As you can imagine, my emotions have been running amuck (Honestly is that really a word?…I guess it must be…I see no squiggly red line underneath it screaming at me to change it…Who decided those letters make sense together? Who is this Webster guy? Must have been Britannica…with a name like that… haha, just kidding, B-man…) since my grandfather passed, since I saw my parents after eight months of being separated, and since I returned to Gracias with luckily only one of my buses breaking down on the trip back...at dusk. (Those of you that saw my COWPRINT luggage before I left can imagine the pain in my chest as I stood next to the highway calling every PCV and Honduran I know in the West for a ride before it got dark.) Hello, Honduras…
The trip home to the states was (*thankfully*) uneventful from the bus ride out to San Pedro to the flight transfer in Miami. The culture shock hit me when I got into the airport in Miami. All signs and announcements turned into English, I could (successfully) flush my toilet paper down the toilet…and I spotted a sign for a Sam Adams brewery seconds after debarking from the plane. Now I know that may seem cheap to some, but it brought a huge smile to my face! Although I never actually found the brewery (trust me…I looked), my smile continued through the immigration line as the immigration officer flirted with me and I wasn’t offended, as I ran into countless Starbuck stands not minding the overabundance of coffee options, and as I sat and watched an American baseball game while consuming a grilled shrimp, mixed leaf, balsamic vinaigrette salad. (The PCVs get me on this.)
My time in LA was absolutely precious as I was able to be with immediate and extended family for my grandfather’s services as well as spend time at my grandparents’ house, visit several friends from college and from the city I adore, and spend quality time with the Broham frequenting the old spots together. The drive back and time in Roseville were also fabulous. I got to run some *very* looked forward to errands and spend quality time with the mom, hang out with the crew at one of my fav restaurant (BJ’s) and cause some old-school (no one got hurt) ruckus, and sleep in my tiny, twin bed that I have missed since the day I left it (with my blanky…not ashamed to admit it). After the home time came the soul time: a trip to Sea Ranch. Although short, the trip allowed me to visit my heaven/haven in 2009, spend quality time with the dad, run without ruthless shouts or dogs attacking me, and consume as much food and beverage that I possibly could in three days before heading back to Honduras. The trip, though less than two weeks, really brought to light some strong realizations and a big question that I don’t think that I have properly addressed yet. (This is about to get real.)
The first realization that I had while I was at home was how poorly I was unable to answer the question of “What are you doing in Honduras?” or “Do you like it?” Although better answers came with time, most of my responses seemed to always come to the conclusion that “I am trying” but don’t seem to be achieving my desired results in the midst of my struggle. I never had a “yes” or “no” answer to if I actually liked where I was at as a PCV but mostly responded with “It’s a lot harder than I thought/than it needs to be.”
I went into the Peace Corps, like most volunteers, assuming that the next two years of my life would be dedicated to living the daily life, adapting to the culture, and appreciating the value system of a country in need of the transfer of my intellectual capacities and professional skills. After three months of training, living with three Honduran host families, experiencing a 7.+ earthquake, and most notably living through a coup, I made the decision that I am here doing what I came here to do – engaging in sustainable development projects and participating in cross-cultural exchanges – to the best of my abilities for as long as warranted, two years or not. I have encountered many volunteers that want to “stick it out” (complete two full years of service) for fear of returning to a weakened U.S. economy without job opportunities or health insurance, of facing the potential disapproving or disappointed commentaries from family and friends, and/or of not knowing what their next career move would be if they left the PC. Others continue in their service because they enjoy the free time, the travel opportunities, and/or the friendships that they are developing with other volunteers. There are also others that are accomplishing both PC and personal goals by creating sustainable opportunities for their communities, making local and life-long friendships, and/or truly flourishing as an individual in a foreign land. I think I can fit into each one of those categories in some respect, thus exposing the reason for my discontentment.
In the first category, I exemplify she who has no idea what her next career move would be upon departure from Honduras and return to the states. I had hoped that my volunteer experience and cultural insights here would open my mind and heart to where my future is leading me. Well, I can’t honestly say that it has, but I can assuredly, without a doubt, say that my professional and personal goals continue to be service focused and volunteer driven. (I have always had the dream of working half the week in a “normal” job earning money to give my future children all the opportunities that my parents afforded me and volunteering the other half of the week for services ranging from environmental management to nutrition education to suicide prevention to tutoring. Anyone have any ideas how to combine all those?) In the second category, I am so very thankful for the friendships that I am continuing to develop with other volunteers both inside and outside of my training group. I have met individuals that possess the courage to live outside their national and personal borders with the dedication to improve the overall health of humanity. That may sound a bit extreme and/or far-fetched and probably does not apply to all volunteers, but it does to some. In the third category, I (again) would have to choose the last factor: I am doing my best to improve my personhood (with reading everything that I can get my hands on, practicing yoga regularly, and praying on the daily), my understanding and appreciation of diversity (by engaging in discussion with Honduran friends, coworkers, and strangers), and my clarity on where and in what capacity my skills would be best utilized (Honduras, PC, USA, NFP, etc.).
The second realization that I had came from an inquiry to my mother. (Like I said, this is the real deal.) I asked her if I had changed in some way since she last saw me. She hesitated before replying honestly (and I thank her for being honest) that I had become more cynical since the last time I saw her. (WHAT!? ¿¡CÓMO¡?) Ok, wait a tick. Last time I checked, I left the states the jolliest little lady from the Ville trying to bring a smile to any and all in my path with the intention to continue doing so in Honduras. (I did have a non-fan of my positive disposition and really tried to convert him…until I realized that you can’t mate a pessimist with an optimist. You only create indifference.) I don’t know what has caused my attitude to take a nose dive since I left. I mean, I have been through some trials and tribulations, but none that have left me grief stricken. (I scratched most of my skin off so the scabies would have no place to live. I fully enjoyed the earthquake dreaming that my bed was a boogie board riding the ocean waves. I could do no more than laugh as I received my five shots in the rear to completely shut down my E.Coli. I even thought for a moment that Honduras was so cool that it had to have two presidents instead of one!) Maybe it was caused by internal factors: my digestion isn’t always the best and my faith has been tested more than once. Maybe it was caused by external factors: there continues to be a lack of interest as focus here continues on survival and a return to normalcy can seem to only come, in my mind, from internal reform.
My third, final, and most important realization is probably something that I could have figured out before setting out on this journey, without the passing of Pops, and without a friend reminding me how short life really is: I am only at my best when I am surrounded in the company of my heroes. It’s true (and in no way corny). I feel that I am truly at my highest spirits, with a sharp wit and hungry mind, and striving to be the best daughter, sister, friend, and stranger when near those that I love. Maybe it’s my time away that is pulling me back home…Maybe it’s the recent passing and reality check on life’s certainty…Maybe it’s the simplest thing I never had to figure out: Home is where the heart is.
So these realizations beg the obvious question…I’m sure you have figured it out by now. I just don’t want to feel like I am a wasted resource here, not being taken advantage of to the fullest. I believe I have so much to give...I know the PC experience is generally comprised of a series of small project (or non-project) successes and unforgettable personal relationships…but I don’t know that I am realizing my full potential in either of those areas in Honduras. I don’t have an answer to the question of when I will be coming home, but it’s something that’s weighing on my mind a little more heavily than before, and I thought it was time to be honest about it.