August 28, 2007

A 13 Year Old Volunteer

For everyone who was anxiously awaiting Ian's report on volunteering in Guatemala, this is the best you are going to get. Ian is not a fan of writing, and it was painful to even bring up the idea of him writing a report, not to mention the sales job I had to do about how great it would be to have a record of what he thought of the trip.

So we worked a compromise and we are doing this article in an interview format. If there is anything more painful than Ian writing a report, it is me doing an interview. (I think this aspect appealed to Ian, hence his agreement) To prepare for the interview, I re-read 13 Simple Journalist Techniques for Effective Interviews on Brave New Traveler. The techniques that were the most important for me:

#1 Find a good location. I asked Ian where he would be comfortable doing the interview. His first suggestion was Chipotle, when I gave him The Look (all parents and teachers know this look) he said Dino's Gyros would also be acceptable. We settled on my office while his brothers were away.

#2 and #3 Knowing your goals for the interview and writing down questions. My goal was for Ian to speak candidly and intelligently about his experience and what he got out of it. I had no idea what I was going to ask until we started talking. Getting Ian to describe something is like pulling teeth, so I was going to have to ask the same question in five different ways to get a good answer.

#6 Bring a buddy. I loved this idea. Someone else would be there to take some of the weight off my shoulders. I would go one step further and have them help ask questions! They might wonder about things that I didn't think to ask, especially since I was with Ian in Guatemala. It didn't work out, though, and it was just the two of us.

A warning: Ian's English/composition teachers and I have tried to get him to elaborate more when he writes. His idea of a two paragraph essay is usually two very long sentences. Of course, I'm sure those same teachers would have something to say about my interviewing techniques.

What was your favorite part of the trip to Guatemala?
Going to Chichicastenango and going through the market.
What did you like about it?
I liked being around the people and seeing all the colors and what everyone was selling.

What was your least favorite part of the trip?
Working at the homeless shelter.

It felt good to help, but it felt uncomfortable. I felt safe, but it was hard to see grown men living like that.

What volunteer jobs did you like?
I liked building the house.
What did you think of the house you helped build?
It was a nice house that would be a good place to live. I like the color, it's a fun blue. It felt good that I helped build it.
What did you think about our visit to Santa Maria de Jesus?
I felt bad that the moms and girls didn't have good shoes. They were bare foot or only wore flip flops. (the small yard was dirt, and there were horses tied up near the house) It was sad they only got water for 30 minutes every three days. (the cistern for the neighborhood was very small, and there wasn't very much water)

Are you glad you went? Yes

Would you go again? Yes, I would. (the "I would" is Ian's attempt at elaborating)

Any other comments?
It was fun learning some Spanish
(one of my favorite memories is Ian ordering 2 strawberry cheesecake (queso fresa) ice cream cones for us)

I liked staying in the city and I liked how everything was so close. You could walk everywhere. Everything you needed was right there.It was fun going to the grocery store and seeing all the different foods, how some were the same and some were different.

I had fun playing with that parrot in Panajachel.

You read "The Dream Maker", a book about God's Child Project. Was it strange to read about it after you worked on a service team and met some of the people?
No, not really. I think it was a good book. I liked the story about Carlitos.How did this volunteer experience affect you?The thing about me is I try not to dwell on things (this after I try to prompt him with different ideas of community, poverty, helping others, etc.)

So, that's it. If you were waiting for a thought provoking article, it isn't going to happen. Ian has a tendency to experience things without thinking too much about it, but I'm hoping that will change as he gets older. I will say he was a great travel companion, though. He goes with the flow, is open to new experiences, and is easy going and friendly. I would take him again, no question.

Related Posts:
A Means to an End: Building a House
Visiting the Homeless and Malnourished