Suddenly, flies swarmed everywhere - attracted to the stink - more flies than I could have imagined. Halfway across the dump, three or four vultures, standing three feet tall, regally guarded their carrion treasures, not yielding to their new visitor - me.
More importantly, I met people along my path, some actually living in and around the dump and using discarded items in their own "houses". These were people with the toughest lives, barely surviving amidst trash and sludge, flies and stench. Yes, once again, they smiled.
Up a slight embankment, standing outside a shack made of wood scrap, was a mostly-toothless lady in a greenish dress. So thin was the material, it was quite translucent. At her feet sat her infant boy, covered with flies, not even batting at them. Six feet away was a daughter, a three- or four-year-old little girl with a dirty ribbon in her hair.
This girl in the blue dress was hard at work, washing clothes. I watched her for around an hour as she, without rest, picked a piece of clothing from a fly-infested pile and placed it gingerly onto a large sheet of metal. Then, standing, she struggled to lift a paint can filled with rainwater to pour a bit onto the article of clothing. With a cylindrical bar of green-tinted soap, the girl in the blue dress rubbed lather into every pore of the material before standing with the paint can once again to rinse it, at which time she piled the now cleaned article in a new pile, sans flies.
She completed the process over and over, lifting and scrubbing and pouring and bending, without complaint. In fact, not only did this tiny girl in the blue dress not complain, but she smiled. She looked back over her right shoulder, and she smiled at me with the brightest smile I've ever encountered. My heart melted, and I tell you this: if I could have put her in my pocket and taken her home, I would have done it.
When I recall my trips to Honduras, I immediately rest my thoughts on the girl in the blue dress. I remember how diligently she worked, without a grumble or gripe, but with a genuine smile instead. She remains an inspiration to me still today, and when I face a difficult or time-consuming task that makes me cringe and complain, her smile humbles me. I'm not always able to smile in the face of frustration, and I'm not always patient with the direction that education has taken us in the past couple of years, but I continue to make the effort.
That day trip, walking up the mountain and out of the village, past the wood-bearing burros and gnarly old trees, and just beyond the pig farm, inhaling flies and the reeking aromas of the dump, is one of the life-changing moments of my entire life.