Now what?

August 20, 2009 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

Wow so here I am back at Duke and getting back into things.  By no means am I settled in yet but it is truly amazing how much easier is it to get used to the luxurious life in the US and be spoiled by it.  I found myself getting upset already that my wireless internet connection is finicky when I was lucky to get internet for an hour in Nicaragua. I am back to paying 10 dollars for a meal and paying a drink what would be a meal in Nicaragua.  I haven’t spoken Spanish in a long time.  I no longer say Gracias instead of Thank you, Or “Puedo..” to ask for permission.  I haven’t gotten up and sat on our porch in the wind, talked to a parrot or a nun, picked a mango from a tree and eaten it, bartered at the market, picked through Gallo Pinto and sour tofu cheese for every meal, or heard a “Chiquita bonita” either.  And I honestly no longer feel guilty not finishing my food, eating delicacies like cereal, or taking really long, warm showers.  I miss fluttering through the hospital hoping to find Martita the crazy nurse that will make me laugh or Harold to give us advice or Veronica to answer questions. I miss making my own schedule and figuring out what to do with my time and resources.  I miss not having to be anywhere on time.  I miss walking places.  It has been really hard to come straight back to Duke (after the conference of course), so I haven’t yet processed everything.  I am just hope that as I am forced back into this culture, that I will not forget what I learned, saw, and experienced this summer- that I will not conform to the “Duke” culture.  The first night in DC I was upset because I wanted to go back to Nicaragua, where people are happy with what they have.   In DC, the very first night we heard 2 incredible presentations about how these kids built a back-up power generator for one of their many secondary projects in Tanzania (we made posters).  All of a sudden, I was thrown back into the comparison game.  I felt the pressure to be as good as or better than everyone else.  “I just want to go back to Nicaragua,” I thought.  Maybe it is because in Nicaragua, I couldn’t be compared to anyone there because I was so different.  Maybe it is because Nicaraguans don’t compare themselves to each other.  Either way, I liked it, and I want to continue that perspective here at Duke.  I also want to keep the big picture of life and of the world rather than get caught up in which library to study in. No, I can’t refuse food at a restaurant if they give us too much so that they will give it to poor Nicaraguan people.  But I can be thankful that I had so much food, volunteer to help feed the poor in the US, and not take more than I will eat at a buffet so it is not wasted.  I can’t change the country, but I can change the way I live my life.  I’m struggling to determine how to keep my perspective of the world, when my world for the next 6 months is a bubble known as Duke campus.  How do I use what I learned this summer to have an impact?   I don’t know.  But I am going to try.  I would love to use my new Spanish skills to volunteer somewhere (at church, in the hospital) so I also would remember how to speak.  I would love to set up a good equipment donation method online to create communication between donors and donees.  I am worrying that instead I am going to get caught up in my world of studying, swimming, and hanging out with friends (with some med school apps in there).  And then what did the summer accomplish?  What did I change?  Hopefully the lessons I learned will last longer than the 2 months I was there.  I hope that I left the hospital a better place than when we came- I do think so.  We cleaned the neonatal room and fixed the incubator.  I learned what I wanted to do with my life- be a doctor for sure!  I do see things differently now- I am thankful for my incredible education; I appreciate the amazing and numerous opportunities I have growing up in this country with a supportive family and friends; I see that the world as big and has a lot of problems but also a lot of people willing to help, work hard, and love everyone; I realize that most people deep down inside aren’t that different from each other- want to love, be loved, and provide for their families.  Just walking around during orientation now, I don’t assume as much as I used.  I saw a woman moving in a car of stuff by herself, and I really thought she might be going to school herself despite her age.  I see people of different races and don’t immediately stereotype them or think of them as different than me.  I heard the housekeeping workers speaking Spanish and considered joining in.  So even though I haven’t sold my car and apartment and given all my money and clothes to poor people in Nicaragua, I still feel a lasting impact from the summer.  Who knows what God’s real purpose of the summer was? I think that the most important thing now is not to try to live like a Nicaraguan here in the US as that is not possible or intelligent, but to apply the lessons of the summer to my life here- not valuing material possessions, being thankful for what you have, taking time to visit with family and friends and God too, showing respect and love and kindness to others, working hard because you should, thinking about other people over yourself (how to help other people).  It will be a long process to transition back to the fast-paced life at Duke and not miss the quality time in Nicaragua and it will take a while to process everything that happened there.  When people ask me “How was your summer?”, I honestly don’t know where to start or what to say.  “Absolutely amazing” is usually how it goes.  And it was.  I hope that I will always remember it- I know I will at least every time I eat rice and beans.

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