October 12, 2004

A Critical 10

I've been trying to capture every sound, sight, and smell these past few days so that I could bring them to you in this, my first post from Guatemala. The crazy traffic, the warm balmy days, the faces that don't look like the ones I usually encounter...it's all been so overwhelming.

People have been asking about my transition and they keep using that term, overwhelming. And I, in my typical prideful fashion, tell them that I am doing good and that I'm not to that point yet. But, here, I will admit it. I am overwhelmed. My boss and my fellow youth worker are very nice and have taken great pains to make sure I feel comfortable, and are trying to ease me into this new world and job as slowly as psssible. But they are kind of confusing. Their personalities are from opposite ends of the spectrum, and I can't quite connect with either one of them.

But despite my step from being whelmed into overwhelmed, I am still doing good. I know that much of the pressure I feel is self-induced and is not coming from these new people I work with. The family I am staying with is wonderful. The husband is a diplomat at the embassy, so I am priveleged to live in their beautiful house. They have an adorable family, and I've already grown to love their two little girls. I will be with them for the next two months or so, and once I get more comfortable with living in someone else's home, I'm sure it will be a very enjoyable experience.

I've seen some of the city in the last few days, but I have to admit that I am somewhat scared about exploring it on my own. In fact, it's not really a good idea to do anything alone down here, so I will have to find a friend soon who can play tourist guide.

I admit that I was a bit naive in my coming to this country. I knew it was a dangerous place to be, that the government hasn't always had the best reputation, and that the city especially has a high crime rate. But there is so much more to it than that, and this has probably been the number one factor in pushing me towards overwhelmingness. The embassy classifies things on a scale of 1-10, with a 1 being completely safe and peaceful, to a 10 which is the most dangerous. I was also told that they have things on a security scale of safe to critical. Well, Guatemala is both a 10 and a critical country. I just didn't know, or understand. I researched pretty well, I thought, so it was a surprise to me when after the intial greetings were given, that I was given some kind of security advice from almost everyone I met. The car I buy will have windows tinted almost black so that no one will be able to tell that a gringa is driving it alone. I live in a gated community, and even there, I am not allowed to walk by myself. I shouldn't drive after dark, especially by myself. There is a guard at the church parking lot. The police have a reputation for being corrupt and untrustworthy.

I knew that being a white woman would mean I would be at risk for certain things...but I just didn't understand what is was going to be like.

Luckily, I have all these people around me who know what to do and are giving me plenty of advice. I know they are trying to scare me so that I don't go and do something stupid and to instill a healthy paranoia of the city I call home for the next 10 months.

Hah. I just realized that I was typing on a Spanish keyboard. I didnt even look at it.

I'm probably going to start taking Spanish language classes with the woman I live with. She attends a school that has fairly cheap lessons, and I really do want to learn more. Hopefully that will work out.

Well, I guess I better get back to work. I've been given a ton of books to read about the Third Culture Kids I am going to be working with. I have so much to learn, so I better start.

Adios

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