Monday, March 6, 2017

A Poignant Perspective

Whenever people asked me how I felt for the months leading up to our trip, I could not really put it in words. Before we began our journey to Guatemala (that started with meeting promptly at 3:45 am on Sunday morning with our caravan drive with all of our luggage to the airport), I think my primary emotions were nervousness and excitement. But still, it never really felt real until we were actually in Guatemala. As soon as we landed in Guatemala City, however, it finally kicked in that this was real and going to be our reality for the next week. In that moment, the excitement took over the nervousness (mixed with a bit of tiredness and sore musclesness from the lack of sleep and the heavy lifting of pounds upon pounds of medical supplies from the packing party the day before).

After we loaded all of our bags onto the bus, the first thing we did was head to a cemetery tour in the city. Before I describe what I learned in this cemetery, however, I feel like I need to provide a disclaimer that I have a weird thing for cemeteries. Whenever I go on family vacations with my family and we happen to be in a city with a famous cemetery, like Père Lachaise in Paris, I make them all visit it with me. I think there is something so uniquely beautiful about all the brilliantly intricate marble tombstones and looking to see which grave sites still have fresh flowers. Though I certainly saw some fancy marble handiwork at this cemetery too, I leaned that they only stood to mark the deaths of the wealthy. As we stood before an overwhelming Egyptian-styled grave complete with a massive pharaoh head, Jose Rolando, an amazing and hilarious human being who has been organizing our trip for us in Guatemala, described how this cemetery stands as a direct depiction of the difference between the rich and the poor. Just a couple of meters (practicing using the measurement base unit that I will soon be using with Dr. Lauri to complete growth curves in the clinic :)) beside this elaborate grave were the graves of the people who were not as wealthy, buried with just enough room to fit their coffins and their graves decorated with fresh flowers. As Jose Rolando said, even in death, the difference between the rich and the poor can be seen. Seeing the cemetery from this point of view made me see this inequality from a new and very poignant perspective, and it all happened within hours of landing in Guatemala.

Now, I think that the excitement has most definitely overtaken he nervousness and I am looking forward to seeing what else I will learn in the coming week.

Zenab Saeed

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