1. Paper or Plastic?
4. Thank goodness for white-out
My students LOVE white-out. To an excessively ridiculous point. Apparently it is a cultural thing, as you can see from this sign. It was cemented in facing the wrong direction. Fortunately, whoever made that mistake was adept at liquid paper usage, and the wrong was quickly whited...I mean righted.5. Cheapest PADI certification in the world
The dry season runs from November to April, more or less. December and January can have cold/rainy days if a cold Northern wind blows in. This year was kind of freakish in that it got really cold (for here) for nearly the whole month of January. Normally that doesn't happen. Even with the preparation I had from living in Texas, the dry season down here was the hottest, stickiest several months I have ever experienced. When rainy season hit, it brought sweet sweet freedom from hot weather oppression.
During the rainy season, it is really hot until it starts to rain. Once the drops start to fall, it cools off, and it is really pleasant. Unlike weather in Texas, weather here is fairly predictable. Every day during rainy season, it will start off cloudy. The clouds will dissappear around 8:30 or 9am, and the sun will try to beat you down. The clouds make a comeback around 3:30 or 4pm, when a delicious breeze carries them in. Then it starts raining between 5 and 6 until sometime after I have fallen asleep. This is the weekday schedule. Magically, the rain knows when it is weekend and children do not have recess, and it pours pretty much non-stop Saturday and Sunday.
My feeling towards rainy season are conflicted. I love the refreshing climate the rainy season brings. On the other hand, the hot and sunny days are ideal for washing laundry. Because, in case you do not remember, we wash our laundry by hand in the pila and then hang it out to dry. And leaving laundry out for nasty city rain negates any washing that occurred. Which means that I am running out of clean clothes. And Febreze-ing my dirty clothes isn't an option. (just kidding mom, I never really did that. often) I think I figured out a clever schedule where I wash my clothes when I get home from work, then leave them in a wet pile in a bag in my kitchen overnight. Then I hang them up in the morning when I wake up. I think one more load like that, and then I can hold off until I have access to a real washer and dryer. I never have been so stoked to do laundry.
I have made references to job hunting in some previous posts, but have not given the results here. So, in case you have not heard, I will be teaching science in Bratislava, Slovakia next school year. The reason this was announced in my friend Erica's blog is because she will be a mere three hours away in Ostrava, Czech Republic!! If that wasn't awesome enough, the Slovak word for brothers is "brats". I can already tell that I am going to like it over there.
This causes problems when a student says something incorrectly and I correct them. Because they have been taught (sometimes for years already) that the way they are saying it is correct. And whenever I correct them, they act like I am trying to trick them...like "hahaha, I taught these kids how to sound stupid!" or something. So it is generally a fight to convince students that I know my language a little better than them, and I really want to help them at least sound intelligent. For example, you don't ask "When we are going to recess?"...you ask "When are we going to recess?" That took a good month before they finally believed me.
This morning, the biology teacher came in to talk to Gabrielle and I. He was talking about lizards with webbed necks, and that kind of transitioned into Turner syndrome (one of the manifestations of this disease is a webbed neck). He kept referring to the webbed neck as an enlarged cervical membrane. And he wouldn't believe Gabrielle or I when we said that the cervical membrane does not refer to extra skin on your neck. It literally took 15 minutes and the help of Google before he believed that the cervical membrane refers to special lady parts.
sucker. I can't believe he fell for that...
In a conscious effort to curb my natural tendency towards super long posts, I am only going to post the chorus and 7th verse, which is what is sung normally (kind of like how the Aggie War Hymn technically has 2 verses, but people only ever know the 2nd verse). That way you can see how lovely their anthem is.
Tu bandera es un lampo de cielo (Your flag is a splendor of sky)
Por un bloque de nieve cruzado (Crossed with a band of snow)
Y se ven en su fondo sagrado (And in its sacred depths there can be seen)
Cinco estrellas de palido azul (Five pale blue stars)
En tu emblema, que un mar rumoroso (In your emblem, which a rough sea)
Con sus ondas bravias escuda (Shields with its wild waves,)
De un volcan tras la cima desnuda (Behind the bare summit of a volcano)
Hay un astro de nitida luz (There is a star of clean light)
Por guarder ese emblema divino (To guard this divine emblem)
Marcharemos, oh Patria, a la muerte. (We will march, Oh fatherland, to the death.)
Generosa sera nuestra suerte (Our luck will be generous)
Si morimos pensando en tu amor. (If we die thinking of your love.)
Defendiendo tu santo bandera (Defending your holy flag)
Y en tus pliegues gloriosos cubiertos (And shrouded in its glorious folds)
Seran muchos, Honduras tus muertos (There will be many, Honduras, your dead)
Pero todo caeran con honor. (But all will fall with honor.)
Isn't that pretty? When this is sung, you begin and end with the chorus, like a really long and patriotic musical sandwich. So even the one verse on its own is probably the longest national anthem. In order to graduate, every senior in Honduras must memorize all seven verses, as well as 100 questions and their answers about various parts of the anthem. They are given a test in which a verse, and a certain number of questions are drawn randomly. The student must then perform their chosen verse and then answer the questions, verbatim, with the answer given in the booklet. If the answer is not verbatim, it is not correct. As one of my coworkers says: "Who says schools in Honduras don't raise independent thinkers? We have been independent since 1838!"
- Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America, behind Nicaragua.
- Honduras is the second most populated country in Central America, behind Guatemala.
- San Pedro Sula is the second most dangerous city in Latin America, behind Caracas, Venezuela.
- Roatan boasts the second largest barrier reef in the world, behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
- Honduras is the most culturally diverse country in Central America, with 10 distinct native ethnic groups.
- Honduras is the only country in Central America whose volcanoes are all dormant.
- While it may rain cats and dogs in some places, in the department of Yoro it rains fish at least once a year. For real. There are different theories as to where the fish come from and how they turn into precipitation. According to local legend, many years ago an old Spanish priest prayed for a miracle to help feed the poor of this country, and God answered by showering the village with fish.
- The national tree of Honduras is the pine tree. Mom thought I was being sarcastic when I told her that, but it is true. Even though it is tropical here, it is also very mountainous.
- The national flower of Honduras is the orchid.
- The national bird of Honduras is the scarlet macaw.
- The flag of Honduras is three horizontal stripes, blue on top and bottom, with white in the middle. There are five blue stars in the middle stripe representing the five countries that used to be part of the Central American Union: Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.
- Honduras is Spanish for "depths". Apparently Christopher Columbus sailed into a bay to escape a terrible storm and consequently discovered the country that we now know and love. Supposedly he said something along the lines of "Thank you God for saving us from those depths" which, roughly translated into Spanish, goes "Gracias a Dios somethingsomethingsomething esas honduras." (cut me some slack, I am still learning)
I will be doing a separate post on the national anthem, because it is really interesting. But for now, you at least know some fun facts about the Honduras. And knowing is half the battle.
The island is nearly surrounded completely by barrier and fringing reef. It is really spectacular. I had a hard time deciding which was more awesome: the beauty of the reefs that were right off the beach, or the fact that this island was discovered by pirates. Yeah, that's right. The first Westerners to hit up this island were pirates. Because pirates are the best. Despite the superiority pirates hold over ninjas, the reefs won out. I nearly drowned a couple times because I was gasping or giggling through my snorkel because I was so overcome by the awesomeness of what I was seeing. Although I still have not seen a whale shark (hopefully in a couple weeks I will get a chance!) I did see another animal on my "Things I Wanna See Real Real Bad" list. Ever since working at the aquarium, I have wanted to see a cuttlefish in the wild. I didn't even know there were cuttlefish down here, I thought they were only in the Red Sea and around Japan. But I saw TWO! One even hunted a little fish for me. I also got to see a four-foot long parrotfish eating some coral. That wasn't on my list, but perhaps it should have been. It was amazing.
Lake Yojoa is the largest natural lake in Honduras. Really, the largest lake of any kind, actually. And it is pretty much one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life. It is surrounded by small towns and a row of restaurants (I think there are 27) that serve the exact same menu...fried fish with a variety of carbs. Not the best marketing strategy, but alas. One of these small towns is the home of D&D, the only microbrewery in Honduras. It is owned by a man from Oregon. In addition to delicious homemade brew, he also makes his own sodas, grows blueberries (the only ones in the country) and has some cabins and rooms. It sounded like the ideal place to stay for the weekend. If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and slap myself for considering to stay there. For one thing, it was one of the most difficult places to find. We stopped and asked directions several times. Each time, the direction giver would point down the road and say "go that way...you can't miss it". After going back and forth three or four times, the final direction giver said "go that way, and turn at this point...you can't miss it." Funny how that one vital piece of information can make things so much easier.
We head back to the main office and ask for clean sheets. The guy is super embarrassed, and recommends that we go for a walk in the nearby ecological park while they change the sheets. There is a lovely swimming hole that he recommends, which sounds nice on this humid gross day. So we take off. This park is much less a park and much more an abandoned coffee plantation. It is ugly and has overgrown coffee...shrubs...all over the place. The swimming hole he mentioned is a rancid smelling, algae covered, turbid, sludge filled hole. Neither Gabrielle nor I felt comfortable swimming in it without some sort of vaccination or immunization shot, so we headed back to the hotel. Upon our return, we discover that the owner was obviously not too embarrassed by the nasty condition of our room, because the same stained sheets covered the beds. At least they had the decency to sweep the dead bug onto the floor.
It was so late and we were so tired, we decided to stay. Fortunately we both had brought our own sheets, so we bundled up (deciding it was worth being uncomfortably hot than risk exposing ourselves to whatever diseases were breeding on the hotel beds) and turned in for the night. As soon as we woke up in the morning, we packed up our things and prepared for our escape. At this point in time, Gabrielle noticed that her iPod was no longer in her suitcase. The only two explanations for its dissappearance were that it grew wings and flew away the night before, or someone went through her bag when they came in to "clean" the room. The owner did not believe that any of his staff could have liberated her iPod, to the point that he refused to take her contact information in case it turned up. Two thumbs up for the stellar customer service.
1. I will demand you!
Gabrielle had her students make a cartoon about littering and how it is bad. One group's cartoon began with a man littering. The next frame showed another man walking up to the litterer and saying "I will demand you!" The final frame depicted the litterer behind bars, ruing the man who demanded him. It was really cute, albeit confusing. After reading that comic, I noticed a lot of students threatening to "demand" each other, and sometimes even threatening to "demand" me. "Miss...if you give us homework tonight, I will demand you!" "Miss, if I do not get a good grade on the quiz, I will demand you!" I asked what that meant a couple times, and was given "you know miss...demand!" as a response. Less than adequate. One day I wised up and asked some students who have a more solid grasp on the English language what these kids were trying to say. Apparently the Spanish verb demandar means "to sue". So...there you go. Now I threaten to demand kids, and it is really fun.
2. Lost in Translation
I am intrigued by translated movie titles. More often than not, the translated title bears not even the slightest resemblance to the original title. For example, The Blind Side was released in Spanish under Un Sueño Posible (A Possible Dream). One day Gabrielle and I were perusing the random selection at the video rental store, and came across the Spanish release of Cruel Intentions, translated as Juegos Sexuales (Sexual Games). Gabrielle made a face and said "Gross. That movie probably wasn't very popular down here." When I asked her what she meant, she said "Um...Sexual Juices?! That is just nasty!" (The Spanish word for "juice" is jugo)
3. V = B
For those of you who may not know, in Spanish, oftentimes (maybe every time?...I am not sure) the letter "v" is pronounced /b/. This simple fact has been the source of some really cute happenings. The neighborhood kids love me, although I am not sure if I would be as popular if I did not have light hair and blue eyes. Regardless, I will take what I can get. Although many Hondurans are not bilingual, very basic English is taught in public schools. Most Hondurans know some of their numbers and colors, etc. in English. The little girls on my street offered to exchange English lessons from me for Spanish lessons from them. It was too cute to refuse. So one day I sat outside with my notebook, and Kency wrote down some "A" words for me to copy down. Then she moved on to "B" words. First word: "vaca" (pronounced "baka"...it means cow). "sweetie, that starts with a v." hmm, ok...second word: "viejo" (pronounced "bee-ay-ho"...it means old or old man). "I think that also starts with a v". oh...then we will start with "veinte" (pronoucned "bane-tay"...it means twenty). "I am certain that starts with a v." At this point Kency scratches her head and says "ok. Today we will start with the letter V."
I have amassed quite the collection of Spanish music in my time here. Nearly everyone I talk to likes to recommend their favorite groups to me. My landlord is one such person. He suggested I look into the Amigos Invicibles (which, by the way, I am now a big fan of). I wrote them down, and he immediately began laughing. I had written down "Amigos Imbiciles" (the Idiot Friends) instead of "Amigos Invicibles". It totally sounded the same! He had now heard of the first group, but we both decided their music would not be quite as good.
4. Frere Jacques...dormez vous?
Yeah, you didn't know I could speak French, too, did you? This catchy tune is used in schools down here to teach children how to greet people. The correct version should sound like this:
Good morning teacher! Good morning teacher!
How are you? How are you?
Very fine, thank you. Very fine, thank you.
How are you? How are you?
The most popular rendition of this song, however, goes as follows:
Good morning teacher! Good morning teacher!
How are you? How are you?
Very very thank you. Very very thank you.
How are you? How are you?
When you tell whoever is singing it that they are saying "muy muy gracias" (which makes as much sense in Spanish as it does in English) they shriek with laughter, but they don't really believe you. Or they believe you, but continue to sing it "their" way. I have to admit, it rolls off the tongue much more easily. When I sing it now, I have to really concentrate when it comes to my line. Don't judge me.
5. Nice cans...
Whenever I go to the beach, I love to get pan de coco from the Garifunas. It is regular bread (pan) made with coconut milk (coco) and it is delicious. I usually get a bunch and freeze it. One day Yuri came over, and as she was leaving she asked if she could have some of my "panas de coca". I assumed two things: 1- "panas" is plural for "pan" and 2- she meant "coco" not "coca", so I grabbed her some bread from the freezer. She looked confused, and repeated her request. Then she pointed to the box under the counter where my empty aluminum cans were stored (with the optimistic intention of eventually recycling them). I think that "panas" is a local slang word for cans, because I am pretty sure it is not mainstream Spanish. In any event, I felt incredibly retarded. Yuri nodded like it was a totally understandable mistake, but the look on her face did not match her understanding nod. Then she left with my cans. And my bread. fail.
Santa Rosa is a really, really, really cute little town. It is near Copan Ruinas on the map, but by road it is a couple hours away. Right now there is apparently a highway under construction that will connect the two towns and shorten the trip to about 30 minutes. One of the things that I loved about it there was that people liked to be outside for more than just walking to or from their car/taxi/bus. The town square was beautifully kept and clean, and had a lot of benches and a big gazebo with benches. lovely.
We spent a large part of the weekend in the gazebo listening to live music (bands and marimbas!) and just hanging out. One of Josè's friends was supposed to do a poetry reading of some poems he has written, but the marimba band was really loud and he did not feel he could compete with their volume. In addition to music, there were small acting troupes, mimes, face painters, canvas painters, and potters all showing off their stuff. It was really fun, and it was exciting to see something like that here in Honduras. Had this been all the weekend entailed, the people watching would have been spectacular. But fortunately, like any arts festival in the States, this one attracted hippies. This made the people watching phenomenal.
Our favorite hippie was a man named Cucaracha. He is from Copan Ruinas, and he is the ultimate, quintessential hippie. He is tall, has dredlocks and wears flowy pants. He makes jewelry. He tried to sell Gabrielle's friend an "adult" brownie when they visited Copan before our trip to Belize. And he has perfected every form of hippie sport available.
He was accompanied by another man, who was like Rambo-ninja-hippie, if such a combination could occur without causing the universe to implode. He did a super sweet routine with his bowstaff lit on fire. We are sitting watching him with kind of slack jawed. It was pretty impressive.
Even though I am not abnormally tall, I have been told by several (admittedly short) girls over the years that I am tall like a man. When I visited my friend in Finland last summer, she informed me that I put change in my pockets like a man (so I got a coin purse at MARIMEKKO!!!!!!). And many female acquaintances of mine have commented on my boyish taste in movies and humor. All of these I can understand, even if I don't necessarily agree with them. Recently, many of my students and co-workers have informed me of a certain manish behavior I am exhibiting. This particular accusation I do not understand really at all.
As you may or may not know, the Soccer World Cup is only a month away. As part of the hype, a certain company makes World Cup sticker books. Yes, you heard right. There are stickers of the team's group photo, emblem, and then a head shot of each player on the team. The books are actually kind of cool. And filling them is fun...it is like trading baseball cards, but the cards are stickers! I definitely got a book, and for the past couple of weeks, I have been collecting and trading stickers like a crazed 3rd grade girl. Or, apparently, like a Honduran man.
Yes. Apparently the girls do not like to fill out these books, even though it is a combination of hot, athletic boys and stickers (two things that I personally enjoy very much). Rather, these sticker books are in the Honduran man's domain. You read that right. You have not seen anything until you have seen two grown men haggling over stickers. Or a professional man in a business suit flipping through his sticker book at the bus station.
If owning a sticker book full of pictures of gorgeous futbolistas means I am acting like a man...I am ok with that. Forget you, Shania Twain.
Apart from music and voices, Latinos really like loud noises. Banging pots are a popular and affordable way to show your enthusiasm. But even more popular are the supposedly illegal firecrackers that you can purchase at the grocery store. It kind of defeats the purpose of being illegal if you can purchase them at any store in the country...but no one asked me, so whatever.
My first experience with firecrackers happened during the playoffs for the World Cup. Gabrielle and I went to a local watering hole to enjoy some frosty brew and check out the game. It kind of threw me off that everyone screamed anytime anything happened. Unlike screams at an American football game, where you can tell if something good or bad happened by the way the crowd yells, Hondurans just let out eardrum-shattering, ambiguous shrieks during any intense moment of the game., Good or bad, it all sounds the same...like the frightened scream of the stupid cheerleader/sorority character who is the first to die in a horror film. It's actually a little unnerving.
At one point, our goalie blocked a shot. Everyone in the bar screamed. Then outside, I heard screaming and gunshots. I freaked out, pushed Gabrielle out of her stool, and hit the deck. Everyone in the bar laughed at me. Because they weren't gunshots, it was people screaming and setting off firecrackers on the sidewalk right outside the door. Don't get me wrong, I definitely laughed at myself when I realized what was happening. But I would like to throw out there that it was not entirely far-fetched for me to assume that a fire fight was going on in the streets of downtown San Pedro. This scene repeated itself a couple more times before I became slightly accustomed to the screaming and gunshot-esque sounds blasting away five feet from where I sat. By the end of the night I was only violently flinching and going slightly pale each time the firecrackers were lit. Good for me.
I am a little freaked out right now, because I am fairly certain I heard gunshots next door. I am now pretty familiar with the sounds of firecrackers, and I am pretty sure that is not the origin of the sounds I just heard. It is probably just a neighbor shooting a stray dog or snake, a la Rick Perry, but I've never heard gunshots outside of the hunting or badass movie context. And now I am conflicted. I totally want to stay inside and hide. Right now that is winning. But it is starting to rain, and my laundry is outside. And if it gets rained on, I will have to wash it again tomorrow or else I will smell like acid rain and dirty city. Here's hoping it stops raining until daylight.
"But Kelley" you may say, "there's no one in that seat." I know. He liked to climb down from the captain's seat every so often for 5-10 minutes to do...captain stuff. While the boat was charging ahead at full speed. I don't know if this is normal captain behavior, but everyone on our boat ride seemed surprised by it. A couple hours later we arrive at Big Creek. In another fine display of Central American efficiency, everyone (and all their luggage) is removed from the boat. We stand around for about an hour while about 50 large boxes of meat and Lipton iced tea are removed. Then we all get back on again, one at a time, so the customs agent can stamp our passports. Then we are on our way to Placencia.
Semita is a Spanish word that is literally translated as Semite, but is used (at least here in Honduras) to refer specifically to people of the Jewish persuasion. There is apparently a fairly large Jewish population in Mexico, where a semita (food, not person) is a roll of unsweetened, unleavened bread. Which makes sense, because unleavened bread is one of the things Jewish people are known for.
The semitas in Honduras are most definitely sweet. And they are most definitely leavened. Yeast is listed as an ingredient on every package I have found with an ingredient list on it (which actually doesn't happen too much here, but they're always yummy. And don't worry, mom, I am sure they are totally legit still). They also have a very different flavor and texture than challah. Now, I love Jewish people, so please do not take this as a slight against them or their culture. I just do not understand why these rolls are named after them, because there really does not seem to be any apparent connection between the two. They could just as easily be called "Little Catholic" rolls, or perhaps even "Little Islam" buns.
I asked some of my students why they were called semitas, and they ALL told me it was because they look like Jewish people. That perplexed me, but I only received exasperated "ay, miss, they just look like them" when I asked for a more detailed explanation. Perhaps they are referring to skin tone? I just know that I have known many Jewish people over the years, and NONE of them bear a resemblence to this tiny pastry.
If any of you know of a doppleganger website that is specifically for Jewish people, let me know. I am curious to see how many look-alikes this roll gets.
1: An oldie but goodie...
I know that I included this picture on my post about my trip to Tela. But I have yet to figure out what the monkey is doing on this sign. And no one has been able to give a logical explanation.
2: Call the locksmith! Call the locksmith?
If this sign were near an auto shop of some sort, or even someone's house who does mechanical type things with cars, it might make sense. Maybe even a stand that makes keys. Perhaps even a parking lot where there is an attendant who takes your keys for you. Alas, none of these scenarios are the reality. This sign is in Copan Ruinas, at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by tomato fields and cow pastures.
The town of Rio Dulce, Guatemala helps you defy the laws of physics. As you can see, according to this sign, I am in two places at once. For those of you who have always said it can't be done...Guatemala makes it possible.
This sign is by far my favorite. What the mess?!?! You can find it all along the Honduran coast, as well as random places further inland.
5. Have you found Jesus?
One argument that I have heard against street signs from some Honduran friends is that they aren't helpful. I did not understand that comment fully until I saw this sign. It is helpfully pointing you in the wrong direction to a major city park. I would like to make the motion that street signs can be helpful. The ones down here just don't happen to fall into that category.
1. Life in Central America NEVER gives you what you expect.
b. If you are counting effectiveness and not asthetics, the Spanish were the worst fort builders in history.
The following account is how I happened to arrive at these conclusions. Let me know if you think I am off...
Like most of Latin America, Honduras is an incredibly Catholic country, which means that we get a HUGE break for Easter. The entire week before Easter is Holy Week, or Semana Santa. Due to some scheduling conflicts, our school did not have classes the Friday before Semana Santa (w00t!). Gabrielle was going to Copan with a visiting friend for the weekend. In order to give them some quality friend time, I decided to hop up to Guatemala for the day on Friday and then spend the rest of the weekend doing laundry and other grown-up stuff. My goal was to visit the Mayan ruins at Quirigua, which is a mere 3 hours by car from San Pedro Sula. Since I would be relying on the Honduran/Guatemalan public transport, I asked around to see if that was possible to do in one day. I was assured by many that it was. So Friday morning, I hit the bus terminal.
First surprise. The company whose schedule I had looked up the night before no longer existed. A series of smaller buses would get me to the Guatemalan border, and I could figure out a new plan from there. Three and a half hours later, I arrive at the Guatemalan border. After getting ripped off by my first Guatemalan minibus driver, I am on my way to Quirigua. Or am I...?
I see a sign for the city I want and ask to get off. The guy says "You don't want to get off now. We'll be going up there in just a few minutes." I should have argued with him, but foolishly, I believe him and sit back down. An hour later we arrive at the super sketchy town of Morales (where I do NOT want to be). An hour after that, we leave again for Rio Dulce. I ask how long it will take to get there and was told it was less than an hour away. It is only less than an hour away if the bus driver doesn't stop every five feet, and then spend 30 minutes flirting with the lady near the tree he stopped to pee at (gross!!!). If that happens, the trip takes two hours. By the time we finally pull into Rio Dulce, I have missed the last bus to Quirigua AND the last bus to Honduras. Guess I'm staying the night...
I find a pretty sketch hotel near a restuarant where I hunker down for the night. I met some really interesting people there. By interesting I mean super drunk and/or high. One man told me about something horrible that happened to him at the Miami airport in angry, rapid, slurred Spanish. I had no idea what he was saying. When he finished, he asked me if that was legal to do in the United States. I told him I had no idea what he said. So he repeated the story, more angrily and much faster. This cycle repeated itself about two more times (it was kind of fun) before I finally just said "yes. It is totally legal." He shook his head sadly, and then asked me to come home with him. I politely declined. A hooker who had just walked in congratulated me for sticking to my values. She proceeded to get very drunk and tell me crazy stories involving turkeys and I don't know what else. The more she drank, the more she congratulated me for respecting my body. If you have never had your morals appluaded by a drunk hooker, I don't know what to tell you. As she left, a crew of fairly drunk Americans and Swedes walked in. We played darts for a little while, and then I called it a night.
The next morning I discovered that there are no buses to Quirigua on Saturday from Rio Dulce (why would there be? It's just the weekend...) Fortunately there is a fort near the town, so I head out there. This fort was another one that was captured quickly by the British, and then abandoned within two weeks. I don't know if the Spanish built very crappy, non-strategic forts on purpose (Hey...if we make it crappy, they'll give it back to us!) or if they were legitimately just bad at it. But thus far I have not seen the Spanish having a good fort building record. But, as seems to be the Latin American motto: If it don't work good, at least make it look good. It was a really beautiful fort. Fun side note...the original fort was destroyed in a hurricane or earthquake a few decades ago. When the Guatemalan government rebuilt it, they wired it for electricity, but they did not put any lights in. So there are electrical plugs and wires all over the place, but no lights. If you ever visit this fort, bring a flashlight, because there are many dark tunnels and basement rooms that could use the light.
Fortunately at that moment, a bread vendor came by and tried to peddle me his wares. My refusal did not damper his spirits, and he struck a conversation with me. Turns out, he was heading to Puerto Barrios, which is where I needed to go, and he offered me a ride. It took forever, because he stopped and sold bread every five minutes. And he had this huge speaker on top of his car that blared out accordion music and advertised his merchandise at an incredible volume. But it was a free ride, and he was a nice man. Right before he let me off, he asked if I would mind if he got some gas. He pulled into this gas station, where all of his buddies came over to the truck and asked if I was his girlfriend. It was kind of hilarious, but I didn't really laugh about it until we pulled out of the station.
Several hours later, I made it back home. I still have not seen Quirigua, but I did get to see a cool/ineffectual fort. Plus I totally have an in with the Guatemalan bread underground, and at the end of the day, isn't that really what it's all about?
This question has been percolating in the back of my mind for several years now. Every now and then it bubbles up and I ponder it for a while. But the question has always been so perplexing that I just stuff it back inside, bottling it up along with my emotions. Finally, after years of searching, I have stumbled upon the answer, and man it feels good. Like the cork shooting out of a bottle of champagne. The reason people outside of the US do not like ketchup is because ketchup outside of the US is straight up nasty.
Hunt's and Heinz 57 make pretty decent ketchup, but Whataburger has, in my opinion, the best ketchup in the world. Some subtle sweetness from the "tomatoes", a little saltiness, slight tang, robust texture and just the right amount of Red #40 to give an appetizing color. In contrast, Honduran ketchup is kind of watery with a grainy texture, exaggerated sweetness, slightly sour (as in rancid, not lemon-y) aftertaste, and is a very unnatural shade of orange-red. The taste is bearable, but it is by no means pleasant, and it certainly does not add to the integrity of whatever food you may be globbing it onto. If this is the norm for ketchup outside of the US, it is no small wonder that many people are repulsed by the mere idea of this condiment.
At this point, I should add that by "many people", I am not including Hondurans. In a bizarre deviation from the normal global anti-ketchup trend, Hondurans love this condiment (particularly local brands) and use it for and on just about everything. EVERY. THING. Take, for example, the spaghetti that is served in our school's cafeteria: noodles stirred in ketchup with quesillo sprinkled on top (the quesillo is added because the noodles-and-ketchup combination is not nasty enough on its own). Or the huevos rancheros I had on my way back from Teguz the other day: fried eggs drowned in ketchup (NOT the delicious salsa I had been anticipating). I recently served as a tasting judge for the 8th graders' activities class (kind of like home ec.) One group made "pizza" (a corn tortilla with ketchup and quesillo). The other group made grilled corn-on-the-cob (quick side note: the grilled corn down here is better than the grilled corn-on-the-cob you get at the state fair, which I didn't think was possible), which they decided was too boring. Not to be out done by the other group's cunning use of ketchup and quesillo, they dunked the cob into a bowl of ketchup and then rolled it in crumbled quesillo. There is not a lot of good things I can say about that dish in particular, but I will grant them that it was by no means "boring".
I do not know if this love of ketchup extends beyond the borders of Honduras. But if you ever travel this way, take caution in ordering anything that may have some form of tomato on it. The cook may very well substitute the tomato with ketchup.
This is Kelley Stephan, your foreign food correspondent, over and out. Next installment will be up soon (I have a decently working computer AND internet simultaneously now. It's pretty exciting.)