Being in the middle of the duration of this experience, I feel that I am not exactly the same person who arrived here on 2nd of May. As I imagined, this experience that puts me outside my comfort zone it’s helping me grow, to become more aware of parts of me and to develop them. It is leading me to understand my inner self and to frame my being on this planet in which we live, putting myself to the test in having to deal with cultural habits opposite to mine.
The fact that what I have been living here are shaking me and waking me up, gives me the feeling that time has flown, seeming to have arrived yesterday, and I’m leaving tomorrow. Time is relative, and the speed with the time passes here leads me to believe that this experience is being very relevant in the formation of my being.
I became aware that certain qualities in which I believed to be more developed, such as tolerance, actually I have a lot of work to do. However, the simple fact of taking this awareness is positive because awareness is the first step towards improvement.
What led me to take this conscience was to observe how irritated I spent my days for to listening repeatedly the same poor quality and very loud music from the neighbors, which often prevented me from sleeping during the hours I am accustomed to sleep, Because here people usually go to sleep around 9 p.m. and at 6 a.m. all are awakened. A bio-rhythm quite in accordance with nature, with sunlight, but rather difficult to keep up with people like me, with some tendency to be nocturnal. I have also practised “abstraction exercises” in trying to keep quiet while I hear the screams of several children crying at the same time, for reasons such as not being passed to them the soccer ball, and when I hear the same question of “what time is it? “every five minutes every day. Children always want to know what time it is while the library does not open, itching to its opening. And this is the only time when it seems to me that the hours are important because here nobody meets schedules (I still have not been able to understand the mealtimes) and no one uses a clock. Some are the “exercises of abstraction” or kind of meditation that I practice every day.
In addition to the exercises practised through the hearing, there are also exercises that I practice by vision, such as trying to ignore all the garbage, especially plastic that is scattered everywhere, even in the greenhouse where every day I practices organic farming. Yes, I could get to work collecting that garbage, and I’ve done it a few times, but it’s a pointless work because most people here throw trash to the floor without paying any attention to it. I also try to abstract myself from the way animals are treated, try not to be so affected by seeing dogs starving, being run over often, or dying for other reasons. I’m a bit more sensitive than most people about the animals, but I’m beginning to understand that they are not treated so well when I see children who are also malnourished, with those swollen bellies typical of the pictures of some poor countries in Africa. In confronting poverty, I also try to be more tolerant of the fact that people are often trying to profit from me, trying to squeeze how much money they can from people like me, “gringas”, who come from the southern hemisphere of the planet and are usually more privileged.
Another thing I could not fail to mention is the tolerance I gained about the bacteria. I lost a lot of the “strangeness” I had and the excessive concern with food hygiene. In restaurants, the only utensils they provide for eating, such as fish, meats or salads, are a spoon, which forces you to use your hands to eat, hands that you cannot wash before because the bathrooms generally do not have detergent for hands. In the school where I worked, each student and teacher wash their own plate and spoon, and the only one that is used for cleaning is water, which is sometimes reused. Better than this is the famous “Chicha”, an indigenous drink made from fermented yucca and rainwater (or river water or from other places where they can collect water) and in which the fermentation process is made from the amylase enzyme contained in the saliva of women who chew that. And it is also, through the chewing by the woman’s mouth that this drink is produced. Then, is shared in meetings, etc., by the whole community with the same glass, which is not a glass, but a beautiful cupful.
For people like me, with other cultural habits, it seems a bit disgusting, but it is something that when you are with these communities you cannot refuse because it would be a lack of respect. In spite of all this exchange of bacteria, contrary to what I had imagined, I had no major problems in my digestive system and therefore, I believe I became much more tolerant.
For all this and more, I believe that tolerance is the quality that I have developed more and still have to develop.
I also developed some other skills, such as communication, more specifically negotiation. I negotiate when I buy things on the street, but I mainly deal with the food that we have or not daily because it has some restrictions. I have also worked on the issue of giving and receiving opinions about the work to be done at the foundation, and I am gaining more confidence in myself and the knowledge that I have, and in that way, I am becoming more autonomous.
Some things that contributed to the development of my autonomy were that I spend almost every day working alone, being forced to look for solutions and make decisions when I do not have guidance or when I do not agree with the guidelines. At the beginning of this volunteering, I was waiting to receive guidance on what to do and how to do, but these guidelines did not arrive and this was making me unhappy. Now I understand that this, the lack of guidance, although complicated, was exactly what I needed to be able to develop my autonomy and, consequently, to have more confidence in my abilities.
The contacts with all these cultures are helping me to gain a greater socio-cultural awareness.
I had no idea that there was such a wide cultural variety in this country, nor the existence of many people who speak other languages and do not speak the official language. It was also surprising to see how people live in isolated communities and to know about the existence of completely isolated communities, without contact with the world I know. I became more aware of how privileged I am and also of being so ignorant of certain aspects. I realized that certain proposals or opinions I had when I got here now make no sense to me and showed that I had no idea of the reality and needs of the people here that are very different from mine.
Experiences such as the one I have lived here are important to my “metamorphosis” and help me see things from another perspective (as in the photography ahahah), but I will only have a real awareness of the skills I developed at the end of the experiment and afterwards some time for reflection. In any case, I can say that it will certainly be useful to develop my skills, my self-confidence, my self-knowledge and, in this way, I will be able to guide my personal and social, and consequently professional course. So, with everything better in my life, I can achieve the ultimate goal that we all desire – be happy!