"...He prayeth well, who loveth well, Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small;
for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all..."

The Rime of the Anchient Mariner -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mission Incomplete: Removed from my volunteer site

I had grown comfortable in Gogorron. From where I stand, I look back on the last six months with great fondness to have lived and bonded with people there. At times it was challenging, other times awkward, uncomfortable, a waste of time, frustrating, daunting, and still most of the time it was fun, meaningful, emotionally charged, and fulfilling. I have regrets too though.

I was starting to become complacent. I had enough time on my hands to ask myself whether I wanted to be here in Mexico or not. I was starting to feel sad. Maybe it was because of my birthday. At the same time, everything was starting to come together and our projects were starting to take form. I used to joke around with my host mom that I hadn’t done anything meaningful yet because I hadn’t built any bridges (referring to something tangible).

On May 18th Christian and I were removed from our site temporarily after Christian reported two incidents that allegedly happened involving the Zetas (ruthless drug cartel) and a kidnapping in our community. On May 18th my SWATCH watch stopped working too, so maybe time was up. It was obvious by the next day that we wouldn’t be going back. The numbness, the shock and sadness started hitting. The sadness of leaving my friends behind makes my stomach hurt. Before leaving I told my host mom, that out of all the bridges that I could have built, the most meaningful bridges were the friendships and relationships I had already built, and I thanked her for being a friend.

Surprisingly, the one friendship that I thought would survive time, distance, and misunderstandings seems to have ended immediately: the friendship with my counter-part. She went out of her way in all instances, to help us adjust to our new life, and she made us a part of her life and family. I admire her, and fear that one anxiety I had of letting her down has come true. She had an evolution of feelings of her own since we were removed from our site, from ‘ni modo’ [Eng: oh well], to sadness and crying together, to anger. The tragedy of this situation is that our reaction to unsubstantiated report of a kidnapping (which did not take place at all) resulted is us being removed from our volunteer-site, leaving behind a community that was starting to organize and become empowered, and leaving our counterpart abruptly with pending projects & expectations , ultimately resulting in a nightmare for her. This being said, I understand her frustration, channelized as anger.

I packed my things, and said good-bye to my special and close friends, because I couldn’t have bared to to say good-bye to everyone. There was a special meeting held in the community for our bosses to explain how the decision to remove us from the community was taken etc, and I got to address them. I addressed them for approx 45 seconds, because that was all I could bare. I said that I was leaving with great pain in my heart, that I learned a lot from them and about myself, and I thanked them for being a part of my life.

A much more pleasant surprise was having some community leaders buy me a cake right before I left and we ate it in my host family’s home; the little kids in the family sang las maƱanitas. It was the sweetest gesture, and what makes me believe they appreciated me as much as I appreciated them. When I left the community, I had cried so much for so long that my head hurt, and I felt nauseous…I was emotionally exhausted and literally sick.

As I said, I have regrets about some things I did or failed to do in the last six months, and now I have time to reflect, and to commit to doing things differently in the next place they send us.