Recently, I had the privilege to go on a week-long trip to Guatemala. My church sponsors a school there called Colegio Mark, in a small town called Cantel. I spent the week helping out in the makeshift pharmacy at the school, and helping clean teeth in a dental clinic run by my mother.
Stepping off the plane, you experience a totally revitalizing culture immersion. The humidity and high temperature (90 degrees F) hit me like a brick, considering the wind and rain were still raging back home in Kansas City. Everywhere we went, people were speaking Spanish, and some women were even dressed in their traditional huipil (blouse) and skirt made from woven fabrics. It was Semana Santa (Holy Week), the week leading up to Easter, so there were many parades with children dressed up in costumes and blowing on trumpets in the streets. To get to Cantel, we first drove down in the lowlands of Guatemala. Here, you can see farmers harvesting sugarcane, small tiendas, and houses the size of my bedroom with laundry hanging out to dry. As we drove into the mountains, we passed a town called Zunil that had a vibrantly colored cemetery. Each tomb was above ground, and painted turquoise, yellow, bright orange, or pink. Everywhere we drove, the vegetation was lush, and the people were beautiful.
My favorite part of the trip was the chance I had to connect with the people.Most tourists stay in the big cities, and never see the heart of the Maya Indian or Spanish culture found in the small towns of Guatemala. I had a small grasp of the Spanish language, so I would occasionally talk and play with the children in the medical clinic. “Quieres un globo?” (Do you want a balloon?) was my favorite thing to say to the children because when you gave them a balloon, their faces would light up like a city on a hill at night, and they would become your friends forever. The parents that came with their children were so gracious and kind-hearted, thanking us for even the smallest things we did for them.It was truly a learning experience seeing the people had very little, yet were still so happy. Many had no running water, electricity, or telephone, and lived in small houses with dirt floors. Still, they loved being alive and woke up each day, maybe knowing they would face some hardships that day, yet remained positive, loving, and caring. The heart and nature of the people was captivating, refreshing, and charismatic.
My trip to Guatemala taught me that people really could live without material things. The people showed that you could be happy even if you had very little. They built up friendships, strong family ties, and caring relationships instead of building up material gains. The loving heart of the people truly changed my outlook on life, and demonstrated a truly satisfying way to live.
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