roommates and I sat around and ate pizza that night chatting about who could have done it. It obviously had to be someone we knew. But as we racked our brains we just couldn't pin point who it was. We gave up thinking we were going to figure it out because one can go crazy contemplating all the possibilities. 

A few days later we were presented with some interesting news. 

Norma came over and asked if we were missing a camera. Apparently, she had not been informed that a camera had been stolen. She told us that our neighbor, Tortilla lady, (we call her tortilla lady because she makes and sells tortillas), had come over to her house and had tried selling a camera to Norma's son. So Norma's son looked at the camera and then the pictures and realized that there were pictures of white girls on the camera. He immediately knew it belonged to one of us. So he acted interested in buying the camera and had managed to take a picture of the camera with his phone. He told tortilla lady he would think about it and possibly buy it later. He went to his mom and told her what had happened. 

So when Norma came over, she showed us the picture of the camera and sure enough it was Kristin's camera. We were flabbergasted. How the heck did Tortilla lady get our camera? Norma told us that she was pretty sure that Tortilla lady's 15 year old son broke into our house and that it is less obvious if she is selling a nice camera rather than her son, who apparently has a reputation of stealing. The crazy thing is they live one house away from us. So the minute we moved in he has probably been scheming. 

Norma's plan was to have Tortilla lady come back over with the camera to sell to her son and then she would inform her that we have cameras in our house (hahaha, which we don't, but they don't know that), that we know her son broke into our house and that we were going to go to the police. 

As expected when Tortilla lady was informed that we knew, she crumbled and apologized profusely to Norma. She begged that we didn't go to the police because her husband would beat her son for robbing us. So we decided to give him a chance to come over, apologize and return Kristin's things. If he did this than we wouldn't go to the police. Unfortunately, he never came and apologized. We did get Kristin's camera and phone back though. 

We are still in limbo about what to do about him. I suggested he come over to our house and do community service for us to pay of his debt. But he has been hiding in his house with his tail between his legs. 

The thing that bothers us the most, is that his mom, Tortilla lady, was involved. We used to buy tortillas from her about twice a week. She even taught us how to make them. So the fact that she had the audacity to say she didn't know that the camera came from our house is the most insulting part of the whole scenario. 

So 3 things I learned: 1. Never hide anything valuable in your underwear drawer. That is the first place they look. 2. Most crimes are not random. 3. There are good people in this world, who have your back, no matter what!

Our neighbor Norma and her son showed our house the true meaning of friendship and what it means to be a good neighbor. 

This was the window that he went through. GGGRRRRRR

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lake Yojoa

Every vacation is much needed, but for some reason Honduras' Independence Day couldn't have come at a better time. Sarah, Kristin, Jenna and I decided to go to Lake Yojoa, which is located in the center of Honduras.
As with most things in Honduras nothing is easy. So getting to Lake Yojoa was...shocker not an easy task.

One of our Honduran friends recommended we take the 4:30 a.m. mini-van to La Esperanza, get on a bus to Siguatepeque, then take another mini-van to La Gauma, and then take a taxi to our hostel in Los Naranjos. Nothing is easy in Honduras.

So I should have realized that there was something in the air when I got up that Thursday morning at 3:45 to catch the 4:30 a.m. mini-van to Lake Yojoa. I got on the bus and immediately got myself a window seat. I have developed a severe case of car sickness since living out here. Small mini-vans are the absolute worst for me. They are jam-packed with people, the roads are really bumpy and curvy and it makes for the perfect scenario of misery. So as I mind my own business on this mini-van and attempt to sleep after I took a Dramamine, my seat neighbor figures out that I speak English. My hopes of sleeping through the misery are immediately shattered.

Maya is a 5'2, 70 year old woman from Israel. She has got the thickest Israeli accent, topped with smokers breathe and the raspy voice that comes with years of smoking. She has officially become my seat partner for our lovely trip. I spend the next 4 hours listening to Maya tell her life story. Now under normal circumstances, I might have enjoyed listening to a woman who has been to more countries than I can fathom traveling to in my lifetime, been in the Israeli army and has been a psychologist for over 40 years. But it was 4:30 a.m., I had taken a Dramamine and all I wanted to do was forget that I was on a windy road that makes me miserable. No such luck though.

As Maya and I chat I realize she is traveling alone and meeting us was a bit of a blessing for her. Due to her lack of Spanish speaking skills, she has been taken advantage of and all she wanted was to enjoy her time in Honduras. So before I know it Maya is tagging along on our trip, even talking about staying in our same hostel. I am pretty sure when the other girls realized that she was tagging along they wanted to kill me. Here we are on the beginning of our "relaxing vacation" and we now have a fifth wheel. So I tried to make light of the situation and view Maya as a lesson in caring for others, especially ones who are traveling alone. 

After an exhausting morning of traveling we finally arrive at our hostel, the D & D Brewery. Yes I said brewery, with American Beer. A few years ago an American was traveling through Honduras and could not find any brewerys in the entire country. So he packed up his stuff and moved down to Los Naranjos to open the first brewery. He recently sold it to another American, Bobby Durrette, who gave us a bit of American culture down here. 

Day one at the brewery was spent chillin out by the water, drinking some amazing brewed beer, eating a delicious cheeseburger and chatting with new friends. It was a good way to end the madness that had begun at 3:45 that morning.

 The Canal near our hostel that connects to Lake Yojoa. 

Unfortunately for us day 2 started out on the wrong foot. Jenna’s phone rang at 7 a.m. which was our first indication that something was up. It was one of the other teachers calling to tell us our house had been broken in to. Of course our minds start racing: Is Esperanza ok? Did they break into both upstairs and downstairs? What was taken? The list of questions went on. Luckily for us, Esperanza was apparently going crazy all night long. 

According to our neighbor who was taking care of her, she said Esperanza barked like a maniac all night. Luckily, Esperanza was unhurt in the robbery. So at first glance it seemed like nothing had been taken, but we discovered later that 300 Lempiras, a camera and a cell phone had been taken. They failed to steal my computer, phone and 1,000 Lempiras, which were easily accessible, if the robber had any sense (my hiding spots: computer under the pillow, money in my jeans pocket and phone in my makeup bag). We would later discover who robbed us. But we will save that for another blog ;)

 So drama put on the back burner we decided to go to Pulhapanzak waterfall. We had heard you could walk behind the waterfall and into these caves. An idea the girls and I were not sold on immediately. But after seeing how awesome the falls were, we decided it was worth it.  

We had to descend this huge hill to get to the bottom of the falls and the closer we got the louder and more intense the water got. As we started to climb these mossy rocks, the tour guide jumps off this mini-cliff into the water. I wasn’t sure if I was watching a death defying act or just our tour guide being a complete idiot. After he climbs back up he asks us if we want to jump as well. We all looked at him, like get a clue buddy we aren’t that crazy. But we came to a smaller pool of water that we did decided to jump into. It was the equivalent of jumping off a diving board, nothing crazy but was a must do for the experience. 

After jumping into the pool our guide pulls my hand to get out of the pool so we can climb down these rocks to get behind the waterfall and into the cave. At this point my contacts are burning because the amount of water splashing around me is outrageous. I can barely see or hear. It was a little intense, but I hadn’t even begun to realize how intense it was going to be. The guide has gotten all 4 of us girls to this point on the rocks and he is about to lead us behind the waterfall. When all of a sudden he grabs my hand and leads me blind, under the waterfall and behind it. Here I was standing behind this waterfall alone. I had about every emotion running through me. It was an unforgettable moment. After a few seconds he leads the rest of my friends under the waterfall to where I am standing. It was great seeing everyone's face after coming through the waterfall.

Next he leads us to this cave, which you have to crawl through this hole that is about 4 feet by 4 feet. Sarah takes one look at it and starts to freak out. She is telling me she can’t do it. So it took me a minute to convince her that it was going to be just fine. We finally both crawl through to discover this cave is so small that the five of us barely fit in it. But it was pretty cool. We took a minute to enjoy and then we had to go through the intense process again to get back out from behind the waterdall. As we start to climb down to go under the waterfall, I have the overwhelming feeling of panic. I knew how intense it was getting through the waterfall and I wasn’t sure I could go through it again. I looked at Sarah and told her I needed a minute. So we went back on to the rock and now it was her turn to talk me into. I just didn’t want to wander into the waterfall with my eyes closed and no sense of direction. So the guide comes back and gets us, which made me feel so much better. Even though this guy was a little crazy, he at least knew where he was going. 

After we get though the water we make the hike back up and out of the waterfall. Each one of us laughing at the intense time we just had. Before we had hiked behind it, we had heard that not very many people actually go behind the waterfall because it is so intense and scary. Now we understood why, it was intense. But we had managed to do it. It was something that felt like one of those life moments that you are so scared doing it, but afterwards you are so thankful you did.

So as we walked back to the main road to catch a bus back to the hostel, the police drive by. We were feeling high after our intense adrenaline rush, that we asked the police for a ride. They gladly obliged. I mean who wouldn’t want 4 Gringas riding in the back of their truck? I can’t say that I have ever been in the back of a police car/truck, so I was glad that my only experience was not due to any criminal activity.

I look a little silly but I managed to capture all of us in the picture as well as the truck filled with guys passing us. Immediately after they passed us they were hollering at us. 

That night we were blessed once again with good food, great beer and a fun game of Apples to Apples.

The great part of staying in a hostel that is small is getting to know the people that work there. So on Saturday, Bobby and Anthony, the owner and manager, invited us to a regatta on the lake. We got to hang out with the most white people we have seen since we have been here. There is a large group of English and Americans that live near Lake Yojoa. 

Big bummer though we didn’t get to see any boats race because a massive storm came through. But it was nice to chat with some fellow Gringos.

On our way to the lake for the regatta. Our first time in a car since we have been down here in Honduras. It was a weird feeling. hahaha

The storm that rolled in which stopped the regatta. 

Our last night in Los Naranjos was spent like the previous ones. We had to get up early the next morning to head home.

Our last night at the D & D

It was sad that our vacation had come to an end, but it was an amazing vacation. 

But no Honduran vacation is complete without a little yoga breathing due to an insanely packet mini-van:

Nos Vemos!