“What about Honduras?” I asked Andy, wrinkling my brow as if we had been in the middle of a conversation when, instead, he had just arrived home after work on an unimportant Tuesday, the door not even closed behind him. But this is our type of greeting, one that starts when he is in the process of stepping into our apartment, a greeting that begins mid-sentence, mid-thought with me bombarding him of travel destinations and questions, partially formulated plans, thoughts I had been having a mental conversation on all day, ones brimming at my lips so that when I see him, they overflow, surge forth like love.
“Honduras?” he repeated, also wrinkling his brow while taking off his shoes at the door. He never hesitates to join my mid-conversations.
“Honduras,” I said again, sitting straighter, one pronounced nod in front of him. I had decided.
“Why Honduras? What’s in Honduras?” And this is what we soon found many people asked us.
“Com’ere,” I whispered, captivated by the Honduras I saw as we looked at picture after picture of white sand beaches and clear turquoise water teeming with life so much that it appeared a meticulous posh aquarium. “Did you know Honduras is surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world?” I asked him. “We should go and scuba dive.”
“We should,” he agreed, forgetting he had no intention of going past waist-deep in the ocean, failing to remember he had never been snorkeling, and not recalling that scuba diving frankly scared him. “We should go,” he said, captivated with Honduras’s beauty too.
So we booked our trip, suddenly and without further questions. Because this is the life we want to create, where we live in surprise of each other, the world, our future.
So we packed our bags and left . . .
Located in South America with the neighboring nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, Honduras feels a forgotten destination; and that could be because it is going through rough times. This is a third-world country after all where many do not have hot water in homes; electricity is unstable; and drinking water, a pricey commodity. There are no animal shelters here so bony dogs and cats loiter with skeletons so feeble they barely cast shadows onto the streets and sand. The roadways are poor, but that’s because of the weather, which heats up and causes the pavement to bubble and swell until massive crater-sized potholes pop forth, resembling more teenagers’ acne scars. At the same time, the rainfall can also be so heavy that it transforms roadways into angry rivers and forms mudslides that create and smooth wide portions of the earth into new property lines. This is a country that stretches, dotting the Caribbean Sea with small, overlooked islands. And it is on these islands that tourism prospers, so much that many people here are fluent in English, French, Italian, and more, switching between these languages as easy as they blink. But that tourism comes with a price because Honduras is also a country that steals from itself, where the mainland pockets the money the bay islands make, leaving those areas overlooked, the people there bursting with energy to break free and become a separate identity. But these island people are far from weak; they have learned to fend for themselves and thrive, finding profits in the holes of what is not offered so that when tourists utter the words “I wish I could,” the locals are ready, dishing out customized plans for the following day as if it were a massive dessert tray for the taking.
But the real reason Honduras may be forgotten is because of it’s crime rate: It had (and flirts with having) the highest violent crime numbers in the world, making murders, rapes, stabbings, and a slew of other horrors cast a grim and dirty light on the entire country. Locals know of these statistics, and they will shake their heads, slouch their shoulders, begrudgingly speaking of it when the topic steeps into conversation. That’s also because the truth is they know more: They know of people killing people for a measly five dollars . . .
But that’s the dark side of Honduras. And don’t we all have a dark side? What is the difference in Honduras’s five dollar murders verses America’s Black Friday stampede deaths? Or America’s child killings over the newest kicks? Or the US’s steady climb towards the highest rate of gun violence? Or let’s go back further to America’s gun craze in and of itself, which topples other nations and makes the US known to possess about half of civilian-owned guns worldwide? I point all this out to show darkness can taint other truths because essentially, the truth about Honduras is that this country is an assortment of things — overlooked, improving, building, starting. And maybe that’s the point. There is not one way to describe this nation. Honduras is a country of differences, contradictions so that in the end, maybe Honduras’s one word is mostly misunderstood.
This is why I want to show you its glimmering side, the one that can blind you with beauty so golden, good, pure. This is the Honduras I want to show you . . .
I am getting ahead of myself though. Let’s go back to when Andy had just arrived home after work on an unimportant Tuesday. That word: home. Home as in what was once my little apartment is now ours because Andy’s visa got accepted in March so he has now officially immigrated to America. Yet, home is also not a physical address, a place on a map, but a feeling one can only find in someone else, a feeling I have found in him so that the moment his plane landed in the States, we were finally able to announce our secret engagement proposal. He — we are home.
This is why we jokingly call this Honduras trip our “engagement-moon” because for months we had been engaged but unable to tell anyone for fear the government would find out, see his visa application, and pull his one shot at moving and working here. So we kept quiet until his visa was in hand. Now, we have much to celebrate and yearned to do that in a place somewhere new — not his home of England where he had left or mine in America where I had wished the days be controlled by a light switch, disappearing and passing in seconds until he could arrive. Instead, we wanted a place of new beginnings, a place to start our story even though our story is a hodgepodge of starts . . .
So back to that original conversation when Andy came home from work and found me on the sofa in front of my computer, asking, “What about Honduras?”
“What about Honduras?” he had said, smiling in a fashion that made there be only one answer: Let’s go.
Alright, so now we packed our bags, got another Passport stamp . . .
and arrived to this tiny island of Roatán, which is off the coast from the mainland.
Here, we stayed at Las Rocas Resort and Dive Center, where there are picturesque beaches and ocean waters, amazing people I will miss, some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten, and a place so safe that we may or may not have left our key in the door multiple times without once being disturbed.
We lucked out on having the best bungalow, the one used to advertise to tourists, which was feet from the soft sand and had amazing views of the ocean.
There are numerous resorts dotting the island and all that we came across had their own restaurants and bars, like ours.
Las Rocas was wonderful, serving a variety of Spanish breakfasts . . .
and fresh local dishes with yummy drinks in the afternoon and evening.
Our resort was tucked away from the more bustling locations, like West End, but water taxis were available to send you there. However on Day One, we ventured a short distance on foot to the more populated West Bay area. Strolling along the coast before dinner, we followed a winding wooden platform over the ocean then walked in the warm water and breathed in sea air.
That night, we ate on the shore, watching the sun melt into the sea.
We were here, our first place somewhere new, so after fourteen and a half hours of non-stop travel, sleep found us at an early 6:30 p.m.
Day Two: A Day of Somehows
I awoke to this, which somehow was how my hair looked the entire trip.
But we were on vacation and short of tranquilizing the beast of my own hair or buzzing it off, there was nothing I could do which meant Andrew, my hair, and I moseyed our way to a scrumptious Spanish breakfast. Meanwhile, everyone was very accepting of my odd mohawk, mainly the frail homeless kittens who didn’t hesitate to come over, twist around our legs, rub against our ankles.
We had seen these kittens the first day and slowly began to give them names, such as Alli, the more friendly feline who was highly intelligent and could be seen nightly climbing palm trees onto our resort’s restaurant’s roof where she then catapulted herself off in an effort to successfully catch bats, which she would then eat every morsel — bones and all — in joyful glory; Rummy was a terribly shy grey-stripped kitten, often scared away by people, other cats, heck even the wind; Bones, an emaciated black kitten who I’m positive will have perished by now without a tender heart to help him; Jasper, the bolder and larger-breed that had scars to prove his many rough battles; and Sebastian (not pictured), who we nicknamed “the resort’s cat” because he was the only privileged one fed by the employees and therefore, allowed to slumber day and night on chairs in the dive shop’s entryway.
Speaking of that dive shop, my wild hair (or clearly, many hairs) were evident as I was hellbent and determined to scuba dive. That was what lead us to Roatán after all. With the dive center located next to the main office, I had snuck a peek inside when we first arrived and found a small ad mentioning Roatán’s well-known shark dive.
“Andrew!” I told him. “Let’s go on the shark dive!” I said the words ‘shark dive’ with wonder and enthusiasm dripping from each syllable.
“L. We don’t even know how to dive, never-the-less dive with sharks.” He needed convincing I could see. I wasn’t to be put-off.
“I know . . . sooo,” I said nuzzling into him, “let’s find out more information!”
The only problem was when we arrived at the dive center, no one was inside.
“Excuse me,” I stopped a random man walking by. He could have been a tourist or the CEO of the resort for all I knew. “Do you know when the divers are coming back?”
“Two hours,” he said.
“Two hours?” I repeated.
I didn’t believe him. Something about him seemed to say he was left behind for a reason. My hope and excitement vanished. “Andrew, we are NEVER going to shark dive!” I cried after we moved from earshot of the stranger. “That’s why we are HERE! What are we going to DO?!”
“Calm down,” he said exasperated because as you know, telling an irrational person to calm down is a good idea.
“CALM DOWN?! What are we DOING?! We should have booked this BEFORE! What were we THINKING?!”
“Okay, listen.” This must be important. “We are here because we wanted to get away and enjoy ourselves and celebrate and spend time together.” Suddenly, I didn’t agree. “There is a beautiful beach here and water — ” he spanned his hands in front of us. “Let’s go on a walk and explore!”
My sense of exploring was bending down and spotting dead coral.
“I don’t want to explore,” I signed. I knew I was being childish, but I was also beyond a point of caring. The one activity that centered around our flying hours from home was a shark dive. And that one said-activity was gone our first full day.
“Bloody hell. You’re a nightmare,” Andy told me. “Great. This is just great. We are at the most beautiful place on earth and you’re miserable. Now I’m miserable. Are you happy?” I was. But I didn’t confess that.
Somehow, Andy convinced me to go on that walk, which I know he regretted because it was the most depressing, sullen walk we had yet been on. And somehow we also found a dock to sit on, which provided me with time to recuperate.
It was around this time we saw a motorboat speeding towards our resort’s dock.
“Hey. L. That’s them. I think that’s them . . . “
There was only one person aboard.
“Andrew. That’s not them. How can you have a dive class without divers? Or instructors? Or anyone besides the person operating the boat?”
Yet, in that moment — that moment of sheer glory — two other people appeared, just like that — *poof* out of the air. Seriously. And we ran — literally ran to the dock.
“THEY’RE HERE!!!!” I screamed as we bounded over sharp rocks in an area not fit for walking. “CAN YOU BELIEVVVE THEY’RE HEEERE!!!” Joy, happiness, laughter, everything holy and good was shooting out of my body.
“Hi!” I told a woman who appeared to be in charge with barely enough time to get off the boat. “We want to shark dive.” Except what made me a “we” was just arriving, slow and hesitant. He didn’t seem to want to shark dive. And I think she sensed this.
“Hi. First, my name is Anja,” she said in a mixture of accents.
“Oh,” I hesitated, knowing I probably didn’t make the best first impression. “Hello. My name is L. This is my fiance Andy.” I hesitated. What more did she want me to say to gain approval to go on this dive? I have never been good with small talk; this is one of my weaknesses. So we waited. And waited longer. Nothing happened. I couldn’t stand it anymore. “And we want to shark dive.” There I said it. Again.
“Okay. Second, are you certified divers?” She peered around me at Andy, who seemed to be — well, behind me.
I barely whispered a “no.”
“Alright. Have you ever been diving?” Her look pivoted from Andrew to me, Andrew to me.
“Yes! I mean, no. Well, I have but he has not.”
“You have to be certified to go on that dive” and with that, she turned around, moving and unattaching and arranging her diving thing-a-majigs around her. This was not the answer I was settling for. I may have screamed, “Wait!” at her. I don’t remember. I seem to forget things in my ecstatic states.
“Yes?” she asked, turning towards us again. Him, me, him, me.
“We want to go on the shark dive. If you say we need to get certified, we will be certified.” People say that I am indecisive. People say that I take forever to make decisions. But daggon it, the moment I make decisions, it never fails someone has a problem with it.
“Wait, wait, wait!” That was Andy. “I don’t know if I want to be certified! I don’t even know if I want to go diving!” Anja laughed and resumed moving her thing-a-ma-bobers. I wasn’t laughing.
“What do you mean?” I whispered. “That’s why we are here!”
“Nooo — That’s why maybe you are here. That’s not why I am here.”
“Andrew. I remember a day of sunshine and rainbows where we were sitting on our couch, looking at pictures of Roatán, and you said the words, ‘Yes, let’s go and dive.'”
“Okay. Maybe I did.” I knew he did. “But I thought you were joking. Diving with sharks?! Who does that?! Maybe I changed my mind.” And keep this in mind too — The whole time we were talking, or debating, it was in front of this Anja-woman, who we just met, who I really wanted to butter up in an effort to teach us how to be certified. We were not making a good impression. Again.
In the end, I . . . or Anja . . . or we somehow managed to convince Andrew to give diving a try. “Listen,” she said with a strong accent I still couldn’t pick up. “We will do a little dive, you can see how you like it, and if you do, we can continue towards certification. No big deal.”
“Deal!” I said, unable to contain myself. This was an opportunity of a lifetime! I wanted him to take it.
“Deal,” he said after me, sort of huffing, sort of happy, sort of confused-at-how-he-gets-into-these-situations.
“When do you want to start?” “What’s the earliest you can do it?” Andy and I asked in unison.
“How about right now?” She shrugged her shoulders, ignoring the doohickeys scattered at her feet. We had her. We almost had her.
“Right now?” we repeated.
“Right now,” she said again.
For more on our first dive together — which, no surprise, comes with its mishaps — seek Scuba Diving in Seaquest Shallow, Roatán.
Day Three: Waiting Game
The moment we woke and the office opened, I checked my email . . . without luck, which meant we were left exploring the island. This wasn’t bad news though — Unlike earlier, we had no control over future dives so this gave us an opportunity to explore.
Roatán has many massive almond trees that scatter almonds over the ground.We also found these little (what I will call) berries, which appeared as festive Christmas ornaments dangling off the middle of palm trees’ trunks. I asked locals if they eat the berries, but they said they did not know what they were.
After exploring, we returned for scrumptious drinks and food . . .
After, we ambled back to the office to check (again) for my doctor’s letter, which amazingly came:
I am one of the treating neurologists for the above-referenced patient. She suffers from multiple sclerosis for which she takes Aubagio. I have found no contra-indictation to scuba diving either from this neurological condition generally or from this medication specifically.
With that golden email attachment, our window of opportunity opened.
“ANJA!!!” I screamed, running towards her boat as it was pulling into the dock from a dive. “I GOT MY LETTER!!! I GOT MY LETTER!!!”
She smiled and soon we were following her into the dive shop where she handed us two thick books. “Here. Read Chapters One, Two, and Three. Then we can take quizzes, do more theory, then complete Dive Two tomorrow.” It was settled. Our destiny.
Let me say here learning to scuba dive is not as glamorous as it may sound. Diving is considered an extreme sport so with that comes extreme risk, which means a large — and I do mean large — amount of reading, watching informative videos, studying, and training. Learning to dive is an all-engrossing affair. Needless to say, the rest of our days in Roatán were filled to the brim with studying and training for our dive certifications.
Day Four: All Learning, All the Time
We woke to choppy waves, making Anja greet us by saying, “Today we will learn our theory in confined water. This means a pool.”
We also had another surprise: Initially, we were the only ones in our Learning to be Certified Divers class until two females from Colorado arrived. Shay and Michelle were about our age and set their sights on certifications too, which was great because that meant Andy and I now were not the only ones fumbling on answers Anja asked and we could all have a good laugh through the training.
Speaking of training, our first main task to master seemed a simple one: putting on a wetsuit and, thanks to Andrew, we had a visual.
“I’d recommend wetsuits if going in the pool,” Anja told us, removing rubbery suits off hangers before handing them to Michelle, me, Shay, then Andy.
“Anja? You sure this will fit me?” I heard Andy ask. He seemed worried so I looked his way. Holding his wetsuit in front of his body, he examined it as if he was purchasing an outfit. It did appear small though, but no smaller than mine or others in comparison to bodies.
“It will stretch when you put it on,” she said. “You’ll be fine.” Then to everyone: “Try them on, see if they fit” and with a flourish of her hand we were squeezing into neoprene.
“I think I’m in.” That was Shay. Or Michelle. Or maybe even me as we zipped up around the same time. Don’t get me wrong — Getting into a wetsuit is not the easiest challenge in the world. It did take us several minutes — You have to hike your legs up and move in such positions you’d be better off in a Lamaze class. And don’t even get me started on squashing body rolls you didn’t know existed into a wetsuit while inhaling then zipping those rolls inside in a way that makes you pray Please don’t explode out. Please let the zipper contain all of me. But in the end, after some trying, we were all in — zipped, ready to go.
Well, I say “all.” Instead, I should say “all of the females” because then there was Andrew. Bless his heart, he was huffing and panting and gasping for breath as he pulled and stretched and bent and leaned until his face turned such a deep color of red, it appeared more purple. He looked bruised — and bruised every place flesh was visible. I didn’t want to hurt his self-confidence, but to say I was concerned is putting it lightly. I was down-right worried. Someone needed to help him. Or someone needed to call a paramedic.
“Anja?” I asked. “Can you help . . . um, assist him into . . . into . . . whatever it is he is getting into?” I pointed towards him in a fashion that must have shown how I had forgotten he received an adult wetsuit, like us. That’s because he appeared more a maniac trying to stuff himself into a child’s wetsuit — size extra small. Anja gave me a look as if to say, I’m not touching that with a fifteen-foot pole and quickly side-stepped him as if he were contaminated. Okay, I thought, I’ll just have to approach this lightly. “Hey, love. Hey, you’re doing gr — really great.” I knew I was lying but sometimes lies are needed to further hope. This was one of those times. “Andrew. Listen, just pause for a second, okay?”
He wheeled towards me with such force I thought he would knock me over. His look was rabid — seething at the mouth, sweat flowing from every pore in his face. “WOOOOT?!” he shouted, out of breath, wheezing, about to collapse from exhaustion.
“Hey, you’re doing a really great job but — ” He let his arms fall to his sides, dropping his XS baby wetsuit, which snapped like elastic back down to his thighs. One thing was certain: While his wetsuit seemed to shrink with embarrassment, he did not. He appeared swelling, positively pissed off. “Shut up. Okay? Just shut up.”
“No, no. Seriously, you’re doing a great jo — “
“Does it REALLY look like I’m doing a great job? Hum?! Does it!” Sarcasm was spewing from his lips and onto my face. Or maybe that was his spit. Or sweat. Or both. At this point, everything was spewing from him. I think he needed to sit down. And I told him that. Which also didn’t help.
“Okay, you’re right.” I said, calm, because sometimes it doesn’t matter who is right. What mattered then was keeping him alive and I was positive he was going to give himself an aneurysm. “I um, well . . . ” I didn’t want to offend him in front of the ladies but it needed to be said — It did. Plus, by now they were gawking at him. And me. By default, I seemed to be a part of toddler-sized-wetsuit-attempt. “I think you need a larger size.” I whispered this in Andrew’s ear, feeling the heat radiate from his face. I stepped back. He was making me sweat.
“No! Nooo chance! It-tt’sss f-FFF-IIINnn-eEE!” and he continued, laboriously, squeezing into a suit clearly too small for him. “I’m going to DIE of HE-EEE-AT EXHAUUU-STION but IT’S FIIINE! IT’SFINE!”
“Please. Just ask Anja,” I begged. He clearly knew no bounds.
“Anja says it FITS! I’m GET-TTT-ING in-t-o it! I’m not fucking ’bout anymore!” Hell-bent and determined, he then contorted his body into a position I had never seen done (nor want to see again) and that wetsuit — Let’s just say it didn’t resemble a wetsuit anymore. Hyperventilating and going from light purple to an extraordinary deep shade of plum, he finally managed to get his shoulder in the suit next to his left kneecap. “THERE!” He screamed, full of distorted pride. “ANJA!!! I’M IN! I’MIN!” (Though it was clear that he wasn’t. He was evidently delusional at this point.) “HOW DOES MY SUIT LOOK!!!”
Anja turned from talking to Shay and Michelle. “No, that suit is too small,” she flatly told him then returned to throw another suit his way, which I might have caught because both of his hands were by his ankles.
“Andrew,” I was whispering again. “You need to get out of it. See? It was too small. So it’s okay now. Just get out of it.” It was cutting off circulation to his head, arms, his legs, frankly from every bit of him. “Get out of it. Get out right now.”
Needless to say, he did get out of that baby wetsuit. With the help of me. Then Anja. Then the both of us. His skin was clammy and burning by the time the deed was done.
“Now you need to get into that,” she reminded him pointing at the new suit and bless it, the look on his face was mixed of panic and confidence. But he got into it, gradually and finally due to his sweaty skin which made it harder to pull on the neoprene. But he did it.
“Great. Now take them off,” Anja said with another flourish of her hand. This was apparently just a fitting because why not go through these hurdles for a fitting?
I’m positive you must have heard his exhale countries away but did not know what that sound was at the time. “TAKE IT OFF!?” he yelled back.
“Yes, take it off. We are going to drive to the pool now.”
“Hell no,” he told her. “This bad boy is staying on. It’s not going anywhere.”
And it didn’t. He stayed in that suit the rest of the day, refusing to get out of it due to the fact that he — at all costs — did not want to get back into it. Honestly, if he had paid for it, he probably would have slept in the damn thing. He would probably still be wearing it today.
Alright so us (finally) were in our suits and driving to the pool . . . then arriving to the pool where we had to prove basic skills, such as swimming and floating.
“I need you to swim 200 yards,” Anja told us. “You have as much time as you need to do this, but it has to be continual — no stopping or standing. You may use whatever swimming stroke you chose. I do not care.”
“Okay,” we all agreed.
The only problem was we didn’t know how many yards the pool was.
“Let’s say three laps,” she said. “That should be enough.”
I didn’t want to settle for ‘should.’ If I was going to be certified, I wanted to ensure what I was doing would not be questioned later. Hell, if anything, I didn’t want to have to witness Andrew getting into a wetsuit again if we were wrong. “Why don’t we just do four laps? We have to swim back to you regardless so we might as well.”
“Fine. Four,” she told me before announcing it to my friend . . . who now appeared to be my enemies based on their lack of thrill cast my way.
But it was fine. Because we all knew how to swim. Or so I thought. Andrew and I got in, and we immediately had a secret competition to see who would finish first so we set off at full speed. That’s when I realized — in the middle of our swim — that we had not swam a lap in a pool since we were teenagers and we were not nearly fit enough to do it now. This made us swim more slowly, barely moving it felt, then backstroking the heck out of those final laps at such a pace it probably appeared we were more floating. But we did it. Everyone did it — still not happy with me about adding an extra lap, but we made it through . . . and tried to get out of the water to rest.
“Nope. Stay in. Now you have to tread water for ten minutes.”
“TEN MINUTES?!” We all said. We were exhausted.
“Ten minutes,” Anja repeated. “You can float or tread — not touch the bottom — and you have to do this for ten full minutes. Ready?”
We had no other choice. “Ready,” we said panting.
“Start.” Her timer was set so we were off.
Ten minutes doesn’t sound too extreme . . . unless you have just swam four long laps . . . which you haven’t done since you were a child . . . and then treaded water immediately after . . . for several minutes that seemed to expand and elongate.
“How much longer?” Andy asked. Or was it me? Or us? The only thing that mattered was that the answer was nine and a half minutes. Then another was five. And both times I’m pretty sure we should have had only one minute left.
“Last minute!” Anja finally told us before counting down the remaining seconds.
“Done! Now you can get out of the pool.”
Thank God, I thought because I was debating my love for the water even though we had a long, long journey ahead.
“Here’s what we need to accomplish today . . . ” and from there, we had a list of techniques so extensive that they included — but weren’t limited to — mask partial and fully flooded with clearance, regulator and alternate air source recovery, regulator exchange, buoyancy control based on hovering and fin pivots, air tank closure, Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent and oral surface inflation of BCD, BCD and weight don underwater, cramp removal, tired diver tows — and do you understand any of this because I felt as if I was choking on all the techniques and I hadn’t a clue what she said and . . . we were off in the water a second time.
Essentially what I learned was plenty: In layman terms, I learned how to clear water from my mask (fancy word for goggles) underwater in case water comes in naturally or the mask (in unlucky situations) comes off entirely; I learned how to locate the thing I breathe out of (called a regulator) underwater in case it comes from my mouth and I learned how to share my alternate regulator with another person in case he or she ran out of air; I learned two ways to inflate my super-cool life jacket (or Buoyancy Control Device); I kinda learned how to control my buoyancy (so that I don’t float up or sink but hover perfectly in the middle) except this is a really hard skill and every time I tried it, my belly was smacking the bottom of the pool or I was falling forward while Anja was sitting — a sight of perfection — in the middle of the water watching ; and I learned what it felt like to be out of air due to Anja closing my tank (which isn’t as scary as it sounds — It would be equivalent to blowing up a balloon and feeling those last seconds of exhale, knowing you won’t have more air to give . . . except the air is coming from a tank and you feel it emptying so you should notify your buddy pronto and use his or her air to get to the surface).
Exhausted? We were too after several hours in the pool with constant drills.
And it wasn’t over — We had to learn how to take apart our scuba gear because, up until now, Anja had taken apart and set up all of ours.
“Remember to close your air tank then release all air from your hoses and BCD” and so forth until her gear was in pieces around her. “Now your turn,” she told us before stepping back to observe. Slowly but surely, we all disassembled our gear. “Great. Now put it back together.”
This is where it got tricky. I was confused and full of so much information that it was becoming a mush. I had no idea which way was up or down. “Andrew? Can we do it together?” I whispered.
“Sure,” he said so that at a snail’s pace we put our gear back together.
“Okay, that was great,” I told him. “But you still heavily lead and I had no idea what I was doing. Can we take it apart again and you let me start each step?”
“Sure,” he repeated and so we did . . . or tried to do.
“Stop!” he cried to me.
“What?!” I stepped back in alarm, dropping my hand which was opening my air canister.
“What did Anja just say? What are you supposed to do to prevent glass from shattering into you or into me?”
I had no idea. Suddenly my diving equipment seemed to be a bomb. I was terrified to touch it. And I told him this.
“Jesus, L. Protect your gauge by covering it against your BCD!”
“Right,” I told him, moving to do as he ordered. “I remember now. Okay, so I protect myself by covering my gauge against my BCD. Done. Now, I am going to test the air in my canister . . . ” SSSHHH-hhhuuurrr-SSSSHHHH-hhhhuuuurrrr-SSHH-hhuurr (That’s me breathing into my regulator.) “Yep, it works!” I proudly proclaimed . . . only to see Andy’s hand hit his forehead.
“You’re a hazard to take out. You know that, right? You’re a hazard. You’re gonna to get yourself killed. I don’t know why you wanted to do this — I really don’t, and I don’t know why I let you learn to dive knowing you are going to get yourself killed.” Clearly I screwed something up. Again. “L. What did Anja just say?!” I think he wanted me to fail because he kept asking me this question, which obviously if I knew, I would have done the step right the first time. “LOOK at your pressure gauge while you are breathing to make sure the needle doesn’t move significantly because if it moves, that means something’s wrong with your air tank!”
“Oh. Right, right. I remember now.” SSSHHH-hhhuuurrr-SSSSHHHH-hhhhuuuurrrr-SSHH-hhuurr. “It’s fine!” Andrew rolled his eyes. And this went on and on until we finally set up our gear.
“Now check each other’s,” Anja told us, pointing at our gears. “This is the Buddy Check. Always do this.”
“Most definitely!” I told her, knowing how much I screwed up the steps beforehand. I was happy Andrew would check my gear.
“Wot?!” he questioned Anja with this heartbroken look in his eyes. “She has to check me?!” He was looking at me as if I was infected with a deadly virus. “Can’t you just check me,” he pleaded with Anja before she, laughing, stepped away.
“Wait — Andy, why can’t I check you? I’m your partner, I’m your buddy!” and I puffed myself up proudly, hands on hips.
“I know . . . ” he slumped. “That’s what I’m scared of. Now I have to help you set up your gear, then do mine, then check yours, allow you to mess up mine. Then I have to recheck my gear because you’ll have messed it up! Great, that’s just bloody great,” he huffed and moved to step up to my air tank.
“Andy! I’m getting better at this! We’ll be diving partners for life! We can rely on each other! We can — “
“L. You were already going to kill yourself. Now you’re going to kill me too. This is just bloody great.”
And that was the end of our pool training.
Day Five: First Debt Paid
Bright and early, we woke to the most calm seas I’ve ever witnessed, which was perfect news because Andrew was going barracuda fishing . . .
For more on his big catch — and this beautiful moray eel that greeted us when we returned — seek Barracuda Fishing in Roatán, Honduras.
Day Six: Rain or Shine
The next day, we were greeted by our kittens, who seemed to thank us for their feast the night before.
It’s safe to say by this time, Andrew and I had developed strong feelings for them as most of our conversations over food revolved around not how to transport them out of Honduras now but how our cat and dog would respond to the strays we flew home.
As if by a fated sign though, during our serious discussion the sky turned dark with an approaching storm. Up until this point, we had lucked out because this was Honduras’s rainy season; however, we saw little rain (mostly early in the morning before we got out of bed so that the effects of the storm passed as the sun went up). This was a different day though. This was a day of typical rainy season weather.
Large droplets fell as cold rain sprayed onto the boat, but we needed to complete two more dives in order to make our certification for the shark dive the following day.
Here, we had to showcase our last dive techniques . . .before enjoying dives at two popular sites . . .For more on our certifications and dive explorations, seek Scuba Diving in Blue Cave and Urchin Reef, Roatán.
Day Seven: Done, Debts Paid
Choosing not to do the shark dive allowed for an extra day to open before us, and so we headed to an animal rescue where Andy could live out his dream of holding a sloth, but we also got to play with monkeys, and I got to live out my dream of hand-feeding birds . . .
There were many more animals and (funny) pictures so for more, seek Sloth Cuddling, Monkey Playing, and Bird Hand-feeding in Roatán. Plus, it was here I learned compromises aren’t so bad . . .
Day Eight: A Day of Goodbyes
Our flight was set to take off in the afternoon, which meant we had time to eat one final Spanish breakfast and embrace our last few hours. Walking to the dock, we watched as the gentle waves moved towards the shore and soon, hours passed within minutes and it was time to go.
Just like that, it was time to load our bags into the resort’s transfer vehicle and head to the airport. Dodging massive potholes, we wound around the roadway into the bustling heart of Roatán.
There are no speed limits in Roatán so vehicles and motorcycles whip around so fast it makes it feel others are standing still.
Soon, we were boarding our plane to Miami and, before we knew it, Roatán disappeared under us.
So our first travel-somewhere-new-for-the-first-time ends here when we left Roatán feeling the same way we arrived: surprised at the pure beauty and magic the small island possesses. In truth I feel enchanted, still finding myself waking weeks later with a sort of loss for the simple but not simple things: starting our day with a Spanish breakfast, seeing Anja, or witnessing the secrets inside our oceans. This loss is a feeling I haven’t had anywhere before.
And I think that says something.
Andrew and I only saw a glimmer of what Roatán has to offer, of what Honduras has to offer. That’s why this country is many things — mysterious, mystical, overlooked, improving, building, starting. And maybe that’s the point. There is not one way to describe this nation. Honduras is multitudes of whatever it is you want to see. So that in the end, the way I believe Honduras’s one word is mostly misunderstood.