Most people don’t wake up to the sound of gunfire, the roar of tanks, or the news of a military takeover many times in their life. In fact, for most people, this seems like something out of a big-budget Hollywood action movie. But for me, my summer in Honduras was anything but a movie—it was even crazier.
The original plan was go to Honduras for three weeks to build a school and tutor children — very simple and straight forward. And for the first week, it was. My team of 16 and I (serving with the organization LeaderTreks) lived in an apartment in the small town of Siguatepque in western Honduras. We bought food at a local mercado, played soccer with Honduran teenagers (who soundly beat us every game), and brushed up on our Spanish slang (for example, cheque leque means “cool”). Things were nice and quiet…or so they seemed.
However, as the old adage goes, there is always calm before the storm, and my storm came in the form of a military coup. The president of Honduras had been captured and sent to Costa Rica, which I found out at 7:30 AM on Sunday, July 2 when our leader told us to pack all our valuables and food. Still groggy, I was getting my clothes together when I heard the unmistakable sound of gunshots in the distance. I finally realized that while I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, I definitely wasn’t in Oz either.
We spent the next day in the safety of a solid concrete house with barbed wire fences. The streets weren’t safe for anyone, especially gringos. Time passed slowly. I tried reading, playing games, watching the news, and napping, but in the end, I only waited.
It was during the waiting that I learned something beyond how to play poker or how to nap on only one couch cushion. I learned about fear. Sure, I had been afraid before –giving speeches in class or taking a test I hadn’t quite prepared for — but all of that was nothing compared to this. I realized, for perhaps the first time, that my life was short, and I could never count on the next day. I needed to be thankful for each moment in time. Even though I was bored in the safe house, I cherished the boredom. I savored the boredom. There was nothing more I wanted to do at that moment than to be bored, because when you’re bored, at least you’re alive.
Thankfully, we left the safe house and returned to the apartment with no drama. We packed our bags, said one last good-bye to the quiet, small, friendly town of Siguatepque, and drove to San Pedro Sula to take the first flight home. Sad but relieved to be safe, I looked out at the country as we flew over it for the last time. From 28,000 feet in the air, it was impossible to imagine the turmoil below. What a crazy, unorthodox, surreal experience.
Still, looking back, it was quite cheque leque.
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