Early May found me flying to Honduras to meet my family for my Mom’s 60th Birthday. I had a layover in Houston where I was able to meet up with an old friend from grade school for dinner and some luck and coincidence meant that Meghan, David, and Bodhi had a layover there too. All of the English and US culture in the 18 hours of that layover were quite jarring, but to be with my family compensates in the millions.
I do not mean to sound like a spoiled brat when I say this, given my year of adventure, but this felt like vacation. The smell of the salt water, the copious amount of sweating, bright sun, palm trees and that quintessential tiny, laid back beach town feel. It was so exciting for us all to meet here to celebrate my Mom. We had an amazing week of exploring the life of the town and spent almost as much time exploring life underwater too. We put together a series of events we called the Jo-lympics for my Mom, which had us making bizarre cocktails with local ingredients, patiently battling over laser joust, laughing our way through charades, and running through the town on a scavenger hunt searching for local artists, turtles, horses, and someone willing to hug a palm tree with us…among other things. We ate fresh seafood, went diving, and spent a ton of time snorkeling in the bay 60 seconds from our front door. Even Bodhi (3 years old!!!) snorkeled for the first time and loved it. Ask him; he’ll tell you all about the angler fish and barracudas. I love him to pieces!! I am forever grateful for the health, adventure, and love I share with my family…it’s out of this world.
It was a bit of a trek for me to get up there and I decided to take advantage of that by waiting out some of the Argentinian winter in Roatan. I moved down the street to a little shared, wooden cabin a bit off the street in the jungle. It was like my own private jungle safari. I had a wooden deck with a table and chairs and a couple of hammocks. In the morning I’d listen to the roosters crowing and watch them waddle around with their little chicks; hummingbirds would be all a-flutter around the purple flowers in my “front yard”. I could hear the occasional cashew fruit or mango fall from the neighboring tree. Things became super interesting at night…typical nocturnal activities: there were lizards galore scurrying around. I saw a huge, long, thin, black and white striped beetle of sorts strut slowly across the wall, teasing the lizards. They didn’t take the bait, but BAM out jumps a frog from the shadows and snatches it, ninja style. It promptly spits it back out, but now I’m distracted because the thing can fly and a swooping bat comes out of no where as the next attempted predator.
I also loved all the crabs scooting around, looking like grumpy old men or gangstas. There were some resident parrots at the place I was staying, and without fail I’d walk down the stone steps every day and hear “Hello!” or “Hola!” and in the middle of responding, realize that I was talking to a bird. I only saw one snake and it was in a tree teasing a cat below. The rest of the wildlife I found underwater…
…I had decided that I’d invest the time to get my advanced diving certificate. Not a huge deal…some studying and five dives including:
- a “deep dive”, must be over 90 ft I believe, for me this was a wreck dive too!
- a drift dive, “go with the flow” of the current
- a night dive, saw an octopus and conquered a fear (water at night), YES!!
- a navigation dive, where’s your true north?
- and a peak buoyancy dive, like meditation – breath and awareness
Basically finishing this allows you to go to the recreational dive limit of 120 feet of depth and probably some other things that I highlighted in my course book, but most of all for me it meant more experience with different types of dives and a “certificate” (one of my goals of the year was to get certified or take courses in things I am interested in when and where it feels right).
There were many challenges of staying in Roatan…my cockroach roommates, the extreme heat, the sandflies and mosquitos that had no fear or respect of deet whatsoever, a terrible sinus infection that kept me from diving for 10 days, the fact that I can’t drink beer!! (tropical weather = hot wine = ew!). I was in a pretty small town, which is nice because everyone knows you and bad because everyone knows you. Though, it does make it easy to meet people and it felt great to have friends and a more steady social life than I’ve had while traveling. I really loved the dive culture…loved my dive shop (shout out to Reef Gliders!!) and met a lot of cool people there. My friends Ken and Emily are both there doing their Dive Masters training. We would all chill out and get excited about diving over a coffee or cocktail at the attached café tucked away from the street. It is neat for me to see people so passionate about something that it consumes them and then to hear stories about that very thing.
Ken the Kiwi and I had a lot of adventures together. We did some evening swims out to the play boat (this boat that a guy turned into a massive rope swing that sits in the bay for anyone to enjoy). One night in particular we watched a gorgeous lightening storm moving in, nature’s fireworks. In the dark water below the boat we could see the green flashes of bio-luminescents. It was magic! We watched another lightening storm approach while eating fresh mahi mahi caught that day and talking with a community elder who’s been barefoot for more years than I’ve been alive. On one of my last days, Ken bought a motor bike and we took it for a trip around the island. It started with a search for the required helmets…tough task for a Sunday. Eventually we had two locals driving around, guiding us to a super market that was armed with a guy and his shot gun. I love when things like that happen in places like this, it becomes a community project to find the two gringos some helmets. We stumbled upon local soccer games and cuisine, cows, horses and friendly locals all day while bouncing around the dirt roads on this motor bike.
I fell in love with diving on this trip. I love the world that opens up for you under water. It reminds me of going to see a concert of a favorite band…all of this build up and excitement, what will they play?! What surprises will there be?! Either way, I’ll be dancing!! There are beautiful fish darting everywhere, all shapes and sizes and colors. Some more common than others yes, but there’s always a special moment or two or ten on a dive…I saw an octopus on my night dive that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It changed colors and kind of oozed its way around, sometimes pretending to be coral and other times splaying out its tentacles and gracefully tickling the sand as it landed. We saw many turtles, but one in particular we came upon while it was eating and it was just massive and peaceful. We saw a giant, moray eel swim out of its cave and beside a giant grouper, hunting together. We saw grouper bigger than me, many of the fierce barracuda, schools of HUNDREDS of colorful fish, too many of the dangerous lion fish, sting rays, turtles of all sizes, tiny blue shrimp that will give you a manicure, drum fish (my favorite) and a crab the size of a pea. We swam along walls, over coral, to 120 feet of depth, around a ship wreck and through many cave-like swim throughs. It’s so cool to be able to witness this sort of thing; to be able to breathe underwater, feel the waves move you, to watch all of the life and coral and the sun dancing around.
At one point I did feel a bit lost with what to do with my time in Honduras. This felt strange to have this feeling while in such a paradise. I realized that my goals for my time abroad were, foremost, to live in Argentina, learn Spanish, and to write a book among many other things. I also realized that I like to explore a place for a specific purpose. For Honduras, that was diving. While I’d LOVE to dive more, I was able to do a fair amount and my current focus and purpose is Spanish and the art of living, in Argentina. There is a surprising amount of English spoken on Roatan, or maybe this was just a noticeable difference from Argentina and I’ve felt like I’m on vacation. I did incorporate yoga, spanish lessons, cooking, and writing into my island routine, but eventually I felt called to go “home”. I had made some friends who I was able to explore the island with and that was hard to leave. I’m so grateful for the “vacation” and I would love to return some day. In fact, right now it feels like I am just away for a short while. But I have indeed returned to Argentina, and it feels good. I am ready for some local experiences here and bring on the Spanish, che!