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

Day 4

The Subjectivity of Skills

Probably one of the greatest things I’ve learned today is how subjective skills are and how the skills that we once idolized and spent years attempting to develop can mean virtually nothing on the other side of the world. This sort of disparity was most evident when carrying the bricks and tiles; what determined our success was not a university education or our grades but rather the most valued skills were physical; it was honestly really interesting to see the varying value of success and how it changes all around the world. It also got me thinking how within Canadian society we tend to idolize academic and intellectual skills while looking down upon manual labor and regarding it with this sort of primitive, uneducated, and demeaning skill set. At the same time, on the farm in Guatemala, if you didn’t have this physical skill set you would be perceived as less valuable in terms of the works force. This subjectivity of skills is not often something I think about back in Canada as there seems to be this very rigid idea of what success means but it was interesting to see how that changes around the globe.



Throughout the day working with the locals, there were many instances where we saw adaptation in human lives/lifestyles, however, I will get to that later. To begin we at breakfast and drove to Quixaya, where we learned about how Enrique transformed his land into a tourist attraction to bring money to the family and how beautiful the overall landscape is. We went on to do some physical labor where we carried tiles, cinderblocks, and bags of sand/gravel. Us compared to the locals were nothing. Most of us ended up carrying only 1 shovel of sand while they carried 10 despite the fact that they were shrimps compared to us. They may have designed different techniques to go about doing this and we’ve never worked a full day, never mind a full day of manual labor. It was the same thing with the water cress weeding, they were laughing at us because we walked so funny barefoot and they could handle it because their feet are not soft like ours but callused. It showed me just how much we have to learn.