We were going to serve and love and be gracious guests, so cultural sensitivity was key. This meant that we would be expected to accept food, rides, and accommodations, that, perhaps, we weren’t accustomed to without making any rude, ungrateful, or condescending comments, grimaces, or otherwise malicious facial expressions.
The phrase: “That’s different.”
Piling entire families onto one motorcycle may be a tad dangerous to the safety-obsessed American, but within earshot of our hosts, it’s just different.
I’ve been living in Guatemala for three months now, and, in an attempt to be a gracious guest, I have tried, at all costs, to appear unfazed by the foreign culture around me. I’ve done my best to employ the “smile and nod and remember it’s just different” approach.
But let’s face it, sometimes situations aren’t just different—they can be horrifying, delightful, even comical and beautiful. So I’m going to start a new blog category called, “Well, that’s different” where I can recount my collection of the best and brightest and differentest moments Guatemala has offered me thus far, and, believe me, I’ve wracked up a pretty delectable number of cross cultural cuentos.
I share these stories with the full understanding that I am a guest in this country. I don’t intend to pass judgment in any way. I’m just hoping for a little travelers empathy and to give you a glimpse into the life I lead here in this at times horrifying, delightful, comical, and beautiful country.
Here’s a lighthearted tale of a girl and her beer to get the series started:
Two Beers or Not Two Beers
A young waitress appeared, poised to take our order.
My friend ordered a beer and was immediately told that the restaurant didn’t carry her beer of choice. But, the waitress, hurriedly interjected, they did carry Gallo, a national Guatemalan beer that you can often find more easily than purified water.
When the waitress turned her eyes and her order pad to me, I ordered a Gallo as well. Por que no?
Finished with our orders, the waitress dipped back behind the partition which, presumably, led to the kitchen.
So we waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, my friend went back to ask the waitress to bring out the drinks before the food. The waitress, looking a bit sheepish, followed my friend back to our table.
“We only have one beer,” the waitress apologized.
“Small, ” she replied. “We only have one beer.”
Finally, understanding dawns across the table. We both ordered a beer. They only have one solitary bottle of cheap, Guatemalan beer. There’s not enough for the both of us.
Finally satisfied, the waitress snuck back into the kitchen. Minutes later, she returned with the much-coveted and elusive Gallo and a delectable strawberry smoothie, which actually paired much better with my dinner omelette.