Well, my time is up down here, at least as a Peace Corps volunteer. I will have been here for 2 years and 8 days short of 4 months. I know that I could not have done it successfully without all the blessings and help I got from the Big Guy and family and friends both here and away. Here are just a few things that I am thankful for:
Letters that arrived all year long, packages (one time even 3 at a time), and other gifts that contained various things such as the ever necessary peanut butter, beef jerky, music, photos, playing cards, How to Guide for Wiring with electric parts, movies, flan, nuts, berries, flea spray, Girl Scout cookies, a painting, holy water, and a scorpion killing stick with scorpion blood on the stick.
people making and receiving phone calls, skype calls, and text messages and being available and waiting to do them.
Donations of both money and goods that were given to my community
My visitors! Charlie was the first, and boy was I happy to see him when he came. By his coming, I ended up meeting the nuns in the capital who have become very good friends of mine. Then came Emily for my 2nd Thanksgiving. Andy and 11 students from St. John Student Parish came down in March for an alternative spring break. Then of course Mom, Dad, Gee Gee, and Katie came down in August followed by Brian in August. Andy made back to back appearances unexpectedly in Sept and Nov. (Andy, you win the Most visits to Guatemala award). Andy acceptingly or maybe forcedly brought home two 50lb suitcases home for me. (Thanks again for schlepping through the US with my stuff.) Finally Beth came in November as well.
The trillion houses that were opened to me where I was given the opportunity to sit at the owner’s table, sleep safely, and share in the family’s time and food.
The people with whom I worked, because first of all, if no one wanted to do anything, what would I have done? I am especially thankful for their patience in trying to learn something new and for looking past my language and cultural blunders and for sharing their time, their community, and their many eggs, beans, bananas, and oranges.
The medical staff that allowed me to participate in 8 medical missions in Guatemala. They gave me nice places to stay, excellent food, and and a conversation that was in English.
The Peace Corps staff, especially the nurses, who helped me through bouts of explosive diarrhea.
The countless people that shared with me their stories about their life
The countless people that shared with me their advice, whether asked for or not, whether right or wrong.
The other volunteers in Jalapa, both of the past and present, including Lauren, Liam, Devin, Dan, Kay, Alene, and Nicole and for all the fun times we had together. A special thanks goes out especially to Nicole who probably did a few to many favors for me as I was making my way home. Without her, I probably would still be trekking across Guatemala tying up loose ends.
David and Julie Sutton, and their kids, who opened up their home in Jalapa to us volunteers whenever we wanted and who was always willing to share a meal and a movie. They were our American family in Guatemala.
Moral support given for making the decision to join Peace Corps (something I am proud to have made), especially from Mom and Dad, and for them doing all those crazy requests I asked them to do for me since I was away and could not do them.
There are countless more things that I am thankful for that I did not list. Basically, I just want to say thank you. Every little and big thing that you all did made my time down here something meaningful, extraordinary, and unforgettable.
I know I am leaving changed, or as some volunteers of the Jesuits would say, “Ruined for life.” I remember talking to someone before I left about why I did not join the military instead of the Peace Corps. Among other reasons, I said that I did not want my experience in the military to change me in the way I thought it could. I remember feeling the same way about working with money. I decided early on that I would not choose a profession dealing with money because I did not think I would like what I could become. For some reason, I felt it could seduce me in ways that I might not later be able to control. I am not saying these are bad jobs, not by any means. I am just saying how I felt in regards to my goals and thoughts.
There are many things I want to take with me, many I can’t quite explain or identify yet. Here are just a few:
For me, relationships and the love within those relationships are what matter with God and with others. Without them, no matter what you do or what your have, everything just seems to have no purpose
Food. I learned a lot about food while down here, believe it or not. I came down thinking that for me I had to have some sort of hearty protein like meat or peanut butter at least once if not twice a day. In my defense, I have quite the metabolism. After living a month at a time with just one or 2 hearty protein meals (by choice) while doing all the physical activity that I did, I learned slowly and in a slightly painful manner that of course, I was wrong. I learned a lot about the US food system, its problems in how we get our meat and vegetables on our plate, and the benefits of eating things grown locally and naturally.
The knowledge of the lack of opportunity and violence and lack of education that occur in others countries and the loss of hope that they provoke.
That the most dangerous job is not being a crab fisherman. It is being a bus driver in Guatemalan.
That you can greet someone with a hand shake, elbow touch, shoulder grab, wrist grab, half or full hug, or kiss on the cheek in the same country.
So as of December 22, I should be resting back at home. That means this is probably the last entry of this blog, though there might be one more to showcase a few last-month pictures. Thanks for sharing in my experience through this blog. I can’t wait to see you all back home or talk to you by phone within country. Merry Christmas!
I’ll end with something written by a friend who suggested I use it to close out my blog:
“Thank you all for faithfully following my life updates. I am no longer going to update you in this method though. I have finished my wonderfully adventurous 2.5 years in the Peace Corps and am now off to fighting evil, slaying dragons, and bringing the bazooka missile launcher back. I am forced to change my name and keep a low profile because I rescued a chicken, 3 salamanders, and some coffee beans from their terrible fate. (I was able to smuggle them to Narnia in a crocodile disguised as alligator skin boots.) From now on, I will only be able to inform you of my escapades when I show up on your doorsteps, hoping to find cover from the ninjas and military misfits that are chasing me. Please pray for me, but whatever you do, don't offer sacrifices to the Antarctica god of alertness (he was hoping for the coffee beans)."