By: Bella Martin
It is currently the last full day of the trip, and we are back in Antigua. Since I spent the majority of the second half of this trip in quarantine, I had a lot of time to reflect on the days I was able to be out exploring Guatemala with my peers. We spent a couple of days here in Antigua before we relocated to Lake Atitlán. It struck me how beautiful our surroundings were, no matter what part of the country we were in.
I feel like our time in Antigua was very people centered, while the time we spent at Lake Atitlán felt more place based. This is not to say there wasn’t a balance in both areas, as we did hike a volcano in Antigua and explored cities surrounding Lake Atitlán. But what stuck with me most was how both places contrast each other. When I think of the lake, I think of the hiking and swimming we experienced. When I think of Antigua, I think about the people that I met and conversed with.
During our first days here in Antigua, I found myself thinking about how beautiful of a country Guatemala is, yet how hard people need to work every single day in order to feed and shelter themselves and their families. I started to wonder how the people who reside here think and feel about the place they live in.
After a day spent walking around Antigua in small groups, asking questions about different things such as education, government, economy, and work, a comment was shared during one of the nightly group reflective conversations. One of my peers shared that a local of Antigua they’d spoken to expressed how “Guatemala is very beautiful, but it is very hard to live here.” Not only did this make me think about my previous question, it made me reflect on the people that I met that day.
The group I was in had asked questions about work in Antigua. We walked around and interviewed different people about their jobs. Being the translator of the group, I was able to have the one-on-one conversations. Even though the language barrier and my rough Spanish made it tricky to understand one another at times, I learned a lot about the people we spoke to, and they learned a bit about us. Something consistent I noticed about the people we spoke to was their attitude about their work and their lives. When asked if they are happy, everyone responded with their silver linings, explaining what keeps them motivated and healthy, mentally and physically.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the stories of the people we interviewed and the inside comment about Guatemala being a beautiful yet difficult place to live in. I finally realized that the word that I was looking for to describe these stories and attitudes is resilience. It was a click in my brain. There is so much resilience in this country, resilience to remain joyful in times of hardship, resilience to work hard so families and individuals can be taken care of.
When I think about resilience in the context of Guatemala, I think about how people find joy and gratitude in the small things. In my own life, sometimes I struggle with pulling myself out of my own head. After observing how resilience plays a part in the lives of people residing in Guatemala, I know that it will be easier for me to pay attention to the small things in my life that make me happy and grateful.