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I had my first visitor in Honduras! My lovely sister came to visit me, and it was nice to be a tourist again for a week. I ended up visiting places I didn’t even know existed and learning a lot both about myself and this little town I now call my home. It is hard to believe that it has now been a year since I quit my job, and I have been away from Portland, OR traveling and living abroad for that long. I hope others will come to visit me too!

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The drive from San Pedro Sula to Copán Ruinas.

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The Mayan Ruins.

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Waiting for our bus to the Hot Springs.

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The Spiritual Baths at the hot springs.

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Met a new friend at the hot springs!

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Our good luck charm to start the day off right before we hiked around Copán to all the Mayan sites.

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The first stop on an all day trek circling Copán and visiting the sacred check points of the ancient Mayan city.

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Notorious for my problems with customs, this is before I almost got sent to Mexico and after a delicious breakfast in Guatemala. Turns out at the airport they stamped my passport but didn’t say how many days I could stay, and I almost got deported even though it was an error on their part and not my fault. Just my luck. Good thing our guide was able to work his magic, or I might have been coming back to the United States sooner than I expected.

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Yoga and meditation spot at San Lucas.

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Walking up switchbacks to get an amazing view of the city.

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Our guide’s little helper hanging out in the tree.

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From the top of the mountain.

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Walking through cornfields to return to the city.

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At Rastrojón, a newly excavated Mayan site. Incredible this sculpture is still intact.

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Horseback ride in the night.

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My sister and I having a relaxing late breakfast at Café San Rafael.

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My sister was rather popular with the kids at Casita Copán! It was so special to introduce her to all the important people in my life here, and we spent a whole day just hanging out with my Copán friends and family. It made me realize how far my Spanish has come as I was actually able to translate between English and Spanish for a whole day.

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The last couple of weeks have been a lot of fun at Casita Copan with adventures to the ruins and a movie and popcorn day. I love seeing their little faces light up. Literacy classes have begun for the mothers who are excited to be learning to read and write for the first time. Literacy and time for fun activities are things I often take for granted. I can’t imagine a life without words to express myself or not having the opportunity to venture out into the world and explore. Writing and reading are the doors to imagination. They make dreams and positive change possible.

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In an attempt to better my Spanish, I have been reading the works of Spanish speaking poets. The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, has quickly become one of my favorites. He expresses romantic love so clearly. His poems are honest and vulnerable, and I love them best in their native language. The romantic, dream-like words of the Spanish language describe love more beautifully than English ever could for two reasons. First, Spanish uses the subjunctive mood more frequently than English when describing desires, wishes, hopes, and dreams, providing totally different words to use for the creative, hopeful, dream-like state of romance or other states of emotion. Also, in Spanish there are many more words for describing the loving or liking of something which gives a clearer image of the depth and type of loving or liking being described. In English the verb “to love” can be used for pretty much anything, your car, dress, a person. In many ways, this belittles its meaning when used between lovers. In Spanish, “amar,” the verb for “to love” is rarely used for anything other than romantic love, giving a much deeper significance when used. Below is one of my favorites by Neruda.

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Your Hands

When your hands reach out,
love, towards mine,
what do they bring me flying?
Why did they stop
at my mouth, suddenly,
why do I recognize them
as if then, before,
I had touched them,
as if before they existed
they had passed over
my forehead, my waist?

Their softness came
flying over time,
over the sea, over the smoke,
over the spring, and when you placed
your hands on my chest,
I recognized those golden
dove wings,
I recognized that clay
and that color of wheat.

All the years of my life
I walked around looking for them.
I went up the stairs,
I crossed the roads,
trains carried me,
waters brought me,
and in the skin of the grapes
I thought I touched you.
The wood suddenly
brought me your touch,
the almond announced to me
your secret softness,
until your hands
closed on my chest
and there like two wings
they ended their journey.

~

Tus Manos

Cuando tus manos salen,
amor, hacia las mías,
¿qué me traen volando?
¿Por qué se detuvieron
en mi boca, de pronto,
por qué las reconozco
como si entonces, antes,
las hubiera tocado,
como si antes de ser
hubieran recorrido
mi frente, mi cintura?

Su suavidad venía
volando sobre el tiempo,
sobre el mar, sobre el humo,
sobre la primavera,
y cuando tú pusiste
tus manos en mi pecho,
reconocí esas alas
de paloma dorada,
reconocí esa greda
y ese color de trigo.

Los años de mi vida
yo caminé buscándolas.
Subí las escaleras,
crucé los arrecifes,
me llevaron los trenes
las aguas me trajeron,
y en la piel de las uvas
me pareció tocarte.

La madera de pronto
me trajo tu contacto,
la almendra me anunciaba
tu suavidad secreta,
hasta que se cerraron
tus manos en mi pecho
y allí como dos alas
terminaron su viaje.

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I was so nervous coming to “the murder capital of the world,” but the walls I built around myself are quickly crumbling as I fumble through Spanish with my taxi driver, a man of patience and smiles. I want to throw all caution to the wind; hitchhike on dirt roads; ride in the back of a truck full of hard-working men, the dusty wind blowing in my hair; sit outside a mud home with a tin roof drinking a coke-a-cola with a friend as I watch the day go by; to experience Honduras fully, not as a gringa. I am missing out in my fancy hotel and air-conditioned bus. This country with all its instability is made of people no different than you or I. There is something appealing in the uncertainty; an acceptance of life as is despite the craziness. I want to embrace it and the simple life of its people where less is more.
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Siestas are important in Copán. The heat prevents any heavy activity in the afternoons. Cansada is my favorite word in Spanish because it is okay to admit you are tired here, and I realize how tired I am. When I say I am tired, I am encouraged to do what is natural. So I sleep and relax and feel like a new person in my bed, the first I have been able to truly call my own in five months. I spend four hours a day in school speaking Spanish. In the afternoons, I do my homework and will soon be volunteering at the local clinic. My first day at school ended in salsa dancing and with fresh squeezed juice. Each meal I spend with two strong, beautiful women, one my host, and the other, an American volunteer who calls Copán her second home. Every morning I start my day with these empowering females, and I am inspired by their presence and blessed with their conversation. At school, I am surprised by how much I remember from my Spanish classes so long ago and frustrated by how much I want to say and cannot. But perhaps it is good I know only verb conjugations in the present because then I can only discuss the present and not the past. Yo quiero is how I discuss the future. I can only say what I want, not how I plan to get it. There is a sort of freedom in this lack of words for the past or future. My life consists of now and floating through dreams.
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“Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of the day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished?…What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and me at least try to make a small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.” ~Mr. Stevens of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

While in Germany, a friend recommended the author, Kazuo Ishiguro, to me, and since then, his characters have been my companions as I travel, each person reflecting on their past, some memories more reliable than others. Their stories remind me that my own change over the years to adapt to my current feelings and experiences and are not necessarily accurate documentation of my life or those who pass through it. They are only ways for me to make sense of things I cannot understand. I find there is so much beauty to absorb in my new setting that there is little time to reflect on the past if I wish to take everything in. Each morning I wake to the music of tropical birds welcoming the sun’s return as it creeps up behind the lush greenery of the cloud forest. Here, in Copán, the remains of my day are spent in the company of new friends, whose experiences mirror my own, practicing Spanish and discussing life fantasies as the last burst of heat paints the sky pink.
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