Living in a Third World Country is Not What You Think
I used to be a princess. I had it all. Nice clothes, boots, shoes, tons of gold jewelry, leather coats, I mean, you name it, I had it. Until I didn’t. My last bankruptcy and leaving my abusive relationship wiped all that out for me.
At 52 years old I was starting a whole new life from the bottom (that’s rock bottom) up. I had no idea what life had in store for me until I went on a volunteer mission trip to Costa Rica.
And my entire existence changed.
Picking a country is stressful
Before I begin, for those of you who don’t know where the term “Third World Country” comes from (I honestly didn’t know either until my friend educated me on this one) here’s a brief definition:
The Second World was the so-called Communist Bloc: the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and friends. The remaining nations, which aligned with neither group, were assigned to the Third World. … Because many countries in the Third World were impoverished, the term came to be used to refer to the poor world.
So I live in one of those countries. 5 yrs ago I sold, donated and tossed 53 yrs of my life away, packed two suitcases and bought a one way ticket to a country I knew nothing about, Guatemala.
Why there you might ask? Because I couldn’t decide where to go and the clock was ticking “winter is coming” and I had to get the fuck out of Northern Ontario.
So like any other rational and sane person, I called on a friend who happens to be a tea leaf reader. “Just tell me where to go”. She says, pick the country with the funkiest name.
Hmm. Guatemala it is.
That’s how that whole pick a country thing went down. I’m not even kidding. I hung up the phone and booked my flight. Off to International Living website to see what I could find out about Guatemala. I mean, I need to pick a town, right? I narrowed it down to the Lake Atitlan area and the tiny town I now call home, Panajachel.
I read a few things about in Lonely Planet. Checked out a blog or two on International Living. Yup. We’re good to go!
Let the adventure begin
I honestly had no clue what I was in for. Not one. The climate was perfect for this girl and cost of living was super affordable. Good enough for me. But, those aren’t the only reasons I was heading down here. Poverty and hunger was staggeringly high and I was coming down to see if I could put even a little dent in that.
So without going into ridiculous detail about my first year of living here which I should let you know, was culture shock times a bazillion, I’ve settled in quite nicely and have adapted to the somewhat baffling ways of life down here.
The first thing I had a really hard time getting used to is that it’s dark at 6 every damn day. For the first 7 months or so I lived here I didn’t leave my apartment after 5. Nope. I’ll stay in tyvm.
Then there were the noises. All day, every day all fucking night long. Dogs barking, fighting and howling, roosters and chickens going at it, firecrackers (oh the endless firecrackers), church bells, cats moaning, bombas (oh ya, that’s a thing and it will make you jump outta your chair sometimes), trucks with 7ft speakers in the back blaring some unrecognizable music along with some guy with a mic yelling something that I’m sure for the life of me, I will never understand.
Yup, it’s fucking noisy. All the time.
And then there are the critters. O…..M…..G!!! My first apartment had it’s fair share of scorpions. Mm hmm. Good times. Spiders, scorpions, snakes, 2 legs 4 legs 8 legs and how many legs does THAT thing have?
Oh ya, the critters. Eeeeeep!!! (did I forget to mention I’m critter phobe?) You might like this fun article on my encounter with the ugliest fucking centipede I’ve ever seen in my life.
How To Annihilate a Centipede The Fun Way!
Because just killing it with a shoe is boring
And then there’s the street chaos. Dogs, tuk tuks, scooters, motorcycles, chicken buses, shuttle vans, bicycle, chicken and other random food carts and people, everywhere. Some guy on the street corner is holding a speaker and yelling into a mic something about Jesus.
Surely we’ll all be saved, amirite?
Imagine an 80’s video game, everyone is on acid, and they’re all desperately trying to win some imaginary race while laughing and honking their horns. It’s kinda like that.
It’s dirty, there’s dog shit everywhere, garbage gets tossed on the streets and sidewalks, there are broken beer bottles on the side of the road. It’s chaos and clutter. All the time.
So why on earth am I still here, right?
But the kicker here…..
Everyone is so happy. Life is so simple and there is freedom galore. There are police around but I’m still not really sure what they do. You can be yourself, wear what you want, dance on the bar in a drunken stupor, smoke weed on the sidewalk, the liberties go on and on. There is very little stress, violence, or any kind of disorderly conduct (minus the drunks sleeping on the street). People are extremely friendly and patient with the foreigners.
Everyone smiles and says “buenos” or “adios”. I’ve made some wonderful friends down here.
You get used to things like suicide showers, whole house cold water (except your suicide shower)
washing your clothes by hand and hanging them out, not having many of the things us first world peeps deemed necessary like microwaves, bathtubs, decent linens (most of these things can be bought in the city but that’s a trip no one is in a hurry to take).
It can sometimes be hard to find professional services (remember, I’m a princess) like a good hairstylist.
But then you just realize these things mean nothing. The luxuries I left back home mean nothing to me anymore.
The car (small confession, I miss my car), the jewelry, the hot shower with pressure (minus the fear of getting electrocuted at any given time for any given reason), the comfy couch, good chocolate bars (oh how I do miss those), peace and quiet, good internet.
It means nothing and I am more than happy to do without because life here is so beautiful. I traded in a materialistic life for the simplest life I have ever known and I’ve never been happier in my life.
I came down here to help the poor people and that’s what I do every chance I get. Our dollar goes ridiculously far here which means it feels absolutely amazing to be able to give generously without batting an eyelash. $10 is nothing to us but that’s more than a day’s wage for some down here.
Third world living has grown on me and though every now and then I still have wtf moments, I have to say, I’ve never been happier in my life. Never. Third world living is beautiful, carefree, full of love and sunshine and lots of smiling faces.
I honestly wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay here for. I told my sister I’d be back “home” in 6 months. That was 5 yrs ago.
I’m home already. ❤
ps I’m always up for company! ;)