From NY to Tegucigalpa
13.01.2006 23 °C
Today I'm officially in the backpacker league. A single girl flying to one of the world's poorest country in the world, Honduras, from one of the richest. After waiting for about an hour to go thru immigration at the airport, I was finally admitted to the country. I exchanged some dollar into lempira right away and took a cab through some poor areas to the hotel relatively close to the town center of Tegucigalpa (on Avenida Maximo Jerez) to join the rest of the Tucan group who went to Rotan to see Mayan ruins that day. Not until now that I realize that I should have arrived a day earlier.
Anyhow, the lady at the hotel gave me a really nice room. Nothing fancy but everything was clean. So I unpacked, did a little sovenoir shopping at the market nearby and Parque Central. The streets are filled with people, old american cars bumping reggaeton and old school buses. A few clothing, electronic stores and bakeries later, I walked into a public market selling everything from toys to bags to underwear. I tried to be careful but couldn't resist the temptation of taking a few pictures at this version of 'shopping mall'. To me, it's not a big culture shock since I've friends who live in sub-standard conditions in some carribean countries. If you ever step foot outside the tourist and resort areas, you will notice.
Somehow, I wandered into the church in the center of the public square. Just when I sat down to rest my feet, people started coming in. I realized the friday service was about to start. So the curious me decided to stay since there is nothing better to do until the meeting later. The service included some hymn singing, praises by the priest and of course, a little donations from everyone. Since I don't understand, I followed what others did. It was really refreshing to see the strong faith from people in these poor countries. After the whole service, everyone shaked hands with everyone around them. I had a few strange glares at times but mostly warm hand shakes and smiles from men and women of all ages.
Now I'm still have more than an hour to kill. So I decided to look for an internet cafe. There are plenty of them - power of the internet! I spent about 30 Lempira ($1.5) for an hour of replying emails so hopefully none of my clients will realize that I'm actually on vacation.
My first impression of Omar, our Tucan guide, was rather nice. He is from the Netherlands (half morrocan) but lives in Guatamala City. Very friendly, down-to-earth and actually admitted right away that this is his first international tour. What's better than exploring new places with a new tour guide? At least his espanol is better than me, so there we go... At the meeting, a very cute german 'couple', Karin and Micha, also joined us. I know I'm about to meet some of the coolest people on earth. I fadely remembered a Chinese fortune teller a few years ago telling me that I'm supposed to meet Mr. Right when traveling by myself. Not that I am supertitous. It was really my Sagittarius curiosity and travel addiction that led me to do this tour rather than anything else.
After the meeting, I had to switch to a triple room. My new roommate, Gen from Canada and Tina from Wales seemed very nice. Gen was a bit under the weather at the time. Tina still had her braids from Antigue. That night, the rest of my group decided to go for Pizza Hut while David, Elizabeth (another very nice couple from Australia) and I went for Chinese. I am not about to settle for an American chain after escaping from it on the first night. Surprisingly, the Chinese version of 'Gambas al Ajilo' (Garlic shrimp) was very tasty. So tasty that an early sleep sounded like a very good idea.