Over the past few months, it’s been interesting to compare how different people have reacted to me telling them that I’m going to be moving to Guatemala four days after Graduation. Some people, like my professors, my peers in the Global Poverty and Practice minor (especially my fellow Peer Advisors), a few good friends, my parents (yes, even my parents!) – basically those people who’ve known me for a while and know how and why this really is the perfect post-graduation job for me – could not be more supportive. They’re congratulatory, excited for me, and genuinely interested in the work I’m going to be doing.
And the rest…well, reactions vary. Some people hear I’m moving to Guatemala and that’s about all the information they need to know. This is definitely a niche field, certainly not for everyone, and I can usually tell pretty quickly when someone’s not particularly interested in hearing about the intricate details of CE Solutions’ MicroConsignment Model, or how excited I am to live in a tiny rural town in the middle of nowhere, with limited to no access to shopping, movie theaters, restaurants, gyms, clubs, you name it. Others look at me as if I’m crazy and ask me if I know how dangerous Guatemala is. I do know how dangerous Guatemala can be, and that there are some parts of the country that I should (and will) avoid at all costs. But I also know that the warnings that you might read online through the State Department are completely overblown. Trust me, I’m one of the most paranoid people I know – but I also know that with common sense and some general personal safety measures (avoiding street food, staying off the roads at night, keeping my personal appearance conservative and respectful, travelling in groups, etc.) I will ultimately be able to keep myself happy, healthy, and safe, barring any unavoidable complications.
I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the reactions and general support offered by random strangers, mutual friends, and acquaintances, who I happened to mention my upcoming job to. While in DC a few weeks ago, I grabbed coffee with a friend of a friend who spent two years in Nebaj doing water work and who now works with WASH Advocacy in DC, and was so happy to just talk casually about life in Guatemala as an expat, things to pack, and places to go. I even got a recommendation for a nice hair salon in Antigua – probably the most useful advice I’ve received so far! And last week, after I gave a campus tour to a group of prospective UC Berkeley students and their families, I was approached by a woman at the end of the tour who said she does infectious disease research in Latin America and would be happy to pass along some names of a few excellent doctors within Guatemala, for me to have as a resource. Beyond that, there are the 5-10 people who I’ve connected with who are currently living in Panajachel – mostly friends of friends, since most of the people I met the last time I was there have since moved back to the U.S. – and I already feel so much more comfortable moving back knowing that there are at least a few names and potentially faces I’ll recognize as I get myself settled.