Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras
Graciousness is a 180° Turn
Santa Rosa de Copan's stillness was palpable.
Nothing was stirring The quiet whisked me way back into my childhood when
'blue laws' kept everything buttoned down on a Sunday. Sunday, the
Sabbath. A day of rest. Welcome to Santa Rosa de Copan on a hot
morning when the only souls to be seen were on their way to or from church.
We stepped down off the bus
and needed to grab a taxi to the hotel. The driver was dressed in sadness
on this Sunday. I asked him if the cab were his or the company's?
How many days and hours did he have to work a day to make it? His answers
explained his suit of woe. When he dropped us off at the hotel, I chose to
pad his quoted price.
We checked in at the front
desk and headed straight for brunch. A Honduras breakfast -- two eggs,
heavy salsa; 6 handmade corn tortillas; fresh pineapple juice; plantains;
refried red beans; and cheese. I washed it all down with three fine cups
of Honduran coffee. It doesn't get any better. Now it was time to
stretch the legs. This is where the whole story begins.
It was one of those 'ambles'
-- where you saunter without a lot of purpose but stop, look, pause, and
eventually you start walking again. Not much intentionality if you get my
drift. A lazy walk for a lazy day. As we left the
hotel, I asked for directions to the market. Markets are always open,
About fifteen minutes into our jaunt, my wife started itching for a purpose to
the walk and asked if we couldn’t head to the market. Well, who am I to
argue. Dee is very persuasive.
So off to the market we went.
After about 5 more minutes of let’s say less-than-convincing striding on my
part, I heard, “Are you sure you got those directions straight?” Why is it
me who always misunderstands the directions? I suggested, “Maybe they are
trying to throw me off. Ever think of that?” I smugly replied with little
conviction in my voice. I gave myself a mental “F” for failing to pull off
the line. Immediately, I began rehearsing some new schtick that would
better deflect the blame from me. Dee wouldn't catch me defenseless again
on this direction foolishness. It's a guy thing.
Right about then, an elderly couple approached us
from the opposite direction. I swallowed my
pride once again - - this was only our 4th day in Honduras and I felt I had met the whole
country twice seeking assistance - - and I asked one more time for directions to
But I never got them. Instead, this is how the early afternoon unfolded.
"Excuse me, but my wife can’t get her directions straight,”
I began as I approached the couple. Brilliant. Absolutely
brilliant. Dee stood behind me, smiling,
not understanding a word
I had said. “Can you tell me where the market
is?” The woman of the couple responded, “We’ll take
you there.” I tried to beg off, not wanting to intrude into their Sunday
afternoon. Well, after about two minutes, I could tell that
and Senora Reyes (as I later learned their
not about to let two North Americans stumble around their town. They were
to be our guides and I was touched by their gesture. This kind of
hospitality kept appearing wherever we went in Honduras. I wondered, "is this what
Honduras is like every day?" (The short answer is yes. Go
visit. See for yourself.) But I digress from our story.
Well, about then, the Reyes turned heel and began marching back right in the
direction from which they had come. I began compiling my mental 'to-buy'
list because I knew we were market-bound. Or so I thought.
Along the way, we shared a
bit of ‘our stories’ with each other and heard about some of their hopes and
dreams for Honduran children. Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up
ahead and there was a huge turkey buzzard. Mr. Buzzard was having a grand ol'
time working over the remnants of a trash heap. I asked Senora Reyes what a
buzzard is called in Spanish and she told me but I didn’t catch it. My wife
promptly asked me what the word was in Spanish. (Why she needed to know
'buzzard' in Spanish was beyond me. And at that point, I really couldn’t figure
out why I needed to know either. I mean I wasn’t going to walk into the
restaurant that evening and order it.)
So, with a straight face, I turned to Dee and said, ‘buzarda,’ softening
the ‘z’ sound so that it wouldn’t be too obvious what I
was up to. And I got away with it. I began to feel guilty but the feeling
quickly passed. I was still keeping score over her comments about me always
I had barely finished my ruse when Sra. Reyes' voice broke into my mental
stewing. Listen to this - - she told me (I swear) that she had heard that New York City
had 1,000’s of buzzards.9 Why was I so surprised to see
one here, she asked? I thought
about her comment for quite awhile and it finally dawned on me. She
meant pigeons! But, I didn’t know the word for pigeons and I wasn’t about
to try ‘pigeones’ out loud. It sounded (in my own mind) like
something you wouldn’t say in church and I already had blown off church for the
day. Besides, I had gotten away with ‘buzarda.’ Why push my
luck? So I let her story stand.
After the buzzard fuss, Senora Reyes led us into an ice cream store, suggesting
that we might be interested in ice cream. (By now, I had long ago forgotten about
the market – I could see it had only been an illusion.) Ice cream?
After that breakfast, I wanted nothing but a dark Honduran cigar. That was
why I had looped Santa Rosa de Copan into the trip but Dee didn’t need to know
I tried to encourage Sr. and Sra. Reyes to order some ice cream 'on me.' They
wouldn’t hear of it. All my insistence went nowhere fast and I wondered if they
were part of my extended family. How many times did we go through that drill
when I was a kid? "Let me pay the bill".... "No you won't. This
one is on me..." And back and forth. Back and forth.
Five minutes later, I was still trying to persuade them into having some ice
cream, when what did I hear? Over my left shoulder, my wife is piping up in
her best Spanish, “Coca-Cola por favor.” My goodness, the girl was
becoming bi-lingual right here in Santa Rosa de Copan. She could ask for the
directions the next time. See how well she does. I took out the
mental chalk to mark that one up.
Well, I glommed onto that Coca-Cola idea like stink on a bug. Cokes for everybody.
The Reyes gladly accepted them. Unfortunately, this ice cream parlor like every
other public facility in Honduras, has a TV blaring at about 117 decibels.
And Sra. Reyes sat right underneath it. Oh no!
What was the show of the day? Why, Mexican cartoons at the volume of a rock concert! Where
are the blue-laws when you need them? Into this, let's throw my hearing
loss. Add in that Dee speaks no Spanish and Sra. Reyes talks ever so
softly. Ladies and gentlemen, this will be an interesting conversation!
After about 15 minutes of trying to translate and converse, I was ready
to call it in. I told Dee the same. She said, and I quote, “You
just have to go
with the flow.” Check this out. She is telling me to go with the flow
while I try and figure out what we are talking about. Who knows? During that
conversation, I may have indeed confirmed that New York City does
have 1,000’s of buzzards.
Right then, I decided to chug the rest of my Coke. It was time, but not
before we thanked our gracious hosts and
promised to send them a photo. With a sincere farewell, we walked away
knowing that all four of us had reached across some bridges that afternoon.
Want to know what? Recently, I had the most wonderful
letter from the Reyes, thanking me for the photo and the opportunity to meet us. I had
written them almost the same thing. And it all occurred because we were
lost. I should get lost every day.
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