June 25th, 2013
From the moment we gathered as a group in the airport we were faced with challenges that demanded leadership, selflessness and group unity. We were delayed two hours from our initial flight, made headlines because of a three hour emergency landing in Denver and after missing our connection in Miami, waited another seven hours in the airport for a new flight. Each and every young person in the group rose to the occasion and showed leadership.
They supported one another, they did not complain, they moved through the airports maturely, contributed valuable suggestions to solve the many problems we encountered and at the last leg of the trip, went down in GV history as the fastest group to load the bus. As one student recalls, “What really stuck with me was ‘group first, me second’ because everyone is just as tired as the next and we have to suck it up.” Certainly without forewarning and perhaps without forethought, the young people in this group were spontaneously faced with a challenge that called to use all the leadership skills they have learned in the program throughout the year. They truly rose to the occasion and proved to everyone, including themselves that they too have the ability to lead.
Despite the fatigue of traveling for 28 long hours, the group again “sucked it up” and the very next morning experienced their first lesson on global injustice during this Cultural Immersion at the Guatemala City dump. For many of the students, seeing the dump was a period of introspection. If the piercing silence wasn’t enough of an indication, the facial expressions certainly were. They were becoming aware, perhaps more so now than other times, of their personal contribution to environmental injustice and their responsibilities as global citizens. As another student recalled, “Seeing the dump made me realize how wealthy and privileged I really am compared to many people in the world. It also made me think about the role I play in supporting the system that creates situations like this -all the waste that I generate in a day, America’s support of successive military governments who mismanaged the country resulting in extreme poverty like this. I resolved to reuse and/or recycle everything I could, and to buy fewer processed foods and other products which come with a lot of packaging that then becomes trash.” To see the world shine in the light of justice both environmentally and socially we all must do what this young person has already done, which is to self-reflect and commit to lifestyle changes, if need be, for the greater good.
Thus far the students have also completed their first day of work, had their first day of school with their teachers, had small group reflections and every day are spending quality time with their home stay families. The learning and growth process this Cultural Immersion affords is multi-faceted and deep. The participants are gaining multiple perspectives about the world, in order to properly lead it, from Guatemalans and even each other. A student puts it best saying that, “My roommate and I both do not know any Spanish but we try and we interact but even after we have a conversation with our homestay family, we both have different views on what/who we were talking about. Thus making today one of my favorites because of all the opinions and different views by many other GV participants, especially heard on the long bus ride back to Antigua. Everyone takes away something different, but to share and explore ones you may never have crossed is the real reflection/learning experience.”
The future of the world is what comes to mind most often while we share this space and time with one another but we will first have to tackle the future of this trip and take our eagerness to see a just and sustainable world one step at a time. So, until the next time adios amigos!