Thursday, June 28, 2007

Honduran Hooky - Part 1, Arrival in Honduras

In 2004, I had been back to work for 5 years since my brain surgery in 1999 and it had become a drudgery. I was exhausted and really needed a break. So Sean and I planned a vacation with the Woody and Katy and the rest of the dive group. We planned for some "Honduran Hooky"!

Click on images to enlarge

For Sean, Woody and Katy it was a first trip to a Third World Country. We planned to visit the Mayan ruins in
Copan for a few days before meeting up with the dive group in Roatan for the balance of the trip. Our departure date was February 11, 2004 and we arranged for a native guide, Carlos, to meet us at the airport and drive us to Copan.

We flew down on American Airlines through
Miami and found our next gate without problem. We relaxed over tiny cups of café Cubano while waiting for our connecting flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The Miami Airport construction had been completed and all was in order there, unlike our previous visits where we had to run through a maze to make our flights. The next leg of the flight continued with out incident to San Pedro Sula. We deplaned and the airport seemed a very controlled environment in that there weren't many people around. We soon found out why. We collected our bags from the conveyor belt and turned around and could see that the relatives of arrivals and riffraff were all behind the ropes and not allowed into the airport proper at all. It was a solid mass of people and pretty much daunting to think of wading into it.


But there at the front was a man with a sign with our names. He was neatly dressed in a short sleeve shirt and slacks and had a mix of a Mayan and Hispanic facial features. We went over to him and he introduced himself as our guide, Carlos. We introdu
ced ourselves. He helped us with our heavier bags and began to lead us out of the airport. On our way out, we were beset by people begging and selling little hand made dolls. There were adults, and families and children selling dolls. I and the men ignored them and I advised Katy to do the same. But Katy, who is a big softy, could not ignore the kids. She bought some dolls from a little girl. That was all the encouragement needed for her to attract a swarm of people begging and selling these little dolls. But we were close to our van now, and she was able to escape them by getting in.

A little girl selling the same dolls in Copan.

She looked a bit embarrassed, but said, "At least I got something for my money." as she showed us the dolls she had bought.

Carlos got all of our stuff stowed in the van and we got on our way. He was very friendly and humorous and quite the story teller. But it was
midday in San Pedro Sula, and we hit traffic leaving the city. So he told us about the high unemployment in Honduras and about the economy and about politics in general. We did see an inordinate number of healthy adults just standing around looking like they had nothing to do. He explained that in the smaller towns, police and army presences had been beefed up to control general unrest from these unoccupied people. But, it was felt and hoped that they would not make trouble for tourists, since tourism was a large part of the Honduran economy. But, there was a fear that Honduras was coming to resemble a police state.

The other issue Carlos discussed with us was child labor. He said that we would see little children at work. He explained that a 5 year old child could earn money in one day that was equivalent to that of an adult, and could be useful for his family just by picking coffee beans and filling a basket. So families would tend to send all of their children off to work rather than send them to school because they could not afford not to. There was no work for adults, but plenty for children. He said that he hated seeing the lazy adults stand around and send their children off to work.

Finally the traffic broke and we got out of
San Pedro Sula and began the 160 km (99.4 miles) drive up into the tropical green hills towards Copan. The first little town we came to had a military checkpoint where all vehicles were stopped my men in uniforms with machine guns, and some vehicles were searched. We were stopped, but Carlos showed his tour guide papers and we were allowed to proceed without further ado.

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