Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thank You!

After about 3 weeks of being home, I find myself ready to write my last post and reflect on my adventure in Guatemala. First, I want to touch on the work I did with SolCom, which was incredible, enlightening, and ultimately very rewarding. The program is wonderfully run by passionate and driven individuals from every corner of the united states. I felt, from day one, that the program would be well guided, and ultimately "successful". I have placed the word "successful" in scare quotes because the idea of development work and the word "successful" now seem completely incongruent and impossible to place in the same sentence.

Development work, by definition, is never finished and success, by definition, means completion or achievement of your goal or objective. Therefor it becomes impossible to define my summer in terms of success. So what other word might I use? If I cannot describe my work and experience as successful, was it then a failure? I would again say no...failure is also a word that clashes with the meaning of development work. Every failure in development work is actually an achievement for with each failure comes the discovery of how NOT to do something, a knowledge equally important as how TO do something. So I go back to an article I read before the summer began about service work to find my word. The word is impact. Not impact in the sense that I created or drove any real measurable social change, but impact in the sense that my presence in Guatemala was felt, seen, heard, or experienced. That I somehow impacted the people I lived and worked with. I taught my home stay sister basic phrases in English, she taught my how to make dobladas and be in awe of nature. I showed a group of girls how to play volleyball, they kicked my butt in every other game we tried. Christian, my homestay nephew, took me around his father's flower nursery and taught me all of the flowers names in spanish. I tried to explain in english. I sold a pair of eyeglasses to Miguel, a man from Huehue who couldn't see the harvest he was trying to pick he thanked me with a coca cola and a hug. Little things. Tiny. Insignificant. Hardly worthy of mention in the overall scope of development work...or maybe not? Perhaps true development work is tiny, invisible, insignificant and hardly worth mention. Development work means serving, and in service we, the servants, should be unnoticed, making those around us successful, happy, and better with our work.

These are some of the thoughts I've had about development work and my time in Guatemala. I feel like I got to know a country in more depth than I ever have before and yet I also feel as if I have hardly scratched the surface. Part of me wishes that I had spent all of my time in one location with one group of people, and another is so grateful that I traveled every week to meet new people and have a more multifaceted experience of Guatemala. There seems to be no right answer, only a miriad of experiences, stories, and efforts that define the impact one person has on a group of people, and the impact a group of people or even a country has on that one person. I hope everyone gets an opportunity to live in and serve a different country, or even their own country. It is a truly humbling, unique, and wonderful experience.