The bus driver grumbled and griped that my ticket should not have been issued to the Conejo desvio exit to La Paz. “Este bus es un directo a Tegucigalpa,” he complained. I shrugged my shoulders and insisted that I had to get off at the Conejo desvio; I was a Peace Corps Volunteer on a mission. Reluctantly, the driver stopped the bus at the isolated desvio and unloaded all four of my suitcases from under the bus, then roared off down the Pan-American highway towards Tegus. I struggled down the side of the highway lugging four suitcases towards the desvio and luckily a yellow chicken bus appeared from the opposite direction at the very moment I arrived, and turned into the intersection headed toward La Paz. “Subase, subase,” the ticket taker barked as he loaded my suitcases into the chicken bus’s undercarriage, the bus barely slowing down. I climbed aboard, rode the 10 kilometers into La Paz, and caught a taxi to dona Luz’s house where she had a fabulous lunch waiting for me. Hugs and remembrances all around. Two days later I walked over to the orphanage in the morning; as I turned onto the street where the orphanage is located I saw three children walking up the street toward me, each carrying buckets of corn kernels. They stopped in mid-stride. “Fortunato!” they cried, and rushed to hug me. After trying to answer their multiple questions, I told them I would be at the orphanage talking with the Sister and would see and talk to them later. I told them I would be living here for the next two years. In my next posting I will describe the re-immersion of my new life into the municipio of La Paz and the emotions and reconnections that have extended in waves with each passing day.
My early morning Linea Cristina bus rolled through the northern coast’s fecund green carpet of tropical forest, banana plantations, pineapple fields, coconut trees and palm oil stands from La Ceiba to San Pedro Sula where the two-lane highway turned south and edged into the mountains toward the interior. The country only has a smattering of four-lane highways in its two largest cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Its third largest city, La Ceiba, has none and nowhere else that I have traveled have I seen any. Nonetheless, Honduras’ network of paved two-lane roads criss-cross its mountainous terrain in every direction providing public transport cheaply and efficiently. As we lifted from the coastal plain the forest morphed into a coniferous expanse of pine, fir and spruce trees and the clammy humidity gradually became a thing of the past. The three-hour trip wound its serpentine way steadily up and around mountain after mountain until cresting just before reaching the rim of the Comayagua Valley on the other side of the range. Once we reached Siguatepeque on the downward plunge about 15 kilometers from Comayagua I felt that I was almost home. La Paz is a mere 30 – 40 minute ride from Comayagua. In my next post I will describe my homecoming and the orphanage….
Destinations like this beautiful little mountain city are why I miss my stolen camera so much. It took 7 hours to arrive here from La Ceiba hoping our travel would not be disrupted by the persistent road blockages and demonstrations that continue to plague the country. Along with several of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers accompanied by contrapartes from their local communities I was in town to attend a 3-day taller (workshop) about Micro Empressas (micro businesses) with a focus on People Living with HIV/AIDS: important because of the stigma and discrimination these people must deal with in their local communities. The smaller the community, the worse its reaction. The taller was a success, my contrapartes and I learned the mechanisms for starting and sustaining a small business, information to be passed on to peers all over the country. During free moments of my 3 days on site I walked the narrow cobble-stoned streets of a city situated on a series of hilltops, manuevering the unique person-wide sidewalks and absorbing its antique European-like ambience. Watching the sun set over the city from the hotel’s rooftop reminded me of Van Gogh’s Starry Nights canvas. And the cemetery … almost beyond description. The cemeteries of New Orleans pale in comparison. Magnificent, colorfully painted, chalet-like mausoleums packed tightly across hilltops overlooking the city give the impression of a city of the dead overlooking the small bustling metropolis below. I will miss the Seattle-like climate here in Santa Rosa de Copan, for on my return to the steamy north coast I will pack up my bags once again and transfer into the interior of the country by the 15th of the month.