Friday, October 22

Patience & anti-itch cream

I've been too exhausted and confused to write this week. Yesterday I managed to churn out a few strongly worded emails to Dave and my parents (lucky them). Along with other advice, my mom kindly suggested that I update my blog.

Once upon a time I was vomiting violently in a concrete bathroom in the middle of no where Bolivia at 3am, wondering how I could love something - travel - that left me vomiting, violently, in a concrete bathroom, thousands of miles from my family, potentially soon to be dead. That's the first time I remember questioning my love of travel and my broader worldview. I may have even promised God I'd be more sensible and conventional and less stupid if he'd let me out of that concrete bathroom alive. (Oops.) More recently, I've questioned my values and decisions because being away from college is scary and the jokes people make about me going to Guatemala are scary. Usually I question myself for 24 to 36 hours before deciding that never mind, I'm on the right track, just don't stop believin'.

I could be wrong, but I think these two months in Guatemala are going to equal two months of frequent self-doubt and questioning. It sucks, but not all adventures are waterfalls, nursery rhymes with local children, or near death experiences recounted over a couple of cold beers. Sometimes adventures are overwhelming challenges that require impossible amounts of patience and anti-itch cream.

No refrigeration, no hot water, no lukewarm water, constant bug bites... a nine hour long shopping trip into Reu during which a woman steals our chicken and pancake mix, depriving us of meat and comfort food... a five kilometer uphill hike with two dozen eggs in tow and being laughed at by a large group of teenage Guatemalans... not being able to satisfyingly rant to our new friends about our awful day... all of these things are tough.

But the ultimate challenge is handling the persistent whisper in my ear: what are you doing here? You can go home. There's carpet and gallons of cold milk and paying jobs and people who under-stand you when you ask where the can opener is. When I get over the language barrier and rustic lifestyle, the voice continues, what do you think you're actually learning? You're kidding yourself, wasting your time. No one really wants you here, except to make a few extra bucks. No one needs you here. They don't need to learn English. You may fix the building up, but it'll just fall back into disrepair. And the absolute worse is, you've had your fun. But now you see, don't you? The people who stay home and advance their careers and invest in a house KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. It's not too late. You can turn this around. The airport is only five sweaty bone rattling bus rides away.

The whispering voice is compelling and, if you must know, fully in control of my emotions. But I am not a quitter. I am a learner, damnit. That is what new places and new people and facing scary things are about - learning. And arguably I'll learn more useful, meaningful lessons when things are hard than when things conform to my expectations and liking.

Yesterday I learned the Spanish word for "green bean." Tonight I'm learning how to make coconut flan; we're currently discussing how to crack a coconut since Sara is gone for the day and we don't have a machete. Tomorrow I will take another nine hour trip to the market, buy another chicken and, this time, it won't get stolen. I choose to consider all the above progress!

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