The bus rolled over cobblestone hills, taking us into a little city straight out of a travel guide. The ten of us stepped out, exhausted from our 10 hours of traveling, carrying in our hands the suitcases we would live out of for the next four months. Our professors led us to the porch of a house where women and children sat and laughed together, and one by one the women recognized us, drew us in for a hug, and welcomed us into their families.
For our stay in Honduras, each of us will live in a different home in the beautiful city of Santa Lucia, about a 45-minute bus ride from the capital Tegucigalpa. These families provide us with our own room, and cook us breakfast and dinner every day.
My living room is here, where I watch Disney shows in Spanish with my adopted family and eat the delicious meals my mamá cooks for me. My brothers, who are in college, bring their friends in here, and my sister plays here with my adorable niece.
Walking out of the kitchen, there is an enclosed terrace where the laundry hangs to dry, and the floppy mutt, Scott, barks at our neighbor's roosters. My room is behind the door in the picture. It's tiny but comfortable, with just enough room for a small bed and a desk. In the mornings, I walk to the outdoor sink and brush my teeth while watching the cars struggle up the cobblestone hills.
This is my neighborhood. It is filled with "pulperías," or little stores that cater to the swarms of tourists that flock to Santa Lucia on Sunday afternoons. During the rest of the week, the town is safe and sleepy, wonderful for walks down to the library, the park, or the hundred-year-old Catholic church.
Honduras is absolutely beautiful, and these pictures can't do it justice. In the middle of its rainy season, everything is lush and green. There are mountains wherever you look, and at night the lights of distant Tegucicalpa sparkle like stars.
Almost no one in Santa Lucia speaks English, and my two semesters of Spanish are being pushed to their absolute limit. In Spanish class, you learn to discuss the weather, or the color of a shirt. Nothing prepares you for when your papá turns off the news and asks in Spanish, "So, what do you think of President Obama?"
Our first five days here have been a blur of getting to know our families, our city, and our classmates. We take a public bus every day to Tegucigalpa, where we study at a "Pedagogica," a public university. Those whose Spanish is more advanced will take classes with Honduran students, while the rest of us study with our English-speaking professors.
I'm tempted to go on and on, talking about the way street vendors sell water in plastic bags and I've eaten types of fruit I've never heard of before. I want to talk about the National Park we visited and the group of young Hondurans who tried to teach us to dance. I want to talk about playing pool with a 9-year-old and the way he laughed at my broken Spanish.
There is so much to learn here and so much to do here. I could talk about all the ways Honduras is different or the same, but there's no way to compare it to what I'm used to. I'm walking forward with new eyes, ready to experience whatever happens, however it happens. There will be time for all those stories! Right now I have homework to finish, dinner to be back in time for, and a city to explore...