It is sad to think that I have done this twice already: leaving. However, no matter how many times I have "left for good," or left on a simple vacation, I always find myself missing these few things. Leaving the place that you call home is never easy, and nobody ever said it should, but this is a quick reminder for those of us who have left home and seem to be missing a little part of ourselves. Also, if you plan on visiting Guatemala, be prepared to be on the plane back to the place that you call home thinking, "wow, I wish this was my home, too."
1. The people
Guatemalans are truly people to be missed. Their sense of hospitality, unity, friendliness, and love is incomparable to that of any other culture. My dad talks about the serious faces that most of us carry just walking down the street, but once you share a friendly "buenos días" with a Guatemalan whilst walking down the street and see their beautiful smile (with a few gold teeth sometimes), you will feel right at home. Our little eyes seem to squint at you while we smile, but I promise that it's just because we are happy to share some love, advice, or food with any of those in need.
2. The food
Anybody that knows me knows about my unhealthy addiction to food. Sure, you can say that your favorite food is Italian, Mexican, or Asian, but have you ever had Guatemalan food? Boy, are you missing out if you haven't. Whether it be a tamal for Christmas, an elote loco in Zone 1, a tall glass of rosa de jamaica on a hot day, or some canillitas de leche to satisfy your sweet tooth, you will find yourself missing every single little treat that we have to offer. And if you do not want to commit to a full meal, a bag of Tortrix or Chicharrones Señorial will do the trick. But I am sorry to say that you will not get to taste the best paches in town (my favorite dish). To those who have tasted my abuela's paches, know that you have tasted a little bit of heaven.
3. The weather
Moving on from such a delicious topic, how about we talk about every Guatemalan's favorite small talk topic: the weather. But seriously, the weather in Guatemala is fantastic. You can wear jeans all year (shorts are definitely debatable), a shirt, and a sweater and be totally fine. Yes, there are times were some rain boots or a thick sweater are needed, but to all of my chapines out there, you will not hear a lie when I say we have the most sought-out climate in all of Central America. It's no wonder why most Central American sports tournaments are hosted in Guatemala; nobody wants to be running in disgusting heat and humidity. So to all of our athletes out there, you are welcome, and enjoy the coolness while you can.
4. The travel opportunities within the country
So if you have heard of Guatemala, you have probably heard about the accompanying words that come with it: Antigua, Tikal, or Semuc Champey. They come with the name for a reason. My country is so beautiful to travel: from the Mayan ruins of Tikal, to the hills and cold of Huehuetenango, to the eternal array of colors in Antigua, or the glistening waters of Semuc Champey or our beaches, there is a place out there that every Guatemalan will say, "this is where you have to go, it's my favorite." You should probably listen to them, though— you even come to think of the constant traffic as beautiful... unless you have somewhere to go, that is.
5. The parties
I'm eighteen now, so talking about the party scene in Guatemala is okay for me to do! The people you meet at parties and the friends that you take to said parties are the best people you will ever have in your life. I cannot tell you the number of times that I felt at home at a party. Weird, but hear me out. You hang out with people you wouldn't normally hang out with, and get to have a friendship with them because of it. Parties in Guatemala just seem to bring people together, and I like that, and will definitely miss that. Needless to say, the dancing and music is fantastic as well, and well, let's say that partying is part of being Guatemalan.
6. The variety
Variety: a word used to describe different types of fruits, vegetables, flowers, options, but never really a culture. Guatemalan culture and geography offer such an incredible amount of variety. You have people in Guatemala that are dark-skinned while other Guatemalans look extremely pale. Some Guatemalans have blue eyes and others have deep brown eyes. You can find people that wear traditional Guatemalan clothing (huipil y corte) or Guatemalans that wear jeans and a shirt. The thing about Guatemala is that you cannot describe us as a population, because we are such a mix of so many different cultures and ideas that we seem to be everybody in one little country. And if the variety in people doesn't shock you enough, try walking through the different zones in the city. You can be in a European city in Cayalá in Zone 15, or in the Renaissance of what is Zone 1 at the National Palace. You never truly know what is at the turn of every street, because Guatemala offers a variety that is so spontaneous that you will miss it just as much as I do.
7. The markets
Markets in Guatemala are definitely an acquired taste, but go to the right markets with the right people and you will come to love them. You become immersed in the sound of women yelling out the deals they have to offer you (in English, too, may I add), and the smell of textiles, leather, and produce that you simply do not find anywhere else. Any true Guatemalan will also practice the "¿y lo más bajo?" or "what is the lowest price?", because you simply cannot pay full price for anything at any market in Guatemala— it's a Guatemalan sin! But some way, somehow, you learn to miss the shoves of people as they carry an endless supply of products over their head, or the smiles of vendors as they make their first sale of the day, trust me, you really do.
8. The colors
I've mentioned the colors before in other points, but the colors that you can find in Guatemala, are unlike those you can find in any other place in the world. Our beautiful blue skies with subtle white clouds house the most gorgeous November sunsets. Vibrant wall colors will make you question the owner's life choices, but hey, a hot pink house makes for a great photograph. And as the flowers begin to bloom during our little bit of spring, your eyes seem to glisten at the different colors and textures of every single one of them. Our streets are tainted with the colors that make us who we are, whether it be bright fuchsia or a soft brown, we are every color in the rainbow and even more.
9. My teachers
This is where my list begins to cater more towards me than towards the entire Guatemalan population. Everybody knows that teachers are some of the most influential people in any person's life, and I have had pretty great ones. Whether it be my teachers when I was a little kid, studying at CAG, to my mentors and people I am lucky to also call my friends while I was in CIG for High School, every single one of my teachers has made it hard for me to want to leave my country. But hey, it is because of you that I have the fantastic opportunity to do so... so thank you. Guatemalans are lucky to have some of the nicest and most loving teachers that one could ever wish for, so trust me, you will miss them, as will I.
Some of my best memories have come from the sports I have played in Guatemala. However, basketball has seemed to be the one that has given me the most rewards. Beyond any trophy or medal that my team, or I, have earned, we have all gained experiences, memories, friends, and skills that very few people ever get in their entire lifetime. I was lucky to be part of such an amazing family that helped me build my values as a person and as a team player, to which I am extremely thankful. So if you haven't played on a team, I suggest strongly that you do so, because trust me, I now have a group of people that I can call a family that I will miss so incredibly deeply.
11. My family and friends
My family and friends have come to merge into a single one: family. Yes, my three-person (now two-person) family will not remain in Guatemala, but that is where it started, and not missing them will basically be impossible (but I try not to admit it). I will miss my Abuela greatly, as she was the greatest human being I ever knew, and I will miss my uncles and cousins as well, especially my little baby cousin, Raulito. But most unconditional of all, I will miss the people that are my friends but became my family. You know exactly who you are, and know how much I will miss you. I met my best friend here, and I truly wouldn't trade her in for anything in the world. That's the thing about Guatemala, whether you like it or not, you will leave having made a family that will make goodbyes so incredibly hard, but hellos so amazingly happy.
To my fellow chapines out there, did I do our country justice? What do you miss the most about Guatemala, and if you have never left, what do you love the most?
Guatemala will make you miss things you never thought you would miss, and make you love them even more. So appreciate it while you can, because not everybody gets to experience a country as beautiful as mine and get to say that they miss it.