General Travel & Living in Honduras
Writer: Kelly Longfellow
Co Writer: Marissa Raglin
Open and broaden your mind by escaping from your every day life. Allow this paper to take you on a journey, which will leave you realizing what you take for granted and to be thankful for what you have.
You start your journey as a college student of today, (Internet, purified running water, Taco Bell, and air conditioning), traveling to Honduras to expose yourself and to experience a unique culture.
Our first location of your travel is to a sub-tropic peninsula, Punta Sal, off the northern shore to actually see what you have read in books about sub-tropic regions. As you spend your day hiking this breathe taking island, you stop every couple of steps to soak in the undisturbed sub-tropic vegetation, fresh smells, new sounds, and unknown wildlife. At one point you look up a tree trunk to see a hot pink flower attached at the bottom of a banana vine. You have seen bananas before but only in a grocery store not grown in the wild. Just in the next tree over you see great big palm leaves covering immature coconuts, and then you hear something. You look up again and see a tree covered with 5-8 monkeys talking to each other. Sure you have seen monkeys in a zoo under our human controlled environment but seeing them in their natural environment was never in your wildest dreams.
At the end of the hike, you eat a meal cooked by a local woman who lives off the shore in a bamboo hut. As you eat this fulfilling meal of freshly fried bananas picked from her back yard, rice and beans, and fish your body is able to cool down from the amazing hike by allowing the cool Caribbean Sea breeze blow on your face.
We next travel to Copan, to bring your high school World History class to life by visiting the Mayan Indian Ruins, where you learn their lifestyle and culture and how it influenced the Hondurans of today. As you walk around the ruin temples and statues, the atmosphere is filled with spirits of another age. As you stand there in the BallPark where they played a game, close to the US American Basketball game, you are able to visualize the Mayan crowd enjoying a ritual game in the warm sun with a cool spring breeze. Everyone is cheering for their loved one to either win or loose (depending on the era). At the end of the game you are able to witness the closing ceremony. The Team leader (of either the winning or losing team), kissing and hugging his loved ones before he lays across the round stone so his body would become a honorable sacrifice to the Mayan Gods. Watching this holy ceremony take place expresses how religious and dependent the Mayans are to their Gods. As you end your mental reenactment and finish walking through the rest of the Ruins you are left with a feeling of overwhelming fulfillment. Because you have just seen with your own eyes and just touched what was once a powerful, influential culture by what they wrote, built and were able to leave behind intentionally for future generation to learn.
You are now standing in front of your hotel in the city of Copan facing the center of town. You know it is the center of town because of all the people gathered there. As you face Copan's Central Park, you notice that this is the lifeblood of the community. The local men, women, and children gather at the Parque Central to meet, greet, and enjoy each other's company. The main attraction of the Central Park is the church, usually of Catholic religion and benches to sit on. This just proves how close and dependent a community can still be on each other by praising together and enjoying the company of another soul. If all humans still practiced this form of friendly communication, there would be more kindness towards each other.
There are peddlers around the park selling fruits, candy, clothing, or artifacts. You quickly noticed that most of the peddlers are children. They should be in school at this hour. Soon you realize that the children are on the streets selling what their parents made in order to make money to buy the next meal. There is one child in particular that stands out in the crowd. He is no older than nine or ten and he is wearing the same dirty green T-shirt, dirt under his fingernails, and a stuttering speech. For two days you have seen him at the same central location hounding the other tourist to buy a Mayan statue for a $1. In Spanish you ask him if he had eaten today ( Comas hoy?). His reply is "No". You ask him " Por qué'?" (Why?). His responds while looking down, " No tengo dinero." (I do not have any money). Your heart completely sinks to your feet. You reach into your backpack and give him your snacks that you packed just for that day. Your snacks were his only meal for that day.
Now, you are in a Range Rover with Vecinos Mundiales (World Neighbors) to visit their project in a sustainable community development at Concepción del Sur and regional villages. World Neighbors is a world wide organization who teach and expose less fortunate people to health issues, family planning, agricultural practices which are practical for their environment, and positive community growth. When you arrive at Nuevas Buenas Aires you are told the people who live in this small community lost their homes in the Mitch hurricane two years ago. World Neighbors takes you into a family's home to show one of their proud accomplishments. As you look around in this family's three roomed concrete home, you quickly observe nothing here (TV, microwave, refrigerator, air conditioning) is run by either electricity or any kind of gas because it is not available and not affordable. Then you become aware that in this day and age there are people who still rely on wood as a primary source of heat, fuel, and energy. (WOW!) The reason why you were in the house was to see the project of an efficient wood burning stove. Since wood is used in abundance, they are learning how to conserve the trees. Also, an addition to this new stove is a pipe, which leads the smoke outside the house. You think that having an air vent would be common sense, but you realize this local community is now learning what your culture taught you as a child.
We continue to expose you to the daily life of a common "country livin' " Honduran. This repeated exposure will soon allow you to realize how Hondurans are able to live without what you would call the "bare necessities of every day life", and still have pride while living their simple lives. You start to notice how common it is for a home to be along a main road in order to sell their crop to the travelers driving by. An average family consists of a mom and a dad, their children, probably their sibling(s), then of course the grandparents. A family, who lives together, works together. No matter where the children play they are exposed to bacteria and viruses because floors inside the home are made out of the earth, the earth continues out side into the yard then develops into a road. Since there is no defined line between the yard and the road, the children are at constant exposure to danger. Also, with the some of the children lacking shoes, they are likely to step in unknown substances. The yards are for growing crops while the animals (chickens, hogs, and goats) run wild around the yard and the outhouse. Since animals and humans interact with each other so commonly, the water quality is not healthy. The water is either brought in or if a family has money, there would be a pump in the backyard. This is the reason why you walk around with bottled water all day. You are also unable to brush your teeth with the local water because your body is not use to the bacteria in the water.
Since the only income of a family is what they sell from their garden or a job where they are paid by how much they complete at the end of the day (which averages to $4.50 a day). Therefore, you are only able to afford the bare necessities and eat simply. Rice, beans, and tortillas. Since the bare necessities are the only affordable things, an average household probably does not have electricity; therefore, there is no refrigerator to store the food. The food is grown and either picked everyday or sold at a market in order to buy what is needed for that day. The main food that you ate was rice, beans, and tortillas. Why? They are efficient, nutritious, and accessible.
If a Honduran has a job you are able to watch them go to work either by foot, bicycle, or their employer will provide transportation by literally cramming about 20 workers in the back of a pickup. The truck would only stop at one common location and if a worker lives further away then they will walk the rest of the way. This is the same way they would go to work in the morning. Go to work at sunrise and go home at sunset.
As you travel out of the small, remote communities and journey into cities like Copan, you are able to compare the "city life" to the "country life". Even though at home there are only a few minute differences between the two.
Just like the city of Copan, every town has a Parque Central. Where the main attraction is a church with an open area for trees, benches, figures or a fountain.
The living situation is opposite of the "country life". The homes are apartments with running water, and no dirt floors. The apartments have electricity in homes to provide power for the TV, refrigerator, stove, and probably a telephone.
Travel is somewhat the same as the country, but you have more options and obstacles. You now observe public transportation, which either consists of either an independent crowded bus system or a taxi. The taxi is more than likely all decorated to meet the driver's personality and the car is a beat up four door. The upper class (a select few) may own a car but they are also old beat up cars, but you do see a Ford Explorer, Nissan Pickup truck or Pathfinder every so often.
Some obstacles you experience are the mountains, damage from hurricane Mitch, and livestock. The country of Honduras is 80% mountains and 20% valley. So while you drive, you are constantly fighting with the sharp curves, overcoming steep slopes and return facing a steep down slope. Since hurricane Mitch destroyed most of the country, there are some roads that are no longer there or rerouted naturally by mudslides. You are able to compare country roads to city roads. They can both be congested with livestock crossing the road to graze at the nearby pasture. Another comparison is the country roads were either dirt or cobble stone. In the big city, the streets are concrete.
While you drove from town to town through the valleys, you saw road signs. You noticed no Honduran obeying them and there were no police parked on the roadside to enforce the speed limit, and passing on the curved roads. There are even signs that you were able to read which said, "OBEDEZCAN LAS SENALES". Which translated to, "Obey the signs". So, the Hondurans have signs to tell you to obey the signs.
On your last location of your mind-opening journey, you are standing on top of an over cultivated, steep sloped mountain facing the outskirts the capital city, Tegucigalpa. The surrounding mountains also contain few trees on top with farmland up and down the steep slopes. Since Honduras is mostly mountain range, there is no other land area for the crops to be grown. You are able to see where one farmer's crop begins and another ends. As you look more to the heart of Tegucigalpa, the mountains are filled with homes and business because there is no other land space. On some slope you are able to see where landslides took place due to Mitch, because of the remains of homes resting on the slopes of where a family once lived. You think why is this country still in distress over Mitch two years ago? The US government would have declared this city a "National Disaster" and sent aid. This is true, but the USA is able to tax the majority of its citizens for funding like this. Who are the people that the Honduran government going to tax? They are a third world country. Honduras relies on aid from other countries such as yours.
As you stand there with your eyes closed facing the sun and wind, your heart at the same time has sunk and grew. Your heart sank due to your compassion for human kind. You have seen poverty on commercials wanting you to give $.70 a day to feed, clothe and school a child or on the national news. But, when you stand three feet in front of it, it has opened your eyes to the reality of the situation.
Your heart grew an inch on your journey because you were able to see with your eyes how having nothing, means nothing. As you walked through their communities, you saw children smile and laugh while they played in the dirt streets. The local farmer, with a smile, would offer you a freshly picked mango for your walk. These people are proud of what they are able to accomplish with nothing of the sort.
You now open your eye back in your air-conditioned home, the microwave cooking your dinner, and your class of purified water on your coaster, which came from your kitchen faucet. Sit back and answer this question, What is (are) your personal "bare necessities" in order for you to live a happy and productive life?
Mine? Electricity for heat, cooking, to heat my running purified water, my radio, and my sewing machine, refrigerator, lights, maybe a phone, a shower and soap, my ability to attend a school, my car therefore gasoline, a grocery store, pots and pans, half of my shoes and clothing, my bed, my sofa, and my medicine.