This morning started out slow and deliberate as do most mornings in Honduras. But today was going to be a big day because it was New Year's Eve and one of the biggest celebrations of the year. But who knew how it would all unfold? I guess we would just have to start the day and let it all come about naturally.
Nahum had not ridden the horses to any extent at this juncture of the trip so his first order of business was to do just that. He sent Ariel off the round up the horses and get them saddled. He had heard that the disco in Tablones Arriba, the next village up the road, was having a big party with dancing starting at noon. The plan was to ride the horses up there and drink a few beers and dance a little.
We had finally got the third horse for the trip, it was the one Douglas was supposed to ride, but he had already left. Ariel saddled up the black horse too and was going to ride to Tablones Arriba with Nahum and me. Once the horses were saddled we took off towards the party. Today for the first time we were going to let the horses run even though it was in the heat of the day so we could see how well they did. Poor Rosio had the hardest job of the day because she was carrying me, a load of 215 pounds. The other horses only had to carry 110 to 135 pounds, so they had a light task in front of them.
Rosio did well though. She would get tired and slow a bit to catch her breath, but she never wore completely down. And better yet, she never laid down with me on her like the little horse did on my first trip earning me the nick name of "horse killer." I am so happy I found a horse that could carry me the distance without any trouble. I really like riding a horse even though it had been many years since I had done so.
On the way up to Tablones Arriba I kept losing my cowboy hat with the wind catching it every time we started running. I was wearing my black cowboy hat, one that resembles Tim McGraw's big hat. So with the big brim and the fast winds there was not much I could do to keep it on my head. Lucky for me Ariel was with us and tagged along behind picking it up every time it flew off. The unfortunate part is the hat looked quite wrecked by the time we made it home. I will have to steam it and re-shape it when I get back to the states.
Finally we rode into Tablones Arriba around two o'clock. We tied the horses up adjacent to the discotheque along the side of the road. Nahum and I went up to the bar outside the discotheque and ordered a few Barenas. There were a few people gathered around drinking beer. One guy was three sheets to the wind and came up to us wanting another beer. I bought him one, but soon decided it would be the last one because he was too far gone as it was. I also gave him a smoke and both Nahum and I joined him as we settled into the scene.
The owner of the disco came out of the dance room and greeted us. It was apparent that Nahum knew her and they chatted a bit after he introduced us. I also bought her a Barena and got us both Nahum and I a fresh one since it only took a few minutes to down that first one after the hard ride into town. While sucking down the beers the owner of the disco invited us in to dance. Nahum danced with her while she set me up with her daughter so I would have a partner. Off we went inside and we danced to some loud fast beats of reggaetone, the popular form of Latino music.
It was not the discotheque one would be used to coming from the United States, but after all we were in Honduras. Inside they had a setup of large speakers to blast the music with some disco balls hanging from the ceiling. The music was stored in a computer with a DJ choosing the play list. But rather than a wood or cement floor, this floor was dirt, packed dirt that made a good hard surface for dancing. There were plastic patio chairs lining the perimeter of the dance floor for sitting to watch others dance when you got tired. There were not a lot of people inside, just about four couples including us dancing to the beats of reggaetone.
After a couple of songs we all came back outside to have another beer. A few more people had shown up to the bar in the meantime, mostly guys. There were certainly more people outside having beer than were inside dancing. Nahum knew several of the guys and he introduced me to them as we bought another round of Barena. After polishing off the beer I went back inside and danced some more with one of the guys Nahum introduced me to and the girl he was dancing with. It is interesting to dance with three, not exactly what one is used to, but we made it work.
Anyway, after another round of dancing we were back outside having yet another beer. At this point I was starting to feel the effects of so many beers in such a short time. Another group of people walked up, mostly some girls. The owner's daughter was talking one girl into dancing with me, and noticing she was shy I asked her in to dance myself. When we got up to the door the owner's daughter stopped us and wanted us to pay! 50 Lempira for me and 20 Lempira for my female partner. I was already getting a little tipsy and was confused by the whole thing mostly because I did not understand what she was saying. Once I figured out they wanted me to pay I backed off and decided not to dance. I thought it was ridiculous for them to suddenly start charging when we had been dancing for free during the last hour.
Apparently everybody else felt the same way. From that point on until we left nobody entered the dance floor. Nahum and I had a few more beers as we sat and chatted with some of the guys at the bar. Finally having our fill of beer and feeling a little tipsy we decided to head home for the big evening celebration. We said our goodbyes and headed toward the horses. Once in the saddle again we took off for home. It would be the first time I ever rode a horse drunk, so should be an exciting ride.
On the way back Morena was ready to run so Nahum ended up getting way ahead of Ariel and me. Rosio was still tired and was not up to running so much. She would run for a little bit and then slow to catch her breath. But I was in no hurry because I was tired too and did not feel like bouncing a lot in the saddle. So we slowly made our way back towards the ranch. Eventually Nahum turned around and came back to make sure we were still en route.
When we made it back to Tablones Abajo and started up the driveway back to the ranch I decided to give the go ahead and run Rosio one last time before giving her the day off. I gave a loud yell as I kicked her in the gut to get her started. She took off without any problem and Morena followed in hot pursuit. The driveway having some steep slopes and a river to go through made it even more fun on the run. As we neared the ranch I ended up losing my hat yet again, but this time I decided to turn around and get it myself. I jumped off Rosio and picked up the hat and went to jump back in the saddle. Remember that I am drunk at this point so my motor skills were not so keen.
In the process of getting my left foot in the stirrup and starting to bring my right leg over Rosio's back she took off. I was not expecting this and had to grab onto her hair and hang on tight because I did not get in the saddle completely and my balance was off. While riding side saddle the cinches were not so tight and the saddle started sliding around Rosio's body. She was in full stride with me barely hanging on and yelling at her to stop - Whoa Horsy!!! Finally I was able to muster up some strength and get my right leg all the way over her back and sit myself up in the saddle albeit that it was slightly cocked to the left. The stirrup on the right side was turned in and I could not get my boot in it. But I was up and in control again and able to get Rosio slowed down to a trot. We made it in without me falling off, which was good because I would have never heard the end of it had I fallen off.
Once back we were a little drunk and very sweaty from the hot day's ride. So I grabbed a towel and change of clothes and headed for the shower. When I emerged from the shower the party had already started. It was still daylight probably about four o'clock at this point. So I grabbed a Barena and joined Nahum and some of the girls on the dance floor. It was time to celebrate the ending of one of the worst years of my life and welcome the New Year full of new direction and promise. In other words, it was time to PARTY!
Anibel showed up about this time with a case of Barena and some of the neighbors started arriving for the party. Today everybody was drinking even the girls, which I had never seen drink before. It was a good thing because everybody was loose and having fun whether dancing or chatting out on the porch. Erica, Carmina's sister took an interest in me and became a little flirty. She was a little wild this day and we did some dirty dancing to be sure. It was fun though, other than the fear she might want to go further than dancing by night's end.
Nightfall finally came and the party was in full swing, but the beer had run out. I could not let this happen so I asked Anibel to take me up to the pulperia and get some more beer. We piled into the truck with several of the kids, Erica and Carmina in the back seat and took off for town. I was pretty drunk at this point and was yelling "felize nuevo anos" to everybody I saw along the way. When we arrived at the pulperia I jumped out and gave Anibel 500 Lempira to buy the beer. He got 20 bottles of Port Royal and the last 20 bottles of Barena they had in stock. There were several guys hanging out and drinking looking bored, so I was joking with them and getting them to smile. Anyway, with beer in tow we loaded back up in the truck and went back to the ranch.
I rejoined the festivities and got back on the dance floor acting crazy like I normally do dancing with the kids and some of the women. I was as drunk as I had ever been in Honduras and having some fun. I started a new trend that many of the participants thought to be funny. I would slyly reach over and pinch one of the other dancer's butt and then quickly turn back around to dance with Erica like I did nothing. Soon, I was pinching everybody's butt, even the guys. It was funny to everybody and it was also contagious. Next thing you knew everybody was doing it. It made for more fun at the party on that night.
All the dancing in addition to the long day it had already been proved to be tiring, so I would step outside for a breather every 20 minutes or so. Outside on the porch many people including family, friends and neighbors were gathered and visiting. I would join one of the groups and listen to the chats even though I could not understand most of what was said. I was starting to pick up a few things and even interact with them a little. I was getting better with my Spanish no doubt even though I had a long ways to go to consider myself fluent.
Also outside the kids were lighting fireworks throughout the night. Nahum and Kevin had bought a lot of black cat fireworks tied together in packages of a dozen or so bundles. The kids would light them and throw them out into the yard seconds later followed by a chorus of bang, bang, bang. In addition to the black cats there were sparklers for the little kids. They were all walking around waving their sparklies and then just before they burned out would give them a toss through the dark night sky. It looked kind of like bottle rockets soaring through the sky. At first I was a little worried about a fire starting with so many fireworks being thrown out into the yard, but I guess with the high humidity there was not a lot of danger and no fires ever did break out.
The guys had also bought some other more sophisticated fireworks that resembled UFOs that would spin and throw colorful sparks as well as some Roman Candles and a big rocket that was to be set off at midnight. Fireworks are definitely a big part of the New Year's celebration and it was so fun to watch the kids lighting them and enjoying them. It reminded me of when I was a young kid and got to do the same back in Oklahoma prior to all the new safety laws in the U.S. This is something you don't see in this country anymore because we have learned to rid ourselves of fun in favor of being safe and having long, drawn out boring lives. Such is the result of progress back home in the U.S. of A.
Somewhere in the flow of events it was time to do the piņata for the kids. I was too drunk this night to really keep track of the flow of events. I am not sure exactly when things were happening from memory, just happy to remember what did happen. In any event the Tweety Bird piņata was in place and the kids were excited to get started on beating it to a pulp in order to get to the prized candy inside. As always the smallest kids started off the event and did not have to wear the blindfold. The youngest did not have the great coordination anyway, so they did not require a blindfold to make it difficult for them to take their swings at the piņata. The older kids on the other hand had to wear the blindfold when it was their turn.
Usually it takes a bit of time for the piņata to start breaking down, which gives everybody a chance to take their best swings. And given that the youngest go first and the oldest taking the last shots, the piņata would last until the stronger kids took their whacks. Eventually the piņata could no longer hold out and it would start giving way allowing the candy to fall to the ground with each new hit. When the candy flew so did the kids, rushing in to get their share of the candy. But on this night the end of the piņata would be different.
Nahum was, as usual, controlling the piņata at the other end of the rope. He would let it fall close to the kids and then jerk it back up fast when they took their swing. The object was to make it as difficult as possible for them to hit it and break it up too prematurely. But these kids were seasoned piņata swingers because most of them would still get their hits in despite the fact Nahum was working against them. Suddenly out of nowhere Anibel jumps in and grabs the piņata and starts running away from the stand. Nahum was yelling at him to stop, but it was too late. The frame of the piņata setup came tumbling down and the kids were grabbing at the wings and legs of the Tweety piņata causing it to tear into many pieces and candy falling to the ground all around them. Tonight, the piņata was ripped apart by people rather than the traditional stick. It was an unexpected, yet hilarious ending to this piņata episode.
Finally midnight approached and the place was rocking with a lot of people. I estimate that there were about 60 participants in the party at this point. Nahum did not make it nor did Anibel. Both found their way to the bed before the year turned over. But there were still plenty of people left drinking and dancing with everybody pausing to hug one another and wish all a Happy New Year. At the stroke of midnight Foncito set off the big rocket while everybody watched it soar up into the sky and explode with colorful sparks cascading out from its center. Finally the New Year, 2007 had begun and 2006 could be put to bed, an end to a hard year.
By this time I was getting very tired and was more than a little inebriated. I wanted to be the last one up and keep an eye on things until everybody left. But most of our guests were still going strong when I decided I could not take anymore. So I went off to my bed, climbed in and went right to sleep.