Reaching past the halfway mark of our trip, my mind has been jumbled with thoughts and memories I do not want to forget. On our daily drive to work at Casa del Alfarero, located in the dangerous inner city area around the huge Guatemala city dump, we drive over a bridge where we have an amazing view, and a camera just does not do it justice. The lush green hills which we never see in Florida are blemished with shacks made of metal and cardboard, and sometimes if we are lucky with a clear enough day the combination of nature and man-made shelter are breathtaking with the backdrop of an enormous volcano which offers beauty as well as danger. This scene never fails to make me just stop thinking so much, and to just enjoy the strange scene of untraditional beauty.
As a recent college graduate, I worry about all of the things I wish I had done differently so that maybe I would have a clearer sense of what my purpose is in life. I think about if I’m going to make it into dental school, what I could have said to stand out more to my professors, and if I chose the right major and direction of study. After being here for the past couple of weeks I have had some time to look back and connect the dots. I chose to study Psychology and changed my major from Journalism without having a second thought the first day of school my freshman year. At times I felt stupid for not listening to my father and just choosing a science major or going with my childhood dreams of becoming a journalist. But would I have the same interpersonal skills, social intelligence, and ability to feel empathy for the many people I have met who are less fortunate than me if I had not chosen to focus on learning about human behavior? I also used psychology when designing a way to encourage our classes to open up and participate. It involved the use of a cooperative contingency for the class to work together and encourage more positive interactions in order to receive reinforcement at the end of our final class. My hand dexterity learned from my studies in ceramics (also opposed by my father) has also come to use on this trip as I showed some of the women some new ways to turn paper into tiny stars and pinwheels after they asked me to teach them so they could incorporate it into their jewelry. I believe everything happens for a reason, and my choice in my studies has not been fully explained; but what I’ve witnessed so far is a start, as I realize that I plan to continue humanitarian efforts in my future career. We have met many people here in Guatemala, and I have appreciated their willingness to share their stories with us, and even with the language barrier I can tell that they have a sense of hope for something better. I hope that in our time here we can help them make those hopes become closer to reality.
Accidents. Is there such a thing? What are the chances that in the short month that we are here that an opportunity for renting a space for a beauty salon arose? The one or two women in each class at Casa del Alfarero that actually have a business, run it at home, but this space offers the chance to reach a larger market. I really hope that the space Wendy has been offered can work out, and am excited for our meeting tomorrow with the leaders of Casa del Alfarero to see what their opinion is on the matter. Today we finished an inital draft of the book/workbook on how to start a business. We had to alter our lesson plans numerous times after finding that things that may come naturally to us must be broken down to many people in our classes, and we incorporated these findings into the construction of our business book. For example, we had to dedicate two lessons just on how to calculate daily variable and fixed expenses in order to gauge what revenues would be needed in order to make a profit. Hopefully this workbook will last long after we’re gone to sustainably help the people of the Guatemalan city dump. I hope it will be edited, modified as time goes by, and passed along to friends and other people who want to rise out of the trash and start their own small businesses.
As I write this blog, I realize that I have many hopes for the results of this project, and I know that not all can not be fulfilled. But as long as we can affect one life, our trip would have been worth it. I feel as I have learned so much while being in Guatemala, especially from the displays of gratitude for what little these people have, and generosity to give what they don’t have. I don’t just hope, but I know this part of our project will stay with me. This generous spirit was present not only in the poor, but across the socio-economic classes. I saw this in the Chengs, the middle class family friends of Katie F. who gave up their beds and treated us with delicious food at every meal. They made us feel so welcome, and even though I had just met them I felt at home. I also saw this generosity in Claudia Yesenia, a woman who welcomed us into her home with walls of metal and cardboard, and doors of blankets. She offered each of us some hot cinnamon coffee while she told us how she at times all that her children, sick father, sister, and sister’s children would eat just a tortilla and butter for dinner. Despite their appearance and how they live, all of the different types of people I have encountered have radiated beauty to me, just like that strangely wonderful scene we drive by every day near the bridge. And as I stand in awe of this beautiful feeling I am able to forget all of my previous worries. Anyways, these worries shouldn’t matter because as the famous quote says no one will remember what I did, or what I said, but they will remember how I made them feel. And that is something I now strive to focus on.We have less than two weeks left in Guatemala, and I can only hope that that we are able to make an impression on the people of this country as they have on me.
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