On first impressions.
I arrived in Honduras last Thursday with eyes wide open. Recognizing that first impressions are powerful, I jotted field notes in my worn Moleskine notebook whenever I had the chance – and I´m glad I did. Things that struck me then seem almost normal now, and I´m grateful for having preserved those first moments of transition from the comfortable and familiar to the strange, new, and different world I´ve found here in Central America. The three things that struck me most in my first 24 hours here were :
- The noise: Upon venturing from the Tegucigalpa airport, we careened through narrow streets in a small taxi, horns honking, people jumping in and out of moving school buses. Words emblazened on the side revealed that they once hailed from places like Chatanooga Tennessee, places far from this reality. Arriving at the bus station, we were
accostedgreeted by representatives of various competing bus companies, yelling their fares in desperate attempts to outdo each other and win our business. A cacophany of sounds – clatter, fumes, the ever steady dembow of reggaeton, as we left Tegus to begin the steady climb into the mountains of Southern Honduras.
- The Polvo (dust): It is dry season here. Hillsides that will be green in June are brown – both from the dryness and from the thick film of dust that covers every possible surface. As we bounce across the dirt roads in worn out yellow school buses, locals far more prepared than I endure the bumpy ride with towels or handkerchiefs covering their faces to protect their eyes from the sting. My hair is thick with it and my eyes run for it – the dust is almost as oppressive as the heat.
- Warmth: In contrast to the oppressive heat of dry season, the people here exude a subtle warmth. At first I felt self’conscious, feeling eyes watching me when I wasn´t looking, here in this part of the country where few gringos venture. But I quickly learned that if I was able to capture eye contact long enough before they looked away, long enough to offer a smile, I was rewarded. A softening around the eyes, a parting of lips, their curiosity would melt into a soft, shy smile. My communication with those strangers, at least in the beginning, was limited to that smile, that warm, welcoming, and humble smile. But even without words, that warmth makes me feel comfortable and welcome – a curiosity still, but a welcome one.