And so, it is time for a new post. For the past few days (since Tuesday the 3rd), I have been in the town of Copán, site of one of the most important cities of the old Mayans, doing internship training, seeing the sights, and in general having a very pleasant time. I am coming up on the halfway point in my trip–in fact, I’ll be there in less than a week–and so it might seem odd that I am just now doing training. Because of the way things worked out, I wasn’t able to do this when I first arrived, but I am now working with a friend of my aunt and uncle’s, Rick, and this should allow me much more opportunity for mission work. I’m also helping him with a writing project, which I won’t go into details about here. Anyway, I joined Rick and the intern that he’s brought in this summer, Amanda, and we had an excellent time learning and exploring. And here is the gist of things:
Rick and I arose at 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday to go to the bus station, a ghastly hour which I hope I will not have to rise at again any time soon. Our bus left Tegucigalpa a little over an hour later. I’d never traveled by bus before, so that was interesting–no more uncomfortable than an airplane, although we were on one of the nice buses and not on the repurposed schoolbuses that you generally see driving around here. Due to my mishearing the name of the bus line (Hedman Alas) as “Edmund Alice,” I now have an idea for the big interstellar transportation company in my sci-fi universe. That’s about the most exciting thing that happens that morning, as we are then in the bus for several hours before arriving in San Pedro Sula where Amanda’s plane is landing. We pick her up at the airport and it’s another few hours to Copán, the portion of the bus travel which probably feels the longest out of the entire trip. When we arrive in Copán it’s raining, but our hotel isn’t very far away so we decide to walk. It’s a rather nice hotel, quite small–more like a house than a hotel. I think there were only five or six rooms in the place. But it was very clean and nicely decorated, with the grounds being a lovely little garden. Unfortunately no wi-fi, but there wouldn’t have been much opportunity to use it in any case, as we were out and about a lot.
So that first night we just wandered around town a little, went to the town square, asked a couple of girls selling roasted corn for directions to a good restaurant. The town of Copán is excellent. It had a very Old World feel, unlike places I’ve been in the USA: the streets were cobbled with a variety of interesting stones (some of them marbled green and white; those were the prettiest) and the buildings were small and close together. There’s little shops and restaurants everywhere, and the town is much cleaner, friendlier, and calmer than Tegucigalpa where I live. I felt that I could really relax there, whereas Tegucigalpa is always a little on edge. Copán is the sort of place where you can just wander around on foot, never need a car, maybe hire a taxi if you need to go someplace a little further away. We did travel by taxi a few times–they’re little three-wheeled contraptions in this town, not cars, rather like the pedaled rickshaws you might see in India, but motor-powered–but mostly we walked, going all over downtown Copán. How to describe it? It is sun and green and color, with rainy afternoons and no one in a hurry. The sort of small town I could really enjoy living in.
On our first full day there, Wednesday the 4th, we went to place called Macaw Mountain, which has lovely gardens, a river, and of course, lots of macaws. It reminded me rather of the Arboretum, a big botanical garden I used to go to in Kansas, except in a tropical setting, which was really quite interesting. At one point we stopped on a large balcony overlooking the river for some coffee, watched the butterflies, and just chatted, taking in the scenery and the niceness of the day. That night we went to a restaurant called Don Toño’s, which I mention because it is named after the man who was our guide when we went to the Mayan ruins the next day. Don Toño was an excellent fellow! With a straw hat and only two visible teeth, he is definitely pretty distinctive, and is the sort of venerable old fellow who more or less everyone in town knows. He was extremely knowledgeable about the ruins, and I was able to learn a lot from listening to him. The ruins themselves were amazing–as I for some reason only realized today, they are without doubt the very oldest manmade structures I’ve ever seen or been in. It is very strange to think that it’s been more than a thousand years since they were inhabited, but they’re still standing, and generally in quite good condition. I love old things. The history is incredible. The end of the Mayans–what an interesting time that must have been! It seems from certain evidence that they knew they were ending. The last king of Copán seems to have known that he was the last king.
The next day we returned to Tegucigalpa after a leisurely breakfast at a nice little cafe. A side note on the restaurants–I found the way they did things to be a pleasant change from the North American fashion. We ended up spending a lot longer in the restaurants than I’m used to. The reason for this is two-fold–one, because Honduran society is much more focused on personal relationships than North American society, restaurants-going is an even more social occasion. It is considered rude to bring the check to the table or to hurry guests out the door, and so a check won’t be brought until it’s asked for. You’re expected to be there for quite a while, and no one will think it odd for you to spend an hour or two sitting and talking at your table when you’re finished eating. And the other reason is that, at least in all the restaurants that we went to, the food was not prepared until we actually ordered. I actually watched the cook cutting up a fresh onion for my meal in one restaurant. Nothing had been pre-prepared and set aside for later; it was all made on the spot, as far as I could tell. So of course the food was quite fresh. As someone who has always enjoyed the full experience of eating out and takes great pleasure in my food, I can say that the restaurants were definitely an excellent experience. At any rate, the return bus trip was uneventful, and after staying the night at Rick’s house, I have returned to my aunt and uncle in the middle of the big city.
As for the actual training we did, that was very interesting also. We spent probably about half of each day discussing various topics related to living as a missionary in Honduras. Rick is an experienced missionary and has plenty of stories to tell, and so Amanda and I were able to learn a lot. I took careful notes for my writing project, and I feel that I was really able to expand my knowledge and understanding. After all that, I’ve been able to better understand certain things that I’ve dealt with, and also I feel better prepared to navigate the remaining half of my stay here. The time in Copán was very relaxing and rejuvenating, and has left me with new interest in this country and a new excitement for doing mission work and learning Spanish. All in all, it has been an excellent few days! I am eager to see what awaits me between now and September.