In my limited experience, I have come to find that there are two types of traveling. The first type of traveling is driven by the want to escape. Whether you’re escaping from your job, family, or just the stress of life, the point is that you want to escape your current location. The second type is driven by the need to explore. It is not motivated by the want to leave your location, but by the need to see, feel, and experience another. It is this kind of traveling that awakens your senses and opens your mind; and if you allow these experiences to change you, they will. It had been two years, three months, and one week since I had been on Honduran soil, and it was good to be back. From the minute I stepped off the plane in Tegucigalpa, my first sense to be struck was hearing. In a city of this magnitude, the noise never stops. The blaring sound of cars, trucks, and motorcycles whizzing by, continuously honking their horns, is a different language in itself. No one except a native Honduran could possibly navigate this chaos with ease. Yet TerraMica’s country manager and Honduran native, Jorge Sosa, was able to effortlessly deliver us to our first stop.
We arrived at a local Tegucigalpa school where we were able to deliver some much needed computer parts. Our team was greeted with warm smiles and thankful hearts, as this school’s computer lab was severely outdated. As the staff explained how these computers parts were vital to keeping their lab and students current, our purpose there began to sink in further. This school provides the safe harbor necessary for children to find their passion and reach their full potential. These parts are just one small component of a system that is helping Honduran children stay safe and educated. Our team left with a better understanding of how impactful something as seemingly small as computer parts can be.
Our main goal for the trip was to build pilas (water reservoirs) for two farming families living in Guajiquiro, so the next day we made the long drive into the mountains. One of the many things I love about Honduras is the colors. That was my next sense to be impacted: sight. It seems that everything is more vibrant there. The green of the trees, the blue of the sky, the red of the coffee cherries, everything just seems to be brighter. We arrived at the farms just as the mist began to lift off the mountains, and that in itself is a sight anyone would be lucky to see.
Since building Pilas is an eight-hour process, we began work almost immediately. Half a dozen men from the Guajiquiro community showed up to help with the construction. They understand the importance of community and helping one another. “I help you and later you can help me.” It’s as simple and as easy as that. In these remote regions of Honduras, it is not shameful to ask for help, and it doesn’t mean you have failed. Receiving help simply means you’re not in it alone. To me, the simplicity of this reasoning is beautiful. I am not in it alone. At that realization my third sense was struck: feeling. I know most people think this sense can only be applied to what you can physically feel, but I’m of the crazy mindset that I feel more with my heart than I do with my hands.
As the workday neared an end, we had spare time as we waited for the cement in the forms to dry and set. The widow who owned the farm where we were building the reservoir brought out coffee for us to enjoy. Talk about fresh, delicious Honduran coffee! The beans were grown and picked on her farm, then ground and brewed in her kitchen. The smell was sweet and the taste was delicious. It was exactly what we needed to finish the last hour or two of labor. With the boost from the coffee we began to remove the construction forms and separate it from the cement. The joy that swept over the workers and the families’ faces as the pilas were revealed was priceless. It was clear to see that two families receiving the pilas were incredibly grateful for the help from our team and their own community.
The sixth, yes sixth, and final sense to be awakened is spirit. After looking around and taking in the beautiful view, hearing the men laugh in between grunts of hard work, smelling the crisp mountain air, slowly sipping freshly brewed coffee, and feeling the true sense of community, one cannot help but have their spirit lifted. THIS is what I meant when I said some escape and others explore. When you open yourself up to new experiences you discover not only about the place you’re visiting, but about the people as well. There is so much to learn about cultures other than your own, and if you’re wise, you’ll take what you learn and apply it to your life. For me, this trip taught me that no matter what I am not in it alone. That might mean something different for everyone, but for me, knowing and repeating this phrase helps in so many areas of my life. I want to move forward not only being willing to accept help when needed, but also willing to give help, especially when others might be too afraid to ask.
-- by Anne Apffel, TerraMica volunteer