Edit Blog Post
Published: June 13th 2008
I´ve been through a complicated set of emotions in the past few weeks--through what I would consider my latest "adjustment period." The thing they usually don´t tell you about "culture shock" is that it comes in waves...some that are more intimidating and crushing than others. I had thought it was an orderly process--the honeymoon period, the culture shock, then the delicious profundity of feeling "settled" in a "foreign" place.
Every time I´d get a wave of depression, self-doubt, or have another experience that convinced me that I truly don´t
have as secure a hold on things as I thought, i think...NOT THIS AGAIN! I´VE ALREADY BEEN THROUGH THIS! Because, yes, I have reached a certain point of profundity in my relationships and my lifestyle here, but something I have come to realize is that I´m still an "outsider," an "extranjera."
Which makes me wonder if I´ll ever feel like I belong completely to a place again. After taking away bits of culture and experience with me like recuerdos from each place I visit or live, I don´t think it´s possible to "see" the world with just one set of eyes again. I may always think about what one place lacks, what another has too much of, and can´t find a balance. As my "traveler´s lens" (you know, that way of looking at things for the first time, like you´re seeing everything in a National Geographic magazine) becomes more and more fuzzy, and at times is non-existent, I can´t look at everything around me here in a simple, objective way either--I can´t define objects, or people, or events or "issues" as naively as I did before. When I see the man with no legs getting on the pickup truck/public transportation, or remind myself that I have a hen as a roommate (her tiny, egg-size pollitos just hatched!), or talk to Carlos (in Southern English) about how much he misses his wife and child in the States--along with hunting, or pay my fare to the bus worker missing a hand, or sing lullabyes to my group of youth before they go to sleep during the workshops, the lens gets damaged and refuses to focus. This is reality. This is my reality right now.
It´s like something I wrote on the "hard-working nature" of "Americans"...I can´t view this situation in just one way anymore (keep in mind that I wrote this right after reading Eduardo Galeano´s Venas Abiertas de America Latina
The hard-working "Americans." Our hard work is what makes us successful! It helps us afford to buy coffee in the morning--super sized styrofoam--to get us through another productive day. The three to five dollars we pay for it would be the same amount of money the "other" hard-working Americans might make in a few days of their hard work on the coffee plantations that continues to make them unsuccessful. While Salvadorans dump more sugar (another one of those cash crops) into plastic cups of grainy coffee, "Americans" are pondering: "Which is more exotic? Should I try the Kenya or Colombia?" The hard work has paid off. A plethora of choice freely traded for a lack of choice. Would they know where to find Colombia or Kenya on a map? Would the "other" Americans know where the United States is? "I´ll take eight cups, eight times a day, says the American. "It´s the only way I can make it through my workday. I´d probably die without my coffee!" That might be true--but not because of withdrawl from the drug coffee; because of the addiction to exploitation that makes the daily decision possible. More likely than not, the "American" will make the decision once--"Colombia"--and stick with it; he´s got no time for choice, he´s got to get back to working hard. After all, it´s what makes his country successful.
At this same time, I´m also becoming more confident and effective in my work, and this is definitely due to my own self-development. Something important that I have learned through this experience is in order to work with people, it is integral to know yourself profoundly first.
Especially when working within popular education methodology or through theatre, which are based on the expression and analysis of real life experiences. In this kind of work, which involves organization, failure (a LOT of it), trust, communication, leadership, and honesty, if you can´t accept yourself for who you are (and be good to that person as well!--thanks, Annie) the delicate work that you´re doing will be negatively impacted. In other words, I have become my own best company--partly out of necessity, partly out of a willingness to find out more--and this has helped me incredibly when I can recognize and accept the mistakes that I´ve made, when I realize what I am capable of and what I still need to learn more (much more) about, and when I need to have the patience to understand that I´m still going through a process every day and there is no way that I can know everything at this moment.
To current and future ArtCorps artists, or to people who are interested in this crazy thing called "making a difference," I beseech you, know thyself. It may seem counter-intuitive to be so "selfish" as to think of yourself first, especially when we´re in the altruistic business of helping others. But without this crucial step, the issues that arise when working with people are difficult to manage. One of my theatre students just came out to me as gay--imagine his situation as Brokeback Mountain, only catholic and latino. It´s not easy! I´ve been trying to deal with this situation as best I can, using my experiences and what I know about myself to help him and his mother through it.
As I left Ciudad Romero this morning with my backpack (I leave for the United States this evening), I felt a reluctance to leave. Every person I passed, whether I knew them or not, wished me well ("Que le vaya bien, que Dios le bendiga en su camino"). The Minuta Man (not a "minute man" but the guy who I buy the shaved ice from!) made me a minuta loca (complete with salt, spicy chile, and lime--then the works of sugar and honey flavors--delicious!) and was worried that I wasn´t coming back. I´m just settling in here, and I wonder how strange I´m going to feel at "home." My mom tells me it will be like stepping into another world for a short time. It will be worth it to see my family, my neices, my friends, Aaron. However, I can´t hide that now I know myself more profoundly, and a place to belong to might not exist for me--but in a way, I may belong everywhere...
Tot: 1.461s; Tpl: 0.07s; cc: 8; qc: 60; dbt: 0.0371s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb