This is my first time spending an extended period of time in a developing country, and I’d be lying if I said that life isn’t that different. There have been a lot of changes to adjust to, yet despite some of the challenges, it’s been well worth it for the amazing experience, the people I’ve met, and the many things I’ve learned already. We were picked up at the San Pedro Sula airport by Jeremy Miller, UMF’s Director of Honduran Operations, and Albin, our head of security, a Honduran man who we soon learned was both incredibly tough and very kind. During our three hour drive to La Unión, careening across lanes and maneuvering the hilly, potholed dirt roads with ease, he showed us pictures of his three children, the pride and love evident in his voice.
Though the roads became worse the further we drove, the scenery and mountain views became more and more spectacular. In town the roads are all dirt (and, after a rain storm, all mud) and filled with holes and rocks. Walking down the street is always a challenge to find the least muddy route and to avoid the dogs, chickens, horses, motorcycles, trucks, and other passerby that are always traveling every which way. The houses are small and pretty, painted in bright shades of pink, yellow, and aqua. There are lots of flowering trees, and, of course, the constant views of the beautiful verdant mountains surrounding the village.
I quickly learned to consider it a luxury rather than a fact of life to have both water and electricity at any given time. During my first week, there was one night when the water ran out mid-shower, and then the next night the power went out, leaving the shower pitch black. We learned to judge the usability of the water by whether washing with it would leave us cleaner or dirtier than we were before bathing. Cold showers are perfectly acceptable here, the question being whether our temperature choice would be icy, cold, cool, or, once in a while, lukewarm.
Food too is always an adventure. At the airport I had my first baleada, a classic Honduran meal consisting of a tortilla filled with a combination of eggs, beans, cheese, avocado, and mantequilla (a mayonnaise-like sauce). It was really tasty, though baleadas were much less exciting when they became the standard daily lunch. At our local comedor (a small eatery), I eat a baleada for 10 lempira, the equivalent of a 50 cent lunch. Liquados are among my favorite food finds. Similar to the consistency of a frappacino, liquados are blended drinks made with ice, fresh milk, and whatever fruit is available, pineapple and watermelon are common at the present. I love being able to buy peeled and halved oranges at the fruit stand on the corner, and it’s become a part of my daily routine.
Like anywhere, some people are more friendly than others, but, overall, the people we have met have greeted us with smiles and generous hospitality. Walking down the street we always greet the people we pass with a “hola,” “buenas,” or “adios.” Interestingly, I learned that “adios” can be used as a greeting for both hello and goodbye. Honduran children will often greet us with giggles and a series of “bye byes,” using the literal English translation. On our weekend trip to Gracias, a city about three hours south of La Unión and four times the size, I noticed that there were far fewer friendly greetings exchanged. The other interns and I appreciated the friendliness of our small town even more after comparing it to the “big city.”
There have been many changes to adjust to living in La Unión, but as we enter our third week here, I feel comfortable and at ease. Ben, Lennie, Dillon and I keep busy researching and assisting the Unión MicroFinanza staff and have enjoyed exploring the town, chatting with locals, and playing cards together in our free time. These first couple weeks have been great, and I am eager to learn more, continue to absorb the culture, and maximize the experience.Written by Natalie Clark
|Standing on a rooftop in Gracias|
Photo by Lennie Zhu