In the Beginning
It was April 1992, and I was getting ready to ship out to my job with the US Peace Corps. The day before, I packed two bags that weighed about 50 pounds each, and a carry-on. We had to bring things like sheets, towels, and heavy hiking boots. I fit it all in! Somehow, I thought I'd feel better if I wore a nice outfit, so I did. This was particularly funny, since I was going to be an agriculture volunteer, although the nicer outfit did come in handy occasionally, because my village was formal.
I flew through Houston to Miami. When I arrived, my shampoo had exploded over some things, which was a pain.
There were seventeen people in our training group of Agriculture Extensionist Volunteers, ten men and seven women. We had some ice breakers that day, where I introduced myself as Deborah. I'd always been Debby, but this seemed a great time to reinvent myself. I was surprised as no one questioned my name, or asked to call me Debby!
This was a time to get some important vaccinations. For some people getting a lot of shots was too much, but I did pretty well with it. I had a nice roommate named M., and we rested that night afterwards. Some people went out drinking, and got sick. Everyone had a different reaction, but thankfully, we decided not to drink, so that helped.
Two days later, we were on the plane to Honduras! I didn't realize at the time, but Tegucigalpa, Honduras has the shortest runway of any airport in the world, because it's on the top of a mountain. We got to Santa Lucia above Tegucigalpa, and a couple of days later we were assigned to families. I got to live with a nice family, and M. became my roommate and a great friend.
There were many highlights during the first few days. We were lucky to get there right before Holy Week, so we watched the local parade. There were some dogs fighting, but people didn't bother too much about that. It just seemed to be business as usual, but things were obviously more chaotic there. for us, this was just the beginning of the pervasive chaos of the country, that continued to persist throughout the whole time.
Technical training started right away, and we learned how to use heavy tools to eliminate erosion on hillsides. We had eight whole weeks of agricultural training, before starting language and culture training. This time consisted of making a raised bed, and planting vegetables in it, talking to our family, and getting to know each other. The trainers were not happy with my technical skills, which were lacking as I was rather weak physically, and I had bad hand eye coordination. It was a real struggle, but I made it through.
Our house nephew taught us how to dance the Punta, which is a dance from the north coast of Honduras. I got up in front of the training group, and showed everyone how it was done. I felt very enthusiastic, as there was a lot of cheering, and support from my group.
We were eating new foods, and sometimes, people would get sick, and report at our morning meetings. During this time, everyone in our group was comparing digestions. It was kind of amusing, if slightly disgusting at the same time. Adjustment was difficult, but we were determined to make in the new surroundings.