In honor of today being our 365th day in Tegucigalpa, I think it’s finally time to partake in the FS blogger tradition of writing 5 pros and 5 cons about our current post.
- Embassy Community: This will likely change with every bidding cycle, but I’m extremely grateful to be
suffering insharing this place with our circle of friends. The city itself can be repetitive at best and boring at worst, but at-home entertaining abounds. The company you keep will almost certainly make or break your time here.
- Weather: It literally doesn’t get better than here. We hail from New Hampshire (too cold) and Georgia (too hot), so Tegucigalpa is like the goldilocks of weather. It’s always just right with temps in the 80s most of the year. Even during the rainy season, downpours conveniently hold off until the evening most days.
- Access to Goods: This is not a consumables post and for good reason. You can find literally anything here if you’re willing to pay for it, including many American brands. La Colonia (the grocery store of choice for most expats) sells everything from Chobani yogurt to Digiorno pizzas. We also have access to a small PX in the Embassy thanks to the Soto Cano Air Force Base nearby, who kindly makes weekly shipments of toiletries, alcohol, and snacks.
- Proximity to the States: For some, this might make Honduras less appealing and exotic, but the pros of being close to home can’t be taken for granted in this mobile lifestyle. When one of our Marines had a family emergency, he was home maybe 18 hours later. When medical care here is inadequate, you can be in Florida the next day for top notch care. Your HHE and POV will arrive obscenely fast compared to your friends serving in far-flung corners of the world (4 weeks and 10 weeks respectively). And sharing a time zone with your family, favorite TV shows, and colleagues is extremely convenient.
- Spanish: I’m a firm believer in learning as much of the local language as you can, so I was ecstatic and relieved to find out that language would be Spanish for this tour. The language barrier has proved difficult enough with Spanish, I can’t imagine going up against something like Vietnamese or Arabic. Besides, learning Spanish is fun and affordable here and very likely to be useful in the future for many careers.
(Bonus Pro: The running community! Overall, running has fallen into the cons here (see #1) since running circles around a track loses its luster quickly, but there is weekend salvation! You can sign up for a 5k/10k races almost every weekend for just a few bucks. They’re actually quite organized and it’s a safe way to see parts of the city that would otherwise be deemed off limits.)
- Security and lack of mobility: If it wouldn’t be a disservice to people considering bidding Teguc, I would list this as all 5 cons. The way security dictates life here cannot be overstated. It’s not that we feel unsafe, it’s that we go out of our way to feel safe. You cannot walk on foot anywhere (we’re discouraged from walking even the block around the Embassy, where a local employee was robbed at gunpoint on his lunch break just weeks ago). You can’t leave your house and go for a leisurely run (a soul-crushing discovery for us). Getting lost in the car isn’t stressful because you’re lost, it’s stressful because you’re never more than a few streets away from somewhere you definitely shouldn’t be (part of the reason 90% of cars here have blacked out windows). There’s no map of the “safe” and “unsafe” areas because there is no such thing; gangs operate without borders. Murders happen in broad daylight at bakeries and bus stops. Carjackings occur in mall parking lots and on busy roads. Americans are not targets of that kind of crime, but you also don’t want to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. That really translates into not being in many places any time at all. It definitely leaves you with the feeling of being trapped, which takes its toll.
- Traffic: It’s horrendous. Sometimes it can be fun to weave in and out of traffic without a care, but more often it’s just maddening to sit in a huge line of honking traffic on a poorly maintained road because a car drove into an uncovered manhole.
- Air quality: While not the worst, air here is not particularly lung-friendly. Vehicle emissions aren’t regulated and it’s very common to see a car zip by spewing black fumes from the exhaust. Since the city sits in a valley, all of that air gets trapped to the point where you can almost taste it. It gets pretty atrocious for 6ish weeks in the spring when farmers slash and burn their fields.
- Lack of local travel/tourism: Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to see and do in Central America, but Honduras is not a very “weekendable” country. Nice beaches are 6+ hours away and the Copan Ruins are at least 5-6. The quick one-ish hour flights to El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica typically run you $400+ per person even when booking in advance (though people do get lucky sometimes!) Nearby exploits exist (Lago de Yojoa, La Tigra) but not in abundance, and they’ll grow stale given how often you’ll want to flee the city for the weekend. The lack of tourist infrastructure compared to neighboring counties is really a shame, as Honduras is a beautiful country.
- Spanish: This is more of a con in the FS system than for Honduras itself. The complete absence of English (even in service industries) is tough to overcome for those who do not receive language training. While I love learning Spanish, I can only learn so much so fast. I don’t expect Hondurans to cater to my linguistic deficiencies, but I do feel like we’ve been cheated out of making local friends and really experiencing Honduras because of the language barrier. Perhaps those with much longer tours experience that level of immersion in their second and third years, but we’ll be long gone by then.
TL;DR: Honduras isn’t as bad as some people would have you believe, but for some, what you gain isn’t worth what you have to give up. It’s an easy, comfortable post as far as hardships go, and it’s arguably getting better every year. But for now, the lack of mobility leaves many people counting down the months and days until they can “escape”.