Tourists Get Nine Lives

So, in a former life, I spent a month in Central America spanning the Y2K New Year.

Honduras, to be exact. When I first arrived, I traveled from the airport in a Chevy passenger van driven by a crazy Honduran driver who passed other crazy drivers on blind curves at over 60 miles per hour.

If it’s true that cats have nine lives, maybe Central American tourists are issued them, also.  I’m pretty sure my survival on that first van ride from the airport was due to divine intervention. How I did not perish on a Honduran mountain highway is just a miracle!

I think angels are the ones who determine when and where those miracles are doled out. They know how those extra chances for breath can be put to their highest good. As part of my Honduran Y2K holiday, we rode tiny horses through trails leading to Mayan ruins deep in the mountains. My horse was SO pregnant, I thought she would drop and give birth – to twins – during our ride. I got down off her and walked. She and I trekked companionably down the mountain, together.

“Oh mama, let me lighten your load,” I told her.

We returned from our Mayan getaway to welcome the New Year in style. I figured I would dodge the whole Y2K computer disaster since Central American was a third world country. In fact, the military compound I stayed at closed itself off from the rest of the world for New Year’s Eve. The entire base (those not on duty, of course) decided to make it one helluva party. We kicked it off with a Parade of the E-Z-Go golf carts. Yes, folks, golf carts. They were decorated with flowers and beads – kind of a cross between the Rose Bowl parade and Mardi Gras.

Each unit had their own theme – and we followed a progressive party all around, getting our punch cards, punched. The medical tent was my absolute favorite. They advertised FREE immunizations; everyone was invited to step right up and get our “Jell-O” shot. One guy assured me that it was in my best interest to get a couple of booster shots, just to be sure. Yeah, pre-COVID medical humor. We were so young and naïve, back then!

Around three o’clock in the morning, we made our way back to our hooches, dodging beef cattle and probably burning another of my nine lives. El Hefe, our Honduran Base commander, well, he saw all those manicured and irrigated lawns encircled by barbed wire and I’m sure his first thought was:

Free. Range. Beef.

It most certainly would have been mine. Angus were everywhere. On any given morning during my stay, I was greeted by a cow who clocked in for breakfast on the grass outside my hooch. It was her “turf” so to speak.

The highlight of the trip was taking another I’m-putting-my-life-in-their-hands Honduran highway van ride back to the Tegucigalpa airport for a trip to the Roatan Islands. Since the shuttle only went to town a couple times a day, we took the early trip and yeah, no, there was NO. Fucking. Way. I was not eating anything before that curvy two-hour drive.

We get to the airport, and what doth appear? Well, a very first-world looking fast food joint, directly across the street, that’s what. Yay. Yeah. Also. NO.

Just because it says “American Fast Food Restaurant” on the sign does NOT mean it’s safe to eat there.

We had a couple hours to wait while our Soviet-era aircraft underwent repairs and was deemed flight-worthy. I laughed out loud at danger. I was covered by however many of my nine lives was left and trusted my guardian angels to fly that plane.

After we landed, things got interesting.

I’d never been one to get motion sickness – prided myself as one of a handful who could fly “backwards” (with the seats installed, backwards) in a C-141 and NOT get my hands on an air-sick bag. Nevertheless, I was definitely feeling queasy.

Chalking it up to a bumpy flight, I ate dinner. Bad. Decision. Just as we left the dining room, I unloaded the ENTIRE contents of my stomach into the garden bushes. I hugged the bowl for the next 10 hours. If we’d been in America, I would have begged for an emergency room.

But just as the sun rose, the angels sang – probably a bawdy song. I felt as if they were telling me I’d already used up most my nine lives and that I didn’t have more to waste. Another Soviet-era plane ride lay ahead, as did at least two more of those Honduran mountain highway passenger van rides. There were herds of beef cattle yet to navigate. There could even be snakes on my nightly trek from my hooch, in the dark, to the bathroom. No way could I afford to use up one of my miracles on a simple case of food poisoning!

As it turned out, I made it back safe and sound, due in large part to divine intervention. Lesson Learned. And I pass it along to you in the hopes you will not suffer the same fate. Remember, just because it says “American Fast Food Restaurant” does NOT mean it’s safe to eat there.

You’re welcome.

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