In Guatemala – Part five: People.

(continued from Part four: Walking in the clouds.)

“Tell me about Guatemala,” a friend shoots the question across the table at me over a fresh pint of beer. Between excursions that take me far from home, we seasonally return to this watering hole like the nomadic animals that we are. Today, perhaps I might begin with remarking about how great it is to have a proper ale touch my lips once again, but more likely I will jump write in and tell of the new friends I met on the road.

There is Evelyn, a kindly woman who welcomed me into her home in Antigua and helped me get my feet underneath me. Cats and dogs come and go through her doors; they are rescues and strays – kind of like me. With an open heart she welcomes us all into her family without skipping a beat. Fully bilingual, breakfasts were spent chatting in English about life, love, and the bigger issues at play, and days filled in with time spent with connections she made over swift Spanish speaking into her phone. She opened doors to me that, on my own, I never would have known existed.

There is Mercedes, a coffee farmer with a small plot of land perched on the side of a volcano. Inviting me to walk his fields and into his home for a cup of coffee with his family, we became fast friends with a mutual love for a quality cup.

There is Armin, a Swiss-German man who married into the Mayan culture and a very different lifestyle that came along with it. His wide background and education has allowed him to find a role as the protective steward of a cloud forest reserve located steps from his garden, and he has grown to be a leader in the community who generously teaches others of alternative ways to make a living in hardship.

There is Rogelio, a kind Mayan fellow who took me under his wing and taught me how to see in the cloud forest. The only English he spoke were the names of animals learned from books, but more importantly was the learning from his solo walkabouts in the forest where he would spend days sitting with the animals, simply watching and drawing their likeness in his sketchbook. His eyes lit up when I showed him photos of Semana Santa which, although in his own country, was a world away from his quiet village life. In both of our broken Spanish we had so many questions for each other.

Every place is intertwined with its people, and so are the stories that come from them. When I begin a trip I do so not knowing whom I will happen to meet along the way, but when I return these serendipitous relationships are the seeds for the stories of my experiences there.

To all of the people I meet along the road that is this life, I am grateful for you.

Evelyn and her dog Mautice

Evelyn, and her rescue dog Mautice.

Mercedes the coffee farmer

Mercedes, enjoying the fruits of his labour.

Armin and his Mayan family

Armin, and his growing family.

Rogelio the cloud forest guide

Rogelio, at home walking with wildlife.