For awhile last year, I was posting a look back at past travels every Wednesday. Life got in the way and I stopped doing it, but I figured I’d start back up again. Today’s post is from my trip to Honduras in the spring of 2007. You can find the rest of my travel posts here.
In 2007, I made my first (and as of now, my only) foray to Central America, heading on an Alternative Spring Break trip to Honduras. I went with a small group of Michigan students – undergrads and grads alike – to Orocuina, a small town in the south of the country where we spent about a week renovating a school.
The trip was an amazing experience for me, but it’s also one that I’ve become a bit conflicted about as I look back on it. The truth is, in some ways, spring break service trips almost seem “trendy” among college students, and I’ve become a bit leery of the whole “privileged group of white kids goes to help disadvantaged locals” idea. While I know the group I traveled with was made up of well-meaning, compassionate folks, I’m not naive enough to think we changed any lives or altered the course of that school in a permanent way. We did a lot of good work, but ultimately, we were there for only a week, which isn’t nearly enough time to make a big impact. Moreover, I’m certain that I got much more out of the trip than I gave – and to claim otherwise would be disingenuous.
And what exactly was it that I got from the trip? I got to experience a country I had never been to before. I got to meet a lot of warm, welcoming Hondurans who – graciously – only chuckled a bit when I attempted to speak my rusty Spanish with them. I got to try new foods (all our dinners, though simple, were handmade by our local host). I got to make friends with some awesome people from Michigan, a few of whom I still keep in touch with. I got sunburned – frequently. I got to teach a group of Honduran schoolchildren how to play “Red Rover.” I got paint splatters on literally every article of clothing I packed. And – cheesy though it may sound – I got a lot of wonderful memories. Here are snapshots of just a few –
First up, leaving for my trip at DTW. Two things strike me about this photo: 1) I was running on about two hours of sleep, and it was 5am, and yet I look surprisingly upbeat and 2) I over-packed by about a mile:
Proof that, from the early days of my travels, I was obsessed with flower photos:
Our lunch on the first day? An entire fish, head and all. I was cool with this set up, but one of my friends was a vegetarian and the look on her face when the plate was set in front of her? Priceless.
A peek at our swanky digs for the week (I still use that Nalgene bottle on the regular):
One of my favorite memories of the trip was this – an afternoon where the girls from our group and the mothers from the town got together and just chatted for awhile. We didn’t talk about anything in particular, but we just listened to their stories about their day-to-day lives and experiences. It was fascinating:
This photo sums up our week in a nutshell – painting and moving bricks:
One evening, we all got a craving for ice cream which, in a small and remote town, isn’t easy to come by. We literally wandered the streets, asking baffled locals for helado, and finally we found it! The ice cream came from a rather sketchy looking establishment and we made a lot of “we might get food poisoning” jokes but…I’m happy to report we survived unscathed:
One afternoon, we finished our work early and took a drive to the nearby countryside, stopping to hike and swim for a bit:
Our living quarters weren’t fancy, and all week, we washed ourselves with water from a gigantic drum. The “shower” area wasn’t well-lit, so it took me a few days to notice the label on our water supply:
(Note: It’s six years later and there have been no noticeable effects from washing myself out of a bin that possibly housed chemicals, so…no harm done?)
Everywhere we went all week, we were followed by mobs of kids. They were so friendly and got very excited whenever our cameras came out – and, inevitably, after the photo was taken, they’d all crowd around the camera and admire the shots of themselves. They were delightful:
And that was my trip to Honduras. One thing about my time there? I barely scratched the surface. While I can’t honestly say it’s high atop my travel priority list, given all the other places I’ve yet to visit, I know there’s much more to discover in Honduras. Maybe someday…