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…

Friday, June 21, 2013

What you want your friends NOT to do when in Honduras...

If you live in a remote village in a far away country, it is logical that friends who come through that remote village in that far away country on their vacation or business trip, pay you a visit. They also send their friends, and even friends of their friends who happen to be in the neighbourhood over to say hello. That’s all fine, nice to see some new faces and especially when they buy some of my art, no complains from my side…

Over the years I’ve had hundreds of visits of friends, family members, acquaintances and friends of friends, not to speak of the many volunteers who worked with my art organization and stayed here for weeks or sometimes even years. Some of those stays were more successful than others, but there is one that is quite outstanding and, after all these years, quite funny.

When I was fourteen or so, I was “difficult”. So “difficult” in fact, that my parents thought it a good idea to ship me off for a while to this couple of artist friends they had. It was a great idea, and it just proved I wasn’t “difficult” at all, I just happened to be bored out of my mind at home and thought everything there was “stupid”.
So I had a great time, not knowing back then that one day I would pay the price…

A couple of years ago, that same artist couple contacted me and said they had a little “problem”. The son of one of their best friends was being “difficult”, being in his late teens without knowing what to do with himself, so the solution was to ship him off to Honduras for a few months so he could straighten himself out.
Okay, no problem. I’d give him a room in my office and keep an eye on him, but with no intention of any interventions, because I know from experience what one needs when being “difficult”.

So the day this kid arrived, let’s call him Pedro, I had him picked up at the airport by a friend who would put him on the bus to Copán early the next morning.
The first bus arrived from San Pedro Sula, but no Pedro. The second one… still no Pedro. So I called my friend in the city and it turned out all was well, they were “just chilling” and Pedro would arrive with the last bus heading out.

Indeed, at 6pm or so, Pedro got off the bus, a charming, well behaved and friendly kid. Thing is, he was not alone. He had in his wake an eight or nine year old boy that followed him around like a puppy. I asked Pedro where the kid came from and he really couldn’t say, just that he had been on the bus with him from San Pedro Sula and that he called him “papi”. Oh crap! I told Pedro that under NO circumstances the kid was allowed into my office, which from now on was Pedro’s home. Pedro looked at me as if I was the cruellest bitch on earth so I had to explain him that the kid, despite being just a kid, probably already was a professional criminal and that he’s better watch out for his belongings. (I am actually not that heartless and made sure the boy had, in return for cleaning the bus of the company next door, to eat and a place to sleep, but I was right: a few weeks later there was a raid by the local FBI in the hotel next door, the kid dragged along by the agents: it turned out he was a scout for a gang in the city and responsible for a whole string of break-ins in town…)

Anyway, back to Pedro’s first night in Copán. There was a party that night in town, a goodbye party for a friend who worked as a manager in a big hotel just out of town. I figured it would be a good idea to take Pedro along and introduce him to the local crowd. It was indeed a fun night, but around midnight I was ready to go home. Pedro wanted to party on, but I told him it would be better if I dropped him off at his room since he didn’t even know the layout of the town yet and not to worry, there would be undoubtedly many more parties to come. Pedro was wise enough to agree, so I left him in his room and went to my own apartment next door to write Pedro’s dad that his son was sound and safe in bed…

Little did I know that he wasn’t… Neither did I know the next morning, because Pedro never told me, but Copán is a small place, so I found out anyway…

That night, as soon as I had turned around, Pedro sneaked out of his room and went back to the bar. When the bar closed, Pedro didn’t go to sleep, but instead joined a brand new best friend, also from out of town, to the string of cantinas and lowlifes, the one place I had told him not to go. They were standing outside a cantina, drinking a beer, when the police drove by and before they knew it, they were thrown in jail. Drinking in a public place (they were standing on the street) is against the law and although that law is never enforced when it concerns local drunks, it’s a lot more profitable to pick up strangers who break the law.

So within twelve hours of his stay in Copán, Pedro already found himself in the drunk tank, without belt or shoelaces, and getting quite anxious. It was a good thing his new best friend worked for a big international organization and was able to talk them out of jail in a matter of hours. The police insisted on driving them back home, just to make sure they were indeed who they said they were. Problem was, Pedro had no idea where his room was, so he went with his buddy to his hotel, the big one just outside of town whose manager’s goodbye we had celebrated just hours before. In the end, they had to knock on my friend the manger’s door and yes, he remembered Pedro and was so kind to drive him back to town, finally to bed… At 6am….

When I finally heard about this episode weeks later (many more Pedro adventures happened in the mean time) I also learned it hadn’t been his first encounter with Honduran police! The night he arrived in San Pedro Sula, my friend took him clubbing and unfortunately that was the night the police decided to raid the club. At the exact moment of the raid, Pedro was in a bathroom stall emptying his bowels, when the police, heavily armed, hooded and dressed in bullet proof vests stormed in. Since Pedro didn’t speak a word of Spanish, he couldn’t follow their instructions and was dragged outside. My friend came to his rescue and in the end, nothing happened, but it was quite a welcome to Honduras.

Pedro stayed for a few months and we had a great time, since he’s adorable and cute, one of those people you can’t stay angry with long. I could write many more posts on  Pedro’s Adventures in Copán, because everything always seemed to happen when he was right there. I mean, how many times do moto-taxis actually just topple over? Never, as far as I know, except when Pedro was inside one…
So, yes, it was sad to see Pedro leave. But it also a relief…

By the way, it seemed to have worked: Pedro has straightened out quite well. Although he’ll always be Pedro of course…


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