By Anisha Watwe

On our last day in Camasca, we decided to walk through the town one last time. There is one main road that runs straight through the town from end to end. We started at the local public school, “La Urbana”, where we went every morning to help out with their growing English program. There were no kids there at the time because it was under construction; the school was granted funding to renovate and expand the building after years of waiting for approval from the local government.

We then walked up a steep hill that took us to a crossroads where several independent merchants were selling items ranging from colorful hammocks to medicines. We went down one of the side roads that led to both the maternal health and general clinics. I came here almost every other day to conduct my survey with the women in the waiting area before their appointments with the doctors. We walked back to the main road again and passed Hotel Lizzy and Camaxtly. Camaxtly is a restaurant and coffee shop and is a local favorite. People sometimes go there and order food on special occasions like birthdays or just to spend time with friends. We often went there to relax on the hammocks upstairs and use their WiFi, or just to enjoy a “fresco” or a soda after a long day (my favorite was the banana soda).

After Camaxtly, we turned the corner past the home of one of the teachers at La Urbana. Brian, one of the other Duke students who came with me to Camasca lived there with his host family: Profe Doris and her two young granddaughters Dayra and Briana. We became really close to Dayra and Briana and would visit their house almost every day (they became our “hermanas hondureñas” or Honduran sisters.) Past their house was the Red Cross building, a line of clothing stores, a chicken restaurant, and the mayor’s office. Once we turned the corner, we walked past Profe Edwin’s shop, which sold basically everything you could think of, and host family’s house. Right outside outhouse was the ferretería, or the hardware store, that our host father owns and where we sometimes helped clients on particularly busy days.

We passed the police station where heavily armed policemen were standing outside with semi-automatic weapons (something that took us a while to get used to.) Then, we made it up a faith of stairs which took us to the main plaza with a fountain in the center and the grand Catholic church building at one end. Overlooking the plaza was La Casona, another restaurant where we spent a lot of time. Our host brother, Fernando’s friend Chelsea owns the restaurant, so we’d go there frequently to get a liquado on a really hot day or a baleada to eat. On the plaza, there was also a pupusería that was owned by a Salvadoran woman; we became good friends with Williams, her 16-year old son, and most nights we would spend time with him on the plaza.

Past the plaza, was the small Evangelical church that we went to almost every Sunday. Though I am not a Christian, the church meant a lot to me during my time in Camasca, and I found an amazing, loving community there. We walked past the church, then the small gym (where we went a grand total of 5 times), then the volunteer house where volunteers for our partner organization, Shoulder to Shoulder, stayed while in Camasca. Past the volunteer house and up another hill was the local “colegio” for high school-aged students, and just past that was the bilingual school run jointly by Shoulder to Shoulder and the Camascan government. And at the bilingual school, we reached the other end of Camasca.

My time in Camasca has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Conducting the surveys for my research project gave me exposure to the global health research process and data collection. The work I did, trying to get a better understanding of my research topic (barriers to contraceptive use for women in Camasca, Honduras) helped me solidify my interest in my Program II degree in reproductive health policy. Talking to new people every day helped me to understand the everyday-experiences and struggles they face. Speaking Spanish every day with my host family built my confidence in speaking and understanding the language. Even just trying new foods (SO many new fruits!), listening to new music, and attending Camasca’s festivals helped me get out of my comfort zone and embrace the unfamiliar.

It’s important to realize that Camasca gave and taught me so much more than I can ever give them in return. I left behind a little piece of myself when I left, but am extremely hopeful that I will be able to return soon.