My Junior Year in Guatemala: A Dry Camp

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The author making camp THE GEORGIA BLOG

A little later, after his devotions, the young Bishop lay down in Benito’s deep feather-bed, thinking how different was this night from his anticipation of it. He had expected to make a dry camp in the wilderness, and to sleep under a juniper tree, like the Prophet tormented by thirst. But here he lay in comfort and safety, with love for his fellow creatures flowing like peace about his heart.” -Death Comes For The Archbishop by Willa Cather

This quote, from a novel I am reading for my home school Lit class, reminded me of how our first nights had gone in Guatemala. Father Latour is a bishop on a pilgrimage to find his vicarate in New Mexico, 1851. New Mexico was new and uncharted land to everyone but the land’s indigenous people. As it went, the bishop had suffered many misadventures on his journey west, but upon finding shelter he was filled with relief. It was not only the kindness of the people that was saving the bishop but also a roof and a bed. Shelter. Cather was emphasizing the importance of stuff, shelter in this case.

Wow did this concept make sense to me last week. After rolling around in the air and then in a taxi and then finally on foot, my father and I finally finally laid down in our hotel in Amatitlán. We were safe, we had beds, and we had a roof over our heads. I now realize how much I take housing for granted. In Naples, Florida, where I spent most of my childhood, it seemed easy every time we chose to move. Moving day would commence maybe with smiles or maybe with huffing and puffing but either way we’d pack our things and magically show up to a brand new house with lights, plumbing, and water. Well, it turns out these “basics” aren’t so basic. Many of the houses we’ve seen have been without electricity, water or plumbing. This was a shock to me.

There have been lots of "shocks". I’ve been involved in all efforts to find a house. My dad uses me as a translator often. I'm knee deep in halted, awkward conversation in Spanish; crazy house showings where we climb steep cliffs to get to run-down shanty's; and all the crazy “Gringo” prices. I didn’t realize just how hard it was to find a house that would provide shelter, let alone one with water and electricity and dare I say WIFI.

The author in her mosquito net

For so many people around the world shelter is a hard thing to come by. A family we see speak with often have more than 10 people staying in one run-down two room house. Nearby at a neighbors house it seems that a different dirt speckled child comes running out of the house everyday. In America my sister and I fought when we had to share a room. Absurd.

As we now share in the struggle of making a house into a home alongside our Guatemalan neighbors, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for that easy life back in the states.