I’ve been in Guatemala for a week now, and living in my little hut for five days. While I’m adapting well to life in the jungle, I’m continually amazed by how different people live in different parts of the world.
From a foundational needs and safety perspective, there are some major differences between my life here compared to living in San Francisco:
- Here I have to drink, cook and brush my teeth with purified water so that I don’t get sick. There is running water in my house for cleaning, laundry, etc. but there is no guarantee that the water will be available and running when I want to use it.
- While my house and the community have electricity, it, too, can go off at random times. When that happens, all you can do is wait for it to come back on. People here seem pretty laid back about it though, and just continue on with their day.
- A scorpion-free home. In the last two days I have found (and unfortunately killed) three scorpions in my house. Apparently scorpions are as commonplace as houseflies here, since most homes are not sealed tight around windows, doors, roofs, or even walls. Locals are pretty nonchalant about them, although I’m not going to lie: Scorpions creep me out. I’m very grateful for the netting over and around my bed that keeps them out while I’m sleeping!
But there are also some other differences that I think would benefit everyone if they were commonplace.
For starters, people here take time to connect and focus. I don’t know if it’s because of the heat or it’s a cultural thing, but everyone moves more slowly here. Things get done, but just not at the breakneck pace that I’m accustomed to. People also take breaks and make it a point to greet each other – even strangers such as myself – when they see each other. There’s a level of courtesy, genuine concern, and human-to-human connection that is admirable.
And, while I haven’t met everyone in Guatemala, the people that I have met will give you the shirt off their backs, even if that shirt was the only thing they owned. I’ve experienced a number of heartwarming and humbling acts of kindness from a group of people that seem to have truly giving and open hearts:
- A Guatemalan friend took to me the home of some people that were truly destitute. My friend was bringing them some bread to help them out. The bread cost the equivalent of US 50¢, but was beyond the means for this family. Their home was crumbling and inside there were a handful of old mattresses on the dirt floor for the family to sleep on. One corner had some clothing, and there was a hammock strung from the ceiling, with a baby sleeping in it. These people had nothing. And yet, the woman of the house offered to make a meal and share it with us.
- I stopped at a restaurant and admired the flowers in a vase by the register. I asked the owner, who happens to be my landlord here, where he got them, and he told me that they came from a shop about 35 minutes away. I asked if there were any florists in the town (I like to have fresh flowers in the house and don’t have any outside flowers suitable for cutting at my temporary home) and he said no. He must have noticed my disappointed look, because the next day he delivered a bouquet to me, even though he had shared with me that business has been challenging with the restaurant.
- I was talking with a woman while we were watching the sunset. She and I had just met, and somehow the conversation turned to yoga. I asked her where she had gotten her yoga mat, since I had been unsuccessful in finding one. She explained that you really can’t get them in this area, and then invited me to her home where she lent me a spare yoga mat.
I’m grateful for all of the life lessons I’m learning while here and am looking forward to bringing them forward to my life and others I meet.