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

The Last Yak: Home

Safa

Home. Home to me is a place where I feel a sense of comfort, love, and where I can truly be myself. Today, we all had to say goodbye to our homestay families. It was bittersweet leaving this morning because I was super happy with all the memories that I had made with my homestay family, but I was very sad to leave them. Coming into this trip, the only thing I was extremely nervous for was the homestays. This was something that was completely out of my comfort zone and I didn’t know what to expect. The first few days were awkward since Sarah and I both don’t speak any Spanish. However, I felt an instant connection with my homestay brother, Ivan. He was so sweet and excited to meet Sarah and me. As the days progressed and my Spanish improved, my comfort zone started to expand. I felt like I was at home, rather than just a house. Dona Flor (homestay Mom) was such a sweet person and was always making sure Sarah and I were happy and well fed. In addition to this, Dona Flor and Carol (homestay sister) dressed us up in traditional clothing on our last night because it was Dona Flor’s birthday. They included us into their celebrations and took us in as one of their own kids. In my opinion, sharing your home with complete strangers is a difficult thing to do and it shows so much about your personality. So, knowing this made me realize how welcoming and warm hearted our homestay family is. This entire homestay experience has been absolutely incredible! I learnt so much about the Guatemala culture, but I also learnt so much about life. For example, I noticed the mindful lifestyle that almost everyone I met has. IT made me realize how back home, in Canada, we’re often so invested in work and school that we forget to live in the moment. Personally, I know that I’m always stressing about school and about everything I have coming up. In addition, I realized how we often take so many things for granted. Things like water, technology, and even our families. Overall, my homestay made me realize all of these things that have really changed my perspective on life and I’m super grateful for everything and everyone in my life.

The Story of Stuff

Sawsan

As a society, we have become so drowned in a system of consumerism that we almost perceive it to be this innate aspect of human nature. This system of wanting things, buying things, and throwing it away has become engraved in our lives that we don’t see anything wrong with it; ignoring the history of exploitation, environmental strain, propaganda, and human right violations that come along with it. Although theoretical consumerism is not necessarily wrong at its core, the mechanism in which it occurs must change on a fundamental level. We have these companies driven by capital gain, outsourcing factories to take advantage of labor laws and environmental regulations, and we as consumers buy into it. The thing I also noticed during our talk on what it means to be a consumer is that this ‘consumer culture’ isn’t limited to just the western world but rather in a sense, it’s globalized to people all around the world. In the community we were staying in, Pachaj, there is this engrossing issue of the privatization of water, namely like companies like ‘Coca-Cola’ but I also realized that we’d go for dinner and these same families living in Pachaj would drink ‘Coca-Cola’ with their meal! It became almost oxymoronic how the people who are the most deep-rooted in and have suffered the most from a company are the very ones fueling their capital gain. I think that the intrinsic reasoning behind this goes beyond education and has a lot to do with an idolization for the ‘western world’ and a desperation for the American dream. I think that although daunting there are ways to find solutions to this system and it comes from both the consumer and the governments. Although consumers do have all the power within this system; they’re often not incentivized to change anything due to the manipulating power of advertisements and public relations. Governments, while they do have the ability to enact laws and regulations, are often embedded/indebted to these corporations. Although there may not be many incentives to change this system, there are ways in which its possible to end this threatening system of consumerism and hopefully in the future we can begin to see some change.