The twenty-something year old man that was standing in front of me in the late evening dusk of Manto clearly had recognized me while walking down “main street” with my wife.
“It’s me. Yosi!” (pronounced YOH-see)
My brain rattled in search for the face of the boy 10 years ago. (“Who was Yosi? I know that I know his name, but I can’t picture his face. Who the heck was Yosi?”)
He looked at me and knew that I couldn’t place his name.
“I was much smaller when you were here. We played basketball every day. You, me, Mario, Timoteo, Ramon…”
And then I could see his face of yesteryear in the face that was before me.
“Yosi!! You look so different! Look at you. You are much taller than me. You are big and strong, and you have a bit of a belly! Wooooow! You were so little then, and now you are a grown man.”
“Now you remember me!”
“I do. How are you? What are you doing?”
“I’m doing well. I am a carpenter…I build furniture and work on houses, and sometimes I go to Juticalpa to build houses and work on construction.”
“I am happy to see you, and to know that you are healthy.”
“Me too. I wish I could chat more with you, but I have to be going,”
He then walked down the dirt road, in the direction of the two new cel phone towers blinking red on the mountains east of town. Five minutes of reuniting with Yosi ended as quickly as they began. But in those three hundred seconds of life, I truly learned a lesson: life is not predictable.
Ten years ago, Yosi was a shy, malnourished boy with skinny bones, no shoes, tattered clothes, and never hesitated to take any food I would offer him. Today, he stands six feet tall, has thick biceps and obviously eats well.
Return to Hondo
In September 1997, I left McSherrystown for a two year stint with the Peace Corps. After 3 months of training, I lived in the village of Manto, located in the department of Olancho in eastern Honduras. I can vividly remember my final bus ride out of Manto, the morning sun breaking over the rough-ridged mountains that sweep their away into Nicaragua if you follow their line far enough; the chatter of my fellow villagers as we bumped down the roads; the smell of dust and diesel.
At the time, I was certain I would some day return to Hondo—Honduras’ nickname to those that have spent time in one of the world’s most impoverished countries. However, I did not think it would take ten years after swearing in as a volunteer for me to return.
We arrived to Tegucigalpa, the capital, and were met at the new state-of-the-art airport by Javier, my trainer, and his family. If there is anything to be said about seeing people you love after not seeing them for many years, it should be: life truly is short, and in this time we have here, we should nurture our loving relationships.
Smiles. Hugs. More smiles and more hugs. Introductions—they were so happy to finally meet my wife, and she the same of them. Together again. In Honduras.
“Javi, Teguz looks cleaner.”
“It is man. The mayor a few years ago cleaned up the streets. It’s nice man,” always positive and cheery Javier adding his exclamation!
I remember a conversation Javi and I had while I was living there. We were on his back porch, looking out over the panorama with Teguz—Tegucigalpa’s abbreviation—sitting in the bowl of mountains that ring the city. He talked of Honduras being his home. And that, sure, he could move to the U.S, but he did not want to because he believed he had a responsibility to make life better for the people of his native land.
We pulled up to his new home. Not only does he continue to improve the life of Hondurans through his work, he has also improved his own life! No longer renting a home, he built a nice house by anyone’s standards in the beautiful mountain town of Santa Lucia, about a 30 minute drive up the mountains from Teguz.
“Javi, this is your house?”
“Yeah man. You like it,” he said with a smart-alic’s smile on his face, knowing that I did, and knowing that I was surprised that it was his house.
“No woman, no cry,” I said back to him, our way of connecting with the understanding sung by Bob Marley that everything was going to be alright.
“No woman, no cry man!”
(part 1 of many…)