Oh, the tortillas! I think I speak for everyone in our group when I say we ate A LOT of tortillas while in Guatemala. Literally every meal, with an exception of maybe two or three, we were served tortillas. If there was a huge bowl with a towel over the top and tucked in the sides, you knew exactly what was in there—tortillas! Don’t get me wrong, I loved them. I loved them so much that I ate at least eight with each meal. That’s right, at least 24 tortillas a day! Well, this extremely unhealthy habit slowly started to dwindle as I was only eating about four with each meal about midway through our stay in Guatemala. By the 7th day, two or three was all I could eat. By the 9th day, I was done! No more tortillas for Jackie.
This brings me to a very interesting thought, though. The people of Chajul eat tortillas every single day, sometimes that’s all they eat in addition to a little chili. Can you imagine? It was absolutely mind blowing to me, and still is, that they live off very little food and the food they do eat has little to no nutritional value at all. Hence as to why malnutrition is very common in Chajul and various other parts of Guatemala.
In addition to the lack of food, the people of Chajul had adobe homes with dirt floors and holes in the roof. Very few families have electricity and hot water was generally unheard of unless boiled in a pot on top of a wood-burning fire. They don’t use a washer and dryer to clean their clothes like we do. Instead, the women go to the river and wash the clothes by hand and then hang them or throw them on top of the roof to dry.
Seeing how the people of Chajul live with my own eyes was incomparable to what I could ever learn in a classroom or read in a textbook. I got to experience first-hand what it’s like to live without things I often take for granted such as hot water, clean clothes, an abundance of food, a vehicle, internet, my education and most importantly, my freedom and access to unlimited opportunities. The opportunities I have in America are endless and I am so very fortunate to be able to go to school and earn an education past the sixth grade unlike those in Chajul.
Most importantly, I learned what it means to have unconditional happiness. One image I can’t get out of my head, even if I tried, are all of the happy children of Chajul. No matter how dirty their clothes were or how hungry they may have been, they ALWAYS had a sweet, innocent smile on their faces and NEVER missed an opportunity to say “hola!” to us gringos! I learned so much from those children. No matter the circumstances, they were all so happy and full of life. I think we could all use a little bit of unconditional happiness that these children possess, don’t you think?
In all, I learned so much more than I could ever imagine learning in Guatemala for just ten days. I learned that we should never take anything for granted. We should never wish for things we don’t have, but instead be thankful for the thirngs we do have and always count our blessings, because somewhere in this world, there’s someone living without.