Honduras: the Good and the Bad
By Gregg Millett
My friend Ann and I arrived at the Tegucigalpa airport on time (at 8pm) and were met by my nephew David and his friend Elena. The Hertz car rental had closed at 6pm (our car had been scheduled for pick-up at 8pm).

We took a taxi into Tegus to the Hotel/Escuela Madrid where we had reserved a room. The exhaust fumes on the drive in were at about 90 on a scale of 1 to 100 (100 being death within 10 minutes).

We enjoyed a bottle of wine (courtesy of the hotel) and retired early. We had started our day in Albany, New York at 3am with a drive to JFK Airport in New York City. The cacophony (Ann's word) of sounds drifting through the window made for a fitful night of sleep -- screeching cars, music, barking dogs, people yelling and, yes, roosters -- crowing beginning at 2am (the young ones start training early -- the real crowing begins about 4am).

After a hearty breakfast of beans, platanos, eggs and wonderful Honduran coffee we went out driving around the city. Among other highlights we visited the Central Park and, nearby, an apartment that my nephew was thinking about renting. Now I've driven in New York City, England and Italy but Honduras in general, and Tegucigalpa in particular, get the Grand Prix award. First you have to be good at dodging 1-foot deep potholes and uncovered manholes and watching carefully as your fellow drivers dodge the same. Next you have to be careful of the hundreds (no thousands) of pedestrians, including vendors, children and dogs. There are few street signs so you watch the traffic flow to get the basic idea of what's what. Generally the street with the greatest flow of traffic has the right of way (one exception is that the fastest car has the right of way). I also found that, if it appears you don't see another car, the driver will give you some leeway. If your passenger happens to scream from time to time that also adds to the overall excitement of this driving adventure.

Now of course I'm exaggerating, as I take a quick left hand turn, and half way down the block of a one-lane street, a rather large truck coming at me indicates that one of us is going in the wrong direction. Using both sidewalks I get turned around and make it back to the one-lane street that leads UP to my nephew’s prospective apartment (the incline is 90 on my scale where at 100 your car flips over backwards). Almost out of power, we turn left onto the cobblestone lane in front of the apartment.

It's available and only $60 a month! We make our way up three tiers of rotten wooden steps, getting many friendly greetings as we go. Then we walk carefully across a concrete walkway, with no railing, to this kind of penthouse above the other one-roomers. It's a 12 by 10 foot concrete room with a small private bath and shower, which actually has running cold water -- every other day. David and I love it. Ann and Elena hold hands and commit suicide by jumping off the walkway.

We load them in the car and proceed down the cobblestone lane to a left and curve and back down the hill. Just as we come around the curve we see a Land Rover jammed sideways in the street. Turns out it has a broken axle and they're trying to figure out what to do. OK, it's time for a Grand Prix award. We back up the hill, back down the lane and slide back down to the safety of the main racetrack.

For the weekend we drive three hours through the beautiful mountains and valleys of Southeastern Honduras to a beautiful little town near the Nicaraguan border. Ann enjoys the many sights including the vultures devouring cows and horses and dogs along the roadway. We check into a small motel, which was an absolutely pleasant place to stay once we got the feces of the previous occupants out of the toilet and shower. Next we visit friends. We have a wonderful time visiting with them and seeing their cheese and rosquilla (a cheese-cracker) making operations. We have several wonderful meals together and Ann by now is starting to speak some Spanish. There is absolutely nothing "bad" about our wonderful time with these dear friends.

Back in Tegucigalpa on Monday we spent the day on the edge of death as our systems adjusted to being in Honduras. That evening we took a recovery walk through the streets near our hotel enjoying the "cacophony" of sights -- a mechanic/welding shop, rows of one-room dwellings, little corner stores, a Mercedes parked in the courtyard of large Spanish style home, a steep bank along a river's edge and dogs, kids and people on the streets.

On Tuesday we had fun with David and Elena. We went to a restaurant and country club, the owners of which were looking for a good chef (the profession of my nephew), and in the process met some very interesting, enterprising people. We went shopping in the biggest, busiest market this side of Shanghi and bought some domestic stuff like buckets, mops, and towels. And we moved a bed into my nephew’s penthouse and helped him move in his six plastic bags of stuff. Nothing bad happened on this day. Wait, I forgot. My back went out.

On our last day we ventured out to make several visits. I have to admit that I hobbled. We went to the restaurant where my nephew is teaching international cooking classes; to the National University where Ann toured the Pharmacy Department; and to the Casa Alianza which cares for street children. Absolutely nothing bad happened on this beautiful day -- except that half the city went to bed ill-fed and ill-housed in a country where the average worker makes $3 a day (and where the price of gasoline is $3 a gallon and a Big Mack with Biggie Fries are available for $4.50).

We are now safely back to our home and really did have a wonderful time on our visit to Honduras. We really did! I love Honduras! I'd better go -- I think I heard a gun-shot in the bedroom.

How's your life -- the good and the bad?

Gregg (gmillett@nycap.rr.com)