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.


Anonymous said...

Congragulations my dear............and DON'T ever apologize for your feeling. I was telling someone this morning that Haiti reminded me of Tegus and how I had thought of all our friends after seeing the devistation. Keep on writing.
Love you

chesneyfan1 said...

who are you, anonymous? just wondering!

Gary F. said...

Welcome back Erin. I enjoy your insights and the way you write. I feel the same way about trying to express myself to people who don't get my message or share my feelings. But don't be too hard on people. You have been given a gift that allows you to feel the way you do. They haven't.

Anonymous said...

I applaud this entry. It shows the compassion and understanding that most people will never be able to relate to. You were given so many gifts during your stay in Honduras. You saw firsthand what true love and faith is all about. Most people need to experience this kind of situation before they can truly understand it. Keep the faith

Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back in print, Erin. Your insights and experiences bring back such memories to those who were fortunate enough to have traveled to Honduras, or another third world county, and, hopefully, these same experiences will give others the boost to extend their own hands in generousity and friendship. Looking forward to more blogs.....peace and love, Kathy Mc

Anonymous said...

It's from me silly, Linda

Anonymous said...

Your feelings are your feelings. Don't apologize for them. I guess you have learned the important things in life are not possessions. Possessions are burdens. Sometimes life is harder with more choices. I'm enjoying your blog,your journey and the lessons your taking away. It's the road to mindfulness.
love you,
momma jan

chesneyfan1 said...

Who are you Momma Jan???? I apologize; but I don't recognize your comments from earlier postings is all..I'm glad you are enjoying my writing, and I liket o know who to thank for encouraging me!