20 SEPTEMBER 2016
I have been contemplating for past week now as to how to close my entry of Honduras. I wanted to write a reflection summary, to capture what it was I learnt. But inevitably, my perspective will be influenced the past experience and knowledge about Asia, specifically Nepal and the UK. I am not sure how it will turn out, but here goes.
Sometimes, the writing (especially unstructured writer like me) doesn't do it justice to reflect the learning and the feelings truly experienced. First of, the reasoning of my attached sentiment with Honduras was due my adaptability there, which I did not find too difficult. This was of course influenced by how I looked, specifically my skin colour, that to some degree convinced people I was Honduran/from Latin America. It was very refreshing to be accepted as the part of the community; it was funny but endearing having people come up to me and speak in Spanish. Whilst in the UK, though having lived for more than half of my life so far, I did not always feel like I belonged here completely, perhaps to the fact I had not always integrated fully, and apart from friends, maintaining close contact with just a small community of people in Reading. And though I was born and have got a beautiful childhood and fortunate enough to have an understanding of the different ways in the village in Nepal, I do not quite feel like I belong there 100% either. For people who know me, I talk about Nepal awful lot; I have a lot of family there yet I cannot go and spend my life there; I cannot live with the same work or life ethics as most. Like many, identity in a limbo, trying to preserve the family background whilst trying to create your own sense of being. So, before I had a sense of not having a proper identity. There was not one place that I could call mine without any doubts. But as I travelled 15,048 km from the country I was born at, some people confused me or accepted me as one of them, it felt liberating. Because, I learnt that I could belong anywhere, in any continent. And that it really was up to me. I did not need to have born there or lived there for most of my life. If I wanted to, like many communities, separate myself out and decide not to integrate to the environment and people around me, I could do that, even in Nepal or UK. Or, I also could go to any part of the world, one of very different culture, lifestyle and with different skin colour, I could make it mine. It was as if the world showed under one sky, everyone belong everywhere. It was up to you to decide and you do not need a singular identity.
Secondly, Honduras gave another opportunity to look at religion but it made me question more about my own beliefs or the lack of. In Nepal, with the morning puja to the Sun god, ringing of the bells and puja to the statues, and many stories of Gods through Mahavarat and Bhagvad Gita, I never really quite got it. With many backwards views associated with some things, I could not fully accept religion as pure or 100% correct. I still take god's name when I wish well for my family or sometimes for exams and so on. But, it would feel fake almost if I pray to a statue day in and day out, as if instead of making use of the opportunities and experiences in front of you, you rely on someone else, one who you can't see. Saying that, I feel like I wished I believed, wish I had one thing that I had undying devotion for. Something that I had solid belief for even if everything else was in turmoil. I saw this with some of my friends of both Islam and Christianity religion the university and amongst the Nepali people I know, like my grandma. They used their belief in God to get them through the difficult times, and it is endearing to see that nothing else has power to shaken you. Honduras too showed me the strong influence of religion. With our host mum attending church every day, majority of the people attending church every Sunday (the children attending even twice). Church was the main part of Quinceañera event and a prayer before most of the things reflected just how important it was to their daily lives. As you watched the people's (young, adults, elderly) reaction during the prayer, you could see their conviction on God's existence and their salvation. Seeing that made me too want to believe in a God, but seeing this also made me reflect on all the other things I had seen. Every religious person was convicted that what they believed or most of the times that what they were brought into was 100% truthful and correct. It was a certain god and it was a certain way the world was formed. And it was so very vital how everything came to be that we have wars about it. According to many of the religions, only that particular religion is right, and others who do not follow that particular religion (who might be devoted in something else) are the same as the unbelievers, therefore, the options of heaven or salvation cannot be applicable to them. And how can that possibly be? My problem is not that of a faith, that we are all part of one, and I can accept the idea of someone bigger out there, might it be cosmic force, energy or god but the problem is that how can everyone be so wrong and right at the same time? Is it not more important that we embrace the current time living and focus on being a good human being rather than a good devotee and terrible human? I do not think I am equipped with enough knowledge to make any conclusion but rather a topic that you make your own judgement based on the personal experiences.
The third thing that I was constantly reminded of during my time in Honduras was the happiness, reflected by the satisfaction from the people. It hit me quite hard as I returned home to the UK. I was able to observe it fairly clearly in the first few days. And of course, this is only my personal opinion and based on my limited experience.
During our project in Honduras, I had felt the difference in the effectiveness of the time, resources and work that we did. In the UK, there was a greater restriction of the time limit; less space for faffing around, and things felt more structured or higher demand to achieve. Most of the things were business orientated and it was always the results that reflected the quality of the work. People were serious in getting the work done. All of that had worked to the advantage in development of the UK, and helped to build a community that was striving to success, to earning money, to owning gadgets and to making a name. One of the Progressio staff told us not to expect the same in Honduras, the work ethic might not be the same. There were some delays to the plan, some changes to the plan, some time lost on waiting, some on processing information, and some on being lenient. But then, it was not shocking to me, as it was the same in Nepal as I had seen last year. One of the volunteers pointed out to me that in fact it was not so effective in most parts of the world. It was in America and perhaps many parts of the Europe that people were racing against the time, living up to 'cities that never sleep'. It helped me understand that whilst I believe in being effective, and having opportunities to work and be innovative at all times, doing work right within the right time; we can learn to slow down, enjoy the work we do, enjoy the journey, not just the final point.
It took me many days than I expected to 'recover' or try to adapt back in the UK. Firstly, although sweating everyday from the heat whilst working outside in Honduras, I miss the sun as I wrap myself with blankets all day long. My mother is worried if I will start wearing 2 coats in December. I miss the coloured houses of Villa de San Antonio. Of course I miss the friends I made, the conversations I had, some inspiring individuals that I was fortunate to meet, the volunteers, the family and my little students and their ability to give me so many hugs as well give me a headache. What I miss is the greetings with the people. The 'Adios', 'Buen Provecho', 'Que le vaya bien' from the strangers. The words so simple, yet a powerful way to connect to anyone; reflecting love and kindness. When I walked to Reading town, my home for last 12 years, I noticed even more, how people were trying their hardest to avoid eye contact, to pretend to look serious and sophisticated. Not that I would appreciate a random person following me and striking a conversation, but the cold atmosphere and seriousness added more to the lonely feeling.
As I met up with friends and heard from relatives, I could not help but compare that with Honduras. Here in the UK, I know so many people, who have worked really very hard, achieved a lot, in terms of education or job and considering at a quite young age. It is very admirable but many seem to have misplaced the spark, the excitedness of their life. The achievements were not being celebrated, or embraced but was replaced with worries, and mainly dissatisfaction, with themselves and with the inability to please others. Now, I understand this and have been in the same position too, getting trapped into what I do not have and what is going wrong in my life. What I have not achieved and why life does not feel fulfilled. But, seeing this made me feel strange. In Honduras, the situation in terms of work, job, career is dimmer. There is a lot to be improved, from provision of basic necessities like drinking water, to equality and respect towards women and eradication of femicide. But, what was good about Honduras was the lit up spirits of the people, their easy-going attitude, and their smiles that reflected warmth. Of course, it perhaps would not be the same in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras just as the busier, bigger cities around the world.
Because of the project and the people and children I was surrounded with, I loosened a lot, I laughed a lot, I felt free and satisfied though I was working harder than ever. I met people full of childlike characteristics, which I wish they will never lose. They were hard working, and many were facing very serious problems (family, work, future, finance) yet, it felt like they were positively embracing the present. During my time there, I did not worry so much about my future not thought so much about my past. This is probably the most 'living in the present' I had practiced. So, I learnt that life is not a certain way as we are taught as kids. It is neither black nor white. There are many ways things are done around in the world and it is fascinating to know that nothing is 100% correct or 100% wrong. So, it's important to keep an open mind, to learn from others, to be accepting. Also, through my process of thinking of taking part in ICS or other volunteering scheme, I learnt that if you want to do something, it is better to schedule it right away and be brave enough to attempt to follow through your wishes. Experiences like these, working in new environment, with strangers (at first), you learn about yourself. I realised that satisfaction is really in helping others and feeling free to express yourself. And each one of us does owe it to ourselves to think about what we really want, to explore, to look at things outside the falsehood of the box we are suggested to belong to. I still have not figured out how I want to live my life, how to make best use of time and what kind of person I should be to be content. I do not fully know how to give back to those who provide for me and to others in need but this experience has made me determined to keep searching for my happiness and find ways to help others too. It changed my view on travelling. Instead of travelling to see the places alone, I would like to travel with purpose, in a way, where I can make an impact to others while also learning from others. Searching for ways to do this........