Thoughts on Guatemala - Saturday, March 29, 2003

We were only there for 3 weeks, but were quite taken with the place and the friendly, colorful, happy people. The country offers so much scenic beauty - the Mayan ruins throughout the country, massive mountain ranges, beautiful Lago de Atitlan, colorful and historic Antigua, and so much we didn't have time for! Amidst all this beauty underlies devastating poverty and a still corrupt government (what government isn't).. Our brief visit was quite impactful, as we both had never seen so much garbage, waste, pollution, and squalor over an entire country.

In summary, here are a few visuals that will be hard to forget:

- The smiling, weathered faces of thousands of tiny Mayans wearing their distinctive and colorful hand-woven clothing (each major tribe has their own distinct fabric pattern)

- Looking down from our bus windows throughout the country and seeing an unbelievable amount of garbage flowing down hillsides, in ditches, on the side of the highway (often burning), and clogging waterways

- Guatemalan families tend to be large in order to have kids help out with housework, childcare, and farming. Picture kids under five carrying their infant siblings on their backs while there mother carries another infant with a 50 lb bundle on her head!! Amazing....

- Entire villages constructed out of cinderblock or mudbricks. Over 75% appear to be unfinished or in some state of extreme repair. No glass windows nor doors, allowing a breeze, yet much dirt and weather in..

- Dogs, cats, and Mayan people carrying heavy loads balanced on their heads/back wandering down busy highways

- People bathing, swimming, and washing clothes in waterways that are also obvious garbage & sewage dumps

- Smiling children (in abundance) everywhere... playing soccer in the street, riding bikes, and looking VERY happy

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