Beautiful moments as I take my leave of Honduras. Until next time…
As I think on what I want to take away with me, what lessons I hope to implement in my life as a result of my stay, I think much on need and waste.
I am so impressed by the amount of reuse here. There are no recycling plants within a thousand miles, indeed people do not even know that word , but waste is an abomination. When you are poor, you are loath to waste any of the little you have. When you don’t know how big your next meal will be (if it comes at all) you care about every grain of rice. Along with the wonderful boon of solar energy here (during the day the entire hospital and the surrounding buildings are run completely off solar power, the generator is run only for a couple hours at night to charge the batteries), there are many examples of conservation and reuse. Small soda bottles are washed out and used to dispense liquid medications in the pharmacy. Pages from magazines and newspapers are folded into tiny envelopes to carry pills and other small items. The large three liter (soda bottles here are 3, not 2 liter like in the States) plastic bottles are frequently used to tote water up from the river to the house.
Water is of particular importance since it is so much work to procure. Another frequent usage is to pack the bottles full of nanche berries and fill with water – providing the family with an easily transportable food source that will not spoil for several weeks.
The nurses reuse the outer packaging that IV bags come in to send hold the cytology slides. The rubber bands you see in the picture are actually the wrist of a surgical glove that’s been torn out. At times the hospital has run low on gloves, and they have to wash them out and hang them up to dry. From an infection control standpoint many people would cringe, but is it not better to have a reused glove than none at all? It is an amusing sight to see a “glove tree” with many plastic hands flapping in the air as they dry.
Everywhere you go there are products being reused, and new uses found for them. Ziplock bags are washed and dried instead of being thrown out. I remember my mother (who grew up here) doing this when I was a child, and being confused that she wouldn’t just get a new ziplock from the box? Now I understand where she came from, and the wisdom of avoiding waste.
So now I return to my country of good and plenty, where I can have all the ziplock bags that I ever could want, and what will I do? I remember a conversation about economy with my dear friend Wendy, wherein she remarked on the simple idea of using up your toiletries before buying new ones. Such a simple concept, but so often I impulse buy whenever I see a nice smelling lotion, or a new facial product, and end up with a huge backlog of makeups, toiletries, and random soaps building up in my bathroom. Or clothes? How many extra do I have that I never wear – yet keep buying new ones? Here in Ahuas I started washing my hair every third day this last month to stretch out the last little bit of shampoo until I could get out to La Ceiba and buy some. Then one of our visiting doctors left her shampoo behind and I can wash my hair everyday! Truly wonderful in this sweaty country, and a nice reminder that it is good to go without for a time, in order to truly appreciate something when you have it. I hope that I can find ways to limit waste in my life at home. I hope to reuse whenever possible, to avoid needless impulse buying, and to limit waste. I hope I wash my ziplock bags.
Today I flew over Honduras with a dead man. A very young man, just newly achieving to that status of manhood, and now never to live in manhood anymore. He died in his father’s arms just as I was saying to the pilot that you cannot but feel close to God when you are looking down on mountain tops. I turned to look behind me, and saw the father sorrowfully covering his son’s face with a sheet – for he breathed no more. He was coming home to die. His organs were failing, his body shutting down. When the latest of many doctors gave him only days to live his family flew out to bring him home. Home to La Moskitia, home to Ahuas. Home to die surrounded by loved ones instead of in a sterile hospital bed. Although he did not make it home, I think flying through the heavens, and embraced in his father’s arms was as good a way to die as any. His family was waiting at the airstrip. The wailing and lamentations crescendoed as we taxied into the hanger. They wrapped him in a white sheet and took the body home. They will keep vigil by his body tonight, and then the long procession to the burial.
It was chance that I was on the plane. I only thought to stop over in the capital and pick up some things I needed. I held the young man’s hand and looked into his yellowed eyes as they loaded him on the plane. I wondered how many days or weeks he might live. And then he was gone. Only months ago he was living his life as any young man might, and now he is dead.
I have not the words for all that I wish to convey. I am sobered by this remembrance that death can come unexpectedly, at any time, to those both young and old. If I were to die this very moment, what would be left undone? What wrongs have I done that I have not righted, what things have I left unsaid to my loved ones? Does my father know how much I respect him, how blessed I feel for all his wisdom and guidance in my life? Somehow it is easier to voice disagreements than thankfulness. Do my three remaining Grandparents know how much I love them? How thankful I am that they raised wonderful children, and have passed along such a wonderful legacy to me? It is so easy to get caught up in the cares and business of adult life and a hectic work schedule, and not reach out to make that contact. There are more thoughts, so many things, that pass through my mind. I am thankful that I was on that plane. Thankful for the reminder of things left unsaid in my life. And tonight I mourn with the family for a life that passed so quickly.
Last week Theo (Dr. Norvelle’s sister) and I made Tostones – fried plantain hors d’oeuvres! I first encountered this deliciously unhealthy food in Nicaragua last year. Several friends and I had an amazing whirlwind trip filled with photography, food, dancing, and the most amazing wedding I have ever attended. Along the way we decided that we liked Tostones enough to make them at home. They were a great success.
Theo showed me a new twist on the Nicaraguan recipe, and I can’t decide which I like better. I suppose I shall just have to present both!
Tostones, which here also go by the amusing name of “Caras del gatos” (Cats’ faces) are fried plantain (platano) – the thick cooking banana. They are delicious.
First take several plantains when they are not fully ripe and peel them. Cut them into chunks about the width of a finger joint and have them ready.
Heat a pan with oil deep enough to at least halfway submerge the slices of plantain. Wait until the oil is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles and skitters around the pan and then add the plantain. You can do it in batches if there are too many slices. Fry one side for a minute or two then flip over. You want to see a color change towards a golden brown, but you are not trying to cook everything through and through – just to evenly fry the outside. When both sides are fried remove the plantains from the oil.
The next step is to flatten the just fried-chunks into flat little pancakes. This usually works best if you place them between saran wrap or waxed paper and then use the bottom of a heavy cup or perhaps a small cutting board to mash them into little pancakes. Not too thin or they fall apart. I think this is where the name “Cat’s face” must come from because cats have those flat little noses, but that is supposition on my part.
Then this is where the recipes diverge. See (1.) for the delicious tostones de Nicaragua or (2.) for Tostones Honduranian.
- The now flattened plantain pancakes go back into the hot oil for frying session number two. Depending on how hot your oil is this can take varying amounts of time, but the point is to fry them homogeneously golden. Then take them out and drain them on paper towel while you slice squares of cheese. In Nicaragua we had the salty white cheese that is very close to feta, but I think these would be great with jack or cheddar as well. Then spike a toothpick down through the cheese and into the fried plantain and you have Tostones! This recipe is delicious because the cheese starts to melt a little and you have the contrast between the slightly melty cheese and the crunch giving way to softness in the center of the plantain.
- For option two you will need several cloves of garlic (or more if you really like garlic). Mash the garlic and combine in a bowl with half a cup to a cup of water and some splashes of oil. Maybe add a pinch of salt and pepper, and whatever other spices you desire. I am going to try rosemary when I get home. Then dunk the flattened plantains in the garlic water and make sure they are well coated in the mixture. Then return the garlicky pancakes to the oil and fry until they are a nice golden color on both sides. Remove from oil and pat dry with paper towels and serve! These are delicious all by themselves, but could be dressed up a bit with a dollop of cream cheese or sour cream and some chives and served as an hors d’oeuvres.
Basically what I’m trying to tell you is that cooking bananas are delicious!
Living in another culture can teach you many things. Along with the obvious benefit of learning to see the world through different eyes, of widening ones worldview, comes the unexpected side effect of seeing self differently as well.
I am not married. This is not something which I feel the need to change immediately (despite the constant harassment of well-meaning church ladies at home), although I would like to be married someday. In my North American culture I am not so old. Here, however, it is another matter altogether. It is not so much the marriage issue, although they do throw me pitying glances when I say I am single, but oh the sorrow and worry for me when I say that I have no children. Children are of tantamount importance. Here children are having children. I cannot count the teenage pregnancies I have seen, and mothers continue having children into the 30’s and past. Even if they are not “church married” couples here start very young. Children are the most important thing in the whole world, and you had better make sure you have some if you want to be cared for in your old age. There is no social service, no welfare program in the country that will care for you. Your only hope is to have many children as possible in the hopes that some will survive and care for you. Families are a huge network of support here – and a drain. I have seen the young teacher, or nurse, look at us despairingly when she hears that her mother needs an expensive medical treatment. This young professional, perhaps the only one in the family with a good job, is supporting mother and father, younger siblings (now that father is too old to work), and perhaps a childless aunt or two. You are nothing without family. When the horror of hearing that I am almost 30 and childless has passed, they pat me on the hand sweetly and tell me they will find me a nice Miskito man, not to worry.
If I was inclined to marry and stay here forever the offers have certainly not been lacking. One of the soccer boys, who is all of 18 or 19 years of age, has been quite persistent in his attention. He is quite unflappable, and determined to at least get my phone number, despite my constant argument that I am more than a decade his senior. When I asked him why on earth he even needed my phone number, since I am never far from the hospital, and always easy to find, he replied “sometimes I just want to hear your voice!” If nothing else he always makes me laugh, and is not offended by constant rejection. I plan on leaving my ipod with him en lieu of giving him a number or a date, and in gratitude for the frequent conversational Spanish and Miskito practice.
Body image is very different here as well. I am decidedly more plump (a nice way of saying I have gained over ten pounds) since I arrived here last year. When one of our nurses arrived home from Christmas vacation she greeted me saying, “oh wow you’re fat!” I was a bit taken aback, but managed to smile and agree. A month later, Dr. Ovelio too greeted me in report one morning saying, “Hannita, estas gordando!” Hannah, you’re getting so fat! I was momentarily offended, until I began to realize they were in fact complementing me! This culture views weight as an asset. One of our thin nurses was actually accosted by a large woman in the hospital hallway who told her if she didn’t gain some weight her husband was certain to leave her. By the time the third person complemented me on “how nice and fat my face was getting” (in Spanish of course) I had to laugh. It is a nice change to be seen as attractive with some extra baggage. I have yet to view my little Buddha belly with anything but chagrin, but perhaps it would be a good body image adjustment if I could. Of course all bodily images of beauty can be taken too far. Just like the sickly thin models are sadly unhealthy in North American culture, so the obese women here, while achieving the image of beauty in their culture, can still suffer from the side affects of this body image. Diabetes and high blood pressure are quite evident in this population (although there is a strange lack of heart disease – all the walking perhaps?), along with the multiple joint and gastrointestinal issues that come with obesity. Moderation in everything, as the immoderate Greeks always said.
The last realization that has been slowly growing in me as I watch the world flowing around me, is that I need not always be so in control of everything. Our nurses rarely arrive on time, and when I ask them if they know that their shift actually started at 7am, they smile and say “Yes!” When there is a rough day, and I ask how they are holding up the response is usually a “siempre en la lucha” or “Estoy aqui!” I am here indeed. Even if we are always in the struggle it is an important thing to remember to live in the present. So many times I am so stressed about planning out my future, and getting all the details filed in the right place, that I forget to live in the present. To experience the day for the lessons it will bring. To be thankful for the lessons on the hard days, and the joy on the beautiful days – when little children run up and hug you now healed from their femur fracture, when old ladies hobble over and hand you a bag of fresh coconuts and say thank you just for being here, when all the trees in the front yard are fulminant with vibrant orange and pink. It is good to learn from the past, and have some plan for the future, but right now I Am Here. Oh to stop trying to force my will on the day, and experience today!
Looking at the date today, and realizing I will leave Honduras in a little more than a month, makes me oh so aware of the beauty and joy here around me.
I love walking out my door to be greeted with the full bloom of tulip trees and hibiscus.
I walk into morning report and am greeted with a smile and a welcoming “Buenos dias, Lic.! All of the nurses here call me by my title “Licenciada,” but the students have taken to affectionately shortening it to “Lic.” It sounds like a cross between the word leek and lick. A funny sounding word in English to be sure, but there is something wonderfully “belonging” about having a nickname. I love it. When I first was given the responsibility of supervising the student nurses I viewed it as a chore. They were constantly making mistakes that I was ultimately responsible for, one of the doctors was unhappy about having students (and let me know about it in full detail), and whenever there were students on shift I had to be physically present checking into every detail. Yet, as I got to know each of them personally, it became a joy instead. They come here, every day of the week, working for a bare minimum government stipend (they are in their year of government social service before they can work as full graduate nurses) and happily put up with all the menial tasks that students are given. Several weeks ago we heard that the government may not pay them anything this year – that they will have been working A YEAR without any pay, and yet they still show up with smiles in place and work diligently. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I have had to work on my dislike of confronting people when there is discipline needed, and they have had to put up with a nurse manager who does not speak either of their languages very well, but I feel very privileged to have gotten to know all of them. When I see the smile and hear “Lic.!” called out in greeting I am grateful for all we have taught each other.
I have made so many dear friends here. This week was Lesvia’s birthday.
I was invited to her house for dinner and cake. This was my first Miskito birthday party. We sat on the porch of her stilt house and watched the sunset over the Moravian church. Her daughter (also named Lesvia, who was celebrating her birthday as well) had a friend come and set up a sound system.
What an interesting contrast sitting in a house with no plumbing, and watching the young man run a power line from the generator to his lovely sound setup. I was treated to a night of Miskito pop music, some Latin dance music, wonderful times of conversation and laughter, and delicious cake. Since coca cola is a huge part of the birthday tradition here (enough that a verse about it was added onto the birthday song) I found myself suddenly extremely talkative and ebullient at 9pm. One would think a daily habit of coffee drinking would diminish caffeine sensitivity over time, but in my case this just is not true.
I have made friends with all the boys on the youth soccer team. They are very amused that I enjoy playing soccer, and apparently the novelty of a gringa playing sports makes up for the fact that I am so very less talented then all of them. They frequently ask me to play when there is a pickup soccer game and laugh good naturedly with me when I fall over in the mud (yes, I am just that ungraceful, but my cleats were stolen back in November and the ground is very slippery!).
I was very happy to see one of these boys, Nehmias, at Lesvia’s party, since he was good enough to sit by me and chat in Spanish while many of the older generation were speaking only in Miskito. He was also sweet enough to walk me home, since it was well after dark. When we passed by several young men that reeked of alcohol and made suggestive comments I was quite glad that that I was not walking solo.
During the Saturday soccer match whichever boys are not playing are happy to keep up a running commentary in Spanish and Miskito. I am afraid my Spanish learning has plateaued at a not-quite-fluent-yet level, but the my Miskito vocabulary increases everyday!
One of the best things that happened this week was fairly mundane for everyone else, but was a great victory for me! The floor is fixed!
Selen, one of the hospital’s handimen, took pity on me (or perhaps he too sensed the malingering evil of these floor tiles) and gathered the necessary materials. No longer shall the fear of ballistic feces-infused scum water threaten my day.
There is so much joy to be had in every day if you just go looking for it!
Life is good.
This blog is the first I will write directly asking for your help with something. I am writing a plea on the behalf of the youth soccer league of Ahuas. Every Saturday these young men play their hearts out on the futbol field – many of them barefoot amidst the mud and cow pies. I know there were always old cleats hanging around my house when I was growing up with three brothers. I am writing to ask for beg for old cleats. Please just take a moment to look in your closet. Haven’t played soccer for a couple years? Know anyone with fast growing teenagers who might have outgrown some cleats recently? Any and all soccer equipment would be hugely appreciated – cleats, long socks, shin guards, jerseys – but most especially the cleats.
The boys here love playing soccer. They are also incredibly talented. All the kids in my neighborhood grew up playing soccer, but we never had the innate talent, grace and crazy footwork these boys have developed day by day by playing diligently. Every Saturday they gather – up to half of them with no shoes, or just one cleat. At first I was confused about the one cleat fashion, but then I realized that two boys had split the pair – thereby giving them each a little bit of traction. They have jerseys they have gathered and, in some cases, sewed themselves. Even when the rain comes pounding down they keep playing – playing for the joy of the game.
The league gives the youth of Ahuas (and the surrounding villages) a chance to get together and play an organized game of soccer every Saturday leading up to the championship later this year. Some of these boys walk from villages 3 hours away just to come play. With ever encroaching narcotic trafficking, and the options for easily ruining (or loosing) your life making a quick dollar, having a healthy alternative way to spend time is very important for these boys and young men. Our players range from age 10 to 18, but don’t feel bad for the little guys – they are some of our best players.
Last Saturday all the boys came out and meticulously went over the field picking up cow dung and sharp rocks. The painstakingly laid down boundary lines using sawdust, and spent hours tying cardboard over the surrounding barbed wire fence (so they wouldn’t immediately puncture the ball). You can see the results below.
So please, if you or anyone you know has some cleats they could donate please drop me a line. If you are the Santa Cruz county area I have some people who will help me gather all the donations and I will pay for them all to be shipped here. If you are in another city please still comment and I will facilitate the cleats getting out here. Even if we could get 20 pairs together it would make a difference!
There are a variety of delicious foods that I have been introduced to here in La Mosquitia. I am certainly looking forward to having frequent “Honduran cooking days”when I return home, although I cannot promise that my tortillas will resemble anything other than amorphous amoebas. More than anything I have been impressed with the great variety of dishes that can be made with bananas (and their relatives: plátano, pilipitas, etc.). Along with the delicious banana bread that I was already familiar with bananas can be fried like french fries, boiled in their skin and then lightly fried in brown sugar and cinnamon, dried and ground up for flour to make dumplings, bread, and cake… and the list goes on. Madura (ripe banana or pilipita) jam has to be one of the most delicious substances in the world.
When I was little my Mom used to always talk about loving “wabul” when she was a child in Honduras. For months after I arrived here I still had not encountered this mysterious substance. Finally, last month, we were introduced. And, oh what a joyous meeting it was. Since then I have had several variations on the recipe and it only gets better.
It seemed only right to share this deliciousness with all of you.
10 bananas (or any relative of the banana family. I prefer the sweeter options, but I have a serious sweet tooth).
1 coconut (you are only going to use the “meat” so you can drink the coconut water as a pre-cooking snack)
Peel the bananas and cut them in half. Place them in a pot with enough water to cover them and simmer for approx 20 minutes. Pour off the water and then mash the bananas. (Lesvia our cook actually strains them to get a smoother texture, but I think a food processor would work even better. I don’t mind the lumps myself, but some people are picky)
Cut the coconut in half. If you are really legit you will accomplish this task with a machete. Grate the white coconut “meat.” Pour 1 cup hot water over the gratings and let sit for several minutes. Squeeze the gratings (and save the water to the side).
Again pour hot water (this time up to 4 cups) over the gratings and let sit for several minutes. Squeeze out the milky water and add to the mashed banana. Lastly add the first cup you squeezed out (the first cup has higher oil content and must be added last).
Stir together over heat (on the stove) and serve warm.
I prefer my wabul flavored with a good dose of cinnamon, but I am sure it would be good with allspice, cloves, ginger, and many more! You can also cut up mango or other fresh fruits and add into the mix. ENJOY!
I feel I have seriously neglected a subject which is a wonderful part of our daily life here. Namely, that of our nurses.
My official job here is “enfermera jefe.” I am the manager in charge of the nurses (and random other extraneous things such as linen, legal paperwork, and stocking the pharmacy). This has given me a wonderful chance to work directly with, and get to know all of our nurses.
We have 11 LVNs – two of whom have been here since my Grandparents time! Our nurses are amazing. They switch between the challenges of assisting in labor and delivery, surgery, trauma and daily to day hospital tasks without complaining (well, mostly without complaint).
It is a high achievement to finish 6th grade and be able to read here. In order to enter nursing school one must have finished 9th grade. Then there are two years of nursing school, and then one year of social service to the government. Truly an accomplishment. Right now we have 6 students serving their year of social service with us in Ahuas, along with our 11 experienced nurses.
Some of our nurses have gravitated towards certain specialties. Flor (who was called Florcita in my Grandparents’ days) learned how to use the autoclave from my Grandmother, and spent some time in the States training to be a surgical nurse. She is a wonderful scrub nurse. She scrubs into every routine surgery (she is scheduled Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm) and then is always on call for emergency caesarians or traumas that come our way. She has become a particular friend of mine, telling me stories of the old days, giving me life advice, and teaching me about working in the OR. She knows where everything is in our sterile supply room (a somewhat daunting collection of new and resterilized materials, and ancient archaic machines that Dr. Rudy cannot bear to throw away) and is always good for a long talk while folding campos azules (surgical towels). Completing a generational circle, she taught me how to use the giant autoclave and sterilize materials for surgery.
Flor is the only nurse “on-call” for surgery, but several of our other nurses have trained to take and develop xrays and they too can be called in at any hour of the night or weekend. Last night a young boy was carried in after falling in front of a moving car. He had deep lacerations on his forehead with the skin peeled back to expose his scalp. His pelvic bone was broken and he had multiple abrasions down one side of his body. The shift nurse and nursing student helped as the doctor stitched up his head wound and then Jeny, one of the xray nurses, came in and we took multiple films to discern what all he had broken. Fortunately his skull was intact, but I was still very worried about internal bleeding and intracranial pressure. The family has no money for a flight to La Ceiba (where they have a CT scan, MRI, and more advanced surgical facilities) so we will have to watch and see how he does. The night nurse did neuro checks every two hours, as well as caring for her other nine patients and he looked better this morning. Vamos a ver.
Our nurses Brenda, Digna, Jeni, and Soila all take turns running the pharmacy and doing shift work. The farmacia nurse doles out medications and fills prescriptions, as well as running a thriving chatamusca (frozen coolaid) business whose proceeds go to a local Moravian church. Carmen runs the Preclinica and assists the doctors in the clinic. Monday through Saturday there is a nurse in Preclinica, a nurse in pharmacy, and then of course whoever is on shift in the hospital. We have one nurse on shift in the hospital (along with a nursing student right now) at all times. The A shift nurse is here from 7am to 2pm, the B shift nurse is here from 2pm to 9pm, and the C shift nurse spends the night from 9pm until 7 the next morning.
The patient load can range from 5 patients up to 20. We try and keep the acuity level to a manageable level, but at times there are gravely ill patients who simply cannot afford to fly out, so then the nurses care for them as well. It is all in a day’s work here to start an IV on an infant, do a vaginal check on a pregnant woman in labor, stitch up a wound, scrub into an emergency c-section, and get the local psychiatric patient to stop harassing people. Delroy – who does our monthly government paperwork, as well as being the best shift nurse on staff – was telling me how nervous he was when he first was hired. He had done his social service in Central Salud (the government clinic) giving vaccines and doing clinic work, so he was worried about not knowing how to check the cervix or help a laboring mother. Apparently he learned just fine, because I have seen him deliver two babies all by himself when the doctor could not get there in time. He is very patient with the students, can get an IV on the most difficult invisible vein, and is meticulous about charting. Plus he actually likes working C shifts, a task some of the other nurses do not prefer.
While I have been impressed for some time at the variety of skills possessed by our nurses here, and their ability to overcome challenges never conceived of in the States, I still am occasionally caught by surprise. Rafael, another wonderful shift nurse who also takes xrays, approached me asking for some extra time off one weekend. He explained that it was planting season and he needed to go tend to his “finca” (farm). I had no idea, but when I asked Dr. Rudy he said that most families need a small area of crops to survive. Whether it is just to grow food for themselves, or to sell the plantains, beans, coconuts, etc to others; having a farm or plantation is part of the daily existence. So Rafael has been tending to his bean plantation down river every day, while also working shifts in the hospital. Nurses get one month off a year, and Rafael asked for a month in spring so he could harvest his crop. Not what I think of when considering vacation.
Even for those nurses without farms daily life is hard. All cooking is done from scratch, including killing the cow to get the meat for dinner, separating the rocks from the harvested rice, soaking the beans for hours before cooking them, and hacking open coconuts with a machete. Laundry is done by hand, with water hauled up from the river, and then hung out to dry. Jenaine, a great shift nurse who also runs our prenatal care program, sorrowfully informed me one day that her favorite scrub top had been eaten off the clothes line by a passing cow. She found it mangled and masticated beyond repair in some nearby bushes.
One day in a particularly hectic surgery Dr. Norvelle asked me to do the first prep for the patient. I responded that I was happy to do it, but not quite sure of the process (having never done it before). Norvelle sniffed and made a comment about “what do they teach in nursing schools these days?” I don’t know what all they do teach in Honduran nursing school, but if these nurses are a good sample, I can tell you they are doing something right!
It is now less than two months until I shall be homeward bound. I begin to think in anticipation of seeing family and dear friends again, of meeting sweet little babies that had not been born when I left, and oh so many things!
I have been asked what I am most looking forward to when I return. Kristian asked me, what is the first thing you’re going to do when you get home? Mental lists of delights began scrolling through my imagination.
- Getting to choose what I will eat! Along with this comes, getting to eat large quantities of vegetables! The food I have been given here daily is quite delicious and filling. I have never been hungry. Lesvia the cook does amazing things with a very small list of ingredients, but I cannot wait to get home and make a huge Thai or Indian stir fry. One morning I was listening in on Dr. Rudy, Peter, and Hazel having Bible Study and discussing free will and choice. Dr. Rudy asked the kids what “choice” entailed and Hazel answered “choice is having more than one type of cereal for breakfast.” It’s true – after eating cornflakes almost every breakfast for 5 months I will be excited to have some choice!
- Getting to toss my dirty clothes in a wash machine, add some soap, turn the dial, and walk away. Washing clothes by hand is hard work – as any of the women here could tell you. Your back hurts, your hands get dry and cracked, and you begin to resent your socks. Socks are so annoying, they are tiny and must each be individually washed. They get dirtier than most other articles of clothing (especially in this muddy weather), and there are so many of them every week! They seem to multiply as they are pulled one by one from the water and scrubbed on the washboard. Oh, the joys of a wash machine!
- Walking to the beach. I love the savannah here. There is a majestic beauty in the rolling fields that stretch endlessly to the horizon. But I have always lived near the water. I miss the crashing surf and the glory that is walking West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. I cannot wait to see the Pacific.
- How lovely it will be to have a glass of wine with dinner and not have to worry about offending anyone! Drinking alcohol is more than frowned upon in Miskito culture; good people do not even consider imbibing wine. So I am looking forward to ending a 5 month period of almost total teetotalism. Not to any excess of course, but the thought of a glass of wine after a hard day brings a smile.
- I am greatly looking forward to having time all to myself. To walk away from my job (when I get one) and not have to think about it for the rest of the day. Living on the hospital grounds provides many benefits, and I learn so much from every experience, but I cannot wait to have free time with no chance of it being taken away!
- But most of all I want to hold onto how blessed I will be to have these things. I don’t want to immediately get sucked back into “normal” life and forget to be thankful for these simple things. When I have a hot shower, I want to remember that many people do not have running water. When I have a hard day and want to complain about my boss, or my difficult work schedule, I want to remember the millions of people are laboring desperately every day to make less than a dollar an hour (in some cases less than a dollar a day) – struggling just to feed their families. When I feel the “need” to go shopping or splurge on a new expensive phone, I want to remember how easy it is to live simply. I do plan on enjoying the luxuries of home when I get there, guilt free, but I want to remember. I want Honduras not just to be an anecdotal amazing interlude in my life, but something that leads me to live differently.