La Gringa: The Beginning

Always a classic…it’s fun to look back at how this adventure started seven years ago.

I had been living in Honduras for 3 weeks, and only married for 4.  The first day I ventured to drive alone, I was heading to to meet my husband, Chris, for lunch. Driving in Honduras is a combination of the traffic of LA, the mountains of Denver, the honking of New York and the only road rule that exists is to play one big game of “Chicken”. Passing over double-yellow lines is fair game and you can expect cars to come head on into your lane at any time, reverse without warning, or even come to a complete stop on the freeway, all while dodging pedestrians along the way. It also includes driving over medians and curbs OR passing on the right to make a left-hand turn while another car is doing the same. The police don’t have cars so no one has to worry about the consequence of getting a ticket.

Halfway through my drive, I found that 3 lanes merged into 2 so I politely signaled to change lanes.  I allowed one semi to pass and then another as I slowly inched my way into the sardine-packed traffic. Now trapped between 2 semis, no one was going to let me in.  Sure enough, within seconds a huge semi screeched past me, only this time I cringe as I hear scraping metal. When I called Chris to tell him about the accident, he asked, “Did you stop him? He must not know that he hit you because it’s illegal to drive away without getting insurance.”

Thus began the chase. As I gunned it uphill, I tried to catch the barreling semi.  I laid on the horn the whole way, all while driving head-on into traffic so that I could come along side him since it was one lane each way.  As I’m honking, I rolled down my window, gesturing for him to pull over–the whole time thinking, “What am I going to say? I don’t speak Spanish.”

Sure enough, he pulled over and I quickly began gesturing that he hit my car while repeating the only words I knew, “Tu culpa, tu culpa” which means “your fault”. I knew enough to comprehend that he did not agree with me. So I tried to ask for his contact information though I’m pretty sure I didn’t use any verbs. He finally mentioned something about the police. So we drove to a nearby police checkpoint, and as I followed, I kept honking, as if to cause a scene in case he decided to drive away. He began to explain the situation to the policemen. By now, Chris had arrived and with his perfect Spanish, he argued my innocence. Now a crowd had gathered, as often does with any accident, and they all confirmed my blame.  I felt helpless, knowing that I couldn’t communicate.  Chris gathered the facts and concluded… “Cindy, it was your fault. I sat on the curb thinking, “Who was that today?  I would have never done this back home. Seriously, what am I doing here?” 

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