There was a bit of reverse culture shock involved when Dr. Jana Thomas Coffman and her family arrived in Joplin at the end of July. For the last two years, they had lived in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and made the decision to move back to the United States in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘A FAMILY ADVENTURE’

I’m originally from Oklahoma. I taught high-school Spanish and English for 10 years, then moved to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to get my doctorate. In 2018, my husband was saying he’d never had the chance to live abroad. We were trying to raise our kids bilingual so we decided to move to Latin America. I happened to have a friend there and I asked if they had any openings at (DelCampo International School). They had some openings so I taught English there and my husband taught social studies.

It’s a city of about a million people, so it was totally different than anything I had done before. It was a family adventure for two years. We learned so much about the culture. We had twins there (in 2019). Baby No. 3 turned out to be Babies No. 3 and 4. Honduras has a really amazing maternity program. You have six weeks paid time off at the end of your pregnancy, and another six weeks when the baby is born. We were able to get great medical care.

COMPLETE SHUTDOWN

COVID hit about three weeks after the United States. I saw what my parents were going through and was able to get groceries and hand sanitizer before it ran out.

Once the virus hit, Honduras shut down completely. They only opened supermarkets and pharmacies. You could only go out once every two weeks depending on your ID number. Seeing how cavalier Americans were – considering golf and nail salons as essential – while we were locked down and seeing a Third World country handling the epidemic better was kind of mind blowing.

A BLIND MOVE

At first, we thought we’d stick it out there and stay with our jobs. But as it looked like the economy was getting worse, we decided it would be better to be home where we had family.

The U.S. embassy was sending emails that were getting more and more frantic … ‘The border is going to shut and you’ll be stuck here.’ They had embassy flights for American citizens. They repatriated about 6,000 American residents and we were among the very last to go.

We didn’t know anything about Joplin. We did a few FaceTimes … we bought a house and took a job and then we came here to see them. It was totally blind and very high stress.

There was definitely some reverse culture shock (in coming back to the U.S.). People were following the traffic rules, it was much quieter and we were able to go out to eat again for the first time in months. I like the small-town feel here. We can get around much faster (than in Honduras). I’m excited to get to know some people, join a church and make friends in my department.