My Junior Year of High School in Guatemala; Shoes and Truths

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my-dusty-shoes THE GEORGIA BLOG: In the days before I left for Guatemala I was doing what I often do; stalling on my math homework. It was while procrastinating that I came across an advertisement. Usually I wouldn’t be so easily distracted by ad watching, but this one got my attention. I laughed to myself and even snapped a picture of it so others could share in my bewilderment. The ad was for  shoes, but the image accompanying the shoe ad included a man and a woman embracing with smiles from ear to ear. Man did they look like they were having a good ole time. I thought how this picture couldn't belong to this shoe ad. I thought how weird the whole thing was. There were no shoes in this shoe ad!

I’d seen glamorization before in ads but this was straight fraud. I eventually got back to reference angles and unit circles, but not before thinking some more about fraudulence and advertising and the weird world of marketing.

But like the flies that persist near my ears wherever I go in Guatemala, I have been unable to shake this connection between big advertising and human beings. Just as the shoe company manipulated information in a certain way so do individual people. We project the truth through so many artificial filters that truth becomes a perfectly manipulated version of what we want it to be. We falsely advertise ourselves so we seem like smarter, funnier, prettier people. We don’t just do this with ourselves but we do this with our ideas, our actions, and the choices we make. Just like the shoe company advertised their shoes as just so much darn fun, I'd been doing the same thing about working overseas. I'd been saying things like, “I’ll be working overseas helping those less fortunate” among other perfectly sculpted phrases. There’s a reason I didn’t say “There will be a good amount of time where I won’t be able to hold any food down” or “I’ll be trying to avoid the Zika disease” or “I’ll be spending untold minutes in conversation trying to find the word for bucket.” I didn’t say these things because people wouldn’t give me a pat on the back and say how brave and how nice I am. I provided them with the pleasant clean cut answers because I wanted to be seen a certain way. Like the shoe people did with their add.

So here's something I learned from my first two weeks in Guatemala. Just like it can be assumed from an advertising image that buying a pair of shoes will result in happiness and attractiveness, it can be assumed that work with the extreme poor will result in courage and selflessness. These assumptions, however, shouldn’t be confused with the facts.

Finding joy from a nice pair of shoes is possible but it is not guaranteed. Helping people is possible overseas, as it is anywhere, but it is not guaranteed. What I learned from this is to keep my expectations small and my eyes wide open. There is so much good that can come from me being here but there will also be struggles. So starting here on this blog, I will try to honestly portray myself. The bad and the good, the ugly and the funny.

So, follow me here in Guatemala if you have the time. I am Georgia Heers, and I am working part time for First Things Foundation during the spring semester of my Junior year in high school. I'm also in charge of the FTF instagram. Click here to check out more!