Friday, July 13, 2007
¡Bienvenidos a Tegucigalpa! - July 11
¡Buenos días a todos! I write you all from my room with my host family! We arrived at the staging office in Santa Lucia around 3 pm and then at 5 pm, we all went off with our familias. After just being with them for the night, I have automatically switched into Spanish mode. Even remembering to type in English now is a bit difficult! It’s amazing how fast the transition can be. My mother’s name is Sagrario (but I call her Chayo) and she lives with her mother who is 83 years old and her 16 year old daughter, Elisa. That was all the info I had on my sheet. But it turns out that the area where she lives is kind of like a mini apartment complex.
Chayo at the pila preparing lunch.
Chayo’s house is very small with a main living room that has a couch, a table, and a television, and then just my bedroom and the other bedroom that Chayo, Elisa and the grandmother all share. The kitchen is separate from the house and to make tortillas we put wood underneath the stove and light a fire!
My siser, Eliza and my grandma, Eldea
The wood stove
If you walk a little ways away, there is another small house with one bedroom, a living room, and an electric kitchen with a table and chairs. This is Melissa (Chayo’s other daughter) and Orlando’s house. Here, Chayo cooks most of the meals (except the tortillas) and we eat in here, too. There is only enough room for three seats though, so Sagrario, Eliza, and I eat at the table while the others watch tv and eat in the living room. There are some other houses in the area and all of them are protected by the one gate that leads to the street.
The furthest door is the toilet and the closest one is the shower.
The bathroom and shower are completely separate of everything and the toilet is in another room right next door. Although these facilities are public to all the houses in this “complex”, we are all like family and so I don’t feel too uncomfortable walking from my house to the showers in a towel. There are no mirrors anywhere so I bought one in town for 25 lempiras (about $1.50). The most culturally unique part of Honduran life is “la pila”. There is only one sink here, in Melissa’s kitchen, which only has running water part of the time and is used only to wash dishes. All other washing (including washing vegetables, laundry, my face/hands, brushing my teeth . . .) happens at “la pila” which is a very large cement square open tank right outside the house that is filled to the brim with water. However, you have to use the water sparingly because it is all you have (for everything!) for 7 days. Every Wednesday, the water is turned on in the community and everyone empties their pila, cleans it, and then refills it. La pila has to be emptied and scrubbed every week because otherwise it is an ideal site for the mosquitoes that carry dengue.
My room is very small, probably about 10’x 10’. The walls are worn and uneven with various holes in the wall that are big enough to host all kinds of insects. But I try not to think about that. My bed takes up over half the room and there is a small desk, a straw stool, a cushioned chair, and a small closet with 15 hangers. (The closet is thin planks of wood stapled together with a curtain over it.) To give you an idea of the size of the room, there is not enough floor space to completely roll out my yoga mat, or lay down on for that matter. I felt so awkward when PC dropped off my checked bags because they looked huge compared to my room.
I think my living conditions have been my first wake-up call. I really was not too worried about my home stay conditions and just assumed I would adjust easily to the conditions. When I stayed with a home stay in Oaxaca, Mexico, the conditions were very similar to the house here and I was fine with them. However, the only difference is that I am going to be living in this room for three months, almost as long as a semester! I already know that it is necessary for me to make many lifestyle changes, such as not leaving everything on the ground because there is no room for clutter. Also, I already feel so privileged and spoiled. I showed Eliza’s sister, Cristina, some of the electronics I brought and I think it was overkill. We were playing with my travel alarm clock that has a radio when she asked to see photos of my family. So I pulled out my laptop and showed her. Then, when I needed to look up a word I didn’t know, I pulled out my battery-operated translator from my pocket.