Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Love measures our stature: the more we love the bigger we are. There is no smaller package in all the world than that of a man wrapped up in himself.
— William Sloane Coffin Jr.

When we first arrived in San Pablo in January I became immediately frustrated with the way work was going. La JEM and I had distinct expectations of what was to take place during my stay and neither had enough experience to know how to manage the situation. Both sides plowed through the dusty, sunny days of the dry season, knocking over each other’s emotions, losing pride, and trampling any existence of understanding, compassion and love.

I have been apart from San Pablo for a month now and have had substantial time to think. First I went home to celebrate Grandaddy’s life, and then I had a tonsillectomy in Guatemala City. It was during the long recovery period that Ian and I were both able to reflect, and it wasn’t until just a few days before returning that we realized some of our mistakes and have made a conscious decision to be different.

Somehow along the way I became depressed and self-absorbed, trying to accomplish as much as possible and ignoring the important personal relationships that are necessary in working in a team. My lack of experience in dealing with unorganized youth NGOs in remote villages made it difficult to know what to do, and I was still caught up on not having been placed with a professional and “successful” institution. But I was putting too much weight on my expectations. What about theirs?

The people of San Pablo don’t have an easy go of it. Love of family, God, and an earnest struggle for survival make people seemingly content. Many argue that people in poverty feel more, love more, live more. It’s true that the happiness may be more joyful because it comes less often or the tears may be more painful because the loss is greater, but is this really something to desire? They have it hard. With few opportunities and constant rain that accompanies consistent disappointment, failure, and desertion, people are sad. Depressed. When la JEM thought of having an artist to live their community, they weren’t hoping for a depressed one. It’s not what they had in mind. It’s not what I had in mind, either.

Ian and I struggle to see the path our lives will take in the future … graduate school, jobs, internships, exhibitions, publications? On the other hand, we question what we’ve learned here. What is success? What is happiness? Obviously we’re not money-hungry, but are we instead success-hungry? Do we dream of the same prestige in our work that for others comes with money? Is that our vice? What we’ve learned in the past two years of living in third-world countries has nothing to do with degrees, bylines, or reviews. It has to do with life. Experience and growth, and most importantly, love. With a simple smile and lots of love my first two days back in San Pablo have been the most productive and satisfying up to this point.


At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Expectations one should have them...but to be open minded when life changes..perhaps one can stive for a happy medium with money and sucess.. one is not necessary exclusive of another..search for your path not others' path...understand others but yet not have to exchange their life for your own...


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