I arrived to San Pedro Sula sweaty, something Austin has since told me to get used to. I walked out of the gate, feeling the lightness of my being (I didn’t check any bags), as the rest of my flight members fiddled with their heavy suitcases, and scanned the crowd for my curly haired lover. There he was, sweaty and glowing. I hadn’t seen Austin in almost a year, a whole year! We couldn’t believe it as we caught up on the way to the bus station. We bought our tickets and, as we had another hour before our bus left and we were hungry, we ate lunch. For my first Honduran meal we ate … at Pizza Hut and it was delicious, thank you. This whole time I am walking around hearing Spanish, hearing Austin’s near fluent Spanish and I am trying to call upon my vast Spanish schooling, and every time I call on a word from my distant memory, it comes out in Chinese. “Wo you hambre” and “tengo er shi wu anos” won’t make sense to anyone in the world but me (and maybe Tim and Ryan). The battle in my head continues to rage and who knows which language will come out on top? I just hope that on the battlefield the Latin and Asian generals can meet in the middle and shake hands. A truce would mean I could access either language at my beck and call, be it with marginal accuracy, of course. I can only imagine.
The bus took 5 hours, and Austin and I chatted heartily for about 4 of those hours. If you’re reading this blog and you are a close friend of ours, we probably talked about you extensively; that’s how thorough we are. We arrived to Tegucigalpa as the sun was setting and we waited for Keila, Austin’s Honduran girlfriend, to pick us up… for a while. From what Austin tells me, we are on “Honduran time”, which seems a lot like my time. Keila’s family is huge. There are ten children; half of them are out of the country, either married or visiting a member of the family (two are in South Korea, one is in Texas, for example). We walked in and Austin introduced me to everyone while I tried to respond but held my tongue every time a Chinese phrase came to mind, resulting in a lot of smiling and nodding on my part. The family was extremely hospitable, but was surprisingly unfazed by my presence (a rare occurrence in any culture). I was just one of the herd, which meant they cooked me dinner (so good; corn tortilla quesadillas con arroz y frijoles) and the father bowed his head before we ate, silently waiting for me to bless the food. I did. Despite the change in skin color, spoken language, and country, the family felt eerily familiar; I felt like I was at dinner with the Balls, or the Deans, or the Souths (coincidence?), and it was comforting. After dinner Keila’s brother, Adin, explained the difference in family culture.
“When I was in Texas I made an observation,” he said methodically with a smile; he seems to always be grinning, “My brother’s family wanted to join another family for dinner; so he called them… a week early. It was formal. We will cook something; maybe you can cook something; someone will bring drinks. Here, it’s different; you don’t call. You just go to their home and knock on the door. ‘Hey, come in!’ It’s normal.” He then proceeded to give me a tour of the family pictures on the refrigerator and in the living room. Their house is a sprawling web of rooms, connected by outdoor balconies and stairways. Vines and flowers pour over and through holes and railings on the way each room. It’s one of the coolest homes I’ve ever been to.
Everyone was inviting and spoke with me kindly, but after dinner, it was business as usual. Mom cleaned and chatted with her children across the kitchen island. Dad sat and watched the Historia Channel all night. Samuel and Daniela, mom and dad’s grandchildren, traded turns on the computer playing flash games. Two brothers toyed and wrestled with Austin, which he is surprisingly open to now. In college, he would tense up at a single touch and hit you until you stopped touching him. Now that’s all he does: touch people.
It’s been a glorious first day, and so far I love Honduras, but I can’t help but be reminded of China. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the culture; maybe it’s the feeling of otherness or the 2nd language. “Because it’s your place,” Austin said, “when I went to Peru last year, I just wanted to be in Honduras.” Well, I miss China, but it isn’t dragging me down. It’s just reminding me how much I love it.
Austin playing Zuma, the family past-time
Samuel is one of the cutest kids ever. Exhibits A and B.