I originally thought that my family was going to New Mexico for vacation, but after telling that to many people, I have found out we're in Flagstaff, Arizona. Nonetheless, I am back in the states after two days of traveling (really an entire five days of traveling including the trips to the beach) and am exhausted. It is great to be back and have time to relax before going back to Gordon.
So my last day was Thursday (as I've mentioned before) so that Orlando and I and some of his friends could go to the beach this past weekend. It was very sad, but I was anticipating coming home, so there was a healthy tension in my last couple days. For lunch, the director and the heads of all the departments in Teletón had lunch with me. We had Chinese food for lunch because that is a specialty in Honduras. They gave me a diploma for my good work at Teletón and then all applauded for me. I was so overwhelmed by their appreciation and knew then that I would definitely miss Honduras. The end of the last day several parents and children were at therapy who I had known my whole time so that was nice. After I said goodbye to a lot of people at Teletón, I heading out to get a lot of shopping done before I was going to have lunch with several more of the ladies at Weekend's Pizza, which is a pizza place started by a lady from Chicago. That was good to see all of them for the last time before I left. Then I finished the day at around 1 a.m. after packing up. Thankfully I was able to see Bonnie before I left.
The next morning I woke up at around 6:30 a.m. and went to Teletón to bring pictures of myself as gifts. After that I went to the Aguilar's house (Dr. Ventura's family-in-law) to give them pictures as well and say goodbye for the last time.
Then when I got back to the apartment, Orlando informed me that we weren't going to the beach because our ride's car had broken down. Orlando called some people and worked it out that we would go on Saturday to San Pedro Sula and go to the beach afterwards. I went to take a nap but then was woken up by Orlando who proposed that we take a bus to San Pedro that day. Overall the plans for the trip changed at least three times within that day.
So Orlando and I and Ingrid, one of his friends, took a direct bus (which is much safer because it doesn't pick up passengers on the way) to San Pedro. That night we stayed at the house of our driver (Hugo) and the next morning got up and went to a beach in Tela. Unfortunately we weren't able to find a good and inexpensive hotel in Tela so we went back to San Pedro and spent the night there. The next morning we got up and went to the mall and did a little shopping before going to a fort in Omoa and dropped by the beach just to see what it looked like. Then we went to Puerto Cortés for the beach and it was beautiful, although a little dirtier than Tela. The skyline was taken up by Honduras's main seaport which was not extremely attractive. But it was fun and Orlando and I rode on one of those banana boat things (not one where they try to buck you off though). Then they brought me back to the bed and breakfast which I stayed at until my flight the next morning.
It is great to be back in the States and to be able to speak English and make jokes. I have had very little culture shock and know that the culture shock that I did have after Swaziland, although hard, was such a gift and privilege that I may never know again to the same, fresh extent. The few things that I have noticed on being back though:
- Usually everyone wherever I went Hondurans would stare at me since I was a white person in Honduras. Not that they had never seen a white person, but I still wasn't normal there. So when I walked through Chili's to get to the back restrooms, I caught myself looking at the other customers expecting them to be looking at me. I got a chuckle out of that.
- It is really nice to have a safe place to walk around at night. Likewise it is nice to have fields that are safe to run barefoot through, or even to have places to go running (which I suspect is a sign of U.S. wealth).
The question how was the trip for anyone who has been on a mission trip, study abroad, service-learning trip, which was longer than two or so weeks, usually hate this question. Normally it is a casual hit-and-run. The trip-taker is asked, "How was your trip?" as if they are supposed to produce some 2 minute golden egg that encapsulates their experience.
But most of us come home with relationships, experiences and opened eyes which words do not do justice to describe. Then there can be the overwhelming feelings and emotions of returning "home" but feeling torn, having had "home" redefined. Then there can be the feelings about everyday life from our past suddenly ignited by the habits and lifestyle we lived in another country or culture--using a bathroom is a gift; having access to running water that is safe to drink is overwhelming; having siblings playing frivolous video games is outrageous; having our own room with all of our possessions is obnoxious and painful. With every step out the door or in we see the world in a new light that we wish we could describe in a convicting way. We see our new friends and their scarce food each time we eat our hearty dinner. We see the shoeless children we learned to love when we eat at a fast-food restaurant and pay enough to provide them with food for a week. We see His glory when we see and hear memories and music from our time there and their life there.
And we wish direly that we could somehow explain the experiences, relationships, emotions, convictions, heartbreaks, joy, comfort, healing, friendship, wisdom, peace, community, love in a manner that you would be able to understand...but we cannot. No mere words do adequate justice, no mere expressions of anger or excitement can convey a heart's passion. We cry because we are scared that maybe no one will be able to understand, and at times we cry because we are afraid, in this lonely state, that we will forget!
I am not describing my experience coming back from Honduras as much as I am my time returning from Swaziland. But I have found concessions to this desire to express the journeys of our hearts that need to be heard by the trip-takers and the recipients of those travelers.
I was frustrated, tired and scared at how inadequate my words were to describe my trip to Swaziland to my parents. Having returned seeing the world differently, I couldn't even articulate my feelings, and no matter how much they listened, I knew they could never care enough about the children and orphanage to satisfy my desire for them to understand. But by the grace of God, through time I was able to reveal more and more the impact the trip had on my life. Through sharing life, they began to be able to see changes in my thinking and passions that weren't merely burning out after a few weeks. They saw the shaping that had begun and began the process of understanding that they had not understood the depth of my trip.
So here are the two things that I have found: for those wanted to be understood, find people who will listen with the humble knowledge that they will not be able to understand your experience but that through sharing life with them over time, they will begin to see the impact on your life. Also strive to find listeners who were not on your trip. While it is difficult, it is great to share at least a little of your heart. To those who desire to understand, know you will never be able to understand the heart of joy and struggle that you love. Know that you may be listening to a changed person and give them grace and ask for forgiveness as you may view them as someone they no longer desire to be. And in this humility, listen. Not just over coffee or lunch. Listen by sharing your life and looking for places where their life and perspective has been touched by their experience.
So now is the part that many of you may be most interested in: how was my trip to Honduras? Two things that I have found: the trip was difficult but needed, and that question is still difficult to answer. The best example I can give to you of how that question comes across to me after a trip is this--it is like if you asked someone to summarize one of their good friends whom they knew intimately, had shared laughs and tears with, had learned about themselves and life from, and had had to say goodbye to. And they are supposed to do this in less than 5 minutes. Although this is nothing like returning from Swaziland, I still find parts difficult to explain. Thankfully some details have much power in themselves such "as I was living on my own for the first time" and "I didn't really speak the language prior to coming."
But some things I learned are harder to explain to a depth that others can understand. For instance, before going on the trip I did not think that had stereotyped Latinos. When I got there however, I found myself being surprised by how normal their conversations and statements were. For some reason I had relegated them to the few interactions I had had with non-bilingual Hispanics in the States. I am convinced now that if you ever truly want to get to know people or a people, you must go and meet them in their home, in their country. I hadn't viewed them with the dignity and value they deserved, and the thing that impacts me the most is that I didn't even know I had a demeaning view of them.
Maybe that example is easier to understand than others because difficulty is often easier to relate to than joy. But that is the purpose of this blog, that you might see my emotions and thoughts in the midst of the trip rather than a summarized version that does not accurately portray the majority. I think to honestly reflect on my time, I need to read through my blog again myself.
So I say it was difficult but needed because it was difficult living alone in a different culture but needed to redeem or correct my view of other cultures. I know there may be other insights that come from further reflecting but this has been a unique experience because I have processed and understood most of my trip during my time in Honduras. Although there, my mind was still very focused on and connected with my life here and the implications the trip had on my life at home. For Swaziland, I did not begin to process the implications of my trip on my U.S. life until I returned.
My mom asked me tonight if I knew if I wanted to use Physical Therapy in the Third World one day. I can honestly say that that question was not answered and is not an easy one to simply answer. I learned a lot about where my dependence can and cannot lie if I am to use PT in a developing country one day. I know I do not have the strength or courage to do it without the grace and power of God. Although I may have certain personality traits or strengths that might direct me more towards that path, any committed or long-term work is beyond the capacity of myself. One of my friends Mary, who was interning in France with several missionary families and at a Christian camp, was struck by the fact that the missionaries she met were ordinary people who had followed God's prompting. I felt that understanding in Honduras that what I would have to offer one day is what God has given me. I am a blessing when He works through me, and I pray that is everyday. So I cannot answer the question of, "Do I think I will use PT in the developing world?" I understand now it is a much more complex question, but I have learned about what I would need to accomplish that.
Times I did not feel safe. This is a question a few people have asked me, and I thought I would share it. Thankfully Santa Rosa de Copán was a very safe city, and it was really only dangerous at night. I felt slightly uncomfortable at times like when I would walk back from a coffee shop in the dark with my laptop, walk back from the bank with a money transfer from my parents or be approached by a drunk guy in the street.
There were really only two times I felt scared for my safety. One was on the bus, after the class had ended, going to Santa Rosa with all of my possessions and praying that the bus wouldn't get robbed. Towards the end of the trip a guy stood up, and I got super nervous. But then he just started selling pain pills. Good cross-cultural story.
The other time was when I went to buy some coffee for family and friends. As I was walking, I stopped to take a picture of the weeds growing on the power lines above me. The picture is below and the guy, on the bicycle you can see, road by slowly after seeing my camera and took out his phone and started calling someone. When I left the coffee place, there was a guy sitting outside just smiling. There was a guard there so I felt sort of safe, but I was still really nervous. So I grabbed a taxi right after I got out the gate and went straight to the apartment.
Me and some of the kids at Teletón for tutoring
One of the reasons I was in the Special Ed department on Mondays--my own education
Yesss. My head hurt after finishing this.
Experimenting with toasting tortillas and making sausage
Daniel! (and I little girl but I don't know her)
The chicken soup they gave me at a Chinese restaurant
The diploma they gave me.
All of the therapists.
The lunch party
The diploma they gave me :)
Weeds growing from the power lines (there's the guy on the bicycle!)
Last walk home (if you look closely through the hills you can see for miles)
To the Beach
Ingrid and I
Palm oil farms
An "Futbol Americano" that was named something like BODHI for all of our initials (I don't remember the actual name)
If you're still reading by now, I'm impressed. I hope this finds you well and that you have enjoyed my blogs. I will share maybe one or two more blogs to follow with some funny stories and a few more reflections on my time in Honduras. But I will go ahead and say, thank you so much for the time and interest you have taken in me and my trip. It has meant so much and is a great encouragement to me.