The weather in Honduras is beautiful, 85-90 degrees day in and day out. The clouds peek through the mountains and everything is so serene. Nick, a soldier from Maringouin, LA sat with me one day while I blogged. We enjoyed the sun, cool breeze and breathtaking views. It's a beautiful place to daydream and get lost. I wish you could see it ...words can't explain it.
My teammates insisted that I mention this part of the trip ...ugh, lol. Once we arrived in Tegucigalpa, after lunch, on the way to the van, a bird pooped on Stacy and me ...in our hair, on our clothes. Lets just say it was a "welcome to Honduras" gift. Ok ...enough said. Moving on ...
Our trip from the airport to the Base was about an hour and half ...and an adventure to say the least. The people in Honduras drive CRAZY!! The highway is a two-way lane that spirals through the mountains, with a rock on one side and the valley on the other. Drivers play chicken with each other and drive as though they are driving Corvettes, when in reality, they're in eight passenger vans! We thought it was just our driver ...but we quickly learned it's ALL drivers. I can't begin to tell you how many times we almost had a head on collision ...but I'll save that story for later. On the way to the Base we passed villages in the mountains. The people there are so beautiful and simple. The simplicity of their lives is amazing, and like so many other aspects of this tour, caught my attention and heart. They just ...live. It's different from what I'm used to in the city.
Once we arrived on Base we met with the Commander for a briefing on Soto Cano AB. The troops assist the local government and perform humanitarian missions throughout Nicargua, Guatemala, Beliz, El Salvador, Panama and Costa Rica. For example, if there is a fire, they will assist the local fire department. Recently, an 18-wheeler turned over on the highway and blocked both lanes. Troops went out and assisted with traffic and clean up. Approximately 86% of their missions are anti-narcotic. Sadly, their goal isn't to halt the distribution of drugs, it's to deter individuals from selling in a specific area. The Commander says that if drug dealers know that troops are present, they will make/sell somewhere else, leaving that specific location safe for the time being. A week before our arrival they confiscated approximately $10.5 million worth of cocaine!! Way to go!!
Our sleeping quarters is called a hooch ...we were in hooch #53. It consisted of eight bedrooms, a mini living/dining room and a kitchen with a refrigerator and microwave. The restrooms were about a one minute walk from our hooch. It sounds weird, but honestly ...it wasn't so bad. There were four bars on the Base and each night we hung out with the troops, getting to know them and what they do. Everyone is so kind and welcoming. We made great friends. The next morning we woke up for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Breakfast in the dining hall was the bomb!! They have everything ...eggs, toast, turkey sausage, bacon, biscuits and gravy, biscuits, made to order omelets ...and more. For each meal we sat with troops who were eating there as well. I think they enjoy the conversation. I know we did =)
After breakfast we headed to the fire house. We had a tour of the station and got to ride in the fire trucks. Here's the best part ...we sprayed water everywhere!! Stacy and Vanessa were in my truck. We drove around and the driver explained that they assist with fires that the local fire department doesn't have the equipment to handle. The station is pretty nice as well. The firemen live in the station, just like here in the States. Unlike the other troops, they have a kitchen in the house. In their down time, they watch t.v. in the media room. There are about 15 Lazy Boys in this room with a large flat screen t.v. And let me tell you ...those Lazy Boys are no joke, super comfy!! Their dog, Uma, is a 9 year-old Lab who loves people and food. She does tricks too: sits, lays, rolls over. Honestly, I couldn't understand how she was able to roll over because she was so fat (excuse my language, lol). Once on her back, I didn't think she would make it over to the other side.
Speaking of animals …there are lots of animals on the Base. According to one troop, they lift morale. I can completely understand that. At The Lizard Lounge (a bar) I met an adopted Boxer puppy that someone rescued from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I tried to smuggle her back to the States, lol. There is also a goat named Chewy. He loves Fruit Loops. A few other random animals are chickens, hens and few stray dogs that apparently belong to everyone.
After visiting the fire house we went to the command post. It's five stories high and you can see everything on Base.
We also toured the helicopters and black hawks. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The black hawks were used in Vietnam. I was so excited to actually sit in one. I kept thinking, "Man I wonder if my dad rode in this one." Even if he didn't ride in those particular ones, I was excited to be able to say that, "my dad was a part of this time!" The black hawk was amazing. We were like little monkeys climbing on top of it and through it, lol. Later we visited the radio station. We all spoke on the mic and expressed our gratitude for everyone and how excited we were about being there. The host, Geoff, was hilarious. I met him the night before at The Rally Point bar. We had a good time talking and hanging out and making jokes about anything and everything. He told us he grew his mustache out just for us. He also seemed to think Amanda was evil, lol. I have no idea where he got that from, but it was pretty funny listening to him talk about her on the show, lol. Maybe it was a crush? Lol. He asked us, "what's something interesting about ourselves." Candy fascinated everyone with her ability to hunt deer. Yeeeeaaaahhhh ...that's my Candy =)
We toured the K-9 unit next. We saw how the dogs are trained and what they are capable of. I feel like these dogs are smarter than some people I know. Currently, there are four dogs there, all German Shepherds that look like bears. One is retired for medical reasons and will be adopted out shortly. They all go through an intense 4-6 months of training. Some dogs specialize in one area, others are what they call, "well-rounded." We got a chance to see how the dog takes commands and reacts to a person who doesn't obey the officer. The dog knew when to attack ...yes attack ...the person, when to keep a close eye on him and when to relax. Candy wanted to put on the training suit and let the dog attack her. I can't lie ...I thought about it too. But after I saw the dog attack his trainer, I realized he could knock me over and the end result wouldn't be so good. When we asked the trainer how feels when he bites, he said, "He has a pretty strong bite, you won't feel his teeth, but you'll feel the pressure." Hmmm ...no gracias, lol. I think Candy felt the same way ...
From there we toured the bank. We walked in the safe and each of us held an ungodly amount of money. At one point I had $100,000 in my hands. Let me just say that it was great feeling ...I'm sure you understand, lol. There were stacks of money and we each held one ...or for some of us ...two stacks, lol. No worries, we put it all back =(
Later that evening we performed at the Oasis, another bar on the Base. We did a great job and most importantly, the troops enjoyed it so that's all that matters. After the performance we watched the Super Bowl with the troops and got to know them a little more. Someone cooked hot wings ...we tore those wings up, lol!!!
And btw ...GO SAINTS!! Just thought I'd throw that in there ...
We ended the night bar hopping again with the soldiers. They showed us a great time at each place, laughing and playing games and dancing. We really enjoyed chatting with them. Everyone is so laid back. They're awesome people and they make me proud to be an American =) And if you're wondering what our trip back to the airport was like down that long, winding, two lane road throughout the mountains? Let's all breathe a sigh of relief, for it wasn't so bad the second time around ;) On behalf of the Houston Texans Cheerleaders, I want to say thank you to all the troops who ensured our safety on this trip: Fitz, Nick, Carlos and Hector ...thank you so much. You guys were great and we couldn't have asked for better "body guards."
To all the troops that we met at the Soto Cano Air Base ...thank you so much for what you do and the sacrifices that you make (they don't go unnoticed). Visiting you was an eye-opening experience ...one that we will never forget in a million years. God bless you =)