Mercer On Mission

2015 Blog

Saturday-Weekend 2: Trent

4:45 am came early.  My tired body was not ready to be awakened.  In all honesty, like most of the group, I was ready to head home to the land of freedom – the U.S. of A.  We had been beaten by Honduras and were in need of the comforts of America and our own homes.  However, one last voyage remained – a two night trip to the lazy pueblito of Copan, a little mountain village in western Honduras that was home to one of the great Mayan empires.  Before seeing the ruins on Sunday, a 45 minute 7am flight from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula awaited our exhausted group.  Red-eyed with bed-head, our group entered the white and green Honduras Outreach Inc. bus for the last time.  The streets were barely lit by the morning sun as we made the 20 minute bus ride from Hotel Maya to Tegucigalpa International Airport.  Upon arrival, a wrench was thrown into our plans: the previously agreed to checked baggage weight of 40 pounds had been changed to 35 pounds and no carry-ons other than book bags and purses were allowed.  The resulting chaos was comical at best – bags lay open, contents falling to the white tile, as the tired minds struggled with calculating the best manner to move objects from one bag to the next in order to be under the weight limit.  Fortunately, Mercer covered the mishap and we proceeded through security without incident.  Our group, plus one unlucky Honduran woman, boarded the small, prop plane on time and landed in San Pedro Sula around 8am.  After arriving in San Pedro Sula, Dunkin Donuts was the choice for a quick bite and a much needed cup of coffee.  Waiting for us at pickup was the nicest vehicle we had ridden during our time in Honduras: a slightly smaller version of a Greyhound bus with pleather seats and all the air conditioning an American could ask for.

        The ride to Copan was around 3 hours and fortunately the ride was scenic.  Our bus hugged the winding roads surrounded by coffee plantations.  Eventually the bus came to a stop because it was physically unable to enter the city of Copan – there was a low lying height restriction on the bridge into the city, so the group climbed into two church vans and continued.  Our destination was the Hotel Marina Copan.  The hotel was Spanish hacienda styled with a Mediterranean tile roof, white stucco walls, darkly stained wood paneled ceilings, and terracotta tile.  In the middle of the hotel was a dark blue tiled pool filled with refreshing cold water.  The hotel was an oasis and I planned on taking advantage of all of the amenities.  Shortly after arrival, a three course lunch was served at the hotel restaurant.  Warm, tasty rolls were served with delightful garlic butter then followed by a fresh vegetable soup.  The main course was a Tilapia filet accompanied by an acidic vegetable puree.  The entre was followed by a light flan that pushed my body closer to a food coma.  However, time was of the essence and a group of us wanted to explore the quiet city of Copan.  After lunch, a group that included Erika, Kevin, Emma, Tori, Jackie, Jenna, and myself set out to mindlessly wander the cobblestone streets.

As we set out to explore, our new found freedom coursed through our veins and a sparkle returned to our eyes.  For the first time in two weeks, we were not surrounded by armed security guards, the walls of a hotel, or the barbed wire fence of the Rancho Paraiso.  The first objective was to shop, but we quickly lost interest and returned to exploring the city.  We decided to search for the best vantage point in the city from which to view the lush mountains and flat farmland surrounding Copan.  We started to ascend the steepest hill we could find, caravan intact.  As we neared the top, the soft melody of a recorder met our ears.  After determining the point of origin of the beautiful music, Jackie knocked on the house door in search of the responsible party.  To our surprise, a 13 year old boy exited the house, recorder in hand, and agreed to play a song for us.  Initially, his notes were shaky, but eventually his nerves left him and the young guy produced 5 minutes of soft, melodious recorder play.  The trance produced by the boy ended and we gave him a few dollars for his time.  The group continued in search of the next adventure.

Finally reaching the top of Copan, we found a piece of the view we were searching for.  The farm land lay below, gracefully following the bend of the river and the base of the mountains.  The mountains reached for the heavens, tall and dark, with a few homes breaking up the vast sea of green.  The view was quickly interrupted by booms and rat-tat-tats.  Puzzled, we now turned our direction to the new sounds of the day.  We trekked down the opposite side of the highest point of the city with our excitement growing as the sounds of cannon fire and machine guns penetrated the silence of the slow Saturday afternoon.  At the bottom, we discovered the source of the commotion.  There was no military clash; however, we stumbled upon the championship match of Copan’s Neighborhood Men’s Soccer League.  From the outside, the stadium was electric.  Firecrackers were going off left and right.  Music was blaring.  The entire town was present.  We purchased tickets for $1 and entered the stadium, all eyes focused on us: the outsiders, sticking out like sore thumbs.  We finally settled in an opening two thirds down the pitch – it was half time.  After some investigation, it was discovered that the score was 2-0 in favor of the Jaguars, who were dressed in all white.  Throughout the match, firecrackers and cannon fire pierced the already noisy sporting event.  We adjusted to the random explosions, except for Tori, who was startled with each bang and was expertly captured on video by Emma.  The final whistle sounded and the score stood 2-1 in favor of Los Jaguares.  The victory was their first league title.  Fans rushed the field.  Drums were pounded on.  The coach received his much deserved Gatorade bath.  Jackie pulled one of the victors aside and discovered that the after party would be held at Toño’s Bar and Grill, wherever that was.

Satisfied with our adventure, we strolled back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool.  As the sun’s rays disappeared, we retreated to our respective quarters to freshen up and to get ready for dinner.  We had previously agreed to eat at Jim’s Pizzeria.  Clean and refreshed, our happy team sat at Jim’s reliving the day, hoping we had found the best pizza in Honduras.  Each bite of the Hawaiian and Con Todos pleased each taste bud.  We laughed.  We joked.  We were even visited briefly by Jim himself.  We were merry.  With full bellies, the squad hit the streets.  Guess what sight found our happy eyes?  Toño’s Bar and Grill!  From the street we could hear the sounds of victory, yells of jubilation, and enough dance music to keep the entire town of Copan dancing into the wee hours of Sunday morning.  The championship trophy sparkled in the street light as it was lifted and kissed over and over again.  We had found the Jaguars after party.  After a quick poll, we decided to join the celebration.  Again outsiders, we broke the cultural barrier as only Gringos know how – we danced.  And it paid off.  We were invited by the team mascot to join the festivities.  As the salsa and techno music blared, we entered a dance trance.  The smiles on my friends’ faces were the look of pure ecstasy.  Nothing could take this moment from us.  Out of left field came the greatest idea yet – we would introduce them to the wobble.  The gang wobbled and we received a round of applause as the song faded out: victory for the Gringos!  The party eventually came to an end, and the tight group of explorers slowly marched the quiet, deserted streets of Copan back to the Hotel Marina Copan.  We reconvened on the cool Mediterranean roof of the hotel for a night cap.  Below us the city was alive with music and laughter while the darkness of the mountains encompassed the tiny town.

As I reflect on the adventurous Saturday spent wandering and discovering Copan with friends, I cannot help but be grateful for the liberty, safety, and freedom we experience daily in the United States.  I am thankful for the ability to move about freely, at any time, without the security of an armed guard or walls of a hotel entrapping me physically, mentally, and spiritually in order to protect me from the dangers waiting for my first mistake.  Maybe I am naïve in regards to safety both at home and abroad; however, I firmly believe it is impossible to fully experience a culture when we place walls and boundaries between people.  Our weekend in Copan was the first time in two weeks we were free to make our own decisions about the things we experienced.  With our new found liberty, we explored with no expectations other than to find the unexpected.  And that we did.  As a result, we embraced the thriving culture in Copan hand in hand, and I believe we are all better people because of it.  With this new found knowledge, I hope to continue exploring upon my return to the United States of America.  I know there are sights, sounds, experiences, and people in my own back yard of Macon, Georgia waiting to be explored, enjoyed, and cherished.  In order for this desire to come to fruition, I must explore with safety, security, and comfort as after thoughts.

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