Words from Youth: Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone

By Ellie, 16 from Nathan Hale High School

June 30, 2013

Saying adios to my family, friends, house, phone, make-up, clothes, etc. was not exactly comfortable. Going to a foreign country where people speak a language I hardly understand was uncomfortable. Interacting with the people from GV and all the people who live in Guatemala was extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, being uncomfortable has pushed me to experience, learn and grow in more ways than I realized possible.

For starters, living in a house full of strangers with a roommate I barely knew was terribly awkward. I’m sure all the participants could back me up. However, after many silent pauses and “lo siento, no entiendo”‘s (sorry, I don’t understand)’s I feel extremely close to my family here. I forced myself to initiate conversation or any sort of interaction. It was almost always uncomfortable. I’m so glad I did.

At this point in the trip, I, like many other participants, have a special connection with the families here in San Miguel. I have learned so much about love, hard work, and kindness through my family’s sweet example and constant smiles. I’ll be forever grateful to have consistently chosen to get to know them, even when it was difficult.

On a different note, it has been beyond rewarding to see our work on construction actually paying off. The three classrooms we have focused on have grown from about waist-level to almost ceiling height. The tedious cinderblock laying, prominent farmers tan, strenuous cement mixing and concrete-covered clothes have most certainly been worth it.

What’s made our work extra meaningful is the opportunity it has given us to work with the Guatemalan teens, the Chapines. They are now intertwined into our GV family like they have been there all along. On Friday, numerous water fights and inside jokes passed between us. The insanity has increased as our comfort levels with one another rose.

I love that even with a gigantic language barrier and so many differences, I feel the Chapines are now my amigos. Our differences have allowed us to learn from each other’s cultures. It was strange at first, but it totally paid off. This was evident in our excursion to Iximche (Mayan Ruins) on Saturday. Sitting “gringo/chapin” felt totally normal after a week of being together. Many photos, games and laughs were shared together while visiting the Ruins. I was happy to share that experience with my new friends!

Thinking back to culture night numero uno (#1), I remember being very, very uncomfortable. Our group has come a long way since then. Making friends and getting to know my group has been exciting and difficult at the same time. However, today we were all together, sitting on the floor giggling and enjoying watching our fellow participants act out a traditional Mayan wedding ritual. We shopped together and afterwards ate the traditional Guatemalan dish, Pepian.

I couldn’t help but feel grateful for each and every one of them. They have been the ones all year inspiring me and helping me step out of my comfort zone. We have learned and experienced some more unsettling things here in Guatemala as well. I’m glad to have learned what global leadership looks like together. I learn more and more every day and it inspires me to do better. Personally, I’m bummed about returning to Seattle in a few short days. But when we do I can’t wait to start actually doing something. I’m ready to start affecting positive change in the world, whatever that looks like.

I’m extremely thankful my “uncomfortables” have become my new “comfortable.” Feeling comfortable here in many ways has helped me realize what changes need to be made in the work. I’m ready to see where this new-found perspective will take me.

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