Sunday, December 16, 2012

Forward Motion

What gets me about endings is how abrupt they seem. It's not so much that time goes by like a tortoise or a hare; it is when I can say that I am coming home tomorrow. Tomorrow. 

We had our last retreat at Lago de Yojoa and took a tour of a waterfall. My senses are still on the fritz from that one. 

I know I should make two lists: one of what I'll miss about Hondruas and one of what I'm looking forward to in the States. But I'm not going to. I'd leave things out. Forget a few memories. 

I'm trying to see how to merge these two worlds. Yes, there will be things that are solely available in Honduras - strawberry chicky cookies for example. These are different experiences, cultures, and value systems but they have all occurred in my one lifetime. 

All events in my life have occurred in sequence, obviously. Why would I treat this semester the same as adding navigation to a car? It's not a bonus or an extraneous circumstance. It happened. It is now every bit of my past as getting chicken pox, breaking my wrist, or learning how to walk. 

It's hard writing that this semester is now my past. That puts a finality to it. Pretty soon Calvin will be in my past. Then my first dog will be a memory. I am realizing the implications of forward motion and my inability to stop it. 

Ultimately, it's not about living in Honduras or living in the States; its about living, breathing, enjoying, seeing, being. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012


You know those cartoon characters that shake their head after being hit with a mallet with stars and squiggles making them all dazed and confused? That's what I felt like Saturday morning waking up and realizing that yes indeed, it is December.

Nonetheless, this past week and this coming week are a little different. We've finished up classes, are done journaling for obscene amounts everyday, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel - or whatever analogy you prefer for eminent endings.

These two weeks are devoted to a time called Practicum. It's unique to the Honduras program and a great experience. Throughout the semester we've studied topics, done visits, and talked to people in the development field. When one of these trips our trigger we (hopefully) get to see in it action for two weeks. Kurt and Jo Ann arrange for us to have quasi-internships for two weeks to see what people are doing in our areas of interest.

About a week before we were supposed to be heading out, our class took a trip to Tegu toys. A company that manufactures high quality wooden blocks with magnets inside (read: hours of blissful entertainment). We got a tour around the factory and chatted with co-owner, Chris about using business as a tool of development.

This tripped my trigger. Sparked my interest. Tickled my fancy. You get the picture.

Now, I am spending my Practicum time with the lovely people of Tegu and am learning a whole lot. I get to use some knowledge and experience gained from my internship and am talking to the workers on their lives and how Tegu has impacted them. It's also a tool to see how personal future endeavors could be taken on our respective fields of interest.

(Please excuse this shameless plug, but indeed, I must.) They're super fun toys and there are some in the office that I play with during lunch break. If they can entertain a twenty year old with a divergent mind, then I'm sure they will with a child of the same mindset. Check out their site to learn more about their mission and the products.

Side note: I am currently working my way through John Adam's biography by David McCullough and a Josiah Bartlett was mentioned. I then proceed to yelp when I made the connection of "That's President Bartlett's relative in the West Wing! They really didn't make that guy up."

I hope everyone had a splendid Thanksgiving filled with hearty meals, lively discussion, and beloved others. Ours was celebrated on Saturday with all the fixin's and a joyous time was had by all.

Take care, All.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Deserving Thanks

As much as I would like to sit here and list off things that I'm thankful for, I can't. I have to be honest with you. This is a struggle living down here. I want a hot shower, the roosters to stop crowing at three in the morning, and a travel thermos full of fresh brewed joe.

I have begun making a list of luxuries that I am going to treat myself to when I return home in under a month. I would never question this thinking. I keep telling myself, "Addison, you deserve this. You have lived in Central America for four months."

Do I, really? 

I have this thought that we (myself undoubtedly included) put a quota on how much a person must "suffer" before receiving "luxuries." It's an entitlement factor. I have endured enough, so now I may go back living the same because for four months I lived an un-Western lifestyle. Why would I ever subject myself to less than what I deserve, what I have worked for, what is my basic right? 

This is where our thinking gets in the way of our actions. We think self-entitlement; we act self-entitled. We think humbly; we act humbly. 

The truth is that I don't deserve anything. God, my provider, has been rejected, scoffed, and ignored countless times because of my selfishness. He had every right to end my physical, emotional, and spiritual possessions because they're rightfully His, correct? He worked for them, he made them, that is what he deserves, right? 

I am thankful God doesn't think like I do. I am thankful he has grace which is infinite. I am thankful God doesn't think that he deserves our love; He longs for it. He's able to function without us, but that sentence cannot be reversed.

When I sit down to our Thanksgiving dinner (on Saturday because Central America wasn't involved with the Pilgrims or Native Americans) I am going to be thankful for lukewarm showers, roosters who don't know better, and the cup of coffee my mama graciously serves me every morning. Yes, that's what I'll be thankful for. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Not so daily life

As I've been coping with a faint bout of homesickness by online browsing and looking at pictures of corgis, I realize that there are many things in my life here that are not so normal to my description of a day. This is a counter to my last post and these are just a few things that have made the past few days much more… amusing.

James Bond. It is a Smith Thanksgiving tradition to see new James Bond films when they come out. Since they'll be mourning the loss of my presence this year, I saw it before all of them and rubbed it (respectfully) in their faces.
Election night at the Intercontinental. The Ambassador was more than generous to invite our group to the swanky hotel and be in a crowd of other Americans as we watched the results being tallied. Also, to continue the college student stereotype we promptly took advantage of as much free food as we could.
The weather. I got sunburned and dehydrated on November 17. I can still feel heat radiating off of my shoulders. It would surely melt the snow they have back in the States.
The wedding. Last Saturday my family celebrated a wedding. I had little clue as to why my older sister came into town and why people were running around with bobby pins until I saw the bride step out of my sister's room. I quickly finished breakfast and tried to stay out of the way as the embodiment of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" came alive in my home.
Nicaragua. On our last getaway out of the country we took a quick trip to Nicaragua. We made haste by visiting an active volcano, an adorable colonial town, lake Managua, and the largest market in Central America. Then caught our breath after getting across the border. 

Official goodbye-hello countdown: four weeks from tomorrow!

Also, if you're interested in other Calvin off campus programs or want to see other student's experiences don't forget to check out my friend, Erin Smith's blog on her semester in Hungary! She has fantastic pictures and is an English major so her syntax is spectacular. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Daily Life

To get a feel of what (daily) life is really like down here I'll run down a quick schedule of happenings in Santa Lucia.

7:15 am - Catch the bus from Santa to Tegus. These precious twenty minutes are either filled with catching up on reading or playing helicopter on my Alcatel phone circa 2005. 
8 am - Arrive at the Pedigogica University where we take classes. We generally all grab a cup of coffee (or two) before heading off.
8:15 am - Spanish class. There are only two other students in the class, so it's necessary to pay attention to Profa Litza. She is quite a lady and always has great photos of her dog, Hipster. Yes, her dog is named Hipster. I did spell that correctly. 
9:30 am - Snack break. This generally consists of splitting cheetos puffs or having another cup of coffee. We all stay well caffeinated. 
10 am - Begin development class with either Kurt or Jo Ann. Every day we have readings and then class over the assigned topic for that day. Sample topics include: developmental theories, land rights, drug trafficking, transparency, short-term missions, child sponsorship, agriculture, fair trade, proposal writing, micro-enterprise, just to name a few. It is during these classes where we have some passionate dialogue or little revelations over facts that require a double-take. I feel blessed to study development intensely for a semester while also having visits and speakers from those working in the field. It's truly a unique experience.
12:30 or 1 pm - Lunch. Our building is near the cafeteria and a grocery store. We spilt up and fill up. 
2:30 pm - Catch the bus back up to Santa Lucia or shoot the breeze with some curly fries near the bus stop. We indulge in a little American food now and then. 
3:30 pm - Begin readings for the next day, play with puppies, watch Kardashians with mi mama or pop in an episode of The Wire.  
6 pm - Eat dinner and then resume either productive or unproductive activities depending on how much I got done before dinner. 
9 pm - Asleep. Generally aided by a Grisham or Cussler novel. 

Nothing too exciting. We certainly do work and it is not a slacking semester. It's a lot of reading, bonding, and bus riding. But there are quirky things are not so everyday but I have come to believe they are:

1. The MLB Postseason. This is a little dated, but the playoffs were a major bonding moment for mi mama and me. It was over our mutual dislike for the Yankees and love for the National League. 
2. peanut butter- a lot. My family has this jar on the table of peanut butter. Probably 20 oz. and only I eat out of it. This is a great way for me to track my consumption of that wonderful stuff. 
3. puppies. My dog, Bella, had five little squirts on a few weeks ago. They just started walking and are now loud enough for me to hear from my window at night. Still handfuls of adorable. 
4. a dog barking. This is really nothing new except for the fact that it only barks at gringos. It's on my way to the bus each morning, and it's always a lovely sight.
5. Unburnt toast. I think Jo Ann unknowingly put me with a family that makes toast exactly the way I like it. Sightly golden brown but not crunchy. Not sure how my Mama knows this about me, but it's something that I have been astounded by this whole semester.

Enjoy your Sunday everyone! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fall Break

I would first like to apologize for two things:
1. My three week absence. Time flew and deadlines were hastily met.
2. Giving you the impression that all we do is travel- which is partially true. But I promise to make you think otherwise in my next post. Also, I am writing this as a display of procrastination from homework (proof that we do more than backpack).

Aside from the antics and my need to justify actions, let's get to the part where you get jealous, assuming you love lakes, oceans, and bumming around the Caribbean.

We first began our adventure in Gracias, on the northwestern side of Honduras. It is a quaint little colonial town and a few of us slept in, drank coffee, and enjoyed the view of this old fort while we waited for two of our more adventurous vagabonds to climb the tallest mountain in Honduras. I admired the pictures on their return.

A hop, skip, and a chicken bus later we were in Roatan. It is one of the Bay Islands off the north coast in the Caribbean and a very popular tourist destination. We even saw a Royal Caribbean liner in port on our ferry out! It is an interesting place because it is technically still Honduras but everything is owned by expats and everyone speaks English. In all honestly, it was a bit of culture shock to have the ability to overhear conversations. Quite odd.
While in Roatan we snorkeled, rode some mopeds, and played countless games of Trivial Pursuit Young Players Edition.
The game can be dated by this one question.
     Q:What is the largest country in the world?
     A: the Soviet Union.
A step down from the 1986 Genius edition I have been seasoned with since a young age at Smith family gatherings. I unfortunately could not carry on the family torch to victory. Apologies, Grandma Jean.

Rounding out the batting order is Lago de Yojoa. I believe it is the most beautiful place I have ever been. The lake  runs right at the base of mountains. We spent nights at a gringo-owned brewery which crafted the best Pale Ale; we spent the day on a row boat in the middle of Lago de Yojoa with novels and nature. It was one of the moments where I wished life had a "pause" button.

I almost forgot! A big, special thanks to all of those wished me a happy birthday. That happened while we were in Roatan, so white sand beaches and Clive Cussler were adequately involved. I've got two decades down and many more to come God willing!

Enjoy the photos and have a (not too scary) Halloween!

This was a marvel! We were in the middle of Honduras and I screamed at the sight of a Pella Windows and Doors truck! I felt some Iowa pride in the moment! 

At the entrance to the fort there were little ruins, and this guy adorned with a little facial hair.

View from the Fort in Gracias. On the upper right is the mountain (slightly covered by the clouds) that the two ambitious people climbed. 


Lago de Yojoa. 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Post: The Parents

I, Addison, am relinquishing my Five Senes over to the parental units. They came down for the weekend and we had a fabulous visit.

In all honestly, I did not expect them (cough cough, my dad) to go so overboard with this project. I didn't get a hold of a draft until after "Hearing" and then I strongly encouraged brevity; then I applied my own sort of brevity - the delete key.

Hope you enjoy it. If not, I'm back next time. 

Time for a guest post from the Gringo visitors from the North.

This will be a poor substitute for Addison's insight into all things Honduran, but Donna and Bob are giving it a try.  Here we go with Five Senses -- 

Hearing --
  • we welcomed Honduras with the loud applause of our fellow passengers aboard Delta Flight 849 on Thursday. It is unsettling when the passengers are overjoyed when the pilot gets the forward thrust of the aircraft under control before we run out of runway.  I used to view that as automatic, but once you saw the airfield and surroundings -- you find out its not necessarily so.  
  • listening in with Addison's International Development class on Thursday night when a Honduran from the professor's neighborhood came in and told his tale of illegally immigrating to the USA.  A strong Christian man trying to provide for his young family by working hard -- and America gave him that opportunity. It was fascinating to hear such a story from his perspective.  If only there was a way to harness the desire of those who are motivated, hard working and well intentioned.  No easy answers to this one.
Touch --
  • the extremely bumpy surface of the cobblestone streets in Santa Lucia and a 50 lb. checked wheelie bag careening down a 20% grade for what seemed like six miles (but was probably 300 yards).  The wheezing was Bob trying to hold on for dear life and lugging it up a gentle grade to La Posada de Dona Estefana (The Best, Most Exotic Honduran Hotel).
  • the shock of lukewarm (heck, it was cold) showers with the electric-assist, heater head.  Bracing!!
  • a warm hug from Addison's Mama upon greeting us, as she hosted us at her home on Friday evening.  What a lovely lady and welcoming family. Addison is in very good hands!!
Taste --
  • fried plantains for breakfast along with eggs, beans, and fresh coffee. 
  • SalvaVida beer - cold and smooth
  • fresh tortillas
Smell --
  • corn cooking in early morning for masa . . . and fresh tortillas
  • sweet breads and rolls at Teguc Central Park
Sight -- 
  • the unbelievable number of private security persons packing heat outside nearly every store of any consequence -- even delis, Burger King, etc.
  • twinkling lights of Teguc at dusk -- like tiny LEDs.  Like a Robert Kincade painting -- only real.
Our trip to see Addison and her Honduran classmates and their program was a great success.  The program is in fine order, the instructors are terrific folks, the kids are really special and we had a great time visiting them.  Three and one-half days were just about enough!!

We invite your continuing prayers for Addison and the Calvin Honduras Semester youth.  They are learning much - academically, culturally and about themselves.

We look forward to having Addie back on December 17.

Above. Addison and Bob on the balcony of our hotel in Santa Lucia.

Above. A view of Tegus.

Above. Donna and Addison enjoying a Honduran style lunch on Thursday: rice, vegetables, chicken, and tortillas. Bob opted for some quesadillas or 'gringas' as they're referred to locally.

Above. View of the Catholic church of Santa Lucia.