Monday, February 9, 2009

Home, Sweet, Home

I have finally settled in after my long Christmas break. I have to say it feels amazing to be back! The following is going to make my mom cringe but honestly this feels like home now, surprising right! The smells, the noise, the food, the people, everything felt like I was coming home. I never thought, even six months ago, that I would ever think about San Martin as “home” but honestly I was ready to come back. I was ready to see my friends again, slept in my bed again, go to the market and to get to hangout with my women’s group!

As most of you know I was (I still am) raising money for a stove project. I am happy to announce that out of the first eight, we have completed three. It was an amazing project to take part in. Everyone in the family got involved, the kids would help carry the supplies, the women would mix the cement and help lay the brick while the men would help teach the women how to use a level or how to wet the brick before so it doesn’t soak up all the water. It was amazing to watch the women go from timid and unbelieving in their abilities to taking charge and helping each other while we stood by and watched. If I have achieved nothing before this and achieve nothing after this I would still think that my Peace Corps service was a success for the sheer fact that those women, even if for a day, felt they were equal to the task of men!

It is incredible how fast word travels in a small town (much like rumors fly in high school). By the second week of the project 10 other people from the community had inquired about how to get a stove. This is one of the hard things about Peace Corps, limited funding. I had to tell them that I only had enough for these women but that I could provide a materials list along with instructions but also that three masons had learned how to build them so they could inquire with them. As much as I would like to give everyone who needs one a stove I feel that teaching the women and men how to build them is more sustainable than continually giving the stoves away. The more active part someone takes in building a better future for themselves and their family the more of sense of pride and achievement they feel.

This project has also brought me closer with the women I have been working with. When you spend a whole day 8 am to 6 pm with a family you begin to see who they are. I learned that most of the women, contrary to popular belief, want to know more about birth control and that many of the women watched their brothers, parents, and friends slaughtered in front of them during the war and I also learned that they have a long list of suitors lined up for me to meet (because I have to marry a Guatemalan so that I will stay here with them)! The generosity of Guatemalans is extraordinary. They would make my friends and me huge lunches that probably stretched the family budget for the week. In one instance, the program director of my friends came to visit to check out the project and they would not let him leave without having lunch. The “amable” or kindness that they show towards strangers has made me re-evaluate the kind of person I thought I was and the kind of person I want to be. I hope that one day I can invite people into my home and share with them the way that the Guatemalan women have shared with me.

As I enter into my final nine months of service, I realize the things I am going to miss the most are the things that I was the most scared of in the beginning. I was scared to live life without, now I am scared to live in a society of continuous wanting. I was scared that I would not be accepted, now I am scared I will never be accepted for just being me. I was scared I would never be able to survive without my family and friends, now I am scared I will forget how lucky I am to have those friends and family. I was scared that I would not feel content with life without the constant go, go, go, now I am scared that I will never feel this kind of contentment with my life again.

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