Monday, July 9, 2012

2012 July 9th- an update from Copán Ruinas...

May 29th

I had actually been thinking about leaving on Monday but then I hung out with Wendy and Hans on Sunday night and they invited me to go check out this tree-house restaurant where they apparently had really good fish on Mondays. And, the more I think about it the more I think I'd like to stay here for at least a couple more weeks to practice my spanish, as I don't think I'll be doing much of that at the volunteer opportunity that I was thinking about going to do. I really enjoy both Wendy and Hans so I think I'll have fun passing time with them. I hope to spend some time “volunteering” a bit in the kitchen at La Terraza, working with Hans. :o)

The restaurant was pretty cool- the grounds were beautiful and there were tons of flowers and cool plants all around. Hans introduced me to a berry that tastes a little like gingerbread! The fish was absolutely delicious, and there was enough that I was able to take the second half to make a fish taco, which I ate for dinner last night with a little mango and avacado. YUM!

Although it was a fun day my Español was NOT in top form, further driving home the idea that I should spend a little more time here...

Wendy, Anjelica, Hans and me getting ready to dig in!
Yay two-meals-for-the-price-of-one! 
June 1st, 2 am

Yesterday was my first day of working in the kitchen with Hans and two local ladies, Mary and Rayna, from 2-8 pm. I did a variety of things but the highlight was helping Hans make a blueberry marble cheesecake. That, and getting "paid" in delicious passionfruit margaritas!

Blueberry marble cheesecake! 
After work we (Hans, me, Wendy and Wendy's friend Argi (I'm probably slaughtering the spelling of her name!  She's an older woman from Spain who vaguely resembles Jamie Lee Curtis), went to Twisted Tanya's and passed the night talking in both English and Spanish. It's still so hard because there are some times where I understand almost every word but others where I don't understand a thing. But, despite the fact that there are large parts of time where I don't understand anything, I can tell that Hans and Wendy, and all of their friends that I've met so far, are quality people whose company I will really enjoy when I finally CAN understand what they are saying! And, even when I don't understand much I am constantly learning and I still have a good time. 

June 2nd

There weren't many people at the restaurant last night so I left there around 7:30 pm and came here to the hostel, rounded up a crew to go have one drink at La Terraza and then move on to Via Via. Had a nice time chilling there with Jerimiah (a guy from Texas who has been here at the hostel for about a week now) and a few other random people from the hostel and later met this Honduran guy named Oz, who I think I'll hang out with again as he is here in town for a few weeks or so, trying to figure out if there's enough tourism here for him to work here (he is a guide). Also did a little salsa dancing, mostly with Hans (who barely remembered it!).

I have to move to Via Via for the night because the hostel has a big group of 19 people coming in tonight and they need all the beds. (These people ended up never showing up.)

Alejandro, me and Oz (from left to right). 
Wendy and Hans 
Hans and Wendy salsa dancing. 
June 7th

For the most part my days have settled into a routine, though I'd like to change a few things about that. I really need to start running again but it's so damn hot here I just don't want anything to do with it! I guess I should start running first thing in the morning but I've never been one for waking up super early so I either need to do that or start leaving work for a couple hours after it's starting to cool off (meaning in the evening) and run then. I'd like to run the road to the ruins but there are some guys out there doing construction that make enough unsavory comments (and the whistling and kissy noises- I can't believe that ANY women find that attractive...) as it is so clearly I don't want to do that... maybe the road to the bird farm, though it's a pretty significant climb to get there... Also, there is a giant staircase right down the street from the hostel so that's a possibility too, and it's relatively secluded at night so I would be able to work out in peace... ANYWAY, right now my routine is that I wake up, usually between 7:30 and 9, and have until 2 to do whatever I want, which, besides making a small breakfast (almost always fresh fruit with yogurt and granola) and drinking several cups of coffee, usually consists of an hour or two of random crap online and then doing various things to practice my Spanish (I've been watching TV shows that have Spanish subtitling and that's helping a bit but I need to figure out something else. I DO feel like it's getting easier to understand Wendy and Hans but they use so much slang that it's still really difficult...), reading and sometimes writing in my journal. I'm trying to get in some poi practice too but I don't like to do it when there are other people around so that sort-of limits me a bit... I usually make a small lunch right before I head to work so I'm not hungry when I get there, and then I work until 10 most nights, unless it's really dead. I usually get some dinner at some point and an average of one drink per night, as some nights we don't drink while working/after work and some nights we do.

After work I probably go out every two or three nights, though sometimes I've been going out every night. I'm going to work on not smoking, which means going out less- a good thing because I don't need to be spending that kind of money anyway.

I went to the ruins the other day with Oz, to check out the nature trail. It was a really nice way to spend the day. :o) I think I got bitten by about 100 mosquitos that day (totally not exaggerating) but it was still a ton of fun. Found a vine to climb! Wheee!

miniature frog!
I'm convinced that it is possible to climb this tree using the vines.
Oz, giving it a bit of a go.  :o)

Caterpillar orgy?  Not sure exactly what was happening here but they all had their butts together and were vibrating... Suspicious! 
Massive evil ant thing that stung Oz through his shorts AND boxers!

June 15

Hans and I met this little orange kitty the other night as we were leaving La Terraza. It was really messed up looking because one of its eyes was all bulged out- it was hard to tell if it was something recent or not but it kind-of looked like a birth defect- of course I couldn't really check it out because I didn't want to freak him out. Anyway, I saw him on the other side of the street and called to him and he ended up coming over and gradually coming up to us to the point that, after a couple of minutes, he was rubbing all over us just like any normal cat would. When we went to leave he started walking with us! We thought he might follow us all the way to the taco cart (by Hans's house- the guy is from Guatemala and makes the best gringas [like a quesadilla with shredded pork] EVER!) and if he had we were going to feed him some gringas, but he ended up only following us/walking with us to the corner. SOOO cute!

Hans, Wendy, me, Carlos and his cousin Gabrielle were on the rooftop of La Terraza last night and had the funniest conversation. Wendy was saying something about carne of the calle (street meat) and how she doesn't really eat it much and I was like, “¿Que? ¿No le gusta el carne de la calle?” (What? You don't like the street meat!?) and she went on to say that she likes it but doesn't eat it too much, but at some point Carlos and her started laughing their asses off about it because it sounded like they were talking about hookers or something and so then we were all dying laughing. After we were able to breath again I was like, “pero, en serio, me encanta comiendo en el lugar cerca de la casa de Hans.” (But, seriously, I love eating at the place near Hans's house) and Hans was like, “las gringas son muy ricas” (the gringas are very rich), which sent us all into another bought of uncontrollable laughter. LOL Then I realized that half of the time when those guys are dying laughing over this thing or that thing it's because they making fun of the words themselves, or in how the people say the words. Which makes a lot of sense because there have been so many times where I feel like I understand nearly every word but I don't understand what's so funny.

June 16

We saw the cat again- who Hans has decided is named Peninsula (lol) last night. We saw him in the central park area and he walked with us to the corner before deciding to part ways. SOOO cute.

So, it was Hans, me and Wendy walking to Wendy's house. Hans and I were talking and when we got to Wendy's house we turned around and Wendy was nowhere to be found! She was right behind us only like one minute before! Hans and I started were frantic, looking for her everywhere and thinking all sorts of really unlikely things had happened to her- Hans almost twisted his ankle several times while running! We ran back to Tanya's and hadn't found her so we split up to cover more ground. As I walked back toward her house, there she was standing on the corner a block from her house with this innocent look on her face like, “What? Are you looking for me? Little shit! Hans finally caught up with us and I swear he was about to throttle her! I forgot to mention that there is an uncovered man-hole right in the middle of the intersection before Wendy's house so it could have been a terrible thing!

Today Wendy and I spent several hours at the pool, which was awesome- though the 100 L entry was more than I will be paying on a regular basis. Wendy worked out some kind of deal with the owner where he said he would let people buy a “membership” for 500 L each month. Which is still a hell of a lot more than I want to pay so needless to say I won't be purchasing that! I have apparently lost quite a bit of color in the past couple months because even my arms burned a little. Of course my legs are still white.

I like that some odd trick of the lighting in this pic makes me look tanner than Wendy.  Pretty sure she's tanner than me!
June 21st
Last night a bunch of us from the hostel bought a bottle of vodka and some Fresca (kinda like Squirt), fresh limes and ice and had a few drinks at the hostel before heading to Via Via to free salsa lessons. In total there were 6 of us- me, this guy David, these two Dutch (I think?) girls named Annja and Barbara, my friend Alyssa (from Lake Atitlan, who I was going to stay with in Tela, who ended up here a week or 10 days ago!) and this English girl named Kirsty. The total cost of the vodka, a 2 liter bottle of Fresca, a bag of limes and a bag of ice was about 150 L- so 25 L apiece. We each ended up getting two shots (we did the ones where you use a piece of lemon or lime dipped in sugar on one side and coffee grounds on the other- which I originally did in San Marcos la Laguna... pretty sure I already journalled about it...they taste like chocolate cake!) and two-three mixed drinks! For $1.25! Excellent! Anyway, we stayed here for a bit and then went out to check out the Salsa lessons. It was kinda happening but none of us were really all that interested so we just grabbed our free drinks and went to the back table.

After a couple hours Alyssa and Kirsty went home but the rest of us were still wanting to hang out, however, Annja thought she was going to die of hunger so we went in search of the Guatamalan guy's taco stand (it's mobile so, though he's usually near Hans's house, sometimes he is on the street near the center.  We ran into Hans on the way so after we got our gringa fix we met up with all of them at Tony's.

Annja, me, Barbara and David, after Kirsty and Alyssa went home.
June 22nd

Last night there was the biggest rainstorm! Hans and I walked Wendy home and we all decided to chill at her place and hang out a bit but I was having a moment of poor comprehension and the storm was so amazing that I just HAD to go outside and watch it and just be in awe of nature. Every time I would think about heading in the storm would intensify and there would be a flash of lightening or the sky would rumble with thunder. I felt incredibly connected, like the WORLD was saying, “look at me, listen to me!” I stayed outside for probably 15 or 20 minutes and the thunder and lightening were incessant! Practically every roll of thunder was at least 20 seconds long and some were nearly a minute in duration- lazy, long peals that made me think of giant beasts like the rock monsters in The Neverending Story slowly making their way across the sky, or an avalanche in the heavens!

As if that wasn't cool enough, while I was watching the storm a car went zipping past (in conditions that far from conducive for "zipping" of any kind!), heading away from the city center, then turned around and came zipping back and ended up driving RIGHT into the manhole in the middle of the intersection (which is now covered but was uncovered for like the first month I was here!)! Hilarious. Wish I'd been taking video!

Hans and I tried to wait out the storm but after a couple hours we decided to brave the weather and make our way to our respective homes, wearing garbage bags for ponchos. lol Wish I'd taken a picture!

June 25th

We hosted an art show on Friday and Saturday so there were tons of people in town from various places but many of the artists were from Tegucigalpa so I ended up hanging with them quite a bit over the course of the weekend. One of them was a girl from Portland who has been living in Tegus for the past year or so but when she's in Portland she lives on like Burnside and 45th or somewhere in that region- can't exactly remember but yeah- basically right down the street from where I lived for like 5 years of my time in Portland! Small world!

On Saturday (23rd) we had a wedding that we had to make like 150 desserts for, so that was fun. We made some little custard tarts, cheesecake with chocolate sauce and mango sauce drizzled over top, and some other things that were like pound cake sandwiches with a custard like filling. Then, that night we made sushi! It was pretty fun- we made a tilapia roll (with mango, avacado and tilapia), a “california” roll (cucumber, fried shrimp, avacado) and a tempura roll (inside-out roll with fried shrimp, avacado, cucumber and cream cheese that was deep-fried) and tilapia sashimi. We were going to make hand rolls too but Hans decided it was too much work so we didn't. It was a huge success and I think we'll do it again soon- maybe even make it a weekly thing? We'll see... The busy season is apparently starting soon so that should be awesome.
The dessert case, loaded with all the treats for the wedding!  Oh, except the custard tarts- they aren't there...
That's right people, that's an inside-out tempura roll you see in the upper left-hand corner.  Which means... sushi nights just got even MORE awesome.  Er... whenever I get back to wherever I end up!
June 27th

Today I am making bread (Hans taught me how to make Ciabata bread yesterday!! It's super easy!!) and then hopefully at least some biscotti, if not my almond joy frozen pie. 

Two batches of ciabatta!
June 28th 3 am

Just got home from La Terraza- what an awesome night. It was just Hans, Wendy, Dor (Wendy's man, who has been away for the past couple of months or so), Alejandro, this guy Jose and his friend Melissa but it was a lot of fun. I really like Dor, even though I've only spent two days around him- we all work really well together in the kitchen and we've had some good conversations already. I was a little worried that he would be like "who is this girl and what the hell is she doing here?" but he's super chill and even when it's busy he's still relaxed, which I like. Spanish comprehension was good tonight... Or at least, it felt good in the moment, though much of the time when I am analyzing my conversations later I wonder if people were saying something completely different than what I'd thought!

July 1st

While I was working on Friday I got a phone call from the crew (Hans, Wendy and Dor), who had left an hour or so before. Hans told me they had seen a UFO and I had to run quickly to meet them at the German brewery, owned by this guy Thomas. When I began descending the stairs I was greeted by raucous cries of joy from my three friends and, although there were no UFOs in sight I forgot all about that at the sight of the mugs of dark beer sitting in front of each of them! I have tried a couple of beers in the German place before but it's been months since I have had dark beer and I haven't had a really GOOD dark beer since leaving Portland. Two beers later (four or five for everyone else!) we were headed back to work, expecting it to be dead. Turned out to be one of the busiest nights we've had in the time I've worked there, and there we all were, pretty drunk! It was all good though- the time flew by and we didn't drastically mess up much of anything! Wendy put herself to bed in the lounge around 12 (we were waiting for people to leave) but Hans and Dor and I chatted about any number of things while we chilled for a couple of hours on the terrace. Hans wanted to go to this new bar called 12 but I had a headache by that time so I called it a night.

Yesterday I spent much of the day looking for a new place to live, as I've decided to stay here until Sunjam, this trance festival I learned about from Wendy like a month ago that is held in/really near Utila the first week in August... I have narrowed it down to two places.

During a slow period at work last night I logged in to Facebook and my friend Rafaella told me that our friend Meg died on the 25th.  I'm so glad I was able to reconnect with her, and all my other Bozeman friends, before I left on this trip. This is my first real experience with the unexpected loss of someone I care deeply about, and it's hit me pretty hard. I expect I'll be thinking about her a lot in the upcoming weeks, and about how important my family and other friends are to me as well.

Clearly, this is not my photo but I hope it's ok that I'm reposting it here. If anyone is upset about it please let me know and I'll remove it. This is Rafaella and Meg (on the right). I met both of these lovely ladies while I was in college at MSU Bozeman, and even though they were only like 15 when I met them they were cool enough that we became friends during my time in Bozeman MT, and have remained friends these past 8 years since I left ther e and moved to Portland OR. Meg was one of the craziest people I ever met- she had things happen to her that shouldn't happen to anyone but she overcame them and became one of the strongest, most determined people I've ever met. She accomplished more in the 12 or so years I knew her than many people do in 20 or 30 years. Even being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27 (?) didn't phase her; the words "I can't" were not in her vocabulary. The world is less bright of a place without the light that radiated from this girl, and I will miss her dearly. 
July 2nd

Well, I ended up renting an apartment with Alejandro. It's a little less private, sharing a space with someone, and it is a small space- only two rooms and a bathroom- but I think it will actually be pretty cool. Splitting the rent means I'm now paying $75/month- a serious savings over the nearly $175 that I was basically paying per month at la Manzana Verde. I liked the hostel well enough, but I really thought it was ridiculous that I couldn't get a discount for staying longer- nearly every hostel I've been to so far offers that! Plus, it was a pain in the ass to be woken up every morning (before 8/9 ish!) at least once by the girls mopping, cleaning the bathroom, emptying the trash in the room, etc! Not to mention that the night guy ALSO empties the trash- at like 5 am! I understand that it's their job but this level of cleanliness is unnecessary! The floor gets mopped 6 times (6 times!!) a day- three times between 8 and 2, then three more times between 2 and 10! As far as I'm concerned, twice a day is already excessive. The owner is a nice enough guy but the couple of times I have tried to suggest changes to the hostel (that other people have also mentioned to me) he has not really listened so... what can you do?

We have a lovely balcony and it's a great place from which to do some people watching! 

The view from the farthest west point of our balcony.  I expect to take many sunset pics from here!
Really odd photo because this is actually like a 280 degree view from the corner of the balcony!  But you get the idea!
I can't really practice my poi here, which sucks. There is a space that's large enough in the kitchen (my room) and in the living room (Alejandro's room) but using either space will require me to move furniture so we'll see how much I actually practice.

I'm hoping to do some writing, as it's been on my mind more and more often recently...

July 9th

There are hardly any tourists in town so I've been spending a LOT of time at the apartment and hardly any time at La Terraza. Which sucks because I miss the gang but I've also been able to improve my Spanish by watching TV, which, though incredibly boring (when I don't understand much, that is), is actually helping my comprehension immensely.

I DID hang out with the crew on... Friday night, the 6th, with Jose (the guy I hung out with a couple of weeks ago when he and his friend Melissa were in town) and this English guy Ollie (who was, quite possibly, the most self-absorbed guy I've ever met in my life!) at "12", the new "underground bar" in town.  Meaning, it's someone's house where they have no close neighbors so they sell beer there "after-hours".  Although all Ollie wanted to talk about was himself, he did have a few good stories and there were a few other people there who I've met before, including Wendy's sisters, Faviola and Anjelica so it ended up being a pretty fun night.  

Not surprisingly, I'm sure, I've been doing lots of cooking and other "domestic" things lately. I foolishly purchased 5 lbs of cacao at the mercado the other day (yeah, not sure what I was thinking!) so I had to toast and peel all the beans- a project that I worked on for the majority of three days, no joke (peeling while I watched TV- not like it was hard, just time-consuming, and boring!)! I'd like to get some cacao balls or cacao bars or something figured out, to sell to people... It's just, I am not sure it's cost-effective to make them to sell because so many of the ingredients are really expensive (prunes contribute a huge part of it and they are massively expensive). Not to mention that there are a lot of ingredients that require chopping so unless I have a blender available to use it takes me like 2 hours to make a batch of cacao balls. Though they are delicious, at that rate I'd rather just horde them all for myself! Though, I also don't really want to be packing around 5 lbs of cacao when I leave here either! lol
Raw cacao beans
5 lbs worth...
4.5 lb bag of un-toasted cacao,  skillet full of toasting cacao, bowl of toasted cacao waiting to be peeled, bowl of peeled cacao waiting to be bagged.
Once the cacao bean is toasted, the shell comes off relatively easily... most of the time!
Three days later, all the cacao is peeled!  YAY!
I've been working on making some “power bars” and have a pretty good recipe together that is delicious, relatively easy to make, and with ingredients that are cheap enough that I should be able to sell them at a price at which people will buy them and I can make some money too so... we'll see!

We haven't seen Peninsula in like 3 weeks.   I hope he's ok.

Lastly, I've decided to report on any new music I come across and listen to for any significant amount of time, in case anyone's interested... 


I discovered Belanova several months ago when I was still in San Marcos San Marcos and have basically been listening to them on a weekly basis ever since then!

Their videos are a little odd but the songs are awesome.

And more recently, these are the songs that will likely forever remind me of my time here in Copán Ruinas... The third one, especially. It's Wendy's favorite song, and more than once I have seen her hammered, BELTING the song out at the top of her lungs. :o) Ok, I may have been hammered and belting it at the top of my lungs more than once too... :o)

Lastly, I will post my favorite song as of this moment and wrap up this (typically, for me!) lengthy blog post. Thanks to anyone who made it all the way to here! 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 May 12 - 27th Copán Ruinas, Honduras

May 16th

The day I left Ipala I waited for the microbus driver (see my previous post if you don't know what I'm talking about!) for 30 min, hoping to be able to pay him and then be on my way, but it was really hot and this guy who had been speaking to for the last 20 minutes was entirely too persistent with his advances so I finally decided to go to Agua Blanca to leave the money with the liquado girl, Andrea. This meant I paid 10 Q for the round trip journey but at least it got me on my way!

At the boarder I learned that apparently the CA-4 visa is no longer in effect for tourists, meaning I have 90 more days in Honduras if I so chose. Considering my slow rate of travel and no real actual plans, this is great news! Only cost me... well, not much! I am still getting used to thinking in lempira instead of quetzals so I can't remember exactly but it was less than 5 dollars or so. I had met a young Honduran guy (Victor) on the microbus and although I've been feeling increasingly confident about my ability to communicate it was nice to be able to let a fluent Spanish speaker do all the work! We crossed around sundown and I was a little concerned about finding onward transport but it was all good and I was soon checked in to my hostel, "en la Manzana Verde".

Victor and I grabbed some street food together in the park (25 L (~ $1.25) for a bit of steak kabob, beans, veg and tortillas) and then I made us a little coffee at the hostel. We called it an early night and said our goodbyes.  He was a sweet guy and, although he had put the moves on me in the park a little it had happened in a way that was funny enough that I felt comfortable with him afterward. He was so cute and smooth! But he was 23 years old! I was like “I could be your MOTHER in another country”!

Tangent: I just remembered that I forgot to journal about the fact that Tina, the mayan woman who invited Sophia and I to her house back in Nebaj, had thought that I was Sophia's MOTHER! I know I'm getting old but REALLY!? Anyway.

The hostel is a pretty nice little place, with some nicely set up hang out areas, a TV (in Español- excellent!), free internet and a great kitchen. A dorm bed is 115 L / night and they give you a ticket for a free drink at Via Via, a bar/restaurant run by the same owners.  The girls are CONSTANTLY cleaning so it's spotless and all the beds are named, and each bed name has a cubbie in the kitchen for storing your stuff.  Also, there is a chalk board with each bed name on it in the front hall way and when you arrive you write your name next to that of your bed, meaning that any time you forget the name of a fellow traveler you can just look on the board!

Sunday I had a nice day chilling mostly at the hostel, taking advantage of the free internet. Grabbed a baleada for dinner (a flour tortilla with a little beans, eggs, avocado and a bit of queso tipico, 25 L) and went to Via Via to use my free drink tickets. Turned out it was happy hour when I arrived so I took advantage of that and bought several double cuba libres for 30 L ($1.50) each. I had met some other travelers at the hostel and we passed the night with a few people who live here and I spoke a ton of Spanish that night. I met a woman named Wendy who was SO EASY to understand. Her level of English is a little better than my level of Spanish; we switched back and forth between speaking English and Spanish and I felt like we both understood 100% of what we were saying to each other. It was amazing. I kept asking her to correct any errors I made and she told me over and over how perfectly I was saying everything. I can't describe how great that felt, to finally feel incredibly positive and proud of my ability to communicate.

Of course it isn't that easy with everyone and I still mess up more often than I speak correctly! Adding to the confusion is the fact that, whereas the “vos” form of “you” isn't really used in Guatemala, or at least not in the areas where I was, it IS in Honduras so I am having to learn that form (and all its conjugations!) after all.

Anyway, I drank and smoked entirely too much that night and nursed my hangover the entire next day. I DID manage to get to the mercado and the grocery store to get stuff for dinner and my breakfasts for the following days, so that night I cooked a giant batch of pasta, which I've been eating for lunch and dinner basically since then- yay (kidding)! Even though I only get one of every veg it still ends up making enough for 4-6 meals when I cook pasta, meaning that I eat the same thing for days on end often! Oh well- at least it's cheap! Though, here the street food is so economical that it's worth it to pay a little more and have variety, so I plan to do that when my pasta runs out. :o)

I finally made my way to the ruins yesterday afternoon with another girl at the hostel named Jess.  At $15, it's one of the most expensive single things I have done since I left the US, and Palenque had already blown my mind so I considered not going. In the long run though, I HAVEN'T been spending much money at all, and why travel if I'm not going to see what there is to see? It's not like it's ever likely to ever be cheaper than it is now! And, I later found out that the money made in Copán Ruinas subsidizes the operation of the other ruins sites in Honduras that aren't visited enough to support themselves. So, money well spent.

Though Palenque is still my favorite (by far!), I am glad I took the time to check it out. Copán Ruinas is known for its carvings and though the part of it that is open to the public is quite small in comparison to Palenque and Chichén Itzá it was a unique experience that I won't soon forget.

Though the Scarlet Macaw used to fly in abundance in the humid lowland rain forests of Central and South America, deforestation, capture for the parrot trade and poaching for their beautiful feathers have decimated their numbers and resulted in local extinction in some areas.  Macaw Mountain, a local bird sanctuary here in Copán Ruinas, is working toward returning the numbers of free-flying Scarlet Macaws to those seen in the time of the Ancient Maya, who revered this animal as one of the most sacred on the planet.  Carvings of Macaws (among other birds) are plentiful and they are featured in many of their myths and histories.  There is evidence that the Mayan people domesticated Macaws and other birds to keep as pets and to collect their feathers, which were  highly valued for adorning ceremonial costumes and masks.

At the bottom of this picture you can see a small rectangle of cement (that I didn't notice when I took the picture so I cut it out!), which I later learned is the gravestone for US archaeologist John G. Owens, who led Peabody Museum expeditions to Honduras from 1891-1893 and died while working in Copán Ruinas.
Close-up of the same alter in the above photo.
A different alter
Ball court, with (tarp covered) hieroglyphic highway in the upper left corner.
What I wouldn't give to be able to look back into the past through the eyes of this macaw sculpture, which adorns the western wall of the main ball court.

I think this (juvenile owl) is either a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl or a Northern Pygmy Owl. It was seriously only about 5 or 6 feet away from me and it was less than 8 inches tall! Cool!

Alter Q - "below the alter was a sacrificial vault in which archaeologists discovered the bones of 15 jaguars (one for each previous king) and several macaws that were sacrificed to the glory of Yax Pasaj and his ancestors" (Lonely Planet Honduras).

For anyone who wants to know more about the stelae and alters here, this person's site is awesome (you will have to cut and past, I think, because apparently blogger is having difficulties...):

Earlier today I had the most awkward encounter! I had met a guy named Oscar out at Via Via the other night and when I ran into him yesterday he told me he wanted to invite me to have a “healing session” with him. I didn't really WANT a “healing session” but how do you tell someone you don't need something they feel passionate about? So, I agreed. We had talked for a couple hours the night before so I didn't realize he wanted me to pay until after the session was over. Even worse, 1) I hadn't really wanted a “healing session” to begin with, 2) the session was really weird in that he clearly didn't know what he was doing- part of the time the way he moved his hands (it was a massage session on my back and calves) was like he was scratching a dog (strange!) and 3) he blew his didgeridoo over my chakras, which sounds like it could be cool (I guess?), but what that actually translates to is that someone's blowing their (stinky old man) breath down a long tube held above your body, including your face! Gross! So, clearly not my favorite experience since having left the US! I gave him 50 L just to get away from him. Sometimes I REALLY misread people.

The only other thing of note is that Ruby (from Lake Atitlan, who I saw again in Xela) showed up today! :D Crazy.

May 24th

Still in Copán Ruinas.  I've had an amazing time here so far, hanging out with Ruby for a few days, meeting and hanging out with other travelers and a few of the locals, going to Via Via nearly every night to redeem my free drink coupon and usually ordering one or two others (doubles being so cheap during happy hour makes it easy to justify!), and spending my days checking out whatever sounds interesting or just chilling in the hostel reading, checking out stuff on the internet, working on crafty stuff or figuring out where I'm going next. I've been able to hang out with Wendy several more times (although my Spanish was apparently only really great that one night as the subsequent times I haven't felt as competent), and the girls from here at the hostel are very sweet and I might possibly do some language exchange with one of them, Gladys- too bad we didn't start doing that 12 days ago! :D
Me and Gladys.  We DID end up doing a bit of language exchange after-all.  :o)
A few days after I went to the ruins Brie and I, and another traveler named Phil, checked out Macaw Mountain, a bird sanctuary here. It was pretty cool but I don't think it was worth the $10 entry. We bought the ticket through the hostel and they arranged for a free tuk tuk there and back, though we decided we wanted to walk back since we didn't know how long it would take us there.

The birds were beautiful, though there were far less of them than I had thought there would be- only about maybe 10 different kinds- and the grounds were peppered with beautiful trees and flowers so there was more to see than just the birds.   :o)

Phil and Brie

This little guy was super cool!  He was very interested in us!

On the 20th Wendy called one of the girls here at the hostel to let me know that she was having a BBQ at her restaurant, La Terraza, a cute little place that's only like 1.5 blocks from the hostel, so I gathered a crew from here and we checked it out. The menu is pretty expensive and I probably wouldn't have stopped there if it weren't for the fact that one of my “friends” owns it, but the food and drinks were delicious and we had a great time there. Not to mention that the top level is spectacular!

On the 21st Alejandro, one of the “local” (he's not really a local, as he's from Brazil and is just renting a place here for a month or so) guys I had met a couple days before, came to the hostel and gathered a group of us to walk up to some place where they apparently have really good coffee, to watch the sunset. On the way we ran into Wendy and Anjelica and drug them along with us! When we got there we were disappointed to see that the restaurant was closed but we still were able to catch a nice sunset, and the walk was quite picturesque.

Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the girl on the left but, not including her, from left to right, me, Wendy, Alisha and Alejandro.
When we came back we briefly visited the Blue Iguana (another hostel here), because Alejandro was curious about it, where we met this Italian couple, Vincenzo and Rossella. They ended up meeting up with us for a few drinks later at Via Via.
From left to right, me, Wendy, Rossella, Vincenzo and Alejandro
I hadn't gone to the museum the day that I went to the ruins, so on the 22nd I walked back out to the ruins and checked out the museum. A lot of the original carvings and artifacts are preserved there so it was really neat to see them, although I myself honestly don't think I would be able to tell the difference between the real carvings and the fake ones! Also, there is very little information at the ruins themselves so it was cool to take some time to read the explanations and learn a bit more. 

Full scale reproduction of the Rosalila Temple, a 6th century structure so sacred to the Mayan people that the temple was preserved, fully intact, by subsequent phases of construction (usually when a king decided to "remodel" the previous structure was demolished) nearly 200 years after its creation.  

Macaw head bench markers from the ball court

From the museum plaque: "You are looking at a repilcation of the macaw that decorated the earliest version of the ballcourt (Ballcourt I).  The outstretched wings are similar to the ones on the final version (Ballcourt III).  One difference is that the bird was modeled in stucco (like Roaslila) rather than carved in stone.  The transition to mosaic stone carving occurred gradually over the course of the seventh century A.D.  A jaguar-like head that protrudes from below his chest carries a severed arm in his jaws.  We see this as a depiction of the scene where Jun-Junahpu, one of the Hero twins, has had his arm torn off by the fearsome Vucub-Caquix, according to the story written down in the Popol Vuh of the Quiche Maya.  The sculpture was uncovered in 1988.  Red paint was preserved on the original sculpture.  A replica is exhibited in the museum because the stucco is fragile and cannot be removed from the wall underground.  Ballcourt I has the earliest example of the mythical Vucub-Caquix.  It dates back to the founding of the Copán dynasty in the early 5th century.

Cool bench.  From the museum info plaque: "A series of carvings of the sun, moon and planets, grouped together in a long frame are called a skyband.  Skybands are found at sites throughout Mesoamerica, and serve to put the scene they surround in a heavenly context.  The beautifully carved bench you see here is from the interiour room of the larger central structure.  It is the only known full-figure depiction of a skyband in the Maya area.  There are two mythical birds at either end.  They carry the carved images of the celestial bodies.  The figures are from left to right, the graceful image of the mood deity, the sun by day and by night and the planet Venus.  In between are repeating masks of the Milky Way.  These figures parade across the heavenly frame and transform this bench into a seat of power."
Close-up of the central portion of the bench, showing masks representing the sun during the day and at night, flanking one representing the Milky Way.  I'm not sure what the two carvings on the bottom are meant to represent...
Close up of a mystical bird
That night a bunch of us met up at La Terraza for happy hour
From left to right- Rossella, Vincenzo, Frank, a Russian girl whose name I can't remember, me, Wendy and Alejandro.  Yes, I AM double-fisting.  But I blame Wendy, as she bought the last round!
Most people went on to Via Via later but I decided I had drank enough for one day (haha) so I returned to the hostel for tea and an early night of reading my book. I'm reading Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker now, which is really cool in that he put it online for free, and he also posted all his annotations for aspiring authors to read so they can understand why he writes this thing here or that thing there. As I have thoughts of writing my own book(s?) some day I find it incredibly interesting and thought-provoking.

Yesterday (the 23rd) a group of us from here at the hostel, as well as Vincenzo and Rossella, Alejandro, Wendy and Anjelica, went to “Aguas Thermales”, a hot springs up in the mountains about an hour away from Copán Ruinas. At 200 L it was a little overpriced, in my opinion, however, the place was amazing and I wished that I had brought my camping gear, or at least stuff for a BBQ/picnic, as they had little palapa-roofed structures with tables and BBQ pits where you could have a fire and a nice little lunch. As it was, we only had a half day because several people had things they needed to do in the afternoon so we hung out for a few hours and then headed back down to town.

I wasn't surprised to see that the beautiful countryside I saw all over Guatemala also exists in Honduras, and I took many photos (big surprise!) from the window of the microbus! The people who live in these highland areas are likely perceived as poor to the average outside observer but when I see these small cinder-block or adobe houses with their cute little porches strung with hammocks, chickens foraging in a yard full of beautiful trees and flowers while cattle, goats and horses graze in the pasture nearby, with gorgeous countryside all around, I can't help but think what a perfect life they have. As much as I have little desire to purchase my own home in the US I have felt the urge to buy a small piece of land and “settle down” multiple times since leaving the states.  But then I'd have to stop traveling! 

pigs!  Yes, I realize we have pigs back in Wyoming.  But for some reason I am still compelled to photograph them whenever I see them...  :D

Vincenzo and Rossella relaxing in one of the many hot pools
Wendy, all dirty from the mud bath.
Meike and Frank, gettin' dirty in the mud bath
Of course I was all about the mud!  My skin was SOOOO nice afterward!

"Natural foot massage".  Half the pool is hot and half is cold, and the bottom of both is covered with small stones so as you walk around the circle you get a natural massage.  :o)

Spiritual area
From left to right, Anjelica, Wendy, Rossella, Vincenzo, Meike, Frank and me, gettin' spiritual.

One of the picnic areas

Coming back into Copán Ruinas.
Last night Frank and I grabbed some street tacos with Meike, a guy from Costa Rica who I actually really enjoyed hanging with. His English was better than my Spanish so we mostly spoke in English but any time we were around people who spoke better Spanish we spoke Spanish and he would translate if I didn't understand something so that was nice! :D He left this morning to head back to Costa Rica, as he was only on a brief vacation during one of his semester breaks. After grabbing tacos (and Meike bought me a double scoop ice cream cone- what a sweetie!) the three of us went to Via Via to redeem our free drink coupons and met up with Vincenzo and Rossella for a bit since they were leaving the next day (today). I called it an early night and returned to the hostel for tea- yay!

May 25th

There was the most AMAZING rainstorm yesterday evening! The sheer volume of water coming down was incredible and the thunder and lightning were pretty intense. The gutter was transformed into a massive waterfall and every time we thought it couldn't rain any harder the rain intensified! At one point the wind started blowing the rain directly into the front porch of the hostel and the five or six of us who were hanging out ran for cover deeper into the hostel, only to be pursued by dime-sized hail! Crazy!!!

Another mellow night last night- just chillin' at the hostel! I'd been hoping to leave tomorrow but the power was out for a fair amount of the day today, meaning I didn't get much work done on my blog. Also, I wasn't doing a good job of motivating and decided it was more important to watch an episode of Game of Thrones.  :D So, it looks like I'll be here a bit longer...

later that day...

I went out tonight with Frank and this couple that arrived yesterday named Phil and Maru. Phil is from the UK and Maru is from Argentina but they met several months ago at a hostel Maru was working at (I think?) and later ended up deciding to travel together. Though we haven't chatted much they are some of the more interesting people I have met here and I felt compelled to talk to them the minute I met them. I have enjoyed the time I spent with them and will be sad to see them move on (tomorrow). We grabbed some street food on the way to Via Via and then hung out there for a couple hours until I decided to return to the hostel for my tea and ended up randomly getting sucked into a game of King's Cup with these five girls who arrived yesterday who I haven't actually talked to much and who I normally wouldn't have any real interest hanging out with, as they are all super young (early 20's) but it was actually pretty fun. Four of them were horseback riding yesterday when the rain/hail storm happened!

I had been hoping to work on my blog a bit tonight but the internet is apparently having issues so I guess there will be none of that. :o(

May 27th

Last night I went out to Via Via to redeem several days worth of free drinks, then Alejandro and I gathered a crew and moved on to La Terraza for a couple more hours.  It was a very late night but quite a bit of fun, the only sour note being when the guy I'd talked to for two hours (and told I was NOT interested in hooking up with any of the guys there!) asked me if I wanted to have sex with him!  What the hell is wrong with the guys here!?  I am 100% certain I am NOT saying or doing anything to encourage them but they just seem incapable of reading the signs.  Or actually just LISTENING, because I am constantly saying that I'm not interested.  I knew when I came here that the fact that I look differently from all the local girls would mean that I would have to deal with more attention than I was used to but I didn't expect the lack of respect for my (total!) lack of interest that I've found in nearly every guy I speak to for more than about 2 seconds.  Anyway.

We've had rainstorms every day the past few days, meaning power outages and spotty internet service (hence, why I am still here), but I've finally gotten everything uploaded and it's now time to post my blog.

I haven't decided yet if I'm finished with my time in Copán Ruinas.  I might move on to Gracias and a volunteer opportunity I have in a little town called La Esperanza, but I am thinking very seriously about remaining here in Copán Ruinas for another couple of weeks or so.  As much as I feel great about my level of Spanish comprehension, there are still so many times when I don't understand large portions of what's being said around me.  Besides the other travelers who pass through, all of my friends here speak Spanish and there are large portions of the day where I am only speaking Spanish, so it makes sense to stay somewhere I am happy and where I find the people intriguing.