Twenty-six days. Six countries. Countless memories. Today I turned 20. Though I’m sitting in the Nassau, Bahamas airport and I’ll be flying home all day, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to say goodbye to my teenage years.
About to board but more posts pending! (including video and photo, i promise)
In every country weve visited, theres been an ongoing theme of beauty masked by corruption. Though I noticed it in other countries (aside from Paradise Costa Rica), it hit me most in Guatemala.
In my poli sci class, we learned Guatemala is the poorest and probably the most dangerous country in Central America. The country has HALF the GDP of the average Central American economy, not to mention 56 percent live bellow the poverty line and 43 percent of children are chronically malnourished. There is a poor infrastructure, lack of skilled workers, plethora of gangs and of course, governmental corruption. With high levels of femicide (the killing of women by men with no repercussions) and child kidnappings, no one is ever really safe, not even tourists. I was given the opportunity to experience the country as both the tourist and a local.
On the first day, I went on a trip with SAS people to an indigenous village deep in the heart of the mountains. Eight families live in the village, which has one school, a church, six houses, a restaurant and hotel (the tourists help the village generate income). When we got there, they greeted us with a traditional Mayan dance and ritual and invited us to explore their village. Most of us ventured to the school. There, we handed out candy and school supplies and then drew with them. The kids were pretty shy and reluctant to talk but would always say gracias and smile appreciatively. Some SASers played soccer with the kids and others got the village tour from guides. It was a nice glimpse at how indigenous people survive without things we deem necessities. Even now, Im sitting here typing on my laptop and next to me is my iPhone and camera. In the village, all they need are the clothes on their back, a roof over their heads (literally, a roof not necessarily a HOME) and each other to get by.
The next day was a complete counter to my local experience. I went on a trip to Amatique Bay Resort with a bunch of SAS people. Yes, a resort. While we were waiting for a water taxi, one of the locals asked where we were headed. When we told him he said, Ah nice place but you wont see any Guatemalans there. And naturally, we didnt. The resort was amazing and fun, so dont get me wrong when I talk about it in a negative way, I truly enjoy every minute of this trip. But the resort was in no way, shape or form cultured. I realized then how tourism, though contributes to the bulk of these countries economies, also hurts the culture itself. People think they are going to Guatemala and experiencing its culture because they stay at a luxury resort?
After the resort trip, a few of us decided to go into the city to experience the country itself rather than just a resort. So we headed to the waterfalls, which are famous in Guatemala because the people use it for water supply, bathing and swimming. Our cab driver took us to this mountain area where there were little waterfalls to swim in. Locals in the community were there as well, some swimming others just hanging out. Most of them looked at us weirdly because the waterfalls are more of a local secret, but they went on swimming, as did we. It was gorgeous. Our cab driver then took us to the market to pick up fresh mangos for the drive back. At the market, there were tables with everything from clothes to antibiotics (not prescribed, of course).
Anyway, we got bags of mangos for $1 each and headed back to the boat. Ill post about Belize tomorrow probably because I have a final that I must study for before I can blog again! Cant believe there are only three days left on this boat I dont want it to end.