from Amy McMurchie
I had a conversation once with a friend about how there aren’t enough words in the English language to express every single emotion you feel. Maybe that’s why it’s been so hard for me to sit down and write about my experiences in Guatemala: words don’t do my experiences justice. To best describe Guatemala, I will call it a bombarding of emotions. In just one day, I would go from being a sloppy bucket of tears after seeing the conditions of a hospital to laughing my ass off with my JUNTOS peers.
I’ll never be able to fully convey everything I learned in Guatemala to myself or anyone else. But maybe that’s not what’s important. Accounting and being able to testify for everything you learned has never really been my strong suit anyways (lord knows I’ve been in school far too long). What’s important is that I remember the feelings I had while I was in Guatemala: every single emotion. Maybe our feelings can teach us more than our words can.
It’s important I remember how I felt when I was dancing in front of a group of HIV positive children: sad that I couldn’t take away every single ounce of pain for them for the rest of their lives. Angry that they were dealt a rotten hand and that their community rejected them out of fear for contracting a disease. Hopeful that I could take them out of their reality for just a few minutes by dancing for them.
It’s important I remember how I felt when I was on riding the bus with my fellow JUNTOS members looking at the beautiful views of Guatemala: A true feeling of calm. The mountains of Guatemala acted as a blanket for me, shielding away any stress I had for my future as a dancer. Pure happiness because I could be surrounded by some of my very best friends and other people that share my passions. And I have to admit; a little bit of fear due to the general lack of traffic laws Guatemala seems to have.
It’s important I remember how I felt while teaching a workshop to salsa dancers in Xela: Pure enjoyment while teaching them choreography to “We Found Love” by Rihanna and dancing it with them. A powerful feeling I had that you can connect to another person solely by dancing with them. And the incredible feeling you get when you are teaching someone who is incredibly eager to learn.
It’s important to remember how I felt when I realized I tend to take things for granted. There’s the basic things like the fact that I have my health, I have enough food to eat and shelter over my head. But I have even more than the basics: I have awesome, 100% supportive parents, an incredible sister, great friends both in Minneapolis and San Francisco and I’ve been given the opportunity to pursue something I am passionate about. I noticed during the months before leaving for Guatemala I felt unhappy with everything: I was mad I wasn’t getting what I wanted from dance, I got snappy with my parents for no real reason, I felt as if I was doing more for my friends than they were for me, etc. (embarrassingly enough, the list could go on for much longer). Guatemala was one big old REALITY CHECK: Not everything is about me. Though I may be disappointed at times, I have an incredible life. It’s important to remember the incredible opportunities I have been given. Since Guatemala, every morning I give thanks to all I have been given. It reminds me I should take nothing for granted, because I have been blessed with so much.
It’s probably most important to remember how I felt when I realized that art and dance really do matter. This occurred after performing in a hospital in Xela. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous to perform for an audience in all of my life. I felt so much for the people in this hospital and I was nervous I would disappoint them. But all of a sudden, while dancing for them, I felt as if dancing was the only thing I was ever meant to do in all of my life. It was easier than breathing. Dancing was a way I could share the depths of my soul. It was a way for me to help people who were in pain or struggling. It was a way to connect to someone on a deeply personal level. Art and dance creates a world that is neither the artists nor the viewer’s world, but is a world that is shared. I suppose you could say it puts people onto an equal playing field.
With this I’ll say a few final words: Remember the power of art. Remember that dance can show you someone’s soul. Remember that connection to people is what life is really about. Remember that art and dance can connect people and take away their pain for a little while. Remember that it’s okay to feel things you may not be able to explain. Remember that everyone likes to shake their butt and dance to Rihanna every once in a while.
Sorry, that might have been more than a few words. But just a few more: It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you give. I’m here to give dance. Thank you Guatemala.