by Gary Wingenbach
The pace is slower.
It takes a few days to realize it, but the pace is definitely slower in Guatemala. It has not changed from when I lived this pace 25 years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer, first in San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa, and then in Quezaltepeque, Chiquimula. My month-long return to this land of “Eternal Spring” with 10 Aggie students, two faculty members, and a 10-year old daughter in tow, is an experience I never would have imagined as a young man.
As I look around the cabin this morning while we listen to Marelino explain sustainable agricultural practices in the Chajul region, it hits me…these students weren’t born the last time I spent this much time in Guatemala.
Dang, I suddenly feel old! Good thing I don’t “feel” old, otherwise I might consider joining the whining sessions about missing the comforts of home in Texas.
It’s a surreal experience to watch the wonderment of learning about Guatemalan life in these Aggies’ faces. I see genuine interest in their expressions. I hear them talk about Guatemalan life with compassion in their voices. These Aggies are the real deal!
I wish I could find another 90 just like them to bring to Chajul. It would make a huge impact in our service-learning projects. Right. I know, poco a poco, little by little; slow down Gary, the pace is a bit slower, and that’s okay.
Twenty-five years can change many things in Guatemala. I see cell phones now where only telegram offices once existed. I’ve used wifi in the highlands where computer technology would have been considered Star Trek nonsense 25 years ago. Yes, I know some of you will not know what the original Star Trek series was, but trust me, it was a classic, and you really missed a cultural phenomenon!
Some things did not change in the past 25 years. Poverty, malnutrition, pollution, lack of resources, illiteracy, and respiratory and intestinal diseases still exist, most likely with the same intensity as they did in the mid-1980s.
It’s easy to become depressed by these societal challenges. It could be easy to turn away from these issues and never think about them again. It would be so easy to concern ourselves with the next release of the iPhone or the next idiotic vampire movie debut.
But, for 13 Aggie students and faculty members, and one future Aggie, we won’t walk away. We’re here to make a difference!
Just now, on Saturday morning, Aggies and Chajul agriculturists are working side-by-side to design a new vermiculture system to produce organic fertilizer for a local school garden. Gig ’em Ags!
I am hopeful to contribute a few more reflections, from the prof’s perspective, to this blog. Oh yeah, that’s one more thing that didn’t exist 25 years ago…blogging! I’m very happy to make this post, my first ever, on a topic near and dear to my heart.
Vamos adelante Aggies!