One year ago today, I landed in Honduras.
Since then, I’ve settled into my position as Program Director, worked side by side with Chilo (our Loan Officer) and Francis (our accounting assistant), and most importantly I’ve been able to build relationships with the clients.
Walking around the communities and getting to know people has left me with a long list of interactions. Many of them are the defining moments between a client and I, which make us into associates, acquaintances, and friends.
While each client deserves their own story, today I thought I would share bits of mine. So, here’s a section of that list – my favorites – from the last twelve months of work:
- Sitting on Moises and Marta’s back porch with my legs crossed. They were stirring a pot of boiling oil – making chips to sell. We were all drenched in sweat from the heat under the low ceiling. We were talking about savings accounts at the bank.
- Standing at Mina’s door, leaning up against the frame, and watching the pouring rain outside. I was sipping a cup of coffee. Her and Digna were ignoring me to talk about hemming a dress.
- Meeting Norma, Armando, and Mirtala on the road. We were all in a good mood. Norma showed me a gash in here finger where the machete had slipped. We all laughed about it.
- Leaning forward on the bike handles at Santo’s front gate. She was peering through the gap in the vertical tin sheets. We talked in low voices and giggled about the people passing by.
- Having the absolute worst day, and then sitting down in Flor’s back yard. She sat across from me. When there was nothing to talk about, we stared off into space and listened to the wind. We did that for an hour and a half. I wasn’t having a bad day when I left.
- Talking with Yeni about her loan shark. We made fun of the cat that crept up under my chair. Then we started joking about dogs and recipes for pig liver.
- Watching scary movies in Paula’s living room. Telling her daughter that I wouldn’t sleep well that night, which I didn’t.
- Listening to the chop-chop of Aminta cutting carrots for her granddaughter. I sat in a lawn chair while she made lunch. We talked about her plans to increase sales.
- Squinting as Deysi explained the terms of her other loan from a local microfinance. I asked many questions and she had many answers. She pointed at a booklet they gave her. I drew on the table with my fingers for clarification.
- Doing the math on Pastora’s chicken coup. We calculated how much money she made in profit and I asked about each part of the shabby little house. We continued the conversation over hyba (crab soup).
- Smiling as Maria Santos told me she didn’t let her kids use the word ‘gringo’ when they saw me. ‘We say things without knowing what they mean’ she said. Her daughter ran in the yard twirling sticks in her hand.
- Walking around Siete de Abril with Nery as she pointed out who owned what property. She took me to her parent’s house. They fed me the tastiest yuka I’ve ever had.
- Taking notes as Doñia Nena showed me around the tiny convenience store. The little window was the only light, and I scribbled down a long list of her inventory. She knew the cost, price, and quantity for over ninety individual things that she sold (by memory).
- Sitting in a truck tire, in the corner of the soccer field, helping Eva choose a name for her baby.
There are so many more moments we’ve had that give meaning to ‘relationship collateral.’ Looking back over the last year, though, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish work from fun.
I suppose that’s a good thing.