13,000 Steps

We sat in the car on the way home from a day of reporting — our last day of reporting — when we were talking about the day. We had followed one of our characters through a protest about an hour outside of La Esperanza, Honduras. The entire few weeks we were on the ground were filled with protests against the government: for its efforts to privatize healthcare and education and for its total inability to put its people first.

Protests in Honduras (or at least the more common form that we saw) often involve roadblocks. People take boulders or rocks from the sides of main roads and line them across the highways, preventing cars from passing. They might light tires on fire, or they might also take down roadside billboards and throw those into the street, too. This particular protest was quite a long stretch that ran for more than one mile, and was the biggest one I had seen since we landed in the country.

That day was the first day we walked around. Most of the trip, we went right from the hotel to the car to an interview back to the car to another interview back to the car and so on. There was little autonomy in that sense, much of which was to ensure our safety as we pursued our reporting; however, in talking with fixers and translators, they themselves don’t walk around much. While there are people who walk freely around the cities, they do so at a cost: Muggings are common, and bystanders don’t typically intervene. Our translator, Jenny, has been mugged four different times.

But on this particular day, we walked give or take 13,000 steps. We know because Jenny remarked with surprise at how many we’d taken. “This is the most I’ve ever taken in my life,” she said, half-joking. I’m an active person, and I wear a fitness watch that records my daily activities. I reach 18,000 steps on an average day; much of that is because I run — outside — which is incorporated into my step count. Also, I tend to walk around a lot during the day. But it’s a number I’ve always taken for granted, until that moment.

I’ve been in places where people don’t walk around because the heat can be so extreme — the UAE and Oman, for instance. But our translator doesn’t walk around because it’s too dangerous, she said, with the exception of particular assignments she might be on, with journalists or NGOs that require her to do a bit more walking than she normally does. But the idea of walking carefree around her hometown was something that almost seemed unimaginable. People exist and operate among the violence and danger, she said, because it’s normal, everyday life. But it shouldn’t be.

I know there are dangerous parts of the States; some of these areas are in the same borough where I grew up. But something about the fear that rules Honduras felt more insurmountable. There are people who are eager to make a good, honest life and living for themselves, people who are fighting tooth and nail for their country and their future, but doing so is deemed almost impossible because of the cards stacked against them.

13,000 steps in a day shouldn’t be considered an out-of-the-ordinary day for being too many steps. It should be considered out-of-the-ordinary for being too few steps.

Alexandra E. Petri, 2019 Adelante Honduras fellow