A Ryan Carpenter Production

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Ryan’s Great Adventures

Volume 6: Sat May 18, 2002

This is a tobacco farm, and tobacco leaves are drying in the short, squat building on the right

I must admit, I've developed a vice while in La Ceiba. I'm ashamed to admit it, and I know I'll be heckled for it until the end of my days, but I love the strawberry shakes at Burger King. After a hot, humid day, that air-conditioned building while sucking on a strawberry shake—it's a great feeling. And the only reason I admit this is because the last time I was there before leaving La Ceiba for the last time, I got to watch a couple dozen kids beat up on Barney, the purple dinosaur. (It was a piñata, not a guy dressed as Barney!) It was great. =) I guess the desire to beat up Barney crosses all language and cultural barriers, and I wanted to share that with everyone.

I've spent the past week in Copan, a beautiful little town of 6,000 or so people in the western highlands of Honduras, twelve kilometers from the Guatamalan border. The town really is cute, too, I'm not just staying that to make you jealous! =)

The streets of Copan have cobblestones—adorable, but tough on your bum when riding around in a vehicle

From La Ceiba I bussed it to Copan. In La Ceiba, I hopped on a wonderful air-conditioned bus. It was clean, comfortable, and they even showed a movie during the trip! (Ghost World, which I didn't really like all that much, but it's the thought that counts!)

In San Pedro Sula, I had to switch buses. In a mean trick, the bus company left me on a bus without air-conditioning or movies, and the bus didn't look all that capable of traveling long distances to boot. Still, it was a definitely a step up from the crowded and smelly chicken buses! =) I had set my expectations so high after that first leg of the journey, though, this second bus was a tough blow!

This was the view out the window of my classroom

(In unrelated matters, I saw my first McDonald's while passing through San Pedro Sula. I just KNEW they wouldn't have left a country unconquered! But Burger King and Wendy's definitely have the duopoly going in this country....)

The road to Copan becomes very windy crawling through the mountains, so I pretty much laid down bored to tears. The bus driver stopped a couple of times along the way to get out. I'm not sure why, but I suspect it might have been for bladder control. After over two hours, the bus suddenly woke me up, sounding like it lost some very important parts. The bus rattled and shook violently, but it turns out we had made it to the cobblestone streets of Copan. =) I've got to say, the cobblestone streets are SO cute, but all vehicles must tremble in fear of those streets.

The people of Honduras, and probably much of Latin America, have a few ideas about how to do things that we wouldn't have thought of.

I'm in class, studying Spanish

For instance: washing a car. That seems like a simple task. A little water, some soap, a couple of rags. Soap is even optional in many cases. Heck, maybe even the rags are. You wouldn't think the process of washing a car would be very different no matter where in the world you are. But you'd be wrong.

Here, in Honduras, the directions for washing a car are as follows:

  1. Drive car into river.
  2. Use towel to clean car. (If no towel is available, the shirt off your back is good enough.)
  3. Drive car out of river.
  4. Let dry.

Here's another example of something that seemed simple enough but turned out to be a little over my head. I like to collect Coke bottles from the various countries I've visited, so when I saw a bottle of Coke in the grocery store, I figured, "Hey, I'll buy it!" That didn't SEEM like a difficult thing to do at the time, but when I went to pay for it, the guy at the counter popped the top off for me. I forgot about that. They always try to be so friendly, and I wasn't quick enough to stop him.

A pose with a mural near a mountaintop

But THEN, and this is the part I could only shake my head with astonishment at, he proceeded to pour the contents of the bottle into a plastic bag, stuck a straw in it, and handed it to me! These people are religious about recycling bottles, and from this experience I learned that if I had wanted the bottle, it would cost an extra five limperas (which was NOT an issue, as far as I was concerned!) Of course, by now the bottle was empty and I didn't want it anymore, so I took my plastic bag—filled with Coke—and sucked the contents dry.

This was my horse-riding guide

On Wednesday I decided to take a horse on a test drive. Being the experienced elephant rider that I am, I thought it was time I tried out a horse too. I got the latest, four-leg drive model with all the options. The steering seemed to have a mind of its own at times, wanting to go one way while I wanted to go another. And the shocks were dreadful. But it was a lot of fun. My guide (who ONLY spoke Spanish, but who I learned has a brother in Colorado) took me up a hill to a nice vantage point where the two of us could see the famous Mayan ruins. There were tons of various farms along the way including tobacco fields that always had strange, low buildings used to dry the tobacco.

Later that evening, it started to rain. REALLY HARD. Thunder and lightning. It was great! =) I sat outside (covered by an overhang), watching the lightning flash across the sky and the thunder that would shake the house afterwards. The power went out for a while, although electricity in this town seems very fragile, with or without lightning. In the week I've been there, there's been at least three power outages that have lasted for more than an hour, and unlike in Utila, these were NOT planned outages.

Most of this past week I spent in school, though, or reading the Cosmepolitan (in Spanish!) at the house I'm staying in. Which, I guess I should mention something about.

This was my teacher in Copan. I swear, almost all of the Spanish teacher in Central America are cute, young women, which I found very agreeable. *nodding*

School: For those men out there with lots of extra time on your hands, at all these schools I've been to, most of the teachers are VERY cute women! Well, in Utila my teacher was a decent looking guy (I suppose) if you go for that sort of thing, but most of the teachers are beautiful, young women! There are worse fates in life than having to learn Spanish from beautiful, young women. And Copan was no exception. =)

Homestay: I'm happy to report that this time around, the family I'm staying with knows how to prepare something other than flavored rice. However, regardless of what was on the menu, it always seemed to be flavored with bananas. Very odd. And eggs were commonly a part of lunch or dinner, which is even more bizarre since I've always thought of eggs as a breakfast item. Breakfast would vary from day to day from a bowl of cereal (corn flakes, to be exact!) to pancakes—but NEVER eggs! While I haven't like every meal I've had, there's enough variety that I have yet to go out to a local restaurant to sample the foods there. There could be bull testicles in Copan, but if there are, I couldn't tell you where. =) However, I CAN tell you that there are NO restaurants or other chains you'd recognize here. Everything here is locally owned and operated. (How many places in this day and age can say that?)

Also, in Copan, roosters rule the streets. I've heard roosters crowing in La Ceiba and Utila, but here in Copan they outnumber people ten to one. (Just an estimate on my part.) And they like to crow loud enough to make sure you know it. All freakin' day long.... I'll tell you, if roosters were this common in the United States, the homicide rates of both roosters and their owners would skyrocket from where they are now. Roosters are God's way of punishing people..... =)

And thus concludes the latest adventures of Ryan Carpenter. Next time you hear from me, I should have made it to Guatemala! =)

— Ryan

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