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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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Central America

Single White Female (Traveller)

“Oh Sarah”, said my mother, in that special tone of exasperation she seems to have only for me. “Why are you travelling alone? Don’t you have anyone you can go with? What if something happens”.  Let’s answer these questions one by one.

Don’t you have anyone you can go with? 

You can’t spend your whole life waiting for other people to do the cool shit you want to do. I became sick of missing out on life experiences merely because I didn’t already know someone who was going to do that thing. In short, travelling is a great way to make new friends.

What if something happens?

Here are my safety points.

1. never run out of cash

You never know when your bank card might mysteriously stop working, and as a person travelling alone, you have no friend that you could borrow money off in such a situation. Make sure you always have enough cash for a night in a hotel, a dinner, and a taxi ride to safety.

2. Keep your passport in your knickers.

When you’re wearing your backpack, it’s obvious that you have all your worldly possessions on you, so make sure you have your most important items (passports and emergency credit card) in a concealed money belt. If someone steals your phone or mp3 player, you’re gutted for a few days but life goes on. If someone takes your passport, you’ll have to go to the embassy to get a temporary document that is usually only good for one flight.

3. Don’t walk around alone at night.

Make friends with people in the hostel and explore with them.

 

Here are some photos of people I’ve made friends with on this trip:

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Having said all that, travelling solo does have it’s downsides. Firstly, accommodation can be trickier as you either end up paying 100% for a room (as opposed to splitting the cost with a friend) or staying in dorm rooms (which are cheap but rarely make for a good night’s sleep). Also, solo travel means doing 100% of the work, like reading up on stuff online, booking tickets, and all that other dull stuff that gets in the way of getting out there and enjoying whatever place you’re in.

But these are all small annoyances, and the benefits far outweigh them. My favourite “life skills” that I’ve learnt and continually refresh by travelling on my own is listening to myself and staying in the moment. What do I really want to do now? Am I hungry? Am I tired? With only myself for company and only myself to please the world is my oyster. Also, travelling means you can’t plan too much ahead. You can buy a flight, or reserve the odd bus, but in Central America the internet is much less used by businesses, so often it’s better to just rock up somewhere and take a look around to see what’s on offer.

All in all, travelling on my own isn’t my first choice, but I do feel a sense of achievement at all the stuff that I have done independently. But I’m also glad that my boyfriend and I have made a pact that the next time we do a big trip, we’re going to do it together, mainly because we are sick of spending 4 hours a week on Skype.

Copán Ruinas: The Best Place to Visit in Honduras?

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No matter how long you plan on staying in Copán for, I can guarantee you that you will end up staying there for an extra night! It’s a quaint little town, safe and clean, with oodles to do and not too saturated by tourists.

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The Ruins

Breathtaking Mayan Ruins in a beautiful park. Entrance costs $15, with $5 for a guide. Entrance to the site also allows you into a second, lesser visited site called “Las Sepulturas”, where you will end up climbing tomb raider style up and down more ruins than you can shake a stick at. I preferred the second site in some ways as it was quieter and the guides were more passionate, but the main ruins themselves were simply a beautiful place to just hang out and chill.

Bird Mountain

In San Pedro Sula, I was told that the bird park (“Macaw Mountain”) was unmissable, but I did in fact miss it. This was because:

a) I’m stingey

b) I prefer not to support businesses where animals are kept in cages

c) if you’re at the ruins at closing time, the macaws come in to roost, and you can get very close to them anyway. 

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Luna Jaguar

Beautiful thermal springs 60 minutes drive from the centre. I treated myself to this experience on the night of New Year’s day. It cost $25 (including transport), which was so cheap compared to anywhere else that I just couldn’t resist.

Eating

Most restaurants can be found on Calle de la Plaza, which goes from the south west corner of the central park. For breakfast, Avenida Sesesmil had a wide range of eateries, from organic coffee shops to local eating holes. There’s also a supermarket on this street, across from the football field, if you’re looking to cut costs, although a main course meal is unlikely to cost you more than $9, unless you go to the ritzy British Restaurant (obviously our notorious culinary reputation doesn’t precede us to Central America)

 

Honduras has a bad rep, but if you want to chill out and have a nice relaxing time, I highly recommend Copán. I’ve spent 3 months in Honduras now, and have come across the phenomenon that anywhere that is “safe” for me to go is invariably expensive and rubbish (i.e. some sort of chain). Not so in Copán, where people are friendly and welcoming, and when you ask them for directions, they actually stop, as opposed to in San Pedro where people are so guarded they won’t even turn to see who is addressing them.

 

As I was leaving my hostel, the proprietors and his friends asked me to stay. They are active on workaway.com and usually have at least one volunteer. I was tempted; they were lovely people, and this was the nicest place I had been to so far in Honduras. But time was awasting, and I had to continue my journey to see more of this beautiful yet troubled country.

Christmas in Honduras

I’m having a wonderful time sharing Christmas with the girls at Our Little Roses home for girls. Here are some of my observations about Christmas here (as opposed to Europe/USA).

1. Christmas is celebrated on midnight of the 24th, not on the 25th

2. People set off so many homemade fireworks you might think it’s World War III

3. Santa comes at midnight to give presents

 

ImageSpecial Christmas church service.

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More photos to follow!

 

Money in Honduras

The currency in Honduras is called Lempiras.

4000 Lempiras =$50

1000 Lempiras =$12.50

100L= $1.25

With these kinds of numbers, the money can be pretty confusing, as you can imagine.

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Honduras: too unsafe to visit?

Here’s a map of Central America:

HONDURAS

Honduras is the pink country, and I’m going to San Pedro Sula, which is it’s second biggest city.

The media have dubbed Honduras  the “murder capital of the world”, yet it would appear that the violence that contributes to the statistics is mainly between rival gangs.

That being said, I‘ve made a promise to my boyfriend to “be safe”, so I won’t be travelling through the country, and will be staying in Our Little Roses home for girls, and following their safety precautions (like only travelling through the city using their driver etc), as violence is concentrated in the cities, and the home borders a neighbourhood called El Bordo. However, I do hope to meet some interesting locals through Couchsurfing.com as I would in any other place in the world. I realise that on all of my previous travels I have been incredibly lucky, as sometimes I made mistakes and been lax about my safety, but was always able to extricate myself. This trip, I won’t be taking any chances, and hopefully that will make me even safer than I have been while living, working, and travelling in big cities in Europe.

Pluviophilia

 

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Most people love the sun, but me? I love the rain! I love listening to heavy rain when I’m safely inside, tucked up in bed, with nowhere to go and nothing to do except listen to the soothing music that the raindrops make against the window. When I’m hiking, there’s nothing I like better than a refreshing drizzle to keep me cool. Also, you just can’t beat that “green” smell that you get as the rain evaporates from the wet grass in the countryside. I love it!images

It’s the result of a combination between “nature and nurture”. Genetically, my ancestors are all Gaelic, so I must have some sort of extra protection against wet weather. It really is my natural habitat! It’s also “nurture”, as growing up in Wales meant adapting to wearing clothes that were both warm but also quick drying.

When I moved to Madrid, I didn’t  know anything about dressing for hot weather, and I had no idea how sick and lethargic working in the heat (without air-conditioning) would make me. I didn’t know about wearing loose clothes in light colours, or sandals, or just to stay off the streets (and out of the sun) between 1 and 5 in the afternoon. Gradually, I started to copy the behaviour of people I saw on the street who were taking advantage of a tree’s shadow while waiting to cross the street, or eating light, cool snacks like chopped watermelon.

The oven dry heat in Madrid never suited me, and I came to realise that my genes were specialised for cooler climates. In the winter, Madrid can be quite cool in the morning (around freezing) but very warm in the sun at lunch. If I walked to work in winter, then by the time I arrived I was warm enough to have removed my jacket. My colleagues would look at me as if I was totally bonkers, rubbing their arms and shivering.

I’m glad that I lived in Madrid and have learned how to take care of myself in hot weather, as that’s an experience that will be invaluable to me on my trip to Central America. I’ve never been to a tropical climate before, but I am both mildly allergic to insect bites and totally irresistible to most of the bugs I have encountered so far in my life. Even though I try not to use chemicals (and never use aerosols) I really will have to bite the bullet and invest in some heavy duty insect repellants and non-drowsy antihistamines to keep me comfortable. But I’m no stranger to humidity, and I’m sure I’ll feel right at home wearing wellies (rain boots) in Costa Rica!

Fear of…Teenage Girls

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In 7 days, I’m headed to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, (dubbed by the media as “the murder capital of the world”), to work with the girls and young women at Our Little Roses. I have a lot of experience with under 11s, but working with the age bracket 15 and up scares me slightly.

I think the root of my fear of working with this age group is that I was a bit of a lost soul at that age myself. It was a dark time in my life, where I had a dim view of a system that I had seen fail me and many others, and I especially disliked people who I considered to be “do-gooders”. I was so desperate for peer recognition that I did every rebellious thing that I could, regardless of whether I enjoyed it or not, like smoking, drinking, and going to music festivals.

I made a point of associating with people older than me, and I had zero positive role models. Not that I wanted any anyway; as far as I was concerned, the world was broken, and I had completely lost faith in any force for good.
Although the girls at the home and I are from worlds apart, I know what it is like to feel alone and abandoned. Maybe these girls will be different from how I was; I had seen it all and I wasn’t interested in anything you had to tell me. I really hope that I don’t find anyone there who is as disillusioned as I was.

Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I’ve managed to make some peace with the past, rediscovering who I am and what I really like to do. I’m very aware that I am privileged to be involved in this project, and I want to be of as much use there as possible. I hope I have the confidence to be myself with these girls. Maybe they have more to teach me than I have to teach them.

Rihanna’s Unethical Tourism: Shaming doesn’t work (free e-book!)

rihanna

I just read this article in a national newspaper, and it’s made me feel pretty exasperated. Apparently, Rihanna went on holiday to Thailand and took advantage of what was offered to her there, which has lead the Thai government to make several token arrests. Sigh.

Here’s a quote from a zoologist (from the Guardian article):

“Please help us raise awareness about this problem by speaking out against it and asking your fans not to have their photo taken with exotic animals when abroad.”

Why do we expect celebrities to be our moral educators? Aren’t celebrities doing charity work just looking to improve their image in the media? Isn’t that how they roll?

“Rihanna was visiting Thailand while on a brief holiday […], seemingly oblivious to the legal customs of the country.”

So, like the majority of tourists who go there then?

There’s nothing to be gained by pointing the finger at Rihanna, ridiculing her, and saying “How dare she not have known!”, when I’m sure thousands of visitors to Thailand every year get sucked in to doing pretty much exactly the same thing without really thinking it through, just to get their very own photo with a tiger. It’s the way it is, and it needs to change, and this is a great opportunity to do that, but shaming people isn’t going to convince them to change their behaviour, and closes any form of meaningful dialogue.

I’ve commented in a previous post about ethical tourism in general, and this incident will spur me on to write future, more in depth posts on the areas I’m visiting in Central America. Meanwhile, why not take a minute to read this site about ethical tourism:

http://www.roughguide-betterworld.com/

They even have a free e-book to download!

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