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That Energy Tho

Internal vs External Transformation

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It is true that if you are miserable, you are going to be miserable anywhere. In my early twenties, I tried to run away from problems by going to other countries before, and it failed miserably. But both times I have come to Guatemala I feel that of any place, it could transform someone. My brother once told me that it has the most fertile top-soil of any country in the world. I also read today that only 20% of its land is inhabited by people. It makes me question if the soothing calm it puts over my natural nervy nature and the warm buzzing feeling in my heart that sets off as soon as I step on the Guatemalan ground is what we would all feel like all the time if we took care of the Earth.

I landed in Guatemala City today and was picked up by Dona Maria, a woman who has worked at Pop Wuj School for over 30 years. In the joking Guatemalan way, she scolded me for speaking in English to her even though she spoke to me in English first. We spoke in slow Spanish as I got my language bearings as she zoomed in and out of traffic to whisk me to the Alamo bus to Xela (Shell Ah). I am still on night schedule, so I slept the entire bus ride, but got a few peaks of the huge volcanic vistas when I drowsily would wake up with backpack lines on my forehead and look out the window.

Xela is very lived in, it doesn’t have the immaculate cobblestone streets and heavy European influence of Antigua. It is around 9,000 feet in elevation. The people are just the same as Antigua however, very friendly and always showing their integrity and humor.

The taxi dropped me off at school and I walked up the steps into a large, empty, open house with several desks with two chairs (the classrooms). Many friendly faces that I could already tell were other medical students greeted me (there is a med student look – clean cut, eager eyes, fast voice). One girl was sitting on the roof terrace who I could tell was not a medical student – she wore the garb of a New York artist, and it turns out she is one. We quickly made plans to hike a volcano.

The director of the school told me that the family I was supposed to stay at had a new baby and had too many family over to take me, so he called up another family who agreed to take me for 2.5 months just from a brief phone call. It is another instance where the friendliness and willingness of Guatemalans to help was evident, as they provide three meals a day and a bed for a very low fee ($50 a week).

Amanda, my homestay mom is an abuella of seven grandchildren who she watches during the day. Her sister lives with her as well. The ninos parents come by at night to pick up the kids. We only speak in Spanish. The kids are so energetic, and they are allowed to run and play and scream in the corridor all day like kids in America used to. They also are intelligent and have beautiful manners, something I noticed last time I was in Guatemala in almost all the children I worked with in clinic.

I unpacked in my new room. The bedspread is floral with bright green and red colors, and the pillowcases have suns and moons on them with a dark blue and yellow color palate. Nothing makes me happier than this style of bedding, it is so vibrant and unapologetic because what matters most in Guatemala is that you are warm and that you celebrate and it even shows in these simple ways.

I went back to the school after packing to hang out a bit with the med student bunch for the super bowl. I talked with the many other family medicine candidates about our preferences in matching. I also talked to the NY artist for a while before she couldn’t handle the medical talk anymore (poor thing, it is our whole lives). I headed back to have a dinner with the two sisters I am staying with. They thought it was hilarious that I did not want to eat any animal products but they were kind enough to oblige to make plant based meals for me. We sat around the dinner table eating gigantic cooked plantains with homemade tortillas and black beans. My Spanish is so much better than my last homestay, I can understand jokes and most everything we talk about as long as they speak slowly. We sat around getting to know each other. No phones, just us at a plastic table covered with a plastic sheet with a flickering bulb above, just enjoying each others company.

Yes, I think this place might have the ability to transform. I wish I had found it in those difficult years.

Posted by dredayhurray 18:46 Archived in Guatemala Tagged school language energy xela transformation

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