Being home in England!

I haven’t really said much about what it has been like coming back to England after a year abroad, in a very different country, and I always planned to write about the reverse culture shock of coming home. So this will be my last post on this blog…

I’ve been home almost 2 months now – where has that time gone?? I was pretty down my first couple of days as the realisation I wouldn’t get to see my family and friends in Honduras for so long set in… and I guess the return to England had been a bit of anti-climax; I had been expecting some kind of change but it felt like I’d never been away! Like Honduras had been a dream even; it definitely doesn’t feel like I was there for a year now. 

However, after the first few days of really feeling down, I started to enjoy being home and seeing the people I’d missed so much, the places I’d been dreaming about and the food I was craving. I’ve had a pretty hectic couple of months seeing friends and family all over the country, even having Brynja from Iceland visit, as well as going abroad again myself to Ireland to visit Joel. I’ve also been running around the country trying to find a job – somehow, I have managed to get a really great job that I start in a week! I’m so excited about moving to Oxford and beginning a new adventure there with a really great youth charity 🙂 I don’t think I have suffered too much culture shock, it’s just been getting used to a lot of little things: 

  • putting toilet paper down the toilet! I still have to take a minute to work out what I’m doing when there is no bin in the bathroom and then I realise…
  • the prices; wow it is so expensive here! And you really don’t realise just how expensive until you’ve lived in a developing country and it makes it really hard to buy things that you now know are so ridiculously marked up *cough* coca cola!! 
  • driving on the left…. there have been a couple of times I have found myself driving on the right, whoops! 
  • speed cameras – one of the things I actually managed to completely forget existed. You can imagine my reaction when I saw one for the first time again 😦 
  • just general road courtesies, I don’t think a lot of my Honduran friends would cope very well on our polite, calm roads…
  • actually being able to walk into local shops and choosing things, rather than guessing at what they might have from behind bars
  • being invisible, I definitely don’t get gringa and guapa shouted at me anymore!
  • people being on time…. that was definitely a nice cultural thing to get used to again 🙂

… and so many more little things! 

 I have lots of things from Honduras in my room to remind me of my amazing experiences there and I speak to someone from Honduras almost every day so it is definitely still a big part of my life, but of course it is so different and a part of me is really, really sad that my adventure there is over now. I miss the country and my friends there all the time, and more than anything my host family. I hate not seeing them every day and I often want nothing but to jump on a plane to go see them. I will definitely do this though before the year is out. I saw Cuban Fury last night and the salsa dancing and spanish music made me miss Honduras A LOT. It’s so great to be able to see the lyrics of a Daddy Yankee song without even realising it but then I have a huge craving to drink a bottle of Salva Vida and get moving on the dance floor. I’m so, sooo glad I went to Honduras and had the incredible experience I had, but sometimes it is really hard missing it! 

Overall, coming back to England hasn’t been as cold, boring or depressing as I was expecting it to be. I think living in such a nice place and having a job I’m passionate about is going to help a lot in making me enjoy being here and for now, it’s where I want to be. But Honduras, I will be back, I promise! 🙂 

 

Thank you everyone for reading this post and any other part of my blog you might have read. Seeing that people have been viewing this and even emailing me to let me know you’ve enjoyed it has been a really great feeling and inspired me to keep up with it. I’m so glad I have something now that I’ll be able to read again when Honduras does seem like a distant memory… 

Saying goodbye to Honduras

Well I’ve been pretty useless updating this since I got back to the UK a couple of weeks ago… I’ve been quite busy but I also just couldn’t bring myself around to writing something, I’m not sure why! So anyway here is my gooodbye story…

 

My last few days in Honduras were really amazing; my friends and family in Honduras went out of their way to show me how much they love me and they managed to make me fall in love with their country even more. I had really bad homesickness for the last few months of my time in Honduras  but when it came to actually saying goodbye it felt too soon and I would had loved to stay a few weeks or even a couple of months longer. But I guess it would have never felt enough…

I was really upset when it came to saying goodbye to everyone at the airport… especially when I hugged my host mum and dad, they have looked after me so well the past 9 months and I just ended up sobbing onto their shoulders. I really love them so much. My goodbye was incredible though – some people showed up to say goodbye as a surprise from my project (thank you so much Emma and Norma) and I felt so loved. Thank you everyone who came to see me off – Elizabeth, Raul, Raeli, Azariah, Julia, Joel, Teddy, Christopher, Nora, Leonardo and David. And the people who called me – my host brother and his wife, Sophie (sorry I didn’t get a chance to speak to you!) and Juan Carlos. It meant sooo much to say goodbye to you all. I love you all millions!! Especially a huge thank you to Azariah who gave me the most amazing gift – my two favourite countries together:

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It’s beautiful, thank you 🙂 

 

My last weekend

My goodbyes started on the Friday before I left when I visited my project to say goodbye for the last time. I got emotional about leaving for the first time when we had a meeting and I just thought it was my last one with them 😦 what I love the most about the people at my project is that they are a little crazy and just so positive and happy all the time. They are one big family and I just being around them; they make me laugh so much. I will really, really miss that every day. I especially want to thank my team: Emma, Lurvin, Hector, Kelvin and Estefany for everything. They are all beautiful people and I owe them so much. 

I then met a friend from the states to get the bus back to my house – for the last time, sob!! A couple of hours later 6 of us piled into the car and headed to Skybar for my leaving party with my friends – I love Skybar for its views, the nachos and the wine. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of people who came, it was amazing. Thank you everyone who came and said goodbye, it really meant so much and I had a great night. I got to see everyone I love, have a last dance with Miguel and drank my last salva vidas. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone 🙂 

The next day I headed to Valle de Angeles with Julia, Noel and a couple of others and we had a really lovely day. I bought all the souvenirs I could have wanted and we had my most favourite food in all of Honduras (except maybe baleadas…); anafre. No one should ever go to Honduras without trying Anafre, it’s delish! It was really nice to see Noel who I definitely didn’t spend enough time with this year and also Julia, who was away over Christmas and New Year. Thank you both for a really fun day.

That evening I also had my farewell meal with my host family – I had already been upset before we got to the restaurant and I was trying to hold it all back because I knew I would cry a lot otherwise. They surprised me by going to the same restaurant I had my first meal with them at – a really typical restaurant with amazing steaks. My host mum did a beautiful prayer before we ate saying lots of lovely things about my time with them and asking for good things for me in the future. I managed to keep the emotions in until my host dad asked me my favourite thing about Honduras (the people) and my favourite place (Copan)… and then I just broke down. I just love Honduras and my host family so ridiculously much. I tell everyone how much I love them, but I don’t think anyone realises just how much! They really have become my second family and I’m just crazy about them. Their home is so welcoming and always full of people and it’s been amazing to be a part of that. They have made me feel really cared for and loved, thank you family 😀 they also gave me some AWESOME gifts – some Honduras style coasters, a cd of punta songs (amazing), a beauuuutiful ring (thank you Rae for choosing it) and a Honduras flag with their signatures on. They are really perfect gifts and I will treasure them. 

My last day in Honduras was amazingly simple – I went to church with my family in the morning and then we just stayed home for the rest of the day. I had a perfect last breakfast of baleadas and a beer, what more could I want?? 

I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my last weekend in Honduras – everything was perfect and I managed to say goodbye to everyone who made my time in their country so amazing. I miss Honduras so much every day and I am already planning my return as soon as possible. But I am so lucky to have so many ways to stay connected – thank you facebook, whatsapp and skype!! In the end my year in Honduras was the best thing I have ever done and I don’t regret any of it. I’m so, sooo glad I went there and I know that the country and its people will always be in my heart. Soppy I know, but true. Thank you Honduras 

Last night in Honduras…

It’s 12.30am on my last night in Honduras… my suitcase is packed and I will be in Toncontin airport in 12 hours waiting to board my flight back to England. I haven’t had chance to write anything over the last few days but it has been an amazing last weekend. There have already been a lot of goodbyes and tears – so many people have said lovely things to me and even given me beautiful gifts to remember them and their country by. I will do a proper ‘thank you’ post when I get the chance but for now, thank you everyone who has made this year so special.

I am planning to try and write down how I’m feeling at the moment while I am waiting in Miami airport so hopefully there will be another post soon. All I can say for now is that I am so sad to leave this country… it has really become home to me and I love it so much. Thank you Honduras. 

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Feliz Año Nuevo a Todos!

Happy New Year Everyone!! 

I know I said I would post more but I’ve been kind of useless again, oops!

It is really crazy that now it is only 1 week until I am on my plane away from Honduras! 😦 SOB! I reeeally can’t believe I have so little time left but I am definitely ready to see all my friends and family in England. It doesn’t feel like I’m leaving yet but I have some goodbyes planned with my friends and family here that I know will be quite emotional but I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and giving them hugs. Whenever I speak to people at the moment about me leaving they always ask if I’m going to come back and visit… to which I reply that I definitely am, and then they reassure me that I won’t and I’ll forget about Honduras once I’m home. I can assure everyone now that that is NOT going to happen… I love Honduras and so many people here. There is no way I’m not going to come back and visit – hopefully I can visit this year if time and money allow! 

I had a delicious meal with my family and a couple of friends for New Year’s Eve – we had spag bol and Lobster, really delicious!

And I even treated them to a good English dessert, Apple Crumble mmm. It actually turned out alright too despite me having to make it without scales! I haven’t been upto much since then – mostly I’m making a crazy dash to apply to as many jobs as possible so the job hunt is at least a little under way by the time I come back. I know it is going to be the last thing I’ll want to do when I get home and I have the chance to see all the people I love that I haven’t seen for a year. As well as that I have been catching up with friends by going to some of my favourite Tegus bars and restaurants… and I even got the treat of a final roadtrip to the South with two of my favourites, Teddy and Christopher: 

Thanks guys! It’s still always weird when we do anything without Laura but it was nice to see them before I leave. Some of my best memories from this year are random outings of the four of us and no one makes me laugh (and feel bullied) like these two! I really hope they both have an amazing 2014 🙂 

I began packing up my room tonight as I don’t want to rush it later in the week… I found a card from my old work that I left just before coming to Honduras, everyone’s words were so lovely wishing me well and it got me a bit emotional. I also have a ridiculous amount of cards from family and some friends from when I first arrived, my birthday and Christmas. It was quite nice to read them all knowing that I will see everyone very soon. 

Thanks for reading x 

Machismo culture in Honduras

Gender stereotypes will always exist, I believe at least. You will always see a baby girl wearing more pink and a boy in blue. Some parents will determinedly dress all their babies in yellow so as not to encourage stereotypes, but you will always have parents who want to dress their baby in the colours more traditionally associated with their sex. And there are jobs that I just can’t see gender roles completely balancing – I don’t think women will ever overtake men’s numbers of mechanic, or men as manicurists. But I think this is fine, as long as no one is losing out. Of course, women should get equal pay and little boys shouldn’t be told not to cry because they have to be ‘a man’. But, unfortunately, a lot of these traditions will carry on for a long time. However, the strength of gender stereotypes are noticeably different in different countries and cultures. 

For example, Honduras. By no means is my own country, the UK, fantastic at gender equality – women don’t receive equal pay and it isn’t uncommon for a man to slow down his car and shout something vulgar – but I have been shocked many times in Honduras at it’s machismo culture. Machismo is basically the culture of men being strong and unemotional, while the women are vulnerable and needy. The culture is quite drastically in favour of the man in the house – wives run after their husbands making them meals and cleaning up after them, daughters do the same for their fathers and brothers. You will never see a man in a house with other women helping with chores or preparing a meal – at least from what I’ve seen anyway. A women is expected to see that her husband/father/brother is happy and fed before she can look after herself. And often women are not even thankful for it – because it is just expected. A close friend of mine, who happens to be a married women with children recently told me that if I marry a Honduran guy I need to do evertyhing for him. I don’t think so…

One of my best girlfriends here told me recently that she really doesn’t want to marry a Honduran guy because of this. Isn’t that sad?! Like the rest of world, Honduras is slowly recognising gender equality, but it is still so focused on it’s machismo roots that women feel the need to marry outside of their own culture. In one way I think this is a good thing as my friend won’t feel the pressure to raise her own children to recognise men as more important than women; but wouldn’t it be better for Honduras to make more of an effort to recognise that men aren’t all that…

Another huge part of the issue is the crime women face in Honduras – the rate of femicides during the past couple of years has increased unbelievably. Just typing ‘femicides honduras’ into Google will give you a lot of depressing results – for example one website that tells us there were 600 murders of women in just one year (2012) and there have been 2851 femicides between 2005 and 2012 (https://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/11/26/honduras-over-600-femicides-in-2012/). I regularly see stories about mothers being murdered in front of their children in the newspapers here. There is a Guardian article that explains some of the reaons for the increased violence – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/29/honduras-blind-eye-femicides

There are so many problems being caused by the presence of maras in Honduras but little seems to be happening to change this at the moment. I sincerely hope that 2014 brings some hope to Honduras and it’s women. 

December Update 3: Cayos Cochinos

One of my biggest goals to do before I left Honduras was to go to Cayos Cochinos, a collection of islands and Cays off the coast of Honduras. Well with just a few weeks left until I leave I packed up my bag and headed off to paradise for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s. I had worried that there wouldn’t be any buses on the 26th but, silly me, didn’t realise Honduras is pretty much back to normal the day after Christmas. 

So I headed to a La Ceiba – straight away it seemed so strange to travelling without my travel buddy Laura! Although we drove each other crazy at times I really got used to waiting in bus stations and sitting next to Laura on countless buses in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. So it was quite lonely to travel without her. A lot of people were shocked also when I told them I was going to travel by myself but I didn’t want to visit Utila again, where Julia has gone, so I braved the trip sola. I stayed in a hostel in La Ceiba before heading to Cayos and met a couple of people from the States and Austria so had a nice meal in a bar with them. There was a live band and four people showing off their ass shaking moves – a gringo also got up to sing a traditional Honduras song which was pretty cool! 

The next day I headed to Sambo Creek where my boat to the Islands was leaving from – I had found a package deal with all my accommodation, food and 3 dives included. As we came up to the islands I was amazed at how bright the sand was on each island. The Cay we stayed on was so basic – there was no running water or electricity. There was only one light on the whole island which was in the kitchen of the main cabana which was solar powered and on my second day there wasn’t much sun – so no light. In the picture below, I stayed on the second cay from the bottom – the one nearest to the bottom is home to a Garifuna village and you could actually walk from island to island: 

There was a main house on the island with two bedrooms and then 3 cabanas with 2 bedrooms each. While I was staying there, there was also a group from Tegus I got to know – I even knew one of the girls already from Julia’s project! Honduras really is tiny! The food was really typical Honduras – fried chicken or fish with frijoles and rice. I did freak out a little at the hygiene as there was very little clean water on the island but I just had to get on with it as that is what island living is! 😀 The first night we also had a bonfire with marshmallows which was really fun – I also spent a loooong time looking up at the stars, there were so many and they were so clear 😀 

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The second day of my trip I went scuba diving – my only time diving was in a swimming pool at Centre Parcs! So definitely a little bit different. I was quite nervous at first but we started on a beach so I could ease into it – it was amazing to go down and see the fish. At some points huge schools of fish were swimming right next to me which felt really surreal. Our next dive was out at sea and I was super scared to do a James Bond style backwards fall off the boat with this huge, heavy tank of oxygen on my back but it was fine. The third dive was my favourite – we went to see a plane that had crashed into the water about 15 years ago. It was amazing to see how the coral had overtaken it and it almost blended into the rest of the reef with plants all over it and fish swimming around it. My diving instructor opened the door to the plane and there was even so many plants in there – it was seriously cool!! I’m so glad I went diving and I think I got it a lot cheaper than if I’d gone from Utila or Roatan – especially as I had a one on one lesson, rather than as a group.

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That afternoon I went to the island next to us which is a Garifuna village – it is amazing how a community can exist on such a small island. Around 150 people live there, 100 being children, and almost the whole island is made up of their houses. The houses looked really sturdy – as they would need to withstand bad weather, and the only the island’s whole economy survives from fishing and tourism. The island even has a small kindergarten school and the children get a school boat to a nearby island for school after that. I had a walk around the houses and saw people cooking, fishing and playing card games. Everyone looked really happy and relaxed – it was pretty awesome! I didn’t have my camera with me though so I don’t have any pictures from inside the island but I have some from the beach…

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I was meant to stay on the island three nights but the second night it rained and the forecast was looking bad so I left the next day with the family I had met from Tegucigalpa. Before that though we went snorkelling off the island and had some yummy baleadas. We then got completely soaked going across the rough water back to the mainland on a really basic boat. And I then had a bit of a nightmare trying to find a bus going back to Tegucigalpa so I ended up getting one that was quite a bit more than I’d want to pay… but it was unbelievably comfy 🙂 

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So that was my last trip of my year in Honduras – I fly out of Tegus two weeks today and I’m already starting to feel a little emotional. There are so many things I wanted to do before I leave and so many people I need to say goodbye to – I hope I will have time to do at least the most of it. I will try to post as much as possible these next two weeks as I know I’m going to be crazy busy when I get back to England. So have a great New Year everyone and make sure you see 2014 in with a bang 😀