Tuesday, August 19, 2008

well, it´s beautiful, anyway

Hello, friends. It has been so long. I’ve been in my site for just over a month now, and every day has its ups and downs.
The village itself is truly beautiful. Getting there involves an ear-popping car ride through the mountains of Huehuetenango. My pueblo is in a deep valley surrounded by tall green mountains with a big river running through the middle of it. The mountains look like a patchwork quilt made of every shade of green, because they have been divided up into small terranos of land where the people farm coffee, bananas, apples, beans and especially maize.
The truth is, often I feel like the people in my town are at best mildly amused by my presence and at worst really irritated by it. But probably even the experiences that are hardest are very character-building. For example, up to this point in my life I haven’t received much unwanted attention due to my race. That’s totally different now. Everywhere I go I make a spectacle of myself, just by walking around and talking the way I do, and being myself. And I have to tell you, if “¡Gringa, gringa, gringa!” has never been screamed at you by 200 school children, you haven’t lived.
The hardest thing right now is definitely the unabated loneliness. My town is really reserved, and I don’t really have any friends here. I think that will eventually change, but realistically, it will probably take several months. I’m far away from all the friends I made in my training class, and I miss my family incredibly. Furthermore, the fact that Spanish is a second language to all the residents here certainly puts a barrier between me and potential kindred spirits.
I think this kind of experience really brings out whatever personal neuroses you happen to have, and I won’t tell you all of mine, but I have always had a problem with comfort eating, and I pull at my eyebrows when I get nervous. And while right now, during what everyone agrees is the hardest part of training, these neuroses are exaggerated, I’m hoping that also, this will prove to be the best opportunity to conquer them.
Back in my college debate society, I once presented the resolution “Be it resolved: Addiction is the opposite of personal freedom.” The best counter argument that I heard was something to the effect of, “No, addiction offers us the best opportunity to prove that we do indeed have personal freedom.” He argued that addiction gives us the occasion to prove that we have agency, to make a choice and a commitment about something that actually matters.
So I’m hoping that pushing on through my constant doubt, and enduring innumerable uncomfortable social interactions will effect a positive change in me, and in my pueblo, too.