I was hoping to write a blog post on a more positive note than my last one this time but, as luck would have it, last night I was the victim of another robbery at gun-point. This is my second in 1.5 weeks (and counting?). I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry about the situation, or both, I just know that I have so many mixed emotions right now it's hard not to be pessimistic about my time so far in La Ceiba.
When my boss from FBC first took me aside and asked me whether I was really sure I wanted to go to Honduras, because it is a dangerous place and very different from Mexico or Costa Rica, considering that I am "a softie" (a direct quote that I refuse to agree with as I stand by my argument that my reaction to e-coli poisoning in the water I was informed was safe to drink being more violent than others' is NOT a reflection of my personal strength), I was offended. Did she think I wasn't capable of living under difficult conditions? I've lived abroad for a big part of my life and it's not like I've never been exposed to hardships, so why was I being put under the magnifying glass to determine whether or not I was apt for this internship. Looking back, I realize now that it was a question of my safety being put at risk rather than doubting my ability to live in a less developed Central American country.
In that sense, she was absolutely right to ask if I was sure about my decision. When I chose to come to Honduras, I suspected I would be faced with challenges, but two gun-point robberies is not what I had envisioned. Last night, I was walking with two other interns on the street I live in to catch a cab just down the road. We were on our way to the hotel A's friends were staying at, where they have a pool. I was carrying my bag (a terrible habit I haven't quite seemed to learn to drop but stashing my valuables in various crevaces of my body to minimize the probability of being robbed), when all of a sudden a ridiculously loud motorcycle came barreling down in our direction. I moved onto the sidewalk to get out of the way and let them pass. Little did I know, until it was too late, that it was two men, the driver and the assaulter, about to make their move.
For reasons unknown, I was the only one targetted. I had my bag strapped over one shoulder under the sweater I was wearing. These guys were clearly amateurs, as the assaulter jumped off the motorcycle, didn't utter a word, and waved the gun around in my direction as if he was carrying a flashlight. He tugged at my bags, looking puzzled as to why it wasn't budging. After I managed to get my sweater off, he took both of my bags, the one with the money ($5) and my cards (I can't even justify why I had them with me), as well as the one with my towel and bathing suit. I don't see what kind of point they were trying to make by stealing everything I had, including things that would be completely useless to them such as my bikini, when all they really wanted was my phone and my money.
I could spend an endless amount of time asking myself why I was the only victim in both cases (the first time I was the only one with the bag so that may be justified but yesterday we all had bags) but I would be wasting it. The truth is, it doesn't matter where you are, who you're with, what you're doing, what time of day it is, whether you're a "gringo" or a local, these corrupt thieves will attack whatever and whomever they can. The most pathetic part is that they don't target the people who actually have the money, such as CEOs and bankers, but rather every day people, like foreign volunteers or local government workers (someone I work with was also assaulted at gunpoint last night, in a cab) because that's all they have the guts to get their hands on. When I told a local friend of mine what had happened the first time around, he told me a story about Cuban volunteers offering medical services in Honduras being assaulted and, once they explained what they were doing in this country to the assaulter, the son of a gun actually did. He even apologized for having approached them in the first place.
Somehow, I don't believe either of the people who robbed me have any sort of conscience and would have thought twice about robbing me after I'd explained to them that I was just a measly volunteer trying to offer my skills and to learn as much as possible from their environment. Luckily I haven't been physically harmed in either case. It's sad to have to spend every day wondering whether today will be the day it is "Game Over" in my video game-like life here. I don't want to have to count down the days until I get to leave, because I am finally starting to meet more local people. I think I can (relatively) enjoy another month here going to my dance classes with L, the new addition to our intern family, going out to dance one of these days, to the beaches and to the hot springs. After that, I will be ready to be transferred to another internship to a more isolated but safer place. I recognize that I am facing these daily challenges and sometimes it's hard to find the answer to the quesion "why am I even here, if I am constantly the victim of an attack and resentment/hatred towards 'gringo' foreigners is almost tangible?" but I know that I will be a better and stronger person at the end of it all, and for that I am thankful.