Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to make September disappear...

What a crazy month. With September having barely begun, we received some surprising news on the morning of Monday, September 7th. Due to the widespread swine flu pandemic, and the number of Pinares students out with flu symptoms, the school made the decision to close for two weeks in order to sanitize the school and give students a chance to get better. That Monday, when my principal called me out of class to let me know that we would not have class starting the next day until the 21st, I was shocked! By the end of that same school day, several teachers had already bought plane tickets to go home to the states, and some had planned international chicken bus adventures set to leave the very next day. I contemplated going home, but with rumors spreading that the school would need to take away most of our future long weekends away in order to make up these missed instructional days, I wanted to take advantage of this time to see the country! I also knew my family was wanting to make a trip down, so I jumped on this opportunity. I convinced my dad to fly down and Mallory, my sister, was even able to miss a week of class in order to come with him!

For the first week of the vacation, I hung around Teguc for a few days and caught up on classroom things and took a little trip to a park nearby called El Picacho, where there is a huge Jesus statue and views of the entire city.

On Thursday, a group of us headed to La Ceiba, a beach on the Caribbean. Ben and Joy, a brave teacher-couple who have been here for a year, rented a van and Ben did all the driving.

That was such a treat because it gave us so much freedom to go where we pleased! We stayed one night in a super nice resort on the beach, free to all of us because it was loaned to us by a students' parents who own it. From there, a smaller group of us continued down the beach to a much less touristy and much more rustic beach called Trujillo, where the water was crystal clear right off the beach and there were massive star fish all over! In Trujillo we went on a snorkel trip and visited an old Fort (built by the Spanish, like the one in St. Augustine!)

After two nights in our fun, but very simple hostel-ish hotel in Trujillo, we went back to La Ceiba and spent another night in the resort. On Monday I went white water rafting!! The river is incredibly beautiful and snuggled right into a national forest (more like a jungle). Even better than the rafting was the jumping off huge rocks into the white water, and swimming and hiking along the river.

That afternoon my family flew right into La Ceiba!! After a dinner with the big group of teachers, we split off and headed for our hotel, Villa Helens right on the beach. The next day we went to the most beautiful tropical location I've ever seen in my life, called Cayos Cochinos, a little cluster of tiny islands amid turquoise water and the second largest barrier reef in the world! I've never seen a reef like it. It was most definitely the best snorkeling I've ever done! After snorkeling, the boat took us to a tiny Garifuna (afro-caribe) island where we ate a fried whole-fish lunch.

We intended to stay another day in Ceiba and do a Canopy Tour before taking an afternoon bus to Copan, but after learning that the bus schedules were not what I thought, we had to forgo the canopy tour and leave on a 10:00 bus. It was a long day of travel, with a two-hour layover in between our two, 3-hour bus rides, but we finally made it to Copan. Copan was described to me as an island within Honduras. It has been built up as a touristy spot because of the incredible Mayan ruins nearby, but there is nothing else around it. For me, Copan was such a welcome relief from being in a city or stranded in a beach hotel. It reminded me of the traditional Mexican colonial towns I liked to visit, where everything branches out, grid-like, from the central park. In Copan we made friends with our Tuk-Tuk (moto-taxi) driver and he ended up taking us to all the sights we wanted to hit. We saw the ruins, did a Canopy tour, visited a shade-grown coffee plantation, and went to Macaw Mountain bird park. When it got dark (which happens pretty early) we wandered around the town and shopped and ate and just people-watched.
Our hotel in Copan, Don Udos, was adorable and comfortable and made me want to stay forever. In fact, we did end up extending our stay until Saturday, the day before Mallory and Dad flew out of Teguc, because we liked it so much!

But all good things must come to an end, and we
headed back to Teguc early Saturday morning, where I got to show my family my house and school and a bit of the city. I feel so fortunate that I got this incredibly unexpected vacation and visit and was able to see so much of the country already! Honduras is really an amazing place to visit, and it is quite unfortunate the effect that the political situation is having on tourism. So, come visit me and together we can do our part to get Honduras back on its feet again! :)

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