Let’s start off with the differences between Chajul and Panachajel. In Panachajel, I am able to take hot showers instead of avoiding the ice cold showers at all costs in Chajul. In Panachajel, I am able to walk the streets without having to watch where my feet land, while in Chajul it was a necessary precaution unless you wanted to end up with your shoe crevices filled with excrement. In Panachajel the streets are even and lined with touristy shops filled with colorful souvenirs compared to the Chajul market which included raw chicken, fresh fruit, and an abundance of flies. Although there are many amazing things about Panachajel and despite the many tourists and locals roaming around, I feel emptiness and longing for Chajul.
No matter where I turned in Chajul I would see a dozen smiling faces and was greeted by holas from every neighborhood kid who happened to be outside at the moment. The women and girls were dressed in their traditional skirts and often seen at the pilas (their version of a washing machine done by hand) or trying to sell some of their weavings. The corn tortillas were always fresh and in abundance, the students always ready to learn, and Philanthropiece and Limitless Horizons always cooking up a new program or activity. This is why I loved Chajul. Chajul has a culture that is unshakeable (sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing), and a community that is willing to take matters into their own hands to protect their town. The rawness of Chajul made others in the group ready to leave when the time came, but as for myself, I was wishing I could spend another week, month, or year residing and living among side these amazing people. Having the opportunity to learn about these people’s struggles, experience their daily life, and spending quality time with them through dancing, reading, and singing made me become attached to these people and the way they live. Chajul and its people inspired and kindled a passion in me. I not only want to continue helping them on the problems they face, but also continue to learn from the perseverance and ambition that so many of them have. On the way out of Chajul and on the way to Panachajel I could not help but daydream about the day I will be able to return to Chajul.
A city like Panachajel is great, but it’s not Chajul. It is configured and molded into a destination that would please those who came from all over the world to see the beautiful Guatemala instead of the real Guatemala. It is a place where the locals are ready to sell, not to learn, teach and expand. Personally I would take a cultured, raw town like Chajul over a tourist town any day, but obviously my opinion is a bit biased.