A Postcard from a World Away
Students at Tri-State University have the opportunity to study abroad at a variety of universities throughout the world. A student, Arthur Clites, chose to travel to Honduras where the Universidad San Jose Jacinto DelValle organized an opportunity to study archeological artifacts and current excavations of the ancient Mayan culture and the Copan Ruins. Clites relays his travels through the following narration:
The time I spent in Honduras was both an eye-opening and life changing experience. I had never been exposed to such over-whelming poverty. Yet, amidst the lack of amenities we would consider essential, the people are hearty, cheerful, and free-spirited.
Our mornings started very early. We caught a van to the site of the ruins after breakfast for our three-hour morning class session. We were taken aback our first day of class when we learned our instructors came from the renowned institutions of Harvard, Colgate, and the University of Pennsylvania. Along with classroom instruction, we were given the basic tours a tourist would receive through the main acropolis, the housing complex of la sepletaurus, and the sculpture museum.
When we accompanied a Japanese archaeologist team to a newly discovered ruins excavation site, we realized we were not typical tourists. This rare experienceal lowed us to see what an archaeologist actually starts with to recreate what we admire and see around the world in National Geographic documentaries. We got a closer understanding of how difficultit is to preserve the ruins without compromising their authenticity with biased ideas of how something may have looked or been used.
The two weeks we spent in the tight-knit community of Copan allowed us to get close to the actual people at all levels of the community. We naturally spent time with the archaeologists who have the frustration of accessing ruins on the private lands of wealthy land owners who have ridiculous and selfish requests and complete disrespect for what is there. We also tried hard to get to know the impoverished locals, as well as some of the native descendants who have become completely disconnected from their heritage.
I personally spent a long night conversing with our hotel manager and his best friends. He was the third generation owner of a large stud bull farm whereforeign guests can experience rural living. They both spoke fluent English, and it was very interesting when the conversation turned to politics. They expressed their admiration for President Bush’s policies and his back bone instanding behind the decisions he makes amidst media criticism. They identified that America has the right to defend itself just like any other country. This meant a lot to me to receive an authentic, unbiased international view point of our current deployments.
One of the most beautiful experiences we had was taking a long horse ride up into the Copan Mountains to visit a small village of modern Mayan Indians. They had electricity provided by a Japanese humanitarian project but little else. Our tour guide, Jesus, invited us into his home where an elderly woman showed us how to make corn tortillas from meal. They were delicious; however, I felt guilty eating three while knowing that most of the children in the village receive only one for the whole day.
Another unforgettable experience was visiting a hacienda where women come with the hope of improving their fertility. They return once they are pregnant to be aided through their pregnancy. The ancient Mayans used this location in the same way. There are sculptures in the hills a short walk from the Hacienda with carvings of symbols of fertility. The forest around the complex was filled with some very old plants that were used for varied medicinal purposes.
What I saw and experienced will influencemy many perceptions and decisions in the future. As my professional career takes me to other parts of the world, this experience will help me to view native cultures with an open mind.