From taking bucket showers, to living a day without electricity, to solely eating small rations of gallo pinto, we can definitely say that small glimpse of real poverty was enough to make almost everyone appreciate the smallest luxuries that we have at home. This day was packed with hard labor in harsh conditions; however, it still managed to be one of the most educational and unforgettable days in our lives.
We began the day by waking up at 6 am. After breakfast, we went straight to the community of Tomas Borges, an art community, to break into small groups and live with different families to gain a better understanding of what life is like as a local. It was a reality shock as we saw the standard of living in the village: people lived in homes without electricity, plumbing, or even floors and even had to roll their trash out in a wheel barrow about a quarter mile away from their homes.
It amazed us how the people of the village were able to make the best of the situation despite their circumstances. For example, one of the moms of the family was extremely sick with bone cancer, but despite this she found time to clean, cook, and work for her kids while they were at school. She does all of the work for the family and is still able to pay for a cell phone and radio for her daughter, which may seem like insignificant things; however, this is huge for people who earn so little money.
After the hard work, we celebrated. One of the most special moments of the trip was when the kids broke the pinata. The kids had just met us that day, but they were so happy to share that moment with us. The community all came together and they were having so much fun even when they were barefoot and dirty. It was a genuine happiness that we haven’t seen in a while.
We were also surprised by the affection that the kids have for their moms; we’d never seen that in the US. They were constantly kissing them and hugging them. When the moms were gone for just a second, the children would greet them with kisses and hugs as though they hadn’t seen them for year.
We’re proud of all the work we did today first because of all the manual chores that we helped the people do. Additionally, we were proud of the way we were able to interact with the community despite the language barriers. Seeing how quickly the kids bonded to us meant that they bonded to us for a reason and that means we did something right. The kids were so sad to see us go, as they held our hands and walked down to the bus with us, gave us hugs and even gave Cherin a flower to say goodbye.
Overall, these families made our experience unforgettable one. It not only made us feel lucky for being born into such a privileged position, but made us realize that being it is not money, but happiness that makes us rich.