by Irene Ameena – Follow @irenea99
At school, I loved reading aloud. My hand shot up in the air at every opportunity to do so. But, for some reason, the words that I felt I had mastered sounded different coming out of other students’ mouths. I had thought that “comfortable” was four syllables long, pronounced com-for-table, but the other students squeezed and twisted the word so it was barely three syllables long. Comfta-ble. Where did the “r” go, I wondered?
[Read Related: Indian vs. American: Dealing With a Cultural Identity Crisis]
But something changed on my volunteer trip to a women’s health camp in Guatemala. Communities of ladies with scarred, deep brown skin, bonded by their culture and customs. Women in hand-stitched cortes and huipiles threw their heads back and laughed as their friends joked loudly in Spanish, wicker baskets atop their heads and babies swaddled on their backs. They may have been receiving healthcare for the first time in their lives, but they found laughter in the smallest situations. My accented Spanish especially was a source of great humor to them! Culture had (ostensibly) been the source of my shame and discomfort, but for these women, it was appreciated and ingrained into their daily lives. My ideas of home, and identity, and culture, began to change. I cleared the rust out of my throat and straightened my back.