Monthly Archives: January 2010

Missing the Bus in Honduras

We ate breakfast Sunday night (January 10) at Pizza Hut, next to our hotel here in La Ceiba, Honduras. I left early, so I could post some news online. But before leaving, I asked Brian Magnus, the chairman of the General Conference, when the meetings started the next day.

“Nine o’clock,” he said. “We meet in the lobby at 8:45.”

Okay. With that information, I left for the hotel.

Sometime after that, it was announced that the conference was providing breakfast. The bus would come to pick us up at 7:45.

However, I blissfully missed this memo. I went to bed thinking 8:45 was my deadline.

The next morning, I arose early to write some news and process photos. I took a shower (no hot water), then grabbed my laptop and headed for what I called the “dlink” room at the northwest corner of the hotel. That’s the only decent internet connection, and it clearly comes not from the hotel, but from a neighboring business.

I posted some news, sent an email to Pam, and then made it to the lobby promptly at 8:45.

Nobody was there. But they’d been looking for a gringo, and I clearly fit the bill. I spotted our friendly Honduran bus driver appeared. He ushered me to a small van, in which I was the only passenger, and whisked me to the Bethel Institute. All the time, I was wondering what had happened. Did the bus leave a few minutes early?

Turns out the bus left at 7:45, and they didn’t miss me at all. Which does nothing for my self-esteem. It finally dawned on somebody that I was missing. They envisioned me lying dead or dying on the floor of my hotel room, remembering the bad fall I’d taken the day before from vertigo (which I told about on my personal blog).

They sent the driver back to the hotel to find me. He had the desk clerks call around to various rooms where members of our group were staying. Of course, nobody answered in my room, because I wasn’t there. I was in the Dlink room. But then I magically appeared on my own.

Tomorrow I will get up a little earlier–not only to catch the 7:45 bus, but to get hot water. 

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Reporting from Rainy, Rainy Honduras

I’m writing from La Ceiba, Honduras, where it has been raining constantly for the past day. But I’m not shivering, like folks back in Indiana. We heard there was a hurricane watch in effect yesterday, but I don’t think it’ll amount to anything. Though I’d love to experience a hurricane. I think. Maybe not.

Three wifi networks show up here at the Gran Paris Hotel–the hotel system, the Pizza Hut wifi from next door, and one simply called “dlink” from an anonymous neighboring business. Dlink is the only one that really works. So I’m sitting in a vacant corner room of this hotel, where I can pick up the signal. Last night, I sat outside this room, on the floor, posting somewhere around 1 a.m. Maybe I coulda just walked on into the room for an extra strong signal.

I’m here for the international gathering of United Brethren from probably 14 countries. It’s called General Conference. This is the first time it’s ever been hosted outside of the United States (except for one General Conference long ago held in Canada, but Canada doesn’t count). The Hondurans are very excited about this opportunity. It’s their “coming out” event, just as the Olympics were for the Chinese.

This morning, as we all stood in the lobby downstairs getting ready to head out for breakfast, vertigo hit me very, very fast. I had about a second or two of warning, and “Wham!” The landscape started scrolling, and I had no control. I toppled over backwards, hitting the floor with what people said was a horrible thud. I bruised my tailbone, and think I may have gotten some whiplash as my head whipped and hit the floor. When I opened my eyes, everyone was standing above me looking down. Thought I’d gone to see Jesus, probably.

Even laying on the floor, I felt like I was still upright. Though my keen mind told me, “Hmmm, it feels cool. You must be laying on the floor. So just relax.” After a minute or so, I got up–wobbly, but somewhat functional.

We headed out for breakfast and a service at a beautiful retreat center up in the hills, lush with tropical vegetation. Just gorgeous. I kept waiting for vertigo to hit again, but it didn’t. But it’s not over. And I’ll be here until Thursday.

So I’ll keep taking photos (took 150 this morning), writing stuff, posting stuff with my somewhat reliable internet connection, and having a good time–while also holding onto stuff, in case vertigo should make another surprise visit.

I suspect my back and neck will be hurting a lot in the morning. I’m already feeling some soreness in new places. Don’t have a bump on my head, even though my head hit the tile floor real hard. Whatever. I’m having fun, albeit through a haze.

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College Football Coaches of My Youth

While watching bowl games today, I mused about some of the football coaches of my youth, when I began taking an interest in college football. We’re talking early 1970s.

I can still remember the names of those coaches. Today, there is much parity in college football, many different teams that can shine in any given season. But back then, we had a handful of powerhouse programs, and those coaches tended to be larger than life. Legendary.

Consider these coaches from 1973:

  • Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame).
  • Joe Paterno (Penn State)
  • Bear Bryant (Alabama)
  • Darrell Royal (Texas)
  • John McKay (USC)
  • Tom Osborne (Nebraska)
  • Barry Switzer (Oklahoma)
  • Woody Hayes (Ohio State)
  • Bo Schembechler (Michigan State)

Those were legends. Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer–great coaches, but no comparison, in my book.

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Books: Three Mysteries with WW2 Connections

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Over the Christmas holidays, I read three Black Lizard mysteries from Vintage books, all by different authors. Each book related in some way to World War 2. One is set in Germany, one in Sweden, and one in post-war Japan. One is outstanding, the others not so much.

“Self’s Deception,” by Bernhard Schlink. Schlink wrote a series of mysteries around Gerhard Self, a private detective in Germany. He’s 69 years old, and had fought in the German army, and there are references to skeletons. The plot involves searching for a young woman who has gone missing. Self finds her fairly quickly, but things get complicated fast. We end up amidst a terrorist attack on an American installation where poison gas from the war is kept.

I didn’t care for this book. I never got a good sense of Gerhard Self, never found a reason to find him the least bit interesting. The book had little action (read: violence), and the plot, though suitably intricate, never engaged me. I forced myself through the final pages, not caring how it turned out. Very disappointing for a Black Lizard book.

Philip Kerr’s “Berlin Noir” books about PI Bernie Gunther are far more interesting, with a fully developed, fascinating protagonist. But Kerr is Scottish, not German, and he shapes Gunther more like an American rule-breaking investigator. It’s always interesting to see how writers in other cultures build a mystery hero…except that Self is a boring character.

“The Return of the Dancing Master,” by Henning Mankell. This is an amazing, engrossing book. Mankell departs from the Kurt Wallander saga to introduce us to Stefan Lindman, a policeman on medical leave (he has cancer) who gets involved in the case of a former colleague who was brutally murdered. The motive for the murder, revenge, traces back 50 years to the latter days of World War 2.

I don’t know where to begin. Suffice it to say, this is Henning Mankell at his best (or second-best, after “The White Lioness”). Lots of detail, a true police procedural of following leads this way and that way, sometimes down dead-ends. Personal dramas are woven seamlessly into the narrative.

I read 200 pages on Christmas Eve, and the other 200 pages on Christmas Day. Mankell writes with the magnetic attraction that irresistibly pulls you along, chapter by chapter. My guesses about how it would end proved wrong, though I did have valid suspicions. At any rate–if you like mysteries, read this book.

“Tokyo Year Zero,” by David Peace. This book begins the day Japan surrenders, but mostly occurs a year later with the US occupation in full swing. A Japanese policeman is investigating the murders of a number of young women, amid the backdrop of a ravaged city and a populace seeking order and food.

I like plots that occur within a larger context. Philip Kerr’s “Berlin Noir” books do that, a mystery unfolding as the Nazis rise to power or during the Allied occupation; Dan Fesperman’s mysteries occur within the context of the Bosnian war. But in “Tokyo Year Zero,” the occupation was far in the background. I wanted much more.

“Tokyo Year Zero” could have been fascinating in that regard. But Peace takes a very artsy-fartsy, psychological approach, and I just didn’t care enough to figure out what he was doing. I just wanted an interesting ride, so I guess I was the wrong reader in the wrong mood. I found the book difficult to read, even as others heap acclaim on it. I finished it, but I’m not sure what exactly happened. Yet I did gain some insights into the post-war occupation, and am interested enough to perhaps read some nonfiction about it.

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