Revisiting my Roots

December 13, 2010
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My big, crazy family is very important to me, but it was not until the summer before last, that I realized just how important. Most of my friends’ grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins live within a short drive of their houses and are always involved in many aspects of their lives. However, my grandparents and family live over a thousand miles from my house in Honduras and are involved in very little as a result. My friends would always complain about having to go spend time with their families; I just agreed that it would be boring, not giving it much thought. I loved my family and would see some of them periodically, but with the distance and language barrier, we were never close, at least until my most recent visit to Honduras.

When my parents informed me that we would visit my family, I got really excited but underneath my happy face, I fidgeted and tried to wrack my brain about how to adapt to a new environment where I only spoke a portion of the language and had never met many of the relatives. As I sat in the airplane, I was uncertain of what to expect, but when I had finally gotten through security and walked out of the terminal, I saw my big family waiting and was overcome with excitement by the long awaited emotions that my family was expressing as many of them were greeting us for the first time.

Surprisingly, on our first night there, I was rushed to get ready for my cousin Mimi’s prom. All I could think was, “What? We, her family, are attending her prom?” I was confused, but I went along with all of the preparations and dressed in my formal attire borrowed from a cousin I had just met. We arrived at the party and were seated at a big table surrounded by the staring and curious eyes of the rest of my family. There was a dance floor, music, food, and laughter – the usual atmosphere of a senior prom. However, unlike usual proms in the United States, every single graduating student’s family attended. It was at this point that it occurred to me just how important family is in their culture, in my culture, and it was a wonderful feeling.

Fortunately, that “family first” attitude is exhibited in all aspects of their lives and I quickly became more accustomed to it. Every night we gathered at my grandparents’ house and ate a traditional meal together. I was hesitant about the food and the Spanish conversation at first, but I found that I absolutely loved being immersed in the new culture. Consequently, I became open to the new food and traditions of my family. I loved how simple their lives seemed to be in comparison to mine. My grandparents had one television, one telephone, and one desktop computer in the entire 4 bedroom house. On the other hand, we have many televisions, telephones, and computers in my house, not to mention cell phones. My relatives were not constantly on the move; instead, they were extremely laid back and always took the time to have their afternoon coffee and “pan dulce” (sweet tasting bread) together, no matter what. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and viewed it as a complete contrast to my life, which seems to have the motto, “go, go, go.” My days are always full – doing service projects, studying for school, working on projects, remaining active in extra curricular activities, etc – but this allowed me to see life from a different, less stressful perspective. I still try to remember to stop, relax, and take some time out of my hectic schedule sit back, drink some coffee, and spend some time with my family.
While we participated in typical tourist activities and travelled throughout the countryside, it was still evident that an important factor that keeps families strong and hopeful in the face of adversity is being surrounded by and supported by family. We drove down countless dirt roads and through towns with houses that looked as if even the slightest wind would knock them over and I naively assumed that the residents would be hungry and sad. Yet no matter how destitute the small towns looked, the mud covered and sun kissed children were always playing happily in the streets while the loving grandparents watched over them as the parents worked. To me, this was just a reminder of how important the family unit is in the Honduran culture no matter what walk of life one comes from.
Additionally, as I looked upon these small villages on our way to the beach, I was filled with a need to provide help in some way. I have always been a compassionate person; I love to volunteer and I am an active participant in service clubs and projects. However, this realization of the poverty gap between the United States and the shanty towns in rural Honduras, made me feel exceedingly insignificant. This new understanding allowed me to become aware of my want to make a difference in the world in some way. I tried to enjoy the beach, but I was still nagged by the images of the worn and tired faces of the loving grandparents from the shanty towns. As a result, I decided that I was determined to use my skills and talents to better the world, whether directly or indirectly. I want to improve the availability of adequate and efficient technology; I want to assist in the development of new technology that can harness energy from unconventional sources; I want to utilize my strengths in math and science to study engineering and solve problems others find impossible. This may seem like a strange place to come to this conclusion, but there was no better experience that showed me how fortunate I have been and the importance of making a positive difference in the world.

Having unexpectedly pondered my goals for the upcoming years, I was informed that it was soon time to return home. To my surprise, I was actually upset about leaving this hot, humid, and strange new place. Yet I had an unforgettable two weeks in which I developed a new and stronger bond to all of my relatives, especially to my grandparents whose love and care I could sense even through our short and basic Spanish conversations, and now we keep in touch through the use of technology such as Skype. Hondurans incorporate their families into all aspects of their lives, including proms, and I can not help but wish that I could participate in more of these events with them. Fortunately, the small and impoverished families in rural Honduras allowed me the opportunity to grasp my future aspirations. These humble people and others like them deserve more and I intend on utilizing my strengths and talents to improve their lives. Finally, the combination of my family and my travels throughout Honduras allowed me to experience new traditions and new ways of life that I hope to engrain in my heart, mind, values, and in my goals and aspirations of making a positive difference in the lives of others.

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