Thursday, August 20, 2015

I got into Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital city, three hours late, not knowing if I would have a ride to where I was staying forty minutes outside the city. Two friends were waiting for me at the airport and so I was saved from taking public transit with my suitcase, all of my belongings, my passport. I got into the car and said a few words to my friends but as we started moving, windows open, the noise of the city was too loud to maintain conversation. I looked out the window instead, held my bangs back as my hair blew with the wind, and stared at familiar sights, taking it all in a year-and-a-half later.

The exhaust of the other cars caked my face as we rode through Tegucigalpa. Plastic was burning among the dust at the road's edge, smoke rose up from garbage bins. I looked at the men who called the side of the road their home, the women who sold watermelons, pineapples, unripe mangoes. We soon moved passed the city into smaller villages, the remote mountains that sat just minutes away from Tegucigalpa. It's my second home, Honduras. A place I love hesitantly. Only as one can when it hasn't hurt you yet.

Every time I go to Tegucigalpa, I feel like I’m searching for an answer to a question I’ve had since I first got off the plane years ago. Every person I meet, ever encounter I have – whether its a 19-year-old girl who takes me shopping at the city mall or the 65-year-old gringo who is living here on his social security – is an investigation. Amidst all the chaos, am I naïve to think there’s beauty here too? 

I’ve heard too many stories to know that the media reports are true. But I keep asking questions because I’m curious, a fledgling journalist, also an outsider who can’t wrap my head around organized violence. I keep collecting testimonies from taxi drivers, the people next to me on the bus, the men I go on dates with. 

During the week, Wilmer takes me to Café Paradiso, a café with an outdoor garden in the center of the city. He’s 30-years-old and learned English by listening to jazz, blues, classic rock. We talk about the state of affairs in Honduras because it’s as common a conversation as talking about the weather. His band plays at the protests that occur in Tegucigalpa every Friday. He’s been protesting for years, even during the coup d'etat of 2009. I hear myself saying, It’s hard to know what you can do when the problems are so big. But here we are, he reassures me, luchando. Fighting.

After a plato típico, a walk through a museum, and fresh juice in the shade, I ask him if he has problems living in the city, having grown up here. No, no tengo problemas, he says. He’s found a job. Though not very lucrative, he can pocket the money instead of having to pay impuestos de guerra, or taxes to the neighborhood gangs. It’s more who you hang out with here, he says. Por eso, no tengo problemas. It feels nice to hear a Honduran express a thought I’ve felt guilty for feeling, traveling the country and falling in love bit by bit. 

Perhaps it's the afternoon soccer games in the pueblo or the popsicles at the neighborhood pulperia, the warm ocean with children swimming in their clothes dodging the jellyfish, the school buses that charge through the mountains, the herds of cows that cross my path on my way to work. Perhaps it's the novelty of it all. Perhaps it's the community that greets me with a hug and a kiss.

During my week, I pass the days with my old friends and hundreds of children on a 2000-acre ranch. Every night, I watch the sun set, the sky become lavender, the eucalyptus trees a charcoal gray. At the end of the week, I ride home, not sure why I am returning. Brandon Stanton said it all of so well this week. But so did a simple line of graffiti I saw spray-painted on the side of the road while riding to the airport. Que tus suenos sean mas grande que tus miedos, it read. 

May your dreams be bigger than your fears. Slightly mawkish, but seems worth fighting for.

If you ever find yourself in Tegucigalpa


Cien Anos
Sabor Cubano

El Picacho - A park with a large statue of Jesus, a view of the city, a zoo and gardens.
La Tigra - My favorite place in Honduras. There's an inn run by a German couple who are very hospitable, also incredible cooks.
Santa Lucia - A mountain town outside the city with a tea shop that's modeled after los teterias in Granada, Spain. The shop sits underneath the trees, on top of the city, next to a charming one-room church.

Pictured above: photos from the archives when I lived in Honduras a few years ago; for more updated photos, feel free to flip through my instagram @sallywafflez

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