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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Comfort and Unfamiliarity

Regardless of who we are and who we choose to be, others will judge us based on our looks. We’re taught to never judge a book by its cover but our survival instinct forces us to associate unfamiliarity with discomfort or an unknown way to respond. In the morning we started our service work with “Chico Mendez” and filled bags with dirt in which trees could be planted. However, one thing we noticed almost immediately were Guatemalan kids (2 girls and 4 guys) who were looking at us and snickering to each other. Of course, they spoke Spanish and this made the group slightly uncomfortable. After some work, Sawsan decided to gather a few people and break the ice by asking the Guatemalan kids her co-op questions. This also gave us and the other group of kids a chance to know each other for who we are rather than what we look like. Most of the kids ended up being around our age and the opportunity to socialize allowed us to find a newborn sense of comfort around the Guatemalan kids. At first, it seemed like they were laughing at us and the discomfort from this, made us assume they were rude and impolite. However, it was a learning experience for us to learn the true kind and humorous nature of this unfamiliar group. This also provided us with insight on similar past experiences in Guatemala as well as unfamiliar encounters in the future. Essentially, even though one always judges a book by its cover, all it needs is a good read. Similar to my viewpoint on this service trip. I continuously become more comfortable with my group members as we familiarize ourselves with Guatemala.


Today, our whole group finished up the second Spanish class of the 3 classes we are taking. The lessons are difficult because I speak no Spanish and my teacher, Mina, speaks no English but I have learned more Spanish in those 6 hours than I have ever learned in one year. The ‘no English’ rule, while difficult, has taught me to be open to other forms of communication and that is what this trip is about. For most of us, we are completely out of our comfort zone but this trip is teaching us to open our minds past the Appleby College bubble. Not speaking English also allowed me to immerse myself in the Guatemalan history. Speaking English builds walls in a country that only speaks Spanish. Through the lessons, I managed to connect a little more with my teacher, Armando- the head of Chico Mendez, my home stay family, and strangers I pass on the street. For that, I am grateful. Stepping out of our comfort zone is not necessarily a bad thing because it just expands the amount of things you are comfortable with.