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Copan Ruinas, Honduras – Foreigners, Gunshots, And An Awesome Volunteering Experience

by on October 22, 2011

in Happy Nomad Tour, Honduras

It’s hard to explain Copan Ruinas. There is an amazing site showcasing Mayan ruins here, which is what attracts tourists. There is a thriving expat community here, all leaving/escaping something and finding a new start here.

The town is charming and set in a bit of a tropical paradise, yet there is such a strong separation between the locals and the expats/tourists. The restaurants and bars for the expats and tourists, as far as I saw, are never visited by local Hondurans. It’s just way too expensive. And I’ve seen this in other places, but I think this town is so small you can’t help but see the segregation.

Safety

Armed Guards Guarding A Bank

Armed Guards Guarding A Bank

After my robbery incident in Guatemala City, I was happy that this place is much safer. San Andres Itzapa, where I volunteered at Maya Pedal in Guatemala, felt as safe as any town in Central American can feel. Here in Copan Ruinas, there aren’t armed guards outside stores like in Guatemala City, but there are armed guards outside the banks. Delivery trucks have armed men that guard each delivery.

Police Motor Taxi

Police Motor Taxi

While I was here I heard gun shots one night and found out later that two men (one 40, one 20-something) had been killed. Apparently it was a bar fight that turned deadly.

If I ran into trouble and the police showed up in this, I don’t think it’d be much of a relief to see them. But they do have cars and trucks too, not to paint an overly simplistic picture!

Attractions

Macaw Mountain Bird Park

Macaw Mountain Bird Park

There are a lot of foreigners here. It’s partly due to the attractions of the ruins and Macaw Mountain Bird Park, but there are also Spanish language schools here. There’s the expat community, each with his or her story of why they left and what they are doing here. It’s a bit weird and makes this already small town WAY too small if you are one of them.

Copan Ruinas Honduras

Copan Ruinas Honduras

Yes, the ruins are important. There will be a post in the future about them once I leave Honduras. You’ll understand why I have to wait to talk about it until after I leave Honduras (so once I get to Nicaragua, actually, since I have to pass through Honduras to get from El Salvador to Nicaragua).

Me At Copan Ruinas Pyramid

Me At Copan Ruinas Pyramid

Standing On Top Of Copan Ruinas Pyramid

Standing On Top Of Copan Ruinas Pyramid

Doris/Hondumama

Doloris With Handmade Tortilla

Doloris With Handmade Tortilla

One of my favorite things about traveling is, of course, the food. And there was a special lady here who made both me and my stomach happy here. Her name is Doris and you can see her here. Her restaurant/living room was just across the street from where I was living/volunteering.

I got my coffee from her every morning, and at 5L/$0.23 per cup, it was totally worth the short journey – so was trying to explain in Spanish what the cup she always gave me says (No one around here plays with a full deck of cards). :)

Baleadas Make Me Happy

Baleadas Make Me Happy

But for breakfast and lunch she serves baleadas for 12L/$0.63. Wow. First, the tortillas are made by hand. I would eat these by themselves. They remind me of Pakistani/Indian tandoori roti in the way they smell and taste (like heaven). Then eggs, beans, and cheese are stuffed inside. Given my lactose intolerance, I skipped on the cheese. But the plate below tells the whole story. Relative to the size of my eyes, I’d say my smile while eating baleadas is pretty much this big!

Me And Doris/Hondumama

Me And Doris/Hondumama

Doris is a personality and we had fun. I call her my Honduran mom, or Hondumama. Deborah, the founder of El Camino a la Superacion and my host during my time here, had an industrial stove that she wasn’t using. She let Doris take it and her productivity has skyrocketed. She was so happy! And less time waiting for baleadas for lunch made me happy too!

Non-Doris Food

There is good food in Honduras besides Doris’s. Below are some dishes I had.

Beef, Fried Beans, Rice, Salsa, Fried Plaintains

Beef, Fried Beans, Rice, Salsa, Fried Plaintains

Anafre - Fried Tortilla Dipped In Beans, Cheese, Meat, Etc.

Anafre - Fried Tortilla Dipped In Beans, Cheese, Meat, Etc.

Pupusas - Corn Tortilla Filled With Something

Pupusas - Corn Tortilla Filled With Something

Veggie Plate And Happy Hour - Great Combination!

Veggie Plate And Happy Hour - Great Combination!

Daily Life

Guatemalan Truck Delivering Water To Honduran Restaurant

Guatemalan Truck Delivering Water To Honduran Restaurant

Daily life while I was here was quite difficult. There was extreme rain attributed to the rainy season and hurricanes/tropical storms. It affected all of Central America and dozens of people died, roads were washed away by mudslides, and basic electricity and water services were heavily affected.

I’d say about half the time I was here there was no electricity or water. But for more on that, check out the post on How Expensive It Is To Be Poor.

Volunteering at El Camino a la Superacion

Volunteering with Deborah at El Camino a la Superacion was great. You can read more about that in this post.

The atmosphere was great though. It was way more chaotic than I expected it to be, but it was chaotic in a good way. Things are continually getting better and Deborah is always looking for new opportunities.

Me and the Rock Star/Seller

Me and the Rock Star/Seller

Deborah And A Member Co-op Member Family

Deborah And A Member Co-op Member Family

Conclusion

Copan Ruinas was a great place to stop on The Happy Nomad Tour. I met some awesome people, saw some amazing things, and had a wonderful volunteer experience.

Now, off to El Salvador to volunter with http://comencemos.org.

About Adam Pervez

In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David Harrington November 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Too bad we didn’t meet up during your trip through Copán. I live there and work at Mayatan Bilingual School, which offers scholarships to 45% of its students and has a mix of Honduran permanent staff and volunteers from abroad. Good luck on your travels!

Reply

Adam Pervez November 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Hey David,

Definitely! Too bad! I passed by your school twice, once on the way to the bird park.

Next time!

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