My first attempts to communicate

I’m starting this entry at 6:50 p.m. CST but would rather be sleeping. It’s been an exhausting day. Morning sounds included dogs barking, roosters sounding their scratchy bugle, and a bird making a sort of slide whistle call. Tonight’s sounds include dogs barking, three wheeled tuk-tuks, crickets, and children. The electricity was out at 6:30 a.m.; now it’s on. The water was on, then off, then on, now off. The internet shows a preference for certain websites one moment, for others the next. I’ve tried to download WhatsApp all day, with no success. At least the gas stove works and we have several tambos (jugs) and a pila (outdoor cement tub) full of water.

The primary barrier in my attempts to learn Spanish has been shyness (not to mention a lack of encounters with native speakers). It’s too easy to avoid the potential embarrassment of mistakes, hence, my forcibly living in a country where I have no choice but to risk looks that say, “¿WTF are you talking about, gringa?” That was later in the day when I attempted to help my roommate and fellow old lady (32 29), Vee, find plantain chips at a pulperia (small market where you order what you want through a grate). Plantains = platanos. Chips = ?, but surely if I ask for “dried plantains” the appropriate message will come across. “¿Tiene platanos secas?” Ummm, nope! Cue: mini-flood of shame. (Turns out the word we needed was tajadas.) And now I wonder if my directness was rude. Also, there was the encounter at the (semi)super mercado, where you can buy laundry soap, soy milk, and stoves, in which the clerk questioned my purchase of brown rice—did I have a medical issue? Not that I understood her question, spoken or mimed, and that’s where Vee and I make a great pair. Despite her lack of Spanish speaking skills, she understands okay; flip it for me. Thanks to Vee’s translation, I could stand my ground and declare my preference for brown rice, despite having no medical reasons for needing it, and proudly make my purchase with crumpled lempiras. I think some school boys asked if I was a dog.

But those were the only real bruises, and minor at that, as Vee and I wandered from the Small House (for the introverted volunteers. There is a Big House for the extroverts.) to el centro for flip flops, a hat, and groceries. A man behind us in line at an eatery explained Vee’s order to the clerk. The clerk at the pulperia across the road from my house patiently repeated multiple times just how the eggs were priced (5 eggs for 15 lempiras ~ US$0.75), and a produce vendor made sure I understood that the avocado (aguacate) should be eaten mañana. A smile to a passing stranger usually garners a smile in return.

Ta ta,

theresa

P.S. And…the water’s back on.

P.P.S. The internet currently works in 5 minute increments only.

Picture of llamas at sunset.

I declare my intentions

Over the past several months, I’ve begun venturing into the unknown. I quit my paralegal job of nine years and agreed to teach Honduran seventh, eighth, and ninth graders English and Science for a year. In exchange I’ll get a roof over my head and lunch five days a week. I earned a Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language certificate. I was inoculated against typhoid and tetanus. I bought a one-way ticket to Honduras, and I leave tomorrow. I have no source of income or idea of what I’ll do once the school year ends.

I am 34. Few, I think, would call me a risk taker, until now. Despite a fine arts degree in playwriting, I’ve mostly played it safe emotionally, chemically, sexually, and experientially. The rent is paid on time, and I’ve avoided getting lost in foreign countries. I re-read and re-read and re-read favorite books and trust in the loyalty of a plate of brownies. So, needless to say, I’ve lived well outside my comfort zone the past several months; I plan to continue doing so.

Sigh, that last sentence reeks of confidence, so let’s get real. While there is something to be said in praise of stability, if its root is fear, then I remain silent. I hate being afraid of failure, of not knowing, of falling on my ass, of external judgment. I hate being too afraid to discover what I love, including how to love myself. I want to change my life because I’m disgusted with the person I am. That person gets overly frustrated with origami, assumes that even her closest friends want to hurt her, and rarely commits, even to an opinion. I know the fence well.

Every now and then, perhaps on the seven year cycle, I realize it’s time to rip off the blankets. So what am I doing? I’m committing to goals that I, not anyone else, have decided are vital. I’m traveling to a country where a minority of the inhabitants speak English. I’m planning to learn as much Spanish as I can, after 20+ years of trying. I’m teaching, which was a dream in my early teens before I decided I couldn’t do it. I’m planning to write here at least once a week. I’m committing to now and not fretting about what will happen once this year is over. I’m doing my best to avoid Thoreau’s “life of quiet desperation.”

If I take too long of a look, I’m afraid about all of it, so I pick one fear: I want to be a good teacher for these kids! This journey toward selfhood is difficult and I’ve whined a lot. But, despite my fears and doubts and whining, something inside of me believes I’m up to this challenge, that even failure will be a success.

Undeniably so,

theresa

P.S. Llamas are not native to Honduras; I just like them.