Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On to Honduras!

We left the offices in San Jorge at 3:15 AM last Friday. Amazingly close to our goal of 3:00! Maybe there was no one awake to distract or maybe they figured if they were going to get up that early, we were leaving when planned! I’m not sure why, but the middle of the night seems to be the time to get stuff done on time!

As we pulled out of the driveway, Marlon prayed to himself several times. On a trip like this, there aren’t guarantees. That’s true in the US too, but between highway assistance, the general tendency for everyone to be inside the car with seatbelts on, and regularly maintained roads, you’re one more step removed from calamity. On our trip it wouldn’t be unheard of to hit an animal in the road (with catastrophic results for both of us), get stopped by a car accident for hours or get pulled over by police for no particular reason. Generally this trip goes fine, but there is just no taking it for granted.

We rode in a white four door Toyota truck, six of us (two who were kids) in the cab and Maricela in the back. She had set herself up on some cushions surrounded by luggage and a small birdcage with a couple of parakeets (gifts for her mom).

I had been hoping to sleep on the trip north; I had only slept a couple hours due to some extreme procrastination on my part the night before. But being in the front seat with the radio and air conditioning on (two things I certainly would have needed if I were driving) meant Marlon and I talked business instead. We talked about the well, about the construction schedule and about what I would find of use in Honduras. The most productive times are often the least expected and we covered a lot of ground, figuratively and literally.

We were all hungry by 7:30, but had already passed Managua. Other than the capital, Nicaragua is mostly small towns that don’t open up for business very early, so we stopped at a gas station convenience store (with a bright yellow ‘On the Run’ sign, they’re all over the place). I had ding dongs and they were heavenly. I’ve had them about four times in my life due to a terribly healthy upbringing, but the chocolate, the cream, the sugar (even though technically, I don’t think it’s really any of those things, it’s better than saying the chemically altered substances!), and all for breakfast!

A little bit north of breakfast, and not too far from the border, Marlon turned off the highway into a little pueblo. I was pretty sure this wasn’t the route to the border, but I decided to just wait and see where we were going.

Soon after heading down a hill and making a couple tight turns with little brightly painted concrete block houses perched right next to the street, we parked and got out of the car. Apparently, if I wanted to join them, we were going to spend a couple moments at the local chapel. So of course, curious, I went along.

After those few moments in a gazebo with letters and plaques hung along the rafters thanking the nearby statue (representing?) the Virgin Mary (not being Catholic I’m not quite sure where the physical statue ends and the spiritual is supposed to begin) for her intervention on some personal matter, we descended along a walkway to a shallow, clear stream. A few kids were getting water from the well next to the stream before going to school (they were all wearing navy blue pants or skirts and white shirts, standard school uniform here). They filled up a blue plastic bucket that had a clay filter in the top of it and a label on the side pictorially showing how to use it. It looked like the kind of thing I’ve seen non-profit in the US list statistics for to prove their effectiveness in giving aid to poor rural communities. There was an internal flash of foreignness; I’ll never have to rely on foreign aid for clean water.

From there, it was back to the highway and not far to the border. I’ve already described that experience a bit. Everything I’ve ever been taught in situations like this is to feign not knowing Spanish at all (which is pretty close to the truth anyway for me). But Marlon, who had told me not to say anything and let him do the talking, ended up pointing me to the building I was supposed to go to and didn’t come along, so I figured I’d have to say something. And the moment it came out, it was in Spanish. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. So we struggled along in Spanish, I think I was pretty convincing in how little Spanish I could speak simply because it was the truth. They all seemed perfectly happy just to be chatting and processed my visa and that was that.

The highly secure Nicaragua/Honduras Immigration Office where you duck down to talk through the little hole at the bottom of the plexiglass

On to Honduras (for real this time)!


Aubrey said...

Whoa! The pic reminds me of Dick's Drive-In... you didn't accidentally order a #5, did you?!

*laughs* That's what I like about you Nicole, ding-dongs for breakfast- yeah!

Nokk said...

I want to adopt a Nice mission....Kudos!!!

Brian said...

I am enjoying your blog, especially the international development aspects. I am an engineering professor and have the opportunity to take undergraduates on "discipline-specific mission trips" to places like Honduras. We do energy projects like solar, wind, and hydro power for the poor and those in remote areas. You may enjoy a story I wrote about one of our experiences there.