The scenery passing before me on the bus ride is familiar: the same rolling hills and majestic mountains I am so accustomed to seeing in Guatemala. What makes this experience surreal is that I am now in another country: in Mexico. Why? To renew my visa.
That means that I have officially been down in Guatemala for three months – the amount of time a tourist visa lasts before it expires. Three months. Where did the time go?
I still feel so new: I am constantly learning about different illnesses – about the details of malnutrition or diabetes care, about the many challenges that our patients face every day. No day or week is the same. I get to do so many varied things: from going out in the field with German (our nutrition manager) to measure children and give viveres (food supplements), to working on grants and social media, to entering data for research projects, to organizing visitors’ trips down to Guatemala. There is always something new, and it is so exciting to have the opportunity to learn from the staff and collaborators at Wuqu’ Kawoq. It makes the time fly by… and here I am, three months later, renewing my visa.
But even as the time has flown by, being in Mexico makes me realize that I have indeed become accustomed to Guatemala. It is the little things:
-That when someone here says “buen día,” it sounds wrong because I am used to “Buenos días, seño” when I am walking the streets of Tecpán.
-That when I went to buy tortillas, the sound that greeted me wasn’t the slapping of hands on masa, forming the thick handmade Guatemalan tortillas, but rather the whir of a machine that rapidly spits out thin uniform ones.
-That the women here walk around with jeans, rather than the traditional traje I am used to seeing.
These are such small details, but they show me that yes, I have been in Guatemala for some time. I’m not saying I can call myself a Guatemanteca, or a Tecpaneca (from Tecpán—I mean, I still don’t even own a huipil) but I can say that Guatemala does feel like home to me.
My Spanish may not be perfect – and my Kaqchikel barely rudimentary – but I love the time I get talking with our team in the field or in the office. I may not understand every nuance of the culture, but I love that I can take part in activities within the community in which I live.
I have a lot to learn, within Wuqu’ Kawoq and in Guatemala as a whole, but in these past months I have fallen in love with Guatemala. And that is why, as excited as I am to explore Mexico, I am just as excited to go back: to begin the next phase of my time in Guatemala.
The view from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, could be a view in Guatemala…but the small things show the differences.