6. Clean air
Yes, please! Although I am not always aware of it: the air in The City is bad. Really bad. There are so many cars and buses, that the air is often filled with smog. I don’t have the very best lungs, so whenever I am stuck in traffic and the windows are open I can really struggle to get in some fresh air. Some of the buses here produce so much gas that I have to close the car window to be able to breathe normally. That’s is why I am a big fan of the Guatemalan rain. After a big downpour in the afternoon, the air is so clean I can almost see my feet. Nah, just kidding. But I love to be outside when it rains to clean the lungs a little bit. I miss the clean, Dutch air with the smell of the sea!
5. Roads without traffic
Oh, how great it would be if there wasn’t any traffic in the streets of Guatemala City! When I could just decide to go somewhere and be there within fifteen minutes. But unfortunately, that is not how it works here. Although I love being in a car, it’s quite challenging to predict how long it takes to get somewhere. Like I wrote before, the office is only twelve kilometers from my house but it takes us almost an hour to get to Verbena. There is always traffic, always! The only time when the traffic is a little less than usual is on Saturday or Sunday morning. Every time I am stuck in traffic again, I miss the free and clean roads of my home country. But I slowly learn to deal with the traffic! Last week I made an appointment at the Dutch consulate in Santa Catarina Pinula at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. When I texted Sam about the appointment, he responded that we would néver be able to make it back to the city in time because of the huge amount of traffic. So, only because of the traffic, I had to shift my appointment to the next day. I learned my lesson!
The traffic in this picture is actually nothing compared to the traffic we face every morning ón the bridge where this picture was taken.
4. My family
You might think it’s weird that this is not the number one of things I miss, but ‘the missing’ is actually going really well. I call my mom almost every morning at 8 and after I got robbed, my parents and I called each other so often that it felt like I was only on a short holiday. Back at home I would see my brother and sister only once a month, so it is not that strange to not have them around me all the time. And it might be because my parents are coming over in only three and a half weeks! I love to fantasize about how it would be to have them here and to show them this amazing country with all its dangers, problems and incredible beauty. I can’t wait to introduce my friends to them so they can see why I never feel alone here. It would be fun for them to finally see a face behind a name. They just have to meet all these amazing people! My parents are coming to my favorite place in the entire world! I know they are really proud of what I am doing and I am not helping anyone with missing them. But, you know, sometimes I just do.
3. My church
I never knew I would ever write this down, but it’s true: I really miss my church. The churches here in Guatemala are só loud and the services are só long that I wish I could go back to my own church every once in a while. The services here are exhausting to me because first of all: everything is in Spanish (duh!), so I really need to focus on what the pastor is saying or what the band is singing. Second of all: the music is só loud that it is hard to focus on the language. Third: people are crying, yelling and singing só hard that understanding the service gets even harder. After a service I really need to take a nap and it takes so much energy that I don’t really enjoy going to church here. At home, I love to go to church on Sunday morning! And since I am here, I really miss the people, the language, the music and the feeling of being part of the community. He who is near the church is often far from God. That’s often how I feel in the Guatemalan church. I am trying so hard to understand what’s going on that I forget why I am there. But I know that God is still there and He sees my struggles.
Guatemala is full of very beautiful churches, like this one in San Andrés Xecul in Totonicapán.
2. My freedom
The thing I almost miss most of all is my freedom. Back at home I was able to jump on my bike, go to the train station and go wherever I wanted. I could take the bus without thinking, walk to the supermarket on my own, go over to a friend’s place or just simply take a walk through the park. I can’t do any of that here. Guatemala City is a city full of danger and since I’ve only lived here for a month and a half I am not always aware of it. Since I got robbed, the people around me are more protective of me and my stuff. It can be really frustrating to always depend on other people and their cars. I can not take the bus, I can’t take a taxi (maybe only the yellow ones), I can not walk around outside of the gates of my neighborhood, I can’t go to the supermarket, office or football field on my own and I always have to be aware of the things I take with me. When I walk from the football field to Sophie’s house I have to ‘walk a little faster’. When I go to the supermarket I have to make sure I don’t leave my bag in the car. When I walk from the McDonalds to the Burger King to get a chocolate pie, ‘it is best to leave my phone with the family’. I always have to be careful and I always need to take someone with me, which has a big impact on my freedom. I know it is something I should not complain about, but sometimes I wish I could just say “Hey, I am going to the supermarket, I’ll be right back.” But life in Guatemala City is just not that simple.
1. The food
My absolute numero uno! And it’s not only the food I miss, it is mostly the eating schedule that makes my thoughts wonder off to home. Guatemalans eat a huge amount of food for breakfast, an equal amount for lunch and almost nothing for dinner. And they hardly snack! After one and a half month I still can’t get used to it. The people here just don’t understand how I can survive on a daily bowl of cereal with milk and fruit for breakfast, peanutbutter sandwiches and pineapple or papaya for lunch and then a warm meal for dinner. “So you don’t eat vegetables for lunch?” “But cereal is not nutricious at all, right?” “Fruit is cheap, you should eat more of that then.” Just let me eat please! Why do you think you’ve never seen a fat Dutch person before? Look at the thousands of fastfood restaurants in your own city before you criticise my eating habits… I really miss the Dutch candy and my after dinner snack though. The food is just really hard to adjust to, because everything has the same flavour: corn. The Mayan people here in Guatemala are also called the ‘People of Corn’ because they believed that the corn was a gift from the gods. Corn is such a huge part of the Guatemalan culture and food that it is in literally everything. Tortillas, tamales, nachos, mixed through the food… it’s everywhere. The dinners with the family are really good though! Especially the ‘tortillas de arena’ with cheese are delicious and in all these weeks that I’ve been here I haven’t had food that I really didn’t like. They also make really good fruit shakes. Had to be said. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the food from home. I would do anything for a frikandel speciaal, a plate of hutspot, andijviestamppot or rode kool met worst. My bags of Engelse drop are gone and I only have one bag of stroopwafels left. Fortunately, I found some chocolate paste in the supermarket, so I can have a good Dutch sandwich for lunch!
Guatemalan tamal, made out of corn or rice and filled with a bit of meat. Served with tomatoe sauce and lime, cooked in banana leaves.
All of these things that I miss are nothing compared to the incredible joy I feel now I am here. I am living in the country that I had to miss for so many months. I am spending time with the people that mean the world to me and I can still feel the gap in my heart that I felt when I was still at home. I shed so many tears because I was scared I would never have to opportunity to go back again. I prayed so hard to get here. I am so happy here, but apparently there will always be a little part of me that misses home. I think I will always have a half Dutch, half Guatemalan heart. A heart that beats stronger than ever before.