Like a Thief in the Night
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Like a Thief in the Night
One evening during the weekend I came with a friend down a road which was reportedly dangerous that time of night, but which I had walked down every prior weekend drunk as shit. I was drunk as shit then too, and we whooped it up, tripping over rocks jutting out from the unpaved roads, almost dropping into ditches.
We had just come from the discoteque were minutes earlier girls had shrieked and ran away giggling when I attempted to dance with them. Everyone in the club topped 5’4, I felt like an intoxicated ogre lumbering over fleeing villagers.
The streets that night were filled with a fine, eerie mist rolling down from the mountains surrounding the town. Streetlights glowed with a hazy pulse in the distance. It was difficult to see to far ahead, but we noticed a guy drunk bike riding, twisting and turning trying to keep his balance. As we approached him he noticed us and began shaking like a wind stroked leaf. He tumbled off his bicycle and spilled onto the street. I walked up to him to ask if he was alright when he whirled around and brandished a machete as long as my arm.
“Whoa, whoa guy chill the fuck out!” I heard myself say. I couldn’t believe I was potentially going to be cut in two so young in life, and visions of what a machete that size could do to the human body began dancing in my head.
My friend rushed up to the guy and I took a few steps back before I realized that I had already taken several. He began talking to him in a soothing voice, calm and collected and glancing every so often at me with a wry smile.
“I know this guy, he’s a friend. He say’s he thought we were trying to rob him.” My friend began translating. He seemed to know everyone in town.
“Tell him I ain’t no beef with him. I’m just trying to get home man.”
My friend laughed and said something to his boy. His boy looked at me and laughed as well and they began talking some more.
“He says he’s going to see to his girlfriend because they are fighting. She wouldn’t answer his phone calls and now he’s going over there,” My friend translated, “He says he has to see her tonight.”
“Tell him talking to his girlfriend drunk as hell with a fucking machete may not be the best way to solve things.” I said dryly.
My friend smiled but didn’t say anything to his friend.
“Tell him I want to see his machete.” I said.
My friend whispered something into his boys’ ear and he shoved his machete towards me proudly. I carefully took it from and felt the edges. It was as sharp as a razor.
“If you ever come down here at night late come with me. I take care of you.” My friend said, breaking me out of the trance the machete set upon me.
We began walking towards my house in silence for a few minutes.
“So, if you weren’t here, would that dude have tried to cut me?”
My friend looked at me with an amused smile.
“Yeah, yeah, probably he would have…”
Dirty Dancing in
One night I went out with my roommates to a local bar and got tossed back like a bowl of salad. Three other roommates left early but another roommate and I decided to visit a newly opened plaza downtown, where there was to be an outdoor concert. I hadn’t been stumbling drunk in awhile, but I was buzzing enough that I bumped around a bit as we made our way to the plaza and cut through the crowd. Easily the entire city was there that evening. We waited for awhile towards the front of the stage as the band set up, then delayed, then set up again. It began to drizzle and people threw tarps and plastic bags over there damp heads.
The band finally set the stage and began to sing and play their instruments. It was barchata, it was merangue, but mostly it was punta, a sexy local dance made famous by the local Garifunas, people who look just like me. There was a brother on stage who seemed to be the frontman. Next to him was the other singer, a short guy, typically Honduran as most men out here average about 5’5. So naturally I could easily see the stage and the stage could easily see me.
The brother on stage pulled a girl up from the audience and began freaking her nasty. I laughed and jumped up and down dancing about as people in the audience were getting into it, grinding their hips, throwing their asses back into the air. My roommate wanted to leave shortly after and I decided to walk back with her. I started following her, making my way through the audience when from the stage the brother began shouting something. I don’t know what he said exactly, just that he kept repeating
What happened next was one of those moments some people invariably describe as indescribable, but actually it was very palpable, very real. It was as if the audience had become one huge entity, and at the moment the brother on stage shouted over to me it reared its ugly head right in my direction. Literally every person in the audience turned around to look. I looked at the stage and the brother was motioning for me to join him. I looked left, then right, then back at the stage pointing to myself.
“Si, Si Moreno!”
The audience clapped and cheered and some people actually pushed me forward.
“Should I go?” I asked my roommate, grinning dazedly.
She looked at me and shrugged, as if to say, “You really don’t have much of a choice.”
And hell anyways I was tipsy, it didn’t seem like such a fool hardy idea. What the fuck, I shrugged too and went up there. The brother pulled another woman up on stage and we both groped and grinded to some organic punta music in front of the entire town. I guess I wasn’t grinding good enough, the brother jumped behind the girl, slinging his crotch in every direction. He grabbed my leg and yanked it so that my pelvis would bump the womans’ booty in time to the beat. It was freak nasty, even slightly embarrassing but I tell ya--what a fucking introduction.
Skip to My Loo
My first major expedition outside Siguatepeque came a week and half after I arrived in
I hadn’t yet officially begun my teaching tenure as of then, so I knew the time was perfect to venture outside of Siguatepeque and well, “discover”
I should make it perfectly clear that at the time I’m writing this my Spanish is still fairly infantile. When I made this trip it was prenatal. A couple of kind teachers whom I worked with thought it best if they took me halfway there, at least to San Pedro Sula, as they were going in the same direction anyways. The last bus from
Once I boarded I stuffed my bags in the overhead bin and grabbed a soft seat next to a white looking dude who smelled like feet fried fritos. He opened a window shortly after we pulled off and the trip became bearable. The bus itself was nice, one of those 40 seaters’ from
A few hours later, after a couple of agonizing moments of terror when I wondered, though not audibly, if the bus was truly traveling to Copan Ruinas and not
“Where you going bro?” He asked me in decent English.
“Some hostel, I forgot what it’s called. Something about a green apple.”
“Sure, sure bro Manzana Verde. I know where it’s at. I take you. I know other hotels too man, cheap too.”
“Naw, that’s o.k, I’m cool on that. Just show me where Manzana Verde is.”
I had paused for a second and cleared my throat.
“Uh, where can I get some weed out here man?”
David had grinned widely and pointed to himself.
“You like the weed?”
My face brightened and I nodded in earnest approval.
“Yeah, yeah man, I can get you. I get good coke too, real good shit. Keep you high all night.”
David pointed to the stars and I laughed.
“Alright then, that’s good. I’m cool on the coke but let’s see about that weed.”
David grinned again and so did I. The trip to the hostel was winding and uphill. People, gringos and locals milled about relaxedly, soaking in the thick, warm night air. We made it to the hostel and David waited outside while I got situated, locked up my belongings and shoved about 800 limpiras in my pocket.
David showed me around Copan Ruinas, which is fairly small so we managed to cover most of it in about twenty minutes. It had a main park like Siguatepeque and restaraunts dotting the streets here and there. It had internet cafes and ice-cream shops, clothes stores and a bank. In the park David sold me a sack and I was elated, though in hindsight I got a tourist price. 500 limpiras for something a little over a quarter. The weed itself smelled like moss covered forests. After smoking some later that evening I affectionately began referring to it as Mayan weed. It made things appear as they were, peoples faces, rolling, lush green hills; the call of wild animals were presented in full 3-dimensional overtures.
After David and I parted ways I went to a local bar to grab a quick drink. After realizing I had spent so much money on the sack aforementioned I realized I had enough for about 2 drinks without overdoing it. Of course they were watered down, larcenous glasses of swill. I left the bar shortly thereafter and decided to walk around town a bit. I hadn’t smoked anything at this point but still became helplessly lost. Walking in circles literally, until groups of old horse ranchers pointed and laughed at my stupidity.
I was pretty far from my hostel, or at least I thought, when all the power in the town went out at once. When you are surrounded by mountains and hills that stretch towards the sky that type of darkness can be unnerving. So black you can’t see your hand in front of your face, your feet in front of you or someone approaching you sideways. I actually bumped into people a couple of times as for some reason people were slinking around like cats. I became nervous then, not due to a fear for my safety but due to the fact that with it being so ridiculously dark there was no way I was going to find my hostel. For a quick second I imagined having to sleep outside with horses grazing next to my feet or strange blood-sucking chupacabras draining me before I awoke. I panicked.
The lights eventually did come back on, about fifteen minutes later but I was still lost. With my paltry Spanish I asked people if they knew where the hostel was. But I had forgotten the name for apple so I kept pantomiming someone biting into an apple and saying “Verde, Verde!” over and over again. People looked at me as if I was disturbed and gave me some round about ways to get there, something like “It’s right over that hill.” At some point I ran across a guy who looked homeless, but out here that’s all relative. We somehow managed to hold some semblance of a conversation and he kept asking me repeatedly if I wanted to go horseback riding. I had read that in Copan Ruinas one shouldn’t accept offers from random people offering horseback rides, one should be careful and get them from professionals. But I liked this guy’s crazy laugh and lack of teeth; his verbal enthusiasm for smoking ganja. Nonetheless I gave heed and told him something like, “Yeah, I want a ride. Come by Manzana Verde at nine.” I kind of hoped he wouldn’t come, I certainly hoped he wouldn’t come, it being Saturday and all. Hell I didn’t even think I was going to be awake. So I left him and asked a black woman with a cock eyed who ran a hotel nearby where Manzana Verde was. She seemed suspicious of me but was helpful enough, sending me at least in the right direction. Or at least I thought. After walking around for another half and hour I asked a cab driver if he knew where Manzana Verde was. He looked at me and chuckled. “Right down the street there,” He said, pointing to the corner. And indeed it was. I had passed right by the damn place at least 10 times that evening.
When I awoke the next day I showered, went to the lobby to buy a Sprite and sat outside sipping, smoking a cigarette and soaking in the Saturday morning. It was around 8:50 and I felt wonderful. Who should arrive, exactly at nine I should add, to take me up on my affirmation? I agreed, figuring, what the hell. It’s my trip. It would be fun to take a horse into the hills and to the ruins. So we walked to his or his friends or someone’s house way off by the base of a hill and next to a wide, gurgling river. We sat in front of a one-room shack and he began rolling spliffs with notebook paper. I was astonished. Around us were three children who were dressed in American rags. They were filthy and curious, touching my hair and speaking to me in rapid fire Spanish, about a quarter of which I understood. Two spliffs later another kid comes galloping up to the shack with a horse that looked suicidal.
The man told me to hop on, which I did with general ease. I had ridden a horse the one time I went to summer camp and understood the dynamics of pulling the reins to make the horse stop; make a sharp whistling sound or nudge in the side when I wanted it to move forward or faster. I petted and cooed to the horse as the man led us halfway to a bridge under which ran a swift, brown river. Over the bridge was a trail which led to the mountains. He informed me that his friend would take me the rest of the way. I honestly believed my trip was going to end there, as I would be robbed and killed and dumped on top of some crumbling altar used for human sacrifice many, many centuries ago.
But his friend seemed cool enough. He walked the horse up to a trail that led into the mountains and let me take the reins from there. At one point we were deep inside the jungle, I could hear macaws and the whoop of howler monkey’s. The trees were immense, and covered the sky with a canopy of lime green leaves. I felt so…so at peace, as my tour guide would fall behind and let me ride the horse freely. Sometimes it would randomly take off on a gallop and I would exclaim with that delight one only gets from engaging in certain dangers. I would open my mouth and suck in the cool, mountainous air rushing by. A few times the horse almost slipped on a rock and tumbled over with me on its back. It happened so fast I didn’t realize the full implications of such an accident until now.
My tour guide and I tried to have a conversation, but I was so in awe of my surroundings, so calmed by the river chugging beside our trail, so fascinated with the thought that centuries ago Mayans had actually walked those very same trails (I had just watched Mel Gibsons film Apoctolypto so in my head swirled romantic images of young Mayan warriors chasing after wild boars during a hunt or fleeing marauding neighboring villagers after they pillaged and destroyed a tribes sanctuary), that our conversation dwindled and died and we mostly walked and rode in silence. We reached another trail that led up to a series of ruins and my guide informed me that in order to see them I had to pay him another 300 limpiras. I knew I was being had so I declined. I was more than pleased with what little I had already seen. I rode back after a couple of hours and felt triumphant, albeit a little sore, from my expedition. I remember I went to a pulperia to buy some pineapple juice, ventured back to my hostel and planned on grabbing some grub with little money I had left. When I found a relatively cheap restaurant I peeked inside and recognized a white woman I had seen walking around the town earlier that day seated at a table and watching CNN in Spanish on a T.V strapped to the wall. She was the only other customer in the restaurant. I grabbed a table about five feet away from her and abruptly felt a strong desire to smack this white woman over what she did next. It was a subtle action, but black folks live in a world where subtly is as explicit as someone punching you in the mouth. She looked over at me all nervous like, grabbed her purse which was lying next to her and put it on her lap. For a second I was amazed, subsequently hurt, than pissed off. I mean c’mon, if I wanted her purse I could’ve taken it off her lap just as easy as if it were lying next to her. Though seriously here we were, two obvious Westerners thousands of miles away from home, one black, one white, and yet the white one still felt threatened by the black one. I leered at the ignorant bitch, ordered some French fries and picked at them, upset enough that my appetite faltered. Shortly thereafter I left the restaurant and walked to the town square, sitting for awhile on a bench and smoking a few cigarettes. After about half an hour I felt thirsty and ran across the street to buy a soft drink. Inside the store I fished out my wallet and bought an ice-cold bottle of something fizzy. I was a little distracted and just wanted to stay in the park and chill out. When I got back, something, something felt like it was missing. Something felt out of place. I remember I had frantically groped the insides of my pockets.
Jesus I had lost my fucking wallet, with almost all my money in it. Actually I had wisely stashed away a hundred limpiras back at the hostel and also possessed whatever money I had leftover from buying the pop, which was about 70 limps. Nonetheless I still freaked. I didn’t know what I would do if I became stranded in Copan Ruinas, what would I do if I couldn’t afford the bus rides home, which would total close to 200 limpiras. Wait, I thought, I didn’t have 200 limpiras, I only had 170. So I truly was screwed, as only a sadistic whore such as me could be.
I chain smoked cigarette after cigarette as I lumbered on that park bench, traversing through horrific scene after scenario in my mind. But I’m not the kind of person to become disillusioned, in fact I try to roll with life’s hardest punches. So I knew I had to save whatever money I had left and sweet talk my way out whatever hardship that could potentially, and more than likely, eventually, would arrive. I bought a pack of hard sugar cookies later that evening for five limpiras as that was the only thing I believed I could afford for dinner. I found a concrete stairwell around the corner from where I was staying and sat there for awhile, smoking a huge joint of Mayan weed, feeling like a phony shaman and quietly resigning myself to my fate.
I awoke early the next morning, catching the first bus that rolled out of Copan Ruinas to San Pedro Sula It cost 90 limpiras and I then had 75 left on me. The next bus ride would cost 100 limpiras, due it being a longer trip. For the duration of the bus ride I devised plans on how to get over on the next bus, what I could perhaps tell the bus driver, which in effect was “Por favor, yo tengo no mas dinero *sniffle *sniffle*”. I knew appealing to his sense of hopelessness and loss was my best bet.
That was the easy part though. Once I arrived in
Strange how God seems to bail us out of Armageddon every day.