The following is an excerpt from my travel journal from our first mission trip to Honduras.
January 31, 2009
Wow! Today was an adventure. We went on an outing with the group and were allowed to invite Luis to join us. A few other sponsored boys also came along. We went to a restaurant in Catacamas. They served fried tilapia. They fried the entire fish―eyeball and all― and served it on a plate with rice. It didn't look very appetizing, but it was the best fish I've ever eaten!
With Lori's help, we were able to talk to Luis. He asked us about our jobs and our hobbies. We found out that he has three brothers from his dad's previous relationship and two sisters from his mom's previous relationship and he is the only one born to both of them.
After lunch we went on a horseback ride. The boys loved it so much. We kept buying more tickets and they rode over and over. They were so happy. It was nice to spoil them.
The place also had a zipline course. The idea is to zip between platforms. We went in the last group with Luis, Steve, Debbie and Reyes. Two guides also joined us. They gave instructions on how to use our hands on the line as a break.
For the first three zips, I braked too soon and didn't quite make it to the platform. It wasn't a big deal. The guide just came out and pulled me in. On the fourth zip, they told all of us not to brake at all. So I was happy. But when I got close to the next platform, there was an incline. I didn't quite make it and began sliding backward away from the platform and toward the center of the line. It took me a while to figure out I should brake to stop sliding backward. Like the last times, the guide came out to get me, but his rope was too short to reach. I tried to pull myself hand-over-hand up the line, but I didn't have enough strength to make it up the incline and I slid back. But his time, my arms hurt. Steve, Reyes and the first guide stood on the platform helpless, trying to figure out what to do. Finally, the guide made it out to me. He made several attempts , but couldn't pull is and his rope was just a few feet too short. So we hung there. I was panicked and screaming for help. My arms burned and I'd lost feeling in my hands. At one point, the guide had my arm caught in his harness and I heard it snap. I was sure it was broken. After hanging for about 20 minutes, the guide called down to someone on the ground to get a longer rope. The yells caused the second guide to think all was clear, so he sent Debbie down the zip. She came through the trees and saw me hanging there and screamed. She was able to brake a little, but she crashed into me hard and knocked the breath out of me. Now the three of us were stuck out there. Since Debbie had just arrived, she had more strength than me in her arms. She managed to get one arm around me allowing me to lean on her and rest one arm at a time. She was calm at first. But after ten minutes, she realized that the crowd forming below us was also beginning to panic. They had found a longer rope, but there was no ladder or way to get it up to the platform. She began to cry with me. Finally, someone on the ground produced a ladder, but it was too short to reach the platform. So a man had to climb it and then carefully straddle the tree with the rope. Several attempts were made to the throw the rope out to the stranded guide with no success. At last, Reyes took the rope and zipped out to us with it. We didn't realize it at the time, but this was a great risk because the line was not meant to hold that much weight and it could have snapped. Once Reyes got to us with the rope, Steve and the man from the ladder pulled while the guide and Reyes used their hands on the line to help. It took several more minutes, but all four of us finally made it safely to the platform. All in all, I had been hanging for about 45 minutes. I was shaking all over and I had no feeling on my hands. Worst of all, there was no way down except another zip to the ground. So I had to face it all over again. I gathered up all the strength I had left and held my breath as I jumped from the platform. On the ground, I collapsed exhausted into the waiting arms of my new friends.
After all the excitement had died down and I recovered a bit, we climbed back into the bus and drove into town. I declared Reyes a hero and promised to buy him a Pepsi anytime he wanted it. He had never been on zipline until today. What a brave kid!
We stopped on the street in town because Luis' mom was sitting outside one of the shops. Even though we could barely speak to each other, it was nice to meet her. I could tell she was proud of Luis. Luis hasn't said anything about his dad, so I wonder if he's still around.
Then we made a surprise stop at Reyes' house that he shares with his grandmother, aunt and four cousins. Their house was humble, but far more habitable than the shacks in the villages.
Since our adventures kept us out so late, the boys were allowed to have dinner with us in the conference center. This was quite a treat for them and they ate a lot of food. Luis even wrapped up his leftovers to take back to the dorm.
I feel bad for Luis. He tries so hard to communicate with me. He talks in Spanish so desperately. I wish I could understand. He hugged me goodnight after Uno tonight. Weird to make such a connection without being able to talk.