Friday, July 07, 2006

Lessons and Reflections

We've been back in the States for a week now, and the Guatemalan experience is already seeming distant. It seemed wrong to just leave the experience hanging as is, so I wanted to reflect on some of the things that I learned:

  • Slough it off: Everyone has something to say about the United States, the president, or the policies, and usually it's not flattering. Inside the U.S. I usually am happy to hear any sort of political opinion, and applaud the fact that someone has actually cared enough to pay attention to what's going on in the world. Even if I don't agree, I can usually acknowlege their standpoint and relate my own. In Guatemala, I was surprised by my defensiveness, about how quickly I could become indignant that someone was criticizing my country. It took me several conversations to finally get it right, but I learned to slough it off and take it in stride. People are frustrated, and need someone to listen to their concerns- especially on issues they feel they have no control over. I wanted them to know that the US occasionally does helpful things, and that the president does not consult me with his decisions, so I don't know why he did this or that. Usually, they weren't trying to attack me personally and instead were genuinely interested in what I had to say. I had to learn that it wouldn't hurt me to apologize for the sins of the United States that I had inherited simply for being born here. As long as I could avoid becoming defensive, the conversation usually progressed and turned in a different direction, and we could go on being friends. ("There, now we can be friends again." -Doc Holiday) (Speaking of friends, my friend Nate put into words what I felt then, and you can check out his blog here.)
  • I'm a sissy. I felt pegged in a stereotype that I normally try to avoid: The spoiled rich arrogant ignorant American. I don't know if anyone else thought this of me, but I thought it of myself more times than I'd like to admit. Sometimes I fancy myself rather hard-core, and I think I might be able to kick it in a third world country for awhile, bringing food or clothes to the poor or advocating some similar noble cause. But I whined like a baby when I didn't have hot water. When I did have warm water, I showered as fast as I could, knowing that it would run out at any moment. It was like a game we played, me and the shower.
  • Size is relative. We all know that everything's bigger in Texas. I had just never applied that saying to my actual person. I'm about 5' 7'' which I think is pretty average for a girl in the states, but in Guatemala, I was a giant. Cory and I couldn't even walk side by side on the sidewalks because they were so narrow. It was like being in some alternate universe...or back in junior high.
  • Futbol! I'm pretty excited that I was forced into the World Cup culture. I picked Italy to win early on, for no reason other than Italian is my favorite food, and now they are in the finals. However, I wouldn't call myself a sports aficionado just yet as I always seem to miss it when a team makes a gooooool. I get distracted when the players are just running around or flailing about on the ground in hopes of a card. I do have enough sense to pay attention when they're kicking penalty shots, though, so I've got that going for me.


Anonymous said...

so I'm a little confused...did you guys bring any Guatemalan children home or not?

Jess E

jessica said...

Definitely not...maybe sometime in the future. I keep telling cory we have to backpack through Europe before we have any kids!

Anonymous said...

We are all glad that you two are back in the GOOD, OLE USA, all safe and sound. Traveling is good. Getting back home is better!
I'm thrilled that you had this experience and I am sure there are other travels on the horizon (as in: backpacking thru Europe!). Go for it, guys....
It's as Abe Lincoln said...."It's not the years in a life but the life in the years." Honest!
Love you!

Anonymous said...

Hey, i hope you'll keep writing in your blog post-trip. It's been entertaining and joyful to get to look in on your lives.