Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. We left Honduras on Sunday July 1. Spent three nights in Seattle, two in Providence, RI, and now here I am on the Next Adventure, 10 days of learning French. More about French in another post. First, a Honduran wrap-up seems appropriate.
I have trouble articulating My Honduran Experience. It wasn’t “life-changing,” but of course I learned a lot–about teaching in a non-English-speaking environment, about Central America, about Doug, and Doug-and-me, about insects, about Spanish. Not sure what it adds up to, but it was worth spending two years.
Leaving Honduras. In the airport, I was nostalgic for all the Spanish I was no longer going to hear. My Spanish has improved, but there’s always more to learn, from plain old vocabulary words (does acribillado mean “murdered” or “shot down”?) to slang words, to words I’ve heard countless times but that still don’t come out of my mouth automatically. Like when you pass someone, they often say “adios.” I’m still stuck on “Hola” or “Buenos dias.” Perfectly acceptable greetings, but I just never became able to add “adios” to the mix.
Similarly, I never learned to end a conversation on the phone. When eavesdropping, I still can’t tell when a phone conversation is ending; it just seems to trail off. However now, when I’m on the phone, I have learned not to say “bye” or the equivalent. Just “bueno,” “ok,” or the Honduran equivalent of okay: “vaya pues.” Which in other countries might be a pejorative meaning something like “get out of here!” … Is it good news that I have joined the ranks of cell-phone users? I leave my phone on and often manage to answer it, if it’s not interrupting anything. I can even–slowly, painfully–send text messages!
Out for dinner one night last week, I found one characterization of the Good and the Bad of our Honduran experience: lovely outdoor setting (traditional house-style–a little cube of a building with a wide overhanging roof, creating a porch/patio with plenty of room for tables, hammocks, lounge chairs, etc), decent food (well, they had only soft drinks, not fruit juice or club soda), good friends, TV not too loud, interesting birds to watch….and/but there were dozens of flies that would not leave our food or our faces alone. PTuii, go away!
Won’t miss—the food. It’s pretty repetitive– tortillas, mashed beans, white salty cheese, maybe rice, sausage or tough beef…. Will miss the fresh fruits and vegetables that we could buy and prepare at home. I am, however, happy to eat green leafy salads again. And I’m working hard to resist the allure of all the baked goods in the US.
Won’t miss the frustration of trying to schedule advanced English classes as add-ons to the curriculum that students are locked into…. Will miss the enthusiasm of those students: “Miss, why are you leaving? When are you coming back?” They even asked in English!
Won’t miss the photos of dead or injured bodies in the newspapers. At the airport I bought one last newspaper. The front page photo was a car full of bullet holes and the headline: SHOT DOWN IN OLANCHO. It seems that the day we left, two women and a teenager were killed in downtown Catacamas. Assailants/motive unknown. Actually, the day before we left, I was about to say good-bye to someone when he apologized and took his leave: “I have to go. Somebody just killed my cousin.” In the way of things there, one wonders if the two killings are related…. Will miss the security and convenience of living on campus where it was easy to go for a jog around the fields or go out late at night and not worry about personal safety.
I will certainly miss the opportunity to observe nature up close. So I’ve seen way more cucarachas than I’d like, and the ant bites have bothered me way longer than I bothered the ants—well, okay, I did kill a number of teeny tiny explorers of my neck and the dinner table. Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching how the scavenger ants would finish off –or carry off–a cucaracha from night to morning. The chance that I’d see a motmot (see photo, but I didn’t take it) or a bright orange oriole always kept my jogs interesting. My new Nook provided me with plenty to read, but sometimes watching nature was way more interesting.
In the airport there were three different missionary groups: Purple t-shirt “Junta a obra de Cristo en Honduras – Hechos 1:8” Join Christ’s Work in Honduras (United Methodist logo); light blue t-shirt “Honduras 2012 – Walk in Love”; and maroon t-shirt Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International [map highlighting Honduras and Nicaragua]. Wow, I want to say something about all this person-power and good will–I reckon one must have faith in all those sayings about doing what you can, however small, and in the power of personal connections. I guess that’s what Doug and I were doing—teach a little English, help a few individuals….
I have gone back and forth between countries enough that I experience no “reverse culture shock” nor any major surprises upon returning to the US. Nevertheless, Honduras to Seattle is a major environmental shift: While I was running errands (hey, I can still drive!), the radio announcer said the evening commute was about to get rained on. The sky was gray, but it didn’t look particularly ominous. I didn’t believe the warning, but sure enough, 15 minutes later, it was raining. Catacamas has marvelous thunderheads capable of providing dramatic rains; Seattle has heavy skies that drip. We were supposed to be back to brother George’s between 6 and 6:30 p.m.. When I looked at my watch, it was—yikes!–almost 7:00. How’d that happen? Seven p.m is dark in Catacamas, but in the upper left hand corner of the US, it’s not dark till nearly 10 p.m. this time of year. It may take another day or two to reset my inner time-gauging clock.
Well, we’re back in the USA. When will we go back to Honduras? First I’ve got to eat a few green salads and enjoy a few concerts and plays, recycle my glass and paper, savor the bookshelves of friends, spend a few hours in bookstores and libraries, wear a sweater, and take a few more yoga or tai chi classes. Then we can talk about going back to teaching more eager students under the spreading guanacaste trees.