I was really struggling with the luggage. The floral suitcase was from the seventies and only had a little strap that I had to pull in a direct line with the bag or it would tip over. Not to mention, there was a thick gray slush that was lining the sidewalk near the terminal, which didn't help with the stability. My heart was beating so fast yet my body was performing all the motions fluidly. Riley and I walked through the sliding glass doors into Dayton International Airport to see my mom, best friend, aunt, and step-mom waiting for us- for me. It was around four in the morning. After receiving a beautiful leather journal from my mom, it was time for good-byes. Something I have become all too familiar with- never comfortable, but familiar. Hugs and kisses were given as well as please-don't-get-yourself-killed looks. Not unlike a robot, I pivoted on my heel, and walked towards the check-in counter. Watching my luggage float down the conveyor belt into airport oblivion, I realized there was no turning back. I'd said my peace, and now I was moving to Honduras, for 6 months, alone. I waved one last hand at my family, at my husband, took a mental picture, and walked away.
Once I knew they could not see me, I slowed my pace, and took a very deep breath. As I slowly exhaled, I felt my world slipping off my shoulders. An overwhelming sense of liberation, independence, the unknown, washed over me and actually made me stagger. A smile crossed my face, from ear-to-ear, and it didn't vanish until I was 35,000 feet in the air, over the Gulf of Mexico. My transfer in Miami had gone smoothly enough. I had changed from Southwest to TACA Airlines. As I boarded the plane, I noticed the atmosphere was completely different than in the stuffy Southwest cabin I had just exited. There was Latino music playing, the seats were brightly colored and had interesting patterns on them, and everyone was standing up- talking, shouting over one another. I found my seat and tried not to look like a moron. I could barely contain my excitement. Yet when the flight attendant started the safety procedures completely in Spanish, my shit-eating-grin dissipated, just a hair. It hit me. I didn't know Spanish. I had never taken a lesson, let alone a class in my life. Surely it doesn't matter that much, I thought. The two girls, my future roommates, who will be picking me up from the airport are English speakers. While mid-flight I looked around to notice I was one of maybe three gringos on the plane. This excited me even more. I couldn't wait to be part of something completely foreign and different to me, to live and breathe experiences in a whole new light. The English speaking gentleman to my right helped me though the customs forms and told me when we would be landing. I looked out the window, down to the mountainous terrain of Northern Honduras. There were endless miles of dusty brown peaks and cliffs, blankets of trees, and a small trace of what looked like a road. As the plane landed rather harshly on the runway of the San Pedro Sula Airport, I could hardly believe my eyes. The mountains were absolutely breath-taking and the sun was high in the bluest of skies. A few tears formed in my eyes out of absolute jubilation.
The customs experience wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. They realized quickly I didn't speak Spanish and ushered me through with mild annoyance. I retrieved my bags and struggled through my last security checkpoint. After all, I had two large suitcases, a carry-on, and my purse (I completely over-packed). I finally walked past a glass wall into the greeting area of the airport.
My eyes scanned for Kristen, the girl from Chicago who I had been trading emails with. It occurred to me... I had no idea what she looked like. They don't know what I look like either. They probably have a sign with my name on it! I stumbled with my bags awkwardly through the crowd until I was looking through the front sliding glass door of the airport. An uneasy feeling pinched my stomach, but I ignored it immediately. One part of my brain was calmly saying, They're here, they're here... somewhere, they're here. The other side was screaming and firing off alarms. You idiot! You never even talked with her on the phone, skype, or even facebook! You don't even know if she exists! You just flew 1,500 miles to the 'most dangerous city' in the Americas and it was a scam! No. It couldn't be. I didn't give them any of my information. There's no way. Then maybe this is just a cruel joke! Maybe they are watching you right now and laughing their asses off! You didn't even write down the phone number she emailed you, although now your phone is dead anyway! I allowed myself thirty more seconds of hysteria, and took another long, deep breath. I collected myself after watching the last women walk away with their expected guests. They're not here. They're not coming. I fished my charger out of the luggage and walked into an airport cafe, toting all of my worldly possessions with me. I walked up to a woman working, showed her the charger, the dead phone, and threw up my shoulders and hands in a questioning motion. She miraculously nodded and pointed to an outlet near the ceiling. After what seemed like hours, I had enough battery to call Cathy, my step-mom. There's no way I can call my mom, she will freak out. I ensured her that at my ripe age of 23 I was well mature and responsible enough to fend for myself. Obviously, I was wrong- but I couldn't let her know that. Of course, Cathy didn't answer her phone. I leave a calm voice mail asking if she could look in my email, and find Kristen's phone number. As I wait, dumbfounded by my actions and lack of sense, I noticed the sun getting lower in the sky, closing in on those beautiful mountains. The airport was nearly empty. Out of nowhere it seemed, a tall white man walked over to me, as I sat on the floor, cradling my knees to my face. "Hi, we were on the same flight. Do you have somewhere to go?"
Sorry dude, I've seen Taken. No thanks.
"Yeah, I'm volunteering in a town called Ocotepeque. And 2 of my friends are coming to pick me up. They're just running late."
"Oh, okay... well I hope they get here soon. It really isn't safe for you to stay here by yourself."