Years ago, we flew over Crater Lake, Oregon from time to time. It was so beautiful enveloped in snow and we talked about going to the national park there and seeing it from ground level. We still have never made it to Crater Lake National Park, but yesterday we took a boat ride across a similar lake.
We motored across Lake Attilan in Guatemala, which was formed in the caldera of a long-ago extinct volcano. It is surrounded by volcanic mountains and the water is up to 1000 feet deep in places. Typical for man, about thirty years ago, some genius introduced the black bass (I can’t remember why) and it quickly swam amok and gobbled up everything in the lake. Now, man is exacting revenge for all those destroyed by the jaws of the black bass. The restaurants that rim the lake feature fresh black bass nightly. Anyway, it was a pleasant enough boat ride. We were only moderately harassed by “vendors.” That word is the euphemism used here in Guatemala to describe the fire ant-like people who drive you to the brink of murder when you visit a third word country. For crying out loud, just how many scarves or bookmarks can one human being use? Do they not know about global warming and Kindles?
So. . . Speaking of craters . . . The economy here in Guatemala is in the tank. We tried to rank Guatemala with other third world countries, and I must say, this place is a serious contender. Yeah, yeah, Cambodia and Myanmar are going for the gold. Wait, so is Zimbabwe. Nevermind. I could go on and on. Anyway, it is so sad to hear that only 0.1 percent of the population goes to college. I am so not going to re-hash everything I heard today, but I will tell you interesting little tidbit. Guatemala exports bananas, pineapple, coffee, and sugar, among other tropical products. Add up all of the receipts up for those products. Here is the unvarnished truth: nothing this country exports even comes close to what the country takes in from the income that comes back to Guatemala from its citizens living legally or illegally in the USA. Without the income from Guatemalan nationals living in the US, this country would fall into an abyss deeper than Lake Atitlan.
Our guide told us that an airplane lands in Guatemala City daily from Dallas/Ft. Worth returning Guatemalans who were in the US illegally. These deportees have pretty good English language skills and are finding work in the call center business which is a fairly new industry in Guatemala. The next time you call customer service, you may find yourself speaking to a Guatemalan instead of someone in India.
Goodness, I hate to end on a downer, so I won’t. Speaking of craters, here is a great story that reminds us that we are all the same deep down inside. This is such a wonderful testament to that boundless entrepreneurial spirit that burns in all of us. We were traveling down a road that was in horrible condition. There were crater-like potholes all over the road. Our guide apologized and the driver slowed to probably no more than 20 miles per hour. It was excruciating. We started coming upon little children along the side the road. They all had buckets in one hand and the other hand was outstretched to the vehicles. The pathetic look on their faces would melt stone. Yet we drove on by! I was mortified! We must stop right now and find out what the child needs. Food? Water? A ride home? We must help! Hugo, our guide just looked out the window stone-faced. What a heartless jerk!
Finally, Hugo explained that the children fill in the massive holes and, with their outstretched hand, ask for a tip from the passing vehicle. They work work work to fill in the potholes for the drivers and await tips. Then, when the traffic ceases, they dig the dirt back out of the potholes. Wash, rinse, wear, repeat.
Life goes on in a third word country. As it did yesterday; as it will tomorrow.