September 15th. A beautiful day for so many reasons, but mostly because it is Honduras’ Independence Day, and that means a five day weekend! While we obviously love our children, there are some times when we just need a break from the chaos of managing 25 loco kiddos. This September 15th, fellow teachers, Raven, Jenna, and I decided to declare our own independence from Honduras for a long weekend and head to Antigua, Guatemala. However, while our long weekend in Antigua was super great, this is not the fun story of our wonderful time in Antigua. This is the tumultuous tale of our time being stuck at the Honduran/Guatemalan border.
It all started on our return journey, Tuesday morning at 3:30 am. Jenna and I awaited the busito, which was to pass at 4:00 am. We were leaving more than 24 hours in advance of classes. Plenty of time to get back to Cofradia, get ready for classes, and be to class the next day, right? Wrong…Trouble was ahead, starting in Guatemala City, where the busito almost left our beloved Raven behind because she wasn’t at the bus stop at 5:00 am. No matter it was only 5:03am when the busito driver was convinced that Raven was never coming and we should leave her behind. At 30 seconds past 5:03 Raven rolled in to find a raving busito driver ready to roll. Thank goodness she was not a second later, or she might still be in Guatemala. In hindsight my mumbling in Spanglish did not help. Jenna could have used to more support as she tried to convince the driver not to haul off towards Honduras, but in the end it turned out all right, and we barreled off towards the border as soon as Raven was started to close the door.
It was smooth sailing until we were about a half-an-hour out from the frontera and we heard inklings that there was possible a roadblock ahead. The driver, as we were already aware, was on a mission, and informed us that there was a potential strike at the border, but we would find out when we got there. As we approached the border, we sure did encounter a road block. We came upon miles of cars and semi-truckss. Of course, our driver paid no attention to the cars and semis patiently waiting in line, and blew right past them on the wrong side of the road until we reached a road block of huge tree limbs, people, and police. As if he did not know there was a roadblock, the driver asked what was happening, was informed there was a protest, and that he needed to wait in line. He then proceeded to wedge himself into the fourth or fifth spot in a line of about ten million. What a boss.
It was 9:30 am when out busito driver wedged himself in line. We were not worried about time. The last bus left from Copan right on the other side of the border at 2pm. We had plenty of time…so we thought…We spent hours entertaining ourselves on the side of the road. At one time I reenacted the time when I walked the mile of no-man’s-land between Costa Rica and Nicaragua while Nicaragua was declaring ‘war’ against Costa Rica, who has no military. I reenacted the entire ordeal within a two foot by two foot box for about 20 minutes. We then tried to skip rocks over a ditch by bouncing them once. After that, we found some Coca-Cola (the water of Latin America). We basically spent hours getting sunburned, dehydrated, and dirty.
Finally, sometime after noon, the driver told us that a group of tourists was coming across the Honduran border and we could switch (they would walk across the road block and take our busito, and we would walk across and take their pickup truck). You see, the Guatemalan protesters were super smart and protested 8 miles in front of the border so there was 8 miles of no-man’s-land. That is one smart way to ruin a day. Therefore, someone had to come into Guatemala, then cross back into Honduras in order to pick people like us up who were stuck, which was difficult. Anyway, when we got that news, we were excited. We packed up our bags and set out-a group of about ten tourists- across the roadblock. It was quite the scene; the ten of us walking across a make shift road block of fallen trees. We made it down a steep hill and up a steep hill to some shade where we waited some more. In this shady area there was almost anarchy. Jenna and Raven thought we should continue walking to the border, while the rest of us thought we should wait for the pickup truck. As I meandered over to ask the police officers if there was another road block ahead and how far the border was, our pickup truck arrived. Thank goodness, as the border was really eight miles ahead and we would have perished walking. It was eight miles of nothing in the hot sun through the mountains.
Moral of that little story is: we piled in the back of a tiny pickup truck with a bunch of semi-strangers-who-we-were-almost-friends-with at that point. There were two Argentineans who we were semi-strangers-almost-friends before the pickup truck ride, who were best friends with us after the pickup truck ride across the border. I think it had a lot to do with the close quarters and excessive accidental touching that occurred.
At the border things were semi-smooth. Jenna and I got informed repeatedly that we never left the C4 area so our visas were not going to be renewed and would expire mid-October. Despite us reassuring the border agent many times that we knew the situation, we were told the situation twice while leaving Guatemala and twice when entering Honduras. Each speech took about 10 minutes which did not bode well for us catching the last bus from Copan, which had left about a half an hour before we even crossed the border
This entire time we were dehydrated, hungry, and being sustained by a Coca Cola. At the border I bought another Coca Cola, because at that point, being rational about dehydration wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. We continued on to Copan, where our journey was not over. We searched and searched for a way back to Cofradia but kept encountering the response, “No hay turistas, entonces no hay buses,’ (there are no tourists, so there are no busses). What did we look like? My guess we just looked like tired, hungry, sunburned, dirty, dehydrated people walking around looking for a bus. We did not find a bus.
What we did find was a meal and bunk beds, sharing hostel with our new Argentinean friends. At that point we starting making our emergency plans for the next school day, realizing we were actually more exhausted, dehydrated, sunburned, and crabby than we previous thought. We were getting angry at the fact that the water went out, that we couldn’t leave Copan, and that we were all of a sudden inconveniencing our entire team. This was all uplifted when Jenna was too afraid to get off her top bunk and was so tired that she just fell to the floor, abruptly awaking our newly found Argentinean friend who was napping. He jumped up and yelled “OH MY ARE YOU OKAY?”, and then just fell right back to sleep while Jenna was rolling on the floor trying to silently suffer through her discomfort and while I doubled over in laughter being an amazing friend.
The rest of our night consisted of panic planning and sleeping. Not much to tell, until we woke up and went to catch the bus super early and people told us ‘No hay turistas, entonces no hay bus hasta las 9:00’. Basically saying, you are out of luck until 9:00. Good thing we made emergency plans. When we came back at 9, people basically said, “Todavia no hay turistas, ese bus no sale, pero talllll vez este bus sale entre media hora.”’ Basically they told us, “We cancelled that bus we told you about, but this other bus might leave within a half an hour.” We had no choice but to take it. We took it and stopped at every corner to pick up every person, child, chicken, and bag of manure. Two hours later we were in another town where we had to run across the street to a big school bus which also had every person, child, chicken, and bag of manure from every corner on it. I would have considered it magnificent if we weren’t so tired and worn down. By the time we found ourselves back at the center of Cofradia, it was already after 1 pm. Literally, 24 hours after we should have gotten home. Thank goodness for our awesome team who covered our classes. All in all, it was a crazy adventure; however, I think it is safe to say that these maestras would be alright with keeping their feet firmly planted in Honduras for a while.