The day I walked into the small town of Flores in rural Honduras—February 18, 1993—was a day that greatly impacted my life. I had no idea how significant this impact would be, but I do remember feeling bewildered and disoriented as people surrounded me speaking rapid Spanish. They were babbling something about me, where I should stay, and what they should do with me…I think. I was just beginning my month-long home stay with the Vallecillo family as part of the Whitworth College Central America semester-long study tour program. I had prided myself on my Spanish speaking ability up until then, but quickly realized that the Spanish my Guatemalan language school teacher spoke was completely different from what is spoken in rural Honduras. I was lost. I promptly spent the first two days hiding out in the room my host family had given me, journaling and wondering, “how am I going to make it through the next month?”
Slowly I made my way to the next safe place I could find…the kitchen table. As in many homes, the kitchen table is the center of activity in the Vallecillo house. The family gathers around it not only for meals, but for afternoon coffee and rosquillas (a Honduran baked bread, kind of like a hard donut you dip in coffee), or any other free moments they have to sit and talk. It is a place surrounded by laughter and fun, and it became my haven for entering their world. At that table, the family welcomed me and adopted me as one of their own.
The kitchen table is where I learned invaluable lessons about Honduran culture, like how to eat beans and rice using a tortilla in place of silverware and that you never point with your finger (instead they point with their lips). I also made leaps and bounds in my ability to communicate in their dialect of Spanish. My host mom, Mita, would spend hours talking with me. When she used a word I didn’t know, such as the word “Catracho” (slang for a person from Honduras), she always found a way to explain it to me in a way that allowed me to relate. My vocabulary and my understanding of this rich culture grew daily.Laurie Werner a Board Member of the Krista Foundation, participated with Krista Ausland Hunt in a Latin America Study Tour during college where their love for vibrant Latin culture was fostered around kitchen tables. She holds a Masters of Public Administration through the University of Washington Evans School and continues to travel and work extensively in Latin America as the Director of Programs for Agros International.