Sunday, December 20, 2009

Through the Eyes of Children

As you know, we have been hosting Honduran retreat groups in our house on weekends. This weekend we had a group that has been coming for several years. One of the women that was attending the retreat brought her three young kids along. As I have the natural habit of befriending children, they were my buddies throughout the weekend. Basically, that means I had four boys following me around for three and a half days. They were some of the most adorable and sweet children I have ever met, which made me willing to let them use our games and watch movies.

I was particularly impressed by an eight year old boy named Daniel. One night, I was walking to my room and he was laying in a hammock. He said hi to me and asked me a question, so we started talking. He said, "tell me about your life." I asked him what he meant and he said he wanted to know all about my life in the United States and in Honduras. He was genuinely interested in my life, not just asking questions the way kids do. I told him all about my life in the states and he hung on every word and really tried to understand about snow, my big family, my job, etc. I seriously felt like I was talking to an adult. He even clarified what I was saying by saying, "oh, so you mean..." Those are listening skills that most adults don't even have.

I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up and his answer was probably more well thought-out than most high schoolers. He told me he wanted to be an artist (the way he colored showed me he was a good artist). He said that is what he loves to do and he can't imagine doing anything else. However, he also said that he knows that he has to make money for his family so he will be a taxi driver too. But he will work for himself because the taxi drivers that work for the companies have to give some of their earnings to the boss. He will drive taxis in the day and paint at night and sell his paintings to different people. I mean, really. This kid has his whole life planned out and he is eight! I know that some kids have dreams about what their future will be like, but usually they are about being a movie star or professional athlete. This little boy's dream is actually realistic and given the way he carries himself, I think he will achieve it. At first I was kind of sad because I thought that part of a being a kid is having big dreams and believing that you can be anything you want to. However, when I thought about it, I realized that part of it has to do with what you consider being a successful person. In the US, many kids think that you have to be famous or rich to be successful and happy. But doing what you love and still being able to make money for your family is considered success in the eyes of this little boy, so in a way, this is a dream just as big as those of kids who want to be famous. The difference is that this little boy is much more likely to achieve his dream than those kids who dream of being famous. And I firmly believe that this little boy will be doing just what he dreams and I pray that achieving this dream which others may seem as simple will make him and his family very happy in the future. I also pray that we all learn a lesson from this little boy about what makes a person successful and happy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cero Azul

Hola Amigos!

The kids and families left for Christmas vacation a couple of weeks ago and will be gone until January 8th. This is actually like their summer vacation because the school year is over. One mother and her three kids and one girl from Guadalupe are still here so we have been spending some good quality time together.  This has given me some more free time though. Alicia, a 20-year old girl that works in the APUFRAM office at Flores during the day but lives at the mother's project, invited me to go to a national park called Cero Azul with her. I said "yes."

Alicia gave me instructions as to how to get there. I had to take a bus from Comayagua towards San Pedro Sula and get on in a place called Vaca Dia. Having never been there before, I had no idea what this place looked like and since the smalls towns aren't marked, I wasn't sure how I was going to know when I was there. I asked the guy sitting next to me if he knew where it was and he said yes and that he would tell me when we were almost there. It turns out he had no idea what he was talking about. Long story short- we passed it, I got dropped off in a different town and had to take another bus back to Vaca Dia. I met Alicia and her "friend" who lives in Vaca Dia and was going to show us around. We had to take a mototaxi to his house which is actually inside the national park. His family was extremely hospitable and even gave us lunch.

I had read that Cero Azul was a big tourist spot, so I assumed we were going to see lots of people. But we ended up taking the backwoods tour. We had to hike for 30 minutes through some rough terrain. The views along the way were breathtaking. Eventually we ended up at a beautiful waterfall. If we wanted to, we could have actually stood underneath the waterfall. It was hard to see but if you looked up at just the right spot, you could see that this was actually part of a much bigger waterfall, which made it all the more amazing.

The waterfall was wonderful to see, but what I was most impressed by on this trip was the town we visited. It very much reminded me of a small town or neighborhood in the United States. They were kind of cut off from the rest of the world (it was a 20 minute ride in the mototaxi to get there) but it was not like the other mountain villages I have seen. The houses were probably considered "middle class" in Honduran standards. They were still nothing like houses in the US, but I was impressed by how nice they were. Not to mention that they were located in the middle of this beautiful park with a waterfall literally in their backyard. When we were there, there was a soccer  game going on in the middle of the town. It was actually high school girls playing against girls from another town. They had uniforms and everything. Much of the town was watching this game. The other big event was a meeting at the church. I'm not sure what it was about, but many people were going to it to give their opinions about something. It is kind of hard to explain the feeling I had when I was there, but it was definitely one of peace. I have been to other villages in Honduras and not had the same feeling because of the great poverty the people were living in. These people were not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but they had what they needed and they all seemed genuinely happy.

It was a wonderful and adventurous day trip and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see another part of Honduras. We said we would come back so we could see more of the park and I really hope that we do. The picture at the top of this post is of the actual waterfall. Below are some more pictures from the trip.
A babbling brook- this was the clearest water I have ever seen

Alicia and me at the top of a mountain

There were lots of little crabs at the bottom of the waterfall

A long, scary bridge that we had to cross to get to the soccer fields. There is no way this would pass inspection in the US.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Plane Conversation

Hello Friends!

Once again, it has been a long time. I was home for Thanksgiving. It was great to be home with my family and friends. While I love living in Honduras, there is just nothing like spending time with people who know you so well and that you love dearly. I did miss the children though, especially as the time went on. By the time I left, I was definitely anxious to see the children again.

I wanted to share with you an experience I had on the airplane from Houston to Chicago. A man in his late 20s/early 30s was sitting next to me the whole plain ride. We had a few friendly exchanges throughout the flight, but for the most part kept to ourselves. When we were told to turn off our IPods to prepare for landing, we began to talk. Eventually the conversation turned to me talking about what I was doing in Honduras. This man was extremely interested in my experiences and my reflections on life in the United States compared to life in Honduras. He asked me what I thought when I landed in Houston and if I was in culture shock. I stopped to think for a minute before I gave my reply. I told him that it wasn't so much the material things (although paying $7 for a sandwich nearly killed me) or the language difference (although I did try to order my sandwich in Spanish) but it was more watching the people that got to me. I had some time in between flights so I just sat in the terminal and people-watched. What I saw made me sad. I saw all these people running around, talking on their cell phones, visibly stressed or upset about something. I wanted to scream- "RELAX! Whatever it is about that business deal that is upsetting you is not what is truly important in life." After living here, I have learned what truly is important- family, faith, and community. I think that if this man saw the joy on a child's face just to have someone play a game of soccer or Uno with them, he would realize that getting so upset and stressed about a business deal doesn't do any good.

I also wanted to yell SLOW DOWN as I watched a woman anxiously rummaging through her briefcase and looking at several files and then getting on her cell phone. I mean, she could have accomplished the same thing by taking a deep breath and removing the files slowly to look at them. We had over half an hour before the plane boarded, so I'm sure she had the time. The culture in the United States is just so busy and it makes people more stressed and unhappy than anything else. I have truly come to appreciate the pace of life in Honduras.

As I told this to the man on the plane, he just kept saying, "Wow." He said that he realized that he is one of those people and he needs to change some things in his life. He said he would love to do something like I am doing. I told him that I love what I am doing, but that not everyone needs to live in Honduras to make a difference. There are small things that you can do in your own community. He said that he would be up all night thinking about what I said. Now, I don't know what impact just sharing my story ultimately had on him, but I would like to think that if nothing else at least he might stop and think the next time he gets overly stressed about something at work.

I never expected to have an experience like this on the plane, but I learned a lot from it too. Sometimes I am hesitant to share my experiences because I don't want to sound "preachy" or like I am bragging about what I am doing. But this time I didn't think about how he would react to it. I didn't plan on having an impact on this guy. I just wanted to share my story because it is something I am passionate about and he was interested in it.  After this, I think I will look for more opportunities to share my experiences in Honduras with people in the US. You never know what people need to hear and sharing my story may inspire someone else to make a change in their life.