(Thirty minutes to get to Proniño then to the airport to pick up two team members who have never been to Honduras and don’t speak much Spanish. No problem.)
Hey Sarah! I’ll be at Proniño in about 10 minutes. Can you get the suitcases out of the office and be ready?
(Five minutes later.)
Oh, hey Sarah. You know what, I really think we won’t be able to fit all of our luggage and the girls. Could you put the luggage back in the office and be ready when I get there in five? (Sarah says something about needing to track down Profe Fernando…again…to get the key.) Ok, great! See you soon!
(Three minutes later.)
Sarah. Hi. Me again. Um, I forgot that I need an envelope out of the little suitcase. Could you go, uh, find Fernando again and get that for me?
(Clearly this morning is a little crazy. But I still have 22 minutes to get to the airport! No problem.)
You’ve got to be kidding me. You know what I don’t have time for?
A flat tire.
I mean, I can change a flat. No worries. I’ve done it, oh, once, roughly five, or eight, years ago. Crap, I really have no idea how to change this tire. And I have to be at the airport in 21 minutes. I wonder what I should… Oh, wait. What is this? My heavens, there are three men coming (one running) from different directions to my car. (Moment of trepidation that they’re going to gut my car quicker than a NASCAR pit crew… Moment passes.) Well thank you kind sirs for so quickly and efficiently changing my tire. Two accepted a soda as a thank you. One shook his head and said that he wanted to thank me for coming to his country and loving the children. (Well, ok, there was the one kind sir, who looked a little more ragged than the rest, who wanted the tire. No kind sir! I will not give you the tire that is flat! There’s a rim attached to that shredded rubber!)
(Arrive at the airport 15 minutes late to find two only slightly distressed team members. Fade to black. End scene.)
This experience has stuck with me for days. What would have happened if I had gotten a flat tire in the States? Many, many people would have whizzed by. I probably would have gotten some dirty looks for holding up traffic. I would have slowly figured out how to change this blasted tire. (Because changing a tire is like riding a bike, right? Surely, it would’ve come back.) And I would have been very, very late to the airport.
Honduras has been saddled with the endearing label of “murder capital of the world”. And sadly, they have the statistics to back it up. I’m always quick to point out that so many of the deaths are directly related to gangs and drug trafficking. I make it a habit to avoid these things. It would be naive of me to say that the problems stop at these two issues. But my purpose today is not to educate you on the endemic problems the country faces. I just want to put two realities side by side.
More people are killed per capita in Honduras than any non-conflict affected country in the world.
My experience with the tire is not abnormal. I have received more unsolicited help and kindness in Honduras than in the States.
The people I know, work with, have bumped into are good.
And they are Honduras.
I heard a story a few weeks ago on NPR about a street artist in Tegucigalpa, named El Maestro, who is “on a mission to change his country’s violent image”. (Click to hear the story.) One of his paintings is of Mona Lisa gripping a bright pink 9 millimeter pistol. You think you’re seeing one thing (the weapon) from afar, but up close you realize there is so much more. This is his country.
“From afar all you hear about Honduras is the bad, but up close there is beauty.” ~ El Maestro
So, so much beauty.