Saying goodbye to you for the second time was no easier than the first, particularly as you were entering the most chaotic bus station I ever experienced, situated in the murder capital of the world. I am sorry I cried, I did try not to go all ‘weird’ on you, but you and I are different in that way.
Spending a week with you in Honduras was truly special after eight months of having to make do with the lingering scent of you in your wardrobe – yes, I am going all ‘weird’ again.
I won’t lie, I was petrified about coming to Central America, and only you could have got me there. You were right of course; the people of Honduras are, in the main, kind and decent, just like people are everywhere. But, and call it paranoia if you will, where you saw curiosity in the attention of the locals, I saw hostility, particularly on the Bay Island of Roatan. The disparity in wealth is overwhelming and uncomfortable, particularly on cruise days, where tourists are disgorged onto the island en masse for five hours and not a minute more, to swarm over the local shops, waving dollars in their well-fed fists.
When we got the taxi to West Bay and you negotiated, in Spanish, a local price, I realised how much you have become your own person and how small my part in your life is now. And when the taxi driver stopped to pick up two Canadians from the port and charged them three times the amount he had charged us for a third of the distance, I couldn’t help but revel in our shared camaraderie and the reflected glory of being able to speak the lingo – even though of course, I don’t speak a word. It was both disconcerting and exhilarating to be the on the other side of our relationship.
I loved our bus ride to Santa Barbara. I loved the fact you wanted us to experience the way you travelled. Yes, we could have afforded a taxi, but then I would have missed the sellers, hawking juice in plastic bags, which you bite the corner off and suck out, jumping on at one stop and then off at the next. I would have missed the slow crawl through dusty towns and villages, where people gathered around the bus stops for a chat and a drink and something to eat because no one ever knows when the bus will arrive. Although poverty is not romantic, there is something to be said for the loss of community that individual wealth brings.
I won’t deny I nearly keeled over with heat stroke when we arrived in the tiny village of Gualjoco and foolishly decided to accompany you, in the heat of the afternoon, without a hat, to meet the Honduran families you have been living with since August. Your ten minute walk turned into a twenty minute hike, it seems you haven’t adopted the Honduran pace, even if you have adopted the people and the food.
I still can’t get my head around who would build a five star hotel in a place as remote as Gualjoco, particularly as we seemed to be the only guests. I don’t believe it is to benefit the local people, based on their reaction to us bringing fourteen children to swim in the hotel pool. But I am sure glad we argued our case and despite being fleeced, seeing the children’s joy made every Lempira worthwhile.
Like you, the Honduran people are at times hard to fathom. They want better lives, but there is a fatality in their reaction to what is happening in their country and like their government it seems ‘face’ is more important than action. I remember you said to me before we came out, the Honduran people are wonderful and they want you to be happy, even if that means they have to lie to you. As we waited for the flight to Roatan and every smiling airport worker after another said it would be leaving in five minutes (for over three hours), I couldn’t help but agree with your perceptive assessment of your hosts, but also your acceptance of their way of doing things.
You cannot imagine the pride I felt, when the families put on a celebration meal for our arrival because it meant that you had turned into the adult I’d always hoped you would. The letter Jesus wrote to us, in which he said you were a strong woman and he would always hold you in his heart, left me breathless.
You wear no make-up or shoes, and your feet are dirty, your hair is loose and long, bleached to amber at the ends, your nail varnish is chipped and your clothes are worn out, but you have never looked so beautiful and I have never been so in awe of you.
The savage beauty of Honduras, I will forever associate with you at your most alive and essential.
Thank you my brave and adventurous daughter for giving me such incredible experiences and memories. I know you cannot, like the jungles of Central America, be tamed or contained and that to truly love you means having to accept this. I am trying really hard, and if you think this letter is me being ‘weird’ again, then you too will have to learn to accept me as I am.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will always be there for you, and will always welcome you home.
Love, Mum xx