I didn't actually realize it was 90 days until a guest last night asked me how long I'd been in the country. I think she was silently judging my Spanish ability. My Colleague, Jackie, leapt to my defense. "Que ha aprendido mucho!" She has learned a lot.
That got me thinking. Have I? What have I learned since coming to Honduras? Some of the more mundane lessons...
- I have learned there is no good time for a power failure. They happen just as you're about to cook for 162 students. They happen when you are in the shower. They happen as you settle in for an internet-dependent day's work at home - which means you end up having to go up the mountain after all. But they're not all bad. Power failures are glorious in that they remind you of what natural silence sounds like. No underlying thrum. Just you and the rooster next door. Which brings me to,
- I have learned it is a myth that roosters crow at dawn. Unless my neighbor is on Greenland time because he crows at 3:07am. Every. Day. Roosters also have their own distinct voice. There's the traditional "cock-a-doodle-doo" from my friend on the right. But to the rear is the gentleman that fancies himself the next M. Thenadier from Les Miserables as his crow is the four opening notes to "Master of the House." That doesn't get in my brain. Nope. Not one bit.
- I have learned animals serve one distinct role here. My husband remarked on the noise coming from the yard next door. The young daughter of our landlord said they were probably slaughtering the pig. Michael's eyes widened. "You think?" She responded, wise as a sage, "well, that's why we have them."
So much for mundane. What about the important stuff?
- Honduran women are a remarkable lot. Due respect to my Hondureño amigos, the Hondureñas I have befriended are smart and strong, with a work ethic that won't quit. They're shrewd and they look out for one another. The men may have the nominal power but the women are the forces with which to be reckoned.
- Kids are kids. They're funny, they're sweet, they're obnoxious. They want to know that you know them. They want to know that you see them. They want to know that you hear them. They want to know they matter.
- Teaching is every bit as hard as I thought it was. I always knew teachers were rock stars, and now I get to see up close what it takes to reach that level. Right now, I'm still the roadie carrying the rock star's guitar case. But it is a joy to teach. Perhaps my greater satisfaction comes from teaching the adults at the hotel. They are eagerly learning the nuances of hotel operations and the confusion that is English. They are dedicated, tenacious, and incredibly talented.
Perhaps it's because I live in a town called "Thank you" or perhaps its because I'm the dazed and confused new gringa on the block, but I have found Hondurans are wired to serve. I have learned to stop saying I like something in casual conversation. I complimented a Colleague on her earrings and she took them off and offered them to me as a gift. I mentioned to the Doña in our kitchen that I love soup and within moments there was a piping hot bowl of sopa de pollo sitting in front of me. I sent a text to my landlord on a Sunday mentioning there was no hot water and asked if someone could come by on Monday to look at it. A plumber showed up on my doorstep within the hour. They will make sure you are fed, you are safe, and you are rested. Beyond that, you're on your own. It's a good metaphor for life.
The biggest lesson here is not anything I didn't already know, it's just not anything I've actually seen in widespread practice. Hondurans live in the now. Don't misunderstand. Of course they make plans (usually last minute), of course they have goals but they also know the only thing that is guaranteed is today. So live, love, laugh... now. Zipcar and Capital BikeShare may think they have defined the sharing economy, but they would be very wrong. This is the sharing economy at its finest. Don't have dinner? Here's some tortillas and vegetables. Need a ride? Hop in the back of my pickup. You like my necklace? It looks better on you.
Has it all been sunshine and puppy dogs? No. I melted down during Semana Santa when everything became just too much. There is the usual difficulty in trying to accomplish the simplest thing in a foreign language. My husband has been away more than he has been here. There is the challenge of balancing a hotel work schedule with a school work schedule (hint: it means never having a full day off.) And d@mm*t I just want a decent glass of wine. Today I'm missing two major milestones that are happening back home. The wedding of the year (#bacabash2015) and the ordination of a dear friend. These are the choices one makes. Hard? Yes. Worth it? So far so good.
When I first began telling people about my plans to come to Honduras, I was met with aghast stares. You mean the murder capital of the world? I can now say with all candor, I mean a lovely, grace-filled country nestled in the mountains of Central America.