I got a text while I was at work in the ER that just said, approximately, "Get rid of your shift on Monday, you're going to Central America in the morning". Naturally, I felt a bit sick. And very excited.
As it turned out, I was headed to Honduras. I think after flying to Syndey, no other flight is ever going to seem long again. After two short hops south, I landed in San Pedro Sula. It was one of those minuscule airports with two runways and a large room acting as the terminal. This is where I encountered my first problem. I had not yet been sent to a country where English was not the first language. I speak very little Spanish (poquito, in fact)and, with the airport being as small as it was, there was no tourist information booth in sight. I generally do a good job blending in when I travel, but I couldn't help but notice that, in my uniform and carrying my medical kit, I was being openly stared at by many of the locals. It also didn't help that I was unable to obtain any local currency from the cash machines and there were a number of people offering a 'taxi' who didn't appear to have any identification or markings indicating they were licensed taxi drivers. After an uncomfortable half hour of trying to figure out how to get to my hotel in one piece, I found a police officer and asked, with lots of hand gestures, where I could find a proper taxi. He pointed to a gentleman with an ID badge on and I happily followed him to his unmarked SUV.
Now, I have experienced some surreal moments in my life. Few of them, however, compare to the ride to my hotel. The driver started off in a very friendly way, pointing to things and telling me the spanish word for them. Then, he seemed to notice something in the distance and his mood became considerably more dark. As if in sympathy, the sky became more overcast and I noticed that the clouds seemed to be reaching down from the sky, with eerie tendrils laced around the green mountains beside us. The upbeat, '80s pop song on the radio ended and Hotel California began to play to a tense and silent cab. Finally, we were stopped by a convoy of cars loaded with people carrying giant red and black flags, screaming in spanish. My driver was obviously not sympathetic to their cause and honked his horn angrily while trying to push the front of his car into their convoy. When they finally passed, he remained silent, so I thought it best if I did the same and we rode the rest of the way to my hotel without another word. When I got to my room, I googled the letters I had seen on the flags and it turns out they were members of a resistance front party that doesn't recognize the current leadership's authority and promotes acts of civil disobedience. I would later see the name of their group spray-painted on numerous surfaces on my way back to the airport.
After that episode, I was glad to be comfortably in my hotel room. The sun was going down and, although it felt like a terrible wasted opportunity for exploring, I decided the best course of action would be to stick to the hotel overnight and forgo the adventure (and potential non-consensual sale of my organs).
It was much creepier at night, I assure you
From there, it was a quick and easy couple of flights home with a very nice patient who was medically quite well and I was back home before I knew it.
This trip served to remind me of a few things.
- I am spectacularly ignorant of what goes on in the rest of the world, having lead a relatively sheltered life here in Canada.
- I desperately wish I was fluent in more languages.
- Being able to at least say 'I'm a nurse' in other languages will continue to be invaluable at customs and security.
- I still wish I had a job like Anthony Bourdain's where I could just travel around the world and eat.