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Caribbean views off the coast of Honduras
Caribbean Sunrise on the Honduran Coast
Recently I made a quick trip to Honduras to visit some friends who operate a non-profit there. In this post I'll give you a pictorial tour of that trip. This was a brief visit to an isolated small community on the Caribbean coast, located a full-day's overland journey from the nearest major airport. The first thing you need to know about any visit to rural Honduras is... will be eating baleadas. These are unavoidable in Honduras - doesn't matter how you feel about beans one bit. I had one practically shoved into my hands before I even left the airport! They're the Hawaiian leis of Honduras.

First I had to get through the immigration checkpoint, which was a 2-hour ordeal in which 8 airport employees sat around chatting with one another in the empty "Hondurans only" passport control lines, while a lone employee processed 200 or so foreign tourists single-handedly, and very slowly.

Upon my release from this surreal limbo between countries, my friends took me straight to the nearest baleada place, right there in the airport. Baleadas are an inexpensive Honduran favorite, consisting of mashed fried red beans and a rustic cheese (usually with a dollop of sour cream added) wrapped in a warm, flour tortilla.

Beans and tortillas for every meal in Honduras
Baleadas make a great lunch...or breakfast...or dinner...
If you're dining at a restaurant, they sometimes have a few additional choices for extra fillings, such as scrambled eggs (called the "mixta" - the "mixed") or maybe a little sausage or pork if you're lucky, but every baleada I saw held just the beans, cheese, and sour cream (the "sencilla" - the "simple").

My first baleada was surprisingly good, since I was able to persuade the lady to hold the sour cream. It was hot and fresh, and I had watched it made right before my eyes. We had walked past a Wendy's fast food place in the airport to get to the baleada place, and as I ate that first baleada, I had no immediate regrets.

However, after I had eaten this same food, or other eerily similar combinations of tortillas with beans that go by multiple other names, for every single meal for the next three days, I became a tad less enthusiastic.

You see, working at a non-profit agency that directs all of its money for the benefit of the Honduran children it supports, my friends lead a very monastic, poverty-level lifestyle. It is no exaggeration to say they are starving for the cause. This is a skinny, wiry bunch! But they wouldn't dream of splurging on lavish, expensive foods, like meat or milk, unless they were going to be able to buy enough to share it with their neighbors in the small community where they live and serve.

Non-profit volunteer work in Honduras
Open-Air Schoolroom at the Non-Profit Organization's Center

The non-profit operates a center where children who live at the school, and additional children from the surrounding rural community, can come for classes. For some kids in the area, this school is the only one available to them.

Bird of Paradise in Honduras
Birds of Paradise and Other Backyard Plant Life in Honduras

In addition to hanging out at the school compound, swimming in the Caribbean (where my friend was stung by a jellyfish), and eating baleadas and other bean-and-tortilla dishes at both of our daily meals each day, we also made a visit to the nearest town on Sunday, where there happened to be a religious procession honoring a local saint.

Where do they still have payphones?

To respect the privacy of the children and youth in the center that my friends operate, I won't be sharing photos of any of the awesome and welcoming Hondurans I met there in the center. So my photos mostly focus on scenery, landscapes, plants, and so on - just a few quick impressions of the natural beauty of Honduras.

Mountain range in Honduras
The Mountains Come Almost Right Up to the Coast

Sidebar:  This was just a quick solo trip to visit friends, but that 2-hour immigration/passport control experience highlighted one of the major differences between traveling with a big family vs. traveling solo. While for myself, traveling solo, getting through that 2-hour immigration line was certainly dull, and a pain point, it would have been quite the nightmare to attempt that same process with 4 kids, each of whom would have wanted a place to sit, some air conditioning, a meal, some water, quite possibly a nap, and at least one or two restroom breaks during that amount of time. 

Over my years of traveling slowly (and cheaply) throughout South America, I learned a crucial travel technique: the practice of serene patience when faced with unexpected travel delays that are totally out of your control. For me in those days, it was "nothing" to spend 4 hours waiting for a bus to show up, or 5 hours waiting for a bus to depart after being assured it was going to leave "ahorita" ("right now"), or 6 hours waiting for a landslide to be cleared so that an overnight bus journey could continue. 

(My secret? I finally realized that "waiting" for something to happen while traveling, and the actual "traveling," are kind of the same thing: in both cases, you're mostly just sitting somewhere, and doing ordinary things like breathing, eating, reading a book, maybe doing some sketching, or having a chat with someone, etc. So what's the big deal if you have to spend an entire day at a Peruvian bus station? Who cares? It's all just "life," and getting mad about it won't make the bus leave any sooner.)

But when you have young children who have to endure several hours of waiting around in an airport queue - or worse, an unknown amount of time waiting around which will end whenever it ends - that makes for a pretty bad day.

Dangerous beaches where you shouldn't walk alone in Honduras
Deceptively Serene Caribbean Beach.
I can name 3 very good reasons not to swim here off the top of my head - two of them involve threats to life and limb, while the third only involves excruciating agony.

Coastal scenes in Honduras beach life
Rural Life on the Eastern Honduran Coast, with (clockwise from top left)
Chicken Yard, Clothes Washing Station, Lizards,
Earthen Oven, Flower (Hibiscus Roat), Kitchen Sink

For some extremely solid and creditable reasons, volunteers at the organization are strictly prohibited from ever traveling by night, and from ever traveling solo, anywhere, whether by foot or by vehicle. In fact, they are prohibited from leaving the walled, razor-wired compound alone for any reason. On my first morning there, watching the sun rise through the tall fence, observing the huge padlock on the gate to the beach, I realized: this compound of theirs is effectively a prison. It has armed guards and everything!

I was met at the airport by a carload of local friends, and we traveled together for the day's journey from the airport to the coast. Distances there tend to be much longer than they appear on a map. For instance, there's a nearby town that looks about thirty minutes away, but it takes 3 hours to get there because of the lack of a direct route. This lack of road means traveling inland to a different town in the wrong direction, then returning to the coast via another route. Also, whenever a bridge washes out in the rainy season, people literally cannot get to work or go anywhere.

Dirt road in rural Honduras coastal community
You can always drive into town for groceries, supplies, or emergency medical assistance...assuming the river is low that day

After a few days, I returned home to my family, after being escorted to the airport, for security reasons. On the way back to the big city, we met a very chatty fellow who had just recently returned from the U.S. He wanted to practice his English, he said, so he struck up a conversation, telling us all about his recent deportation out of the U.S., which happened because of a series of violent crimes he was accused of committing.  "But you didn't do it?" I asked.  He replied,

"Oh, I did all of it! The police don't know the half of it!"

Then he roared with laughter, sunlight twinkling on his gold tooth. I was warned by this heavily tatted gent, and by nearly every person I met in Honduras, of the many dangers awaiting the traveler making his way to the airport, or trying to visit any of the larger cities for any reason. (I almost wrote "unwary traveler" but these dangers await both the wary and the unwary. This isn't a case where "Exercise common sense and good judgment and you'll be fine" necessarily applies.)

My friends and I were dropped off near the airport, rather than at the airport: but way too far to walk. Then we had a very uncomfortable time standing by the side of the highway for about 20 minutes, waiting for a second arranged driver to show up and ferry us the rest of the way. We spent part of that time talking about exactly how a country acquires the title "Murder Capital of the World" and what that implies for a foreign traveler.

Every third or fourth carload of males slowed way, way down and gave us an unsmiling once-over. I unslouched myself up to my full height, and tried to wear an expression that suggested I could easily defend myself from any carload full of males.

Eventually our driver showed up with a thousand apologies, sweating with anxiety, and explaining that he thought were were going to be on some other remote highway interchange. He was relieved that our wait was...uneventful.

It was a short trip, but I was very happy to get home to my wife and kiddos. There are a lot of countries I've visited over the years, to which I dream of one day returning.  Thailand immediately comes to mind. Switzerland too. South Korea, also.  And that concludes this article.

Beach sunset in the evening in Honduras
Sunset on the Honduran Coast
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