Sunday, September 29, 2013

Episode 3: The Mannells Meet Utila

Utila is one of the Bay Islands in the Caribbean off the coast of Honduras.  When you go there, a few things are bound to happen.  There is a decent chance that you will throw up off the side of a ferry that is sputtering through its broken, hapless existence.  Chances are good you will meet some really cool strangers. You might even feed a dog a T-bone.  But you will definitely swim in the sea, you will definitely drink gifiti, and you will definitely enjoy yourself.

We had a really great time over our first long weekend away from students.  A large group of teachers all got together, chartered a bus to the coast, and made the trip up to the island.  Once you arrive in the town of La Ceiba, you have to get on the most jankety ferry you'll ever see in your life.

View of La Ceiba from the ferry

We met some very nice people from all over the UK who were doing a tour of Central America. We played cards on the 45 minute ferry to Utila, and Megan produced the aforementioned vomit along the way - I'll spare you the details.  Once we arrived we got the long speech from Madame Louisiana (note: not her real name, but her David-given-nickname) about our expected behaviors/duties during our stay at the Lighthouse hotel.  It was a bit intense, but our stay was nice. And the view wasn't anything to scoff at.

View from our hotel room at night

Our first night there, we went to a staple of Utilan life, Skid Row Bar.  You're able to procure a very cool tank top by drinking four shots of a Garifuna (local tribal group of African ancestry) drink called gifiti.  It's basically rum poured into a bottle of various herbs and plant roots.  Once it's in your mouth you quickly realize that it's alcoholic toothpaste with an eternal aftertaste.  The bar knew our group was coming and had special teacher-themed tank tops made for us.  The shirts are nice trophies.

Hammocks are key when recovering from gifiti

The food in Utila is very good, we were actually surprised that it was so varied and delicious.  Some of the food was pretty interesting, and the seafood was pulled out of the water and thrown straight on the grill.  We each ate barracuda at one point and it was really tasty! We also got to go to a really cool treehouse bar.

The highlight of our time there, though, was our time at the beach.  When you aren't getting bitten by sand fleas or sand flies, which are very common in the Caribbean, the beach is really quite nice.  We enjoyed swimming and hanging out with friends. On our last day we went snorkeling at the reef.  Megan has snorkeled before, but it was my first time ever going and we had a blast.  It was incredible seeing schools of fish in so many colors, shapes, and sizes.  My favorite was the four eye butterfly fish. It has a big fake eye on its tail fin to confuse predators.

We've had a pretty calm time since returning to San Pedro.  Yesterday a group of us went paintballing for a friend's birthday.  I've got some pretty sweet marks, and am thinking about changing my name to Franco Honduras, the name that was on my military-issue paintball jacket. Megan was not quite so brave, and instead enjoyed a day with the girls by going to brunch and lounging around poolside at the Hilton. It was not a bad way to spend our Saturday.

Last night we also went to the Marathón soccer game. The soccer is not always the best, but the atmosphere is usually pretty good. And for a measly $2.50 per ticket, who are we to complain? Marathón won 2-1 and scored the game-winner really late in the game. We don't know exactly when it happened, because even though the game was played in the "nice" stadium, there is still no scoreboard or clock on display. And for all our Sporting KC friends, I'm not going to lie - it's nice to see the home team win.  We are hoping to return to this stadium on October 11, when Honduras plays Costa Rica in a crucial World Cup Qualifier. The game sold out in less than a day, so we are trying to find tickets on the street.  It will be a huge deal.  National team soccer games are practically national holidays, our school has already announced an early release for the occasion.

We have another three-day weekend next week and are going to go hiking and camping in the mountains. We will update you with those adventures later. We miss you all and hope you are all doing well. Til next time...

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