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“Hey man, do you want try this tequila my girlfriend brought me from Mexico?”  It turns out the correct answer to this is “no” but this is a lesson better learned the hard way, at least that is what I tell myself. The answer of “yes” initiated an almost unforgettable night, mostly because of my inability to remember any of it, and a hangover that I will never forget. Gracias has many hidden treasures, one of which is Café Kandil or just Kandil. The owner of Kandil, Byron Mejia, is an artist whose work has been featured in expositions around the globe and Kandil itself is a lounge, the likes of which would not be out of place in a bohemian New York neighborhood, that features his work and is generally a great place to throw a few back after a long week.

There was a time in my life that I thought artists were touchy feely types incapable of truly relaxing and letting go, always thinking about world issues and the importance of things most people find trivial. That was until one of them drank me so far under the table I was below the floorboards, which is pretty difficult to do when everything is concrete.  The night started off tame enough, a few beers with a new volunteer and some banter about work.  Due to a host-family imposed curfew the new volunteer escaped without a scratch at around 10.30. I was not so lucky.  The fatal misstep occurred when I decided to use the restroom before walking home, stupid in hindsight, since it is perfectly acceptable to pee on the streets here, instead of walking out at 10.30 with the other volunteer. As a saddled up to the bar, post pee, to settle my tab, the fatal phrase was uttered, “Hey man do you want try this tequila my girlfriend brought me from Mexico?” I haven’t learned much while I have been here but turning down generosity does seem to close doors and when you make $236.84 it’s really dumb to turn down free stuff, especially when it’s alcohol.

The first shot came out and went down without a hitch.  It was smooth, real smooth, and quite possibly one of the best tequila shots I have been lucky enough to drink. I was quickly offered a second but this time with a tomato juice chaser.  The catch was that the tomato juice came in an 8-ounce container.  Doing some quick calculations I realized that meant an additional 4 to 5 shots of tequila so I did my best to chug the whole bottle after the first shot but I was stopped and told that I needed to save the rest for the upcoming shots.  After a blizzard of shots, which most likely resembled the post robbery scene from Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, I was tipsy to say the least but a strange sense of calm over took me as I (falsely) realized that I wasn’t that drunk and the normally alarming sight of another bottle of tequila emerging didn’t scare me at all.  Byron and my other friend, Gustavo, insisted that we needed to try some of Honduras’ finest tequila just to compare.  This one was a little bit stronger, scratch that, way stronger but after the amount of hair that I had grown on my chest from the last eight shots I could have fought the entire male population of Gracias and won, so another bottle of tequila was just child’s play.

About an hour later I found myself navigating the dirt street that runs in front of my house, a task that was made that much more difficult by the torrential down pour taking place and the freshly dug trenches for a new and improved sewer system being installed.  After a poorly placed right foot my sandal decided to break, which sent me tumbling into a trench worthy of a World War I battle.  Covered in mud, reeking of Tequila, and with one less sandal I pulled myself out of the hole and stumbled the final 100 yards to my front door.  After successfully opening the front gate to my apartment I stumbled the final 100 feet to my porch where I decided to collapse and sleep, probably because the last ten feet seemed like a task akin to scaling Everest.  The only thing that woke me was the Ranchero music, that the maid likes to play while she cleans, reaching my eardrums like a swarm of angry hornets.  So at about 6am I sheepishly slinked inside, peeled off my muddy clothes, removed my contacts, and called it a night day.

While I felt like I had to share this story to let my friends know that I have not lost my lust for irresponsible and inappropriate child-like behavior, I have been searching for something of value to pull out of this story.  What I found after reflecting was not what happened during the blurry series of tequila shots but what happened before and after: the unyielding kindness and always-forgiving nature of the Honduran people around me despite being in the mist of an unprecedented security situation the likes that would have many people rattled to the core.  My friend Byron donated not one but two bottles of tequila just to make sure that we had a good time.  Doesn’t sound like much but considering that he could have made enough money off each bottle to buy a month’s worth of groceries, quite a big deal.  And hats off to my poor landlady who almost assuredly saw me in a crumpled muddy mess that morning but told my boss during a routine site visit a week later that I was always well mannered and rarely drank.

I have encountered some of the most genuine and kind people over the last year of my life and instead of being preoccupied with how I am going to get through another year I am worried that I don’t have enough time left.  So in closing I would like thank all the people who have made this last year unforgettable and I hope the Google Translate of this makes sense.

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