This has been the year of goodbyes for me. Goodbye to Davis, goodbye to Ventura, goodbye to Europe, goodbye to Ventura again, and now goodbye to Xela. Five and a half months has gone faster that I ever thought possible, but here I am saying goodbye again. Tomorrow Kane and I will get on our last bus from Xela to Guatemala City then fly to Tikal to start our post-program adventuring. Saying goodbye to Xela is bittersweet, yet exciting, because this end of my time in Xela is the beginning of the rest of my Central American wanderings. However, before I look too far ahead I want to remember what I found in this city nestled in the Guatemalan highlands.
Here in Xela I found a world eager to teach, to be understood, and to understand. Xela taught me to be flexible and to take it in stride when things don’t go as planned. Xela taught me to always bring Dramamine on bus rides, no matter how strong you think your stomach is. Xela taught me Spanish so that I can understand and gave me the courage to speak so that I can be understood. Xela taught me to dance and dance let me find love, even though I told myself I was going to spend the six months down here unattached. I do not regret changing my mind about that; turns out falling in love with an Australian in Guatemala was just what I needed.
I will miss many things about Xela, from Erika, our salsa teacher, to the unfailing friendliness of most people here. However, as always there are things I won’t miss, from the smog filled streets to the inherent danger of being a woman alone here. I know many people want to view as place as all good or all bad, but the more I travel the more this proves itself false. I love Xela, but it still has its problems. I feel that it is naive to try to reduce a place to only one of its parts, after all, life is an infinite greyscale, not black and white.
If anything Xela taught me to look past the quick attempts to categorize something, be it immigrants being “rapists and murders” or Guatemala being only dangerous and undeveloped, and to see the reality of something in its multifaceted dimensions. All immigrants are not “rapists and murders”, they are children alone trying to reunite with their families or people willing to abandon their known life in the hope of being able to support their family. Guatemala is poor and has security problems, but there are places with impressive natural beauty, like Semuc Champey, and places with the some of the most advanced medical technologies, like the hospitals in the capitol. I hope I will never forget the empathy and understanding that my time in Xela has taught me and I hope to be able to share my experiences back home, especially in the current climate of hateful, xenophobic rhetoric.