Sunday, May 26, 2013
"The culture doesn't adapt to us; we adapt to it."
As we were preparing to leave for our "light" hike today, we were told we would be taking the same kind of transportation as a typical Guatemalan. What we didn't realize was that - like the children we saw leaving school for the day on Friday afternoon - we would be climbing into the back of a pick-up truck, squishing together, and holding onto a bar that runs down the middle of the truck bed. Our fellow riders were clearly entertained by our awkwardness and could clearly tell this was our first time in a "picop". While we all stood crushed together, our trip leader assured us that there was plenty of room for more people and that it is important for us to understand the daily experiences of Guatemalan culture - it is our job to appreciate the norms of San Lucas. It is not the job of the community to change for us. This ride was definitely not our first experience of setting aside our own natural inclinations to become part of the community, but it's one of those experiences that would play well if there were a comedy written about our experiences navigating this new place.
Since today is Sunday and a day of rest in Guatemala, we did not work today. I don't know that anyone in our group would say today was restful, but it was enjoyable and insightful.
We spent most of the day with two guides hiking through the mountainside. We learned about the intersections between Mayan culture and modern farming practices. We tasted, smelled, and touched more plants and fruits than I can possibly remember. We ate freshly picked passionfruit, which is definitely not at all like the passionfruit-flavored drinks that dominated the processed food landscape in the US a few years ago. There's nothing really like fresh produce though - so there's a part of me that knows it's ridiculous to even compare such things. While we spent hours learning about permaculture and other agricultural matters today, maybe the simplest way to describe our lesson is that there must be balance between the needs of people, the environment and the economy. The world is meant to be in equilibrium and practices like single-crop cultivation create vulnerability for people, land, and economies.
In our short few days here, we've already learned so much. There's no way that any post I'll write will encapsulate this experience, but hopefully, you'll be able to get at least a glimmer of what it's like here. Candace, our trip leader, is so knowledgeable about Guatemala that it seems as though there isn't a question that she can't answer or quickly find an answer to through her network of local friends and experts. Yesterday, we toured the kitchens of all of the families who will be receiving new stoves, met our supervisors, and began our work. More to come on that another time...