March 12 and 13

Thursday, travel day from Lago Atitlán in Guatemala to Copán Ruinas in Honduras was an 11 hour journey by mícrobus.

It should have been a trial but it wasn't even bad. It was even fun. The key I am sure was the extra 3 bucks I paid, as well as plenty of follow-up, to make sure I could reserve the front seat. Up here I don't get queezy, the seats are comfortable and I can put my feet up, and the driver is always happy enough to chat.
A grab-shot out the window.
The driver was telling me this story about how that bus is full of rich Americans who are afraid of being attacked on the road so they get a police escort for their entire trip.

We were at the border at the same time and I'll tell you, the people in that bus looked like cruise ship passengers off a Carnival Cruise. And when they left the border to travel in Honduras... no police escort! So, I said to the driver, I guess they are just afraid of Guatemala...
Now it's my first morning and I checked in with the school and did a little wandering around town.

And tasting the new offerings. What's out now that I haven't had in this form, are green mangos which they bag up with a lot of salt, lime, and chili sauce. It was nice and crunchy and tart and salty.
The salty part of the green mango gave me a mighty thirst so I decided to try one of the coconuts on offer (from the back of a pick-up truck).

First he hacked off the top and stuck that straw through the soft top. All the liquid was quite refreshing. Just the thing.
And then he took that machete, cigarette dangling from his lips, and whacked that thing in half and dug out the soft coconut meat. It's really easier to eat coconuts in this stage of their growth with a spoon.

But no spoon at hand. He gave me the big soft pieces and his knife to use to get off the last bits of hull. Yum.
In the middle distance the two towers are on the church that faces the main square.
They're not having just a little illegal cockfighting behind the barn.

They are having a Gran Jugada de Gallos with betting booths and concession stands. Gosh, I could go both days if I wanted. I've had the chance to go before too and I'm going to keep on passing it by.
Here's a little handicrafts market of things made by the people who hang around this street all day.

I liked that they were making their crafts while they waited for customers. When some guy comes around with a huge basket full of braided bracelets to sell I'm always wondering if maybe they buy those things in bulk from a factory in China.
This is actually a laugh-riot. I thought, with a very high degree of certainty, that I was getting a cheese quesadilla with chicken.

But instead she handed me this plate and I ate the whole thing. It was very tasty. One thing though about all this eating out - salt. Salt Salt Salt. And it doesn't even taste too salty, it's just that everything has that nice rich goodness that comes from salt.
I'm four nights in this hostel before moving to a homestay and for the second night I couldn't get a private room so I spent the night in 'the dorm' with these two lovely ladies from Brazil.

They invited me to join them when they went to the ruins but I had an appointment at the school, and they again invited me to join them when they went out around my bed time to look for some fun. That was very sweet and brave of them.

I let them use my computer to check their email and an hour later they were still at it which pleased me to see them so happy.

I'm back in the private room now and they are off to Tikal.
March 14

On the walk out to see the ruins I stopped here for a cafe con leche. They had cafe but no leche. And the cafe came pre-sweetened to the taste of coffee candy, much to my surprise, but it was tasty and welcome anyway.
There was a colony, probably at least 50 of these birds living in the trees above the entrance to the Copán ruins. Keep their colors in mind because they are the colors of the once grand city.

It's final now. Bummer.

Cuba's off. My living-on-the-boat friends Alex and Carol who were to meet me for the trip are seriously delayed due to bad weather and some mechanical difficulties. They will not make it to Cuba in time without unreasonably expensive flights for them.

And since Alex is The Man, And is Cuban And has been to Cuba recently, I was leaving him in charge... and so am unprepared in my usual way to go myself. But there’s plenty to see around here and it’s nice to have some found time which will extend my visit in Tikal.
Emerging from the path of birds, the first view.
Mostly I'm going to take these 'facts' from Ms Wiki.

The Maya city of which we are seeing the ruins flourished between the 5th and 9th centuries and is most well known now for the fine quality of its portrait stelae. You can see one here (although some originals are in museums and what is here can be replicas.)
You can see the outline of the once grand step-pyramid broken down by the trees, earthquakes, and time.

What I read was that the whole city was lost, lost in that it was completely taken over by rainforest. It's hard to picture now with the mostly open spaces that surround the site.
And these fabulous trees. There are several trees here that I enjoyed as much as the ruins!
These steps and the stela are covered by a tarp as are other of the more promenent areas. The sign talked about this being a joint project with The Getty Foundation, to put back together and protect the intricately carved steps.

The stone they used as the base for the carvings is very soft and easy to work when it is fresh from the quarry and then becomes very hard as it is exposed to the air, a good combination for making fancy designs.
I climbed up here to take this picture!
Another one of the killer trees.
These are ruins of a residential area that I did not go any further into.

It was tropical hot out there today. HOT! Humid!! I must be getting more tolerant of heat in my old age because previously I would not have been able to last at all. However as I type this it is past noon the following day and I am happily just sitting under a fan doing this and nothing else.

And I got my first mosquito bites of the trip. No worries though as I am taking the malaria treatment.

YIKES I just looked this all up to be sure if Honduras had malaria... and one of the side effects of the malaria treatment is blurred vision. Oh I hope I HOPE that is what's happening. Oh that would be SO GOOD. I hadn't mentioned that I was going blind because I didn't want anyone to worry. (And then come to find out later I was just growing a cataract, which is not a bad outcome considering the possibilities!)
OK, back to Copán Ruinas. Another big guy.
And walking back, another of the tree.
There is a museum there too and it's main claim to fame is this built to scale temple. The paint is peeling and there's nothing inside...
...and there were also exhibits as you see here. I was hungry, hot, and tired. Not the best frame of mind for a museum!
This is another set of ruins 2 kilometers from the main site called Las Sepulturas. I wandered around for more than an hour and never saw another soul.
I couldn't even find much reliable information about it, except that it was a residental complex for the middle class. It has obviously been cleared of rubble but not much has gone into promoting it.

They have put in walking trails that lead through heavily overgrown woods and beside a long strip of farmland next to the river. It was really quite lovely.
I punked out and took a tuc-tuc back the 3 kilometers to town. It was the sensible thing to do.
The Wall of Booming Bass.

They were setting up for an event in the main plaza. The fiesta was to start at 8pm and around 7:59 I was hanging around nearby waiting to see what would happen. They started testing the sound system. The sound penetrated all my internal organs and took over the beating of my heart. I had to leave.
March 15

I thought this was going to be a one-photo day since I didn't even leave the hostel until 3:30PM tired as I was from my day at the ruins. I thought I was going to get something to eat, tell about this photo, and go back to sleep.

About this photo: All the streets here are made of these deeply rutted cobblestones where a lot of dirt collects. Now everyone who can afford it drives these crazy big trucks and roars through the street kicking up a dust storm with their passing.

And Toyota Rules. This example happens to be a Nissan but still 80 percent of the vehicles are Toyota and 95% of the vehicles are Japanese.

It's Sunday and notice, no people, nothing is open, nada.
So I'm on a very side-side street looking for food and I hear Music...Ranchero music. Down there very small you can see where a fiesta has formed.
This is a long telephoto of the place. It is a Rodeo! And not just any rodeo but a Gran Rodeo, like the Gran Jugada de Gallos. Turns out it is this town's biggest holiday weekend.

Now I have to go down there. Walk walk walk.
This is what it looks like after you've paid $6 to get in. First check out the bleachers, and then the pickup trucks parked beside the bleachers. Pickup trucks pulled into any available spot where you could see inside the ring.
Those bleachers are worth another look. Fortunately they were very crowded already and I didn't feel the need to sit in them...
...and instead these guys offered me a spot in their pickup which was perfect.
And here we have a bullrider, the only actual rodeo event. Each bull ride lasts between 3 and 12 seconds. The next 15 minutes between rides are taken up with various highly entertaining bits.

They had a lineup of kids playing a tongue twister game...
...a very likable man and a woman singer who traded off...
...a guy who did tricks with his horses - he's practicing here. He had two horses so it extended the variety of the entertainments...
...and this guy who told stories I didn't understand but that made the crowd roar. They even did the wave.
There were two stands like this, one with a chicken plate and the other with a beef plate.

And beer. Cases and cases of beer.
Hey Kaitlin...Look! It's Granny's giant shadow.
Love those hats. I felt like a time-traveller in a cowboy movie from another dimention.
March 16

First day of school. This is WAY too much fun. The schools are all so different and each school has its own particular charms. At this point, if asked, I'd say 'sure... I'll do it Again!'

This is my teacher and this is our room. Each study pair gets their own room here most looking out onto a large, light, and lovely interior garden. We are on the corner in the back on the second floor with windows on three sides with views of the mango tree, the courtyard, and the countryside.

I am in window heaven.
First day of homestay. On approach to my homestay casa I am greeted by these two giant Toyota trucks, to reconfirm my previous sense that Toyota Rules here in Copán Ruinas.
So I went to class, ate with my homestay, and then took a little stroll in the late afternoon.

That place with the green shutter was where I ate the mystery meal, thinking I was getting one thing and getting something else entirely. But it was fun in there. I've walked by once or twice per day and it has not been open since.

The pink building contains a pool hall and there are always clutches of guys hanging around in the doors and windows, and the WhackWhack of several games of pool in action. One of the students at my school is doing a homestay at the place you get to by walking down that space between the two buildings. He is very very glad he brought his earplugs.
Down around where the rodeo was on the weekend there is a carnival in town. It's pretty much shut down until 6pm, the dinner hour at my homestay, so to go when it's open I'd be walking more than my usual distance in the dark.

...these guys were running their manual ferris wheel. That's right, they push that thing around and the kids could not be having any more fun if they were at Magic Mountain.
March 17

Second day of school and we have a few guests over for a game of conjugate-that-verb bingo. We are hosting this event since we have such a gorgeous location.

It was fun, and my fellow students are very enjoyable. I think my teacher is the most well prepared and most natural teacher I've had so far. She's 18 years old(!) but she hasn't told me one wrong thing, she is full of useful examples, and I'm very impressed.
After school I went to the second most recommended attraction here, after the Copán Ruinas, which is the Parque de Aves. They say that these birds have all been rescued from poachers or brought by pet owners.

The setting is quite lovely with large enclosures settled onto either side of a very pretty stream in these quiet beautiful woods.
You could only go into only one of them... this one. There were soo many macaws in there but they could definitely fly, and get some good speed going at that as is evidenced by... getting dive-bombed a few times until I left.

And the dive-bombing was accompanied by shirking SOO LOUD and SOO LONG and EVERYBody kicked in with the shirking and wild mad flapping of wings.

You know, I don't think they wanted me in there.
Having a discussion.
The enclosures were all wrapped in mesh with pretty thick wire, too thick to shoot through, and one glass window for viewing without the wire.

I walked up to the window and this guy came straight down from the tree with great curiosity to look at me, and stayed there until I left. I didn't get a single other decent shot except...
...different locaiton, different bird, same breed and same curious interest. No other bird made itself available at any of the many other windows!
At a place in the river that had widened enough for swimming Luna the dog here dove for a stick and brought it back and dove and brought it back and dove and brought it back and dove and brought it back and dove and brought it back and dove
Back in town I decided to take some shots around the Plaza Centrál. Something to climb on? Kids will be climbing.
Here they are getting ready for the coronation of the Princess of the week's festivities. Tomorrow will be the coronation of the Queen and the conclusion of the scheduled events.

Friday is the Saint's day for this town which accounts for all the activity beginning last Saturday.
First shot of the cathedral. This town is more Evangelical Protestant than San Pedro La Laguna even. Both next door neighbors of my homestay house have evangelical livingroom church services throughout the week.

And the housekeeper at the school, when first meeting me asked my name and then for a very long time after that, calling me by name many many times, told me about her God and invited me to her church. She was very passionate.
Another view looking into the plaza.
My housemate at the homestay, Anna. There's a main house with a kitchen, dining room, etc. and then behind the house is first this breezeway and then a small complex of rooms with individual bathrooms. The two sons live upstairs and they rent out the lower two rooms on a room-and-board basis.
I went back into town for the coronation and again they had the wall of speakers you might remember from a previous night. This night, adiós electricidad. Gone. And I was stuck very far from home.

I bought a candle which was funny in how little good it did. Yes, I have a flashlight, in my backpack, but I was not Carrying my backpack.. So I hung out for a while at this place and like magic, electricity came back and I could walk home. No way would I have made it in the pitch black. The stars were FAB though!
March 18-19-20

Here comes Wed-Thu-Fri. Once the school week kicks in it seems there is little time for photo outings and hanging out at the internet cafes.

This is the last picture, I promise, of this oh-so-cool room. I have finally absorbed the reality that in all these years of speaking Spanish phrases here and there, even a sentence now and then, everything I have ever said has been basically incorrect.

You don’t really get to ‘the end’ of the important grammar requirements until ‘book 3’ which covers the subjunctive. I’ve known since high school how it all works but I simply never do it. I don’t think I have ever spoken a subjunctive phrase outside a classroom. I need LOTS more practice!
I’ve been talking about all the activities of this week which will culminate Friday in the celebration of this town’s main saint, San Jose I think…I forgot to ask about that one important point!

Tonight is the coronation of the queen. I walked down with my house-mate and one by one we ran into the gang from school. The back three are reacting to the gigantic fireworks 'they' set off At Your Feet that then soar high high into the sky and make an eardrum shattering boom.
It’s about The Queen, sure, but it’s as much about the beer. There were probably 5 stands like this one around the Plaza Centrál. These guys each called out pointing to the other ‘take his picture’. Claro que sí!
Some pretty young women, but not The Queen.
This is The Queen. She is fourteen years old. Is she being led to a sacrifice?
She did not smile once. Her escort is quite the dandy in his daddy’s suit.
Now it’s Thursday and we had an 'after school program' tour of what was meant to be a Collectivo, a joint coffee processing plant. They had a few things out for show but since it is now the growing season there wasn’t much to see.

This is a private home along the way.
Their logo.
And some scenes of rural life in Honduras.
It's Friday now, and the last day of school. Group Photo Everyone!
The courtyard and surrounding classrooms.
Then I went for a little wander and came upon the open window at the vets. These little guys, whose names are Sweetie and Honey, were getting a check-up and shots. Their 'mom and dad' were there too and couldn't have been prouder had they birthed those dogs themselves.

There are too many street dogs here and they are all terribly skinny and always scavenging for food but from what I saw, oddly not violent at all.
March 21

It's my last day in Copán Ruinas! Tomorrow I'm all day and night at 'the farm' and the following morning traveling all day to Flores-Tikal. That means I'll be checking in Monday night.

This morning after breakfast at my homestay I decided I HAD to try the national breakfast of Atole de Maiz. It's a kind of thin rice porridge with beans in the bottom of the bowl and a slightly spicy sauce made of ground pumpkin seeds. It was very good, and this gigantic bowl cost fifty cents.
Here's the place. They serve many of the local specialties and cook everything on a wood stove out in the back.
An outside shot of the school - I hadn't put this in yet. It is one of the grander buildings in the neighborhood.
Now I'm going to walk to the last of the 'guide book' destinations in town: the butterfly place.

I passed the cemetery on the way.
In an all-out effort at brevity, here come four pictures of butterflies.

It was a pretty small venue with not too many butterflies but it was just me and the guide there so she could spend all her time finding them for me.

phewww. OK, that's it until The Next Chapter!

ND Nancy wrote to tell me that we could make some money off this guy since the image of Jesus is clearly evident in his wing.
HomeCentral and South America • Honduras • '09 Mar: Copán Ruinas, Honduras

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