I thought I would share a few general facts about Honduras with you:
- The city we fly into has the highest murder rate in the world.
- The median age in Honduras is 20.7.
- I am older than that.
- They speak Spanish.
- They had a military coup d’etat in 2009.
I wouldn’t have known any of this if I didn’t look it up (with the exception of the coup d’etat because I was there). You probably wouldn’t know any of the facts either. I have learned that you can’t define a destination by its statistics. SO in spite of the above, I rejoined my church’s medical mission team as a translator and two weeks later we were somewhere in the stratosphere between Atlanta and Honduras.
I had been twice before in 2009 and 2010 to work with children. This was quite fitting since at that time my Spanish was about the equivalent of a native third grader. After graduating with a BA in Spanish in 2013, the team felt quite confident that I would be a master translator of the tangled tongue of the Honduran natives and Lencan indigenous population. Knowing that I had absolutely no background in Medical Spanish, I was not so confident. The wise and benevolent yet unfortunately clumsy translator that I was replacing on this trip knowingly pass on a list of 283 phrases that may or may not have come in handy.
After one day of blubbering through the translation process, I had learned Spanish words that I had never heard in a classroom that I would use daily for the rest of the trip. For example,
the stomach = el estomago = la panza = la barriga
the lower neck =la nuca
euphemism for genitalia = la parte
euphemism to refer to a universal female problem = la regla (the gift)
…and so the list continues.
Any native Spanish speaker may recognize the vocabulary above, but la gringa coming straight from the formal classroom setting was clueless. By the second day all of the symptoms, diagnosis, and prescriptions had become so routine that I could have diagnosed and medicated without translating…but don’t worry, I didn’t.
The surgeon and I had a few out of routine patients that included two serious machete wounds and one certain “bug” bite that had swollen to a size that it had to be surgically removed and analyzed. That’s when I realized that medical translation is definitely not my call in life…
…Neither is dental work. I don’t think the kids looking through the bars in the background could handle it for much longer either. In the remote villages that we visited, it seemed that no one knew what a toothbrush was let alone how to use it. The majority of the work our team did involved pulling teeth. We worked with a Honduran dentist named Dr. Paz and had you seen the size of her forearm you might be able to understand better the workload facing local dentists. Many days the dental work took longer than the rest of the clinic work, so I had time to do what I enjoy the most!
These boys were a few of the “students” I took on for a late afternoon English lesson. Now, in a small village in the southwest corner of Honduras, there is a group of kids sharing a “high five!” (or possibly high ten, eight, four, etc.) and playing a hand game that goes “Up high. Down low. Too slow!” Then there was Sarita – the little sour patch kid that I became quite fond of and whose goodbye hug proved that the feeling was mutual.
Travel also teaches you different ways to celebrate! We got to celebrate two birthdays: one for an American (Bear/Oso) and the other for a Honduran (Paz). Fun fact: The Hondurans that I know prefer fruit flavors for birthday cakes, while Americans tend to have vanilla or chocolate flavored cakes. We also happened to celebrate at a Cantonese restaurant that specializes in ….pizza.
We all know that travel and service can change you for the better, and surely all have heard about the once-in-a-lifetime experience they provide; but, I have been on the annual medical mission to Honduras three times, and they were all different. I learned more about the culture, education, religion, and spirituality of Honduras this time than the other two combined. Travel best serves a person when they first open their eyes, observe their surroundings, ask questions (even better if you ask them in the native tongue), and really listen to what the people say (and sometimes don’t say!). Work with the people that surround you to enhance, expand, and better understand the world that surrounds you. Above all, as John Wesley and our mission leader have said many times, do no harm!
Take a look at the rest of the pictures. My favorite is the one of the woman carrying the load of branches and waving a machete. It was a bit of a paradox because she was actually just waving ‘hello.’ I also love the tejas tiles on the roofs of the Honduran homes and stores that you can see in a couple of pictures. Notice one is level with the clouds! Honduras is filled with peaks and valleys providing fantastic views of its below sea-level geography and vice versa. The people also make use of the mountains as their banana/coffee fields and pastures, while growing rice and other products in the flatland as one picture shows.
If you enjoy the pictures below, let me know which is your favorite and/or share it with friends. If you have been to Honduras and published a blog or pictures about your trip, I’d love to see them. Just leave a comment for me at the end!