If you’re learning Spanish and like cute, cuddly animals, I highly recommend adding this Roatan experience to your bucket list!
Speaking Spanish with a Local
For the past 5 years, I’ve been learning Spanish and wanting to practice in a Spanish-speaking country by taking an annual winter trip. Even though I feel very empowered and independent when I go alone, I’m lonely… and also scared about venturing out by myself. I’m clueless and very directionally challenged even in the States, so… I thought this year I’d get my “speak Spanish with natives” goal accomplished via a cruise excursion.
When I checked the cruise ship options for excursions in Honduras, none of them included “speak Spanish with locals.” They also were very “touristy” and high-priced.
I decided to see if I could find an option myself and asked a port-side vendor (Victor Bodden Tours) if a driver could help me with my Spanish while giving me a driving tour of the “real” Roatan. He told me it would cost $80 and the driver would take me wherever I wanted to go for as long as I wanted.
“I’ll take it!” I said. A private tour and Spanish tutor for $80 for as long as I want? That’s better than any of those high-priced excursions from the ship!
Mi Maestra y Amiga Nueva: Charlene Dilbert
The taxi-driver’s name was Charlene Dilbert with a CD on her business card! Is that a Carpe Diem sign or what? I’m all about the CD!
Charlene (“Charlie”) was an excellent Spanish teacher. She spoke slowly and didn’t constantly correct my many mistakes. Instead she made sure I understood and if I didn’t, she repeated slowly or used easier vocabulary.
She also gently encouraged me to speak in Spanish. If I lapsed into English, she’d say, “En Español?” with a smile on her face.
Charlie told me about herself and her family as we drove. She introduced me to her Aunt and showed me the oldest school in Roatan.
She showed me the houses that were up in the hills that Americans and expats lived in as well as where the locals lived.
Charlie is a single mother and I asked her about the economy, tourism, and her job. She admitted that she had a long commute and some days she didn’t get any work.
I told her that some of the people on the cruise ship warned against taking anything but the cruise excursions, saying they might be dangerous for a single woman. She was frustrated by that, telling me that while some parts of the country are dangerous, tourists are safe. The tourism business is extremely important to the economy, so they don’t need to worry when using a reputable vendor like Victor Bodden Tours.
I asked her if the locals ever did the tourist activities.
Charlie: “Oh no. Those activities are way too expensive.”
Me: “Do locals want to do any of the tourist activities?”
Charlie: “Well, it would be a dream to show my son the dolphins, but that costs $100 and there are more important things to spend $100 on.”
Me (very excited): “Oh, if you take me to an ATM, I can give you a $100 tip and then you can take your son to see the dolphins!”
Charlie (visibly surprised): “Are you sure? You would do that?”
Me: “Yes! This private tutoring session and tour is absolutely worth it. You’re a very high-value teacher!”
So, our next stop was the ATM, which was a bit of an adventure in itself. It was a good thing Charlie was with me or else I think I would have been stuck with much more Honduran Lempira than I wanted. I also couldn’t figure out how to get out of the ATM booth! Embarrassing!
Charlie said she wanted to wait until it was off-season to see the dolphins, and, of course, I don’t mind how she spends the money. It felt so good to make her happy.
I told her I’d spread the word about her wonderful service. If you’re reading this, help me pass it on. Charlene Dilbert is the taxi-driver to ask for!
Victor’s Monkey and Sloth Sanctuary!
We still had plenty of time before I needed to be back on the cruise ship, and Charlie asked if I wanted to go to a park where I could see the sloths and monkeys.
I’d been to a park in Costa Rica where there were monkeys, so I imagined it would be like that. It ended up being much better! These were animals we could actually interact with!
I asked Charlie to join me in the park and she, once again, was pleased, telling me no other clients had ever invited her to join them. “Necesito mi maestra!” I assured her!
I’d never realized how adorable and cuddly sloths are! It’s like they have a permanent smile on their faces. I was instantly in love with this baby.
(I wanted to take him home, but my friends warned me the interspecies relationship would never be accepted. So true.)
Bucket List-Worthy Goals
Even though I’ve pretty much done everything I’d planned on my bucket-list, I did two unplanned things that I’d encourage anyone one to consider:
- Hug a Sloth
- Make Friends with a Local When Visiting a Foreign Country