by Hank Leukart
September 22, 2008
How to win your ex-girlfriend back (in Honduras)
A Central American love story.
The ruins in Copán, Honduras include a Mesoamerican ballgame court.
OPÁN, Honduras — I admit it. My trip to Honduras in the summer of 2004 was part of a bold plan to win my ex-girlfriend back. We had ended our relationship a year earlier for a variety of good reasons, but over time, I had realized that our decision was a mistake. For the past year, she had been teaching at an elementary school in Tela, Honduras, and when one day she e-mailed me to tell me that she had broken up with her new boyfriend, I ignited my master plan. I e-mailed with her and talked to her on the phone frequently, and when the Central American school year ended, I knew it was time to move to my plan’s next step: visiting her in Honduras. I assumed that if I could spend some time with her, I could convince her that we had made a mistake. Plus, the trip provided me with a perfect opportunity to explore the original banana republic, visit a World Heritage site, and learn how to scuba dive, all in one trip.
After convincing her that my visiting her in Honduras was a good idea, I jumped on the next plane to San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city. When I arrived in the airport’s run-down, disorganized baggage claim, even more nervous than I was on our first date, I spotted her beautiful gray eyes across the room. It wasn’t hard, since we were the only two white people in the airport. We hugged meaningfully, and after finding my bag among the beaten-up, antiquated suitcases that could have been found only on a flight to Honduras, it was time for the next step of my plan: a trip to the ancient Mayan city of Copán to become reacquainted. As the bus to Copán bounced us up and down violently on the dirt-covered, hilly roads of Honduras, we flirted shamelessly, and it felt like our first date all over again as we caught each other up on our past year’s life events. She told me about the fun and frustrations of teaching at a school far from her own home and culture, and I talked about my tech job in Seattle. We felt the same excitement we felt when we first met except more intensely, in a way that can only happen after reuniting with someone you know intimately. The bus was dirty and hot, and sometimes Hondurans boarded it carrying chickens, but nevertheless, my plan seemed to be working.
Copán, which the United Nations designated as a World Heritage site in 1980, is an astoundingly well-preserved collection of ruins and a fascinating window into an ancient Mayan kingdom. Among the remarkable stone structures, we saw a large collection of tall, stone slabs engraved with portraits of the ancient rulers of the city known as stelae, small stone pyramids, and a large court for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. As we imagined living among the pyramids and worshipping primeval gods, we acted as tour guides for each other, reading details from the educational brochure aloud. Discovering relics from a bygone age feels poignant regardless, but teaching each other — even from a brochure — made the adventure a surprisingly powerful bonding experience.
After a rousing game of Mayan handball, we hired a Honduran with a pickup truck to take us through undeveloped countryside to Aguas Calientes, a hot spring in the middle of an ocean of lush, green, deciduous trees. As the road’s bumps knocked us around in the bed of the truck, we held on to each other as we told funny stories of our recent failed relationships — she talked about the experience of being courted by a Honduran tree farmer, and I related my stories of dating a navy JAG and a competitive jump rope champion (all true). When we arrived, we walked down a forest path inhabited by rainbow-colored butterflies, then soaked in the rushing river water, enjoying the alternating hot spring and cold river water on the humid equatorial day. The sauna-like mist of the hot spring transformed us. It wasn’t our first date any more. We were relaxed. It was just us, together again.
In the sticky night air of the town of Copán, we ate a traditional Honduran meal (mostly rice and beans) and drank wine on the outdoor balcony of a candlelit restaurant. The plainness of the town’s best restaurant and the simplicity of the food reminded me of Honduras’s status as one of the poorest and least developed countries in the West; it wouldn’t be long on the trip before I became desperate for any kind of food not involving rice and beans.
After dinner, we checked into a hotel in the center of town. Exhausted from a busy day, we collapsed on the bed. We were about to fall asleep when we started kissing — at the beginning, like it was our first time — and soon, like we hadn’t ever stopped.
Did my plan to win back my ex-girlfriend work, or was I trapped in Honduras for two weeks with only rice and beans? Find out in part two of this three part series about my 2004 trip to Honduras.