The popular perception is that Guatemala is a thieving, dangerous, and extremely poor country. Turns out that a tourist will have a great experience, as long as you have an experienced guide, stay in a group, and you are careful without being just plain stupid. I didn’t know how hard it would be to get information, research, and/or evidence in Guatemala, but I found out that it was surprisingly easy. For the most part, there are translators and meetings that are already set up for us by our guide to address questions or concerns. The culture and people are also very friendly and patient with you when you have a question or if you are just trying to communicate.
As I observed, the activities in the day went by very slow because of their culture. This was very relaxing and less stressful, which was a sweet reminder of my lifestyle in the Texas country when living at my ranch. Both are very similar in the pace of the day. Everything takes time, and half of the day will be just visiting with others. This is extremely helpful when doing a project or study in Guatemala. If directions or questions are needed, then the other person will immediately stop whatever they are doing and give you their undivided attention, including a complete answer. They do not get impatient if you are struggling to communicate in Spanish, but they will also work with you in order that both parties reach an understanding. In the end, both parties are smiling and feel a sense of achievement.
In Guatemala, everything is about building relationships and working with others. If you are able to build a relationship or connection with someone, you can easily get connected with many others. For example, our amazing driver on the “Juancho Expedicion” got us connected with a boat driver, and he also participated in helping us ask questions to key individuals such as the head persons of the urban water development team.
Lastly, Guatemalans are very open and honest to answer your questions, or help point you in the right direction. They are totally fine with us taking pictures, though it is polite to ask ahead.
During my experience in Guatemala, not one of my questions was not answered! They are very hospitable and will let you see and inspect the things of interest in your project. My team was able to inspect latrines and water supply of a school with nothing hidden or tidied up. This brings a thorough research and hard evidence of what is actually in place and going on. Successfully, we made a last-minute appointment with the head governmental official in charge of the water development and contamination in the Lake Atitlan.
I am blown away by the hospitality and cooperation that the Guatemalans have shown. I am very excited about the rest of the time my team has in Guatemala and for those who will come in the future! It is a wonderful experience that comes very rarely. Thanks and Gig’em!
Charlie Hurdt (formally known as Carlos)