¡Hola amigos! On the 4th of January 2014, I had the absolute pleasure of embarking on a one week trip to Honduras with an organization called Global Brigades. I first found out about this program through the Brown Morning Mail. I read an announcement about community service in Honduras. I really enjoyed my trip to Peru in the summer, so I jumped at the opportunity to do a similar program. I went to the open meeting early in the fall quarter, and after convincing my parents to let me go to Honduras, I signed up, and on January 4th 2014 I flew to Honduras.
The first day was spent with basically chilling and doing nothing. I arrived in Tegucigalpa at about noon, but we had to wait at the airport until about 4pm because some people hadn’t arrived yet. The journey from the airport to the compound took about one and a half hours, so by the time we arrived, it was dinner time. We had caesar salad, lasagna, garlic bread and some kind of pasta on the first day. I think they were trying to make us feel at home before serving any kind of Honduran food.
The second day, we went to the community—Palo Verde—to visit the families. We had dinner at 6.30am so by 6am, everyone was wide awake. I personally woke up at 5am though, which I don’t normally do on schooldays. I did so because I prefer showing in the morning where there aren’t so many people, and also because I liked the peace and quietness. After showering I would lay on the couch, read a novel, and watch the sunrise in the horizon. I imagine it would’ve all been very romantic had I had my (nonexistent) boyfriend there with me.
By 7.30am, we had all got onto the buses, and we left for Palo Verde. The journeys to and from Palo Verde in the next few days would prove to be nothing short of challenges. On the second day, about probably 20 minutes away from the school community, the bus failed to drive up a rather steep hill. As a result, we had to walk up the hill a bit before finally being carried up by the other vehicles, namely the Land Cruisers. We had 10 people cramped into the back of a Land Cruiser, and needless to say it was rather uncomfortable, especially with the bumps and really fast turns and all that. However, I’m glad I got the chance to ride like that—it was actually fun for before the queasiness set in.
We were greeted by the community leaders at the school, and shortly after, we went to see the water system the water brigade had built before us. The ‘path’ was really muddy, especially so because of the rain overnight, and so, we left with mud all over our shoes, and for some people (including me), mud on their pants. The incredible thing was that Santos (the community leader who took us there) left without getting even a single speck of mud on either his shoes or pants. Moreover, he could walk through the mud with so much ease while the rest of us had to get walking sticks in order to prevent falling. Wanna hear one more thing? I’m pretty sure he was in his late forties or early fifties. He was old. We were young. How is this possible?!
Anyways, after that short hike, we had lunch and then went to visit the families. There were four families in total, split amongst the (if I’m not mistaken) 33 students. They all endured very poor living conditions. They didn’t have a nearby source of clean water, so they literally had to walk for maybe at least half an hour to get clean water. Water has a density of 1 gram per cubic centimeter, so I can only imagine how heavy that must have been. They didn’t have cemented floors, so it was just basically dirt on the floor. They didn’t have a bathroom or clean-burning stoves.
The father of the third family was probably the one we could relate to the most. His name is, if I’m not mistaken, Santos David (nickname: David), and he’s only nineteen years old. He’s nineteen, yet he has a wife (who is eighteen years old) and two kids. He also built one of the rooms and dug a 10 feet hole in the ground (for the latrine) all by himself in a mere 3 days. He also acted really mature, and independent. I’m eighteen, and to think that I could be living in Honduras with two kids, having to work each day to support them… it just blows my mind. I think all 33 of us would agree when I say that he is definitely a role model for all of us.
While visiting the families, we also got a chance to visit a family whom Global Brigades had already helped in one of the previous brigades. They already had cemented floors, a clean-burning stove, a latrine, a shower and a water storage unit. And already, you could see how much of a difference it made in their lives. The family seemed much healthier than the other families. They kids didn’t have bloated stomachs, and the house was really clean. Seeing how much of a change we would make made me really excited and motivated.
After that, we got back on the buses and drove back home.
The next three days were spent on construction. We’d arrive at the families homes’ at about 10am everyday, depending on the journey and whether or not there were obstacles on the way. As I explained previously, the bus had trouble climbing up the steep hill on the second day, so on the third day (which is the first day of construction) we tried a different route, which proved to be equally as hard, if not harder to climb. Therefore, on the consecutive days we went through the first route, and we’d usually park the bus at the bottom of the hill and drive people up using the Land Cruisers. But anyways, the construction, in my personal opinion, was actually very fun. It’s not fun enough that I would want to be a construction worker though. I don’t really think I would be good enough at it either. I’d probably need to grow some muscles first. But anyway, it’s fun to take a break from classes and do something completely different for a change. I got the chance to try different things, from cementing the floors, to mixing the cement, to shoveling the dirt, to throwing cement on the walls, stacking bricks on top of each other, chasing chickens and a lot more.
Besides the construction job, it was also fun to interact with the masons and also the family. Besides, hola, adios, como te llamas, buenos dias and some other basic phrases, I really don’t know much Spanish, so communicating with the families was kind of a challenge. For the most part, we kind of communicated through gestures, smiles, grunts and whatnot. Sometimes, I’d just attempt to speak in really broken Spanish. I’d point to the gap between the two blocks and ask the masons, “¿Cement aquí?” That was my way of asking whether or not I should put cement in between the blocks. Or I’d point to the sink and ask “¿Si?” as a way of asking whether or not I should cement this part of the sink. It worked out pretty well actually.
The family, as I said previously, were very humbling. They were really shy and really polite. They didn’t just watch us working either, they helped out in any way that we could. Even the children. the family had three children along with one baby on the way. The eldest child was Lily, she was about 5 years old I think, the second child was Kevin, about 3, and Casey, which was probably not even a year old. There was also thirteen year old Olbin, Maria’s (the mother) younger brother. I’m not usually good with children, but I actually kind of got the little kids to play with me a bit. I was very proud. I’d play games of high five with them where I’d put my hand in front of them, and as they were about to tap it, I’d take my hand away, and then extend it somewhere else. They’d try to clap my hand and laugh doing it. I also played a game of hide and seek with Lily. It was very fun.
We also had the honor of interacting with probably the world’s most annoying chicken ever. For some reason, the chicken wanted to get into this specific room which we were currently cementing. It tried so hard to get into the room even though we would all try to prevent it from even getting close. Then, when we were taking a picture together as a group, the chicken ran into the room, walked around, took a shit, and then left. What the hell?! I’m pretty sure we were all really pissed, especially Emily and Taylor, who were cementing the floor in that room.
On the sixth day, we had finished construction and had our Education Day. Basically, we prepared song, skit and activity in order to teach them about being clean and healthy. It was prepared over the week, and I was in the Arts committee so I just prepared the materials for the day. It was unfortunately raining that day, which made it bloody cold. It kinda made it more fun too, because I got the chance to ride the back of a pick up truck up and down the hilly road of Palo Verde, all while it was raining. It wasn’t fun because after that my jacket was wet and damp, so instead of making me feel warm, it kinda made me feel cold.
After teaching the kids (at the school) we headed back to the homes and said our goodbyes. The family thanked us for helping build the latrines for them, and we also thanked them for welcoming us with open hands into their lives. To be honest, I got a bit teary during this part. You could really see how much it meant to them, and to think that we’ve helped improve someone’s life is a great feeling. It made me wanna do this more often.
After we got back, we had dinner and then a reflection of the things that have happened that week. We shared things about what we loved the most during the week, said thanks to the coordinator, translators and the other staff. It’s pretty amazing how much you get to learn about other people when you spend a whole week with them. We had a great group of students, and the staff were just amazing. They were all really friendly, fun and cool. I found out some time during the week that Nino (the coordinator) is actually still 21. Can you believe that? And he’s been working for Global Brigades for about 3 years, which means that he’s been working for Global Brigades since he was 18. I’m 18 and I really don’t think I could’ve coordinated a whole week of Global Brigades. Just, wow! Regina is super friendly and fun. Julio’s really fun and nice too. I left my coat in the pick-up truck the day we arrived and only remembered about it the day we were about to leave. I asked around and nobody knew about it except for Julio, and if it weren’t for him, I would’ve had to endure the freezing cold weather in New England without a coat. That would’ve sucked ass. David, or should I say, Princesa David, is a super duper sassy man. The security staff, Oman and Alex are both ridiculously funny men, you won’t even believe it. During the reflections, we spent probably fifteen minutes talking about Alex’s special way of giving people the middle finger, and we laughed so hard. The drivers, Mario and Leo are incredibly nice too. Leo was the one who drove the bus, and oh my God, he is so good at it. We had to drive through narrow roads that went up and down and left and right, and if he weren’t such a good driver we could’ve easily fell off a cliff. If I remember correctly, Mary said that she trusts Leo with her life, and I would’ve said the same thing. Leo actually teared up a bit after she said that.
Later that night, we had a ‘fiesta’. Basically, it was a party at the nearby bar. A lot of people got drunk, we played card games, and we also got some cake. The previous nights I had always gone to bed by 10.30 since I was super duper tired, and I knew that I had to wake up early the day after. However, I made an exception for that day because it was the last night, and you gotta live while you’re young and stuff, ya know? We played some games in the lounge and I ended up going to bed at around 2am, even though we had to leave at 8am the next day. It was worth it.
To sum things up, it was an amazing trip and I would encourage you to participate in similar trips if you have the opportunity to do so. If you happen to be a college student, see if your school has a Global Brigades chapter, and if not, set one up! For more information, visit the Global Brigades website: http://www.globalbrigades.org/
On another note, here are several things I’ve learned about Honduras:
- The people in the communities were very humble.
- Football is a really big thing in Honduras. I recently found out that Honduras is actually in the coming 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Hondurans considered it such a big deal that after they found out they qualified for the World Cup, the president declared the next day a national holiday. Also, I bought a Honduran jersey and wore it on one of the days, and I remember getting a lot of compliments from Hondurans.
- Barcelona FC is probably one of the most well known and most loved football clubs in the whole world. I talked to several of the Honduran staff about football, and when I asked them what their favorite club was, a lot answered Barcelona FC. Sergio, one of the translators, actually said, “Not to be cliché, but I also really like Barcelona.” I also saw a lot of people wearing Barcelona gears (jerseys, jackets and whatnot) and on the way to Palo Verde, I saw a gigantic Barcelona mural. Wow.
- Santos and Maria are really popular names in Honduras. If I remember correctly, the community leader’s name was Santos, and the fathers in houses 1, 3 and 4 had Santos in their name too. I guess if you called the name ‘Santos’ out loud you’d have four people turn towards you.
Here are some photos of the final product!