There is so much to say. Guatemala has opened its arm and embraced me with nothing but love. And yes, all this sounds corny, but contentment breeds corniness, fortunately or unfortunately.
I am not going to lie, I was a little scared. Everyone and their mothers couldn’t stop warning me about the dangers that engulf this Central American country. And then these other mothers spoke to my mother, and filled her up with bother, and that was not fun either. And then there was this other brady bunch that didn’t know what “Guatemala” was. All in all, the uncertainty of where I was going, and the certainty that I was going to be robbed as soon as I got off the flight, made it all very interesting off the bat.
I landed, and I did not get robbed. I met a friendly taxi-driver who friendly-ly drove me to the bus station, where I got on a friendly bus, and made it to the friendly city of Xela some four hours from the capital, where I was greeted by my friendly Spanish teacher, who took me in a friendly cab to my super-friendly host family, and all this friendly hospitality made me all giddy inside. It’s not to say that Guatemala is not dangerous at times, but it’s like any other developing country — if you do stupid things, and go to stupidly dangerous places, or get ridiculously unlucky, something not-so-fun is might happen. I know of friends who have been robbed at knifepoint even in New York.
After flushing this unreasonable fear out of my system fairly quickly, I was in dreamland. Yes, the showers here are not great, the internet is choppy, the lights go out occasionally coupled with a mini-earthquake or two, but all that has not mattered. I have been happier than I have ever been in my whole entire life (remember contentment = corny?), and my problems are trivial compared to the seismic schizophrenia Corporate America used to give me. I know what I am trying to achieve, where I am trying to go and I am no longer dreaming about it, I am actually doing it. And it has all made sense so far. I spent my first month learning Spanish in a school exploding with love and goodness. My teacher was the personification of patience and prudence, and dealt with my constant self-destruction, sublimely. I was grounded a little because I thought I would be rattling off Spanish in a month, but learning a language is bloody hard, and jawbreakingly frustrating. But the folks at the Sisai School of Spanish made it easier. Every weekday, after five hours of Spanish class, the teachers took turns in taking us students on local excursions and activities. And these weren’t just any excursions, these were well thought-out, immersive experiences that you would only get if you spent enough time with the local folks out here. We went to secluded towns adorned by zero tourists, but instead by the warmth of the local Mayan people. We explored the legend of San Simon and the beauty of Mayan philosophy (I am getting an “El Ajau” tattoo before I leave.) We did Salsa classes and cooking classes, played football and crammed ourselves in the back of a small pickup along with twelve other people who magically found ways to make room where room didn’t exist. We learnt about the city, about the people, and we danced together, sang together, ate together and drank together. It was a glorious time with a glorious group of genuine people, and I was so overwhelmed by their warmth.
The people here are something else. There is a genuine flow of love right from the way everyone greets each other, to how everyone respects each other, and to the way everyone treats one another. I missed this in the States and in Dubai, so I am going to embrace it. And embody it. As much as I can. My host-family took me in as one of their own, and my host-mother became very quickly my second mother. They fed me like their own child, and showered me with all the picante they could muster, as soon as they figured out that spice was my thing.
After a month of drowning myself in Spanish, it was time to begin my fellowship. And this moment was really important for me. It was like I had waited all my life to finally start doing exactly what I wanted to do — and not just any random thing, but finally landing on the road that I had created, that is headed in exactly the direction I want it to go in. It is so liberating and so empowering. And believe it or not, the one month I have spent at this fellowship has totally lived up to the hype. I am still in Disneyland and this honeymoon phase isn’t ending as of yet. I hope it never does.
If you have ever thought of doing something like this, do it right now. Don’t let these rules created by society control you. It’ll be the best decision you ever make.
P.S. Indians are pretty non-existent here in Guatemala (I thought we were everywhere?) I seriously think there are only two of us in Xela — one chef / owner of the BEST restaurant in town, and me. So yes, I now know what it somewhat feels like to be Icelandic in just about any country except for Iceland.