Have you ever showered with a lizard? I do almost every day. I have named him Larry and he enjoys hanging out on my soap. Back in the States, I would have panicked if there was a lizard in my shower! Surely, I would run to find one of my brothers to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Here, I don’t think twice about it. The little lizards are everywhere and completely harmless.
In this first month of living in Guyana, I have noticed that many of the things that I would consider a problem in the States aren’t even worth a thought here. Sometimes they are even a blessing! Hot water not working in the US? Call someone right away to fix it because cold showers are terrible. Everyday cold shower in Guyana? Thank goodness!! It is the best way to cool off!
In the States, I would not get in a van full of hot, sweaty people with the music turned up loud and the driver making questionable driving decisions. In Guyana, it’s actually fun and necessary to take a mini bus (it’s really a big van). Everyone is hot and sweaty, so who cares. The loud music means it is perfectly acceptable to sing along, my favorite! The driving style is even like a thrilling roller coaster! My commute to work every day is about an hour on these mini buses. Again, a long commute to work would be annoying, but here I really enjoy the time. It is a great opportunity to people watch and wake up.
I’m noticing similar patterns in my classroom. It is one large room divided by chalkboards. I can hear literally every lesson for every grade and every little one that can’t sit still while I’m teaching. That would drive me absolutely insane in the States. Now, it is just background noise. A random kid crawling under my chalkboard and into my classroom is typical (and secretly I enjoy when they want to come visit me!).
These things among others haven’t bothered me and I hope that they don’t down the road. There are also things that I have experienced that I hope I don’t grow comfortable with. Things like trash all over the side of the road, men yelling comments at the women walking by, and the physical punishments used in schools. These things cause me to take a step back. I never want to grow numb to them. I do hope that my perspective will change as I begin to understand the cultural motivations and priorities that lead to them. Some days I wish I could change it, of course, I don’t expect to change anything, but I do want to spread love and mercy. I hope and pray that it is enough to truly impact the wonderful people of Guyana.
As I experience all of these things, I continue to find encouragement from my community, my support system back home, and the beautiful smiles of the boys I teach and encounter at the orphanage! I hope their smiles can bring you joy today.
Andrea Haller: St. John Bosco Academy, Guyana, South America