Fighting to live vs. fighting to survive

Anush Yepremyan

I was watching a documentary the other day about life in Guatemala, and the precipitate from seeing it cannot leave anyone indifferent.

Guatemala is a petite country in the Central America with turbulent and heartbreaking past. It attracts people with its natural beauty, hospitality and low prices. The average cost of living is 250 dollars per month living frugally. The country is also known for its poor living conditions; 51 percent of the population lives in rural areas.

Four American students, who were studying business and economics, decided to go to Guatemala and live on a dollar a day, which is a complete poverty, for 56 days. They pushed themselves out of their comfort zone, tried to live by the rules of that region, had a taste of a different culture and exposed themselves to a different vision or perspective. They worked under the same conditions as the native population and took loans in a local bank in order to live from hand to mouth.

Chichicastenango Market, sometimes called Chichi, caught my attention. Handmade products are very common in the area due to poverty and survival atmosphere. It was interesting to watch how women would carry big heavy baskets on their heads.

They also showed an ordinary day of an ordinary family. It was painful to watch families with little children sleep in one room on the floor, suffering lack of nutritious food and pure water. Some children could not finish school because the family could not afford 25 dollars to buy school supplies. The child had to quit school and work on a farm in order to help the family out. What was amazing to me was the fact that local people had so little, but they were ready to give so much. They treated the American students as part of their family, not as foreigners. This proves that people there live in a tight community, ready to help one another.

This survival mode makes you appreciate all you have, look at life with a different perspective and do something good for people around you and across the oceans. I would like to follow their example and go to Guatemala. I think it would have been a great experience; perhaps I could affect some people’s lives and contribute to building better future. As Miriam Beard said, “Travel is more than seeing the sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

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