Chicken Bus in Guatemala
Where has the time gone? The last post written on this blog was August 30th. I have thought often of writing about things that are happening and yet I never seem to get to the writing. Not that I am not writing just not writing on this blog. I have been working relatively semi consistently on my professional blog Teach Less! Learn More!. In many ways it has been a frustrating year as I burned through so much money with the car I bought and a considerable case of culture shock.
I really did not think I was going to have culture shock as in my mind I was returning to my part of the world even though it was considerably south. The culture shock came as I moved from China to Guatemala. I suppose I should have been prepared as I had spent eight years in China and was very comfortable living there but I was not ready. It has been difficult being dependant on people. Everyone is wonderful and caring. I love the warm culture that is Guatemala. This is a term that came from a book entitled Foreign and Familiar that was recommended we read when I first arrived explaining the difference between a Latin Culture and what I would call the western culture of Canada, the northen part of the US, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. For those that are interested we are from a “cold” culture. This does not mean temperature but in regards to how we relate to people. In the book it states that “hot-climate cultures are relationship based while cold- climate cultures are task oriented”. In Latin America it is all about relationships. It is a very “touchy feely” society and I enjoy the human contact that comes each day. A hug from one of Guatemalan male coworkers is just a hug to connect and say “Hi”. It is all good.
The problem is the shock from going from a country I was very comfortable in and was safe. It was easy to walk out on the streets and grab a taxi and go where ever I wanted. Never did I feel threatened or unsafe regardless of the time of day or night. I was comfortable travelling by myself to various parts of China and other Asian countries. It was easy to get around. Of course, I stayed at good places but was always able to travel where I wanted to. Here there is not that freedom. If I want a taxi to take me somewhere I have to order it in Spanish (don’t speak it), I have to have the address in Spanish and be able to answer a lot of questions (just take me to the address) :). When I was driving I could get where I needed to go but parking was always an issue and let’s not even get into the fact that unless you have told your friends that you are coming to visit you will not be able to get into the compound. You must get cleared by the security guards who only speak Spanish, of course. It is a learning curve that I am slowly accepting and understanding. I was used to how it worked in China and knew what I had to think about in order to get something acoomplished. Here in Guatemala I am still learning that. You hear the expressions “This is Guatemala” as an explanation when things don’t get done in the time I think they should. In China, we often said “This is China” which was the explanation when nothing made sense to my western culture reasoning. I am sure when others travel to Canada they hear the same thing. :)
Chicken buses are not a safe way to travel though they are very interesting as they drive by painted all different colours, crammed to the top with people coughing out dark black smoke as they go by, the buses not the passengers. There is not train service not that I was a fan of the train in China at all (been there done that). Having to share a soft sleeper (4 beds) with three Japanese men was my introduction to that form of travel. I saw far too much of their red long underwear. OK I digress.
There was more English spoken or at least understood in China than Guatemala. I am working on my spanish to a certain extent though.
On the other hand, Love the weather, my apartment and I love my job. I love the campus, the people and the students. It has been different being out of the classroom and in so many ways I feel as if I am still figuring out my job. I guess I am…but it is intersting.
I fly out of Guatemala on June 21st for a wonderful 8 week vacation and when I come back I will not be a newbie anymore. I am looking forward to that. I have my goals set for this coming school year both personally and professionally. There will be a new cohort that will move me up from a first year. That will be nice.
Over the summer I will spend time with family and friends. I will have the opportunity to meet up with three friends I met in Beijing. We are all around the world now. One lives in Switzerland, one in Australia, one in Hong Kong and I am in Guatemala. We are still friends though and I look forward to spending time with each of them.
What it comes down to even with the culture shock and the adjustments – Life is good and I am blessed.