AAM Challenge #4: Turning Point

I wanted to come and repost my layout for the latest challenge at All About Me:

As well all know, life is full of turning points!  I can think of 10 off the top of my head and it was difficult to pick just one for this challenge.  When the DT had a brainstorming session of challenge topics, this one came up and I got a little giddy.  I love turning points!  They change us... hopefully for the better.. and give us something wonderful to think about as life goes on.

This layout was a great one for me because I haven't dedicated a layout about Guatemala to speak about how it changed me.  I've got mini-books documenting the trip but not recording how it impacted ME.  Whenever I thought about visiting another country, it usually included me bathing in the sunshine on the beaches of Spain... or something like that.  Maybe touring Greece and soaking in the history and then enjoying some nice cuisine and drinks with friends.  They would be travelling with me, of course.  Whenever I thought about other places, like third world countries, I thought.. oh no... not for me.  There are other people in this world to do that work.  To meet those people.  And witness that type of life. 

Man I was shallow minded!  I was so comfortable with my lifestyle.  I liked being clean, having all my STUFF... little did I know how much I was taking for granted and, in fact, abused.  Like clean water.  And heat.  Clothes.  Shoes...   Food.... freedom.

I took my first trip to Guatemala in 2004 with a college group.  I was hooked.  It was a tough trip though.  Never in my life had I been more thankful and desired for regular plumbing!  I even yearned for something as trivial as putting my toilet paper down the toilet!  How vanity is that?  But the people.  Oh the people.  How my heart ached to be like them.  So grateful for family.. and Jesus.  Never once did they feel like they had less.  Most of them knew no different because they didn't have TV or any other way to hear what the rest of the world may have had.  So who was I to say they had less?  When in fact... they had so much more.

In 2005 I headed back to Guatemala for a year as a teacher.  My assignment was at a missionary kids school teaching art and music.  I had taught art before but only in a club setting.  It was a whole new breed to teach in a school setting.. and with high schoolers that actually had a huge interest in art and were probably better than me!  Still, it was wonderful and gave me a new love for these "Third Culture Kids" as they are called.  I also became heavily involved with a Guatemalan church and made many new Guatemalan friends.  While I did miss the bus system of my town and the freedom to drive where I wanted, when I wanted... overall, I loved my time there!  I loved attending movie nights with my Guatemalan friends.  There was no need for any other entertainment other than being able to sit and chat with each other.  I loved how when people arrived, they greeted everyone and when people left, they made sure to make the rounds and say goodbye to everyone.  It was so special.  Nothing ever started on time because the clock was not what was important.. it was the relationships.  The pace of life was so much slower.  People enjoyed one another.  Families made time for each other and were close and a strong support system for one another.  Friendships were life long!  I loved how the way people greeted one another was with a hug or a kiss on the cheek.  When people talked to you, they had sincerity in their eyes as they listened. 

The other thing I noticed... people took pride in their work and always did their best.  I will go right away to the extreme... McDonalds employees.  They held the door open for you and smiled.  They loved helping you out at the counter and, at times, would come to your table with a dessert menu.  At McDonalds.  They would even come take your tray and clean the table off for you and then open the door again as you left.  McDonalds.  No job was "lower on the ladder".  If you had a job... it was a blessing.  No matter where it was.  I don't think they even understood the "hierarchy" our culture has on jobs.  A job was a job.  Be thankful that you get a paycheck so you can put food on the table and shoes on your baby girl. 

I loved attending my church.  People sang... loud.. because they loved the Lord and didn't care if another human may not care for their voice because it didn't matter.  The message was always loud and clear and I loved the hearts of these wonderful people.. their boldness to go to their neighbors and bring them to church.  In a neighborhood that was overrun with blatant violence.  Violence that doesn't even compare to here.  Because laws aren't enforced there... so why not?  Why not murder that innocent teen?  Why not mug that old man?  Nothing is going to happen to you.  It was that kind of crime.  And the government was.. and still is.. corrupt. 

So how as I changed over all?  When I came back home, I realized how rude people are here.  How we are so selfish!!!!  SO selfish!!!!  We want what we think is ours and we don't care who gets in our way.  We are selfish with our time and want to do what WE want when WE want and will put off visiting a loved one if it conflicts with what WE want to be doing.  Relationships are put on the back burner so we can get promotions.  Ugh it made me sick!  It was so hard to come back home! 

And how I have changed three years later?  I've realized that neither of our cultures are necessarily wrong. They are just different.  While there are things from both cultures that could definitely use changing, there is also good in both.  I love how Americans want to better themselves and do the best they can.  I love how embrace our freedom and speak up.  I love how our law enforcement actually has a say.  And WE have a say.  Our votes actually mean something.  But I wish we could adopt the value of relationship.  I wish that every person was required to visit a third world country and experience what true poverty is like.  When we think we have nothing... we should experience what that truly is.  I wish we would learn how to use our resources better and focus on issues that really matter. 

I miss Guatemala a lot.  It holds such a special place in my heart.  I love the faces, the colors, the smells (minus the bus fumes), the landscape, the McDonalds delivery. ;)  The language.  It's time to go back soon.