My last week in Honduras was not what one would call action packed with the typical forms of excitement. I did not take a bunch of sight-seeing trips or drink a last cup of the fabulous Honduran coffee from Copan. Rather, my last week was consumed by my indulgence in my students. I taught my final classes with force, passion, and conviction. I realized my presence was fleeting and I pledged that before I left i would make an immense impact on these students, which is what I’ve striven for these past eight weeks. What I did not realize is that my simple smile in the morning would suffice, I did not need to force my soul on these students. On my last day without probing the students about my departure every student gracefully placed their arms around me as if they would never let go, telling me every five minutes how much they would miss me. I couldn’t believe that it was my final day, it all seemed a bit unreal. Had two months flown by that fast? Apparently, by no accord of mine, time had passed me by. I can still remember the moment I got off the plane smelling the scent of the air, the airplane, and the faces of strangers interested in whether I was Puerto Rican, Peruvian, or Colombian. I vividly remember my students faces as I walked in the first day. All of their eyes filled with hope and happiness. But what will stick with me the most is my final day. All of the kids dressed up in traditional honduran outfits for a big barbecue and I spent the entire day playing soccer, eating the most delicious meat, and relishing in the final stories, hopes, and dreams of my students. I began to shed a tear because the uncertainty of life was too much for me. Would I ever see them again? The students who changed my life (I don’t say that lightly). Do they even understand that it was I who was learning from them? But just as I began to think about these things, a student of mine, Fernando, reached over to me and told me not to worry that I would be back and made me promise not to cry because he cares a lot for me. I pinky promised that I wouldn’t cry and I kept that promise. However, I don’t know if I can say that my tears won’t touch the soil of Miami. It has been one day and I already feel my heart aching for their funny jokes and forceful hugs. What is keeping me going is the prospect of seeing these students in their future lives. I wonder who they will be and what they will have accomplished. If the day never comes that I see their faces again, I will always remember the summer I spent under the sun learning and growing in love and in patience.
A few of Manuel’s final words to me were, “you are a special volunteer.” He told me that I was filled with a love and a care he has not seen much of. My heart smiled and from that moment on I knew I had an impact on at least one person in this world and that is what I have always hoped for in this life. I am freed but I am still growing. I am learning to love and I am learning to maintain the love I have for myself. I wish that i had more time, more time to write. There were so many things that happened in this little city I called home for two months. Like the questioning of my identity, that the promise the company Toms makes is true, and the presence of God, or rather a higher power has changed in these past months. Although this time has gone, i will fight to maintain the life I created here and the Me who now exists. I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me along the way especially Haverford College, the Multicultural Scholars Program, Manuel, and A Broader View. I’ll be in Miami in just a few short hours but my students faces keep coming to mind. I don’t know where I will be or who I will be but know that I will fight for this life and always hold these students deep in my heart. So until we meet again, maintain the fire in your soul and as I said before crave life.
“It is certainly sad that the awakening of one’s senses should lead to such a merciless judgment of oneself” -James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
A moment I will never forget is the moment James Baldwin walked into my life. Baldwin waltzed into my world at a chaotic time, a time when I was attempting to create myself, and attempting to follow my dreams, one of those dreams being a teacher in Honduras. Sade, a friend of mine, introduced me to the author and poet one afternoon while I was stressing about internship applications and dreaming of the day I would gain the opportunity to have a selfless and positive impact on a human life. Sade described the ways through which Baldwin’s words, uttered within the silence of the page, touched a part of her soul that had yet to be awakened. Sade vividly described the classroom discussions she found herself enthralled in and one of the most significant topics of discussion being the concept of life itself. It is no question that century after century human beings have attempted to discover the meaning of life but, as described by Sade, Baldwin believed that the human soul has become wrapped into a life that in reality is not being lived at all. What that means to say is that as humans we follow rules, stick to what society tells us we SHOULD do and we allow our souls to become prisoners of a critical world. This critical world has caused us to live a monotonous life in which our true passion has disappeared into the harsh briskness of the wind. Since that conversation, it is no surprise that I began to think about who I was, and what I was doing with my life. Sade and I began to map out our lives, tell ourselves to say yes to life, and do what makes us truly happy. Sade and I both share a passion for poetry, it is what we live for and so we both spoke about one day traveling the world, living as poor poets, and fulfilling our dreams. That is what would make me truly happy, but my passion also lies in the realm of education. I understand how it is to be depraved of an adequate education, I understand how it feels to fear the streets of your neighborhood and I feel that if I do not give back to my community, whether it is opening a nonprofit organization for inner city schools, giving students the education they deserve, or simply listening to the harsh travails of my students, I will deny myself a passion. But with my experience here in Honduras I am beginning to fulfill a part of my dream I never believed could happen. Being here in Honduras I have heard the stories of my students, listened to their dreams, and heard their cries. I know that education is calling my name but what dream will I choose?
You may be wondering why I chose to begin with the quote from Baldwin and it is for this precise reason. Being here in Honduras, I feel my senses being awakened, I have created myself, and about a week ago I looked in the mirror and for the first time I can honestly say that I truly love myself. But with this awakened spirit I have found myself questioning what dream will win because I’m not sure if I can have it all. I am questioning the life I have lived, and wondering if I am loved. But I can say this, I will not allow my fear of failure to stop me from becoming who I always dreamed of being. I wrote in my journal before I began this journey, “I wonder why every time people do something adventurous, fear consumes them? I will continue in my plight for life. Uncertainty..please leave the corners of my soul..” I don’t know what dream will win but I can tell you this for sure, I will strive to make both reality. This world is mine and the time to grasp it is now. Sade told me while I was here that I can “speak my dreams into reality” and this is precisely what I will do. And Sade, if you are reading this I need to tell you that you have changed my life. Our deep conversations awakened my soul and your simple suggestion to read this book by Baldwin will always hold significance within the spine of my memory. You have taught me so much, you are one of the kindest, most selfless, loving individuals I have had the honor to know. This is only a fraction of my love and gratitude, thank you. Aside from my inspiration from Sade, I have also been given inspiration from a volunteer named Aimee. Often times, I doubt the power someone else can have to change the way I think about myself, view the world and other people. Coming here, I never really imagined I would meet someone who would teach me about life but here she was experiencing the same thing I was and teaching me at the same time. Aimee, since I know you’re reading this, I wanted to tell you that you have taught me to relax, not to take life so seriously, and to laugh when it is necessary, love when sometimes you feel as though your heart has disappeared, and that genuine people still exist. So thank you Aimee, I know we don’t say I miss you to each other so I’ll just say this: I hope to see you soon, stay safe, have fun, and live your life. And to the people who have influenced me along the way, the ones that pushed me to strive for greatness you know who you are, thank you from the bottom of this freed soul.
To everyone reading: Crave life, follow your passion, and remember: do not forget the ones who soiled your path, no matter how significant, for those are the ones who blossomed your soul.
Now that I finally have reliable Internet in my house and I don’t have to freeload at the local Wendy’s restaurant I can now gush about the amazing experiences I have had since my last entry. I have zip lined through the jungles of the mountains, had the pleasure of experiencing my first bout of food poisoning, ate my first hamburger (yes it really was my first hamburger!), and I taught my first English class all on my own. I can’t explain or even begin to convey the utter happiness I have gained since being here. Every day I walk into school and I am flooded with not just the normal hellos but rather I have become someone who these children trust. They have begun to show me drawings, tell me about their families and what they do on the weekend, and they tell me how much they missed me for the two days we were separated. I must admit I have found it difficult to assume the responsibility of a mentor and a teacher but I have accepted the challenge.
There are two students who seem to have become attached to me but I can’t say I haven’t become attached to them either. Cesia and her sister live about 10 whole steps from the school and I learned that they were taken away from their father due to domestic violence and now they live in a house, if one could even call it that, where the ceiling is caving in, there is no AC and the possibility of owning a TV has only remained within the confines of their dreams. I feel helpless but I know that if I just listen and teach to the best of my ability I can help them in a significant way. After school, I decided to walk with Cesia and her sister to her house, and I met her mother and little brother. For fun, I decided to take her and her sister to get smoothies at a cute café, which had AC. The girls could not stop smiling; they told me how much they enjoyed walking, and I felt my heart smile because a simple order of smoothies and hamburgers brought them a smile that I have not seen for a long time. I knew that the time would fade but in that very moment I knew that I was beginning to change their lives and just looking at them gave me life. However, it was then that I realized the stark difference between the culture in Honduras and the United States. If I were to take a few of my students to a café in America or even walk them home, I would probably be accused of possessing some other motive. As much fun as my students had I still couldn’t help but think, was I overstepping some sort of invisible boundary? A boundary that only allotted a certain amount of hours for me to interact with the students. At Haverford I have read a plethora of theories on education stating that I should not, in my own words, show favorites, but is this what I was doing? To be honest, I have yet to answer that question myself but I can say that I am challenging those theories and myself and that is what I always hoped for. I don’t know if I can say I feel guilty for becoming attached because it seems as though I am the first person to actually care for these students, not only Cesia but also the students I play soccer with, the ones that beg me to read to them in English, and the ones who reveal the deepest secrets of their souls. I’m not sure if these students understand that it is I who is learning from them. They have taught me patience, understanding, and the ability to persevere. These students have a fire in their hearts that I hope never fades.
Aside from my experiences within the classroom, I think the fear of having my hand chewed off of my arm by a dog has slowly drifted away. I’m assuming the dogs have become accustomed to seeing me every day, thank God because I don’t how much longer I could run in the streets like a wild woman and having the neighbors laugh in utter amazement. One thing I have not gotten used to is the constant whistle from a man or the typical blowing of a kiss every 2 minutes. There are only so many “Adios mi amor” comments I can take. So, when I was walking with Aimee, another volunteer, her and I decided to blow kisses back. I couldn’t stop laughing because their facial expressions were priceless. They were in utter amazement; they couldn’t believe that a girl actually responded. On a different note, I can’t believe how cheap everything is! I bought a movie on DVD for 25 lempiras, which equals a dollar and fifty cents, I went to the movies to see Men in Black 3 (which was in English and 3D!) for 100 lempiras, which equals five dollars, and I got my nails done for 300 lempiras which equals 15 dollars. I think I could get used to this. As for the scenery, it is breathtaking. I wake up to crisp sunrays and beautiful mountains. There are no highways and I can count the amount of streetlights and signs in the city. I now rely on my memory and the assertiveness that comes out of my five-foot tall body while crossing the street. I am still often confused as being from here, which makes me feel good, I don’t want to look like an American tourist or as they like to call “gringa.” In this past month, I have challenged myself and my students, had the pleasure of meeting people from all different walks of life, and most importantly I have created myself and have found the momentum to speak my dreams into reality.
In my last blog I didn’t give much information on the organization that helped me come to this beautiful city. The organization is called A Broader View and if you want more information here is the link to the website: www.abroaderview.org. If you would also like information on Haverford and the Multicultural Scholars program that funded my trip here are some links:
I am going to try to post a picture every other day for the remaining two weeks I have! If you have any questions feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or simply comment below. I hope your summers are fun and exciting, thanks for reading!
Honduras: Hot. Humid. Humbling.
I have been in Honduras for two weeks now. Everything around me seems to constantly evolve. I can’t seem to stop soaking in all of the sounds of this gorgeous city like the honking of a taxi cab every 5 minutes, the grunt of the neighborhood horse as I walk to school each morning, or the brisk breeze that glides from the beautiful mountains that surround the city. But the trip here wasn’t so simple. I boarded my flight two hours early leaving from my native city of Miami, Florida. My parents and sister seemed to still retain a bit of shock at the fact that I am traveling to a foreign country alone not knowing a single soul but they smiled and let their 20-year-old little girl venture into the world alone. On the flight I met a man who told me he owns some sort of boating industry and travels around Central America. After a bit of small talk he invited me to stay on his boat since I would be staying in the airport overnight. Instead of having this trip become some sort of M. Night Shyamalan movie I kindly declined his offer. With that said, I arrived at my layover destination: The Cayman Islands. When I got off of the plane, I didn’t go through those cool tubes that lead you inside the airport in America. I was dropped off directly towards the ground as if I were on a private jet; needless to say this was pretty cool. When I went through customs the checkpoint woman asked me where I would stay for the night, I replied softly and quietly, “Here in the airport” she laughed at me, looked at me like a naive American tourist, and replied, “you can’t stay here honey.” I did not realize that the airport here isn’t like Miami or really anywhere else in America, it shuts down after the last flight arrives and doesn’t open up until the first flight leaves. Of course I panicked, thought about the man’s offer on the plane, decided that I didn’t want to become breakfast to the sharks, and looked at her and asked what could I do? She seemed to feel sorry for me so she told me I could get a hotel nearby, I took in a sigh of relief and decided I would go to a hotel. I waited for a taxi and was picked up by a woman who handled my 50-pound luggage as if it were a piece of paper. So I arrived at the hotel, only to be charged 200 dollars for the night, luckily I had Internet; I guess this is where the silver lining is. I was greeted by an alarm at 5 in the morning and I caught my flight to La Ceiba, Honduras eager to begin my summer of uncertainty.
As I arrived in La Ceiba, an array of glorious mountains greeted me. The mountains are unlike anything I have ever seen. They are covered with luscious palm trees and bright green trees that stretch for miles. Marveling at the beauty, I walked outside of the terminal passing the faces of family members awaiting the arrival of their loved ones. It was then that I realized no family awaited me, rather an unfamiliar face I would soon come to call a friend. Manuel, the man who is in charge of the program I will be working with, quickly greeted me. I was ushered into a car and taken to the house I would stay in. During the ride I was quiet, I couldn’t stop looking outside of the window. The road, the people, the stores, the homes, everything about this city captured my glance. Most of the roads are unpaved and the heat is unlike anything I’ve felt before. I found myself sweating within the first couple minutes. I hoped for the breeze to save me but I soon realized that the breeze is just as worse as the stagnant humid heat. Fortunately, I arrived just in time for the annual carnival. The next day I went to the carnival with my host mother, her two children and another volunteer from California. Every float that passed gave away beads and prizes. One float passed and I yelled out that I was from Miami and I was given a shirt. Needless to say every float that passed by knew I was from Miami from that point on and it worked like a charm every time. Aside from the carnival a few volunteers and I decided to do some sight seeing. We went to Cayos Cochinos, which is a series of islands off the coast of La Ceiba where the show Survivor was filmed. Words will never be enough to describe the utter beauty I was given the opportunity to witness. I went snorkeling for the first time in my life, ordered lunch in the morning so I gave the cook enough time to catch my fish, and I jumped in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. It has been one of the most incredible days of my life.
In these past two weeks, I have learned that my fear of dogs needs to quickly change. Every house in the neighborhood has at least two guard dogs. I learned this the hard way one night when I walked too close to a house and almost had my hand taken away, not by the electrical fence, but the teeth of a huge dog. Lesson learned. I have also realized that although I may think I know my way around the city, I don’t. Every corner looks the same to me and there’s really no way of knowing where you are because there are no street signs or streetlights. So when I got lost walking home from the beach I ended up on the other side of town. I tried to manage my way back home in the rain but after an hour I decided to cut my losses and catch a taxi. With that said, the most important part of my time here is my job. I am working as an English teacher at Escuela Luis Landa. I teach first to sixth grade. No words can describe the joy and humility I have gained within the 10 days I have worked at the school. I have met students, parents, and teachers from all different walks of life. Although it may appear as though my presence has been brief, the students have grown accustomed to seeing my face and hearing my voice. Each morning at 7 am I arrive at school to the hugs of at least eight children who all call me “Miss.” The love that each of these children possess is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The school holds six classrooms in total, one room has air conditioning and the bathrooms have no soap or toilet paper. This doesn’t seem to bother the students; they run outside in recess and seem to be happy. A couple of students have caught my eye. Anthony in particular likes to read books in English and every day after class I sit with him and teach him how to pronounce words in a science book that was donated from a school in California. The desire and conviction in his voice inspires me every day to continue following my passion of being an educator. I anticipated teaching English would be difficult but since Spanish is my first language teaching the students has not been very arduous. Rather, what has become difficult is realizing that the school has limited resources available, and hearing the gut wrenching stories of these young students. I have heard stories ranging from an eight-year-old girl being stabbed in the eye to a girl being forced to live in a tiny room without her parents and going two years without an education. Hearing these stories, I do not wish to save these students but help them in any way I can whether it is lending an ear or making sure that they are given an adequate education. While I am here I will fight for these students. What I hope is that I never forget their smiles and testimonies and maintain their stories alive while I’m back in the states.
Fortunately, I seem to fit in very well within the culture here, I have been told my Spanish is perfect and I am often mistaken as being a native. Each day I am learning, growing, and reflecting. I feel myself changing with every breath of air I take and I could not be more grateful.