By Sophie Heath
Last night many of us woke up very early to the rumbling of a distant earthquake. While I personally did not wake up to this “disturbance,” many of us were shocked by this first experience in Guatemala City before we’d even seen the sun here.
During the day we decided to take on the downtown area of the capital city. I have never felt so lucky! We arrived right as the city was hosting the Festival de las Culturas. This is a celebration of different countries’ cultures all around the world. In the festival each culture is represented by a specifically painted “unity bear” to fit characteristics of the country. My favorite bear was the one for the UK; it was painted like a Union Jack and its face was almost like a bear version of Elton John. I thought it was really special to be able to witness such a pure call for unity around the world and wondered why this festival has yet to come to the U.S.
After the festival we headed out to el mercado and had lunch. We were fed by these really sweet women who run the dozens of food stalls and drive two hours everyday to commute to work. This was really incredible to me because it showed the lengths to which some people in Guatemala go in order to make a living.
After heading home for a bit we took on the city again, however this time we went to Cayalá, which is a very nice shopping mall in a much “richer” neighborhood than where our lunch was. We stopped for dinner at a pizza place and bought 3.5 meters of pizza —let’s just say we had a ton of leftovers! It was really interesting to see the difference between the “richer” part of Guatemala and the “poorer” part solely based on where we ate. Personally I liked our lunch much better than the pizza and thought that we were received with much more hospitality than we were at the fancier restaurant. So far I think we are going to see a lot more comparisons and contradictions within even as small a country as Guatemala.