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Current Location: Mango Inn, Utila, The Bay Islands, Honduras

09.20.10

Price of beer in a bar: US$1.32 to US$1.85, depending on the wheres and whens
Song currently stuck in my head: The bar is playing what I believe is En Vogue. Thank god I don’t know the name of the song, though they do seem to be saying “Queen of the night” a lot.
EDIT: Okay, okay, apparently it’s Whitney Houston and not En Vogue.  Also, apparently people care.  I think I confused it with “Free Your Mind,” but, in my defense, so did the producer.

Banking can be tricky in Latin America. Whether it’s Belize’s complete inability to interoperate with their neighbors, the scheduling and bravado that goes into leaving a Guatemalan ATM booth with a sizable amount of cash and returning home unmolested, or the region’s kleptomaniacal attachment to US cash, central american money management presents situations and considerations that the average first-worlder would find novel, to say the least. Here in Utila there are 2 ATMs. One of them provides services exclusively for the local bank’s customers, the other actually belongs to a short list of international networks (PLUS included). The otherwise useful latter is often out of cash for days at a time. Credit card use will add a blanket 8% charge to your bill, island wide, though the local bank will advance you cash against your Visa/Mastercard without charging a fee. Your American bank will charge you a “currency conversion fee” (usually around 3% and incurred regardless of whether or not they have to convert any currency) to do this against your debit card. There’s only one major American bank that won’t. Your credit card issuer will charge you much more if you do this with your credit card, and then they’ll charge the conversion fee on top.

Luckily you can go days without cash here. You’ll have to pull out your plastic occasionally, but businesses that are likely to see you around (say, your guesthouse or a cafe you frequent) will happily extend you credit. In fact, I have to go back to the cafe later to pay for the cup of coffee that I walked off with an hour ago (their wifi is down, so I wandered).  They will occasionally seek credit in return, asking you to wait until the next time you drop by to collect your change when you catch them short on small bills.  This has happened to me multiple times in the last few days, but as of right now the ledger is clear.

Unable to hang out underwater as a couple, The Girlfriend and I rented a two person glass bottom “kayak” (which only superficially resembles what I believed a kayak to be, it’s more like a closed top canoe) and navigated the island’s inner bays and a long and often narrow mangrove channel to Rock Harbor. Rock Harbor is a large bay on the island’s sparsely developed north side. It’s protected by a large expanse of reef, dotted with a few jagged islands, dolloped with patches of the famed Caribbean turquoise water and lined with intermittent strips of sand and palm; it’s not a bad afternoon. All told the trip took about 5 hours and enough of that was spent paddling that I’m still sore 3 days later.

It would be dishonest of me to talk about the natural beauty of the coastline here without mentioning the trash that washes onto it. The sandals, styrofoam, wide array of plastic containers and all items less dense than water (including the occasional canoe and all in various states of disintegration) are ubiquitous and while it’s a problem throughout the region it’s seldom worse than in Honduras. The recent and well publicized flooding certainly exacerbates the issue, but it was bad when I was here 3 years ago. Occasionally a dive shop will sponsor a day of cleanup, usually on a strip of coast near the owner’s house, but it’s hard to imagine a more superficial measure.

We’re hosting friends for the next couple of days, which will be a first for us since we departed The States. We’re looking forward to it.

Enjoy your week.

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One Response to “Current Location: Mango Inn, Utila, The Bay Islands, Honduras”

  1. Barber Rex Says:

    [redacted]….sounds like you’re enjoying life in Latin America. I’m happy you’re still blogging. I read and think how awesome it would be to also take off and leave America in the dust. You’re doing a great thing by traveling and living the life most only dream about.
    Americans are so finely tuned to turning off the alarm and getting showered and rushing out the door to the office. Well, you’re not rushing to do anything ! I can only imagine how great that must feel.
    Take it easy and have an awesome week with your friends. Adios.


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