Friday, August 20, 2010

Don David

The only word I've heard my 16 month old host sister say is, "David." This makes me feel all cozy inside since it is the name I go by in Spanish. I'm sure it wasn't her first word and that she probably speaks many others with her family, but I will admit it feels pretty nice. Today, I played my guitar for all the kids for the first time. Something I have been admittedly avoiding since my last host family constantly requested my lyrically butchered version of "La Bamba" (which I indeed had to play three times in a row today). They absolutely loved it.

Recently, I feel like I have been making tiny breakthroughs almost daily with my host family. My Spanish is getting better, which has led to me talking to them more, which has been improving my Spanish. A never-ending cycle if you will. We have grown very comfortable with each other, and for the first time since my first host-family, I am starting to feel like I "belong." My host-mom, Cecilia, is 5 1/2 months pregnant with child number 10. At 36, she has already had four boys and five girls. She assured me that this would be her last child, and although it breaks my heart to see my family struggle to put food on their table, and despite the fact that the machismo here is overwhelmingly dominant, I am very excited to welcome a new member to the family.

We have had a few difficulties since my arrival, especially in the first few months. I feel obliged not to go into details here, out of their respect. I am more focused on moving forward, but I will say that I was afraid I'd never be able to cross a few barriers. I credit my host-mom for the turn around. She might possibly be the sweetest person I've ever met. She is always wearing an enormous genuine smile. She is always happy to see me, and she worries about me like my own mother would. "Oh, Don David, be careful on your bike." "You should go rest now, or your cold will get worse." Like a mother, she compliments me too much, "Don David, what wonderful work your doing." "You're handsome, Don David." She tries to embarrass me in front of my friends. "I just love it when Don David's friends come to visit, it makes him happy." I unabashedly admit that she is right. She has taken me in as one of her own, not because I pay rent, or because once every couple of weeks I meet with her group, but because she really cares. Every day when I come home, I look for Dona Cecilia, if even just to say good afternoon after a long day. Any day dreams I had before of finding my own place, with more space and privacy, perhaps running water, and a shorter commute, have all vanished. I am falling in love with my family here: my host-mom, my sweet sisters, my diligent brothers, and my rapidly spoken host-dad (I say rapidly spoken because not only does he speak the fastest Cumbre Spanish I have yet heard, but he is always straight to the point, which I rather appreciate at the end of the day in this long-winded country).

Tomorrow morning, I will put the finishing touches on my rabbit cages, with Joe's help (he's been a great volunteer and friend, check his blog too and make a donation to his bathroom project, he's still short and 600+ kids are really looking forward to it). These rabbit cages I am splitting with the family. They already had one and a half cages so we have turned it into three. They currently have one rabbit and next week I am going to find it's mate. I consider it the gift that keeps on giving, and believe that this will make our bond stronger, which I have felt is long overdue. I am excited about the coming months, the progress that is seeming to pick up speed (with my family and my work (some days)), and preparing to welcome a new member to the family, which brings us to a large baker's dozen when you add in the freshly welcomed, Don David.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One Year In!!!

Tomorrow is a milestone for me, and I'm sure for any Peace Corps Volunteer. I've made it a full 365 days in Guatemala. I've had my fair share of ups and downs. There were times when I felt on top of the world, and other times when the world knocked me on my butt. So far I've managed to dust myself off pretty well, sometimes with a little help from my friends. Overall, it's been a great experience, one that I wouldn't trade for anything. In my time here, I've learned way more than I could ever hope to teach, and taught things I've never dreamed of teaching.

I feel like this is a good time to revisit the reasons I came in the first place. I truly believe the statement, "All men are created equal." However, something has always bothered me about that idea. It's the instant after we are created that does it to me. The reason I filled out my application to join the Peace Corps is because I found that my world was infinitely big, yet surprisingly small. I was born to exceptional parents, raised in a wonderful environment, and handed many opportunities that would be considered a luxury to a huge majority of the world. I was fresh out of college and I had come to a fork in the road. Down one path of paved roads and rest stops was the heart of America, the land of opportunity. A place where dreams could come true, and anything was possible if I put my mind to it. A place where the world was my oyster. Down the other path, the roads were rocky and rough. There lied barriers and obstructions. There were limits to where I could go and what I could do. Where dreams could just as easily become nightmares. However, in this place, the world was literally at my fingertips. I chose the second path because I could have just as easily been born right here in La Cumbre. In fact, with the birth rates here, and in most other places in the undeveloped world, I'd say I was unbelievably lucky to have been dealt the hand I was. Yes, we are all created equal, but in that moment that follows, to suggest an equilibrium is outrageous. This is something that I thought I knew before, but have definitely learned by now. Still yet, there is a duality to the equality concept, and I'd say this is what really pushed me forward when I was considering joining. There is, I believe, one existing equilibrium in every person. It trumps everything else. That equality rests in the decisions that each we make, and it is the foundation of humanity, which is such a contrived word. Within it are suggestions of unity, that we are all human, but the real power in humanity lies on an individual basis. Thus, our decisions are key. People can debate right and wrong how ever much they like to, and I suppose that much of the time we are all right in our own minds, although it may take some self-convincing, but we all have the ability to do the right thing. There are so many negative things in this world to burden us. Many people are fueled by hatred, anger, ignorance, greed, or pride, to do whatever might benefit their own interests. Too often, people forget the simplest of philosophies, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We can all fall victim to selfishness, many times without even realizing it. On the other hand, we all have the same ability to love, smile, laugh, and hope. We can help each other, we can work together, and in doing so, we can help ourselves. There is always a fire that burns in the darkness. To some it may be a dim flicker in the wind. To others it may be enough to warm cold hands, but the fact is that we can all feed the flames and that fire can grow. As our surroundings are illuminated, we will suddenly be able to see what was once dark. I came to Peace Corps to help those who are disadvantaged and less fortunate, because I realized that their struggles were mine as well. Sometimes, I forget that. It begins to turn into just another job. I forget about the here and now, and find myself thinking about the then and where. As I spend the next days reflecting on my Peace Corps service, thus far, the year long journey that I have embarked on, I will focus on what I did right, but more importantly what I could have done better. With 15 months left of my service, I will work more on adding to the flames and lighting up the darkness.