Or is it the bad with the good?
One week until we're in Guaimaca! I'm pretty excited, but a little nervous. Last year I was nervous for many definable reasons, including the community life, the language, teaching, cultural differences, safety...and this year these concerns are all present again, but differently. For example, I still have a decent handle on Spanish, and it's going to come back quickly, but what if I never progress beyond where I was last year? Last year I was scared to step into the classroom because I had never done it before, this year I'm nervous to step into the classroom because I will be teaching new students, and I'm afraid to find out that the only reason I enjoyed the experience so much last year was that the group of girls I was with and I developed a strong relationship, and that my new students and I won't do so.
But, like I said, I'm mostly excited. I know that last year was last year, that, except for the mark it left on me, it's gone. This year will be a completely new experience, and I'm looking forward to finding out what that entails. I will be much more comfortable in my surroundings than I was in the beginning of last year, so I will be able to start enjoying life and pulling as much as I can out of the day to day interactions.
This excitement comes at the tail end of two difficult and worrisome weeks. Honduras has recently received a lot more news coverage, and the safety situation has been called into question. Safety is always an issue in Latin America, especially Honduras, but this year the concerns surfaced strongly enough that Kris and Stonehill really had to evaluate the program. Fortunately for us and the Center, they were able to contact several groups working in the country, including the sisters and Father Craig, to get a real idea of how things currently are, a perspective that I was afraid would be overlooked in the face of the recent news, which like much media coverage, is either not entirely informed or at least slanted. So, the possibility of not going was very hard to deal with, but we received an email yesterday informing us that, based on all of the investigation they performed, we will still have the opportunity to go to Guaimaca and live this incredible service experience.
In all I was really pleased and happy with the response Stonehill took to the situation. Kris made a lot of calls to organizations in Honduras, and considered the situation from every angle. The prompt and responsible response they made strengthened my already strong trust and faith in our program, and helped lend me a bit of peace, which I need as I go back...especially in light of the news I received recently about Sandra.
Sandra, always the top of my class last year (with academics and with daily expression of the school's values), wanted to become a math teacher, something I was really pleased about. Her succeeding and rising from an aldea to a very well respected profession, teaching and motivating younger generations, is exactly what I would hope to see as the outcome of my work. That situation is so much better than a culture dependent on foreign help...it's great that young people want to go and help, but the most we can do, the most I can do, is lend a helping hand to the start of this process. Neither I, nor any volunteer, can create the type better future that Sandra could contribute to.
Before I left last year, I sat down with each of the seniors and had an exit interview type reflection with them, about where they had been, what they have learned, and where they will be going. I am not going to write more about that--it was pretty personal and emotional--but I had high hopes for all of them, especially Sandra.
And now, this week, I heard that she was having problems in her house and that she had left to go to her boyfriend's house. It's not that unusual for a 17 year old Honduran to run away from her problems, it's actually not that unusual for a Honduran of any age to run away, at least not from our experiences with some of the girls' families. But, the message that I got from Sandra in response to something I sent her, saying that she was there for good, was unexpected and...very hard to read. I'm going to try to talk with her when I get back, but there's a good chance she will already be pregnant, or that I will just never see her again.
What good is it, in the long run, that I go to Honduras for a year and teach the values that the Center and I share, if even the most promising students can't escape their cultural history?