“Just for you,” Guatemala.
Hello everyone! Kirsten and Hayley here, finding ourselves at the end of our journey, and we’d like to take some time to reflect on the differences we have noticed between our previous home of Santo Tomas and our current “vacation spot”, Panajchel.
In the villages, we felt like we were at home. We came to know the sisters, the clinic workers, and even began to recognize people in the streets of Santo Tomas. We felt introduced into the people’s lives and their culture, even though we were often greeted with blank stares. When we went into the rural churches or even the market at Santo Tomas, we were welcomed into their community.
On Sunday, the day we left Santo Tomas, we got to experience our first, full-blown, sensory-overloaded market. For example….think Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, WA. In the summer, single-file, shoulder-to-shoulder, feral dogs weaving their way through your legs, all while towering over everyone, because the whole culture runs much shorter than us in the U.S. A particular image will never leave our minds: the meat market in a back basement of some market building. If you would like a detailed description of this, please ask any one of us, as there is no way we can do it justice over this blog. The beautiful part of this market was that the people there smiled at us, wished us “buenos dias”, and sincerely helped us to pick out our purchases.
Later Sunday afternoon, we arrived in Panajchel and headed out to the market. Not only did we find ourselves in the midst of other foreigners, like ourselves, but we also immediately we felt overwhelmed and surrounded by street vendors. To give you another mental picture, this market is much more of a tourist attraction…bright colors, similar merchandise at every other stand, and annoying vendors. The first thing that happened to us was a Mayan vendor who tried to barter with us…in English. We didn’t know how to respond. The following are pretty standard lines from the vendors:
“You want bracelet? I make myself. Only 20 quetzales, only for you.”
“Hey. You like this? It look good on you! Or for your girlfriend? Or your boyfriend? I give you good price. What you want it for? Ciento quetzals? Just for you. Good price.”
These vendors followed us up and down the streets. If they ever saw us purchase anything, we became a magnet. Side note… Kay was particularly attractive to these vendors; we think that it’s because she’s a very kind-looking lady! Even worse these vendors are either middle-aged women or young kids. It was definitely a shock to our systems, considering how at home we felt at Santo Tomas. All day we’ve felt as if we’ve been taken advantage of, simply because the caring spirit isn’t communicated through the vendors here.
Ultimately, we have already started to recognize what a beauty and a blessing it was to be immersed in the Santo Tomas (and surrounding area) culture. In our last reflection, we talked about what we’ve seen in the last week or so that has impacted us and will stick with us. Some of these things were the joy of the Guatemalan and Mayan people, the beautiful but difficult paradoxes that we have encountered, and the rare experiences that we have gotten to have.
On a lighter note, you should all know that for a week, we shared a twin bed and have become closer than close… From sleep talking to sharing Pepto-Bismol, not only have we gotten closer as a group, but we’ve formed inseparable bonds with one another that we will never be able to share with anyone else, based on what we have experienced as a group. Soccer games and dinners of bean paste and tortillas are already being planned. As much as we’re excited to come home and see you all, it’s definitely a bittersweet feeling to leave this beautiful country.
Thank you for continuing to follow us the whole way! We’ll be seeing some of you in the coming days! Love you all!
Kirsten and Hayley