some reflections about feeling welcome …

It is a little bit less obvious to detect than if a kid has come around to trusting you and finally gives you a smile, but those of you who traveled a bit will probably agree: There are times when “attentiveness” is only as skin deep as the surface of a fuzzy peach, because it is ultimately governed by a purely transactional interest.

Adversely, there is “attentiveness” which is interpersonal in nature, which is rooted in a genuine interest in the visitor, in learning where you come from, what you think, what you stand for and is rooted in a pride of leaving only the best impressions with a fellow human being. I would call it the most genuine and unspoiled interest that we can take in each other.

Well, this is what I always come to reflect over when returning to Guatemala – it is those little things that give it away: There is the weather beaten burly driver of a chicken bus who is giving you a friendly smile as you take a step aside to let his elderly passenger safely exit on the clefted side walk (imagine that with Manhattan Transit Authority), there is the waiter who genuinely is concerned that you didn’t finish your meal and if there is maybe something you would like better instead, and there is are smiles and waving back of an entire family crammed into their banged up VW beetle because you give them a thumbs up as the roll by.

As much as you are prone to get a “you are an uncool looser” – vibe back if you exposing those shy signals of care and interest in a different world you can rely on getting a resounding echo here in Guatemala that makes your day and is almost like an universal secret handshake of the one human race: “I care for you, and you care for me”

OK, this is a long winded reflection, but it has to be said if – after a long bus ride – you find your dinner table decorated as American flag and all the waiters around can’t wait to see in your face your surprise and acknowledgement for what they came up with. It has to be said when an entire wait staff sings a “happy birthday” to our Laura this morning and boy what a resounding heartfelt song it is, almost as if it is their birthday and not hers 🙂

you are welcome – at last

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