Culture Shock! :Guatemala Part 2

“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”  (Luke 14:23, ESV)

It was the middle of the day when we disembarked the plane that had transported us from Miami to Guatemala International Airport. I was quite surprised by what I saw—or more what I didn’t see. The airport wasn’t bustling like MSP when I started my journey at 4:30 am. There were no crowds. I noticed immediately that there was no air conditioning.

As we made it to the airport exit, where we were scheduled to meet our Casas por Cristo contact, I noticed the distinct smell of body odor. Please, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t passing judgment. It was hot, and I’m certain that I was contributing to the not-so-fresh bouquet. It was different, however, from any other airport experience I have had.

We piled in the small bus that had been sent to transport us from GC to San Raymundo, the location of our Casas build. We kept most of the windows down, despite the intermittent rainfall, in an attempt to cool ourselves from the heat and humidity. We had arrived in the capital city on Election Day. The streets were exceptionally crowded as cars, trucks and motorcycles traded places in what seemed to me to be a chaotic, yet orderly, dance.

I was shocked to look out the window to see a family of four, including a toddler and an infant, all perched atop a small motorcycle. The toddler was precariously balanced on the gas tank, while the infant was held in the arms of its mother and sandwiched against the back of its father. It was a scene I saw repeated many times during my stay.

Another common sight was people standing up, sometimes as many as a dozen, in the back of a pickup truck as it maneuvered through the heavy traffic. I’m sure that the cars had seatbelts, though I’m not certain I ever saw someone using one.

Surprisingly, in one week’s time, I never saw anyone switch on the road rage. People were considerate of other drivers. They seemed to expect that they would get cut off, not let in, or stuck in stop-and-go traffic.

Much of what passed for housing would be deemed uninhabitable here in the United States. The little things that we take for granted like running, clean, city water, and an adequate sewer system (in Guatemala, you can’t flush your toilet paper as it will clog the narrow pipes. You must, instead, put it in a trash basket next to the toilet), are simply nonexistent for much of the country. But no one seems to complain. It is simply a fact of life.

When we finally arrived in San Raymundo we were most assuredly ready to get off that bus. The shocks were poor, and the frequent quick stops and starts had left me feeling queasy. Our accommodations were about what I expected. It was refreshing to just stop moving for a while.

I hadn’t even been in country for 8 hours when I gave in to the exhaustion of a long day of traveling. I fell asleep thinking about the things I had seen and contemplating (mindfulness!) the way my life should change as a result.

Thanks for stopping by! If your new to this blog, welcome! I publish every Tuesday. I am currently blogging about my recent mission trip to Guatemala. I post about becoming mindful disciples of Jesus.

Blessings on your week!

Image by Timothy J. Krause

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