Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 04/21/2011

101 questions about USA

20 abril 2011- miércoles 

Silence is the general rule on the bus rides to and from Xela, with many nodding off due to busy days and early awakenings…yet  yesterday after some opening remark on my part, I had an interesting hour-long conversation with a Guatemalan man who lives in a nearby town. First off was my birthday accomplishment; he shared that a few years ago he had also climbed Santa Maria. Quite surprising actually since  most Guatemalans have not given much thought to climbing their volcanoes….the idea of hiking in the mountains for enjoyment  is not common. Many people fan out into the hills and mountains in search of firewood,thus  convening with nature is more work than pleasure.

The conversation moved onto children, with me  sharing that I have two children. I listened to his next question with surprise, “In the U.S.A. you mostly have 1-2 kids…is it true that you are limited to that many?” It took me a moment to understand the implications of his question… I replied, “No, it’s a personal choice….not a rule of the government like in China where they can only have one child.” I added that I have a friend with 6 children, so not all families are small. As we bumped along on the dirt road and generated a dust cloud, he asked if we have much polvo (dust). I shared that we did have dirt roads in the countryside, but that many of our roads are paved. At least he had no notions of gold-paved roads…but often Guatemalans are surprised that the USA might be lacking in amenities and infrastructure because there is such a notion that everything there is better, cleaner, faster.

Next set of questions turned to houses as we gazed out the dirt-streaked window at adobe and concrete block homes…I had to think a minute…no, we don’t really build homes out of concrete blocks. More are constructed of wood or brick I said. Onto American politics (his choice), he asked if President Clinton’s wife was the current vice-president…I clarified that she had wanted to be president in the last election but now served as Secretary General. My companion’s curiosity about my country was quite varied, and he didn’t exhibit the typical reticence about seeking information. As we neared his stop the topic of religion arose, which I always navigate carefully…usually sharing that I am Christian but that no churches for my religion (Unitarianism) exist in Guatemala. He fixed me with an intent look…”You know that idea that men came from monkeys a long time ago…that’s just science and it’s a lie.”  Time to move to another topic; no use in disputing his view. “Que tenga un feliz semana santa.” I wished him a happy Easter week as he got off the bus..

Today’s bus companion shared that he plans on leaving for the U.S. soon, passing through the desert to meet up with his brother who lives in Los Angeles. We discussed the risks of the desert and “coyotes”…paid human smugglers.  Often Guatemalans think I might have arrived here over land….the reality and cost of airline tickets is outside their imaginations. In just 2 wks I will be back in the U.S. to attend the graduation of my son, Alex, and then a week in Seattle to relax. The requests to take them along with me is always heart-wrenching ….now I try to lighten the topic with, “Si usted cabra en mi maleta” (If you fit in my suitcase)….so I must now  have about 15 virtual suitcases! It will be a fantastic day when Guatemalans are prospering in their own country and not seeking to migrate elsewhere….ojala, may it be so someday…

Catching the dream...



  1. Hi Janet!

    I found your blog via another PCV blog and it’s a pleasure reading about your adventures. My mom and I traveled all over Guat two summers ago and volunteered at a woman’s shelter for domestic abuse in Xela, so Guat has a special place in my heart, and I always try to keep up with what’s going on there. Reading your blog will have to do until I can get back there some day! Congratulations and best wishes on the work you’re doing for that country. It’s wonderful. I look forward to reading your updates.

    Best regards, Abbey (from Boston)

    PS. Our favorite stop was in Antigua – we didn’t want to leave Casa Madeleine B&B!

  2. Hi Abbey,
    I am glad you are enjoying my stories about Guatemala…I am curious how people find my blog when they don’t know me…do you just put in search words of “blog” and “guatemala” to find blogs from Peace Corps volunteers here? Thanks.

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