Honduras….lessons learned, life transformed…

23 06 2011

By Altelisha Taylor

I have been back in the United States for about a week now and I must say that going to Honduras has changed my life tremendously. Believe it or not, it’s actually taking me a while to re-adjust to life at home. I had become so accustomed to the simple life there [in Honduras], that now I still find myself in a state of culture shock and disbelief.

Actually waking up in my own room, with air conditioning seems….weird. I can’t believe I’m actually cold…when you live without air conditioning for so long, having it appears to be a luxury you constantly notice. And that’s how it’s been with almost everything…cable television, good plumbing, hot showers, cars, etc. Honestly, I think that’s one of the advantages in doing an international research/fieldwork project. You become more appreciative for what you have and better able to relate with those from other cultures.

Although I love being back home and am beginning to thoroughly enjoy the perks of American life, I must admit that I do miss certain things. The feeling of community, genuine kindness of the people, passion of the students…. I really loved the service aspect. The ability to help promote the importance of health in its various forms to women and children of all ages and backgrounds…the rowdy but cute preschoolers, the extra enthusiastic elementary schoolers, the intriguing adolescents, and the concerned mothers. I liked learning how to alter our presentation of the material to cater to the audience we were teaching and our ability to provide them with the materials they needed to practice the healthy habits we were teaching them.

Research, oh the research. Sometimes I ponder its outcomes and I am baffled, shocked, confused, determined. Down in Honduras I wanted to delve into an aspect of maternal health, especially in terms of family planning and contraceptive usage. During the school year I was beginning to realize how crucial family planning was to maintaining a decent amount of maternal health and escaping a life of poverty. What I found from numerous interviews with a variety of different women from various parts of the town was not what I expected. It seemed as if these women do find family planning important, but they find this information out too late… The average woman interviewed in Honduras only has up to a 5th grade education and starts having kids around the age of 15…It seems as though it isn’t until after they are pregnant and actually take a visit to the local clinic that they actually learn about contraceptives for the first time…

It was crazy talking to 13 and 14 year olds who considered themselves to be married, or conversing with 17 year olds who told me that they had a couple of kids…Although initially in a state of shock, I had to hold my composure and remind myself of the culture difference. I had to take a minute and remember how much our environments play a role in the lifestyles we carry out. I would love to change their situations and alter that societal norm (which is indeed what my interviews with various health professionals are helping me do), but at that moment I had to sit back and take it all in without passing judgment.

I think that’s what being in another country teaches you…how to observe others, take note of the differences, but also realize the underlying factors….be able to empathize with the people and search for the similarities and values that you both share….learning how to make others feel comfortable around you, especially when they are sharing personal information…It’s realizing that one’s actions don’t necessarily make them who they are, and searching for the good that even the worst of people have buried deep inside….

Undoubtedly, going to Honduras has changed my life. I have become more determined to help improve the lives of those less fortunate and continue to promote health education to developing countries. As I continue to analyze my research and draw new conclusions my hope is to conjure new ideas and ways to make that a possibility. I want to discover more efficient ways to increase the health of those in need and I am so grateful to have had such a unique start in Honduras.




One response

23 06 2011

We are so glad that this fieldwork experience has been a truly defining moment for you. Now, I’m wondering what you will do with this, and what’s next. It is great to read about your reflections.

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