By Esther Kwarteng 

Prior to arriving in Camasca, Honduras, I was anxious. I wasn’t sure how to feel about being the only Black woman in a town that does not have any people who look like me or in a group with two other Duke students whom I had met only 2 months prior to our departure. On top of that, I am an introvert. I typically do not engage in conversation with others I do not know unless I have to. As such, it was difficult for me to open up and engage in conversation with others, initially.

As Duke students, we decided that our first two weeks of being in Honduras would be meant to grow accustomed to the area as well as learn about the town, its customs, and its people. Those two weeks were very difficult for me as it was my first time being outside of the United States, alone. In addition to that, the language I had grown up speaking was useless, and I am not fluent in the language everyone else in the town effortlessly spoke. Despite having two other Duke students with me, I felt alone. I felt out of place. I wanted to enjoy every moment and opportunity that came my way; however, I did not feel like myself for a while.

In our first full week of being in Camasca, we began by teaching English at the local school–La Urbana. I decided to teach 5th, 6th, and 7th graders. Luckily, it is not my first time being in front of a classroom teaching; however, it is my first time teaching to a group of students who only knew Spanish. Needless to say, I struggled during the first week. I started with the English alphabet and numbers. From there, we transitioned to greetings, colors, animals, days of the week, and months of the year.

By the time week three came around, I began feeling more comfortable. My Spanish was improving; my English classes were going well as I had finally learned all of my students’ names; us Duke students began making friends in the town, and we finally began our research projects. My research explores the perceptions of body image in young adolescent girls and older women. One of my two research questions is, “Where do they receive messages about body image and what society deems a woman should look like?” Honduras is a developing country. As such, it is not as in United States where people have consistent access to technology and mainstream media. Additionally, I want to determine how these perceptions of body image affect the levels of self-esteem in these young girls and women. So, we began by frequenting the local health center, “El Centro de Salud” to administer our surveys to people who fit in our age ranges. From there, we began to visit the local high school and the surrounding villages for participants.

Now that is week 5 of being in Camasca, I currently have 53 participants. My goal is to have at least 75 participants, so I am very close to reaching my goal. I have found that in my research, the older population of women who have participated in my survey have been a lot more modest and reserved about their answers; more so than the young adolescent girls.

Generally, I think that trend relates back to the culture here. Through conversations with my host family and my own observations, I’ve learned that the culture is very traditional. Women are fairly conservative, do not wear anything too tight or revealing, and reserved. The belief is that women should cook, clean, and essentially be submissive to their spouses. This may affect the results of my research; however, I will surely attribute my results to the traditional culture here in Camasca.