When I hit the point where I thought I could take no more, the twelve weeks of never-ending technical training and Spanish classes have finally come and gone and I am now officially a Peace Corps volunteer! After an awkward day of meeting my counterpart for the first time and forgetting all my Spanish upon being introduced and having 5 LONG hours of classes with my counterpart after being sworn in as a volunteer at the American Embassy, I found myself frantically searching for my fellow volunteers to get a final hug and dish out words of encouragement before entering the next stage of my voyage. With tears in my eyes and thoughts of terror in my mind, I dutifully packed my bags and prepared myself for the lonesome trip I would be taking to my site in the morning. Heading out to what is known as the Wild Wild West of Honduras, I took one last eventful ride in the Peace Corps vehicles –whipping around the mountainous roads, holding onto the other volunteers and praying that none of my bags would be sacrificed from the tops of the vans and into the abyss below. Upon arriving in Tegucigalpa, my poor counterpart was forced to help me lug all my crap to the bus station heading for Olancho. Thank you PC for giving us so many books and manuals – I arrived in country with three bags and now somehow have eight bags due to all of the materials I have received while in country.
Shortly after noon I arrived in my site to be slapped back into reality that yes I am in Honduras and yes I am in the Peace Corps. As I patiently waited for my third and final host family to find the key to my room I began chatting it up with several high school students who also rent rooms from my family. After about 30 minutes my little host brother somehow managed to open up my door sin llaves and I got a glimpse of my glorious room. Stark empty except for a rickety old bench and the dried blood stains from all the mosquitoes killed on the walls I begin laughing to myself thinking this must be a mistake. I can’t remember how many times PC staff reminded us that we volunteers are spoiled by our families in field based training and it’s not the reality once we get to site. But come on, I didn’t expect to be sleeping on the floor with the creepy crawlies. I don’t even have a sleeping bag. After about an hour and realizing that yes this is indeed my room I decided to be the rude American and ask my host mother if I would be getting a bed. She politely informed me that it would cost an extra 100 lemps so I politely informed her that I would have to check with Peace Corps since they approve our housing allowances. Then after another ridiculously polite conversation with Peace Corps things seemed to be straightened out and a bed was placed in my room!
Other than a few very awkward days, I am happy with my site. It is located in a picturesque part of the country – in many ways it reminds me of the Appalachians. I am surrounded by beautifully lush green mountains and live in a quaint little town that has plenty to offer including two hotels. That’s right, you all can come visit me any time you like; for a few American dollars you too can experience my life as a volunteer! I know all of you are jumping out of your seats to come experience the ice cold bucket showers, raw meat being dried on the same lines as your clothes, and hours spent hand washing your clothes only to spend days drying on the clothes line because of the torrential down pours of rain that occur every few hours. I expect only the true adventure seekers to trek it down south to my parts of the woods. For those of you who can do without the commodities listed above, I do live only a few hours from the beautiful beaches of Trujillo and the North Coast. I can always meet you up there – just not in the next three months as we new volunteers are not allowed to stay out of our sites overnight until August 15.
Until then I’m sticking it out and getting along just fine down here. Hope you all are doing the same!
As I’ve done in my other posts here is a list of my oh-so-awkward yet still amusing experiences:
· I most recently saw my male landlord sitting on the toilet as I walked into the courtyard of our house. And yes, we made eye contact as he slowly closed the door to the bathroom and I embarrassingly stared at the ground.
· After waking up one morning all groggy and blurry eyed I almost ran smack dab into a piece of raw meat hanging on the clothes line as I was walking to the bathroom. Talk about a health risk!
· It took me 5 days to have a bowel movement upon moving to my new site; and in case you hadn’t noticed, among us volunteers talking about our bowel movements is as common as talking about how are days went.
· At the house where I go to eat, I was lucky enough to watch a mouse scale down the wall, which occurred again around the same time the following day. I never new mice could crawl on walls.
· Again at my place of eating, I watched a large and very alive chicken jump on the kitchen counter and eat leftovers off of the plates in the sink.
· During the hottest part of the day, the lock on my door broke and I was temporarily locked in my room while my sister climbed in through the window only to discover that yes I indeed was stuck and she too was unable to open the door. Eventually another girl was able to unlock it from the outside.
· After asking an old lady how much a skirt cost that was hanging up she told me I was too fat and that it would not fit me. All I could do was shake my head at her poor business strategies and yet she was still surprised when I walked out empty handed.
· Almost every day I meet someone new I get the same questions of: Do you have kids? Are you married? Are you divorced? What religion are you? Have you visited a church here yet? Blah blah blah…