community / expat / relationships / transitions

Day 7/ 28: Friendships in Guatemala


Welcome to my 7th blog post! I’m a bit behind because I have been out of town doing some consulting work, but I’m back at it this evening. Hope you enjoy my latest entry.

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1) I had to become more open to making friends in different contexts.

In Guatemala, I really was not the most sociable person. Due to my unfamiliarity with the Spanish language and being a new person, I oftentimes felt socially awkward and pretty shy. I recall one of my friendships started because a woman literally had to chase me down after a yoga class and run down the street after me yelling, “Hey lady! Hey! Over here!!!! I wanna talk to you.”The woman was an expat fashion designer from Italy and she told me that she liked the way I practiced yoga. She even admitted to having a hard time herself finding cool people to hang out with and needed friends. I could empathize with her need to connect because being on your own in foreign country can be tough.

When you realize you’re the outsider and it’s difficult to find people who understand your circumstances, you start to get more bold. Oftentimes I didn’t have as much time to develop a rapport with certain people, so you learn to just dive in and speak up more. I have found met friends in the most random circumstances: on the sidewalk, at the farmers market, in a cafe, being chased after a yoga class, on shuttle buses, or on a group hike on a volcano. Also because local Guatemalans tend to be a bit closed off, I’ve even had friends and clients of mine in Texas make formal introductions to connect me with new friends in Guatemala City and Antigua. My social circle became this random mixture of locals, expats, and tourists who were just passing through. Due to the transient nature of my community (especially in Antigua), I was exposed to a wide variety of people in a short amount of time.

2) I had more friends who were more supportive of “out there” concepts.

When I say “out there” concepts, I mean anything from: global warming, yoga sutras, crystals, essential oils, chakras, and ayurveda. I still know people in Texas especially from the workplace who are not open to yoga and meditation or they still believe that climate change is not real. Maybe because I became a full time art and yoga teacher (and I no longer had to have one foot in cubicle town and one foot in the yoga studio), the expat friends I did have in Guatemala were a lot more open-minded when it came to discussing and accepting these “out there” concepts. What was more fascinating to me was that a lot of the people I met were a lot more knowledgeable than I was and I was grateful to learn a lot from them.

If I wanted to cook better vegetarian meals, I always knew a few people who could give me a recommendation on a new recipe (soups, overnight oats, or a curry). If I wanted to know what the natural remedy was for a stomach ache or for mosquitos in my apartment, there was always someone who knew. It was also really fascinating to meet people who were pretty DIY. People who made their own kombucha or made their own essential oils or made their own jewelry.

I remember going to this festival at Lake Atitlan. I went with the intention of taking tons of yoga classes, but there werent any classes I felt especially drawn too. At the festival, I learned how to weave bracelets, a woman led a workshop on coloring mandalas, and I went to a training on foot reflexology. I couldn’t believe that there were so many people interested in this stuff. At the end of my weekend, I texted one of my friends back home in Texas to tell her what I did and she wrote me back saying, “Wow. You’ve really learned how to embrace your inner hippie down there.”

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3) The Flakiness Factor

I couldn’t end this post without touching on the flakiness factor. When I mean flakiness, I am talking about: being late, forgetting about plans, and/or constantly changing plans. This is one thing I could not stand for the longest time when I lived in Guatemala. Imagine organizing your schedule and making plans with someone and at the last minute the person just straight up forgot about you. As an American, it drove me bat shit crazy sometimes. Then, I realized that being on time truly is a difficult thing for people including myself. Things would happen that are oftentimes out of another person’s control: protests in the street, a parade happening which delays traffic, a person’s bus breaks down, or your driver shows up late. I have been also guilty of being late because of these things myself. The biggest thing is to not take it personally and just accept that sometimes people are just going to be late.

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