Day 1-Tradition

August, 2011 § 1 Comment

I guess it’s time to start writing. I promised myself (and others) I would write everything down. There’s something about writing that makes your thoughts so real. It’s as if, our thoughts, without escaping through tongue or ink, are merely dreams that may or may not come true. Dreams that, if they don’t come to pass, are really nothing but a self-entertaining consciousness.

It’s amazing the energy I wake up with when my subconscious knows that arousing me from sleep will mean getting on a plane, sitting in an airport, arriving to a desired destination. This tells me that it’s not only my heart and spirit that love to travel; my body and brain must love it, too. I woke up with a 10am energy at 5am.

Getting ready and packing the last of my belongings was a no-brainer. This packing process (aside from the laptop fiasco) has been surprisingly chaos free. Am I learning? Probably not, it’s probably just the luck of the draw.

Monica had Juanes playing when we got in the car to leave. I fooled myself into thinking that because I remember the lyrics and their meaning, my Spanish isn’t rusty. We’ll see about that. We heard a Paul Simon song on the way. He gave his girl permission to call him “Hal”. Or was it, “Al”?

Check-in (despite the first impression of an eternally long line caused by a cancelled flight) was also a no-brainer. I, of course, as tradition calls for, went upstairs for Starbucks between check-in and security. I remember thinking how funny it is that I have a tradition no one partakes in and that, outside of my traveling patterns, I don’t have too many traditions, at all, if any. Maybe having no traditions can be a tradition. No, that doesn’t make sense.

When I reached Gate B17 I strategically placed myself next to two Asian men. Yes, it was strategy. No one else can be trusted. I’ll explain later.

As soon as I sat down and starting making phone calls to American Airlines to get credit for my miles, the cold drowsiness hit me like the wind on your face when you go sledding. Unavoidable, unbreakable, shocking. What happened to my tall caramel macchiato? I feel cheated.

The plane begins to board. Yes! This plane is one of the teeny tiny, grown-men-hit-their-heads-on-the-roof ones. Do you know what that means? It means boarding does not entail walking through a tunnel with airline advertisements and getting herded like cattle onto the auto-orb. It means we will all walk, freely, concrete under our feet, a straight line only if it’s what we choose, to our transportation. Yes, transportation. It’s not magical or unattainable. It’s simple as a bus and I know this because I walked out to it and climbed the stairs and boarded it of my own free will and fancy.

The plane I have chosen and I are now going down the runway. I think I’d like to nap, I’m tired again.

Day 1-Flight

August, 2011 § Leave a comment

I took a nice, long nap where I dreamed about birthday parties and boys that have crushes on me. I’m a child.

I woke up right on time to get my traditional cranberry juice. Again with the tradition. I considered breaking tradition when I saw the stewardess pouring a Sprite. The can popped, the beverage fizzed. As she poured it rose and swelled and I was just close enough to see the carbonation pop and explode only inches above the rim of the cup and to smell the sweet, sugary aroma.

“And for you, sweetie?”

“Cranberry juice.”

“Orange juice?”

I raise my voice, “Cranberry juice.”

“Cran-apple, all I have is cran-apple.”

“That’s fine.”

The truth is, all they hardly ever have is cran-apple. I’m not generally a purist but when it comes to my cranberry juice, I like it plain. Cran-apple is fine, though. So that’s what I told her. “That’s fine.” Those words define my outlook on life. Everything, when it comes down to it, is absolutely fine. Because making it something more dramatic or acting like it doesn’t matter at all, will never change the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s actually fine. Philosophy at it’s finest, pardon the pun.

I considered offering cookies to the teenage boys next to me. I talked myself out of it for fear of an awkward decline. I’ll probably offer, eventually. Let’s hope they don’t watch the news.

I’m in a single seat on the left aisle which earlier I heard someone describe as the “best of both worlds because you have an aisle seat and a window seat.” They’re absolutely right.

As soon as I talked myself out of offering cookies to the boys across the aisle, I looked to my left and there, out the window of my window/aisle seat, was a breathtaking view. The first person to tell me about the view from an airplane was my dad. He said it looks almost like heaven. I’m sorry, Dad, but I usually disagree. Mostly because I’m hoping for a LOT more color in heaven. White, yellow, gray, blue, that’s all I really see when I’m up in the clouds.

But, today, it’s different. Today the lack of color doesn’t bother me. There is a sheet of fluffy white that stretches from right under our wings to the farthest reach of the horizon. On the surface, it’s fluffy but the vastness of it makes it seem as solid as concrete. Today I think if we fell, the clouds would catch us. They might even throw us back up in the sky like a child on a trampoline. Maybe Dad was kind of right. Maybe he beheld something similar and that’s what made him say that.

I whipped out my camera in a sad attempt at capturing a wordless beauty and was slapped with those two fateful words that no one wants to see on their first day of a trip, “BATTERY EXHAUSTED”. And so now I’ve attempted to weave and blend my words like oil paints that might explain a beauty that can only be expressed through light and color on the retina. And it’ll probably be fine because, even though it’s a different beauty, letters and punctuation can be blended, too.

Day 1-Peachy

August, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, I didn’t offer the boys any cookies. It’s not like I took them out and ate them without offering. I still haven’t had a cookie myself. Plus, I think if they had known at all that I had cookies to offer and why I didn’t, I think they’d understand completely.

When I wasn’t sharing and caring it’s merely because I was enraptured in themes of war, love, soldiers, death, hope, and honor. Louis de Berniêres had me fully engaged in the story of Cephalonia, a beautiful Greek island that Italians ignorantly occupied and Germans maliciously tried to conquer. The story, on all accounts, was at its climax. I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say it would have been an injustice to pull away when so invested in accordance with the author’s intentions. And so, the stars (or clouds) aligned and when I came to a good stopping place, I put my bookmark (a boarding pass) in its place, just as the passengers moved forward to exit the plane.

I don’t like the Miami airport, I prefer Atlanta. It’s easier and more familiar. But, lo, I arrived at my gate on time and even had time to grab a cup of water and a Cuban sandwich at an establishment inappropriately named, “Cafe Versailles” where all of the employees speak Spanish. Then, who am I kidding? This is Miami, after all. Call a spade a spade.

As I was standing in line to board, I found Louis. More appropriately, he found me and walked up behind me, his first words: “Rachel Paul.” He has always been one for eloquence!

People say my name sometimes as though it explains everything. I’ve been told that, for that reason, I shouldn’t get married. Because if I’m not Rachel Paul, who am I? I would love to have a different last name. I imagine that will be, if my day does come, the easiest transition to make into married life.

Louis came with his sister, Hannah. Who I know, thus far, is a better packer than I, very sweet, and, based on my first impression, will fare beautifully in the land of Honduras.

He also came with a couple from his church, the Peaches. They introduced themselves with their first names but, because of my previous knowledge of their name, combined with my love for that glorious fruit (fruit, in general), I don’t plan on remembering the names they gave me.

Mr. & Mrs. Peach first came to Honduras to help with Hurricane Mitch relief. This translates into another kind of relief for me. Someone who comes back to Honduras is someone with whom I can find common ground on at least one account.

They are coming to see about putting an air strip near Hospital Loma de Luz. It seems to me, like so many missionaries, they know more about why they’re doing what they’re doing than what they’re actually doing. Take it how you want, it’s not an insult.

I hope that half of a Cuban sandwich doesn’t make me sick.

…later

The Cuban sandwich was, in fact, quite nauseating. My stomach is turning and until I threw it away, it was leaving a grotesque smell in our row.

I offered cookies to two people but have only given away one cookie so far. Naturally, I don’t want to eat more cookies than I give away so I only ate one myself.

The plane is landing. I’ve slept the majority of this flight as well. By dictations of tradition, I awoke for my cran-apple juice and filled out my immigration forms. Bleh, I can still smell that stinky Cuban sandwich.

Angus & Julia Stone, As Tall as Lions, and Baby Walrus have been keeping me company as I ponder and approach more pondering.

I’m stuck with this thought, “Am I a coward for loving something deeply and not wanting to commit to it?” As things become more serious and concrete I find my inner bird pulling back and wondering where her freedom will land her.

WANT-should I want to stay in Honduras? Or, is the point of being called that it is something separate from desire?

I wrote that and then I picked up my book. Somewhere mid-sentence, I glanced out the window. I’m reconsidering. Not much can pull me away from a good book. But, when I look out my window, do you know what I see? Land, vast & green. I see potential. I see all the hope, adventure, and lust of the world wrapped in luscious trees and grass. Is this what I want? How will I ever know?

The desires of a woman’s heart are fickle. She desires freedom and captivity in the same breath.

Is this place real? Have I a different set of eyes? Has love cleared my vision? These colors are those that I attempt to put on canvas and they give me words that I exhale in a poem.

I lost a suitcase in San Pedro, which means I missed getting to see the man waiting with a sign that said, “Lunsford”. Even though it’s not my name, I have very big dreams of one day landing in an airport and having someone waiting for me like that, a sign, with my name. But, I missed out on it because I was talking with an American Airlines representatives (in Spanish?) about my lost bag.

We got on a taxi and headed to La Ceiba. I slept nearly the whole way.

…later

We have navigated our way through La Ceiba and are on our way down the road that seems to never end but in itself feels like a destination. I wish I could travel this road everyday and that it would never take me anywhere. The chicken, street vendors, dust, crops, and curves all have a story to tell, an endless story filled with suspense, romance, family, and, if you look closely enough, hope. A redefined hope.

A hope I cannot know because it is hope that inhabits the soul, shines through the eyes, but never communicates itself. Stuck in the dreams of its captor.

I am filled with a peaceful suspense as we pass acres and acres of banana trees. Louis slows down for herds of cows in the road and the farther we go, the more familiar things get. I’ve gone from one home to another.

I am lost in my thoughts and hardly realize we have reached San Luis and are parking behind the car in front of us. We are at Christine’s house and, at 5pm, 12 hours after I woke up, it’s hard to believe my travel has come to a close.

Day 1-Family

August, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I am with Lindy’s family and see Christine’s interaction with them I ask myself, “What more could I want?”

After having a gringa dinner of spaghetti and chicken, she takes me to meet her family. We spent a lot of time at Lindy’s cousin, Iris’, house, teasing Christine, mostly, while Iris and Lindy buzzed about in the kitchen making plates full of plátanos, guajada (a white, salty Honduran cheese), avacado, sausage, and, of course, tortillas. As we sat and chatted and laughed I saw each man being delivered a feast. And I shamefully admit my mouth watered a little bit. Except for the tiny baleada I had eaten earlier, my tongue hadn’t indulged itself in Honduran cuisine in what felt like ages but was really only about four months.

One of Christine’s many suitors came over and educated us on horses. He was nice enough but I thought him somewhat proud when he kind of dissed Jaimi’s barrio in Roatán. And then again when Kevin, wide-eyed and exhilarated, described how huge the feet of a show horse he once saw were and the suitor, Aryan, made sure to correct him saying, “No, that’s all hair.” But, like I said, he was nice enough and so… it’s fine.

The topic of horses’ feet didn’t hold my attention for too long so I went inside to see what Iris and Lindy were doing in the kitchen. I like Iris a lot. She’s extremely fun-loving and treated me like their own. Plus, she said I had the hair of a princess and after rolling out of bed at 5am, and getting dragged through airports and dusty roads, well, let’s just say that comment alone was enough to win my heart forever.

Lindy’s cousin, Edwin, who I had met earlier, was feeling sick so we prepared him a plate, bottled up juice, grabbed a giant bottle of hot sauce, and Lindy & I set off to make the delivery. We made small talk on the way about my visit, the work in Rio Esteban, living with Christine, etc.

Finally, we reached Edwin’s house. Can you say bachelor pad? It was an incredible contrast going from Iris’ house with its pink walls, gaudy curtains, and shiny dining table, to Edwin’s house. Beige walls, cushions missing, two guitars with broken strings, a desk in the living room; it was definitely missing the caring hands of a woman.

We sat and talked with Edwin for a while about where I come from, what I’m doing, what I’m studying, Christine’s suitor (Aryan), and the deadly baby snake Aryan had caught with his bare hands only minutes earlier. Christine had told me about Edwin, one of her other suitors, and so it makes sense why he took interest in all of this and why he was so delighted to hear I found Aryan boring and proud.

Edwin is studying business in La Ceiba. In my opinion, he doesn’t have much to worry about. He’s kinder and more handsome than Aryan. What will make him lose in the game of love will, at the end of the day, be his jealousy. What a conundrum.

When Lindy and I walked outside to leave we hadn’t stepped more than ten strides from the gate when she started to squeal and go in reverse. I, ignorant of what was going on but startled by the potential danger, started stepping lightly, squealing, and making my way back through the gate. Edwin had already come out and Lindy started saying she thinks she saw a snake. The fear was fresh in our minds after Aryan had caught the coral snake not long ago. Edwin went to investigate. I was right behind him and Lindy several steps back. She pointed out what had scared her and even though Edwin and I both agreed it was a stick, he approached it with caution and did a fake out to scare me. I jumped. In the end, it was just a fat stick stuck in a crevice, not the mother of the baby coral. Edwin removed it from the path and Lindy and I cautiously made our way up the dark path and into the subtle light of the main road.

When we were walking back, Aryan, Kevin, and Jaimi had decided to get in Aryan’s truck to go see the horses. I don’t know what they were expecting to see in the pitch black night but boys never have made much sense to me, anyway. We sat through a couple of minutes of Christine-harassment (of which I am not at all innocent) and retired to Lindy’s house to go to bed.

Christine and I reviewed the plans of the next day and she expressed her frustration with her suitors before I dozed off into the sleep of a dead woman. I dreamt again of crushes and group events. I remember a humiliating feeling and traces of English and Spanish before I woke up to Christine at 6:30.

Day 2-Passing Through

August, 2011 § Leave a comment

Waking up early here is not much of an option but more of a necessity if you don’t want to roll around in your own sweat and if you want to feel those first hours of cool air before the heat and humidity wake up and take their throne.

I had cereal for breakfast and took a “bucket shower” to be properly introduced to my new surroundings. Even though it’s no good for rinsing, at least I get to feel cool water on my skin rinse away the dirt, dust, sweat, and stale air of yesterday. I feel like a snake molting all the dead with young and alive skin making its appearance.

I gave some of Lindy’s family the cookies. They are now a crumbly mess in the Tupperware but taste just as sweet and delicious. There was only one whole one left which I insisted the mother of the house, Doña Tela, take. After I had offered it to Don Enrique, of course.

Christine has a scooter, the lucky duck. On her scooter every morning she gets to pass the Caribbean Sea.

Yes, I saw it! For the first time in seven months I said “Hello” to that ol’ love of mine. The Caribbean is so many things. I don’t worship nature or anything but the beauty of the sea is like a distant lover, a funny uncle, and a close sister all at the same time. Passing it this morning it was a cousin I had nearly forgotten but knew I’d never forget.

The baby cow broke my gaze. Christine said tenderly, “Move out of the way, baby cow.” She slowed down and when we got close enough, it scampered away toward its mother.

Those gates. We passed through the hospital gates. The gates that held me hostage and protected me. The gates that separated me. The gates that, when I left Honduras, contained all that I remember and, to the Hondurans, were more familiar than my face. They do so much good, and yet are so toxic. But, I felt good passing through those gates again. Knowing I am only a visitor when I’m behind them, and I’m at home outside of them now.

My first priority when we got to the hospital: COFFEE. I stepped over to the kitchen area and asked the mean-lady-who-doesn’t-move for coffee. Thankfully, Argentina, my former housekeeper (for staff housing, that is), was there and asked me if I wanted coffee.

“Sí, porfa.”

“Con crema o negro?”

“Negro está bien.”

She brought me a mug of black coffee in one hand and a tub of sugar in the other. I slurped, and pleasantly surprised, declined the sugar. Obviously someone has been teaching them to make coffee! Or, teaching me how to drink it.

I went to the hospital with my mug and did some greetings, finished my coffee, and returned the mug to Argentina.

Now, I sit in staff housing, in a worn-out hammock that I’ve read in, Skyped in, and “hung out” (literally) in many times before. Ironically enough, Mrs. Peach just shared with me the one luxury that she allows herself during travel, hazelnut instant coffee. Not wanting to ruin a good thing, I declined. I’m going to offer her some cookies.

Today I will read, visit, deliver Diana’s computer, think too much, go to Rio Esteban, and change my mind a million times about moving to Honduras.

Day 2-Time

August, 2011 § Leave a comment

The cookies are almost gone! I only have crumbly remains left in the large Tupperware of oatmeal butterscotch.

I made some visits on the hill at Loma de Luz.

After reading for a long time, I went up the hill to Trish’s house because I always know a cold beverage and all the latest awaits me there. Trish gave me the low-down and I was slightly shocked that she-who-knows-all knew very little of my plans. That means I’m doing something right!

I made plans with Sammey to go get her new friend, Eryn, and Eryn’s little brother, Benton, to come down to the portón [gate-turned-cafeteria] and eat lunch with me. Trish and Brad were leaving for La Ceiba so Brad gave us a ride up the hill while Trish waited at the house so that the AC would be cool when he picked her up on his way back down. Priorities become defined here and luxury is shameless, bless her heart.

Shortly after greeting Benton and Eryn at the Aldens, Penny came charging through on her lunch break. As I filled her in on my plans for this visit, the topic of conversation turned to the school and things changed for me. She began explaining the needs and I felt myself tiptoeing out of the country. The needs are great and the workers few, it would seem. And, unfortunately, a proper foundation has not been built upon which we can start adding to. Renovation is the word of the year, I guess. It was during this conversation that I began planting the “six month” seed. I don’t know what has gotten into me.

After a very helpful talk with Penny, I gathered the troops, made other arrangements to get Diana’s computer to her, and started down the hill. Somehow we ended up with a party of about seven at the portón. Lo and behold, China was not there, only her son, Reynieri, and no food. We spent a long time begging, collaborating, and then pleading when Reynieri told us his mom will come back with more food to cook. We didn’t eat until 2pm.

After food, I called Diana and Mrs. Marinajo came to pick me up and bring me up the hill to see Diana. It was great to see an old friend who I owe so much for all my friendships bridged by my ability to speak Spanish. But who only wants to be repaid in friendship. She made me one of the best iced coffees I’ve ever had (the deadly heat probably helped it make the list) and we spoke about everything. My plans, her plans, what has been going on since I left, our love lives, mutual friends, their love lives… you get the picture.

While we were catching up, the sky was mixing a deceiving concoction. As we started down the hill (are you getting dizzy yet?) toward staff housing, I got a call from Christine saying we missed the 4:30 bus (an odd call to receive at 4:08 but… that’s life in Honduras). When I got to staff housing Christine and I decided to catch the last bus going out at 5:45pm, supposedly. We spent some time with Deibyn, Louis, and Hannah at staff housing while dark clouds covered the sun and made the air smell like rain. I figured I had better get my suitcase down the hill and to the gate before it gets soaked. Deibyn carried my big suitcase to the but stop for me and we waited… and waited… and waited.

As people made their way past the gate to get to fellowship, the sky started clearing up and clouds were outlined with golden sunshine. Down the dirt road I saw two young ladies start running toward us, giggling. I couldn’t believe my eyes when an adolescent Andrea and a baby-fatless Sameli started wrapping their arms around me. They’re not little girls anymore. I wondered if Andrea would still want to scramble up mango trees for me or jump endlessly on the trampoline laughing at nothing. Would this thinner, shapely version of Sameli be impressed still if I handed her dry beans as a prize for saying a verse in English? Maybe their childlike spirits will mature slower than their childlike bodies did. I hope so.

Seeing them brought back so many memories. Standing at that gate did, too. Memories of them, mostly. But in all I do here there is a trace of memories left behind by someone else. I haven’t been back to the Children’s Center yet, but I wonder how they get along without him. He was a stern older brother and playmate to them all.

Doña Nora had told me earlier while we were waiting for lunch that he left July 16th. She begged him not to go. He said he didn’t want to study anymore and would go back to his parents’ house. She said he had been drinking and doing drugs. Maybe the kids had lost their Alexander long before July 16th. Maybe they lost him when I did.

Delmy asked me last night if I think it’s my fault. I don’t blame myself at all but there is a part of me that wonders. Could I revive Alexander Pacheco? I know the answer is no but love sometimes makes us feel so powerful. It’s a false power, I know. But it seemed real.

I would give something small to have him walk me home again, to stand so close there’s negative space between us, to hold his hand, sit with him, go to the beach, a stolen look, a stolen kiss. I smell him here and it brings everything back as if it were yesterday.

I have no regrets with Alexander. More than my desire to be foolish again, I desire a love that is right and real. A touch that only outwardly signifies a much deeper intimacy and a kiss that demonstrates spiritual oneness. My passion with him was lovely but it was a child’s passion that dies over time.

Day 2-Harmony

August, 2011 § Leave a comment

Andrea reported that there was a red alert in Ceiba and the bus would not be coming. She says she knows because Doña Dehlia had to get a ride back with Brad and Trish because the bus wasn’t coming.

We shared our newfound news with the vigilantes [guards] and were severely mocked. One commented, “Yes, the red alert in this heat is the sun!”
Okay, no red alert. However, the tires on the bus coming from Ceiba were reportedly bad and, for that reason, the bus would not be passing until after 7pm.

Christine and I decided to try our chances on the scooter. In the middle of the waiting area at the gate I opened up my big suitcase and transferred enough clothes for two nights in Rio Esteban, knowing I would be passing through [San Luis] again this weekend. We started trudging up the hill and asked one of the vigilantes to help us carry [my suitcase] up. We had to hurry because it was getting dark and after her accident Christine no longer drove the moto in the dark. I grabbed her helmet and went back to the gate to wait with our bags while she got the scooter out and took a potty break.

I felt exhilarated on that moto. My butt cheeks were numb, my thighs sore, but, my spirit was alive. The air smelled like adventure. The bleary sun was setting. And, every firefly that hit us only highlighted this feeling of broken plans and spontaneous decisions that is so characteristic of life in Honduras. Free at last!

Darkness welcomed us to Rio Esteban. In one town we passed through there was a huge crowd in the street. As we approached, not one of them so much as turned their head. It was obviously some kind of music in the middle of the road because we heard drums. I began thinking through our options:
We could try to keep moving and trust that they move out of the way. Then, we risk bumping someone and either hurting them or angering them… or both.
We could stop the moto, get off, and split up the crowd. Then, we risk our white skin getting us into more trouble than we bargained for.

As these thoughts are running their marathon through my mind, I suddenly realized that instead of making a list, Christine has gone ahead and made her decision. And so, suddenly, we are off the dirt road, weaving our way between sand, people, and a street light.

We’re so close to the crowd I swear I could reach out without fully extending my arm and be brushing my hand along backs and arms. Maybe then they would notice us!

We made our way around and spent the rest of the time praising Christine’s awesome moto skills (praise-worthy for sure!). And, finally we arrived to Delmy’s house. She, Deyni, Christine, and I had some good laughs over the story while Doña Bictelia served us a feast.

It felt good to be back with my Honduran family. I love when the two Garcia sisters and the two gringas are together. We are harmonious in every way. Deyni and Christine are the petite, older sisters. Delmy and I are the thick, younger ones. Deyni and I have the same outgoing, extroverted personalities, always wanting to talk, listen, interact. And, though both are outgoing, Delmy and Christine’s personalities are more of the strong, cautious, and completely hilarious ones. Then, of course, there are our skin colors. But, I guess that’s a given. The point is the four of us make a beautiful harmony together and whenever we walk somewhere together it’s inevitable that the older walk ahead of the younger, making less noise. It’s good because with the four of us, no one goes without a partner.

After eating, we went to church. I wore one of Delmy’s dresses that made me look pregnant so I don’t remember much from that night except a preacher yelling so loud into his microphone that I couldn’t hear him and the whole time I was trying to sit straight as a board to keep my belly from poking out.

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