You were a rock star again for our early morning sprint. We have the routine to a science now: pre-pack as much as possible the night before, wake up, start kettle, change clothes and cram pj’s wherever they will fit, throw anything damp into the dry bag and clip it on, prepare oatmeal and let it sit, change Asher, eat, brush teeth while cleaning the dishes, more cramming, lace up shoes, plunk Asher into Stokke, lift pack onto mom, sandwich dad between two packs and RUN. The rain was doubly helpful this morning – it made us move quicker for the 300 meter dash to the main road and it cooled us down at the same time. You are an amazing little man and didn’t make a peep during this now familiar routine. We made it in plenty of time for the direct bus to Siguatepeque, found some ultra comfortable seats and enjoyed another scenic drive listening to American easy rock as we cruised through the misty mountains.
Each time we visit a new place, it brings a certain level of anticipation because there are many unknowns. When do we get off the bus? Where are we going to stay? Can we walk or do we need a taxi? And when we Couchsurf, there are the added unknowns. What is our host’s home going to be like? What is our host going to be like? And this time we had the added challenge of trying to find the home. Jorge sent us directions that read: I live 4 blocks west from the La Colonia supermarket building. Turn a left on the corner house with several palm trees around it. My house is the one with the second story. Many people back home say your mom and I should join the Amazing Race and it is days like these where our experience shines. We jumped off the bus in the rain, hailed a taxi, catapulted the back busters into the trunk then told the driver “La Colonia.” We are rarely understood on the first try. “Super mercado La Colonia.” And we were off. Our plan was to get to the market, locate the early morning sun, then walk away from it towards Jorge’s home. But today the overcast was laid on so thick, the sun was completely smothered. “Alyssa, how do you say West?” Your mom studied Spanish for five days, five years ago and this one failed her memory. “Do you know how to say North?” Then it came to her: “como se dice en espanol…norte, este, sur y…” The taxi yelled Oueste and pointed West at the same time. Bingo. Now the palms. Bingo. Then I jumped out and just started yelling “Ola Jorge!” and Bingo!
Jorge welcomed us into his big home with a big smile and shared stories of his long distance cycle trips and the humanitarian work he is doing in Honduras with an international NGO. When I asked Jorge what the largest barrier is for sustained improvements in Honduras, without hesitation he replied “Education!” Many of the poor live deep in the mountains and have no access to education. For them, education is as profound as a ticket out of poverty. Many young people in Canada take their opportunity to be educated for granted; if only they could see the alternative. We also met Jorge’s roommate Carlos who works for an NGO that establishes orphanages and provides health and education for the children. When we asked what is the biggest reason these children are without parents, without hesitation the response was “Abandonment!” Families are so poor that they cannot afford to raise another child. When it comes to issues of social justice, dichotomies help establish a real landscape of difference and I could not help but think of the average family in Canada: wealthy (by Honduran standards) with less than two children.
Even with the strict rationing, we ran out of our 2kg all-natural peanut butter two weeks ago. This is an important source of good fat and protein while on the road and we have been trying to replenish our stock ever since. Jorge knew just the place. He drew us a map and sent us off to find a Mennonite bakery called Comeseb. Asher, you dangled from the carrier, flashing me those two teeth whenever I turned to look at you as your mood was elevated by anticipatory energy pulsing from your parents. Comeseb is the cleanest, most pleasant smelling bakery in all of Central America, selling the highest quality foods at a reasonable price. Inside there were a few Mennonite women dressed in plain dresses with a prayer cap in their hair and they smiled when they saw us stack up containers of hearty granola and all-natural peanut butter beside two loaves of dense whole wheat bread. Just a few days previous, your mom was commenting on how she was craving coconut ice cream and to our amazement, the Mennonites made their own. They also had fancy cheeses, yogurts, jams and salsas. The ice cream went down real easy and we appreciated every bit of that special treat. With arms loaded with rations, we went to the market to pick up some supplies to make dinner and by this time, you were fast asleep in the carrier. I love wearing you when you are asleep because I get to kiss your little head as much as I want.
The opportunity for cultural exchange was evident with our Couchsurfing experience again as Jorge toured us around his neighborhood in Siguatepeque. The Lonely Planet guidebook literally says, “there is no need to stop in Siguatepeque unless it is late and the bus driver forces you off the bus.” Of course this is only true if one feels that the gringo trail is the holy grail of things worth doing. Jorge’s mother recently passed away from cancer and he spoke fondly of alcitrones which his mom made for him growing up. Alcitrones is a popular treat in Honduras and its origins are in Siguatepeque. Eat that Lonely Planet! We weaved around the streets past the lychee and pineapple farmers setting up for tomorrow’s market day and found a little rundown home where the smell of vehicle emissions was traded for the sweet smell of heated sugar. As we approached the entrance, Jorge said, “oh by the way, are you allergic to bees?” We knew we weren’t but Asher, you have yet to be stung. When we turned the corner there were literally thousands of bees swarming around a veteran alcitrones maker. We were a little nervous about the bees until we saw a three year old boy walk out in his underwear drinking juice from a bag. Jorge translated and explained that you first cut out bricks of a pumpkin squash, let it soak in vats of pure lime juice, then boil it at extreme temperatures with honey produced on site by the thousands of bees. The result is a cross between sugared figs and Turkish delight. As Jorge pulled off a piece to share, still freshly warm, it was clear that alcitrones was a way for us to also meet his mom.
We whipped up another large helping of French Toast with home fries and Jorge and Carlos joined us for dinner on their second floor terrace. Asher, you were in peak form in your Jolly Jumper, pulling out every trick in the book and we shared some good laughs with our new friends. Carlos informed me that James in Spanish is Santiago. When we looked it up to confirm, we learned that James is derived from Jacob and Asher is the son of Jacob. We chose Asher as your name because it means happiness in Hebrew and Alyssa means happiness in Greek. Little did we know that it works for your dad as well. Asher, son of Jacob (James). With Jorge and Carlos in their thirties, they were joking about not being ready to be fathers but we assured them they already had at least two of the necessary qualities: they ate their dinners in ten seconds flat and found ways to make our baby smile. Pretty much all you need.
Carlos had three American volunteers from his orphanages over to watch an important soccer match but we packed it in early after a long day of buses, bakeries and bonding and once again, you had no trouble at all falling fast asleep.
One thought on “Siguatepeque Delight”
How wonderful to meet two new friends in Siguatepeque who are like your Dad & Mom. They notice where help is needed and reach out to be there. This weekend we celebrated the Slee Family Christmas and you were missed. This is a big tradition and we do it every year on the first Saturday in December. Anthony & Selene’s home was all decorated for Christmas, family comes bearing food and of course there was Stew playing guitar, Christmas hats on and the bells ringing in “Jingle Bells!” Next year Asher you will be there with your cousins and second cousins. This brings me to the thought of Jorge’s mother passing away and how special her alcitrone was to her “sun.” Our traditions are so important! I can’t wait until you can eat, “Johnny Cake” my sweet Asher. Hugs to everyone.