Leaving Teguc

We left Tegucigalpa on the 28th of September, 2001. We had a good time in Honduras, but we feel that it was time to move on. We had seen and done most of what we wanted to do in the country and in the area and had adjusted to living outside the US. The big regret was the good friends we were leaving.
...speaking of good friends...
Photo of eastern Tegucigalpa courtesy of good friend John McKennan

The Journey

Security was tighter in the wake of the September 11th attacks on the U.S. than it had been, but we questioned its efficiency. The flights from Teguc to Miami International to Dulles Airport, outside of DC, weren't bad.

They went through much of our luggage in Teguc--fairly obviously without a clue what they were supposed to be looking for--but we were there so early that the line wasn't long. They wouldn't let Deborah have a disposable razor in her carry-on, but didn't even look at the large metal barrette in her hair (with which she can cut paper). All of our luggage was opened and hand inspected except the largest suitcase. It was apparently not opened because Steve indicated that it was very full and might be difficult to re-close--hardly a security-conscious reason to avoid it. Then we were "randomly selected" to have our carry-on luggage searched. It was searched while the other passengers were boarding the plane, leaving us with no overhead space for our carry-ons.

It was rainy when we arrived in Miami and colder than we were used to, but we did get to see the "new" classic American Airlines plane design on the tarmac (right). The smudges on the photo are raindrops on the window.

Customs in Miami was not as bad as it sometimes is--probably due to post September 11th improvements--but was still nothing like as organized as is Customs in Houston.

Usually we have our cameras hand inspected at security points, since x-ray machines vary and can--no matter what they tell you at the airport--cause damage. In Miami they refused to hand check the camera and had nothing to put it on for it's trip through the x-ray machine. After it was x-rayed and while it was on it's way out to us--we could see it but could not get to it--it got caught where two conveyer belts met and was rolled over several times before the woman operating the machine noticed. She would probably have taken even longer if Steve hadn't yelled at her to pay attention. Fortunately the camera was not damaged.

Leaving Miami we were again "randomly selected" for a hand luggage search, but this time we were called ahead of time and as soon as we had been searched we were ushered onto the plane ahead of our seat-mates--so we had all the overhead space! The young lady searching Deborah's carry-ons was intent on protecting her false "dragon lady" nails and so tore the zipper off of Deborah's favorite camera bag.

The flight from Miami to DC-Dulles was delayed on the tarmac at both ends, making for a very late arrival. Dulles was very quiet when we got there. We got our luggage, hired a taxi, and headed to Warrenton, VA and our reservation at the Hampton Inn.

The best news of the day was that our travel agent had gotten us our favorite seats on both legs of the journey--aisle and window (because single, center seats are the last to sell) and on an exit row (for more leg room). Deborah has a firm belief that both the people who design coach class airline seats and the airline executives who approve them should be forced to use them as desk chairs. Steve has gone one step further than that and says they should have to use the middle of three seats with large men in the seats on either side of them, so they get the full effect.

Warrenton

Steve was in training for a couple of weeks in Warrenton which gave us time to adjust to being back in the US. We noticed how clean everything was and felt odd when all the people around us spoke English. We had to work hard at remembering not to speak Spanish to people out in public. We also enjoyed some crisp fall days and seeing the leaves turn--something we had not experienced while in Honduras.

While in Warrenton we saw Kevin Wagganer who was in Steve's new-hire class and who will now be teaching in the training facility in Fort Lauderdale. (See Kevin's web site about his travels in Vietnam.) Steve also got to meet the person he would be replacing in Ankara, now teaching in Warrenton, and to chat with Scott Bowers, a friend from Teguc.

Leaving Warrenton, we needed a cab to take us to DC.
"Do you think it will go in the trunk?"
Deborah called several days in advance to schedule the ride because in addition to the two of us we had 7 suitcases, various miscellaneous items, and a huge cardboard box. She told the cab company representative about all the luggage and gave measurements for the box. She requested a van, but was told that there would be "no problem" getting all of that into one of the regular company sedans.

On the day of the move, Steve gamely helped the driver with all his suggestions and then, when none of them worked, went with him to the cab company's local office to pick up some extra bungee cords. An hour later than planned and with luggage in our laps, we were off. Whew! It's good we weren't on our way to the airport.
"What about in the back seat?" "Hmm..."
"Maybe the other direction?" "Or if we turned it around?"
With enough bungee cords anything will stay on a cab.

Washington, D.C.

A friend of ours back in Tegucigalpa had recommended the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, Virginia, because of the gorgeous view of the Potomac river and Georgetown, and the closeness to the Metro. While conceding the view and convenience, after two nights we were fed up with the lack of space, privacy, and service.
Day (above) and night (below) views from our room at the Holiday Inn:
Key bridge crossing the Potomac river to M Street, Georgetown's main drag
 
Deborah walked over to The Virginian, where we stayed in Rosslyn two years ago and where we get a suite (living/dining room, bedroom, & full kitchen) for the same price as a room elsewhere, to see if they had space available. They were happy to see us and even sent their 25 person van to pick up our luggage.

We settled in to our suite very happily and spent the rest of our time in the area rediscovering old favorites and exploring. Deborah got to see almost all the museums she wanted to see--quite a feat in the DC area--and we both enjoyed spending some time with the Basset-Boyntons (Deborah's cousin and her family) who live in the area and with the Bergolds (Deborah's Internet friend and her husband) who came down from New Jersey to meet us.

A newly redecorated suite at The Virginian
We discovered when the Bergolds came and stayed in the Virginian that the Government Rate for rooms in the area, which is usually a discount, was actually higher than regular civilian prices. Room rates had dropped dramatically in the wake of September 11th, but the Government Rate had stayed the same. The Bergolds, calling from New Jersey to reserve a room, were quoted $90 at the Holiday Inn and $79 at The Virginian, while we were paying $119. We decided that it wasn't too unfair, though, since under normal circumstances the Government gets a discount. The Holiday Inn had refused to give us anything extra for the money, but The Virginian very kindly upgraded our suite and provided us a rental car.

 
The patio at Zorba's, our favorite Greek restaurant in DC
We went with the Bergolds in the National Air and Space Museum. There was a long line to get in because they were searching all bags. We had been there for only about an hour when we were evacuated for an unspecified "emergency situation". It was more exciting, if less educational, than we had expected.

An announcement came over the loudspeakers that the museum was closed and we were hustled out the main doors to see a fire truck parked in front of the main entrance with it's firemen suiting up in full "HazMat" (hazardous material) gear. We watched the news and checked the newspaper the next day, but heard nothing about it. Deborah finally called the Smithsonian Information Line two days later and the operator knew about it. There had been a chalky blue substance found in an upstairs bathroom. The museum was shut down to be on the safe side, but when analyzed the substance was declared "completely harmless". Anybody think it was scouring powder?

Also at The Virginian, we met John McKennan's friends (our friends also) Nick and Robbin, with whom we had corresponded but whom we had never met. We had a wonderful time talking about Turkey with them. Nick and Robbin left piles of stuff for us in Turkey--skis, boots, maps, notes, guide books, etc. Robbin shared her (very impressive) photos with us so we felt like we'd seen a little bit of her personal Turkey before we got there.

Nick and Robbin, in turn, introduced us to Wayne and Aye (EYE shaa) who invited us with Nick, Robbin, and Robbin's sister, Rita, to dinner at their house which is John's house--so we went to dinner at John's house, but he wasn't there. Dinner was great, but the really wonderful part was being surrounded by this energetic group, all of whom loved Turkey (and John) and were so happy for us that we got to go. It was a real "cultural experience" as we got our first taste of the friendship John had been talking about for the past year. The next "cultural experience" was when Aye offered coffee after supper. We both expected it would be Turkish coffee, but it turns out she likes American coffee!

On the way there for dinner, the drive to the house went right past the Pentagon. As we have all heard on CNN about NYC, "TV can't really show you what it's like". Wayne says he drives past it on the way to and from work every day and that it is extremely depressing, especially first thing in the morning. It is depressing and horrifying, but it may be worse for him than for the average passer-by since his job is in security.

Later Wayne and Aye picked us up at the hotel and took us all over the DC area shopping. Deborah got shoes and Steve got hiking boots and walkie talkies. It's a little overwhelming to be so accepted and cared for just because we are friends of John's.

We also did a good bit of shopping on our own--electronic bits and pieces and lots of catching up on what was available. And, of course, Steve spent a good bit of time in classes at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center (NFATC--pronounced "in fat see") and at "Main State", the headquarters of the Department of State.


Please continue to Brooklyn.

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