I still haven’t blogged about the last couple of days in Guatemala, but since I already started posting recipes, it’s too choppy to go back and finish it off. So, I’ll end that journey off by sharing my thoughts and feelings post-Guatemala.
My first day back in Vancouver
Woke up in bed today with a sinking realization. It finally hit me that I’m not in Guatemala anymore. I’m back in Vancouver and surrounded by inches of snow. No more palm trees. No more rolling hills. No more rooster morning wake up calls. No more Sheily. And worst part of all: no more SOS peeps.
I’m a bit late to this awakening, since most people already cried and spiritually said their goodbyes on our last night in Guatemala City.
The whole day, I felt like I was just a shell. Empty and hollow. The essence of me was left behind somewhere on the winding paths in Bueno Vista.
1 week later
After coming home from Guatemala, my perspective on the world and how I want to live my life has changed. Though I was only there for a little more than a week, the people and culture of that country have left have a huge impact on me that I don’t think will ever fade.
I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is having gratitude and carrying that with you through everyday life.
A couple years ago, I started my happiness journey. What triggered it? A really unhappy year as a freshman in university. Before that, I never gave much thought to my own happiness. I think I just ran on automode all the time. My goal was to just study 24/7, get the grades, then get that dream job and start rolling in 6 figures. My definition of life and “happiness” was really narrow. Sure, I guess I could go through life living like that, but will I satisfied? Will I ever reach the self-actualization phase that Abraham Maslow was talking about?
When I embarked on my search, I started a gratitude journal for me to write one liners and reminders about what I’m grateful for.
“Today I’m grateful for… emotional learning experiences.”
“Today I’m grateful for… feeling needed and loved by my family.”
“Today I’m grateful for… the sis and bro”
On shitty days, it’s really hard to find something good to write about. Since I’m a pessimist by nature, I have a tendency to revert to negativity, deconstructing myself in the most harmful way as I critique myself for pages and pages on end.
On good days though, I feel a lot more up lifted after I write.
These observations tell me two things:
1. The gratitude journal is working.
2. I let external circumstances affect me too much. Bad days I’m sad, angry, regretful, and embarrassed. Good days, I’m motivated, inspired and energized.
This is where I feel kind of ashamed. One of the things that I noticed about Guatemalans is that they are much happier people than we are. They have less than what we would deem as “the bare essentials”, yet they are some of the most cheerful people I have ever met. Despite having so little, they were more than welcome to share and give, asking for nothing in return. Those three actions, according to writer Gretchen Rubin, cultivate happiness and contentment.
On our last day in Bueno Vista, we visited a small church that was located just uphill of the school we were volunteering at. The pastor said something so beautiful that my friend, Yuki, and I silently held each other as we cried. In his best English, the pastor said:
Life is about spiritual living conditions, not physical living conditions.
It’s been 4 years since I began my happiness journey and I felt deeply resonated with that quote. I sat there in the front pew, surrounded by a bunch of new friends who are really more like family at this point, and felt this serene energy grow from within me.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I shouldn’t only try to find happiness in one event per day. I should be happy with what I have and find the good in everyday life, not just when I feel like it or when circumstances make it easy for me to do so.
Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnmon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg)
1 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa (any type will do here, it’s just a cookie!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 tbsp freshly grated peeled ginger
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used Roger’s best brown)
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp boiling water
7 ounces semi sweet chocolate chunks (I used 8 ounces, just for good measure 😉 )
1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling
Sift flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves nutmeg and cocoa in a bowl.
Beat butter and ginger on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add brown sugar, beat until combined. Add molasses, beat until combined.
Dissolve baking soda in hot water in a small bowl.
Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
Beat in all of the dissolved baking soda. Then add in the last half of the flour.
Gently fold chocolate into the dough.
Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Remove dough from fridge and roll into balls and cover with granulated sugar.
Bake for 10-12 minutes and let it cool on the baking sheet before moving.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies