In Guatemala, as I sat on the balcony of the third floor of our hotel, looking down onto the city of Chajul I noticed so much within so little. I could see the mountains and how they met the misty horizon. I easily realized how our hotel was probably the tallest building besides the church and the mayor’s home. I heard so many different sounds built up on top of each other, yet they weren’t hard to identify. I could hear the man trying to sell shoes at a very cheap price “Barratos! Barratos! Zapatos!”, the faint Mexican music coming from the fair, the kids giggling over a single “hola” from one of my peers, the dogs barking across the town, and the people conversing and buying and selling in the market. I could smell the corn, the smoke embedded in my clothing, the animals, the nature, and my recently washed hair that was beginning to fade from a fruity smell to a very smoky one that I had learned to adapt to, during my week in Chajul.
At times, it is hard to face someone else’s reality. Phones, internet, tablets, apps are all fine and dandy here, but living without them and them not being a need was very uplifting. It allowed me to see beyond my palms and experience the world from a different perspective.
Seeing the butcher house for the first time, was quite astonishing. They do it all out in the open, and those cows are all lined up to serve their destiny. I remember seeing a little girl standing next to a man at the door way of the building as things got done. I would have been too afraid and disgusted as a child to even dare get near the dripping blood. Watching the pipe run down the stream into the river was what scared me the most. That is the water they drink, bath, and wash with. Luckily, the water that we were provided with was filtered water and I can only imagine the few families who can even afford to own a filter of their own. They most likely don’t find a need for it, since their bodies have become adjusted and immune to their surroundings. The dogs that stood around waiting for a few scraps was saddening, but was a direct reflection of the malnutrition and hunger within the people.
The sense of culture was seen and felt everywhere. It affected so many aspects, whether it be the clothing, the homes, the gestures, the habits, the politics, and education. The woman wore their traditional wear so proudly (or oppressively, although they claimed it was a proud thing), and seeing the teenage girls, who helped us out in the garden, wear it even then, was a perfect example. The stories we heard about how politics affect the employment or unemployment on those who vote favorably were eye-opening. The buses that went from city to city, were so decoratively adorned. The owners took pride in what was considered their profession. The fact that the children had school days off due to the yearly fair (which happened to be there the week we went to Chajul). Even, the mountains they hike to simply have a religious ritual. It all is so strong, but is it something that needs to change for the better of the community? Will foreigners be the cause of that change? Will it be a positive outcome?
I tend to complain about a potholes here in the streets of College Station, but realizing that all they do is walk up and down hills and through mountains with sacks full of corn or wood makes me truly appreciate what I have. But, in the end, one man’s burden is another man’s everyday task.