It's hard to believe, but two weeks from tomorrow I'll be on an airplane flight that will take me out of this country. I'm going to be spending the next three and a half months living and studying in Honduras. I'm incredibly excited for what looks like a life-changing semester; but, of course, everyone has a different idea about what constitutes exciting. When one of the bellmen I work with found out I was going to Honduras, he was quick to tell me everything he knew about the country.
"I hear it's, like, super dangerous," he said. "Aren't you scared?"
Yes, the United States has issued travel warnings for the country. Yes, I did have to sign special papers to go on the semester. But no, I'm not scared. The semester is well-established, run by competent professors who have called Honduras their home for years.
"We are often asked if Tegucigalpa [the Honduran capital] is dangerous," JoAnn VanEngen, one of the professors wrote in our informational packet. "The answer is, it can be."
But, she continued, so can any city in the United States. The response should be caution and education-- certainly not staying at home.
The bellman wouldn't let me leave it at that. Practicing his Spanish, he asked haltingly, "Temes la peligrosa?", "Are you afraid of the danger?"
No, I said. I'll be living in a safe neighborhood, far from the gang violence that brings the crime rate up so high. I'll be studying with the organizations that are helping make Honduras a safer place every year. I'll be wise. I'll be cautious.
I was walking back from lunch the next day when the bellman appeared out of nowhere, like the physical embodiment of my unvoiced worries. "I was talking to my roommate," he said. "He says you're going to die."
I'm not going to die. I'm going to learn.
"Honduras isn't perfect," says my school's study-abroad website, "But it is the perfect place to look for answers to the hard questions about our place in the not-so-perfect world we live in... You'll learn about the factors that make Honduras the third poorest country in the western world. Then you'll use that knowledge as a lens to look at the rest of the world."
I'm going to witness a Presidential election, visit an orphanage, subsistence farms, and garment factories. I'm going to experience life in a way I never have before. Aren't you all jumping to buy plane tickets alongside me?
Maybe it's a little dangerous. But what worth doing isn't? I offer my guarantee and my assurance to the bellman and whoever else asks: I am not going to die this Fall.
(If you're interested, this article, published in my school newspaper last year, explains the travel warnings to Honduras and the subsequent responses. If you want to keep up with me over the next few months, I'll keep blogging! Let's see where this adventure goes)