Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tres Mundos

After being in Guatemala for nearly 2 months, I realized I moved in three circles or types of environments:

1)  The Spanish School Circle --  my first environment.  What better world to start with when living in Latin America?  Most of the students I met were very friendly.  Maybe its because we all had something in common -- we were all going through the painful process of trying to learn or relearn Spanish.  Its paid off though.  As they say, "No pain, no gain."

2)  The Volunteer Circle --  whether its through the volunteer database of Entremundos or the organic farm group of WWOOF, this circle is where I found myself after relearning Spanish.  The first organization I was with, I didn't meet too many travelers.  That was great because I was forced to speak Spanish.  Also, I got to learn more about a culture by being immersed in it (ie no other foreigners to speak to).  The second organization had more volunteers and most of them didn't speak Spanish.  Plus, the bosses spoke English to the volunteers because many of them didn't speak Spanish, which was unfortunate.  Nevertheless, I was able to practice my Spanish by speaking to non-English speaking staff.  Lately, I would just reply in Spanish when Guatemalans started speaking to me in English. 

This circle is probably my favorite because it directly applies to what I want to do career-wise and I learned quite a bit just by talking to the staff members.  For instance, I learned the sad truth that ecotourism in the mangroves generates so little money in comparison to sugar cane farms, which can be detrimental to the mangroves.

3)  The Hostal Circle -- usually the world of backpackers who are out to do some sightseeing or just to have a good time (ie party).  Most of them travel in groups, either they're couples or are a group of friends.  Some of them are traveling solo like me.  I'm in this circle right now since I have less than two weeks left before I head back to the US for a week or so.   On the plus side, I learned about how the word "ecotourism" is thrown about to entice customers.  Its also a world where you'll meet a fellow traveler and then after a day or two, you'll say, "Well, have a nice life" because its doubtful you'll ever see them again.  This world is not my favorite world to be in.  But hey, what are you going to do when you're on a budget and want to sightsee?