Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Work, Play

I would consider myself a work hard, play hard kind of person.

I think that for the most part, I usually apply that mantra to most of my life adventures, and I think I would say that this Guatemalan adventure is no different. At least, I hope that’s how it will be.

I want this to be a year of hard work in my job – with my writing, with my reporting, with photography, with promoting NPH, and with just getting out there and finding what can be found.

But at the same time, I want this to be an incredibly fun year. I want new friendships and adventures and unbelievable stories to tell when I come back. I want to spend time with the kids here, as well as the other volunteers. I want to explore and understand this gorgeous – but crazy – nation, and relax in a year free from rent, life plans, and cubicles.

So, goal = balance work and play in Guatemala. Good. Hmm.

I realized right away that this adventure isn’t like study abroad. Studying abroad, I considered travel and food my top 2 priorities, and I considered homework or anything like it optional. (Ok, so not optional, but definitely last-minute. We all know I’m too much of a wuss to completely blow off assignments.)

I also realized right away that this isn’t a normal office job either. Yes, I have an office, an 8-5:30 schedule, and free coffee in the kitchen, but I’m not actually supposed to be working all day long. I’ve quickly learned that they don’t want me in the office all the time; they want me wandering around to find out what’s going on at NPH. I also can’t follow the “time is money” mentality anymore, because it doesn’t exist in Guatemala. Nothing moves quickly here, so I’m learning to fill my entire day with tasks that I normally could have churned out before 11 a.m. Frustrating? Yes. Surprisingly calming? Also yes.

So, it’s not study abroad, and it’s not an office job. It’s not all work, and it’s not all play. It’s some tricky combination. But luckily, the NPH volunteer program tries to help us out when it comes to finding the balance. Our “contract” involves both work and play, and here’s an idea of what is turning out to be our pretty busy schedule:

We have our jobs. As Home Correspondent, I am “in the office” Monday to Friday, from 8 to 5:30 – a 42.5 hour work week.


Twice a week, we need to eat dinner or spend time with our section for at least 2 hours.

Twice a month, every volunteer must complete a “family project.” It means we hang out with a family of brothers and sisters from NPH – making pizza, visiting the town of Parramos, watching a movie, really whatever they feel like doing.

Once every 6 weeks, all the volunteers get together to host a Kermes (or carnival) for the entire home – all 350 kids.

And then there is a whole slew of holidays and house events. Guatemalans love to celebrate everything in style.

As you can see, not a ton of free time! But, it’s exciting. January has started off slow with our schedules, but everything kicks into gear in February (which is already next week – whoa) with our first family projects and Kermes. The schedule is a little intimidating right now, but I know it will be fun.

A lot of work, but a lot of play. :)

P.S. Birmingham people, I almost titled this entry “Work, Play (not the venue in B’ham)” haha.

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