Ok, I'm officially in love with Guatemala. Alright, maybe not exactly Guatemala, but seriously, I'm loving this. A lot more than I thought I would. Me amo the women I work with and the others here from CCS, staff and other volunteers. Now that I've declared my love for this time to recap. I have a legit novel from my last few days so I'll skip the Sunday and just move on to my last two days of placement. HERE WE GOOOOO. sorry I'm not sorry for the español that I throw in. I'm in Guatemala. deal with it.
Anyways, I started at my placement on Monday, and it was a whole new kind of culture shock. Definitely the most I've felt so far. My morning started bright and early around 6 AM when it started to get noisy out in the city. I'd planned to get up around 7 AM, but Guatemala had different ideas. I quickly got dressed and headed off to breakfast. Yesterday's breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions and strawberry yogurt with granola on the side. After breakfast it was time for all the volunteers to go to our placements while the interns got a Spanish crash course. A woman whose name is blanking on me went with us to introduce us to our placements. Surprisingly, she only spoke Spanish, but she was decently easy to understand, and we had someone fluent in Spanish and English with us. Very helpful. We drove through the grungy city and I just couldn't help but feel shocked at the state of the city. When we were stopped in traffic a lot of young boys tried to sell us various fruits and trinkets.
All I can really say is that the United States is absolutely nothing like this. Not even close. I can never imagine old school buses spewing black smoke and sporting shattered windows, ever being used as public transportation there. People literally hang out the doors of these already dangerous buses. I've had a lot of HOLY MOTHER OF GOD moments in the past few days. Seriously, it's crazy. I do live with all Americans though so it's nice to be able to speak English and talk about American culture. But seriously people, I'm going to come home speaking mad spanglish. Get ready, mi familia y mis amigos.
On to my placement. Pretty sure my instant reaction was "holy shit." I can't even explain how sheltered my life, and the lives of so many Americans, really is. I know we complain about nursing homes in the United States, and I know they are understaffed and whatnot, but trust me, it's nothing compared to what I experienced yesterday. No way. If I didn't already know it was a hospital I would never have guessed. I actually had a couple of moments that brought me close to tears, especially when I was standing in the bedroom of the women, which is literally a long room with worse than dorm room type mattresses all lined up with about two feet between them. They all have tiny little night stand, a bed, and a nametag. That's it. These women cannot possibly get the care and attention they really need there. My first world problems have seemed quite unimportant as of late.
Yesterday was a special mix of culture shock, stress, and small moments of real happiness. I understood the gist of what the nurses said to me, but the language barrier was by far the most difficult part of yesterday. Most of the elderly women speak very mumbled and unclear so it could be hard to understand. But I met multiple sweet women who could have cared less that I was butchering their language and were honestly some of the most wonderful people I've ever encountered. I started off mostly just asking how all the women were, to which they sweetly grabbed my hand and answered with enthusiastic "muy biens" and would ask my name and where I was from. One nice lady tried to pronounce my last name in Spanish, which is pretty much not possible, and she laughed when I told her it was French. One of the first women I met told me to sit next to her and we chatted for awhile about Los Estados Unidos y Guatemala. She told me she had three children, eight grandchildren, but when asked if any of them visit, she answered with a sad "no." Those were some of the saddest moments of the day. Especially since the elderly are so respected in Latin cultures that for these women to be here, the are most likely abandoned. So not only do they live in crap conditions, eating food that would probably kill my first world stomach, but they are also so alone. That seriously kills a little bit.
I'm pretty sure I say si, me gusta, and no comprendo more times than I can count. But one of the most touching moments probably of my life was when my new friend María told me that all her family had passed away, as she put her hands together in prayer, and so soon after a nurse walked over to us just to say hi, and Maria grabbed the nurses hand and with the biggest most genuine smile said "Tengo un visitor!" aka I have a visitor! I just about died. You can so clearly tell that these women are dying to just talk to someone and have someone be there for them. This is gonna be rough and amazing. I can tell.