10 months ago I signed up for the International Extension program that Stonehill offers to graduating seniors. I spent my spring break volunteering in Guaimaca, Honduras, and I simply fell in love with the town. From the first day of my spring break I debated whether or not I should apply for the program, and spent the rest of the week talking to the sisters and other long-term volunteers about my decision. When I returned to Stonehill, I quickly applied, knowing that if I waited any longer I would change my mind.
After I was accepted, I played the waiting game for 10 months. I spent that time working at an amazing biotech company, hanging out with family/friends, trying to learn Spanish, and shadowing my aunt’s 8th grade classes. And then, finally, January 9th came along. It was a day I had waited so long for, it was hard to believe it was finally here. So I packed my bags (very last minute), tearfully said bye to my parents, and moved into Stonehill for a week long orientation with the other two volunteers, Matt and Alex. We shared the orientation with the 5 volunteers traveling to India for a year of service. After an incredible week together, it was finally time to leave every ounce of comfort we had (at least for me) and move to a new country.
Stepping off the plane into Honduras was absolutely incredible. It was warm, sunny, and I just felt so happy. We met up with Sister Marta, had some lunch, drove out of Tegucigalpa, and finally arrived in Guaimaca. But as the day went on, I felt less and less happy to be there. Reality gave me hard slap in the face when I had my first conversation in Spanish and realized how little I knew. I panicked for the rest of night, and debated whether or not I could do this for a year.
As it turns out, 48 hours with very little sleep kinda makes you a bit stressed, and once I collapsed into bed for a solid 10 hours of rest, I felt 100% better. Saturday and Sunday were days we spent getting acquainted with the town, and with our neighbors. This is Matt’s second year in Guaimaca, so he has been an incredible help in settling into our new lives. As far as my Spanish goes, Alex and Matt have been pushing me to try speaking Spanish as much as I can (they are both fluent). Today, we met some parents and some girls of the Marie Poussepin Center (the school we will be teaching at). Of course I was super shy, but Matt told me just go up to someone and introduce myself. I said I would in a little bit, but he decided to help me out and introduce me to one of the girls. I thought I understood what he was saying to her, but suddenly he looked at me and said, “Ok, so I told her you’re going to follow her around and practice your Spanish on her and her friends.” I couldn’t think of a fast enough way to back out of it, so I followed her and asked the only 2 questions I was comfortable with, “Como se llama?” and “Cuantos anos tienen?” Fortunately, Diana, Julissa, Roxanna and Jessica (the girls I met as a result of Matt’s help) were perfectly fine with those 2 questions, and we had a small conversation.
Matt and Alex both say that I can ask them for help with Spanish, but Alex does this thing where I’ll ask him if I said something right, and he says no, only to repeat the exact same thing I just said. For example, this was a conversation we had today,
Me: Does “Quien es el?” mean, “Who is he?”
Alex: No, it’s “Quien es?”
Me: Ok, so “Quien es?”
Alex: No, you need "el" at the end so it’s “Quien es el?”
All in all, living in Guaimaca has been an incredible experience, and I’ve only been here for 3 days! Alex and Matt are wonderful to live with, the town is beautiful, and our neighbors have been really friendly. The first day I met the little girls who live next door, I received 2 bracelets from them as a "welcome" present, despite how little they have. Isn't it amazing how I have to travel thousands of miles to learn what solidarity means when these little girls are already living it?