A huge part of our experience here these past two weeks has been immersing ourselves in and trying to learn from and about la cultura aquí en Puebla. Through this process, we hope to gain a better understanding of Mexico and its people that we can llevar con nosotros a los Estados Unidos.
In order to best understand and learn from what we are seeing and hearing, creo yo, tenemos que hacer el esfuerzo para intentar a ver por los ojos de la gente Mexicana. However, I am finding that this is much easier said than done. Es bien difícil to put aside our American lens that colors how we view our surroundings and just see things as they are.
Un momento en que me di cuenta de eso fue cuando estaba en mi pasantía en una clínica de salud aquí en Puebla. Social workers in the Clinic primarily do papeleo, paperwork, something we weren’t really aware of until we showed up for our first day of our mini-practicum. Since most of what social work at the clinic entails is filling out forms and filing referrals with patient records, the four of us students in the practicum often found ourselves with a lot of downtime. With only one record book that all referrals are entered into by hand and six of us in the office, it got a little crowded when we all tried to learn and/or help.
En nuestro segundo día de la pasantía, there didn’t seem to be much for us to do, and we didn’t want Lulu y Laura, las trabajadoras sociales, to feel like they had to find things for us to do or entertain us – we didn’t want to interfere or be a bother. So while one student was learning how to input las referencias, the referrals, into the record book, the other three of us sat and talked in the office. Al principio, nos sentimos que deberíamos estar haciendo algo. We talked about feeling useless or unhelpful because we weren’t doing anything and seemingly there wasn’t anything for us to do. We voiced frustration that we weren’t going to get anything out of this pasantía.
As the conversation progressed, however, we began to move beyond our relatively insignificant quejas and discuss temas más profundos. We began to talk about social work, our passions and goals for our careers, our views on various social issues enfrentando a la cultura Estado Unidense, and many other topics. We also listened to Laura and Lulu talk both to each other and to us about themselves and their work. And somewhere along the way I came to realize that our earlier complaint that we were getting nothing out of this mini-internship had been rendered invalid.
To me, this line of thought that because we weren’t actively doing something our time spent at the clinic wasn’t valuable is such an American mentality. With so much focus on efficiency, productivity, and multi-tasking in American culture, sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on doing – on actions that yield a concrete product – and forget about the inherent value of just being.
Sometimes we need to just slow down. We move so fast these days that in those rare moments when we find ourselves free from the hundreds of tareas y quehaceres that usually absorb our time we don’t know what to do with ourselves; we feel as though we should be doing something, spending our time wisely. But I’ve been learning there’s a lot to be said for slowing down, sitting back, observing, and absorbing. I learned so much during this one day at la Clínica: I got to know so much more about mis compañeras, sus perspectivas y pasiones, through our casual conversations than I had during previous classes or group discussions; I learned about the dynamics of the Clinic and how it functions, just by sitting in the office all morning and listening to interactions amongst the staff; I learned so much about the role of social workers in the Clinic by conversing with Lulu and Laura and hearing them talk to each other about their work; and by watching Laura and Lulu complete their paperwork and asking questions, I learned innumerable new vocabulary terms related to the medical field, tanto en inglés como en español. And all of this has value.
Blog posted by Kayla Flaherty-Dawson, GSSW Latino/a Certificate Student, University of Denver