On the fourth day of 2014 I left the United States to begin a life in Guatemala. A year prior I left the US around the same time to live in Costa Rica. The past two years for me have begun by migrating south for exploration, for warmth, for discovery and for freedom. After falling in love with Latin America, I couldn’t wait to return and fall deeper.
My United Airlines flight was oversold and filled with primarily Guatemalan families. I was among the very few native English-speaking passengers. I sat next to a nine-year-old Guatemalan girl and her mother who was in her twenties. Between hearing Spanish all around me, sharing my snacks with the girl sitting next to me and helping her pick televisions shows to watch, my immersion began before I arrived in Guatemala. After months of not speaking Spanish, I was so thankful for this ease into the language.
When I arrived at the airport in Guatemala City I was surprised to see multiple signs first written in English and then Spanish written underneath in a smaller type. After exiting the plane, there weren’t separate lines for Guatemalan citizens and foreigners. Everyone went to the same line to meet the same Immigration officers. As a US citizen without a visa you’re only allowed to remain in Guatemala for 90 days. I fly back to the US after 90 days. As I walked toward the officer I felt my heart race, and nervousness set in. I memorized Spanish phrases, “Cuantos dias en Guatemala? Cuando es su vuelo de vuelta?”and repeated the responses in my head. “Relax. Remain confident,” I told myself. When I slid my passport through the officer’s window I said, “Hola, buenos noches.” He didn’t say one word. He just stamped my passport, and I was on my way.
A crowd of Guatemalans stood outside the airport doors. People of all ages circled the gate. My host told me later that going to the airport in Guatemala is like going to the market. “When someone flies back to Guatemala, their whole family comes to the airport to pick them up: their grandparents, aunts, cousins,” he said.
I spent my first night in Guatemala City at G-22, an environmental non-profit that educates people about sustainability and hosts guests. The director, Alfredo Maul, picked me up from the airport and explained some of G-22’s projects as we drove through the city. Before he even told me that some parts of Guatemala City were Americanized, I sensed it from seeing establishments like Dominos Pizza and a Shell Gas Station almost immediately after leaving the airport.
At G-22 Alfredo cooked me a delicious vegetarian dinner. “Everything you see here has a story,” Alfredo said as he poured me loose leaf black tea from somewhere in Guatemalan mountains and then poured white citrus honey into my cup. “You won’t find these items anywhere else.” I loved the way he gave life to the food and items we were using by saying, “Everything here has a story.”
We talked about his degree in Architecture and how he wants to spread sustainability to urban life and show people how to live simpler lives. I felt really connected to G-22 and their goals. I have strong interests in sustainability, especially when it comes to urban life. In a similar regard, I’m passionate about living a simpler life by being conscious of my purchases, reusing as much as I can, and giving new life to things I already have.
The next morning I left Guatemala City to begin my story at the Mystical Yoga Farm.