09 January 2017

Christmas in Honduras

I've been back to Honduras four times since I studied there, but I keep wanting to go again. I especially wanted to go again after nearly back-to-back ice/snow storms in Gone West during December.

We had all the usual travel problems. Flight delays meant that J. and I got the last evening shuttle to our hotel from the airport in Houston. But bright and early, there were our parents, eating breakfast in the lobby.

J. sat with his parents in one row on the flight to Roatan, and I with my parents in the row behind them. I made my mom sit by the window so that she could see the Caribbean below us.

"It's so hilly," she said, as we flew over the spine of the island. I had forgotten that, too, but I had not forgotten that the plane flies in over the water along the coast or that the runway starts right at the edge of the water. We flew past all the colorful houses along the bays, lower and lower, until suddenly the wheels were on the ground.

I also neglected to mention that it would be hot. Not as hot as Liberia, but it is the tropics. 

We'd rented a house back in the jungle down some of the steepest roads I've ever driven. (We didn't know that at the time, of course.) 

It rained on Christmas Day, and we exchanged presents in the morning. Not much - we couldn't bring much with us - but everyone got a little something. 

J. and I brought Hydro Flasks for everyone. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out which of the six blue-green-purple colors to give to each person. J. and I each had a favorite, but we decided that we would be happy with any of them. In the end we (okay, J.) just wrapped them all and handed them out at random. 

When we opened them, J. had my favorite color (mint) and I had his (pacific), so we immediately handed them off, without even saying anything. Then our dads switched so that my dad had dark blue and his dad dark green. Our moms got the apple green and the purple. Which is, in fact, just about as close as possible to what we would have given them if we'd had to pick. 

In the afternoon, I read in a hammock for a while, and then we walked down to the beach with snorkel gear. J. and I swam out, looking for the reef.

As it turns out, we picked one of the spots where the coast curves in and the reef out. J. didn't have fins, because I was using his scuba fins, which didn't fit my feet very well. It was a lot of work. By the time we found the reef, we were ready to turn around and head in. 

My parents met us on the beach, and we walked down to West Bay, over a funny little bridge high above a channel. 

"Hey!" I said when we got there. "This is Bite on the Beach! T. and I ate here in 2002 when we were here!" and I made them take a photo of me with the sign. Beyond the restaurant, though, the beach was unrecognizable. What had been a long stretch of empty sand lined with jungle and one long pier back when T. and I were the only ones on the beach was instead a mess of beachside bars, beach chairs, and jet skis. Sigh. 

For dinner, we drove up over the hill and down to West End. The restaurant we wanted to visit was serving a $60 prix fixe holiday meal, so we ended up at an Argentinian restaurant. 

As one does, on Christmas Day in Honduras. 

03 January 2017

below the surface

For a long time, all I could do was work. The job that I had in Universe City and then back in Gone West was all-consuming. I managed sometimes to take a weekend off, but work sucked so much energy out of me that I felt like I had nothing left to give. 

Then I was unemployed, and that takes everything you have to give, too.

But this last year was good. 2016 was so, so good to me. 

I have a job that I love. I hate the commute, but I love the work. 

I have a cute boy to kiss (hi J.!!). I flew to meet up with him one of the times he was in Spain, and we went to Croatia.

I climbed mountains. I camped. I hiked. 

At the end, we went [back] to Honduras, to Roatan. Back for me, the first time for J. and his parents and my parents. 

We ate frijoles and tortillas at least two meals per day. An ATM stole 512 of my dollars (error message with no money three times; turns out it withdrew the money each time but never gave it to me; I have complained to the bank). We drank a lot of drinks full of delicious juice and not much alcohol while sitting beachside. The two little Hyundais we rented struggled with potholes bigger than their tires (we lost one wheel to a pothole; oops). We ate lunch out on a dock over the water. I complained that the most beautiful beach has been taken over by beachside bars and lounge chairs and way too many people.

One day, J. went diving in the morning. In the afternoon, I met with a diving instructor to learn the basics for a discovery dive.

When we first put our heads under water in the shallows, I was worried. It seemed hard to breathe through the regulator, like I had to pull on it too hard to get air. But then we tipped forward horizontal. Everything fell into place. 

The parents piled onto the boat to snorkel, and J. and I and the instructor to dive. Out in the water, I watched the parents start to float off in different directions, and then I held my regulator and mask as the instructor told me to, and I dropped backward off the boat.

The instructor had me hold onto the mooring as we descended. We followed the rope down, blowing out to equalize our ears and masks. At the bottom, among the coral and fish, we swam. I was surprised to find that I wasn't at all bothered by knowing that my only air came from a tank through a tube. Just like rappelling, it was only scary until I did it. 

J. pointed out a huge eel snaking through the coral. A grouper sat under a shelf, underbite silently open. A lion fish waved its feather-like fins out of a crack in the coral. 

Far too soon, we had to ascend. I popped out of the water exhilarated and ready to do it again, despite being exhausted by the novelty. 

Also, I was pretty proud of myself for only using 10% more air than J. did, despite it being my very first dive.