Me, not so much.
In fact, very little.
As in, I had to repeat the class because I failed it the first semester.
A big fat D on my report card. I cried for days.
I hated Latin class. I didn't understand it, not just in a small way but so much so that I truly thought something was wrong with me. I was terrified each and every day of Mr. Abner's class.
Fast forward to my first trip to Guatemala, in the year 2000. Exactly 25 years after my high school graduation the ball of fear in my stomach felt just like when I had to stand up in front of Latin classmates and recite words I barely understood.
But this time it wasn't just the language issues, it was bugs and heat and the responsibility of caring for pediatric patients without my usual nursing tools. I was 2,000 miles from home, working with people I had never met in a country I wasn't sure I wanted to be in and just like in Latin class, I was being pushed to my limits, both physically and emotionally. The food was strange (black beans for breakfast...really?), I didn't speak Spanish and worse, everyone else on the team seemed just fine. Once again, I was an odd duckling in a pond of gloriously blissful swans who were happily volunteering their week away while I lost weight and sleep. I was frozen in fear, determined that if I every made it home to the states, I would NEVER, EVER go back to Guatemala.
|Soothing patients who have waited hours in line|
|Telling a mother of a cleft baby that her infant is too sick for surgery|
|Working in 100 degree operating rooms|
|Trying to stay organized in chaotic conditions|
|Pushing through the neck and back pain so that more dental patients can get relief|
|Standing in sorrow with desperate mothers|
I struggled through Latin class, barely making it out with a passing grade. I'm still challenged each time I go to Guatemala as are most of our COTA volunteers. There are always certain patients that are the hallmark of our week there, the ones that stand out, who we were meant to be there for. The ones that are difficult, and who we learn the most from.
|Performing surgery on scared children|
Life has come full circle. I use Latin word derivatives often in my medical work, and I've come to value Mr. Abner and all he taught me, about not just language, but fortitude and overcoming fear. Our Children of the Americas colleagues keep going to Guatemala: Henry has flown over 60 trips, Rosemary over 25, I just finished my 18th.
Each time we go, we know we will be overcome for a moment or a day, and that some particular patient will create within us the need to reach deeper than we thought we could.
Which of course, is one of the best reasons to go.
(The name of the well-meaning Latin teacher has been changed to protect his reputation)