So, I was literally the last CASPian to be dropped off in my homestay at 6:30 pm in the evening on Friday. The head of police escorted us to my home, Quebrada Seca. We pull up to a house that was real nice compared to the surrounding homes, and it was filled with young boys and bags of coffee. Panic/reality started to set it. Kim, my professor, forced me out of the car with a smile on my face to say hello. A man with a cowboy hat, gun, and huge beer-belly comes to me and tells me he is my new dad, but that I wouldn’t be living with him. Panic. Instead, I would be living with his late wife’s niece, who is not married, lives by herself, and is half my size- meet Mirna. Me and Mirna for four weeks…Not sure about that. After an hour of dicussing how I cannot simply live with this one woman, we learned that the 8 year old neighbor girls sleeps in the house with us at night…to be safer? Yet, Kim decides it is a great situation for me…and left me there to fend for myself. Aw, nuts.
I went to bed in tears, but was excited to go into the city that was only 20 minutes away the next day to meet two of the people who helped place me. Day 2, Mirna and I went to a conferencia at the municipality in order to form committees of citizens to help the mayor be aware of local problems. I put a smile on my face and told the head of police that I loved my new home (a bit of a stretch). The conference was cool though because Mirna joined the security and justice committee which I felt was appropriate since she lives alone as a female across the street from the town drunk 🙂 awesome. After 3 hours we headed back to Quebrada Seca and my distraction from reality was gone. I hated it. I wanted to go home and to top it off, my amoeba and stomach infection decided to have another visit. Physically and mentally….I was ready to make up an emergency.
The first week was full of tears and self-pity. It was pathetic. I spent my days more enthralled with my homework than the people because I really didn’t want to be there. I continued to pray the most ridiculous prayer- “Lord, please give me to be the desire to be here- or make me have an emergency so that I can go home”. Pathetic. The one positive was that there was frequent activity around me. Men would come every day to de-pulp coffee and Mirna and I went to the Catholic Church every night…I was they’re newest convert project. Also, I learned to needle point. Stitched myself a napkin.
Ok so first, who are these men that are walking all around when I wake up in the morning? Should I be afraid (of course that’s the first thought I had)…No. Rafael and Evelio employ some of the men in my town to work. Evelio owns Mirna’s house, and she can live there for free if she feeds them while they work. Evelio’s daughter became my new friend. Dania is 16 and spent most of her time at school, but thought I was real interesting so would come hang out whenever she could. Second, we literally went to church 5 nights a week, and I spoke, outloud, to everyone, EVERY time.
So, speaking of church, I became a part of the youth group. The first weekend we were there I attened the Dia de San Valentin party…ok. They are between 18 and 25 and act like middle schoolers. We did “Amigo Secreto” which is basically secret santa with Valentine stuff, and then played “Whichever boy is holding the ball when the music stops gets to dance with the Gringa!” Perfect. Talk about uncomfortable. I put a real quick end to that and let me tell you, they were not happy. But instead of letting them talk me into another round, I ran to the kitchen to help serve cake. My first cake of the month.
The following day we went up to the mountain. Now let me tell you that it had been raining really hard for a week and the roads are made of dirt and feces- so naturally the truck could not make it up the hill, therefore forcing us to hike up, carrying a few pounds of mud on my shoes the whole way. Mirna’s dad and brother are super wealthy and live at the top, overlooking all of Quebrada Seca and La Entrada. For the special occasion of my visit, we killed a chicken. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something fly through the air and saw a tiny 90 year old women twirling a chicken in the air by the neck to kill it. Brilliant. Then it was defeathered, gutted and added to the fresh chicken noodle soup. At first I thought I had become a vegetarian….but then it just tasted soooooo good. So much for being an animal lover.
So then, the start of week two. Between needle pointing, making tortillas, visiting the city, and doing homework, I investigated. Mirna was pretty much my only source for a while since I couldn’t go anywhere without her and she wouldn’t let me talk, so I learned that they got running water 9 years ago and electricity 4 years ago. I figured electricity had to be new because everything was on all the time, and music and tv were listened to at the highest decible possible. Everything was SO loud. I stopped missing home so much this week and really began to LOVE the slow, peaceful, completely stress-free life that Mirna leads. So apparently God chose the former of my prayers. This was great news to me because it would me up to an opportunity to learn a lot about Him from the people and town that He created and designed for me to be in for that month.
The people in Quebrada Seca might be the most hospitable, caring group of people to have ever lived. Mirna doesn’t have to work all year round because it is dangerous for her to travel alone, so as long as she cooks for the workers, Evelio brings her what she needs. The neighbors all provide for one another despite not having enough for themselves. Everyone is always welcomed with open arms and lots of food.
So Kim told my mom that my birthday was this month. There was no question of whether or not there would be a party…or 2. Plans started to be made and I overheard cakes (plural), pinatas (plural), tamales, music, and government guests. Whoa.
The Friday before, we spent the night in La Entrada, the big town, to go grocery shopping early Saturday morning. The homes were so nice, with bathrooms inside- HUGE plus. And they had refridgerators. Wow. We spent the night watching telenovelas and laughing a lot….but then when I woke up the next day. I freaked out.
I woke up with a swollen leg and a spider bite bigger than a quarter! It hurt! I thought it must have been a bite from the deadliest spider in the world and went into 36 hours of panic where I convinced myself that this was the end of my life. We applied cream. We watched. I called the organization. I was sure it was the end. The next day, the swelling was down and the bite was tiny…I survived.
Yet in the midst of all the terror, I had things to learn! We made tamales from scratch- like we ground the corn ourselves for the dough. We made baleadas (think burrito in quesidilla form…but SOOOOOOOOO good), aka the hardest tortillas in the world to make. More on that later. We made pastries out of bananas, and we made PASTA! Not like US pasta, but still…who cares at this point?
The day before my actual birthday was my big party. I was woken up with the Latin American birthday song at 4 am by two girls in the youth group, and then was surprised outside with a decorated patio that said “Happi Betdey” or happy birthday if you speak English. It was the most precious, nicest thing in the world. At 4 pm, the guests (that I had never seen before) began to arrive and give me big hugs and kisses. The neighbor kids all came too because they heard about the pinatas. We ate a huge meal, then it was time to break that sucker open. Everyone yells “Arriba, abajo” and I swung like an idiot. I hit it twice, then the little kids got to go at it. I was ordered to change into a dress (even though i was wearing a skirt and my nicest top) to cut the cake. Then, I had cake smeared all over it!
We laughed and ate cake and it was the best birthday in the world. I felt so loved and well cared for.
On my actual birthday, I woke up knowing that I would get visited by the TAs and professor at somepoint that day…so I sat around looking for something to keep me busy. That didn’t last too long because while I was eating breakfast one of the workers yells “Kaylee, I think your friends are here” and I ran out into the street to find 3 huge gringos hiking up the road. Happy birthday to me. The whole time they were there I spoke a mile a minute and my thoughts were all jumbled as I tried to tell them everything at once. Then they whipped out a huge bag of letters and I was on top of the world. To hear from everyone I loved at home was the best birthday present I could have asked for. Thank you so much for being apart of my experience. It made my birthday all the more better.
My second birthday party did not top the first…or anything else I’ve ever experienced. We had a pinata hand made for me and got a cake, but never touched them because the Catholic birthday parties are actually just 4 hours of really loud, screaming worship. Super weird. Not to say that it was bad, just a little unexpected. So to say the least, my birthday was very different, but amazing. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.
Week 3 passed and I began to love this little town. I cannot honestly think of a time in my life where I had no plans, no expectations, no stress, and all the time in the world. To not be stressed out was a completely new experience for me, and let me tell you, it isn’t so bad. I could do it forever!
My final Saturday in Quebrada Seca was an adventure. I was told that we were hiking to go bathe in the water source. I was confused. I’m thinking, wow that’s unsanitary, but ok. Turns out, they meant that we were going to splash in a creek. I ‘hiked’ up the slippery, jungle rocks, almost dying every 5 steps, scared to death…yet I prevailed. Tons of people were swimming and picnicing, enjoying the cool water and the hot sun. Insects chose to eat me alive as I sat and watched my crew splash away. We ate these real funky chips and drank pepsi from the empty bags as we had forgotten the cups. We built a fire and toasted tortillas in the open air. We hiked back to the house, enjoying my one moment of ‘exercise’ I had all month, and then was promptly told to make myself “bien guapa” because I had a wedding to attend. What? Welp, I just went with it. I ‘bathed’, I really just stuck my head under the ice cold water for a second, put on a dress, and allowed them to put rhinestones in my hair. The reception was first. I didn’t know who was getting married, and the reception was for ‘non-Christians’ only, so it was quite awkward for me. We ate chicken, not cake because they don’t do that, and left after about 10 minutes. Later, we went to the church, with everyone else in the town, and witnessed the most awful and sad wedding ever. The couple never smiled, touched, or looked at each other. I left very confused.
It was an amazing last week and I was incredibly sad to leave. I had become a part of the community and was not ready to leave it behind. Yet, I was so excited to see all of my group and hear about their months. My month was full of hard and amazing experiences, with a lot of goofy mixed right it. God taught me that I can do it. That I can live on my own and be in relationship with strangers. I’ve never been more proud of myself.
One more thing…
Things I will miss: my most precious Mirna, fried plantains, the little children, not needing to shower, Marmahon (pasta balls), endless time, and my lovely community.
Things I will never, ever miss: washing all of my clothes by hand, waking Mirna up in the middle of night to walk me to the bathroom, all of the fat, sugar, and nasty I consumed, bugs, wearing shoes allllll the time, not understanding jokes, not having people to talk to, the milk straight from the cow, and the cockroaches crawling all up in my bed.
There you have it!!!! I LOVED HONDURAS!