Dirge in an Airplane Aisle

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Guest post by Philip, written from a tiny airplane seat.

 

Dirge in an Airplane Aisle

Ladies and gentlemen, we gather here today,

To put this large and awkward duffel bag away,

That young man struggles with vigor and vim.

Note that he is trying, and be patient with him.

 

The audience grows, the crowds in the aisle,

Behind the dimensionally inept boy begin to pile.

Work harder, young lad, if you push hard enough,

Your duffel bag just may turn into a duff.

 

A larger space is found by an audience member.

The show’s over now, but this day we’ll remember,

As the time when a boy wouldn’t trust his eyes,

When his bag wouldn’t fit in a space half its size.

 

Tela

Remember when I said I’d tell you about our flopped beach trip? Well, here you go. We have a long-standing tradition of renting the same little cabins every time we visit Tela, since they’re private and cheap, off the beaten track, and the cook that owned them was amazing. However, they seem to have gotten a little run down since the original owner died and left his son in charge, a fact we were going to discover thoroughly.

Our first evening there started out well enough, despite having the taxi driver rip us off a little. The double rainbow across the beach at sunset was simply glorious. But alas, do you know what rainbows mean? That’s right, rain. Soon we were going to learn that fact better than we ever wanted to. We took a little walk after our (delicious) dinner, but were soon driven inside by the bugs viciously biting our legs. We had both brought books, so it wasn’t too bad, as we stretched out on the beds and read. However, it gets dark at what, 6:00 there? so the evening stretched on and on, until it fiiiiiiinally grew late enough we could go to bed.

The next day we woke up to cloudy skies, and a still ocean. I begged Philip to go into the ocean with me, thinking it would be kind of fun to be in the water when there were practically no waves at all. Wrong. We stood in the cold, gray water, with cold, gray rain dripping on us, and no waves to jump, and thought, now what? After standing there until we were shivering and gray and cold ourselves, we decided that was not such a great form of entertainment and went into our cabins to, let’s see, read!

 

Forgive me, long-legged Philip, but this picture is just such an accurate description of the whole vacation.

The rain began to come down in swirling gusts, and we soon discovered just how holey the thatch and metal on our cabin roofs was, as we dodged puddles and tried to keep our electronics from getting too damp. Taking walks in the calm spots was not to be advised, as the sky would suddenly start hurling drops at you if you tried. One bright spot in our day was the seafood soup made by our host, filled with large shrimp and coconut milk, but even seafood soup can only do so much ministering to a vacation that is diseased.

One of the tiny cabins we usually rent, and the angry sky

After a long day spent in our dark cabins avoiding the rain, we decided after dinner that we needed coffee to warm up, and set out in a rain-lull to find some. But alas, apparently the Garifuna people in whose village we were staying do not drink coffee. So we settled for juice instead. Delicious, but cold. As we trudged along the muddy road, a little ways from the shelter of our cabin, huge drops began to fall. This was beginning to get funny! We dashed under someone’s porch (thank you, stranger) and stayed there until we judged it safe to make it back to our own cabins. And then, another long dark evening, with nothing to do but read. Reading is good. I like reading. I like reading at the beach. But man, there is a limit to what flesh and blood can bear. Lesson learned- when vacationing with just one other person in rainy season, stay in the middle of the city instead of out in the boonies, so that if everything is wet you can at least go to a coffee shop or something!

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The next day we were scheduled to bus back to Philip’s house, and as if in mockery at our attempted vacation, the sky was bright and the sun shone and the weather was absolutely tip-top, just as we were supposed to leave. We trotted about the city of Tela as long as we dared without missing our bus, drinking our long awaited coffee, eating mangoes and papayas and pollo asado with tortillas, assuring and reassuring the Garifuna lady that I did not, in fact, want corn rows, and enjoying the perfect weather.  The perfect end to a less than perfect vacation.

And that, my friends, is what happens when I try to plan a beach trip. Be warned.

How To Be a Good Missionary-Visitor


Wash dishes. I mean it, wash dishes all the time. Do your own laundry. Gladly eat the food they have on hand, but pass on that special treat they just got from the States that they feel obliged to share with you. And then go wash some more dishes. Don’t treat your visit as a vacation at a resort. The missionaries are not there only to feed you and entertain you. Pull your weight.

Speaking of entertaining, be easy to entertain. Don’t feel you have to be constantly moving and doing and talking and going. Sometimes, there are only so many places to go, and things to do, and entertaining an energy ball can be exhausting.

Be culturally sensitive. Don’t schlump around in your dirty, white, tennis shoes, loudly talking about the “natives” in English and exclaiming about how much worse the country is than the United States. You are on their territory, not yours. Act accordingly. Don’t hog the volleyball or diss how they play. Eat their food with gusto. Wear clean shoes.

On the other hand, remember that all those things that are just uh-MAZING about this AWESOME country you’re visiting are not quite as new and exciting to your missionary friend. Sure, the view is lovely, but have you considered that maybe this is the seventh time this year that the missionary has climbed this mountain to look at this view with different groups of enthusiastic visitors? No, getting to live in another country doesn’t automatically make them the luckiest person in the world. Because sometimes it’s actually hard, really hard. Be sensitive to that.

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Pray for them. That sounds so cliche, I know, but you know what were some of the groups we most enjoyed when we lived in Honduras? The prayer teams. I recently read a blog post about short term missions, and it said that instead of focusing on the locals, focus on helping the missionaries, because that makes a much bigger difference, and I thought, YES. So true. Also, when you leave, don’t forget to write them. I know firsthand the delight of letters from friends you left behind. In fact, letters from far away are what inspired the name of this blog originally.

And now for a little confession: I started this blog post before my recent trip to Honduras, then I thought, nah, I better not post it before I go, because what a lot to live up to! 😀 So here it is, post-trip, and now my lovely hosts can read it and judge me if they wish.

Where I’ve Been and What I’ve Been Doing

I have been absent a while, I know, roaming the mountains and plains and comeateries of Honduras. I’ll be back shortly with stories about a flopped beach trip and a not-flopped trip to Erandique. For now though, let me show you some of what’s been occupying me. 


I’ve been eating platos típicos,


And so many tacos,


And baleadas that would knock your socks off,


And plantain chips for days,


And garlic shrimp and pork chops and tajadas and seafood soup,


And grilled chicken with tortillas and horchata, overlooking the beach,


And (excuse the blurry picture) green mangos so good I could cry,


And our traditional not-very-Chinese Chinese rice and chop suey, 


And drinking gallons of coffee. 

I’ll be back after a while. In the meantime, feel free to hate me a little for these pictures, especially those of you that know exactly how good green mangos are. 

New York, New York

New York, New York

As some of you may know, I am ever so slightly obsessed with New York City. So a few weeks ago I was chatting with Roman and Mimi, and I said, “Next time you go to NYC, let me know because I want to go along.” “Really,” they said, “do you mean the very next time? We are leaving in two days to go there!”Obviously there was nothing else for it but to buy a ticket up, take a day or two off of work, and attach myself to their little party.

In the course of just three days, I managed to eat so many different things, see a few popular attractions that I hadn’t gotten to before such as Central Park and the Met and Saint Peter’s Cathedral, walk many many miles, navigate Manhattan all on my own, and not at all quench my desire to live there someday.

If you want to really see the place, let me recommend having as your tour guide someone who has lived in the city for years. If you can acquire one of those, you might get taken to the best little spots that you never would have found on your own. For instance, Chelsea Market. Be still, my beating heart. This place is a dream if you like weird architecture, winding hallways, exotic foods, artsy creations, or people watching. It looks like it’s made out of a very old warehouse brought back to life, complete with lumpy floors, old bricks and light fixtures, and old hardware everywhere.

We stopped in a seafood store (the kind that sells things like sea urchins to cook) and played it safe by purchasing a little bowl of New England clam chowder. I think I’ll let our faces tell you if it was worthwhile or not.

When our feet were about ready to drop off, we went up to the Highline Park which is just around the corner from the market. The park is the brainchild of some brilliant engineer who thought that an old elevated railroad track would make a good place to plant flowers and put benches. Coolest idea ever. There we refreshed ourselves with ginger sodas from a little cart, running water put there for weary feet, gorgeous views, and baby smiles.

We saw the One World Trade Center, and the 911 Memorial, both inside and out. The inside of the memorial feels a lot like being in a whale’s belly might, with the the odd architecture that is reminiscent of ribs. There were two fountains/pools as well which I don’t have pictures of- massive, creepy, dark holes with the  still water sliding down into the middle of nowhere- with names of the deceased engraved in stone the whole way around their large, square circumferences. The hole in the middle of the pool looked like the kind of place a massive octopus might come out of, like the kind that was in the pool by the mountains of Moria. I confess, I don’t quite understand the logic behind making a memorial such a creepy place.

One of the days Roman and Mimi had a wedding to attend, so I wandered about the city by myself. I ran into a farm girl from New Zealand who was touring the city by herself and needed directions, and we walked the blocks from the train station to the Met together, talking about our small town lives compared to the big city. Not gonna lie, it made me fairly happy to be asked for directions from other outsiders, even if I didn’t have a clue what I was doing myself.

Sadly, I chose the wrong day (Saturday morning) and the wrong time (pre-coffee) to go to the Met, and did not enjoy it as much as I might have otherwise. It was completely packed with humans, eating and chattering and taking pictures of statues and disturbing me when I tried to sit on the floor to charge my phone a little. Next time I go, I’d like to pick a quieter day, and also someone to take along to discuss all the oddities of art with, such as the bizarre threesome pictured above. Somehow they struck my fancy, just sitting there with their hands on their knees, waiting for life to happen like they have for ages past.

Once I was sufficiently parched and hungry, and my brain was full enough of art, I purchased a street hotdog, mostly because HOW NEW YORKISH IS THAT? I felt the moment was worthy of documentation, even if the hotdog itself was nothing special.

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I walked the Brooklyn Bridge twice, once as the sun was thinking about setting, and again when it was turning to dusk. The cool wind at the top of the bridge alone was worth it, after melting in the heat for two days, not to mention the views. On one of my jaunts over it, I discovered that there was a concert going on below the bridge, and that if I leaned over the edge enough, I could watch it happening through the cracks. There’s more than one way to see a free concert!

I made the discovery of what it’s like to ride for many stops in an un-airconditioned train car in July. Hint: don’t do it. We hauled the stroller up seemingly miles of subway steps and walked endless steamy corridors. We jammed ourselves into many greasy cars, where Hudson baby always seemed to make friends, regardless of the reputed coldness of New Yorkers. In just 2 days, I managed to walk about 24 miles or so. I’d say moving to the city might be a fairly decent fitness plan, regardless of all the tempting food around every corner.

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Speaking of which, ohmygoodness the food! I’d live there just for that pretty much, since I’m unfortunately a die-hard foodie. We stuffed our faces with Taiwanese, New York pizza, so much bubble tea, pastries from a French bakery, Chinese, my (not so epic) hotdog, and to finish it off, the Korean spread pictured below. The little bowls are our free appetizers- I guess the Korean version of chips and salsa- and the delectable pile of fried goodness on the cast iron was my plate. If you want to go to the city, please take me along so I can take you to this place. You won’t regret it, unless you’re not at all a fan of delicious flavor, in which case you shouldn’t even bother to go to the city at all.

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Regrettably, going didn’t really do much to dampen my youthful and ignorant enthusiasm for that great metropolis, even though it’s expensive and wearying and harsh and hot sometimes. So, who wants to go with me next time?