We climbed then sat, in a mountain-hill crevice, and took in an ocean view, while he taught me elementary Spanish. Later, they and I, walked that Chilean town, realizing he’d forgotten his passport. Now unable to take the budgeted-bus through Argentina, we went to an internet place, and asked my parents to wire emergency funds, so we could get a ferry ride. Thereafter, having been aided, we traveled back: inside a below-deck storage room, cold and laughed. He sang there, unphased by workers, passersby.
I lost contact with that man.
That year, 2007, I noted shanties. I noticed, too, how I lived in a room where my breath was nightly seen and leftovers were eaten until gone, for microwaved days. I was a volunteer TEFL teacher who’d come to experience new, and better learn another language.
Sure, I taught enthusiastically, but no matter how many hours I clocked, in truth, I wasn’t there for them. The job was a travel option taken, a non-permanent occupation.
I was selfish, in that, others came after me in the big picture. I was giving my time, trying to “die to myself,” but I was a tourist with a c/o mailing address.
There’s a scene in a movie (Year One) where two guys are enslaved and footed in pyramid mortar. The guy next to them is almost dancing as he stomps the mixture. They ask him, Why are you so happy? He replies, I’m a volunteer.
People in poverty are easily not seen. There are photos or links on newsfeeds or excerpts heard on NPR, persons perched on streets sometimes glanced upon. but you’re likely dwelled, justifiably, in the weight of your own real, tangible, present-felt problems.
Yet. many starve. are dying, losing teeth, not going to middle school. have dirt floors all their lives. and all their children’s lives.
These people maybe can’t alter their familial cycle, without money sent. their contact info kept.
and some need someone(s) willing to stay for an indefinite long-term.
(captures, this year taken, 2014, Guatemala.)