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Ryan’s Great Adventures

Volume 2: Mon Apr 22, 2002

I'm studying for class. Really. See? There's even a textbook in my lap!

I think I left my last e-mail saying I finished my first day of Spanish lessons, but didn't really tell you anything about it, so I'll do that now.

The school is pretty small with six students (including myself!) last week. Generally, people sign up to go for specific weeks, and this week the school is down to three students (including myself!). Four left last week, and one started up.

This is mi professora, Gina

"Classes" consist of one student each, so it's not really a class in the traditional sense of the word. Each student is paired up with a teacher, and you hack away at whatever lesson you're working on until your mind goes numb and you think that not only have you not learned any Spanish, but may have forgotten some English to boot! At least that's my experience. Others may disagree!

After class they'll organize extracurricular activities like a trip to Pico Bonito National Park or—in one very sad case—dance lessons. Which is a great time to meet other students since you obviously don't do that DURING class.

Once a week, they'll take us out somewhere else for classes other than the school. Last week, we jumped on a chicken bus and took a field trip to Sambo Creek, a nice little town east of La Ceiba, and stopped at a resort overlooking the Caribbean.

Speaking of chicken buses, they're a hoot to ride on. They're typically old school buses from the United States that no self-respecting school district would be caught dead with, but Hondurans have no qualms about using as public transportation. They'll pump music from whatever radio station is on throughout the bus—an improvement from the public transportation in the US, if you ask me! Yes, it's a great feeling to jump on a stuffy, crowded, hot chicken bus with Macho Man playing on the radio. (I kid you not! Who'd have ever thought the Village People could be international hits?)

We took a chicken bus to Sambo Creek for a day of off-campus classes

An hour or two into my class today, we were interrupted by a parade. Well, a band with a few stragglers. My maestro, Gina, told me it was for "La Dia del Tierra", or as I interrupted it, Earth Day. Which came as something of a shock to me for several reasons.

First, I didn't realize it was Earth Day. It's not one of those holidays on my mental list of holidays to be remembered. Second, La Ceiba is swimming in trash. You can't take five steps without stepping on garbage. It's everywhere. I can count on my fingers how many buses and cars would pass a smog inspection in the states. One creek I saw is so polluted, it looks like milk. And these people are celebrating EARTH DAY?! Well, I guess they have to start somewhere!

Students and teachers mingle during the hourly breaks

I don't mean to make La Ceiba sound like some filthy, horrible place, because I really am enjoying myself here. It has its charm, in a weird sort of way. La Ceiba is the third largest city in Honduras with a population of over 100,000 people, but I can count on my fingers how many street lights I've seen. The taxis are CUTE. I've never said that about a taxi before, but the ones here are just so darned cute. Speaking of which, that's by far the best way to get around town quickly. They're EVERYWHERE. Put out your hand to hail down a taxi and there'll probably be half a dozen of them angling to get you in their car in five seconds flat.

Strangely, they feel the need to honk every time they drove past me while I was walking somewhere. At first I thought they were just friendly. It turns out they just wanted to make sure I knew they were there—just in case I needed a ride. Maybe they think I'm blind and didn't see the other 35 taxis on the two blocks I walked down. Anyhow, I've never riden in a taxi before, so that's another first for me. =) The taxis around town cost less than a buck—at least in the daytime—so it's a great way of getting around quickly and cheaply. At night, they typically charge a little more—perhaps a buck twenty-five.

A palm tree overlooks the Caribbean Sea

Another thing about La Ceiba—and probably all of Central America for that matter—is that there are guns everywhere. Big ones. Several armed guards stand outside of all the banks. Others patrol outside of supermarkets. This has got to be the safest place in the world! =) How often do you see armed guards standing outside of a supermarket?

Getting into a bank is like going through security at an airport. Bags must be left in lockers at the front door. Then you've got to make it through a metal detector. One of the well-armed guards unlocks and locks the front door for you when you go through. They do this whenever somebody enters or leaves the building.

Speaking of banks.... I've also changed a travelers check for the first time, which turned out NOT to be as easy as I thought! After learning the tricks of getting INTO the bank, I waited in line for 20 or so minutes until I got to the front of the line. Naturally, the teller didn't speak English, but I flashed the travelers check and he knew what I wanted to do with it. But then he wanted to see my passport! Yes, I know I must be ignorant, but I didn't realize they'd want to see my passport. I was supposed to sign that second line, and that would be proof of who I am, right? (When I took travelers checks while working at Dairy Queen and Pizza Hut I never asked for any sort of ID!)

A few of the students—two from Canada and one from Switzerland—on an after class excursion

So I went back, empty handed. The second time I went to exchange the check, I came with passport in hand. This time I decided to go to a different bank—one that was a little closer. I navigated my way through the front doors, got into line where I waited for a good 20 or 30 minutes, walked up to the teller, flashed my travelers check, and he said they didn't take them there! Aren't ALL banks supposed to take travelers checks? Heck, we took them at Dairy Queen and Pizza Hut! Surely all banks should take them. *rolling eyes*

So I walked away empty handed—AGAIN.

Third time's a charm, though. This time, I asked a fellow student where the closest place to exchange travelers checks for local money (that he knew about, at least), and he pointed me to a bank a few blocks away. I'm getting more proficient at navigating my way into the bank at this point. I left my backpack at the school, so that wasn't a problem. I walked into the bank, and there was NOBODY IN LINE! I walked up to the teller, flashed my travelers check. He took it, asked for my passport, wrote all sorts of stuff on the back of the check, I signed it, and walked out with 1,621 limperas. I was loaded. =) That's about $100 in US money, but was enough to buy over 150 taxi rides. I was rich—for Honduran standards!

I joked that this is what the locals used as protection from hurricanes

The weather has been interesting as well. The days have been humid and hot. I'm not sure if I'm getting more used to it or if it's been cooling down, but it's not much different than a warm, summer day in Oregon, and I'm starting to find the weather kind of tolerable. But rain storms come in occasionally. They come in very suddenly—it's perfectly clear then a half hour later its pouring like there's no tomorrow. And another hour later, it's totally clear again. Very bizarre. Typically it has rained in the evening when I'm already at my homestay and when I wake up the next morning, you can't even tell it rained at all.

Speaking of homestays, I should mention something about that as well since I've had more than one person ask about that. I'm living with a local family, although I can't tell you much about them. They don't speak English, and my command of the Spanish language is very limited. Betty, the maid (I think) is adorable. When I see her in the morning, she'll say, "Buenos diaaaaas" that's absolutely hilarious. There's at least a couple of kids who live at the house, but I'm not sure how many. There are TONS of kids going in and out at all times of the day and night, most of which I'm pretty sure don't live there, but I'm not sure which ones. It seems more like a youth hostel for kids than a home!

I have my own room with a bed, table, and bathroom facilities. It seems having my own bathroom is quite a luxury, but keep in mind the shower has no hot water so "luxury" isn't the word that comes to my mind.

Breakfast consists of a few pieces of toast with pineapple jam on it and a cup of freshly squeezed juice—either orange or grapefruit juice. At first I was appauled at the lack of substance such a meal had, but now I'm growing quite fond of it.

Lunch and dinner I'm starting to get quite sick of, though. I call it "flavored rice". White rice with whatever happens to be the flavor of the day—beans, cheese, and whatever else happens to be available. It's okay a couple of times, but twice a day for a week and it's not very good anymore, so I've been going out to eat more and more often. (I haven't repeated my bull ball adventure as of yet, though.) Today I went to el supermercado and bought a bag of Doritos to munch on in the event I want to dodge another lunch or dinner.

Anyhow, I must be off once again..... Until next time, farewell!

— Ryan

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