I just got back from a week’s vacation in the States and it’s like I completely forgot Guatemala while I was gone.
Back stateside, I definitely tried to put my Peace Corps life in perspective. I was standing in the kitchen and trying to remember life here in my site, the afternoon rains, my tin roof, cobbled streets, poverty and second hand clothes, tropical plants and trees and hot weather. Unfortunately, I could barely hang onto the thought. I’d recall an image, maybe it was the view from my office doorway looking out into the street, watching the people pass by, and then I would push the image away. There was too much good food to eat, casual socializing and car rides and bonfires, clean streets and beautiful houses, big buildings and paved streets, real coffee and doughnuts and sushi and every easy detail.
I’m starting to think that maybe I blotted Guatemala out, which is weird because I like it here. Up until this point all I’ve been telling people is how much I like the people, the climate, the food, the flora, the culture and my work – I have very few complaints. At the same time, I spent a week in the States and forgot everything.
I imagine it’ll take a few days to settle back into my site. Here, there are stares and stray dogs and bizarre questions about the United States, pollution and crowded buses and beggars, gun-battle massacres and fear, contaminated food and minimal hygiene, a lackadaisical attitude and complacency that shrugs in the face of, well, craziness. There are new stories, superstitions - these kinds of things have got me reeling a little bit.
I remember the sarcastic remark I made to someone about how odd it was to “vacation in the States”, but now that I’m back, I realize that it’s really no joke, whether for me and the 18 months of service I have left, or for the Guatemalans who live here everyday and can’t simply get on a plane and fly off to a foreign country.
One notable thing about my trip was the Greyhound station where I had to wait for a connecting bus at 2:20 AM last Wednesday night. Sitting there watching people lurch about, I saw poverty, stress and sense of wariness…it struck me that the setting was almost like Guatemala (although much weirder, more diverse and not nearly as poor).