back from guatemala

i have officially been home from my Guatemala trip for a week.  i am still settling in, though i am still surprised at the lack of reverse culture shock i experienced upon my return.  it was nothing like my return from Belize last summer, when i experienced a lot of mixed feelings and culture shock when i got back home.

i have yet to fully process everything from our trip–i know we did some good, building stoves for Mayan families.  i know we helped improve people’s living/cooking conditions.  i know Guatemala is full of extraordinary beauty, and also extreme poverty.  i know the people there suffer; i also know that many of the children i interacted with were super happy, despite their dirt floors and donated clothes and total lack of toilet paper.

there were a lot of things that were disheartening on the trip, which i think is the main reason that i’m having a difficult time processing everything.  i feel selfish and ignorant, but i don’t feel hugely impacted by the volunteering we did.  i thought it was going to make me feel amazing, like i was really helping make the world a better place.  but i don’t feel that way, and it really upsets me.  shouldn’t i feel like a superhero–or at least a more decent human being?  i worked my ass off, i spent nine days in a country full of majestic beauty, i met Mayan families who lived in huts and had next to nothing.

i am glad i went, i am grateful for the opportunity, i know that i’m lucky to have gone.  i was amazed by the generosity of my family and friends who donated money for the materials.

but still, something isn’t clicking for me.  something has rubbed me the wrong way, and i just can’t put my finger on it.

maybe it’s a feeling of hypocrisy.  on my part, of course, because i [we] went to some of the poorest parts of Guatemala, spent nine days traveling and taking pictures and eating delicious food and building stoves for families–witnessing some of the poorest conditions i’ve ever seen..then returned back to the States to our air-conditioning, our wifi, our clean water and our plumbing and our toilet paper.  or maybe it’s because i kept hearing all about how “baby Josita affected me/changed my life forever”..then in the next breath heard teasing, mocking, and complaining about having to wait five minutes to use the bathroom.  or maybe it was the “mason jefe,” the head of the group, who came to check on all of our stoves throughout the week, who insulted my mason and my team, who criticized our work and told me i was “rushing it too much” [i wasn’t].  he had clearly forgotten that to people who have never picked up a power tool before [me], building a stove is more than physically tiring–it is also mentally draining, trying to figure out angles and measurements and cuts.  and it takes a while to “get it.”

i wasn’t included in the daily sunrise sessions, or the nightly adventures to “hippie hill,” though i asked to be, multiple times.  i know that brought me down a lot as well.  for a group who claimed to “love each and every one” of each other “so much,” they sure did exclude a lot.

i went into it expecting it to be a better version of my adventures in Belize–harder, of course, because we were doing tough work every day, but better in that it was going to be more rewarding.  i returned feeling discouraged, disenchanted, disillusioned.


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