Sunday, September 26, 2010


Emily described it as, “a tour that just wouldn’t be legal in the United States.” Gio and I both wanted to see the Pulhapanzak Waterfall, and were willing to pay the extra money to have the guided tour that would allow us to get in behind the waterfall.

During our route on public transportation we ran into three others and now traveled to the waterfall as a group of five. We got far enough down the path that the water was splashing us consistently and we met our guide that informed us we could not travel past the gate without him.

We had a conversation that translates roughly to this:

“It is five dollars per person.”

“What does the tour include?”

“We will go down this way.”

“Are we going to get in behind the waterfall?”

“Probably not today, because the water is too high with all the rain.”

“Then what is the point of the tour?”

“You will get closer to the waterfall.”

The guide wasn’t the best salesperson; he really wasn’t that good at communication in general. Not sure why we were even going at all, we attempted to bargain down the price. At one point he locked the gate and started to leave us, but he came back and accepted our offer of $10 for all five of us.

We changed to our suits right there on the side of the mountain, everything would be too wet from this point forward. We stuffed our clothes and cameras into our backpacks and stashed them in a little opening on the side of the mountain that would keep them dry as we continued.

As we hiked down there was no break from the assault of water in our faces. We followed our guide, who continued to tell us nothing, as we climbed up and over rocks hoping not to fall into the rushing water. Then we reached the point where the rocks were completely underwater. Our guide went first and planted himself securely in the middle of the section. We now each had to cross without being able to see the rocks on which we stood.

“Wooooohoooo,” yelled our guide as one by one we traversed the area. I didn’t know till later that Rachel (the lone female in our group) said the rushing water hid her tears as she feared for her life. I reached for the guide’s hand as if once I held on to him I would be safe for that moment. I cautiously stepped unable to see the ground below me. We crossed hoping that none of us would die. We did all of this while the water continued to fall in our faces limiting our vision.

“Woooooohoooo,” I yelled back; this was getting fun.

After that section we were now deep enough under part of the waterfall to climb into a cave, duck down, and have our first break from the water falling on us. With limited verbal instructions our guide indicated that the next section was optional. Then I watched Gio get to a point where he had no footing at all. He reached for something to grab on to, but found nothing. I looked at him desperately treading water in effort to stay alive. I yelled to our guide for help as I feared for my friend’s safety. Gio managed to get back safely and decided that he didn’t need to go any deeper into the waterfall. At this point life seemed more important than the final thirty feet of the tour.

We waited just a matter of minutes and the guys returned from around the corner. Apparently there wasn’t that much to see anyway. Really, we couldn’t see particularly well the entire time. The way back seemed safer than the way out, probably because we knew we lived the first time.

Eventually we all made it back safely up the mountain. We retrieved our things and pulled our wallets. Rachel, despite regretting the entire endeavor, insisted we tip the guide for keeping her alive.

I said with complete sincerity, “I would have paid the $5.”

I know understood completely why Emily said it wouldn’t be legal in the States.

That was our “tour” of the waterfall, and it was awesome.

Click here to read more details and see pictures from the trip.

Thought of the Week

If your wallet costs more than the money you have to put in it you may need to do a better job prioritizing your finances.

Pic of the Week

In Hotel Quinta Real, La Ceiba, Honduras.

I'm not saying I don't ever drip a little myself. I've just never seen urinals complete with toilet paper and individual trash cans.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


To practice working with negative numbers I had my students write out a story to represent each problem.

Here is the example I did for the class:

10 + (-18)

I went to Chicago in the winter and it was 10 degrees outside. Then the temperature fell 18 degrees. Now it is -8 degrees outside.

Then the kids had to write their own example for 12 + (-3). (This is during the first week of school.)

A girl in the front row writes, “I had 12 kids. Then CPS took three of them. Now I have 9 kids.”

Thought of the Week

Even Napoleon had his Watergate.
--Yogi Berra

Pic of the Week

Baggage Claim at the Sacramento Airport

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bus System

I assumed if it was the right bus it would stop at the bus stop. I also assumed we were at a bus stop. I also assumed there were bus stops.

Fortunately, as we were watching the bus about to drive by us, Gio had the inclination to throw up his hand. It must have been a sight to see for the locals.

Two Gringos standing in the rain on the side of the road with unusually large duffel bags wrapped in black trash bags, Gio holding his less than heterosexual umbrella, and me wearing a garbage-bag poncho trying to decide which one of us looked more ridiculous. We jogged awkwardly up the road with our bags, which they crammed up front as they hurried us on to the bus.

Here’s what I think I learned about the bus system in Honduras:

There are different lines. For example one line could take you in a fancy double-decker bus from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba for $28. Another line still used bus stations, sold tickets in advance, showed Jean-Claude Van Damme movies on a miniature TV without sound but with subtitles that mostly fit on the screen, and would take you from La Ceiba to Tela (about half the distance to San Pedro Sula) for about $6. Overall, it was a nice line. Then there were the buses of the people. These for most distances I found cost 12 Limpiras (about 60 cents). The White people I talked to referred to them as “The Chicken Buses.” They came in many shapes and sizes with the most notable type being the abandoned U.S. school bus.

Once we learned this system I found it to be quite effective. As far as I could tell there were no bus stops or bus schedules. Anywhere on the route was a stop as long as you were there and flagged down the driver. It was a two person operation. One guy drove and the other manned the door. He opened the door and hurried the passengers on, and sometimes even closed the door before we took off on the road again. All stops were brief and efficient. Once the bus was driving along for a while the door guy would go through and collect money from all the people that had yet to pay.

On Gio’s birthday we had to take three different buses to get to the waterfall. It was fun experience. At one point five of us piled in to a 15-passenger van that already contained 15 people, and I’m not even sure that at that point it was considered full. 12 Limpiras each. We rode in an old yellow school bus that still had a sign in English up front that read “keep our children safe.” We never waited more than fifteen minutes for a bus, and the bus never waited more than 15 seconds for us to get seated.

Bienvenidos a Honduras.

One guy told us we could get from the Lake back to San Pedro Sula in just a little over 30 minutes. The girl at the hotel told us it would take about 45 minutes. Our taxi driver from the day before estimated the trip at an hour and a half. As we got on we asked, “San Pedro Sula?” They verified as they threw our large bags up front. There were two empty seats on this small bus/van. Gio took the one in the second row and I sat two rows behind him. As I sat there awkwardly trying to rip off my poncho without hitting the guy next to me or bringing extra attention to the fact that I was wearing a large garbage bag, Gio turned around and made eye-contact with me and flashed me a thumbs up as if to say, “We made it.” And only two hours later we were there.

Thought of the Week

Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.
--Yogi Berra

Pic of the Week: 4

Taken at Expatriados, a bar in La Ceiba.

So you and the guy next to you can both piss at the same time without having to worry about holding your cigarette.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My friend Ryan just posted this on his Facebook. I do not know his friend Joe; nor do I know if Ryan has ever visited my blog. I'm not saying I'm an expert on where to put a comma, but Joe's funny.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Manuel: Our first contact in Honduras, the director of our language school, father of David (pronounced Da-veed), and the opposite of dependable.

Saturday morning we called Manuel for the first time. He arranged for David to pick us up from the hotel and we planned an excursion to the neighboring islands for Sunday at 8am.

It is Central America, but still by 8:45am we began to worry a little so we called Manuel. He claimed he was already there and the trip was full, but he would send someone to pick us up. Just after 10am some guys showed up in a jeep. We didn’t really know who they were, or where they were going, so we hopped in the jeep with them. During our attempt to figure out the situation one of the guys asked us in English, “What condition was Manuel in when he told you that?” He added, “He drinks a lot on the weekends.”

The next day we had a brief tour of the city before classes began. Manuel took us to a very nice hotel on the beach. He told us that he had an arrangement with the hotel for his students to come and visit the hotel and drink at the bar whenever they would like. Later we learned that he made this possible because the hotel bar was open to the public.

David drove us home from school, and we made plans to have dinner with him that night. For some reason later that afternoon Manuel called us and changed our dinner time from 6:30pm to 7:00pm. He liked to be involved in things. We waited at home all evening and no one every showed up. The next morning Manuel explained that he wasn’t able to make it because he had someone that he had to pick up at the airport.

One night at the bar I recognized some of the other students from school and I went and sat with them for a bit. We ended up exchanging Manuel stories. We began with the people newest to the school and worked our way up. I learned of stories that included: Manuel driving without a license, driving while inebriated, and stopping the car and asking a student to drive in order to get through a sobriety checkpoint. He had a reputation.

On our last day of class Manuel approached us about the cost of staying an extra night with our homestay. I was happy to pay for the additional night, but I wanted to pay her directly without giving any more money to the school. I ended up getting into a pretty heated argument with me bringing up the point that we paid for two separate bedrooms, but shared a single room all week. Apparently, it is the same price. I finally agreed to pay, but mentioned we did not have American dollars so he I asked for the price in Limpiras. I had trouble understanding his answers in Spanish. We had a conversation that went something like this:

“How much in Limpiras?”
“What was that?” (said as we were taking out our money)
“I’ll make it easy for you and you can just give me an even 500,” (as he took the 500 from us).

That same day he cornered Gio and asked him what we were doing Saturday during the day. Gio answered that we were going to Cayos Cochinos, and we ended up booking the trip with Manuel (again). He joked with us, “Don’t worry. I’m not picking up anyone from the airport tomorrow.”

It was a fantastic day and at the end of it on our way home I asked our guide what he thought of Manuel. He responded something equivalent to “no comment.”

We laughed.

I added, “Estoy de acuerdo.” (I agree.)

We laughed again.

My New Life Quote

“I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult.”
-- E.B. White

Pic of the Week

A little dramatic. No son sopas, son sopas Quiznos! I laughed everytime I saw the sign, and I did get a a sopa Quiznos one night.