Sometimes I like to think about what the TV series based on my life would be like. (What? You don’t do this?) Clearly, we are in the middle of the two seasons called “Chapin Living: The Peace Corps Years”. Running jokes would include things like my constant awkward itching due to bugbites, getting yelled at in broken english and being startled by fireworks. Most scenes would take place in my office, my home, on camionetas, in the peace corps office or on the main road through town that I walk constantly getting to and from youth groups. I’m not going to lie, most episodes would be pretty boring.
Occasionally there would be drama. But not due to common antagonists. I don’t have an arch-nemesis (unless you count mosquitos and fleas) and there aren’t any awkward ex boyfriends or evil bosses to stir the pot. My foes are more commonly things like time (there’s too much while simultaneously there’s not enough), loneliness, the guatemalan election cycle (throwing a wrench in all my plans!) and God.
Yeah, I said it: God has become something I feel like I have to fight against. Now, before you (or my mom) start freaking out about how I have started worshipping satan and start planning some sort of intervention, let me explain. Guatemala, like most former Spanish colonies, is a largely catholic society. And those that aren’t catholic are evangelical. Church is a major cornerstone of daily life here. Masses happen every afternoon, multiple times over the weekends, on holidays and even for things that seem completely random, like graduations. Religion pervades every facet of life. Which in some ways – those in which it helps individuals lead moral and fulfilling lives – is fantastic. But it seems that in this society, God’s presence is more often used as an excuse for inaction and continued acceptance of negative situations.
Are you coming to the meeting? “Si Dios quiere.” If God wants me to.
You’ve been sick, are you feeling better? “Todavía no, pero primero Dios.” Not yet, but hopefully God will make it so.
Why do you want to participate in this project? “Porque es una oportunidad que me ha regalado Dios.” Because God has given me this opportunity.
First of all, I’m pretty sure if you want to come to the meeting, YOU can make it happen. And if you’re sick, it’s important that YOU seek treatment. And this project is the work of many people and if it stalls it is probably in part because of the failure of YOU and your neighbors to take ownership of it, not because God willed it so. I hear it over and over again: I’m poor/sick/without work/being beaten by my husband/illiterate because this is the hand that God has dealt me and I can’t change it. And that’s that.
So I feel awkward (and angry) because all I want to do is tell them is that they are wrong. That to take power over their own lives is not going against the will of God and, in fact, doing so is the only way they are going to be able to achieve the life they claim to want so badly for themselves and their children. And, really, wouldn’t God be okay with them taking the reins and making changes if it meant healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives?
So, there it is. Me vs. God. Though, I suppose that’s not entirely true (though would make for some epic fight scenes in my TV show). It’s more like Me vs. Closemindedness and Apathy Cloaked in Religious Fervor. There’s no way we reach any kind of resolution before the season ends, but to ignore this huge obstacle and just hope for the best is just as ignorant and defeatist. I’ve got to try. So, um, stay tuned. Sure to be lots of awkward dialogue coming up.