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Appreciation of Life in America

By Janelle Rouse ’15

With shaky legs we walked across the tarmac to go through customs in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital city. When we left Philadelphia that morning the temperature had been about 40 degrees. When we landed in Central America, the temperature had more than doubled. 

The thirty-six mile drive from Tegucigalpa to Zamorano, a university in a rural area where we would stay and collaborate with the students there, showed me the level of poverty that plagues Honduras. Children with no shoes and dirty clothes walked along the road with stray dogs at their heels. We drove into the mountains and saw homes made of cardboard, scrap metal, and planks. These homes could only be reached on foot because the mountain was so steep. 

A Fraction of Experience

At an elementary school on the university’s campus, a Widener classmate, Kati Pappas, and I spent time observing an English teacher. One of the school’s teachers had a death in his family and it was the local custom to bury the dead the same day of death. The principal asked us to substitute in the sixth grade class. I was very nervous and feeling ill-prepared. Although I have extensive experience working with children, I had worked with students who were much younger. But Kati and I worked as a great team, teaching the students about fractions, reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, and discussing science fair projects. The students gave us some resistance at first, but after a while they participated and were engaged. 

We also visited a local orphanage where we cooked spaghetti for more than fifty children. None of the children were picky eaters. They ate everything that was given to them and asked for more. The hardest part about going to the orphanage was that the children only spoke Spanish and we only spoke English, but they showered us with hugs and smiles. They did not seem to understand why we would not speak Spanish to them. They thought it comical that we could not speak Spanish, so we tried our best. Our Spanish was indeed comical!

On this trip I learned so much about the advantages and blessings I have in America. I want to seek happiness instead of seeking status and I desire more than anything to return to Honduras. I do not feel that my time there is done; I want to do student teaching at the elementary school there. I learned so much, but there is so much more that I desire to learn that my return to Honduras in imminent.