I am composing this RoadWorks blog while in a hammock on the porch of my cabin at the Lodge at Pico Bonito, which is described in Malana Ashlie’s 2007 memoir, Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey this way:
. . . a lodge of rustic elegance nestled on the edge of the National Park. It was a wonderland of nature. Beauty and serenity were available at every turn of the head. We walked graveled trails where beautifully colored butterflies and tropical birds flittered through the brush, riding the fragrant breezes of an unspoiled ran forest.
That is an accurate description of our accommodations with cabins tucked among the former cacao plantation trees, and trails extending to Unbelievable Falls, Mermaid Falls, and Las Pilas—all terrific swimming holes on Rio Coloradito.
In addition to butterflies, the grounds has a lot of Agouti–a rodent type animal–scurrying around looking for food.
Ashlie’s autobiographical narrative describes the realization on her 50th birthday that it is time to pull up stakes from Hawaii and venture into new territory with her husband Ordin and their cat Pueo. Having her natal chart read by an astrologer helps her make the decision, and they embark on scouting the world for a likely next residence: Honduras proves to be the right spot for them even though they know little Spanish. They choose a village close to La Ceiba (named for the tree) on the Caribbean coast.
The book focuses on the nuts and bolts of making such a move, and as such, it is not really a travelogue. There are tidbits of information on Honduras that I found helpful, such as the fact that Trujillo (where O. Henry stayed while writing Cabbages and Kings) is the former capital of the country but was moved when pirates blockaded the Caribbean coast. The average worker earns about 100 Lempiras a day ($5) while a skilled carpenter can earn 40 Lempiras an hour ($2). The ubiquitous pulperias are family-owned tiny stores within a neighborhood. School buses from the USA are transferred to Honduras where they serve as public transportation; it can be a bit disconcerting to see the big yellow bus pull up to a bus stop and adults enter and exit. Although the main roads are paved, many in villages and to tourist sites are not. Most homes have walled courtyards and gates, which is not just about security but also tradition. Cultural aspects such as neighbors helping neighbors are also noted.
The New Age sensibility of the couple appears throughout the book, and depending on the reader’s perspective, this may seem off-putting—as with the friend who connects with dolphin energy for healing—or, it may be in tune with those who value meditation and prayer. Ashlie offers extended narrative about the move and its preparation and then follows with brief vignettes on life in their new home, focusing on such themes as getting the just the right birthday card for the gardener, finding a cook/housekeeper, and dealing with Internet access.
While it would have been nice to have a good editor on hand, Gringos in Paradise relates a heartfelt story, and it’s impossible not to wish this nice couple well in their new home.