The people sharing our patio at the Eco Lodge on Lago de Atitlan were five Peace Corps Volunteers from El Salvador on vacation.
Four actually. As it turned out one was a Volunteer’s boyfriend who used to sell glass pipes in Humbolt County, California, who was now living with his girlfriend in her village in central El Salvador.
“Peace Corps doesn’t know. I sort of hide him,” she laughed. There were several bottles of wine going around but no glasses.
“I’m starting to teach English at the Community Center,” the boyfriend explained. “It’s rad. She works at the village’s health department. We’re the movers and shakers down there. Hobnobbing with the mayor and shit. We’re like a third world power couple.”
“Ah Jesus,” another Volunteer laughed. Then someone dropped a bottle of wine and the neck broke off.
“So why did you decide to join?” One of our group, we were just there on vacation, asked while someone else tended to the mess.
The Volunteers glanced at one another like, Who wants to take it? Like they have been asked this question one million times before.
“A quote,” the girlfriend started, “on a soup kitchen wall I read one time when I was working for my church. It went, If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then lets work together.”
“That’s nice, Carly,” another Volunteer said. “You never told me that before.”
She tilted her head to the side and shrugged her shoulders. The boyfriend was rolling a joint on a travel guide.
I was watching him roll the joint. I was wondering if the girlfriend would still believe in that quote in a few years when she was finished with the Peace Corps and working some job in America. I was wondering when we think we believe in something, does that automatically mean we think we will believe in it forever? And if we believe in something forever does that mean we have not changed?
Generally I was jealous of them, the Peace Corps Volunteers. And I was wondering what had changed in me over these last few years that had made me roll my eyes, a little bit, when she said that.