Thursday, May 10, 2012

Brigade to Honduras: Finale

So here we are, with our journey almost over, at the beginning of another beautiful day...

The highway to Tela: hot, humid jungle
Day 13.
We were up at 4:30 a.m. and drove all morning, only stopping in Comayagua to see Colleen off to the airport, have breakfast, and say goodbye to our Honduran crew.  Only Churri, Meza, and Tango came along with us to Tela.

The heat today is crushing.  We got out of the bus at a gas station around 11 a.m. to use the washrooms and get water, and getting out of the air conditioning was shocking.  The sun crashes down on you with roaring heat which bounces off the ground; standing in the sun feels like standing inside its very core.  Everyone gathered in shady spots.

Yashi and I on the Sherwood beach
We arrived in Tela around 1 p.m., which was perfect.  We went to a very delicious pizza place for lunch and drank beers, then hit the beach in front of our hotel.  We jumped in the huge rolling waves, in the warmest water I've been in outside of a bath.  The ocean was too warm to be refreshing, but that was amazing in itself.  It is paradise here.

The Hotel Sherwood is amazing.  The rooms are sparse and simple without feeling sterile like hotels at home do.  There are windows all along the beach-facing wall, from floor to ceiling.  The hotel lobby is dark with rich wood, and opens onto a massive covered patio, furnished with similar dark, solid wood.  It instantly felt like the kind of place people would travel to in the old days - the 1890's - to stay for weeks and become friends with the other vacationers.  I loved it right away - hanging out in the hotel was awesome.  We had breakfast and dinner included with our room fee, and the food was delicious.  We had garlic tilapia for dinner tonight (I wonder if it's from the lake we saw in the mountains?).

The Sherwood patio, from the lobby.  Glorious!
Day 14.
Most of the group decided to go on an excursion to Punta Sala, but Yashi, Jess, Emma, Joe, Sam, Gary, and I all stayed back.  This is our only day of relaxation - tomorrow we hit the airport early - so we just didn't feel like spending it travelling to another place.  Instead, Yashi, Jess, Emma and I went to another hotel with Meza and Tango, where for $45 US we got access to their amazing pool with a  swim-up bar, their private beach with volleyball nets, a buffet lunch, and unlimited drinks.

Oh, it was a day of true bacchanalia.  We arrived at the hotel at 10 a.m., and by 10:30 were already in the pool on our second drink.  The first was called a blue marlin, named after the hotel restaurant, and was almost entirely booze, so we quickly switched to pina coladas.

The beach with volleyball net
in the background. Beautiful.
We played 7 games of volleyball - Hondurans (Tango, Meza, and two guys from the hotel) vs. Canadians - and the Canadians won best of 7.  We took swims in the super-warm ocean to rinse the sand off, though it didn't do too much to cool us down.  We also jumped off a huge pier into deep, warm, blue salty water.  The day was incredibly hot and the sand was too hot to walk on, so the guys from the hotel wet the volleyball court down before each set for us - running to get the ball if it went out of bounds was agony!

We went for lunch around 2 and then stayed poolside.  I honestly don't know how many drinks I had; I think I had at least 7 pina coladas, interspersed with margaritas, a beer, and a touch of water.  Yashi insisted that she wasn't drunk at the hotel and kept telling us that we had to go out tonight! - and by the time we got back to the Sherwood she almost didn't make it down to dinner (but she did, because she's hardcore like that).  I showered at our hotel and got dressed, and went downstairs for another pina colada - sometimes if you stop you'll never get started again.

After dinner (shrimp - om nom!) a group of us went to a little bar down the street from the hotel.  The six of us from the day, plus Joe, Churri, Amanda, and Kat went down.  We started off slow, getting beers and sitting at a bar table, but before long tequila shots came out and we were all dancing on the patio.  Emma doesn't love dancing in situations like that, and decided to head in at some late point.  I had a great time dancing on the boardwalk with the others - there was actually no one else around at the bar or the other hotels because it's kind of the off-season here, so we had the whole strip to ourselves.  I danced with Churri and Meza to some sweet latin songs (which I shall have to download) and bounced along to the hip-hop beats that Kat and Joe lined up.  It was great.  The bar closed down around 12:45, so we moved down to the Sherwood and sat at the beach tables.  None of us really wanted to say goodnight, but eventually we did, since the specter of another early morning and long travel day was looming.

The hotel crew - pooling it.
Day 15.
I'm sitting in San Pedro Sula airport.  I feel really excited to get home, but really bummed to be leaving. A couple more days in Tela would have been ideal.  Churri, Meza, and Tango are on their way to meet another brigade - this time a building crew - and I strangely already miss their ever-vigilant presence, always just at the next table, or the end of the line-up, or in the other car.  It must be routine for them - just another group of Canadians to escort around, maybe - but for me there's a profound difference.  As much as it will be nice to have a break from being with all the people in this group 24/7, there's a natural human comfort in having a few people always around to do things with.  Tango and Meza were part of the core fun group of people on this trip, and are the only two I won't get to see, at least for a while.

I'm going to miss Honduras.  Right now I can see mountains blue and hazy in the distance.  It was so much work, but so much fun - completely exhausting and completely worthwhile in every way.  I will definitely do this again.  I will ask Drew if he wants to come as well - he would be an amazing person to have on a trip like this because he gets along with everyone and knows how to work hard with a smile on his face - no whining!

I had an incredible time here, and like all incredible times it hurts a bit to see it come to an end.  Returning to life-as-usual is always a bit difficult.  I can't even believe I live in the same world as my job - which I have to go to tomorrow.  I'd rather run away, around the world, and never stop.

Day 16.
Day 16?  Yep, day 16.  Our travel day did not go smoothly.  The American Airlines (boo!) flight into San Pedro Sula was an hour late, and that was the plane we were supposed to take out to Miami, so we ended up leaving an hour and a half late.  Since we only had 2 hours layover in Miami and had to go through the serious pain in the ass of US customs and immigration, we missed our g.d. connection.

The airline put all of us up in hotels, all at different places, and gave us dinner and breakfast vouchers.  I was at the Best Western with a few others - unfortunately Emma was in the Comfort Inn.  By the time we got to the hotel it was 10:30 at night and the hotel restaurant was closed (thanks for the voucher, d-bags!).  My first thought when I got to my room: 'thank the gods the hotel in Tela wasn't like this.'  It had that sterile, climate-controlled smell to it, windows sealed closed, everything very polished and American.  I wouldn't have traded our laid-back tropical Sherwood with its ample retro patio for one hundred manicured beach resorts!

Hard Rock Miami!  Woo!
Jess, Keith and I struck out on the town, and ended up going to the Miami Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, which turned out to be awesome.  We had a really delicious dinner and a fun hang out.  The server gave us the military discount because we had mentioned that we were part of a volunteer medical brigade, which was nice of her.  Keith treated, also very nice of him.

Drinking yet another delicious
I had an amazing sleep, which is just one of the best things in the world I think.  I had my own room with an enormous king-sized bed and 12 pillows, but even still I would have been a million times happier to get home and go to my own bed.  On the plus side, I was supposed to to go work today and that would have been TERRIBLE.  On the down side, Drew was going to pick me up at the airport and I don't have keys to our apartment.... so I hope the landlord's home!

On the whole these past two travel days have been a total cluster from start to finish.  I'm ready to stop being in transit, but I'm already looking forward to the next time I can go back to Honduras.

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