I realized today that I have not shared a lot of general knowledge about Honduras with you fine folks. So, although it has been nearly a year since I got here, I am going to educate you on some general Honduras trivia.

  • 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.

A couple weeks ago I went down to the Bay Islands of Honduras for an interview on the island of Roatan. The interview took place Friday morning, and so I had pretty much the entire weekend to soak in the beauty of the island.

Roatan is about 30 miles off the coast of mainland Honduras. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get there on the ferry. The island itself is long and narrow- about 33 miles in length, and 4 miles wide at its widest part. It used to be occupied by a group of Indians who were descendants of the Mayan, and who also apparently had a huge female to male ratio. The name of the island in their native language meant "Island of Women". Although the ratio has evened out a bit since those days, I still was hit on by a lesbian during my brief stay. go me.

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.

I met a really cool taxi driver named Lenin who showed me around the island and bought me beer. He was by far the coolest taxi driver I have ever had, and he was very knowledgeable about the island and its history. He also showed me the best spots to snorkel from the beach so I wouldn't have to pay for a guide or a boat. Another reason I liked him is that he speaks a little English, but he only spoke in Spanish to me, and he made me speak Spanish, too. No one likes to let me practice my Spanish, because they always want to practice their English!

If you ever feel like seeing one of the most beautiful places on Earth, I recommend you make the trip down to Honduras's Bay Islands. Especially if you want to get SCUBA certified, because this is the cheapest place on Earth that has legit PADI certification, no exaggeration. In the immortal words of Ben Stiller in Starsky and Hutch, Do it. Do it.

So Gabrielle and I visited Lago de Yojoa back in October/November. I did not post about it because I didn't want to ruin my dad and brother's Christmas present. That ended up being pointless for two reasons:
1- It was cold and rainy and gross the day we went to the lake, plus mom was sick. So we weren't able to do anything awesome.
2- Neither my dad nor my brother reads my blog. Thanks, supportive family.

Now that we are well past the point of ruining Christmas surprises, I am going to go ahead and give you all the details of my trip to the lake. It was a hot and humid Honduran day. We hopped in our car and headed to the lake, which is about an hour and half away from San Pedro Sula.

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 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 can't miss it." Funny how that one vital piece of information can make things so much easier.

We pulled in around lunch time, so we ordered some frosty adult beverages and some bland food. We asked for a room, and the guy handed us some keys and said "it's over that way", pointing vaguely to the side of the property that ALL of the rooms were on. Thanks. I really needed to use the facilities, so I look for our room. I see a door with our number on it, so I walk up to it. It is locked, so I pull out the key. It unlocks the door. I walk in, and there are definitely two people having sex on the bed. As quickly as I could, I stumble out of the door. Turns out, that wasn't our room. It was a cabin that had the same number as our room. And apparently, the same key. Nice. I ask for a different that no one else will be able to unlock with their room key. I know, I know, I am a picky customer.

Lunch is now over, so we head to our room. It is perhaps the most sketch room I have ever seen in my entire life. Crumbling particle board is held loosely to the wall with rusty nails that are sticking out and bent, and bugs are crawling all over the place. Two cots, covered in stained sheets are pushed right up onto the bug infested walls. One bed has a dead bug lying in the middle of it, with a trail of ants leading to a hole under the dirty, rusty sink. It was a tough decision....would I rather sleep here or on the sex bed? ::shudder::

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.

Our weekend picked up significantly after we checked out of the hotel. We rented a rowboat and went out on the lake for a couple hours. I am apparently the worst rower in the history of the activity. But it was a lovely time, and my slow oar strokes and awkward steering allowed us plenty of time to check out the splendor of the lake. After a couple hours, we headed back to shore and drove to a nearby waterfall, Pulhapanzak Falls. Even though we were not able to pronounce the name, we were still able to have a great time. A man and a little boy took us under the waterfall, Last of the Mohicans style. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Then we got to climb around the falls for a little while. And then we had to come back to stinky San Pedro. I guess all good things must come to an end.

If you find yourself in the Lake Yojoa area, I hear that the hotel Aguazul is a pretty decent place to stay. If you want to go to D&D's for an adult beverage, that is recommended. Anything more than that, I recommend you stay away from that place. Even though Trip Advisor apparently has a decent rating for them, it turns out that most of the people who have rated it are related to the owner. They seem to be a little blind to the sucky aspects (to be read everything but the beer and blueberry pancakes which are, in a word, sublime).
Bilingualism is hard. But, fortunately, sometimes it is funny. I recently read an article in the NY Times about how the Chinese government is attempting to correct every mistranslated sign in China. The sadness I felt at the prospect of losing some of those brilliant translations made me ponder the hilarity that mistranslation can provide. For your education and reading enjoyment, here are some mistranslations I have either made or experienced firsthand this past year.

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" means cow). "sweetie, that starts with a v." hmm, ok...second word: "viejo" (pronounced "bee-ay-ho" means old or old man). "I think that also starts with a v". oh...then we will start with "veinte" (pronoucned "bane-tay" 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.
My mentor teacher at Happy Days quit about two months into the school year and headed out to Santa Rosa de Copan to teach at a school there. A couple weeks ago, Gabrielle and I were able to go out and visit him. It was a really exciting weekend. For one thing, it was his school's science fair, which he had turned into a fair slash expo. It was really fun to check out. There was also a culture festival that weekend, which was really cool. You don't see a lot of culture festivals down here.

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.

We originally began watching him when he was playing with...balls on a string. I don't know the technical name for this sport. I will do my best to describe it. Someone has two strings with a ball on one end of each string. And then they swing them around rhythmically and make cool shapes with them and stuff. You know what I'm talking about, right? Well, he was really good at that. Then he went behind his table and reached into his hippie bag and pulled out...three sticks. Another hippie sport that I do not know the name of, but have seen it at every Renaissance fair I have ever been to. Basically it there are two sticks of equal length that you hold, one in each hand. Then the third stick has weights on either end, and you hit it around with the other two sticks. Most people do not look cool playing with these sticks. Cucaracha made it look pretty bad ass. When he was bored with that, he again retreated to his bag of goodies, and got out a bowstaff and began swinging and dancing around with that. We joked that someone should have brought their hacky-sack to toss down to him. But wait...he had those in the bag, too. It was like watching a one-man hippie olympics. If there was such a thing as the hippie olympics, Cucaracha would be Shaun White. In every event.

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.
Lest you think all we did was gape at hippies all weekend...we checked out my friend's science fair and checked out the Santa Rosa nightlife as well. And, because no Latin American adventure is complete without this, we got scammed by someone. Actually, just Gabrielle did. And it wasn't too bad. We were checking out the cathedral on the square. Gabrielle went outside to take some pictures of the front, and an old man asked her to take his picture. So she did. I came out and joined her, and the old man came over and started talking to us. I thought maybe he wanted money, but he didn't mention it...he just told random stories and kept throwing out Spanish colloquiallisms with which I am unfamiliar. He was really interesting. At long last, he said "if you don't work, you don't eat" to which I replied "si, es verdad, jefe" which may or may not be the grammatically correct way to say "you're right, man". At this point he says "it is customary for photographers to pay the people they take pictures of. I would like to be paid for my services." He only wanted 10 Lps., which isn't too big of a deal, and that made the situation funny rather than frustrating.
This lovely town is on the job-hunt watch list. So...perhaps you will hear more about it at some point in the future. I am brushing up on my juggling technique, just in case.
So no one has ever really accused me of talking like a man (although I apparently had a husky voice as a little kid). Nor have I really been accused of walking like a woman. But I am a woman who has, on more than one occasion, been accused of man-ish qualities. Normally I wouldn't be claiming this on a public forum like ye olde internet...but I don't truly feel any of them are a threat to my femininity. And the most recent accusation makes me doubt the grasp of masculinity some people have.

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 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.
For everyone who has always made fun of me (or been annoyed with me) because I am a loud person, I would like to argue that I am no where near as loud as the Latino culture. At any point in the country, you can hear the bass pumping in the background from someone's blaring radio. Music that would be in the background at a restaurant in the States is blared at club volume from the moment the doors open until well after they close. And because every building down here is built out of concrete, all of this loudness is amplified by about a million percent.

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 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.
I am a HUGE science nerd, but I was never really a big fan of the science fair. Probably I am just a little bitter that I was beat two years in a row by Ricardo Pinella, who made a point of rubbing in my face that he didn't actually do the experiments, he just made up data and took pictures so it looked like he spent 2 months on them. jerk.

Here in Honduras, the Association of Bilingual Schools has a biennial science fair, where all of the accredited bilingual schools in the nation gather to out-science each other. This year was one such year. After a school-wide science fair in which all science students participated, the top groups from each grade were selected to go to the national science fair in lovely El Progreso. Because I teach/taught three grades, a lot of my students went, which was pretty exciting.

As you may expect, many students just kind of threw something together at the last minute because they are not fans of the science fair action. Fortunately, there are a couple of nerdlings here who got really excited and did a great job. One group of my 8th grade boys got a superior, which is the highest rating possible (they do not give places at the national level). They were so excited, it was really cute. They are such huge nerds, and I LOVE IT!

I would just like to throw out there, for the record, that I gave them their project idea. They tested how colors affect the aggresive behavior of beta fish. They took 4 beta fish, and surrounded each tank with a different color- one red, one yellow, one black, and one without a surrounding as their control. Then they held a mirror to each fish and timed how long the fish displayed aggresive behavior in the mirror before turning away. They timed their fish everyday for 3 weeks. They worked really hard. They named their fish, and introduced them as team members to the judges (so cute!!). They made a really elaborate and beautiful display for three 8th grade boys. They did a TON of research, and wrote a pretty decent research paper for three 8th grade boys who are ESL students. It may be wrong and slightly (or muchly) immature of me. But I'm not gonna lie, I definitely am living vicariously through their victory. might have beaten me two years in a row at Vivan Field Junior High through shady means, but my idea just got top honors at a national competition. The fact that my mother reads this blog is all that is keeping me from typing an inappropriate comment telling you creative places to stick things. not that you care...but I feel vindicated.

Another thing that made this the best science fair EVER...the classroom that we camped out at had a motorcycle in it. It was an awesomely random classroom fixture, and I am determined to have one in my classroom someday. Look how useful it can be:

A couple days after my most recent excursion to Guatemala, I headed up to Belize with Gabrielle and her friend Bart for Semana Santa. I almost didn't come back, partly because the boat ride over was horrendous, but mostly because I am in love with Belize.
We started off our trip by heading out to Puerto Barrios (about 45 minutes from San Pedro Sula) to catch a water taxi to Placencia (our port of choice). It was scheduled to leave at 11:30, so we arrived at 10:30 to buy our tickets and go to customs. In the most classic form of Central American efficiency, the immigration office is on the exact opposite side of town from the dock we pulled out of. Around 12:30, we pull out of Puerto Barrios and head towards Belize. Here is our boat driver:

"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.

I have heard that Placencia is not the best city to visit in Belize. Not because it is dangerous or anything, but because there are other places that are more beautiful. All I can say is, the other places must be ah-mazing, because Placencia was delightful. Gabrielle has a friend named Rob who owns a pizza shop there (Pizza Caye, in case you are ever down there) and he makes some pretty good pizza. He puts cream cheese on some of his pizzas, which I thought was weird until I tried it. It's definitely not for every pizza. But he makes this jalapeño popper pizza with cream cheese on it, and it is mighty tasty. There is also a lady near the dock named Miss Brenda who makes the most amazing jerked chicken in the world. Sanitation is not really high on her priority list (she definitely stirred raw chicken around in the marinade and then pulled a piece off the grill and onto my plate with the same fork) but if you are up-to-date on your shots (like me) you should be ok. Don't worry mom, I won't make you eat there.

While we were there, we headed out to Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve, about an hour away by bus. We were only able to spend a couple hours out there, but there are tons of opportunities for hiking and camping that I would love to go back for. It was a really beautiful reserve. The admission is really cheap, but be aware that if you are not driving your own car, the taxis charge $20 (US...$40 BZ) to get from the ticket booth to the park entrance, and another $20 to get back to the main road. If you walk it is about a 2 hour hike. That caught us off-guard.

There were apparently some whale sharks spotted while we were out there, but unfortunately I am the worst snorkel trip planner ever. So I still have not seen a whale shark. But we were able to get a really nice man named Bobo to take us out to Bugles and Lark caye. It was rainy and windy the day before, so the water was murky in some areas. Regardless, it was absolutely breathtaking. I got to test out the underwater case my parents got me, so I can share some of the beauty of the Belizean reefs with you. Be advised that once my student loans are payed off, I am going to live on a hut on a beach near a beautiful reef somewhere. Preferably on a remote island so I can evade taxes and not have to work. And I am just going to swim, dive, and fish all day. If I can find an island with good surfing, I will do that, too. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome, although I'd like to set the cap at maybe 10 people so we can stay under the radar. First come, first served, and the sign up starts today.