So, one thing I have learned on this trip is that if you really want to get the most out of a traveling experience and really get to know a culture is that you can’t just go for a short period of time. It has taken me this long to finally begin to understand the way things work around here and finally start to get accustomed to it. I have been here for 4 months now and am in the last month and a halfish stretch.
And I’m just now getting it, right before I have to go home.
Monday was a pretty routine day so I’m not going to ramble on about my routine anymore because I think we’ve pretty much figured out what that is by now.
Tuesday was also pretty routine, but I must say that I went to the market for the first time by myself (well, I brought Emilee, but it was the first time I bought things without Isolina’s help). And I think it is worth mentioning that I bought a DVD, 6 apples, 2 carrots, 2 kiwis, and 1/2 pound of strawberries for $4. Yeah. Pretty much don’t ever want to leave this place. We also bought a gym membership for the rest of the time I’ll be here. It’s time to get in shape and get rid of this belly that eating bread all the time has given me.
We also hiked Cerro de La Cruz again and went to the gym for the first time after dinner that night so Tuesday was a successful day in starting out getting as healthy as we can here. I’m glad I have someone to share these things with and help motivate me more. It’s been nice having another person in the house again.
Wednesday got kind of interesting. We were given news that we would be getting 2 more people in the house during the upcoming weekend. One was sent to stay in the room with me and one was sent to stay in the room with Emilee. So there was no more way of hiding that I’d been in a private room since the end of the first 3 weeks I was here. Emilee nor I were too fond of the idea of sharing with a new stranger. Emilee had just arrived and had my old room that I had in the beginning with all her stuff spread everywhere. And of course after 4 months of having my own room, sharing one sounds impossible.
Well, I ended up stressing all day and wondering how we could work our way around this because apparently the family doesn’t get paid any differently even if we pay for a private room (BS!) so it seemed silly that if there were only going to be 4 people in the house and there are 4 rooms that we can’t all have our own room, but this is the way the rules are.
And, I stressed for nothing. Instead of waiting for the weekend, it sounded like Máximo was going to come check up on us and it made us nervous that she would be in trouble soon for letting me have my own room this whole time so we quickly made the decision to move everything that night into Emilee’s room and that we’d be roommates. So lesson learned… Don’t worry over things you have no control over. Once I got moved in and settled, I forgot all about the problems of sharing a room. It is quite tight since we are now in my old room that I had in the beginning of the trip together (Remember me wondering how 2 people could possibly fit in there with all their stuff?), but we figured it out and now I will have a roomie the rest of my trip! I’m glad I got to switch in with Emilee over a new person however.
And I am thankful that I got to have that private room for as long as I did without paying an extra price for it. It was really nice to be able to have all that space that I needed for 3.5 months and it allowed me to learn what I needed and didn’t need so I could pack up stuff easier to fit in with Emilee. I got a little spoiled being in there, but I was over it within a day because it’s nothing worth fussing over. Better to be thankful that my roommate is awesome.
Thursday was Halloween. After me and Emilee had our gym trip in the morning, we met up with her friend Sari from the volunteer house and José (different José), a guy that works at their project. We went to a cafe on the other side of town that gave out free nummies for Halloween. That night I went out with Emilee and we walked around and checked out a few places waiting to hear from her friends.
We ended up at Fridas to wait on Kenny and ran into Francisco there, who quickly took an attraction to Emilee. Here we go again, I thought. Fortunately, she’s had enough warnings from enough people not to fall in love with anyone here like I naively did in the beginning! Flings, yes. Love, no. Or faithful love, anyways.
After Kenny arrived, we spent the rest of the time at Whiskey Den with him and Emilee’s volunteer friends. It was fun seeing all the different costumes that night, but it ended up not being as exciting as a night as I thought because we didn’t get to see as many people as I had hoped nor do much but sit around in our costumes.
Friday was the Día de Los Santos here and it’s a tradition for them to have a huge kite festival in celebration. There was one in Sumpango and one in Santiago and we heard that Sumpango had less crowds so we decided to go there. The kite festival is not quite what you think. Yes, they do fly some of the kites, but some of them are much too large to fly. It’s more like works of art to admire and a few kites to cheer on as they try to launch some of the “smaller” ones. They ranged from about 15-40 feet tall and appeared to be made of tissue paper and bamboo. It was absolutely incredible the talent that must go into making these. They are all made by the indigenous people and represent different areas of concern or something else (some it was hard to see what was the point, some were like “End Violence” etc.). It was beautiful.
I also tried some street food for the first time there. I figured it couldn’t be bad to eat at a Festival since the food would be turning over quickly and they probably need to be a little more sanitary at a festival than they would be in the street anyways. I also only tried things that were hot or fried (of course, me and fried stuff). I tried grilled corn and some fried thing with honey and donut hole looking things. All of it was unfortunately not as tasty as presumed, but the environment and excitement of trying street food made up for the difference in flavor. I think their corn is different than ours in the states. I’ve never had corn on the cob here that is like corn in the states. It has less flavor and kernelier kernels, if you can understand what I mean.
That lasted most of the day, but we came home for dinner and got some things done before we got invited out dancing with Francisco and a friend of his. I’m not too much of a fan of being a third wheel, nor a wheel that has a fourth wheel that it doesn’t want anything to do with. Francisco was SO nice (hear my sarcasm?) to bring me a friend since I knew he just wanted to hang out (make out) with my friend, but I am not really into meeting someone and making out with them right away so that was an interesting night. It put me in somewhat of a bad mood, as I do love kissing and would have loved to kiss someone, but I just can’t get my mind to be okay with the idea of kissing someone I just met and was not attracted to. Sorry, Carlito.
Saturday, my new friend Mihail (I may have mentioned him in the post where we all went to play cards one night with Kenny and Edgar in Whiskey Den) invited me to come watch a movie at his place. We never ended up making it to the movie because we went to the market first and then got smoothies and then couldn’t stop talking long enough to begin the movie haha. This is the first time I’ve ever been invited to hang out in a house from someone who just wanted to hang out. Their culture doesn’t really have friends over like we do in the US. I can’t get used to it. So this day was exactly what I needed. I’ve missed group hang outs. I’ve missed hanging out with guys without people assuming something’s going on. I’ve missed hanging out at houses instead of spending money to go out. It was perfect.
Mihail helped me out a lot because I had had a stressful week and had a lot of things on my mind. I’ve been stressing over a guy I like and stressing over Emilee and hoping that she’s smart enough not to fall in love with Francisco (It’s hard! They’re charming as hell and when you’re as innocent as I am, it’s really hard until you do it and get hurt and realize what it really was) because I don’t want to see her hurt like I was. So Mihail and I had a long talk and he let me talk out all my problems and informed me on how the culture really works here and encouraged me to not worry about things and told me how I need to respond to this guy that I like if I want him to come see me and that if he doesn’t see me, it’s simply not meant to be. Lots of things, but whatever he did cleared my mind more than it’s ever been cleared on my entire trip.
We hung out the whole day and I only went home for dinner before I went back out to hang out with him and watch Kenny and Edgar play guitar at Kafka. We decided that this day helped me so much because lacking a really good friend and a shoulder to let out all your stress on can really make a person go crazy. I never have been a craver of kissing, as much as I love it when it happens. But being here in this culture where it’s so common and getting kissed so much and making so many mistakes in the beginning has literally made me crave them. In the States, I can go months on end, just enjoying my life and hanging with friends and not really thinking much about it. But I was going crazy after only 3 weeks of no kissing?? But after I had a day of just chilling (NOT KISSING!) with a really awesome friend, I felt like I could start again in my quest to conquer the world.
I felt so fresh in my mind that I actually agreed to spend a day with people that I never thought I’d be able to hang out with again. I’ve had so many people telling me to avoid such and such people because of what they did to me. I also never thought I would never hang out with José again because of all the people judging him and telling me not to and because he was inviting the girl that he made out with in front of me one night a month or so ago when I still wasn’t over him. But I agreed to go! Without the slightest doubt that I wouldn’t have fun!
And away we went. Saturday, I brought Emilee and Mihail and my guacamole to meet up with not only José and the girl that he made out with in front of me to piss me off one night, Grace, but Francisco who Emilee had been trying to avoid. AND the guy that Francisco brought for me the other night when we went out dancing (Carlito) and 2 swiss girls I hadn’t met. And it was absolutely one of the best days I’ve ever had in Guatemala. Just a group of kids having a cook out by some swimming pools, talking, joking around, laughing, and listening to music. With all the people I never thought I could see without having some bitter feelings. Not a single bitter feeling came up at all for me. The day was perfect. Normal. Without drama. What I had been waiting on my whole trip to have with people. Small group hang outs = yes, please. I even hung out with José afterwards because everyone else had to go home and we were bored so we went out to Punto Cero to watch TV without any emotional problems whatsoever (although I’m sure he was rather disappointed I still refuse to kiss him haha).
But thank God so much for my day with Mihail the day before. I realized a true friend to count on was really what I was lacking here. Everyone kind of just comes and goes here and I have yet to encounter someone who seems to really care when you spill out your feelings and stresses. And I could see the grating that this culture has on your mind. It makes you kind of crazy in the head. Because there’s no trust. And it made me feel really bad for the culture.
I now 100% feel like I understand completely now. And now I can move on to loving people and being a true friend to people that make these mistakes constantly in their every day life. I’ve only been here 4 months, but the culture was already beginning to take over me. Craving kisses to the point where I actually had to sit there and consider if I wanted to kiss someone I just met that I wasn’t attracted to? That’s not like me at all. But I realized after my day with Mihail that it’s hard to live here. People don’t have the trust like the States. They don’t really have group hangouts and if you hang out with a guy (and you’re a girl), people automatically assume that you like them and that you’ve already kissed. They move everything too fast and don’t put in their real feelings to things because they close off their hearts to falling in real love.
Also, it seems to be well-known here that you can’t fall in love with someone here unless you have sex? I was actually made fun of for falling for José because we didn’t sleep together. How nuts is that? You’re supposed to fall in love THEN have sex. Not figure it out afterwards! Additionally, guys are allowed to have as many girls as they want and because the girls need the guys for support, a lot of times they can’t do much about it and stand up for themselves if their husband goes off with other women. It’s not a big deal if you kiss someone even if you have a girlfriend and this is just how the culture is. It’s “normal.” I’m not saying that the culture is in it’s right, but talking to Mihail made me think about it.. If you are used to something being a certain way your whole life and watched it with your parents and everyone around you, how hard is it to break out of the spell?
I deep down disagree with some things that I was raised with (although, I definitely was raised VERY well in comparison to some stories I’ve heard), but I still struggle fighting the ties of “what you’ve known your whole life.” So if this is what these people have known their whole life, especially when they don’t get much opportunities to travel and see that it’s NOT this way all over the world, imagine how hard it must be for them to even IMAGINE that there’s anything different. And that realization has somehow made it easier to accept them and be their friend. I don’t want anything to do with them relationship-wise because I would never be able to trust them, but that doesn’t mean I have to leave them and not be their friends. And I actually felt like Sunday I was actually able to love them without any awkward feelings of “fakeness” (I had been being kind of fake nice for a while with José because I was bitter but still felt I should be his friend, but all of this has dissipated and I literally feel like I love them as if they had treated me nicely this whole time. It is quite the strangest revelation I think I’ve ever experienced, but I kind of love it. Because I think everyone needs to be loved whether they “deserve” it or not!)
JUDGE NOT LEST YOU ALSO BE JUDGED! (not saying I don’t screw this one up pretty well sometimes, but I’m definitely learning the value of not judging and just loving people in spite of their errors and the beauty of forgiving people and ignoring the judgment of others) I’m learning this lesson very well on this trip and I’m also building confidence. In the fact that I am still here and still happy after everything and am happy to the point where I could hang out with people who treated my badly without any feelings of being upset and I’m beginning to adapt to the market and everything, I have learned that I think I could adapt to living almost anywhere, if given enough time. Something I never thought possible for me.
Travel, I cannot support the idea enough. Get off your couch, book your plane ticket, and figure yourself out already!