By Justin Parlier
The word I would use to describe my time in Guatemala is eye-opening. I had no prior knowledge about how Guatemalans live in the cities and small villages that we have stayed in and visited. I would like to inform the people reading this about some of the things that I have seen and learned while in Guatemala.
Many people live on the mountainside in houses made out of whatever materials they can get their hands on – sheet metal, wood and occasionally concrete. Many people have farms of their own in areas surrounding their homes. Smaller farms are used to feed the occupants while larger farms are used to sell produce for money.
I have rarely seen a chain restaurant in the small villages. Instead, there are many food stands run by a single person or restaurants owned and run by small groups of people. I have seen a lot of people walking; people do not always need cars, and many do not own them. There are different types of transportation, like small, three-wheel trikes called Tuk Tuks that can fit up to five passengers. They are similar to an Uber, but cheaper. They take people from one place to another for 5-10 quetzales, which is about $.64-$1.28 in U.S. money. It seems to me that most people make their living by selling items on the side of the road, and I have also seen many small convenience stores side-by-side. Everything I have seen has been cheap and seems affordable if one is going from U.S. dollars to quetzales. For example, a Coke costs a dollar in Guatemala but would cost over two dollars at home. One can get a whole meal for two dollars at the chicken-and-fries place where we ate. Ice cream cones cost one dollar, and shops sell clothing for very cheap. Haircuts by decent barbers are a good deal: about $4.50. I saw signs for large pizzas for just $5.00. The same pizzas back home would have cost $10.00. While I am not an economist, I think that the reason for this difference in cost is because the people do not make as much money. I would love to learn a little more about the economy in Guatemala so that I may better understand the reasons why things are cheaper.
I noticed that there are no traffic lights, and the roads are very hilly compared to the roads in Staunton. I also noticed that there are lots of dogs and some cats roaming the streets. About half of the dogs are not in good condition, but the other half are in decent condition. Many of the Mayans dress in traditional clothing of bright colors.
If America had not gone through the Industrial Revolution and had not been infested with technology, I feel that we would be living in conditions similar to the people in these communities. The average house in the smaller communities does not have a dishwasher, washing machine or dryer. They do not have air conditioning. Some people here have never touched a phone or a computer in their whole lives.
Before I came to Guatemala, I never knew how people here lived. I have things that I would consider basic which people living here will never have, such as a computer, air conditioning, household appliances and electronics. Now that I’ve had eye-opening experiences, I am excited about looking at my life from a different angle. In conclusion, after seeing their way of life, I realize how grateful I need to be.