2012 started off pretty rocky for me, and I was going through some annoying quarter-life crisis. I was desperately seeking something that would fuel my soul and lift me out of the funk. When I saw a service trip to Honduras being organized, I rather impulsively signed up. I didn’t really know anyone who was going on the trip. Besides meeting the trip organizer, Justin, briefly at his Super Bowel party, I knew nothing. I somehow had full faith in this guy’s ability to make this spring break an awesome time. I didn’t really have any idea on where I was going, or what I would be doing. To be honest, I showed up at JFK and had no idea what city I was even flying to.
My instinct was right. 10 days in Honduras was just what I need to regain purpose. We spent six days in El Progreso, a mid-size city where OYE (Organization for Youth Empowerment) is located. The other four days, we spent on a rugged island of Cayos Cochinos, where we were able to experience a different part of Honduran culture, and true nature that is rare to life in New York City. Justin is a co-founder of OYE, and most of us didn’t know this until we were in Honduras! Talk about humble and accomplished SIPA kids.
Time in El Progreso included a lot of orphanage and school visits, a painting project at the OYE office, and plenty of dinners at local families’ homes. Justin knew El Progreso inside and out. We appreciated his local insight, and as a result, the trip was very non-touristy. Although the local flavor made me slightly sick of eating tortilla, rice and beans, etc. everyday. But just like all things in life, you miss it when you don’t have it anymore. Today at brunch on the Upper West Side, I ordered South American Eggs with rice and beans on the side.
I was incredibly surprised at how deliriously happy I was when walking around the streets of El Progreso. The markets were just like they are in Cameroon. The energy, the smell, the traffic, the cheap Chinese merchandises, the loud music blaring (except Latin music here), and people calling me “Chinese”, were all very familiar. I felt alive walking around those streets and being different. I enjoy being an Asian-American in the developing world. Even just walking down the street and greeting vendors, I was partaking in culture exchange.
When we visited orphanages and schools, I was moved to see how happy the children looked despite less than stellar conditions. When we meet students who had gone through the OYE scholar program and hear how their lives had changed, I am reminded how it takes only one person, to run with one idea, to start one organization, in order to change many people’s lives. It all starts with one inspiration and one idea. Being in Honduras reminded me just how much there is to be done in this world, and our responsibility as global citizens to contribute to this progress.
Suddenly, all of my “first world problems” felt horribly insignificant. I felt almost embarrassed by the amount of energy spent on being upset and confused over personal feelings, quarter-life crisis, stress of school, etc. There is an entire world outside of our “first world bubble”, where people worry about sending their kids to school and having food on the table. I live a privileged life and I needed to to be reminded of the realities outside of my first world bubble. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get suck back into this bubble. I’ve only been back for a week, and it’s difficult to hold onto those empowered feelings I had in Honduras. I am doing what I can to hold on… Look out for new posts that detail various activities of my Honduran Spring Break!