Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some of the best things in life are free


One of the things I love most about living in Honduras is being able to hike every day without too much hassle or costs involved. Back when I lived I Amsterdam, I always had to make an effort to exercise or pay a price to enjoy the outdoors. Here in Copán, I roll out of my bed each morning, put on a pair of sweats and sneakers, and off I am, just me and my dog, at the river within ten minutes. Although I usually get up before 6am, I’m not a natural early riser, but walking half asleep along the river is a perfectly gentle way to wake up. By the time I’m on my way back, I’m usually fully awake and ready to tackle the day.

Hiking in Copán is one of the best things to do, and I’m forever amazed that not everybody is doing it! The climate is perfect (if you get up early enough to beat the tropical heat), the trails around Copán offer ever changing views and the people I meet on their way to work or school have become such a part of my daily routine that I miss them if I don’t see them for a day. Since the Honduran climate doesn’t have seasons the way I was used to back home, the changes are more subtle, but always intriguing. I love the lush green in the rainy season, so bright against the intense blue sky. I’m also very fond of the early morning mist in November, or the crisp morning chill of December. Even the oppressing heat of the dry season in March and April is bearable in the early morning and a welcome relief from what’s to come.

The Friendly Giant
I’m never ever bored when I go out hiking. I like to explore new trails, or stick to old ones, observing changes in plants and trees as I move along. I enjoy the presence of birds, lizards and an occasional mammal such as a fox or agouti. Scarlet macaws make themselves heard over a long distance from the archaeological park where they live, as do the doves, in a more subtle way, with their somewhat depressing, soft hooting. I love making up stories for what I call charismatic trees: there’s the Friendly Giant and the not-so-friendly Bridezilla, a creeper that over the years has killed her husband, the tree that so gently reached out to her. 

The river’s shore is one of my favourite places to be with always something to find. Whether it is weathered drift wood, an awesome texture in the mud on a virgin beach, or a heart shaped rock, there are very few times I don’t find some kind of treasure.

Walking in the afternoons is also great, especially after spending a whole day behind the computer or in my studio, so I often go for a second walk. The great thing about afternoon hikes is the beautiful light that softens the world and makes everything look warm and welcome: the bent corn stalks, the tall eucalyptus trees and the sudden open field strewn with rocks and occupied by patiently grazing cows and horses. When I climb down to cross a stream, a sudden coolness settles on skin, to be replaced by the warmth of the last rays of sunshine there where the sun manages to break through the trees a little later onto the path.
Walking the trails in the mountains around Copán never cease to make me feel incredibly happy, grateful and alive. And even though I’m usually tired and hungry by the time I get back, it is always a bit of a sad moment to walk back into town. Another walk down.
But there’s always another one in the morning!

Dedicated to my walking buddies Ana Maria and Ganja, who, love hiking as much as Luca and I do…



Monday, November 26, 2012

Fireworks



I love Honduras.
I really do.
But there are some things…

FIRECRACKERS!!!!!
I can so do without them…

Christmas is only a month away, so that means firecrackers all around. For those who do not know, in Honduras every event is celebrated with fireworks: weddings, birthdays, football victories and elections. Christmas is of course no exception. Or the month leading up to it, for that matter.

By no means do I mean to say that things in my home country Holland are better, because they’re not. But as far as laws, rules and ethics about fireworks are concerned, they are! If only people in Honduras would be a bit more aware of the dangers of fireworks, especially in the hands of young children.
From my own youth I remember how special it was when New Year came around (because in Holland fireworks are only permitted on New Year’s Eve!!!) and we were allowed to carefully and heavily supervised, light some kid-friendly, low-risk (and admittedly, quite boring) rockets. With cigarette butts, no lighters or matches allowed!!! (I guess up until somebody figured out that more people die of smoking related illnesses than fireworks, because I don’t think cigarettes are recommended any longer!).

But not in Honduras. Here, fireworks are a socially accepted toy for kids from age 2 and up. I’m not sure if there are any restrictions as to who can sell or buy, but if there are, laws are definitely not reinforced. It will be only a matter of days before fireworks will be sold on every street corner again, and don’t be surprised to find a baby napping under a table full of cohetes.  Small kids will buy cheap firecrackers while teenagers and fun loving adult men go for the heavy duty stuff. The day after, mostly after Christmas or New Year’s Eve, while parents sleep off their hangovers, kids are found roving around the street for bits and pieces of bangers, wheels and rockets that can still be lit up. And thus risk losing a hand or a third degree burn in a country where there are barely any clinics that can adequately treat burns.

So yes, I really hate firecrackers. They’re noisy, they’re dangerous, they scare the bejeezus out of me, they scare the animals and they are also very contaminating. I was hoping that the severe economic crisis here might affect the sales of fireworks, but unfortunately, no, it doesn’t sound like it…

Bang!