That everything in his house was wrapped in a tortilla.  Well, he must have lived in Honduras because everything in Honduras comes with a tortilla.  To me, the odd part is that tortillas are eaten much like Americans eat bread with dinner.  Usually they are eaten on their own or they may be used to sop up anything that remains behind after the meal is complete but usually not as a taco shell.  The first night that I turned my plate into a taco bar I was met with stares of confusion and bewilderment.  And just as my first host family got used to this habit it was time to leave.

We all shipped out for FBT or Field Based Training for those of you not in the acronym loop.  At this point I feel that it is worth mentioning that acronym overuse syndrome (AOS) seems to have infected the entire federal government.  I was exposed to AOS at my last job and I was hopeful that it had been contained within the agency that I worked for but it appears it has spread.  At this point, it is so acute that a specialized dictionary has been developed to aid in the deciphering of memos and working papers.  In FBT we are split up according to specializations (Business, Water & Sanitation & Health) and sent to different communities for seven weeks.  During these seven weeks we focus on our specialization and language skills.  For me this means that I will be honing my ability to ask, politely, for the bathroom, a cookie or possibly a bar of soap.

The move to FBT is worth discussing if for nothing else than the comic relief that it may provide for your day.  Up until this point the atmosphere here seems to be one of uncomfortable comfort.  What I mean by this is that you are constantly pushed outside of your bounds in a manner that doesn’t compromise your safety or sanity in any real way.  For instance, in language classes, I had to walk to a neighboring class and ask them to explain what they were doing.  This may not seem like a big deal but in my nervous state I requested that all the members of the class refrain from molesting me.  While the lesson may not be easy to draw out of the event, eventually I figured out that I just needed to slow down.

Back to the trip from PST (Pre Service Training) to FBT, which started on a high enough note.  My host father communicated that he was going to drive me to the bus stop, which was a giant relief since I lived on top of a mini mountain and I had several bags that needed to be moved.  First issue, dead battery.  I don’t know how many of you have push started a car but I can tell you that it becomes immeasurably more difficult when doing it in reverse down a steep dirt hill.  Eventually the car started and I said goodbye to my first host family with a little bit more dirt and a lot more sweat than I left the house with.

First came the Water & Sanitation bus, a large roomy school bus, and then came ours, a rapidito.  Normally it’s better to take a rapidito, they are smaller, cleaner and usually much quicker but the situation gets a little sticky, literally, when there are eighteen people aboard who have just pulled their luggage between two blocks and half a mile respectively.  After an hour-long ride we were dropped off in the center of our new host town.  As the driver and his helper finished unloading our things, all the while smiling in a weary way that seemed to betray a mix of fear for us and the general hilarity of the situation, it hit me that I needed to find my new host family’s house with little more than some general directions written in Spanish and a buddy that was going to live in the same neighborhood.  After receiving some general guidance from one of the staff members who just happened to drive by I set off with +/- 100 lbs of stuff strapped to my chest and back.

After completing a three-block walk, an event that could be a tough man qualifier, and speaking with several people the first fluent English speaking Honduran that I have met approached me.  If hearing English alone wasn’t great enough, he told me that he was my host brother.  My new host family is large, so far 13 people and counting, spread in between two compounds, not including the two Mormon missionaries posted up in the guest house out back.  I continue to be surprised more and more with each day that passes.  Today while trying to communicate that I had attempted to unlock my iPhone in the states and in the process broke it, my host father abruptly stood up and motioned for me to follow him.  I have to admit that I was a little wigged out but hey what’s the worst that could happen?   Ten minutes later I was standing in his cousin’s house watching him fix and re unlock what I assumed was a broken phone.

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I thought long and hard about this but in order to give full justice to the people and culture of Honduras it was necessary.

The staging and flight went down without a hitch.  We arrived in Tegucigalpa around 12:00 on Wednesday and were escorted out of the airport to a parking lot in the back where we were greeted with Pizza Hut, bananas and bottled water.  After a short meet and greet with some of the local staff we were loaded onto a “chicken bus” – a term whose origins or meaning aren’t quite known – and taken to the Peace Corps training facility.  At the training facility we went over some basics and then we were turned over to our host families.

My host family escorted me out to their car in awkward silence, which I have to mention was wholly a result of my poor grasp of the Spanish language.  On the ride home my host mother asked me a series of basic questions like, Where are you from? and What do you do for a living?  In a vain attempt to complete at least one sentence I responded with a series of jumbled nouns and non-conjugated and incorrect verbs.  For all I know my host mother thought that I had no home and that I didn’t like animals (it really was that bad).  If my host mother’s patience hadn’t impressed me enough my host father’s driving skills carried the rest of the weight.  He managed to maneuver the family’s car, which I am certain is not made for even occasional off-road use, up the side of a mountain on a jutted dirt road.  At the house I was greeted by a mass of children who were very excited to have a new gringito in the neighborhood.  The first question they asked was Yo Jugo Futbol? (to this day I am asked this statement posed as a question at least twice a day and most of the time I relent).  The house is nice and has an incredible view of the valley below and the surrounding towns.

The last couple of weeks have been a complete blur.  I have graduated from naming the color of common household items to carrying short but coherent conversations with most anyone.  My daily Spanish classes are complemented with nighttime cram sessions with the neighboring children, who on the whole have a huge amount of tolerance for my butchering of their language.  The food is very palatable but it is different.  Hondurans have a deep affinity for sugar in their coffee and a mixture they call mantiquilla, although it is assuredly not the butter that most people (from the US) are used to.

There is much more but I’ve got an early morning so the blanks will have to wait to be filled……

Bags are packed, most of my goodbyes have been said and I finally authored a web page to keep everyone in the loop.  On February 24th I will be headed to Tegucigalpa, Honduras via Miami, Florida for 27 months with the Peace Corps as a business development volunteer.