Our first full day in country was a field trip with some HAF students to the Fortaleza de San Fernando, about two and a half hours from Quimistan. The pictures below only hint at the breathtaking vistas and window into history we experienced here. After a wonderful seafood lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Bay of Cortez, we stopped for some fun at a big swimming pool near the restaurant.
Saturday 10/22 was an event-filled day for the 10 folks on the 2022 mission trip to Quimistan, Honduras. Cultural exchange began on the plane in Atlanta, the air filled with Spanish and a bit of English; people getting to know their seatmates. Flying 11 kilometers above the earth on a glorious, bright day, we were treated to glimpses of the Florida coastline on the panhandle, Cancun, Mexico, and Honduran cloud cover to the horizon, dotted with cloud islands.
As we broke through the clouds, I enjoyed the tropical countryside, the airport hidden from my view until the runway appeared just in time. We landed at San Pedro Sula right on time at 11am, two timezones west of Atlanta. After clearing customs bureaucracy, we were welcomed by old friends to many, Maynor and Flower, and the driver—a new friend. We loaded up luggage and four massive crates of supplies and piled into the van.
After picking up Agape Promises graduate German (Her-MAHN) for lunch, we visited the culinary institute Washington Academy where he is a student. German also goes by Daniel. Here are some photos to illustrate that visit.
After more than three hours on the road, we made it to our home-away-from-home, Villa Celea Delfina. Much unloading, rearranging of beds and unpacking ensued.
Now it was time for a celebration for one University Program graduate and three Agape Promise grauduates , listed in the order they appear in the next photo:
Lucia graduated from university with a degree in Business Adminstration
Alice, Efren, and Yaky graduated from high school
The program was held at the HAF office in Quimistan. Local leaders of the HAF program honored the four graduates with a lovely, heartfelt program. Local participants included HAF Maynor (HAF administrator), Fanny (teacher of the older students), Sandra (teacher of the younger students), fellow student Genesis who sang and led group singing, and Isabel, pastor of the local church, La Cosecha (The Harvest). She gave a stunning speech on the commitment to God needed to fulfill your dream. Her model was Joseph who held true to God, overcame much adversity, gained much in a foreign land, and regained his own land and family.
HAF President Michael Norton was also honored in the program, as was the entire group of HAF missionaries. We were given the best seats in the house and served a wonderful meal.
As I come to the conclusion to this virtual blog, I remain somewhat melancholy because our trip has been delayed by circumstances beyond our control. Certainly, a pandemic leaves no quarter untouched and it has created deep and lasting memories along with stories to tell our grandchildren in the future… “I Remember where” …? I do hope and pray that everyone remains as safe as possible… Social distancing is the key factor in personal safety… I have been practicing it for nearly 53 years now and it has not let me down yet!
“The treasure of a life Is a measure of love and respect The way you live, the gifts that you give
In the fullness of time Is the only return that you expect
The future disappears into memory With only a moment between Forever dwells in that moment Hope is what remains to be seen”
This ‘virtual’ journey into the past has calmed my infant soul by ending in ‘The Garden’ tonight. It was in the garden that Jesus faced his greatest struggle… the moments tick away as he knows what lies before him. The cross looms on a distant hill outside of ‘God’s Holy City’. Masses cry to crucify him and yet he understands ‘why he is here’.
We travel on this journey based upon faith… even if only doing well for the sake of mankind. Freddie Grubber once said, “It is not what happens at the moment of impact between the stick and the drum head… it is about the time spent in the air arriving at that point.” My interpretation of that statement is that it is not the notes of music on the flaccid page, but the time spent between them… Each one of us who have served on the journey to Honduras has experienced the span between notes, even if for only once, or many times, the impact is still the same.
B-Rad has dissected my thoughts thoroughly in all of my blog posts… yes I am fleshing out the grief and the loss of a hero, and yet he called himself ‘Nobody’s Hero’. It was a tribute to a fascinating guy, musician and writer as well. I never met him personally because he lived his self-imposed motto, “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend.” It is what it is… we keep moving forward… memories are the best things that we can take away in life… good… bad or indifferent, they are a part of our ‘air time’ before the beat. I want to take a moment to express a deep and sincere of gratitude for all of those who have served together on this journey over the past 10 years.
Wikesboro Team Members: Chris, (Senor Jefe) Thank you for inviting me from the beginning to be a part of this journey of faith. Jerry (Mater) your friendship is priceless and all of the time we have spent together here and abroad. Brad (B-Rad) seeing you struggle and grow as you have. The laughs and jokes… always wonderful Kay (Que Pasa) for your support and dedication over the years… Gracious Wanda (Quanda) My halfback from the sunshine state… keep bringing the light Lorie (Lama) your infectious smile from your youth has never left you… never let it Tom (Hondo) Strumming is the journey God has lead you in… go farther Jennifer (J-Lo) Pilla pumping mamma can pack my mook anytime… Go pack! Jarred (Hans) the dreadlocks of affection and the P90-X served your well Dane (Frans) Our true African American… it has always been a joy in your presence Casey (KC) Life is what it is, press the go button and hang on Aaron (Aron) Keep doing that Muscle Tech mock flex Will (Wilbur) you still scare me with you night walks… it’s been a great but strange trip Alex (Ajax) your art and creations along the way… The chicken still kills me Michael (Coop) Pepper squire par excellent, great conversations as well Madison (Madster) Thanks for saving Jefe from the scorpion… our hero Hunter (Hunterzilla) you will be a great father and husband with your dedication Madison (Selfie) Keep Hunter straight up there… Congratulations on the baby Tori (Body Pump) Keep that cheerful smile going and you will go far Graylan (Hound-Dog) Glad to see you succeed in life and keep my niece in line Nick (Nicko) glad to have known a famous actor Perry (Lowman) great time, infectious smile wish you the best Derrick (Dirk) you need to go again, they have plenty of food Jacob (Lil Dirk) Hope you trust in sun screen and see you there again Sam (Sam-well) your heart and footprint will forever remain in Honduras Arnold (Narnie) for your friendship and respect Becky (Bam) my extended mom, I love you in a special way Loraine (Rogaine) for all of your support through the years Tracey (Camel) For… toeing it up Lucie (LuLu) for you friendship, help and support Russell, for believing in us, Pat, for daring to come with us crazy gringos, Joe, for rousing Hans and B-Rad at 6:00am for the rooster call, Lucas, for shade squatting, Victoria, for the photo shoots, Colon, for leaving your laundry in the sink. For all of the prayer partners at Wilkesboro and support from home while we journey there.
Our Honduran Family: Maynor (My lord) your friendship, care and trust for many native and foreign people. Much love my brother Daniela (Chico) for all of your wisdom, friendship and trust in me thru the years Sandra and Gloria for the entire behind the scenes work and endless hours of service… blessings Lupie and Suyapa for continuing the great service to us Mario and Pablo my brothers of another mother… thanks for getting us out of some sticky situations Stanley, Maynor Dos, David, Skinny for translating for us in all situations Agape Foundation (The Federation) for providing a way
All of the people we have served along the way, we have been blessed far greater by you, than we have blessed you.
I would be virtually flying back to Greensboro at this moment… “a fullness of time where the hope will be seen.” The storms outside at this moment stir up fears of flying and all of the dangers that are associated with it, but it is the nature of the beast… together our common goal is ‘Gods’ work… fulfilling the great commission of taking the Gospel to all ends of the earth.
My last song selection for this virtual journey is iconic in many reasons… It is the last song on the last studio album that Rush produced. As I have listened to the lyrical content forming an impression of its meaning… Within a few years its composer would die of cancer… it almost feels like an epilogue of his final years… maybe he had a feeling that his time was limited on earth. That is true for all of us; life is but a journey, the wisp of air above the drumhead and the time between the notes… I hope that all of this effort is not in vain, but it takes you across your personal journey to Honduras and life in general. Analyzing and learning from all of it to make the difference that we are called to be. I have made my peace with it all, the infant soul is calm for now and needing rest from the Portal for a while.
I always find it difficult or intimidating to follow one of B-Rad The former Blog Master’s rants on TWAT mooking. Top ten adventures of years gone past and a post-black metal DOOM laden blogpost… They do not call him the Blog Master for nothing. Thanks for his contribution to this year’s ‘Virtual Blog’ on what should have been… and looking forward to what will be in the near future. Thanks for reminding me and even correcting my aging memory on some of the accounts that I have written over the past couple of weeks. The newly purchased twin towers of Doom, infamous Pila pumping incident, and the mighty Chicken Choker! Am! All good stuff and I cannot wait to be your bung hole plug in October Budday! Viva Captain Butt Beard!
One of my favorite Cusack movies in the mid 80’s is classic “Better off Dead.” A perennial loser Lane Myer (John Cusack) is standing on top of the K2, preparing to ski down the step and perilous slope for the upcoming race against Roy Stalin… the ultimate douche bag ‘Skiing Instructor’. As he fearfully looked over the edge making excuses ‘what am I doing’, his best friend Charles De Mar (Curtis Armstrong) was standing beside of him… encouraging Lane how to ski the mountain. “Go to the right… then turn to the left ready fast.” Lane Myer asked, “are you sure?” Charles De Mar said, “I’ve been going to high school for seven and a half years… I ain’t no dummy!” B-Rad is a highly educated gentleman… thoughtful words always flow from his corporate sellout knockoff rear end… I on the other hand took seven and a half years to complete a five-year course at Duke… Therefore, I am his Charles De Mar concerning the blog… your humble servant my friend!
“Memory strumming at the heart of a moving picture
All this time I’ve been workin’ them angels overtime Riding and diving and flying just over the edge
Workin’ them angels Workin’ them angels Workin’ them angels overtime
Driving down the razor’s edge & ‘tween the past and the future Oh, turn up the music and smile Get carried away on the songs and stories of vanished times
Memory drumming at the heart of an English winter Memories beating at the heart of an African village
All my life I’ve been workin’ them angels overtime Riding and driving and living so close to the edge”
Our virtual blog journey takes our team back to the Teo community once again. An exceptional piece of juicy bush found in the mountains of northern Honduras near the border of Guatemala. This will be our teams’ third mission adventure in the trusted community… (Roofed a school in the second or third adventure, the electrify bandits in year five) now a ‘Bano’ re-boot for the school. As exciting as that all sounds, we are here with a heavy heart as well. Several key figures are missing on this trip… Que Pasa had digressed the year before claiming she would not be returning… she said, “that God had not called her back into the mission field.” She has been one of the team’s cornerstones from the beginning, only missing one adventure because of a knee replacement. Quanda, relativity still a newbie by years of service, but a much-appreciated member… guarded closely by the brain trust as a possible forth member… (Sorry Tumor… AKA Hondo). She took the year off to celebrate the birth of a couple of new grandchildren… Come on Quanda! You know my sacrifice this year… My sixth grand child was born on St. Maters day… that took a lot of begging and understanding from my daughter to get the blessing to come myself this year. Love ya Dee Dee and Lil Bit too! This leads me to Daniela’s sad departure from our group’s inner workings. A longtime Federation employee who has been the construction Jefe on all our mission journeys. He chose to leave the ‘family’ and do his own thing… that left me, Marco Francisco to spearhead the construction of this project. Faced with the responsibility of leading or ‘not’ going… the team may have not been able to go because the lack of construction leadership… Yep I just tooted my own kazoo.
Workin’ them Angels… Lucia and Josalyn… we did a pretty fair amount of that along the way. These two Future Federation standouts and My lord’s office assistants, joined in on the mooking festivities somewhat, but most of the time they kept KC comfortable in the shade while taking care of his paper cuts. When they were able to break away from the grouping session under the shade tree… twin boppers were taking critical photos and a few videos of la maquina at work. Over the years we have to bend the rebar forms by hand on a series of nails driven into a spare board (A tradition that was taught to yours truly by Rigo many years ago). A very prolonged process and certain prospect to blister your hands. Daniela had ‘borrowed’ a crude machine that would speed up the process dramatically… but again in the Honduran way, it was crude with a lot of variation. Once I returned from the “Great Wall of Mook” adventure… I began to build the mother of all wire benders. Built with all ball bearing drive and slicker than a Honduran bush country road after a torrential rain storm. All of the locals watched in amazement as B-rad and others worked effortlessly to make hundreds of the small wires to hold the rebar’s shape for the construction process.
Workin’ that Angel… Juan Jose was a great joy on this journey. He is the president of the community and a strong leader, worker and father as well. Several times he invited us to his humble abode for lunch, but the crem de la crem was his daughter’s 18th birthday party! The feast of steak with all of the trimming was out of this world! I am sure he thought… ‘Loco Gringos’ as he tried to teach several of us how to ‘sling mook’ on the walls after we build the new structure… I bet he is still sitting around a campfire on the mountain top retelling stories of how Jefe put more mook in his beard than on the blocks.
Workin’ them Hell’s Angels (B-Rad vs. Alien Ants). As the walls of the new bano slowly climbed from the ground, we began to dig the trenches for the new waste lines… somewhere along the process… Brad stirred up a nest of hell raising fire ants… Hell’s micro demons lit him up along his feet and ankles. He had several red welts, but by the next morning the welts had turned into massive blisters. On this particular morning… I walked into the kitchen area of our Comfort Suites Penthouse… to find B-Rad sitting on the countertop with his feet in the sink trying to clean the venomous injection sites on his feet and legs. (Am of the Day) I burst out in laughter at the scene while trying to give him words of encouragement for his pain and suffering AMMMMMM! Those Hell’s Angels did a number on that poor boy but being the trooper that he has always been… he refused to ‘Shade Squat’!
Workin’ them Mid-Summer Night Dreams… Drew us back to the Mayan Ruin complex in Copan once again. Our tour guide spoke Spanish and English very well. But there was something amiss with his English accent… I could hear a tint of the guttural language of ‘Der Fatherland’ in his inflection. I spoke to him in his native tongue, “sprechen sie Deutsch?” I said. His eyebrows raised mightily… as though he was… busted! Or secondly as a friendly voice and native language of days gone by. His back story was that he was originally from Germany and had moved to Honduras many years ago… the alarm bells went off in my head and others as well as we thought ‘Nazi’ defector. Beyond that complication… we toured the site again, gaining more knowledge about the insane traditions of bloodletting, piercing the genitals with bone fragments and how the Mayan calendar and time keeping process works… Intently I listened to him give an exposition on the time keeping process (Being a drummer we get moist when the conversation gets into time keeping) and added all his educational thoughts to my iPhone note pad for future reference. Welcome to the 13th Valktun 7th katun… better known as a no trip to the land of milk and honeydew due to Corona virus!
Workin’ them Glutes… Celebrating St. Maters Day is always a special occasion for the team over the years… always seeking to go one step above the last if you will. 20 de Mayo 2019 was no exception and it may have set the bar to an unobtainable level! Between Jefe and My lord the plan of attack was put into motion weeks prior to the trip. I know Mater realizes that we are going to do something for him on his special day, but I am certain that he was not expecting the erotic ‘Twerk-fest’ that took place in the dinning hall that evening. His eyes affixed upon the tandem dancers as they did a traditional Honduran dance… geez I wonder what a ‘Honduran Dirty Dance’ looks like! Blushing as he was over the dancing, but the happy ending came about with much flair as the cake exploded in a hot shower of sparks… Mater looked worse for the ware… thoroughly spent and exhausted without the hope of refactor for days to come. After that massive jizz exploding moment… (AM of the Day) Certainly… it will be forever entrenched in his memory bank… and our minds as well. A man of his age now… the only thing he had in his future was a nice cold shower and a scrape with his better half Beck.
(Video Evidence and Photos available upon request)
I will complete this ‘Virtual Blog’ tomorrow with an epic postlude blog filled with gratitude and sarcasm I am sure. Until then, “y’all keep em’ straight up there.”
Another year… another journey and a trip down memory lane. Destination Laguna del Carmin found deep in the Honduran bush. This was yet another new location for the Carolina de Norte clan to inject our special blend of proliferation… a conquest and belt notch we all relished. Viva Honduras!
The trip began with some high drama from the Lama… virtually impossible to travel these post 9/11 days without our proper credentials… much less internationally. She attempted to test the mettle of the Nazi SS or as we have come to know the friendly angels of the skies… TSA agents. No Bueno, the ‘dead’ passport was rejected! (AM of the Day) Mama Lama… somehow, she made a way… I do not know how… and I may not want to know how other than her husband is a great lawyer. I can only imagine her facial expression driving in the morning rush hour traffic in a mad panic…
It may have been like one of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth’s famous ‘Rat Fink’ art works… In the end Lama boarded the next condor bound for Hotlanta arriving just in time to join us for another adventure in the land of Milk and Honeydew!
Our project in this community consisted of building a new retaining wall to protect the kindergarten class at the base of a hill… cliff? The previous ‘rainy season’ caused the earth to give way and cover the northside of the building. They (The Federation) have chosen the best participants… well the Mook- xperts from all these years gone past. We wrestled huge boulders and ‘We Dig It’ was the motto. Other members of the team assisted Marco Dos in building several new desk and chairs for the school. From the barren ground arose the ‘Great Wall of Mook’… but the journey to this isolated village was the true joy on this trip.
In Honduran time they said it will take about one hour to reach this village… but it is a four-wheel drive only journey. Actually, it took more like an hour and forty-five minutes each way… those Hondurans have no sense of time consumption. The first day we picked up a few items to build the desks… There is photographic evidence on the Blog Portal to this ‘Load’. Six people, six cords of wood in the back of a Nissan Frontier pick up shod with ‘May-Pop’ tires… you can begin to get the picture here. The dust, the dirt, the Flem that was hacked up was a small price to pay along the way. It was about the bonding in the bed of that truck that creates such good memories along the way.
Some of my fondest memories of those journeys and adventures in the back of that Lil Black truck… up and down and along the way… One morning the truck suddenly… dying without warning in the middle of a blind curve on the mountainside… Stranded without communication service, sitting ducks in the middle of the road, what are we going to do now? That was the question at hand. Within a couple of minutes, literally just a couple minutes (Gringo time). Another Pick up that was traveling down the mountain stopped to assist us. Say what you will about the people from Central America… the neighborly gesture that occurred on the roadside would never ever, or at least vaguely consider… occur in the grand ole United States. The ‘Good Samaritan’ took the battery out of his truck and installed it into ours! (AM of the Day) We arrived just in time to get the party started at the Mook pile and whistled while we worked all day long.
A second memory was everyday our route lead us across a grassy plateau covered with a strange rock formation. I have often thought, “How did they get there”? These rocks were extremely large and black in color. They were situated in an area that was for the most part… uninhabited and yet there they were. I presumed or at least came to the conclusion that the rock formation was volcanic in nature, I dubbed the site as ‘Nature’s Stonehenge’ placed there by an exploding ancient volcano during the earths formation… or was it debris from the great meteor that struck the Yucatan peninsula millions of years ago? I will that one up to you to ponder on for a while.
During our ‘day off’ we ventured to Tela for a relaxing day of sun and surf… Unbeknownst to Lil Dirk, the UV rays of Honduras are extremely strong there… It will be ok he said… I tan easy he said… Sunscreen is for wimps (and Jefe)! Ha! He came out of the ocean looking like a Maine lobster ready to be served at a pro meat Trump rally… let blisterfest begin! His youthful exuberance and poor decision-making process sidelined him for a few days… Meanwhile, the lil truck received a heart transplant that day. Its thirst for 50w motor oil was causing a small crisis along our route… apparently it was burning too many pine knots per kilometer causing government officials to reject the ‘Clean Idle Emissions Certification’ at least temporarily. Monday morning Wilmer told me the story of the engine swap… Incredible! (Never am I surprised by their ingenuity!)
Our clients in the village were very hospitable to the foreigners in their land. Often, they brought us snacks, coffee, while sharing local delicacies of home cooking. A nice break from the PB&J daily grind. UWhile the ‘Steerage Class or ‘labors’ toiled in the broiling sun… discovered that a couple of the bogarts would slip off around lunchtime while the rest of us were slaving away… Down to the local café they slithered… for a good ole down to earth homecooked meal. (AM of the Day) Senor Jefe and KC seemed to be the main culprits and eventually led or maybe better stated ‘misled’ Dirk to the dark side. Not sure and lacking creditable proof, but I have a profound feeling that Marco Dos was the one of main culprits as well… While the team consensus was that KC seemed to be on hiatus most of the time, the primary question between the labors was, “where is KC?” Call him what you want, but you will never call him late for a meal. Many stories to tell form the mountainside including the ‘Chicken Choker’ was one of my favorites, Senor Jefe in Heat, and my two adoptive sons, ‘Billy’… Even through my best broken Spanish… we always had a good laugh daily.
Our final stop along this precarious ride ended at a school in Penalejo. Daniela’s daughters’ school had started the construction process for a new ‘Computer Lab’. (Al Gore said, “Someday… everyone would get to share his invention… the internet.”) Daniela and Vieael had already completed the lay-out and the footings had been dug. Our task… if we choose to accept it was to fill those trenches with some high quality Mook!
Mook we did all day long. I do not know how much we mixed… but it would be measured in ‘tons’ of materials. If your thirst for mook had not been fulfilled that day… (you need to go to rehab… you have a problem… seriously). Mix, transport and pour all day long in the blistering heat… this after we were already at the point of exhaustion to begin with. The PFD factor certainly caused us to work at half efficiency, though it did not seem to affect the company shade squatters… or Marco, begging a child for some food from their lunch box.
One positive from this trip was a foretaste of the new and improved ‘La Maquina’ to assist us in future projects. I took several scaled spy photos of the contraption and tucked them away… deep into my hard drive for future reference. I will talk about this tool in the next post. Today’s music needs no lyrics or words… because… it is an instrumental.
Being a bit of a music geek, especially when it comes to this band, the back story on this song is this; Because they were perfectionists and wanted to record this song in ‘one take’, they liked the song so much they wanted to be able to play it live in concert… and sound just as good as the recording. They spent over three weeks trying to achieve their goal… to no avail, with its complex time change and melodies, it was recorded in three separate takes and sectioned together by the engineer. Enjoy the cerebral cortex orgasm!
Before we move on with the countdown, I thought I would share the virtual mooking accident that took place a few days ago when I went to scoop a giant load of freshly mixed virtual mook and the shovel slipped and gashed into my shin, leaving me to bleed out. Ammm! Blut Aus Nord’s “Procession of the Dead Clowns” played a noxious tune in the distance as I heard some fallen angles stumble into Hell. A callous sigh escaped through the gash and the leaves silently quivered with joy as my life-sustaining fluid nourished them.
5. Team TWAT
It was established during the Deathtrap 3000 clustermook of 2012 that two mookers working as a team would hence be referred to as: TWAT (Two Working As a Team). Deeply proud to be a party to the formation of this rare alliance, a TWAT team was defined as a profoundly intricate working unit that forms when a deep relationship is fashioned between the mookers and the mook. TWATs have a deep understanding of the mook, a deep commitment to the mook, and the most disciplined minds that enable full manipulation of the mook and all that is holy therein. A TWAT is normally created in the conventional sense with a Mook Master and a Mooker (i.e.: The Rule of Two, borrowed from the order of the Sith); the Mook Master embodies the power and skill he has acquired with the mook, and the Mooker the role of the protégé that craves his master’s knowledge. Although it doesn’t always work this way. There have been other instances of TWATs where there’s not a clear master, just a special alliance (Quanda and Que Pasa come to mind). Three mookers working as a team can also configure a TWAT, though this this has never been successfully achieved and would upset the Rule of Two. Whatever this configuration detracts from the natural advantages consistent with the Rule of Two, it makes up for by providing the possibility of leverage.
Another caveat… there can only be one TWAT on the squad at any instance in time. If signs of two or more forming TWATs emerge, the Mason or the Mook Master must evaluate the competency of each TWAT, and eliminate the TWAT(s) displaying the least skill. If a TWAT is operating under the guise of a TWAT, this is permissible and even encouraged. Multiple mookers working together is efficient. However, these TWATs are still considered phonies.
The formation of a TWAT allows us to segment into the institution of the time-honored motivational strategy perfected by Senor Jefe: “The Wounded Racoon.” This is a tactic employed by a Mason or a Mook Master that drives productivity by disparaging fellow mookers or phony TWATs and making them appear pitiful on the job. The disparaged mooker becomes “The Wounded Racoon.” Applying basic psychology, the Wounded Racoon will then boost the confidence and self-worth of the other mookers, effectively increasing the productivity of the Squad and functioning TWATs, and if executed properly, the Wounded Racoon will even be motivated to boost his own performance and refine his mooking skills to compete with the other mookers who see him as a pitiful failure.
I reminisce dreamily of the formation of the first TWAT, high on the unstable boards of the first Deathtrap. Truly something special was born. Alas, Jennifer Call moved on to bigger things in life (entomologist for BASF), and has forsaken us in her new pursuits. Yes, her sister is an animal rights activist, and Jennifer makes a living dissecting insects for pesticide research. Oh the ironies in life! Wonder if she’s ever seen a chicken choker?
4. Jefe buys the doombox
This one’s dear to my heart. I won’t get too far into the unfortunate preceding events, but suffice to say on this particular day the team was in a low place and we were handling adversity we hadn’t dealt with before. Those who were there know that I’m referring to the Black Lake mauling, i.e.: the restaurant by the lake that aided and abetted a robbery that claimed, among many other belongings, the 6th generation iPod classic w/ 160 gb of doom that had fed our starving souls on jobsites since 2010. By 2016 Apple had halted the manufacturing of non-touch screen iPods with 160 gb of memory, so I knew to replace it I would have to scour the used electronics market… a risky proposition. Also stolen was a mini amp and the aux speakers I’d picked up at a market in Guatemala (RIP speakers 2010-2016). Those aux speakers were truly something special. Line-in, no power, no charging, no volume control… no play time limitation. They’d blast doom forever. We found ourselves mourning as a team, mixing mook and lifting blocks to the heavens with nary a doom tune in the airways.
I can thank Marco Francisco and Senor Jefe for remedying this tragic situation. Senor Jefe for allowing me to commandeer his less robust but still adequate iPod. I think it had a measly 16 gb of storage capacity… all used to store gospel tracks and inspirational pop & praise CCM which I promptly erased and loaded down with the foulest doom known to man. Marco Francisco for telling Jefe under no uncertain terms that we needed a replacement portable speaker system ASAP and to apportion team funds for the acquisition. Maynor led the way to an electronics tienda where the purchase was made for the machine that would soon become known as the Doombox (2016-present) after the speaker system was tested in front of the merchant behind the jail bars with Worship’s Terranean Wake II – The Second Coming Apart. Oh yes… from its genesis the speakers blasted the crushing despair of crumbling pillars, barren wastelands and torrid winds… quenching our thirst and revitalizing our spirits from the funereal depths of despondency and sorrow. Our pallid skin flushed red, and we were whole again. Daniella promised 10 hours of playback on one charge, and the machine hasn’t wavered once.
And you can’t say I never played Worship music. Long live the Doombox.
3. Sam takes Hans and I for ice cream
One of my fondest memories.
A couple months before our first trip Jefe and I and maybe some others met up with Sam and the crew from Aiken. Sarah Webb, Erin Harris, Morgan ?? and Allison Kelly. Sam promptly designated me as his ‘driver’. I wasn’t sure what he meant other than muleing, but come to find out that meant taxying Daniella home in the Expedition every night after dinner. Keep in mind at the time I didn’t have any kind of license to legally operate a vehicle on the roads down there (guess it doesn’t really matter cause the law is just a suggestion in the bush), nor any experience driving in a foreign country, but I quickly adopted Sam’s thinking… “who cares?” Solo se vive una vez. Right amigo? I asked him if my old buddy Hans could tag along with us so every night after dinner Hans and I would alternate taking the wheel, carting Sam and Daniela around town. Sam would show us some of the local spots. He’d instruct us how to drive in the bush. I.e.: pass everyone and honk on the way by. He’d tell us about his adventures in Indonesia, etc. Hans and I would drag it out as long as possible just to stay in the air conditioning. The Expedition could get colder than a warlock’s newtsack dragged across the clavicle. A few times after dropping off Daniella he had us stop at the ice cream shop on the corner, where main street Quimistan intersects with Holy Road Highway, and we’d go in and eat our ice cream and mingle with the locals. Best we could anyway, as Hans and I couldn’t speak ten words of Spanish. That never really mattered though. Looking back now, the time spent with Sam was what mattered.
The relentless procession of time slips through the sandglass drawing ever closer the end of hours yet, in these silent moments, I treasure the stillness as sapphire Fell Voices, 2010, Rekevics
We miss you Sam.
2. Jefe’s roast
Marco Francisco approached some of us early in the trip in 2017 with the idea of giving Senor Jefe Pastor Rey a ‘casting off’ of sorts. My co-worker Nicole Dickson wrote a book called Casting Off years ago, cleverly drawing metaphors in the text to knots used in knitting (in knitting, ‘casting off’ is the final process of drawing the last thread of yarn through the last stitch, finishing a work. I.e. … tying the last knot). This is sort of where we were with Chris in 2017.
We had known it was coming for a couple years. Once he was ordained as a minister, he was on borrowed time at WUMC. One of many repercussions, as it would turn out, was uncertainty surrounding the future of our international mission trips. We were on an eight-year run in ’17, and, at least speaking for myself, I went into ’17 thinking there was a good chance it would be our swan song. And as the trip progressed I came to terms with it. 2017 was one of my favorite teams. We had a tight group of ten that year. I didn’t know exactly what Mark was thinking at the time but he had something in mind for us on our final night together. He asked me to “be thinking about some stories to tell.”
I can’t speak for the other team members, but riding up those winding mountain roads to La Montanita or Laguna or Tierra Amarilla etc., jamming to Mournful Congregation’s The Book of Kings or Au Champ Des Morts, a brilliant French black metal band translating to “To the Fields of Death” (highly recommended – their debut EP kills) – my head gets to spinning in the most sentimental ways. It becomes really easy to enter tranquil states of self-hypnosis, recalling events previously thought lost. Of course, it also means missing Mater talk about the revolution and the imminent rise of the South. A steep price to pay for exploring those hideaways of the mind. But… thinking about some stories to tell wasn’t a tall order. They came flooding into my mind in torrents. Quickly, the challenge became, “all right, which do I single out?”
Needles to say, when the time arrived, Mark offered some brilliant opening remarks, likening the event at hand to the old Celebrity Roast hosted by Dean Martin, a series of TV specials airing before my time. And needless to say, when my time came to offer up the dumpster fire debacle at the youth yard sale and Chong’s straight drive through Rose Glen’s second story window, I couldn’t find the words. I remember the exact order we were sitting in around the table. Emotions were stirred and tears were shed, and I hated myself afterwards for crapping out on everyone. Looking at it now though through a lens of needed perspective, and two trips later (that’s right – 2017 wasn’t our swan song after all to the Federation’s chagrin), it was undoubtedly one of the most, if not the most, special moments of fellowship we’ve shared together.
1. The concert in La Montanita
We had a weird team in 2016. I guess because it was Quanda and KCs first venture, plus we had Rogaine, plus Colon the choad was with us and still to this day no one knows who that kid was. Plus I had skipped the previous year in 2015 to pay my corporate debt, so it was a completely different team than the last one I’d been on in 2014. Also, 2016 was just a hard year. So I guess that all culminated to make this #1 so special to me.
The last days are usually the most emotional for me. The awards ceremony in Tierra Amarilla and Jefe’s roast, hugging Rosa and her kids goodbye in 2013. Last year Wilbur, Body Pump, Lama, Lucia and I rode down the mountain on our last day in the back of Wilmur’s truck in the pouring rain. We discussed horror franchises. Which is better… Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th (easy answer). Body Pump was laughing so hard at the absurdity of it all she was shivering. Vibrating like an x-box controller… I couldn’t tell if she was crying or just wet. Mater’s hollering out the window of the cab, “is it raining back there?”
Recalling Rutger Hauer’s C-Beam speech in Blade Runner… All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
This La Montanita concert was also on our last day. And it was also a Mater b-day event. Remember at the end of Star Wars Episode VI when the camera cut to different city centers around the galaxy showing the celebrations following the emperor’s overthrow? Well, that’s sort of what La Montanita looked like on the afternoon of Thursday, May 26, 2016, as Mater and Jefe moshed with the kids in the schoolyard and the La Montanitan quartet played us their mariachi strings. Village folks from all around gathered and danced to the music. Marcos already wrote about this but we presented Carlos with a National team jersey. That was one of the brightest moments our team has ever had. The kids played soccer in the streets, and then blew up a beachball, and yelled “PU CHI CAAA!!!” at the tops of their lungs every time it went airborne. I remember watching Mark hug Jerry happy birthday, and wishing Hunter was there to play Wagon Wheel for us. It was the grandest fiesta, at the most needed time. The village leader, the man with the sharp reading eyes, thanked us and wished us all a farewell.
Sometimes it feels like the best moments can’t be truly appreciated without the worst moments. To understand something, you have to understand it’s opposite. Meaning requires context, etc. You can’t appreciate the light without the dark, or vice versa, etc. The Black Lake Mauling made the La Montanita concert what it was.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got folks. I hate we can’t be there. Reflecting on these things has helped a little, but I doubt any of us can say we wouldn’t rather be there. With a little fortune and grace from above, maybe in October we can make some more moments, like tears in the rain.
Marco to resume the helm of this portal tomorrow and he will finish it out. Doom on.
It is not the destination… it is the journey along the way… I am not sure that I came up with that or not. If not, I did not intend to borrow it without credit, if it is mine solely, you can borrow and give me credit or put an offering in the plate! (It felt like an original cool thought) It simply fits my mood and style this evening. Year seven of this journey presented a new challenge and destination for the group, Tierra Amarilla. (Yellow Earth)
This was the first outreach project for the Federation with hope of a sure and certain proliferation among the locals. On my sighting trip in 2015, we visited this region being welcomed by the children of the school to a resounding rendition of the Honduras national anthem! Not only were the children excited, but many of their parents waited outside of the school… no windows, only covered with wire screen; they could surely hear the conversation ensuing within the confines of the classroom. Patiently waiting to hear some good news… assistance was on the way. The teacher was well prepared during that meeting, his explosive charts and graphs exposition showed without a doubt that the remote community was growing and in need of a new kitchen to feed the children. The old kitchen/ bordega/ toolshed had run its course… she was a bit out of date to serve the needs of the community. Enter the group from Carolina de Norte! Primed, pumped though not as Muscle Tech in all of his synthetic protein knock offs.
“It is not the destination… it is the journey along the way”. ‘Journey’ it was to this quaint village carved out of the rugged mountain scape of Honduras. The primary road leading to the entrance of the community was your normal ‘washboard’ rumble strips along with the normal ruts and crevasses, though smoother than previous travels, such as Teo or Nueva Esperanza, but the challenge lies ahead in the death zone known by the adventures that trek the tail to the top of the world in a quest to concur Mt. Everest.
At the fork of the road deep in one of the lush crevasses… laid the road to the village of proliferation. The road was too steep and perilous for the autobus to venture down… 12 to 15% grade with difficult switch backs. The first day we ‘Hiked it” both up and down, something got to give on that adventure. (Mountain goats we are not, comfort and transportation we need). The Federation employees heard our mass distress and provided ample mode of transportation… 4 wheel drive Yota to the rescue and a bed full of happy gringos to hang it out on the ride… a way provided… for the rest of our journey. Thank you Maynor!
“Driven in Driven to the edge Driven out On the thin end of the wedge Driven off By things I’ve never seen Driven on By the road to somewhere I’ve never been Driven on
Driven in On the thin end of the wedge Driven out Driven to the edge It’s my turn to drive But it’s my turn to drive”
The project was spearheaded by a longtime Federation construction guru/translator and good friend Daniela, who thru his own admission confided to me that his time was limited. The stress of translating and hearing the needs of so many had begun to wear on him personally. He was excited about this journey and this community as well. I could tell he had spent a lot of time preparing for this project. Once the old tool shed was torn down, the new construction process could begin in earnest… true to his plan it did arise from the dust of desolate earth to a towering figure of pride… but there were pains along the way. A small child of the community was stung by one of the scorpions that traverse this region… pitiful wales of agony filled the mountainside that day… the first of many to come on this journey of faith, growth and humility.
Mook was mixed, Rebar bent, tied and thrust deeply into the ground. Blocks were laid and the walls began to arise from the earth of yellow tint. The ambition for this project was large, we were thankful to have some skilled help along the way. (Vieale, Daniela’s friend and partner in crime, later was cool hand Luke who simply made mooking look sexy) By mid-term I felt like we were beginning to ‘gel’ together and make some serious progress in the construction zone… enter the ‘Leatherman’.
Through the years of service to Honduras, the church from Wilkesboro has always worked diligently ‘behind the scenes’ to provide a small token of love and trust to the communities that we have served abroad. This year there was no less effort as they provided clothes made from pillow cases for the children in Terra Amarilla. Quanda was trying to release the beast of a zip tie with the said ‘offender’ and stabbed herself accidently…. a very scary moment for all of us. All of the team gathered and prayed as Hondo broke out the first aid kit to control the bloodletting… meanwhile, the team full well knowing that we were about one and a half hours away from any type of medical attention… struggled to grasp the reality of the situation. Her laceration was not on in the torso region, but near a critical juncture between her arm and hand that could have a devastating result if not attended to immediately. A truck was summoned to transport her for the needed medical attention. ‘Nothing else mattered’ at the moment, our hearts were on edge all day until she arrived back at the job site several hours later with a couple of stiches in tow, (been there done that… got the scars to prove it!) Thankful for a situation that could have gone sideways in a hurry… as it turned out we kept plugging along on this melody.
Our ‘Day Off’ on this trip was planned by B-Rad the former Blog Master… a journey to the coastal region near the border of Guatemala for a day of fun in the sun. After touring an historical stronghold and an historical lesson in the Spanish slave trade market that resulted in pillaging the land of Honduras for her gold to satisfy the wealth thirsty monarchy from the eastern side of the Atlantic. We spent a day along the beach head enjoying the best the Caribbean had to offer. The white sands of the beach… blistering hot and unbearable for the naked foot to stand upon. The waters of the Caribbean Sea were crystal clear even at a depth of 10 plus feet, warm, relaxing and refreshing as nature’s own hot tub. Our Driver for the day was ‘hired gun’ much like the Boris Said of NASCAR fame. The mirrored shades and the intensity to get us there with post haste methods were as smooth as an apex carving Moto GP rider along the infield of Indy. A joyful memory from the front seat.
A new week, new adventure and new challenges awaited us on the job site… Communications have always been a challenge on these adventures. For most it means an early morning conversation with loved ones or awaiting the evening communication via scraping, face time and emails… none the less all a challenge. I myself have always prepared for the ‘Worst Case Scenario’ the dreaded phone call from home saying something has gone amiss. On the hillside I received such a call of distress… as sketchy as the signal was, my daughter said, “Mom, is in the hospital and not doing good.” Am of the day for sure. Here I am in the Honduran bush serving and now this! I began to make plans for an emergency escape plan to be by her side, but as it is… it would take days to arrange an early departure. Would I have to reminisce and experience the Ghost Riders trails? I am thankful for a bunch of brothers and sisters who comforted me in my time of distress and inner turmoil (It will never be forgotten). Thankfully the Lord was watching over her, me and our children and she made a full recovery… (Been there done that… got the scars to prove it!) Why are we here? Why do you go? A question posed by people who have been consumed by the ‘easy life’ and myself without a better vernacular description or any more humble than I have to offer at the moment. “Because we are here.”
As I make the last reflection of our journey this year, I scraped across the Blog journals from years past for this young man’s name, alas I did not find it as I reread the story in the afore mentioned blog post. Maybe I did not record it for his own protection and ours? Again it is not the destination, but the journey. As best that I can remember his name was “Joel” pronounced ‘Joe-Well’. A young man who worked in whatever manor he could to support his young bride and family. They lived in a hut on the mountain side. Sticks thrown together and covered in a plastic tarp… The staircase to his abode was sketchy at best, and there he was… there we were. Every day that we worked on the new school kitchen, Joel was there. No English to speak of, but a willing servant (as he knew it). We visited his home on our last day in the community to say our good-byes. Senor Jefe was off to a new adventure and it was time to retire them o’ stinky boots. As the prolific athlete walks from one life to another or a musician turns the page in his journey they seem to leave a lasting mark upon the earth… as yellow as it is.
There you have it. Joel gave his life to Christ that day, Jefe walked home shoeless (well in the sense anyway). On a hillside far away… His blood shed for the masses. Yellow earth was turned to the color of red… a sign of redemption for the outcast and hope for the sinner…
My last blog entry strayed away from my perceived notion of recounting the years, but I needed that as an up-lifting thing for my infant soul… it is cranky these days. I recounted stories from the 4th and 5th years of travels. Somewhere in the manic writing season Dr. B-Rad dropped a dime and a few words of wit on this Portal… cannot wait for another one of his rants. In truth I have been writing these posts for the last two weeks so that I could get B-Rad to vet them… correct my grammar… spelling and dyslectic incomplete thoughts. Big shout out to him for all his time spent on this as well… It has been an adventure trying to remember all these things, I hope no one feels left out if I have not mentioned you in a specific way. (At least not yet) It has always been a joy working together on these trips.
One… Two… Three… Four!
From our experiences of past trips, we soon realized that we needed to be more specific in what we would ‘prefer’ to do and make the arrangements… monetarily and talent… far enough in advance to ensure we had enough work to keep everyone busy during the trip.
We embarked on quite a large project at La Montanita that year. Remodeling an existing community building… Raising the roof on the block party! The team of veterans consisting of Jefe, Mater, Marco, B- Rad, Que pasa, Rogaine, Hondo and several rookie additions… Wanda AKA Quanda, Casey AKA KC and Kalin.
“They say there are strangers who threaten us Our immigrants and infidels They say there is strangeness to danger us In our theaters and bookstore shelves That those who know what’s best for us Must rise and save us from ourselves
Quick to judge Quick to anger Slow to understand Ignorance and prejudice And fear walk hand in hand”
Following my normal tract of ‘memories’ from this journey there were several significant events, places and events embedded to the ole noggin… again rather than rehash the ‘Construction Phase’ of the project… (I think those are still on the ‘new’ Federation blog site… you can research it for those Easter eggs). So I will let that dog lie on its own merit. It does bear mentioning that this was our 3rd trip to this region… A wonderful community to serve and in those trips, we have made several new friends along the way. One was a young man named Jose… I have a strong presumption that is a pretty ‘common’ name around those parts. He befriended the entire team on this trip. He was… maybe a little challenged in the mental facilities area and vertically as well… but man! Nothing stood in the way of Jose winning our hearts. He was bullied by his neighbors, they often they laughed at him… sometimes for no reason, but it did not faze him one ounce. If we needed some materials… such as block or mook from the Deathtrap 3000, he would literally come running to help us. To repay him for his efforts, we often packed extra food and always shared it with him. At the end of the trip we gathered at the school as the community wanted to express their gratitude to us for all the work we had done for them along the way… We had a plan ourselves… Once the community was done showering us with accolades, we called Jose up to join with us and presented him a gift… As Jose came forward to a resounding ‘soccer chant’, “Jose… Jose Jose Jose… Jose.” Presenting him with a national soccer jersey, which he put on immediately. For me, the most gratifying thing was… all the people in the community that came to honor ‘us’, especially those that mocked Jose saw that we ‘honored’ Jose. Our point was to show them that he was worthy, despite his limitations. Certainly, one of the many great highlights of the trip… but there were low points along the way.
Along came Molly… Jefe’s pet tapeworm seemed to have been agitated from the heat or excessive sunlight… Not sure that one is possible while ‘Shade Squatting” most of the day on the job site. The site of the infection drew great concern from many of the team and it was determined that we would take him to the local clinic for examination. Mater and I carried him into the ‘Women’s Clinic’. Eventually he was cleared for the injured reserve list… although there was some concern with the pap smear results.
Collectively as a group we had decided to start taking a ‘day off’ at some point during our trip(s). Sometimes we would visit a historical place such as the Mayan Ruins in Copan, or a side trip to the beach for the day… or exploring the water falls at Pulhapanzak. Some of the team ventured ‘behind’ the falls, some zip lined across the falls, others, such as me just sat in the cool of the shade… not shade squatting, that is only done when there is ‘work’ to be done. Being a collector of the oddities… I was on a side mission on this trip, to collect one bottle and one can of the four Honduran beers. While everyone was ‘playing’, I found a rare and old bottle of Salva Vida at the grill. Daniela said that it was at least 20 years old because the label was printed with ink, not the paper label type. I bartered with the attendant and settled on a price… bought the souvenir and checked a box. After everyone changed out of their wet clothes, we headed for a quaint restaurant nestled in the hills overlooking the largest inland body of water in Honduras.
Apparently, we had been targeted during our trip that day, while sitting in the restaurant our tour bus was broken into… all the personal items, effects, the iPod of DOOM, the substance of bogarting (Beef Jerky) and my bottle of beer were taken! Nothing makes you feel more violated than to be a victim of robbery! Not that I considered that bottle to be of more worth than anything else that was stolen, it is a matter of principal and a commandment; “Thou SHALL NOT steal.” Bummer day, but in the end we the team were safe and accounted for. The ride back to the compound was long and depressing… several people were on the phone contacting loved ones back home… making arrangements to ‘cancel’ credit cards and things of that nature! Ammm says the infant soul within. During that ride Maynor and Mario were extremely concerned that the bandits may be waiting for us along the route to finish collecting the rest of our personal belongings. Our resourceful driver took a long, less likely traveled route back to the Federation compound for our protection and safety. Lessons learned are often difficult and painful along the journey of life, but for sure it teaches you not to become complacent in life… for it will certainly come back to bite you at some point.
A DOOM-less second half of the trip was more depressing than the ear-splitting music than poured from B-Rads custom amp/speaker set up that he constructed over the years to provide, “maximum penetration” as he always touted. (Wisp of a smile for the infant soul on that one). No Doom, but still plenty of entertainment to go around… someone in the community allowed Casey to commandeer their dirt bike… Oh the madness… the fear in Jefe’s eyes… as Casey rode fearlessly and foolishly, never a dull moment with this group of Gringos. In the end it was a great adventure, yes there was a large hiccup along the way, but even at that, we have not been deterred nor scared away by that dark day on the hillside… maybe in and thru it all… it strengthened our resolve even more. Until we gather… via virtual or reality… Blessings.
I’m switching it up tonight, departing from Marco Francisco’s familiar song title for blog title formula. Peart’s passing in January hit him hard, and in a way, I think this blog series is his way of paying respects. I think it’s also helped calm his clamor of thought during a time we would’ve all considered unimaginable just a few short months ago. It’s a beautiful thing, really, what Marco has done with this series. Ironic, isn’t it? The Honduras blog kept while we’re not even in Honduras might be his best work yet.
I’d be remiss if I hadn’t taken time to reflect. The past few months, if nothing else, have allowed us all ample time with just our thoughts. I hope our team members from years past grace the sphere with their eyes again, even if just one more time, to maybe let their minds wander back through the years and savor the memories they created with us and our brothers and sisters in the land of Hell fire and honey suckle, bloodshed and bodily sacrifice, love and lust. The land we’ve come to know and love as a second home.
2020 was going to be our 10-year anniversary tour. Our very own Decade of Decadence, Honduran Carnage ’round town mashup in Pinajelo and the Quimistan valley. But instead we’re left with virtual symbiosis. Film, literature, other miscellaneous pastimes (wet dreams for Buttbeard), petitioning Lionsgate for Children of the Corn III on blu-ray, musings, imaginings and memories. A mild winter gave way to a cool spring. Here in the Appalachian foothills our snowstorms never come from the west. Storms track down the Ohio River Valley but the mountains stop them from crossing over. Well a few weeks ago a rain came at midnight. Que Maiden’s 2 Minutes to Midnight. One inch fell from the heavens, and guess where it tracked? Straight down the Ohio River Valley. Sometimes these truly feel like the last days. The end times.
The bees are dying. Locusts are swarming East Africa. Cyclones are slamming India and Bangladesh. Forget the black market, there’s a “red market” now… blood smuggling. Like Twain said… no fiction is stranger than reality. The dinosaur stood at the podium and addressed the other dinosaurs… “the picture is bleak, gentlemen…”
How about we que a happier song? “Memories” by Maroon 5. “The drinks bring back all the memories of everything we’ve been through…” (Ugh!)
I’m always surprised by the degree of detail Marco can recount when recalling stories from the past. For example, I’d forgotten about the young fellow peddling funnel cakes by Gloria’s. And the lemonade flavoring going in the water we flushed down to Hunter… I thought someone actually pissed in that pipe. And the depositions taken after the scorpion incident. I don’t remember Madison acting as a witness at all. Marco is the exception, because memories are rarely about the details. Recall what the memory maker said in Blade Runner… They all think it’s about the detail, but that’s not how memory works. We recall with our feelings. Anything real should be a mess.
We all move through life at a different pace. Some people drift through it effortlessly. Others navigate it like sasquatch tromping through mud. And so it’s natural that memories are made for different people in different ways. Life is a series of moments strung together in succession on a string – some bright, some dull. Some we’d rather forget, but memories don’t work that way. We take them with us.
I’m going to spend some time going through my mess of a memory… the ones I don’t want to forget.
Charlie Pace knew his fate days before his death. He knew he was going to drown in the Looking Glass, so he spent his final days looking back at his life and writing down what he described as his “greatest hits;” the moments in his life that rung louder than the others, shone brighter, and helped define who he was as a person. The moments that meant the most to him. Some memories are ghosts that haunt us forever, others are beacons that give us hope for the future. Like anything else, we take the good ones with the bad ones. Those of us who drift through life on wings, effortlessly, might have a string so profoundly and beautifully woven it would be difficult to point out the brightest threads. By comparison, some bands have discographies so strong that the attempt to compile a greatest hits album is an insult to the discography. Iron Maiden, for instance. Or I’m sure Marco would point to Rush. Other bands have highs and lows in their dark dungeons of pleasures, which I might find more relatable. Celtic Frost, for instance. It’s an interesting exercise, compiling greatest hits. For every To Mega Therion there’s a Cold Lake. For every Ain Elohim a “Petty Obsession.” Then there’s Monotheist, the kind of firework show we all dream about going out on.
Music has always been one of our group’s cornerstones. So in the spirit of keeping the continuity, here are some of the defining and most treasured moments I’ve shared with my Honduran comrades over the years. The closest I can come to a “greatest hits.”
I’m going to go through these the best I can, in the time that I have. Bear with me comrades while I try to keep the salt from my eyes.
10. The ’01 Corolla breaks down in front of Bojangles
Now, before you say, “but that wasn’t in Honduras!” yes, you are correct, but I’m counting it anyway because it was the calamity that kicked off our first Honduran venture and sent us scrambling like squirrels chasing nuts to get our **** together just to make it to the airport. Bear in mind that our only previous international mission was to Guatemala the year prior, and that venture was wrought with misfortune from start to finish, with the occasional calamity thrown in for good measure (Volcano Pacaya erupting on May 27th, Tropical storm Agatha chasing its coattails a few days later). That’s on top of the lesser misfortunes, like Muscle Tech’s toe fungus, Jim destroying the toilet in the roach motel, Chris’s bed bug issues, Dane AKA Frans being electrocuted in the shower, yours truly vomiting up a bloody mary in the streets of Antigua in oncoming traffic, etc. So really it’s a testament to our fortitude that we even considered a sophomore venture. But Uncle Sam came calling and we couldn’t tell him no. And before we even reached PTI we were sure we were destined for yet another ill-fated expedition when, at two ‘o clock in the morning on the way to the airport my car broke down rounding a U-turn off the Lewisville/Clemmons exit, causing complete engine and steering failure. Hans, Frans and I flagged down a cop. One cop turned into twenty cops in about five minutes. And with their help, along with Jefe, Mater and Muscle Tech, we pushed my car into the Bojangles parking lot and left it for AAA. Hans, Frans and I somehow crammed into Narnie’s mini along with the other five. And we rode to PTI Honduran style… eight gringos + luggage + a couple tubs of toothpaste in a minivan. Viva Honduras! Viva America!
9. Jennifer Call gives Stan the Man a wild time on the pila
The particular details of this bizarre episode elude me. Marco Francisco or Senor Mater may be in a better position to offer some insight into the confluence of events that incited this debauchery. The horses in the pasture had already smelled the roses. Love was in the air. And in the delirium of the day, and by that, I mean the suffocating heat from the hell oven of the Quimistan valley, along with some likely self-medication, lecherous maledictions and strange adjures were uttered over the side of the pila makeshift charity jacuzzi. Mater and Hans gave pause nearby, observing the transpiring events on their freshly constructed mook shrine. Stan the man bent over, reaching for the plug at the bottom… to drain it. He pulled the plug. And alas! A new plug went in! J Call with the win! The final touch in consecrating the holy pila juccuzi on the hallowed ground. We have oft visited the property in years following, celebrating the shrine’s apparent resistance to the desecration that has surely befallen it.
[Photographic evidence available upon request]
8. Mater’s 56th
Mater’s b-day always falls sometime during the trip, since we always book the last half of May. And his b-day celebrations have brought some of the more memorable moments the trips have had to offer… from moshing with the crazed children in La Montanita to punta dancing in the grand hall after gorging on wet cake (yummy yummy but heavy in the tummy). That’s right, Mater’s b-days have educated us in traditional Honduran folk dancing. What the universities would refer to as a “cultural” experience. Give us Clarence Clemons on sax and we would’ve been the next Youtube sensation. But the most memorable to me wasn’t even the puntas but the mariachi trio we summoned on the shores of Tela to sing Feliz cumpleanos to a red-faced Mater while the Jamaican girls braided mine and Que Pasa’s hair… Dirk chowed down. And son of Dirk tried not to get sun burnt. And our laughing faces radiated brighter than the beaming Honduran sun.
[Video available upon request]
7. Dirk bags the chicken choker
I’ve witnessed some real spectacles but this one just about does all the others one over. I’d rather voyage the seven seas with Buttbeard and first mate stinky and share Captain Buttbeard’s oatmeal than try and bag Rhinostomus Barbirostris in a ziploc. That reddish bearded rostrum is the most intimidating thing I’ve ever seen on an insect. The locals called it the “chicken choker” but further research reveals that it’s a crop killer, not a chicken killer (though I wouldn’t put it past this sinister looking weevil to thrust its gnarly appendage into the throat of a chicken and skewer the life from it). The locals swore it attacked their chickens. It also injects fungus into trees, blocking the resin canals that would normally wash out feeding insects, killing the trees it attacks doing so. Groups of dead trees are a focus for fires, so in this way the bearded weevil is indirectly responsible for forest fires. The insect of mass destruction. After consulting with some Nicaraguan friends familiar with the beetle, they call it the ‘Ron Ron’ and claim it urinates acid on their livestock that melts straight through the skin causing infection and death. So by all accounts, this beetle is the bringer of death to all matters of animal and plant life.
*sets down the beef jerky and picks up a ziploc* “Chicken choker hur hur Ima goin bag it!”
6 . Aaron gives his testimony
Our first year in the bush was very much a dipping our toes in the pond – type exercise, and rather than focus on one or two large scale projects, we found ourselves caught up in a mishmash of activities, oft headed up by Scotti Steven’s taskmaster counterpart from Aiken. I think this was largely due to not having our expert mooker and mason in tow, Marco, as the mooking didn’t begin in earnest until the Mayan death clock struck twelve the following year. On one day the Wilkesboro crew split up from the Aiken crew and Chris’s ‘rabid dogs’ had a sit down with some local teenage boys at the schoolhouse in La Montanita to discuss alcohol and substance abuse. All eight of the Wilkesboro party were present. We sat in a circle and rounded it, introducing ourselves one by one. Daniella translated to the teens the best he could. You can imagine the introductions they got… we introduced Muscle Tech son of Mater as the peddler, and we weren’t talking about funnel cakes. “Muscle Tech… supplements that work! Muscle Tech’s got you covered!” The biceps flexed. The pecs danced like Terry Crews high on Old Spice. A long round of applause.
But the laughs died down after some time went by, and Aaron ended up with the floor. Chris had asked him to prepare something if I recall. Or maybe the word flowed from him impromptu, I don’t know. But he reached into the pit of his stomach for the message he delivered, telling us about his own history with drugs and alcohol, and how they had kept him from knowing God and living the life God wanted him to live. He had to pause after every sentence so Daniela could translate, and it was kinda like that gave him more time to gather his thoughts, because every sentence he spoke was more powerful than the last. I was struggling with my faith then. Well, I guess I’ve always struggled with it some, I feel like we all do, but in 2011 I was jaded. But I felt something stirring in that room that day and I could feel lives being changed. It was one of ‘those moments’ for me.
Aaron was going to be on our 2020 venture, by the way, before everything fell apart. I hope it works out for him in the future. We all do. Wherever you are in these crazy times, I hope you’re doing okay bro.