After witnessing the reaction to Obama’s election back in November, I decided along with two other volunteers that we needed to make the trip to Washington D.C. for the January 20th inauguration. We bought our plane tickets together after many frustrations with the slow internet connection, just four days after the election. As we got closer and closer to our departure date I could not believe that I was actually going to be in the US again after almost a year of living in Honduras, and that I was going to be there for the inauguration. Before I left I even had several friends tell me they were going to look for me on TV and to tell Obama that Honduras loves him.
I finally got to the airport in San Pedro Sula after a five hour bus ride and 45 min taxi ride only to discover that the system was down to check in bags. My friend Anna and I nervously checked our bags full of nice, warm winter clothes hoping they would still get there with handwritten baggage tags while Matt carried his bag on with some of our more necessary items just in case. Our boarding passes were handwritten slips of paper as well that would supposedly take us all the way through our layover in Miami to Washington. After not too much waiting we all finally got on the plane at Gate 4 (of 5) of the most used of two airports in Honduras.
The flight to Miami was just a few hours long and we couldn’t get over how much leg room we had. There was no luggage on our laps, no sweaty people standing over us until we hunch lower in our seats, and no people throwing up all around us, where were we? We also got reprimanded by the flight attendant for not recycling out cans after the beverages were passed out, but how were we supposed to remember that planes miles high recycle when there aren’t even any trash cans in any of our towns?
Our layover at the Miami airport was the first time in this trip we realized that we probably needed to work on our social skills before spending too much more time in public in the US. We stared at all the gringos there, were in awe at all the restaurants and food options, and talked loudly about other people forgetting they could understand what we were saying. Classy. We also had huge problems going back through security after customs and then again boarding our plane because no airport personnel knew what to do with our handwritten boarding passes. Each time we had to show them to someone new, we were asked where we were coming from as they called friends over to stare at our strange documents.
Finally arriving in DC, we were welcomed by freezing cold and by Anna’s parents. They dropped Matt and I off at Matt’s cousin’s apartment where we stayed for the next few days and planned to meet up the next day. We ate some amazing food and even went out dancing after dark. I think I saw more people out after sunset than I have the entire time I’ve been in Honduras.
Our first whole day in DC, the day before the inauguration, Matt and I walked around DC with some of his friends from college and meet up with Anna in the afternoon. While we were on our way to meet Anna, we were stopped by a couple who asked us to take their picture. The woman, who was one of the representatives of Kentucky, asked us if we were going to pick up our tickets to the inauguration and when we told her we didn’t have any, she told us to try the representative from Puerto Rico since none of his constituents were able to come. We got really excited with the prospect of possibly getting tickets so went in the building to give it a shot. When we got to the Puerto Rico office we found out that they had given all their tickets away an hour ago but decided to keep trying. We tried many other offices, and after one of the staff members in the office of my representative told us rather rudely that it would be a complete waste of time and wasn’t worth the effort to look, we still kept searching. On the way to a representative from Minnesota we passed by the office of the Northern Marina Islands delegate and decided to give it a try. I went in alone to be less overwhelming and had my Peace Corps Honduras shirt on. I told the people who were in there all about our experience with the election in Honduras and our decision to make the trip up when one of the women went to a back office and came out with three tickets for us. We got their last three!! We were so excited that we made a scene in the office and I think they were really glad they gave us the tickets due to our reaction.
I have never seen so many people in one place as I did on the morning of the inauguration. People were flooding the streets, Capitol Mall, and the subway. After a bit of difficulty navigating through the masses of people we finally made it to the silver gate where we had to enter to watch the inauguration. It was not very well organized and a lot of people with tickets didn’t get in. That being said, it was extremely peaceful and if something like that happened somewhere else there easily could have been an outbreak of violence. We made it in with the last group to enter and got to stand with a good view of the Capitol right at the first jumbotron. The atmosphere was so amazing and people were laughing, crying, hugging, and praying everywhere. Obama’s speech was amazing and I’m so glad I got to be there.
With mixed feelings to be leaving the states, I got on the plane back to Miami and then to San Pedro Sula completely exhausted. Those four days in DC felt like an entire month was crammed into them. I was so overwhelmed with everything so easily available to people, how fast everything and everyone moved, and just life in general. It wore me out so much that I slept 36 of my first 72 hours back in Honduras. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel getting back to Honduras since I didn’t even get to see my family even though I was in the same country, but as soon as I stepped off the plane in San Pedro, I knew. I was home.