While pondering the decision I made to participate in the Nicaragua internship, I kept getting the imagery of making a huge leap into the unknown. The commitment to be out-of-pocket for 3 weeks from my country of origin was daunting and exciting at the same time. One of the biggest advantages I had was my innate willingness to accept challenges, be flexible, and my love for people! Other strengths (e.g., past experiences and practices, art therapy toolkit, concepts, theories, etc.) were perhaps floating somewhere in between my conscious and subconscious; although not too deep. Though it was hard to not rely on what I thought I knew on the first day I quickly became a sponge as I attempted soak up everything around me.
The first few days of our daily walks to and from our host family we were escorted and they were concerned about us walking alone. I thought, “Hmm, ok we are strangers in a new country and community…I get it.” What got me was how each day we left for the day (and sometimes for lunch) we all waited together to lock up and walk down the street together. The Center coordinator would not allow us to just walk off on our own; it didn’t matter that we would split off from each other after 1 or 2 blocks! I am used to being independent and to be on my own so this was hard. One time I forgot about this and said to my partner, “C’mon let’s go; why are you waiting?” She reminded me that we need to wait together for everyone.
When you are used to having to fend for yourself, figure things out on your own without any help you get used to this “being” even if it is away from ones roots. I am a helper by nature and the “gifts” I have to share with others naturally come out. Surrendering my desire/need to “do’ was something I had to get used to quickly in order to be culturally sensitive. I am not used to being waited on, pampered over, or attended to. I was acutely aware of offending her and her family and so I soon welcomed the wonderful homemade meals that had been toiled over in the unyielding heat; for me. I still remember the delight on her face when she saw that we were enjoying ourselves and were content. My ideas about helping and its’ place in this context continued to be challenged during the times we spent together. Giving into the cultural norms as well as my curiosity and desire to learn from her is what truly allowed me to become present and to remain there. The concept of fluidity or “rolling with it” is what can naturally occur when the formal aspect of roles are allowed to evaporate. Tranquila y paciente por favor! (Part 1)