Mandy and Jon's Journey 2005 travel blog

Like the personal journal that I kept with such diligence over the first month or so of our trip and have since abandoned with much resentment towards myself, I regret not writing my thoughts about our time in Central America while they were still very fresh in my mind and in my heart. For, right now I struggle to concentrate amidst the terrible hip-hop music playing in the background of this oversized computer lounge in a backpacker's "mega" hotel in Auckland, NZ. I have nothing against hip-hop music, nor Auckland, Nz, of course. I just find myself wanting to be writing my thoughts about our time in Central America while watching the colorful women of Guatemala walk by the window, or smelling fried chicken from all directions, or covering my ears to stifle the screams of megaphones from passing cars outside, announcing the latest "PROMOCION!" at the local dollar store. The energy in Central America seeps through your skin. It exhausts you, even when you haven't moved from your bed in the morning. Sometimes the energy can be overwhelming- the noise, the stenches, the desperation and the constant begging- the sad eyes of starving dogs, the constancy of the women-their washing, selling, cooking and carrying of loads. It is tiring to say "no" all the time, when you so desire to help. "No, lo siento" to the man selling pens on the bus, or the woman selling her 5-week-old fried bread from a moldy basket, or the child with a handful of plastic dolphin keychains. It is exhausting to even think of how tired they must be. Day in and day out, just hoping to make a sale, to make enough for the small luxury of a decent meal. Or a Coke. (An old, sad, begging woman approached us in a restaurant in Chichi, Guatemala trying to sell us a small wooden figurine of a frog- perhaps her only posession- we poured the soup we were eating in some paper cups, and presented it to her, along with some bread. She declined. We were surprised. All she wanted, she said, was a Coke).

Juxtaposing this tremendous energy though, is a stagnancy that also permeates through the culture. You so often see people... just sitting. What are they doing, you wonder? Nothing. As you ride the bus past tiny villages and towns, there are ALWAYS groups of men just sitting in the town center, or the steps outside a "soda"(small restaurant), and their eyes follow you on the bus as you ride past them-seemingly the only movement they have made all day. One can pass judgement that it is a lazy culture (especially in Nicaragua and Guatemala)- but you then realize that its not about laziness. The heat, lack of work,lack of resources to GO anywhere outside the town they live, certainly all play a part. But also, I sense a great sense of community, and that people are so much more inclined to simply be with one another. There is no urgency to be "doing" something all the time- people take the time to talk, and to sit with eachother. Families, especially.

So this "sleepiness" is a bit contagious, I think. There were many times when all we had done was wander the streets of small villages, or sat on the side of a dirty curb to people watch and wait for the next bus, and I felt as though I hadn't slept in days. We fell right into a culture that upholds the siesta rule. The afternoon siesta would do wonders for the American people. Imagine it: a sign on the doors of all McDonald's that read "Closed for siesta." People would have to return from work and school and business and be with eachother.

I take with me from my time in Central America a deep desire to return, and a yearning to educate myself more about the history and struggles of its people. Also, I take with me, a respect for the women, (of Guatemala in particular); heartache for the suffering street dogs; more confidence in my ability to sleep in pretty nasty hotel rooms; much, much patience with public transportation; a desire to do something about the region's horrible pollution and littering problem that is ruining its natural beauty, and most of all

a gigantic soft spot for the children. Those girls in that orphanage in Nicaragua, and the thousands of others who deserve so much more than the lives they have will always haunt me. -MJ

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