Same Difference

Today I went on a walk with all the Moms and babies in the baby house. We went to the farm through mud and tractor ruts. Eventually one of the girls said it would be better to go off the road instead of trying to avoid the pits and puddles. I found myself, with the help of another girl, pushing a six-kid stroller up the side of a very steep hill/ mountain. Sometimes life is crazy here!

Despite the experiences which seem totally foreign and the times I think, “I would never do this in the states,” there are “un monton” of similarities. The 14-16 year-old moms at the baby house may have gone through extreme abuse, they may have 1 year-old kid and a past that would make the anyone with a penny’s worth of compassion cry for pity, but they are, in so many ways, just like the most normal highschool girls in the states. They like to look pretty, like to be friends with other pretty people, tease each other about boys, and wonder and dream about their future. I love to see them have fun and get excited, especially because they have so little to get excited about. This past week-end some of the new volunteers and I took nail polish and hair accessories to the baby house and had a party with snacks and soda. Everything was cool for them, from the fact that I brought chips to the pile of nail polishes strewn out on the floor!

Another experience that has been a highlight for me is my weekly trip to the tienda with one or two of the girls. The tienda sells snacks, icecream, soda, and some various meals. This time allows me to get to kno really are the main differences here. There are some really difficult situations for me to handle. One mom is dealing with an eating disorder and is either almost overwhelmingly affectionate or won’t respond to even the most simple request. Then again, she is 14 with  a 3 month old baby and is living away from her family in an orphanage where she doesn’t really even have a friend. Would I be the same? Another girl tells me almost every day that she wants to leave and has told me her horrific story of sexual abuse, but I don’t know how to counsel her, certainly not in Spanish. Then again, maybe she needs a hug and a smile and someone to sit down next to her and rub her back or play with her 1 year-old girl. Another mom orders me around, feels disrespected if anyone questions anything she says, and undermines anyone else’s authority. But she is the oldest mom there, at 26, and she did grow up in the orphanage and have a great deal of responsibilities before she left to get a job  and came back with a child and no authority at all. This culture also w them in a fairly stress free environment.

Speaking of food, I am completely bored of rice and beans! Everyone here knows that the food is completely boring, and the girls and I often laugh  or commiserate over our “frijoles con carne” (bugs to be specific). We also celebrate together whenever there is some new food- two tortillas with dinner or a glass of coke; sometimes a small thing like this makes a normal dinner after a long day into a fiesta! When the girl in charge of the volunteers asked me if anything special had happened in the past 2 weeks, I found myself telling her of the times when I had eaten something other than beans and rice- the staff dinner, the time Poppy had brought us icecream for The Day of the Children, etc. I would never have thought that such small changes in routine could mean so much, but I find myself to be just like the other girls as we rub our hands together or whoop in excitement. I find myself thinking over and over again, I’m really no different than anyone here, we just have different stories.

History and culture may make for obvious difficulties in relating. Not only am I surrounded by Hispanic culture/Honduran culture, but 9 of the volunteers that just arrived are Danish, and when I come home every night, there are always groups of people around the house speaking Danish! A few days ago I went to the grocery store with 5 of them; it was so funny to ask them to help me find something because I would ask one, and they would talk back in forth in Danish about what they thought I might be asking for,and then they would try to find it, and I would need to tell them what it was called in Spanish, so we were always switching from one language to another. Their first language is Danish and their second, English, and my first is English and my second, Spanish. I have come to the conclusion that, through being here, that one is always surrounded by people from different cultures. it is only that sometimes those various cultures are easier for us to recognize because they are more readily perceived by our senses.

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