Thursday, February 20, 2014
In my room, and not that happy about it
I know that after I've said a sad goodbye to the Comision de Accion Social Menonita and have returned to Canada, I will talk fondly to my friends about having had the amazing opportunity to travel around so much of Honduras through my work in all seven regions of CASM.
But tonight I’m in a down-market hotel room in teeny La Campa, sitting under a hideous fluorescent doughnut light while dining on weird little coconut sticks I packed in my bag knowing that I’d be dead bored by Day 3 with the limited food selection here. There’s absolutely zilch on the 13-inch TV. I’m a very long bus ride away from home and am marking my 14th day of out-of-town work in the last three and a half weeks.
And I am not feeling the love.
A job that involves travel sounds great until you actually have one. I remember having that same revelation as a newsroom manager in Victoria, when the excitement I felt at my first company trip to Toronto died quickly once I realized just how many hours are lost in transit, and how even a nice hotel room is a poor substitute for your own bed back home.
At any rate, my Honduras travels don’t come with the option of a nice hotel room – partly because the little towns where CASM works simply don’t have such things, and partly because when you’re making $10,000 a year and paying much of the travel expenses out of your own pocket, you make very different choices.
The rooms are never dirty, but they’re certainly basic. Some have hot showers; others have a cold-water pipe coming out of the wall. A few of the rooms have been unnerving, like the one in the Moskitia with its flimsy little push-button door lock and no one but me in the entire building most nights. There’s a place in Tocoa that I treasure because it has a small pool, a lot of TV channels and better internet than we’ve got at home, all for $22 a night. But that’s a rare thing.
Then there’s the restaurant food. It gets tiresome pretty fast for a business traveller even when there are lots of places to choose from. But small-town Honduran food – well, just imagine eating the same meal three times a day for a week and you’ll get the picture. That’s why I packed the coconut sticks, along with 6 mandarin oranges and a small bag of apples. Bless those who can eat simply, but the tipico plate of beans, tortillas and spot of protein that a lot of Hondurans are completely content with as a steady diet just doesn’t do it for me this long into the gig.
And even when I’m prepared to eat a plate of tipico, there are times when I have no idea where to find one. People who live in La Campa know that you walk down the dirt road to an unmarked house on the right and the woman there will serve you something, but I had no idea the first time I was here and basically lived on chips from the corner store. In the strange little town where I stay when in the Moskitia, nobody sells fruit or vegetables (that’s the case in La Campa, too), and access to a meal totally depends on whether Doña Doris is back from visiting her kids in La Ceiba and Doña Rosa isn’t too busy with her teaching.
Then there are the bus rides. The shortest is four hours to San Pedro Sula, but most trips are closer to six hours. The monster trip is to Tocoa, where I’ll be going in another week – 10 hours. I’ve become a master at zoning out, and sometimes I even sleep if my knees aren’t jammed into the seat in front of me and the person next to me isn’t talking loudly on their cellphone, trying to soothe their baby while balancing an 8-year-old on their knee, or throwing up (surprising amount of motion sickness among Honduran bus riders).
Yeah, yeah, I’m whining. Blame it on the coconut sticks. But as soon as I finish this post, I’m going to look at the video clips I got today of a solemn little group of La Campa Catholics enacting a ritual in honour of the patron saint of the town, Matthias, and I’ll probably feel all warm and fuzzy again thinking about all the things I’ve had the chance to see these past two years due to travelling the country for work.
And then I’ll crawl into my plain but not uncomfortable bed, dim the fluorescent doughnut, and be one more day closer to going home.