“Attendants please prepare for landing.” I slowly turned my head to the right to see the sun glisten the ocean through the plexiglass – blinding me. We were hovering the immense body of water, and still I didn’t see the landing strip. I had to trust the plane wasn’t going to be gulped by the water but instead touch land with it’s — THUD. Welcome to Roatán!
It’s extremely humid here which makes it feel like it’s 10 degrees hotter. But the island is so aesthetically pleasing – wherever you look there is water and/or trees covering the hills. The Airbnb I am staying is cute and and has all the necessities. It even has hot water, which is something I definitely don’t need with this weather! I’ve also had the chance to go to a grocery store, which was a bit pricey. Money is going kind of quickly here even though $1 is about 24 Lempiras. Something else that really shocked me was the amount of English and tourists on the island. The stores are covered with English words and some restaurants even show their prices in dollars. But almost everyone I’ve met here has been so kind and helpful, which has been really nice while settling in this initial days.
It’s only been a week here in the beautiful and tropical Roatán, Honduras, but this week has been filled with many exciting experiences and life takeaways. I am working on an English learning program called “English for Latin America” (ELA for short) that is being implemented here on the island. I started the administrative side of work in Washington D.C. two weeks ago, where we discussed and prepared for the work we will be doing in Roatán. And finally, we are here and I’m ready to learn as much as I can!
As in everything in life, there are ups and downs. And this internship is no different. Everyday I try to reflect on something new that I learned or re-learned. Below are the top reflections of the week!
Roatán Reflection #1: Always have an exact address of your accommodation, because the name of a road is clearly not enough.
I gathered my stuff from the overhead compartment and took a big, deep breath in and mentally prepared myself for this adventure. I walk down the aisle and reached the door. The heated air slapped my face and hands like a large sticker. The sun shone bright as I walked around the airplane’s gigantic wing. “Welcome! Please come to this lane with your documents in hand.” As I approach the window, I smile and greet the officer in Spanish. He looks at me and smiles back but responds in English, throwing some Spanish in between words. I was loving the fluidity of languages that I was experiencing. But then I encounter my first tiny bump on the road: he asks me for my exact address of the Airbnb… which I didn’t have. The officer’s stare felt like a laser heating my body up with nerves. But then, he reprimanded me a bit and told me that he will make an exception for me. I cool my body and move to find my one suitcase, which then gets scanned as I exit customs. “Excuse miss we need to search your bags…” Oh no, another hiccup. Turns out my books in my backpack looked like I had over $10,000. I wish! So, maybe it was just my luck but maybe also put your thicker books in your suitcase if you don’t want to be stopped or searched for money you don’t have.
Roatán Reflection #2: Take the time to have a genuine talk with as many people (strangers) as you want, with the simple purpose to learn about them and the context you’re in.
I love being the journal people can write their stories in. I’m not much of a talker and I am quiet most of the time. But I do pay attention and I am at my happiest when I meet new people and learn their story. And what better place to do that than on an island filled with such diverse people. I have met many taxi drivers, tourists, baristas, and coffee shop employees, parents, teachers, and students. All of the people I met so far make up the island and have such a unique story. Although I am here for an internship and to learn about development work, taking five minutes out of day and simply making a connection is valuable on its own for me. Throughout this week, I relearned the importance of listening. Sparking a conversation can be difficult and obviously I don’t suggest you talk to every stranger but the ones you feel okay talking to can lead to great things, like many of mine. I met a Colombian tourist who is also dealing with a medical problem like me. I met two mothers who told me about the personal reasons they put their children in the private school system. I met a taxi driver who has the same name as one of my uncles and makes the same jokes as him. I met another taxi driver who has lived here for 20 years and works three jobs to keep building his dream house on one of the highest point on the island. Although the purpose of my trip here is to do development work in schools, these people have also brought so much joy in my life and taught me a lot by simply being a blank page for them to fill.
Roatán Reflection #3: The work you do doesn’t always run on your schedule – there are other forces that affect when things get done.
Honduras has been going through a lot of political problems and its people, specially its teachers and health care providers, have been protesting for about three weeks now. And of course, that has had an effect on a lot of different people. That also meant that the work that I am set to do isn’t going to be done on my expected timeline. We as people are constantly running around in our own world and with our own timelines and sometimes get surprised when someone else’s timeline is different than ours. I think that it’s important to be persistent and make sure that I get the work done but I have definitely relearned to be a bit flexible as there are other things happening simultaneously as the work I am doing as in intern.
I can’t wait to learn more from the people on the island and explore it’s worldwide known coral reef!
“Intenta aprender algo sobre todo y todo sobre algo.” Thomas Huxley.