Thursday, January 9, 2014

On Letting Go, Forgiveness, and Moving On

So I said about 6 months ago I was going to start blogging again.  I've really missed using my blog as a place to share my thoughts and feelings with those who can resonate with my life experiences or those who might look for a different perspective and viewpoint.   I have been thinking about my blog for months, and just haven't been able to come up with a clear cut direction in which I wanted my writing to take.   I've had a lot of thoughts about having it take a spiritual course or perhaps even a place to discuss political controversies.   None of these seemed right, however.  Then last night, it came to me.

As you may or may not know, 2013 was a year of great change for me.   Some of it was really positive (as far as my career and making new friends and traveling was concerned), some of it not so much.  2013 featured a lot of hurt feelings, heartache, ill will, and grudges.  It also featured a couple of lost relationships and negative feelings that I really didn't enjoy living with. I decided last week that I really wanted to focus on letting go of the past in 2014 in order to move on and live a happier, healthier, more positive life in 2014.

"Letting go."  Two simple words. "Forgiveness".  Just one simple word.   It sounds so simple, but we know that it's really not.  Letting go and  GENUINELY forgiving others is probably one of the most difficult tasks one will ever have to encounter. How on earth am I even to know where to begin?

Many times in life, we have conflict with another person or groups of people.   We say and do things that sometimes others do not understand, simply because WE are viewing them a certain way (and everyone sees the world through different a different lens) Sometimes we say or do things when we are angry or are suffering through a difficult time in life.  Sometimes what we do doesn't even have any connection with the person we've done them to. We've just reacted to something else happening in our lives, and that person happened to be on the receiving end or to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Sometimes we hide things out of insecurity or we avoid the truth because we don't want to have any added conflict in our lives. When the person finds out the truth, they become angry with us for not being honest with them or for not trusting them with our innermost secrets/feelings. Other times, someone will do something hurtful to us, and rather than talking to them about how it bothered us, we react out of anger and revenge.

Here's the positive part - many times when we make mistakes, were able to apologize and demonstrate to the other party that we didn't mean to hurt them.  On the other side,  if another party has hurt us, we many times are able to stop, listen to their apology, and accept that they made a poor decision that was hurtful to us.  Were able to really look at a person and realize that no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes. We've known the person for a period of time, and we know that they have many good qualities that trump the negative.  If the offender (be it us or them) changes their behavior in the future and demonstrates that they didn't mean to be hurtful,  life goes on.   When both parties are patient, understanding, and tolerant of the other's perspective, forgiveness and moving on is easy to accomplish.

Now for the negative part- it isn't always that easy.  There are many reasons why this can be.  Sometimes person who hurt the other person doesn't think that they did anything wrong.  Sometimes they don't understand the perspective of the other person.  Sometimes they will place the blame on the person who claims to be the recipient of the wrongdoing/hurt.   Just as often times, the person who believes to have been wronged becomes so upset with the other person that they automatically retaliate and seek revenge.   Rather than simply giving the other person space before trying to talk to them again about why they are so hurt, they react out of spite.    When these above scenarios occur, things almost can never be resolved.

The next unfortunate thing that comes into play is the ever present ego.   Through life's experience, people become hardened and unforgiving.   Two people (or more, depending on the circumstances) who once really cared for each other hold so much ill will towards one another that neither is willing to let their guard down to be the bigger person and say "you know what- we were both wrong.  I'm sorry for what I did on my end."   Rather than trying to have a rational conversation and accept that either one did wrong, they start to play the "blame game" and point out every single flaw about the other.  There is no way to come to a common ground.  It's just constant mud-slinging and placing the blame on the other party, rather than looking inward to say "what could *I* do differently to fix this situation?"  If BOTH individuals (or parties) aren't willing to let go of their ego, it's impossible to move forward.

The bottom line is this- if you are a human being, chances are you've hurt another human being in your lifetime.   All of us have conflict with others.  All of us have damaged a relationship with another person at some point in our lives with whom we wish we could go back and make things right with. We've all said things out of spite and anger or said something negative behind another person's back. I realize I am far from perfect.  I have many flaws, and I have done many things to disappoint people I've cared about over the course of my life.   Likewise, people have hurt and disappointed me as well.  You can't expect anyone to be perfect.   We all make mistakes.    Once we realize this, we get to take a step back from the ego that wants us to fight back.   Only when we can look at a person and what they've done to us and realize that they are human too can we start to forgive.

It IS possible to forgive another person even when they do not forgive you or want to hurt you.   It's probably one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in life, but if you ever truly want to "move on" from a damaged relationship or a broken heart, it needs to be done .   Sometimes we just need to ACCEPT that things are the way that they are.  You can be willing to try to do your part to fix things, but if the other party just wants to act in anger or retaliation, you need to accept that everyone's life journey is different and that they feel too wounded to be ready to move on.  Each of our personalities and our gauges for forgiveness is different.  Some of us forgive readily, others hold on to grudges that last for many years.    Additionally, wishing ill will or negative karma upon another person does nothing to make us feel better.   It's only hurting us personally when we focus so much energy on hurting another person.  Even if something unfortunate DOES happen to them, what positive effect does that really have upon us?  Laughing at another person's misfortune does not make us any better of a person. It also makes no sense when we supposedly dislike THEM for their character flaws and we aren't acting with any better character on our end.

One big lesson I learned in 2013 is this- You cannot ever force yourself upon another person.  If they do not see the good in you and forgive you for your human flaws, you can't do much about it.  If they do not accept you at face value, accept your apologies for anything you might have done to wrong them, and see the genuine goodness that is within you, there isn't anything you can do.  If they just have a general personality conflict with you and don't like you for what you stand for or say or do, you can't do anything about it. n an ideal world, people would hurt one another, kiss and make up, and life would go on  Unfortunately, this is not the reality of life.  I don't say this to be negative.  It's just being honest.

Another lesson I've learned through my recent experiences is that it's okay to be emotional and sensitive.  It's okay to tell someone when they've hurt you, and it's equally as okay to not tolerate letting someone walk all over you emotionally.  There are many different types of personalities in this world.  Some people keep their feelings to themselves, others (like me) are an open book.  People always know how I feel or what I am thinking.  There's nothing wrong with being a sensitive and emotional person.   Hiding your feelings or being an open book doesn't make any one person stronger or "better' than another.    We just are who we are as human beings, and I no longer will apologize for voicing my opinion or being vocal about my innermost thoughts and beliefs.  There's nothing wrong with being me, just as there's nothing wrong with someone else having a tough exterior or keeping their feelings to themselves.   If you feel like you need to compromise yourself to appease them, you shouldn't do it.  Yes, it's painful when someone you care deeply for wants to "change" you.  Yes, it's going to hurt when you accept that you can't make them think different.  However; compromising yourself is NEVER okay! Not everyone is going to like you for you, and that's totally okay.  It's even okay when it turns out to be someone you thought accepted you at face value.

Back to forgiveness- I cannot take back anything that has happened in the past.  Sometimes, so much damage is done that all both parties can do is take lessons they've learned from experience and apply it to the future so they don't make the same mistakes again.  I believe I'm at a point where I am able to do this.   Sitting around and beating yourself up saying "I should have done this" or "Why the hell did I ever do that?" is completely fruitless.    Even if another person isn't willing to accept you as you are or accept an apology, it doesn't mean that you should dwell on it or beat yourself up over it. If another person only wants to continue to hurt you, you cannot force them to stop.  I'll say it again- all human beings make mistakes.  All human beings have character flaws.  All human beings have the capability to be hurtful to another. Dwelling on the past won't ever make you feel any better, especially if you aren't happy with yourself over how you handled a difficult situation.   Taking a step back, learning from your mistakes, and resolving to do things differently in the future WILL.

So in 2014. I choose to let go.  I choose to not let the past hurt me anymore. I also choose to forgive myself for anything in my past that I could have done differently. Rather than having negative images of people who have hurt me, I will smile and laugh at the memories of better times.  I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, and rather than focusing on negative things from the past, I'll focus on the happiness and love that surrounds me presently.  I really am very much blessed right now to have some amazing people in my life who have been there for me, loving me unconditionally.   Additionally, I'll start to wish nothing but peace and love to those who have offended me.  Without doing so, I'm only hurting myself.

Happy 2014, my friends. <3 nbsp="" p="">

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Post-Honduran thoughts- Spirituality

A post I wrote in 2010 that I finally decided to publish 3 years reflects upon a lot of the emotions I've been dealing with right now.

It's almost comical to think that I hadn't blogged in so long. Ever since I made my posting on Sunday after 8 months of negligance; I am finally coming up with the words to say to express everything that I have been processing since my return to the States. My personal journey in Honduras was SO intense; that I think it has honestly taken me this long to be able to talk about certain aspects of it and what I learned from them openly.

Of course; so much of my experience in Honduras was personal. I had a list of reasons a mile long for wanting to spend a portion of my life there; but certain aspects were more personal than others. Developing an appreciation for all that I have in my life was clearly a large part of my wanting to go. Equally as important was my desire to learn about, understand, and appreciate another culture. These were topics I was able to openly blog about during my time abroad.

Spirituality and my own personal spiritual journey is a totally different story. I never really blogged much about the religious aspect of my time in Honduras for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost; I have always found religion and spirituality to be a very personal thing. (Meaning that I honestly don't believe there are any two people on this earth who have the same exact set of beliefs and ideals). I also respected (and still do respect) the fact that I was volunteering with a Catholic organization; and made every effort to tailor my stories in a way that did not disrespect, question, or minimize any aspect of the Catholic church's belief system. I know the vast majority of my readers identify as Catholic; and I know that reaching out to them through my stories from a Catholic standpoint would be most effective. Upon my return though; I am realizing that this is my blog and my territory to state how I feel about topics in relation to my mission experience. Essentially this is a disclaimer: anything that I say is not meant to offend anyone or their beliefs. It is simply the way that I feel as an individual after having spent a year in a third world country, processing the experience, and relating to life here in the States.

Religion and faith in general is of the utmost importance to the people of Honduras. I have never seen such a beautiful display of love, hope, and pure faith than I did on a daily basis while in Juticalpa. For anyone who has never visited a developing country (and especially Juticalpa), there is no way even the most talented writer could accurately portray just how intense this authentic display of faith is. I found the simplicity of daily life there able to fill Honduras' people with a deep appreciation for the very little that they had. I also feel as though the mere fact that they did have so little allowed them to actually put into practice the most simple and universal values that ANY of Christian religion is supposedly supposed to be representative of: unconditional love and the "golden rule" ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"). With little more to support them through the difficulties of daily life other than faith and one another; I feel as though their belief in their church was genuine Although I personally am not a big proponent of organized religion at all (first public confession!), it was undoubtedly the most positive experience I have ever had with any particular religious group; because I feel as though these beautiful people genuinely practiced what they preached.   That to me, is what it is all about. (Whether you believe in it or not)

Return to Innocence

Love, devotion
Love, devotion
Feeling, emotion
Feeling, emotion
Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart, my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence

Just some inspiration for all of us today.  I still love this song <3 span="">

Monday, June 17, 2013

Going Back To Blogging

Well; everyone,  it's time to finally say it.  I'm back!   It's been three years since I blogged on any type of a basis at all, and four years since my return to the States from Honduras (which is when I stopped blogging with any type of regularity at all!).   I have to admit that while I loved having this blog as a sounding board and a place to share my innermost feelings during my journey in Honduras, that it's been difficult for me to get into blogging in any depth since I came home.   Things just haven't been all that interesting since I came home.  I feel like I haven't had anything really exciting to share .  I feel like I've returned to a life of "normalcy:" and that nothing could be worth reading about after all of the incredible stories I shared a few years back.

In the past couple of months, things have changed.   I returned from Honduras on fire with love for the people I had met, the friendships I had made, and the memories I took with me that I knew would last a lifetime.   Over the course of the past few years,  I found myself lost again.   Due to the economy, I still have been unable to secure a job in the non-profit sector (which is where I've wanted to build a career now for years), I've fallen into a rut and a depression, and things have not really gone my way. I've found myself in less than satisfying relationships/friendships and felt as though people never have been able to truly understand me and what I'm all about.  I've more or less kept these feelings to myself, as I felt they were mine to contend with.  I've been in some really unfortunate situations with people over the course of the past year or so, but I never could quite get to the bottom of what was making me feel the way that I was feeling.  About a month ago,  I woke up in the middle of the night overcome with deep sorrow.  You know that feeling...the one deep down in the pit of your stomach when you just aren't happy with yourself and your surroundings.  That feeling that something is missing and that feeling of emptiness.

For the first time in many years, I REALLY prayed for an answer to why I was feeling the way I was feeling.     I prayed for the strength to get through my depression, anxiety, and struggles.  We've all had struggles with our faith at some point or another in our lives.   For me, after many years of Catholic school, I turned away from the church in my 20's seeing no place for organized religion in my life.  While I can appreciate the need for rules, I felt as though such rigidness creates conflict between ourselves as humans, rather than providing us with unity.  As I'm sure most of my readers know, I'm a very liberal and accepting type of person- of ALL religions, orientations, nationalities, etc. During my time in Honduras, I felt like there really was a higher power and being.   There's no way that so many people who were surrounded by so much suffering and sadness could be so faith-filled without any explanation other than a higher being.   Upon returning home, things went back to the way they always had been for many years before my time abroad.

That night in prayer, I realized what was missing from my life.  I missed the sense of peace that being in Honduras brought me.   Everything here seems to be one big competition.   People are constantly in a battle with one another for power and attention.  I've seen people deliberately hurt myself and those closest to me time and time again over the past few years.  I myself have seen ugly sides to my personality rear their heads once again.   I've caught myself saying and doing things I have not been proud of.   In Honduras, life was so simple.  People actually stopped to help their neighbors.   There are no greater acts of love and compassion that I've witnessed in my 32 years on this planet as those I saw occur before my eyes in Honduras.    Sure, there was corruption.  Yes, it was a machismo culture.  True, sometimes you didn't have electricity or running water.  You did, however, always have each other.  There was a sense of genuinuity and purity among the Honduran people that I don't see here often.  I realized that night that I missed compassion.  I missed simplicity.  I missed the random acts of kindness.   I realized that I don't need a church or an institution to provide me with those things.   All I need is myself.    I'm not a perfect person, and I don't ever claim to be.  I make mistakes, I falter, and I have hurt many people along this journey in life.   However, we can all do great things when we put our heart and our soul into them.   I realized that I was granted an amazing gift in life-  the gift of empathy and compassion. I truly realized that my Creator gave me these gifts for a reason.   I still struggle daily with what I am doing in life and the direction I am going in, but I now believe in the power of prayer, and I know that if I keep the faith, that God is going to guide me to do amazing things in my life.  What they are, I don't know yet.  But with my newly fulfilled faith and desire to spread love and compassion wherever I go,  I know that my life journey has lots of beauty in store for me. :-) My religion is love and kindness. That is the part of Honduras that I still take with me to this day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

17 Days...and counting

Well; it's almost May, so I guess it's time for an entry! Almost an entire YEAR has lapsed since I left Juticalpa, all of my students, a group of friends I hold nearest and dearest to my heart, amazing memories all crammed into one intense, challenging, and life-altering year; undoubtedly the best year of the 29 I've had on this earth. Arguably, it was also the most difficult. It was worth every single moment and event I experienced.

In 17 days, I will board a plane and go back to the place that became my second home for a nine day visit. I will spend a day teaching my students who are now almost third graders (and will probably be a foot taller than they were when I left them in June.) I'll join Wendy in the new kitchen making pupusas and baleadas. I'll eat more frijoles and plaintains than I can stomach (and then go back for seconds). I'll walk to the Esso station for a cappachino or a granita, and have to use a half a package of babywipes afterwards to clean my blackened feet. I'll hold baby Ana Valeria in my arms for the first time; and become a Honduran godmother. I'll eat tacos in the park, and drink water from a bag for 2 lempira. I can't believe I am saying this; but I am almost looking forward to being called "Mamacita" and getting hissed at by the local machismo riff-raff. Being the feminist woman that I am; it even shocks ME that I think I'll be able to laugh at it all now. Why, you ask? Well, it's all part of the memories!

I have to admit; I wish I were more excited about my upcoming visit. I don't want this entry to come off as me not looking forward to seeing my friends and spending time there-it's actually quite the opposite. I just thought that by now I would already be packing my suitcase, planning activities for my students, and plotting out how I'm going to take full advantage of every moment that I have back "home", but for some reason, I find myself more feeling anxious about the adventure that lies before me. I think my issue is that I am experiencing the same exact range of emotions I felt at this time last year when I was making the decision about whether or not to stay or to leave. Once I had made my decision; I remember how painful leaving, and preparing myself for my actual depature was. June 21st 2009 was easily one of the most difficult days of my life. I could even go so far as to say it was heart-wrenching. We all know I can be dramatic, but I don't think anything has ever been so difficult to do in my life. I left behind a place, a culture, and a group of people who took me in, loved me, and made me feel at home despite not being one of them. I left feeling that I actually belonged there and was a part of the community. I don't believe there are too many places in the world where I would feel that way as an outsider. I really do feel like everything that happens in life is meant to be, and I was sent there for a reason. I feel like it happened at exactly the right time in my life; being young enough to have the freedom to go abroad for a year and volunteer; but old enough that I had gotten my selfish party years out of my system and was fully dedicated to what I was doing. I also knew I couldn't stay forever; and the whole experience did exactly as it was supposed to in the time span I was planning on being there- it changed everything about me- my values, my beliefs, my view of the world outside of Boston. I knew that leaving was going to be difficult; but that it was time to close out one chapter of my life and start another. And so; I went.

I guess all I can say is that Juticalpa, Olancho Aid, Santa Clara, my students, my friends, and everything that encompassed that experience made me feel fulfilled, challenged, and inspired in a way I'd never felt before in my life. Although spending a year there was difficult; I felt like I had a real purpose for being there. In short; my life felt meaningful, and I felt like my being there had a real, positive impact on children's and people's lives. (Their's had an even bigger impact on mine; but we all know that from every one of my entries!) I felt like every day was a part of the experience- every situation was a page in my storybook and an important part of what I would take from my time there in the long haul; after returning to the States. Unfortunately; every fear and thought I had in my mind last year at this time as I prepared to come home has rung true. You can only talk about your stories so much. Most people will never understand- they didn't live out the experience that you did. It doesn't make them bad people, but it makes you feel very lonely at times, like no one understands something that is so important to you and defines you so much. I also don't think I'll ever feel that way again. I'd be lying if I said it didn't depress me at times. I am so grateful to have had that experience; but I wonder if I'll ever feel as inspired and fulfilled again. I feel the same exact way I felt before I left for Honduras- like something was missing. I am grateful for all of the love and support that I have in my life, and the things many people take for granted, but still; I seek greater challenges. I have eliminated a lot of the negativity from my life since my return and have tried to only focus on making positive changes in my life, but still; I feel uninspired. I don't know if the emptiness and boredom I feel is just a part of returning from a year abroad, due in part to the bad economy (I know lots of other people struggling with this feeling- it's not just me!), or something else - like a calling to build a career around charity work. (Anyone want to hire me as a fundraiser?! Seriously! If I am passionate about a cause; you all know how hard I will work!) All I know is I left my heart in Juticalpa, and I'm looking forward to feeling enveloped in all of that love, hope, and comfort- even if it's only for a short time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Beginnings and Opportunities

Well; it's been a long time (once again) since I blogged. To be perfectly honest; I find it difficult to find things to blog about now that I'm settled back into life here in the good ole U.S of A. At least; I find that the topics I could actually blog about are probably irrelevant to the initial topics I started this blog for. I guess since there's been a turn of events in my life; it's time to update you all on how life has been going. (Although these updates pale in comparison to my Honduran stories)

I have decided to venture back into working in a school and back into the classroom. I'm sure this not a shocker for those of you who have been saying that teaching is my calling and I have a way with children. I don't doubt that I do. I will be starting at Trinity Academy in the new preschool program on April 5th, and I have to admit that I'm extremely excited. There's just something about the preparation and positive energy in a young learning enviroment that I can't seem to want to steer away from. I don't know what it is, but I have developed such a love for the value of a good education. I know I always had these values ingrained in me, but I also know I never would have accepted this true passion were it not for my time in Juticalpa. In a country where the average person does not get past second grade, I feel honored to have had the opportunity to devote a year of my life to educating a small percentage of these beautiful children, and to give them hope for the future.

I have decided after being away from a school setting that this is the type of enviroment in which I will always want to work. I still have such an interest in non-profit fundraising, and have decided that my dream job will be in development and fundraising for a school. This way; I can combine my love for children, education, and helping those less fortunate and have the best of both worlds. (Meaning being in a school enviroment and helping with the funding of education resources, scholarships, financial aid for underprivileged children, etc). This particular opportunity at Trinity will afford me the experience and contacts I need to work towards this ultimate career goal. I'm very excited about it, despite the fact that it might not financially be the best opportunity for me right now.

Ahhhhh, money! Just the word alone frustrates me more than anything these days. I have to preface these next few paragraphs by saying that I apologize to anyone I have offended in the past few months by my verbal statements, facebook status updates, and emails regarding the topic of money and finances. I have had several people close to me (all of whom I love dearly and value the opinions of) tell me that I may not be making the best move financially by accepting an "entry level" type of job position in a school enviroment. (I currently nanny and am making decent money). I know I have made blanket statements saying that I feel as though all anyone in this country cares about is money, and that money drives everything. I've also made comments about preferring to be living with very little but be living my life with passion and doing for others, than to be wealthier and be a miserable person. I wish to publically apologize for any of these types of statements that I may have made that could have offended anybody. I think sometimes I need to step back and think before I speak in regards to this topic. YES, there are many times since my return that I feel sickened by the greed and materialism of the average American person. YES, there are times when I feel as though the average American person would rather work in an enviroment that made them miserable but supplied them with a huge weekly paycheck, than to follow their passions and make a meager income. This IS America, the land of opportunity after all.

In thinking back on these statements I have made, I realize that I have been afforded an opportunity that most people will never experience in their lives (or at least for as long of a time period as I did). They haven't met the people that I've met along my journey. These beautiful people had far less than anyone I've ever met in the States, but they feel happy and blessed for what little they DO have. They taught me how to be grateful and humble. I am no better than anybody else just because my values may be different from the average person's after my time abroad. Instead of judging others and putting myself up on a pedestal; I should be celebrating this beautiful gift of my own values and following my passions. After my time in Honduras; I can honestly say I'd rather be making minimum wage and be surrounded by the people I love and be doing something meaningful with my life than sitting in a corporate office cubicle miserable on a daily basis, with a new Benz and a 1200.00 a month South End apartment. Everyone's definition of happiness is different- Honduras taught me what brings ME happiness - genuine love and kindness for one another, living a life with purpose, authenticity, generousity, and simplicity. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm Back...

I have finally listened to people's pleas for more of my writings and genuinely touching compliments and comments about the blog that I kept during my time in Honduras. So; I am back. It's official. I am going to start blogging again.

At first I wasn't sure WHAT to blog about. I mean; my year abroad has come and gone. I no longer have insane and amusing stories to share about slaughtering cows or showering with five gallon buckets of Aguazul. I don't wake up to find 4 foot iguanas running around on my rooftop anymore. I no longer have 2 inch cockroaches or tarantulas residing in my kitchen. When I go out for my daily walks now; I don't stop and start random games of soccer with children or witness people in the Boston Common plucking their armpit hairs in public. (Although I do witness some equally odd behaviors I suppose! haha) All those cultural differences and experiences were exciting to blog about. Now; they are lost. I have returned to a life of normalcy.

Or have I really? I've been home now for almost 8 months and I don't think I have ever really felt like things were "normal" during that time span. Sure; I have picked up where I left off in certain aspects- I spend time with my friends, I have found a full time job and ride public transportation back and forth to work every day; rather than riding in the bed of a truck with dust in my face. I know that every morning when I wake up to get ready for work that a hot shower awaits. I know that when I go grocery shopping; I can find everything that I need in one shop. There's no going to Santa Gema all the way over the other side of town just to purchase peanut butter. Similarly; when I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom; I know that the electricity from my lamp will lead the way. (My feet are looking a lot nicer on U.S soil from not having so many stubbed toes from walking in the dark!)

With all of that being said; most people would say "Of course! She's readjusted to life back in the United States! Things are back to normal!" Yet the thoughts that run through my mind on a daily basis and the vivid pictures I have permanently painted inside my mind prove otherwise. I don't think I'll ever feel "normal" again after having had such a powerful and amazing experience.

I haven't shared a lot of these thoughts and feelings with anyone for a couple of reasons. First of all; I'm going to come right out and just be honest- it's sometimes too painful. It at times causes me to become depressed because I feel so often like I have experienced things that 99% of the people in this world never will. That's not to say that I don't feel lucky and blessed to have experienced them; but I have a new sense of lonliness that I at times can't even verbally express (or even put into writing). The easiest way to put it is to just say it. I feel so often like people cannot even begin to understand. Even more depressing at times, is that I feel like most people don't WANT to understand or just don't care. I feel lonely because I feel like there is such a huge part of me that other people will never be able to understand. It's not to say that I am a better person than these people; because I know that I am not. Just two years ago; I myself would have turned a totally blind eye or tuned someone out who was trying to share similar experiences with me. I feel like in some ways; I have been given a beautiful gift to have lived among such poverty and sadness mixed with such joy and love. The downside is that I come back to the United States with a totally different viewpoint on things that sets me apart from most of the people in this country. It makes for feeling frustrated and helpless often.

For me; the situation down in Haiti during these past couple of weeks has been heartwrenching for me to hear about. Having lived in a third world country for a year; the only image that has been replaying in my mind for two weeks straight is of Honduras. Tegucigulpa in particular, because it's such a big city filled with hillside slums. One cannot possibly not take a drive through the capital of Honduras and not be amazed at the poverty surrounding them. These hillside slum structures look like a category 1 hurricane would totally destroy them all. I can't even begin to imagine what a 7.1 earthquake would do to an area with so little infrastructure and stability. I have never been to Port-au-Prince Haiti; but I have a decent idea in my mind of what it must look like. I have had to stop watching the news coverage; because I am continually brought to tears by what I see.

It has been in discussing Haiti and the earthquake that I realize just how much my time in Honduras impacted my life and my beliefs. Every once in a while since my return; I will have a "defining moment" where I realize just how different of a person I am after my experience. No moment was as defining as a recent discussion I had with my peers regarding the catastrophe and our response as a country to what has been going on there. It also has awoken my passion again- feeling a need to open the eyes of other people to the harsh reality of the way most of the people in our world live. It broke my heart to see some of the outright meanhearted comments that people made about the earthquake. A person my own age whom I have known for years made a statement saying "If the roles were reversed; they wouldn't do anything to help us." This comment alone shocked me, because I never realized how uneducated many people are. This man's statement is in fact false; because Haiti made a modest donation in an attempt to help the United States after both 9/11 and Katrina. It made me remember that most people never could begin to understand Honduras (or any other third world country) and its people. Anyone who has been to Juticalpa knows the opposite to be true. Those who have so little tend in the materialistic sense are oftentimes more giving than those who have so much. Remember my story about DonaMarina walking 10 miles in the 110 degree blistering sun to bring me medicine when I was sick? This is a woman who lives off of roughly 2.00 a day and has electricity or running water in her home. She paid for this medication with her mediocre paycheck. I rest my case. Clearly there are people everywhere in our world who are not generous people, but I have never experienced the level of authenticity, love, and generousity that I experienced in Honduras.

Later on in my "Haiti Banter" another individual that I attended school with said "I was poor too growing up. We should be helping people here first!" This led me to do a great deal of thinking about the various "levels" of poverty in this world. I am by no means undermining the need for help right here on our own homefront. I know that very real poverty exists and we need to be making strides to help those around us as well; but it made me think about the difference between poverty here in the United States and poverty in a third world country. Chances are if you are living in the most extreme of poverty (as so many in our world do), you don't have running water or electricity. You may be living in a structure made out of strips of wood and medal, with a curtain hanging for a front door. You most probably do not have access to any type of sterile healthcare. You may go to bed hungry many nights of your life. You probably do not have a chance to improve your life due to terrible living conditions and an undeveloped education system. How can you improve your life and make something of yourself; when at 9 years old you cannot go to school. You cannot attend school because you need to sell bags of water or fruit in the park in order to put food on the table for your family. Again; I am not undermining poverty on the US homefront; but it pales in comparison to the poverty I was surrounded by in Honduras. If you are without a job here or are homeless; there are programs in place to help you. You can turn to a homeless shelter for a hot shower, a warm bed, and food to fill your belly. If you are born into poverty and have the motivation and drive; you can change your supposed fate and better yourself through making the right decisions, siezing opportunities, and education. The people in undeveloped countries lot is more or less picked out from them from the moment they are born. They have no choice but to live the difficult lives that they lead. We are so fortunate to have been born into a country where so many opportunities exist. We have the free will to become whatever we want to be. These people are helpless, and not by choice.

This is going to sound really negative; and I hate speaking in a negative way about my own country and its people; but this is my blog and I have a right to voice my opinion (and I know you all know I have no problem doing just that!) After returning home; I find so many more people to be ignorant than I ever did before. So many people adopt the whole "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. I had reached a point in my post-Honduran journey where I just stopped talking about my experience because people's negative comments and mockery was starting to bother me.

You know what? I will never be the same again Post-Honduras. My time there taught me compassion. It taught me to be more open-minded. It taught me to be grateful. I have an experience that no one will ever be able to take away from me; one that shaped me into the person I am today. The situation in Haiti reignited the fire in me to share my stories and to speak up for what I believe in, no matter who may mock me. Honduras is such a huge part of me, so my story isn't really over. I may be a gringa who has returned to her homeland; but I will forever carry the important values with me that I developed there. I will continue to educate people on the realities of the way most people in our world live. As far as those who have been mocking me for being so passionate about the people I grew to love in Juticalpa and the people in Haiti? I will NEVER apologize for caring about anyone- no matter WHERE in the world they may reside.