Honduras ten years later

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ali Flisek
  • 1st SOW Public Affairs
As I stepped off the plane, I immediately remembered the smell. It was the same dirty, polluted smell of 10 years ago. Although, somehow, it was refreshing. As I looked around I recognized the green, lush mountains. I was back in Honduras, ten years later.

When I was 13 years old, my father and I traveled throughout the country for three weeks. We were welcomed by almost everyone we met and Invited into people's homes. Women spent all day in the kitchen, preparing what little food they had for us. We were included in on family events. That trip, I was on the receiving end of things. This year, I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to give back.

I was part of a 16-person team spreading a little Christmas cheer to those who otherwise would have little to look forward to. I was part of Operation Christmas Wish.

We set off on our five-day adventure on a foggy Thursday morning. When we arrived in La Ceiba, Honduras the dense, mountainous jungle was topped with low lying clouds. With the help of the Honduran air force, we unloaded box after box of Christmas gifts and headed toward the orphanage for delivery. On the way I looked out the bus window and saw the same type of small, square, gray cement shacks I stayed in on my previous trip.

When we arrived at the orphanage, children swarmed the bus with smiles. You could feel their excitement welling up inside. They knew what was coming. As soon as Santa stepped off the bus he was ambushed with hugs and kisses. At first the language barrier hindered my involvement with the children. What could I say to them? My Spanish consisted of "hola" and "adios" with the occasional "si" thrown in there. But soon, I realized that didn't matter. A simple smile and a hug seemed to be good enough for these kids.

We visited five different orphanages during our trip. As I stared into the eyes of an eight-month-old baby boy, I thought how could someone just abandon this beautiful smiling child? But I try not to judge. The average daily wage for the working poor in Honduras is about $2. For some of these orphans, they are better off here than the thousands of children living on the streets.

I remember walking five miles along a beach to a small village on Honduras's Caribbean coast. Cursing my dad in my head for making me walk such a long way for a reason I didn't know at the time, I failed to look around to notice the beauty I was passing by. Now, I wish I had the time to just take a walk. The pace of Honduran life is much slower than in the United States. I now noticed life there seemed to be simpler with much fewer material possessions.

Not much has changed in Honduras since the last time I saw it, but it looked totally different. What has changed is me.