Archive for March 19th, 2015|Daily archive page

El Salvador to the Guat to Mexico . . .

Gone to me is El Salvador; I’m back in the Guat.

Previously, I reacted negatively towards Guatemala. I also acknowledged that my opinion I is limited by limited exposure. That said, I’m becoming reasonably accustomed to squalor, crumbling infrastructure and poverty. But, what I can’t wrap my head around is the absence of expectation. What gives birth to our expectations?
On the Island, I once chased down a car from Ontario because someone tossed out a plastic bottle. High indignation: I had to do something. I hip-checked the car over and issued a lecture. I believe that the car’s inmates were suitably ashamed. Either that, or they didn’t know what this whack-job of a biker would do next.
Flash back to here and I’m left with a lingering question: What explains the never-ending piles of garbage along the sides of the roads in Guatemala and Nicaragua, but not quite so much Mexico, El Salvador or Costa Rica? Education? Laws? A better sense of aesthetics? I wish someone who understands more than I would explain it.

But talk of garbage, yet another border crossing has taught me something, and it may even shed some light on the garbage question. As I was sweating my “socks” off in a long line of people waiting to get their documents triple checked and double stamped at multiple windows held together by duct tape it hit me. Perhaps my angst was amplified more than my fellow victims for a reason: I know what efficiency looks like.

If you have never seen efficiency, how do you know what it looks like? If you don’t know what it looks like, how are you going to design it into your systems and behaviors? If you’ve never seen a ditch clean of tons of garbage, why would you expect a ditch to be clean of garbage? Why wouldn’t you toss garbage into the world if the world has never presented itself to you in any other way?

One of my most profound moments as a teacher occurred when a grade ten student asked me a question. She asked, “Why does something become a problem?”

I was gobsmacked.
She went on to say, “Smoking, impaired driving, even family violence used to be not so much a problem but now for many people around here, those things are a problem. How come?”
Good question then, still a good question. But, it appears that the question is as valid for Prince Edward Island as it is for the third world. How come? What makes our garbage visible?. And, when does what has become visible become a problem?
I guess we’re all beneficiaries and victims of familiarity. If garbage and inept bureaucracy is what we’re familiar with, it takes something quite significant to pop up and make it a problem. If it isn’t a problem, there’s nothing to fix, right?
I know in my life, I often seek out the familiar just to avoid confronting a problem. But what happens if we obsessively take shelter in the familiar, what then?
Oh yeah, I made it back to Mexico. I headed out of Guatamala during a beautiful sunrise. The sun was at my back, which makes it wonderful for me to see what’s ahead of me; not so wonderful for those facing the sun and trying to see me.
The people were coming out of their shelters, heading to who knows where to do who knows what. The smell of the morning fires mingled with food and tropical sents I know nothing about was intoxicating. And, there in front of me I saw a volcano pop. I’ve seen active volcanoes before, but never one that just blew in front of me. I was mesmerized. By the time I pulled over to take a picture it was pretty much gone. But wow, for these moments, I am so grateful.
in animate and inanimate breath
is crazy beautiful.