Friday, December 5, 2008

Of Beauty and Darkness

Photo: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Current Location: Tegucigalpa, Honduras/14°05′00″N 87°13′00″W

When you land in Tegucigalpa, you get the feeling your plane is landing side-ways, literally. In order to reach the runway, the pilot must maneuver thru a gauntlet of mountains that surround the city. By the time your plane touches down, you're surrounded by walls of terrain, mountains and wild life that engulf the city of Tegucigalpa . Trees and shrubbs enclose the tarmac, while vintage planes you'd find in old movies litter sporadically. Small homes and businesses can be seen tucked away in the midst of mountainous terrain. You see, in Honduras, and in many developing countries, airports that were once considered 'outside the city' are slowly being swarmed by an urban sprawl of homes and businesses that support the economic boom in the region.

As you exit the airport, you're greeted by the golden arches, a Dunken Donuts and a Pizza Hut offering 2 for 1 and free delivery. Carefully groomed palm trees decked with dangling Christmas lights lead the way to the nearest shopping center. At first glance, you'd never believe that Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the world. Ninety percent of it is mountainous, and even in good years, most people here barely get by. The average Honduran women gives birth five times in her life and one out of every four children are severely sick or dies before the age of five. One in four. It's a staggering statistic, but its not hard to imagine when you see how poor Hondurans are, and what little access they have to clean water and sanitation. According to Unicef, Honduras is ranked fifth in the world when it comes to infant deaths before the age of five.

Checking into the Clarion hotel, a flood of tourists walk the halls. Christmas trees and empty boxes beautifully wrapped in pink bows decorate the lounge. Samsonite suitcases piled high on carts destined for penthouse suites.

Honduras is a land of beauty and darkness, irony at its greatest.

Tomorrow morning we leave the comforts of the Clarion hotel and venture north to the mountain villages of La Union. I'll keep you posted. Be well.