Culture shock: noun. The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
A feeling I came to know well last week, and I would think that my fellow vols would agree to having felt this as well. The cultural differences in Guatemala were very apparent to us upon arrival to Sololá. However, I think my fellow vols would also agree that the humbling feelings that overcome us after bettering the community of Chaquijyá couldn’t be overshadowed by some silly feeling of disorientation. We are one week in and nothing is stopping us at this point!
Our classes vary, but the sense of fulfillment at the end of the day is the same. To me, even the simplest things matter. Whether it is a child drawing a robot house for art class because we encouraged imagination, a woman remembering how to turn on and off a computer, or a student learning how to correctly answer “What am I doing?” in English, the feeling of accomplishment is more than I could have imagined. I knew coming in to this that I would be helping teach different classes, but the gratification that would come with it was not something I prepared for. In addition to working in the community, my time spent outside of Chaquijyá has been just as incredible.
The view of Lake Atitlán and all of the volcanoes and mountains that surround it is truly breathtaking. I am very grateful to wake up to the gorgeous view every morning. The hills and winding roads that lead us to and from the community we work in are filled with the beautiful view of the volcanoes, multicolored fields of various crops, and many Indigenous people wearing traje and balancing assorted baskets atop their heads. While this entire experience thus far has been unforgettable, I must say it would not be the same had I not been sharing it with some of the most amazing people next to me.
I would have never thought that only one week after meeting the other interns I would share such a strong bond with them. This may be normal in a situation like our own, or we may have just been extremely lucky to get along so well, but I can say I have made some lifelong friends through Manna Project International! In addition to working in the community of Chaquijyá, it is the support, encouragement, and comedy that we share as a group, which has made this an unbelievably memorable experience. I already know that Guatemala will forever be in my heart from my summer spent here, in addition to these amazing volunteers by my side!