If you take a trip to Central America, you might complain about your stomach feeling uneasy for the first day, but during my stay in Honduras before the semester started, it took two weeks until my stomach finally stopped hurting. You can take Peptobismol, which might help a little, but in the end, you have to be ready to spend a lot of time letting your stomach adjust. Don`t laugh. It`s life, and people who live in these countries, in particular in Nicaragua, are vulnerable to this reality.
The part of our program that we spent in Nicaragua only lasted 10 days, but it left a mark. Once, we passed as a group through the largest market in Central America. An awful stench filled the air as we walked close to a dump.
Several people who were lying down and covered in filth stretched out their arms and tried to touch our shirts or shake our hands as we walked past. The filth was so terrible that I did not even want to step through there. As we continued walking, we saw pieces of meat hanging on hooks with blood dripping down and forming puddles in the walkway. Pigs´ snouts for sale and all manner of unsanitary things made me want to get out of there.
After that, we spent a couple hours at what our program described as “the upper-class mall.” It was more or less like a nice mall in the U.S., except for the lower prices. How could these two realities exist simultaneously? And why was it that a little beggar kid crawled across the floor of an ice cream shop – before being kicked out – to ask me for the rest of my ice cream cone? The hardest part was seeing a little beggar boy outside the mall who reminded me of what I looked like some years back.
After a couple days there, our professors sent us off in groups to live in communities, and that was the start of my hunger. Always, ALWAYS hungry. It never seemed to leave me alone those first days. It would be nighttime, and all I could think about was how hungry I was and how despairing the poverty must have been for those who were born into it and never escaped from it.
Most of the other students had enough to eat, but seeing as my host mom was too sick to even get out of bed, the dad did both his and her work. Some kids bathed in muddy puddles formed from the runoff of sudden rainstorms. My room was in a small shack with a dirt floor, and the kids ran here and there without shoes. Chickens and dogs came into my room constantly, and after a while I started to accept the new reality.
There are many more stories I could share, but just think about this article next time you feel tempted to complain on Facebook about chapel or an extra-long class. These stories are real, and those people are real. They face a life in that poverty, not just 10 days like I did.