A working holiday with no pay.
The wedding was gorgeous! I can’t believe after a year of planning its over, but now Ben and I have our next adventure – a working honeymoon in Honduras. We will be working at a backpacker’s haven ideal for a young couple with little money and aspirations of one day opening a bed and breakfast.
There are 6 single rooms, 2 dormitory rooms, and 3 luxury cabanas. In addition to supervising the local staff during the daily hotel and restaurant operations, we will also be driving the minibus in to town to pick up supplies and transporting guests, paying the bills, settling guest accounts, tracking the income and expenses, ensuring all taxes are paid, etc. With our meals and accommodation provided in addition to our combined salary of $150 US per week, we ought to be able to cover our bills back home, save a little, and afford some budget travelling.
My only concerns are the bits about additional tasks including fire fighting, all-night vigils in the bar, locals carrying weapons, visiting drug runners, and discretion for local extra-marital affairs. What kind of crazy things go on at this place?
Twenty hours after we boarded our first plane, we finally arrived safe and sound to Casa del Mar. The owner, Chaz, a woman with kind eyes and a great smile, fed us, gave us local beers and checked us in to the room that we would call home. To keep the air flowing there was an open screen above the window (so much for privacy), there was a full bed and pillows that smelled like mold, sheets, a blanket, a milk crate covered with a towel as a side table, a ceiling light, a standing fan, a sink with a mirror above it, and a tiny shared bathroom with a shower and toilet. I was so exhausted I think I was asleep more than I was awake today.
Unfortunately, there was a big storm before we arrived and the beach was a disaster. There had been a man to clean the beach and maintain the landscaping, however, as we were quickly learning, Hondurans are not known for their strong work ethic and he just decided to stop showing up. Ben and I agreed to spend an hour each morning picking up trash and raking the wood debris back into the ocean to get the beach looking clean as described on the web page.
We were completely robbed by the taxi driver who took us from the bus stop to Casa del Mar when we arrived. Chaz says it should only cost 70 Lemps, and he charged us 200! Now I know why taxi drivers in the US are required to have meters – it forces them to be honest.
Today Chaz drove us to a little city about 1.5 hours away, and showed us the bank where we will make deposits. Then she let us wander the shopping district which looked like a cross between a run-down outdoor shopping mall and a flea market while she ran some errands. Ben bought these yellow fruits about the size of a marble. We should have smelled them before we bought them, because they smelled like rotten vomit and tasted exactly the way they smelled. Apparently there is a tree on the property and our co-worker, Nelson, enjoys eating them. Nelson is 21, from San Pedro Sula, and very quiet. There was another man and a lady who were working here when Ben and I arrived, but they both quit.
Ben and I drove into town to get a list of food and toiletries. We were given a black and white map, without street names and little hand drawn X’s with “fruit” or “milk” written next to them. Plus there were two delivery trucks we were supposed to hopefully run into. One of the trucks found us, sold us one thing on the list and then said to meet them later at their office for the rest… quite bizarre…
Monday was a holiday so there was a three day weekend and every room was full. It was hard work cleaning all the rooms, washing and hanging all the sheets and towels to dry, folding, cooking, serving and washing the dishes by hand. Funny how Ben and I were under the impression that we would be supervising and occasionally assisting others in these tasks, but are doing the majority of the work ourselves. On the bright side of things, it made the time pass by quickly and it gave us a good opportunity to learn the menu.
A guest from Israel named Ori, Ben and I took the van to get the oil changed. We had a few hours to kill so we walked to a nearby river that Chaz told us about. We took a wrong turn and stumbled upon three men in army uniforms carrying large automatic rifles. We stopped in our tracks, and Ori and Ben looked to me as their translator. “Sorry,” I said in Spanish, “We are looking for the river.” To our relief, the leader told one of the soldiers to show us the way. Ori said “thanks” and the soldier tore across a small creek and along a dirt path that seemed to be going into the heart of some deserted jungle. My imagination caused me to wonder, is he really taking us to the river, or is this some sort of ploy to take us farther away from town where our screams and the gunfire will not be heard?
Two minutes later, we were facing the river, littered in the usual Honduran way, with empty plastic Coke bottles and chip bags strewn everywhere. We walked up river to find an area with fewer signs of civilization and a small pool to take a dip in. The water felt cool and clean against our hot skin. Soon it was time to head back and get the van.
Ori was hungry. We found a pleasant looking restaurant on the beach. Ten minutes later the waiter took our order, 45 minutes later we got our food. When we returned hours later than expected Chaz didn’t seem too upset. The next morning, however, I paid the price. Having contracted some type of food borne illness I spent the next 24 hours rushing to the toilet.
I’ve lost track of time since I last wrote. Without TV programs or any specific weekly routine it is easy to get one day confused with the next. Even the weather has been the same – sunny, very hot and humid during the day with thunderstorms during the night and spotty electricity that flickers on and off, or goes out for hours at a time. The only regularity seems to be the “shaggers” who use a room for an average of 20 minutes and then are on their way. If you are going to pay a full night’s rate, why not stay a while?
Nelson has left. Apparently he woke Chaz around 3 am saying he just received a phone call that his father died.
The charm is beginning to wear off. Daily annoyances include vicious mosquitoes, a heat rash on the insides of my arms, and I am bruising so easily I think I might be anemic. An ant bite on Ben causes the whole area to swell with a jelly-like consistency to twice its normal size. The night guard only occasionally shows up to work so that we then get to stay awake throughout the night patrolling the property with a dull machete to provide safety and security for the guests. (What about our safety and security?) Also, on a busy day I sweat completely through my bra, shirt, other clothes, and the last two inches of my pony tail. And why for the love of God would someone put chewing gum on the sheets?
Often it seems that I am the only sober person working here. According to the daily tally, Chaz easily drinks an average of 7 Port Royal beers each a day. That certainly explains the early morning testiness and other similar hang-over behavior. I’ve noticed Ben has been hitting the rum bottle a bit heavier than usual too.
This was the worst honeymoon ever! We learned that “food and accommodation provided” does not include beverages. On top of that, we misunderstood our salary and are actually only earning $150 US a month! Apparently, we drank all our profits so we have to return to the US with bills to pay, no money, and no other option but to move in with our parents! This sucks!