Sunday, April 5, 2009

a little changed

Well I've been traveling all over for the last few weeks, off to San Pedro to translate for an HIV Specialist which I'll have to blog about later, then back to the Dominican Republic for my host sister's wedding and renew my visa, among other unexpected events and well, the expected Yogan Fruz visits. But now I'm back in Honduras, spending Semana Santa a little alone and a little in suffering, but that's probably how it should be given the meaning of holy week...until next Sunday of course. It's ironic that this post should follow the last one based on my presentation on gender, but it's interesting to see what revelations 6 weeks can bring. Enjoy.

A Honduran friend recently told me, “Johanna, you are living in Latin America. Things are different here and they will affect who you are.” Perhaps vague, but more than ever do I understand that in a way that makes me want to cry.

The Johanna I knew before I came here was so full of passion and hope and determination to accomplish the things I wanted in life. What were those things? Serve people, empower women, contribute to public health research, live each moment to its fullest…and maybe down along the road have beautiful family. I was a person so focused on my objectives, very strong-spirited shall we say.

But Latin life has taken its toll. My heart, strong and focused and determined, has been changed…shaped…molded to the heart of the Latin woman. What is the heart of the Latin woman? Of course, each is a little different, but at its root are a vulnerable soul and a desire to submit yourself to the people you love, even at the cost of your individual dreams. Is that bad? Can that be limiting? Is it the real definition of loving others? Is that showing respect for others, respect for yourself?

The exact gender roles I came to explore and empower women to overcome in its extreme forms are the exact ones that changed, shaped, and molded my heart to conform in a lot of ways. After a series of events that triggered me to be an emotional mess for 3 consecutive days (and no, it was not that time of the month) have in some form caused the determined, strong-headed, independent Johanna to be somewhat transformed to a vulnerable, emotional, dependent being. That, my friends, is a culture change.

As my dad and I discussed while we were reflecting on this topic, it’s true, my heart has been changed. Perceptions and roles and influences of gender in Latin American society have changed who I am with a woman’s heart. Maybe it will mold back to its original form when I get back to driven, unemotional, independent culture in the States…or maybe I’ll take the good from the Latin heart along with me forever: the desire to serve the people you love and when necessary, let yourself be vulnerable.