Students sought adventure in Honduras

April 12, 2011

by Haley Kraemer, NEWS EDITOR

Weeks of classes only began to prepare students for the adventures they would find via the Tech Honduras study abroad program.

Several open-minded students experienced diversity through a two-week study tour of Honduras, where they experienced Honduran life through activities, such as hiking in tropical rainforests and the high mountain cloud forests, and building eco-friendly stoves for impoverished farming families.

Arriving back to the U.S. in early March with several stories of excitement and learning, the

students presented their research at the Applied and Natural Sciences Day March 31.

Aaron Gootzeit, a senior kinesiology major, said he left for the trip with a fearless attitude and an indescribable excitement, and he encourages others to follow in his footsteps.

“Be open minded, and if there is something that doesn’t get you in trouble, do it,” he said. “Don’t be scared to do anything.”

Gootzeit said he was so stressed during the time before the trip with school, finals and work that he woke up one day and realized he was leaving for Honduras in six hours and had not yet packed.

“I stayed up all night, slept on the ride to the airport, woke up, got on the plane, fell asleep, woke up, got on the next plane, fell asleep then woke up, ” he said.

Gootzeit said he was surprised Honduras had North American restaurant chains.

“We are in Honduras, and there is a (Kentucky Fried Chicken) across the street,” he said.

Gootzeit said the first three or four days were slow because they were packed with activities, but by the halfway point, it went by quickly. The two most nerve-racking things he did were jumping off a 25-foot cliff overlooking a waterfall and touching a snake.

“I was kind of hesitant [about jumping off the cliff] because the rocks were jutting out,” he said. “So, I had to jump out away from the cliff to avoid hitting them. I felt alive. It was a freeing feeling the whole time.”

Gootzeit recollected the touching of the snake and tensed up in disgust.

“I’m petrified of snakes,” he said. “It felt disgusting. I hate snakes. I still hate snakes.”

Gordon Holley, an associate professor of forestry, said students had 6-7 weeks of classes before the trip where they learned survival Spanish, international travel planning and cultural preparedness.

“We recruited students who wanted to have an adventure,” he said.

Holley spoke of visiting Mayan ruins, ancient pyramids and temples, planting corn and making tortillas with the Mayans, visiting a Caribbean island chain and snorkeling in the sea.

“Honduras is a mountainous, poor nation close to the equator in the north and touching the sea in the south,” he said. “It has a unique geography.”

Holley said a creative component of the trip involved keeping a journal to present at ANS Day.

Sara Beth Redding, a senior animal science major, said the journal was with them at all times.

She said she will study veterinary medicine in Grenada, a country 100 miles north of Venezuela.

Redding saw and interacted with the many animals native to Honduras.

“I’m used to seeing cows and horses in pens, and there will just be cows walking up and down the road or tied to a fence post,” she said.

Redding said she does not think they believe in spaying their animals because of the large number of wild dogs and cats.

“None of them were nice,” she said. “You’d go up to touch them, and they’d go, ‘grr!’

One of the more rewarding aspects of the trip, Redding said, involved building eco stoves for a Honduran family.

“It reduces the smoke the heating stove puts out in the home,” she said.

According to the brochure, “the stoves use less wood and burn cleaner, reducing respiratory illness in women and their children. Many trees have been planted over the years, an activity that usually involves school children.”

Gootzeit said they saw beautiful scenery every day and had good food in Honduras.

“You can’t compare it,” he said. “Like everything in Honduras—the colors, the smell, the people, the lifestyle—are completely different. There is no such thing as poor in America, but (Hondurans) are happier than we are.”

E-mail comments to hek002@latech.edu.