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Over Spring Break 2012, 15 Mission: Possible members traveled to Altagracia, a small, rural village in the Dominican Republic province Monte Plata. Throughout our time in this amazing village, Mission: Possible helped reforest the community, donated much needed school and health supplies, built fences in order to protect the community’s ownership of their land, and worked with children at the local elementary school. Please read on and enjoy our personal stories and experiences from the trip of a lifetime.

The 2012 Mission: Possible team and the children of the Altagracia elementary school

The 2012 Team:

Steve – El Presidente

Jessica – Vice President

Nicole – Trip Coordinator

Colin “La Maquina” R.




Katie C.

Colin “El Gigante” M.






Katie S.


The Cast of Characters

This year, we were lucky to have 15 very different personalities get together and travel down to Honduras for a week of service, adventure and laughter.

The 2011 Mission Possible Team.

The 2011 Mission Possible Team.

  • Lindsay – Resident botanist and general smile-maker
  • Laurah – Wasp killer and dance queen
  • Brian – Man in charge/Giant who towers over all the Hondurans
  • Ben – Second man in charge/chauffer
  • Samantha – Chef extraordinaire
  • Jeremy – Perfect size to get on the ladder and paint in hard to reach places
  • Sarah – Willing to take on any task and expert Celebrity player
  • Nicole – Fluent in Spanish, would have been lost without her
  • Denny – Admirable attempt to be fluent in Spanish
  • Audrey – The keeper of all sunscreen, medicine, and anything else you may need
  • Danielle – Keeping everyone in line and putting them in their place when necessary
  • Steve – Spanish Speaker and has a good broom dance
  • Ashley – Dog-lover and snuggler
  • Jenny – Official Blogger and bug hater
  • Julie – Photographer and general peace keeper

I (Blogmaster Jenny) have asked a few of our members to share their experiences. Peppered through my account of the trip will be a few guest bloggers to share in their own words what happened.


“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…” – Samantha

A bunch of the group members and I were all on the same flight from Spokane to Seattle and we had all checked in, and made it through security without incident. I may have failed to even pull out my bag of toiletries, and forgot I had a couple lighters with me in my bag. I didn’t get stopped or subjected to a pat down. It had been a long week, and an even longer two-and-a-half years, so I could not have been any more ready for my spring break in Honduras with Mission Possible – my final spring break, at that. As we sat at the gate waiting to board the group did the standard, “Ooooh! I’m wondering who I’m sitting next to!!” Everyone started shouting out what seat numbers there were in.



And as for me, “Please see gate attendant for seat assignment.” Yikes!

Up until that point I hadn’t even looked down to see where I was seated. I had no clue what was going on and we were about 15 minutes away from boarding. So, I walked myself and my backpack up to the Alaska Airlines gate counter.

“I’m sorry ma’am. You will have to wait. We don’t currently have a seat for you. You are currently third on the waiting list. Please wait in the boarding area until your name is called.”

I said nothing. Part of me was speechless, and another part of me really wasn’t that worried. This had happened to me a few times before and I never had any issues getting on my plane. At this sometime I had received a phone call from Ashley panicking that she was late and was going to miss the flight. I assured her she was fine, and told her about my ticket situation. She informed me that her boarding pass said the same thing. When I met her on my side of the security check point I told her to rush to the gate counter to get on the list of passengers waiting for a seat. She went to the counter. She immediately got her boarding pass. At this point I started to panic because not only was it apparent that I was the only one from the group without a seat on the flight, but boarding had officially begun.

I charged the counter again to get an update on what was going on with my seat. I was informed that Alaska Airlines had over sold the flight from Spokane to Seattle and that there were still two people in front of me to get priority on any available seat on the flight. It was looking like everyone who had purchased a ticket had shown up for the flight, and I was going to get bumped from the flight. The following flight was also oversold, and the earliest they could get me to Seattle was the next morning at 10:00 a.m. Slowly I watched the group all board the plane without me …

The doors shut, and everyone was off to Seattle.  So, um, yeah, a flight at 10:00 a.m. was definitely not going to work because our flight out of Houston to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was leaving at 9:00 a.m.

I marched up to the counter and what started out as a rational conversation with the man at the counter slowly turned into trying-to-keep-myself-from-bursting-into-tears-or-going-ballistic. I think the man was visibly uncomfortable. At this same time, I had ran into Ian
 Stamme, a 2L
 who was trying to go home to Seattle for spring break. We didn’t really know each other very well, but we knew each other from mutual friends and passing in the hallway. He came over to see what was going on. I explained to him what was up, and let me complain to him about my frustrations.

In addition to me, and the two others in front of me on the list were
 three others who were behind me on the list and a couple of fellas who were still trying to get on a flight after getting bumped off their flight at 2:30 p.m. for the same reason. Things were not looking good. I pulled out all the stops, talked about my community service trip to help the needy in Honduras, talked about the cost of my other flights, and mentioned the fundraising we had done to go on the trip.

Yeah … no dice. There was no way I was getting on the next flight. I was not the only one with a sob story.

There was a GU undergrad who was in complete tears, distraught over the thought of missing a planned family vacation, and there was another tale of a woman who had been traveling for the past week and spent the last couple days getting displaced from her planes.

These two ladies were the ones in front of me on the list. They agreed to take a guarantee on the 10:00 a.m. flight the next day, but also said they would try their luck on the chance they could get on the 8:30 p.m. flight. Yes, they would still be ahead of me on the priority list.

Another gentleman just wanted to go home, and the airline offered to refund his ticket and get him a rental car to drive to Seattle. He offered to give me a ride, but that still would not guarantee to get me to Houston on time.

Other people would come up to the counter, and the Alaskan Airlines man would tell them he could do nothing and a couple times said to them, “This lady is trying to get to Honduras for a service trip, and there is nothing I can even do for her at this time … “

Wow.  I had become the example.

The best Alaska could do for me at this time was give me at $300
 travel voucher and put me on the next flight they had an opening on. As much as I would have loved to use a voucher on an exotic trip to Hawaii or something, I was heartbroken that I was not going to be able to go to Honduras with the rest of the group.

Crushed, I took my voucher and moved off to the side and plotted out my next move.  It looked like I had a wonderful spring break ahead of me in sunny Spokane.

As this whole debacle went down, little did I know, but Ian Stamme 
had been watching. Again he approached to ask me what was going on. After I told him what had happened he went up to the counter to talk to an Alaska representative.

“What would happen and would it be possible for me to give my seat on this flight and give it to her?”
 he asked.

“WHAT?” I thought to myself.  Could it possibly be that there was a chance?!  Could he possibly be the patron saint of Mission Possible 

“Well we cannot offer you any kind of rebate or voucher for doing so. So if you just want to do this out of the kindness of your own heart we can do that, and we can put you on the flight tomorrow at 10:00am.”

“Let’s do that then.,” he responded.

An unbelievable smile had completely taken over my body. I could not believe it. I repeat, I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. I said about a million thank-yous, told him he was my hero about five more times than that, and gave him my $300 travel voucher.  I gave him a big hug, and told him that good karma was coming his way because it was just like he was helping little Honduran kids! He laughed and told me to have a great trip and told me to do some good.

At this same time, everyone from my previous flight had just landed in Seattle and I was receiving text after text asking me if I was getting on the next flight.  I excitedly responded with, “Yes. See you soon.”

I was on my way!



The travel from Seattle to Houston and Houston to San Pedro Suela is quite the adventure. After several hours in the air, in the airport, and then finally making our way through customs, we all successfully found ourselves standing in the warm Honduras sun loading up our rental cars.

The rental cars consisted of a van and an SUV. We were lured into a false sense of excitement at the promise of a brand new van. It was big, boxy, and shiny. Everyone made their way into the respective cars, five of us in the SUV, ten of us in the van. The van was packed and luckily we were all pretty tired from all the traveling so most of us slept. The bad news was the seats were not the most comfortable. There was a lot of fidgeting and moving around. Then … the singing started. Courtesy of Laurah, we were serenaded to many wonderful songs.

After several hours of driving, singing, complaining, laughing and anticipation, we finally made the turn in to Lepaera. For those of us who were returning members, it felt like we were coming home. The town looked exactly the same as the year before and there was this overwhelming sense of calm and excitement to turn down the street and head towards the Carias’ home where we would be staying. We all quickly got out of the car and were instantly greeted by the family. The whole family is very welcoming and loving. Despite the language barrier, there was so much love and excitement filling the room.

This year, there was one notable difference however. The beloved matriarch of the family, lovingly referred to as “Profe,” was missing. Earlier in the year, we learned that Profe’s breast cancer had returned. She wasn’t doing particularly well so instead of staying at the family home, she was staying at her parent’s home where there was a bit more care available. Her presence was instantly missed.




Waking up to sunshine and warmth was a much-needed reprieve from the rain and cold of Spokane. The coffee was also an exciting addition to the morning. It is fresh made every morning and is simply delicious. There is no other word for it. We always drink the entire pot.

So, after a great night’s sleep and a relaxing morning of drinking coffee on the back porch, it was time to get out and explore Lepaera. We walked around the town and took our new Mission Possible members to the projects we worked on the year before. Last year’s projects included painting a two-room kindergarten and also putting up razor wire along a wall and painting a sign for another school. It was great to see our hard work again and to share with our new members the excitement we all feel helping this particular town.

After a quick tour, we made our way through the market. The market takes up an entire road and is wall-to-wall people. You can buy everything from hats to shoes to fruit. We very clearly stuck out like sore thumbs amongst all of the locals.

After the market, we stopped by and visited Proffe. We all filled her room and had our Spanish speakers relay messages to her about how we missed her and we were all praying for her. Her transformation over the past year was startling and heartbreaking for all of us. In the past trips, she has been the glue to hold the group together with her meals and organization. It was nice to see her and be able to let her know that even though we don’t see her often, she is still in our thoughts.

Food and Honduras

 – by Laurah

I was designated assistant chef to the amazing Chef Samantha. I did not realize the extent of this commitment. The first step was a trip to the grocery store. The host father made the 45-minute drive that left the majority of us with white knuckles. At least 10 people came with us. Group grocery trips are not the best idea, because we all have different ideas of what we need. Tomatoes, we definitely needed more than 10 tomatoes, although it was not on our list. Then, I attempted to buy steak with very limited grocery Spanish. I still don’t know what part of the cow we bought. Rest assured, I did not buy the llevos.

The next step was the preparation of our meals. The fall-back meal of the trip was beans, eggs, cheese, and tortillas. I think I can speak for the group that we are okay not having that for awhile. Another meal was a mango bean dish that took a few days to figure out when to eat it (and a few arguments).

Finally, we made the mystery steak. Luckily, the group was busy playing cards while Sam and I made the beef stew. We bought four pounds and probably only cooked two pounds, since we cut out pieces that did not look normal. Sam and I spent an hour cutting the steak and trying to guess what part of the cow it came from. This resulted in a great taste, but a hard time to chew and not because we over cooked it.

Next year, I will definitely research the Spanish terms for a butcher. Either way, we were never hungry and some of the best memories came from the meals we ate together.


Monday morning we woke up to another beautiful sunny day and a hot pot of coffee. We started to organize ourselves into groups to get the supplies to start painting the first school we were going to and to start collecting backpacks for our second school.

We traditionally try to raise money and gather some school supplies before we go down there so that we can leave a school that has a lot of children in need with some school stuff. This year, we also held a backpack drive as a fundraiser at school. We asked our fellow students, professors and school staff to donate $10 to “sponsor” a child in Honduras. We took this money as well as some of our personal money down to the markets to see what we could purchase.

Backpacks – Nicole

As the most fluent Spanish-speaker of the group, buying backpacks and school supplies became my project. Right away I ran into a few problems. First, the school we were working with apparently had many more children than the schools for which we had bought backpacks in previous years. In addition, Honduras, also negatively affected by the struggling economy as well as political instability, has recently experienced price increases, so all of the materials and supplies we needed for the work we would do, including donating the backpacks, ended up costing more than what our budget anticipated.

The budget for backpacks was 25 Lempira a piece, and we needed backpacks for 63 girls and 42 boys. Some members of the group and I went, accompanied by the daughter of our host family, to look for backpacks at local shops in Lepaera. After visiting two or three shops, it became clear that even small pre-school sized backpacks could not be obtained for 25 Lempira each. The average price for a standard-sized backpack was a little over 100 Lempira. The salesperson at one store informed me that the owner of her store was in San Pedro Sula, the nearest big city (about four or five hours away), and we could order the backpacks to be brought from there at a lower, wholesale price.

As a group, we discussed this possibility, and though we had hoped to support the local economy by buying the backpacks from local vendors, we chose to order the backpacks from San Pedro Sula because of the constraints of the budget. I returned to the shop and spoke with the employee, informing her of our new budget, 50 to 60 Lempira per backpack. She asked me to call that afternoon after she had a chance to speak with the store owner. When I called, she informed me that the lowest possible price would be 70 to 80 Lempira. As a group, we chose to accept this price.

By the time we picked up the backpacks, a few days later, the price had become a solid 80 Lempira per backpack.

Though we ended up spending much more than we had budgeted for, the smiles on the kids’ faces as we passed out the backpacks and school supplies was more than enough to justify the extra expense and the stress of negotiating for and ordering 105 backpacks.

Chicken Lunch and Painting Begins!

It has become something of a group tradition to have lunch at a local restaurant. I actually have no idea what the name of the restaurant is; we just always refer to it as the “Chicken Place.”

We decided that in between the backpack adventure and some of the boys going to buy paint, we would stop and grab lunch at the Chicken Place. They have this great rooftop patio with tables and chairs to enjoy your food at. We filled the patio up and the waiters brought us out plates and plates of chicken, French fries, tortillas, beans, salad and rice.

After lunch, it was time to finally start working! We all loaded up into the van and the SUV to head to our first school. The entire school consisted of about seven buildings and was painted a pinkish color. There was one building, however, that was painted a bright turquoise. It hadn’t been painted in a while and was in need of a bit of a facelift.

We matched the paint colors with the rest of the buildings and all 15 of us grabbed paintbrushes and paint rollers and got to work. It is amazing how fast 15 people can work to get a whole building painted, inside and out. After one very long afternoon, we were pretty close to be done!

The hard way to paint high places.

With Ben as his platform, Jeremy paints a hard-to-reach spot.

After another morning of my favorite combination, sunshine and coffee, we all went to the school to finish up around the building. It was a beautiful day and a great day to paint.

One of my favorite moments of the morning was when we were looking at a spot that seemed out of reach to everyone. There was an alarm and some wires sticking out so we wanted to be careful to paint around all of that instead of over it and making a mess. It seemed like a great idea at the time to put Jeremy on Ben’s shoulders and have him paint that elusive, hard to reach spot.

Looking back at pictures, you can see that the spot actually wasn’t THAT high and one of our resident giants, Julie or Brian, could have reached it – or we could have used one of the many ladders laying around.

Nonetheless, it provided for a great moment.

The Incident – by Ben

After spending the morning working at the school in Lagunas, we packed up and headed out toward the school in Ocotillo, where the teachers there would provide us with lunch and then we would start painting that afternoon.

Brian, Steve, Denny, and I had taken one excursion with the Professora to the school and the drive was uneventful. We expected the same of our first trip there with the whole group. But life had decided to throw us a few curveballs that day, and what should have been a relatively easy 20 to 30-minute drive from Lepaera was anything but.

Roughly 10 minutes out of Lepaera on a small dirt road we came to a fork in the road, and the two cars stopped to figure out which road to take. After some discussion, and with the assurance of one of our hosts, Magdalena, we settled on the left fork. We continued driving for another 20 minutes or so, but in the minds of a few of us (myself included), doubts were forming as to our decision. The scenery looked different, and we were not passing the landmarks that we had picked out our first time to Ocotillo.

I should also include a little information to help people understand what happened next. Driving in Honduras is like nothing one would encounter in the United States. The roads are shoddy in most places, filled with potholes, divots, washouts, etc. And around Lepaera, it is mountainous, which means the roads are narrow, windy, and there are steep grades in many places.

In addition, all manner of vehicles are using the roads during the day: pedestrians walking to work, people on horseback, cattle being moved, dogs, trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles, and any other means of transportation one can think of. All of these things come together to make for a very interesting driving experience (and talking to a few people in the back of the van), an interesting riding experience.

Stuck on a mountain road in Honduras.

Stuck on a Honduran mountainside, Mission Possible teamsters contemplate their predicament.

Eventually Brian stopped so we could discuss the wisdom of our previous decision. I, driving the van, pulled up alongside the SUV as I had back at the fork. Only this time we didn’t stop. After a small period of confusion, which then devolved into a small period of crisis, we got the van stopped. We all hopped out to figure out what was going on.

It turned out that as we had gone down a series of long, steep grades, the brakes had become extremely hot and would not stop the van completely. Luckily the condition had an easy fix. Throwing water on the brakes (an action that sent billows of steam into the air) cooled them down, and after a few minutes they were working again. We were almost ready to get back on the road. All that was left was to get the van turned around so we could drive back up the mountain to the place we had made the wrong turn.

Unfortunately, turning a 15-person van around on a narrow mountain road is easier said than done. Somewhere around point six of a “10-point” turn, I backed up the van a little bit too far. The rear wheels of the van thanked me for my bold move by sliding off the road and falling into the small trench at the side of the road.

To call this trench a “ditch” would be disingenuous at best, although it was located where one would normally expect to find a ditch in relation to the road. The wheels were spinning freely; the van was thoroughly stuck.

Luckily a couple locals came upon the group in our unfortunate situation and agreed to help us out. With some people pushing, and someone who had driven roads like this his entire life in the driver’s seat, we freed the van and were back on the road. We loaded some people into the locals’ pickup and the rest into the vehicles and were on our way. The locals offered to give us a ride as far as our wrong turn; it was an offer we promptly took them up on.

Finally on the road again, we made it back to the site of our wrong turn safely. After thanking our Honduran rescuers, we headed out on the true path to our destination. The rest of the drive was blessedly uneventful. And although we arrived an hour or so late for lunch at the school in Ocotillo, as we all found out, the locals run on what we came to refer to as “Honduran time.” And according to Honduran time, we arrived right on time.

Hot Springs

After our fun and exciting day of painting and adventure, we decided to go to the hot springs. It is a welcome addition to the week, a chance to relax in warm water pools and also wipe off some of the grime from the week. We decided to order pizza and bring it with us for dinner. The pizza was much better than expected by the way!

After a quick dinner, we all jumped into the hot springs to swim. The water is so warm and wonderful. Plus, the atmosphere of the facility is very tranquil and almost jungle-like. There are plants everywhere and it feels very secluded. Our host family joined us as well. It was fun to have some down time just to relax and play.

Honduran schoolhouse

Schoolhouses play a central role in the Honduran culture.

Today was our most tiring and most successful workday. We were charged with painting an entire school, about sixbuildings and inside a few of the classrooms. The school was in need of some TLC.

This is one of the buildings we painted inside and out. The school hadn’t been painted in a very long time and as the day went on and more and more of the school was finished, the transformation was incredible. We took a school that was looking rather beat up and made it look bright and happy.

The schools are such a central part of every community so to be able to give the students and the teachers a beautiful place to learn and teach is such a gift.

Playing Hi-YAH with the schoolchildren.

Playing the game called "Hi-YA!" with the schoolchildren.

The day ended with a very thrilling round of games. We taught the students how to play some of our favorite playground games and they taught us to play a few as well. The favorite game of the year is lovingly referred to as “Hi-YA!”

-YA consists of a group of people standing in a circle. One person is it and they raise their hands above their head and then make a pointing/chopping motion at someone across the circle while yelling “Hi-YA!” Then, the person who was pointed at, must raise her hands above her head and tell “Hi-YA!,” while the two people on either side must make chopping motions toward her while also yelling “Hi-YA!”


School Program – by Lindsay

After two days of knocking hornet nests off walls, rolling celeste azul paint over the walls of the small school buildings, we returned to the school for a celebratory party and performance.

A boy plays the music for the game called "Lemon, Half-Lemon"

A small boy plays the music for the game called "Lemon, Half-Lemon."

Paint-covered and sweating from the heat, we took our seats outside one of the newly painted classrooms and awaited the show. Children gathered tightly around shyly watching us and occasionally breaking into large grins when we smiled at them.

A small boy was repeating the same song on the CD player that assured us of the entertainment to come. Little did we know that the performance would instead start with 15 American law students performing serving as the opening act.

First up: the “Lemon, Half-Lemon” game.

The principal of the school lined us up and commanded us to number off in espanol: uno, dos, tres … until all fifteen of us had a number and were instructed to repeat a Spanish tongue-twister about lemons and half lemons. My nonexistent Spanish skills left me with no idea what was happening and why I would have 11 lemons and a half-a-lemon and someone else would want those lemons and a half-lemon to boot.

Did I mention that it was very hot? The price for failing to accurately repeat the game revealed itself when one member stumbled over the words and was commanded to dance for two or two minutes with one of the teachers.

After the lemon and half-lemon debacle came an even more ridiculous game I’ll call the Gringo Broom Dance.

As music started and we went to take our seats, we were instead instructed to watch a small boy demonstrate a dance with the most unconventional partner: that’s right, a blue plastic broom. He then passed this on a Mission Possible member, who was then instructed to dance with the broom “as he would a woman.” Each of us taking our turn yielded hilarious results (captured on film that will hopefully never be seen by any bar admissions panel).

After we had sufficiently satisfied the crowd with our broom-wooing skills, it was time for the children’s performances. Girls and boys danced together in colorful outfits cheek-to-cheek and girls performed more contemporary dances as well.

Of particular enjoyment was a Mission Possible favorite: La Sucia. The folkloric tale of young boys going to the woods and espying a beautiful woman only to discover that instead appears a busty hag with an important message (that is hard to remember as one is instead bewildered by the specter of a child wearing a skeleton mask and balloon-enhanced chest).

Dancing with the schoolchildren

A small boy plays the music for the game called "Lemon, Half-Lemon."

After we were dazzled with a variety of dances and skits, the Mission Possible members were instructed to pick students to dance. The joy on the children’s faces when they were selected to dance put a smile on all of our faces. A small girl of two or three was a favorite partner and quite the little dancer.

It was then time to pass out the new backpacks. We went from classroom to classroom and each student was given a new backpack. The children shook our hands and thanked us in English. Each student seemed proud to be acknowledged individually. As we were graciously served hand-made tamales in the fading afternoon light, we watched the children play in the schoolyard. Our hearts happy and bellies full, we all felt a true sense of joy and accomplishment.

The schoolchildren gather for a group photo.

The schoolchildren gather for a group photo.


After our adventure at school, we headed back to the host family’s home and got ready for a game of soccer that had been organized by our host dad. After our day of being forced to dance for all of the children, it seemed appropriate to continue with the string of embarrassments and play soccer.

I would say half the town turned out to watch our display of athletic ability. Teams of five went out and tried to play …

They ran circles around us. We gave it a good effort but in the end, we were not very good. A few of our members had more soccer talent than others but it wasn’t enough to make up for the deficit. My personal strategy was to pick the largest, tallest man and try to defend him. This mostly resulted in him being too uncomfortable to do anything and confused as to why I wouldn’t leave him alone. Later, I learned he was the mayor of the town …

The scoring system was quite confusing. It seemed every time we scored a goal, the two current teams would keep playing. Whenever the other side scored a goal, the two teams on the field would get off and two new teams would get on. It was an interesting adventure to say the least …

After returning back to the house, we settled in for a group favorite, the game Celebrity. Celebrity consists of every player writing three names on pieces of paper and throwing them into a hat. The names can be real celebrities, group members or other infamous people. We are split into two teams and each team takes a turn trying to guess. There are three rounds.

The first round, a group member takes one name out at a time and can act or say anything he wants to help his team guess who the celebrity is (except say the name of course). Each person goes for a minute until all of the names have been said. The second round gets a little trickier, with the person only being able to say one word to describe the person. The idea is that you remember who is in the mix from the first round. The third round only allows for acting, no words.

It is always a really good time and makes up some of the best memories from the trip.



Friday morning started early. The plan was to wake up early and drive to Copan so we could have the full day to explore the town. As we were all packing up the house and cleaning, our host dad turned on the television that revealed a disaster occurring in Japan.

The Japan earthquake and the resulting tsunami were happening in front of our eyes. The tsunami was set to hit Honduras around 5 p.m. that night. Luckily for us, we were nestled in the mountains and not near the coast. It was still very eerie to watch the water wash over homes, buildings, and roads. The total destruction is still shocking.

We decided that we would use one of our working cell phones to call Julie’s mom and then Julie’s mom would then call all of our parents to let them know we were safe.

After we had cleaned the house and watched some more of the Japan coverage, we all packed into the car and headed down to see Proffe one last time.

The entire group and the entire host family all huddled in to the little room. We all surrounded Proffe and gave the family a few gifts from home. Every year we bring a photo of the previous year’s group and a few token Gonzaga items. There were several tears as we all hugged goodbye. It always feels like we are leaving family behind.

The drive to Copan took a few hours. We checked into our hostel and split into different groups based on how we wanted to spend the day. A few of us stayed around Copan and spent the day walking around the town.

Lindsay headed out on her own and explored Makah Mountain to look at birds. Another group went zip-lining and one group went to visit the Copan Ruins.

Copan Ruins – by Audrey

Upon first approach at Copan’s Mayan ruins, it seems that they must be hiding something great. The entrance is grand and exciting, like a an amusement park with a scaled replica of the ruins inside, and the tour guide makes a big deal out of using the restroom here (how far away from here are the ruins?).

As we are ushered outside for what seems like a nature walk, it starts to lightly rain and we can hear the sounds of birds. Our tour guide explains the many varieties of trees and birds in the area and their involvement in Honduras’s development. Among them are the:

  • the ceiba tree; a thorny tree when it is young, it connected the Mayan underworld to the heavens through its roots and high-reaching branches:
  • the avocado tree; a fruit that we eat with joy is native to Central America. Its name in Spanish, aguacate, comes from the Nahuatl (the language spoken by those native to central Mexico): “te” means tree, and “aguaca” means testicle, a reference to the fact that the fruits grow in pairs on the tree.
  • The cacao tree, from which we derive cocoa powder! At some points in history, the cacao seeds were also used as currency.

Once we pass the macaws and toucans, we walk to the acropolis, climbing a windy staircase made of ancient stones. At the top, we are instantly gratified to see the impressive enormity of the ruins. Apparently, we have something in common with the ancient Maya: they also loved monuments. The main temple in the acropolis received a facelift every time a new emperor from the 16-king dynasty took over.

Additionally, each time the temple was renewed, they left entrances to get to the older temples inside of the new one. It was their way of demonstrating how productive the king would be while respecting the past institution by keeping the placement the same.

After exploring the acropolis, our tour continues with the emperors’ palace, a compilation of multiple buildings for his enormous family, and to the assembly area, where wealthy Mayans could congregate to see the king. It is hard not to imagine the king’s obvious influence and power when sitting in the place of the Mayans: his backdrop would be a large temple and his voice would reverberate throughout with the plastered floors and and excellent acoustics.

The final stop on our tour is the open plaza. There, common people could come to watch the succession of the kings and sacrifices to the gods. The alters are aligned with the stars, and the ancient Maya played their ball game to ensure the continuing order and balance within the universe.

On the side near the acropolis, the Hieroglyphic Stairway sits as a constant reminder of the history of the Maya. The stairway depicts their history in unique form of writing that uses pictograms and combinations of pictograms to tell their story. When standing under the large tarp which protects the hieroglyphs, staring up at the steep stairs covered with symbols, you feel that history.

Reconnected – Friends Again!

After a much-needed break from the group, we all came back from our various trips and had a fantastic evening. We had spent every minute for the last week together and things were getting a little tense. After our excursions, we all went to a restaurant with a great outdoor patio and an even better happy hour. Happy hour led to dancing which then led to karaoke.




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