11.06.2008

Getting to Tegus

The week before we left for Hartford, we received a summons to appear at the Department of Immigration in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa (Teh-GOOSE-eh-GAL-pa), within 30 days. Our long-sought residency status had been approved, and we were instructed to go get fingerprinted and photographed. All of us, babies included.

Tegus, as it is commonly called, is two flights away from the island of Roatan. First we must fly twenty minutes to La Ceiba, then on to the capital. This flight is about an hour; both flights are on a tiny 15-seater prop plane. An associate of our lawyer's would meet us there. If all went smoothly, we could return to Roatan the same afternoon.


We made our first attempt to get to Tegus on Monday. We awoke at 4:30am, packed food and toys for a day plus an emergency overnight bag, and made it to the airport by 6:30. Unfortunately, the stormy weather grounded all flights and we ended up going back home.


Since Tuesday was election day in the U.S., we didn't attempt it. Too much good stuff on MSNBC.


On Wednesday, unexpected protests over the rate increase for electricity resumed. The airport was shut down, primarily because employees could not get to work. Roads were blocked by crowds, by large objects and by large men with machetes. No one could get anywhere. School was cancelled, the Municipal issued a warning to "stay home," and so we did.


By mid-day the power went off and our generator went on. This is a good thing, except that during rainy season it becomes hard for the Tropigas tanker to come over our mountain to refill our butane tanks. So this must be rationed as well.


We learned last night that the Cobras had arrived -- the Honduran elite army. This was partly in response to the departure of the cruise ships, which were seen hovering on the horizon but then not pulling in to port because of the threat of civil unrest. If this continues, it will mean huge economic devestation for our island. Ironic that at precisely the same time, we are becoming its "official" residents.


We got up at 4:30am again today with the hope that the plane would arrive, employees would show up, the weather would hold, and that we would be able to get to Tegus and back without difficulty. At 6am we drove by the Cobra forces, dressed in riot gear with bullet-proof shields, lining the sidewalks of the Coxen Hole triangle like storm troopers. We later learned that the protests were better contained to the area farther east around the electric company, but electricity was not restored until about 6pm, more than 24 hours since going out.


Our day, however, was a success. We navigated two flights up and two flights back, endured two hours at Immigration, and enjoyed lunch at the Tegus airport McDonalds. What can be better? Almost exactly one year since moving here, we have received the right to come and go in increments other than 90 days, to live, and to work (note that the right to buy property and spend money was ours all along, however).


As ironic as it is that we have become residents during a week of extreme instability in our chosen place, it's equally interesting that it is happening during the week that the next American president was elected. All day long we saw people reading Honduran newspapers, in the airport, on the planes, and in the Immigration office, with the cover pages overwhelmed by Obama's photo. The Hispanic businessman, the black father, the pilot, the Honduran grandmother. All were reading about, and absorbed in, the U.S. election.


Maybe all except the pilot of our third flight. He took his colorful center spread of the electoral map and created an impromptu window shade -- once we were already in flight. He flipped open the window in the cockpit and tucked the corners in, then closed the window to keep it in place. AFTER we had taken off and were well above the clouds. Both Mike and I chuckled as our ears popped. Yet despite this creative use of our homeland, the sun still streamed in. And when we arrived back on Roatan, it was still shining.