Thursday, December 17, 2009

The First Day (part 2): Setting Off

Solving the problems related to a sudden, unexpected road trip involved more desperation than brilliance. Allen decided to hire one member of his construction crew to stay on site as a watchman for out on our new property while we would be away. Interestingly, the most responsible and honest (in our estimation) worker was also the youngest, Chele (pronounced something like chili). Happily, Chele is also fond of our animals, and they know and respond well to him. He would be responsible for two dogs, the mother cat and kittens, the chickens, horse, and bull.

Allen set Chele up in the smaller of our two buildings, and secured everything of value in the larger building. It's a sad fact in Honduras that you need to hire a watchman to keep your property safe, and then you also have to protect your property from your watchman! Chele would live, sleep, and eat in our team house for the next five days. Because we had been expecting a normal work day, there was a cooler full of lunch for the entire crew on site. Chele would live on cokes and bologna sandwiches for a few days! While Russell and Gus finished getting everything ready out on the property, Allen came on home and packed for the trip.

It was necessary for Allen to make a stop in San Pedro Sula, before heading to Tegucigalpa, to move funds from our US account to our Honduras account. San Pedro used to be "on the way" to Tegucigalpa, before new road construction opened up a much more direct route (the new road is paved almost the entire way - only about an hour of travel on dirt now). You can see the old route to Tegucigalpa shown with a black line on the map at the top of this post. The new, shorter route is shown with a blue/gray line, where it deviates from the old route.

So, Allen and Rachel got into the first Land Cruiser, and headed out to the north, to do banking in San Pedro Sula. They left around noon. It is a three to four hour trip to San Pedro Sula (depending on traffic, road conditions, weather, etc), and they needed to get to the bank before it closed for the day. They were cutting it pretty tight.

The rest of the family, in the second Land Cruiser, driven by Russell, would leave later, and travel on the shorter route up over the mountains. The plan was for the two groups to meet at a hotel that night, somewhere outside of Tegucigalpa, but close enough that we could be in the city first thing Friday morning, to accomplish our business with the Immigration Department.

Before we could leave, however, we had to secure our rental house, and make certain that the animals would be cared for. It was impossible to reach any of our local gringo friends, who are mostly either Peace Corps workers or bilingual school teachers, as they were all at work. In the end, we made an uncomfortable decision: we would leave the house in town without a watchman, and we would try to set up the animals there so that they could fend for themselves during our absence. Several things worked to make this possible. One, our next door neighbors are related to our landlord, so we knew they would be certain to notice if anything was amiss at our house during this time. They weren't given access to the interior of the house, but they could keep an eye on things from their place. Second, we would be stopping back at home, and spending one night, between our trip to Tegucigalpa and our trip out of the country. So, we didn't have to prepare the animals to be alone for the entire 5 days, but instead they could be set up for one overnighter, and then (after we'd been home to clean up and restock their food and water) another two nights alone.

We left one dog outside, as a sort of guard. (She hides under our trailer and barks at anyone who comes to the gate. I'm sure it's quite intimidating.) She was given a huge quantity of food and water, and she had shelter under the carport. She wouldn't be happy, but she'd be fine, and would make it somewhat less likely that anyone would want to come over our wall.

The new puppy, Commando, was a problem. He is too valuable (as well as awfully young) to be left outside. Another sad fact - a young and valuable watchdog has to be protected from being stolen, until he's old enough to be scary to the robbers! We have a large hallway which ends at the carport with a secure gate. We blockaded the hallway so that Commando had the space from the blockade to the gate. He and the other dog could socialize through the gate. He also had lots of food and water, but he has a bad habit of spilling out his water bowl when he's bored, so we gave him multiple shallow baking pans of water (harder to tip over), and we worried about him more. He also had to pee and poop on the tile floor. Not a wonderful solution, but the best we were able to come up with.

The two young female cats (who have been only indoor cats) were secured in a bedroom/bathroom. With plenty of food, water, and a litter box, we figured they'd do okay. The two male cats were set up so that they could get in and out of the house through a window (they can fit between the security bars). If they ran out of food, they could catch mice.

Morph the parrot, and Granola the bunny were each given a stockpile of food and water, but we knew their food wouldn't be appetizing for long. These two were secure, and we didn't have to worry about their poop issues, but they both eat fresh foods, and those are harder to set up in advance than commercial dry dog and cat food.

Once all of these arrangements had been made, we grabbed a quick lunch, packed some clothes, and tried to remember all of those things that are good to do before leaving the house for a few days - like taking out the trash and making sure no foods are about to go bad in the kitchen. Then we set off, earlier than we'd expected to be ready, which was nice for Russell, as he didn't have to feel pressured to push his speed to make our rendezvous with Allen and Rachel.

Next time: The drive!

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