Pre-dawn in Isai’s car starting out for the village
So this is how it went: I was a Peace Corps Volunteer back in the mid-90’s in Northwestern Honduras, then I came back, did a bunch of things, had 4 kids, and I looked around 14 years later and in front of my house in an East Coast city, I met the son of a Honduran farmer I had worked with all those years ago. These places are 3400 miles apart (I google-mapped it), and most people in Honduras had never even heard of my Peace Corps site, let alone been born there and how did this guy end up on my doorstep? Well, long story short, Mr. Fantastic had brought Bartolo to our house and needed me to translate something, which I did, then we got to talking and it turns out Bartolo and I both knew his dad. Not only that, but Bartolo proceeded to look through my photos from that time and identify not only his father and various others from the village, but even horses! That’s right, he looked at my decade-and-a-half old photos from a village over 3000 miles away and he was like “oh, that’s Jose’s mare”. ¡Qué miraglo!
Anyone you know here?
All this got me to thinking. Honduras isn’t really that far…Cleverly and Fiercely were 7 and 10 respectively, old enough to travel well and remember the trip…Really and Truly were almost 5 so Mr. Fantastic might be ok without me for a little while…I was working anyway so he was used to having the kids all day…we couldn’t afford to take the whole family but me, Cleverly, and Fiercely-we could swing that…my parents always say they would like to go back to visit…I’d love to see Bartolo’s dad and the other farmers I worked with, plus my adopted ‘family’ there and see how everyone is and introduce them to my kids…
Where is Honduras? In the elbow of Central America, in orange, about the same distance from the US east coast as California!
A few months later, we were on our way. A Honduran neighbor in the US wouldn’t have a conversation with me about appropriate hotels in San Pedro Sula- she insisted we stay with her brother Isai. I couldn’t communicate with anyone in the village but I figured they would be there. I had sent letters over the years but had never received one, I found out later they never got my letters. But no matter, I got passports for the kids and shopped for plane tickets. My parents planned to meet us for our second week there. We headed out.
The flight was short and before we knew it, we were in San Pedro Sula. Wow was it hot! And disorienting. The airport, like all airports, was outside of the city. I hadn’t been there for 14 years and never spent much time at the airport anyway. We looked around, and I started thinking about how to get to the city by taxi and there was Isai. I’m not sure how we recognized him, but we must have been pretty easy to spot. Three confused gringitas, 2 of whom were blonde children. He hustled us into his car in a friendly way and off we went to his place. Isai is a bachelor and he had gone out of his way to be an accommodating host. There was Honduran food like chicken stew and beans and tortillas, and also coca-cola, fruit, milk, cereal, everything. We had a tour of his house including the roof from which we could view his neighborhood. We visited with his neighbors, showered, ate, and turned in early. He set an alarm for some ungodly hour and we slept until we were awakened in the dark. Again we packed into his little truck, this time headed towards the western hills.
Fiercely and Cleverly with Isai at La Entrada, the last ‘city’ before my village
I tried to tell Isai that we could take a bus but he insisted it would not be safe. I felt safe since I had lived in the area for over two years, but it had been over a decade ago and I did have my young kids with me this time. As it turned out, he was right, to the extent that the US Peace Corps pulled volunteers out of the entire country later that year. But at the time I was blissfully unaware as I planned on visiting with my septuagenarian parents and my young daughters there, oh tra-la-la-la-la!
The road getting bad
Cleverly and a local in the truck bed
looking back down at the road we had come from
Isai insisted on driving us far out of San Pedro all the way to La Entrada, Copan over 2 hours away. I felt certain that I was capable of getting to my village from there, however Isai was not so sure. He kept driving in his little TWO wheel drive vehicle on a deteriorated rocky road that was clearly meant for 4×4 vehicles. I winced at every turn, convinced that he was sacrificing his car for my comfort and safety, and I could never repay the favor. Especially if his car died en route. And we continued up the mountains.
The road in the village
The road to my village is really quite bad. It had gotten worse over my 14-year absence, years full of rain, mudslides, and a pronounced lack of road maintenance. Honduras is not known for road maintainance. Isai’s car inched upwards as we passed coffee fields, rocky hillsides, mud houses, and people walking with various burdens and the ever-present machetes. The engine whined, rocks slid under the tires, and we slowed to a crawl as we negotiated various ditches in the road. Every now and then we would mount a hill and get a new view, and several times I thought we had arrived only to be disappointed that more hills lay ahead. The views became more astounding as we climbed higher – clouds and blue sky, cornfields, banana trees, clusters of whitewashed homes and the road below us becoming smaller and smaller and smaller. We had several passengers in the truck bed at this point since there are few vehicles going to the remote village and drivers generally pick up walkers if asked. I myself have walked this road many times, as there were even fewer cars when I lived up there. The walk takes about 2 hours. I walked alone many times, also with my brother when he visited back in 1995, and with Mr Fantastic when we visited in 1997, about a year after I had left. It’s a lovely hike but not such a fun walk if you are carrying things or it’s pouring down rain or if you are just tired and trying to get home. Anyway, it was bittersweet to see the familiar vistas and curves in the road, and at last the outskirts of the village. To be continued…