TBT - "The Trouble with Expats and Crazy Steve."

Taking up residency in a foreign country can be challenging and exhilarating, and often frustrating, just like any learning experience. Tourists never get the opportunity to truly understand other places and cultures like an expat can. But expats that insulate themselves in expat communities often miss out on what total immersion into a different culture can mean. At the other end of the spectrum you have expats that 'go native' - which can be either a good thing or a bad thing. I have had the good fortune to experience and benefited from all the above in several countries.

My experiences as an expat In Honduras during the '70s was interesting - for the most part because I was totally dependent on my economic efforts there and the relationships I had with others in that country to survive. My businesses made it possible to interact with all classes of people in the native society, and every kind of expat (from many different countries) in Honduras. For some expats like me - everyday life in a foreign country is a grand adventure. There is little incentive or time for TV, or watching sports, or any other forms of vicarious entertainment - your participation in everyday life was entertainment enough!

When I was living in San Pedro Sula (rather peaceful place then - now the 'murder capital of the world') I was familiar with many of the expats in that community. Some had 'jobs', working for the big international banana or tobacco companies, and some were entrepreneurs like myself - and everyone liked to have a rowdy time in a town that had a young population with a 8 to 1 ratio of women to men!!! I remember going to wild parties in the company compounds for the American expats during the summers when the expat managers would send their wives and kids back to the States for vacation - "and when the cat is away" . . . . .

But perhaps the most unforgettable character I met in San Pedro Sula during the '70's was Steve Buinning. Steve was a very intelligent and witty individual who in spite of his disability (his legs had been crippled by polio) managed to do very well in everything he attempted. He always had interesting visitors in his home and they came from everywhere in the country - and the world. It was in Steve's home where I first met Charlie MacGowan, who at that time was doing some exotic animal export biz with Steve. After Hurricane Fifi I joined up with Charlie at the local zoo and wild animal export operation in Calpulas.

Most of the expats on the north coast of Honduras knew Steve - and called him 'Crazy Steve' because there seemed to be no limit to what he would not try. He could walk awkwardly with his legs in braces and using his aluminum forearm crutches. But for driving - he had a Land Rover with slings attached below the dash on the driver's side that allowed him to hang sticks to use on the brake, clutch and gas peddles!

One afternoon we drove to a nearby store for some cold beer. Steve positioned the jeep in the parking lot about thirty feet from the store entrance - where we had a clear view through the front windshield of the inside of the store. Honking the horn and holding up two fingers out the window - the girl inside could see who it was and we watched her pull two Salva Vidas out of the counter/cooler by the door to bring to us. After about 6 of these beers Steve said: "Watch this". The girl brought two more beers and Steve chugged his down in a heartbeat - then unzipped and filled the bottle back up! The girl had just returned to the store entrance and Steve was already calling her back - complaining that she had brought him a 'warm one'. We watched as she returned to the store, pulled a beer cap out of the receptacle for the caps and put it back on the urine filled bottle. She then returned the bottle to the cooler and brought Steve a fresh cold one.

Steve said: "I think we should go after this one". I concurred.