Christmas on the border.

Our bags arrived exactly 2 days later than we did, so we forcefully stayed in the capital of Honduras for almost 3 days, worrying about our belongings and avoiding numerous American fast-food chains. Luckily though, we got  out as soon as our squished backpacks appeared at the aiport. First bus and we are far from the city that imposed such anxious feelings, headed straight for El Paraìso. Far from a paradise, but this is still a better option, even with the stench of old sheets and not enough water  for both of us to shower. I`m just not a dusty city person.

El Paraìso is a short stop anyway. We decided to see Nicaragua first (apparently one of the safest Latin American countries accoring to Lonely Planet), and crossed the border at Las Manos first thing in the morning. So we`re spending Christmas in Estelì, a small town just outside a Nature Reserve, with a proper backpacker vibe and numerous hostels. Too bad we get slightly freaked out by the first tourists we see since we landed (what are these white poeple doing here?), and all the hostels are closed for Christmas day. It`s the 24th, which for the Poles is the biggest night of the year, with huge Christmas Eve (wigilia) family feasts, and I`m in the middle of some town having trouble finding a place to sleep. Perfect.

By a word of mouth, we find this little family run hospedaje with two rooms open to travelers and settle down there for the holidays. At least the place has a warm atmoshpere, and we get all excited seeing kids getting presents from under the little Christmas tree while every radio station is playing Felìz Navidad. We don´t even have a big dinner that night, too weary of the bus journeys. We already  splurged for lunch, ordering an immense pancake dessert in this tiny restaurant that had the biggest, fattest, tackiest tree in the whole of Latin America (OK, maybe there are many other contestants, but… you know…). It looked like a chubby balerina with its thick ribbons and overtly shiny decorations. But I must admit, people around are quite creative. One of the cities we passed had a very nicely constructed `Christmas Tree`in the central square. Since you cannot spot a needle-bearing tree amongst all those banana ones, they put up a  tall, upside-down turned cone covered in dry leaves with a few pastel colored lights and an artsy feel to it. Now I know, Christmas feel doesn`t always have to be so forced. Actually, one can bring winter-imposed Christmas customs to a hot country like this in a pleasant, no-hitsch manner.

So late Merry Christmas to you all, wherever it is celebrated!

Fiona

 Leòn (Nicaragua), 28 Dec. 2011

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First Day in the Banana Republic.

Another journey has just begun. Matt and I have happily boarded the plane to Tegucigalpa, Honudras  after an all-nighter at the airport. Few naps got us to the warmth, making me realize that I no longer have to wear long pants everyday. What a blessing!
 
Excited about the wardrobe change, it took me an hour of lost hope to find out that our backpacks did not arrive with us. It felt slightly disappointing, but how can I care about few shirts and books when I can think of all the beaches and mountains I am about to explore? Besides, the airline crew politely informed us that the luggage might arrive the next day, in one piece. As excited for the shopping as I could be, I`d rather just get what I`ve packed so cautiously and move on.
 
First night took us to the center of Tegus, where I anticipated my first share of rice and beans. But it turns out the city has different taste, for Latin America. Around the main plaza, we passed Wendy`s, Burger King, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Dunkin Donuts. I mean there really was not a single comedor with traditional dishes as far as our sight and legs could reach. So we ate some Western food and wandered under tens of piñatas in a supermarket to get fruit for the morning. I`m not a big fun of burgers, after all.
 
Today we were smarter. I`ve read all the eating-related recommendations in my wonderful guidebook and I set off, all hungry, to finally get my plàtanos. We reached the address and… there was nothing. You mus be kidding me, you Banana Republic, I thought. We asked some shop-owner how to find Don Pepe`s and he cheerfuly announced that the place does not exist. No worries, though. Since it seems like we are the only two tall, white people  around here, a nice lady decided to take us by hand and show us where the new restaurant was. Muchas gracias. The place was full of locals and served some delicious refried beans. It was all that I wanted.
 
Now, my main thing on a TO-DO list is to get rid of our shared theft-paranoia, leaving everything behind, and strategizing as to what can make us least visible, or least approachable as a target. I mean a dose of common sense and precaution is strongly advised, but I can`t wait to get comfortable around here and cherish the surrounding culture. For now, I`m doing it step-by-step – I try to focus on all fake christmas trees that shine beautifully reminding me of my ever-favourite holidays, and dance on the street to busting Spanish music coming from every single tool-shop on the way.
 
Fiona
Tegucigalpa, 22 Dec. 2011