Now that we have internet and our UAB (unaccompanied air baggage – aka kitchen appliances!), we’re only missing one piece of the relocation trifecta: our car.
This is probably the most significant piece for anyone assigned to Tegucigalpa, since we’re discouraged (and in our case forbidden) from walking around—anywhere, at all, literally. My favorite game to play with the Marine driver when navigating the city is the “Is it safe to walk here?” game. (The answer is almost always no.)
We’re counting down the days until our car’s grand arrival, which is difficult since we don’t actually have an ETA. It’s also challenging because driving here is absolutely menacing. As a product of New England, I can say with confidence that Massholes have absolutely nothing on drivers in Teguc.
Honduras is the wild west of driving. There are no traffic laws here. Or maybe there are, but there’s absolutely no enforcement, with one exception. It’s illegal for two males to ride on a motorbike together. In case you can’t guess, it has a little something to do with sicarios (assassins). A male and a female together is perfectly bueno, but that can be unnerving. It’s hard to tell who exactly is under the helmet on the back of a bike.
That law aside, it’s a free-for-all. I’ve heard that Hondurans can buy a license via simple cash transaction—no driver’s ed here—and it shows. The confluence of crazy drivers, crazier motorcycles, and certifiably insane pedestrians running through it all is more than daunting. Throw in some extremely heavy traffic on narrow roads that twist through the mountains while you’re at it.
To give you a taste, here are a few of my favorites from a list of driving precautions compiled by the Embassy here in Teguc:
- Always drive with your windows closed and car doors locked. (We’ve also been told to tint our windows, which sounded overkill until we got here. Locals black out every window of the car, windshield included.)
- Whenever possible, drive to the center of the road, especially in rural settings, to avoid being forced off the road.
- Park near the guard post in parking lots, if possible. (Picture an armed guard perched on a lifeguard stand at the back end of the grocery store parking lot. That’s Honduras.)
- An SUV or extended cab vehicle with dark windows up waiting close to your garage is a potential danger sign, especially if not usually seen in the area.
A lot of it just amounts to using common sense, but that seems to be lacking sometimes. Got a flat tire? The middle lane of traffic on a major road is a very convenient place to stop and change it (especially when you’re a public bus full of passengers). Don’t feel like waiting in the left turning lane? Drive over the median and cut in to oncoming traffic, everyone else does. Trying to merge into traffic? Play chicken with the cars around you until someone hits the other. Unbelievably, though, we have only seen one small accident. Maybe driving with no skills is a skill in itself?
While we’re anxious for our vehicle, but also grateful to have some time to sit in the back seat and observe. Not to mention the Marine drivers are the best source of info on everything from soccer to politics to where to buy a propane tank (talk about a small chore turning into an unwanted adventure). Right now, we’re enjoying the ride from the passenger seat in the middle of a traffic jam, Honduran style.
Fingers crossed Santa brings our car for Christmas!