Author’s Note: I apologize in advance to you casual readers who aren’t ready to hear the serious thought-provoking side of living in Guatemala. I promise the next one will be really funny and witty, don’t worry.
Today my school got canceled so I decided to go on a hike. I just finished reading Donald Miller’s book “Through Painted Deserts” which is about an outdoorsy-finding-yourself type of road trip so I was feeling extra adventurous. I decided I would go up the road past the police station and see where it might take me. It took my down a winding hill (not quite as much fun on the way back) and through some houses before giving way to a lonely road all the way down to the river. There, I found a perfect grassy-picnic-knoll where I could sit, eat lunch, and do some good alone-in-nature-thinking. I thought I might share with you a little of what I wrote in my journal while I was there…enjoy my deeper thoughts!
“It’s funny, at least five Guatemalans told me on my way down here that they couldn’t believe I was walking alone and I was going to get robbed [side note: I know there are times when you should definitely listen to the locals and I assure you mother, I was not doing anything unsafe]. It is so tranquil here; it doesn’t really feel unsafe at all. We Americans, we love to be alone. We love the freedom and the independence that comes with doing things on your own. We love the tranquility and serenity that comes with being alone in nature. To concentrate, we need silence and to pray, we want to be alone. Guatemalans don’t understand that part of us. They think it’s ridiculous to go on a walk by yourself, they think it a waste to live alone and a tragedy to be away from your family. I don’t think they really think I am doing something unsafe so much as they think I am doing something strange and unnecessary. They are always around family, always cooking for ten (or twenty), always looking for someone to talk to, and they always, always know each other’s business.
To us, God exists in nature, in silence, in a “still small voice.” We feel God most intimately in the quiet times and the quiet songs. I think for many Guatemalans, God exists in the laughter of friends and the joy of community. For Evangelicals here especially, God is loudness and joy and movement and LOUDNESS. I don’t think either way of thinking is wrong, but which makes more sense?
The awful truth is, I am not sure if I really fit in Guatemala. I never felt like I fit into life in the United States. When I went to South Africa, I got caught up in the miracle of Ubuntu and the strength of human kindness there. It is a human spirit that I am sure exists here and I know exists in the states in some people and exists most definitely exists in my heart. The thing is, I can’t decide if I could do more good in a place where I fit in or a place that I don’t.
It is safe to say that when I joined the Peace Corps I had definite thoughts of “finding myself” (and the Latin man that I have given up hope on, by the way). Seriously, the truth is that I know who I am, I just don’t know where I belong in this world. I just know there is a place out there with my name on it. I am not feeling like Guatemala is it, which doesn’t mean I can’t love my time here and grow a lot because of it. Sometimes I just think I don’t make sense. I didn’t make sense in the U.S., I don’t really make any more sense in Guatemala. I made more sense in South Africa but I was only there for a month so it is hard to know. I just know there is a place out there where who I am makes perfect sense and where I will feel at home being exactly who I am.”