Saturday, April 07, 2012

Guatemala: Random Thoughts

I'm sitting here on our final morning not really wanting to leave. It rained most of the night and all I could think about was the poor float carriers and other members of the processions. They keep going rain, hail or shine. It is part of the process to suffer like Jesus but really?!

During our visit with Ana Mercedes S told us the average age for first births here is 12. Think about that next time you are arguing with your pre-teen or early teen about iPod time. You see lots and lots of little girls with babies; I always think it must be their baby brother or sister but the fact is it's probably their own child. In Guatemala you really see that babies are easy to make but hard to look after.

Middle class people (possibly any people earning a formal wage) pay 5% income tax. The indigenous Mayan make up 60% of the population, safe to say most don't work in a formal sense (though they are very hard workers) requiring a tax deduction from their income. The people don't trust the government so don't want to pay more tax (nothing new there). So the maths are pretty simple: no money for infrastructure and services.

Another interesting point. You can become a teacher right out of high school, no higher education needed. Which is why public schools are of such poor quality and anyone who can afford it sends their children to private schools (most are not what we think of when we think "private school", except for some exclusive and international schools). Private schools are just better, in terms of teachers with higher qualifications and better resources.

Public hospitals here offer a diagnosis but no medicine. So if you get diagnosed with cancer you need to find your own chemotherapy drugs and wait until they can treat you - possibly months. There are good private hospitals but only for those who can afford them. There is a Jesuit free hospital here in Antigua which has volunteer international doctors and surgeons.

As Giovany told us the Mayans don't really have a concept of future. He said the past is always in front of them. Wow!

I am leaving with a fascination for the culture and a love for the people. We have discussed coming when the children are grown, with or without them, to volunteer and spend some "real" time here (as opposed to tourist time). It is something we both feel really strongly ab

Hasta la vista Guatemala.

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