In getting ready for my volunteer work in Honduras, here's a reflection on what it's like to be a person in America about to travel to one of our southern neighbors.
1. No one ever knows where you are going. This is because no one knows what is in Latin America and where those unknown countries are. If it's not Brazil or Mexico... no one knows. They will never remember the name of the country you are traveling to. Sometimes this is hilarious.
Friend: So... when are you leaving for Hon...aragua?
Friend 2: How long are you going to be in Guatemala?
Friend 2: Venezu-...eru? ...Er...Where are you going?
2. Everyone who has never been to Latin America has advice for you. A stranger recently told me to "don't trust anybody" while I was in Honduras. Kay, thanks for the advice, man. Granted, he was a stranger who I had agreed to drive me home. That sounds weird, but in reality it was totally fine. I had just received a box of 600 reading glasses. Know how much that weighs? 45 pounds. That's heavy. I lived 6 blocks away from where I got this box. Conundrum. So fortunately this man saw me struggling, and offered me a ride. He had a Temple polo shirt on, which means he's some kind of employee (or super nerd) and was carrying an ROTC uniform. So, it wasn't like this person was completely random. His car was in the employee parking lot as well. This ride was extremely appreciated.
This box is SO HEAVY! Can't wait to transport all these glasses to another country!
3. Everyone thinks Latin food is spicy. This is incorrect. Mexican food is spicy, and Mexican food is not eaten in every Central/South American country. In fact, when I was in Ecuador, many Ecuadorians thought I was nuts if I said I liked Mexican food because they think it is ridiculously spicy. Also there's just not a lot of mainstream South and Central American restaurants, except for a few high-end places in cities or if you want to venture into densely-populated Latino neighborhoods (which is something I want to do all the time). Then again, most people understand Mexican food to be Qdoba or Chipotle, and that makes me want to give up on life.
Ecuadorian plantain ball soup. Not spicy.
4. Everyone seems to think that you are going into this den of danger. Sure, okay, safety concerns might be elevated. Fine. However, it's not like I'm going to Iraq, I'm not in a war zone, and I don't want to remain cloistered in "American safety" my entire life. Remember: our police beat up innocent people too. In any case, I am concerned with my personal safety, but these kinds of conversations are usually just too funny.
(a year and a half ago)
Dad: So... Ecuador is a state in Colombia?...
(a couple months ago)
Dad: So the Sandinistas were in Honduras...?
Me: That was Nicaragua!
Dad: And what is Honduras' relationship to Nicaragua?
Me: Well, they're next to each other but Dad, Ecuador bordered Colombia, and I went there.
Dad: Don't say that. Just because you went to another dangerous place--
Me: Dad, I live in North Philadelphia, it's like one of the more dangerous areas in the US.
Dad: Stop saying that.
It's hyperspeed time! In one month I will be on my way to the airport! If you would like to involve yourself in my volunteer experience, you can donate to Unite For Sight! Every donation goes toward sight-restoring surgeries. To put things in perspective, $50 is the average cost of a surgery for cataracts, and that's like 5 weeks worth of getting coffee at Starbucks. So even $10 makes a difference. Think about it.