When in Guate…

Some facets of Guatemalan life have been surprisingly easy to adjust to (like the sporadic rumbling of the volcano nearby, camioneta rides and the food) while other things, even things that don’t seem all that strange, have proven harder for me to adjust to so far. 

Toilet Paper Does Not Go in the Toilet

Yes, that statement is correct. Every bathroom has a handy trashcan next to the toilet in which you deposit your used paper. Why? I’m not entirely clear on the details, but something about the plumbing system here makes the flushing of paper products akin to gambling with the toilet gods. And I’m not going to be responsible for that sort of disaster, so I dutifully put my stuff in the trashcan. But it feels really weird every time.

Chuchos en la Calle

Chuchos are street dogs. And they are numerous here. I either find their presence alarming or sad depending where they sit on the ferociousness/cuteness scale. I’ve only felt threatened by one so far and even have a few favorites around town. The absolute best is a super fluffy one with a curly tail that hangs around a few streets over. Related Note: Stray cats are almost nonexistent.

Music Blasting in the Streets

Sure, it’s only a little strange that groups/churches/promotional vans/businesses can set up speakers and blast music and strange announcements throughout the streets at earsplitting decibels. But what takes it over the edge is that there are no time restrictions on these things and that I am woken up multiple times a week to music or strange messages being broadcast in town at five or six in the morning.

Let’s Not Be Enojado (Angry)

We were instructed early on to greet everyone, all the time. Late for a meeting? You still need to say Buenos Dias to everyone, even if it means disrupting. Passing a stranger on the street? You should still offer up a Buenos Tardes. Now, I’ve been pretty heavily conditioned to never bring attention to myself when late and am pretty sure people in the states would think the girl yelling hello to everyone on the street was crazy, but it’s time to do what the Guatemaltecos do. Otherwise chisme (gossip) about the enojada gringa (yes, even with my beautiful tan skin I still count as a gringa) might start to spread.


Bugs were on my list of things I was scared of before departing last month. They are still on my list of things I am scared of. And I’m sure I will never be comfortable the creepy crawlies that make their way into my room, are waiting for me in the bathroom at night or surprise me in the most unlikely of places (like in the hair of a woman next to me on the camioneta today). Stories from fellow volunteers don’t help either – someone told me that they found a beetle crawling around their toes in bed the other day. I think I’m getting pretty good at killing them though, so that’s something to be proud of (except afterwards I always worry about their insect families coming back to seek revenge – that can’t be normal).

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2 Responses to When in Guate…

  1. Stetson says:

    I am so excited for you (minus the bugs). I just wanted to say hi and say thanks for posting so often, I love reading about your adventures. Eat a tortilla for me 🙂

  2. Andrea Clark says:

    Carmen!!! I love the blog and Im glad your having such an amazing experience. You know most Central American countries and some South American don’t flush the TP. Its normal.

    Email me your address and I will send you some mail lovin!

    PS I so jealous of how fluent you’ll be when you come home.

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