By Jaiya Govender
We arrived in Guatemala on the 25th of February 2022. Eagerness and curiousness were my initial emotions of this trip.
Throughout the weeks preparing for the trip, borrowing sleeping pads and scavenging my wardrobe for non- strapless shirts, did not prepare me for the feeling of being extremely overwhelmed as I got out of the airport in Guatemala. It did not hit me until I was getting into the bus to go to Antigua that I was 4,779.5km away from school but also 13,572 km away from my home back in South Africa. Nonetheless this feeling quickly faded away as the group bonded in many ways through getting covid together, going through extreme constipation together and or the runs. As well as the fact again, that we were all so far away from home.
Before arriving in Guatemala, I pretty much thought that I knew exactly what a child my age should be doing. I also thought I knew the bench mark test was my way of fitting in with my age group. Especially how taking classes like Honors Humanities or going to a private school in America would prepare me for the world in the best way possible. However when I arrived in Guatemala on the 25th of February my perspective of relevance changed in an unmeasurable way. We spent the first few days in Antigua where we explored and investigated the different ways the natives lived and how their daily activities occurred. We would split into groups and go and ask questions about the schooling system, work opportunities and politics in Guatemala.
At the end of the day, we would all come together and discuss what stood out to us especially. These discussions and the way it tied back to our lives back home really stuck with me. For instance : one example, was how happy people were in these living conditions of sleeping only for five hours then going and working two or more jobs for minimal wage whilst still trying to get the next meal to their parents and kids. Another example was how many kids were not at school but rather helping their parents while learning the skill and artisan of their parents jobs, so it can be passed down. Kids my age and younger were trying to get us on horses so that they can lead us up the volcano on a Saturday afternoon. It struck me, these kids had to give up their education to get tourists to pay them a few quetzales to ride up a horse to the top of a volcano every single day. Yet they still seem so happy, so joyful and so patient.
When we got back to our AirBnB that afternoon, we spent a few minutes discussing how our curriculums and courses we study, could possible influence their lives. How can these subjects, such as : Algebra 2 or Intro to Art, possible help them make a living? When comparing the two worlds? It couldn’t.
The school system that is automatically the next step in a child’s childhood after kindergarten is so drastically different in other countries with less fortunate opportunities in which they could use these skills. This idea gave me a lot to think about. This experience gave me new found perspective. It certainly occurred to me that the things I value as second nature or take for granted are certainly different to these people in places such as Guatemala.
Even though I have been so fortunate to travel as much as I have in my 15 years of life, I never looked so closely into the lives of the places that I visited. This time though I viewed their culture, the activities / work that they did, the ways they moved off the pathway to let us through, the conservative clothing they wore and the hierarchy in this society. These discussions on how the strict politics don’t allow people to fully express themselves or how earning minimal wage doesn’t affect the communities happiness will forever stay with me and will influence my next steps in life.
When I get back to Christchurch, I will reflect upon my own value propositions and my meaning in my everyday life. Whether it’s because I personally want to or whether it’s because the people that surround me do. Am I living my life because of the decisions I make are relevant to others, or are we all?