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Living in two countries that are so starkly different, I have found it difficult to really put into words how having a life between the two feels. I love both Honduras and the United States for different reasons, but each time I leave one for the other, I feel like it is a betrayal. When I go to the United States, I feel a huge sense of guilt that I can go there and back to Honduras so easily when so many in Honduras want to do the same and cannot. When I leave the United States for Honduras, I don’t know how to explain to my friends and family in the states who love me so much that something about the American system and bureaucracy stifles me and makes me feel like an outsider. It is hard to see the repercussions of American government and businesses in Honduras and not feel nauseous about how rich Americans live at the cost of other countries living in poverty. I have had the education and the opportunities to do the things I do because of being an American. I feel so blessed, but at the same time, I feel guilty that someone else in the world did not have my education and opportunities. In a lot of ways, my knowledge about American foreign policy has made me hate, not only my country, but myself for belonging to it. When I travel, I try to adapt to the countries I go, pretending I am not American, or that I am somehow different than other Americans. I have an embarrassment for the privilege I have had and for how my fellow countryman act when they do travel to other countries. I am not the only one; I read in an article by Business Insider that American tourists are repeatedly voted the worst in the world, not only by other countries, but by other Americans. These thoughts have consumed me for years now, to the point they unhealthily seep into my interactions with other Americans who I judge and condemn. I find myself wanting to detach completely from this country, to forge a new identity, and yet, I am drawn back to it because it is my home. It is hard to explain this feeling of being outside, not really fitting in anywhere as a native.

Several times I have asked others about my sense of guilt. How to deal with it, what it means, what I should do, etc. I recently received the answer from a stranger leading a women’s discussion group on sacred silence who responded to my question without me even asking it. This stunning women with beautiful curly white/blonde hair framing a heart shaped face of wisdom saw inside me a struggle and dissolved the pain it was causing me in only a few minutes. Her words made me see that we are all beautiful and unique in our individual worlds, that it is appreciating privilege that is important, not whether you have it or not, that Honduras is a place for me to find satisfaction and joy in what I am doing, and the United States is a place to refill doing the things I love I am unable to do there, like dancing, so I can go back. Each country provides what I need so that I can feel full. I do not have to choose one over the other or feel bad when I am in the states. Living two different lives is a blessing that I can be grateful for. I am American, and I can be proud of the American I have become, a woman who enjoys traveling and loving others all over the world.

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I had my first visitor in Honduras! My lovely sister came to visit me, and it was nice to be a tourist again for a week. I ended up visiting places I didn’t even know existed and learning a lot both about myself and this little town I now call my home. It is hard to believe that it has now been a year since I quit my job, and I have been away from Portland, OR traveling and living abroad for that long. I hope others will come to visit me too!

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The drive from San Pedro Sula to Copán Ruinas.

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The Mayan Ruins.

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Waiting for our bus to the Hot Springs.

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The Spiritual Baths at the hot springs.

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Met a new friend at the hot springs!

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Our good luck charm to start the day off right before we hiked around Copán to all the Mayan sites.

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The first stop on an all day trek circling Copán and visiting the sacred check points of the ancient Mayan city.

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Notorious for my problems with customs, this is before I almost got sent to Mexico and after a delicious breakfast in Guatemala. Turns out at the airport they stamped my passport but didn’t say how many days I could stay, and I almost got deported even though it was an error on their part and not my fault. Just my luck. Good thing our guide was able to work his magic, or I might have been coming back to the United States sooner than I expected.

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Yoga and meditation spot at San Lucas.

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Walking up switchbacks to get an amazing view of the city.

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Our guide’s little helper hanging out in the tree.

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From the top of the mountain.

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Walking through cornfields to return to the city.

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At Rastrojón, a newly excavated Mayan site. Incredible this sculpture is still intact.

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Horseback ride in the night.

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My sister and I having a relaxing late breakfast at Café San Rafael.

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My sister was rather popular with the kids at Casita Copán! It was so special to introduce her to all the important people in my life here, and we spent a whole day just hanging out with my Copán friends and family. It made me realize how far my Spanish has come as I was actually able to translate between English and Spanish for a whole day.

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Well I am back in Honduras and adjusting to life in my home again. I was so thrilled to see the little garden we planted before I left is already taking off. I ate some delicious cilantro from it today with my tamale. Can’t wait until all the other vegetables are ready. I have started eating daily flax seed in an attempt to make my hair grow. More than a half a year after chopping it all off, it seems to have only grown an inch at most. One of these days I will have long luscious locks again. We have adopted another dog, but ours is a unique relationship. Eduardo Piñera is a street dog like Diego, and is well known in Copán because of his sweet nature. For some reason, he has especially taken a liking to Kristen and I, and he sometimes will follow us back home to grab a bite to eat and lounge around or cuddle with us. He is truly a sweetheart, and one of the most loving dogs I have met. That said, he has been in the streets for some time, and his preference is to come and go walking with us in the streets when we leave and often times getting distracted by the lovely lady dogs. He is not permanently with us, but he is a new addition to our little family.

It always takes me about a week to settle back into my somewhat routine. I say somewhat because I don’t really have anyone holding me accountable to a routine. That said, I feel like I am going crazy without making one for myself as I end up feeling rather unproductive. I realize being productive has a lot to do with happiness. Feeling a sense of purpose and accomplishment helps push people to the next life lesson, and I need to be always learning and changing to feel truly satisfied in my own life.

I am not sure what the upcoming year will hold for me. This past one has been such an adventure and growing process. So many people have passed into and out of my life, some have stuck around and all have taught me things. I feel a confidence and pride in who I am and what I do, and I think when it all comes down to it, that is really what I was looking for. So what do I do next? I suppose the primary thing I have learned is that what brings me more happiness than anything is feeling free and that freedom is where my willow tree roots lie. For the longest time, I thought I had to lay down roots in the ground, I had to be still and stay in one spot to truly find happiness. But that has not been the case, and I think I will always be a wanderer, and that is okay although it doesn’t fit the social norm. It may feel lonely occasionally without those roots, but the truth is birds of a feather flock together. And while we may not have roots, I think that those of us who wander are never alone because we find each other. Thanks to technology, I can also keep in touch with those I love and take them wherever I go.

Being here in Honduras, I have given myself more titles than just nurse. So often people get stuck in their job roles, and I really don’t think it is healthy, at least not for me. I enjoy doing different types of work, paid or unpaid, and in the end, using all my talents creatively makes me a better nurse. I find it funny that I went to school to be a nurse, a job that makes quadruple what I make as a writer per hour, but I find more satisfaction volunteering as a nurse and getting paid hardly anything to write. To some it may sound bizarre, but for me, happiness trumps any pay check I made working as a nurse in an American health-care system. A beautiful gift is realizing that I don’t have to give up nursing to be a writer or vice-versa, and actually that the two seem to go quite nicely hand in hand. The truth is life is going very well, and while I have many ideas and goals for the future, I am pretty sure when the time comes to make any kind of decision it will all be rather clear so why not just enjoy the ride?

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The last couple of weeks have been a lot of fun at Casita Copan with adventures to the ruins and a movie and popcorn day. I love seeing their little faces light up. Literacy classes have begun for the mothers who are excited to be learning to read and write for the first time. Literacy and time for fun activities are things I often take for granted. I can’t imagine a life without words to express myself or not having the opportunity to venture out into the world and explore. Writing and reading are the doors to imagination. They make dreams and positive change possible.

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It has been some time since I have written on here. Free moments were swallowed up quickly during the month of May. This week is the first in a while where I have chosen to relish solitude. I have had little time to absorb it all and process the direction my life is going. Sometimes, everything seems so clear and full of purpose. Other times, I feel like I am exerting a whole lot of energy for nothing and want to throw my hands up in the air. In Honduras, I am free to do many things I could not in the states, but sometimes feel trapped by the endless possibility and find myself hoping someone will tell me what the next step is. Often, I feel oppressed as a female. In the USA, I feel limited by the complex systems and bureaucracy, but am free to express myself and act as I please without constant judgement. I find that what is good in one place can be bad in another and vice versa. There really isn’t a perfect home, and so, I am split between two. What I dislike about the USA, I find here, and what I like about the USA, is not to be found in Honduras. The irony of it all only validates for me that life is one big cosmic joke.

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I have had my share of creepy crawlies the past month in Honduras with a house full of ticks that required fumigation and a spider bigger than my hand that chased me around the house until I brought her life to an end with a garbage can.

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Sometimes my little neighbors drive me nuts, these children who are always yelling, “Betty! Betty! Betty!” at the gate all hours of the day. But when I choose to let them in, I find I also enjoy their company. They remind me to relax and not be so serious as we play hangman, make cookies, or knock mangoes out of the trees to enjoy while rocking in the hammocks. When these Honduran children are in my home screaming and running with Diego barking after them, all is chaos, and it reminds me of family get-togethers at home, and I have to smile.

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I enjoy my work with Casita Copan more than anything I do here, the children have so much love to give, and I feel like I am overflowing when I leave. The women that work there are so wise and strong, calm and collected. I find I learn much from them.

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Working in the clinic is a way to stretch myself in different ways. Here, a nurse is many things. One day I will be doing injections, basic intake of blood pressures, weights, and heights, and making arts projects and another day organizing paperwork, handing out prescriptions, going door to door vaccinating, and making laboratory slides. Some days are spent drinking coffee, enjoying each others company and a good laugh over things like me attempting to translate English songs into Spanish and then sing them.

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My Spanish is daily improving thanks to my wonderful instructor and friend. She teaches me more than just the language but about the culture as well, guiding me through the confusing or upsetting differences that I have trouble understanding and accepting. Whether I am sick, my house is infested by blood-suckers, I am having problems with men, or I am overwhelmed, her and her family find a way to remind me I am not alone and have people who care about me here. She is often a source of stability amongst all the uncertainty while being in a foreign country. Her generosity is a comfort, and her list of sassy responses demanding respect from men harassing me in the streets is invaluable.

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I have a friend here who has been showing me some of the most beautiful parts of Copan. The natural landscapes and rivers that speak to your heart and the quiet restaurants and cafes where one can feel relaxed and at home. These have been my best moments, exploring Copan’s hidden treasures with someone whose company and conversation I enjoy so much. Our time together has inspired me to write beautiful poetry and self-reflect on my journey and character.

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Going “home” felt foreign. I found comfort when I encountered people who spoke Spanish. Blues dancing, which I have missed so much, had a sense of melancholy, as most of the people I enjoyed dancing with were not there. I had more fun dancing with my mirror companion to the blues than with others. I went salsa dancing but found my salsa skills weren’t so hot anymore as I have stopped dancing in Copan due to the unwanted male attention. Dancing was once my addiction, but when it lead to me being perceived as a sexual object in Copan, the joy I once found in it began to fade. My best dance moments while in Oregon were dancing to funk and electronic music because there was no expectation to dance with others, only to feel the beat of the music and move my body in response. In the end, I found more joy in catching up with friends and family.

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I am not sure how many times I have moved these last couple of years, but now, I only possess enough to take in one truck load wherever I choose to go next. Going home and clearing out the rest of my stuff from my friend’s home was a daunting task. I found in the end it was easier to let my stuff go instead of trying to find a new home for it. I kept the pieces of wall art from my travels and my books, but most everything else got sent to Goodwill. I thought I would be sad, but instead, I feel that a huge weight is now off my shoulders. Finding a home for my cat was the most difficult part. I adopted him when no one else would and nursed him back to health. They told me he would probably only live one year, and he has been alive for four. How could I desert him or take him to a shelter again when he has come this far. I felt like an irresponsible, selfish mother. My sister was kind enough to adopt him into her home, and I am happy to hear he is adapting well but wish he could be here with me cuddling on my bed.

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I had a lovely time at the beach while in Oregon, enjoying the weekend wedding event of an old friend and his love. It was honestly the best part of my trip, being with one of my closest friends from college, seeing faces from high school days, dancing, drinking, and conversing with interesting and inspiring people. I miss the ocean and the calming certainty it gives. I love the Oregon coast and all the memories I have there. This non-traditional wedding was so sincere and honest, full of laughter and joy, just as a wedding should be.

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The biggest blessing I have in this life are my friends and family. You stretch across the globe and embrace me from afar. And the truth is I always have a friendly face somewhere thinking of me. Going to Portland and returning to Copan, I realize that neither is better than the other, only different, and I am happy to know I have many places I can call home.

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During Easter week an evening was dedicated to making las alfombras, which are made of colored sawdust. The streets are cleared and these sawdust mosaic carpets of religious and Mayan symbols are created only to disappear the next day under the feet of Catholic pilgrims who walk from one Catholic church to the other in a grand procession on Good Friday.

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For about two weeks there was a severe shortage of running water in Copan and many houses were without water for bathing, washing, flushing, etc. Purified water for drinking was available to buy, but realizing just how important running water is and how much I need in a day to do basic tasks was a good lesson in conserving resources. Water is so abundant in Oregon, hot or cold, and I forget how precious and essential it is to our existence.

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I have moved again and am now living with a friend and adopted street dog. I met my friend through Casita Copan, a non-profit day care and single-mother support center we both volunteer at. In my new home, clothes are washed in an outside tub called a pilla. Washing clothes at the pilla while listening to blues and enjoying a light breeze blowing through the backyard has become a source of peace, self-reflection, and meditation for me. The yard is filled with mango trees and behind it are mountains in the distance. Yesterday, I hung up two hammocks and am looking forward to spending afternoons reading and writing in one. The dog adds spice to our lives with his boundless energy and playful nature. There are times I consider killing him because he drives me nuts, but then I look at his floppy ears and hopeful smile, and I fall in love with this little rascal all over again. Yesterday, I made my first batch of green mango juice which is the equivalent of fresh lemonade on a hot day, but better. It is nice to have a bigger but cheaper place now. I love to have guests, and here I could have a whole party.
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I have been working at the local clinic and recently going door to door with doctors and nurses to give vaccinations. It has been interesting and fun to see how various people live here and in what conditions. When I asked the nurse how she knew which houses to go to when all she had was names, she told me Copan is small, and after twenty years working here, she knows everyone. I am finding I too am getting to know everyone and they me each day. I am starting to be less looked at as a tourist and more as a local which is a satisfying change. I started teaching English for income and have found these classes to be the biggest surprise to me. Because of them I am meeting wonderful people and forming new friendships while gaining a certain amount of respect from locals, especially men, that wasn’t there before. I am enjoying seeing my students learn and am amazed at how fast they do with so little time to study. They are extremely dedicated and eager, and seeing them smile when they speak in English is one of the best rewards.

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This past week I visited a clinic under construction in San Jose, an isolated, impoverished community in Guatemala 30 minutes from Copan Ruinas via unpaved roads. A few years ago, the people there didn’t have running water, kids were crammed into a dirty, dark building to attend school, and to go to a doctor could be an hour or more drive. Project School Supplies of Copan Ruinas is working with the Guatemalan government to build this clinic and staff it with permanent doctors and nurses. Project School Supplies also assisted in the construction of a water system, new school, and a bakery that will help create a more sustainable area for these people to thrive in who rely on farming for sustenance. The most beautiful thing about this project is that it is building a sense of community amongst those in San Jose. Although these people are being provided the resources to complete these projects, they are responsible for the actual development of the new village. Men from San Jose work on the construction every day in addition to their normal work. One can see a sense of pride in their faces as their own hands make their dreams realities. These people do not need hand-outs, but the tools to do what they are capable of. Everyone in the world has the power to create something beautiful, but sometimes it seems impossible to do so without the proper resources. To create something from nothing is overwhelming to even contemplate. What amazes me every day about life in Honduras is just how little people really need here to create something beautiful. In America, people have so much. They take for granted their ability to make their every dream a reality, but for those here, just a little can motivate people to build a whole new village.

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