There are simple things that Cassaundra Davis will always appreciate: A run through her neighborhood. A cold glass of water. Or running water for that matter. There are a lot of little things she never even thought about that she now sees as gifts.
She has had enough rice and beans for a lifetime, however.
Davis, a senior-to-be on the St. Michael’s College field hockey team, spent the last month in Guatemala. Over the spring semester, she took a course called Social Theories, taught by her academic advisor, Dr. Robert Brenneman, in which she learned about the gang-influenced violence, poverty and religion of Central America.
Admittedly, Davis doesn’t stray far from her surroundings. But when approached about studying the month in Guatemala – stories of violence and poverty and all – she was sold. “What was most appealing was the fact that it was only a month,” said Davis, who returned June 19. “It wasn’t that long, and it was a great opportunity.”
A third-world country, Guatemala borders Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and Mexico and is particularly rife with gang violence and poverty, the latter of which Davis saw plenty. “We drove through neighborhoods where people lived in shacks with dirt floors,” she said. “There were people just sitting in the street, not working. People would come up to us and ask us for money.”
It was about as far away from Burlington, Vermont, or Newburyport, as one can get.
But amidst the region’s problems, she was deeply moved by the sense of family Guatemalans have. Weekends are spent with brothers, sisters, grandparents and cousins. She described her host family, the Polancos of Guatemala City, as middle class and immensely hospitable.
Davis does not speak a word of Spanish, but fortunately Jorge and Karen Polanco knew some English. Communicating was difficult at times, but a bond was evident.