Honduras *intial impressions*

Honduras Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 1 › view all entries

It's hard to recollect where I was exactly when I stumbled across an ad on Craigslist advertising for a teaching position in Honduras. I'm sure I was browsing the web at some sort of employment agency, a public library, or perhaps slyly crouched behind the screen of a computer in the principals office at one of the many schools I tutored at. What I do clearly remember, however, is how I had been feeling at the time. It was if my life in Chicago was one continous, chaotic rollarcoaster ride, manned by a leathery, toothless gimp with a thyroid problem and swollen humpback. Chicago felt like a gargoyle, hell my life in general felt like a gargoyle let me not blame Chicago. I was stony and blank during the day, coming to life and wrecking havoc on the innocent at night. It was to much into the same routine, the same drinking buddies and get high buddies, the same yearning to get laid and get paid, to see something new, to feel, lord, to feel something new.. 

     I had been searching for a way out for awhile. Since I had been working in the education field for two years prior I finally decided I was a viable enough resource, that I was ready to finally give teaching in a classroom a chance. But I wanted to travel before I settled down in a career, not stay right here in America my entire life. My guilt rode on me, though. I knew the hood needed me more. But dammit if I knew I had to see life, had to get these maggots out of my brain and rise above all the muddy earth, ascend, see things from a distance. I wanted to trod upon a "normal" path, one that I could ride steady and not find the nearest exit ramp and seedy hotel once I grew tired.  At first I flirtted with the idea of going to South Korea, but recieved many a horror stories on the interactive conditions between S. Koreans and black folks. That was something that has always bothered me, for the negative feedback our skin procures seems to be the status quo all over the world. It's as if the demonization of black folks has been virtually....exported.

Nonetheless I felt to not consider S. Korea would be limiting myself. So I sent in resumes, cover letters, etc. and was finally granted a phone interview, where the recruiter mistook me for a white dude.

Recruiter- "You would like it down here and you could even learn the language too. Maybe take a girl out on a date and you could teach her English and she could teach you Korean."

Me {grinning behind the reciver}- "Yeah, yeah, sure, that would be a possibility."

Recruiter- "You might find that this is the first time you'll be a minority somewhere. You might feel a little...well, overwhelmed."

Me {chortling audibly}- Oh no, that's not a problem. I'm pretty tall so I find myself being a minority everywhere I go.."  

When I stumbled across an ad for a teaching position Honduras I thought I had found my golden ticket. I immediately applied via email and was emailed a few weeks later that the position had already been filled but could she, the woman who ran the school, keep my resume on file? My heart sank. I had been desperately trying to turn my life in some sort of intriguing new direction, yet no open paths seemed to pan out. Needless to say this information was yet another stinging blow to my already battered esteem. I obligingly agreed to let the woman keep my resume, knowing full damn well that when most potential jobs say they will keep your resume on file it's the same as saying to a one-night stand with horrible morning breath and a posterior you didn't notice the night before that you will call them the next day. I imagine interviewers in their office, phone tucked under their chins while you prattle on about qualified you are, motioning their co-workers over while waving your resume in front of their stuck up noses like some outlandish pamphlet of religious propaganda, doubling over in laughter, muffling their guffaws and he-haws in their sleeves.

..:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> 

            Four months later I was surprised to receive an email from the woman asking if I still wanted the position and if I could start in February (I believe it was then January). I declined, not because I didn't desire the opportunity the position had to offer but due to the many things one has to sever in order to break free from routine. I had to finish the year with my job, pay off the rent to my apartment, pay off bank bills. I had inner demons I had to slay, friends I had to say goodbye to, feeble Grandparents I had to lie to about where I was going•It was a drawn out affair. The woman agreed that August would be a more suitable time for me to come and I was elated. After many more emails, letters of recommendation sent, one phone call; the job was finally "officially" offered to me. Their remained only one pressing matter, the woman later mentioned after I sent a recent picture of myself, only one thing that was going to set my professionalism off, make parents clutch their sons or daughters close to them in horror when they arrived to greet me and pick up report cards; one thing that was going to diminish me as a "culturally unacceptable man"…my hair. You see my hair is different, and it is long, at least in the back. I have what you would call cornrows (which are like French braids attached to the scalp) on the tops and sides of my head, with one long dreadlock that sprouts out from the back like a ponytail or a long piece of clay that one would push out the circle shape on a playdoo toy. It hasn't been the source of to much tribulation at my jobs, especially if I tie it up neatly. Though at some schools principals would look unnerved, their eyes constantly stealing furtive glances at my head when I would talk to them about this or talk to them about that. The kids however..well, the kids would love it.

The woman running the school asked me over the phone the one and only time we heard the rise and pitch of each others voices if I would consider cutting it off. I, not wanting to jeopardize the job, especially after having told everyone and their mamma I was going to Honduras, told the woman I would consider it, knowing good and goddamn well I never would.

            I met someone a month before I left Chicago and moved to San Francisco to stay with my parents until I left for Honduras. I hadn't planned on falling for her as I did. It just…sort of happened. She was a real beauty, one of those special ones you're always looking for but keep passing every day on the street as you head to a job you hate. She had a mind like a rotary phone, always spinning, so much into the passions of this world whatever I felt was important paled in comparison. At the time I'm writing this she's shacked up with another woman. What we had is not meant to last.

            I didn't believe I was going to Honduras until the day I was to depart arrived. I woke up hungover as shit, still woozy off the previous nights revelry of booze and coke and the 80$ hooker who tried to excite my stoned cock with her frigid mouth in the back of the restaurant I worked at for the summer. Nonetheless I managed to get myself together, gathered and packed what I hoped at the time were my pure essentials and slip into what I believed then was the right frame of mind. By the time it was ten o'clock in the PM (my flight departed round' midnight) I was a nervous wreck. The nervous wailing I felt rising in the back of my throat was chocked down by just as an intense, emotionally involving feeling•anticipation. What was this place going to be like? (I had done my homework so I had what I believed to be at the time a fairly good idea). What were the people of Honduras like? The climate; my co-workers, the living conditions? What was the school like, the students like? Would I be an effective teacher? I should add here that the woman running the school warned me parents might not like me, mainly due to the to the previous years teachers similar race as mine. He had been a maniac, breaking chalkboards when he was hungover, berating kids, making them cry. He would take naps at his desk with the earphones of his ipod beating against his skull like a snakeskin drum. He wouldn't explain anything to the kids, just give out mammoth amounts of homework and slap a bad grade on it if he didn't like the way it looked. This brother set the bar pretty high for me (or low, I guess, depending on how you look at it). I had to be the best teacher they had ever had, the woman running the school had mentioned. Sure, I told her, no problem..   

            The plane ride to Honduras was fairly uneventful. I flew from San Francisco to Houston where I had a three hour layover. When I found a parking lot to smoke a much needed cigarette the heat nearly whooped my ass sideways. Smoking was like inhaling pure fire, that's how incendiary the oxygen is out there. Even then, leaning back against a wall and smoking a hand rolled cigarette the idea of going to Honduras seemed far-fetched. I was positive I was going to board the connecting flight, the pilot was going to circle around for a bit over Houston and suddenly make an abrupt be-line back to San Fran, shouting "Sike!" over the intercom as the entire crew and passengers simultaneously turned toward me, pointed and laughed hysterically.

            This was not the case. In fact once I boarded the connecting flight from Houston to Honduras I realized everything was transpiring accordingly, without so much as a hitch or broken mare. The plane ride was pleasantly short as well, two, maybe two and-a-half hours tops. As we neared San Pedro Sula airport I peered out my window to observe the impossible bevy of trees and hilltops, lush greens and vibrant blues and yellows. Out of nowhere the man I had been sitting next to in silence the entire plan ride leaned over and struck up a friendly conversation:

            "Are you from Honduras?" he asked politely.

I looked at him incredulously and replied a simple "No." He noticed the look on my face and chuckled warmly.

            "I know, I know, doesn't seem like there would be black people here but there are, you'd be surprised. They live along the coast, they're Garifunas. They're just as dark as you."

I feigned wonderment though I already knew this fact. I was more surprised that he mistook me for a Honduran. No matter how much shit black folks have gone through in America it is still is the only home we know. We are an empirical fuel in this countries entertainment and artistic machinery. With that comes a certain degree of arrogance.  It surprises us at times that people would mistake us for anything else. I mean, do you see how I'm dressed? How cool I talk? The dip in my stride, the kink in my hip? There are times when one has to open his or her eyes and acknowledge the beautiful diaspora that is black culture. We are cool everywhere, from Glasgow to the Mediterranean Isles.


            Feeling a bit apprehensive about my upcoming sojourn I did not want the conversation to stall and crash like an airplane burdened with faulty engines. I wanted to know about Honduras from someone I assumed lived there, someone I assumed would be honest about what Honduras was like.

            "You from here?" I asked, "Your English is pretty good."

The man smiled, gazed past my head and out of the airplanes window to where Honduras lay, with all its violent, back lashing history, standing out now like an oasis. He finally looked at me and I could notice the love brimming in his eyes.

            "Yes, I was born here, but I've lived in Miami for eleven years now. I work construction, got a pretty good job, friends. But I could lose my U.S citizenship if I came back here and stayed for a long time."            "What brings you back here now?"

For a moment his eyes darkened though his features remained sanguine.

            "My father died a week ago•"

            "I'm sorry to hear that." I rudely sputtered.

The man gave me a painful smile. It was neither weak nor made of concrete.

            "Thank you but it's good to be back home, to see my family, my old friends, this beautiful country I left behind."


            We continued talking while the plane circled and prepared to land. He told me about gorgeous the women were out here, how beautiful Honduras was. We talked about the tropical and mountainous weather Honduras boasts, the immigration debate raging in Capital Hill and daily in people's living rooms; back and forth across their dinner tables. Once we landed I thanked him, took a deep breath, and excited the plane.

            As soon as I strayed far enough from the plane I noticed a profound change in my environment. The humidity nearly chocked me like a sinister gloved hand. The airport itself, though certainly not dilapidated, seemed as if it hadn't recovered much from Hurricane Mitch which devastated Honduras in the early nineties. Nothing had changed since the eighties. The colorfully drab paneling and almost velveteen carpeting, the ads for Coco-Cola and Pepsi sporting young, attractive Hondurans grinning as though in a sachrine craze; the sickly glow which cast down from elementary school-esque phloresant lights•it all made me feel as if I had stepped off the wrong plane  and into the wrong airport, say Las Vegas circa 1983. At the customs line peoples face bore either an unconcealable job or visible disappointment. I didn't notice any Gringos, which made me feel strangely happy. The two gruff and bowling ball shaped men checking my bags at the custom line acted as if they were fed up with me. Perhaps it was my infantile Spanish or the dazed look I gave everything. I felt like the newly arrived immigrant stepping off the boat and onto the harbor of Ellis Island for the first time, awed by everything yet stifled and overwhelmed, wanting to make the best out of something brand new and terrifying.    

            After I proceeded through customs I found myself standing in the airports main vestibule. I found myself a seat next to a Wendy's that had a line leading to its shiny countertops practically out the door. 15 minutes and countless seconds of people watching later a creeping realization began burrowing into me like parasitic worms: the woman who was to be picking me up was, in fact, nowhere to be found.


            I waited for what seemed like an eternity, growing frantic with each passing century. I tried to think about what I could do, who could I call and how exactly would I go about doing that? I hadn't changed one dime of US currency into Honduran Limpiras (due to exchange rates at airports being notoriously high). I knew practically no one out here as of yet and I was certain no one back home in the states would be able to help. I had the woman's cell phone number, but that was it as far as pertinent information went. So at the time I felt I had only one viable option: sit my happy ass down and wait.

            I won't say lucky for me due to the way the entire ordeal finally turned out, but I will say some spirit in the sky blessed me with a few heavenly happenstances. The man whom I had been sitting next to on the plane was milling about, waiting for his brother to pick him up. He ambled up to me as my head twirled and whirled in a distraught manner, grinned happily and struck up another friendly conversation.

            "See," he said, pointing to a table stuffed to the gills with black folks, "There are black people here."

            "Word that's wonderful," I said a little too bluntly. "But I need you to help me man. The woman who is supposed to pick me up hasn't arrived yet. I've gotta find a way to call her."

            He looked at me quizzically as I fished the womans number out of my pocket. He studied it carefully, deep lines furrowed in his brow.

            "If you don't have limpiras or a calling card you can't use the pay phones here." He mused. "Though I'm pretty sure the police can help you."

            The last thing I wanted to do was get the police involved. I had no choice though, and after a few nano-seconds of aggravation I agreed. My new friend rushed off to find a police officer, which, by any means, was not difficult. They openly strolled the airport with AK 47's and shabby looking shotguns. They had faces carved out of stone, some teeming with the wary look of someone who has actually shot someone, or seen someone, possibly a campenero, blasted by a bullet. When my new friend returned he had a police officer in tow, a tall gentleman with glinting eyes and the same Snicker toned complexion as I. Except his features weren't like mine. He looked like a Mayan dipped in chocolate.

            My new friend informed me that the police officer had a phone but no minutes and thus needed a few limpiras to buy some. I gave him five US dollars, which equals out to about 100 limpiras. More about what that can buy later. The police officer casually walked off, returned a short time later with his phone full of minutes. I called the womans cell phone and no one answered. I called three more subsequent times and grew increasingly despondent over the sound of endless ringtones. I gave up after the fourth try and grimly thanked the police officer. Something akin to empathy flashed briefly across his face and he wished me what I think was good luck as he loped away. My new friend hung around until his brother finally arrived. He too, had a phone and was kind enough to let me treat it as though it were the only answer to a litany of unanswered prayers. I called the womans cell phone again, another five, six times and still no one answered. By this time I felt hopeless and prepared to settle down in the airport for the day, which, in hindsight, would have been a very poor decision. My new friend gave me as well what I believed were the wavering of empathetic eye. He wished me luck as he and his brother walked out the front of the airport, arms slung over each others shoulders, laughing and rejoicing loudly. I sat down and hung my head. Ten more minutes passed. I simply could not think of what to do…

            It would be futile to record every day as it has happened out here. Therefore I think it best if I merely recorded the moments which stand out importantly in my mind. I would be lying if I said just because I am a black man from America living in the middle of Honduras my life has suddenly become an irresistible blend of adventure and intrigue. Really it's quite the opposite. There have been many days I have found myself completely bored out of skull. For my routine out here is pretty settled: I am a teacher. I wake up every morning at around five o'clock, get picked up by our school bus at six and finally make it to school by around six-forty. School begins at seven, ends at 1:45. I teach 5th-8th grade, work closely with four other American teachers (whom I also live with on a school sponsored compound) and a staff of Spanish teachers as well. The children are wonderful, though when I feel surly the experience of working those two years in a school in the hoods of Humbolt Park comes tumbling back. I'm sure my kids think I'm a little off kilter, my roommates too. I try to keep it light and up-beat in the classroom but sometimes you just have to check a shorty. I know there are moments when my kids might not like me to well. Being the kind of person I am I might even fret over that for a bit. Was I being too hard on them? But the next day what ever strife has transpired always ends with a smile and a hug, or a playful jab in the ribs. I love my kids. I'm pretty sure they feel the same way about me.  There are times when I only see my roommates during working hours, so absorbed I get in projects especially designed to help me maintain a semblance of sanity.  When I first began working at the school I developed a crush on a girl I thought could be my trophy wife. I found out she was only fifteen and haven't been the same since..

            As I mentioned earlier our school has a bus that picks us up and drops us off everyday. However there have been mornings when we wait outside for twenty minutes and nothing comes roaring down the road to gather our groggy group. There have been at least two times when the bus stalled on the highway back from school. Days like this demand an impromptu party from students, though I find them slightly irritating. You know, you just worked all day, you want to get home and preferably away from children altogether. But I'm no grinch. Usually the kids infectious energy gets to me too, and a broken down bus becomes a reason to celebrate.

            I can honestly report there has been nothing major (or even trivial) in my school or personal experiences that has ruffled my feathers extensively. O.k., perhaps nothing major except this whole Negrito thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm no naïve tourist so it's not that big a deal. But… people whisper it under their breath, say it right to my face with a hearty smile or drowning look on their faces as they flicker in front of me drunk off their asses from cervezas. Yes, I am black, but little black? Because that's how the word is literally translated. I find the image appalling, a sneering little Sambo, a googly-eyed buffoon chasing after watermelons and lighter skinned women, turning starch white over the sight of a fake ghost springing from a closet. The word makes no sense to me, so I stopped allowing it to be said around me. Until a friend I've made told me it really didn't mean anything, or rather, there was no offense behind it. That made me really confused.

            Insects. So many varieties it could make your average bug lover squeamish. And they're everywhere. Buzzing about your head, crawling on your bed, burrowing their suckers into your skin. They fly into your nose, into your eyes, hell they keep you company at night. I had a moth the size of my hand living in my room for a month. When I would turn the lights off at night I could hear it fluttering about searching for light. My dear friends this moth was so large it sounded like I was keeping a small sparrow for a pet. I remember rather vividly one day at school, after an especially torrential rain, the students and staff all noticed that bugs were literally jumping from the hilltops which surround or school. Spiders the size of quarters, centipedes six inches long, scorpions, beetles, every conceivable insect was swarming into our school. We soon found out why. The insects were literally running for their lives. The entire hill, and soon the entire ground, was covered with a pulsating layer of angry black ants, disrupted from the downpour and hungry for exoskeletons. We all watched in horror and fascination as insect after insect was devoured by this marauding horde.  

            My first initial impression of Honduras was that it wasn't as, how should I put this, Third Worldish' as others led me to believe (Third World I feel is a conceited term so let me just say it wasn't as poverty stricken as I had believed). That is not to say people aren't dirt poor out here. Many times I have seen babies gaily running through a mud puddle stark naked; parents so poor they can't afford to put clothes on their backs. Or bedraggled looking folks covered from head to toe with a layer of soot and grime, sullen eyes and sunken features tattooed into their leathery flesh. But there also remains a rather sizable (or should I say comparable?) middle class. They are not all fat white men with liver spots and belly's turned Napoleonic from years of eating 3 square meals at Denny's, with gorgeous wives who look like Eva Mendez and SUV's and clean looking children. No they are regular Hondureno's, and I have seen many who, by all outward appearances, appear to be flossing many times harder than I.  

            I live in a town named Siguatepeque (pronounced See-gwa-teh-peh-kay). It has one main road which subsequently is where all the supermarkets, electronic stores, restaurants, clothes stores, internet cafes, laundry mats, banks, parks and open air markets settle on either side of it. It is not a large town; I say probably the size of a small suburb. Nevertheless I was surprised to find pretty much any amenity I needed could be found out here. It's extremely easy to live comfortably for around $400-$500 US dollars a month (the exchange rate is 18 limpiras to every one US dollar). With that type of money you can get drunk at your disposal, buy clothes, shoes, even a pretty little woman if you wanted to. Not that I have. It's just that I've heard the running rate from men out here who go to bars or discoteques and pimp out their sisters. For example A fifth of Bicardi will set you back about 100 lps which is around five US dollars. You can get a decent meal at a restaurant for around 50-70 lps. An ounce of weed can set you back around 400 lps (around 20 bucks). A bus in the city costs 15 lps. You can go to the internet café and use a computer for three hours and you'll only be out of 30 lps. You can easily buy a few weeks grocercies, especially if you eat like I do, for around 450-500 lps.

            Siguatepeque has a downtown on the southern end of its main road. Nestled amongst the hustle and bustle of commuters and businesses are two fairly large parks which I go to often to people watch. All the other roads leading off the main road are unpaved, rocky disasters, except one which links to the road downtown and leads to the Pan American Highway. When ever I walk down the street, which is fairly often, I feel as if I've stepped into a Latino version of the Twilight Zone, except I'm the main character in a particularly risqué episode and everyone is glued to their sofas watching me. People are always trying to get my attention. The men have an annoying habit of whistling at anyone's attention they are attempting to attract. When I first arrived here I felt like a tall leggy blond strolling past a row of construction workers on their lunch breaks. I've since become used to it, though, and have embarrassingly found myself doing it as well. There have been times when folks have literally stopped in their tracks and stared at me. My hair in particular seems to be a novelty. I've had conversations where the person, usually a woman, stops mid-sentence, gaze at me curiously and grab a lock of my dreads. "Es eso natural?" They ask with obvious awe. "Si", I respond with a laugh, "De ello todo mio…."

            Siguatepeque reportedly means "The land of beautiful women". And by all accounts I can verify the accuracy in that. Not only are women fine as hell out here, there are so many of them. In no place that I have been have I seen such a high density, such a  high concentration of mind-fucking attractiveness. But these women have so many babies, and at such a young age, that it is hard to find a woman close to my age without a child; literally it would mean she didn't live here or was a lesbian. The men are losers in that regard; they impregnate these chicks and leave them by the wayside, sidling up their girlfriends at night and demanding food and money from their babies momma the next day. Unemployment is high here, and a certain malaise has overtaken the male mind. What's the point of looking for work when there is none? They ask themselves. Thus the women take care of her children and the men expect her to do the same for them. It is not unusual for a woman to work a few gigs. Most of the men I have talked to out here have a child, or two or three children from two or three different women. I am not exaggerating. That is not to say the guys out here are all bad. I've made a few acquaintances, and have gotten along with them just fine. 

            Perhaps that last paragraph sounded a bit too harsh. It perhaps is not that bad. I think that it's just that as I near thirty I've felt certain guilt at gawking at 18 year olds, no matter how fine they are. But as I write this I've found myself cured of that. So let us both move on.


Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Sponsored Links