Today is July 2, 2017
I have been living and working in Guatemala for 15 days and 6 hours.
I no longer wake up excited to be in a new place. I have officially stopped falling over things when I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I am now able to navigate my room in the dark without hitting my toe, knee or head. My toe and leg injuries have healed and the scabs from falling up the concrete stairs have fallen off. New skin with higher levels of melanin than the skin surrounded it have emerged. I have mastered my ability to use the bathroom from a squatting position without my legs trembling. I have developed a pattern of throwing the tissue in the wastebasket after using the toilet and don’t have to feel guilty about breaking this rule unintentionally. My stomach is acquainted with all the new bacteria I have introduced to it and my stool tells me that my intestines are happy again. As you can see the bathroom and my bowel movements have been a big focal point for me.
With the novelty dissipating, I have had to come up with an actual routine to keep me doing. I haven’t quite been successful with sticking to a routine because of my ever-changing work schedule, which is certainly non traditional for an American accustomed to set hours, overtime pay and time off (well not overtime so much, teachers work an insane amount of hours outside of school ⎯ as this is the expectations if you want to get a proficient on your educator effectiveness scores that mean…nothing). I start work anywhere between 6-7:30 am. Take a 3-hour break anytime between 10 am-1:30 pm, back to work between 2-5 depending on when I took a break, then off anywhere between 10-11:30 pm. I do this routine everyday, at least I have everyday thus far. To me, this is a violation of my human rights. To the locals who work alongside me, this is normal. They work this lifetime shift for at least a month then get a 4-day break. If this is what I had to look forward to, I would certainly not work in the hospitality industry.
I have been willing to work this schedule because:
#1. I’m new and want to get a feel for what is the normal expectation
#2. I don’t want it to be perceived that I am above doing what everyone else does.
With that said, I think I have proven myself by now and this will be my last week working like a woman who has 5 kids to feed. I’ve decided that I am going to tell my boss when I want to work, the duration of my shift, what days I am willing to open and close, and put my vacation days on the schedule as well. Up to this point I haven’t taken any.
I came here to manage the website, reply to customer reviews online, translate paperwork, and help to create efficient systems. So this is what I anticipate spending the rest of my time here doing now that I have a crystal clear understanding of how things operate here on a day-to-day basis.
It’s hard to look at things from the perspective of a tourist if you are looking at them everyday from sleepy, tired, baggy eyes.
How are you new and making demands?
I came here with certain expectations
- To have a private room
- To have vacation time
- To work a normal amount of hours on a daily basis, and sleep. Not rest my eyes for a couple of hours, I mean sleep. The deep slumber section of sleep, which requires more than a couple hours of rest.
I’m finding out quickly that if I don’t advocate for these things, my limits are tested. It sort of feels like I’m a rat in the lab of a pharmaceutical company. The living conditions and parameters are tested to see what my breaking point will be.
If I’m not the rat that stands on top of the cage reminding them of what I expect, than I’m the hungry, itchy, and infertile rat covered in hives and rashes.
It took me 3 days to feel this way. I can’t go too much into detail because I do have to keep working here for heaven’s sake, and my boss was smart enough to befriend me on Facebook. This is probably his secret way to tally up how I use my internet time that he pays for. If that’s the case, the blog is dated yesterday, I did it during my 3-hour break, and it only took 5 minutes of bathroom break time to publish it’s content. Thank God my boss’s English is hit or miss.
My personal limits and ability to advocate for myself have been tested!
I am generally a passive person. When faced with a situation that I am not happy with, my first instinct is to be silent. I do not voice my dislike, concerns or sentiments. As a result of being quiet, and my bodies need to deal with the emotions that I refuse to voice, my stomach boils and my eyes swell and fill with tears of fury. Yes, I am a grown woman who cries when she is upset.
I have cried a total of 2 times. Okay, 4 times + a tear in the eye socket swell where the tear didn’t get a chance to fall because I was able to compose myself.
Are people watching me cry? No, I recluse to an empty corner or the bathroom. No I don’t make tears of pain sound effects while this is happening. I’m sneaking to cry, so it’s pretty quite.
I cry only a few minutes before I wash my face in cold water, exit the bathroom, think about why I’m crying a little further and start all over again. This process of getting myself together lasts about 10 minutes.
You may not believe me, but change is hard for me. I’m talking about unsolicited change, like a change in my work schedule, change in my routine, a change from what I expect to occur, an abrupt change in policies and procedures. Change something without asking me (yes I should be asked, I am here on my own will), and I panic. On a panic scale, my level of panic and anxiety is at about a 5 of 10. It’s like the panic you feel when you think you hit the snooze, but you actually turn off the alarm, fall back to sleep and later wake yourself up to come to realization that you have 20 minutes to get for work. This is mild panic for me because I have a time management problem and am usually late.
With no hun bunz or uncle to fix it, I have had to:
- think of how to articulate myself properly
- work up the courage to recite the monologue I have drafted mentally
- kick myself for punking out of saying some of the things I wanted to say
- and ensure that what I want is followed through with
all on my own
This is hard as hell for someone who doesn’t practice these “adulting” strategies on a frequent basis.
I am becoming a real grown woman ⎯ give me a doo-rag to tie around my head as I roll up my sleeve to flex my fat-covered bicep muscle.
As things change and the newness of me wears off, I see that where I don’t immediately deal with a situation, it only gets bigger.
No time for my normal delayed decision-making. I am having to be fully present and correct the behaviors of others immediately. While I am here exploring and working, I never want others to forget my purpose, expectations and the terms of my employment ⎯ otherwise I’ll be working like a child slave making soccer balls and Ivy Park apparel – I love Beyonce too, well not really love, just a normal-sized fan. But I read it online and am not 100% sold on the idea that it’s an “alternative fact”.
I’m also learning the power of meditation. Crying is my go-to. But I can’t be walking around puffy eyed and ready to leak like a full tam ⎯ too far? I’ll let you finish.
I’ve got to get this natural reaction to fury under control if I want to be taken seriously. When I return to the US I intend on being an entrepreneur and hiring staff. I can’t run a business walking around crying, wetting up all my paperwork and smearing my employee handbook and invoices in tears.
Meditation calms me. Meditation vacuums up those tears and dries these tear ducts right on up. Meditation reminds me of my purpose and assures me. Meditation gives me stillness and allows me to think rationally. Meditation keeps me.
I am here on a voluntary basis, and if I get to the point where I am unhappy and stressed on a daily basis, I will pursue other options for the next 9 weeks. I feel calmed whenever I remember that I have options and I am here because I want to be. Does it scare me to move around and do something else? No. I have money, a small amount of possessions
♬ pack light♬
and skills that can be put to use in other places. I could always just move to a big city and negotiate a price or trade a service for Spanish lessons at a Spanish school. I do need to beef up my written abilities and fluency.
Whatever I do, I refuse to feel stressed, pressured or cheated.
I do still communicate with my uncle and hun-bunz. But the dynamic has changed. I’m not asking for permission to make decisions, or looking for a tone of affirmation. I am sharing with them the plan and sounding sure of myself because it’s what I want to do. Making decisions independently feels pretty good. It’s like going shopping for school clothes with a parent and putting your foot down. “I will not wear that shirt with cartoon characters on the front. I am not wearing those shoes that light up. I do not want that pack of barrettes in every shade of every color imaginable”. At least these were the thoughts I had as I shopped for clothes until my freshman year of high school when I got a job and dismissed the idea of my mom humiliating me any further.
Now off to get some sleep; I’ve never been a person who could function on less than 8 hours of rest. Rest is as valuable to me as my glasses, an adult beverage and pizza.
Wanna relieve the pressure of whatever is binding you? Decide what you’re expectations are, what you are willing to compromise on, and what is going to allow you sleep well at night. If those things can’t be met, be willing to just walk away.
What made it easy for me was sitting down, breaking down what I make and receive in exchange for my service. Here is goes
Pay: $1000 for 2 1/2 months.
So that’s 1000 ➗ 11 (11 weeks of living here)
90, that’s $90 a week
90 ➗ 7 (7 days in a week)
12, that’s $12 a day
I WORK 11-14 HOURS A DAY FOR $12!
PUT ME ON A COMMERCIAL WITH MY SHIRT OFF
IN MY NICE UNDIES (I talked about the importance in this in my last post)
AND ALLOW BUGS TO BUZZ ABOUT AROUND ME
I’LL EVEN LET A FEW LAND ON MY EYE LASHES AND INNER NOSTRILS!
The room I am in could cost a tourist $13.00 a day
Meals I am eating average $11.50 a day
So daily living expenses costs them $24.50 a day
Which means that right now I am valued at $36.50 a day.
But isn’t this what you negotiated Ashley?
Yes, that was before I knew my worth!
So I’m going to put some stipulations that “make me feel whole” (as my wise uncle says) in place
The cost of a consultant to translate, create policies and procedures, manage online customer communication, bar tend, work as a receptionist and clean tables, far exceeds what they are paying me.
I am in a position of advantage so whenever I decide that it isn’t worth my time, tears and peace of mind I will shop around and be a beast for someone who values my services.
Easier said than done? Not really. If I am in a country that I know nothing about, with people who only know my representative (I haven’t been here long enough for them to know who I really am), am willing to walk away from the known to land who knows where. I think you can tackle a situation that you probably have been wallowing in for a while now.
The more I think about it, I feel better knowing that at any time, I can just walk away, no hard feelings.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not trying to develop a habit of walking away from situations in my Chaco’s and heavy backpack. I am working through this by having conversations, articulating what I need, compromising and trying to navigate this new situation.
My scholarly-perfectionist agent (the boyfriend) has let me know of my grammatical errors in previous posts. He has agreed to fix them for me. In the meantime, I need an editor. Not someone who passed English in high school with a C because they did extra credit and cried at parent teacher conferences. But someone who is going to be serious, committed and willing to edit on a consistent basis. Got someone? Please have them contact my people (me, on my free Google email account). Contact info on the website.
The Brown Privileged Underprivileged Millennial aka the not so happy camper for this week’s post.