Our team of 23 Americans were in Guatemala on a medical mission. Having visited 17 countries and lived in four (not counting the USA), I was prepared for some of the sights and experiences encountered in Guatemala.
I was ready for:
Sewer systems that can’t handle toilet paper. You toss the used TP into a little wastebasket.
Not knowing what was going to happen next, and being OK with that.
Eating a fish that still had all its skin, bones, fins and googly eyes.
Driving that looks suicidal, but there is a system – part telepathy, part calm aggression.
The heartbreak and heartburn of an Edenic setting reeking of diesel fumes, factory pollution, wood fire smoke, and trash fire-pit smog.
New to me were:
The sight of several American men crying openly as they shared with the team how the medical mission experience impacted them.
Eating smashed avocado on a hotdog and bun. Tasty. Will do this at home.
Visiting beautiful Antiqua. I’d feared I was jaded toward touristy places like this. Happy to be wrong!
Helping in the dental clinic. Giant dentist bellowing in Spanish, “Take it like a man!” Tiny native woman cringing, writhing in the makeshift dentist chair. Me trying not to look, trying not to hear as I assemble syringes with pain killer.
Attending a church service in Spanish and feeling the same emotions and sensations during the songs as I do when the band sings and plays in my church. No matter that I didn’t understand the Spanish lyrics.
Receiving hello and goodbye hugs from Guatemalans I met, whether for the first time or the fourth time. The Guat hug goes like this – Left arm around the back, right cheek touches right cheek, make a little kissing noise in the air or let lips touch cheek gently. And . . .
The fact that over 5 days our team of 23 didn’t snipe, complain or snap. Well, except for one very minor incident.