Sunday, March 11, 2012

What I'll Miss About Guatemala

I've had this post in my head for a long time now. Since my departure from Guatemala is now imminent (t-minus 1 month!), I'd better start wrapping myself around the fact that I'm leaving.

I'm feeling pretty mixed up about it. I know I'll be back to Guatemala in the future, but things will never be quite the same for me in my community as they are now. I long ago got over the phase of desperately wanting the experience to be over and now feel this wonderful but tenuous belonging. I don't want to give that up, but I also realize that it's time given my personal circumstances.

I spend a lot of time now thinking about what a great place I'm in now to do all the work I wanted to do a year ago, and fantasizing about coming back and living here and doing what I really want, outside of the constraints of my Peace Corps counterpart agency.

And maybe because my main project still isn't finished, I am currently exerting way less mental energy than I expected in celebrating that I will soon be back with the loved ones I've missed so much, having left behind the stress of the last two years. I'm in a weird place in between counting down the days and wishing each day would just slow down a bit.

In that spirit, I've been thinking about all the things I need to enjoy now, and to keep the balance, the things that I have to look forward to...

Things I'll Miss...

(1) Tortillas, beans, rice, and eggs with chopped onion/tomato at Dona Mary's diner. Seriously the best plate ever!

(2) The people. I think this is true wherever you go, but my better friendships and even casual acquaintanceships here were so hard-won that it's hard to think about letting them fade out. It's a little bit beyond describing.

(3) Living on $250/month with a practically unlimited supply of fresh vegetables, house to myself, the occasional meal out, and the ability to take great vacations for little. And being able to buy almost everything I need from a small seller in the market or a mom-and-pop shop!

(4) Being admired by kids and having automatic celebrity. Kids are awesome.

(5) Long-term structure... because even when Peace Corps was tough, I always knew where I would be and what I would be doing until March 2012. Now I'm going back to the States with a Masters' degree to finish, but after that life is a big "?"!

(6) Having a job working with protected areas and environmental ed. As tough as it was sometimes to work within a different culture, I loved my job and the freedom to imagine different projects to address varying needs.

(7) Guatemalan street snacks, and the accompanying immunity I've built up.

(8) The connection people here have to the land and the lack of consumeristic culture. A silly example: Like most people in my town, I didn't have a refrigerator while I was here, and I realized I won't even ever need one, at least not of the typical size we have in the US. In a different environment I doubt I would have ever realized that.

(9) The fairly temperate climate, year-round. (Makes wardrobe easy.)

(10) The slower pace of life and less demanding expectations. (Not in the sense of expectations for me, but it's just nice to be around people who are not sweating the small stuff too much.)

Things I'm Looking Forward to...!

(1) The ridiculous variety of foods, flavors, and cuisines we have daily access to in the US! Whole grains!

(2) Being with family and friends at home.

(3) Summer = farmer's markets? Let's hope.

(4) Not being constantly asked to teach English, share information about where I'm from or what I'm doing, tell people about life in the United States, etc. No longer being blatantly stared out whenever I leave my house.

(5) Being able to control more of the structure of my daily life, and also feeling less pressure to cram my entire day full of activities, social time, or work. As PCVs we're encouraged to be "on" 24-7 ... there's always something to do, even if it's just brushing up on language ... that pressure gets tiring. And I can't honestly say I learned to balance my relaxing and work time, unfortunately.

(6) Applying what I've learned here to environmental ed in the US. So many valuable lessons... And being able to hike and backpack freely again without fear of being ambushed off the beaten bath.

(7) Cleanliness: drinking water out of the tap!! ... a washing machine!!! ... hot running water! People here value cleanliness a lot, but the place is really dusty, and there's very little automation or hot water. So, keeping stuff clean here as most housewives do implies being way less lazy than I am. I'm excited to be in a place where staying clean is easier.

(8) Living in an apartment with windows and natural light! I've had enough of this cement-block cave ;-)

(9) SNOW and SEASONS aside from : rain / no rain.

(10) Meetings starting more or less at a given hour, with the people in attendance who claimed they'd attend. People who say out loud in words what they really think rather than in a complex mixture of body language and telepathy.

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