Sights and Sounds of Guatemala

Remember when you traveled abroad and turned on the TV to watch CNN international. They always had these clips “Sight and Sounds of XXX” and they would play a video clip of some amazing scenery in some far away place. I always enjoyed watching those clips.

Now walking around in Guatemala, I regularly come across scenery that is so vivid and colorful that I would think to myself that it would be a perfect clip for CNN to use for Guatemala. Everywhere I turn and look there is always something that catches my eyes to remind me that I am in Guatemala. Even when I lay in bed with the lights off, the sounds fill the room to make me wonder if I am in some strange dream.

But all of it is a little nostalgic for me, brings back wonderful memories of my birthplace, Taiwan back over 30 years ago, when Taiwan was still very much an under-developed country. Even the street vendors selling shaved ice to the little kids are the same exact machines I stood in front of as a little kid waiting for my treat. Another favorite food when I was a kid is BBQ corn, and the street vendors sell that here (but I have to say, the BBQ corn in Taiwan is better, I think the trick is the Soy and Chilli sauce). And the tropical fruits are all the ones that also loved as a kid, mangos, sugar cane, countless types of oranges and mandarins, and some fruits I do not even know what they are called in English.

The scenery reminds me of the environment in which I grew up as a kid in Taiwan. Everywhere I look there are plush mountains with corn or other crops going up the steep hills. There are so many volcanoes here that I am surprised Guatemala is not submerged in a constant flow of red-hot lava. There are populated towns and villages spread across mountains with little side roads that 18 wheelers share with people on foot, bike and cars, chicken buses and whatever, not to mention some of the farm animals, and of course skinny unhealthy stray dogs. This is one of the reasons that I love to travel to these developing countries. Everywhere you look, it is like a theatrical show!! As soon as I walk out the door, my senses are totally overwhelmed. The blue sunny skies, blush green mountain tops, kids running around playing, the people cheering in the football field, the chicken buses blowing their horns, the salsa music from the buses and the nearby homes that are always playing, the numerous churches in one town all chanting, singing or the Pastor is hollering his sermon. And every passing person on the street, not says “Buenas Dias” is a way that sounds like they are singing a tune. One of my favorite pastimes here in Guatemala is just to go for a walk around the village or town. There is always something going on..sometimes I go to the local football field and see how emotional they get over a game. Or I go to the local public water basin and take photos of the ladies doing their laundry as little girls fill the water containers and carry them home on their heads.

Just when you think you are tired and ready for a good sleep that is when the real show begins and continues to remind me that I am in Guatemala. Closing my eyes and ready for a peaceful sleep…then bang!!..fireworks go off in a series sounding like it is right outside my window… Then that gets the neighbors’ dogs barking…then somehow that sets off the pack of stray dogs howling!! Then you hear the packs yelping as they fight in the night!! And then on a rainy night, the tin roof on top of my room begin to sound like the and percussion section of a symphony.. And on a dry quiet night, you can hear little foot step going across the musical it a cat?, no that is too light for a cat..maybe it is a rat, but I only hear a pair of feet, maybe it is a bird….I have yet to figure it out..and this is in the night…come early morning…even before the sun is up..the roosters start going off..And not just one, seems like everyone living around me has at least a couple roosters..Then as if the roosters call everyone out of bed..all the sounds of a new day starts..the Chicken buses honk their air horns to announce their arrival at every stop…then the horses, cows and dogs..all to make their sounds as if to make a symphony to announce the morning…Then of course there are the fireworks that seem to go off at all hours to celebrate some festival or birthday, or the football game win.

Then there is the smell, as you walk down the street, the wind seem to catch all the smells and carry them across your nose..the baking of tortillas at the store, the burning of the trash, wood fire as someone is cooking their meal, the stench of farm animals in people’s front yards, the smell of chicken frying by street vendors..then of course somehow all the chicken bus exhaust are designed to spit out as much black smoke at people walking along the side of the road!!

So the next time you are watching CNN international while traveling..and the Sights and Sounds of XXX starts playing. Replace the images and sounds with what I have said here and you will feel like you went through an intense experience as I do everyday and every moment in Guatemala. I must say I feel so alive because all my senses have been tickled!!