Between Antigua, San Lucas Toliman and Chajul there has been no shortage of hearing the word ‘hola’ from the un-expectedly friendly locals we have encountered thus far.
For the past 11 days, each day begins on the rugged streets of Chajul that are full of character! Whether it is the chickens running around, the numerous dogs in search of scraps of food, or the trash that seems to never end, it is always an adventure!
Whenever we are out, whether that be in the morning, afternoon, or night the locals are not shy in greeting us in an attempt to catch our attention.
“Dias,” “tardes,”or “noches” with the added “buenos” before to match the current time of day, is heard from more than a handful of people on any given day.
One morning, when we walked no more than ten minutes from our hotel to our next location, I counted seven separate morning greetings that I personally made eye contact with the greeter. This number does not include the greetings that other members of my group might have received as well.
The majority of these greetings are from the local children. Some of the children of Chajul were actually the first to greet us upon our arrival into the city. They jumped playfully onto the back bumper of our bus almost as if they were exclusively escorting us into their community. The children here are consistently seen carelessly running and playing in the streets. Children and toddlers do basically whatever they please, without a parent in sight.
These children who welcome us with so much excitement do not know anything about us besides the fact that we are different from them. We are merely the ‘Gringos’ who are visiting their city.
I bring up these positive greetings to compare to the dwindling tradition of the “howdy” greeting spoken on campus by our student body. As students at A&M, we are connected by the given title, Aggies, however we hardly ever greet each other in passing.
Being solely a visitor here and having no established relationship with the people here in Guatemala, I have noticed that the children are still not too shy to exhibit their friendliness to complete strangers. I then ask myself, “Why are we so hesitant to say “howdy” to our fellow Aggies whom we do have a mutual connection with?”
Photo by Hannah Boyer
Occasionally a group of curious kids will start following our group in passing for their own amusement. Although we are the ones trying to observe and develop an idea that could positively impact the Chajulenses’ lives for the better, we find ourselves to be the ones being observed and end up learning something new in our daily interactions with them.
Ultimately, I find myself expressing the same friendliness and curiosity they have exhibited to me. I hope to continue to express this when I return home and to Aggieland. The experiences I have encountered on this trip from the enthusiastic “hola’s” from the local children, to working with scholarship students of Philanthropiece in our service project with LHI (Limitless Horizons Ixil); I feel as if these positive encounters have contributed significantly to my perception and outlook of life.
I will truly miss every single Chajulense that I have come in contact with, regardless of the lack of communication due to my slowly growing Spanish vocabulary. I really hope to someday return and show the people of Chajul some true Texas hospitality.