Today has been the best day of my life so far. Surpassing the previous day that held those king jewels. Graduation Day. The day I graduated was filled with anticipation, exuberance and a huge sense of achievement. From as long as I can recall, a perfectionist with a competitive streak, educational achievements had always been a colossal goal of mine. Never wanting to be second best, and wanting to prove I wasn't stupid, I got a first. So graduation day, for myself, was a day to be proud of, with the people that I loved and cared for, who had supported me whole heartedly along the way, including my dyslexia tutor and Sheffield sidekick, Harry Cundick. A day of celebration, it was fantastic to see so many faces with whom I had shared “the best years of my life”.
Graduation over, I became totally lost. A sense of feeling shared amongst many. Since then I have been searching I suppose, trying this and that, attempting to find my purpose in the most ad hoc fashion. With a singular question at the forefront of my mind: “What is next? What do I want to do with my life?!”
Then about the 17th October 2014 this happened. Whether it was the half comatose aura exuding from my every limb, the innate all-encompassing desire to do more, accompanied with the knowledge that there was a world and culture transparently opposite to that of my own; whose beneficiaries would reap mountains from a tiny bit of compassion shared, or an entrenched feeling of dissatisfaction with a daily routine that "just wasn't right for me". Alongside a massive hankering to overcome anxieties that had kept me trapped and wrapped in a bubble of insecurity. I was ready for a change.
So on stumbling across the ICS application form, my eyes awakening to the tagline "All you need is the desire to make a positive impact", paralleled with the appetites to better myself and the world around me. Those nibble fingers of mine resurrected in what I can only imagine as JK Rowling on a good day. My mother looking over in grave concern for at 3am I clicked that uncharted, anonymous and exotic send button, it was gone. And I can truly say it was the best thing I have done!
Challenging myself to change my world today surpassed the day I graduated.
Not once was today’s pleasure a result of someone else’s actions, nor a result of my innate desire for approval, to impress. Today was simple. Real and in the moment. Today was just as it was, and I enjoyed it for just that, Thursday 29th January 2015. The best day of my life so far. Today, all challenges became worthwhile and today I really felt like we were changing the world. A continual learning adventure, today we “trabajamos para comer, para vivir". Today we worked to eat, to live.
So what was Thursday 29th January 2015 like for me?
Post my 6am yoga wake up call, a 40 min mountainous drive and a quick shot of cafe, we were greeted by Vismar, Red COMAL's facilitator. Today we would be working in Janeth’s community, Llanito Verde. Splitting into two groups our tasks were to harvest coffee beans and stabilise the land through the building of stonewalls, a measure taken to prevent landslides and increase the fertility of the soil.
This was by no means an easy feat, greeted by this: a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Clambouring up the hill here in Honduras, everybody mucks in, 23 year olds working alongside 5 year olds. All collecting rocks, each person working to their own capabilities and each person doing their best. Myself certainly filling the role of the happy little dwarf, with the men of the group and Janeth (who didn't even cry when her knuckle dislocated - this girl amazes me) filling sacks of rocks, flinging them over their shoulders and ho ho-ing down the hill. Whilst Merlyn, was chief brick layer, Anna and Christina filled in the gaps. (Of what to their backs probably felt like 3 hours hunched over in a hobbits house).
Well this is what we achieved!
Taking a quick break for lunch it was time to do baseline surveys:
Myself with Luciano, Christina with Janeth and Anna teamed with Merlin we were off. An opportunity to get to know our fellow comrades, combined with a rare unseen glimpse into the underbelly of Honduran life. I was in heaven and haven’t laughed as much in ages. Partly a result of my explicit lack of ability to communicate in full sentences and the hospitality of Luciano, who has consistently endeavoured to encourage and support my language capabilities, it was just fantastic. Española getting there, interviewing the farmers we found out so much, understanding their concerns and how climate change is affecting them and what would been helpful to them, and even managed to crack a few jokes. That was until I got completely grossed out at this creature, something that definitely should have been in Doctor Who! Which when on trying to describe what a tree was to the farmer (casmpesino), chased me! A huge amusement to the national volunteers. A story still being recalled by them! :)
The second farm we visited, to my amazement, was a sugar farm: observing the whole production line. Real life Honduras, from sugarcane to a green, muddy syrup. It tasted really nice, honest!
Late for the bus home, it was time to run. Merlyn and I raced up the hill: "Correr, Correr!"
Finishing work at 3, I spent the rest of my afternoon on an all-time high filled with alternative work, we planned workshops, evaluated the progress of our projects and I blogged. Lives in townships are very different to those of the communities, but the individuals we are getting to know are just as hospitable.
Dinner consisted of spicy chicken, with one too many chillies. Richard hitting the nail on the head declaring; "you have to keep eating because if you stop your mouth will just keep on burning".
The final curtain of the best day of my life drew to a close with a game of google translates. Both mine and the national volunteer’s leader’s language skills have room to improve. I had a light bulb moment, proving ingenious. Through google translate we shared jokes and finally were able to ask questions to each other, rather than just repeating the alphabet in opposing languages. Taking the opportunity I asked him; you have now met many English volunteers, if you were to describe an English person in one word what would it be? This is the response I got.
"The description would be: plenty of people worth knowing and sharing with. Their hearts are like the colour of their skin, white, pure. Is what I think. Leaving the comforts of their country for coming to a country like ours is so much to give to us, when the only thing Hondurans can say is thanks. That it is a pleasure to have them here. I have so many more things I want to say, I love you guys".
Take the opportunity to challenge yourself to change your world; you don’t know how many worlds you will be changing.
Written by ICS volunteer Ceri Lloyd