Learning Spanish like a local in La Ceiba, Honduras

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

Finding the right program abroad can prove to be a daunting task. I searched countless hours on the Internet but after the trip to Honduras I realized my mistake. I was searching for volunteer opportunities not spanish language schools. Little did I know that almost every language school offers volunteer opportunities alongside their program. Had I searched under spanish schools, I would have found lots of options. In retrospect, everything worked out more than fine. It just took me a roundabout way to find my school, Centro Internacional de Idiomas. Next time, I’ll know the back way in and do it differently.

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Becoming a global volunteer

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

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Two lovely Garifuna girls in Roatan, Honduras.

Four years ago, I was finally at the point in my life in which I was able to set a new goal for myself. I made the decision that I would spend one week a year abroad as a global volunteer, giving back to a host community. After years of traveling around the world, I realized how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to see places that most people will never see. Furthermore, I understood how much we truly have in the western world compared to to everyone else who are not so fortunate. Spending time in developing countries opened my eyes even more and I became even more thankful for the fact that I had a more than adequate roof over my head, plenty of food on the table, a loving family, the ability to stay at home with my children and pursue my dreams. All in all, I realized that I had a really great life and that millions of people around the world were just struggling to survive.

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Meet Maria, my Honduran host

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

Perhaps the best thing about my volunteer trip to Honduras was the home stay. Going into the trip I was a bit worried. I had no idea what to expect. Would the family be nice? Would I be able to communicate enough in Spanish? Would I feel comfortable inside a strangers house for a week? And would I be able to sleep at night?

Memories of barking dogs and restless roosters from a previous home stay in Guatemala swam around my head. I had to be honest. I was nervous.

I also had no idea what to expect of the town I’d be living in for a week. I knew nothing about La Ceiba, a port town along the coast of Honduras. All I knew is what I’d read in Lonely Planet. That it was the third largest town and described as rather ugly. I also understood that it was probably going to be a bit more dangerous than Guatemala and that I probably wouldn’t be doing much exploring if any on my own. Thus, it was even more important that I liked my host family as I would be spending every evening inside the house with them and as we all know, nights can be long.

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Looking out across the street from Gloria and Hugo’s house in La Ceiba.

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In route to the Mainland

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

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When I arrived at the ferry station and saw my fellow passengers, it was the first real indication that Roatan and the mainland of Honduras were worlds apart. Unlike the jam-packed United Airlines flight from Houston loaded with passengers dressed in their country club best, 98% of the ferry passengers were Honduran. I was the only blond-haired blue-eyed person on the entire ship of a couple hundred people.

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Flora and Fauna at Gumbalimba Park

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read more, click here.

My last morning in Roatan was a short one. I only had a few hours to explore before catching the early afternoon ferry over to the mainland where I would began my volunteer work and spanish courses the next morning.

Despite my hesitation, I decided to go check out the nearby Gumbalimba Park. Diane, the owner of West Baby B&B, highly recommended it yet I was a little concerned it would be a tourist trap. The admission to just the park was $30 and in my opinion is relatively expensive especially for Honduras.

I read a few reviews online and did a google search on the park which is known for its zipline canopy tour. The first thing I found in my search was a 2008 article about a cruise ship passenger who fell to her death from the zipline during an excursion to the park. I know that things like this can happen anywhere but it unnerved me. I decided to just go check the park out for its flora and fauna and pass this time on the canopy tour.  All in all, the fun encounters with the monkeys and parrots made the park definitely worth the while and the photos made my children laugh hysterically. Check them out for yourself!

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Clinica Esperanza: A place of hope

Clinica-Esperanza-Logo-300x75It must have been a sign of fate that I happened to be paging through the resort brochure the last night of my stay at the lovely Barefoot Cay and saw the two-page spread on Clinica Esperanza. Instantly I was taken by the story and by a stroke of luck the next morning, thirty minutes before my departure to the United States I found myself interviewing the very doctor who has dedicated the last several years of his life to helping build the clinic.

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Dinner on the beach with an unexpected guest

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read more, click here.

After the sun dipped below the sea, it was time to take a walk along West Bay beach and scope out a place to eat. Diane from West Bay B&B had given me a little hand-made drawing of the beach and listed all her favorite places to eat. As a lover of Argentinian food, I decided to try the Argentinian parrilla or grill. But first I wanted to explore a little further down the beach and snap a few more photos especially because the crowds had died down and only a few remained to catch the last rays of light of the day.

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Roatan, Honduras

Sunset and Cerveza over the Honduran Sky

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read more, click here.

“Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of Heaven”. -John Lubbock 

My first afternoon in Roatan was rather rushed and not really relaxing. I tend to get overly excited when I arrive at a new place and run a hundred miles an hour trying to cram in as much as possible. Unfortunately that tends to be my personality. But there was one thing that I wasn’t going to miss: The famous sunsets along West Bay. I had read that West Bay is the best place on the island to catch sunset over an icy cold beer and Diane at West Bay B&B even told me the perfect place: The Bananarama Bar and Grill. “Make sure you snap a shot of the sun setting through the palm trees” Diane said with a brilliant smile. “It can’t be missed“.

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Those words, Cerveza fria! were calling my name!

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Snorkel, Sun and Fun at West Bay Beach

Roatan is in the largest and most popular of the three Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras and surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world: The Mesoamerican Reef that stems all the way down to Belize making it a diver’s paradise. Roatan is more touristy and developed than its neighbors Utila and Guanaja, yet this long narrow island of 50 km long has a little something special for everyone.

I opted to spend my first day and night in the lovely West Bay, located at the southern tip of the island and awash in picture perfect white sandy beaches and amazing snorkeling just steps away from the beach. It was a wonderful welcoming to such an amazing place!

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This short path lead directly to the beach. It was less than five minutes from my hotel.

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A perfect escape: West Bay Bed and Breakfast

Author’s note: This is the fourth post in my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read more, click here.

My volunteer work in Honduras was based in La Ceiba, the third largest city in the country, a port town located only an hour and a half ferry ride from Roatan. While researching my trip, I had read that Roatan was a beautiful place and since my flight to Honduras landed there, I thought it would be a good idea to check it out before heading over to the mainland. My plans were to spend a night and morning in Roatan in West Bay and spend another two nights on the island at the other end before my return home to the States.

I did my research and discovered that West Bay has the most spectacular beaches on the island with excellent snorkeling, restaurants and bars right at my fingertips. I didn’t want to spend much so I used TripAdvisor and found the perfect place, West Bay B&B. It was affordable and the location was perfect: Only one short block to the beach!

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West Bay B&B, a great find for economically-minded tourists.

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The flowers of Roatan

Author’s note: This is the third post in my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read more, click here.

“Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world”.  -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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One of the most delightful things I saw in Roatan was the large variety of tropical flowers. Those who follow my blog know I have an obsession with photographing flowers. Flowers bring an immense level of joy to people. They are so delicate, so fragrant and so colorfully beautiful. I just love flowers as they always make me happy.

The tropical landscape of Honduras makes it an ideal place for flowers. In fact, there are over 5,000 plant species inhabiting its four diverse forest ecosystems: Pine forests, cloud forests, rainforest and mangroves.

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Welcome to Honduras

IMG_2022_SnapseedAuthor’s note: This is the second post in my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read more, click here.

As I walked down the stairs off the plane and entered the steamy, humid air of Honduras I felt an instant shock at the thickness and warmth of the air. After a dry cold December in Minnesota, the tropical heat and humidity of Roatan felt like I had entered a sauna fully dressed.

The second reminder that I had arrived in Honduras was Customs. I have traveled abroad many times and had never seen a Customs area and process quite like the one I found in the tiny airport of Roatan. There was no rhyme or reason to the queue. It was just a random, push and shove line and somehow I ended up at the back with a group of energetic scuba instructors. At least we got a few laughs at the craziness of customs on a small foreign island!

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