Life in Honduras: Overall Impression and Day One (7/1/12)
It’s the murder capital of the world, they say. Random robberies. Killings. Frequent attacks. “It doesn’t happen everyday,” as one of my friends put it, “but it happens to everyone.” This is Honduras, a part of it at least. As the days neared for my departure, I was beyond paranoid. “How fast will I need to walk to avoid being approached?” I wondered. Will I be able to ask anyone for help if I get lost? And what’ll happen if I actually do get lost?
Ironically, though, by the time I landed, I felt ready. Sure, there was the safety concern, but aside from that, I didn’t feel as if anything would be a surprise when I got there. I went over the pre-departure packet, talked to people who’d been to Honduras, and constantly reread my boss’ e-mails about what to expect: I should be prepared for water to stop a few times every couple of weeks; I might have to wash up using a bucket; there’ll be a ton of insects and mosquitos, so bug spray is a must; I’ll need comfortable clothes because it’s extremely hot; I might not have internet access 24/7; and the list goes on. Got it. Comprendo. I’m ready.
But after just a thirty-minute drive from the airport, I was exposed to the “Honduran reality”: stray dogs, dirt roads, mud in front of houses where I’d expect grass. Poverty was beyond evident. And slowly, the Honduran reality began to settle in. By the time I arrived at my host family’s home in El Progreso, Yoro, I realized that I wasn’t actually as “ready” as I thought I was – at all.
Life in Honduras, after just two weeks, has been much more complex and eye-opening than I initially imagined. Everything is just different: the people, the food, the work environment, the social life. Not in a good or bad way, though…just different. Yet I appreciate these differences. In fact, it’s the striking differences between my culture and Honduran culture that make this eight-week journey: worthwhile.
And it all began on day one.
Day One (7/1/12): A Cancelled Flight and a Wonderful Host Family
“Go ahead and check over there, but I’m pretty sure your flight was just cancelled,” the flight attended said. Puzzled and slightly worried, I quickly headed over to the check-in area to figure out what happened. Indeed, the flight was cancelled. Great. Thankfully, I was able to get the last spot (literally) on another flight for early afternoon, and admittedly, I needed the extra time anyway to turn in my Spanish essay that was also due today. What I was concerned about most, though, was contacting my host brother about the time change. The flight attendant let me use their phone, but I felt incredibly bad calling him so early in the morning! He was super kind, though! And I was just glad that he could understand me!
The plane ride to Miami was a nice one. I never really know what to do on planes, so sleep usually turns out to be the best resort. The connecting flight to Honduras from Miami was much more interesting. For one, I (obviously) noticed a lot more Spanish. “This is it,” I thought; it’s time to start speaking Spanish already. But the flight attendants were bilingual, so I still had some time, thankfully. What really captured my attention, though, was a kind, elderly man that I set next to on the plane. I don’t remember his name, but I can’t forget our conversation. He told me about how his daughters live in the States, and I’d figured he just came back from visiting them. He was really curious about my internship, so we talked a bit about that, too, but what stood out the most was what he did toward the end of the flight. He pulled out a napkin and began writing on it. At first, I assumed it was a self-reminder note. Yet he turned to me, gave the napkin, and told me, “If you ever need anything while you’re in Honduras, or if anything happens, call me.” Unbelievable. Though he doesn’t know it, he was the first native Honduran that I ever met.
The landing in Honduras was quite distinct from other flights I’d been on, given the view. Instead of seeing a city filled with cars on the streets and tall buildings, I saw mountains, trees, and a lot of green. It was serene. Getting through customs was simple, but unfortunately, one of my suitcases got delayed and didn’t show up (I had to pick it up the next day). Now, it was time to meet my host brother and the director of the organization I’m working for, the Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE).
They greeted me with a smile. The director’s name is Marisol Fuentes, and my host brother’s name is Oscar Osorio (he’s 18). I felt bad that they had to wait so long as I figured out what happened with my luggage, but they were extremely understanding. From there, we headed to Oscar’s house, where I’ll be living. The drive to his house was my first view of Honduras. While I was having a nice conversation with Marisol and Oscar, I couldn’t help but stare out of the window and look in awe at what was around me. While El Progreso, Yoro is the third biggest city in Honduras, I didn’t get any “city” impression during the drive. There are many, many fields. Cattle. Random people set up along the side of the road. Horses. Stray animals: fatigued dogs, for the most part. Dirt roads. This is a third-world country, I suppose.
As we neared Oscar’s house (above), I saw a lady standing on the porch – my host mother. She patiently waited as Oscar helped me bring my suitcase in the house. The first thing I noticed, I think, was that there wasn’t grass in front of their house; it’s a combination of concrete and dirt, I’d say. Unsurprisingly, my home is very small. It’s a one-story, with a living room and kitchen in one open space, along with three bedrooms and a bathroom. I met my host mother (Marta) my two sisters (Marcela, 16; and Jackie, 25), my brother-in-law (Angel), and my niece (Angeles). Understandably, everyone was rather quiet, as we were becoming accustomed to getting to know one another. My mother offered me dinner, and we (Oscar, Marcela, and my host mom) ate together. They all watched with anticipation to see if I’d enjoy the food, which I did. I thought it was sweet of them to care so much. We had tortillas, which here are circular pieces of breads, with rice and meat.
After dinner, Oscar helped me get situated in our room. Of all the people in my host family, I understand him more than anyone else. He frequently has to translate from Spanish to Spanish for me. Sounds weird, I know, but it works! We had a really good conversation, which somewhat surprised me because he seemed very shy when I first met him at the airport. I learned that the school year in Honduras goes from around February to December, meaning he’s still in school now. Also, they have staggered school days, meaning that one set of students go to school in the morning, a second group in the afternoon, and a third group in the evening. I never considered what that’d be like before, but it was interesting to hear about. We have a lot of the same music taste, too; Oscar’s overly obsessed with American music, specifically Lady Gaga and Adele. Personally, I find it hilarious to hear him sing the songs, though I’ll admit he says the words pretty well. For “Rolling in the Deep” (by Adele), however, he mistakenly made the “ick” sound instead of “eep” in “Deep.” I had to explain that the song has a totally different meaning if he says that, and we laughed about it in the end.
Later that night, I watched White Chicks in Spanish. Though I couldn’t understand every word, the movie was just as funny. I find it interesting how much American culture is portrayed through the media here. Shortly thereafter, I headed to bed, as I was extremely tired from a long day. And somehow, though in an unfamiliar environment, I fell right asleep; it was a nice, peaceful 9 hours of sleep too.
Random word of the day: Mamón – It’s a fruit, but it also means hickey. Oscar told me a funny story about how previous volunteers asked about this word!