Current Location: Utila, Honduras


…with an emphasis on the “or something” this week.

Price of Beer in a bar: about US$1.20
Song stuck in my head: Kill You (Eminem)

So I’m in a SCUBA diving class on Utila (Honduras) and they have me doing 11 hour days.  I was not expecting this.  I’d say a sold 30% of that time is due to the dive school’s total fucking incompetence at adhering to a schedule.  The instruction is solid, the equipment is in good working order… but these people can not create a schedule to save their life.  It’s obvious that the whole idea is foreign to them; they just look around and choose the most obvious thing to tell waiting people to do with no thought into how that will effect the rest of the day.

In their defense, Utila is experiencing a heavy storm (3 days and couting) and all the boats are grounded (grounded?).  They swear this has never happened before (in reality it happened 2 weeks ago when I waited 2 days for the municipal dock to reopen in Ceiba) and that it was completely unpredictable (it’s the RAINY SEASON in the CARRIBEARN.  It’s doesn’t take Al Roker to figure this one out.)  Of course, this doesn’t explain why we’ve started each day an hour late with the students standing around waiting for the instructors to arrive.  Just to drive it home, it’s become a regular occurrence to hear “just get ready and we’ll get you right in the water” an hour before we get in the water.  So we just stand there… freezing (it’s cold during the storm)… in the rain… for an hour.  Even the divemasters (like TAs for dive instructors) seem pissed.

Then again, maybe I’m just cranky because I’m hungry.  SCUBA is really cool and I may stay and take the advanced course.  The dive schools in Utila openly collude and pricefix (then covertly try to undercut each other and play with the exchange rates to gain advatage), so I’ve chosen my school based on it’s sterling reputation.  It really is widely said to be the best.  I think I just have a flighty instructor.

Last week I was in Tujillo, which was uneventful.  After a couple of days I was the only guest at the place, so I mostly sat in a hammock and read while ignoring the girl who worked there (honestly the most obnoxious person I’ve ever met, and trust me, I know obnoxious.  I hang out with some obnoxious people, and they tend to have obnoxious friends, so you can rack up a lot of quality obnoxia exposure quickly, and this girls stands way, way out). On Friday I made my way back to Ceiba, caught the ferry out and checked in to the Mango Inn.  I’m told it’s the nicest place on the island, and I’ve got to admit it’s pretty cool.  My dorm bed costs $6.50 a night and gives me access to the pool.

Backpackers are the overwhelming minority in Utila; it’s predominately more wealthy divers on vacation.  I’ve found a few, though, which is handy because they tend to know where to find the better deals (dinner has dropped from US$6 a night to US$3, for example, now that i know where to look).  Utila is difficult to put into words.  I will seriously consider living here in the future.  It’s nothing like the rest of Honduras (and most people here do not visit the rest).  There’s that irritating “living the mountain dew ad” extreme sports aesthetic that permeates every inch of island, but the sheep mirroring it back out each other seem to be genuinely cool people, even if they are different like everyone else.  The local ATM is a crap shoot.  It worked on my way here (only the second time in almost a week), but could only give me half of what I wanted.  People go for a week or more without ever happening by the ATM when it’s working, leaving them penniless and borrowing (as I had to a few days ago) no matter how fat their bank account.

Here’s an excerpt from another email that I think is probably warranted here:

The keyboards down here are troublesome in two ways:  One, they are
often spanish keyboard layouts and american keyboards, or vice versa
(meaning the labels on the keys don’t match what happens when you hit
them).  Even if they did, what the fuck is “bloq despi” or “imprpant”?
Those are labels on this keyboard, and since the arrangements vary
subtly between keyboards, you can’t totally rely on memory.  This
makes typing and especially editing very dificult.  Two, they just
plain suck.  They are gunked up, keys don’t work, keys get stuck, etc.
I notice horrid spelling mistakes and words I was unable to get rid
of, but usually just let it slide.

So, there’s that.

I went to a “full moon party” on Saturday.  It was just a bar having an event, but they had quality techno, well beatmatched, in a roofless bar on a pier.  It was a good night with cheap(ish) booze and fire dancers, but here’s the best part:  crunchy, half-stoned hippies dancing to techno!11!1!  Oh, man.  Full on deadhead style raised arms and spinning/swaying to aggressive techno.  It only lasted a little while, and then the dance floor fell into a good sync, but for a solid hour it was such a awkwardly awesome juxtaposition-in-motion to witness.

So, my roomate never showed up last Friday, which was why I was waiting in Trujillo.  He said he rescheduled for this Saturday, but he hasn’t replied to my emails this week so I don’t know whether to trust that or not.  He has my new ATM card.

If he does arrive this weekend, I’ll either stay another week in Utila so that he can take an open water class and then head to Antigua (Guatemala) or else just go straight to Antigua.  We do need to spend a day or two doing some volunteer computer work for a public school in Ceiba as well.

If this sounded like I’m having a bad day, I’m not.  The ATM is up, the storm seems to be breaking, and the boats are grounded so I have the afternoon to take care of errands like this.  Utila is just that odd combination of western ambitions relying on infrastructure built to the standards of the central American can’t-do attitude.  This tends to accentuate the aggravations quite a bit because suddenly expectations enter the equation.  You expect things when you’re paying more than twice the going rate on the island for a room or a bed… things like a dry bed in a room that doesn’t leak and some decent coffee.  But you can’t do that here.  Expectations are pretty much non-existent in the local population and that doesn’t show any sign of changing, but it seems to create constant problems.  The locals want to charge upmarket pricing, but when people inquire about the services that would usually justify such pricing the attendants are baffled.  For instance, my hotel can not tell me how much my room costs per night.  The woman in front says that she would need to talk to her manager, but has no way of doing so other than just waiting for the manager to come by sometime (apparently a weekly or months occurrence).  You should see the rain sewers here.  They’re huge, omnipresent, and completely useless.  You see a deep empty trough on one side of the street and a flood on the other.  I swear to god that Escher was their civil engineer.  It’s the only way things this counterintuitive could exist in 3-D space.

Again, I really like this place.  It’s one of my favorites so far.  It’s just that my dive instructor is pissing me off.

BTW, Liam, can you send me John’s email address?  I can’t read it.