It’s been about a month since my last post, not that I’ve been too busy to post, but I couldn’t think of what to update you on! Then I realized, one of the biggest themes of my past month has been fear.
When I was back home I was afraid of being unhappy at my job, not being able to meet a deadline, and never being able to pay off the last bit of a credit card.
Here, I have a fulfilling job, even if it doesn’t feel like I’m doing much at times, I haven’t really heard the word “deadline” in 4 months, and I paid off my credit card before leaving home. However, a whole new set of fears have taken over my life. The kind of fears that make me think I could literally die. (Disclaimer: When I first wrote that it felt a
little dramatic, but the reality is, I’m very afraid of these things and each has made me fear for my life a little bit.)
- Earthquakes. The earth has shaken a lot since I’ve been in Guatemala. Between the very active Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire), and being located along two fault lines, Guatemala is a really seismic country. I’ve now been woken up by two different 6.8 magnitude earthquakes, within 8 days of each other, and both times I thought “Well. If my cement block house goes down, I guess I’m going with it.” After the first one, I remember telling my mom, “If this happens again in a week, I’m coming home!” But it took 8 days for the next one to come, so I’m still here.
Sitting shocked in bed while the earth is shaking and all my doors, furniture, and dishes, are rattling around, is an entirely helpless feeling that I’ve never experienced before, and hopefully won’t have to experience again. Thankfully, Peace Corps has some pretty strict safety and security rules here and I take comfort in knowing that my cement block house is structurally sound — otherwise PC wouldn’t let me live here! But still, having no control over my surroundings whatsoever is terrifying.
- Spiders. This one started out almost comically, but then I encountered what I think is a black widow, and then a brown recluse spider, and from there the spiders have only gotten bigger, as has my fear. I’m proud of myself for how I’ve handled this though, I haven’t actually lit anything on fire or run around screaming (although I have screamed and yelled at this foul beasts for existing in my living space). I’ve learned to kill spiders from a distance (even if I feel bad for doing it), and now have an entirely new perspective on what “big” means when it comes to arachnids.
- Other People’s Cooking (& Sometimes My Own Cooking). There are so many food rules to live by here. Make sure you bleach your fruit and veggies for X amount of minutes, and only rinse them in boiled or otherwise pure water. Boil water for at least 5 minutes before using it. Wash your hands every time you touch literally anything. Don’t let food rest on surfaces. Don’t use one utensil on two of different things. If you do this / don’t do that, you will get sick and want to die.
I’ve been able to cook for myself and haven’t made myself sick so far, so I consider that a success. I’ve only been sick once since coming to Guatemala and it was the worst. Sparing you the details, I think it came from eating someone else’s food, since I wasn’t cooking for myself too much at the time it happened. Now I have a healthy fear of everyone else’s cooking and most likely over-bleach and overcook my own food because I really, really don’t want to get sick again. Between fear of food poisoning and a myriad of allergies, I also worry that I will offend locals if I don’t immediately accept their offers of food and beverage during house visits.
- Missing Out (FOMO). It’s summer in New England! Arguably one of the best times to be in New England. Everyone is sunny and tan, going to beautiful beaches, watching fireworks, celebrating the 4th, going on boats, wearing shorts, eating cheeseburgers, hot dogs, lobsters with real butter, lobster rolls, clam strips, clam chowder, BBQ everything, corn, all the good stuff. Most of all, everyone is together and enjoying the freedom that comes with being allowed outside past 6pm and in a familiar place. Missing out is really hard. All the time. It’s the one thing that hasn’t gotten easier these past 4 months. As much as I miss home, I keep reminding myself “you’re doing something good here too,” and use that to ground myself a bit.
Don’t get me wrong — I’ve enjoyed my time here so far! But I’d be lying if I said that Peace Corps life is all rainbows and sunshine. It’s hard to be so out of place all of the time and be perpetually recognized for your ‘foreignness’. It’s hard to not have the comforts of home, and to be far away from not only friends back home, but the new friends I’ve made here. It’s hard to be afraid of a whole new set of things, and adjust to the idea that this is life now.
While I’m hopeful that high magnitude earthquakes are a rarity in Guatemala, I’m fairly certain that the 3 giant spiders I’ve managed to kill were not the last of their kind that I’ll meet. That being said, I have managed to kill them by myself, and I have managed not to make myself sick, I’ve survived the earthquakes and volcano eruptions, and I’m pretty proud of myself for (generally) keeping it together through all of that. Here’s to 22 more months of trying to keep it together!