For years, my friends have been suggesting that I write a book, about our family's adventures in Honduras. Recently I've been taking this suggestion a bit more seriously, and I even have some sections of a potential book written in draft form. Here is one such section. I would very much appreciate your honest appraisal . . . What do you think?
“Are you Mr Sowers?” asked the breathless airline employee, who rushed up to us in the main terminal with a worried look on her face. “You and your family need to get back on the plane! It's time to board!”
I hadn't expected to be tracked down in the airport in San Pedro Sula. I thought the plane would simply leave without us, when we didn't return after our layover. We were new to Central America, however, so my expectations were fairly meaningless at that point.
We'd been planning our move to Guanaja, an island off the north coast of Honduras, for months. The most direct travel route involved a flight from Miami to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, followed by a short flight on a smaller plane to the port city of La Ceiba, then a very brief but exciting trip on a very small plane to the airstrip on the island itself, and finally a ride in a small, open motor boat from the air strip to the city of Savannah Bight. Like most missionaries, our budget was very tight. Allen spent time searching for the best ticket prices for our large family, but the expense to fly to the airport in San Pedro Sula was daunting. Allen grew up on the mission field in Southeast Asia, and outside-the-box thinking and problem solving are among his best skills. He decided to check on the prices of airfare to other cities, even those in surrounding countries, thinking that we might save enough money on the flights to make the time and inconvenience of adding a bus trip to our itinerary worthwhile.
He found that San Pedro Sula was one of the more expensive destination cities in the area. The other international airport in Honduras, located in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, wasn't any better. However, flying to the city of San Salvador, in neighboring El Salvador, cost much less. Investigating further, Allen discovered a very reasonable flight to San Salvador that had a several hour layover in . . . San Pedro Sula, Honduras!
Obviously, it occurred to Allen that we could purchase tickets on the flight to San Salvador, and simply not get back on the plane after the layover in San Pedro Sula. He called the airline and asked them about the ramifications of planning our trip in this manner. The answer was encouraging. He was told that all additional legs of our trip which had been reserved would automatically be cancelled, and that our checked luggage would continue on to San Salvador without us – but that was all that would happen.
As a result, we started off for Honduras with our five children, ranging in age from four to thirteen, all carrying the maximum allowance in carry-on luggage (and with no checked bags) . . . headed to a city which was only part-way to our destination, without pre-arranged plans or tickets for the rest of our trip.
A few hours after “missing” our flight to San Salvador, we boarded a plane from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba. We arrived too late in the day for additional travel, so we headed to the Hotel Ceiba for the night. I remember that night so well! After a ride in an absolutely antique elevator, we found ourselves in a room which could barely fit our family, with some of the younger ones sleeping on blankets on the floor between the three beds. The bathroom was rudimentary, the bathroom door stuck badly in its frame, the distance between the foot of the bed and the opposite wall of the room was about 20 inches, and the security chain on the entry door was rather insecurely screwed into place. It was obvious that a single hard kick would render our room accessible to any random “bad guys” who might be lurking about seeking to prey on a wide-eyed young gringo family. I didn't voice my fears, preferring the children share Allen's confident outlook on things, but I didn't sleep well that night at all, and I did wonder if we had been wise to choose such a run-down, decrepit-looking hotel.In retrospect, I am amused by my initial impression of the Hotel Ceiba. About four years later, Allen spent 5 months working in the US, while I handled the family and ministry obligations in our rustic home on Guanaja without him. Upon his return, Allen recognized that his tired wife urgently needed a bit of R & R, so he sent me off, alone, for a few lovely days of solitude and luxury . . . at that same hotel in La Ceiba where we had spent our first night in Honduras. I reclined blissfully on the lovely crisp sheets, enjoyed cable TV, air conditioning, the soft, bright white towels in the clean, tiled bathroom, the hot showers - and I felt so spoiled!
Apparently, my expectations regarding hotel accommodations had dropped significantly during those intervening years. But - back to the story of our trip . . .
The next morning, Allen called the airport from the hotel, for information regarding flights to Guanaja. He was told that the only flight to the island that day would be boarding in half an hour. We packed in an instant (we had very little luggage with us, after all), and were soon crammed into a small, hatchback taxi – eight of us, including the driver – headed to the airport “in a hurry.” For the record, it might not be best to tell a taxi driver in Honduras that you are in a hurry, unless it is absolutely necessary. None of this would faze us now, but that was our first full day in Honduras as a family, and piling my children into the beat up vehicle, with very little tread on the tires and no seat belts, would probably have been enough to put me on edge, without the dodging about through traffic, the high-speed turns which smashed everyone in the backseat into the doors on either side of the car multiple times, and the sudden swing into the empty far right lane to stop at an intersection, so that the moment the light turned green the driver could hurriedly turn left, across several lanes of traffic, saving us precious moments in our quest to catch that flight!
The plane ride to Guanaja was, in comparison, anticlimactic.
The airstrip on the island, at that time, was paved with a thin layer of asphalt, and marred by many small potholes and ominous looking, long, deep scrape marks. Situated right at sea level, the short strip was flanked by overgrown fields on both sides, had open water at either end, a small mountain rising almost directly beside the airstrip on one side, and, just a short distance away on the other side, another mountain, across a small man-made canal. This combination of sea and mountains creates gusty winds which can make landing on Guanaja exciting and dangerous. On our arrival trip, however, the flight and landing were thankfully without incident.
|The airport on the island of Guanaja|
We disembarked from the tiny plane, collected our bags as they were pulled out of the cargo hold, and then walked along a narrow dirt path through the high weeds to a largely rotten wooden dock near the airstrip. At the dock Allen hired a motorboat and driver – officially a “water taxi,” though there were no markings to differentiate it from a private vehicle – and we were on the last leg of our journey to the village of Savannah Bight . . . our new home!