First, let me apologize that this has taken so long. I realize that I have not updated this blog for seven months. My fault, I have had internet, thus, no excuse. With that in mind I am going to try to summarize my past seven months of life here in Honduras. Where to begin? Last time I updated my blog it was right before my birthday and Christmas. I was in Tegucigalpa to watch my Huskers in the Big 12 Championship game. And for the second year in a row, we lost. I feel like the best way to describe that night would be as a “huge let down.” But I am over it, and have moved on. I swear I am not bitter.
Since then a lot of things have happened in my life. In early January I moved out of my host family’s house and into my own place. I am renting a modest house in the center of town. For 800 LMPs ($40) a month I have a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and outhouse. This transition was more difficult than I expected. For the first time in my life, I am living alone. I grew up in an average to big sized family. There was always someone to talk to or bother. Then at college I had roommates in the dorms and in the “Man House.” In short, I have always been living with great people that I love very much. Even during my first seven months in Honduras I lived with host families. And for the most part, minus one rather upsetting family, I lived with good people that welcomed me with open arms. So needless to say, the transition was more difficult than I anticipated. I remember thinking that I was really excited about moving into my own house. But not shortly after I was thinking that maybe it was not the best idea. But I believe that I made the right decision. Living alone has forced me to leave my house much more often. In reality, I only sleep in my house. The rest of my time is spent at work or visiting with people in the community. Living alone forced to put myself out there and make good relationships. And as a result, my Spanish, and overall happiness has improved.
Work has been going well. For the past six months I have kept very busy. Every weekday morning from 8-12 I am in the primary school teaching literacy classes to children who have different learning disabilities. This program has been more difficult than I anticipated but I really enjoy it. Some of my kids have learned quickly because they only needed a little individual attention. Others have serious learning deficiencies and are still struggling. In January I started with over 20 students. All but five have graduated from the program and reading at appropriate levels. Those five still in class with me have made great strides the past month or so. I feel like they are in the process of turning a corner. I think another two or three months and they will catch up to their class mates.
I have two other classes that take up my afternoons. The first one is a program called “Aflatoun.” This is a great program that I have really grown to like. To be honest, I was not too excited about it in the beginning. The local NGO asked me to help out with it and I reluctantly said yes. But this program is great. It is a yearlong class for students who do not have access to education after primary school. Unfortunately, that is a high number of kids. There is a high school in Reitoca but not in any of the surrounding villages. So a group of 30 or so students from surrounding villages come to Reitoca to attend Aflatoun. The goal of the class is to give the children a social and finicial education. I know that does not sound like much but the class goes really in depth. We explore all kinds of topics; ranging from their dreams, rights, responsibilities, and how to make a budget and start a small business in Honduras. Also, the group of students is made up of teenagers. This is my favorite group to work with. In the beginning they were shy but now we have made good relationships and tend to have a great dialogue in class.
The other classes that I am working on are two classes named “Yo Merezco” and “Yo Tambien Merezco.” These programs are leadership and sex ed classes for 5th and 6th boys and girls. In Honduras there is a lack of education on this topic. For many different reasons, the youth are not educated on important issues such as how to avoid teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs. But the class is so much more than that. For the girls, we are teaching them about self esteem, self respect, and how to be leaders in a dominantly masculine culture. The title of the program, “Yo Merezco,” literally means “I deserve.” For the boy we are teaching them the importance of respecting women and trying to break down damaging gender roles that exist in Honduras. We have one class left next week and then we will be done.
I have decided that after Peace Corps I want to go to law school. I am going to be taking the test October 1st in Tegucigalpa. Preparing for law school has already taken up a large chunk of my time. Studying 90 minutes every day for the LSAT plus researching different law schools eats into my day. But it is only going to get worse as the LSAT draws closer and closer. I think I have narrowed down the schools I am going to apply to. I am going with George Washington U, Washington U (in St. Louis), American U, Notre Dame, Mizzou, St. Louis U, and U of Missouri KC. First choice schools are Notre Dame, George Washington, and Wash U. I am already stressed about the LSAT. We’ll see what happens. But the good news is that on October 1st, the Huskers will be kicking of Big 10 play and I will already be in Tegucigalpa. So I should be able to watch the game!
Regarding my community, I feel like I have become a part of it. I can say with confidence that I have intergraded myself successfully. These people have truly welcomed me and accepted me with open arms. I never have to worry about anything because the people support me so much. It is difficult to describe the relationship people have here. But I think the best way I can describe it is that people take care of each other. People who have nothing have given me a plate of beans of rice because I look too flaco (skinny.) In Spanish there is the word “pueblo.” I love that word because it has more meaning than just a “community” or a “small town.” It means the people and the bond they have that make up the community. So in Spanish I would never describe Reitoca as my site or village. Reitoca is my “pueblo.” Among Peace Corps community, volunteers who spend almost all of their time in site are called “site rats.” I would say that I have become a bit of a site rat. If I leave for even a weekend people in my community get worried about me. I leave for vacation next week. I am going to be gone for three weeks. They are not very happy with me. But this is a perfect transition to my topic, vacation!!!
This time next week I will be on a plane heading to America. Yes, I did just talk about how much I love my “pueblo” however; I am so excited to come home for vacation. Words cannot describe how excited I am. I have been counting down the days for the past two months and now it is almost here. I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning, only with less patience. Of course I am excited for hot showers, cheeseburgers, air conditioning, and baseball. But that does not even come close to how excited I am to see my family and friends. I have missed everyone so much this past year. It is going to be so good to see all of you. I have learned many things this past year. But perhaps the most importance lesson that I have taken is that independence is overrated. I feel like so often in American culture, especially among Peace Corps volunteers, that becoming a strong independent person is the most important attribute one can achieve. And to be honest, I have learned that this mentality is a load of crap. Being “strong” and “independent” does not bring you happiness. Not relying on others does not make one content. I have learned that there is absolutely nothing wrong with relying on others. What is the point of life if you don’t have great people to share it with? Independence is overrated. Obviously, you need to be able to function on your own. But we put too much stock in independence. I think if people were comfortable with leaning on each other a little more often this world would be a better place.
Well, that is enough for now. I will see everyone very soon. Miss and love you all!