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A bit of Honduras culture, this is a completely unedited story sent to me by a friend. I found it lively and fascinating, with maybe a little O.Henry flavor. Hope you do, too. Read it if you dare!
J. McMillin, ROL
All of this story I am relaying as I saw it and is based on what I saw and heard. The opinions expressed in this story are of the people in this story. Do not flame me for any parts you do not agree with.
On my flight down to SPS, in then seat next to me, there was a fellow. Seeing as I had some time on my hands I struck up a conversation with him. He was coming down to Honduras to buy over stock in the clothing factories. He didn't own a business but worked for another person. This was great, I got to ask some questions about the maqudoris in Honduras. Now my first one was, are the maquiladoras leaving Honduras? The answer was, this was the natural ebb and flow of the industry. Some companies have gone out of business and others have moved to other countries. Now what about the crime rate, has that hastened the leaving of the maquiladoras? I was told that the crime rate in Honduras is no worse then other countries. In Guad there is a factory where they have a soccer field out back. All the people who leave the building at lunch to play, have to go through a metal detector when they come back in. This was done because on one payday, someone snuck in a gun and robbed the paymaster of the entire payroll. So I have more pieces of the riddle. Now when I touched down in SPS, I cashed a traveler check and bought a ticket to La Ceiba. Headed up stairs and well was going to wait for my flight in the bar. So I was kicking back with a Flora de Cana with coke, I met a couple of other travelers. The first one was a woman who I am guessing was a Brit and lived in Amsterdam. We basically chatted about computers and traveling. She was so excited to be going to Roatan. It was her first trip to Honduras and she had tons of film. Of course her family thought she was nuts to go. Then a French Canadian woman joined us. I must admit I was attracted to her due to her huge green cat eyes. She had told us that she was going to be in country for a couple of months. Now for these people it was their first trip to Honduras and I gave them some words of advice of what to see and do while in country. I had good laugh that they keep saying our flight was at 1:15 and its already 1:30. Has the flight been canceled? I had to say that sooner or later we would get to our destination. Finally they did call out the flight and we made our way to the plane. As we boarded out flight, another had just landed and they were going to come on our plane. Now our ship was full. The first stop was going to be La Ceiba. As we made our way the French Canadian woman sat next to me and I would swear that she was flirting with me. I told her to check out the main land and where she could find me. In the long run, I never did see her again. I checked into the Flamingo hotel and made my way down to Bob's bar. He was glad to see me again. He had asked me to bring some Whitman sampler chocolates for his wife. From what I guess although they had chocolate but didn't have Whitman types. Actually I was told to make good impression on women, give them a Whitman sampler. Last time I was down there, Bob and me were talking about putting a casino in his bar. I had done some legwork and sent him some pricing, but it went nowhere. Now Bob had suggested that he wanted to see me again. I was thinking maybe he had some new ideas on a new bar. In the past he talked about a nice city close to the border and it was ripe for new bar. Well when Bob and me talked it appeared that he was closing shop and leaving Honduras for good. After he leaves there will be no gringo bars in La Ceiba. I interjected that the ex-pat bar was still there and Bob said that it's not really a bar but a restaurant and the clientele was Honduran. Now I had asked him what was the border town he was talking about before. He had told me the town was Omoa. Basically I was told it is a pretty town with the mountains right behind it. It seem that there was 3 gringo bars there already, but Bob didn't have enough money to open a new bar and I didn't want to totally finance him.
Well as it was told to me that in the last 18 to 24 months no new gringos have moved to La Ceiba and well some people have left and others have died and nobody has taken their place. The only real gringos that come to La Ceiba are back packers and at the most they spend is roughly $20 for the couple days they are there. When Bob was running Dieters old bar, the people who ran Queens's burger wanted Bob out. They saw Bob as competition. Now that Bob was gone his business has dropped off and the middle of the week it's closed. Although they cant see it but its best there is a few bars right next to each other. Draws more people in and they can bar hop. The reason Bob left was the rent was too high and he had to leave. The bar now is empty and has been for a while. Every so often Bob would see the owners and would remind them of the money they have lost by not dropping the price. Every so often I went to look at the bar and thought about days gone with Dieter.
Now looking around town I was told basically every business was for sale. One common thread was that the people want an exorbitant price and would come down on the price. Now I was really interested in the ex-pat bar. Bob had told me that it was put on the market for fifty thousand American. Well there were no takers and the price steadily dropped until it got to eight thousand. At this point he decided not to sell and stick it out. Basically the thinking is that in two years La Ceiba would be back. Now I was told that Gonzales had gotten out of jail.
The Gonzales who was sorta partner with Dieter and was in jail on drug changes in the USA. He is selling the complete flamingo block. The hotel, liquor store, conference room, Internet kiosk and what's left of Dieters bar. He will hand over the keys to everything to you (all inventories included) for the low price of 800K American. Bob and me talked about it. We were thinking that everything should be connected so you wouldn't have to leave the hotel complex. The second floor would have to be finished and the conference room should be turned into a casino. It would cost a few dollars to turn it around. That asking price was just a little too much. Of course the subject of Dieter came up. One of the biggest mistakes he made was going into partnership with Gonzales. The woman who was with Dieter when he was murdered was forced back onto the streets as a prostitute. She lived in the back of Bob's bar for a week. She finally got an apartment and then one-day she disappeared and left all her clothing behind. It was said this was totally out of character. When women moves on, at least they take their clothing. The scuttlebutt was that she too was murdered and buried in an unmarked grave. Dead men (or women) tell no tales.Top of Page
Seeing as Bob was leaving Honduras soon, sometimes he became rather bitter and resentful. He had tried everything he knew to stay but had to go. He came to Honduras 5 years ago with 40K American and a dream. When he was in the service and based in Comayagua. He used to come to La Ceiba all the time. Of course his dream was opening a gringo bar. I am sure at the time it was a good idea. Now with no gringos coming or moving in, his dreamed turned to dust. Sometimes he did talk about it. He was telling me that the learning curve was really steep in running a business and he had learned quite a bit in the time he was there. The only problem is, it's too late for him. It seemed that now he almost had distaste for a lot of Hondurans. Even though he spoke fluent Spanish, he could not make any close friendship with any Hondurans and was always seen as an outsider. Even to his suppliers, he was the last on the list. I had told Bob that when he was there, I got good service from the bar wenches but when he was gone. It was more or less self-service.
Also I noticed that sometimes that my bill was questionable. He told me that the reason a lot of companies were leaving Honduras is and going to Costa Rica is lack of good workers. Then he asked me did I ever wonder why some people pay for their drinks when they are served and never run a tab? He knew what the problems were but couldn't do a thing about it. Now Bob was telling me that he had checked into the Coco hotel for a short time. Now the security guard afterwards came up to him and said that he had his license plate and was going to tell his wife. Bob said go for it but I will cut your throat before you get a chance. He told the owners of the hotel and that security guard had somewhat disappeared and never to be seen again. One thing I loved to do is to show up in the bar at noon with my video camera and every time a pretty girl walked by I took some video of her. God it was a great place to hang out. Usually someone came in and we would chat and have a few drinks. There was Mac. Now he came from the Caymans and had some kind of business in Honduras.
Not sure of what and I am not the man to ask too many questions. Real nice guy, very easy going. He was telling me that he made friends with a man who lived on Guanaja and could get a sweet deal on a nice house with land. Later that month he had a trip planned to see some relatives in Costa Rica and he kept asking me if I want to live in his house while he was gone. He didn't feel comfortable going and leaving his house unattended. He had to go to some family reunion or something like that. Now he was going by bus to the Pacific coast of CR and he had large bills he hit me up to change a $50 on to smaller bills. Seeing as he was going to Costa Rica I asked him about some cheap places in CR. Now he told me that if I hit the pacific coast I could probably would find some small and cheap towns. He said one town called San Ysido, but I can't find it on a map. As in always sales people would come in to the bar.
Now there was this mother and child team that would always come in. each one carrying some wares. Mac had bought a small wind up dog that scurried along. We put it up on the railing and had it go back and forth. After he was done with it. He gave it to one of the waitress for their child. Later on a female Cayman had joined us. Mac had told me that her and her husband were worth quite a bit of money. This woman was so hilarious. She told me that the reason her husband stayed with her is because she had a biting pussy! There is nothing like a biter! Later on she was telling me this is the way she jokes with people. Also there was Tom, now Tom lived in the Philippines and actually came to Honduras for a vacation. Now from what he was telling me is that he was married and had a Philippine wife. Some times things got so crazy there that he had to leave to straighten his head out.
All the time I noticed that something heavy hanged over his head. We would be joking and he would say what the f**k am I doing with my life. I mean he always found ways to interject this into the conversation. One time he tried on Mac's glasses and looked at his cigarette pack and said look here it says what the f**k am you doing with your life and then let out a barrel laugh. Finally when it was just he and I, he told me that his wife was putting a lot of pressure on him to come to America so she could be an American citizen. He could do it but if she divorced him then he would be ruined financially. To tell you the truth I found him quite odd. He constantly told me the difference between Honduras and the Philippines and how much cheaper it was there. Its almost the same but different. For a $1000 a month he had a house, wife with a son and two maids. Actually made me wanted to see that country. The only thing is the heat and he said it was HOT and HUMID there.
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While we sat in the front of Bobs bar there was this German who rode past on his motor cycle. Not once but multiple times during the day. He never stopped in, just gave us a crazy type of stare. Well we made a game out of it. There was a place where the planks joined on the patio and whenever he passed that line it was counted as one. If he turned just before it, it was not. Actually people got into it and asked what was the count. From what I was told he owned property and liked to keep an eye on it, but I thought he was just plain nuts. Now Al (you know from my previous stories) was still welcome in Bobs bar. Generally he was in a good mood. Always joking and god every time a woman passed by it was mi amor. It seemed that there was always women hanging around him.
One time a shrimp salesman came by and Al had bought a couple pounds. All the while when the man was weighing out the shrimp. Al kept reminding him that he was buying shrimp and not the water. I was invited to Als house but I was so tired that day and couldnt make it. One night Al was at the bar and talking to some strangers. From what I heard is. It was their first visit to Honduras and they had spent most of the time on Utila. Al had bought them a drink. They were so surprised on how friendly people were. Now I have a baseball cap that says La Ceiba on the front. I had showed it to them and asked them were they think I got it from. Of course they said right here. Oh no, I had it custom made in Boston. That started some laughing. Then Bob interjected, ano Ed you found that on the street when some taxi driver drove over it and I said then a dog was trying to rip it apart (while shaking the hat, like a dog would do to a rag). This created a howl of laughter. I tried to buy them another drink but they said no. Al told them to be careful in walking around La Ceiba at night.
Now back to Al. Although Al liked me and the others in the bar. Sometime other people just rubbed him the wrong way. One time some youth was talking to one of the waitresses and Al just got up and yelled at him to get the f**k out of here. Now this guy came around and started to argue with Al. I had my video camera and started it up and I wanted to tape this. Now the man became agitated when he saw me taping. He yelled that he wanted no pictures of him and that included videos. Some kind of personal belief. I was more thinking that it was police wanting him for something. Of course Al was yelling at him to get the hell away from here. The man was saying that he had a gun at home and could get it. Al said go for it and come back. Finally he did leave and went to the bar next door. Now I wanted to tape the bar across the street. Al had this deaf mute buddy and he told him to watch over me.
The people in the bar across the street were always playing a form of dominos. I sat down and ordered up a drink and put a wide angle lens on my camera. Of course that punk came over to my table now. He was going on and on about how he wanted two beers. To get rid of him I gave him 10 lemps (big mistake). Now I was warned that taping the people would not be a good idea. So I left and went back to Bobs. Guess who had followed me. Well he was going on and on again about the two beers. I spied Al in the corner of my eye and motioned for him. Now I could see Al was pissed because this punk came into the bar. He ran over and got right in his face. When I say got in his face, he was no more then 3 inches away. Then let out a out a string of adjectives I cant repeat here. More like, listen you mother****** I will tear you a new ******. You are nothing but a piece of **** and so is your mother. Note, even that was cleaned up. This punk didnt even get a word in and left. I know that was a smart move on his part. Al was known for backing up his mouth. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of the gringos were very suspicious of local men in their twenties and really didnt want them even near them. I was told a story about Al. He always carried a large walking stick, but it looked closer to an ax handle. One time he was arguing with a taxi driver about the fare and the driver took a machete and Al got the stick up faster and the machete stuck in it. Both of them backed down.
One time when a lot of painted ladies came in and hung around Al. He goaded me into taking a lot of picture of him and the ladies. Well I was in some of them too. I have his address and I am going to send him a copy of the pictures. The painter did come into the bar. Now I had asked him if he was still painting. He said yes more or less, but the big thing he was doing now was cooking. He would take a pork loin and soaked it in a brine for four days and then took it to another man and have it smoked for 4 days. Supposedly it was quite a ham. Also he was making homemade cheesecakes. Heck he even was making the boxes by hand. From what I guess his cooking business was doing well. From what I heard the judge does not come in any more. He was paying his tab on a monthly basis. Well one month he felt the waitress was padding the bill and was too high. He refused to pay the bill and was not welcome anymore.
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Every so often there was this women who hung out at the back of bobs bar. A smokey black latin mix. Tall and thin, with hair that was short and always tied back. Always wore nice clothing. Looked somewhat like Sade. Now from what I have been told about her. A Swedish man had met up with her and was so enchanted with her beauty that he got her a really nice apartment and gave her an allowance. He would come back time to time to see her with the understanding that she would only see him. The way she looked at me is the way a well fed lion looks at a gazelle. I did see her in cherries and she had a um little herd with her. More or less a dozen women who wore the same clothing, hairstyle and makeup.
Now I had mentioned her to someone in the bar and they said she still fools around but is real sly about it. There was this other woman, Jennifer. A tiny petite woman with a huge mouth. If you heard someone talking loud in a bar, it was her. Every so often she would strike a pose like a model and hold it for a few minutes. I would be kicking back in the bar and she would come up to me and say hey ba-be. Now she had found a sugar daddy from Holland. This guy was nuts about her. He took her back to Holland to show her around and when they got back to La Ceiba he set her up. She was sloppy and fooled around when he wasnt there and he found out. Of course she is looking for that new sugar daddy to come along. About once a week she goes to Roatan for a few days to hit on all the male tourist. Actually I found her quite comical to watch.
There is a good thing about fewer gringo down there is. When you do see a gringo. They are usually friendly. Gringos approached me and they asked where is the bar that the gringos hang out in. Now there was this pair, I usually called them Mack and Meyer for hire. I always saw them together. This time I saw only one of them at a time. I would be kicking back in a bar they would come up to me and say something like not too many gringos in down here. As usual they asked when was I going to move down there. One of them had investments back in the States and basically went bar hoping all the time. He didnt have to work. He told me I should have about $1200 monthly income not including rent. I told him I had some ideas of a running a business down there. He warned me that I should talk to him tomorrow about it. I didnt see him again.
The other guy I ran into him at gordos. They were having a band by the side and I was video taping them and he came up to me and said hi. After I was done taping, I sat down with him near the street. As usual I talked about moving down there. I mean I knew all the major players. His story was that he had around $800 a month coming in from the States and he did some teaching to take up time. He told what a change it was for him down there. His life was so much more relaxed. After work he usually went to a bar with some friends. He said he had a girlfriend down there. Now he knew that she had something else on the side as in he did. As long as you dont make a big deal of it, it was not a problem. A couple of months ago he had go to Puerto Cortes. He said that it was a wild party town much like La Ceiba was years ago, but he preferred the laid backness of La Ceiba. The entire scene around gordos bar was very black and he wanted to leave. He just didnt feel comfortable. We made plans to met up in cherries disco which we did
I met the bug man, he ran the butterfly museum. This guy was a wealth of information about La Ceiba. He came to La Ceiba in the 60s and stayed. Now back then you could not wear shorts or else someone would do or say something. He had started his bug collection years ago. The word had somewhat gotten around. A peace core person heard about it and wanted to see it. When he got back the States he told a buddy of his about it. Now that person worked for the Smithsonian and he wanted some of the specimens for their collection. This started the ball rolling. Of course he kept collecting storing them. Finally he turned his garage into a museum. His real job was a teacher or translated documents.
Now years ago I wanted to be an emthomolist, but a teacher had talked me out of it. He had told me that Dole had hired one on to go out the fields and look for bugs and what could they do about them. In his collection I saw a wasp that was as long as my index finger. What I wanted to know was did it have a stinger. His eyes opened wide and said yes, very much so. It seems that a person was driving down the street and one had flew into an open window and stung the driver seven times on one side of his body. The man was paralyzed on that side for a week. My big question was what was the most dangerous insect in Honduras. Hands down it was the kissing beetle. From talking to some the natives in the country side. More then one person died of chargas disease and it was quite common in some places.
There was a French bread maker. Now years ago I had taken a picture of him and his children in the French Canadian bar. He had told me he was divorced and he didnt want his ex-wife to have custody of the children, so he kidnapped them and ran to Honduras. I told him that I would not put the picture on the Internet and he was safe. Now I had seen him again about two years ago. From what I guess me taking that picture sent him over the edge. He seemed like he was wrapped too tight. I would guess he was wrapped too tight for any place. Every time I saw him when I went down there, he would swear at me in French and look at me with a crazy stare. Also each time I saw him he looked worse for the wear. Well his car broke down and he was delivering bread with a bicycle. I guess that broke down too. Then he moved his family to Utila. From what I heard he died there. Nobody knows what happened to his kids. As in usual Honduran stories, maybe he is dead or he found a new place to live.
Peter the guy from Belgium was still there and still talking about going back to Belgium and doing his jail time. It wasnt something major. He would only do a year to two. This guy was holding on tooth and nail. He was always broke and always trying to bum beers off of everyone. One time he asked me to sit with him and then asked me for 200 Lemps. When I said no, he said get the f**k away from me. Every time a backpacker went by he would try to get them into the bar. One time he did and of course he got them to buy him a beer. A pretty blond girl. I sat on at the next table. Peter kept telling me to stop looking at his girl friend. Ya right I come down to Honduras to hit on blond German women. Bob knew his story and cut him off on credit. He would come in when Bob wasnt there and said Bob gave him more credit. Nobody believed him. God what a mutt he is. Cant say I am going to miss him.
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I saw a lot
of back packers walking up and down the street. Some times even in the rain. They
would have a huge backpacks and looking in a guide book for some hotel. At night
that's mostly all they did. They walked up and down the street looked in the bars
but rarely ever went in. when I sat in the front one back packer came in and sat
next to me. We struck up a conversation. His name was Tom and he came from Germany.
He had traveled around Central America for a while. When he was in Guad someone
had taken a razor and opened his money belt and stole his credit cards while he
was wearing it. He never even noticed it. This trip he was taking was his more
or less great hurrah before he went into the working world. Of course his parents
didn't want him to go. He had made notice that most of the gringos in La Ceiba
were middle or older men and was wondering about it. I told him that most of the
gringos had left a while a go and the ones left were just eeking out a living.
The people he saw were more or less retired or needed a change of life style.
They were just fed up with their life back home. I guess it was so obvious to
him a lack of people in their 20s. He was staying at the Amsterdam. He said it
was a dorm style with every one sleeping in one room and that he got to talk to
all sorts of people. All I could think of is people having sex in the same room
as me or someone trying to have sex with me.
Some times that Honduran sun beat down unmerciful and we would sit in the back around the large table. Basically shoot the breeze about different things. Now I made the statement that if I knew how to fix marine engines then I could get a job anywhere and go almost anywhere. The general scuttlebutt was if you move to Honduras and open a business, you have to bring a trade that people really need. You could rely on the tourist trade but that would be fickle at best. If you work for a Honduran company you would be making an average Honduran wage. One thing that did come up is people really need down there is generator repair. Almost no one in Honduras can repair them. Also to a limited degree is refrigerator and AC repair. Also I was told to bring my own tools and not to lend them out. I had said that my lack of Spanish would definitely be a draw back. One of the guys at the table said he ran a business and didn't speak Spanish. He hired a local guy who was bilingual and paid this guy 100 Lemps a day just to hang out with him and translate. I wanted to talk to him some more but never got the chance. A lot of people come down with ideas but no money to back them up. A lot of things people have ideas for, Hondurans can do cheaper and other things people are not interested in.
typical gringo I was meeting had some investments in the States and was getting
around 800 to 1200 a month American and did some small jobs to take up time. Trying
to make a living wage in Honduras is hard if not impossible. A couple of things
came up, electrician, no standards down there and most uncles do it (not well).
There are some computers but they are sorta light years behind the USA. Internet
kiosk, tons of them and you are at the mercy of the phone company (enough said).
Bob told us that for the one year he has been in this bar. He never paid any taxes
on the bar or even got a license for it and nobody had asked him to. Now there
were three bars across the street. The bar that the Caymans hung out in, Bob said
they were just barely holding on. Most of the people who came in just played dominos
and of course the jackals that hung around them. Every so often a backpackers
would go in there and they did stand out like a sore thumb. Of course the female
ones got a lot of attention. I have to say that bar is somewhat wild. I often
heard yelling from the dominos game and every so often a fight would break out.
Nothing major thou. The bar next to it, they were 3 months behind in rent. They
were selling beer for 9 Lemps. Bob said the profit on that would only be around
1 Lemp per bottle. Often there was this really scruffy looking person sitting
out front having a beer. Uncut hair with a long beard and looked like he needed
a bath real bad. We called him Bin Ladin. He actually looked like one of those
Taliban fighters. One morning the bartender came out and sweeped the front patio.
About 10 minutes later a stray dog came along and took a major dump on it. That
was good for a laugh.
One thing is did see is a truck delivering propane. Now the thing about the truck is that instead of running on gas, it ran on propane. I was told that it would cost around a $1000 to convert your car over to propane and supposedly your car will last longer.
Now I heard that a Internet connection in your house would cost in the ball park of 450 Lemps a month. When I went downtown to an Internet kiosk to chat on Yahoo and check my email. I had noticed that they had phones connected to a lot of the PCs and I am guessing that you could make long distance calls for short money. Every so often I would get there and the phone lines were down and I was told to come back later and they may be up. I saw this poster on the wall, it was an ad for a island tour. In the morning they would take you out to one of the tiny islands give you lunch and come back for you at 5. You get to explore the island, snorkel or what ever. Price was about $80.
I had asked Bob for a pack of smokes and well he didn't have my brand so I went to the bar across the street. When I got to the counter. There was a beefy Honduran man there. He flexed his arm and said "mans drink" and then took a shot of this black fluid. When he was done he flexed his arm again and said, "mans drink". Now I asked the bartender what is the "mans drink"? I was told it was an herbal drink and that it was good for your stomach and would make me virile as a bull. I have heard of strange drinks in the past but have never tried one. Well I ordered one up. My new found friend said gooood. It came in a shot glass and had a slice of lemon on it. When I smelled it, it had an earthy smell to it. When I took a hit of it, oh god it was nasty. Nasty no, it tasted like sweaty socks that were squeezed and filtered. I could not finish the drink! What surprised me was the guy next to me was doing shot after shot of it! The only good thing is I had an upset stomach and it settled it. When I got back to Bob's bar I told him about it. I asked where could you get some so I could give it to my brother in law. Bob was telling that you have to buy it on the street. Typically it's a empty bottle with herbs and stuff in it, you just add the rum. There is no set formula of what's in it. Some times there is cocaine in it. The only thing is you don't leave the herbs in too long or else it gets really rank.
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E. Pilling, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
2002, La Ceiba, Honduras