For those of you who don’t know, I have just begun a six-month mission trip to Honduras, a Central American nation in between Guatemala and Nicaragua. I’m staying with my aunt and uncle in the nation’s capital, Tegucigalpa, and will be doing a variety of things to help them with their ministry while I’m here. I’ve decided to at least attempt to keep up a steady blog journal about my experiences, and so, without further ado, the first entry.
It’s hard to think in the airport. They’re overwhelming; the noise and bustle, the sometimes confusing layouts, the presence of overbearing security features. But it’s more than that. Airports are crossroads, which have traditionally been held to be places of power. I think that’s because so many stories cross where two roads meet. There are so many hopes and dreams and fears. There’s so much raw humanity at a crossroads, and even more at an airport, where many paths cross and many paths end or begin.
But when I’m there, I don’t think of that much, except to wonder what are the stories of each of the people passing me, and to notice how many others are travelling alone. I feel sorry for some of them, because they look so lonely. Then there are couples and families, and I wonder if this is a trip they all want to go on, or if someone is pushing them into it, and what desperate or mundane motives would push so many people to pile aboard flying metal tubes and hurtle through the air to someplace in a different part of the world.
But that’s just sort of a drifting haze in my mind. I’m not thinking of much. Mostly I’m just wandering from place to place. My first two flights go quickly. Then I’m in Houston, where I have an 8-hour layover. This is where it starts to feel more real. IAH–the airport I’ve flown into–is huge. Much bigger than the previous two airports. The first thing I do when I touch down there is to go to the terminal my next flight leaves from, which is on the other side of the airport. By now it’s after one in the morning, but I’m not really feeling tired yet. That comes later, when I finally find my gate and realize that the only place with a power outlet is next to a trio of very loudly jabbering ladies who show no signs of being perturbed by the lateness of the hour. But a blessing comes in disguise when I can’t find an open wifi network in that area, and am forced to wander around searching for one. Eventually I find it, and a power outlet too, and I settle down for the night. My plan is to watch Netflix all night, because I know I won’t be able to sleep. The airport has too much energy; and anyway it’s much too open and bright and unfamiliar for me to sleep in. At one point I go on Facebook and talk to a couple of people for an hour or so. I’m so tired by then that I wish I hadn’t said I would be online during the wee hours, because even though I very much appreciate them being there for me, I don’t really have the energy to make conversation. But we have a pleasant talk and then I go back to Netflix.
When it finally gets to a time I would usually think of as “ungodly, but late enough to wake up,” I put away the laptop and find some breakfast. By then there are a few more people at my gate, and the jabbering ladies have fallen silent. I sit down next to someone who’s also alone and debate trying to start a conversation, but I’m too tired to think of anything to say. Then the flight leaves; I’m in the air on the final leg of my journey. Sitting next to me is an old woman named Cathy, a Catholic missionary who has been to Honduras many times and who is an unexpected blessing. We have a pleasant conversation and she reassures me about the approaching airport in Tegucigalpa, which I’ve been nervous about because I’ve never tried to enter another country before. We part with promises to pray for each other and I’m through the airport in a breeze. It’s hardly more difficult than walking off a plane in the US.
My aunt, along with my two young cousins and my uncle’s niece, who is also staying with them, arrives soon after to drive me to their home. I wasn’t really sure what to expect before I came, but Tegucigalpa isn’t quite what I had imagined. It’s all built on hills; I’d had the unfounded notion it would be in a valley. It looks fairly modern and not terribly different from towns in America; I had expected, from what you generally hear about Latin America, that signs of poverty would be much more rampant and obvious. I find out soon that this is the good part of town, where I’m staying, so maybe that accounts for it. But the signs are still here, after I look a little more; there are people going to cars parked at stoplights and trying to sell things, and most strikingly, paramedics or firemen (I’m not sure which) taking collection jars around. My aunt tells me that they sometimes have to beg for money just to put gas in their vehicles, because the government doesn’t provide them with much funding, and consequently it’s always better not to wait for an ambulance. There almost seems to be a festival atmosphere in the air, with the people trying to sell things in the streets and the produce stands often passed by the roadside, until I remember that most of these people are probably only out doing this because they’re desperate for money. That sobers things a little, but it’s so bright and airy here that I can’t really be terribly sober. Everything seems yellow and green and there is a gentle breeze.
My aunt and uncle’s house is large and open, and surrounded by many beautiful plants, including a somewhat wilted but still majestic orchid tree. At this point I’m utterly exhausted, and so after I quick shower I shut myself in my room to sleep. Although nearly two days have passed since my last sleep, I feel like it’s been only one, because of the sort of time-warping effect of travel and a sleepless night. It has been a long journey, but blessedly easier than I had worried it would be.