How I ended up living in Honduras is a story that actually begins before I was born. My grandfather was an engineer who visited Japan several times on business and developed an appreciation for all things Japanese. Somehow he connected with an exchange program and he agreed to host a 16-year-old Japanese student, at the time the same age as my mother.
This led to my mother’s interest in other cultures and countries, and when she began working for Procter & Gamble she started making friends from around the world who were frequently invited to join us, especially if it was Thanksgiving and they didn’t have any family in the US. My family adopted people from other countries in one way or another throughout my life: a University of Cincinnati student from Egypt who was muslim but whose birthday was Christmas Eve and so always celebrated Christmas with us, an exchange student from Turkey, a college student from Japan (the daughter of the exchange student my mother was host sister to as a teenager), and others.
My father had also had an opportunity to travel in France and Germany in his 20’s, and we traveled to France when I was 15. At the time I was studying French and it was thrilling to practice what I had been learning. He worked at the University of Cincinnati and also worked with people from all over the world.
When I was 17 I was an au pair (nanny) in France for the summer, hosted by a friend my mother had worked with in Geneva, Switzerland. By the end of the summer my French was fluent enough to get through basic conversations and I had discovered my favorite French cheese, one similar to emmantalier and local to the French alps. Although I had been homesick after a few months in France, when I returned to the US I found that I missed France and couldn’t imagine a life lived only in the US. That was my senior year in high school and I applied to and was accepted at American University as an International Relations major.
AU was great, and living in the international dorm was even better since it made it easy to make friends from lots of countries–Bulgaria, Japan, China, Brazil, and many others, as well as American friends who had an interest in other cultures. My French class was great because my professor focused on current events and French as a spoken language, and I loved my International Relations class. However for a variety of reasons I returned home to Cincinnati before my second year at AU and changed my major to Social Work.
I kept taking French classes until I realized a couple of things: 1) most advanced French classes are about reading French literature, not about improving spoken fluency and 2) Spanish would be more useful in Cincinnati. I had taken Spanish in 1st-3rd grades and did not like it at all, but my parents insisted that I learn a foreign language while I was young and so I had switched to French. However at age 20 I had a renewed interest in Spanish and started taking classes.
During my first or second Spanish class a classmate mentioned that Latin dancing at the Mad Frog was a place where one could practice their Spanish. I started going to Latin night there and practicing my very basic Spanish with native speakers. Over the next few months I started making friends with people who spoke very little English, which was excellent because it forced me to use whatever Spanish I knew. They were patient with me, and my fluency was improving so quickly with them that I stopped taking Spanish classes.
I had always seen learning another language as a door to learning about people from other cultures. When you have to learn that person’s language you learn about them within their own context in a way that doesn’t always happen when they’re speaking your language. And learning Spanish outside the classroom among friends from Mexico was a gateway not only to Spanish, but to learning a little about Mexico too: how to greet people, the food, the music, dancing, TV shows, and what was important to them.
Over the next several years I continued to make friends from all over Latin America and Spain, improving my fluency in Spanish and learning more about their countries and the subcultures within those countries, with occasional brief trips to some of those countries, but never a trip that allowed me to immerse myself in a culture the way my time in France had.
So more than a year ago when my partner and I were discussing how much he missed Honduras, I was well-primed to consider moving there with him. After a lot of thought and consideration, we decided to go for it, and in November of 2017 we moved to the rural, mountainous part of Honduras where his parents lived and thus began the adventure.
A note about names and places
This is a public blog because I want it to be accessible to anyone who is interested, but in an effort to protect the privacy of others I have decided to mostly not include names of people or name the areas I was in. Rural Honduras is like living in a small village: everyone knows everyone, and gossip is both a source of local news and entertainment, and so many value their privacy.