Wait, what? It doesn't snow in Honduras! You're right. However, since Monday afternoon, the entire country has been on a curfew. Originally the curfew was to go from Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning, but it has since been extended several times. Right now it is lifting tomorrow (Thursday) morning. Everything has been closed/canceled because we are not supposed to leave our homes. So we have all the freedom you get when you don't have to go to school during the week with none of the fun stuff to do. To help pass the time Monday night, Gabrielle and I made some piƱa coup-ladas and played dominos with one of our neighbors for hours. Today I have been boning up on Honduran politics. Many of you have asked me about the current political situation, so here is a brief overview of the political happenings in this country leading up to today:

As many of you may know (or remember) Latin America was not exactly the poster child of politcal stability for a long time. In the midst of bloody coups and violent revolutions, Honduras managed to keep its nose clean. For the past twenty years, they were the most politically stable country in Central America. In the 1980s, Honduras became a democratic nation (again, I think). The constitution passed approval in 1982, and is the same constitution in effect today. Article 4 of the Honduran constitution states "The alternation in office of the President of the Republic is required. Violation of this rule constitutes the crime of treason." Article 237 states that a Honduran president is allowed to serve one four-year term.

Fast forward to November 2005. Mel Zelaya is elected president. He was a pretty popular guy, but not overwhelmingly so...he won the vote by 4%, which was the smallest margin in the country's history. He was a member of the Liberal Party of Honduras, and he took office in January of 2006. His popularity began to drop shortly after taking office. Earlier this year, Mel proposed some amendments to the constitution. There were several changes he wanted to make, but the one that has received the most attention is one that would allow a president to be re-elected for an indefinite number of terms. If you look back to Article 4 of the constitution, you will see that this constitutes treason. So Congress, the Supreme Court, and the military all told Zelaya they would not back him if he continued with the vote.

Mel continued with his plan for the proposition. Since Congress would not hold a vote for it, he decided to hold a Constituents Assembly on June 28th. A couple days before the vote, the ballots were flown in to the capitol where the military siezed them and destroyed most of them. Mel managed to snuggle some out and was planning on moving forward with the vote. The Honduran constitution is very long, and I was unable to find a copy in English, so I haven't read all of it yet. According to many of the people here that I have spoken to, this is the part where Mel ceased to be the president of Honduras. Apparently the Honduran Constitution does not allow for an impeachment process. Congress and the Supreme Court held emergency sessions, determined that according to Constitution Mel Zelaya was no longer the president, voted Micheleti in as interim president, and decided the safest course of action would be to fly Mel out of the country.

This is what you read about in the papers as the wild and crazy military coup. Although in real life, the military was only following orders from what they believe to be their true authority. I don't remember what the article number is, but the Constitution does state that no Honduran citizen can be exiled or something along those lines. arg, I wish I could find it. So forcing Mel out of the country was an unconstitutional act as well.

After a couple months of shenanigans, Mel is back. This past Monday, Mel somehow made it back in the country and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. The country has pretty much been on lockdown, and I don't know anything more recent than that, really.

The current government is not recognized as legitimate by many (or really any?) other world leaders. As a result of their refusal to reinstate Mel, Honduras has been removed from the OAS and has been denied aid from the US and Europe. This year is an election year (Mel's term would have been over January 6, 2010), and apparently the newly appointed official is not going to be considered legitimate either, as a result of this craziness. Now, I am clearly not an expert on politics in general, much less Honduran politics. But in my opinion, Mel Zelaya was removed from power according to the Honduran constitution. And although he was removed from the country, which I think was an unconstitutional act, I don't think that means he should be reinstated. I also think it's quite a load of crap for foreign governments, namely the US, to say that Mel Zelaya needs to be reinstated in order for democracy to be upheld, but then say that they will not recognize any new president elected after the new regime. Sadly, I don't think this is about democracy anymore. But I will say that even if it means I am labeled as a golpista, I support Honduras. My two cents.
Gabrielle (my neighbor/coworker) and I went to Tela a couple weekends ago. Tela is a small town a couple hours east-ish (I think?) from San Pedro Sula, and it is right on the beach which is the large basis for its appeal. :)

We took a charter bus one Saturday morning. The bus was packed, until we made a stop at the airport. When we left the airport for our final destination, there was a grand total of 4 passengers on the bus...Gabrielle and myself, and two other American teachers from a different school. A couple hours and one really dreadful movie later (Wedding Daze...don't rush out to rent it...except might like it) we arrived in Tela. The bus dropped us off at a really beautiful/expensive hotel. We ended up staying at one a couple blocks away called Playa Bonita, which was much more affordable, yet still safe and clean. There was a hotel called Playa with rooms for Lmp. 70 a night (that is...about $3)...but there was no address or phone number for it in the book. We think that maybe it isn't a hotel at all, but just the beach ("playa" is Spanish for "beach" in case you didn't know), and we figured that we would skip that option this time. One big draw for the Playa Bonita was that its sign led you to believe there were monkeys on site. At least, that is how we interpreted it. Take a look and let me know what you would think:

Alas, there were no monkeys. But there was really delicious food, an air conditioned room (score!!!) and the beach was literally a block down the street. We hit the beach within 15 minutes of arriving in town, and it was AWESOME. There were pelicans all over the place, and I stood in the water totally mesmerized by them diving for fish for nearly an hour. I had only seen that on documentaries before. One of the most beautiful and amazing things I have ever seen. It made me wish I had my camera with me for a little bit. I had lost that feeling by the time we left, however. As Gabrielle and I were getting ready to go back to the hotel, two young boys came and sat near our table. When we turned around to shake the sand out of our towels the boys grabbed Gabrielle's bag and took off. Fortunately she didn't have anything of value in it, but it did have her book and sunscreen and stuff like that, but we were kind of amazed at the audacity those kids had.

The next morning we took a taxi to Lancetilla, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, if I translated the brochure correctly. Many parts were closed, although I am not sure if they were closed because it was a Sunday or because we are in Honduras...we did get to see a lot of absolutely gorgeous plants, however. And we also got to eat some lychees and mangosteens that were picked from the garden. I don't think those fruits are native to this part of the world, but they are delicious, and I am glad they grow them here now.

We met up with the other two Americans at the expensive hotel to grab lunch while we waited for the bus home. Apparently Tela isn't the most popular destination for foreign tourists, so we got a lot of stares. I am fairly certain we were the only gringas in Tela that weekend. Aside from the blatant gawking, we had a lot of people come up to us and (very nondiscreetly) take pictures and videos of us on their cell phones. It's like being a celebrity, but without money.

There is a subculture in Honduras called Garifuna. They are descendants of African slaves and a certain Indian tribe, and they are concentrated mainly along the coast. A lot of them make their money selling coconut stuff on the beach. While we were eating lunch, three kids kept walking across the deck trying to get us to buy stuff from them. Pan de coco (bread made from coconut milk) is some seriously delicious stuff, so we had the kids stop so we could check out their stuff. The little boy had all kinds of goodies in his bowl besides the bread. One bag contained dulces de coco, which is basically toasted coconut candy. It was delicious and we all wanted to get some, but there was only one bag between the three of them. We pointed to the bag and said "¿tiene mas?" and before we could finish the word, all three kids threw their bowls to the ground and sprinted off to get some more from their mom or whoever was making it. It was one of the cutest, most hilarious things I have ever seen in my life.

Thus concludes the trip to Tela. I'm putting some pictures below for interested parties. Putting the pictures in the text like I did for the apartment was a nightmare to edit and align...and then Daniel put a new format on my blog (which is really pretty and I love!!!! everyone tell Daniel what a pretty template he found) but that messed with formatting options even more. more artistically arranged photos in the blog for now. I am going to start putting my pictures up on Picasa as well, but due to the technical issues I have been having lately, it may take a little while. In the are some pretty flowers, a leaf cutter ant (yeah!! I saw a bunch!!!!! AMAZING!!!!!), some beach, and all the delicious food I got.

Technical difficulties have prevented me from communicating in any sort of consistent manner with many of you, and I am so sorry for that. Things have been sorted, and I am back. SO...if you called or emailed and I haven't responded, please bear with me. I promise I am not ignoring you!! In my break from technology I've done some fun stuff around here that I will catch you up on as well very soon. I love you guys, and you have no idea how incredibly excited I am to be able to talk to you again!!