Monthly Archives: December 2011

Final night in Honduras

Dear all

It’s very weird what a year like this can do for you. You have expectations but then you don’t. You exceed them or you don’t meet them at all but you find something more beautiful, or rubbish, and it leaves you a bit clueless. I’ve learned a lot here, about the culture, about poverty, about gangs, about characters, about how it pays nothing to be good to people but what you get is a reward that is price. Overall, I learned a lot about myself. Although it’s made me thirsty for more, so I will be coming back. It’s just a matter of time and money. It might mean that I will have to change my name to Nick “The dole queue” Rogers for a short time. To be honest though, for all the things that are right about the UK and wrong about Honduras, Honduras is the place I’d rather reside. It has a spice to life that sizzles in the culture, in the music, in the way people speak to each other. I’ve missed English humour, but Honduran sarcasm is not far behind. I won’t deny it either, the weather has a large part to do with it. Also, a big factor is that I have met someone very, very special to me in Pamela Cruz Lozano and she is someone who makes me very, very happy in life. When these opportunities to be with someone you love present themselves, you have to snap them up, despite the distance and time. They’re just too good to pass. Many foreigners here, mainly Spanish, have told me that once you meet a Honduran woman, there’s no going back. My fate is kindly and beautifully sealed.

Today I said goodbye to ICYE and Casa Alianza, but I kind of knew that it wasn’t a final goodbye. Not to all the kids, but to many, I know I’ll see them again. They read out speeches for me and told me how special I was to them. I know when I return to Honduras, it will be in much different circumstances, but some of the kids are like my own kids. They’re not people I can just let go of. They have helped me as much as I have helped them and taught me a lot about survival. They’re tough but very kind. They have given me amazing presents to give to my family which leave me speechless (I’m not going to say what they are though, in case my family are reading). The kids expect me to return. I can’t let them down.

I am going to play a song which I know that the kids love. It’s a bachata version of Stand By Me. It’s not the best cover, but it’s played everywhere and I have a kind of guilty pleasure of liking it. The kids made me translate the English parts of the song and the song reminds of the kids, as well as listening to it in bars, cafes, buses and taxis. If there was ever an example of spanglish, this is it. I will miss the bachatas and the kids, although this video is a bit Michael Jacksonish and annoying. Here it is anyway.

I am at the moment spending the last night here with a can of Imperial (something else I will miss: especially the price 30p!!). Mixed feelings. I’m going to miss Pam, going to miss the kids, going to miss the host parents and friends and Honduras, but I’m also excited to see friends and family and be able to walk the streets without the threat of violence.  I’m not looking forward to pay the leaving country tax which has gone up from $37 to a stomping $60. Quite bizarre. I have learned one thing in Honduras. Sometimes it’s best not tp ask questions, because no one knows the answer, and nobody knows why people do these things, but they do them anyway!

Next stop. Houston. Deja vu. I said that about a year ago in one of my first blog updates when I was sat at home freezing. Now I’m returning to that. I will write my Belize adventures on my return, some time after Christmas. I will continue with the blog, more so when I return to Honduras. I am Catringo. I am Catracho. I am English. I am Nick Vapor Rubbbbbb. I want to finish by including a song. An English one by a band called The Beatles. They were very famous in the 1960s and they are from a city called Liverpool. The lead singer, John Lennon, has an airport named after him. I will now stop with the sarcasm and include the darn song. It’s kind of appropriate. Two of Us. Listen to it and you’ll know why. Enjoy it and enjoy Christmas.


Final days at Casa Alianza

Hi all

It kind of feels strange. It is a pretty much a year ago to this day that I left the Refugee Council. Now I am on the verge of saying goodbye after an eventful year at Casa Alianza. I said from the start that it would be a challenge. I was correct. I feel really sad to say goodbye to the kids and some of the staff. I will be back in Honduras next year. I would like to come in on Saturdays to see how the kids are doing, but when I return it will be all about publishing the book and finding a job. How much time I realistically work with them is, well, hard to say. I am currently looking at the English speaking newspapers in Honduras. It would kind of be a dream come true to work for them, living a Hunter S Thompson/Graham Greene/Ernest Hemingway-ish lifestyle in Latin America, although I’m unsure how much Pam would like that! It would fit the bill though, or working with street kids in a different capacity. I have really enjoyed their company. They’re “muy buena honda” as they say, “todo masiso”, “todo tombado, “todo cheque!” However, I feel ready to go back home. I haven’t packed a single thing yet but I feel ready to say goodbye to the kids. They keep asking when I’m going to return, and I keep saying next year, “cuando?” they say, “Pronto, lo espero” (soon, I hope) I respond. I have had a couple of nice days with the kids. They’re making me gifts and getting excited about Christmas, pretty much bouncing off walls with huge in takes of sugar. It’s nice to see them. I have always said that I am impressed with their character, they’re will to survive, they’re courage to get on with their lives no matter what state they are in. That remains the same. Some kids invited Pamela and myself to a Christmas event, with dancing, music and plays, at the Museum of Honduran Identity. One kid, who is a brilliant little joker, by the name of Juan Carlos, said he was very proud that I was there, which in turn made me very proud. Unfortunately I didn’t look where I was going and put my foot in a pot hole full of sewage water, leaving me with a really smelly leg. We were greeted by him and three other kids on stilts, which you can see below. Pam also went into Casa Alianza beforehand and was called Mami by the kids, which was touching. I, on the other hand, call Pamela “Mamita Rica”: and she calls me naco – (tacky).

I have made friends with many of the staff. Carolina Hernandez, Recindo, Hector, MariTonia, Ramon, Will, Nelly, Jorge the artist, Jorge the psychologist, Stefani, the street team, the cook staff and many more. There are still some staff who don’t understand what volunteering is about and how to treat volunteers. On the whole, the experience has been very positive and it should still be positive when I get the book finally finished (I’m going to do it back in England). Today I went with the team to Bosques de Zambrano, which is like a resort with swimming pools and activities in the pine forest hills on the way to Comayagua. They had secret santa (which they didn’t give me a name to exchange with a week or so ago, and a couple of members of staff blamed me for not participating even though I had no idea it was going to take place!!), lots of food, I sang “Every Breath You Take” by Police (not the Puff Daddy version. Also, I managed to hit the high notes which got me a round of applause, maybe out of sympathy, maybe because it didn’t blow out the windows) and there was lots of dancing. There was a big mix up about when the event was finishing. Some thought it was 3:30pm, others thought it was 5pm. I got on the bus at 4pm with two other members of staff and then the bus went, leaving 27 people behind. It is a very, very long walk home, or a very expensive taxi ride. It was nice, either way.

I took Pamela back to Casa Alianza on the Saturday to see the kids. Unfortunately the kid who threw a chair at me the other day sneaked back in. The day before he apologised to me and was in high spirits. Unfortunately, this time, he was going around whacking tables and threatening people. He shook my hand, then slammed the table with a broken pole, splintered like a dagger. Not nice. Soon after, kids jumped on him and managed to get him out. He is a very troubled soul. Pamela was scared, but she was more so sad. He didn’t have anyone to help him. It humbles you, especially when it is a week just before Christmas. He will be a long-term reminder just how difficult and volitile the kids can be. However, the beauty of the kids came across when they reassured Pam that she would be fine. It’s terrifying when you’re not used to it.

I went to a meal last night at a friend’s house. We listened to some cool marachi and bachata songs and danced a little, we watched Olimpia win the Honduran cup (booooo) and smack the shit out of a piñata!! Her name is Doris. I was there in great company. David, Marlon, Luz, Silvia, three people I didn’t know, Doris’ husband and kids, and last but not least, Hazel. Hazel has been like a sister to me here. I have mentioned her a few times in my blog and she is a star, a really brilliant mate. I really hope she is here next year when I return. We’ve had great memories of getting drunk and saying daft things and observing Honduran life. She has also let me stay countless times in her flat when I needed somewhere to stay in central Tegus. She, and Marlon, were always there to help me out and it’s not forgotten. You always need someone from a similar culture when you live in a distinctly different culture to your own. It helps with homesickness more than anything, as well as someone who understands your sense of humour and who you can vent your frustrations to about the culture and they won’t be offended or taken aback. Saying that, very few things have frustrated me about the culture. They are late, but I expected that. Politics have pissed me off. Sometimes Casa Alianza has too. But on the whole, it is the culture and the people that I have fallen in love deeply with, and as my London mate Leila Bow, who was in Honduras earlier this year, called me “Catringo” – part gringo, part Catracho.

Hazel and me were good mates from the moment we met in Subor Cubano, sometime in May. I was living in Tatumbla at the time. A couple of weeks earlier I was in Utila and was let down by two French girls who were volunteers with ICYE. They had decided to find and read my personal diary and then they were mad at me and didn’t speak to me. I had written personal comments about them in heated moments when they were being typically annoyingly French, but I guess it serves them right for reading and violating someone else’s property. They said they didn’t know it was a diary, which is a load of gobshite (excuse my French) as it stated it very clearly on the cover, that I think pretty translates much into any language with the unwritten rule that no one else should read it without permission. My holiday wasn’t a complete disaster, but it could have been a whole lot better if it weren’t for the two of them and their gobshite behaviour. Anyway, it’s no time for bitterness. It’s nearly Christmas. The point is, Hazel lifted my esteem by a mountain and helped make the last six months brilliant. She is a mate I will never forget and, like I said before, I really hope she’s still raving around in Honduras on my return. She’s introduced me to some great people too. So here is a picture that sums her up well, and the best Christmas song ever (apart from the Mi Burrito de Belen song, which I played the other day!) – Fairytale of New York. It’s a bit cliche but I don’t feckin’ care. I went to see the Pogues about this time last year. Kind of bodes well. Hazel: you’re a sound craíc! Thanks for everything.

 

I also want to say thank you to the Padgett family who took great care of me in Tatumbla. I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye properly. That goes to other friends here too. See you in 2012.

I don’t know if I will get a chance to update you all before I go back to the sub-zero temperatures in England. It’s dropped to a freezing 17c here in Tegus. God help me when I land on 22nd at Heathrow. I look forward to sharing a few pints with you on my return. It kind of makes sense to leave it at that for 2011. It is my 120th post. An average of ten posts per month. God knows how many words. I have enjoyed every moment of writing it. I will continue it in 2012.

I want to wish you all Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo. If you don’t understand that, you really are estupido!


Seven days left in Honduras, kids throwing chairs at me, making pupusas, gringas and tortillas & El Camino de Belen

Hi all

I have decided to have a small break from writing about Belize and write about current events in Casa Alianza. First of all, I want to advertise my friend’s blog. My friend is Rich Jones and he has started a blog of his own, to follow his own passion for the written word! http://thecoldface.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/what-do-you-call-a-first-blog/#comment-4. He’s entertaining. Give it a try.

Okay, seven days left in la tierra de Catrachos. I belong in this country. I have met the love of my life here, and fallen in love with Honduras. The people. The beauty. The buzz. There is an air in Tegus. It’s dangerous. But it has a spark. It has its problems, but it has its solutions. It can cure itself of corruption and it’s gang problem if it tries, as well as poverty. The people collectively really need to pull up their sleeves though. I love the sense of humour and smiles and chatting with people. They are a wonderful people here and I have many fantastic memories here. It has flown by because I have loved it. It’s been challenging, but I expected that. I came here for the challenge and I want it to continue, so watch this space.

I still have a few things happening though. Today I am going on a trip to see a big competition of sports at Casa Alianza. Then tomorrow, a lad at Casa Alianza has invited Pame and me to his graduation, which has made me very proud. He’s a really funny kid, very mature for his age and very smart. Then on Friday, I am having a day out with the staff, which should be fun. My last day should be Monday, as Tuesday I will have to pack. I am not looking forward to that. Packing. I hate packing. Packing is shit. My whole intention is to return as soon as possible anyway. To be in the country I love with the girl I love. If I don’t get to say goodbye to people before next week, I will see you in 2012.

Today was strange. A boy who had been in Casa Alianza who had an addiction to Resistol, managed to sneak in through the backdoor where deliveries come in. It’s not the first time he has done it. It was the third time I had seen him do it. The first time he was violent, the second time he was even more violent, and this time he was worse. I noticed he had entered, but the delivery man hadn’t. He began playing football with the other kids. They began to drift away from him because he was being a bit rough in a drugged out kind of way. I approached him to say hi and ask how he got in but he mumbled something I didn’t understand. I then went to tell security, but by the time I found them, he was inside the main residence of Casa Alianza. He forced himself through the doors past the kids. Understandably the kids backed off. He is a big lad and they have seen him hit out before. Not only did he get into the residence, he got into the kitchen. As soon as I heard the screams from the cooks, I knew I had to get in. The cooks hid the knives, but he was looking for food. He started a staring game with my colleague but stopped. He then started pushing me and accusing me of trying to kill him, so I backed away. More staff joined and I walked out the kitchen. I didn’t make eye contact with him, but he was very paranoid about me. He then walked out the kitchen and while I walked well away, but then threw a chair. It missed, but as he tried to get another chair, which made a member of staff grab him to stop. The kid was very strong and head butted the member of staff. I was then called into the panic room, in case he tried looking for me or had a knife, but by that time, the staff had jumped him and turfed him out, as well as called the police, not that the police would do much. The kid had no one to go to. He also didn’t know what he was doing. It made me feel sorry for him more than anything, but it did make me wary of walking around in the streets in case I saw him. He needs help, but like most kids on this drug, they need to help themselves first. The company that make Resistol don’t care, neither do the sellers. We can’t expect them to help either. They make their profit in Central America. They know where their glue is going too, and it’s not in shoes. I’ve written about this before. But it’s a killer. The company Fuller just don’t want to know.

In the morning, I spoke in Menin, the director, and I will be meeting him in January in London about the book. It will be on the web first. I hope to be back in Honduras in February in that case.

After that, I went into the Casa Alianza kitchens to learn how to make a few tortilla based dishes with Mary Jeanette, the boss of kitchen staff. I made pupusas, baleadas, gringas and tortillas maseca. Pupusas are tortillas with cheese or pork. Baleadas are bigger and made with different flour and have sour cream and beans. Gringas are like baleadas but in a wrap with spices, salsa and a mix of meats. I am writing this late at night, so I will write the recipes another time. I learned basically how to make them but I will need to purchase a tortilla machine, and I won’t lie, there were a few casualties along the wide. I need make a few kids happy by sharing what I made, but I will have to wait until tomorrow to see if any have food poisoning! Here are a few pictures.

I want to finish by playing a brilliant xmas song called El Camino de Belen. It also has another name called El Burrito de Belen (The Little Donkey of Bethlehem) or Mi Burrito Sabanero (My Little Donkey something or other). It is a Latin American xmas song which I first heard in a bar last Friday, which had all the drunks dancing to it at the end of the night. I heard it today while cooking and all the kids in Casa Alianza were singing and dancing to it. I like it because the voice is so incredibly high that it sounds as though someone is taking the piss. Also, the kid in the video has the best hair and jumper ever. Fact. See for yourself. The voice though. It’s brilliant. Enjoy.

 

I will probably finish off the updates about Belize on my return to England now. I want to enjoy my last few days in Honduras, as you can imagine. Don’t think I haven’t enjoyed doing the blog though. I have immensely. I will try to do an update before I leave anyway.

Take care anyway, and enjoy the festive season.


Central American Adventure – Part Seven

Dear all

Sunday 27th November 2o11

The broken ribs were playing havoc with me, as was my bruised shoulder. I couldn’t pick things up or do anything. I have since written a poem about broken ribs. It is below.

 Broken ribs

Broken ribs,
Like broken pen nibs,
Can’t be easily fixed,
Broken easily like a Twix.
Delicate bones,
A constant moan,
Can’t get up,
Can’t get down,
Sleep is rare,
Permanent frown.
Waiting on painkillers,
No beer allowed,
Laughing kills me,
Be careful of nudging crowds.
Be careful of your ribs,
Because like broken pen nibs,
They’re not easily fixed.
 

Love it or hate it, it’s there.

In the morning we went for a breakfast. Fried jacks. I didn’t know what to make of them but now I love them. I don’t know how to describe them well. Just dough bubbles, but like dumplings, and you eat them with egg and banana and stewed beans. I didn’t want to look at beans again after my illness in Copan, Guatemala and Punta Gorda. Bean poisioning. It’s deadly. Anyway, we went for a short stroll. Said and Joan had to get the afternoon ferry back for a family do. Mum and dad and me booked snorkelling for the afternoon in “shark and sting ray alley”. My body was saying, “Don’t be foolish” but my brain was saying, “Shut the f–k up body, I wanna see sharks.” I was more concerned that the bleeding from my chest my attract sharks from all over,  so I wore a t-shirt. In the afternoon we got the boat. We shared with three Americans. They all seemed friendly. We got near the reefs and were shown how to use the snorkel. Mine was rubbish. Water kept seeping through, or I just wasn’t using it correctly. Unfortunately it was out of my mum’s depth so she chose not to. I have done snorkelling before amongst the reefs. The guide, Omar, was great, showing us various kinds of fish. At one point though, one of the Americans and me saw a green coral eel. We told Omar and he told us to swim away from it. Luckily he did so. Later in the dive, he showed us how territorial they were. Omar would dive down and bait them up and they would follow. They had a nasty, nasty bite, so he told us to stay clear but just to watch. As a matter of chance, a three year old, small, green turtle floated by. It was literally two metres away from Dad and me. Omar told us to give it space but the tide pushed us towards it more. We were swimming for the first dive for about forty minutes. With broken ribs, you need rest. I didn’t get that. The next dive was with the string rays and sharks. They were nurse sharks and were quite docile. Omar old us not to put our fingers by it’s mouth. Sensible and rather obvious advice if you ask me. We also had to be careful of the sting rays tail. They weren’t going to sting, but it was important to look where we were putting our feet. There were a good dozen sting rays swimming around, as well as a dozen sharks. Omar grabbed a sting ray to let us touch it. It was kind of strange. My mum in the meantime took pictures for us in the self confines of the boat. Unfortunately, I did get stung. Not by a sting ray, but by a yank. He pulled his leg away quickly and kicked it right in my ribs. My body said to my head, “I told you so, you idiot!” But it was worth the pain.

The third dive was a free dive and we could go where we wanted. It was nice. We saw a few more rays and wonderful coral. The waters were picking up a bit and there was a breeze, so I got back in the boat, as did the others, as we made our way back to shore. It was amazing seeing the turtle. I never thought I would see one swimming in the wild. It’s extremely rare we were told so we were incredibly lucky to see it. Thanks to mum and dad. It’s a memory I’m going to have for a long, long time. On the way back, I managed to get a cracking snap of seagull which I’m very proud about. See it below.

We went to the same restaurant we went to the night before. I had shrimp kebab. Wonderful again. It didn’t fail to impress at all. We then went back to the hotel and I had another painful night sleep. A turtle though. I couldn’t believe that I’d seen one.

 

 

 


Caye Caulker

Hiya all

Just to add a few more photos of the beautiful island of Caye Caulker!

 

 

 

 

 


Central American Adventure – Part Six

Dear all

Friday 25th November 2011

Here are two interesting facts for you: Belize has only 330,000 or so people and homosexuality is banned. Not many countries can say that. What I love are the news and weather reports: Hurricane Watch. I am going to sound very pompus and English now, but I think a school boy made the programmes. It’s amature but I love it.

That morning we visited Joan Musa’s charity, which helps people living in poverty get suitable eye-wear. I was missing the nose piece of my glasses, so they were kindly fixed. The next duty was to visit Joan Musa’s grandson at a lodge with swimming pools and lagoons and parrots and stuff. It was his third birthday, but I can’t remember his name. 32 years old and losing my memory. In the lagoon was a baby croc. Apparently baby crocs eat nachos and cheese. Unfortunately my mum and dad have the photos and they’re in Cuba so I can’t show you. So, just for fun, here’s this video of a baby crocodile biting someone.

After this, we went home and ate conch soup, and then went into Belize City to have a look around. We went to one of Joan’s sons, who have gallery of Belize art. We then went to get me a new camera before we went to Caye Caulker, which would be tomorrow. Brilliant. Sony. It’s a small beast of a camera. It was an early xmas present from my folks, as well as money from my Uncle Pat and Aunty Gill. We went to see the theatre, which has a lovely art exhibition, and then watched the sunset over the harbour and watched the fish and tourist boats come in. Then we had some drinks at a lovely colonial hotel which is white-washed and serves Chinese food. Here is the first pictures taken with the camera.

 

 

After, we went to Chaps. Unfortunately there seemed to a hen night who got there before us, so service took a while. I had a meat feast with a massive rack of ribs. Ironic, because the next day something unfortunate would be happening to my own ribs! I was full. It was nice chattning to the former Prime Minister though, and his thoughts of the politicians he has met and his experiences in office. I really admired the way he gave people time to talk and explain their concerns. I think Cameron should take note. I was surprised by how much he liked Tony Blair. He really liked him. I felt Tony Blair was a bit of a let down, but I never met him.

Anyway, we went home and packed our bags before we went to paradise. AKA. Caye Caulker!

Saturday 26th November 2011

We awoke reasonably early, had breakfast and then got ready to leave. I got to use my camera and take a few snaps. Boarding the boat was interesting. We were helped on first by Mr Musa’s security men. I found it great. Poor Joan found it embarrassing. Said, like I said, get’s a lot of attention. He speaks with everyone and gives them time. He’s very diplomatic and I like that about him. The ferry was boiling inside. So hot. It was raining too. Luckily it was a smooth crossing. The windows were too high to look out of to see the horizon, so not to be seasick. On the way we stopped off at another island. It was owned by an American. He wanted to sell it. $50 million was the asking price. We got to Caye Caulker and strolled through the main drag looking at the lovely art shops and stalls. We got to our hotel and WOW! The views were beautiful. We were all hungry though. We found a nice little place at the tip of the island. We all had fish fingers. Slightly crooked fish fingers but a lot more fresh than the Birds Eye back home. We then went back to the hotel. I wanted a swim. I went off by myself and took myself back to the tip of the island where we had lunch, as there was another small island just 75 metres away or so. The currents were incredibly strong but I made it. Once on the other side of the island, I went for a little explore. Lots of little hermit crabs crossed my path, but so did a lot of washed up rubbish and polution. After three minutes of strolling, I came to a house. Suddenly, two big dogs appeared, baring their teeth and looking pissed off that someone, anyone, should step foot on their territory. I did what everyone has since told me is wrong to do: I ran in the opposite direction. I legged it fast. Out of pure desperate in stress, I bellowed, “FUCK OFF! LEAVE ME ALONE!” thinking that these fiendish little canine bastards would listen to me. My girlfriend laughs at me and says they were chichiuauas or poodles or something, and I have heard similar things from my Dad, but I assure you they were beasts. While I ran, I lost my balance and fell on my chest. I got up and dust myself down while feeling agony in my arm and lower chest, while also seeing scratches on my chest. By this time, the dogs had stopped stalking me but I could still hear them barking, so I legged it more and did a Baywatch dive into the water, which stang, pardon my French, the fuck out of me. Not only that, because my chest and arm were hurting, I found it hard to swim and the currents were really strong. I felt I was going to be swept out at one point. I somehow managed to get in while tourists looked at me and said nothing. An aussie woman then greeted me and said, “Facking hell mate. You poms are facking fanny. Welcome to Caye Caulker. Have a beer mate.” She then told me how she came to Caye Caulker every three years to spend a year, and work two years solidly in Australia working with people with drug problems. She was cool, but told me to becareful of water snakes and crocs on the other side of the island. I just felt relieved to escape the hounds of hell. I went back to the hotel and mum cleaned me up, while dad scoffed at me and my adventure. It then dawned on me that my chest was in a bad way and I couldn’t lie down or do much, which worried me because we were planning on snorkelling the day after. PUCHA! DAMN! Only two hours on the island and I’d crippled myself. Nick and paradise should not be married as one.

That night we went for some snacks on the balcony above the hotel, as well as a bottle of wine. We then went to a fish restaurant and had fresh grilled snapper. WONDERBAR!!! It was great, as were the portions.

After, we went back to the hotel and I had the most uncomfortable sleep of my life. Broken ribs for sure. No pain killers. It was strange though. Love Actually was on television. Watching this on island in the hot Carribbean, where I should have been in a bar getting drunk on cheap rum. Oh well.

Said Musa and Suma

 

Downtown Caye Caulker

 

 

I will include some more photos on the next page.

 


Central American Adventure – Part Five

Hi all

Wednesday 23rd November 2011

We had a personal tour by Barranco’s very own, Ludwig Palacio, the man of a million talents. Barranco is one of the sacred town’s of the Garifuna people in Toledo, Belize. It is also the birthplace of Andy Palacio, the famous musician to all the Garifuna people from Belize to Honduras, as well as a national hero to Belize, who died a few years ago. There are also a few famous writers from Barranco: a breeding ground of talent so it seems. Ludwig hired a car and we set off down dirt roads to see this wonderful spiritual home. We first went to school, which my mum loved to see. The head teacher is only 22 years old. The school had three classes with about 12 kids in each class. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos to show you, as I didn’t have time to upload any from my mum’s camera.

We then went to see a cousin of Ludwig’s who gave us fresh coconut juice. It was refreshing in the heat. His cousin also cut some cassava for Ludwig but told us not to enter his bush (the front garden) because he’d come across a few snakes, one of which was the yellow barba that can kill you within hours. We stood and had a profound chat about problems with crime in Central America, in the heat, while ants crawled all over my legs and bit me. Little shits. We then went on to the pier and looked out into the sea. In the far off jungles we could hear howler monkeys. Ludwig told us about how people are deserting the village of Barranco. It once had a 1000 people or more. Now it’s only 200. City migration was the main culprit for this. Also, Americans had come in, having found oil supplies on the land, and were bringing in their tanks and helicopter pads to drill it out. It was sad to see.

As I have no photos, here is a video of the funeral of Andy Palacio and a few images of the town, and of course a sample of his music. If we’d come a few days earlier, we would have seen a Garifuna festival, a bit like in the video below. It was a shame to miss it but it was a great consolation seeing Copan Ruinas.

After, we went to Cotton Tree Lodge and had some lovely chicken soup. Cotton Tree Lodge makes it’s own chocolate and is an eco-holiday resort, with luxury cabins and canopies. The honeymoon suite was very romantic with a jacuzzi, I must say. There were tours going here there and everywhere and they had various Mayan and Garifuna cultural events. It was, however, quite expensive. Here is a video of the resort, done by some holiday makers from the USA! YEAH MAN!

 

After, we got in the car and we were embraced with more howls from the howler monkeys. We went back to Ludwig’s gallery and had tea served by his wife and some banana cake, which was delicious. We heard many more stories from Ludwig and his wife and they were fantastic company to us. I am going to include a link below to tell you more about Ludwig. He is such a wonderful character. I recommend you meet him if you are passing through Punta Gorda!

http://www.apalacioexchange.com/Ludwig%20Palacio%20Personality%20of%20the%20month%20April%2009.pdf

I then went back to the hotel to chill and reflect on my time. I was meeting so many caring people. I have been doing so throughout Central America. I have also thought that, collectively, humans are rubbish. We start wars, we invent things that kill people, we have daft politics and we can’t work very well as a group. Individually though, humans can be some of the most wonderful creatures on the planet. We’re ruined by a our greed and need to want more, at times. Me included. By the way, I was thinking these things after sipping some gifiti!!!

That night, we spent our last night in Punta Gorda in the same restaurant we went to on the first night. This time I had conch. Deep fried. Wonderful, it was! Asha’s Kitchen was the name of the establishment. Really good, fresh seafood, and a great cook as well. It was some walk to get there, but it was well worth it.

The next day was a very early start. We went to bed early, but with me itching from the ant stings. Little shits.

Thursday 24th November 2011

Ludwig gave us a lift to the bus station. 6am it went. The express bus service to Belize City. I kept going in and out of sleep so I didn’t take too much notice of the scenery around. The sunrise was beautiful. The music of the children’s choir singing Christian songs on the radio was a bit uncalled for though. I did wake up when a mennonite sat next to me. He seemed nice, but like I said in a poem a few days ago, he really did smell. I felt sorry for him really. People were looking at him. I imagine he gets it a lot, but it nearly made me sick. Maybe I should not be so rude, disrespectful and narrow minded, but when someone honks that badly on a five hour bus journey, you really want to shove Lynx under their nose.

We got to Belize City, a city of 70,000 people, and got a taxi. The driver, who spoke with a strong creole accent, was great. He didn’t know exactly where we wanted to go, but he was very bright and cheerful. He started slating the casinos as we drove past, saying how they wrecked peoples lives, man. True Carribbean spirit! He also loved the Queen, when we started chatting about where we were from. When we got near the house, we mentioned that we were going to Said Musa’s house, to which he replied, “Why didn’t ya sey, man?! I know him, man. Da Prime Minister house, man. He’s ma buddy.” We were then within seconds.

We got into the house and met the maid, who was Honduran. She showed us to our rooms and we waited for Joan Musa, the ex Prime Minister’s wife, to return. I forgot to say, my father shared a flat in London in the 1960s with the one day to come Prime Minister of Belize, Said Musa. Joan, his wife, is originally from around the corner of Old Trafford in Manchester. I slept most of the afternoon in the hammock. It was good to see my parents catch up with old friends and hear stories of my Dad’s youth. I now know where I inherited my fondness for getting drunk!

That night was a late one. Next day we would see more of Belize City.