San Francisco and Two Weeks After
On June 30th, I arrived in San Francisco after more than a year's absence. Needless to say, life was quite different from what I was used to, but I felt excited to be at home, finally! I spent the first couple of days relaxing, and sleeping a lot. I spent time writing a speech, that I delivered at my Presbyterian church on the Fourth of July. I wrote the whole thing out here, because it describes my life. It wasn't that well written, even so, here it is:
Buenos Dias, it's a pleasure to be with you here, today. Thank you to all the well wishers who always send me messages. It's nice to have support from my church out in the middle of Concepcion, Intibuca, Honduras. I'd like to tell you a little about my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I have a lot of friends in my town. Some are poor and some are richer. Some of my poor friends live in a smaller town an hour away by footpath. They are a couple with ten children, who are expecting another. They live in a three room house with a dirt floor. He's a farmer, and she's a fulltime sickly mother-both wonderful people. Then, I have some richer friends in town who are both teachers at the junior high. They have a 13 year old maid who takes care of the two babies, and they won't have anymore. Each month they make about 3000 Lempiras cumulatively, which is about $400. I make about $150 or 850 Lempiras. Now, that you can see that even the rich are poor, I'll tell you a little about my community. Concepcion is a town of 4,000 with many other smaller villages around it. I live in one room with an outdoor bathroom facility, do my own cooking on a gas stove, and wash my clothes on a traditional washstone called a pila. We are still waiting for electricity to come, even though everything is almost all set. It's beautifully green there right now, because it's winter and it's raining a lot, but in the summer everything dries out. Also, it's always hot as an oven. My work is difficult because of this. I walk to nearby towns to try to get farmers to do physically demanding soil conservation, and a lot of times we don't feel like doing heavy work, but there is a definite soil erosion problem that needs to be addressed. I have succeeded with a number of people, and they've made plots with conservation structures, but it's hard to change the traditional planting practices. When I am actually able to work with a farmer and change techniques with him, I feel wonderful. There is nothing like it! That's why I love the Peace Corps. The way I feel when a piece work is accomplished, when the farm is growing, and it looks beautiful, the feeling of walking six hours on a hot day, the feeling of getting home after. Also, the conversations that I can't believe I've had, the way I can tell the truth so completely in Spanish without fear. When I'm with my friends there and I realize I'm enviable for the relationships I have with them. Admiring some people more than I've ever before, admiring myself, feeling exceedingly happy and loved, but also feeling sadder and more lonely than I thought it possible at times. The fear of insects which are always around and finally, the happiness of receiving mail and messages from everyone here, and the fact that I'm here to see everyone. Now, I'd like to say, Dios les bendiga or God bless you. I'm very happy to be from the United States, especially on the Fourth of July. Be thankful you live here, and not somewhere else. Go out and have a great day!
After the service, I talked to people who I knew, met some new ones, and answered questions. There was one older woman who was from the Tri Delta sorority like me, and she asked many questions. There was also a couple who'd been Peace Volunteers together in Malaysia. We had a lot to talk about, because they knew more directly about my experience, even if they had been in a different country. There was also a young man interested in me and my story, who wanted to keep in touch. I gave him my address, but he sent me a letter that sounded like a resume. How boring! I didn't respond.
While I was in San Francisco, I saw all my friends and family. I was home for two weeks, and spent special days with each friend and family group. With one group of friends, I went to the Palace Hotel for high tea. It was a beauiful experience, but talk about culture shock! The hall where they served tea was elegant with a high ceiling. There were so many differences from my life in Honduras, I was literally overwhelmed.
Everywhere I went, I worked on raising money for G's junior high school fund. My mother, friends, and my cousins in Palo Alto all donated money to the cause. My young cousin was excited, because she was about G's age. The two girls attempted a correspondence for a little while, but it didn't really work out, since neither spoke the other's language. One of my friends gave G a special tiarra to wear at the coronation. After seeing everyone and telling some of my stories, it was time to get back to Honduras. I was returning with a new camera, thank goodness!
A funny thing happened, when I got back to the airport in Tegucigalpa. I realized how much I'd missed the men, and how good I thought they all looked, but how impossible they all were. I reported this to a friend in a letter! I went back to Concepcion feeling nervous, because I hadn't seen everyone for two weeks. When I got there, I had constant dinner invitations for that whole first week. In fact, I didn't eat at home alone once. Unfortunately, my stomach was unsettled, because I was nervous and missing everyone back home, but that passed, thankfully.
Upon arriving in Concepcion, I noticed that the electric poles were all connected, and that the street lights had just turned on. Electricity had come to our town, finally! We were all waiting to be connected, but none of the households had been yet. I went over to Don T's house, and he informed me happily that their house had already been connected. I said that I was sure that wasn't so, and he made me bet him $5. Well, right then he turned on the lights. It happened that they had a battery operated generator. I owed him big bucks!
The first Friday night after my return was the coronation of the school queen and dance. I didn't let G see the crown I had brought her until the night of the coronation. We combined it with the original crown, which made her look beautiful. The coronation was very sweet, and G presented me with a thank you pin. My admirer, M, wasn't drunk for once, so I rewarded him with a dance. After that, I danced with a young man, who had lived in the US for a while. It was a nice time with friends.
On Saturday afternoon, I was doing my usual activities, such as: washing clothes on the washstone called a pila, sweeping, and organizing. It was always a relaxing day, so I was surprised when my friend O came running into my room. This was not something that I would have ever expected. Well, he had been drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and he wanted to confess to me. He also asked what he should do, and I told him to go home and tell his wife D. I felt sorry for both of them, because that was not a good situation. I began to understand why he didn't want to have much to do with his drunk brother in San Miguelito.
Work was really taking off, and I realized that the vacation was just what I had needed. I went to San Miguelito for two days. During the night that I stayed, Don M got very drunk, and started yelling about how Central American's were Americans, too. I agreed with him, even though he was drunk, because he definitely had a point. Ever since I have refrained from saying America, when referring to the US. There are three Americas: North America, Central America, and South America. Each region is different and distinctly important.
In San Miguelito, it looked like the group of women would work out, and the group of men promised they would pick the dirt on the land that we had laid out. M had borrowed a pickaxe, and shovel for the group to use. I was cautiously optimistic that the work might be done. After all, we had just laid out the template with pegs and a Level A. I promised to return on August 2nd to see their progress on the plot, and then I left.
We were all looking forward to the Potato Festival in La Esperanza coming up over the next weekend, but I still had work sheduled before then. On Thursday, I had planned to work with V's brother, but he wasn't there. Instead, V's son J worked with me on his uncle's farm. He was more than happy, since he was another of my admirers. I got some blisters on my hand from using the pickaxe and shovel. This detail will become important in the next chapter! After finishing the ditches that we dug, I went to visit V. She told me about how J wanted to marry me. I said, "It must be because I'm American!" She said that it appeared to be more than that. Was it my air of innocence that everyone liked, my red hair, the laugh? I'm still trying to figure it all out!