Right now it is 4 pm the ninth of February here, exactly one week since I arrived here. Well a lot has happened. Over all, I am having a great time learning about the culture (including the history of the country and area), my host family here, and the other Calvin students.
Well, several have asked for my address to send my cards. But remember if you want to send a card, don't send after halfway through April as I probably won't get it. Also, I can't receive packages here (I actually can, but it takes a while and I can buy lots of things here cheaper). Here it is:
Dave Teitsma c/o Calvin College Program
The flight here went smoothly, but as we came closer to Tegucigalpa I became a lot more anxious about meeting my family in the next couple of hours. Landing here allowed us to see the beautifully colored houses, mountains, and the whole city. Once we went through customs we were greeted by our professor, Roland. From there we visited our classroom at the university, including the mall across the street. It was really overwhelming to not understand the language and to have many people looking at us.
After learning some culture notes about families here, we met them. A few minutes before I met them I found out a couple of things about my family here, like jobs and children. My 'mama' and 'brother' (Oscar) picked me up at the school. I must have looked so stupid as I stumbled over trying to find the right words. The whole car ride was nerve racking as I could barely communicate with them, so we just laughed a lot (a good common language).
Here is my room:
My family here supposedly is a foster family with four foster children (Reina, Asrael (like the country) and two other have not seen...). My dad (Raul) helps train economically challenged families to fix problems around their house, which they cannot afford. My mama takes care of the children and the house. Also, Ebelan (12 years old) is our maid who helps with dishes, the wash, and the children. Oscar (21 years old) is majoring in psychology at the catholic university. His younger brother is Juan Jose (5 years old) who I believe was adopted. My family here has a total of 6 sons. They also are actively involved in the Catholic Church here.
Life here seems very similar to the U.S., because so many things are basically the same here. The biggest difference is of course the language. The food is very different; we have tortillas, refried beans, and mantequilla (kinda like sour cream) at every meal. But there are many franchises of American restaurants here (Burger King, lots of Dominos, Ruby Tuesday, Mc Donald's). They are about the same price as the u.s. but everything else is a lot cheaper!
The water system is very different as you can't drink it or use it for anything eaten. We loss water pressure every once in a while (so most houses have a 200 or so gallon reservoir), so we can't flush toilets, take showers, and such. Yesterday, we got water again after not having it for a day. No houses have water heaters either, so that means very cold showers. My shower the first morning made me barely able to breather; but I have adjusted since. Also, the architecture of the houses reveals a lot about the climate as many rooms don't have full windows, so it must never get cold enough to need to close the windows.
To start the semester our class traveled to a national park, La Tigra, a ways outside the city set on a mountain overlooking the area valleys. It was incredibly beautiful. The hotel / lodge allowed us to just relax and get to know each other (and speak Spanish, which is a nice reward at the end of the week). We spent about 4-5 hours introducing ourselves Friday night, and then Saturday morning we hiked 2 miles to a waterfall. The group here is getting along extremely well and everyone seems very comfortable around each other, which I hope continues throughout this next semester. Attached are several pictures of this trip.
I am learning and remember a lot of Spanish. I have grown a lot more comfortable with talking with taxi drivers, and other merchants, and even some bartering. Interestingly I have started to think in the language here, where my I have thoughts that I start to automatically translate in my head then realize I don't need to. Also, when thinking about coming back to the U.S and talking with friends and family I first feel anxiety because I feel like I won't be able to communicate with them, but then I come to me sense and realize that all of you speak English. These are two signs that the language has overtaken my mind.
So, to get you a better picture of life here, I will give you some smells that have become common or characteristic of my experience here. First, the car fumes along the road are noxious. On the walk to school (2 miles) and back, each day we smell the street vendors cooking chicken on a stick, which smells wonderful. Also, it is common to smell rotting trash when crossing the river. At La Tigra, the air was wonderfully clear and refreshing. Constantly people are cleaning streets, steps, or school walkways, where you can smell the cleaning liquid. Well, these are just some of the common smells that I hope paint a better picture of what it is like to live here.
I forgot about the weather... it is really nice here (70-80 degrees here) but some nights get really cold.
Thanks for reading, I will be posting this message on my website