Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lost In Translation...? Nope, Just Lost

I was fortunate enough to have studied abroad in Ecuador, which greatly helped me take the leap from being a good student in American Spanish classes, to actually being able to function in a society that speaks Spanish. Hooray, semi-bilingualism.

However, there are lots of things about understanding people that does not have to do with language itself. And so I find myself, here in Honduras, functionally fluent, but kind of lost. Not lost as in physically lost, but I think I assumed that since I had lived in Ecuador this would be no problem, culture shock would be minimized. (It certainly helps though.) Honduras and Ecuador definitely have strong similarities, but they are also very, very different.

No, going to another country where the official language is not your first language is just hard. Fortunately, I am not alone. For my first 10 days here, there is another volunteer named Wyatt, and we had the same flight from Atlanta to Tegucigalpa. For the remainder of the trip there will be four new volunteers, and I envy them already because (hopefully) by then I might understand the system here and can give them the insider info.

Anyway... I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the flight.
Not bad. It's like 3 and a half hours from ATL to Tegus, and even though I spent most of last night awakem lying in anxiety, I decided to watch Monte Carlo on the plane. Actually, the two girls on either side of me (a high school junior and college freshman) did the same. Adorable. Early on, the girl to my right, who was Honduran and goes to college in the US, informed me that the landing strip at the Tegucigalpa airport is the second most dangerous airport in the world. Don't believe me? The History Channel's program Most Extreme Airports says so. (Yeah, that is a real thing.) The tarmac is like really, really short, so apparently it's very expensive to fly into Tegus because only the best pilots can do it. She crossed herself dramatically before we landed, and I was legitimately scared. It was a little rough, but fine. I'm sure I was just as scared when I flew Ryanair, but I have blocked the memory. Wyatt and I both reported heartening conversations with our Honduran seat mates about safety.

Once Wyatt and I got out of customs we made our way into the crowd of families, looking for the guy from the clinic who was sent to pick us up. Almost immediately a man grabbed Wyatt's suitcase, told us to follow him, and pulled it along. We were both kind of confused... and thought that this might be the guy who was supposed to pick us up... but soon it became very clear that he was just a hustler, who would answer every one of our questions with another one. "Oh, taxi? I can get you one. Okay, no, we can go here if you want to change your money! I will show you! You have someone coming for you? I call him." Miraculously, Javier, the actual guy we were looking for, was standing in front of us, and after Javier played around with this fool, he must have said something threatening to him because the hustler just went away and apologized to us. Welcome to Central America.


Javier told us a little and got us set up at our hotel (across the street from the clinic), and then he left. ... Okay. Wyatt and I were a little confused. Okay a lot confused. Basically the only thing we were told about our clinic work is that we need to be there tomorrow at 6:30am. The rest of today... well... who really knew? Lourdes, who works at the hotel, has been very helpful thus far about giving directions and helpful safety tips.
Side note, a conversation between Lourdes and me:
Lourdes: Me llamo Lourdes si usted me necesita.
Me: Lourdes?
Lourdes: Si, Lourdes.
Me: Como la hija de Madonna?
Lourdes: Sí, somos la misma.
Jaja! Lourdes is funny.

Anyway, Wyatt and I borrowed a Honduran tour guide book (which is hilarious, it offers helpful information about which museums are falling apart, which parks are filled with gang activities, etc. with a very simple "not worth visiting" at the end.) and we've been trying to figure out places to visit. Harder than one would assume! Google maps does not actually display a lot in Tegus, and even our understanding of our location in relation to the rest of Tegus is shaky at best. Taxis will know, but I like to have a visual. Thankfully, we're both good sports and have spent the past 12 hours that we have known each other laughing about how confused we are. Tomorrow we're working in the clinic, so perhaps we will get a more concrete run down of what's going on. I brought some of the prep materials with me, and in relation to all the questions I have NOW that I am here, they're kind of vague. Well, that's what working in a developing country is like! Lots of unexpected things, and lots of things you're kind of lost on.

Hasta luego!

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